Cleaning A Voice Track With Audacity

One of the best ways to improve your home videos whether they are of family events, outings, or even videos you are making for online consumption is in the area of audio.

There is an old saying that the most important part of video is audio and in this case you can make your videos more watchable by making them more… listenable! (OK! I know that’s not really a word!)

Quite often when you are looking at other peoples videos you may have noticed that although the video itself seemed quite OK, there was something that seemed to be annoying about it or some way that it was failing to hold your attention.

More often than not it is actually the audio quality that is having that effect.

On this page I have laid out a simple procedure anyone can follow to quickly and efficiently clean up a narration or voiceover track.

The techniques apply to any voice recording you have done regardless of the source but before that always remember when you are recording a voice to set your device at the highest possible quality.

Some devices don’t offer this but many do, so take the time to go into the settings of whatever you are using to make sure you are getting the best audio quality you can.

Once you have your recording we are going to use a free audio editing software program to polish the sound file you have, so we need to get that file isolated and into a format suitable for editing.

If you have recorded a voice track on your computer this is simple because you will already have a single audio file and most likely it will be in the .wav format that we need.

If you have used some other kind of system and do not have a .wav file then you can get a free audio converter here that will do the job, or just Google for one.

The point is that we need to get the file into the .wav format to get the best results.

Because we are going to edit the file and are also going to be adding that file back to a video project it is very important to stick to the .wav format.

If you are dealing with a voice track from one of your existing videos simply load the video into your video editing software then go to the output – sharing – distribute part of the program and choose to output the file as a .wav audio file.

One you have the sound file you will need another free software program called Audacity which you can download for free here: Download Audacity.

Just choose the version suitable for your system and install.

Now that we have Audacity installed, open the program and load your audio file by selecting “File” then “Open” and navigating to where you put the audio file.

Audacity Step 1
Audacity Step 2

Audacity will give you the option of either directly editing the original file (faster) or making a copy of the file and editing the copy (safer).

My choice in this is to manually make a copy before I even start and place it in a separate folder.

That way I always have the original to go back to if I mess up and I am not getting Audacity to do anything extra that could lead to problems.

Audacity Step 3

One more point to note before we get into the procedure is that Audacity is an incredible sound editing platform.

Although this simple guide will get your voice tracks up to speed it in no way taps into the vast capabilities of the program.

It would be worth anyones time to delve further into learning how to effectively use Audacity for all parts of your video soundtracks.

Cleaning Up Your Voice Track

Once you have chosen the method of editing, the file will load into the program and be displayed as a waveform representing the sounds within the file.

Audacity Step 4

Noise Removal

Before we start we need to find a small section of the voice track that has no vocals recorded on it.

We will use this section of the track to give Audacity a sample of the noise we want to remove.

In the example track I have used the mouse to select a portion of the file but very often there will be a silent “lead in” at the front of the audio file you could also use.

Audacity Step 5

Now select Effect then Noise Reduction and a dialogue box will open.

In older versions of Audacity this was named Noise Removal as shown in the image below but it is basically the same function.

Audacity Step 6

Click on Get Noise Profile and Audacity will capture and analyze the small sample you selected in the previous step.

Audacity Step 7

The dialogue box will disappear and you will be back at the waveform view of your file.

Click anywhere on the waveform then either hit ctrl + A or use Edit / Select All to make sure the entire file is selected.

Now go back and select Effect, Noise Reduction again and the same dialogue box will open only this time, check the bottom of the box to see that (1.) Remove Noise is checked then hit OK.

Audacity Step 8

Although there are lots of ways to adjust and fine tune this module remember, we are going for a quick and dirty fix here!

It will immediately run and you will notice that the areas where there were no vocals before have now become much thinner indicating the reduction in noise.

Audacity Step 9

Equalization

Now that an acceptable level of noise has been removed you will most likely find that the overall sound of the file has changed slightly.

It probably has a “thinner” or more shallow sound to it.

This is because the noise removal also removes some other aspects of the file so we need to compensate for that with equalization.

First of all make sure the entire audio clip is selected by using ctrl + A or by using the Select All function under the Edit tab.

Go to Effect then select Equalization.

Audacity Step 10

A new dialogue box will open shown below.

Make sure that Draw Curves is selected and then from the drop down box select EMI 78 as the profile you want to apply.

Bear in mind that some current copies of Audacity for some reason don’t have this equalization preset.

Perfectly acceptable alternatives that I have used are: Acoustic, Decca FFRR 78 and a few of the others.

You can use the preview button to listen to the change it will make so have a play with a few of them until you find one you like.

You can of course manually adjust the Eq by yourself but that kind of defeats the purpose of a “quick and dirt” fix!

Finally select OK once you have the setting you want and Audacity will apply the changes.

Audacity Step 11

What you may now notice is that the small areas where you previously removed noise have now kind of fattened up a little because of the Eq changes.

Audacity Step 12

Take a listen to the final product and if it is ok then… OK!

If the Eq has raised the noise level to a noticeable degree then re-do the noise removal step once more for final clean and you should be done.

Posted in Audio Tips

The Friday Roundup – Super 8, Pixels and Re-linking Media Assets

The Return of “Dad Movies!”

I don’t often cover cameras on this site because to be honest it is a full time job just trying to keep up with the latest releases let alone any of the technology in the area.

However this week an interesting one came onto my radar which I thought was worth mentioning.

This is a case of everything old is new again with Kodak releasing of all things a brand new Super 8 camera.

Now for all you kids out there, Super 8 refers to 8mm FILM… that’s right FILM!

Super 8 was format developed way back in the dark ages before digital and was a way that amateurs could record movies right there at home… aw shucks!

The cams used to accept a cartridge that had the film loaded so you just popped in a new cartridge and fired away.

Once the cartridge was all used up you then sent it into a photo developing shop (I don’t have time… just Google it) and your film was processed and returned to you.

Now given the convenience and quality of digital video these days you would wonder why Kodak have done this.

Well the bottom line is that just about everybody at a pro level who is shooting video these days is actually trying to achieve the look and feel of real film… go figure.

So Kodak thought why not make that available to everyone, even if it is at only the 8mm mark.

We shall see how it all goes!

What It Takes to be Successful on YouTube in 2017

One of my “go to” guys when it comes to getting videos onto YouTube and the general subject of being successful on YouTube is Tim Schmoyer.

