Tag Archives: editing

On writing

For a variety of reasons which are far too boring to explain, I’m currently writing blog posts on paper. I wouldn’t mention that unless the point was central to the topic of this post, as it is essentially transparent to the reader – the fact that you can actually read this means that I’ve electronically transcribed it by now.

Anyway… here’s what I’m thinking as the process continues:

onwriting-sm.jpg

  • writing, eh. Pen and paper. Takes me back a bit. I mean, I make notes and stuff, but it’s ages since I’ve written long passages on paper.
  • my handwriting got really bad in the last 10 years
  • I can type much faster. This will take me 3 times as long, as I guess I’m about 1.5 to 2x faster at typing, and typing up what I’ve written whilst trying to decipher what I wrote will take 1 to 1.5x longer than typing it direct in the first place.
  • this biro is rubbish
  • how did people cope? My ideas and sentences all arrive out-of-order. I like to be able to rearrange bullet points and paragraphs. Where would I be today without being able to insert and correct words, sentences and paragraphs? Cut-and-paste is marvellous. Ah, this must be what it would be like to use a pre-3.0 iPhone as my regular computer…
  • hyperlinks. A conceptually simple and incredibly powerful concept. I guess that’s why they stuck.
  • I used to do my university essays by making notes by hand; creating an electronic mindmap to organise ideas and sections; and then type the essay. Overkill for blogging, and I remember how hard it was to churn out 3 12 page essays by hand in each of the exams without the weekly writing practice.
  • OK. End of page and rubbish biro. That’s all for this “post”, then.
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Useful tools for homebrew media – my OS X workflow

As I’m sure regular readers are aware, I’m producing a wider range of media than ever before, now that I’m a regular podcaster and creating a range of video content as well. I thought it would be useful to talk a little about the range of tools that I’m using – far from professional level Final Cut or anything!

Hardware

The hardware is pretty varied. The core of the whole “system” is the MacBook Pro, which I use for pretty much all of my editing. That also has the iSight camera, which is adequate for videos which need to include my face, although I’d like something higher quality (any recommendations?). I’ve mentioned iGlasses before, which is useful for adjusting the iSight input. From an audio perspective I use a USB headset and also a Blue Snowflake USB microphone, which is absolutely great – compact, convenient, and it captures excellent quality sound.

If I need to capture video away from the computer, my current camcorder of choice is the Kodak Zi6 which can take HD 720p footage, albeit at a quality limited by the rest of the hardware (lens, sensor etc). I’ve yet to do a proper review of this, but as far as I’m concerned it’s a step up from either the Flip Mino or the older disgo Video Plus which I’d tried. I also sometimes grab snippets of video on my compact Canon camera.

Screencasting

For screencasts I use ScreenFlow. This is just a wonderful piece of software which is capable of recording both the screen, and from the iSight simultaneously. This allows the video to be overlaid into the screencast if required, so you can personally narrate what is going on. Even better than that, ScreenFlow lets you zoom in on windows and desktop features, and is really a general purpose compositing application… if you look at this video I made when I talked to a friend recently, you’ll see there are no desktop elements at all, just the video stream from the camera, a picture of him, and the audio, with some nice image tilt and reflection effects applied. ScreenFlow has also recently added text annotation features, which are really useful.

I’ve yet to use it for any practical purpose, but I also just downloaded OmniDazzle, which is now free. OmniDazzle lets you highlight areas of the screen with visual effects using a single keystroke – I can see this being useful in combination with ScreenFlow in the future.

Video editing

A few weeks ago I blogged about iMovie 09. I know a lot of people really dislike both iMovie 08 and 09, but I’m totally comfortable with both versions now, and I have to say that 09 is just beautiful. I’ve had no issues with it – it’s great for rapidly mixing and editing video, still images and audio. Watch my introductory series on YouTube or the whole thing as one movie on Viddler. I wrote a bit more about my use of iMovie back in December, too.

