Below is an outline for a 1-2 week unit in phylm. The section headings are links that will guide you through the process of making your own phylm. However, you may also maneuver your way through the unit by using the navigation bar above. Most sections contain a step-by-step tutorial. A key to the icons on the outline can be found at the bottom of the list along with an explanation of the time estimates.

What your finished product will look like. ~10 min
Before you start. ~10 min ~1class
Choosing you clip and planning for your phylm. ~10 min
Importing your clip & exporting data.   2X clip
Researching and collecting your data. ~10 min ~1 class
Understanding your clip. ~10 min
Storyboarding.   varies

Editing and exporting your base clip. ~10+5 min
Adding overlays and animations. ~10 min ~4 to 5
Your credits. ~10 min
The test screening (optional). ~10+5 min
Exporting your final cut. ~10+5 min

Additional work (The Making of...). ~10 min
Burning your files (optional).
~10+5 min

Thinking required Time estimates:
black = time to read/view on-line guide
purple = average computer time to execute process
1 Class assumed to be 50 min in length
Flash MX required
iMovie required
AV Equipment required
Suggested homework component

Project Description

Students, working individually or in small groups, take ANY piece of video footage, real world or fictional (e.g., CNN or Hollywood), and add to it their own analysis of the physics presented--answering questions sparked by their viewing. The students interrogate the video for data, develop a method for arriving at solutions to their questions, and repackage the original footage into a final product that serves to communicate their findings. Final products consist of the original footage overlaid with any combination of narration and pictorial commentary, including student-produced animations and visualizations of abstract concepts.

For example, a group might choose to examine a clip from an action film in which a character is hit with such a force that he flys backwards, hitting the wall before sliding to the ground. They might then calculate how fast the character would have to be flying through the air for this to happen. They could find the actor's weight via the internet (oddly you can find many actors' weights in this way) and calculate the force necessary to produce the needed acceleration. They would then put together a collection of overlays and illustrations to help communicate their findings and integrate them with the original clip to produce their project.


After completing this project, students will be able to:
  • Analyze video clips for physical quantities (e.g., speed, velocity, time, etc.) and estimate their values.
  • Use research to make reasonable assumptions about quantities that cannot be directly observed.
  • Frame questions about physical systems that may be answered using the students' own knowledge of physical laws.
  • Calculate approximate values for remaining unknowns based upon their assumptions (i.e., answer their own questions about the system).
  • Communicate their assumptions and conclusions about a physical system to an audience of their peers.

    Tech Skills

    After completing this project, students will be able to:
  • Import, manipulate, edit, and export digital video using iMovie.
  • Create simple Macromedia Flash animations and stills.
  • Integrate Flash and exported iMovie clips (in Quicktime format) into one stand-alone video clip.
  • Sync audio overlays using iMovie for export to Quicktime or MiniDV.

    Assessment Suggestions

    You may choose to further involve the class by evaluating students from a class-developed rubric, based upon items such as production quality, scientific correctness and so forth.

    Preparation and Duration

    This project works well as an end of the term project, tying together previously covered topics. Depending upon the amount of student outside work (e.g., planning and storyboarding) the unit should take about one to two weeks of in-class work.

    The time saved through systematic pre-planning on the part of students cannot be over emphasized. Before exporting their iMovie project to Quicktime for integration with a Flash track, students should very thoughtfully plan what their final product will look like and edit their clip accordingly. Students should make use of storyboarding outside of class so that their in-class time with technology does not have to compete with project decisions that could have been made beforehand.

    Tools and Resources

  • Video Clip: VHS, DVD, MiniDV, Quicktime, or DV Stream
  • Hardware: Macintosh computers. For VHS and DVD clips only: Playback device and analog to digital converter (RCA or S-Video to Firewire)
  • Software: iMovie. Macromedia Flash MX
  • Internet: http://www.phylm.org/ A step-by-step on-line tutorial for instructors and students, including animations, technical tips, and mockup project examples.
  • Internet search engine such as: http://www.google.com/
  • The Educator's Guide to Copyright and Fair Use: http://www.techlearning.com/db_area/archives/TL/2002/10/copyright.html
  • Copyright 101 for Educators: http://www.techlearning.com/db_area/archives/WCE/archives/copywes.html

    Prerequisite Skills

    Students must have a good deal of familiarity with physical laws and problem solving in order to frame and answer questions about the systems in their video clips. A good coverage of mechanics is strongly suggested.

    Facilitation Tips

    You may wish to prep students by including questions about movie scenarios in tests prior to this project. For example, you may ask a question about what would "actually" happen if the car in a movie tried to jump the canyon assuming a D meter wide gap, a speed of V m/s, and an incline of only X degrees. Additionally, encourage students to use each other as resources for tech help.

    Additionally, modeling a completed project is very important, as many students have a hard time visualizing what their finished product is supposed to look like. I suggest that instructors first construct their own brief project to communicate this and to become familiar with the technical aspects of the process. I would place examples of student projects on the phylm website except currently there is no easy way for me to legally share such content over the internet as none of my students have made use of base clips that are in the public domain. I will, however, place a mockup clip there for viewing.

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    Last updated August 1, 2003
    ©2003 - David Colarusso