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by Bill Davis
If you've been around video long, you're probably familiar with the term "montage" (m?n-'t?zh). It's a French term that comes from the world of cinema.
Webster defines a montage as: 1: the production of a rapid succession of images in a motion picture to illustrate an association of ideas. Or 2: a composite picture made by combining several separate pictures.
It's a communication form that's used all the time in video and film production. For example, many movie title sequences consist of some form of montage. A montage gets its power from presenting a collection of diverse images to the audience all at once, so that the overall impression is much richer than simply showing a single image or element.
Nearly every modern nonlinear editing (NLE) program has excellent built-in tools to help you build montages. Some of the most prominent of these are the crop, matte, and scale functions. You can combine these and other effects with your editing software's layering functions and transparency effects to create a stunning montage of images, video clips, graphics and/or titles. For example, let's suppose you want to float a few still images over a black background. You could put a black background in one video layer, then build up successive layers of still images above it, adjusting the size (scale), rotation, and opacity/transparency of each image.
Modern NLE software will also often give you subtle control options like "feathered edges" that can help make your floating images appear to blend more seamlessly into your montage. Each software suite is different, so it's critical that you explore your particular software package's controls and learn how to manipulate layers of your video so that your creativity can shine through.
Okay, now that we've defined what a montage is, and indicated some of the software tools that help you create them, just how does someone go about creating an effective montage? Well, like any aesthetic task, there's no hard and fast rule about what makes a montage good or bad. But keeping some basics in mind can help.
The first order of business in planning any montage is taking control of the "where and when" of the montage elements.
The "where" part relates to how you arrange your elements on screen. Good design concepts generally give important elements visual priority and provide a flow for the eye from one element to the next.
The "when" part acknowledges that you don't have to toss every element of your montage up on the screen at one time and leave the audience to sort it all out. You can bring elements up individually, or in small groups, allowing the audience to see some things before introducing others.
This concept of arranging visual elements in both space and time is central to the idea of a successful video montage. Since the very nature of a montage presents multiple images to the audience, one of the most challenging aspects for the creator is to keep the information flow accessible for the audience. Let's look at a specific example and see how some simple re-arranging can help make a simple montage become more audience-friendly.
The TV commercial is one kind of video where the montage reigns supreme -- especially in the typical closing "call to action segment" where it's common to find product shots, spokespeople, price data and contact information all arranged within a single screen montage.
Figure 1 is an example of a rather weak visual montage at the close of an imaginary local TV spot for Dick & Jane's Lawn Care Service. The visual elements are simple. A background photo of grass, photos of Dick & Jane and three blocks of text: the business name, phone/web address and a special price offer.The problem with the layout is that while it's simple, it's also visually undistinguished and somewhat boring. All the type is of a similar size and visual weight. The separate pictures pull the viewer's attention in two different directions, and there's too much boring type to read in the short amount of time allowed at the end of most commercials -- often only a few seconds.
In figure 2, we have cleaned up the montage significantly.
Two photos are now one. The eye travels from the faces directly to the Business name. Then directly to the special offer and to the contact info in an easy clockwise visual scan.
Even given the short time, we provide the viewer with the same info, but the arrangement of the visual montage makes it easier for the audience to efficiently take in the information we're presenting.
Looking at the timeline in figure 3, we also see an example of how we can use time to emphasize the most important elements of our montage. As the transitions and track offsets on the timeline show, the spot actually builds visually, presenting the photo and titles data first, then pushing on the "special offer" element.
The human eye is very sensitive to change and movement, so using this kind of active transition for the offer automatically draws the viewer's attention to that part of the screen.
The more info you present at the same time, the longer it will take your audience to process that information.
And if you present too much information and don't let your audience have enough time to process what you've displayed on screen, you'll leave them frustrated and uncomfortable. Now don't get me wrong, that doesn't mean that only simple montages can be effective. Just watch a few music videos and you'll be reminded that the appetite for visual complexity and change have come a long way over the decades we've been regularly consuming MTV style imagery.
The point is to balance the complexity of your completed program with your audiences' needs and preferences.
Another key factor in determining how complex you can safely make a montage is to consider how it's going to be used.
A video montage that will only be shown one time to each audience, needs to communicate clearly the first time -- in essence, to make the most of it's single chance to do its job. But there are plenty of times when a montage will play over and over.
Let's say you're building a montage that will introduce each of a series of training programs. The expectation may be that the audience will see it each time a new module is presented. In that case, it's fine to make the montage more complex, understanding that the audience of trainees will have many repeated viewings to absorb more of the details presented.
This "high information density" approach gives the audience more elements to look at and helps to keep the montage interesting over the repeated viewings.
The whole idea of the montage is to do more for less. More visual information occupying less screen space - more information presented over less time. So the montage puts MORE responsibility on the shoulders of the video editor. Because as you increase your program's information density, you need to watch out that you don't go too far and confuse the viewer.
How far to take complex visual elements like the montage depends on the audience, the complexity of your content, and the clarity of the way you present your information to your audience. When you master the montage you'll increase your visual storytelling power tremendously. Bill Davis writes, shoots, edits, and does voiceover work for a variety of corporate and industrial clients and has been montaging for decades.
