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T351 Week 13 - Spring 2014

Agenda:

  • Reality Check
  • Final Project
  • Advanced Production Tips & Techniques
  • Engineering & Troubleshooting

Reality Check:

  • In order to receive a grade for your Final Project Pre-Production components, you must have turned in your materials by 5PM today. We can not give a grade for anything accepted later.
  • No lab this week. The time is for you to shoot your final projects. I'll be available if anyone wants to meet about their projects or anything else. But please let me know if you want to meet.
  • The week after, lab time is dedicated for you to edit/finish your final projects. Aim to have a rough cut done by the end of the week. Cameras will not be available after the start of lab next week! You should plan on being in lab next week (Week 14) working on a rough cut of your final project.
    • Note: A few students found themselves out of luck with their drama storytelling since they didn't shoot when they were supposed to.
  • We'll look at your Final Projects starting promptly at 9:30 AM during week 15 lab.
  • The registrar has assigned our Spring 2014 T351 class with a final exam time of 5 PM Wednesday May 7th.
  • The Multimedia Movie Exercise is due Monday, April 28th (details). I'll go over this with you in lab next week.
  • On-line Resources:

Final Projects: You can start shooting these this week- or as soon as you complete your pre-production work. What you shoot is what you have to work with. Do it thoroughly and right the first time. Make sure your audio is clean, your video is well lit, and framed.

A few students shot video during the day that turned out grainy and out of focus. The little viewfinders do not show subtleties- such as noise from the gain being turned on. Be sure to carefully check your camera before you start shooting:

  • Gain and auto gain is off (should display 0db on the screen)
  • Shutter is off (should display 1/60 on the screen)
  • ND filters are off (unless you need/want them)
  • Recording format: You likely want HDV 1080i - I do not recommend 24p if you want to broadcast it on 1080i or 60i TV.
  • Auto iris: is it off or on? You do know how to change it, right??
  • Auto focus is off. Be sure to frequently use the expanded focus feature.
  • White Balance: You are either going to WB in A or B, or use a preset (indoor or outdoor)
  • Focus - Use the expanded Focus button!

Also:

  • Don't forget to get releases from your talent. Talent release forms can be found on the T351 website.
  • In addition to dedicating plenty of time to edit, be sure to plan on spending time on the graphics.
  • I'd plan on taking an entire day to devote to sound design and audio fine-tuning.

What makes a first-rate video? (What will we be looking at when we grade these?)

  • Video serves a clear purpose. Viewers have many choices on TV and the web and want content with a point.
  • The message and storyline are clear. There should be a clear and logical introduction and a clear and concise ending.
  • Every scene, shot and sound is included for a reason. (Advance the story or build the character.)
  • Technically & aesthetically sound
    • Strong composition
    • No long (unmotivated) pans/tilts, shaky shots, bumps or awkward or unnecessary zooms
    • Good exposure and tonal balance
    • Thoughtful lighting
    • Audio - Don't rely on the camera mic (unless you are just shooting B-roll).
    • Edits are motivated
  • Good graphic composition. Create a consistent visual treatment (color palette, fonts, etc.) and to use graphics appropriately.
  • Sound design - take time to finesse the soundtrack and make sure you have consistent audio levels. You can get interesting audio elements from the Library / Audio / Apple loops folder.

Video Production Tips and Techniques

Pre-production

  • Understand the point of your video. Why are you making it and why will a viewer want to watch it? Understand the context of how your video will be viewed.
  • Know the S.O.P. and conventions of the trade. These exist for a reason. This includes using conventional formats for proposals, treatments and the various types of scripts.
  • On scripting non-fiction: See Jim's super secret (NOT) production planning form. Note the "ingredient list". These are the essential ideas that will be embedded into the video. Not all have to be verbally articulated.
  • Plan, plan, plan...... There is never too much pre-production.

