Archive for the ‘Technique’ category

First Wedding Video

November 6, 2011

Several weeks ago I videotaped a wedding. My friend Lezlie referred the couple to me, and I accepted. I’ve always said no to that sort of thing because I’ve heard horror stories about bridezillas, but even moreso because it matters: I don’t want to be the guy that people point at and say, “That’s him…that’s the man that fucked up the record of the most important day of my life.”

There is a man named Mark with whom I have kept a casual friendship for a few years. My brother knows him: they both work for Entercom Radio/Media. We’ve met once in person, and stayed in touch through Facebook, and I knew through that venue that he’d recently purchased a set of studio lights. I sent him a message, asking if that was true. He wrote back, “Yes, why?”

I don’t know why I did it, but it was an inspired choice to contact him. My initial thought was to just ask if I could rent his lights. The question was typed and sent before my brain registered the action: “Want to help me shoot a wedding?”

I didn’t even know he had a video camera – as it turns out he has two. Between the two of us, we ended up with four cameras to shoot the wedding: bride-cam (static), groom-cam (static), Mark-cam (mobile), Me-cam (mobile). The plan ended up being to let the two front cameras capture the entire service from different angles at a fixed point of view; that would be the foundation. Then, Mark and I with our two cameras moved from place to place, capturing whatever looked interesting: reaction shots from the congregation; the ring bearer (cute but precocious kid) handing the ring to the best man; the scripture readings; things like that.

A year ago, I might have called a couple of old friends to help me with this, and I would have been nervous the entire time, wondering if they were capturing what I needed. They’re really good behind a camera, if they have very strong direction, but if you just point them in a direction and push to get them started, they will eventually wander. Their idea of “good enough” is nowhere near mine.

I finally saw his footage after finally getting a card reader and downloading it, and my impression from watching him at the service was correct: he paid attention – very close attention – and captured everything I needed him to. It was like dancing: we each just moved with the “music” of the service and reception in a loose step, me leading, him following from across the room. He even caught some moments I didn’t expect, but were absolutely beautiful choices: a close-up of the organist’s hands for instance.

Adobe Premiere Multi-Camera Monitor

The groom said to us at the reception: “Man, you guys were everywhere and nowhere.” That was the best compliment he could have given us. The priest even thanked us for our discretion at staying unobtrusive.

I learned through this process that Adobe Premiere has a multi-camera feature, where it will place four separate tracks of video into an interface where you can watch them simultaneously and pick and choose your shots on the fly. It saved me hours of time I’m sure.

I’ve nearly done editing. The finished product looks amazing.


Thoughts on the Linux box.

April 10, 2009

Through the whole Church video project, the Linux box has been a real trooper, allowing me to do day-job work – or even blog entries like this one – while the primary box was rendering. I can’t work as fast or efficiently, but some of that can be attributed to unfamiliar software and workflow.

Not ALL, mind you: some of it is that the box is eight years old and software for Linux is sorely trailing behind what’s available for Windows. I’ve only found one code editor that allows remote open/save, Komodo, but it functions no better than Notepad in a lot of ways: no tag completion, no syntax hilighting (at least for classic ASP/VBscript), no Intellisense. Thankfully, I have most of VBScript, CSS and javascript syntaxes memorized, but I’m still typing a lot of stuff longhand and that slows a chap down.

Can’t do video on this box; it’s just too old and can’t handle the throughput. There are precious few software NLE offerings anyway.  (Kino? Please. It’s shit.) I got to thinking, though, that it would probably work just fine for audio recording, and there are good options for that for Linux. My first love is still the Windows box, but when it’s busy and I have a hankerin’ to lay down some tracks, why not plug in to ol’ Tux and go?

I need some additional cabling and I think I can make a go of it. It’s worth a try.

OK, this is getting stupid.

April 9, 2009

I won’t lie to you: I’m a DIY videographer. Having shot my last reel back when Super-8 Kodachrome 40 was still available from Fotomat and Ektochrome 160 was all the rage, I’m playing catch-up. I admit it. But this is nuts.

Let’s begin with a quote: “I don’t want it good. I want it Tuesday.” Jack Warner.

The Church Video Project

I realize this is all growing pains. As I learn new tools and techniques and figure out what each piece of software does this will get much easier, but damn, folks. Who do I have to fuck to get this 16:9 DV project to render to elemental streams (m2v and mp2/wav) I can actually work with?

The first render blew up after six hours. Actually, the Adobe Premiere process just quit. Vanished. I’d have never known if I wasn’t looking at the screen at the time.

The second render, in five 1/2-hour pieces from Adobe Premiere, wouldn’t work because the DVD authoring software wouldn’t stitch the pieces together, and there was a slight delay while switching from one to the next.

Okay, so I’ve got a half-dozen different video conversion programs on my PC. I rendered to AVI – Premiere will do that to any length apparently – and started going through the options.