His channel Video Creators is one of the more successful channels on YouTube and he provides incredible value to his viewers on the subject.

If you are looking at YouTube with a view to perhaps getting your own presence there or are struggling to gain traction with an already established channels then I would highly recommend spending some time on Tim’s channel to further your knowledge.

YouTube is a busy and competitive space where it is becoming increasingly harder to get any sort of exposure.

Bear in mind it is not an impossible task but there are some very basic things you have to get right before you are going to get anywhere.

This week Tim put up a video (below) covering what he and some pretty successful YouTubers think you will need to have covered moving into 2017 and it is well worth taking a look at.

Relinking Missing Media and Projects

Given the stresses and strains put on your computer when you are editing videos it is hardly surprising that every now and then you suffer from a crash of some kind.

It may be something as innocuous as a freeze where what you really have is a crash but it just doesn’t look like one, or you may suffer a blue screen of death catastrophe.

Either way it is always a bit of a lottery as to what you will have left when you get everything restarted.

There two things to keep in mind under these circumstances that should help you remain calm or at least calm down a little faster.

The first is that regardless of what editing software you are using none of what you think you have edited has actually been edited!

Think of your software like a public servant.

It is efficiently and accurately noting down all your information and all of what you want to have happen.

And just like a public servant it does absolutely nothing about it!

All it is doing is creating what is called a project file that contains all your hopes, dreams and desire for your project.

It is not until you specifically tell it to render your project that anything concrete is actually happening and even then none of your original files are ever touched in any way.

So in the event of a crash most times all you have to do is reload the projects file and you are back in business.

The other tool you may need is one that keeps a record of the files you have in your library.

Again, remember that your software does not physically move your files into the library.

The library is just an arrangement of links to media assets that can be anywhere on your computer that will store files of any kind.

In the event of a crash sometimes those links can get broken however most program keep tiny records of those links and can restore them automatically.

The video below goes into relinking in Pinnacle Studio but most good quality software will have something like it.

Do I Really Look Like That?

There are many opportunities these days to make videos that include possibly the one character that you don’t want to include… and that character is you!

Most people are strangely averse to having themselves on screen at the best of times and when they later look back over the footage it feels like everything they thought was going to be bad about it is bad!

Well it turns out there is a scientific reason for this and in fact it is quite an evolutionary factor that is coming into play here.

Apparently it all comes down to a thing called “confirmation bias” which is a psycho-babble way of saying what is going on.

In plain English it goes a little like this.

As we survey our environment on a constant basis we are making decisions and drawing conclusions based on what we see, what we have seen that is similar in the past and finally (this is the big one), how to be right.

From an evolutionary perspective the question of right and wrong translate into live or die.

You could put it this way: Right = find food, Wrong = become food!

The overriding point here is that whatever the decision or conclusion, it has to happen fast.

So in this modern era we have come to a point where survival is less a matter of dodging the local wildlife yet this same mechanism still remains in place.

To that end confirmation bias means that we are constantly seeking confirmation of an existing position rather than analytically going through the facts in front of us.

Hence the age old tradition of never discussing politics or religion.

So based on that here is the key quote from the original article I read:

“If you think that you’re awkward on camera, you’ll be looking for evidence of that when you review the footage.”

You look awful because that’s how you think you are going to look so your brain only accepts information that confirms you original position.

The good news is that there are strategies you can use to overcome this situation and get yourself performing better (according to you) on camera.

However it is important to note that strategy number 4 is probably the one you really need to take on board:

“Realize that people don’t care.”

Yup, while you are sweating over every little detail of your seemingly poor onscreen performance, no-one else really cares about that and if you described what you were seeing to them they would probably think you were insane!

The 180 Degree Rule

There are a number of basic rules when shooting and editing videos which, if followed will always make them look better.

However when you are just starting out it is hard to perhaps see how they do that or understand how to actually implement those rules.

If you look at your videos and then look at videos that have been professionally shot and edited I think to most of us it is obvious that the pro’s do it better.

What is not so obvious is exactly what it is they are doing that makes it better.

Of course the guys in the marketing department of the software makers or camera manufacturers will always tell you it is because you need the latest gadget or camera model or software upgrade.

But I think we should all know by now that’s just not true.

In fact that difference generally comes down to a few simple rules which if followed can take your projects up to a higher level.

Now of course just following a rule or two is not going to give you a Hollywood blockbuster right out of the gate and to be honest that’s not what we are looking for here!

However just learning a few of those rule well and applying them with practice will most definitely raise the level of your videos.

Here’s one to get you started, the 180 degree rule.

Learn to use it and then learn to break it!

Say You Want a Resolution Yeah, Yeah..

One of the ongoing problems a lot of newcomers to video editing have is trying to sort out all the different parameters of video files.

With a history that stretches back to film the difficulty with an evolving subject like this is the way we move forward from one format to the next whilst still trying to maintain compatibility with previous things.

Over time this has led to things like frame rates and resolution having all manner of settings available depending on how the footage was obtained and what the ultimate viewing platform with be.

Film parameters rolled in the original video parameters which then added T.V parameters then on to CRT monitors for computers until finally we are at the point of mostly using viewing screens that have no need for any of it really!

So when it comes time to outputting that final video masterpiece you have been working on, you can be presented with a bewildering array of choices many of which seems to make no sense at all.

These days at least when it comes to resolution things have simplified a little where the designation of the resolution is telling you the number of pixels wide and the number of pixels high.

But even then it can still be a tad confusing when putting it all into practice.

Check the article below for a straightforward explanation of pixels as they apply to video resolutions.

Posted in Blog Tagged with:

Video Production Courses

There is certainly no shortage of “how to” videos and website pages devoted to the subjects of shooting video, editing or overall video production.

Unfortunately like most things on the internet, all of those resources sit there in a completely disorganized mass of information which doesn’t really help you learn much at all.

Sure you can learn some shooting tricks or get some editing tips but tips and tricks don’t really get you very far in the long run.

The real way to learn how to edit your videos or to shooting better video is through a systematic study of the subject and the only way to do that is by following a well organised course.

Over the years I have been trying to locate courses that would suit the beginner through to experienced user but have largely lucked out on the search.

