Summer of Video: The Bike Trail Project

The other day, I shared out what my youngest son has been up to with a flip video camera, but really, he has been mostly inspired by his 14 year old brother, who has developed a real gift and feel for video. This stretches way back to when I taught him about stopmotion. (see his old website where he posted a bunch of his movies)
This summer, I saw a contest through a local group that promotes our rail trail/bike path, and I suggested that he create a video and enter (and maybe win some prize money). He got together with a bunch of friends, and they created two videos. The first one is slightly funny (or hilarious, depending on your age) and the second one is more serious, with interviews of folks on the trail.
My son did all the editing in iMovie, which I never taught him. I like how he is seeing the editing process as composition (notice the slow-down effects, the moving between interviewees, and angles.) Both videos came out great, particularly when you consider that no adult had anything to do with the planning, shooting and editing.
The Fun One:

And The Serious One:

Peace (on the rail),


A Summer of Video, part one

This summer, my wife and I decided to buy a couple of cheap video cameras for our boys, and let them get creative with the devices. My older son has a real talent for video and our younger son is getting there, although mostly he likes to perform in front of a camera on a tripod. I’ll share out some videos of my older son tomorrow, but look at this one from my youngest. What I like about it is that he actually took an idea from his brother (using video to create “magic”) and vamped on it himself.

Right now, I am helping my youngest son to complete a documentary movie (of sorts) about our neighborhood. He has been interviewing neighbors and family about life here in our neck of the woods. I am helping him with the editing, since using iMovie is still a bit tricky for him.
Peace (in the vid),

Remembering the Collaborative ABC Movie Project

These videos were in my Google Video archives as part of our Collaborative ABC Movie Project from a few years ago, as my friend Bonnie and I sought to explore digital storytelling with a bunch of other connected friends. The other videos are scattered about in other people’s collections or hard drives, no doubt (we had used the now-extinct site, JumpCut, to pull them all together and even edit them together on Jumpcut, which was a pretty neat experience). I still got a kick out of seeing what we were doing with that project, and thinking about how much I learned about digital storytelling, collaboration and coordinating a huge project.

Head to the ABC Movie Playlist

Peace (in the stories),


Movie Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games

So, every blogger in the universe is probably reviewing (or has already reviewed) The Hunger Games movie. I’ll keep it short here.

I’ve only read the first book in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, so my “bigger picture” of the narrative is fairly limited. I did enjoy the book (but found it a bit violent, just like her Gregor the Overlander books) and I enjoyed the movie, too. I took my 11 year old son with me to the packed theater on the Sunday afternoon matinee. He is an avid reader, but admitted that he could not get “into” the book, The Hunger Games.

“I am only one of four kids in our whole class who hasn’t read it,” he admitted.

The movie is pretty faithful to the book, as I recall it. It was not like The LIghtning Thief, where we walked out of the theater shaking our heads at the changes that had been made and wondering, why in the world would they do that? I think the casting in The Hunger Games was nicely done. I did feel an emotional connection with Katniss, and my son and I were both shattered to watch Rue die. We both jumped out of our seats when those genetic dogs jumped out of the dark, too, even though we knew it was coming. The two hours and 20 minutes did not seem like a lifetime in our seats. We were hooked right from the start.

The one thing I miss from the book was getting inside the head of Katniss, as she gets conflicted feelings about the two boys: the one she left behind and the one she needs to survive. I also missed her simmering anger at the Games itself, and how she refuses to be a pawn, even though — in the end — she is. For me, those elements of Katniss are what made the book special. Those inner dialogue and inner conflicts are hard to translate into the big screen, I know. But it gave a certain flatness to Katniss in the movie.

Overall, though, The Hunger Games movie is a hearty thumbs up — from one who has read the book (me) and one who hasn’t (my son). I wonder if seeing the movie might get him interested again …

Peace (in the games),


Using iMovie’s Movie Trailer Tool

This is the first time I have tried out the “movie trailer” option in iMovie. Here is a teaser from my son’s upcoming movie project — Robbers on the Loose. He wrote the story and directed the scenes, with friends and family in the movie itself. I was behind the camera (with our Flip HD) and we are working on the editing. (Volume of voices … very tricky)

Oh, my son is seven years old, as is everyone in the movie. They’re all seven and just about all of them are in first grade.

The movie trailer option is interesting because iMovie does much of the work for you, after you choose  style. My son chose the adventure theme, of course, and then we dropped video segments into the system. We added the text, too. It got a bit cumbersome at times to figure out which video segment would work where. The tool could be a little better designed … BUT, he loves what the trailer looks like. And his older brothers’ snarky comment: The trailer is better than the movie. Ouch.

But the work on this piece for my son got me thinking about the possibilities for my own students, creating short trailers for books or short stories.

Peace (in the little screen),


Movie Review: Hugo

Hugo movie review

I often go into movie adaptations of my favorite books with a feeling of dread: what have they done now? The Lightning Thief, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and too many others to list have all failed to live up to my expectations as the filmmakers have taken a bit too much license with the stories and characters and mangled them to the point of frustration. I don’t expect a movie to be perfectly in tune with a book, but I do expect it to be true to the heart of the book.

Hugo does that. Thankfully.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret remains one of my favorite young adult books of recent years. It was one of those discoveries that makes your eyes open wide and think, this is what a book can be! The illustrations were not just partners to the story; they were the story. The use of image and metaphor and history … it call came together with precision that also tugged at your heartstrings. Author/illustrator Brian Selznick hit a high note with The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and send me searching for old movies on YouTube from the beginning of movies, and the book had me wondering about the crafty ways Selznick put the gears of the story in motion, and brought it to a nice conclusion. (His newest book, Wonderstruck, is just as wonderful but in a different way).

