Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Middle School Music Video Project - The Scientific Method Rap

I worked with Andrea Thelen and her class this past marking period.  The class is called SETS - Students Engaged in Technology and Science.  This is a video project we assigned at the end of the course.  The hope was to follow a process like I outlined in this post from last year about music creation in the classroom.

As it turned out, we almost ran out of time.  I worked with the group of students to create the lyrics and we recorded a rough version in the very last days of the class.  I took some time on spring break to spice it up on my own.  Details of the process are below, but here's the final result.  

It is not perfect, so I pose this as a challenge for other groups.  Do something better!

Here's the Project Process:
First I had the students do this assignment to research and review the scientific method.

I didn't show them any examples of existing videos.  Instead, I just asked them to write the lyrics for a rap after they did the above assignment.  This group featured above turned in some great work, but I was disheartened to find a very similar version online!  We had a talk about using online content in acceptable ways and how to give credit where it's due.

I then worked with them to write the lyrics shown in this final version.

Using my iPad with an iRig Mic Cast microphone, I recorded the students while they rapped.  I made one simple track using the Smart Drums and then recorded their vocal part on a few other tracks as we accumulated takes.  This took longer than I expected, but it was a great learning process for them as we had to tweak their lyrics to fit the beat.  After class I took time to put the good takes in order.

The students then took the iPad while I worked  on the same process with a second group.  They used the free Video Star app to record their lip sync performance.  They came back with one rough take.  I told them to go do a few more.  In the end they had four videos.

I should note that Video Star is a great, fun app for adding effects to a lip sync performance.  But I was glad that three of the four takes that these students gave me did not use the video effects.  Instead, they just used the app as a means of syncing their performance with the song.  I suggest that because it's better for a polished video to add the best effects during post-production.

The videos that the students made at that point were acceptable for purposes of the class.  We were out of time anyway, so I did not have a chance to take them through the editing process.

Since it is spring break, though, I had a lot of time to play around with it on my own.  I did the following:

  • I created a few background tracks using options using UJam.  That site makes it easy to try the options, download an mp3 and then try another version.  I made two that I liked based on their hip hop styles. One important point to note is that UJam was a great seller for this project.  The students liked how it immediately spruced up a vocal track.  I was disappointed we didn't have more time to use this in class, so I hope to start the project earlier in the marking period next time.
  • I combined, rearranged and mixed the vocals and UJam track using my old version of Music Creator. While I did put in some effects from that program, mostly I choose it over Audacity only because it lets me easily cut the tracks right at the measures.  This makes it extremely easy to move parts around and repeat them.
  • I then combined the parts from their video performances with my audio track using Corel VideoStudio.  I love the program, but see the details I wrote about the good and the one big negative I had.  I really enjoy video editing, so I had fun with this.  I have to admit it took several hours just to make this short video, though, and it is not realistic that our students would have created something this complex within the usual time limits of our classes.  I hope to get them there someday though!
Doing this project with this group was my dream project this marking period.  I was hoping to give them something to make the class very memorable.  Since it was rushed and we worked around other distractions, I'm not sure I achieved it.  I did build a couple important relationships, though, and I set the groundwork to do much better the next time around.  

I have always said that nothing provides an option for more content and important skills at a variety of levels like a good video project.  Though it can complicate an already complex process, I'll go further and say that a good music video project adds several other advantages to the mix.  Not the least of which is that the students who are hardest to hook often have a love and talent for music.

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