Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Editing Tricks for Amateur Vacation Video #143 - Lima, Peru

Peru 1999: #1 of 5   LIMA  (edited in 2012)  "...there's a lot to learn from this video!"

"There's a lot to learn from this video"  (and most of it's not good!)

I was actually becoming a somewhat decent video camera user by the time we left for Peru and the Amazon in 1999.  I videotaped scenes that are fairly steady, and occasionally used manual controls for focus and lighting.  That doesn't mean that this stuff is 100% fabulously interesting, but technically usable footage is a big help when editing.


United Airlines' crew played Frank Sinatra's Come fly With Me as we boarded the aircraft.  The lyrics are perfect: "…in Lama-land there's a one-man-band and he'll toot his flute for you!"  Maybe we'll meet that guy?

Our friends' young son, Alex, was keeping a daily journal as part of his schoolwork.  My movie opens with a computer voice reading a page from Alex's journal where he describes our upcoming trip.  I think it's a pretty humorous introduction, that gives way to Sinatra's music and scenes that introduce the travelers.  The spinning globe is some stock footage, picture-in-picture of the bus was a technical challenge but doesn't really add much to the story.

An authentic-sounding band plays El Condor Pasa to accompany a photo and video montage that is of little interest until the tale of a police incident is told.  The movie ends with the clinking of glasses and a toast to a wonderful trip.

Although some parts of this movie are not bad, I am not at all thrilled with the production.  The introductory moments are edited fairly nicely. Then there's a picture-in-picture effect that makes no sense and the montage is confusing.  If I re-edited, the PIP would disappear, the montage would be much shorter and have some explanatory lower-thirds titles.  And I would test some voice-over narration to see if it helps the audience to understand what's going on.


Lessons Learned:
Test your movie in front of some trusted friends before releasing it to "the public".
Try new editing tricks to practice your skills.  For example, I remember working pretty hard to figure out how to create a nice picture-in-picture effect with Final Cut Pro X.  (I'm now fairly proficient with FCPX).
Although I worked hard to create it, that picture-in-picture does not add value to the final production.  But I was really proud of it, so it's still part of the movie!
Shorter is better (e.g. the montage).

Learn how to manually control your camcorder.  Then don't be afraid to switch off the automatic function.  Some otherwise good video clips from this vacation suffer from being too dark.  I knew how to open the aperture and slow the shutter, but it was too easy to leave the camcorder in automatic.
Ask the question, "Can a stranger appreciate this movie, or does it need a lot of in-person explaining?"
I feel a bit guilty about using Sinatra's recording without permission.  Since this is an educational blog, an argument might be made that it was "Fair Use".

Music Copyright Considerations:
This original audience for this video was friends and family who would view the DVD in my living room.  It contains identifiable music 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.

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