Tag Archives: Images

What's With the Green Screen?

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Maybe you’ve wondered why many of the experts in our videos have a green background. Its purpose is to allow your students to add a “special effect” by inserting an image or video. This technique is used to do weather forecasts on the news and to create special effects in feature films.

The green screen effect is not just for the pros at the networks or in the film industry — it’s for you and your students too. Check your video editing software to find how to do it. Some editing software comes with a green screen tool. Others require a plug-in application.

Below are two examples of adding a photo background and a video background to a green screen interview. I am using clips and images from different modules. (Why not mix them when you can?) The clip is from the Colonel Mike Fincke video in the Exploration Careers module.

The background image is from the Micro-g image gallery in the Fun in Microgravity site.

The video background is from the Space Station video clips gallery.

Just creating a podcast or video offers the opportunity to be creative, but students can be even more creative by adding special effects to their video podcast.

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Production Ideas for Using Still Images in Video Podcasts

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We’re wrapping up our blog series on using still images in video projects with a few production ideas for developing classroom projects with DIY Podcast materials. In the Sports Demo topic module, astronaut Clayton Anderson demonstrates sports in microgravity. He shows how it’s different to play ball or do gymnastics without the full force of Earth’s gravity. Your students could show the earthbound perspective by taking pictures with their digital cameras.

 It might be fun for your class to participate in the same sporting events that Anderson demonstrates on the space station. You could designate a few students to take action shots of their classmates playing baseball. Some of the students who play in the baseball game could serve as photographers for the next sporting event. By the end of your sports demo, all the students will get to shoot photos and play sports.

With the use of transitions and special effects, your class could create a video product exclusively using still images. If you take that approach, you could grab still images from the Sports Demo video clips to draw a contrast between sports in space and on Earth. You could mix in some of the stills on the DIY Podcast: Sports Demo Images page. Or your class may prefer to capture video and just drop in still images for titles, transitions or special effects.

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DIY Podcast: Sports Demo

Benefits of Using Still Images in Video Products

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Video should usually be created with moving video, but still images are well suited for some video production situations. In our last blog post we discussed how a lack of moving video prompted Ken Burns to rely on the pan and scan effect to bring Civil War photos to life. When video you need isn’t available, you may choose to incorporate still images into your video project. An occasional still image may help to smoothly transition from one scene to another.

Using still images to make a video is sometimes faster, cheaper and easier than using live motion video. For example, it’s faster and easier to download an online image of Sir Isaac Newton than to have a student dress in costume to perform a vignette for a video podcast about Newton’s Laws.

If you don’t have access to a video camera, your students can still build a video podcast or digital slideshow by creatively blending still images with text. The DIY Podcast activity provides images related to the topic modules. Once you find images suitable for your project, insert them into the timeline in the order you want and then add transitions, graphics and music. You could spice up the project by dropping in a few of the DIY Podcast video clips.

Still images also make great backgrounds for project titles and are more visually interesting than a solid color background. You may want to manipulate the image in your photo editing software to give it a soft blur or some other effect before importing it into video editing software for inclusion in your project.

In our next blog post, we’ll share some production ideas for using still images in video products your class creates with DIY Podcast materials.

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Extract Still Images From Video

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DIY Podcast topic modules feature images that you can use when building your podcasts, but you may occasionally wish to grab a still image from one of the video clips. A couple of videos that come to mind are Sunita Williams exercising on the space station, which you’ll find in the Fitness module, and Clay Anderson demonstrating sports in space, which you’ll find in the Sports Demo module.

Most video editing software makes it easy to extract a still image from video. Depending on the software you use, the still image function may be listed as “Export,” “Make Freeze Frame,” “Extract” or “Take Picture from Preview.” You also may want to try a simple Web search for a free image extraction tool.

Students can use special effects with still images to create supplemental video that runs with their narration. We’ll discuss some of the ways still images are used to create video productions in upcoming posts on the DIY Podcast Blog.

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Adding Still Images to Video Projects

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We started a conversation on the DIY Podcast Blog last week about using still images in students’ video podcasts. Still images can be used in a variety of ways to enhance video projects. One technique, known as the pan and scan effect or move-on-stills photography, was introduced to most of us through Ken Burns’ documentary film “The Civil War.”

The technique is used primarily when film or video material is not available. It gives life to still images by slowly zooming in on subjects of interest and panning from one subject to another. For example, if your students include DIY Podcast clips of an astronaut in their video project, they could use this effect on an expedition or space shuttle crew portrait. Your class videographer could slowly pan across crew members’ faces and settle on the crew member being discussed by the narrator. The pan and scan effect also can be used to transition from one scene to another.

You can achieve this technique with a camera or with software that incorporates still images into a video project using slow pan and zoom effects. If you scan an image, it’s important to determine the right scanning resolution for your work. You need enough data in the scanned image to allow you to zoom in without causing the image to break into blocks of pixels, but you don’t necessarily need to go with the highest scanning density because the resulting file will take a lot of hard drive space and slow your computer processing.

We’ll consider some of the benefits of using still images in video projects in our next blog post. How are you using still images with video in your classroom? Post a comment and share your experience.

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Finding Apollo and Space Shuttle Photos

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The DIY Podcast Rocket Evolution module includes links to some of NASA’s Apollo and space shuttle images. But, as you might expect, NASA has many photos of the Apollo/Saturn V and the space shuttle. These images are available online in several places.

The JSC Digital Image Collection from Johnson Space Center in Houston offers most of the Apollo images, early shuttle images and images from other human spaceflight missions. Browse the collection to find images from a specific mission. NASA Images features a timeline at the bottom of the main page that could be helpful as students collect information and multimedia content for their podcasts. Rolling over the timeline causes different NASA missions to pop up. Students may select the mission they want and then narrow their search by selecting from a list of What, Where, Who and When. Students also may use the search box to find images of specific parts of Apollo or the shuttle, such as the J-2 engine or solid rocket boosters.

Each shuttle mission has its own image gallery. The Space Shuttle Gallery has photos from preflight to postflight and lets you select images associated with a specific mission. Some of the best pictures of the spacecraft are captured during launch and landing, and are available in Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Archives.

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DIY Podcast: Rocket Evolution

New NASA Student Homework Helper on Microgravity

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NASA Education has published a new Homework Topics article about microgravity that might be helpful when your students are using the DIY Podcast to write scripts for their production. “What is Microgravity?” will give students a better understanding of why a little gravity is a big deal. The article also points to a new gallery of microgravity images that students can use in their podcasts.


The effect of microgravity is a common theme in DIY Podcast topic modules that feature astronauts demonstrating activities on the space shuttle and the International Space Station. In the Sports Demo module, for example, astronaut Clayton Anderson discusses how microgravity would affect games such as baseball, basketball and football. In the Newton’s Laws module, astronaut Dan Tani demonstrates how motion is different in a microgravity environment.

What Is Microgravity? Grades 5-8
Fun in Microgravity Picture Gallery
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More NASA Video and Image Resources

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A variety of NASA images and video are available online. A few resources that you may find useful include:

•    Human Spaceflight Gallery
•    NASA Images
•    NASA Multimedia Gallery

The DIY Podcast Blog will occasionally suggest NASA resources that may help you and your students enhance your production.


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