Ever been inspired to start a school news show but were not sure how you would get started? As a school computer lit teacher and technology coordinator at a middle school in central California I’ve always aspired to start a news show but I was intimidated by the technical learning curve, the budget restraints and the time issue-just when did I think I would fit a news show into my already busy schedule?

Enter Adobe’s video production software, Visual Communicator 3. I took one look at the interface and I was hooked.  I knew immediately that I could use this with my middle school students. Everything you need to produce a professional looking news show is included in this easy to use, affordable and amazing product.

So what makes Visual Communicator so special and unique? First of all, the software integrates a teleprompter and has amazing video creation capabilities like graphics, transition effects, templates, music and titles, and other pictures that you can be create in PowerPoint and other software like Photoshop. Secondly, there is a green screen utility that allows backgrounds to be replaced with either a video graphic or a still picture, transporting the “talent” to other places via technology. Finally, Visual Communicator allows you to output your video to several different electronic formats for viewing or uploading and delivering live via closed circuit if you have those capabilities.

Here are the 5 easy steps to create a video presentation:

1. Start with the wizard and create your show based on a style or a topic

2. Add your script to the teleprompter

3. Add any media you have, including still pictures and video clips. Adjust your text in the teleprompter to coordinate with your media.

4. Rehearse and then record your presentation using a camcorder. (You can use a webcam but the result will be “choppy.”

5. Publish your video to a file format of choice to stream live over closed circuit or upload to the internet.

We started our news show off slowly this fall, with one newscast style broadcast each week. Our team meets before school on Thursday and Friday and in a flurry of activity we write the news copy for the show, edit any video we have taken during the week for our special features, create any additional title slides or graphics to add to the program, set up the equipment, rehearse, film, publish the show and then upload it to SchoolTube.com. Students and parents view the show at their leisure since it is available online.

Visual Communicator is not just for news broadcasts. Other projects can be created that integrate the curriculum in exciting ways. For example, students could virtually “broadcast” from their own state capital for state reports, with pictures from their state behind them. Students could produce Public Service Announcements and other informational videos wrapped around virtually any curricular subject. Teachers can produce video lectures and video broadcasts for distance learning and other needs.

Acquiring the equipment to begin the show was easier than I expected. I purchased a digital video camera, a green screen, lights, tripod, microphones and the software with the help of a national photo-video-and pro audio store. I was able to get everything I needed for less than $2000.00, including the software which runs about $175.00, education price, and $400.00 for others.

It’s now been about 4 months since we aired our first show. The nine students on our news team have learned so much and so have I! With Visual Communicator we feel like professional broadcasters because our show is so professional looking. Of course none of our shows are perfect, but we are improving all the time. The effort has definitely been worth it, for both the students and for me! Check out some of our broadcasts on http://hartransom.schootube.com. Also, check out the broadcast from http://www.schooltube.com/page3347457.aspx called, “Ask Mr. Z”. Mr.  Z. is an educator from Amherst Middle School in New York who has been using Visual Communicator for 2 years to produce a daily news show. SchoolTube.com has started this new feature to support Visual Communicator users. Watch his informational videos and when you post a question, Mr. Z, is sure to have the answer. Other online resources such as www.school-video-news.com also have features and articles that can help guide you through the video process. Now, I ask you, “What more can you want, slick affordable software, a low learning curve and tech support to boot-what are you waiting for?”