Production Techniques:

  • Shoot in the right format - You should should shoot and edit in the intended delivery format. Generally for network broadcast I want 29.97 1080i. For theatrical (film) I'd use 1080p or 720p (24 fps).
  • Establish your scene - We need to know where we are, what time of day it is, where objects and people are, and the layout of the space. Always be sure to establish this or you will confuse the viewer.
  • Continuity & smoothness - Unless you have a good reason for doing so, follow the rules of continuity and use a tripod.
  • Film Style - Repeat the action capturing it with different (cut-able) shots. Works great for fiction and non-fiction (capturing B-roll)
  • Rule of threes - When shooting think of three things: the shot we see right before the one you are about to take, what you are about to take, and the shot that will come immediately after.
  • It's Art! - Try to make every shot well composed and interesting (a piece of art in itself).
  • Think Deep Thoughts - To get the maximum sense of depth try composing your shot with 3 distinct layers: foreground, mid-ground and background. If you're shooting an establishing shot of the exterior of a building, you can setup the camera with something in the forgeound (E.g. branch). You can also frame strong lines so they lead into the frame as opposed to perpindicular to it.
  • Be shallow - One of the most definable traits of film is it's shallow depth of field. You can get the most out of a small format camera by using a large aperture (small f-stop) and using the telephoto (larger focal length). If there is plenty of light I'll turn on the ND filters untill I'm able to shoot with something close to an f-2.
  • Warm things up - Slide a warming card into your camera case. Warming cards are slightly blue. When you white balance on one you trick the camera into shifting the hue just a little. They make everything look a little rosier (warmer). Alternatively you can cool things down (tint blue) by white balancing on a slightly warmer/rose-colored card. Sure you can color correct in post, but this saves rendering.
     
     

    Normal white

    Warming WB card

  • Get a move on - Move the camera or move the subject. Dollies require a lot of gear and setup time. Often the move we need is only a few feet. Small jibs and sliders offer an inexpensive, simple, and effective solution. Slide rails are inexpensive, transportable, and provide an easy way to move a camera in one direction. They can also get into places where a dolly can't (E.g. on a tabletop). Small jibs can provide both horizontal and vertical movement. Small video cameras and DSLRs are lightweight enough to use the inexpensive variety of a Steadicam (without the counterbalanced/articulating arm). Even a monopod has enough weight to stablize a very light video camera. For these to be most effective you want to setup your shots with foreground, mid-ground and background elements.

Lighting - Except for shooting B-roll in run & gun situations, always plan on lighting your subject. I usually try to make the subject about 2 stops brighter than the background. Yes, there are exceptions, but almost always we need to make our subject stand out. This is especially true with interviews. This is why you usually don't want to place subjects against a light wall- the wall would be brighter than the subject. If nothing else, always try to get some soft key light on your subject. (This can sometimes be done with a reflector providing there's a good light source to use.)

Audio - Mic your subjects appropriately. Interviews should be close mic'ed. Storytelling projects should consider audio perspective (how far the sound source is from the microphone).

Room tone - Your timeline should always have something in it - as almost all spaces have some amount of ambient noise. This includes, fans, air conditioners, electronics, outside background noises, etc. When shooting at any given location always record  30-60 seconds of "room tone." This gives you audio filler materials to use in your editing timeline to bridge gaps between exchanges in conversations, or to cover while someone is not talking.

Post-Production

  • Apple Final Cut Pro or Avid? http://vimeo.com/22029233
  • Practice, practice, practice - Know your editing app and become comfortable and proficient using it.
  • Sound Design - Audio is perhaps the most important but often overlooked production element. Come up with a strategy to make sure your soundtrack is well designed and adds to the art & effectiveness of your production.
  • Make sure you have consistent audio levels (E.g. the average dialog level should be about -20).
  • Audio too soft? - Normalizing it (show example). This boosts the overall gain (including noise).
  • Sometimes it's good to give scenes a distinct look, such as when illustrating dreams or flashbacks. Plug-ins are 3rd party software modules that function within a host application. For instance Boris Continuum offers a wide assortment of effects for both After Effects and FCP. Once you purchase the plug-in package and install it, you'll find the Boris Effects accessible through the standard video and audio effects menus within the host application.
    • Plug-ins such as Red Giant Looks and Boris Continuum are worth noting. Some can be purchased with an Academic Discount. DOn't have a discount? Get one while you're a student through B&H or JourneyEd.
  • Graphics - Spend time finessing these. Come up with a graphic treatment
    • Use colors and font that mesh with your content.

