Tag Archives: technology

Questions from Teens on Texting

Great discussion is being generated in class with all the media buzz around cell phones in the classroom. I took the opportunity to discuss texting with one of my grade 11 classes, asking students to think about the fears around teens and texting and to frame questions around those fears. Here’s what we discussed:

“Is texting really making us become more anti-social?”

Texting is actually quite social. In fact it’s hyper-social. Teens are connecting with each other around the clock and staying more connected to each other than ever. Adults worry when teens go off to their rooms and text because face-to-face interaction with them drops off. Adults equate your physical absence with anti-social behaviour because they have learned to be social by being physically present. They are worried about being kept outside of your social space. Spend some face-to-face time with your parents every day.

“Won’t we have a harder time communicating face-to-face?”

Just because you are communicating less face-to-face doesn’t mean you’ll forget how to do it. It’s just another form of communication that you can choose from. That means you’ll need to assess the most effective way to get your message across when communicating. For example, teens enjoy using sarcasm with each other. That’s difficult to read in a text. You’re probably already reserving that for face-to-face interaction.

Some teens I interviewed during my documentary said they use texting to help them think about what they want to communicate when responding in a difficult situation, instead of acting impulsively. This can be a benefit in preventing a situation from escalating, however, teens do lose the opportunity to read body language. Sometimes what we say or write isn’t exactly how we feel. Teens need to think ahead about the possible outcomes of using each kind of communication before they engage in a difficult conversation. It’s not much different than before cell phones when teens used notes to express themselves instead of dealing face-to-face. Teens have already been negotiating between written forms of communication and face-to-face.

Another question that came up was “is texting ruining our ability to spell correctly and use proper grammar?” The response will appear in an upcoming post.

Cellphone Use in Classroom topic on a roll

I rushed to the CTV studios right after school yesterday and did the taping for Province Wide. I was 15 minutes late after getting out of the building and then finding on my drive that Wellington Street was closed. I was a little frazzled but managed to shake it.

Daiene asked me what I thought about banning cell phone use in schools and I explained I felt it was sad that some boards that ban the devices are missing out on opportunities to teach students about appropriate use. We chatted about parents who don’t know how to set boundaries as role models for students and how students need to work through their compulsion so they don’t end up like the generation before them. What a great opportunity for education to guide them through this. By the way, Daiene’s cell phone went off during the taping and we had to re-start a question. Her daughter needed a ride home and I had probably kept her later since I came in a little late. It really wasn’t her fault, but it was still pretty funny.

After supper, my husband showed me a news post on the Internet that Premiere Dalton McGuinty had been asked by Toronto reporters what he thought about cell phones in the classroom. The Toronto Board had just announced it had decided to review its cell phone policy. I immediately thought, “Yeah Neil!” Neil Andersen, who appears in my documentary is a retired media consultant for the Toronto Board of Ed. I was so glad that people were starting to talk about the issue. It’s been a long time coming.

This morning I was surprised to see a negative backlash to what McGuinty had said. All he had said was that schools need to help students find appropriate use for ell phones in the classroom and that we need to consider a place for them. That’s exactly what I had been saying Tuesday morning. I guess the fear-mongers ran with that one and attacked him for not considering the distraction of cell phones in the class. It’s strange how people can twist things out of proportion because bringing them in to class is what we needed to do in order to deal with the compulsion to be on call. I wish people could see my documentary so they could understand the issued a lot better.

Before lunch, I got another call from the office that the CBC had been trying to get a hold of me again. CBC’s radio syndicate requested 11 interviews for between 3 and 6 PM. I’m so glad I got up early this morning to write down some of the counter talk I could expect from people. It came in handy on the circuit. Some interviews went easily with talk show hosts that were open to the issues, but a couple went much tougher with the announced out in Halifax calling himself a curmudgeon and David Gray calling me crazy. I think David was just upset because I caught him on one of his own points. He said that teens shouldn’t have cell phones in the classroom to use as tools because it’s unfair to the ones who don’t have them. I said it was an easy fix and that I had never had a problem with it. Students work in groups and the ones that have them are quite happy to share. He asked me if I really thought it was okay to ask the kids who have cell phones be asked to share with the ones who don’t. I explained again that the haves are quite willing to share with the have-nots if you ask them, it’s not a requirement. The haves don’t mind sharing their phones while working in groups and don’t see it as a big deal. It’s all in how you use them in class and that’s something the teacher can set up with the students; is how and when to use them. David asked “isn’t that drawing a line between the haves and the have-nots? Shouldn’t we level the playing field?” I said, “Are you saying that students should miss out on deeper opportunities for learning just to level the playing field when teachers can create equal learning opportunities through putting students into groups? He quickly changed the question.

