'Green screen' video production techniques have been a massive hit in schools. Chris Drage finds a program that brings them to all learners, even the very young
Hot on the heels of its acclaimed I Can Animate software (now also available for iPhone/iPod from the iTunes Store) comes Kudlian's I Can Present, a new application designed to bring learners’ presentations to life.
Using I Can Present, children can create and film their own presentations – news or weather reports for example – and produce a 'movie' that looks similar to what they see on TV.
For perhaps the first time, even young children have the opportunity to create, film and present their work using green-screen ('chroma key') technology. (Once recorded, the 'green screen' area can be superimposed with whatever background the children want at the editing stage.)
Before using I Can Present you do need to ensure that you have a suitable webcam and a microphone handy. If you intend using the chroma key effect then you will need to have a suitable expanse of smooth, green material made specifically for the purpose (also available from Kudlian).
Once installed, the software opens at the main window. This comprises the Slide Editor, where children can edit and create their slides and the Recording Studio where they can set up and record video. The slide editor is where you begin creating a presentation.
I Can Present comes with a small range of backgrounds to get you started: plain white, places (photos), water (photos) and maps of the UK and Ireland for weather forecast presentations. And there is the all-important option to import your own photos and images to use with the program. A further tab provides the option to crop your background or choose another image.
To create a more authentic news broadcast you can also add a 'watermark' logo (pictured – just like 'BBC News' on a BBC news flash) and/or scroll ticker-tape style ‘breaking’ news along the bottom of the screen. A variety of symbols are provided for various presentations, many of them related to the weather. Symbols are added by simply dragging them on to a slide where they will instantly animate – if this has been set up – for the likes of wind speed and temperature labels.
These can be edited with whatever values you choose. I particularly like the customisable date and time stamp which allows presentations to take place in the past, or even the future depending on the topic – great scope here for adding a little drama!
A split-screen option allows you to film in front of any background or with video appearing to the right or left of the presenter. The penultimate step in the process is to add the script. You can enter your script into the tele-prompt which automatically scrolls as you record your presentation. When you’re ready for filming, you can choose to set up either for green screening, or for an outside or ’studio’ broadcast.
The jewel in the crown of I Can Present is undoubtedly the ease with which chroma key can be used to allow the presenter to be superimposed on any image used as a background. This is a great fun and children love it as it can transport reality to any time or place.
'A chroma-key backdrop should be smooth and evenly lit'
It is important that a few technical rules are followed: for example, having the right lighting is essential. A chroma-key backdrop should be smooth with no apparent folds or creases. It should be evenly lit with no shadows being cast on it at all. By saturating the green screen in bright light effectively over-exposes it and detail like the odd crease or fold is lost. Ideally you need three or more bright lights. There’s plenty of advice on Kudlian’s website.
The completed presentation will show the text written for each slide scrolling slowly on the built-in tele-prompt, allowing users to put together a slick broadcast, advancing on to a new slide with a simple click on the mouse while they are being filmed. The final movie can also be imported into third-party post-production software where it can be prepared for publication for use on websites, digital signage within the school or anywhere else.
Looking for an excuse to dabble in this unique creative experience? Why not suggest that your charges enter Kudlian's Presenter of the Year Competition, which is supported by a range of impressive sponsors that includes Bradford's National Media Museum, National Geographic Kids and BrainPOP UK.
This competition aims to encourage young people to become involved in media production to help promote creativity, innovation and engagement. It helps develop literacy, enterprise and presentation skills. And it’s very easy: pupils need to produce a 1 to 2-minute presentation on a topic that’s important to them. It can be anything from football to politics, chocolate to global warming. Entries to the competition will be judged on the following criteria:
- Quality of presentation;
- Quality of information presented;
- Keeping within the time limit.
I Can Present has a very 'Apple Mac' feel to it, being smooth and easy to use. Like movie and animation making, it is an ideal vehicle for building on cross-curricular links requiring teamwork, collaboration, speaking and listening and creative writing. Above all it really is fun!
Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose 5
Ease of use 5
Value for money 5
I Can Present
Multimedia presentation software that incorporates video editing and chroma-key facilities, for Mac or PC: single user £44.95; five-user licence £149; primary site licence £390; secondary £540.
Extras: Chroma Key Screen - Animation (1m x 0.5m) £14.99; Chroma Key Screen (1.8m x 3.0m) £49.95; Chroma Key Screen with frame (1.8m x 2.0m) £64.95.
I Can Present Studio
Complete package which also includes the software, aGent v5 HD camera (review here) and 1.8m x 2.0m green screen with rigid frame and loops for hanging, £149.95 single user licence, £234.94 5-user licence, £449.95 primary site licence £599.95 secondary site licence.