Archive for Video Production

16:9 and 4:3- Two Aspect Ratios That Affect How You Watch Your Content

Have you ever watched a video and and it looks stretched out or parts of the video are cut off. Part of the reason for that is the aspect ratio or the shape of the video. There are several aspect ratios, however, there are two standard aspect ratios:

4:3- Which looks like a square and is used mainly for standard definition video.

16:9- Also known as widescreen looks like a rectangle and is the standard aspect ratio for high definition video.

If you don’t know what those numbers mean, they are the dementions of the width of the screen by the height of the screen. So, for example 16:9 means 16 units wide by 9 units high; 4:3 is 4 units wide by 3 units high.

So, if you were watching a video on your computer that was shot in 4:3 and you enter widescreen mode, the video might not look right because there is no more video information which means it has to be stretched to fit making the picture look weird and usually a bit fuzzy. Similarly, If you are watching a video that which is shot and distributed in 16:9 on a 4:3 display, the picture on the left and right side might be cut off. However, while there is no real way to make 4:3 video look better on a 16:9 display, you can scale down the 16:9 video and make it fit within the 4:3 display. If you ever used a non-linear editing program you may notice that in the preview window there is a box on the playback k. That is called the TV safe box and is meant for the editor to see what will be cut off on a 4:3 display.

16:9 is becoming a new standard and very few displays are still made with a 4:3 aspect ratio. For those recording video, I reccommend using 16:9 if your camera supports it because it gives you a better quality image as well as more in the picture.

The Growing Use of Computers in Video Production

In the early days of video production, studios and control rooms were filled with single use pieces of equipment that were extremly expensive and were only used for one particular task. However, now in the past few years, those old single-use pieces of equipment are being replaced with computers that can do a particular job but can also do other things as well. This is mainly because computers have become much more powerful and can handle full HD video without any trouble. Now instead of having a special piece of equipment for the character generator, you can, as my college does use a standard off the shelf computer with a special card and some special software for a lot less money. We use the chiron system which is used in about 80% of control rooms in the industry. The other, and probably most important computerized piece of equipment is the swtchee which controls what is either recorded or broadcasted. Hardware switchers, which are still the norm in the industry, cost tens of thousands of dollars. However if you have a powerful enough computer, and the right inputs for your computer, then it can replace the hardware switcher for a fraction of the cost. There are a few software solutions for this, the most common is the Tricaster which Leo Laporte uses for his TWIT Live stream. The other common piece of software that can serve this is Boinx TV which I reviewed in an earlier article. Although this sound appealing, it is still new technology and requires a very powerful computer. However, if you have a powerful laptop it alllows you to have a switcher that you can take with you anywhere and do multi-camera shoots anywhere.

I think as time goes on more and more equipment will go computerized and will further decrease the cost of building studios which will allow more people to afford building a studio. Computers also allow flexibility and allows you to easily change the arrangement of the studio based on the program and th director’s preferences. I was able to see thus first hand when I toured Dallas Cowboys Stadium and saw their control room. The control room screens are all connected to KVM (Keyboard, video and monitor) switches so that the director can decide how they want people arranged in the control room and rearrange the control room just by pressing a few buttons.

My Thoughts About My First Live Broadcasts

A few weeks back, we broadcasted a live basketball game  and it was my first time doing a live show so, I thought I should share my experience. Last Tuesday, we broadcasted another live game as well!   The first thing is that we were very lucky to have a good team planning and working on the day of the broadcast but, even with them the whole time is very stressful. The other thing is that there is so many moving parts, that technical issues are bound to happen but, we were lucky to have only a few minor technical problems. No matter how much planning goes into a live production, things are bound to go wrong and slight errors will be made. The only thing you can do is to prepare and practice. This is done by an all volunteer crew and i’m sure a professional crew who does this regularly will be able to run a much smoother production. However, the whole process of doing a live show is very stressful and there is no real way to cover mistakes if you are doing a true live show. Although it was stressful, it was also a lot of fun and I hope that we do more in the future.

Live Web Video VS. Web Video Downloads

In the early days of web video the quality was very low resolution and because of low internet speeds, you could only stream the videos online whether it is pre-recorded or streamed live. Fast forward to today, and people are now making video specifically for the internet but there are two major methods of distribution now. You can either release the videos as a download and watch it whether you or online or not or on your portable media device. The other method is live streaming where you stream the video live to the web and have people watch it at the time it is being broadcast. Although live streaming is good for things like news and other time-sensitive issues, it would be nice to have archives and be able to watch it later if you could not watch it at that time or if you just want to watch it again. Live also allows for audience interaction in real time, while video downloads have a delay between the time the audience sent the feedback and when the producers respond to it. So what is the best solution, it’s simple DO BOTH! Streaming sites like Stickam and UStream allow you to stream live as well as record the video to be played back on demand later. This provides the advantages of both methods and will appeal to both audiences. I don’t usually like to watch live video because it is usually lower quality but, I do for big events like CES or Macworld. But, you can then watch it if there is a product you are interested in and learning more about.

