To simplify making these wrap-up videos, I am this time around recording them with my Samsung Galaxy s21 Ultra and a set of Røde Wireless GO II microphones. Time is limited when making these videos, so I have decided to quickly trim the files with FFmpeg instead of spending time in video editing software.
I have started shooting videos in 4K, not necessarily because I need it right now, but all my equipment supports 4K these days, and it feels more future-proof. However, FutureLearn does not like 4K and is rather picky about the files to be uploaded:
File format: .mp4 / .mov / .m4v
File size: up to 5GB
Frame rate: 25 fps
Bit rate: min 2 Mbps constant bit rate
Sound: AAC 44khz stereo
So how do you go about creating such files? Well, FFmpeg comes to the rescue again:
The one-liner is relatively self-explanatory. First, I apply a video filter that scales down the video to 1080p and reduces the framerate to 25fps. Then I specify that the audio should be reduced to 44100 Hz. FutureLearn wants a bitrate of 2 Mbps but does not specify a preferred bitrate. I decided to go for 8 Mbps, the suggested bitrate for 1080p uploads to YouTube. I added a minimum bitrate of 2 Mbps at the end, but I don’t think it is necessary since the bitrate used for MP4 files is constant.
All in all, this means that I can do the complete video editing with two simple one-liners, one for trimming the file and the one above for converting to the correct format. That way, I should manage to create two such wrap-up videos each week for the coming weeks.
In the past, we had so few users in the fourMs lab that they could be trained individually. With all the new exciting projects at RITMO and an increasing amount of external users, we realized that it was necessary to have a more structured approach to teaching motion capture to new users.
The idea was to develop an online course that would teach incoming RITMO students, staff, and guests about motion capture basics. After completing the online course, they would move on to hands-on training in the lab. However, once the team started sketching the content of the course, it quickly grew in scope. The result is a six-week online course, a so-called massive open online course (MOOC) that will run on the FutureLearn platform.
Developing a MOOC is a major undertaking, but we learned a lot when we developed Music Moves back in 2015-2016. Thousands of people have been introduced to embodied music cognition through that course. In fact, we will run it for the seventh time on 24 January 2022.
Motion capture is only mentioned in passing in Music Moves. Many learners ask for more. Looking around, we haven’t really found any general courses on motion capture. There are many system-specific tutorials and courses, but not any that introduce the basics of motion capture more broadly. As I have written about in the Springer Handbook of Systematic Musicology (open access version), there are many types of motion capture systems. Most people think about the ones where users wear a suit with reflective markers, but this is only one type of motion capture.
From biomechanics to data management
In the new Motion Capture course, we start with teaching the basics of human anatomy and biomechanics. I started using motion capture without that knowledge myself and have later realized that it is better to understand a bit about how the body moves before playing with the technology.
The following weeks in the course contain all the information necessary to conduct a motion capture experiment: setting up cameras, calibrating the system, post-processing, and analysis. The focus is on infrared motion capture, but some other sensing technologies are also presented, including accelerometers, muscle sensors, and video analysis. The idea is not to show everything but to give people a good foundation when walking into a motion capture lab.
The last week is dedicated to data management, including documentation, privacy, and legal issues. These are not the most exciting topics if you want to motion capture. But they are necessary if you’re going to research according to today’s regulations.
From idea to course
Making a complete online course is a major undertaking. Having done it twice, I would compare it to writing a textbook. It helps with prior experience and a good team, but it is still a significant team effort.
We worked with UiO’s Centre for Learning, Innovation and Academic Development, LINK, when developing Music Moves, and I also wanted to get them on board for this new project. They helped structure the development into different stages: ideation, development of learning outcomes, production planning, and production. It is tempting to start filming right away, but the result is much better if you plan properly. The last time we made the quizzes and tests last, and this time, I pushed to make them first to know the direction we were heading.
In Music Moves, we did a lot of “talking head” studio recordings, like this one:
It works in bringing over content, but I look uncomfortable and don’t get through the content very well. I find the “dialogue videos” much more engaging:
Looking at the feedback from learners (we have had around 10 000 people in Music Moves over the years!), they also seem to engage more with less polished video material. So for Motion Capture, we decided to avoid “lecture videos”. Instead, we created situations where pairs would talk about a particular topic. We wrote scripts first, but the recordings were spontaneous, making for a much more lively interaction.
The course production coincided with MusicTestLab, an event for testing motion capture in a real-world venue. The team agreed to use this event as a backdrop for the whole course, making for a quote chaotic recording session. Filming an online course in parallel to running an actual experiment that was also streamed live was challenging, but it also gives the learners an authentic look into how we work.
Ready for Kick-off
The course will run on FutureLearn from 24 January 2022. In the last months, we have done the final tweaking of the content. Much effort has also been put into ensuring accessibility. All videos have been captioned, images have been labelled, and copyrights have been checked. That is why I compare it to writing a textbook. Writing the content is only part of the process. Similarly, developing a MOOC is not only about writing texts and recording videos. The whole package needs to be in place.
The course starts on Monday (25 January 2021) and will run for six weeks. In the course, you will learn about the psychology of music and movement, and how researchers study music-related movements, with this free online course.
We developed the course 5 years ago, but the content is still valid. I also try to keep it up to date by recording new weekly wrap-ups with interviews with researchers around here at UiO.
I highly recommend joining the course on FutureLearn, that is the only way to get all the content, including videos, articles, quizzes, and, most importantly, the dialogue with other learners. But if you are only interested in watching videos, all of them are available on this UiO page and this YouTube playlist.
We have just kicked off the fourth round of Music Moves, the free, online course we have developed at University of Oslo. The course introduces a lot of the core theories, concepts and methodologies that we work with at RITMO. This time around we also have participants from both the MCT master’s programme and the NordicSMC Winter School taking the course as an introduction to further on-campus studies.
To help with running the course, we have recruited Ruby Topping, who is currently an exchange student at University of Oslo. She was a learner in the first round of Music Moves, and it is great to have her onboard as a mentor for the other learners.
Why join the course?
Music is movement. A bold statement, but one that we will explore together in this free online course.
Together we will study music through different types of body
movement. This includes everything from the sound-producing keyboard
actions of a pianist to the energetic dance moves in a club.
You will learn about the theoretical foundations for what we call
embodied music cognition and why body movement is crucial for how we
experience the emotional moods in music. We will also explore different
research methods used at universities and conservatories. These include
advanced motion capture systems and sound analysis methods.
You will be guided by a group of music researchers from the
University of Oslo, with musical examples from four professional
musicians. The course is rich in high-quality text, images, video, audio
and interactive elements.
Join us to learn more about terms such as entrainment and musical
metaphors, and why it is difficult to sit still when you experience a
We have been running our free online course Music Moves a couple of times on the FutureLearn platform. The course consists of a number of videos, as well as articles, quizzes, etc., all of which help create a great learning experience for the people that take part.
One great thing about the FutureLearn model (similar to Coursera, etc.) is that they focus on creating a complete course. There are many benefits to such a model, not least to create a virtual student group that interact in a somewhat similar way to campus students. The downside to this, of course, is that the material is not accessible to others when the course is not running.
We spent a lot of time and effort on making all the material for Music Moves, and we see that some of it could also be useful in other contexts. This semester, for example, I am teaching a course called Interactive Music, in which some of the videos on motion capture would be very relevant for the students.
For that reason we have now decided to upload all the Music Moves videos to YouTube, so that everyone can access them. We still encourage interested people to enroll in the complete course, though. The next run on FutureLearn is scheduled to start in September.