schools week 7-11 Feb
www.animatedexeter.co.uk • brochure hotline 01392 265198
3 The High Tec Method
This combination of equipment is by far the best method of use when capturing animation in the classroom. It is complicated to set up, and it costs a little more, but if your school or college already has some of the necessary equipment, it’s worth your while attempting to persuade them to invest in the whole set up. The first thing you will need is a recently designed high spec computer. I would recommend either an Apple ‘E-Mac’ designed specifically for education, and costing about £700 or an I-Book or Power Book Laptop, also made by Apple, and costing from £600 to £2,000 (have a look at the Apple website).
You will also need a digital video camera with a DV in and out capacity, and a capture program. This is a piece of software, which allows the computer to take the frames through the eye of the camera and store them instantly on the hard drive in a named folder. The best programs, Stop Motion Pro and Premiere are also semi professional editing packages and cost a small fortune. But there are some low spec versions out there, either a stop motion program called BTV Pro, which you can download from the internet for about £50, or iStopmotion – for a Mac, which you can download for about £35.
You simply connect the camera to the computer via the ‘Fire Wire’ cable, make sure that there is not a tape in the camera, and put it in the video mode. Launch the program and set to ‘Capture’. You should then see a live capture window on the computer screen. Adjust the focus and exposure to suit the lighting and the work you are animating, and simply click the mouse to take the shot.
Advantages of this system The main advantage of this system is that the learner can see a live version of his or her film directly on the screen. The sequence can be played at the touch of a button, and the student can review their work without disturbing the camera or the set. Several sequences can be easily joined together, and can be exported back out to the digital camera via the fire wire. This frees up memory on the computer, and backs the work up to a digital tape, which is small and portable. The camera and tape can then be carried to another computer, and the animation imported into a video editing package such as I-Movie, Pinnacle or U-lead. These packages are very user friendly and are now coming free with new laptops and computers. They will read the animation as if it was live action footage, and you can easily add music, sound and text. The finished sequence can be dumped back out to tape and copied across via the digital camera to a VCR tape.
Disadvantages of this system Unless your employer has already invested in some of this equipment, it costs quite a lot of money. In my experience, as soon as you begin purchasing computers and cameras, everybody wants in on the action, and it becomes difficult to ring fence the equipment for animation. Also, schools tend to locate this type of equipment in communal spaces such as libraries and learning resource areas, and you are not often welcome if you are working with plasticine, sand or large unwieldy sets. The best set up I have used is a Sony digital video camera and an I-Book laptop, both robust enough and portable enough to be carried to an appropriate space.
All of these methods require a period of time to become familiar with the various bits of equipment and processes. The learning curve is steep, but the rewards are great. There are any number of areas on the national curriculum to which the process of animation can be applied, from the obvious links of art, media and IT, to the less obvious application of number, communication and working in a team. The subject has universal appeal and attracts interest beyond the classroom. It is an excellent way to highlight an issue, or market a course.
Animated Exeter is an Exeter City Council initiative realised through collaboration with our partners, funders, and sponsors and we would particularly like to thank South West Screen, Arts Council South West, City Screen, Devon Curriculum Services, East Devon District Council, participating venues, local businesses, animation companies, artists and volunteers for their continued support.