There are currently digital video mixers available priced from $900 to $15,000. Though they provide different levels of video quality and complexity of effects, one of their common denominators is the ability to perform keying effects. The work "key" was derived from a digital mixer's capability for cutting an electronic keyhole in a video picture. Into this keyhole is placed another video signal or a matte color which results in one image being placed over, or within, another.
Key effects go by a variety of names including Luminance Key, Chroma Key, External Key and Downstream Key. Owners of Panasonic's digital video mixers (i.e. AVE-5, AVE-7) will recognize Downstream Key on their units as "Superimpose."
All of the key effects work on the principal of taking an image shape presented from one video source and using it as the cut-out for placing another video source (or matte color) inside of it or around it. And typically this cut-out is defined by its brightness level in contrast to whatever else is in the scene.
As an example, Luminance Key detects the dark portions of a video picture and electronically replaces that with another image, generally from another video source being fed into the digital mixer. Some popular wedding effects using Luminance Key is incorporating pre-recorded animation videos over wedding footage to create some very sophisticated-looking graphics.
Chroma Keying, however, does not obtain its keying cues from the brightness of a video signal, but rather looks for a specific color of hue to be used as the cut-out reference. Such is the case with the TV weatherman standing in front of a blue or green wall as those specific shades of blue or green are replaced by a computer generated weather map. Chroma Key can be used in post-production for placing your bride and groom in otherwise unattainable locations. Or a portable Chroma Key setup can be the life of the party at a reception for guests to experience the voyage to where no man has gone before.
External Key is a feature on a digital mixer that permits the use to "cut" his or her keyhole with an image shape fed into a discrete video input of the mixer. Into that image shape is another video picture. The Panasonic AVE-7 and Panasonic MX-30 utilize the External Camera input to provide to provide the external key image. Units such as the Sony DFS-300 have a specific video input labeled "External Key." Many wedding videographers use the External Key mode to, let's say, feed the shape of a heart into the digital mixer by pointing a video camera at a black over white heart-shaped image. This heart pattern now has one video picture occurring on the inside of it and another encompassing the outside. It doesn't take video producers very long to realize that they now have an unlimited assortment of new wipe patterns available via External Key.
Downstream Key (a.k.a. Superimpose) does just that. It performs its effect downstream of the rest of the digital mixer's other effects. It does not require one of the digital mixer's two video channels to achieve its superimposing capabilities. You might even think of the Downstream Key section as a separate video mixer built into your primary mixer. Like External Key, it also requires an image shape ("Key Source") to cut the keyhole and it requires some form of fill signal ("Key Fill") to be placed inside of it. Since the Downstream Key's effect take place after the fact, it is most often used to superimpose titles or graphics over two other video sources that are transitioning between each other.
Virtually all of the current digital mixers use the "B" bus as the keying channel for both Luminance Key and Chroma Key. On Sony mixers/switchers it is called the Foreground bus. This is the bus to which the keyable image is assigned, be it an animation video or a subject standing in front of a blue or green backdrop. Whenever the dark portion (Luminance) or specific shade of a color (Chroma) appears, then the video image present on the "A" bus fills it in.
A level control on the mixer that adjusts the amount of separation between the two buses is called the Slice or Clip level control. Once the video signals are present from the two different sources, turning the Slice or Clip control fine tunes the effects by trimming off unwanted edges or "jaggies" from the key image. In the case of Chroma Key, an additional control called the Hue level selects the precise backdrop color on the "B" bus that needs to be filled. Chroma Key often becomes the most difficult key effect to perform primarily because an exact combination blend of the Slice/Clip control and the Hue control must be achieved for perfect separation. This added to the lighting technique necessary for Chroma Keying can make the overall setup procedure somewhat time consuming, not to mention frustrating.
The External Key and Downstream Key modes also have a Slice/Clip control for adjusting the video level during a key effect. The big difference between these two types of key effects and the aforementioned Luminance and Chroma Key is that they frequently depend upon a third video source to be the key fill signal such as an image from a third VCR source or one of the mixer's built-in background matte colors. However, you can assign your "B" bus' signal to be the key fill signal if you like when using the External Key mode.
The Panasonic digital mixers' Downstream Key (Superimpose) relies upon a background matte color as the fill signal after an image shape is presented to the Downstream Key section. The actual image shape can come from either a video camera aimed at a title card or one of the many compatible plug-in character generators (KB-50, KB-15, KB-12).
The Sony DFS-300 can fill the image shape with an actual video signal other than a background matte color. The Sony DFS-300 will allow you to create an image shape from its Downstream Key In connector and fill it with a video signal from the Downstream Key Video In connector. You can actually create a picture-in-picture effect between the two primary input buses and then add another picture-in-picture on top of that image by feeding the shape of a rectangular box into the Key In connector and a third discrete video source into the Video In connector. The result: Two different picture-in-pictures over a full screen video scene.
Since you can use the Luminance Key, Chroma Key, or External Key modes separately from the Downstream Key section, you can conceivably create three or four layers of video imagery simultaneously.
By the way, the advertisement that ran for the Panasonic AVE-7 depicting a bride holding the groom in the palm of her hand is obviously a Chroma Key effect since Luminance Key would cancel out either the bride's white dress or the groom's black tuxedo. Surprisingly, the Panasonic WJ-AVE-7 doesn't not have Chroma Key as one of the features. This somewhat misleading ad photo has sent many a Panasonic WJ-AVE-7 user into frustrating confusion. (A fine-print disclaimer at the bottom of the ad says "simulated picture").
