Archive for the ‘Video’ Category.

Goodbye Jump Cut

For a long time my Dad misunderstood when people talked about jump cuts, he thought they were saying “junk cuts”. This anecdote doesn’t mean anything, I was just reminded of it as I started typing this post.

I will first credit the one who inspired me to even think it possible, what I’m about to describe. This man has actually influenced me a lot over the years, and my last blog post about Avid’s ScriptSync wouldn’t have happened had I not seen this guy give a presentation about ScriptSync some years back. Anyway, I first met Steve Audette in 1998 at one of Avid’s Master Editor Workshops. I was blown away by the work Steve showed at this presentation eleven years ago, and I’m very happy to say we became and are still good friends.

One of the things that Steve demoed back then was using Elastic Reality to morph between the clips in a jump cut, making what was two clips into one, hiding the cut.  This blew my mind. But I never used this particular idea until last week.

Original clip with jump cut

Original clip with jump cut

The project I was cutting I ended up with a jump cut that I couldn’t cover with b-roll. I thought about modifying the script so I could do away with one of the shots in the bad edit, but the words as they were were just too good. Since the interview subject didn’t move too much across the jump cut I was reminded of Steve Audette’s morphing maneuver.

I turned to RE:Vision Effects and their powerful RE:Flex plugin for After Effects to see if I could accomplish what I had in mind.  RE:Vision’s effects are powerful but do require some learning, so after I brought my clips into After Effects via Pro Import AE I sat myself down and read through the user guide and reviewed how the plug-in works.

Essentially you set up a series of mask pairs, a mask shape that follows the “from” geometry then directly beneath that a mask shape that follows the corresponding “to” geometry.  Clearly the more masks you create to control the morph the better results you will get, and I tried to walk that fine line of doing enough to make the effect work but do few enough that I could quickly move on to other editing tasks.

Series of alternating From and To masks

Series of alternating From and To masks

Thankfully it didn’t take all that long, and it wasn’t really all that hard.  In fact when I started previewing the morph I had to double-check that my eyes weren’t deceiving me because the morph was actually working.

Someone with real morphing and warping experience could give you better advice, but I found parts of the face and body that had easily defined areas and made my mask outlines there.  Like the eyes, the top of the blouse, the sides of the face, and of course the lips.  I previewed the effect to see where warping artifacts appeared or where the effect wasn’t seamless then added mask outlines in those areas.  If there were warping problems that I couldn’t see, well I didn’t consider those to be problems I needed to solve.

Another consideration for me was that this final video was going to be viewed primarily on the web, so a little bit of imperfection could be tolerated since it might end up masked my a compression artifact or a viewer might simply blame the defect on their internet connection.

Now with 100% more morphing

Now with 100% more morphing

The end result was definitely worth the time I spent, which was probably only about an hour, I was able to keep my interviewee saying the phrase I needed, and on camera too.

A big thank you to RE:Vision Effects for hooking me up with their powerful plug-in and another big thank you to Steve Audette for providing the inspiration.

Paper Cut and Avid’s ScriptSync

Pinewood Villa

I’m working on a promotional video, or maybe series of videos, for a local condominium complex and it presented itself as the perfect opportunity to try something I’d heard great things about: Avid’s ScriptSync.

The video project is to promote a few available units in this 55 and older condo, and I decided it would be more interesting and believable if there were no voiceover or narration, if instead the “story” was told by some current residents. So I sat down with five residents and interviewed them on camera, asking them questions about why they like living there, hoping I’d be able to string together their responses into something that made sense.


After the interviews were completed the next important thing to do was to transcribe the conversations. Each interview ended up being 30 minutes long, and I knew it would be just too hard to try to start editing right away, no matter how well I logged everything.

I had never myself dealt with transcription before so I was happy to be pointed to Steve Hullfish’s great transcription article on the Pro Video Coalition and it was very helpful in getting me started thinking about this process.

sell on the marble and gold Oh yes

sell on the marble and gold Oh yes

Because I have (and love) After Effects, I also have Premiere Pro installed, so I tried its speech recognition feature. The results, frankly, were comical.

To do this right a proper transcription was in order. First off, I knew I didn’t have the time (or the inclination) to transcribe the interviews myself, but I was curious what the experience would be like. So I downloaded the excellent InqScribe and used it to transcribe a test interview I had shot. It was a valuable experience, I know that if I were in a pinch and needed to transcribe something myself, I could, and this application worked very well.

