Brain buzz…

The foreign language teachers at my school decided to give extra credit assignments (in French and Spanish) if students would shoot a one minute commercial or a ten minute movie. Their requirement: the script had to be in the language the students were learning.

Technology is a wonderful thing – but (much as I love and admire these teachers) they know nothing – NOTHING – about what is involved in making a simple commercial, let alone a ten minute movie. Normally I’d ignore this and let it go…but the kids are lining up outside my classroom clamouring for help. They need cameras, they need to learn to edit. They bring in problems and expect solutions.

So here’s what the kids have taught me.
1. If I say “help” with big helpless eyes, you will help me (true).
2. If I am polite and willing to listen and learn, you will help me (also true).
3. If I bring in a still camera that shoots mpeg files you will somehow find a way to edit them, even though I forgot the cable that connects to the computer and your computers can’t recognize mpeg4 (ouch – kind of true…see PowerPoint lesson below).
4. Mrs. Green LOVES a challenge (unfortunately VERY true).

The latter forced me to learn something. Our older eMacs won’t recognize some of the new file forms (yeah – our geeks need to do some upgrading), so when one team of kids brought in a flash drive with mpeg files, I had to do some quick thinking. We imported to iMovie, but there was no audio. Tried using QuickTime Pro to convert to .avi files, but still no audio in either iMovie or Final Cut Express. Looked bleak…but then I remembered something. You can “edit” in PowerPoint!

For those of you who despair of learning editing because you have an older computer or can’t afford fancy programs…you can do simple cuts in PowerPoint. You will have to shoot exactly what you want because you can’t cut the clips down the way you can in a nonlinear editing program.

Here’s how.
First, create a file folder and title it. Then create your PP presentation and save it to the file folder. Next, move all of your music files and video clips into the folder. You can also move your still photos and art to the folder if you want – but if you insert stills/art, for some reason they are integrated into the fabric of the program, but video and music are not. PowerPoint seems to create a reference to the movie/music files. So if you create a PP with movies/music and then transfer the PP to another computer or flash drive or CD, they will detach from the PP. You actually need to transfer them in a file so they will remained linked.

So you have your folder set up (hey, that’s media management). Now you can get to work. Realize that I am working with a MacBook with MicroSoft Office X – your version of Office or PowerPoint may be different and you may have to adapt features.
Create a bunch of blank slides (or if you want titles, choose another template). Go to Insert, Movies and Sounds, Movie From File and choose your first clip. Then insert your second into the next slide, and so on until they are all in there.

If you want to have music playing in the background, go to Insert, Movies and Sound, Sound From File and choose the music you put into your folder. The icon for audio will appear on the slide – move it to an inconspicuous area of the slide.

If you want the music to play for more than one slide, click on the slide you want the music to begin on and then go to Slide Show, Animations, Custom. In the upper left window click on the icon for your music and then go to options. Click “Continue Slide Show” and “After ____ Slides.” The latter allows you to choose how many slides the music will play under. You can also choose to loop the music. (Note: please remember to use only royalty-free music; that is music you have a legal right to use.)

Click on your first slide and go to Slide Show, Animations, Transition and choose which effect you want to use between slides (leave as is if you want plain cuts).

You can add a darker background design to make the overall effect more cohesive if you want.

Now…time to set up the timing. Go to Slide Show, Rehearse Timings and click on your space bar or return button every time you want to change slides and save.

Now when you go to “View SlideShow” the presentation will play automatically. And you have now done simple editing using Powerpoint by creating slides and playing them for specified periods of time.

The new file formats are a challenge with older computers and sometimes I can’t make it work. I do have a suggestion besides PowerPoint (which can be too expensive for many students): download Avid Free DV and the accompanying tutorial. This is a fairly rigorous free program by the top nonlinear company around. It comes in PC and Mac flavors.

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