Augh. Video editing torture…

Earlier this week I gave a talk at an internal IBM conference.

I broke with tradition by using Apple Keynote to produce the slides, rather than Powerpoint. I love Keynote. The application is a joy to use; the rendering is beautiful; the slide transitions are lovely. It does seem to encourage me to think about not using bulleted slides, which can only be a good thing. Oh, and the presenter view is amazing – you can drag and drop different elements and create your own customised display, something that PPT does not offer.

So, presentation done. Roo was kind enough to use his voice recorder to record the session… OK, so it was in WMA format, but iTunes quickly converted that to MP3 for me. Slides, plus audio. Looking good.

On the audio side, I was able to use Audacity to balance the levels where the audience questions were a bit faint, and to cut out a few extraneous umms which trimmed the length of the talk a bit. It is a shame Audacity isn’t slightly more OS X-like, but I guess things like the lack of drag-and-drop support are largely the fault of the wxWidgets toolkit that Audacity is built on.

I really wanted to export the slideshow from Keynote as a Quicktime presentation, preserving the nice transitions. As it happens, that is possible, but you can only set a defined transition time which is the same for each slide. That meant that it would be hard to match the audio to the slide transitions, since obviously the length of time for each one, varied. I tried this anyway, loading both the video and audio into iMovieHD, and then had a go at cutting the movie up and matching it with the audio cues.

There’s a problem here. You apparently can’t stretch the duration of each video segment. So, I then thought about making still frames to go in between each slide transition. Another problem – the quality of the still frames created by iMovie was awful. OK… so then I tried exporting from Keynote as static images, and importing those into iMovie. Same problem – even after I’d got past the Ken Burns effect thing which was zooming each image as I added it as a movie frame, the still images themselves were an order of magnitude uglier than the main video.

At this point I was getting seriously frustrated with Apple’s flagship, easy-to-use, included-with-the-OS, just-buy-a-Mac-video-editing-is-a-breeze, iLife suite.

It turns out that iMovieHD uses some poor quality encoder to import and export still images. I don’t know whether this is to encourage users onto the £199 Final Cut Express, but it sucks. I tried exporting a slideshow from iPhoto, but that has limitations on the duration of each frame, too. Oh, and the transitions available in iMovie are not the same as those in iPhoto, which in turn are not the same as those in Keynote. Argh.

Next I downloaded Still Life, and had a play. This is a relatively cheap ($25/£15) application which is intended to build simple slideshows with more advanced panning, whilst retaining decent quality in the stills.

In the end, I exported my slides as images from Keynote, imported them into Still Life, set a duration for each slide of 5 sec, and then exported from Still Life as an iMovie project. Result: I had an iMovie project which had a series of 5 second frames. I imported my MP3 commentary track, and then repeatedly copied the frames so that each slide lasted for the relevant length of time whilst I was speaking on the audio track. Tedious, and I lost the pretty transitions, but it has worked.

My final challenge has been exporting the movie. iMovie provides some defaults, like full quality (estimated to produce a 9Gb file in my case – a lot for a 45 min slideshow with a bit of audio), DVD or Web. The Web version is pretty small and crunches my slides into a 320×240 frame, but it does come in at an acceptable size of 40Mb. The larger size I exported, at 640×480 frame size, ended up at 600Mb. Cote recommended VisualHub, which I’m also going to take a look at. I mean, it’s not even as if this is complex video – it’s a series of still frames with some audio underneath. I would have liked a bit more complexity, in all honesty, but it seems that was too hard to achieve with built-in tools.

I guess there was an alternative to all of this… I could have cut up my audio file into sections for each slide, attached them in Keynote, and exported in a format of my choice (Flash or QT, I suppose). It assumes that Keynote is smart enough to show each slide for the duration of the attached audio file. Maybe I’ll try that next time. Or maybe some Mac, presentation, and video editing guru will just slap me down and tell me what I did wrong. This whole thing felt a lot harder than I expected it to be.

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7 thoughts on “Augh. Video editing torture…”

  1. Yup, sadly, iLife is not really geared towards this kind of video editing: non-TV format. Really, I haven’t found much on OS X that looks like it is good for non-TV video editing. I hear the full version of Final Cut “works,” but that’s over-the-edge bloat-ware AND, like, $900-1200!

    VisualHub should help though. I would recommend exporting from iMovie in the quickest format, and then processing it in VisualHub instead of screwing around with iMovie stuff. Also, of note, VisualHub can crop the video so you can get it out of any weird HD or TV formats with a little video resolution math.

    Good luck, and I’m happy to help. Video editing sucks!

  2. visual hub is VERY good.. and support the mac grid processing.. so if your a uber geek like myself (cough) you can encode and re-render video over many macs.. this is also *most* cool 😉

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