Video Production Tips

I wrote these for when  I was assisting students if the 4500 Digital Video Contest, and I want to share them to help making videos much easier.

PDF Document Download

Pre Production:

  1. Write a script, revise your script and then stick with it as much as possible.
  2. Make Storyboards to make framing your shots much easier during production
  3. Try Celtx (celtx.com) which is a free Scriptwriting program for Windows, Mac, or Linux, pre-formatted script templates

 

 

Video:

  1. White Balance (Camera) and/or Color Correct (Post- Production) if possible
  2. Always Use a Tripod, Steady cam or Monopod to keep camera still and steady ALWAYS
  3. Only use Black and white if the movie is meant to be “retro” or if there is a flashback; don’t use Black  and White just because you can
  4. Use a variety of shots; don’t just use the same type of shot for the whole movie mix it up, it makes the movie much more exciting
  5. Don’t begin the action until AT LEAST 3 seconds after the record button is pressed, so that your video doesn’t get cut off.
  6. Have backup camera batteries or make sure your battery is charged before recording a scene
  7. Once recording, leave the shot where it is during recording
  8. If you use multiple camera either use a clapper board before each scene or just clap your hands loudly before recording so you can easily sync your cameras up
  9. Use Shot log as you record, so you don’t have to re-watch every clip when capturing
  10. Focus your camera
  11. Only Use a Greenscreen or Bluescreen if  you have thoroughly tested it and know it works prior to production
  12. HD is good, if you have a computer hardware and software to handle it, if not a well light, standard definition picture looks fine.
  13. Shoot as much more than you expect to use; If  there is a glitch with one take, have one or more backup take so you don’t lose your scene.

 

Lighting:

  1. Make Sure your subjects can be easily seen and well light; dark video causes a grainy pictures
  2. If recording outside, record with the sun behind you to prevent sun glare

 

Audio:

  1. Don’t use the camera’s built-in Microphone if at all possible
  2. Don’t record outside unless you absolutely have to
  3. If You do have to record outside, microphones are must
  4. Beware of background noise; do a test recording before you begin your project to listen for background noise so, you can eliminated or reduce them
  5. Keep Audio cables, microphones and the camera away from power cords because they cause noise
  6. Monitor Audio levels with headphones while recording (If Possible)
  7. Beware of the Wind, the wind makes audio nearly impossible to hear and a nightmare to work with
  8. Don’t film in rooms that have an echo; once again makes audio annoying to listen to
  9. Silence your cell phones; If you are using wireless microphones, turn all cell phones off because they cause interference with the microphones

 

 

Acting:

  1. Make Sure the Actors project their voices so they can easily be heard in the video
  2. Use Cue cards or a teleprompter if the actors need help with their lines
    1. a. Put lines on a PowerPoint slideshow on a laptop and have it easy to read for the actors. Page through as the video goes on for the actors to easy know their lines.
  3. Practice Your lines before recording

 

Post-Production:

  1. NEVER USE WIPES, for transitions stick to: Cuts, Dissolve, fade and dip to color
  2. Dip to color (Black) is a good way to show passing of time
  3. Never Use Jump cuts unless it is meant to be a part of the video
  4. Expect to spend hours editing!
  5. Save Always and Save often
  6. Make Sure Audio levels are not too loud or too soft and if they are, then either amplify or reduce the volume

 

Music:

  1. Don’t Use Copyrighted Music
  2. Use Creative Commons, Royalty-free or Public Domain Music

 

DIY Video Making Ideas:

  1. Use house lights for additional lighting (Make sure you white balance or color correct because house lights give off a yellow color temperature
  2. White Poster board as a bounce board (absorb and bounce light) $1
  3. Use Cardboard covered with Aluminum foil to reflect light (Reflector)
  4. Google “DIY Steadycam” to find a tutorial on how to make your own steady cam for $10
  5. Mix or Combined multiple microphones by using a basic headphone splitter to record two microphones- BEWARE THIS CAUSES EACH MICROPHONE TO ONLY BE HEARD ON ONE SIDE (LEFT OR RIGHT) WHEN PLAYED BACK
  6. Greenscreen- Green Tablecloths from the Dollar store (Needs proper lighting)

 

 

Miscellaneous:

  1. Remember Murphy’s Law:  “Everything that can go wrong will go wrong”; Plan for everything to take more time than you think it will
  2. Ask For Help when you need it
  3. Don’t break the law during the production of the video
  4. Be Patient
  5. Have Fun
  6. Don’t Spend too much money  when you can do a lot for very little money
  7. Have a schedule and follow it
  8. Be Flexible
  9. Manage your time well

 

 

Resources:

