Saturday, February 28, 2009

Basic Concepts for High School Media Projects

Having just given a media project, as well as a workshop to teachers on assigning said media projects, it became evident to me that both teachers and students need an introduction to certain "big ideas". Let me see if I can't carve out a basic "table of contents" for what such an introduction would contain:

Windows Concepts
  1. Files and file extensions
  2. Directories
  3. Networking
  4. Storage
Hardware Concepts
  1. Cameras and camcorders
  2. Storage media
  3. Card readers
  4. Transfer cables
  5. Capturing
Software Concepts
  1. Project files
  2. Media file types
  3. Codecs
  4. Conversion
Media Concepts
  1. Clips
  2. Resolution
  3. Frames per second
  4. Audio
  5. Compression and quality
Copyright Concepts
  1. Copyright law
  2. Derivative works
  3. Fair use
  4. Public domain
  5. Waived Copyrights (Copyleft; Creative Commons)
  6. Giving credit

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Revising my "About Me"

"The Greeks discovered that Being is True, Good, and Beautiful. To the Jews and Christians it was revealed that, underneath and beyond all this this lay three yet greater things: Freedom, Love, and Mercy. Thus is nature perfected by Grace."

I'm not satisfied with this.

Greeks: Being = True, Good, Beautiful
Christians: God = Freedom, Love, ________?

The problem with calling God "Mercy" in this case is that it really is not distinct from "Love" in the Christian sense. All Christian love is kenotic love--self-emptying love--which is mercy.

Freedom and Love are two names of God; what is the third? The scientist asks, "Why do you need a third name?" Because of my intellectual love for patterns, and because of my suspicion that God also loves patterns.

Ah. Got it. Mystery. Mystery is the third name of God--it is the name that denies the act of naming God. It is the name which reminds us that God cannot be systematized. Thus, within this little system, there is a word that explodes the system outward.

"The Greeks discovered that Being is True, Good, and Beautiful. Jewish and Christian revelation unveils three yet greater things: Freedom, Love, and Mystery. The natural wisdom of the mind is both perfected and shamed by the Grace of God."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Resources for legal moviemaking in the educational setting

I split this blog entry into two. Here you will find links to resources and documents pertaining to the rights of teachers and students vis-a-vis creating multimedia projects.

The most directly useful documents are asterisked (**).

Web sites containing royalty-free and public-domain music and sounds:

  • Jamendo - Free and royalty-free music under the Creative Commons License (except for anything labelled "NoDerivs"). Credit original sources.
  • The Freesound Project - Free and royalty-free sound effects and music loops under the Creative Commons License. Credit original sources.
  • Public Domain Information Project - Royalty free and public domain music for purchase.
  • Public Domain Music - MIDIs of public domain music, usable with the permission of the site owner (see his FAQ).
  • MusOpen - Unrestricted recordings of public-domain classical music.
  • Public Domain 4U - Unrestricted recordings of public-domain jazz music.

Copyright documents and guides:

  1. Copyright Act of 1976 on Fair Use - Primary Source (sections 107-118)
  2. Copyright Act of 1976 on Fair Use - Introduction
  3. ** Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia (by the Consortium of College and University Media Centers) - This is the most important in this case.
  4. TEACH Act of 2002 - Summary by US Copyright Office
  5. TEACH Act of 2002 - Amended Sections 110(2) and 112
  6. ** TEACH Act of 2002 - Guide by the University of Texas System
  7. ** Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians - Circular 21 by US Copyright Office (contains the "Agreement on Guidelines for Classroom Copying in Not-for-Profit Educational Institutions" by the Ad Hoc Committee of Educational Institutions and Organizations on Copyright Law Revision, the Authors League of America, Inc., and the Association of American Publishers, Inc.)

Online misinformation:

  1. Too strict: The first link in a Google search for "copyright" and "teachers" points to A Teacher's Guide to Fair Use and Copyright. While decent, this document incorrectly applies the so-called "Spontaneity Test" to all materials whatsoever, including use of audio and video in projects. For reference, here is the text from the "Agreement on Guideliness for Classroom Copying" cited above:

    (i) The copying is at the instance and inspiration of the individual teacher, and
    (ii) The inspiration and decision to use the work and the moment of its use for maximum teaching effectiveness are so close in time that it would be unreasonable to expect a timely reply to a request for permission.
    However, this rule does not apply to audio and multimedia material. It explicitly states in the same document:

    As stated above, the agreement refers only to copying from books and periodicals, and it is not intended to apply to musical or audiovisual works.
  2. Too lenient: Several guides (Google "fair use" and "favor" and "against") take a creative approach to establishing the legitimacy of copying practices. They use scales--not unlike a certain Knight of the Round Table. According to Cornell's copyright policy document, "Where the factors favoring 'fair use' outnumber the factors weighing against a finding of "fair use," reliance on the fair use exception is justified." Technically I would be in line with Cornell's policy if I sold Xeroxed copies of a textbook at profit, so long as I had enough "checkmarks" on the "fair use" side of the worksheet. Now there's a felicific calculus for you.
Remaining question(s):

I can't seem to find an unambiguous and authoritative answer on whether teachers and/or students have the right to circumvent copy protection technology on DVDs for instructional purposes.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Resources for moviemaking

In a few weeks I will be giving an in-service to my colleagues on the use of Windows MovieMaker. I've downloaded a handful of really great tools, and the more I learn, the more I feel like making videos again. But half of my new discoveries have been legal in nature. The Web is an elusive treasure hunt of information about the doctrine of Fair Use. Most of it is strewn about in localized summaries--getting to the primary sources literally took me hours.

So in this post I would like to list both the tools I'm using to produce my tutorial (and certain excellent guides), as well as a list of important primary-source documents related to copyrights and responsibilities in the non-profit sphere.

Movie tools:
  1. Windows Movie Maker 2.6 - the basic Windows home movie editor
  2. CamStudio 2.5 beta 1 - records on-screen activity
  3. Magnifying Glass Pro - zooms in on area around mouse cursor, because CamStudio does not have built-in zooming functionality yet
  4. Impress - free "PowerPoint"--can do fantastic basic animations, excellent for using with compositing/chroma key/blue screen)
  5. Synfig - free 2D animator, allegedly as powerful as Adobe Flash, but not for the faint of heart. I haven't tried it yet, but I would like to.
  6. Fraps - records 3D video games

Tutorials and guides:

  • Compositing and Chroma Key in Windows Movie Maker:

I'm going to explain the first part of this myself, because too many of the guides out there assume you already know how to do this.

Windows Movie Maker does not natively do compositing/chroma key/blue screen effects--where you "erase" the colored background of one video clip so that another one ("behind" it) shows through. You can trick Movie Maker into doing exactly this, though.

First, you need to create a folder. Open up File Explorer, and browse to (minus the brackets). Right-click and select "New" and "Folder". Name the new folder "AddOnTFX".

Now that you have that folder, you are going to create two files in Notepad: one named "composit.xml" and the other named "chroma.xml".

Visit this tutorial by "PapaJohn." Copy the contents of the first example into your "composit.xml". Copy the contents of the second example into your "chroma.xml". Follow the rest of his directions, and enjoy!