Author Archives: Joel Aarons
Tilt Shift photography is a cool effect where you blur the top and bottom of an photo that is taken from a fair distance away. As your brain is used to seeing backgrounds blurred when looking at a close up macro photo, it tricks your brain into thinking that what you are seeing is a scale model. Here are some cool examples of the technique.
There are attachments you can buy for an SLR camera that makes your lens a little flexible and lets you physically tilt the lens to create the effect in camera. Otherwise, you can just fake it using Photoshop.
So, I started by showing my students some examples and how the technique works. I then took them step by (small) step to achieve the same result in Photoshop by first converting to a smart object, and then applying the Tilt Shift Blur filter in the Blur Gallery.
From there, the students learned how to paint in the layer mask to reveal or conceal the tilt shift blur as they needed. Please watch my video tutorial below.
Here are some of the better examples my students came up with.
This is a simple little project students can do to start learning how layer masks in Photoshop work.
Essentially, the project asks them to take a photo of textured material and to create a new file in Photoshop, type in the name of that texture “ie: Bricks” and have the photo of the bricks come through the text.
This is made possible by putting a layer mask on the type layer that has “BRICKS” written on it, and pasting the photo of the bricks on to the layer mask itself.
This is not typically the way we use layer masks. Usually, as you will see later in the post on the Tilt Shift effect in Photoshop, a layer mask is used to paint in (or paint away) an adjustment, effect or filter. Layer masking allows you to hide or use as much of any one layer as you like. It is a black and white image that cuts out a layer, allowing it to show though wherever the pixels are white, and holds out or hides a layer wherever the mask is black. The common adage to layer masking is that “white reveals, black conceals”. This will be more evident when watching my video tutorial below:
So – quite a simple little project. I started off by sending them out of the classroom for 5-10 minutes to photograph on the iPads a texture they want to use. They then uploaded the photo to the class’ Google Drive folder. Once the project was completed in Photoshop, I asked them to substitute the black background for another image that another group used that was in start contrast to the texture they had used for their type. I also showed the students how to use layer styles to highlight the type more.
Here are some examples:
Ideas come from many places. Some come directly from your own imagination, some are inspired by what others done, and some come from
ripping off paying homage to others who have done exceptional work.
I had never heard of Twirl Art before. Apparently such a thing has existed before. Where I found about it from was from the exceptional Photoshop/Illustrator instructor Deke McClelland over at Lynda.com. I will admit, and give proper credit, to Deke in that this project was virtually followed word for word, step for step the way he did it.
Twirl Art can start from virtually any photograph. Personally, I find a photo that has a nice mixture of bright and vibrant colours work best. Then, following the steps, you go from this:
Pretty amazing huh? It takes a lot of work, using a combination of various filters and blending modes in Photoshop to create the final result.
This is an advanced class, but I was really impressed how well the students were able to follow the instructions so well.
The video I have below does go through the steps quickly, I’ll admit. You may need to stop and start to take notes. As I said, it takes a lot of work, but I think the end result is something you could proudly print out professionally and have hanging on your wall.
At least I think so.
Here is the video that explains the process. And again, thanks to Deke for his wonderful project. You can find all of Deke’s videos over at Lynda.com at https://www.lynda.com/Illustrator-tutorials/Dekes-Techniques/76067-2.html
Sometimes I feel like teaching Photoshop (or another big program) is like learning how to cook. When it comes to a big project like this, it’s a matter of following the steps one after the other to get the desired result. In the case of primary school students learning Photoshop, I’ve learned the best way is to model a couple of steps at a time, get them to go off and do it, come back to the screen, and going through the next couple.
This project had it’s genesis in the Grade 5 students studying space later in the year. I had this idea to create an engagement for them by getting them to design their own planet in their own galaxy. With that, they could take their finished image to class and then write up a report about their planet. The name, the kind of atmosphere, what kind of ecosystem, habitats and life their planet would have.
