My Failure Bow

Failure Bow_ToGa WanderingDuring the Asia ADE Institute 2010, Improv expert Rebecca Stockley introduced the “Failure Bow” as a way of recognising failures as learning opportunities. Basically, if you stuffed up, you held your hands up and everyone applauded your failures (rather than only celebrating your successes).

I love the idea of this, but putting it into practice is something that takes a bit of getting used to. Admitting defeat is not something we tend to do, but I don’t want this blog to become a show-boat of lessons that have gone well without countering it with some of the lessons that haven’t. So here goes:

I stuffed up.

Overall, I think it would be safe to describe my Grade 5 animation project as a bit of a disaster. And that’s if you’re being kind.

The ingredients for success were all there: enthusiastic students, willing and supportive colleagues, the necessary equipment – but several contributing factors meant that the end result just didn’t cut the mustard. Instead of detailing the list of things that went wrong (there is only so much time in the day after all…!), I thought I’d share the lessons I learned through my failures.

Lesson 1. Large photo files + network + 22 students all on the computers = frustration. I wanted to use good quality images to get the best quality for the finished product, however with the scale we were working with (in excess of 300 photos each group), Movie Maker crashed more times that I’ve had hot dinners.
To solve this problem, next year I would reduce the file size to Large or even Medium, to speed the process up, and reduce the chance of crashing.

Lesson 2. Storing video/image files on local machines is much better than accessing files via the school network. I know this seems obvious, but when you have kids using different computers all the time (and occasionally different computers being out of action for some reason), then the network seems like the safest bet. For videos of this magnitude, storing files locally makes the whole thing run much more smoothly.

Lesson 3. Having 22 kids at a time making movies is great in theory, but, practically speaking, 1 per group would have been more manageable for the network. I thought that groups could work together to create and shoot their images, then take the images and edit their a movie individually. One movie per group would be fine, however clear guidelines for each group member would need to be established, so that everyone is responsible for different sections.

Lesson 4. Know your software. Despite making short test versions of animations (as outlined here), Movie Maker wasn’t up for the task on a larger scale. Our other software, Adobe Premiere Elements is a great tool, but the smallest picture duration we could customize it to was 1 frame per second (not nearly fast enough for a decent animation). While trying to fiddle around with the picture duration settings, I discovered Adobe Premiere Elements had a stop-motion animation function (if used with a webcam connected to the computer) which we could have used from the beginning. The quality of the finished movie wouldn’t be as great, however if it meant more kids would be successful in creating an animation, then it’s probably worth trying.

Lesson 5. Persistence pays off. With the Singapore International School Film Festival kicking off in a few short days, I woke at 1am in despair at how despite all the hard work from teachers and students alike, I had not even one video to submit to the Film Fest for consideration. It was heartbreaking. I lay awake for ages composing this blog post in my head. The very next day, one of the students managed to pull together his fabulous animation ready for submission, just in the nick of time. Where other students had given up, Jean-Luc showed an impressive amount of tenacity to keep coming back to the lab, even though each change involved a 10 minute load time, then the distinct possibility of Movie Maker crashing. I am so proud to share this video with you:

Photo Credit: ToGa Wanderings

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