There is no shortage of very advanced stuff but for relative newbies or those wanting to make sure their basics are right, there has been very little.

On this page I intend hopefully build up a set of courses that I can recommend to anyone setting out on their video journey that will offer a solid foundation for learning shooting, editing and video production as a subject.

So to kick this off here are some of the better ones I have found…. so far.

First up an overall course covering every aspect of video production from soup to nuts!

The Complete Video Production Bootcamp

This is a video production course hosted online that teaches how to vastly improve your videos no matter whether you use a smartphone, webcam, DSLR, mirrorless, or professional camera.

Whether you’re a YouTuber, blogger, vlogger, business owner, aspiring filmmaker, or just someone who wants to create videos, you will learn how to make professional looking videos.

The course covers everything from coming up with great video ideas, executing them in production and post-production, and distributing them to a wider audience online.

Made up of over 55 video lessons the emphasis is on creating professional looking videos regardless of the equipment you have, your current level of expertise (or lack thereof!) or the reason you are working with video in the first place.

A great allround course offering a solid grounding in the world of video.

The Complete Video Production Bootcamp

PowerDirector 15 – Video Editing for PC Users

72 lectures covering just about every aspect of the features in PowerDirector and how to use them in everyday situations.

This is a vital course for anyone using PowerDirector in order to unlock the full potential of this very feature rich editing suite.

PowerDirector 15 – Video Editing for PC Users

Posted in Video Courses Tagged with:

The Friday Roundup – A Few Tips Before The End of 2016

I think we can all relate to this.

Express Projects Tutorial – CyberLink PowerDirector

Most video editing software featured on this site is aimed at the consumer level or home video editor although these days many of them are beginning to punch their way up into the pro leagues.

Because of that they all have some kind of auto editing function and in fact most of them have two to be more precise.

Generally there is a simple one that just guides you through a “wizard” type process step by step to a completed project.

For many people these are more than enough to a get something done quickly and looking reasonably good.

There is generally a second type of semi-auto feature as well and these use templates to achieve slightly more advanced videos.

You just load the template, fill in the spaces with your assets and the software does the rest… theoretically!

The trouble with these ones is that unless you really know the system it is working on it all looks to be a bit mystifying which kind of defeats the purpose!

One reason it may be worth your while to check out these template driven workflows is if you are creating projects that have basically the same structure over and over.

Instead of starting from scratch each time you can just load the appropriate templates, fill in the spaces with your new footage and let it render.

So, in light of that here is a video covering the template system in PowerDirector.

Video Quality

There was a time back in the day when getting video up online in any form was such a minor miracle in itself that the question of quality never arose!

Capturing footage of a mini-DV cam onto your computer was hit and miss to say the least and then managing to get it edited, rendered and uploaded was cause for great celebration.

Given that everyone else was having the same problems even of your video was a bit dodgy it didn’t stand out much because everyone’s was!

These days things are not just a little different, they are a LOT different.

Video quality is now an important factor in determining whether or not someone will watch or more importantly, continue to watch your videos online.

Now the article below casts some light on the subject but the important thing to remember is that even though in that article they are talking commercially the same thing applies to any video you present to anyone.

Here are a few quick facts from the post:

  • A whopping 84 mobile and tablet viewers abandon watching bad video where 13 of the average viewing time.

Fake News

The subject of fake news has been a pretty hot topic of late and because of the virtual anarchy of the internet it has been having a more and more profound effect on current events.

Even sites such as Snopes are now being “discredited” by the fake news stories they have been exposing for years.

The result of this is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to ascertain if a story is true or not.

Take a look at these clips in the article linked below for a closer look on how video has an is playing a role in this phenomena.

Laws of Light: Cylinder

This is the third in the series on basic lighting concepts presented by The Slanted Lens.

Previously he covered the way light behaves and how to manipulate it for cubes and spheres and this week we take a look at the cylinder.

Although it is all pretty advanced this really is the basic information on how you “write with light” and after all, that is the definition of photography!

As has been the case with all of this series the video is great to watch to get a good grasp of the concepts but there is a more detailed explanation on the website itself.

You can see the full article here: The Laws of Light Cylinder

DSLR and Mirrorless Tutorials

Theoretically my job here is to scan about the internet and find interesting and informative articles that my readers would enjoy.

Then, I am supposed to write a short blurb about it either commenting, extolling its virtues or criticizing it and finally post a link.

It’s actually called curation but the problem with curation is that it is kind of hard work and I really hate hard work!

So the pot of gold for me is when someone else has done the hard work and I can just add a link to it… like this one!

It is a great list of links to tutorials specifically designed for the new breed of mirrorless cameras as well as for DSLRs.

There are some excellent resources that have been researched and pulled together in one place.

I would have done it myself but I think I already converted why that wasn’t going to happen!

2016 to 2017

So as we wind down 2016 and look forward to the coming year maybe it is time to take a look at where we may be going for 2017.

Drones and drone footage have been all the rage this year and I don’t see that calming down for a while yet.

When you look at the quality of the footage you can now get from a drone mounted cam I think it is pretty obvious as to why.

Probably the big developing story for 2016 and one that will certainly continue into 2017 and beyond is virtual reality.

At the beginning of the year VR and its attendant 360 degree editing were being raised as viable subjects and by the middle of the year they were well and truly on the table.

As it stands now most of the better video editing software suites can import and export the 360 degree footage necessary to create VR projects and YouTube can now handle it as well.

By the end of the year we had in place and end to end solution provided at the past point again by YouTube with VR being deliverable.

I think we won’t be too far into 2017 before it is all going to be available at the consumer level and at both good quality and reasonable price.

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The Friday Roundup – Khan Academy and Pixar in a Box, Cinemagraphs

Pixar in a Box – Khan Academy

I wanted to kick off this week’s Friday Roundup on a subject that is not totally connected to video shooting or video editing per se.

I was wandering about the internet this week as is my want and re-stumbled upon a site called Khan Academy.

Now the way I stumbled upon it was through a link to something called Pixar in a Box.

When I arrived at that site I found the most amazing set of tutorials produced by Pixar for the Khan Academy on the subject of computer animation.

If you are not familiar with Khan Academy it is a site that was started quite some time back by a guy called Sal Khan.

He originally put a little site together to help his cousins with their maths and soon realized there was a demand for what he was doing.