This project goes over two lessons. The first one, creating the galaxy, is relatively short. The second one where they create their planet takes a little longer, but is definitely achieveable in two lessons. Most steps must be done as is, but there is a little flexibility with colours and textures to make it their own.
I will credit upfront the video on YouTube I got most of my “recipe” for this was from <a href=”https://www.youtube.com/user/bluelightningtv”>Blue Lightning Photoshop TV</a> . My steps are mostly the same, but updated for Photoshop 2017 with a few small tweaks.
The videos below are in two parts: the galaxy and then the planet.
Here are a few examples from the students.
The mobile app Adobe Photoshop Fix is an incredibly powerful mobile app that lets you do much of the retouching and editing functions that the desktop Photoshop CC does. You can remove things from backgrounds, heal areas and blend layers. All sorts of goodness.
But with great power comes great responsibility. How much is too far? Where is the point where your photo becomes a distortion of what came before? And is this a good or bad thing?
This are interesting questions of ethics that would suit older students. But when introducing this app to younger students (as a sneaky precursor in introducing Photoshop proper next year to these kids) it’s all about the fun. And without doubt, the most fun you can have with this is the face liquify function.
Essentially, the app detects your face (assuming it’s an ubobstructed close up headshot) and the edit points on the face. The nose, eyes, cheeks, jawline, chin, forehead, mouth and lips. And with each edit point there are a number of options you can change. Obviously professional “serious” photographers use this to make slight subtle changes to the models they shoot, but with these kids, it’s all about distorting features.
I also got them to do a little bit of blended painting, so they could colour their hair as well.
The video here better explains the process.
Here are some examples from my Grade 2 students:
I presented a webinar last night on Photoshop Mix which may interest some of you. I’ve already had lots of positive feedback. The URL to view the recording is at https://my.adobeconnect.com/p9ueioopmo14
Wow, this was a tough one. This project ended up ok, but didn’t happen as I originally intended. Let me explain.
The whole point of getting students to shoot and edit their own music videos, was to teach them the technique of “multicam editing”. This is the technique where multiple cameras are used to shoot a scene (let’s say, a close up, medium shot and wide shot) and the editors in Premiere Pro would sync each clip together (usually with a clapperboard sound or hand clapping) and then simply choose which clip to place in their video one at a time.
Here is a good video that explains the process.
I thought – and this shows my lack of education in this area – that i could adapt this by having the students in groups to have 3-4 different versions of them performing a song. Let’s say . . .
- Version 1: Kids singing the song
- Version 2: Other kids singing the song
- Version 3: Kids dancing to the song
- Version 4: Kids “acting” parts of the song.
They would need to play their song from an iPad off camera on a count of 1,2,3 – Go. That word GO is what would sync all the clips in Premiere.
Make sense? Well, sort of. What I came to realise is that’s not really what multicam editing is meant to be for. It only really works if mutliple cameras are shooting the same scene, as the name implies. Also, the kids would need to record each version for the entire length of the song. Most groups did not do that.
So, I had to backtrack a bit, after seeing what the kids filmed. We had to look at editing it in a more traditional way.
So, to set up this project, I got each group to nominate which song they wanted to do. I said that it had to be a song that the singers in the group knew very well. I assured them that we would take out the sound in editing, and sync the real song in it’s place – so, no need to feel self conscious. I also made it clear that they couldn’t lipsync the song. Lip syncing always looks incredibly fake. Obviously I had to vett the songs to make sure they were appropriate. Although the kids knew that meant no swearing or inappropriate content like sex, drugs and violence, they often would miss some of the more subtle innuendos in the song, in which case I told them they had to choose again.
I then put all the songs on iPads 1-6. These were the “audio” iPads. iPads 7-12 were my “video” iPads – the ones that the kids would use for filming. Again, the idea is that the audio iPad would be close to the video iPad, but off camera, with a countdown.
In explaining all of this, I showed them a cut down version of what I did. I always say to the kids that I wouldn’t ask them to do anything I would not do myself. So, on my own, I did do a (deliberately embarrassing) version of Pharell Williams “Happy”. I filmed the song four times, in this way.
