Friday, March 23, 2018

March 24: Coding Special Effects (Scratch & WeVideo)

Most people know that I'm a big fan of  SCRATCH -  a coding environment developed at MIT!  I once heard Mitch Resnick call SCRATCH digital play dough!   Introduce a student to Scratch and you will soon find that student developing skills in these 5 C's -  Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Communication and Coding!

I'm also a huge fan of WeVideo as a media making tool! By giving students access to a powerful creativity and communication tool like WeVideo, we empower them to make media anywhere, anytime, on any type of device.

So what if I could combine two of my favorite tools to encourage students to CREATE using both CODE and VIDEO!  Today's March is for Making inspiration will show you how to do just that! 

On a recent stroll around Austin, I had an idea! What if we challenged students to code their own special effects using Scratch and bring those special effects into the movies they create in WeVideo?

WHY?   Aren't there hundreds of graphics, motion titles,  and animations available already in WeVideo and other movie making software?   Absolutely!   But somebody created those!  Visual effects artists and coders are real career choices!  Not to mention jobs that  don't even exists yet - as immersive storytelling becomes a bigger part of the way we communicate.   I've always told students that knowing how to code is a gateway to so many different exciting career possibilities.  Having them create their own special effects to their movies is a great way to build creative confidence in coding and media making!

Here's my tutorial in how to get started! 

This tutorial assumes some basic understanding of Scratch.  There are lots of great tutorials for getting started with Scratch out there.  If you are new to Scratch gives one of those a try first.
In this tutorial we're going to use Scratch to create special effects that we can add to our own movies in We Video- like this:

You'll need to create a Scratch Account at

Start by Creating a New Project in Scratch!

Then Click on the Stage and get ready to create a new backdrop for your stage.

Choose the paint bucket FILL with Color icon and GREEN as your paint color!
(Why?  because we are going to use the green screen effect of WeVideo)

Now its time to select a few sprites to animate for your Special Effects!
Start simple!  I imported  some of the heart sprites in the Scratch Library.

Delete the Scratch icon -  unless he's going to be part of your special effects!

Now it is  time to code our special effects!

Add the following 4 command to each sprite and play around with them until you feel comfortable using them in your scripts.

Continue to play and explore using the following LOOKS commands with your Sprites
Use CLEAR graphic Effects to reset any sprite back to its original look!

Explore the following commands with your sprites and imagine the possible special effects you could create with code

You’ll also want to control where your sprites SHOW UP on the screen and where they move to using these commands in your scripts.

Once you have explored the possibilities. It’s time to PLAN your own special effects that you can add to a movie!

Implement your plan.

I like to use an event such as “When space  is pressed” to trigger my animation.

You’ll also find yourself controlling your animations using the WAIT command and the REPEAT command.


Test and Revise your Special Effects Animation in Scratch until you are happy that your code creates the effect you want!

Finally. You are ready to SAVE your Special Effects Animation in a format that can be used in your movie projects.

To do this Go to FILE in your Scratch program and select Record and Export Video!

Press the Green Flag to start this Scratch program, then press the space bar to trigger our new simple animation.

(You can select SEE inside to see the code I used for each of my sprites)

You will notice that this is an FLV file (which is a flash video file)
For more info about this file type check out the  Scratch FAQ

I tested it and YES… WeVideo can import your FLV file!  Let’s do that now!

Import your new Hearts in Motion Special Effects into your Project Media Folder or in a Special Effects Folder so you can use it with other projects.

Since I got this idea while walking around Austin, I’m going to add my special effects to a short movie I took on that stroll.

Drag your Special Effects movie to Video Track 2

and Voila!

You now can create your own custom animations with code and use them to add special effects to your movies!

Keep on Creating, Making, and Coding!


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