Science of the Movies


I think I have a new favorite show on the Science Channel: Science of the Movies Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT. It looks like it’s going to focus mostly on high tech F/X but I think we can borrow a few ideas for our students’ videos. Last week’s premiere episode featured a couple of neat effects that we can imitate easily enough in schools.

is the name of a camera/filming company that got it’s start because a dog food commercial needed some dog’s eye view shots of the world “with attitude.” They developed a rig to see through Fido’s eyes and created a whole new industry to give us a fresh perspective by changing how we look at the world. There’s no reason we can’t share that philosophy through creative student projects. Set the camera down low to get an ankle level view of kids coming up the stairs or trooping down the halls during passing periods. Or strap the camera to a skate board to get a worm’s eye view of the world as it moves from here to there. (Picture courtesy of the Doggicam Photo Gallery)

csmmfsimplyintegrated.pngSplit screen is also a way to multiply your talent. This depends heavily on your software so Mac users are going to need at least iMovie ’09 or iMovie HD6 with purchased plug-ins while PC folk would have to own a next level video editing program like Adobe’s Premiere Elements. There is a free MovieMaker plug-in but it can be a challenge to integrate. The big trick here (aside from either picture-in-picture or green screen capability) is to keep the camera locked down and immobile so that the backgrounds match up perfectly when you combine shots.  I think there are two ways to do it. The first is simply picture in picture where a cropped portion of one take is laid over one side of another take (i.e. actor on the left over actor on the right). The second is with the green screen/chroma key effect. You will have to wait for me to rearrange my kitchen studio to be able to video an example, but it’s just a take-off on the Harry Potter invisibility cloak that I demonstrated before. Your base shot is done with the actor talking to himself from one side of the screen. The second shot is either in front of a full screen green screen or with the green set up where the first self was (kind of a key hole). When you lay the second shot with its key color over the first, the first actor shows through the green and appears in and seems to be interacting with the second shot. See “Simply Integrated” from the finalists’ page of the California Student Multi-Media Festival. It’s about half way down.

And speaking of the CSMMF, it looks like they had another wonderful celebration of student creativity last weekend at both ends of the state. See our man-on-the-street Hall Davidson report over at Media Matters.

P.S. and a quick tip for you MovieMaker users from my Digital Storytelling students at Wilkes University. In order to separate the audio from a video clip, just drag the clip down to the audio/music track. Voilá!


Related posts


  1. Denise said:

    I took Digital Storytelling through Wilkes last Fall semester. I can not tell you how much I learned in that class – and it was great fun, too! I am not big on watching TV, but this is a show I might have to make an effort for. You described the spit screen technique very nicely. I am presently using MovieMaker for all my projects, but I have a colleague who wants me to help her figure out Elements. That sounds like the ticket to learning about green screening. Thank you for the tip on “Science of the Movies”!

  2. Corey Graham said:

    I have yet to take digital story telling but from what I have seen I cannot wait to take the class through wilkes.

  3. Rod Murray said:

    If only I’d known about the audio/video track separation in Moviemaker! Thanks Prof Brennan

  4. Michael McCree said:

    Moviemaker has made my life so much easier. I took Digital Storytelling in the spring and had a tremendous experience. I am looking forward to seeing Science of the Movies and can’t wait to make the 2009 Wilkes University Football Highlite film.

Comments are closed.