WITH THE DIGITAL BLUE CAMERA
2012 - UPDATE
I am busy re-working some of my web pages and most of my film pages have
been updated and moved to Film
Making for Kids. They are still relevant to users of Digital Blue
cameras but the Digital Blue specific stuff is all on this page now.
I still get
a lot of hits from people searching for ideas on using the digital blue
camera, so I guess it is still being used by a lot of schools. Since upgrading
to Windows 7 I have not been able to use my digiblue and afaik there are
no plans to provide new drivers for it. So, I have moved on. I now use
ZU3D software and a
Lifecam Studio webcam for stop motion. I am very pleased with both.
If you have
arrived here looking for advice on stop motion for children and are looking
to buy software and cameras, then I recommend taking at look at ZU3D.
The software is great. The cameras they sell get good reviews but I have
no personal experience of them. I chose the Lifecam Studio because it
has a tripod mount which I feel is necessary for 2-d stop motion. I also
have the cheaper Lifecam Cinema webcam which is just as good for stop
motion but has no tripod mount. Please don't buy a Digital Blue unless
you have to (actually I think it would be difficult to buy one now anyway).
If you have
arrived here and are stuck with Digital Blues in your school then don't
despair. I have spent many enjoyable hours working with children with
this camera and I think they have had fun too! So, read on..
a word about the cameras themselves. Digital Blue cameras ("affectionately"
known as digiblues) were originally developed by Intel and came onto the
market in 2001. This was a time when digital cameras and camcorders commanded
high prices and kids didn't really get a look in. At $99 (it cost more
like £100 in the UK), Intel's "toy" camcorder for kids
was revolutionary; robust, easy to install, easy to use and loads of fun.
Technology has moved on a lot since then, but sadly the digiblue has not.
digital blue camera is into its third version now. I have had the "pleasure"
of using all three versions at some stage and list my thoughts on them
below. It may also help you to identify any camera that you have found
stuffed at the back of a cupboard (they often are). And if you have lost
the software it is available here for all versions:
here to download movie creator software for your camera
Blue Version 1
were two revisions of this camera and both will only work with version
1 of the software (Digital Movie Creator). One is marked on the side with
INTEL PLAY, and the other with "Digital Blue".
time away from the computer is very limited and the picture quality is
poor. However, I have done a lot of stop motion with this camera and the
results are acceptable. Here are two examples of animations done with
a version 1 camera with just normal classroom lighting:
New Year paper shape animation
are a couple done with lighting from below (lightbox)
Forest by Night silhouette animation
I found that
plasticine animation was disappointing with this camera; the colours were
not vibrant enough.
interested in reading about the design and development of the original
Intel camera take a look here.
Blue Version 2
This one has been around since about 2005. It has a slightly longer recording
time than version 1 and the video quality is slightly better. The software
is much the same but not compatible with Version 1 cameras; you can however
install both versions on a single machine without problems. For stop motion,
the only differences that I have noticed are that colours are picked out
better and it can work slightly better in lower light conditions. Otherwise
not hugely different to Version 1.
Blue Version 3
about 2008, Version 3 was released. Version 3 of the Digiblue boasted
superior image quality and longer recording times. However, it still cost
around £100 and by then you could get a better quality digital camera
capable of recording videos for much less. This camera has a flip out
screen and the ability to play back stored video. The user interface for
this playback feature is basic and imho quite horrible, however, the kids
seem to manage ok with it. There is a new zoom facility which is truly
awful; the camera zooms in discrete steps rather than smoothly and it
is performed by a physical switch which clicks - the click is picked up
by the camera's microphone rendering the zoom facility useless. And the
zoomed shot is only shown in the flip out screen and not through the view
finder. Build quality is appalling - at least versions 1 and 2 had a good
feel to them and could suffer knocks and drops without too much worry.
Version 3 is made of some really cheap plastic (well the blue version
is, haven't tried the gold/brown one) and is badly finished. And finally,
they have added a memory card slot so that you can make much longer recordings
- this is an improvement but the software (movie creator) that comes with
the Digital Blue takes absolutely ages to download and 'convert' the clips
so don't expect to film and edit in the same club session. If you do have
these cameras and are doing live action filming rather than stop motion
then my advice would be as follows. After filming, transfer the memory
card to a memory card reader (dirt cheap) and copy directly into your
computer. This is much faster. Edit your footage with Windows Movie Maker
(free with windows) - my daughter coped well with this software at the
age of 8. I think that Digital Blue's Movie Creator was never designed
with lengthy movie clips in mind and suffers as a result.
