So I thought I would talk about Popcorn Maker as educational software today rather than just sharing what I made with Popcorn. I am in the process of creating a new movie with Popcorn to experiment with the program so more, so as I warned before, there will be another Zombie movie coming to a browser near you.
What's to like about Popcorn? Actually, quite a bit. It is certainly easy to place media into the template and to add all sorts of popups, text , etc. But anyone who has used the software is aware that it is supposed to be user friendly.
But is it? First, the tutorial.
"Hi, Popcorn is so easy to use, any idiot can do so and it will take you five minutes or less to understand how to use the software. Then you can make a video. Enjoy!"
"Hi, my name is Karen and I have some questions? Um...Hello?" New user goes through Popcorn site looking for answers and gets this:
"Hi, Popcorn is so easy to use, any idiot can do so and it will take
you five minutes or less to understand how to use the software. Then you can make a video. Enjoy!"
So maybe I was having an off day but nobody's software is that good that it doesn't need a help desk that gives answers. So hopefully other users will also share their experience of using Popcorn ( this one was helpful. You'll notice the interface has changed a little since this wiki was created.)
Now why did I need help?
Have a look at the tutorial. All of the extra content added to the video is in one or two layers. The tutorial plays and it looks so easy.
When I started playing with the program to make my video "Twitter vs. Zombies 2.0" I wanted to cut the first 19 seconds after the first second. I used Skip, then I added in my first popup, played around with length, font, etc. of the popup and moved on. I then added in my next popup (@cogdog) and a photo of a strawberry that Alan Levine had tried to use to save himself from zombiehood. Placing it on the screen, I could see that no matter where I placed it, the photo wasn't going to work, so I went to delete it.
Guess what? There is no delete button in Popcorn Maker. I tried to move it, and it wasn't going anywhere. That's when my fruitless hunt for answers began. I found the wiki I've linked to above and it mentions (in passing, almost as an aside!) that if you want to remove something from your video you can delete the layer as each layer has a garbage can icon beside it. So I deleted the layer, plus all the work I had done so far.
Started again. Made many layers. Worked on the content some more to refine my popups and text. Added some more skips into the movie. While the play bar tells you approximately what second you are in the movie, each event demands an exact time and you need to know that for the movie to be seamless. Added a loop. Added another loop. Loop seemed to be broken and kept looping at the original number of loops I requested instead of the new number. Removed looping layer (which was a shame because I think having the woman look over her shoulder a couple of times would have been amusing.) Tried to line up looped event with popup event (Statue of Liberty) hoping that would improve play by moving the layers. You can't add extra layers between layers to keep events together for tracking purposes. You can only add layers at the bottom. You can't move layers. If you delete layer 2 it messes up at the layer 13. Complete hopeless mess. Movie now stuck skipping between the opening and the first zombie and won't progress. Close program. Open program. Seems to be working......and no it's not. Delete movie. Did this a few more times.
And that's when I went back to the first principles of design. I know we all want to build spontaneity into the process of creation but it is still a process. I created a storyboard. For every layer I wrote down the potential action/event, the time when I wanted it to occur, the accompanying text and I did it sequentially (except for the first skip that did not seem to like being in layer 0, it went into layer 1). This time it seemed to work. I previewed, refined the content of the events and published.
But my cautionary tale does not end there, unfortunately. When you play the movie back prior to previewing, it seems to run smoothly. All of the cuts and loops seemed to splice together nicely. Then you look at the preview. Little bits of film that you've skipped or looped that you may have missed magically appear. You go back, refine again, republish, preview, all seems well and post. As you review the finished product you notice the little problem areas that still plague it.
Today, I went back to my video and tweaked it a little more. I think I may have improved it a bit, but the Statue of Liberty loop still isn't right.
The moral of the story? Please use Popcorn in your classroom. It is a great program. But be prepared to teach students how to storyboard in conjunction with using this program because remixing a story in Popcorn needs to be planned to work. It will save you and your students hours of frustration.