Friday, May 13, 2016

Students to Learn Video Editing Basics through Camtasia Presentation

Deciding on a lesson plan for the Teaching Multimedia course final project was simple.  Aside from equipment, what more does a broadcasting teacher who really doesn’t teach broadcasting need?  Lesson plans!  Lesson plans on the basics, to be exact, so, even though I would love to have worked with photography as my focus, I went with a lesson plan on teaching students how to edit video for a video story. 

The lesson planning portion went pretty quickly.  The biggest challenge was finding the best example video stories to show students.  After much searching of all the major newspapers’ YouTube channels, I settled on three examples that would show the range of what video stories could cover: a serious topic, a lighthearted topic, and a sports story. 

Editing Video to Tell a Story from Stephen Milligan on Vimeo.

During my search, I also came across a video story on multimedia producer Colin Mulvany’s Mastering Multimedia blog that was paired with a written narrative of his experience creating the video.  I also discovered his blog post “How best to approach a video story,” all of which I decided to incorporate into the lesson.

Next, I created the supporting documents (Video Comparison ChartVideo Story Brainstorming and Planning Form3-2-1 Form, and Video Story Scoring GuideI would need to teach the lesson—a video story comparison chart, a video story brainstorming and planning form, a scoring guide, and a 3-2-1 form.

Now, on to the greatest task—the Camtasia presentation to accompany the lesson.  I downloaded the trial version of the program with no difficulty and viewed all of the recommended tutorials to familiarize myself with the process of creating the presentation.  After much procrastination, I sat down and made out a list of the major steps in the video editing process I wanted to cover: importing files, previewing clips, determining the set-in and set-out points, adding clips to the timeline, editing clips, adding transitions, adding lower thirds, adding B-roll, adding royalty-free music, and adding titles and credits.  I also made a couple of brief test runs with the program to make sure I was able to start and stop the recording and to be certain the microphone was working.

Then I plunged in.

I recorded one whole presentation straight through but wasn’t happy with it.  Then after many false starts, which quickly met with the delete key, I realized it might be best to just keep recording, even if it meant repeating a section, knowing I could edit it out later—ultimately accepting the fact that the presentation as a whole might not be perfect, but I liked the idea of maintaining a conversational tone instead of being too formal.

Editing the final recorded presentation was very similar to editing video using Adobe Premiere Elements 14, which we had learned previously in this course.  I inserted a title in front of the recorded portion of the presentation, selecting a theme from the preset themes available in Camtasia.  I also stuck with this theme when adding titles for each new topic introduced in the presentation.  I tried the pan and zoom function, but it didn’t seem to zoom in very closely, and when I realized the original recording was already at 86 percent, I opted to leave the entire presentation at full screen and highlight certain areas by making the rest of the screen blurred a bit, again using tools available in the program. 

I was disappointed to see that with the trial version, a watermark would be placed across the final presentation, and I almost fell off my chair when I saw the $299 purchase price for full access to the program to remove the watermark.  Alas, that’s not in the budget this year, so the version above is indeed watermarked.

I could see Camtasia being useful in the future, though, particularly when showing students layout and design concepts for the yearbook or how to use Photoshop or how to edit a podcast, so I’d better start saving or begging!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Assignment Prepares Broadcasting Teacher to Teach Broadcasting

One would assume a broadcasting teacher would know how to produce a video story.  Not this one!  Almost the entire school year has passed with Broadcast Journalism I on my schedule, but we’ve encountered endless delays in ordering equipment.  In the meantime, I’ve learned very little about video production (and that through my friend Louise, a former broadcasting teacher at a nearby school)—until now.

With no real video camera equipment (see paragraph above), I had to use my trusty Nikon D3100 camera and figure out how to take video with it.  It was perfectly serviceable for a brief video story since it can film in segments up to ten minutes in length.

Sisters in Crime: Palmetto Chapter from Stephen Milligan on Vimeo.

