A work in progress

March 30, 2010

A few years ago I made a video for managers in my college showing how the world was changing in the time it takes to travel from our campus in Gloucester to the one in Cheltenham.

I recently decided that it needed updating, as the old one was out of date and we had moved into the docks in Gloucester.

This is the video I shot and edited on iMovie.

At this point the video is just the video. What I would do next is add text over the video, this would say things like how much video is uploaded to YouTube, how many blog posts were written, how many Tweets were sent on Twitter, etc…

I think I will reshoot the video though as it was raining when I took it and I think that detracts slightly from the way that the speeded up video works.

In case you were wondering I shot the video using my iPhone using a TomTom iPhone mount on the windscreen. This was then imported into iMovie 09. I enhanced the quality of the video (turning up the brightness), cartoonified it and then made it much much faster… The last time I did this in iMovie 06 it was a bit of a pig, in 09 it was a piece of cake.

I removed the audio from my video and replaced it with some royalty free video from iMovie.

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e-Learning Tech Stuff #002 – Green Screen Technology

September 17, 2009

Once only available to Hollywood and BBC weathermen, it’s now possible for anyone to use green screen or chroma key technology.

Chroma key is a technique for mixing two images or frames together, in which a color (or a small color range) from one image is removed (or made transparent), revealing another image behind it. This technique is also referred to as color keying, colour-separation overlay, greenscreen, and bluescreen.

Source.

This video was made using a couple of Sony HDD Camcorders, on one of them was screwed a 37mm adapter with a ring of green LEDs.

greenscreen001

I sat on a sofa in front of a screen which is not green (but you can use green) but has reflective beads to reflect the green light back into the camera.

Using Apple’s iMovie 09 and switching on the Advanced Tools option in preferences allows you to add your green screen footage over existing footage.

greenscreen002

There is a nice and simple guide on how to do that here.

Has quite a bit of potential to making short videos more interesting and adding learners and practitioners over existing footage to explain stuff.


e-Learning Stuff Podcast #014: Half-Term Meanderings

February 22, 2009

James, Ron and Lilian just chat about a range of different stuff, basically they meander…

This is the fourteenth e-Learning Stuff Podcast, Half-Term Meanderings.

Download the podcast in mp3 format: Half-Term Meanderings

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

James is joined by Lilian Soon and Ron Mitchell.

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #014: Half-Term Meanderings

Shownotes

  • Geoff Minshull runs DirectLearn and uses WebEx for running online conferences. At the last JISC Conference they also used Elluminate for live presentations.
  • Gabbly can be used to discuss a website.
  • Feedburner from Google allows you to create a better RSS feed.
  • Feeder allows you a lot more control over your RSS Feed.

Top Ten Technologies of 2008

December 20, 2008

This is a list of technologies which I have used extensively over the last twelve months. The reason for the list was partly down to the lists Steve Wheeler has been posting on his blog, and a prompt from him on Twitter. This is not an exact copy of Steve’s format I have also worked on a list of web tools as well. I do quite like this format which gives an opportunity to review and share the tools which have made a difference to the way I work and have enhanced what I do.

Here are my top ten technologies in reverse order.

10.    PSP

So it’s not the best selling portable gaming machine of 2008, that goes to the Ninetendo DS, and yes the text entry is awful. However from an e-learning perspective, the most successful device I have demonstrated, used, and also used by learners has to be the PlayStation Portable, the PSP. Unlike the iPod touch,  the PSP does not require iTunes and can be connected to a PC via a simple USB cable. With extras you can use Skype, record video and audio, and use GPS. The PSP also has built in speakers which means you don’t always have to use headphones. However it comes with no onboard storage, so you will also need to buy a Memory Stick Duo for it. The wireless browser is okay, but nowhere near the level of usability or sophistication of the iPod touch browser. If you do have a PSP or get a PSP, make sure you get the camera. The camera which as digital cameras go is pretty poor quality at 1.3MP and a poor lens, does capture images and video. The key why it works (and works well with learners) is that reviewing the images and video is easy on the big screen (well for a mobile device) and certainly much easier than small pocket digital cameras.

