Monday, December 8, 2014

Editing Tricks for Amateur Video #142: "Trailers"

IDEA:  Make a "Trailer" of Your Latest Vacation

I take a l-o--n---g time to put together a well-edited movie from my vacations.  If you look back at previous postings you'll discover that it sometimes takes decades.  For instance, video from our trip to Mexico City in 1995 was edited in 2012!

We were in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada a few weeks ago, hoping to see polar bears.  All of our friends keep asking to see pictures and video.  Instead of telling them to "wait seventeen years" I put together this seventy-second "Trailer" using a template in iMovie:

That little trailer took about one hour to rough-cut, plus another hour of tweaks.  It's not perfect, but it's pretty funny and everyone gets to see the bears.  The poster frame is a photograph of an actual newspaper.  I used Pixelmator (a Mac program that's much less expensive than Photoshop) to replace text in the lower corner.

Suggestion for when you return from vacation:  Sleep, then Organize!
Although I might not edit a movie about this trip for ten years, I think it's important to organize my photos and videos while the trip is still fresh in my mind.  To be honest, this is quite a chore, but editing is a lot more fun to edit when you can easily locate the clips you need.

FIRST Get some sleep!  Your photos and video are irreplaceable.  Don't look at them while you're tired.  When you feel rested and alert, set up a new folder on a hard drive and transfer that priceless data onto your computer.  Now two things have happened: your images are protected in case a memory card gets accidentally erased, and you can begin to organize the media.

I always set up separate subfolders for photos, video, and scans.  Then additional sub-subfolders that make sense for the project.  Here's how I decided to organize the photos from this trip to Canada:

Organize your media in a way that makes sense for the trip.

Next I moved all of my media files into a their new homes, and began the even bigger job of correcting date/time and file names.  In this case we had four separate cameras.  Although I thought everything was synchronized, some mis-matches needed to be corrected.  I was able to do this within iPhoto and Final Cut Pro X on my Mac.

With photos and video lined up in proper chronological sequence, I renamed the files.  (Cameras assign useless names like "P123456.JPG"; I replace them with my software's batch-renaming function.)  I assigned meaningful sequential titles: "Churchill-1"; "Churchill-2"; "Churchill-3";  etc.
Then I refined those names even further, for instance: "Churchill-3 welcome dinner - Bob laughing".

It took me a week to do all of this re-orgaization and re-naming.  But the effort was rewarded when I created the little video teaser seen above. iMovie's template has "drop zones"; it was easy to find the best clips and drop them into the template.


This was a peek inside of my production process.  Hope it gave you some ideas, and you can adapt it to a workflow that makes sense for you!

Happy Editing!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Editing Tricks for Amateur Video #141

How About a CAT VIDEO?

This was my attempt to create a "viral video".  Everyone loves cats on YouTube, right?

In 2010 I sold my G5 PowerMac and tried editing from a MacMini.  (It worked ok, but I was hampered by data transfer rate of the Mini's internal drive and external drives.  Today's Thunderbolt connections enable super fast external drives.)  I tested it out by playing some video of our cat playing on a rug.

Sweet Pea noticed herself on the computer monitor and decided to challenge the doppelg√§nger.  Video was taken at 720p, 30fps with a Panasonic ZS3 point 'n shoot camera.

Here's what happens when Sweet Pea saw the movie of herself fighting the cat on the computer monitor.  How many generations of this paradox are possible?

Video was taken at 720p, 30fps with an inexpensive Panasonic ZS3 point 'n shoot camera.  The soundtracks are royalty-free selections that are available free from YouTube.

Lessons Learned:
You don't need expensive equipment to make an entertaining movie.
Keep your camera handy, a person or pet in your house might do something that's vieo-worthy.
Not every cat video on YouTube goes viral!

Keep your camera handy, a person or pet in your house might do something that's vieo-worthy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Editing Tricks for Amateur Vacation Video #140: Mexico City S.W.A.T. Action (3 of 3)

Mexico City 1995:  Police S.W.A.T. Activity
One day we heard a helicopter circling near our hotel room in downtown Mexico City.  It was the S.W.A.T. Team, our hotel had been robbed!  I grabbed my camcorder, leaned out the window, and recorded a few minutes of the action.  Then I got scared … these super-macho guys with automatic weapons on the the helicopter might mistake my camera for a gun!

Pretty exciting stuff ... I created a watermarked video and placed it on the same YouTube channel where I offer my Air Rage Video for sale.

