Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Editing Tricks for Amateur Vacation Video #147

Peru 1999: #5 of 5   Cuzco (edited in 2012):

It's pre-dawn when we board the switch-back train from Cuzco to Machu Picchu.  A bus ride completes the ride up the mountain, and features the "One Man Band in Llama Land".
Benny, our spry 90-year-old guide narrates the visit, focusing on the archaeological aspects of its discovery,  Great scenery provides imagery while we listen to Benny.  He speaks flawless English, but the production could use captions to help understand the imperfect camcorder sound.

Suddenly deep bass notes from a pan flute introduce a shift in the movie's character.  We are now having some fun; playing with / posing for the camera.  No disrespect to Benny, but the second part of this video is much more entertaining compared to listening to a guide's narration.  Our friend Chuck was using his hands a lot to explain something geologic, those five seconds are played back a few times … embarrassing for him but it's pretty funny!

The source of the music is revealed to be the band at Jose Antonio's restaurant, which I recorded "last night".  Some still photos are displayed as a slideshow with the "Ken Burns" effect, then it's over!

A video title identifies Angela and Norman near the end of the video, but everyone else remains anonymous for some reason.  

Lessons Learned:
Once again, the importance of pacing.  The music sends a message that you're having fun!
Those who were on the trip enjoyed re-hearing Benny's narration, but it's of little interest to everyone else.

Look for opportunities to capture live music.
Perhaps a "private" edit for this who were on the trip, and a "public" edit for the Internet. This video could easily be less than four minutes long.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Editing Tricks for Amateur Vacation Video #146

Peru 1999: #4 of 5   Cuzco (edited in 2012):

This is a fun video montage.  It's built around a live performance of The William Tell Overture performed by an Andean flute band in a local restaurant.  Compared to the Peru #3 of 5 video this one is practically manic, with fast paced music and inspired cuts between clips.
We start with a look at the backside of a bus that's labeled "cuatro ases" -- which looks vulgar and sets the stage.  Subtitled "Culture in Ruins" you see plenty of Inca structures, llamas, and mummies.  Folks dressed traditionally quickly cut to closeups of the pan flute player and drummer.  Llamas, a narrow gage railroad, and toxic waste al contribute to an enjoyable 2-1/2 minutes.

Lessons Learned:
The importance of pacing.  Quick cuts to lively music sends a message that you're having fun!

Look for opportunities to capture live music.  The highlight of this video is that terrific flute band performance.  Note that I spent some time in Apple's SoundTrack Pro to reduce background noise and enhance the sound balance.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Editing Tricks for Amateur Vacation Video #145

Peru 1999: #3 of 5   PISAC  (edited in 2012):

This is a short video montage of a days' travels in the Peruvian Highlands.  There are some interesting shots of "walking haystacks", Shirley MacLaine's extraterrestrial lake, and a traditional marketplace.  Opening music is live recorded Andean harp, finishing off with some royalty-free comic music from SmartSound.

There is no real story here, or explanatory narration.  It's less than two minutes; nothing compelling, but nothing repulsive either.  Not likely to go "viral" unless I add some cat video to it!  

So what we have here is a pleasant memory for those who joined us on the trip.  It's of marginal interest to other friends, but there's not much here for people who don't know us.

  • I'm disappointed that YouTube seems to have trouble playing my soundtrack for the second half of this video.  In fact I am becoming quite disillusioned with YouTube, and beginning to regret that I have used them to host the media for this blog.  In particular, YouTube is allowing a company named "The Orchard" (owned by Sony) to place improper copyright claims against much of the royalty-free music that you hear in my videos.  Seems like a reversal of constitutionally guaranteed due process since when The Orchard/Sony places a claim there is no audit for correctness.  The Orchard is the accuser, judge, and jury!  The Orchard steals the monetization rights to my video; I have to prove to them  that I have the rights to use the music.  If they reject my claim, I can appeal to The Orchard.  YouTube has a vague final appeal process that carries a stiff warning:  my account may be suspended if the final appeal is not upheld.  
  • Dozens of my productions have been saddled with Sony's incorrect and unproven copyright claims.  SmartSound seems unable to enforce our rights as licensed users.  The giant corporation can unilaterally accuse and convict me of violation.  Since my honesty is blatantly disrespected, should I feel guilty if I use unlicensed music?  Perhaps someday I can participate in a class-action lawsuit, and recover the hundreds of dollars I have ethically wasted by purchasing "Royalty Free" music.


Lessons Learned:
Know your audience.  If the video is of little public interest don't expect a great Internet response form strangers.