Blue Movie Creator Software
A new version of this software was produced with each camera and is not
backwards compatible. However, you can install all three versions of the
software on the same computer. The software is basic and once you go beyond
basic editing it is extremely frustrating to use, especially if you are
used to more sophisticated editing software. However, if you are aware
of its limitations then you can work well with it. For stop motion, keep
your clips short - it is easier to combine several clips than it is to
shorten long clips. Make sure you know how to add sound, narration, background
tracks - some sounds carry across all clips, others end when the clip
ends. The software comes with its own sound effects but can be enhanced
by adding your own - I tend to add small collections relevant to the projects
we are working on and then remove them when we have finished - otherwise
it all gets a bit cluttered. Kids can add their own sounds if they know
how to traverse directories and are given clear instructions on how to
import the sounds into Movie Creator. The kids love the video effects
that come with the software (version 3 added quite a few more) but can
go a bit crazy with them. I let them have a session of just playing around
with the video effects in the hope that they will learn "less is
more" when it comes to creating their projects. If you are looking
for more conventional video editing software then give Windows Movie Maker
(free with Windows) a go - digiblue videos can be imported and edited
easily in this software.
digital blue comes with perfectly adequate guides to get started, but
if you have lost yours or prefer a more step by step approach try out
these excellent guides written by Duncan Whitehurst, ICT Advisory Teacher
a Simple Plasticine Animation Using Digital Blue Movie Creator
the Digital Blue Camera to Make a Simple Movie
In my opinion,
the key to successful film making with children is to make sure you have
a thorough understanding of the process and the software yourself first.
The best way to do this is to give it a go.
3-d animation the stand that comes with the Digital Blue is perfectly
adequate. But for 2-d animation the camera requires mounting so that it
is face down; the best way to do this is with a tripod.
order to use the Digital Blue with a tripod you first need to remove it
from its stand. The stand appears to be integrated with its USB cable
and I would not recommend trying to separate the two. You will therefore
need to purchase a separate USB cable (USB-A male to USB-B male). These
should not cost more than a few pounds. But before you rush out to buy
cables and tripods, take a look at the underside of your digiblue:
you can see from the picture, the digiblue's USB socket is very
close to the tripod mounting. This makes it extremely difficult
to use a tripod whilst simultaneously connecting the camera to a
are ways of doing it though. Initially I used a full sized tripod
with a mounting plate. I substituted the standard mounting screw
with a 2 inch long, 1/4 inch thread bolt, a couple of washers and
a nut. This was secure and worked well. I have also experimented
with using angled USB cables and extra camera screws.
after much research my perfect solution is...
equipment is required:
VS-91 table top tripod (also available at Amazon, but this is the
cheapest I have found it and they delivered very quickly)
camera screw (make sure it is this version as they are longer than
Hama's other camera screws - there are 5 in a pack)
USB-A to USB-B cable (2 metres long) (nothing special about this one,
just happened to be a good length and was cheap)
screw fits into the base of the Digiblue and provides extra clearance
of 25mm. The tripod screw then screws into the base of the Hama screw
allowing plenty of room for the USB cable to be connected. With the tripod
fully extended in a vertical position the Digiblue is held horizontally
27cm above the desk to which it is clamped. This gives a viewing area
slightly smaller than A4 (ideally I would have liked the full A4). The
camera can be made to zoom in a few centimetres by adjusting the height
of the tripod.
it lacks the flexibility of the full sized tripod this Vanguard is far
less cumbersome and the children do not knock it nearly as much. It is
very easy to setup and fits in perfectly with my express animation approach.
Armed with this kit you can move on to 2-d animation which in my opinion
is the easiest and most successful method for an afterschool club.
another option (cheaper) I have tried out is a photography
clamp from Maplin. The flexible goose neck is long and holds the camera
well. You do however need to find something to clamp it to. We have clamped
it to a table top and then placed our backgrounds on the floor. We have
also clamped it to a chair which we have then placed on the table top.
The camera can be held much higher than with the Vanguard but in both
of our clamping attempts so far it has been awkward to get behind the
camera. Working in front and to the side is fine, but means that the "animator"
views the scene upside down or sideways - the "cameraman" sees
the scene correctly - IYSWIM. And, although clamping the camera higher
means that you can work on bigger scenes, bear in mind that the digiblue
picture quality suffers the further it moves away from the scene - better
lighting may fix this but with limited time, lighting is sacrificed.
film making ideas with children, please see my section on Film
Making for Kids.