AVIDemux. No good. If they made a software called AVIMux without the “de” I’d have had better luck. For future reference: muxing is the process of breaking a video/audio stream into two “elemental” streams. Demuxing is the process of combining two into one. Plus, the damn software is written by the open source community, so the documentation is – to be charitable – shit.

Oh yeah: muxing is just a geeky way of saying multiplexing, and is presumably easier to say around a mouthful of Doritos and Diet Pepsi.

Handbrake. Nope. That rips DVDs to AVI.

MPEG Video Wizard. Nope. Same as Handbrake, just a whole lot less friendly.

Super ©. Shittiest software ever.

VSO. Only slightly behind Super ©.

It would seem I’m the only person on the planet who uses DVDLab Pro for DVD authoring since there’s precious little to Google when you start having difficulties.

Finally, deep in a video help website, someone mentions TMPGEnc (which supposedly is short for Tsunami MPG Encoder) in the same paragraph with the words “elemental streams.” Feeling a little out of breath with anticipation I break out Utorrent and pull the sucker down.

Sure enough, it worked.

It’s taken two more attempts – at twelve hours apiece – to render the project properly. TMPGEnc doesn’t read the aspect ratio from the source file and defaults to 4:3 output. My first render using the software was usable but the wrong aspect ratio. I think I’ve got it now. I’ll know in seven hours.

(And just so you don’t think I’m a total moron, I did all my testing using a fifteen second snippet, not the whole two and three-quarter hour seminar.)

Lessons learned…shooting stage shows, Pt 2

October 5, 2008

Recording audio using a DAT recorder is probably one of the best things I’ve ever done. Granted, I’ve got a pretty good microphone on my “A” camera, and I’ve used it mounted on a boom to very good effect, but it still picks up room noise and, like any microphone, if you’re not right on top of the actor the sound gets a little hollow. Getting right up on top of an actor just isn’t possible in a stage show, and in any event, the shotgun mic isn’t that good.

The director told me in advance that the actors would be wearing body mics, and the board had enough “room” on it to plug me straight in. I just had to provide the recorder and the cables.

Okay, I have to admit, I don’t actually have a DAT recorder. I’m too cheap for that, and besides, it’s not necessary anymore! Got a laptop? Got sound recording software? You’re good to go!


Lessons learned…shooting stage shows, Pt 1

October 2, 2008

Shooting for the high school, for church, for community theatre…it’s a pretty thankless job, even when (or especially when) you’re being paid. Directors are thinking of their stage show, not your video (imagine that) and put recording their production at the very bottom of the priority list.

The solution you see most often is the director will have someone – a relative, perhaps a brother-in-law – who owns a video camera sit in the middle of the theatre with the camera on a tripod, situated in such a way that the camera can take in the whole stage. If the director is lucky, the brother-in-law will zoom in on the action from time to time, pan the camera back and forth.

There are a few drawbacks to this method.

Zooming sucks. It screams “home movie”. In the hands of an enthusiast, it can be nauseating.

Panning sucks. Usually because the brother-in-law bought his tripod from Wal*Mart or Target and only paid $25 for it. Fluid head? What’s that?

Lighting sucks. Theatrical lighting lights the stage and the actors, and that’s typically too “hot” for the video camera to handle.

Sound sucks. With a camera sitting in the middle of the house several rows back from the front, the sound from the actors’ mics (assuming they’re wearing mics) echos all over. The ambient sound is dreadful!

So, what’s a guy to do?

I knew going into the shoot that there would be two run-throughs. I had it all worked out, and this was the plan: two cameras: one handheld and one mounted; a DAT recorder wired straight into the soundboard on one of the AUX SENDs. This setup would buy me a few advantages. I would have at least two angles of every scene. I could use the handheld camera for close-ups and drama shots, while my “B” camera would give me a steady establishing shot for each scene. Recording audio off the board meant no ambient noise.

The sound worked great. The rest…not so much.

Getting video off your hardware and onto your … um … hardware.

August 13, 2008

I have a small Sony Handycam that records to mini-DVD discs. It takes reasonably good video, and makes a nice “B” camera.

There is not, however, any good way to get the footage off of it once recorded. You can use a hardware solution like this one, or a software solution like this one, and each has its disadvantages. I finally landed on the software, and here’s why:


How not to use a soundtrack…

May 13, 2008

As an independent film maker, I am also a student of film and the techniques used to create it.  Subscription based video rental is one of the most useful tools I’ve ever seen for this, like Blockbuster Online or NetFlix.

I use NetFlix for one simple reason: instant online movie watching. Granted, it’s not their entire catalog, and many of the selections are old, but there’s still plenty there to keep my second monitor at work buzzing with distractions.

Today, I watched 9 1/2 Weeks. Not a bad little erotic/romantic romp. If Mickey Rourke being an asshole is your thing, you’ll be in heaven, although I was a little disappointed to find out that all of Kim Basinger’s nude scenes were performed by a body double.

If I had one real complaint about the movie, though, it’s the soundtrack, and if you’re a budding sound designer I’d strongly suggest you watch it to find out how NOT to create one.