With the advent of cheap consumer camcorders and cheap (or even free) video editing software, it is now very easy for anyone to put together the sort of home movie that was virtually impossible only a couple of years ago.
The top of the range editing programs are now the same ones that professionals use to produce films such as ‘O Brother where Art Though’ and other similar ones.
But if it all seems too much for you and you want to just put together some simple footage from your holiday, what do you need to do?
There are three steps to creating a video (assuming you have actually gone out and shot the footage using your camcorder)
1) Get the footage onto a PC
2) Sequence the footage together to form a movie
3) Output the movie to a format it can be viewed
The following does not rely on any particular piece of software but hopefully will indicate steps that can be taken on any software
1) Get the footage on your PC.
This is otherwise known as ‘capturing’ the footage. In years gone by this meant attaching your camera to your PC through a Firewire card and playing the footage onto the computer hard drive. However there are now cameras that capture the footage onto solid state cards which can be read by a PC directly, as well as cameras that record directly onto DVD. Regardless of what method you use to capture the footage it will need to end up as a set of files on your PC for editing. Some systems allow you to name your files to make it easier to identify them later, others assign a sequential number to each clip. If at all possible make sure you gather similar clips together , say in a folder, so they can easily be identified “Family at Sea World”, “Jimmy playing on the beach” etc.
2) Sequence the footage together to form a movie.
This is the heart and soul of movie editing. Taking your raw footage and massaging it into a format that people will want to watch. This is done through the creation of a project.
Here are a few tips to help you make better videos
- a) Watch ALL your footage before you start editing. This will give you an idea of what you have and what you don’t have. It’s easy when filming footage to forget that sometimes you need some little shots to help your edit. For example when you went to Sea World and shot footage of Shamu did you remember to get a shot of the main entrance with the “Sea World” logo? I bet you didn’t. Make a note of stuff you missed.
- b) Identify shots that will NOT appear in your video. These are the ones where the camera whips around quickly, where the focus is wrong, where there is nothing but zooms and pans. These will make your audience sick. Also identify the ones where there is lots and lots of repetition: Jimmy running into the waves and back is interesting once or twice, but not 8 or 10 times. identify the best shot from the sequence and use that
- c) Look for ‘reaction shots’ – ie shots that show people looking at things or discussing things or being candid. These are useful for bridging gaps in the action later on
- d) Cut in late and out early. By this I mean only use that part of a shot that shows JUST the bit your interested in and once that interesting piece has finished, cut out. So if you’ve got footage of Jimmy on the beach throwing a frisbee, show him throwing the frisbee. Don’t show him shouting at you to move back towards the left and ‘to go deep’. Don’t show him making a couple of practice throws or stopping to watch the dog play in a tidal pool. Just show the throw. Once he’s thrown the frisbee and it’s out of shot, cut away.
Once you have your footage identified – along with a list of shots you don’t have but do need – get in to your editing tool and bring all your footage in. Working through in a logical sequence start to drop the shots into the timeline. Don’t worry about titles, transitions and effects, just get the story working. Remember, ideally you should have something that tells a complete story from start to finish. For longer shots that are boring (or contain things you don’t want in your movie), use your editors trim’ function to cut bits out from the start or end of the footage. In some editors you may have to drag the same clip into the timeline several times to allow you to take chunks of it.
Now watch your movie. Does it tell a story? Does it flow? Does each shot cut in late and out early? Is there repetition. Remember that although you might find it interesting to watch jimmy throw a frisbee 15 times on a beach, everyone else will probably get bored after a short while.
Now you can go back to your footage and do a couple of things.
- a) Add in the titles Many editors have titling tools as part of their features. Use what you have. If your editing system doesn’t have a titler, make your own titles. Use a word processor, print the pages out, film them and add them in
- b) Add transitions. Sometime a good transition can be very useful. Generally I find there are only 2 types of transitions that make sense A dissolve and a fade. A dissolve is where one picture become another over a period of time and a fade is where one picture disappears (usually to black) and the other then appears out of the black. If you use too many transitions it will distract your audience (Unless your making a groovy pop video!).
- c) Add in reaction shots. If you have those shots that show Aunt Nelly laughing at something, or the whole family watching the fireworks display, add those shots in between a couple of other shots. This breaks up the flow and allows you to make an edit that otherwise would look wrong – say, for example, you have a shot of Shamu in close up and you want to move to a shot of the whole of Shamu’s tank, if you add a reaction shot of people watching the show in between the two shots it will make the edit work! This is also the tie to add in those shots you didn’t take at the time. If you need a shot of the logo of Sea World, look on the internet. Check out Flickr and search for Creative Commons images you can use to insert into your footage.
- d) Sound is an important part of a good video. I’ve had films where I have basically just added music underneath the whole video to cover up some awful camcorder audio. This works. Try it and see
3) Output the movie to a format you can use:
When you are completely happy with what you have (having added in the transitions, titles and sound) you are then ready to create a film from your project. Remember that saving the project in a tool will not actually create a film, just a record of what is in the project. Creating the film (or rendering) involves identifying how you want the project transferred into a format that you can watch.
Different tools deal with this in different ways but all of them will allow you to create a finished film in a specific format. This might be a Quicktime movie, or an AVI or even an MPEG. Regardless of the end product, most tools will ask you to specify things such as bit-rate or file size. Don’t be concerned about this. As video files generally are huge, playing them anywhere will require them to be compressed into something that can be processed by your computer. All movie files created from editing software will be compressed to reduce their size. Just remember a couple of golden rules
1) A high bit rate will result in a bigger file but will need a faster computer to play it without juddering
2) A smaller file will create compression artefacts (ie those square blocks you see when playing back videos)
So usually the creation of a movie is a trade off between large file sizes needing powerful computers and smaller files that have compression artefacts. The correct decision to make on this depends on where you want your final movie to be shown. If it is destined for YouTube then a smaller file size is acceptable. If it is going onto a DVD then you need as big a file as possible to keep the compression down to a minimum because the creation of the DVD will compress the file again and therefore reduce quality further.
The process of video file compression is something of a black art, with people trying to get the maximum quality from the minimum file size. All you need to know is that with most of the tools available today, especially free tools, you will always have a trade off between file size and quality.
If you want to make a DVD of your movie you will need to take the movie created from the editing software (which should be as high quality as possible) and pass it through a DVD creation tool (Something like DVD-Flick) and this will design and create your DVD for you. Obviously you will need a DVD player capable of writing disks as well as reading them.