Making Movies in the Classroom
Making movies is a great way for my EFL students to practice their writing and speaking. However, as the students reach the upper elementary and middle school grades they shy away from showing their faces on screen. To remedy this problem I started using Minecraft PE (MCPE) instead of live action movies. All of my students, no matter their age, love Minecraft. So when I asked them if they wanted to make a movie using MCPE they were pretty excited.
We started with the script. With my primary classes we wrote the script together using the iPad app Celtx. Celtx is a fantastic and simple app for writing, screen plays, podcasts, and even TV commercials. With my upper elementary students we used Google Docs to create the script.
Once the scripts were completed we began practicing. It is a challenge to teach expression and emotion to Korean students. To help, I showed them a few videos of the making of Frozen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SET0DeKtHkc
After practicing and revising the script we proceeded to create storyboards for the movie. In the beginning we used just simple paper and pencils. However, when Paper 53 for the iPad came out it was our go to app for storyboarding. To help my students understand about storyboarding we watched the kids from Animation Chefs explain storyboarding for stop motion. Even though we weren’t creating a stop motion movie the kids on the site did a fantastic job explaining how to create a storyboard for a movie.
Set Building and Filming
The final step before filming was to create the setting. To save time I imported buildings from PC Minecraft into our MCPE world. This was very simple using a few programs on my Macbook. However, when Minecraft PE was updated to version 0.10.0, and IOS updated to version 8, it is not possible to import worlds or structures into MCPE on the iPad unless you use Pocket Mine. Because certain blocks and mobs are limited in pocketmine we often built scenes in both Pocketmine and regular MCPE. This allowed us to film monster fight scenes.
With the scripts printed and practiced we began filming. I used Reflector and Screen-Cast-Omatic to record the screen cast of my iPad. I would act as the camera. One tip here would be to turn off the GUI on the iPad to hide the D-Pad and items. It’s a little tricky to move around but it gives you a nice clear picture.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wi8cEwF88Ho (Full Movie)
Experimenting and Having Fun
We began experimenting with filming techniques such as green screen and camera angles. Also, we used a lot of different apps to add special effects to our movies. Here are a few apps that we’ve used and how we incorporated them into our movies.
Toontastic is the best cartoon creating app on the App store. I use it a lot with my primary students for story telling activities. Toontastic has some fun and cool special effects, like rain, snow, bombs and much more. With the use of a green screen (More on this later for minecraft) we added these special effects to our Minecraft movies.
Green Screen by DoInk
There are a few green screen apps on the app store, however, Green Screen by DoInk is by far the best. We use it all the time for any live action videos we produce in class. Using green screen in Minecraft was a really easy. All we did was create a background with either green wool blocks or blue wool blocks. Once we’ve completed filming students could easily edit the videos in the Green Screen app and add any background or video they wanted.
Super Power Fx by Kuju
One of our Live Action/Minecraft movies was about superheroes. This app was perfect for giving each student super abilities. There maybe a way to incorporate the app into Minecraft but we haven’t experimented with that just yet.
X-Mirage is a screen mirroring and recording app for the Mac. I was able to pick it up for free during a sale on Cult of Mac. What I like about the app is that it allows students to mirror their iPads to my Macbook and it allows me to record their screen. I have a 15 inch Macbook Pro, so I was able to mirror and record 3 iPads at once. This allowed us to use multiple camera angles.
Green-screening in Minecraft PE
Creating your own green screen in MCPE is very simple. All you need is some green wool or green emeralds as a background and you are all set. We even experimented with green windows in vehicles to simulate moving. In the photo above we used a blue screen to simulate a large forest.
Overall the experience has been very positive for me and my students. Students learned a lot about how to create a movie and spent a lot of time practicing key English skills. This summer vacation we will be working on coding skills. I look forward to sharing our experiences!