To make your sequence broadcast-ready

  • Use drop frame timecode
  • Make sure all video levels are in the legal broadcast range (0-100 IRE for digital, 7.5 - 100 IRE for analog).
  • Make sure all audio is within the legal broadcast range
  • Include 30-60 seconds of Color Bars (with the 1kHz tone at the appropriate level such as -20 dB)
  • Slate (important production info including: title, date, producer, running time & format
  • Black (approximately 10 seconds or optional countdown)
  • Program start time of 01;00;00;00
  • Black video tail at end (30 seconds is safe)

http://www.campusmoviefest.com/movies/8741-sparks

Audio

For audio editing, it's best to use uncompressed audio, or PCM audio files. PCM stands for Pulse Code Modulation, a fancy term for uncompressed digital audio. If your audio is compressed (like an MP3 or AC-3), you should convert it into a PCM file at the proper sampling rate and bit depth (DV is 48 kHz @ 16 bits)

PCM Audio formats:

  • AIFF (standard Mac-compatible PCM audio format)
  • SDII (Old, but still supported Mac-compatible PCM audio format)
  • Wave (standard PC-compatible PCM audio format)

Audio Exporting:

AIFFs can be easily exported. This creates an audio fie.

Audio tracks could be sent to an audio workstation for normalizing or sweetening with ProTools.

Audio normalizing - Imagine you have audio that's well recorded but just too soft. You've cranked the gain up in Premiere, FCP, or Avid and it's still too soft. What can you do? Bring it into an audio program and normalize the tracks. Normalizing let's you bring the audio file's highest peak up to 0, which will increase the overall amplitude (loudness) of the track. However it will also bring extraneous noise (background hums, etc.) up as well.

Audio sweetening - FCP and Avid are great video editing applications but are not optimized for audio. Sweetening audio is the process of adding sounds and manipulating the signal in complex ways that our video application is simply not suited for. For example sweetening allows audio engineers to add effects, make a surround sound mix, add foley sounds .

Even simple audio edits are better off carried out in an audio editor. Consider the time base of video. We have a frame approximately every 30 seconds. When we cut from one image to another it can only happen at intervals of about 1/30 of a second.

If we cut audio along with our frame of video we run into problems. The reason is that audio is a waveform oscillating back and forth down to the frequency of our sampling rate (typically 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz).Ideally we need to cut the audio when it's at the 0 crossing. That is when it's at the 0 point as is crosses over from positive to negative or vice versa. Otherwise, if we cut the audio in the middle of a peak, we will get a pop. So if we cut the audio along with the video (on an steady interval of 1/30 a second), we are likely to get a pop, as chances are slim that the audio will happen to be at the 0 crossing.

Audio editing applications let you cut audio on the 0 crossings.

Outputting & Sharing your Media

It's important to be able to output images, audio and video for various purposes. If you are exporting movies for non-broadcast uses (E.g. for DVD or YouTube), always add at least a half second of black at the beginning before the program fades up from black. This gives a chance for the player to lock onto the audio. If your audio starts instantaneously, the first few milliseconds of audio will likely be cut off.

Fade to black at the end and add at least a few more seconds of black. This way your DVD won't immediately jump back to the menu. It gives just a moment to conclude the ending.

In your sequence/timeline, set an in-point at the beginning and an out-point a few seconds after the fade out at the end. Alternatively in Premiere you can set a work area.

From the "File" menu, choose "Export -> Media". Be sure to select the range, work area, or in to out points.

For the web:

  • iPod works OK- usually it seems to automatically get the pixel aspect ratio. But to be safe, I use a custom size, putting it in square pixels.
  • I usually use H.264 for at the "good" quality setting. If the file size is too large, I dial the data rate back or scale it down to 1280 x 720.

For Standard definition DVD:

  • Use MPEG-2 with either uncompressed PCM audio (AIFF or WAV) or use Dolby DIgital/AC3

For Blu-ray:

  • Use H.264

Useful resources:

 

Vocabulary (Know these terms)

  • AIFF (aif) An uncompressed digital audio file used on the Mac platform
  • Batch capture
  • Normalize
  • Off-Line & On-Line
  • PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) A fancy term for uncompressed digital audio such as an AIF or WAV file.
  • Sweetening (not sugar!)
  • Transcode
  • WAV - An uncompressed digital audio file used on the PC platform

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