Here's the premise: You've got an outdoor video scene with things and people in the foreground and a skyline in the background. The sky is blue, but you want to change it to another color, or even replace it all together with another video scene without disrupting your foreground. How do you do it?
If the sky were black to begin with, you could just turn on the luminance key mode on your Panasonic MX-50, Panasonic MX-30, Panasonic AVE-7 or Sony FXE-100 and fill in the black with another video source.
Freeze your original video scene onto one of your digital video mixer's two video busses and select "mix" or dissolve as the transition mode. Feed a live camera that is attached to a copy stand into the other video buss and attach a piece of white paper to the platform of the copy stand (secure it so that it does not slide around).
Perform a partial dissolve between the two busses and with a pencil, start tracing the outline of the sky's horizon (where the sky ends and the foreground begins).
Now, remove the piece of paper from the copy stand and carefully fill in the area above the line that you traced with a black marking pen. (Or you can cut out black paper in the shape or size you need.) Replace the paper on the copy stand exactly where it was before and return your T-Bar to the buss that displays your original frozen video scene.
Now, turn on your Downstream Key section ("Superimpose Section" on the Panasonic AVE7) and engage External Camera as it's source. Begin bringing up the level slider in the Downstream Key section until the shape of the sky from your over your original frozen picture.
Select "Full Matte" or "Background Color" as the fill color in the Downstream Key section and as you begin toggling through your different background colors in the background color section, you'll see the sky changing colors and the foreground remaining unchanged.
If you select Black as the sky's color, you can record this picture onto tape and then later play that tape back through the digital mixer's Luminance Key mode. With the Luminance Key in effect, you can key in a new video source over the black sky.
If you select Red, Green or Blue as the sky's color, you can record that picture onto tape and then later play that tape back through the digital mixer's Chroma Key mode (if your mixer has it). With Chroma Key in effect, you can key in a new video source over Red, Green or Blue sky, depending on where you set your Chroma Key "hue" control.
A variation of this effect can be the Downstream Key "tracing" of specific objects within a video picture and the shape of that object will be replaced with a different color or a new video scene.
Note: In order to achieve this effect with "moving" video as opposed to a frozen video scene, your video should originally be shot with a camera on a tripod. Otherwise, you will have a somewhat difficult time trying to trace a moving skyline and horizon.
If you have ever attempted to feed the video output from a stand-alone character generator, such as the Videonics TitleMaker, directly into the Panasonic AVE-5, AVE-7, MX-30 or MX-50's External Camera input, so that you can key your titles over the mixer's picture via the Downstream Key (Superimpose) section. You probably encountered a few problems, such as a rolling, jittering, out-of-sync title page.
When ever you connecting anything to the External Camera input, the entire mixer will sync up to whatever comes in through that input. Therefore, whatever signal you feed into the External Camera input, you must make sure it is a very stable signal.
In order to solve this problem, feed your character generator with a stable video source, such as a live video camera or a stand-alone sync generator. This will allow your character generator to lock up on that stable source.
Keep in mind, that since the Downstream Keyer on the Panasonic mixers work on luminance contrast, make sure that your titles you created on your character generator have no drop shadows or outlines. Also, they should be either white letters with a black background or black letters with a white background. Use the Downstream Key section of your mixer to create the drop shadows and outlines, as will as the color of the letters.
NOTE: If you have a Panasonic WJ-MX50 or Panasonic WJ-MX30, you can't use the sync or genlock output from these mixers to stabilize your character generator. The reason, those outputs are driven by the External Camera's video input, which you are connecting your character generator.
You can create a magnifying glass effect with any digital video mixer that permits a circle wipe pattern. Feed your camera's output into one of your digital mixer's video inputs. Feed your source VCR's into another video input.
Next, point your video camera at the monitor that is connected to your source VCR. (This will display your source footage before it enters the mixer). Zoom in on the screen so that it "amplifies" the size of the picture by about 30-40%.
Create a circle wipe pattern with your camera's signal inside the circle and the actual source footage should be on the outside of the circle. Use the joystick positioner on the video mixer to place the wipe pattern anywhere on the scene that you wish to magnify.
NOTE: To enhance this effect, use a "soft" border around the circle wipe's edge.
In the editing bay, you may have a snakepit of excessively long cables. Try hotknifing a door through an empty DVD spool, then open it and coil up the excess length there passing both ends back through the opening. This is a great on or under the table organizer and a great use for empty DVD abd CD spools.
This page features very straight-forward, easy to understand information about getting started in the exciting world of Desk Top Video (DTV). We have put all the info in a Question & Answer dialogue format. We hope you will find this page helpful.
Desk Top Video (DTV) is using your computer to create videos. You can easily and affordably use your computer to overlay titles & graphics, control your camcorder & VCRs, perform digital video effects, and fully edit your videos. You can even capture video to your hard drive and edit it inside your computer!
A video overlay card lets you overlay or superimpose computer generated titles and graphics over your video. They work by selecting a key color such as navy blue. Wherever the key color appears within a title page, live video will be substituted. An overlay card has both video inputs and outputs.