Here’s a tip: have you ever wanted to create some animated titles of your own? I have one word for you – Keynote! When I created the Home Camp TV title sequence it was a simple matter of creating a slide with some animated elements in Keynote, and exporting it as a Quicktime movie (which I did without sound, allowing me to overlay a choice of audio on the title sequence in iMovie). It’s great for quickly creating JPEG stills with text for titles, too.

In terms of finding audio to accompany videos… I’ve used both the pre-canned loops that come with iMovie, and also used some audio from Podsafe Audio. I do find that site a bit cumbersome to search though, so I’d be interested to know of any other useful, royalty-free resources.

Audio editing

I’ve not done a great deal on the audio-only side of things, but my essential tools here are Audacity for editing and cleanup; and Levelator for post-processing. That’s a really important point, by the way: only levelate your audio once everything is mixed together, the whole point is that it’s going to analyze everything and modulate the volume equally… if you have a bunch of snippets of audio and levelate them separately, then edit them together, you may well still end up with volume variations.

Another quick tip at this stage: to avoid issues with VBR MP3s showing up as weird (and incorrect) lengths in some tools, I bring the audio file into iTunes and do the MP3 export in there.

Imaging

For “proper” RAW photo editing and management, regular readers will know that I’m a huge fan of Lightroom. I use Pixelmator for finer adjustments on exported images.

Beyond that, I find that iPhoto is useful for quickly grabbing snapshots from the digital compact camera for compositing into iMovie clips. Skitch and LittleSnapper are both very useful tools as well as they enable me to rapidly take, resize and annotate screenshots or clips of web pages. For diagrams and so forth, there’s nothing that can beat OmniGraffle.

Extras

Finally, a couple of other useful bits and pieces. Transcoding to different formats is through either VisualHub (now defunct) or ffmpegX. QuickTime Pro is an essential (and highly cost-effective) upgrade too, since it lets you make very quick edits to QuickTime movie files and control the output format more finely.

There. Now, I imagine this may attract a range of “have you heard of…?” “why aren’t you using…?” and other responses, but that’s how I’ve currently settled things. Hopefully some of the tips and thoughts here will be useful to other amateur content creators, too! 🙂

Video production – my way (and a bit about YouTube)

One of the stories I caught last week was the fact that YouTube is moving to providing a widescreen, HD player.

It’s an interesting move and the speculation is that this will enable YouTube to start to host more movie content. Aside from that, it has also affected the way I’m capturing, editing and uploading video on my own machine. If you have non-widescreen videos on YouTube now, the main player will show the video with black bars on either side. Here’s one I made earlier.

YouTube widescreen
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

First of all, it’s probably worth noting that for the simple video projects I’ve been playing around with – I’m far from a prolific or professional video blogger – I’ve been going for the basic options. On the hardware side I’ve used the iSight (with iGlasses), video capture on my digital compact, or a cheap handheld camcorder – so I’m not capturing HD quality content by any means. On the software front, iMovie 08 is fine for my purposes. There have been one or two limitations: not the best range of effects and titling, not a lot of audio editing support, and it’s hard to add title cards. However, I’ve found one or two handy hacks / workarounds in the past few weeks, and learning tips, and so far it has been fine for my purposes.

So how am I adapting to the new world of widescreen, higher-quality videos on YouTube?

When I start a project in iMovie now, I tend to go for the 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. Unfortunately, most of my video sources are not widescreen themselves (unless I’ve captured from the screen, for example), so when I import the footage it gets cropped, although this can be changed if not suitable – bearing in mind that if you don’t let it be cropped, you’re likely to end up with the bars.

When I want to upload a project, I tend to export in Medium or High quality from the Share menu, and don’t typically upload straight from iMovie to YouTube. This means that when I do upload it, YouTube gets the full quality version and will create a reduced quality one for standard viewing… the user can select the new “watch in high quality” option to get a better picture, although it still will not be HD.

If you’re interested in the results, I have two main online sites for video – a YouTube channel, and a Viddler channel. I don’t claim to be an expert, but you might find this sort of thing interesting.