9.    Asus EeePC

It was announced in 2007, but didn’t really start shipping until 2008. I got an early 2GB model and was impressed as were lots of other people. We did go out and buy a bundle of 4GB models with webcams and were impressed even more. Yes the screen is small at 7″, the keyboard is small, the onboard storage is small, the battery life is low. However the smallness is one of the EeePC’s strengths and the price, well you couldn’t grumble about the price. For the price you get a machine which is entirely suitable for surfing the web, e-mail and the odd bit of creating documents, presentations, audio and video recordings. Probably the biggest impact of the Asus EeePC has been on the market and we have seen every major manufacturer jump on the bandwagon and produce their own versions. Some are bigger, most are more expensive, but the market now has a wide choice of small netbooks (as we are calling them) to choose from.

8.    iMovie ’08

I didn’t like iMovie ’08 when it first came out in July 2007, so much so that I didn’t go out and buy iLife ’08 for my home Macs. At work when I got my new 24″ iMac it came with iMovie ’08 so I asked for iMovie HD ’06 to also be installed. However due to using some HD cameras (see below) I was “forced” to use iMovie ’08. The more I used iMovie ’08 the more I grew to like it. I like it so much now that it is my movie editor of choice. It does take some getting use to, and the desktop layout is totally different to the ’06 version. Once you get pass that (and on the basis you don’t need special effects) iMovie ’08 is a very sophisticated program which allows me to create quite complex videos, such as this one I created for the JISC Online Conference.

7.    Sony HDR-SR8

So you want to shoot HD footage? To be honest there are a plethora of HD video cameras out there at a range of prices. This is at the high end of the consumer market, though you do get a lot of features. Key ones for me are, a decent lens, full 1080i resolution, a 100GB on board hard drive, and I also had a selection of microphones as well. I used it a lot for taking video this year and very pleased with the end results. Easy to import the video into iMovie ’08, edit and export.

Top Ten Technologies of 2008

This bloopers tape from the JISC Online Conference uses a lot of footage take by the HDR-SR8.

The HDR-SR8 is also quite good at taking still photographs too. The SR8 model is now no longer available, but other Sony HDR Cameras are.

6. Panasonic HDC-SD5

There are two HD cameras on my list, the Panasonic HDC-SD5 is cheaper than the Sony HDR-SR8, it does not have the capability for external microphones and only has an SD slot for capturing video and images. However it is a lot lighter and smaller than the HDR-SR8 and this was it’s main strength, I could drop it in my pocket and then be able to take footage very quickly and easily. As the footage was on an SD card, cards could be swapped over, so as footage was imported and edited, the camera with another card could be used to shoot new footage  – a real asset in a college with limited resources. The classic ALT-C videos I did, the Digital Divide Slam and the Dinner video were both recorded using the HDC-SD5 and I was impressed with the quality of the footage and even the audio capture on the Slam video.

Like most HD cameras, it has been replaced by a newer model, the Panasonic HDC-SD9 but you can still buy the SD5 if you want.

5.    Edirol R09

So my phone can record audio, as can my PDA; however when it comes to recording audio quickly and easily but at a quality that is good enough to listen to, the Edirol R-09 is for a me a must have device. Recording as either WAV or MP3 direct to an SD card, the audio quality is excellent. Very easy after recording to connect a USB cable and copy the recordings over to edit in Audacity or Garageband. It is very portable and the fact it uses AA batteries means if they run out, they are easy to replace. Main downside is cost, but in this case I do believe it is very much you get what you pay for.

4.    3G USB Stick

I have been using 3G for years, but my Vodafone 3G USB Stick has been fantastic this year. In metropolitan areas I have been getting very fast download speeds, almost as much as the advertised 7.2Mbps! When there is no wifi, or the wifi is patchy, or the wifi costs too much, the 3G has provided access to the internet quickly and easily. It works well across most of the country (well where I have travelled to) and has enabled me to stay in touch via the web and e-mail.

3.    JoikuSpot

A simple idea which just works. Basically it turns my Nokia N95 into a wireless hotspot, allowing me to connect multiple wireless devices to my phone’s 3G internet connection. I start JoikuSpot and once started I can then join the wireless and surf the internet. Usually I am using my iPod touch or my MacBook Pro. The Light version only really does internet, it doesn’t allow e-mail or https for example, whereas the Premium version does; this is the reason I upgraded to the Premium version and very pleased I am with it. The main downside is the impact it has on the battery life on the Nokia N95, down to less than four hours, often less!

