Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Editing Tricks for Amateur Vacation Video #154 - Video & Photo Montage Part 1

California 2015:  Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

I had time last weekend to create a couple of little movies from our trip up the mountain on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.  These are two very similar videos but with one notable difference:  One uses royalty-free copyright-licensed music, the other uses “borrowed” music.I

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway” 3min 31sec with a surprisingly-entertaining copyright-legal soundtrack (shown here):

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway - Relaxing with the Classics”  3min 25sec featuring spirit-enriching music by composers Edvard Grieg & Johann Pachelbel.  This will be shown in my next post when we critique both versions.

I've told my friends that these little movies are "excellent in their brevity and also because they don’t take too long to watch.  They are also short, and it’s over with very quickly."


I took some notes while I was assembling these montages, so that I could share some tips about the process here on the blog.  

My Process for Editing a Short Vacation Video/Photo Montage
  1. As soon as you get home, organize all of your source material into one folder.
  2. When you're ready to edit, review all of the source material.
  3. Begin culling everything that's not too interesting.  Import everything that "might" be worthwhile into your editing program.  I discard about 80% of the original footage, but leave generous "handles" at the beginning and end of each clip.
  4. Drag the best portions of the video clips from your program's browser onto your timeline.  Discard about three out of evert ten seconds.  Remember, there are very few long takes within a montage.
  5. For a vacation video I usually start with a chronological arrangement of clips on the timeline.
  6. Select some of your best still photographs in the browser, set for a duration of about 150 seconds each, and drag them to the end of your timeline.  Still photos of signage will be very useful to orient your viewers.
  7. Finalize the arrangement of your video clips to suit the mood or theme you are delivering.
  8. Drag still photos into position to support the video clips.  I like to use groups of stills in between groups of motion.
  9. Tighten up the timing again (by about 10%).
  10. Insert some placeholder titles, and perhaps some sound-effects or ambient sound.
  11. Export the timeline to a "working-copy" movie file.  Use this file to discover your background music.
  12. Find the tracks you are going to use for the music bed.
  13. Record your narration (if any)
  14. Import your music and narration into the editing program, then drag it into position on the timeline.  Chop and trim the music tracks as necessary.
  15. Now it's a reiterative process: trim the clips to suit the music; trim the music to suit the clips; repeat until it feels right.  This project was five minutes long when I imported the music.  Cutting to the music allowed me to shorten it by another 30% ... and believe me your audiences appreciate it.  Leave them wanting more!
  16. You're almost done; you can now make color corrections, masks, special effects, etc.
  17. Finalize your titles and transitions.
  18. Adjust your sound balance.  Listen to it with headphones and speakers several times.  For starters I bring in the music at about -12dB; background ambience about -28dB; sound effects -12dB; narration -12dB but ducking the music to -20dB when it's behind important narration or live sound.
  19. You might be done!  Preview your project with a friend to make sure you haven't missed anything.

Next time we'll compare and critique the two finished products.  One with Royalty-Free music, the other with "Borrowed" music.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Editing Tricks for Amateur Vacation Video #153: iMovie for iPad

Create a Vacation Movie on your iPad

We took an iPad with us during a visit to Montreal and Quebec City in 2012.  The movie you see above was created using only the iMovie app, including its built-in sound effects, titles, and transitions.  I had no convenient way to transfer video into the iPad, so this is essentially an animated slideshow that tells a "story".

The video makes good use of close-up photos of sculptures and unusual street signs.  How about the police mannequin in an old squad car?  And the rare sighting of an endangered species -- a phone booth!  All I needed was some fool to play the leading man.

The iMovie app has a relatively small feature set, and precision editing is difficult on its small screen.  Nevertheless, this little video came out pretty well. 

Lessons Learned:
It's possible to create an entertaining vacation video using even the simplest of editing programs.  This short story was created using only: photos; transitions; titles; music; and sound effects.

I am spoiled by my two-monitor video editing workstation at home and felt cramped when I tried to edit on the iPad.  (Imagine trying to edit a movie on a smart phone! No way.)  Oh well, the iMove app cost only $10.  I used it twice, so that's $5 per try!

Obviously I'm not very enthusiastic about creating my vacation videos on a tablet.  But that's my preference ... it might work for you.  Have you created a great vacation video on an iPad?  Post a link in the comments section and I'll discuss it in a future HENBC blog post.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Editing Tricks for Amateur Video #152

Example of a Video Product Review:

"Installation of Skinomi TechSkin film on iPad"

Once in a while I create a movie that has nothing to do with travel and vacation.  That was the case with this product review.

There's a company named "Skinomi" that offers protective films for phones, tablets, and other digital devices.   Their Amazon reviews looked good, so I bought a set for my iPad.
I set up a camera to record the film's installation.  Fortunately everything went smoothly, so I created this instructional "how to" movie and shared it on YouTube with a link in my Amazon review.

The crazy look at the beginning of the video comes from a "kaleidoscope" filter in Final Cut Pro X.   A couple of still shots establish what we are doing, then the camera is locked down in position for a medium close-up view of the installation.  Simple cuts compress the time, plus a little humor when my cat decided to help.  Simple royalty-free jazz music introduces and closes the edited video.

