Saturday, May 23, 2009

Making media

Here's a link to a nice slideshow/video I had to put together for our 8th graders Ribbon Ceremony, part of their overall 8th grade graduation activities.

A couple of thoughts about the video: I am very happy about the way it turned out. The pictures are a happy accident -- I have no photography skills. Perhaps it was because the principal requested this the day before the event ("I need you to take pictures of all of the 8th graders and ..."), and I rushed the kids through the picture taking process, doing most of them in one take. All told I took the pictures in maybe 15 minutes, including having to show each batch to the students so they could see how they looked. I allowed a few re-takes for the kids who really objected to the first take.

I used a cheapo Canon Powershot digital camera on a tripod, using autofocus, set to indoor lighting, shot against a blue mat in the gymnasium. After uploading the pictures, I saw the background blue varied in each shot, so trying to do some kind of blue-screen thing with them was going to work. At first I thought I could use Adobe Premiere to assemble the pictures, but then I realized that iPhoto's slideshow feature could do it all for me. IPhoto converted them to black and white, added the random transitions, and timed them to fit exactly the Kirk Franklin song "Imagine Me" that the students were going to sing while the pictures were projected. I did some quick re-arranging to come close to boy-girl-boy-girl, but otherwise not too much choice as to order. I exported the slideshow and did some final work in Premiere, adding the title, adjusting slightly when the pictures appeared vis-a-vis the music. And voila.

The video, as I said, is mostly a happy accident, rather beautiful and melancholic, maybe even haunting in a way, for which I can take no credit. Kirk Franklin's beautiful song of course plays a tremendous part towards the overall effect.

I don't think the feeling is just because I have seen and or worked with the students and know a little bit about some of them, or maybe it is. Maybe part of it is the awful statistics that surround them: half of them will likely drop out of high school; according to one estimate, 70 percent of the boys who stay in North Lawndale will get caught up in the legal system; they will graduate from high school to a job market with 27 percent unemployment; and so on. At the same time, most of the portraits reveal an optimism and courage that has seen them through this far. Or maybe it's just me.


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