So from that time forward the Khan Academy has been offering free online study for millions of kids around the world.

From their Mission Statement:

“Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom. We tackle math, science, computer programming, history, art history, economics, and more.”

The organisation is funded purely through donations and is a very worthy cause that has expanded hugely over the years.

If you have a moment by all means go over to their site and checkout the Pixar tutorials because they are amazing but also take a look at the site itself to be reminded that there are good people out there doing good things.

Free Cinemagraph Software

Over the past few weeks I have been getting a lot of promotional material for various pieces of software that make cinemagraphs.

Most of these are around the $30 to $40 mark price wise and are being mainly marketed to people for commercial use.

First of all in case you didn’t know, a cinemagraph is a .gif file that consists of a still image with only some part of it retaining the original motion.

You have probably seen them around and hopefully there is one embedded in this post just below this text!

From a video point of view the way they are created is by taking a still shot from a short video sequence and then overlaying a small looping section of the original video with a mask.

You can do this in most video editing software but to be honest it is a bit fiddly to get done.

The final barrier is that it has to be exported as a gif file to work properly.

Whilst I have no problem with the software that was being offered to me I don’t personally think it is much of an investment unless you are going to be making them all the time.

Interestingly if you do a search for how to make a cinemagraph you can also make them in a lot of image editing software packages these days as well.

So after following the cinemagraph trail for a while I was surprised to find the free product listed below from Microsoft!

I have tried it out and it works perfectly well only the resolution of the final file is limited to a 640px wide .gif but you can’t argue with the price!

There are four or five good tutorials on the subject over at Microsoft so even if you don’t use their free software it explains the process well enough for you to probably work out how to do it yourself with your own editing software.

You can get the software here: Microsoft Research Cliplets

And if technically everything has gone right, this is a cinemagraph:

Pinnacle Studio 20 Ultimate – Audio Sync Tutorial

This week I had a question from a reader in one of the comments of a post about Pinnacle Studio and how he had tried to make the automatic sync function work but the software failed.

So below this blurb is the video in question and yes, the software can do what it says it can do.

However as I said to the original poster on that comment there are limitations to what software can do and circumstances under which there is no way it is going to be able to perform.

So let’s get this subject a little under control and set some realistic expectations.

First of all and probably the most important point is this: Video Editing Software cannot “see” your video and it cannot “hear” the audio in your video.

All it can really do is analyze the audio from two or more sources and try to match them together and it does this generally in two ways.

The first way and easily the most reliable is the “common audio event.”

A common audio event is a clear and unique audio event that occurs within the audio of all video or externally recorded audio tracks.

Although you may not know it you are probably very aware of this because it is the clapper board sound you see when you see movies being shot.

The clapper loader has the shot and take written on the board which he places in front of the camera, announces clearly what the shot is then snaps the top arm down to make a short, sharp, clear sound.

That smack of the board now exists as a marker on the video file (which has it’s own audio) and the externally recorded sound file.

The editor can later align the waveforms of both assets in editing and we are synced!

Automatic syncing uses this same technique and just searches for a common audio event near the beginning of the tracks and then if it finds it in both, syncs according to that.

The second method, if there is no common audio event is to analyze the waveform pattern of both audio files.

By analyzing and comparing the two (or more), very often it can sync the files together based on the sound patterns.

The downside to this is that if there is no common audio event and there is no similar wave pattern then the software simply cannot do what you want.

In this case you are down to visually syncing yourself using the preview window of whatever software you are using.

DaVinci Resolve 12.5 Editing Tutorial – Episode 2

This is part two of the ongoing seven part series on how to use DaVinci Resolve as a video editor and for color grading and correction. If you click on the YouTube link it will take you to a special playlist I have created so you can track through the lesson in sequence.

DIY Filmmaking Steadicam (Effect)

A long time ago I posted a video somewhere around here showing a great way to fake a running or chase sequence using a single cam and with no need for a stabilizer.

Given the fact that one of my original reasons for starting this site was to keep stuff like that in a place where I could find it, it seems a little ironic that now I can’t find it!

Anyhoo I managed to find another video covering the technique so that’s the one you will find below.

In a nutshell the problem with an outdoors type running or chasing sequence is that if you are going to be following along with the runner or “chasee?” you are going to be bouncing up and down all over the place taking footage shaky enough to make the audience throw up!

Of course you could hire a steadicam for the day but I am way too cheap and way too lazy for that!

So the essence of the technique is that you place your cam on a tripod and have the person run in a circle around the cam.

You just swivel the camera to follow them and repeat it with longer shots, closeups and mid shots until you have enough footage.

Then once you get it all into the editor you just cut short shots together that give the effect of a running sequence.

Anyway, check out the video and you will very quickly see what I mean.

Posted in Blog Tagged with:

The Friday Roundup – Bitrates, Color Grades and Cameras

Bitrate Tutorial

I was having a bit of a moment this week with someone who wrote in to me here for help with his video projects.

The person in question was having trouble getting the quality he wanted from his software for what on the surface seemed to be a pretty straightforward process.

All he was trying to do was to add some images to the timeline, some music in the background and then output it all to a high quality video file he could load onto a USB stick.

The final destination for all of this was the USB to go into a high definition T.V. or disc player and have his montage or slideshow look good.

What could possibly go wrong?

It turned out that the software he was using was about 5 versions out of date and it really brought into focus how much things have changed.

These days when you open just about any video editor the assumption on the part of the editor is that you will be working in HD.

All the choices you can make and the default settings for just about everything are designed that way.

However if, like the guy I was helping, you go back five years it’s like a whole different world!

To make the process more complicated, he was using the old version and I was using the latest version.

Neither of us could really understand why there was such a difference in result occurring until he started sending me screenshots of his choices.

It suddenly dawned on me that five years ago the absolute height of video quality was going to be a Blu-ray disc but the most common and the default assumption at that time was a DVD.

So the software was designed pretty much from the point of view of creating a standard definition MPEG2 file to go onto a DVD.

It was when he started going into the MPEG4 settings that all hell broke loose!

Both of us stepping through the same process accepting defaults resulted in his best video being 1.7Mb and mine being closer to 13Mb!

Whilst the codecs being used haven’t changed all that much the assumption of what you are going to be doing with them certainly has.