A scan converter lets you take VGA output from your computer and turns it into a video signal which you can play on your TV or VCR. A scan converter is an external box you hook up to your computer. Scan converters let you output computer titles, but you can't superimpose them over video. They are excellent for giving powerful presentations or software demonstrations.
We offer several different software/ hardware packages that let your computer control your camcorder and VCRs. You can log footage from all your video tapes, select the scenes you want, place them in any order and even add titles and effects automatically!
By using either infra red (IR) remote and/or special editing jacks built into some camcorders and VCRs. Many 8mm camcorders and Sony VCRs have a special jack called Control L (LANC). If you have high
end editing decks with time code, we have programs capable of using it!
Control L is a protocol designed by Sony which lets your camcorder be fully controlled by the computer. More important, Control L lets the computer know the position of the tape at all times by telling it the real time counter reading. It is this 2 way communication that makes Control L so special.
Can I mix two video sources together with my computer?
We have video boards that let you create all kinds of digital video effects including A/B rolls (mixing and displaying two videos on the screen at once), dissolves (when one video image fades directly into a second), and even chroma key (when you superimpose one video over another, like the weatherman effect on TV).
Video capture cards let you record video onto your computer's hard drive. These cards use hardware & software compression (Codec) to digitize the video onto your hard drive. You can then edit the video and play it back to tape or display the finished movie on your computer screen!
Codec stands for Compression/Decompression. It is the method used by your video capture card to digitize the video and store it on your hard drive. All of our cards use Motion JPEG (MJPEG) as a Codec.
They are different standards for compressing video. Our cards use the Motion JPEG standard to create AVI files which can be played back on any Windows multimedia computer. MPEG is the newest standard for commercial video compression and it is primarily used for CD ROMs. MPEG video requires a special card for playback, and for now, it is about 5 times as expensive as MJPEG video capture hardware.
With the cards we carry, you will be able to store 1 minute of video in approx. 12-50 megs of hard drive space. The higher the resolution you need, the more space the video will require. For short videos (under 5 minutes) an EIDE hard drive will work fine, for longer video and the highest possible resolution, you should get an A/V rated SCSI (pronounced scuzzy) hard drive.
Non Linear editing (NLE) is when you edit videos within your computer. Instead of using jog shuttles and special video decks, you simply capture the video to your hard drive. You can then edit and rearrange the scenes much like moving paragraphs around in your favorite word processing program! Since the video is digitized, you can instantly get to any exact point in the video! Of course once the video is captured, you can add all kinds of digital video effects, filters, titles, morphs, just about anything you can imagine can be done.
Most importantly you will need a video capture card with video output for playback. If you can't output the video to tape, you only have half the solution! Next you will need storage space. We recommend a minimum of 500 megs available disk space. You will also need software to log your edit scenes & points, plus create all the amazing effects you want to add. All of our capture cards can be purchased as bundles, with NLE software included.
What kind of computer do I need for NLE?
We recommend a Pentium 100 or faster, with 16-32 megs of RAM, and a very fast (EIDE or SCSI) 1 gig hard drive. The faster your computer is, the better your video will come out. For home use, a 486DX2 or Pentium 75 with 16 megs will due just fine, for professional work, get the biggest, fastest machine you can afford.
Installing boards in your PC is really very easy. You may not even need a screwdriver! Once the board(s) is installed, you will need to install the special new video drivers that come with them.
A driver is the special software code that lets your computer interact with the different devices hooked up to it. Keyboards, mice, floppy disk drives, all require drivers. The drivers supplied with your board have been specially written to allow optimal operation of your computer once they are installed.
The Electronic Mailbox understands that even with all this great info, you may still have questions. Our techs, Gary & Phil, understand the equipment and they can help you decide on the perfect system to meet your needs and budget. If you have any problems installing and using your new DTV equipment, we offer you free DTV technical support (516) 759-1615. If our techs get stumped, we will refer you to a specific tech support person at the manufacturer. We also offer a 30 day satisfaction guarantee on all DTV purchases!
This page is designed to both educate you about non linear editing (NLE), as well as help you pick out the NLE system that is best for you. We carry several different video capture cards and software packages that are affordable and work great. All of our video capture cards have video (and SVHS/Hi8) inputs and outputs. This means you can digitize the video and store it on your hard drive, edit it, then output your finished video to tape. All of our cards are multi system, and work in NTSC (the US television standard) and PAL (used in many European, South American and countries across the globe). Although none of our cards are "broadcast" or commercial quality, you will be amazed at the spectacular videos you can create, and the remarkable picture quality of this new technology. Best of all, you can now get a starting NLE system that will work great using a typical home multimedia computer.
Most of us are familiar with linear editing. The simplest form of linear editing is called assemble editing or deck to deck. This is when you copy only the "good" parts of a tape over to a new tape. Assemble editing systems often include titlers or special effects generators to make the videos more fun to watch. A/B roll editing is when we edit from two or more video sources. An A/B roll system often includes a digital mixer, to let us cut, fade, dissolve and wipe from source A to source B. Insert editing is when we splice in a different scene, or video only, into the middle of an existing video tape. Only very expensive, high end editing decks are capable of insert editing. Today, linear editing means deck to deck. The quality of your linear editing is dependent on the editing capabilities of your decks. For the best results you need special editing decks with flying erase heads, special editing jacks, pre-roll and time codes. These decks often cost $1000 or more.