Tough ethical questions are posed regarding copyrighted music.  No suggestion offered.


Copyright Considerations:
I do not encourage improper use of copyrighted material.  I often use Royalty-Free music with license that I purchased from SmartSound.  
Yet major corporations like "The Orchard" (Sony) often abuse the Millennium Copyright Act, by falsely claiming that I do not have rights to use this music.  YouTube (Google) is implicit in this fraud; they assume that Sony is always correct and assign the burden of proof to me.  If I appeal, guess who is the judge?  SONY!  Wow, I'm not a lawyer but that sure sounds unconstitutional.
I am in favor of protecting the artists' rights, but this nonsense is all about corporate greed.  If I had to do it again:
(1) I would not put my videos on YouTube; I would consider other options like Vimeo which has a more reasonable appeals process.
(2) I might do what most other non-commercial video makers do … use whatever music I want and not worry about copyrights. 
I am not offering advice here.  If you are editing home video you will certainly reach a point where you want to put some music on the soundtrack.  Make your own decision, based on your own sense of ethics,morality, and frustration.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Editing Tricks for Amateur Vacation Video #144

Peru 1999: #2 of 5   NAZCA  (edited in 2012):

Extraterrestrial Production Assistance?
I normally offer a short description of each video before analyzing the editing technique.  This one, however, deserves a longer explanation.

When I was in high school, Erich Von Däniken published Chariots of the Gods?  The author hypothesizes that aliens once visited earth and were worshipped as Gods.  Däniken's evidence includes the extensive drawings formed by excavated channels in the parched sand near Nazca, Peru.  Rod Serling narrated a 1973 television production titled In Search of Ancient Astronauts that featured aerial photography of the "Nazca Lines".
(A popular television series was spun off;  In Search Of enjoyed a five-year-run and was narrated by Leonard Nimoy following Serling's death.)

Our 1999 vacation in Peru included a sightseeing flight over Nazca.  I remembered the book and found the Rod Serling video on YouTube.  Thirteen years later I decided to merge my vacation footage with some scenes from 1973 broadcast television.

Searching for good vacation video among all this alien stuff?
As you might imagine, I have hours of footage of the Nazca Line fly-over.  The unedited video is impossibly boring; but my edited vignette is only three minutes long.

It begins with twenty seconds of establishing shots and titles.  They make only marginal sense, some of the analog video is flashing -- obviously damaged.  Perhaps this should have been cut from the final version.
Once Rod Serling starts talking, it's a flashback to the Twilight Zone.  We're on a small propeller aircraft.  My grainy and shaky video mixes well with the old television footage (I did some color matching within Final Cut Pro X.)   Some cheesy animated effects were borrowed from a 1950's sci-fi movie and are good for a laugh.
Details of the line drawings are easily seen, and the tiny "alien" toy on the pilot's dashboard is cute.  My two favorite things are:  The alien visitor in a Far Side cartoon resembles one of the Nazca figures; and the out-of-tune Thus Spake Zarathustra by the Portsmouth Sinfonia.


Lessons Learned:
Technically speaking, this video production is pretty horrible.  But it provides four solid laughs in 2-1/2 minutes.  Strip off the unnecessary introductory scenes, and I'd consider it a success!
Don't be afraid to try something crazy!  In this case it mostly worked.

Once again, "too much ownership" prevented me from ruthlessly cutting stuff that didn't work.  I think a trusted advisor needs to be called upon for constructive criticism before the final edit.
Take some time to learn your software's basic color correction tools.  FCPX allowed a one-click fix to match my footage to the faded colors of the old Rod Serling video.

More about Chariots of the Gods?
Much of Von Däniken's evidence has been debunked.  But the whole concept of prehistoric alien visitors still captures the imagination.
By coincidence, my vacation videos have previously documented two other "alien technology" examples cited in Chariots of the Gods:
  • The Iron Pillar of Delhi, a non-rusting wrought iron column found in India
    (Check out HENBC Blog #33 an early edit that includes a glimpse of the Pillar at the 2:00 minute mark.)
  • The Moai, monolithic human figures found on Easter Island.
    (Check out HENBC Blog #27 for a primitive edited look Easter Island.)
  • A third example would be the Stonehenge in England.  But we haven't been there yet!

Copyright Considerations:
This original audience for this video was friends and family who would view the DVD in my living room.  It contains identifiable material that is regrettably used without permission.  
Today, with digital distribution, artists' rights deserve more attention.  Since this video is intended for non-profit illustration and educational purposes only, I believe that valid arguments can be made for its "Fair Use" in this situation.  Please understand that I do not encourage improper use of copyrighted material.