This edit was done in 2012, nearly twenty years after I shot the original video.  It's obviously an undisguised commercial advertisement.  "Wanna' buy my video?"
Just forty-two seconds, yet it tells a story, illustrates the product for sale, and provides contact information.  I've clearly claimed ownership, and the watermarks help to prevent unlicensed use of the material.

Like the previous Mexico City vacation video, the 8mm analog source tape was captured through a Firewire cable as DV.  As a result, the up-rezzed material suffers the same bottom artifacting as the Mexico City vacation video in Editing Tricks for Amateur Vacation Video #139.  Background music is a royalty-free  track from SmartSound.

I like this little edited commercial.  It's easy to watch, tells an interesting story, and fulfills its purposes.

Over-The-Top Mash-Up
Look what happens when I mix titles for the television series S.W.A.T. and clips from the movie Heat with my Mexico SWAT video:

This edit was done in 2012, nearly twenty years after I shot the original video.with the first release of Final Cut Pro X.  Very impressed with the program's ability to mix media sources on the timeline.

I used straight cuts not fades.  Timed the action to the S.W.A.T. theme song, and adjusted color and saturation levels using FCPX's built-in tools.  The movie is coherent but non-sensical.  Yet, my wife said it's better than a lot of stuff on television.   I love this seamless edit, and would probably put this on my "Demo Reel".

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Editing Tricks for Amateur Vacation Video #139: Mexico City (2 of 3)

Mexico City 1995:  What can we learn from this video edit?
Video capured on analog 8mm tape in 1995 … Edited in 2012

Last week was an opportunity to simply watch this twelve-minute video.  Now, let's see if there are some editing tricks worth discussing.

Final Cut Pro X
This was the first vacation video that I edited with FCPX.  Final Cut now has a different feel, unlike its earlier versions and other software vendors' offerings.  A lot of editors didn't like the change, I gave it a chance!  Looking back now, in 2014, I can tell you that I am very happy with FCPX.  It meets my hobbyist needs perfectly, and was well worth the learning effort.

Sound Design
I owned several Mexican-sounding tracks from SmartSound that worked well for this video.  I exported a preliminary cut of the movie into SmartSound's Sonicfire Pro, selected/trimmed the music, then exported it as a WAV file.  This imported easily into Final Cut's timeline.
Other sound comes from Aztec dancers, tour guides' narratives, and our own voices.  I chose not to narrate this production.   Unfortunately the guides' voices are unintelligible, but the rest of the audio sounds great and is well-balanced.
The heroic music heard while viewing murals of Padre Hidalgo's Revolución is quite stirring, plus it transitions well into the lighter mood of following scenes.

Video Edits
The opening has an animated map that I created using Apple's presentation software, Keynote.  (You could create something similar with PowerPoint.)  Note that I recently used this vendor's "plug-in" that takes map animation to a higher level.
Title styles were chosen from those that came with the software; I did not adjust the default colors or fonts.
I like the scene of a commuter train leaving the subway station, but it is paired with two other very-short clips that give the feel of jumpiness.
The demonstration of hotel plumbing is hilarious!
Pyramids at Teotihuacan are undoubtedly the movie's highlight.  Which one of us is willing to climb all the way to the top?  Now that we're up there who is able to walk down?

…and who are those people in this closing photograph?  OMG it's me, nineteen years ago!!!!

Lessons Learned
My audiences are always surprised by special effects like the animated map.  "Oooh, Aaaah.  You're really becoming professional now!"
Excellent royalty-free music is available that enhances your project.  Try to avoid copyright violations.
Pay attention to the sound mix.  With practice you can learn to strike a good balance between live sound, effects, music, and narration.
Be careful that adjacent clips do not cause jumps when placed next to one another (e.g. the Metro train scene)
Find the humor and use it.
Not every vacation video needs a narrator.

Create closed-captions to help the viewer understand a guide's narration.

Did you notice the technical problem which spans the entire twelve minutes?  The original video was recorded on 8mm analog tape.  I played the tape on an "Digital8" Handicam, and used that camcorder's Firewire output to capture the digitized video on my computer.  This is a great way to do the analog to digital conversion, but it often leaves a a 5-pixel bar of interference at the bottom of each frame.
I've now learned to easily compensate for this artifact by simply zooming the raw footage to about 103%.  Another easy method is to insert an opaque rectangular shape at the bottom of the image.