With non linear editing we are no longer dependent on expensive video editing decks or multiple "black boxes" for adding effects. Everything is done inside your PC. The video is digitized, captured and compressed to your hard drive and stored as an AVI file (AVI stands for audio video interweaved, and it is a computer standard used for several different compression types). All of our cards use Motion JPEG (M-JPEG). This is a hardware "Codec" (compression/decompression). This means that the files created using our cards can only be played back in PCs having the same card installed. Lower compression settings give you higher resolution and better picture quality, but require more hard drive space and faster data throughput. A standard NTSC video signal consists of 30 frames (actually 29.97) per second, and two fields per frame. This is considered to be full speed or full motion video (PAL uses 25 frames per second). With digital video, full screen is considered 640x480 pixels. If you capture at a smaller size, your computer will have to interpolate and create the missing information when it plays back the video full screen to your VCR or TV. The larger the capture size, the higher the resolution, and the greater size of the file created. As an example, we consider a 640x480, full speed capture at 10:1 compression to be hi resolution SVHS/Hi8 quality. You will need more then 50 megs of space per minute for hi resolution video. We consider 320x240, full speed capture at 16:1 compression to be VHS/8mm quality. These files are only 20 megs per minute.
Once the video is captured and compressed onto our hard drive, we can edit it. Non Linear Editing software is timeline based. You start by selecting the in and out points of your scene. Remember, that since everything is digital, we can get frame accurate edit points every time! Each scene is then placed on the timeline. You can lay down more then one track of video and audio onto your timeline. If you want to set your video to music, you start by placing the captured sound file onto the timeline. Next you select and arrange all of your video scenes. You can move scenes and clips around in your video just by dragging them with your mouse. It really is that easy!
The best part about NLE is the effects. Since the video is in digital form, we don't have to worry about time base correctors and frame synchronizers. Our effects are only limited by our own imagination and the software we choose to use. We can add special filters to clean up and restore picture quality, or to place ripples or swirls in the video. We can create awesome transitions between scenes such as page turns, flips, roll ups, and breakaways, plus the standard dissolves and wipes. Some software will even let you morph one image into another, just like in commercials and music videos!!
When it comes to titling and graphics, NLE lets you go crazy. You can use any Windows true type font, so foreign languages are no problem at all. Want to add a logo or computer graphic you designed onto your video, its a piece of cake. In fact, we can make it fly, bounce, or spin onto the video. Of course all our titles and graphics can be superimposed and mixed with our video. We can even add multiple titles. filters and effects onto the same scene. The power of NLE is truly incredible. Now every videographer can create videos that look and feel like network productions. The video you can create using our video capture cards and software will have your audience cheering, with everyone wanting to see more and asking how you did it.
Before your edited video can be played back to tape, the computer must "render" or "make" the finished movie as a single continuous avi file. Once this new file is created, you can play it back anytime you like with the click of a mouse. I have added this section because one of the most misunderstood aspects of NLE is rendering. First, as the description implies, you will need to have enough disk space to create your finished movie. The more titles, effects and filters you use, the more megs per minute your finished file will be. Second, the rendering process takes up a lot of computer power and time. This is the area where more RAM and a faster processor can really make a difference. Rendering can take 10 to 20 times as long as the total time of the finished movie. Rendering times of several hours are not uncommon. Until rendering becomes faster, long videos (over 1/2 hour) are not very practical. This combined with the massive storage required, makes us recommend doing NLE in segments of 15 minutes at a time. If you are planning on creating a movie over an hour long, be prepared for the rendering times involved.
The Electronic Mailbox
Creating fades, wipes and other transitions directly from one video source to another
Computer generated fonts that have been digitally rounded for smooth edges
Superimposing one video source over another using a key color (usually blue or green)
An editing protocol built into Sony 8mm camcorders and clones that allows 2 way communication between camcorder and computer
Use of a desktop computer for video production
Special computer generated effects that manipulate video. Video footage that bends, rolls, bounces or wraps around objects
Master list of all edit in and out points, plus any transitions, titles and effects to be used in the video production
Provides a clear flicker-free image on your TV. Without flicker stabilization, computer output is very jumpy on TV
Taking one frame of video and storing it on your hard drive for use in various video effects
Video is digitized and stored on your hard drive using video compression technology. You can then access any part of the video and edit the footage just like re-arranging paragraphs in a word processing program.
External device that converts your computer's VGA output to video, so you can display it on a TV or VCR
Special information added to video tapes that allows for extremely accurate editing.
Video Compression (M-JPEG & MPEG)
Both these standards use special hardware & software to store video directly on your hard drive. Video compression is done in various ratios. (e.g. 16:1,24:1) The higher the ratio, the more video can be stored per meg.
PC video card that allows you to pass video in and out of your computer, and superimpose titles, graphics and animations over video. In most cases the new overlay card will replace your old VGA card.
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Preview your raw footage to familiarize yourself with everything you have shot.
Make a video tape footage log to determine the scenes you have shot.
Make a story board using those scenes you wish to keep for the final production. This is a basic outline of what scenes you want to keep, and in what order you want to place them. You should also note what special effects, titles and audio mixing you will be adding.
