As I wind up my last trip of the summer, my third to California in just over a month, I marvel at what a great and appropriate end to a season of learning and sharing that this one has been. It has stretched me differently than the others (waistline and intellectually).
It started out Sunday night with an exceptional visit and dinner with a high school classmate who settled out here in San Diego more than twenty years ago. When I spent a week at his house last year during NECC, I came in just in time for his annual 4th of July cookout extravaganza. This year, by sheer dumb luck, I hit a “cook-off” they have a few times a year with several other couples. Each household prepares a dish for every course. This round’s menu theme was Asian. Everybody was assigned a couple of countries to find recipes from and away they went – four plus chefs cooking in the same kitchen at the same time. Good thing I was there to supervise and maintain order! Exotic beverages, fresh herbs and tomatoes from our hosts’ garden, “squid’s knees,” satay, several variations on shrimp and pork, and I won’t even get started with the desserts. I almost forgot that I came out here to work.
And “work” I did, though it was more like Christmas in August for this old A.V. guy. The DEN brought me out to do a digital storytelling day with the San Diego Unified School District who won this year’s $250,000 grant from Best Buy. Yes, you read that right – a quarter of a million dollars! And knowing it’s not just about the stuff, the core group of teachers is meeting for the next few days to engage in some professional development and project preparation. Santa Claus, in the form of district edtech resource teacher Dennis Cowick, started unpacking his bag of goodies just as I began setting up before the first teachers came in: MacBooks, DV camcorders, still cameras with spare batteries, tripods, headsets, and a plan to document the unsung heroes in this community.
And that’s where the stretch came for me. We compressed the AFI “Lights! Camera! Education!” door scene into just a morning activity so we could spend the afternoon working on interviewing and making a documentary type visual story. Where we usually demand a storyboard and script before filming, these San Diego students will tape an interview and have to extract the story from that. Since the students will be using iMovie, we spent some time on the “Paste over at playhead” feature under the “Advanced” menu. This essentially gives you a second video track. While the interviewee is talking underneath, a still picture or another video is playing on top to illustrate his words.
This can also be an effective technique when taping a concert with two different cameras or on two different nights. The first camera is the base track: a medium to wide shot taking in most to all of the stage and maintaining the continuity of the music. The second camera (or same camera at the next performance) gets close ups or tighter group shots of the performers. Highlight a tight shot, SILENCE it, copy it, then drag the play head to an appropriate spot, and paste it in. For a play on the other hand, you’d probably want to cut the close ups right in, sound and all.
I’m looking forward to these students’ final videos and their stories honoring the unsung heroes in their community.