An up close and personal look at iMovie – Product news: higher education and technology products, projects, and services

At a seminar last spring, Professor Jeffrey Weiss of Baruch College described how he turned to a multimedia approach to teaching. The traditional lecturing method, he said, often leaves students in a panic as they try to take notes and listen to their professors at the same time.

Using a Mac equipped with iMovie, Apple’s digital video editing software, and a Sony DCR-TRV900 digital video camera, Weiss records and archives the lectures he gives to his macroeconomics class, which he believes has improved the teaching and learning experience. matrix asked Weiss, and two other iMovie users, Paul Kozel, director of the Sonic Arts Center at City College of New York, and Cindy Schwarz, associate professor of Physics, Vassar College, to discuss their experiences with the software and how it has enhanced their classroom.

matrix: Many schools may have the money to bring technology into the classroom but lack the funds to bring in support for the faculty. Do you feel that iMovie is easy to use or does it require a lot of support?

Kozel: I think that anyone with a modicum of computer experience can learn iMovie on their own in a very short period of time. I was able to master the editing basics of the program in less than a half-hour. Learning the process for creating input and output took another half-hour.

However, learning the program and organizing content is two different things. It takes time to create content that is organized and succinct. The issue of support is not about training but about having someone who understands your vision and has the time to create the appropriate content. Faculty members will have the time to learn the program. But will they have the time to create content without the appropriate support?

Weiss: During this past academic year I used iMovie2 to edit and compress my MBA lectures, which we then stored as QuickTime movies on Baruch’s Blackboard site. We weren’t trying to do anything fancy–we simply wanted to give the students the opportunity to review class materials at home, in the library or wherever they had an internet connection. To achieve this, my graduate assistant and I each spent about two hours playing with the program. That’s it. iMovie is remarkably easy to learn and quite intuitive. You won’t need tech support even if you try advanced audio editing or “video overlays” but I would recommend purchasing a copy of David Pogue’s iMovie2: The Missing Manual, which does a nice job of explaining these and many other sophisticated editing techniques.

Schwarz: Absolutely easy to use. It took me less than 15 minutes to get a movie imported from the camera. I showed my students how to use it once and they were able to use it the next time themselves.

matrix: How are you using it? How has it changed or improved your way of teaching?

Kozeh Right now we are using iMovie at the Sonic Arts Center to create presentations about various recording techniques and technologies. For instance there are iMovies demonstrating how to mica drum kit while other iMovies demonstrate how to install a recording system (consisting of hardware and software) into a computer or how to use a specific piece of software. These movies are presented in class as a way of augmenting or demonstrating principles discussed in class. In the near future we will make these iMovies available as DVDs and/or as downloadable files from a Web site so the students can view this material before class. The end result is that we can cover more material, in a more thorough way. It’s an important pedagogical tool that is ultimately making us better teachers.

Weiss: Starting this fall, we will be creating interactive video textbooks for about a thousand students. A typical page of this textbook will contain three “frames.” In the upper left frame will be a QuickTime movie made with iMovie of part of a week’s lecture. Generally speaking, any portion of a lecture will contain a number of distinct topics, which can be identified with different chapter headings. Using this list of headings, the student can go to that portion of the lecture that he wants to review, without having to watch the whole movie. This feature can be added to any QuickTime movie using QuickTime Pro.

We will use embedded links to deal with the problem of “getting stuck.” A student watching a video lecture, for example, may not understand the economics because he doesn’t understand a mathematical derivation. Instead of waiting a day or longer to talk with me about it, he can “click” on that portion of the derivation that he fails to understand, and he will see in the flame on the top right a calculus Web site where he can get assistance. This is a perfect example of how a QuickTime technology can be used to enhance higher-ed by individualizing it.

The bottom frame will contain a quiz, which the student can take and then submit either to a computer for scoring and references to relevant portions of the textbook for additional review or she can submit it to a tutor for comments. In this way we will give the students much more feedback than they normally receive.

With iMovie supplying the foundation, we believe we will create a method of information delivery that will be far more effective than a regular textbook.

Schwarz: I am using it to import and edit digital video of motion in physics courses. Students film anything that is moving and put it into iMovie. After selecting a part of the clip, they use iMovie to save it to Quicktime format. Then they use an analysis program (VideoPoint) to get information about velocity for example.

matrix: How much does it cost the university? Would you recommend iMovie? Why are why not?

Kozel: Since iMovie is available free with Macintosh computers the monetary commitment by the university involves buying new Macintosh computers, iMovie provides a simple platform for inputting, editing and distributing your digital video content. For many situations this is the best option simply because the software is flee and it is easy to use. For these situations I would strongly recommend this product.

However, it has its limitations and when you feel you’ve outgrown the program then you’ll be ready for Apple’s Final Cut Pro. Final Cut will provide the user with all the flexibility and power that iMovie lacks.

Weiss: For a school that has Blackboard or somewhere else to place the movies, here’s a list of what’s needed to replicate what I did: DV camcorder, tripod, wireless microphone, iMac DV or PowerMac G4, and miniDV tapes.

These can cost as little as $2,600 or as much as $6,000, depending primarily on which camera and which computer you purchase.

Schwarz: It doesn’t cost anything, as iMovie is free on machines. The cost is in the other software and the digital cameras. I absolutely recommend it. For what I do in physics courses it is more than adequate. Final Cut Pro was overkill and much harder to learn.

matrix: Any other advice you would give potential iMovie Users?

Kozel: When contemplating your choice of digital video camera you should look for one that can digitize analog video such as VHS and SVHS on the fly without first recording to tape. This will save you a lot of time when you want to import your analog video into iMovie.

Weiss: It takes a little effort, but after you and your students work out a few minor kinks, you’ll be receiving email messages like this one:

“Your movies are the best things that

ever happened at Baruch!”

Schwarz: Try it with your children! My 9-year-old now has an iBook and he will be making his own movies this summer. I hope that if we start with the fun that he will use it later on for school projects.

For information about iMovie, visit

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