Five years ago the biggest reason you would be using an MP4 would be to create a tiny file that was easy to transfer over the internet and would look “OK” on a monitor.

These days an MP4 can be used that way but you can make them at far higher quality and still be OK.

Eventually the whole story boiled down to bitrates and how they affect quality and files size regardless of what codec you are using.

So rather fortuitously I came across this video which gives a pretty good rundown on bitrates.

Ignore the type of software being used, it is exactly the same data for any video editing software.

Cameras and Video Quality

The world of gadgetry is rather a strange place at times and I place certain types of software like video editing software and image editing software firmly in that category.

I say it is a strange world because there is always a fine line being walked by the purchasers of that gadgetry.

On one side there is the actual functionality of whatever is being offered and on the other side the rabid marketing that tries to get you to pay for that extra thing, that cool feature, that awesome life you will have if you just upgrade to that higher level… of payment!

The reason I am writing about this here today is because easily the most common questions I get or the most common problems people ask me about have their answer in learning to use what you have better.

Unfortunately there seems to be an increasing reluctance on the part of people to learn their tools and this is probably due in no small part to the way products are presented to us.

Everything says you just push a button and professional results will ensue.

Of course this is the marketing guff I was talking about and is simply not true.

These days it sometime feels like telling someone to just read the manual is committing some sort of heinous crime and that fact that reading the manual is required reveals a complete failure on the part of the manufacturer!

And so the cycle of upgrading or going to the next highest level begins.

That more expensive software or that better camera must be the answer to my problems because when I point and click or point and shoot I don’t get a professional result.

Possibly one of the worst offenders in this area is cameras.

My point and shooter doesn’t give me awesome video so I must need a DSLR.

My DSLR is still disappointing me so I need a bunch lenses and filters and on and on.

But you see none of this is the truth.

The truth is almost always a simplicity and only rarely a complexity.

The truth is that until you know whatever software or equipment you are using inside out, upside down, backwards and sideways you are in no position to judge whether it can or cannot do something you want.

Check out the video below for an absolutely perfect example of this.

It is a comparison of footage taken on an iPhone 7s and a $50,000.00 RED camera and I think you will see the point.

iPhone 7 + Video vs $50,000 RED Weapon Footage

What Makes A Good Color Grade?

It is interesting how last week’s latest and greatest, totally awesome feature so quickly fades into the distance as we have our attention placed firmly on the next big thing.

What am I talking about here? Glad you asked!

The “last week’s darling” is color grading and the new kid in town is 360 degree shooting, editing with a view to VR video.

Now I have nothing against the ultimate goal of VR video, that’s just fine for what it is.

What I do sometimes get a little annoyed with is that often truly impactful features like color grading get pushed aside before everyone really gets to appreciate what it is and what it can do.

It is just this relentless marketing push to the “next big thing” results in a rush past those older features without the time to really understand them and more importantly, learn them.

So in an effort to keep color grading alive for just a little longer may I present the video below!

Now while I am on the subject of the video itself there are a couple of things that are quite important in it.

Obviously the first of these is the discussion of color grading which I think quite excellent.

However there is another aspect to it that I think is also important and outside the world of video editing.

That point is the way in which you should approach creating anything that you are eventually going to put up on to the internet.

The internet can be a rich and wonderful collaborative experience and it can also be a very dark place where some of the less attractive aspects of human nature can flourish.

The bottom line is that no matter what you are putting up for inspection by others on the internet you will be open to attack and how you deal with that is a very important matter.

Echo Effect Tutorial – CyberLink PowerDirector

As usual the video below is a pretty straightforward run through of how to achieve an echo effect in the audio of your video project.

The demo is done in CyberLink PowerDirector and although it is simple to do you would probably find it difficult to get to the right place without some guidance.

It is the bane of having a video editor that has lots and lots of features.

You have to tuck them all away somewhere when they are not being used otherwise the interface becomes a nightmare.

The same type of procedure will apply to just about any video editing software featured on this site only the names and the locations of the buttons will be a little different.

Otherwise is is quite simple to do.

Posted in Blog

The Friday Roundup – Equipment Envy, Bitrates and Color

sin-city-baboon

What Makes A Good Color Grade?

It is interesting how last week’s latest and greatest, totally awesome feature so quickly fades into the distance as we have our attention placed firmly on the next big thing.

What am I talking about here? Glad you asked!

The “last week’s darling” is color grading and the new kid in town is 360 degree shooting, editing with a view to VR video.

Now I have nothing against the ultimate goal of VR video, that’s just fine for what it is.

What I do sometimes get a little annoyed with is that often truly impactful features like color grading get pushed aside before everyone really gets to appreciate what it is and what it can do.

It is just this relentless marketing push to the “next big thing” results in a rush past those older features without the time to really understand them and more importantly, learn them.

So in an effort to keep color grading alive for just a little longer may I present the video below!

Now while I am on the subject of the video itself there are a couple of things that are quite important in it.

Obviously the first of these is the discussion of color grading which I think quite excellent.

However there is another aspect to it that I think is also important and outside the world of video editing.

That point is the way in which you should approach creating anything that you are eventually going to put up on to the internet.

The internet can be a rich and wonderful collaborative experience and it can also be a very dark place where some of the less attractive aspects of human nature can flourish.

The bottom line is that no matter what you are putting up for inspection by others on the internet you will be open to attack and how you deal with that is a very important matter.

iPhone Vs. RED Weapon

The world of gadgetry is rather a strange place at times and I place certain types of software like video editing software and image editing software firmly in that category.

I say it is a strange world because there is always a fine line being walked by the purchasers of that gadgetry.

On one side there is the actual functionality of whatever is being offered and on the other side the rabid marketing that tries to get you to pay for that extra thing.

That cool feature, that awesome life you will have if you just upgrade to that higher level… of payment!

The reason I am writing about this here today is because easily the most common questions I get or the most common problems people ask me about have their answer in learning to use what you have better.

Unfortunately there seems to be an increasing reluctance on the part of people to learn their tools and this is probably due in no small part to the way products are presented to us.

Everything says you just push a button and professional results will ensue.

Of course this is the marketing guff I was talking about and is simply not true.

These days it sometimes feels like telling someone to just read the manual is committing some sort of heinous crime and the fact that reading the manual is required reveals a complete failure on the part of the manufacturer!