Capturing audio was another matter.  The Nikon’s microphone captures sound, but when I played a few test videos, the sound was rather faint and tinny, so I went to Best Buy one and purchased a small, relatively inexpensive Sony clip-on microphone that would plug directly into the camera just to be on the safe side.  It appears to have done the job, but I wish the cable had been a bit longer to provide some more wiggle room (literally and figuratively).   

Setting up the video shoot taught me the wisdom of keeping multiple options open.  I reached out to a contact person for each of my two ideas, and one didn’t get back to me after almost a week had passed, by which time I had already committed to the other because of the time factor involved.

Upon arriving to set up for the event, I realized I would be filming a meeting, which does not necessarily make for exciting B-roll, but again, time was a factor, and the organization’s leaders had expressed interest in using the final video story on their website, so I felt I should make the best of it.

The filming location wasn’t ideal, but I had no control over it—the organization holds monthly meetings at Grecian Gardens in West Columbia.  The restaurant had just opened, so the clatter of china being stacked can be heard in the background, and the Greek music started up midway through my first interview.  Luckily, the group has a standing reservation in a private room, so at least we were away from the bustle of the main dining room.  This room was rather small, but the expected number of members didn’t show up, so I had room to maneuver but still less that I would have liked, particularly with the tripod.  Despite these obstacles, along with the hardship of watching plates of Greek salad, spanakopita, and baklava passing by while I was working, I persevered.

I conducted the interviews first, and only after everything was said and done (literally and figuratively) did I remember I should have positioned the two interview subjects on opposite sides of the frame for visual variety. 

I have realized through this experience that filming is very different from photography.  Many times I had to resist the urge to turn the camera to get a vertical shot, and I had to take more care with framing the shots because distracting or unwanted elements couldn’t be cropped out as they can be with photos.

The editing stage was pretty straightforward, thanks to the previous training on Audacity—Adobe Premier Elements 14 is similar to the audio-editing program in many respects.  At first, I didn’t see the need for the set-in and set-out points, but they are used to pare down the clip before placing it on the timeline (as opposed to placing the entire clip and then cutting), and fine editing can be done on the timeline as needed.

Now I’m totally prepared to dig in and teach broadcasting this fall.  Wishful thinking!  But I now know more than I did three weeks ago, and I have a better idea of how to start and where to start.  Action!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Lifelong Learning Theme Lends Itself to Interactive Journalism Experimentation

This week’s assignment brings a romper room of multimedia toys to play with.  Some played more nicely than others, though. 

First up: maps.  I love maps.  I’ve even wallpapered my hall with them. 

Since I normally use Google Maps, my first impulse was to use Google’s services for this activity.  I have since learned how important impulse control is.  When I opened Google Maps, I was presented with an empty map of the world with no instruction on how to proceed, so I Googled using Google Maps and somehow stumbled upon the Google Developers page, which showed me all sorts of complicated things on Google Maps APIs, which I have since found out could mean application program interface” or “American Petroleum Institute,” but it may as well have been one in the same because this was way out of my league, and I scoffed when I saw a button entitled “View Pricing and Plans.”

On to MapQuest then!  This appeared to be much easier to use, although at one point (after I had marked and described all of my locations, of course), I managed to lose everything, but I was quickly able to recreate the map just as I’d had it and save it under my newly created account.  Going back to edit the map was a chore, though, because the log-in screen for MapQuest isn’t very easy to locate; in fact, if I hadn’t saved the account set-up confirmation e-mail message, I might never have found it.  Even then, I went in circles for several minutes trying to log in—I kept getting messages saying no account could be found under my username.  Finally, I was able to log in through Facebook (somehow).