Set up titles and audio tracks. Now is the time to create your title pages and a narration soundtrack. You should also make sure you have all your music selected and near by.
Always use a fresh blank tape for every production. If you use a tape that is already recorded on, you will get glitches and rainbows caused by the pre-existing footage. Always use the best tape available and tape on the SP speed.
Set aside adequate time. Your editing will go much easier if you begin and end the job in one session. It is very difficult to cue everything up again once you have turned off your equipment.
Be patient. Editing is a creative process. Be prepared to start over if the production gets bogged down. If you try to rush, you will be more likely to make a mistake or get sloppy edits.
Have fun!! Enjoy making your final production. Don't be afraid to experiment with different effects, camera angles, sound effects or whatever other creative ideas you may have. If it works - GREAT, if not, just cut it out. Let your creativity go wild - you've earned it!!
The more you edit, the better you will get!!! Not only will your future productions look better, but they will get easier to do. With a little practice you will be able to edit your videos in much less time. Plus, you will always be shooting to edit. As a result, you will get better and better results!
The Electronic Mailbox
1. Thou shalt not screw up thy client's job.
2. Thou shalt not use fresh cassettes without first packing them by fast forwarding to the end and rewinding them, thereby setting thy proper head tension.
3. Honor thy vectorscope and thy waveform monitor, for thou art guided by them.
4. Thou shalt not covet thy scene transition for the sake of vanity, but thou shalt cut with reason and purpose, and only then, keeping thy transitions modest.
5. Thou shalt have thy proper subject on screen at the proper time, thy speaker when he speaketh, thy reactor when he reacteth, thy glance and then thy object.
6. Thou shalt not cross axis.
7. Cast down thy recording tabs and breaketh them, and loggeth thee thy master tapes, and with labels shalt thee cover them, their nakedness sinful.
8. Thou shalt rehearse thy edits, and giveth them bountiful pre-roll, lest ye recieveth thy glitch.
9. Thou shalt not leave thy decks in pause too long.
10. Thou shalt not linger too long in black, lest thy viewer kick his set reproachfully, thinking it hath conked out again.
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by John Stubbs
Naturally, there's a rush of excitement after completing a video shoot. You can't wait to take your raw footage and get right down to editing. However, in video production a quick start doesn't always mean a quick finish. Rushing into an editing session usually gets you the case of the Let's see disease: "Let's see, where's that shot of Ethel. Maybe it's on this tape. Gee I thought it was right here. Let's see maybe I need to fast forward. "
Fumbling through video tape trying to find a shot can add hours to your editing time and become costly as well, particularly if you're renting a video suite. The solution is to log your video tapes before you begin editing. This can be done early in the production process.
Before you begin video taping put a label on your tape with name of the project you are taping and brief description of what you are shooting. It doesn't have to be detailed. For example: Project-Recreation in School Curriculum. Mrs. Miller's class at skating rink.
Furthermore, if you know you are going to be taping over a long period of time, it's a good idea to number your tapes as well. For example: Tape #1 Recreation in School Curriculum. Mrs. Miller's class at skating rink.
Also, try to keep a piece of paper handy and write a brief description of everything you shoot. Once again keep it brief: Kids walking into skating rink, shots of kids lacing up skates- Instruction demonstration. It could be after you're finished video taping, you might not need to use a particular tape because you don't need the footage, but you can't deduce that if you don't know what's on the tape.
Logging itself is simple. You just stick your tape in your VCR, rewind it to the beginning, press the reset button on your counter, and push play. Whenever you see an interesting shot write down a detailed description what it is (close up shot of kid smiling and saying I like skating) and the numbers on your VCR counter next to it. If you can't write the numbers down quickly enough, simply pause the tape until you do. You'll discover that logging your shots saves you tons of time once you begin editing. Furthermore, watching your tapes in a relaxed state rather than in the heat of production, might even give you a better idea of how you want to put your production together once you start editing. It might seem time consuming at first, but in the long run logging saves time.
If you've got an A/B fader on your editing equipment and two camcorders, you can shoot amazing old-style 3D videos. Just set up two cameras side by side on tripods, then apply a red filter to one camera and a blue filter to the other. The cameras must be angled slightly inward and both must be level. Send the two signals through your fader, set exactly in the middle, and into an external VCR to record (if you record on two separate tapes editing will be difficult later). Now dig out your old 3D glasses and enjoy!
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
Videomaker March 1998
Have you ever had any problems keeping audio sync between two sources while performing A/B-roll transitions? Try this: route audio from source A to your recording VCR (you'll be monitoring this audio on your TV set). Route audio from source B to a small instrument amplifier (you won't be recording this audio). This makes it much easier to keep sync between sources by ear; that way, you'll know right away if you've lost sync.
Mexico City, Mexico
If you're like me, you've often cursed those almost invisible arrows on S-video cables (the ones that indicate which side is up). Here's a simple solution: first, take a small drill bit (1/16 will do) and drill a hole in the black rubber casing of the plug just behind the arrow. After removing any plastic shavings, fill the hole with a very tiny amount of white silicon or white epoxy. Wipe it clean and you have a permanent reference mark that's easy to see; no more squinting or searching for a bright light.
Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin
If you want to add excitement to the audio track of your videos but you don't want to use expensive digital effect equipment, try using a simple guitarist's stomp box (foot switch). Great effects like reverb, delay, flange and even pitch shifting can be found at any music store or pawn shop for about $50. You'll need two RCA to ¼ inch adapters to cram the effects into your setup, but you'll get great results.
Saint Catharine's, Ontario, Canada
By Rick Shaw
There's so much video being produced today that every video professional is bound to experience the bad graphics syndrome: text that is unreadable; flying video boxes from every direction; or montages that make you seasick. It's all a manifestation of inexperience, bad planning, unreasonably fast turnaround times, new equipment, and sometimes just downright poor taste. But you can do something about it.
With all the newcomers doing video, a lot of them haven't had a graphics background or anyone to teach them how to do it. In my earlier days in television, I started out as an audio engineer and never anticipated having to design graphics. As I became more interested in video editing, I did a lot of watching, question asking, and evaluating what I liked and didn't like. I think anyone in television that enjoys what he or she does never stops doing that. Most often you get your start by learning from others. Fortunately, I had a few good people that helped inspire me, and I'm probably guilty of bugging them with too many questions.
There are basics to design. You'd be surprised that when the simplest things are overlooked, the result can look amateurish. Get a second opinion. If good suggestions are made, be open to making the necessary alterations. Some designers need to be careful to not let their ego get in the way of making a project better. It may not sound like a good idea to start with but even the most unpretentious suggestion sometimes can turn a project around.
One mistake that people often make is using too many fonts or words. I've worked with clients doing commercials where they wanted so much information on the screen it looked like a page from a phonebook. Then there's the person who has a million fonts and wants to use them all on the same screen.
When you work with fonts, limit the number of typefaces on the same page to two or three. You can get away with a couple of fonts - such as when you're designing a name super with the name on top and the title below in a different font. Be sure to choose two fonts that are compatible. Beware of serif typefaces that have thin descenders because you may have trouble keying them over the video. A font you're accustomed to in print may not always work in the interlaced world of NTSC. A font that is too small also poses a readability problem.
With all the available graphic tools, you might be tempted to use too many to of them in a single session. For example, doctoring up your fonts with heavy drop shadows, outlines, graduated fills, and other doodads can cheapen a production. Keep it simple. Use everything sparingly and your look will improve. Don't assume that you have to use a drop shadow every time you use a line of text. Try reversing the background behind a font, black over white or white over black. Avoid colors that crawl on NTSC, such as red against blue or green. Heavy, black drop shadows scream "video," and if you're looking for a more sophisticated look, try other ways to make the super more readable.
If you're doing the font work for an entire production, work out the "look" with the producer or director before you start typing in all the name supers and title pages. Everything should have a cohesive look, which means using the same font style throughout. A lot depends on the equipment you have available and its capabilities. Some character generators can produce fuzzy drop shadows, for example, while others cannot.
Another important factor to remember when using text is kerning and leading. Kerning (spacing) the letters in a word too far apart can make it more difficult to read. Viewers can read words more easily if they see the letters as a group. This is not to say that the letters should collide with each other, but I'd rather have them almost touching than to have too much space between them. Tight kerning has been proven to be more readable. The exceptions would be moving text. Where kerning a word by tightening or loosening the spacing is part of the effect.
The same goes for too much leading (the space between lines of text). If you have too much space, it can appear as if you want each line to be read as a statement instead of a sentence. On a monitor or screen, viewers often don't have much time to figure out the sea of characters being thrown at them. The layout should be obvious without insulting their intelligence.
Keeping the text away from the background to make it more readable involves many techniques. You can add a box or band of color behind the text, but this has to be done tastefully or it can look like a Band-Aid. The box should precisely fit the text, and sometimes you can use a gradated opacity fill. If you have the means, the color band can be filled with a moving pattern, video, or graphic, as long as it doesn't compete with the text.
If the background is too complex or completely motionless, it can compete with the foreground text. Normal techniques for improving the readability of the text would include trying different colors, adding a slow push or pull on the text, defocusing the background, or decreasing the luminance. All of these techniques help, but you need to avoid a bad background if at all possible. Interestingly, even a complex background can be used if it moves slowly in some way. This keeps the area behind the text changing, so it seems to float over the background, thereby making it more readable.
Another problem is getting the text on the screen in the first place. Beware of using cheesy DVE effect that are readily available in most edit suites. Trails, sparkles, and 3D perspective moves can get you into trouble really fast. Your piece could end up looking like a monster truck rally or a low-budge car commercial with a shouting announcer. More effective ways are simple moves, actual text animation, or a dissolve. Don't get hung up on a new effect and run into the pitfall of overusing it.
Selecting the right graphic effect can be a difficult task. Sometimes it's knowing when not to get too fancy that can prevent a job from looking cheap. Motion pictures, while they use a lot of expensive effects, use them only where they make sense. You don't often see scenes flipping or pushing in from all sides. Cuts make up the majority of edits in a movie.
That's why I use DVE effects sparingly. I try to plan out the effects for each job so that it doesn't end up looking like I was showing off all of the cool stuff in the same project. I've found that the effects that look the best aren't often found in the DVE at all. They have to be created by layering video, masking or colorizing images, and trying to make video have more of a film look. It's easy to make video look like video. It's more difficult when you need to add sophistication. Page turns, oil drops, reshaping the video, corner pinning, stamping, flips, squeezes, and spins all need to be used sparingly and with purpose.