And so the cycle of upgrading or going to the next highest level begins.

That more expensive software or that better camera must be the answer to my problems because when I point and click or point and shoot I don’t get a professional result.

Possibly one of the worst offenders in this area is cameras.

My point and shooter doesn’t give me awesome video so I must need a DSLR. My DSLR is still disappointing me so I need a bunch lenses and filters and on and on.

But you see none of this is the truth.

The truth is almost always a simplicity and only rarely a complexity.

The truth is that until you know whatever software or equipment you are using inside out, upside down, backwards and sideways you are in no position to judge whether it can or cannot do something you want.

Check out the video below for an absolutely perfect example of this.

It is a comparison of footage taken on an iPhone 7s and a $50,000.00 RED camera and I think you will see the point.

Bitrate Tutorial

I was having a bit of a moment this week with someone who wrote in to me here for help with his video projects.

The person in question was having trouble getting the quality he wanted from his software for what on the surface seemed to be a pretty straightforward process.

All he was trying to do was to add some images to the timeline, some music in the background and then output it all to a high quality video file he could load onto a USB stick.

The final destination for all of this was the USB to go into a high definition T.V. or disc player and have his montage or slideshow look good.

What could possibly go wrong?

It turned out that the software he was using was about 5 versions out of date and it really brought into focus how much things have changed.

These days when you open just about any video editor the assumption on the part of the editor is that you will be working in HD.

All the choices you can make and the default settings for just about everything are designed that way.

However if, like the guy I was helping, you go back five years it’s like a whole different world!

To make the process more complicated, he was using the old version and I was using the latest version.

Neither of us could really understand why there was such a difference in result occurring until he started sending me screenshots of his choices.

It suddenly dawned on me that five years ago the absolute height of video quality was going to be a Blu-ray disc but the most common and the default assumption at that time was a DVD.

So the software was designed pretty much from the point of view of creating a standard definition MPEG2 file to go onto a DVD.

It was when he started going into the MPEG4 settings that all hell broke loose!

Both of us stepping through the same process accepting defaults resulted in his best video being 1.7Mb and mine being closer to 13Mb!

Whilst the codecs being used haven’t changed all that much the assumption of what you are going to be doing with them certainly has.

Five years ago the biggest reason you would be using an MP4 would be to create a tiny file that was easy to transfer over the internet and would look “OK” on a monitor.

These days an MP4 can be used that way but you can make them at far higher quality and still be OK.

Eventually the whole story boiled down to bitrates and how they affect quality and files size regardless of what codec you are using.

So rather fortuitously I came across this video which gives a pretty good rundown on bitrates.

Ignore the type of software being used, it is exactly the same data for any video editing software.

Posted in Blog

The Friday Roundup – Autofocus for Video and 360 Degree Stitching

ice-cream-autofocus

The Importance of Autofocus

One of the downsides to shooting in HD that never seems to get mentioned much is the fact that any error in the footage being taken is recorded in all its high definition glory.

We all hear the marketing blurb about crystal clear images etc but the reality of this is that if your focus is correct and your color settings and white balance are correct then absolutely, you will have awesome footage.

However if any of these are just a little out, then your cam will faithfully record that too!

In the case of white balance and color balancing the problem is not as bad.

The reason for this is that you have so much data recorded to reproduce what you shot onscreen that any half decent video editing software will offer you many ways to correct it.

In the case of focus things are not so simple.

In the old days of Standard Definition a very slightly out of focus shot didn’t really matter quite as much.

Now obviously out of focus is out of focus so you couldn’t just shoot that way all the time and get away with it!

However when it comes to HD the whole game changes.

This leaves the average point and shooter in a bit of a bind when it comes to the subject.

Either you have to leave the cam in some kind of “landscape” setting so that the focus is always set to infinite, resulting in no depth of field to the shot.

Or, you are limited to only those shots you can “set up” and manually focus which doesn’t offer much hope to the average person shooting a kids party!

Or, finally you are at the mercy of the auto-focus.

For most people the story ends with them at the mercy of the auto-focus which (finally) brings me to the point I was going to make!

When you are choosing a camera these days with the view to using it as a video camera there are always a million things you probably think you need to keep in mind.

In fact a whole section of this website is devoted to it. You can see those articles here.

One of the absolute key features you must be looking for is the quality of the auto-focus on any cam you are looking at.

I simply can’t stress this enough.

If you are going to be shooting anything other than a completely motionless rock you really need a well performing autofocus.

The article linked below is a review of a particular brand of cam with attention to the autofocus function.

I am not including it this week because of the cam itself.

I am including it as a great example of the things you need to be looking at when you are evaluating the autofocus of any cam you are considering.

Come Together – directed by Wes Anderson

No reason for adding this video for any kind of educational purpose, I just like Wes Anderson’s style.

360 Video Tutorial – CyberLink PowerDirector 15 Ultimate

As we lurch forward to the time when VR videos will be available to all of us as an editing and production choice like most things we are finding that the devil is in the details.

Now I know that the “feature du jour” right now is 360 degree video and everyone is getting all “hot’n’sweaty” about it but let’s just cool down a little for a moment and take stock.

Yes, we now have the ability to record 369 degree video effectively and it won’t be too long before the prices of devices to do that will come down into an acceptable range.

Yes, most of the better video editing software programs at the consumer level can now input and output 360 degree video.

Admittedly we are probably a few iterations away from a fully completed feature set in all of them but we are certainly on the right track.

Yes, we can now upload full 360 degree video to YouTube and in conjunction with their new app and an appropriate headset we can achieve VR… which was the whole point in the first place right?

So, that leaves the details because the broad strokes are seemingly under control.

Let’s talk about stitching!

Strangely enough this is an action that hasn’t really been mentioned all that much so far so we had better get it covered.

360 degree footage at the moment is footage that has been recorded of a scene or situation by (best solution) six cameras at the same time.

This covers top, bottom, left, right, forward, backward as shooting angles.

At a stretch it can also be four cams with the top and bottom ones omitted but ideally six is what you need.

So in reality we have not shot a 360 degree video.

We have shot six videos of the same scene covering 360 degrees of view.

In order to create this as a 360 degree experience these six individual videos have to be combined into a single video stream and that ladies and gentlemen is what we call Stitching!