There’s several more points I made through 3 hours of talks. The battle with David Gray really stuck out because he challenged me. I have taped some of the interviews and will go over them to accumulate some of the issues that were raised and post them later. I also want to write about the questions my students had for me today. We had a great discussion on the fears that people have around texting. I could tell they had been sitting around the supper table talking with their parents about it. Great questions included: “is texting making us become more anti-social?” and “is texting ruining our ability to spell correctly and use proper grammar?” I will save these discussions for the next post as this one is getting quite long.

The Lone Shooter

I miss having my friend Mike with me on shoots. We were a great team. Mike took the stills and looked after the audio while I operated the camera. This year I have been filming on my own a lot. I feel like one of those one-man bands with a drum attached to my front and a drumstick rigged to my arm, harmonica at my lips, tambourines in between my knees and a horn on my belt. I often wonder if that’s kind of how I look to people when I go out on shoots.

I find it tough to have to think about and monitor all the equipment myself. I’ve been interviewing people while having an ear bud placed in my ear to monitor for interfering background sounds. I am constantly scanning the camera viewer for proper headroom, noseroom, leadroom, light balance, tonal mergers and the audio v/u levels. My mic stand holds the boom now and I’m constantly checking it so that it’s not in my shot, so that it’s pointed in the right direction, so that it’s not placed where someone will trip over it.

Over the next two months I will be flying solo to Boston, Vancouver and the U.K. to shoot my documentary. I’m having nightmares already of forgetting to white balance, charge my batteries, put a battery in the boom, plug my XLR in all the way, forgetting to check for stereo sound and failing to format my SDHC card properly. There’s a lot that can go wrong on a shoot, especially when there’s no one else looking out for you. Just as the airplane pilots will be doing before taking me away to shoot my doc, I’m going to follow a standard checklist. I’ll post it once it’s finished, though it’s specific to my equipment set-up. Maybe I’ll even have a story later on about how the checklist saved a shoot.

In Search of Production Equipment

For my MRP, I’ve been scavenging around looking for equipment. The distance from home to school has me worried about renting equipment from Ryerson. Those late charges could sure add up if the 401 Eastbound is shut down again any morning I try to bring the equipment back.

I have purchased Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects and and Photoshop software. I have a good working knowledge of the editing program and am a beginner at the other two. For a camera, I bought the Canon Vixia HV40. I tested it out this weekend and it is quite good quality. I shot in HDV and tried to import a 45 second clip into my Apple MacBook Pro. After several attempts to import I finally figure out that the camera setting for playback must be on “DV Locked”, and the setting on Premier Pro must be on Canon Alternate 2. When I did capture the clip, the program froze and the swirling pizza ball of hell would not vacate my screen. After shutting down and re-starting, i found the clip in my movie file (I imported it as an .mov). I tried to import it into the project but the swirling pizza ball of hell came back. I decided to check the file size. It was almost half a gig for 45 seconds! That’s about 10 megabytes per second. I am going to do some more tests before shooting at the ECOO conference this week. Maybe Standard def in widescreen is the way to go.

I also purchased a little side light which fills in the shadows on faces. it tested pretty well. The Audio Technica mic US1Photo sent doesn’t work and will have to be sent back. I did an online purchase for one through B and H Photo and sped up the delivery time. That was Friday and I have to shoot Thursday. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!(received an email later in the day saying they shipped it out today…still keeping my fingers crossed).

Also today, I tested out audio for field use. Mike Murphy gave us a good overview of the different types of mics and some tips for use. It was interesting to learn how the cardiod shotgun condenser mic works. The phasing that happens with the ridges on the sides of the mic to cancel out delayed sound is highly useful for shooting at a conference when you don’t want extraneous noise. I took the mic outside and it picked up the helicopter going by above me quite well and when I pointed it down 45 degrees the volume was noticeably lower. Even the ambient noise changed with the position of the mic. This mic required phantom power even though it was battery powered, unless I was using it wrong. I couldn’t get a level without the phantom power on.

I then tried out my Shure SM11 lavalier mic. It needed phantom power as well. The levels were quite a bit lower than the shotgun mic. I tested out the sound in the RCC lobby and talked in a regular voice while a girl beside me spoke in a loud voice. It picked her up as well. I can see how important it will be to have that shotgun mic at the conference and I really hope it arrives before my shoot on Thursday. Ryerson won’t let me take out the shotgun mic, nor the portable audio mixer because the first and second years are using them this week. I’m starting to see how important it really is to have your own equipment. However, there are other good reasons for this. I know that starting a project with one camera and mic and switching to other equipment can cause differences in audio and video footage in various a/v levels that can leave you with hours of colour correction and matching audio levels and warmth. I’m hoping to save myself some time this way.

