Sunday, September 26, 2010

Public Service Announcement (PSA)

During Weeks #3-5 in my Multimedia and Video Technology graduate course, we formed a team for a group project. Our mission was to create a 1-minute public service announcement (PSA) covering a topic that directly impacts our school district, campuses, staff, students, or community. After many discussions, we settled on a subject that is facing many educators today: the fact that what you post online can affect your professional career. As a result, Be Careful What You Post Online was born.

We went through many phases of pre-production including planning our theme, choosing and scouting our locations, composing our script and narration, weeding down our shot list, and determining the best camera shots and angles. Production involved equipment checklists (which came in handy), shooting many takes of each scene to give us options later during editing, modifying and reworking audience perspectives and camera angles on set, and attempting to produce a professional PSA while having fun in the process. Post-production involved project discussions evaluating the scene takes, editing the film, excluding scenes, selecting transitions and video effects, deciding on sound effects, and rendering a final product. Our web delivery decisions included posting on YouTube in a Windows Media Video (WMV) format.

Regarding enhancements, I think our video could be improved by an increase in allotted time. I believe we could have done a better job with location identification if the PSA had a 2-minute parameter. While I understand making the point quickly and succinctly, parts of our production feel rushed. When it comes to improving our project experience, I must say that we had an experienced crew that brought many skill sets to the table. The only changes that I can brainstorm are unrealistic. I wish that all members of our team could have met in person and been able to take a week’s vacation from our jobs to focus on this project.

Regarding copyright, we utilized various graphics from and a camera sound effect from Even though both websites offer copyright-free content, our team felt we should model proper copyright technique and document these assets’ origins.

With regards to collaboration and interactivity with my group, we utilized many methods. Communication was enhanced through TOKBOX, e-mail, and teleconferencing. Collaborating on our plan and design was facilitated by a Google Doc encompassing our storyboard, planning document, role selection, shot list, online meeting notes, suggestions, revisions, project updates, project schedule, and our final collaborative project debriefing. Technology truly supported our communication endeavors. While we all made a concerted effort to ensure exceptional correspondence, one team member was definitely the communication hub for our team. She kept us focused, organized, and on schedule. Thanks, Sandy!

Throughout this course, I truly enjoyed the new learning and working with my group. I had never been involved in a film production before. I have a friend in film production in California and I had no idea what was involved. Our 1-minute PSA took four people and a great deal of time and effort. I can’t imagine the amount of work and planning that goes into a full-feature film.

Our group video production project allowed us to collaboratively learn about the phases of creating a film. Planning, designing, producing, editing, and evaluating are the major stages. Communication and the use of technology were also intertwined in the process. As a result, I think we all have a greater understanding of how multimedia and video projects can impact teaching and learning.

Team, thanks for the memories!

Please watch our PSA:

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Value of Web Conferences

Web conferences hold many benefits. For companies, these usually include cost savings, increased productivity, and flexibility in scheduling. As students in an online course, web conferences mean that we actually get to converse with our professors, see what they look like, and ask pertinent questions. Unfortunately, many of the web conferences I have attended have been plagued with technical glitches such as lost audio. This leaves text as the primary form of communication and it is difficult to keep up with all of the comments. Additionally, it is hard to know which student’s question is being answered if the professor does not start her answer with a student’s name. Webcams are wonderful tools, but perhaps it is time for our professors to try a different web conference service.

Overall, I do appreciate the communication option of web conferencing with our professors and fellow students. It allows us to feel like we are more than a name on a screen. It also permits us to clarify points of confusion that always seems to surface during online instruction. It’s similar to poor interpretations of e-mail messages. Someone always tends to interpret e-mail the wrong way by perceiving emotion that is simply not there. With online curriculum, people tend to infer the wrong direction and make false assumptions about the assignments. Maybe we just over-think it; make it too difficult. Of course, conversing about these items and clearing up the misinterpretations during the web conferences is invaluable (when the technology is working).

