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 RevoluciĆ³n 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.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Editing Tricks for Amateur Vacation Video #138: Mexico City (1 of 3)

Mexico City 1995:  Watch the Video

Although we took this trip in 1995, I didn't get around to editing until 2012.  That seventeen-year lag sets my personal best procrastination record!  But the good news is that the delay enable me to edit with Final Cut Pro X for the first time!

This ten-minute movie is a bit longer than typical for these discussions, so the purpose of this week's posting is to simply allow you to watch in its entirety.  Next week we'll analyze and see what we can learn from the edit.

Here's the video structure:  An alarm rings to wake you up, then an animated map reveals that our destination is Mexico.   A photo montage introduces our four travelers, then there's live video at the city center, an archeological site, a ride on the metro, and walk through a market.  Heroic music then introduces the murals and sculptures at Colegio Militar.

Mood swings to lighthearted, and some pretty lame video gags accompany a look at the residence of former president Porferio Diaz and the Anthropological Museum.  This "comedic" onslaught continues with a demonstration of the hotel's plumbing and during the movie's final moments at the nearby pyramids at Teothuacan.  Tourists dare one another to climb all the way to the top, but discover that the biggest challenges are the steep downhill steps!

OK, hope you enjoyed it!  Next week we'll dissect, analyze, and hopefully learn a few editing tricks.

Music Copyright Considerations:
Please understand that I do not encourage improper use of copyrighted material.  This video was created using royalty-free tracks from SmartSound.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Editing Tricks for Amateur Video #137: Edit the Biographical (Memorial) Video

Ideas for Creating a GREAT Biographical (Memorial) Movie

We're all hobbyists; our amateur editing skills are adequate, and we have some fun remembering our vacations.  Creation of a movie about the life of someone you cherish is a special challenge, one that stretches our skills.  We want to be especially proud when we share this work of love.

Here's a suggested workflow, based upon what worked for me when I created my Mom's memorial movie:

  • Plan ahead. 
    • Extreme urgency will always limit the quality of our work.
    • Gather interviews.
    • Scan and organize old photos & documents.
    • Digitize old videos if they are on tape.
    • Organize all the videos.
  • Create a storyboard or outline of the movie
    • Preview the media
    • Segregate media into themes, such as:
      • Early life
      • Major events
      • Having fun with friends & family
      • Travel/vacations
      • Work
  • Begin the Rough Edit
    • Use interviews as the primary timeline, to pace the movie's progress or support the outline.
    • Use other video and still pictures to illustrate the interview. 
  • Narration
    • Decide if you will use a third-person narration.  This narration can introduce the movie, fill-in gaps, and help transition to new themes. 
    • Write the narration script to support your rough edit
    • Record the narration yourself, or use a volunteer "voice talent"
    • Edit the narration audio into your timeline
    • Cut and trim, taking clues from the narration timing.
  • Add music track(s)
    • Copyright considerations:  
      • You might choose to use some of the honoree's favorite commercial music.  I suggest that, at a minimum, you borrow the person's own music collection or at least purchase the track(s).
      • Royalty-free music will assure that your video can be shared on the Internet.
    • Place the music into your project's timeline.
    • Cut and trim, taking clues from the music timing.
  • Transitions
    • Cuts and simple fades create an elegant look.
    • ...but this might be an opportunity to use some of your software's crazy transitions!
  • Titles
    • Titles can convey lots of information:  names, places, dates, etc.
    • Start with the Opening Title
    • Create informational titles to keep a consistent look
    • Closing title could be a beautiful still photograph of your loved one.  If this is a memorial, perhaps add their life dates.
  • Prepare final version
    • Watch the movie carefully.  Correct spelling errors.  Last opportunity for cut and trim to tighten the edit.
    • Preview the movie with a couple of friends.  Take notes, fix any errors.
    • Lock the edit.  Output the final version to your hard drive as a video at full resolution.
  • Distribution
    • Prepare for projection at the celebration. 
      • I suggest test it on your own equipment and bring your own equipment with you.
      • Bring a copy of the movie on a flash drive or external hard drive for backup
      • Output the movie as a DVD/BluRay disc.  Bring a DVD/BluRay player to the celebration as a backup.
    • Duplicate the DVD for attendees if desired.  There are inexpensive duplication services who will print a photo/text on the discs.
    • Post on the Internet if desired
I hope this is helpful!  Good luck with your memorial video project.