The next task was to create a poll or survey using Polldaddy.  After wrestling with Google Maps and MapQuest, this was a breeze—the hardest part was devising the questions!  Polldaddy allows various types of questions to be asked.  I wanted to try one of the Matrix/Likert questions but didn’t like the way the choices at the top of the chart came out looking squished up, so I abandoned that format.  Polldaddy has several options for the font and style of the survey.  I was able to choose a font similar to the blog font, and after testing several styles, I settled on the default, Surveymattic, because it was easy to read, and the gray coloration fit with the gray background of this blog.  There are also choices for how to embed the survey in the blog: button, banner, or slider popup; within these choices are further choices for customization, although I see now hardly any are compatible with blogger.  The survey link below is supposed to be a gray button, and it's supposed to open up in a smaller pop-up window, neither of which is happening.

Share your experience as a lifelong learner!

The final component of this assignment is a timeline, with the choice of creating one using either Tiki-Toki or Dipity.

I’d seen Tiki-Toki in action recently when the website my English II students were using to research the historic structures on Columbia’s Bull Street property (the former home of the state mental hospital) went down.  The professor at USC (that’s the University of South Carolina, not that other university somewhere in California that tries to use that designation) whose students had created the original site directed me to a Tiki-Toki timeline her class had also created, saving (most of) the day.  I created an account and began working with it, only to be told I couldn’t upload photos or embed the timeline in this blog without paying.  What to do?  Dipity-Do!

Which should be called Dipity-Don’t.

I spent entirely too much time going in circles on Dipity.  I could never find the timeline I had named, and after clicking around on the site, I was told I had created the maximum number of timelines allowed with a free account…even though I had only created one and hadn’t even edited it.  The help feature is a misnomer, and every time I tried to access my account settings, I kept getting sent back to what appeared to be the homepage.

So, with credit card in hand, I upgraded my free Tiki-Toki account to allow photos and embedding.  Creation of the timeline went smoothly after this.  The only drawback is that the timeline insists on use of the full date, not just month and year, so in cases where I couldn’t remember the exact date, I had to estimate.

Well played, if I do say so myself.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Podcast Telephone Interview Made Possible by App

My last exciting blog post detailed creating my first podcast for the Teaching Multimedia course, an overview of the Hancock County Courthouse in Sparta, Georgia.  After that, I was ready for another task, namely one that didn’t involve recording myself.

But wait—there’s more!  Now I had to create another podcast that would include interviews with others.

Hancock County Courthouse.  Sparta, Georgia.  National Register of Historic Places 
(April 16, 1974).  Photographed by Stephen Milligan (July 20, 2015).
I decided to delve more deeply into the courthouse topic, particularly the fire that virtually destroyed it in 2014 and the reconstruction process. 

I had contacted officials in Hancock County’s government, offering them my photos (a whole year’s worth) for archival purposes, and I’ve kept up with two of them: Sistie Hudson, Chairman of the Hancock County Board of Commissioners, and Teresa Kell, District 4 Commissioner.  Both were willing to participate in an interview.

Conducting the interview presented a challenge.  Sparta is more than two hours away, and while I wouldn’t mind a Saturday jaunt to Georgia, with endless schoolwork, housework, and yard work, I hardly had time!  I could neglect these chores (I do most weekends), but both ladies in Sparta were just entering a busy period of personal and professional commitments.

What’s the next best thing to being there?  A telephone interview!  But how would I record it?  If I used the speakerphone at school and recorded on the iPhone, I may sound clear and “live,” whereas my subjects might sound tinny and artificial.  If only I could record both ends of the conversation with a balance of sound quality!

Surely there’s an app for that.

There is…more than one.  After some internet research, I settled on an app.  Call Recording by had positive reviews and required no special equipment (no VoIP or Skype connection needed).  This app would record a call I had initiated (many only record incoming calls).  The app is free, including 20 free minutes of recording per month, with options to purchase extra minutes (most charge, but this one was reasonably priced); I purchased more time in case the interview ran long…and it did.  For an additional fee, calls can be transcribed (hence the name).

Using the app is easy:  After entering my phone number and creating a password, I made a sample call.  The app accessed my contacts and routed the call through its network.  Immediately I received an incoming call from  I answered to hear the phone ringing, connecting me to the contact dialed.  After the call, I received an e-mail message that the recording was ready.  I downloaded it by simply logging in to on the computer.

