“To fulfill the promise of digital citizenship, Americans must acquire multimedia communication skills that include the ability to compose messages using language, graphic design, images, and sound, and know how to use these skills to engage in the civic life of their communities.” ~Renee Hobbs

As we head into the New Year, it is exciting to see a number of great video competitions open to students.  From our regional spring SEVAs competition to NextVista’s national and international events, students can hone their 21st century skill set (critical thinking, communication, creativity, collaboration, (digital) citizenship) – as they build their ePortfolios and digital footprints.

It is also exciting to see a growing number of free online tools and tips to help student filmmakers through the process of taking a message and transforming it into a media gem. For example:

Pre-production:

Storyboards – From printable storyboards to Mathew Needleman’s more organic approach to storyboarding, storyboarding is a starting point for creating a powerful PSA.

Script writingPSA Scripting Template – Thank you, Bill Ferriter, for this excellent resource!

Production:

Camera shots:

  • Rule of Thirds – This basic camera rule/practice will rock your world – and your students – if you’re not already familiar with it.  Here’s a great video by Kids in Action on everything you need to know about the rule of thirds. Once you’re aware of the rule of thirds, it will change how you view videos – such as this trailer from High School Musical (thanks again to Mathew Needleman for sharing this one).

  • Wide-Medium-Tight Shots – I had another big ah ha moment, right up there with learning about the rule of thirds, when I attended SECC’s SEVA Training session with News 10′s multimedia journalist Nick Monacelli.  I recommend watching the entire 40-minute session on Building a News Story. But if you’re short on time, move the play head  about 15 minutes into the presentation and watch Nick explain the importance of taking B-roll footage. It’s B-roll tight shots – not transitions – that “professionals” use to quickly and smoothly move a story along.

And the big ah ha?  Hey, until hearing Nick’s presentation, I had not considered that almost never in a news story will you see transitions used.  Aside from the rare dissolve transition, used to show a flashback or change in time, transitions are  not part of an award-winning newscast. But, oh my, do students, especially elementary students, love to use transitions! Nick’s presentation could be just the tip students need to rethink the use of star wipes, for instance, in transitioning their viewers from one scene to the next.

Post-production:

Audio/Music:

  • UJam – I am no longer envious of Mac users’ access to Garageband (I teach in a PC district), thanks to UJam, a free, web-based program for creating music – even if you (like me) are music-challenged. UJam was one of my favorite take-aways from last summer’s Merit program.
  • ccMixter – ccMixter is a community music site featuring remixes licensed under Creative Commons where you can listen to, sample, mash-up, or interact with music in whatever way you want.  I learned about CCMixter in Silvia Tolisano’s wonderful Digital Storytelling How to Guide for Educators.
  • Jamendo – A rapidly-growing community of free, legal and unlimited music published under Creative Commons licenses.
  •  Audacity -  A free, cross-platform program for creating and editing audio. Here’s a link to my favorite Audacity tutorial: Audacity Basics

Video editing – Although I’m still grieving the loss of cloud-based JayCut, such an awesome freebie that even included green screen options – and allowed editing from both Mac and PC, eliminating all kinds of school-to-home/home-to-school issues – I continue to be grateful for iMovie, Movie Maker, and PhotoStory3 (one of my favorite digital storytelling tools!).  And I look forward in the New Year to exploring free smartphone apps for filmmaking.

I think one of the most important things we can do for students is to support and promote their efforts at becoming effective multimedia writers. Providing tools and tips is one way – along with providing authentic audiences.  Over the next month, I’d like to gather a comprehensive list of student video competitions.  If you know of any, please jump in and leave a comment.

The great films have not been made yet. The ones who will make them are out there, though, riding a skateboard.” ~Robert Altman



One Response to “Tips and Tools for Making an Award-Winning PSA”

  1.   Mathew Says:

    Thanks for sharing my resources.

    I now also like the iPad app Cinemek Storyboard Composer. However, for an app, it’s rather expensive at $30. The pinch and zoom abilities of the iPad do the same thing electronically that a person can do by drawing a box around their storyboard drawings.

    Reply

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