Lessons Learned:
Medium Close-Up worked well for illustrating the installation of this protective film on an iPad.  An even closer point-of-view might be necessary when shooting a more intricate project.  In that case, enlist the help of a friend to shoot the B-roll.
My music choice worked well for this video.  Notice that when the music fades out/in there is no ambient sound.  I could have chosen to duck the sound, or include some of the natural background.  But I decided that this simple video did not need a complicated sound mix.

Sometimes you need a break from your typical editing routine.  Why not try something different like this short instructional movie?
Is your camera ready to shoot with a charged battery?  Little projects like this one happen all the time and offer an opportunity to practice shooting and editing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

CRITIQUE of "Monsters of the Amazon" - Tips for Amateur Video Editors #151

 The Amazon 1999 (video edited in 2012) -- (Part 4 of discussion)


In Part 1 and Part 2 we lamented that our nine hours of video from the Amazon was hopelessly boring.  So I had an original idea: mix freely-available horror movie trailers with my own footage to create a fictional adventure.  This was a departure from anything I had ever attempted before.
Chapters/scenes from Monsters Of The Amazon are are detailed in Part 3.  Now in Part 4 we'll critically discuss what works and what could have been done better.

A "Critical" Look, Scene by Scene:
I have so much ownership of this production, it's hard to step back and be a critic.  I know I will never do a remake, but there are some flaws I see every time Monsters is played.  I've heard that "Editing is never completed, but a some point you just stop cutting."  Here's are some lessons from Monsters of the Amazon that I'll try to remember for future productions

(1) "The lucky ones never find why they're looking for.  Others … they're not so lucky!"  I think this may be the all-time most-inspired sentence that I ever wrote.  I considered having a friend narrate the voiceover but artificially deepening my voice worked well.
I like the National Geographic reference, as well as the ridiculous assertion: "…an incredible yet TRUE story!"  Hah, I would never lie to my viewers.

(2) The picture-in-picture composite which introduces the cast is a nice concept.  When I submitted this video to an amateur contest one of the judges commented about the camera's superimposed dates.  If I were doing it again I would adjust the background video of a map so the date didn't clutter the screen.  However, dates on the PIP would remain since I feel they lend some "authenticity".
I like the heroic music as the crew is introduced.  We view peaceful scenes from the first day's expedition, then expectations are raised.  Music grows ominous as crew activities become suspicious.

(3) Hollywood scenes of insect attacks work well with vacation footage of real insect bites.
The most common way to end a scene is a fade to black or a cross-fade.  This one ends with an unsettling fade to white. 

(4) The natives stole our clothes?   Well it's some fun footage of topless tribal members and our group swimming in the river.  Aaagh ... was that a giant piranha?  This scene and the next work to set up our first jungle "tragedy".

(5) Actually good footage of a tribal dance, along with some National-Geographic-style toplessness.   Switch to some Brazilian samba entertainment on-board, then a guy's head explodes in a dimly-lit restaurant.  It's not supposed to make any sense, but perhaps I could have found a better-lit scene for the head explosion?
Note:  The exploding head was free stock footage from Detonation Films that I composited into the movie.

(6) Here's homage to a timelessly bad big-star feature movie.  Millions of people people actually paid to see Jon Voight & Jennifer Lopez in Anaconda!  At least my video of the river kids' canoes adds some authenticity and professionalism to the ridiculous Hollywood special effects.

(7)  I really like the edits in the scene about cults.  Cutting between the real, the unreal, and the OMG cat.  And increasingly tense string orchestra music.
But the screaming victim in Creature From The Black Lagoon is a female; our victim "The Dancer" is male.  If I re-edit, I might try to composite my friend so it looks like he is attacked by the Creature.
Note: The woman explaining an Amazonian religious cult is actually a university professor of anthropology in the United States..

(8) Sounds like music from Jaws as we're catching little fish from our Zodiac raft.  Wait a minute -- isn't that the same guy whose head blew up a couple of minutes ago?  [Discontinuity alert!]  I love Christopher Lloyd's voice as he explains the piranha's "pack mentality".   Clips from Piranha and Mega Piranha make my HENBC efforts look like Academy Award material.

(9) The vacation video clip of Tio Tom's cantina is actually well done and fun to watch.  I like the title, "One Century Later" [sure, everyone believes that].  But the surprise ending is rushed and unclear.  I'd like more viewers to realize that after the Tree Hugger and I escaped, I somehow morphed into "Swamp Thing" and we lived happily ever after.

Lessons Learned:
Don't take yourself too seriously.  I didn't bring the budget, crew, and equipment to produce a National Geographic documentary.  I don't my audience to be enchanted, I just want them to laugh!

When all else fails, use your video to tell "lies" about your trip.  Make up a story, then use your video clips to support the fiction.

Try mixing some Hollywood stuff with your own.  I tried this in 1996 with limited success when I blended our trip to Ireland with clips from The Quiet Man.

Humor trumps technical flaws.  Monsters of the Amazon won awards from a  couple of contests, despite some judges comments about discontinuity, an irrational story, and confusing ending.

NAMMA: "Ten Best of 2012"

AIFVF: "Best SciFi"

Monsters of the Amazon was fun to edit, and the result is certainly goofy.  Was it worth all of the time and effort?  Absolutely Yes!  I thought it was worth more than a single blog posting, so we could look a little deeper at inspiration and editing technique.  Hope you agree.

Next time we'll move on to discuss another vacation video project.

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