- Version 1: Singing standing up in one location
- Version 2: Singing sitting down in another location
- Version 3: Dancing to the song in yet another location
- Version 4: Snapping my fingers to the song in yet another location
When I filmed, edited and explained this, it was still my intention to go the multicam route. If I had known that we would be editing this traditionally, I wouldn’t have bothered to film the entire song for Version 3 and 4. It wouldn’t be necessary. These two I call wild tracks, because it doesn’t matter where in the video you put them, it still works. Obviously the singing has to be in the right point in the song.
To my chagrin, here is my (cutdown) version of Happy.
So, after laughing hard for about 10 minutes, each class went out to do the filming. One group even went to the effort of bringing costumes for the shoot, which I loved!
It was once I reviewed what they had done that I realised that the multicam workflow was not going to work. Especially since most students had not recorded full song videos for each clip.
So, for the next session, once all their videos were transferred to our school server, we could begin looking at how to edit this music video traditionally.
The first step was to sync the song to the video. This required students to listen out for that 1,2,3,go intro and put the song right at that point, muting the video audio at the same time. Then they had to look at other clips they had, and choose subclips at different points.
Here’s a video I made to explain the proceess. Please note, because I used the Pharell Williams song “Happy” I didn’t play the sound in the video below for copyright reasons
The whole project took 3 sessions, with the first being the shoot, and the last two being the edit. Although the students did save the projects and export them as movies, we could not upload them to YouTube for their portfolios because of copyright issues with the songs themselves. This was the perfect opportunity to explain why copyright exists and the permissions needed to include other people’s songs on projects. We did save them and share them, though.
All in all, a challenging project that did need to be reworked, but the students had a lot of fun doing it.
It was about this time last year when I found out I was going to take on the Media Arts specialist role. So many ideas were running through my head. What tools, what equipment and mostly – what projects should I do?
This one is the first one I thought of. I’m not saying it’s necessarily the best project we’ve done all year, but it was a lot of fun.
Essentially, I wanted to teach the students how to add subtitles to a video project. So there’s your learning outcome. My way to engage them was to use Star Wars. I remembered years ago seeing a clip online where someone put their subtitles on a sequence featuring R2D2. So, simply – what is R2D2 really saying? A fun idea – yes. But one that takes a lot of planning, both from the teacher and the students.
The clip I used, which I found on YouTube and downloaded, was the start of Revenge of the Sith where Obi Wan and Anakin are flying around, trying to get in the command ship to free Chancellor Palpatine. Yes, I knew all of that without looking it up! There are some moments where R2 says somethings, but in the history of Star Wars cannon, the movies never subtitle R2. Other characters sometimes know what he’s saying, but you as the viewer do not. So, I had a think and came up with this video.
I’m not claiming it’s all that funny, but that was fine because I challenged the kids to do better. I gave them, in the first session, a planning sheet where I had transcribed the whole sequence, added timecodes to each line of dialogue, and left a blank space everytime R2D2 beeped and whistled. I even left a space for the enemy droid ship who said something mechinical before firing his missiles.
So, after watching the sequence a couple of times, the kids had to basically fill in the blanks as to what R2D2 was saying at each point. Of course, as you’d expect, there were some students that I had to temper their enthusiasm a little as what they suggested was borderline inappropriate, but for the most part, the kids got into the spirit of it. Even those who had no real interest in Star Wars.
The second and third session was the real challenge. The process of adding subtitles (or captions, as Premiere Pro calls it) is fairly simple, but easy to mess up. Below is a video of me explaining how I added subtitles to my Star Wars clip.
I was strict with the kids on using proper capitalisation and punctuation. I helped out when it came to spelling. I also made them check, and re-check their timecodes so that they matched what I had on the sheet.
The results were mixed. I’m not a comedy critic, but I do think my version was better than some of the kids, but most did a very reasonable job. And all students, at the end, had a much greater understanding of subtitles, their various purposes, and the technicalities of where and how they are placed in a video clip.