I composed my questions and called Sparta at the appointed time.  The interview went well, mostly.  A few words of mine are unclear near the beginning, and there was some latency between questions and answers, similar to latency during televised satellite interviews, but I edited that out in Audacity.  Thanks to previous lessons on Audacity, editing wasn’t difficult.

Now I’m tired of hearing myself talk—on to the next task!  

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Podcasting Novice Chooses Topic, Makes Recording with Ease

Create a podcast.  I should be excused from this assignment.  Shouldn’t podcasts be delivered in the smooth voice of Casey Kasem?  Or intoned in the authoritative voice of James Earl Jones?  Even if the instructor insists on subjecting herself and my non-Southern classmates to this voice, what would I record a podcast about?

A favorite piece of literature or beloved author?  They’ll already think they’re listening to a monologue from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  A great architect or monumental building?  Frank Lloyd Wright?  Louis Sullivan?  The Sears Tower?  The John Hancock Center?  Perhaps another building that derives its name from Mr. Hancock…if I can’t contract this assignment out to a better voice, I should at least choose a matching topic: The Hancock County Courthouse in Sparta, Georgia, the most beautiful courthouse in the state, at least in my opinion. 

I know enough about the building to write a script.  I traveled to Sparta once each month in 2013 to photograph it—3,336 miles and fifty-seven hours on the road.  Some thought I was crazy to invest so much in one dilapidated building, but I’m so glad I did—the courthouse was almost completely destroyed by fire eight months after I finished the project, so I have some of the last photos of it.  I’ve also researched the building’s history and become acquainted with some local citizens after I sent them copies of my photos.  So there’s my topic.  I can even throw a y’all or two into the podcast just like that Georgia peach Paula Deen!

I now had to get the technical knowledge down.  After reading the assigned textbook chapter and examining the websites listed, I can’t say I’ve committed to memory everything I need to know about equipment and software, but I know where to find out. 

Some of the microphone discussion and comparison I was already familiar with—my principal wants to start a broadcasting program (meaning he wants me to start a broadcasting program), so my friend Louise, who taught broadcasting at a nearby high school for sixteen years, has paid several visits to school to consult on equipment orders, evaluate our existing studio, and expose my students to equipment, including different microphones and their recommended use.

After preparing my script, rehearsing the timing, and editing for length, I had to record.  Creating an audioBoom account and downloading the app were easy; in fact, most everything about audioBoom was simple: recording on the phone, saving, deleting, pulling the recording up on the computer, and embedding the recording in the blog post were straightforward (a test post proved adding the podcast was easier than adding a photo slideshow).  The only real problem with audioBoom was finding the recording—it didn’t immediately display as a saved file, but after clicking around on the menu, there it was under Profile/Posts/Drafts.  Another problem is the lack of voice-filtering technology, but the class will just have to deal with it.

After all, y’all are the ones who have accents, not me!   

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Alleged Photographer Learns Valuable Lesson

When I set up my Twitter and Instagram accounts for the Teaching Multimedia class, I had the nerve to use the word photographer in my profile to describe myself.  Deluded would have been a more accurate term.  And now I have to describe what I’ve learned in only 500 words.  Impossible! 

I ventured out to Columbia’s Main Street on a bitterly cold (to a Southerner, anyway) Sunday morning to collect photos for this assignment, armed with camera and tripod and clutching in my gloved hand the list of ten tasks and the notes I’d taken from this class and the Teaching Photojournalism class last semester.

You see, even though I fancy myself a photographer and have my friends and family fooled into thinking I am (although I quickly and demurely add the word amateur when people say I’m a photographer), most of my photography successes can be attributed to dumb luck and the auto function on the camera.  I’ve always thought composition is my strength, but I have very poor technical skills.  Even after the photojournalism class, I told myself I’d experiment with what I’d learned over the holidays, but that didn’t happen with all of the other things to be done (mainly recuperating from school, cleaning house, and sipping eggnog).

