Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Teacher Creativity Skill: Shoot and Edit Video

In 1993, I was given the opportunity to visit a video production studio on the campus of Indiana University as part of a class I was taking for my computer endorsement on my teaching license. I really had two takeaways that day: 1. I was surprised at how easy it was to edit video so that there would be professional elements such as picture-in-picture, transitions, and lower-thirds (those identifying bits of text that appear at the bottom of a screen). And 2. I also realized that unless I was going to teach a communications course, I was unlikely to have the equipment or software to take advantage of these tools in the classroom.

It wasn't until a few years ago that I came to think differently. With the rise of inexpensive video cameras and the availability of simple and inexpensive editing tools and apps, (not to mention the democratic publishing power of sites like YouTube, TeacherTube, Vimeo and SchoolTube), I now see that video production is well-within the grasp of teachers and students. While the learning curve for truly mastering video editing is somewhat steep, anyone can accomplish the basic techniques of shooting, editing and publishing videos with relative ease.

Why do I want to know this?

Shooting and editing video is an excellent set of skills to develop for your classroom and students. Having confidence with shooting, editing and sharing video makes sharing the great things that are going on in your classes a breeze. You can also flip your classroom, by creating support lessons for student to view as needed.

More importantly, teaching kids to shoot video well empowers them to tell their stories and show their learning with impact and style. Video projects develop important skills such as collaboration, problem-solving, communication, creativity, and design. Video projects are also a form of active learning. Finally, video artifacts of learning have a longer shelf-life than, say, dioramas or poster collages, and can be more easily shared beyond the classroom.

Where to Begin

Start by learning some basic techniques of shooting good video. I've already written a recent post in which I explore some of the lessons I've learned in the last few years. I learned these techniques through trial and error, asking questions of colleagues who have experience editing video, and by searching online for tutorials. Here are a few other basic resources that I would recommend:

Vimeo Video 101: Shooting Basics
Magisto Video Shooting Tips
Stanford University: Shooting Better Video
Dr. Wes Leggett: Shooting Video Basics
Monkeysee: Basic Video Production Tips

A piece of advice that you will see over and over again is to plan your video ahead of time. A good way to do this is to storyboard your video, planning the action and framing the shot for each segment of the video. While this isn't always possible (when shooting on the fly, for example), it is a good practice to be in.

One other tip to help prevent a mistake I often see with amateur video is to always make sure that you are shooting the video with your camera positioned in landscape, rather than portrait position. Folks who are shooting with their phones often make this mistake. The result is video that plays sideways when published. A good way to remember this is to imagine the video frame of your TV which is in the landscape position. That's where your video is headed, right?

Keep in mind, the best way to learn how to shoot video is to shoot a lot of video, make a lot of mistakes, and learn from them.

What kind of camera do I need?

Honestly, if you have a smart phone that shoots video, you might want to start there. Many of today's phones include a pretty solid camera. You can also buy inexpensive digital video cameras that are very portable and relatively inexpensive such as the Sony Bloggie and the Kodak PlayFull. Look for cameras that shoot in HD for a better result. Of course, camcorders and other video cameras come in all types and range from the simple to the complex. Before you buy, you will want to better understand the various features. Here is a good article from Digital Trends and a good video from Vimeo to get you started.

So I've shot my video, now what?

A lot of people never get past the act of shooting video, which is a shame because they don't go on to edit and share the video with others. They are limited to playing the video from the camera instead of producing a video that can be proudly shared via social media, burnt to a disc, or published on a video sharing site.

The first step beyond shooting the video is getting the video files into a video editor. Simple editors such as Movie Maker for PCs or iMovie for Apple can be a great place to start. These simple tools can help take basic video to an impressive new level. Another video editing tool that I like really well is Camtasia from TechSmith. I find that the interface is easy to understand, and the tool set is very complete. There are also a great number of video-editing web tools and apps that are both inexpensive and feature-rich. If you find that you want to grow beyond the basics, you can look at any number of programs for video editing all the way up to Premiere and Final Cut Pro (the tools the big boys use).

When learning to edit video the first thing to keep in mind is that there is a difference between your "project file" and your "product file." When you bring video into an editor, you will create a new project that can be worked on and saved multiple times. That project is not your video. You will need to publish or share your video as a product. The product file is static in form and cannot be changed. Thus, if you don't like the product, you need to scrap it, return to the project, edit it some more, and then publish or share the project again as a new product. It took me a bit to get my brain around that, so I'm sharing it here.

Learning to edit video is a pretty deep ocean, but you don't need to learn everything at once. There are plenty of good tutorials on the Internet for any video editor you want to use. I've included a few of them here, but a Google search for video editing tutorials will result in many more:

The DIY Video Editor
MonkeySee: Basic Video Editing
Vimeo Video 101: Editing
Vimeo Glossary of Basic Video Terms
Vimeo Video School: Editing
iMovie Basics
Apple iMovie Tutorials
Getting Started with Windows Movie Maker

The key is to learn as you go. You only need to know how to do what you want to do at the moment.

Share with the World

Once you have a video that you like, you can move the video from project to product in a number of ways. Each editor is different, but generally you can choose to export your video to a video file format such as .flv, .m4v, .mov, etc. To start, I would recommend using the default file type that the editor you are using recommends. Making changes can trip an amateur up. Some editors allow you to upload the product directly to YouTube or Vimeo or to a social media outlet like Facebook. If you have an account with one of those communities, it's nice to have that option.

Once you've exported the movie to a file, you can share that file in any number of ways. You can post the video to a blog or website, burn the file to disc or DVD using a product like iDVD or Windows Movie Maker, or publish to a video sharing site like YouTube. The quality of the video will affect the size of the video file and may limit your ability to share it in certain locations, but overall, assuming a manageable size, you should be able to share your work and the students' work with the world, creating an authentic audience experience that your students will appreciate.

Your Task

Given how easy it is to dive into video production these days, we all can add this to our repertoire to enhance learning. The creativity it takes to create compelling video is a skill worth developing. In the future, more and more communication will have a video element, so developing these skills in our students is important. I hope you will explore this type of learning with your students and share the results with me.


  1. Great information!! I took your class at ERev2013 and it was amazing.I am looking forward to passing this along to our students.

  2. Thanks Laura! We're glad you were with us at eRev! Let me know if there is other information that you need :)