What would you say? – Creating dialogues for short films using free online tools


I just completed a three-week MOOC Short Film in Language Teaching from FutureLearn and there were a few things I picked up that I thought were worth exploring a bit more. There wasn’t anything that was really that new for me, but hearing about how some of these techniques or activities are being used in the language classroom was helpful.

One of the things that was mentioned was the use of a short film without a dialogue and having students work on writing and recording their own dialogue based on the scene. The example given was a short animation of three dripping taps that had appeared to have a ‘conversation’ through the use of dripping sounds and squeaking pipes. In the original video, you can almost imagine what they would be saying if the drips and squeaks were actual words.

The students in this example made their own dialogue in Welsh (the language they were studying) and then recorded it, overlaying the dialogue onto the video. I thought the idea was quite fun and the results were quite good. Some of the teachers later on in the course reflected on what the students did in order to create their dialogue which involved writing, feedback, revising, and asking lots of questions on the language needed for that context.

In this example, the students downloaded the video, edited the video using iMovie, and then shared the movie online. I can see this being a bit of problem in some situations, so I began to explore some other options that may be easier and shouldn’t be as problematic regarding copyright.

Over the years, I’ve explored a number of online tools and there is the occasional tool that I find that I feel has merit, but I can’t see a use for it at the moment. I tend to file those away until I have need for it. One such tool I have come across is Crossfade.io.

Screenshot from the website Crossfade.io

This site allows users to mix video and audio from different sources and combines them into a new video you can share. Crossfade.io doesn’t require an account, but the sources are limited to YouTube, Vimeo, GIFs, and SoundCloud. This means that someone needs an account to SoundCloud in order to upload the new audio file. Here is how this could work:

Find a video that doesn’t already have a real dialogue. ESMA (Ecole Supérieure des Métiers Artistiques) is a school that specializes in animation and students share their animated shorts on their YouTube channel. Here is an example:

Have students watch the video and then work in small groups to create a dialogue for the film. Since crossfade.io allows you to set a start and end point in the video, you can limit the dialogue to one section of the video. You could even have each group work on a different section and then you could watch each of them in order together as a class to see what the end result would look like. I suspect it would create quite a bit of discussion after the fact!

Have students write out their dialogue and then have them reviewed by their peers and the instructor. Students would then revise their dialogue before recording it together. There could be additional feedback given on things such as pronunciation, enunciation, and delivery and students could have the chance to re-record their audio. This should be done while watching the video in order to get the audio to synchronise with the video.

Screen shot of the website SoundCloud

In order to get the audio on SoundCloud, you could create accounts for each group (these could used later on for additional audio recordings and future classes). You could also have students create their own accounts, but please make sure to check with your institution regarding privacy rules and student accounts. Lastly, the teacher could create an account and the groups could share their audio files with the teacher who would then upload them to SoundCloud.

Once you have a URL for each audio file, the teacher or the students could then go to crossfade.io and paste in the video and audio addresses in the appropriate spots. You can also adjust the volume for both the audio and the video file. This allows the background sounds in the video to remain, but the new dialogue would remain dominant.

I would be curious if any of you have tried something similar in your own classroom. I would also like to hear from anyone who tries this out in their class or own your own. Feel free to leave a comment below or send me a tweet!

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