Yesterday, I finally got to see the movie adaption by Martin Scorcese — simply titled Hugo — and I was so relieved that the movie really does capture so much of the spirit and essence of the book. Scorcese’s filmmaking abilities are on full display here (particularly the use of the railroad station as the setting and the giant clocks that form the theme of the story), and he is faithful to the story. In doing so, Scorcese gives us a wonderful lesson about the early age of film, and the pioneers who paved the way for movies to become a part of our lives.

So Scorcese got it right.

Now I wonder if The Lorax will be any good …. one of my all-time favorite picture books and if the previews are any indication, the storyline is quite different from the book. I’ll keep an open mind, but I’ll be ready for disappointment, too. Sigh.

Peace (in the movies),


Watching Twilight Zone with my Son

The past three nights, my wife and older son were out town, meaning the other two boys I were on our own. When the younger dude went off to bed at night, my 11 year old and I pulled out a DVD box set of The Twilight Zone that I had received at Christmas but never really watched. In fact, the only time I had watched an episode was with him, and it was not a very good one — it had no dialogue and the pacing was glacial. I was afraid that would turn him off to the series, which I love and want him to at least respect for its storytelling, but he was game to give it another try.

We had a long discussion first about what is the Twilight Zone — he had this idea that it was a place, or a setting, and not a frame of mind. I think he understands it now. Not sure. Then, he asked about how the episodes had twists in the narrative — those little turns at the end of a show that make you go “hmmmm” when it is over. He asked about Rod Serling, and then as we watched the dates of when the episodes aired, we thought about how old my father (his grandfather) was. I think this helped give him some sense of how long ago this show was on the air, and maybe some sense of how revolutionary it was for its time.

We started on Friday with Time Enough At Last about the desire for our own space and what happens when our dreams come true.

And then went into Saturday with The Monsters are Due on Maple Street about how mobs are formed and then how fear turns us on ourselves.

And finished up last night with Steel about machines taking the place of men, and then men taking the place of machines.
(ACK — no video available)
I wanted to show him the classic — To Serve Man — but it is not in my DVD set. What’s up with that? However, thanks again to our trusty friend, the Internet, the episode is right here to be watched.


It was interesting, because the last one we watched — Steel — was towards the end of the Zone run, where Serling was no longer the writer or producer. The footage was clearer, the pacing was faster, and the acting was slicker. But the story did not hold up to the earlier ones. And my son, when the show was over, turned to me and asked: What’s the twist? There was none, and we were both disappointed.

Peace (in the Zone),

Adios, Google Video, Adios

To be honest, I thought Google Video had long ago gone away and become part of YouTube, so I was surprised yesterday to get an email from Google, letting me know that “Later this month, hosted video content on Google Video will no longer be available for playback.” A few years ago, we could no longer upload videos into Google Video and now playback is packing its doors.

For many years, I loved Google Video. It provided me with a relatively safe place to upload and share videos, and then embed them, with very little worries about students clicking back to an inappopriate site. I do remember when Google bought Youtube, and I figured, that would be it for Google Video. It took longer than I expected, but long ago, I made the shift over to Vimeo (which gives me much more flexibility on embedding, although I pay an annual fee).

Google is allowing us to download any videos from Google Video. By the end of the month, the videos will be gone and the site will disappear from the video landscape. As I was looking over the nearly 100 videos that I still have on Google Video, I had some nostalgia flashes around various projects during that time period, which began for me in 2006. I was just learning about video and about hosting video, and it was all experimental for me (maybe it still is).

Three of the videos are claymation stories that my three boys and I made here at home, as I was toying with how to bring stopmotion into the classroom. The stories were written by my oldest son and the movies were a collaborative venture by the family.

Although these videos will expire in about two weeks, here are some of the videos that I uncovered from my files:

Peace (in the last gasp of Google Video),

Remembering the Collaborative ABC Project

Has it really been almost three years since Bonnie and I invited teachers and educators to join us on a collaborative digital storytelling project? I realized that last night when I was doing some work on another project and stumbled across the website of all of the videos we created for that project.

The Collaborative ABC Movie Project began because I wanted to learn how to dig into the concept of digital storytelling; Bonnie wanted to expand her knowledge of the work by tapping into the collaborative nature of the Web; and others came along with us for the ride.

The structure of the project was an ABC book. We randomly doled out letters to about 15 “friends” from various online networks (including the National Writing Project) who were game to give digital storytelling a try. Most of them, like me, had never created a digital story before but could see the potential for learning. We wanted to nurture ourselves as learners first, as we mulled over the possibilities for the classroom. Our friends were assigned letters and asked to construct a short digital story around that letter. How they did it, and what they did it ab0ut, was entirely up them. We only asked that they share the video on either Google Video or YouTube, and add it into a video site (no longer around because it got swallowed up by Yahoo) called Jumpcut. (Actually, Google Video doesn’t quite exist anymore either, but the videos are still there if you know where to look.)

We used Jumpcut because it allowed you to string videos together under various themes. So Bonnie and I took the 26 videos and made one large piece, and then smaller pieces that developed around themes that emerged from people’s work. It was fascinating to be part of that adventure and I learned as much from creating a digital story as I did about overseeing a collaborative project of folks I didn’t really know.

Bonnie captured our experiences nicely in a … digital story.

And during a presentation we created for the K12 Online Conference a few years ago, we created this voicethread for anyone to add their own letter-inspired story to the collaborative mix. The thread is still open and the invitation is still there for you. What story will you tell?

You can view all of the stories at the Collaborative ABC Movie Website.

Peace (in the adventures),