Monday, February 09, 2009

Film on the Fly Mobile Phone Challenge: Secret Prompt & 20 Hours to Make

Last Saturday, I participated in the KOCE-TV, PBS “Film on the Fly! Mobile Phone Video Challenge.
“Film on the Fly! is the latest and greatest in mobile filmmaking challenges! On the day of the contest, you'll receive a text message with a secret story prompt for your video. You’ll then have up to twenty hours to make a mobile phone video and post it to YouTube. Since this is a global challenge, you'll be able to see mobile videos that are created from all over the country, and maybe even the world!"
I signed up for the event on January 7 and received a test text message on January 15 to confirm that I would be able to receive the story prompt I needed on the day of the contest. So far so good, text message received as planned. No other preparation was required at this point since the prompt was secret and I would not be let in on the secret until sometime February 7 between 10:00 and 11:00 a.m. PST.

I received an e-mail on January 25 alerting me to the Film on the Fly practice run. The e-mail stated that my FOTF group had 53 participants representing 5 countries and 17 states. The main purpose of the practice was to make sure you could upload your video to YouTube and tag it. The prompt was simply: Show us something interesting outside your house. And the tag was: FOTFPractice. It seemed easy enough. It was then that I realized I could not take video with my iPhone. Actually, this had occurred to me earlier, but now I had to figure out how to make my mobile phone video.

My husband’s Motorola Razr will take video, but I could not get the video clips to e-mail or Bluetooth. Unfortunately, he does not have an adapter to sync his phone, so I had no luck retrieving the video from his phone. I decided to use my old PPC 6700 Smartphone. I took several short black and white video clips of my dog on my snowy deck. After reinstalling Microsoft ActiveSync to my computer and setting up a relationship with the phone, I finally had my four QuickTime videos and was ready to start editing to create my final 30-second practice video. I do not have the software to edit QuickTime videos (I did purchase QuickTime Pro at one point, but have never used it), so my next step was to send the videos to to be converted to .wmv files so I could edit in Windows Movie Maker. I imported the video clips, added a few fades and some titles. I then used a “work around” by creating a 30-second music clip using Photo Story 3 and adding it to the audio track.

After saving my movie, “Black & White,” I uploaded it to YouTube, making sure to tag it with “fotfpractice.” By searching the tag, it seems that ten others participated in the practice.

On February 6, I received the next FOTF e-mail with a reminder the FOTF was starting in less than 24 hours and briefly outlining the guidelines for the challenge:
  • The super secret story prompt will be sent to you tomorrow between 10-11:00 AM Pacific Standard Time. (Text messages will be sent with a back-up email.)
  • You'll have up to 20 hours to make your video, upload it and TAG it on YouTube.
  • The web link for viewing and rating the Film on the Fly! videos will be sent to you on Sunday, Feb. 8. (Videos may be added to the playlist as late as Monday because the time to search on YouTube will depend on global usage.)
  • Highest rated videos will be given the overall "prize!"
I received a text message (and e-mail back-up message) at 12:00 p.m. CST on February 7 with the prompt: Everything changed – when the box mysteriously arrived at my doorstep. My first reaction was that they had to be kidding! The only mysterious box I could think of belonged to Pandora. I spent the first two hours after getting the prompt looking for ideas by searching online for terms like “box” and “mysterious box.” My inspiration came from the blog post Mysterious Box full of wonders on the True Stories of Life as a Goble blog. Everyone experiences losing items like your keys when you are late or the mate to a sock. What if you had a mysterious box in which items appeared when you need them, including all the socks that ever disappeared in the dryer?

I enlisted the help of my daughter and husband to “act” in my video. After getting all the video footage with my PPC 6700 I connected it to the computer to retrieve the videos. Now the fun really began! Every video I tried to play would get “Error - 2041: an invalid sample description was found in the movie (.mp4).” What?! This worked just fine two weeks ago.

I searched for “Error - 2041” online and found a great Apple discussion that even mentioned this particular issue when using a PPC 6700. Evidently, it is a QuickTime 7 issue with the file extension. It seemed the two most plausible file extensions to try were .gp3 and .m4v. I renamed the first video with the file extension .gp3 and still the same error message. Next, I renamed the first video with the file extension .m4v. This time the video would open, but would not play. I decided to convert the videos to .wmv files using, but the website seemed to be gone. What?! This worked just fine two weeks ago. Plan B: I converted my videos using Zamzar instead.

The videos converted, but there was a definite degrading and lack of quality. At this point it was the best it was going to get. I added some titles, fades, transitions and music (FTC SoundPak) using Windows Movie Maker and entitled the final video “So That’s Where It All Goes.” Just for fun, I used Jodix iPod Video Converter to convert the video and uploaded it as a QuickTime video to YouTube tagging it with “fotfbox.” The original tag was “FilmOnTheFlyBox,” but I received an e-mail at 8:12 p.m. that there are some search issues on YouTube with long tags.

The last step is to rate the videos on the Film on the Fly Ning. You must join in order to see and rate the videos. You can also see all the February 7 fotfbox videos on YouTube. I was disappointed that only 9 videos were created.

Interested in participating in a Film on the Fly Mobile Phone Video Challenge? The next KOCE-TV, PBS challenge will be on March 14, 2009 - Pi Day or 3.14. I’m planning to participate again. I personally learned a lot. No matter how much you think you’ve planned and practiced there are always issues, problems and pitfalls, especially when using mobile phones and free applications, but there is always
another way to get it done!

Want to try this with students? Schedule the challenge for after school or on a weekend, so school mobile/cell phone policies will not be violated. Maybe do it as an introduction to a new concept (prompt) by having students research the concept and then create a 30-second video to illustrate the concept. Set up a wiki with the rules and guidelines. Use either SMS or e-mail to send students the prompts or send them away at the end of the day with the prompt. Can't upload to YouTube? Try TeacherTube or SchoolTube or have students save videos to DVD or flash drive and upload to the wiki. Be creative!


vicki a. said...

Hey Karen - great blog post! My favorittteeee thing is the Iphone Clickr app. How cool is that? So I can email video from my Razor to my mobile youtube acct. Did you try that?

Karen Montgomery said...

Seemed to send, but never showed up in the Inbox. Guess it's an MMS issue.

Babel Fish


Karen Montgomery is the author of Gomeric Hill. The opinions expressed herein are mine and not necessarily those of my employer.