Talking Heads

As our Digital Storytelling classes prepare their interview videos for this week, it seems appropriate to share a couple of tips.
Sometimes we are the victims of our own success. A few years ago, when I was still the coordinator for our high schools’ multimedia labs, two of the American history senior teachers sent their students out to record the stories of WWII vets. Since their kids had done such a great job making videos during the school year, they never thought to check in with me for my normal, pre-project tips and tricks. So, whether the person landed in the first wave on D-Day, cleaned latrines in Louisianna all war or was a Rosie the Riveter or a WAC ferrying bombers across the north Atlantic, after the first two minutes it became a very hard to watch talking head looking straight into the camera. There is so much we could have done to make these engaging learning stories!
Two simple strategies would have done it: one while taping, the other in editing. Usually the only time you see someone looking right into the camera is when it’s the nightly news or a talk show host either going to commercial or introducing the next guest. First, set your interviewee just off center, to the left or the right, and looking at someone just off screen, not right into the camera. Second, in both iMovie and Movie Maker, when the speaker mentions something that can be illustrated – show it. That is called a cut-away, though some might also call it an overlay. It’s very easy to do in iMovie. In the “older” HD6 version use the Advanced menu and Paste Over Special to copy from the clipboard right on top of the video. The man mentions getting a draft notice, show a draft notice while he’s still talking “underneath.” In the newer versions of iMovie, make sure Advanced is turned on in the preferences and simply drag and drop a picture or another video on top the base, interview video. Couldn’t be easier!
For years I thought PC users of Movie Maker were just out of luck, but thanks to two of my EDIM 504 students, I see that it can be done without too much trouble. After one student pointed out that it was just a matter of dragging a piece of a video clip (in the storyboard view) down to the soundtrack and filling the resulting gap with an image or another video, the second student made a ScreenCast for one of her classmates to show how it’s done: Thank you MarĂ­a and Deb!
P.S. She could have added the music by exporting the video and then importing it into a new project which gives you a fresh, blank soundtrack to fill as you wish. Do that as many times as you want to layer voice, sound effects and music.

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