Sunday, July 26, 2015

2015 NAB (including SuperMeet) in Ninety Seconds

2015 NAB & SuperMeet (Las Vegas):

Broadcast Professionals come to Las Vegas every April for NAB.  The Creative Pro Users' Group holds their SuperMeet on Tuesday night.  So what's an amateur hobbyist like myself doing there?
It's all a blur, check it out here:

NAB 2015 & SuperMeet 2015

NAB fills the Convention Center space; it's awesome, educational, and overwhelming.  Every year I learn some new editing tricks at the SuperMeet, plus the event ends with the most amazing raffle you've ever seen.

My two days in Las Vegas each year are a sleepless blur.  I was learning to shoot my Panasonic G6 but the Lumix lens was a lot less fuzzy than my memory!

Hope to see you there in 2016!

Extra Bonus Video -- ELVIS Times Five:

I was on a bus northbound on Las Vegas Boulevard when I saw the ghost of Elvis.  Then another one.  And another .... total of FIVE UNDEAD ELVIS's.
Take a look:

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Editing Tricks for Amateur Vacation Video #156 - Delightful Embarrassment

Embarrass Your Friends With Video?  Be Cautious!

Even if you're a senior citizen, it still feels good to poke fun at your friends.  

We were at our friends' home for a summer backyard party, when martini consumption somehow outpaced good judgement.  They're from Wisconsin, where Myron Floren is treated with god-like respect.  Maureen doesn't practice her accordion much anymore, and Steve is not much of a vocalist.  But they decided to entertain us with the Julida Polka.  

Luckily I had my iPhone.  Light was fading, but dark video is better than no video:

(For your information, here's a link to what Julida Polka is supposed to sound like.)

Well it's pretty obvious that Steve & Maureen love to party, and are not afraid to make fun of themselves.  When they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, I created a video presentation as a gift to them.  That show opened with this 30-second clip.  Everyone was rolling on the floor laughing -- many had actually seen this happen live!  The stage was set for everyone to have fun watching the rest of a half-hour movie.  And as you might guess, it was a killer anniversary party!

Titles:  I edited with an early version of Final Cut Pro X.  The animated opening and titles are nothing fancy -- Apple includes them stock with the software.  I used lower thirds captions for the lyrics since Steve was mangling them in a lovable but mostly unintelligible way.  (Patting myself on the back) I think the ending title is hilarious!
Light & Sound:  Front light was incredibly dim, provided by a gas fire pit.  I used FCPX's built-in tools to brighten the video; there is a spotlight effect that helped a lot.  The software's audio tools also helped to enhance weak sound picked up by the iPhone's microphone.

Lessons Learned:
The day after the party, I was on a mission.  Transferred the "awful" video onto my hard drive and tried to save it -- this was too precious to lose!
The success of this edit proves that content is more important than video "quality".  No one has ever complained that this video is "too dark" ... they are too busy laughing.

- Use your phone to capture unexpected special moments.
- Hard drives are cheap; moments like these happen only once!  Preserve them.
- Use good judgement.  Don't turn your friends into enemies with your "funny" video

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Daily Voting Continues: The OWC Video Contest


I entered the Other World Computing contest; this is your chance to vote for the video commercial that I created.  Thanks!  (Last day to vote: 07/31/2015)

Having trouble voting?  My suggestion:  please try voting from your computer instead of your iPhone.
Although you're supposed to be able to vote with just an email address, some of us have discovered Facebook advertising that blocks it harder for non-Facebook users' to click on the voting buttons .  Or maybe you've had a problem with the "captcha" software that verifies you are a person not a robot.  It seems that the problems happen mostly on smartphones.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Camera Stabilizer ... "Like a Chicken?

Chicken Head Acts Like a Steadicam?

This YouTube video tells the whole story!  (Thanks, "Smarter Every Day")

Imagine if you attached a tiny camera to the chicken's head.  You could eliminate that hand-held shakiness from your videos.

Sounds like something AdultSwim did on Robot Chicken 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Editing Tricks for Amateur Vacation Video #155 - Video & Photo Montage Part 2

Let's Practice Editing by making TWO Montages

In blog entry #154 you read that I have created two little movies from our trip 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.)  You might remember this first version:

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

The second version is called:
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway - Relaxing with the Classics”  3min 25sec featuring spirit-enriching music by composers Edvard Grieg & Johann Pachelbel.