  1. Film Riot Video Podcast (Teaches effects and techniques) revision3.com/filmriot
  2. Creative Commons  Music: ccmixter.com
  3. Royalty-Free Music and Sounds: freesounds.org

 

Tutorials:

  1. Howcast.com
  2. Ehow.com
  3. Mediacollege.com
  4. Videomaker.com

 

HTML 5, The Future of Internet Video

Youtube, the largest social video network on the Internet as well as Vimeo have both recently  launched HTML 5 video players which is the newest version of the web development language that is used to write all websites! It now has added support for embeded video! I think this is a major game changer because, it undermines the current Flash video standard which has given Adobe a lot of power with their Flash Player being installed on millions of computers. However, if more video site switch to HTML 5 then, less people would both using Flash to watch video if they could just as easily watch the video in H.264 format and not need to install any other software. However, the current version of Firefox, which is my favorite browser, does not yet support HTML 5 but, it will be coming soon I’m sure!  Right now HTML 5 video is a beta feature of these sites, mainly because all browsers don’t support it. But, this can easily become a standard and make watching internet videos much easier! Browsers need to add the support for HTML 5 and once it becomes a standard, Flash usage will greatly decrease. Flash will still be used for internet games but, for video HTML 5 will take over! Another advantage is that HTML 5 that it streams higher-quality video than Flash and gives the viewer a better experience.

Steps for Producing a Great Video

Whether it is a corporate video, film or TV show there is a certain sequence of steps that you should follow through the production process. If you do not follow these steps, then it your video will not turn out as well as you may want it to, so I am going to outline the steps so that you know what you should do, the next time you produce a video.

1. Pre-Production

  • Outline your ideas
  • Write A Script
  • Make Storyboards
  • Find Locations
  • Get Equipment

2. Production

  • Setup Equipment
  • Dress the Set
  • Rehearse Before Production
  • Run Microphone checks
  • Record
  • Strike Equipment (Put Equipment Away)
  • Strike the Set (Break down the set)

3. Post-Production

  • Capture footage into your editing software
  • Select Clips to use in final production
  • Arrange Clips in the timeline in the order you want it to be
  • Add Title and ending sequence
  • Add Transitions (Only Dissolve, cut and dip to color)

4. Distribution

  • Export the project to video format of your choice (MP4s are close to universal)
  • Deliver it to Distribution platforms (Internet, Television, other distribution networks)

The iPad, a Great Device for Video Production

Although the reactions to Apple’s new tablet, the iPad have not been that of the revolutionary product many people thought it would be, I have found a perfect use for the iPad. The iPad is a great device for video production. I have found several great uses for it in the field of video production and all of them make producing video much easier. The first and what I think is the best use is for the Director, and Producer to have a script to follow during production either in a read-only PDF file or using the $10 pages app. This is great if they just want to follow along during the production or make changes as the production goes on. Another use is for the accountant or whoever has to keep a budget for the production can make adjustments or  track expenses on location. I can also be a great communication device between talent, crew, producers and directors. Another use for it is for a slate, there are several slate/clapperboard apps for the iPhone and the 10 inch slate would be great to have on the set and then open an app to have a slate ready making synchronizing audio and video much easier. It also would work as a great shot log either in a specific app or just in a Numbers spreadsheet. The final use the iPad could serve is watch video back by importing video into iTunes and syncing it to the iPad to see how the video has turned-out.

The Internet is the Future of Video Distribution

The internet has been the home to humorous videos of people covering songs, commenting on celebrities, playing lightsaber and other entertaining videos for many years, but, there has also been high quality programming made for the internet as well. People  have been making television-quality programming for the internet like Revision3, and many other production companies making content for the internet like Blame Society productions who make Chad Vader. These shows have become very popular and have made web series a common thing for people to watch.
I think that in the future all video will be distributed if not exclusively, at least as an addition to other distribution methods. Another trend that will be growing is video produced specifically for the internet because it allows people to watch h their programming whenever they want asnd whereever they want. One thing that has  happened recently, is that is Hulu, the popular video site has begun to distribute  independently films and series which provides them a platform to share their content without having to go through a film distribution company. This will continue so more people can produce and distribute their content easily and get their work out!

Importance of Being a Jack-of-All-Trades in Video Production

Less than ten years ago, people in video production would specialize in one position and that would be the sole job for the most part. For example, a person might be a editor and that would be all they do. However, now that the economy is in such a poor position and the fact that video equipment have become much more simple than it used to be. People who are now looking into working in the field of video production need to be able to operate all pieces of equipment and read to do it all. This is great for those who want to produce video because they won’t need to pay so many people because you could produce a video with only a handful of people. It is not uncommon for someone to serve as Camera operator and editor and possible some other position as well. Also, the on-air talent no longer can just be on-air talent, they  should be able to at the very least produce and or write. This tread will become a common practice in all video productions because it is not only more efficient but, will also cost much less to produce.

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