Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The software I would like to use for my Flipped Class

Inspired by JD Ferries-Rowe's (@jdferries) recent blog post on the software he would like to use in his Flipped Class, I decided to take a shot at throwing out some things I would like to see. It is Christmas after all.

JD wrote his ideal software from the prospective of the average user. I certainly understand that perspective. Just as I don't want technology to be so difficult it gets in the way of my students' projects and objectives, I also see the need for not-so-tech-savvy teachers to be able to create videos without a lot of technical know-how. I agree with many of the features JD was asking for, so I didn't put those here unless I felt I had more to add.

However, it is difficult for me to come at this from a novice perspective. Here's why......I spent nearly 10 years as a Video Writer/Producer/Editor. I haven't worked in the field for 8 years now, so I'm not current enough to be considered the whiz I once was. I used to work in six figure editing suites with Avid Media Composer (at the time, and still is I believe, the dominant industry standard for non-linear editing). I also used Media 100 and was an early user of Final Cut Pro as it was just being introduced in the marketplace when I left the field. There are three categories of video and editing products: professional, consumer, and prosumer. Having previously been considered a professional user, it is difficult for me to use consumer level products and thus find myself falling more satisfied with prosumer products. So, my wish list will include items that aren't necessary, but having seen them in other non-linear editors, something I'd like to incorporate.

Another disclaimer is that I use Camtasia Studio's PC version. I had an interesting conversation with Dave McCollom from TechSmith at the Flip Class Conference last June about tools I'd like to see in Camtasia. Many of them he said are or may be available in the Mac version at some point. I have not used the Mac version. If you see things on my wish list that are available in the Mac version, feel free to let me know.

With all that said, following is my wish list for a software product that I would like for my Flipped Class:
1. Simultaneous multiple outputs:
As many flippers do, I output to a few different platforms in order to provide my students multiple ways to access content. This requires me to render, produce, share, create (whatever term you use for final output of video) multiple times. I would love to have the ability to select multiple platforms prior to output and that will happen one after the other without my having to continually return to my computer. In addition, if someone could add the ability to upload the video to multiple websites at once (and produce a hard copy in a selected location on my portable hard drive, that would be great.
2. Built in feedback feature:
As JD mentioned in his post, I would like some kind of interface built around the video that would allow the student to submit feedback, fill in a form, maybe even attach a document, all with the same user interface. Many of us have found ways around this by implementing blogs, Google Forms, etc. into our students' viewing process. However, I would like this to all be done in one program, through one interface, and synced together for simplicity.
3. Multiple layers of video:
I don't expect unlimited layers of video as with many professional editors, but 4 or 5 would be good. And don't tell me what has to go into each layer (i.e. Picture-in-Picture). Just give me 4 or 5 open layers and let me build what I want. If you want to incorporate nesting, that would be a nice feature. I anticipate rarely going about 5 layers, so nesting would be more of an organization tool than anything else.
4. Multiple layers of audio:
Just as I would like multiple layers of video, I would like the same with audio. I'd like to be able to split the audio across channels allowing me to clean up and blend audio better across tracks. I rarely would use more than 3 layers as a music bed isn't a highly-used tool in screencasts and teacher videos. However, the ability to overlap audio tracks and dissolve between them would be a nice feature.
5. Audio Scrubbing:
This is a time-saving feature I would love to have. Audio scrubbing, for those that don't know, is the ability to hear the audio while you drag your slider along the timeline. An experienced scrubber can quickly find a point on the timeline they want to get to more efficiently. I can use the audio waveforms in Camtasia to pinpoint places on the timeline, but still not as quickly as if I could scrub my audio as well.
6. Motion Path Keyframes:
OK, I'll admit this is a big one and a bit greedy to ask of a simple video editor, but I would love the ability to motion path my keyframes. Put simply, if I make a keyframe and then place an image at that keyframe, then I go 1 second down the timeline and create a second keyframe and move the image to a second position, my editor should path the movement of the image from one keyframe to the next for me. Right? I know it's possible in After Effects and professional level non-linear editors. Can someone give me that, please? And, since it's Christmas, throw in some bezier handles too?
7. Easier customizable transitions:
Let's face it. The only transitions we need are cut and dissolve. Seriously, good editors know this. Don't give me star filters, shutter wipes, and spin outs. Just give them the ability to easily place a dissolve and determine the frame length for it. And, since I'm being greedy, don't default it to 1 second and ask me to change it every time. Default it to 15 frames, which is what I consider the best length for most dissolves, and then I can change it if I want from there.
8. Multiple multimedia format import:
As JD mentioned, the ability to easier import a variety of common multimedia formats would be beneficial. And please, if you could, allow video and/or image alpha channels. I'm not a big fan of the performance of consumer level chroma keys, so an alpha channel would help me create much cleaner layers. But, back to the imports....allow me to import video, audio, images, etc without having to convert and give me the ability to plug them into my project seamlessly.
9. Multiple timelines in a project:
Maybe I'm missing this in Camtasia, but I frequently want to create videos from the same media bin. The videos may be similar in content or part of a series. I would like the ability to work in one project, but create multiple timelines. This would allow me to work more efficiently by sharing resources in one project, but still creating multiple videos from those resources.

I don't think I'm asking for too much really. If you can give me this product at a low price, that would be wonderful. How about you? In the spirit of Christmas, I'd love to hear what others are searching for in the perfect flipped class software suite. Maybe an elf is working on it right now and will make it happen!

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