Browsing Tag 514

I Like the Sound of That! Using Music Legally in Classroom Videos

One of my EDUC 514 (Video in the Classroom) alumni just sent me an email about adding a soundtrack to a video for his classroom. The question is perfectly worded: How do I insert (good) music without the legal entanglements?
First, a quick primer on fair use.

Speak-into-the-microphoneThe Center for Social Media focuses on fast-changing environment for public media. The following is paraphrased from their page Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video: Fair use is flexible; it is not uncertain or unreliable. In fact, for any particular field of critical or creative activity, lawyers and judges consider expectations and practice in assessing what is “fair” within the field. Ask yourself,

“Did the unlicensed use “transform” the material taken from the copyrighted work by using it for a different purpose than that of the original, or did it just repeat the work for the same intent and value as the original?”

If you can answer “yes”, then you may use video in your classroom. This article discusses the implications of fair use of video in the classroom. Here are the cliff notes:

  1. You need permission to use music that you didn’t write.
  2. You can’t use music from your iTunes library. You have the power to do so, but not the permission.
  3. Lots of people don’t care about the legal side of using music in school projects. You do.
  4. There are amazing sites that offer free music. They’re creative commons, so give credit when you use the tunes.

Here are my three favorite places to go to find music that rocks and music that I’m allowed to use:


Jamendo is a platform for independent artists to share their work. Anyone in education can use songs on this website as long as credit is given. I think of Past Bill (a younger version of myself, probably about 20 years old), and imagine that he would be insanely stoked that a website like this exists where moviemakers and students can use songs that Past Bill wrote.

Moby Gratis

Moby (yes, the Moby) created Moby Gratis created this project for “anyone in need of free music for their independent, non-profit film, video, or short.” How cool is that!? The answer: very.


Kevin MacLeod created Incompetech Music because “there are a lot of schools with no money, and plenty of film makers who want to have music – but can’t afford to clear copyrights from the existing systems that are set up. I believe that copyright is badly broken, so I chose a license that allows me to to give away the rights I wish to surrender.” The answer to nearly every FAQ on his site: Anyone can use any of my music in any project.


Write your own music. Use GarageBand. It’s amazing. Here’s a tutorial:

So, get out there. Shoot some video. Add some amazing, licensed music. Change the world. Rinse. Repeat.

Make Professional Videos With These 4 Pieces of Gear

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:

1. Lighting

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 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).

 2. Backdrop

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.

3. Microphone

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.

4. Video Camera

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.