Reflection on Video Editing Software

During my second week in Lamar University’s Multimedia and Video Technology graduate course, I was asked to evaluate video editing software packages. While I did not stick to free software, I tried to veer away from high-dollar items such as Adobe Premiere. I chose the following three applications: Zwei-Stein, Microsoft’s Movie Maker, and AVS Video Editor. My past video experience has only included Movie Maker, so this software review was bound to be fun and engaging.

It should be mentioned that I had never heard of Zwei-Stein before this week. This software was mentioned in one of our weekly articles entitled Top 5 Free Video Editing Software Programs (2009). I honestly tried to use it, but it is not user-friendly. The graphical user interface is not intuitive and the tutorials and help files left a lot to be desired. I was able to import a media video file into the program, but stumbled around after that step. In my humble opinion, I cannot figure out how it made the Top 5 list.

Second on my evaluation list was Microsoft’s Movie Maker. This product is considered free since it can be downloaded as an add-on to Microsoft Windows XP and has been around for years. The interface is easy to use and just makes sense. Step-by-step clicks lead you through importing media, adding audio, editing the timeline/storyboard, inserting transitions and effects, and rendering the final product into a Windows Media Video (WMV).

The final software application that I assessed was AVS Video Editor. I stumbled across this package earlier this week. AVS Video Editor can be found at The AVS package is not free, but can be downloaded as a trial version. This version will embed a logo in your video productions until you purchase and activate it. Currently, Online Media Technologies Ltd., has close to 20 products that can be downloaded as trial-ware. Normally, $199 will buy you a lifetime subscription, but through September 2010, $59 purchases a lifetime subscription to all (not each) of their software applications. These products include advanced solutions for converting and editing video, audio, and image files. They even have document conversion, firewall, anti-spam, and registry cleaner applications.

The AVS Video Editor interface looks very similar to Movie Maker’s. All of the same features are present including capturing straight from a video device. One additional aspect is that AVS allows for screen capture – a very useful and valuable element when creating tutorials and how-to videos. A second enhancement is the veritable plethora of file formats available when rendering:

• AVI, MPEG, WMV, and QuickTime movie
• various disc authoring formats such as DVD, DIVX, and Blu-Ray
• various mobile device formats including media players such as Apple iPODs and Sony PSPs, game consoles such as XBOX 360 and the Wii, phones such as iPhone, Android, and Blackberry, and other newer devices such as the iPAD
• compressed web publishing formats such as FLASH, Real Media, and QuickTime

In conclusion, AVS Video Editor is an amazing piece of software, especially when you consider the bundle of 20 applications you get for $59. Even though it is not free, this low-cost solution rivals other video editing software applications such as AVID and WAX, is as easy to use as Microsoft’s Movie Maker, and has screen capture capability like Adobe’s Captivate and TechSmith’s Camtasia. Even though this product comes from an international and off-shore company, it has excellent tech support including a YouTube channel from which you can access many tutorials in various languages.

In The Art of the Edit, Janis Lonnquist states that “the challenge is to take raw footage and within the limitation of equipment and budget, transform it into something compelling and watchable” (Lonnquist, 1994). This is not always easy, especially if you do not have enough footage to choose from. The article also mentions the fact that a good production manager considers editing from the planning and storyboard phases. Our school district’s Instructional Technology Director also teaches the Film class at our high school. He is always saying that “you can’t shoot a 15-minute film with 15 minutes of film.” Shooting scenes from many angles, perspectives, and zoom effects will allow you editing options later. This has been a difficult lesson to learn, so we must remember to pass this along to our students.

Desktop-Video-Guide. (n.d.). Top 5 free video editing software programs. Retrieved on April 12, 2009, from

Lonnquist, J. (1994, November). The art of the edit. Videomaker. Retrieved on April 6, 2009, from

Here is a link to my tutorial video that I created for AVS Video Editor 5.1. Please let me know what you think.