I tried out the Marantz USB recorder. I think I’ll use this to record my audio separately at the conference and then sync it up afterwards. I recorded .wav at 48kH. About 4 minutes of audio took 46 megabytes. For my MRP I’m expecting about 6 hours of native audio files. 5 seconds takes up 1 mb. That’s do-able. I’m looking at recording 6 hours. That’s just over 4 gigs.

I did try to plug both the shotgun mic and the lavalier into the Marantz but the levels were so different and there is only one level knob. The Marantz in no way should be used as a mixer! The ease of transfer from the Marantz via USB is a terrific time saver. This may be the next item on my list of things to buy.

Production Tips

Intermediate EFP

Hands-on part of module:

Dana showed me some great shooting tips to help me prepare for shooting at a convention in 3 weeks. It’s less cumbersome to take the boom mic off the pole and kneel down under the shot, directing it toward the subject. It’s also easier in this position to direction the boom mic with your wrist in the position of the person talking.

The camera is best off a tripod. I will need to practice this.

I learned how to shoot multiple people by keeping a wide shot and walking in towards the subject for a closer shot and moving out when another person joins into the conversation to a 2-shot. With three people interacting, it’s best to keep the shot pulled out on all three.

Dana also taught me the duck walk he used at City TV to follow alongside a moving subject and moving forward and back with a subject. (Dana cautioned that it’s best to have someone guide you by the shoulder when walking backwards)

More tips:

-Zebra stripes should be set at 80 for Caucasian skin.

-if you have to use a boom mic on top, do so. The camera mic is too directional and will pick up too much noise

-use a light on top of the camera for fill, rather than key

-close your eyes and listen to ambient noise in the room like fans or other noise makers that will wreck your audio track

-look for backgrounds with a “z” access for visual stimulation

-shoot plenty of B-roll and listen to your subject for good B roll clues.

-practice following people shots for B-roll

-Do establishing shots at the convention location…wide shot, find focal point and pull out, could do tilts, etc. Look for interesting shots like architecture lines and flowers to amp up the aesthetic factor.

 

Paperwork:

Dana went over the paperwork for doc work with me. A plot synopsis is not needed, but a treatment is important for figuring out what technical elements are planned and given consideration, such as camera shots, music, and lighting. If there are more than two people working on a production during the course of a day, a call sheet is necessary just to keep track of the schedule and the people involved. Dana says there’s no excuse not to include a map as well. Google Maps is easy to use. A breakdown sheet is used more for dramas than docs so I don’t need to do them. Release forms are important for people talking on camera. Background people are to be treated much the way the news treats them. No special release form is needed. Audio plans are helpful for finding extraneous and disruptive source of noise such as fans and buzzing lights. An audio plan is not necessary at a convention as I won’t know in advance where I will be shooting, but I will make a point of checking the audio location before I roll tape. No blocked master scene script is needed for docs. EFP storyboards are not necessary, but it is important to do a shot list in case there is some storytelling opportunity through visuals in B-roll. There will not be a set-up and lighting plan for shooting at a convention, again, this is because it isn’t know in advance where the shooting will take place. I will scout the location for outdoor light streaming in and move locations if the light affects the colour temperature of my shot too much. I will also attempt to use a camera light for a fill light instead of a key light. Shoot sheets will be used to organize footage by subject and content, but I will not be individualizing each shot. I may do an EDL but most likely I will use the shoot sheet as I will be editing my own material.

 

After Effects

I joined the After Effects group after working with Dana. We used the vanishing point tool in Adobe Photoshop to create 5 .png walls that a camera and lights could be mounted and moved around within. I kept having difficulty with the Create Plane tool and found that when you cross the points over and over on themselves, the create plane blue line tool will finally disappear! So much for CTRL Z!

We found that the Edit Plane tool needs to be very close to the wall lines to work well in defining the 3D walls.

To create a second panel angle, we held down Command and watched for the white arrow with a tiny grid to pop up before pulling the point out with a cursor. To zoom in and out of the Photoshop project, we pressed Command and plus and to zoom out, we pressed Command and minus.

Next, we exported from vanishing Point Filter as a .vpe file. “Export for After Effects” under the drop down menu in the top left corner. We opened After Effects and went to File, then Import, then Vanishing Point VPE. We were able to add a layer and add lights (the camera automatically loaded as we used the vanishing point feature.