Let's talk about the first version.  I'm almost always happy with royalty-free tracks from the SmartSound library and this is no exception.  Refer back to my 19-step process from the provious post, and you'll notice that clips and photos are spritely timed to the music.  I really like the nature "interlude" during the pizzicato.  Then surprise ... there's a flashback!
Simple titles introduce the four cast members (including myself), and I did a little graphics/compositing work at the end.  The piece is lively, fun and quick.  I can watch it and see a few flaws, but at a certain point you've gotta say, "Enough.  It's Done!"

The second version has a peaceful introduction.  Were you fooled into believing that were going to be "Relaxing With the Classics"?  HAH!  it quickly leads to the ill-tuned Portsmouth Sinfonia and New Zealand Friendly Orchestra, whose comedic take on serious music has delighted audiences for many years.  The terribly recognizable Hall of the Mountain King joins us for our trip up the mountainside.  Then it makes an unwelcome reprise on the downhill trip!
Canon in D is ridiculously formal as we stumble around the hiking path, but Morning Mood perfectly accompanies my unnatural nature interlude.  (Note: This is not the first time that I've been tempted to "borrow" this commercial recording.  I notice that the composition is included on SmartSound's Classical Favorites album.  I'll license that album next time they have a sale.)

The edit points of both versions are essentially the same.   However it's pretty obvious that the clip lengths were adjusted to match the differences in music pacing.

Deep Thoughts:

  • This was a fun weekend project.  Great way to practice all those great editing keystrokes and techniques.
  • I laughed out loud many times while selecting the music, and was often surprised how a drumbeat or tempo change accidentally resulted in a great cut or transition.
  • I thought that my intended humor in the second version should be obvious from the outset.  But I have to be honest -- many friends missed the point and greatly prefer the other version.  They don't like the un-tuned orchestra.
  • We're not trying to be National Geographic here.  Just want to have a little something to share with friends, thank them for joining us on this trip, or make them want to join us on the next one!  A video/photo montage is a quick way to accomplish that goal.
  • As always, I do not encourage intentional misuse of copyrighted material.  I believe that these videos serve an educational purpose, and therefore fall under the guidelines for "Fair Use".

There's a comments section below.  I'd love to hear your thoughts about this exercise.  Which version did you prefer?  Do you ever create two versions of the same project?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


The OWC Video Commercial Contest has begun accepting votes.  You can vote for me once every day until July 31, 2015.  As we used to say in Philly, “Vote early and vote often!
Note:  If you are not logged into Facebook, the voting machine will work better on a computer than on an iPhone

I need your help!
Never tried anything like this before; the odds are stacked against me!  
There are sixty-six contestants. I am probably the only amateur.  Everyone else is a video professional, a team of film students, or owns a production company.  Also pretty sure I’m the oldest contestant.  
Compared to me, they all have huge social networks. My network includes 17 followers on Twitter, one friend on Facebook, my wife. and two cats.  So I need your help:

Saturday, July 4, 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.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Other World Computing (OWC) - Video Commercial Contest

from the HENBC Shameless Self Promotion department:

If you've ever thought about upgrading your Apple computer then you're probably aware of OWC's website:  Other World Computing offers an incredible array of well-engineered upgrades for the whole catalog of Macs.  I discovered them in 2005; a great source for memory, drives, upgrades, and accessories.  

Why am I talking about this now?  OWC is not a sponsor, we are not related in any way, but:


I've entered OWC's "Viral Video Commercial" competition. 
They challenged creative geniuses like me to show how "everything is possible" with OWC upgrades.  "Go further" with "the speed to create.  The capacity to dream."  

I've never participated in a challenge like this; never worked against anything but a self-imposed deadline.  I completed this fun project last month and submitted before the due date. I think you'll recognize my style.  

Looks like there are seventy-one other entries, some are really good.  But this amateur work by an old-guy hobbyist stacks up pretty well against work by media professionals, creative teams, and film school students.

Seriously, OWC is offering some really nice prizes.  Your vote will validate me and inspire even greater heights of creative excellence!  Vote once per day, between July 7 and July 31, 2015.

Thanks.  I mean it!