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Monday, February 16, 2009

Wildlife Filmmaker

National Geographic has a great new tool called the Wildlife Filmmaker. This web-based tool allows you to use video from the National Geographic library of footage to create your own movies. The video clips don't have any sound and are fairly short but the library includes a nice range of animals. You can enhance your video by selecting sound effects of different animals as well as a musical background. There is also a feature that allows you to add basic captions to each clip and you can even add multiple captions to the same clip if so desired. Students don't need accounts, and therefore don't need e-mail addresses, to use this tool. It is free and works on both the Mac and PC since it is web-based.

This is what the editing interface looks like. It operates largely by drag and drop so students would be able to start using it without too much instruction. Finished movies can be shared by directly e-mailing them to someone or through a retrieval code that is generated when you save your movie. You can share this retrieval code with anyone you want to view your video. It's important to note that this retrieval code only takes you back to the completed video and doesn't allow you to continue editing your video. In fact, it doesn't appear that there is anyway to save a partially completed video and then come back to it again at a later time so students would have to have their video completely planned out and be able to finish it in one sitting.

You can preview the sounds and music by double clicking on the individual selections. However, I couldn't find a way to preview the video clips. In order to watch each clip I had to first drag it into the timeline and then view it there. This isn't a huge issue but it would take students a bit longer to sort through the clips and find the ones they wanted to use so it's something to be aware of. There is a nice selection of video clips and sound effects but don't assume that just because there is a video clip of an African Civet that there will be a corresponding sound clip of that same animal. Again, this may not be a significant issue but one I thought was worth mentioning.

I hope I don't sound too negative about this tool. If you are looking for an easy to use video editing application that allows your students to incorporate high-quality footage (without having to worry about file storage or copyright issues) then Wildlife Filmmaker is definitely worth checking out. I would love to see more tools of this kind come online in the future.

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