2.    iPod touch

So it’s not an iPhone, but the iPod touch can pretty well do a lot of what the iPhone can do. It is cheaper and there is no monthly charge. Yes there is not SMS, no phone capability, no GPS, no camera and no 3G; however pretty much it can do everything else an iPhone can do. Of all the mobile devices I have used (and as you might expect I have used a lot) the iPod touch has provided for me, through its wifi connection, the best mobile browsing experience. Whereas on the Nokia N95 I will use the browser to find traffic or train information, on the iPod touch I will use the browser to browse the web and browse for some time. It makes browsing on a mobile device not only a usable experience but a pleasurable experience. The screen on the iPod touch is really nice and as a result video looks great. The touch interface is the best I have ever used, very intuitive and easy to pick up, oh and it works. You will need to consider that the touch interface does mean the screen gets grubby pretty quickly and the included cloth will need to be used on a regular basis. Another key advantage for me is the wealth of applications available and there are some really good ones out there. I have found that I am using the ones which interact with Web 2.0 services the most such as Evernote, Twitterfon and Facebook. One feature which works really for me is the ActivSync integration with Exchange, this means for work e-mail and calendars I can access them anywhere with a wifi connection. As it is a live connection, there is no need to sync and that is what sets the device apart from Windows PDAs I have used in the past. I do find typing on the iPod touch very simple and much nicer than using a phone keypad, but I know for some it’s not their cup of tea. Overall I really like the iPod touch, it exceeded my expectations, I use it on a daily basis and I can’t even really imagine what the next generation version will be like.

1.    Nokia N95

My number one device for 2008 is the Nokia N95 8GB
mobile phone. For me the Nokia N95 is much more than a phone, it is a device which allows me to create upload and connect. Like the iPod touch I use it on a daily basis, though to be honest rarely as a phone or for SMS. The 5MP camera has an excellent lens and can be used to take some nice photographs. I use Shozu to automatically upload my photographs to Flickr or Facebook over the phone’s 3G connection or if in the right place over wifi. The phone also takes some nice video as well and I can use Shozu to upload that as well automatically. The Nokia N95 does come with a web browser, which is usable, but nowhere near as nice as Safari on the iPod touch. However all is not lost, using JokiuSpot (see above) I can turn the N95 into a wifi hotspot and use the N95’s 3G connection and the iPod touch for browsing, job done. Video works well on the N95 and simple MP4 files work well, though the screen is small, the phone comes with a composite video cable which allows you to show what is on the phone on a video screen or through a projector. The onboard speaker is okay, though the one on the Nokia smaller N73 seems louder! The s60 operating system does allow you to install third party applications and I do like the Jaiku application over the mobile Jaiku interface and there is also an s60 Twitter application too. Qik on the N95 turns it into a broadcast device, Qik is a service which allows you to stream live video from your phone to the internet and it can be very effective. I also use the phone to read QR codes which it does quite well. The N95 also has built in GPS and though routing software is extra, for checking where you are using Nokia Maps the phone works great. I also like how Shozu geo-tags the photographs I upload to Flickr too. It’s not all perfect, the device is very chunky and very thick, if you like thin phones, then you won’t like the N95. I am not a great fan of the keypad, but it’s better than some I have used, and to be honest I don’t like phone keypads anyhow!

Overall though, on the basis of how I use the N95, how often I use the N95 and how annoyed I get when it runs out of battery, the Nokia N95 is my number one technology of 2008.

Top Ten Technologies of 2008

What is yours?


ALT-C Gala Dinner

September 15, 2008

One of the nice things about the ALT Conference is the Conference dinner. In previous years the good stuff was the company and the conversation.

This year, that was just as good, but the food was pretty good too!

In an interesting move, ALT worked with local FE colleges to design and cook a menu, and what a fantastic job they did. The colleges working with the catering staff at Headingly Cricket Ground (where the meal was held) created, cooked and served a fantastic meal.

Anyway here is my video of the evening.

I did shoot this in HD using a similar camera to this Panasonic HD Camera. I then imported the video from the SD card into iMovie 08. This is a much quicker process than using tape and capturing that way. Once in iMovie, I edited the clips I had taken and added caption cards. The final cut was then exported into a Quicktime format, before been imported into iMovie HD 06.

Why import it into the previous version?

So I could add some special effects. I transformed the film into black and white, before I “aged” the film adding dust, hairs, scratches and a bit of a wobble….

I also removed the original soundtrack, which because of the environment was full of crowd noise! I then found some excellent royalty-free creative commons licensed silent movie type music, which downloaded and imported into the movie. The movie was now finished.

Now I could have converted it into suitable format and then uploaded to Youtube. However what I actually did was import it back into iMovie 08 and uploaded it to YouTube that way.

Why?

Because it was easier.


“It’s not for girls!”

