Colin's Sandbox

Developing the “Using the MinecraftEdu Build Tools” video

by on Apr.29, 2013, under #diffimooc, Digital Storytelling

The second and final digital story production for my Spring 2013 University of Alaska Southeast Digital Storytelling class was to be a media piece pertaining to my professional practice.  With a topic as broad as that I could go in any number of directions; my job is one of technology specialist at an educational non-profit, so there’s occasionally a need to develop documentation and instructional videos for our coworkers and/or our customers.  On the other hand, as part of  my coursework for the Spring 2013 #diffimooc class I am  involved with mentoring other group members in the use of the game Minecraft, and it’s close relative, MinecraftEdu, in the classroom.  I went with that because I thought the need was greater for instructional material with that audience, allowed more latitude for creativity, and hence, was both more authentic and engaging.  I think the end result turned out pretty well.

My story changed around a few different times; at first I wanted to do the piece solely on a very specific aspects of the MinecraftEdu module, but as I was researching the topic I became aware of a module that ships together with MinecraftEdu known as WorldEdit.  I had already built a few structures by hand, and with the MinecraftEdu build tools, and finally once I touched the WorldEdit tools I knew that I couldn’t do a video production of just the MinecraftEdu tools without diving into the capabilities of WorldEdit to show off the differences.

I used ScreenFlow for this media production as I still had a bad taste in my mouth from my last experience with iMovie.  My background: I’ve done a little poking around in my younger days with Adobe Premiere and much older versions of iMovie.  I know enough move clips around, perform basic editing functions on them, add transitions, perform simple audio edits.  I was comfortable enough in the multiple track non-linear editing frame of mind and the newest version of iMovie didn’t sit well with that.  I started using ScreenFlow recently to make up some quick videos in support of a short presentation I gave at ASTE 2013.  Here’s an example:

I can’t say enough about ScreenFlow – it’s now my favorite tool for media productions of this type.  The familiar multiple track interface makes me feel right at home:

ScreenFlow FTW

With my previous level of experience, the things I needed to do in order to make this video were easy to accomplish: moving clips around, recording screen captures, and performing simple audio work.  For more complicated audio I again used Audacity, set in record mode while I viewed the current working video in ScreenFlow.

As far as the workflow went for this video production I started out dutifully with writing and revising the initial script and story map.  I then opened up MinecraftEdu and worked on various pieces of my example world to try to hit on all the things that I mentioned in the script.  There was a lot of video editing required as I had to remove lots of dead space from the various screen captures – during some of the building tasks I was a relative novice, and had to spend a lot of time looking up the syntax of various commands, undo many commands, redo some work.. I used simple text boxes for transition text.  After I had working video in place I then had to go back and do my narration over top of the video that I spliced together. On the home stretch I added some background audio to balance out the sound across the whole piece and to help hide some of the voice discontinuities (the odd “ugh” sound here and there that may be difficult to trim out, etc.).  A fun thing at the end of the video was to do a time-lapse 3rd person view of the world building process.  This was accomplished by having two different MinecraftEdu clients running at the same time logged into the same world.  The first user was just perched on top of a pedestal and recording a screen capture of the second user running around and building the actual world.  At the end I put a big layer of dynamite underneath it all and set it off (saving the world beforehand, of course).

After I uploaded the video to I went back and watched the video again, and decided to spend a little time adding annotations to better show some of the individual commands that were used.  I found the annotation editor to be sufficient and not too annoying for this task.  The reason for doing this in as opposed to going back to the original video was three-fold: first I wanted to see how well the annotation feature worked, secondly I wanted to give folks the ability to turn off some level of the captioning, and lastly because I had already given out the link to several people and I didn’t want to break that link.

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