So what have I learned this past week?  Not quite everything…but so much!

Finally the triumvirate of ISO, shutter speed, and aperture are starting to make better sense.  I started out consulting my notes (and I still glance back at them when needed), but now I have a better grasp of what to adjust and what those adjustments mean and can do.  At times, I began taking test shots at the extreme end of things: ISO 1600, shutter speed really fast, aperture wide open…or vice versa…then I would begin making adjustments: If the photo was too bright (in some cases, I got a 4x6 white block instead of an image), I knew to lower the ISO.  Or close down the aperture.  Or both if one or the other didn’t work.  It was like working through proofs in geometry class: If the photo is too dark, then I need to dial up the ISO.  If, then.  If, then.  Dial up.  Dial down.  How professional I now sound in my interior monologues!     

I also watched a Lynda lesson that included instructions on how to make light trails from moving light sources, such as car headlights.  I was able to achieve this by slowing down the shutter speed.  This lesson also showed me an app called Slow Shutter, which I immediately downloaded.  It does the job, but I found I need an adapter to attach the iPhone to the tripod to keep it steady, so I ultimately got better results with the camera.

The biggest thing I learned is that I have a lot more to learn, and to do that, I need to keep practicing.  Just not on a windy, freezing street in the middle of February…

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Know-it-all Makes Startling Educational Discovery

Not to be a know-it-all, but…

That’s a line only a true know-it-all would open with.

Heritage Classroom.  Massie Heritage Center.  Savannah, Georgia.  National Register of 
Historic Places (April 13, 1977).  Photographed by Stephen Milligan (September 26, 
Not to be a know-it-all, but the first module for the Teaching Multimedia course was pretty much a review for me.  I’ve been advising my school’s newspaper since 2003, so I know it all.

Protecting sources?  Know it.  Maintaining objectivity?  Know it.  Cutline?  Know it.

I thought this was a multimedia course, not an introduction to journalism!  I had visions of immersing myself in technology that would help me help my newspaper students class up our little online paper with interactive elements and slideshows and video—video taken by my Broadcast Journalism I class on our fancy new audio and video equipment (if we can ever cut the purchase order from the confines of district red tape).  And I would be able to use all of these new audio and video editing skills I had hoped to acquire in this course with the broadcasting students, too.  Our first broadcast would be so professional that people at school would think they had mistakenly tuned in to CNN, not WWJK News.       

So far, we’re learning journalism basics.  Easy.  This course must be for journalistic greenhorns, not a know-it-all like me! 

Then I got to Task 4: View these live links.

The very first link took me to a list entitled “Multimedia Tools.”  I was dazed as I examined the list—I’d only heard of a few of these resources (and that few includes Google Maps).  But weren’t these the very same resources I’d hoped to be exposed to during this course?

My smugness at being familiar with basic journalism concepts continued to fade as I delved into “Tutorial: Multimedia Storytelling: Learn the Secrets from Experts,” the next link.  This is where I learned how complex putting together a multimedia story package can be.  Shells and storyboards and fieldwork!  Oh, my!

But the kicker came when I investigated the “Best Online High School Newspapers” link.  What incredible journalism these high school students are engaging in!  The sites showcased here are so professional looking—with movement, photography, Twitter feeds, scrolling updates on sports scores…even live broadcasts.  But isn’t this, too, what I wanted to learn?  The tools and training to help my student staff build a snazzy journalism program—nay, a media empire—are before me in this course, the very course in which I had, only days before, thought I had known it all!

Now, I realize I am just one of the greenhorns.  This course is exactly what I need as a teacher to help my students bring our online newspaper to a higher level of quality, to start this broadcasting program off in an innovative fashion, to entice the introductory journalism students to continue in the program, and to engage our audience with newsworthy content delivered in a fresh, exciting way.

But before that happens, this know-it-all has a lot to learn.