September 14, 2008

One of the reasons I go to ALT-C is the workshops! Now don’t get me wrong I enjoy the short papers and some of the longer ones even interest me. The keynotes can be inspiring, whilst the demos can inform, but I seem to get more out of the workshops than the other parts. Though it has to be said that I did also enjoy the debate and discussion at the F-ALT events.

Last year at ALT-C 2007 one of the workshops I enjoyed was the Web 2.0 Slam, from which Hood 2.0 was born.

This year at ALT-C 2008 Frances, Helen, Josie and Christina presented us with the Digital Divide Slam.

It's not for girls!

Creatively create something which explores the digital divide.

So myself, Steve Wheeler and Joss Winn got together and thought about what to do.

We decided to do a talking heads video, influenced by Monty Python, Smith and Jones and Pete and Dud.

We had 30 minutes to develop, write, create, film, edit, export and upload this video. Shot in one take it’s not perfect, but it was never suppose to be perfect.

We enjoyed making it, and the other workshops delegates seemed to enjoy it too – they voted us the winners in the workshop vote.

I was surprised to find out later that a lot of people thought we had created it the day before, or even before ALT-C. No we actually created it in 30 minutes. Thanks to a wonderful camera a Panasonic HD Camera and iMovie ’08 on my MacBook Pro it was possible to shoot, edit and export a short film like this. Obviously the technology can’t do anything about the acting.

It wasn’t as easy I make out. I didn’t have a SD card reader, and the Panasonic HD Camera I used records onto SD cards. Helen’s laptop did, so I had to copy the files from the SD Card onto my 1GB USB stick which I did remember. I then managed to import the HD video files from the USB stick into the MacBook Pro. I then realised I had left my DVI-VGA adapter in my accommodation and there wasn’t one to be found. Hmmm, so I had to export the movie from iMovie as a Quicktime movie, I then used VisualHub to export the movie to a Windows Media format, copy back to the USB stick and show the audience on Helen’s laptop. I couldn’t use Windows Movie Maker (as you may have thought) on Helen’s laptop as it doesn’t support the HD footage from the HD camera.

In the end it worked.

More slams can be found here.

Vote for this video here by Monday in the online voting.


Making screencasts on your Mac

June 25, 2008

I have been looking at screencasting software for the Mac.

Screencasting is a way of capturing what you do on the screen as a video file. The more advanced applications allow you to record an audio track on top, whilst others also allow you to annotate and add text to your screencast.

They are a very useful way of explaining how an application works, how a website works, how to do something or explaining a process in an application.

They can also be used with presentation software, such as PowerPoint or Keynote, to create videos of your presentations which can then be converted into video files. These video files can then be converted by learners (or practitioners) into formats which work on mobile devices, or home DVD players, etc…

One of the original applications for this kind of activity is Ambrosia’s Snapz Pro X.

Snapz Pro X allows you to effortlessly record anything on your screen, saving it as a QuickTime movie or screenshot that can be emailed, put up on the web, or passed around however you want.

Snapz Pro X works for me and I do use it quite a bit.

Snapz Pro X

ScreenFlow is pretty good too, but Leopard only.

Making screencasts on your Mac

It looks fantastic and unlike Snapz Pro X the resulting capture can be edited, annotated much more easily.

ScreenFlow is a complete workflow for creating screencasts: powerful enough to capture your desktop, video camera, microphone & computer audio at the same time.

Screenflow

IShowU is suppose to be very good. I did give it a go and seemed pretty easy to use.

Need to show something to someone? iShowU is your answer! iShowU is designed to record anything on your screen, instantly — both audio, and video!

I wasn’t too impressed with the results of capturing video, ScreenFlow and Snapz Pro X seeme better at that. However IShowU does have a range of capture option choices depending on what you want to show the video on.

IShowU

CamTwist can be used too, though the focus here is on web based video chat type video, so not something for high quality video or presentations. However for the web (ie via something like Ustream) it is ideal.

CamTwist is a software package that lets you add special effects to your video chats. It’s also possible to stream your desktop and still images.

CamTwist

One final option is to use screenshots (images) and iMovie. Capture a series of screenshots and then insert into iMovie and edit accordingly – though from experience this takes a lot longer than the above applications.

iMovie

Overall there are many choices in screencasting on the Mac and of course with Parallels you can also now screencast Windows using the same software.

This is how I did the following screencast of Photostory.

Personally I like Snapz Pro X, but I think I might have a good look at ScreenFlow.