If you're creating a full-page graphic, probably the most important element is the background. You don't want it to conflict with the readability of the text. Also, it may look good on your RGB monitor, but how does it look in NTSC or finally on VHS? Large areas of red should be avoided. Red on VHS will always bleed. Because most industrial projects eventually end up on VHS, you've got to produce with the finished product in mind. Recently, I saw in instructional video that was obviously created on a computer and imported to video where green text was place over a background that used a purple gradient. It was annoying to watch for an extended period of time. And the background hummed in NTSC.
One problem that has emerged since background graphics have been created on computers is "humming." Flickering or humming places in a graphic are always caused by one pixel-wide lines somewhere in the image. In NTSC, a one-pixel-wide line is too thin to display properly because of the way video is interlaced. Interestingly, even one-pixel-wide drop shadows of a highly contrasting color can also hum in NTSC. Humming can occur in underlines, thin graphics, or even gradated blends created in 24-bit color.
A gradient is made up of hundreds of tiny lines - each line a slightly different color to create the effect of a blend. Singularly, these lines are only one pixel in width. You can end up with the simplest background that rings and chatters once it is transferred to NTSC.
The easiest way to fix this type of a problem is to avoid anything less than two-pixel-wide lines in your artwork and backgrounds. If you need to use a gradient created in Photoshop or other paint programs, you can use this simple fix; use Photoshop's Blur filter once, and it will usually fix the problem. The Blur filter "fuzzes" all of the thin lines in a gradient just enough to keep it from humming in NTSC without ruining the effect. If only a portion of the graphic has a problem, use the lasso tool and select the problem area and treat it with one hit of the blur filter. Normally, you'll need to feather the edge of the lasso tool by one or two pixels to create an invisible edge.
The temptation always exists to create a breathtaking background, only to end up typing over the entire page with text. This results in sensory overload - too much information on the screen at one time. The same goes for print. Layouts that could have been more effective have been spoiled by clutter. Many people are turned off by having to read so much material and will pass over it for something a bit more intriguing visually. We've all seen the ads where the majority of space consists of a captivating photograph with minimal text. Those are the exemplary ads because they get your attention. They speak without words. Open space in a frame is important. Don't feel like you've go to get your money's worth by overcrowding.
In the '80s, it was a common occurrence to fly video boxes around the screen. The opening to The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson may have started that trend. Since it's ten times easier to do a multilayered effect like that today, the temptation exists to overdo it. Pushing flat video boxes around the screen is no longer all that visually stimulating. If you have to do it, add depth to the images by using cast shadows, various aspect ratios, or matting irregular edges to the boxes. Have the background doing something interesting without detracting from the foreground objects.
Centering images is also less interesting than placing them slightly offset. Take into consideration the safe action and safe title areas so an important graphical aspect doesn't end up falling off the edge of the tube.
A different story altogether is animated graphics, but speed and pacing affects everything. It's important to not let things go by so fast that the viewers' eyes can't register on what's really happening. In video camera work, that's something analogous to what some call "firehosing." You need to let the animation develop, lingering a bit in the areas that are especially beautiful or complex. This is where a few motion studies in wireframe are worth toying with before the big render. Linear keyframes are not always that effective because they can make the animation look too computerized. Objects tend to snap from one position to another. Cubic keyframes or animation systems that have adjustable acceleration curves can help ease motion effects. As odd as it sounds, the type of music that goes under the animation can either help or hurt it. I've seen some reasonably good animations that have been killed by a bad soundtrack.
It's easy to get stuck in a rut. A client may ask for the same type of effect again and again - so many times that the effect may have already slipped out of style. Video is a trendy business. It's important to stay energized. I highly recommend ordering a copy of the Broadcast Design Awards reel each year a take the time to sit down and watch all the entries. Occasionally, you'll find a totally different look from France or England that may inspire you creatively. Or, go home and pop a tape in your VCR and record a few things you may want to examine later that you particularly liked.
There are times when corporate management may not want to look "cool." They want it plain and simple - marble and brushed aluminum - many times to a point where a piece can become so stodgy that it loses its effectiveness. That's where you need to demonstrate some captivating alternatives.
By Rick Shaw
Contributing editor Rick Shaw is managing director of Z Post, a post house in Atlanta that specializes in nonlinear editing and digital media production for a variety of broadcast and corporate clients. Shaw can be reached at Zpostrick@aol.com.
Ronald M Gerogeson writes that he wants to jam-synchronize the time code of two Hi8 camcorders so he can cut back and forth during editing - as he used to do with SVHS camcorders and SMPTE time code. The question: Can it be done with RC time code?
The tip: There is no way to feed code into most of the machines that use RC time code, so they can't be jam-synced. But there is another way to reach the same goal: Manually set the time codes as close as possible and record the same audio on both VCRs. This will get you at least into the ballpark.
Set your editing system to give as long a pre-roll as possible. Enter the edit point's time code. Try the edit in the preview mode and listen to the audio from both tapes. You will probably hear an echo because the tapes will not be in sync. Trim the edit point on the play tape, and keep previewing until the echo goes away. Then do the edit. This takes a while, but it works.
From: Dick Reizner
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