Check the video below for a more visual rundown on the subject and using that video in PowerDirector.

Most other software programs are going look and act similarly.

7 Ways To Improve Your Content on YouTube

Contrary to popular belief, mostly amongst those who don’t actually do it, just slappin’ up a video on YouTube is not all you have to do to be successful there.

In fact if you were looking for a place to make money that really required a solid knowledge of what you are doing and a whole bunch of plain old hard work, YouTube would fit the bill!

Having said that there are a number of basic things you can do to vastly increase your chances of success and all of those things are quite easy to accomplish.

Over on my YouTube channel, which I use for other purposes than uploading videos, I have curated a whole bunch of videos that I have gathered together over the years that cover these points and more.

You can see the whole collection here: Online Video Tips.

The latest addition for this week is one from a couple of guys I follow regularly and this time the video has two for the price (free) of one (also free!).

These are by no means all the steps you need to take or all the points you need to get in place for YouTube success but they represent some things you absolutely need to have under control.

Posted in Blog

The Friday Roundup – Assets, Color Grading and Light

organised-for-editing

Keeping Your Footage Organized

It doesn’t take very long for anyone to realize that these days the rate at which we all gather digital assets can be rather alarming.

Gone are the days when you had to shoot carefully because film (still or moving) was hellishly expensive to both buy and process.

In fact gone are the days when you had to be slightly less careful shooting because storage space on cards or hard drives was expensive!

These days you can just shoot like a maniac with not a care in the world.

However the potential for disappearing under a sea of video and images is very real.

In fact before you know it, you have no idea what you have, when it was taken and where it is now!

This is one of the reasons why I always consider the library function of any video editing software to be of extreme importance.

Clearly it is not the sexiest of features but it is vital nonetheless.

There does however come a point when even your nicely organized library starts to groan under the strain.

Then before too long you once again find yourself meandering through thousands of clips, images and audio files trying to find what you were looking for.

It is at this point you really need to get organized outside of any other software.

What you really need is an archiving solution that allows you to empty your editing software library and allow you to quickly find what you want.

So in light of that I present the Casey Neistat system for archiving assets. Simple and effective.

Laws of Light: Sphere

Below my usual blurb here there are two videos I have embedded for this week from the one source and on the one topic.

The topic is lighting and although there are many, many lighting tutorials to be found I wanted to include these two for a very specific reason.

These days most people tend to engage in activities at a kind of “tips and tricks” level.

There is an idea that regardless of the activity, all you have to do is check out a couple of “how to” videos on YouTube and you should be good to go.

Of course if you were to discover that your pilot on an international flight had adopted this approach you might then rethink the whole thing but in general that’s where we are.

The outcomes of this superficial understanding is always that the results are never as good as they were imagined and the reason why seems to be something that is getting lost in many parts of life.

In order to really execute an action or display a technical ability there has to be at least some understanding of the basics of what you are doing.

That, unfortunately is an unavoidable fact.

So, rant over.

The subject I am referring to here is lighting and in the first video below, the truth of it is laid out pretty clearly.

The camera, or in your case the video camera is NOT the tool you are using.

It is simply the device you are using to record the result of having used the tool.

The tool you ARE using is light.

No light, no picture… simple.

So, in light of that (sorry!) check out the first video then follow the link to the page it comes from.

The creator of the tutorial expands even further on the subject and gives lots of great examples of the theory in application.

Once you have that one under control watch the second video and then again, go to the relevant page and finish up.

I am absolutely sure that if you just sit down and go through these resources diligently you will walk away with a far greater understanding of what you are doing when you are recording light.

Read the full article here: Laws of Light: Sphere

Laws of Light: Cube

Read the full article here: Laws of Light: Cube

Pinnacle Studio 20 Ultimate – 360 Video Tutorial

So quite obviously the whole 360 degree virtual reality footage and editing thing is the big “thing” of the moment.

As I have said before, the whole subject depends on three different types of technology developing to a point where they are all accessible and then it will really take off.

The first is in the capture of the footage and right now this one is well on the way but still a little expensive.

To really get the whole 360 degree effect you still need six cams recording at once, top, bottom, left, right, front view, rear view.

The second step is in the editing.

This one I would say is just about a done deal.

Most of the consumer level editors can handle it to some degree so by the next round of updates they should all be pretty much on the front foot with it.

The final step is in the distribution and viewing of the material produced.

This one still has a ways to go.

YouTube are offering a 360 view type of experience which is OK but not really what is expected.

Let’s face it what is really expected is a VR experience and this one although not quite there, is pretty damn close.

YouTube have already announced the release of their VR App which can be used in conjunction with the Daydream Viewer so… are we there yet?

Not quite but pretty close!

Color Grading Tips

Color grading is a subject that until recently was rooted in the world of professional video editing only.

The kind of control needed to execute grading as opposed to just simple color corrections was for a long time beyond the reach of the average editing program at the consumer level.

However a few things have occurred over the past two years that have pulled color grading front and center as a tool available to everyone regardless of what editing program they are using.

Magix kind of kicked off the race a few years back when they ported parts of their professional editor, Video ProX over to their consumer product Movie Edit Pro.

Although not a complete replication of the pro level grader it was still much more than anyone else was offering and did a pretty good job.

CyberLink fired back and introduced Color Director which was a standalone yet fully integrated program devoted exclusively to color correction and grading.

Finally came the announcement that DaVinci Resolve was going to offer a totally free fully featured version of their pro post production software and that was about the end of the game as far as all the rest trying to match each other!

Now the problem with having any of these color grading solutions is twofold.

First you have to know what you are supposed to be doing when you are color grading and then you have to know how to do it in the software you have!

Unfortunately although there are resources around on the subject, they are rarely aimed at the beginner.

So, if this is a subject that you are interested in then my recommendation is to download the free version of DaVinci Resolve and endure the pain of learning yet another video software!

Sorry.

How to Make Money on YouTube with Affiliate Marketing

With the proliferation of YouTube as a video distribution service it would be true to say that a host of opportunities have arisen for making money through it.

It would also be true to say that with the rise of of YouTube there has also been a rise in the number of get rich quick/make a million dollars on YouTube type programs… or scams if we are going to be honest!