This was the last project I did with the Gr 3-4s. I will post a reflection on the Gr 3-4 curriculum over the summer break.
So now the Gr5-6s have a little experience with the After Effects workflow and are developing their understanding of keyframes, it’s time to have a bit more fun. I came up with the idea where they could blow themselves up. Imagine you see a robot, you beg for your life, it shoots you and you explode. See the video below.
Such a simple and fast video requires a lot of work in After Effects to pull off. I want to make a disclaimer right away – I know the video quality is rubbish. I had to use an iPad which was all we had to use for video at the time. The green screen corner I had painted in my room is also problematic because of either low or uneven lighting. This can make a big difference in keying out the green from the video.
In any case, this project took up three sessions. Session 1 was filming each group on the green screen, getting them to upload that video from the iPad to their Google Drive account and then importing that video into After Effects. Like the last project, I already had a After Effects project set up for them, so they just needed to open it and save it with their names as their own copy. From there, the students learned how to key out the green and clean it up as best they could. As I said, because of the lighting issues, results were quite varied.
Session 2 involved the students creating the explosion effect with the sound and Session 3 was about generating the laser effect.
Here is my video for teaching Session 1 – keying the green screen footage.
And my video for teaching Session 2 – creating the explosion effect
And finally my video for teaching Session 3 – creating the laser beam
I’ve also added again the video I used in the last After Effects post about exporting the finished composition to a video file.
As I mentioned before, After Effects is challenging to use, so if you are game like me and want to give your kids a go with it, there are several resources I can point to.
First, the Adobe Education Exchange is a must in finding courses, lesson plans and all sorts of teacher goodies. All completely free of charge. I highly, highly, highly recommend it. At the time of writing, there are close to 1000 hits when it comes to projects and lessons you can look at for After Effects – including Up and Running with Adobe After Effects CC.
If you want some simple starter activities, have a look at Adobe’s Learn and Support area for After Effects. There are some excellent tutorials and videos here for you to have a look at, with excercise files to play along with.
If you want something even more in depth, have a look at Lynda.com – a brilliant site for self paced courses. Check to see if your institution gives you free access to Lynda. My public library gives library members free access as well. Otherwise, it does cost to access the course library – but you can sign up for a free 10 day trial. Well, well worth it!
Finally, if you’re more of a book person, I love Adobe’s “Classroom in a Book series”. It comes with lots of projects, technical information for lay people and a host of excersise files to play with. The latest edition, at the time of writing, is Adobe After Effeects CC Classroom in a Book (2015 release).
The Gr 5-6s will be doing one final mini project where they combine their two videos for their portfolioin Premiere Pro. It’s a very simple thing to do, so I don’t think I’ll do a post on it. For this year, that’s then the last project for the senior grades. I’ll be posting a reflection during the holidays.
After Effects is probably the trickiest program in the Adobe suite to get your head around. It can be very complicated. After Effects is used for post production. So that’s motion graphics, special effects, rotoscoping, animation, the whole gammat. I once heard someone say that After Effects is the middle ground between Photoshop (for images) and Premiere Pro (for video). I would also add there is a fair bit of Animate in there (for animation).
So, to get the students introduced to After Effects, I had a really simple project in mind. I wanted them to animate the school logo coming in from the left of screen, staying put, and then flying out to screen right.
Pretty simple. But I wanted the kids to get started with understanding the idea of keyframes – markers in an animation that have set values. In other words, you could set one keyframe at 1.00sec saying the object is 100% scale and another at 2.00sec saying the object is at 0% scale. So that means, in your composition, the object – between 1-2 seconds, would shrink from 100% to 0%..
Got that so far? Right, so I didn’t actually focus on size. I just focused on position. Have a look at the video below to see how I taught the project to the kids.
Below is an extra video explaining how to export the composition to a video file. In experimenting with different files, I choose to use the preset YouTube 720p HD and H264 as the video format. And with using After Effects, I find using Adobe Media Encoder the best option that’s easiest for the students to understand.
The next project for the Gr 5-6s will teach them some basic video effects inside Adobe After Effects.