Video has the ability to pack tons of information into a short period of time. If done well, it will transform your classroom. If you’re already making videos, you probably use available lighting and your phone. There are a few (relatively) inexpensive piece of gear that will immediately make your videos look more professional. If you’re looking to bump up your video production quality, I recommend purchasing the following gear in order:
Good lighting will instantly and dramatically improve the quality of your videos. Video is lighting. (Without light, video is completely black, right!?) I recommend buying a lighting kit. I have a 3-pack, and love it! If you want to pick-and-choose, spend some time on Tubetape.com. The best value for teachers are the EZ Softboxes. Cheesy name, but unreal quality for the money. Expect to pay about $100 per light (bulb, softbox, diffuser, & stand).
You’ll probably want a black and white background. Black is by far the easiest to work with. Gray or tan-ish are also easy to work with. White is tricky because pure white is hard to light. Green screens are cool, but unless you actually require a virtual background, avoid it! You spend time troubleshooting instread of creating. Expect to pay about $50 for a 4’x6′ collapsible backdrop.
You could also have a classroom in the background. It’s the cheapest solution, and can help create a teachery feel. Again, it depends on the look you’re going for.
If you want a microphone, buy the Yeti Pro, made by Blue Microphones. It can be USB powered or connect with an xlr cable. The sound is unreal for the money, and there are several pickup patterns (cardiod, omni, bi, & stereo). Expect to pay about $240.
A cheaper alternative is the Blue Yeti. It’s only connects via USB, but captures great quality. I use this microphone, and record into GarageBand. I sync it to video in my editing software, which is annoying, but the epic quality is worth it. Expect to pay just under $100.
A fancy video camera would obviously be nice. If you can swing $2000, look at a nice name brand camera with an xlr input. Stick with name brands like Sony. If you are spending closer to $1000, buy a dSLR. If you’re a Canon guy, there is a Rode microphone that attaches to the hot shoe (usually where the big flash goes). If you’re a Nikon guy, the audio sucks. You’ll need a separate mic and sync it in post-production.
You probably already have a great camera. The iPhone 4 (or greater) has a killer camera. The iPad 3 (or greater) also has a nice camera. If you already have one of these, use it!
Don’t forget about your computer–you have a built-in webcam that looks decent. You can also capture your screen using Quicktime Player or Camtasia.
Finally, iOS apps like Educreations and Explain Everything are quick solutions for video creation.
For years, I created videos with mediocre gear and no extra lighting. If you’re doing this, your gear and the quality of video it creates will eventually become annoying. When that’s the case, I hope this list is useful.
Two-thirds of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2016. Further, Cisco estimates that nearly 90 percent of all consumer IP traffic this year is video. It’s time we learn a bit about file formats, and how to optimize video when we share it.
The universal format for videos (if there is one) is .mp4 or .m4v. Anyone with a quicktime player or web browser can play these files. Simply put: cobvert your videos to .mp4. This format gives you high quality videos with smaller files sizes. You can’t get both high quality and small size, but .mp4 does a good job of both. AVI files are high quality, but have huge files (not much compression), so avoid them unless you’re doing high end video editing. WMV files (windows media video) don’t play well on an Apple, the file size is large, and the quality is poor. Video_TS and Audio_TS folders are raw files from a dvd. You can’t edit, upload, or embed them, so you’ll need to convert these files.
A codec is a way of storing the information in the above formats. If you have the choice, use the h.264 codec. So, if you’re saving/exporting a file as a .mp4, select the h.264 codec. It will give you a good balance between high quality and lower file size.
Disclaimer: use your own footage, or footage that you have permission to use in your classroom. Don’t steal movies.
There are plenty of YouTube videos explaining how to use this software. I’m going to give you an overview of each, and why you would want to use it. Unless otherwise noted, all software is available for Mac and PC. So here is some software to convert video, in order of importance:
Handbrake is my go-to converter. It will take most video files and convert it into an .mp4 file. There are plenty of presets that are optimized for devices like Apple TV 2, iPod Touch, etc. The default present (Normal) in Handbrake is great. If you’re new to this software, open your file in Handbrake, and click Run. It will look great.
Handbrake is able to read TS files, and export them as a video file. So, if you archived your dvd collection and you just want to show your class chapter 9 from The Princess Bride, Handbrake will let you do that.
MPEG Streamclip will export to most every format. The exported videos are often large sizes, so don’t use this if you’re concerned about creating smaller files. MPEG Streamclip will also play most video files. If Quicktime won’t play it, chances are Streamclip will. It exports to the usual suspects (mp4, m4v), but also will export to AVI and DV (digital video (rare these days)). This is one of the rare apps that will export a single frame of video; if you’re looking for a still image from video, Streamclip does a great job.
VLC PLayer will play nearly any video file. It is required for other pieces of software like Handbrake and FairMount (so just download it now). VLC Player also has several ways to adjust the video and audio. You can play videos back faster or slower with VLC Player (Playback > Faster or Playback > Slower). This is great if students are learning a song that’s too fast–slow it down until they master it, then bring the video back to full speed.
Quicktime Player is the go-to video player for most people, including me. If your Apple has Snow Leopard or higher, you have Quicktime Player. Not to be confused with Quicktime or Quicktime Pro, this version has some changes from previous operating systems. You can perform simple edits in Quicktime Player. Go to Edit > Trim to cut off (or trim) the beginning and end of a video. If you want to save a file as an .mv4, go to File >Export to save the file. Share (menu item) allows you to upload to several websites, including YouTube.
Quicktime Pro 7 is the only choice for a Quicktime player if you’re on a PC. If you’re on an Apple running Snow Leopard or higher, you have to download it . Download it here it here for both Apple and PC. Quicktime Pro is $29–I bought it years ago, and have never had to pay for an upgrade. Here are links to buy the Pro key for Windows or Apple. Quicktime 7 allows you to slow down the speed of the video (like VLC). It also allows you to use multiple audio channels. You can copy an audio track from one quicktime window (audio or video) and paste it into another video. You can even change the volumes of each audio track. Don’t count this one out. If you don’t have access to a decent editing program, Quicktime Pro can do waaaay more than you think.
SmartConverter is a drag-and-drop solution for video conversion for Apple users only. It’s found in the App Store (on Mac, not iOS) and it’s free. Drop a video file onto the window, and select what the export will be. Exported files get sent to iTunes by default. You can export files as audio-only. This is great if you have a video for your students to sing along to, but you want to burn a cd of that track.
Bit depth is a way to control how big an exported file will be. 15,000 is definitely HD; in fact, YouTube will downconvert this. 9,000 is typically considered HD. 1500 is Handbrake’s default bit depth. It’s not HD, but looks good in most cases. You can customize this in most exports.
Handbrake sometimes doesn’t play well with other applications. If you can’t get a file to play in iMovie or Final Cut, for example, use just one audio track. Go into the Audio sub-tab and change additional tracks (Audio > Track 2) to None. This will make your exported video more compatible.
Mp4, m4v, and mov are all Quicktime files. You can change the extension manually between all three of these. Occasionally, .mov doesn’t play well with mobile devices. Change the .mov to a .mp4, and it works!