Now I can’t individually go through every course or product like that which is on offer at the moment because there thousands of them.

But what I do know is that certain laws of the universe remain true regardless of the internet platform you are dealing with.

The very first of which is that if it sounds too good to be true… it IS too good to be true!

So rather than focus on how not to monetize you videos or video channel on YouTube it is a far more rewarding exercise to focus on what you really should be doing.

No, it is not easy and yes, you have work hard at it just like any other activity in which you hope to make some money.

I have previously referred to Tim Schmoyer as a resource to follow in all things Youtube and I am again referring to him on this subject specifically.

There are a number of way to make money with a YouTube presence and Tim covers most of them not just in a factual way but as they can be done in the real world rather than some imaginary universe where you really can get rich quick with the click of the mouse!

This week he covers the subject of affiliate marketing and how it can be done on YouTube.

Posted in Blog

The Friday Roundup – YouTube VR, Blending Modes and Action Cams

vr-headset-girl

VR Takes Another Step Closer

Over the past few years there have been a number of technology promises made that haven’t in my opinion, really delivered.

I think the biggest offender has been 3D both in a TV watching scenario as well as on the big screen at the movies.

To me the closest it has ever looked was that I thought it looked “3D-ish” but not really 3D.

Now 360 degree video is beginning to stand up and demand the same kind of attention that 3D was once demanding.

For the most part I have kind of sat back and not really bothered with it too much because of one main barrier.

Whilst it is awesome that 360 degree footage can now be handled by a lot of video editing software the major stumbling block to me would always be shooting the footage in the first place and delivering the final product.

So over the past year or so on the video shooting side of things there has been noticeable progress and give it another year or so, good quality 360 degree shooting will be commonplace and affordably available.

The content delivery side of things has also finally begun to move and on this one too I think we are not very far away from wide availability.

YouTube have touted the ability to play back 360 degree footage for a while but really the end result of it has always been virtual reality distribution.

Yes you can tweak your way around inside a 360 degree clip but there is really not too much wow factor there.

On the other hand true VR has more than enough wow to get anyone’s attention.

So this week YouTube announced the release of their YouTube VR App for Daydream View.

Combined with a mobile device running the app and the right headset VR is just about upon us.

How To Look and Sound Better On-Camera Course Ad

If you are a regular reader of this blog then you will have noticed I often link to or pull videos in from a YouTube Channel called Basic Filmmaker.

The guy that runs the Channel regularly posts some great tips and tutorials on… well, basic film making!

Kind of makes sense really.

Anyway below is a video introducing his latest course on looking and sounding better in front of the camera but that’s not completely why I have added it.

I have also added a link to the course on his website but I also think it is well worth your time to take a look around there.

He has some great free intro courses as well as more advanced paid stuff if you want to really get good at things.

Lizards and Snakes and stuff

So in the event that you have been living under a rock for the past week or so… or just don’t go online there are a couple of video that have gone stupid viral.

They are from the BBC and were released in anticipation of their new nature series Planet Earth II.

I would urge anyone to take a look at them to see how within a two to three minute clip you can achieve n astounding level of impact.

Of course it doesn’t hurt that they had almost unlimited resources for shooting, an army of fully professional editors and special effects guys including CGI, David Attenborough to do the narrating and legendary Hollywood musician Hans Zimmer to write the score.

But apart from that is looks pretty simple!

Blending Modes – CyberLink PowerDirector

Probably one of the features that can be found in a number of consumer or amateur level video editors these days is blends.

Sometimes they are referred to as Blend Modes or just Blends but it probably doesn’t matter because most people really don’t know what they are!

In fact at the time of purchase I can just see a bunch of people reading or hearing that the software on offer has the awesomely fantastic Blend Mode while they are watching some spinning swirly stuff happening on a screen which looks totally amazing and they are SOLD!!!

Of course after that the subject never comes up again!

So, blends.

A blend is when an effect or another clip is overlayed on top of an original clip or image for that matter.

When you see a cross fade transition occurring between two clips you are actually looking at a preset, pre-constructed progressive blend.

Someone just took the mechanics of blending and wrote it into a little preset arrangement that you can drop between two clips and that what we call a transition.

So when you see people screaming that they don’t have enough transitions when they have software that can achieve blends it seems a bit silly really!

They could make their own.

Anyhoo apart from that example, blends can be used to achieve a huge number of effects within any editing software that has them.

A lot of the preset filters that come with most editors are actually preset blends packaged as filters or special effects.

So if you are interested in stepping away from the “out of the box” solutions… take a look at blends.

How to Bulk Copy & Add End-screen Elements to all Your YouTube Video

One of the downsides to doing pretty much anything on the internet is the fact that almost regardless of what you are doing… by tomorrow, it will be done differently.

Take YouTube for example which despite its behemoth size has been changing and evolving at quite a rate especially over the past five years.

Pressure from other services, pressure to generate income, pressure from changing systems and platforms as well as pressure from users and consumer have driven this need to change.

Whilst most changes in the long run are not too much of a problem one recent one has presented some headaches to people who already have a good deal of content already on their YouTube channel.

With the swing over to mobile devices in full flight YouTube had to come up with a solution to the annotations problem.

They can’t really show annotations on a video being played on a mobile device because the user experience is just wrecked by that.

However this left the content creator with no way to add a call to action at the end of his or her video.

To deal with that YouTube introduced End Screens which have very effectively dealt with the problem and made everyone happy.

Well almost everyone!

Adding an End Screen to a new video is no problem but some Channels can have hundreds if not thousands of videos already uploaded.

Up until now the only real solution to that problem was to individually go through your already uploaded videos and add End Screens which is really tedious and very time consuming.

So if you are in that position fear not!

Check the video below on how to use TubeBuddy to deal with that backlog.

Aaand Action… cam.

I came across this guide the other day and thought it was worth posting.

It goes into the points you need to cover when choosing an action cam to buy but in all honesty the points apply to most situations.

It is not really an “in depth” article but does serve as a good reminder as to what you should be keeping your attention on.

The reason I mention it is that these days it is all very well getting yourself armed with the latest information and setting off to buy a cam.

Very quickly most of that has dropped out of sight in the face of endless marketing ploys to do just that.

I think there is nothing like a checklist to keep you focussed on the job at hand and what is really important.

Posted in Blog