Armed with the knowledge that this job needed to be left to the pros, I asked on the Avid-L and FCP-L mailing lists as well as on Twitter for recommendations for transcription companies. I received five referrals, so I decided to hire all of the companies to each tackle one of my interviews. I like to give business to companies that friends recommend, and I encourage you to do the same. Here’s who I worked with and how much each charged to transcribe their approximately 30 minute one-on-one interview:

The costs added up, but considering the alternative of me doing a less good job much more slowly, it was definitely worth it.

If you’ve never done the transcription thing before, here’s how it went for me: I exported a QuickTime movie of each interview then compressed it to a small size suitable for sending over the web. Some of the companies provided me with a login to their own FTP server, others I just uploaded to my own site and provided them with a download link. When they were done they sent back a Microsoft Word document. It couldn’t be easier.

They say a good editor can cut using any tool, can a good editor use scissors?

Non-linear editing

Paper Cut

I’ve never actually performed a paper cut before, but this situation called for it. I’m sure there are better approaches, but here’s what I did: I printed each of the transcribed interviews onto colored paper, a different color for each interviewee. Then using scissors I quickly went through and snipped out my questions and useless answers, then placed the remaining paragraphs into a theme-specific pile.

I had these large legal size pieces of paper on the counter, each with a heading written at the top… “Community”, “Security”, “Parking”, “Common area” and so on, each with various bits of paper containing a response that vaguely fit that category of conversation. If you stood back and squinted your eyes real tight it vaugely resembled the interface of an NLE– bins filled with clips.

My first paper edit, I'll have to save this for the museum.

My first paper cut, I'll have to save this for the museum.

Then I went through each category and refined my cuttings, paring them down to just the bit I was likely to use, then I arranged the responses on the 8.5×14 paper so the ideas kinda flowed, then I taped them down. The result was a rainbow colored script!


So the first part of my editorial process was decidedly low tech, but the next was on the other end of the spectrum. I converted the transcript Word docs into text files, adjusted their formatting and then the real fun began.

Select the text in the script then drag the associated clip onto it.

Select the text in the script then drag the associated clip onto it.

In Media Composer (I’m using 4.02) you choose New Script… from the File menu. You’re prompted to select a text file, then a new window appears containing the transcribed text. Select all of the text in this window, or the part that corresponds with the clip you’re about to link with, then drag the master clip or subclip whose audio matches the script onto the the script.

Next comes the real magic sauce. Choose ScriptSync… from the Script menu and the Avid magically listens to your audio media and associates the words on the script to the words said onscreen. It is a fast process too, indexing one of my 30 minute interviews took just 50 seconds.

You can open source clips by double-clicking words in the script.

You can open source clips by double-clicking words in the script.

Now you’re able to search the script window for words or phrases, then once found you double click on the script and the clip opens in the source window with the position indicator parked right where the person is saying the words you clicked on. It is incredible.

So I just went through my taped together script searching the script for a key word in that section and I was very quickly able to create a rough sequence based on my paper cut. It really is amazing.

So that’s that. I’m now in editing mode, cleaning up the bites and covering with b-roll and figuring out what I need to go back and shoot. I couldn’t be this far along this quickly without this amazing feature of Media Composer, check it out for yourself!

Replaced ending "s"

Replaced ending "s"


Some of these interviewees just aren’t phrasing things as I need. ScriptSync is magic here too, because for example I’m able to search for “s.” to find a sentence that ends with a proper idea-ending “sss” sound.

Original bite as spoken by subject:  

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

I searched for the characters “s.” and quickly found other places in the interview where apparently my interviewee ended a sentence using a word ending in “s”. A quick edit and I have something that sounds much better.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Imagine doing this without ScriptSync, well I know you don’t have to imagine, you’ve done it.  So have I.  This way is definitely a nice alternative.

Decluttering Media Composer on the Mac

Cluttery and distracting

Cluttery and distracting

I’ve been using Media Composer since version 5 point something, which will confuse you new kids who think Media Composer 4.0 just came out. So I’ll put it this way, I started using Media Composer in 1995. I’ve used a lot of versions, and have always preferred using it on a Mac, even though Avid tools feel less stable on the Mac than they do running on Windows. I hate using Windows that much. But stability aside there was has been one big thing that has bugged me about Media Composer since it came to OS X, and I think I’ve found one way to lessen the annoyance this causes me.

Since going to OS X, Media Composer on the Mac did away with the nice grey background of the application that would shield your eyes from temptations beckoning from behind your bins.  This feature still exists on Windows, but somehow it was decided Mac users couldn’t benefit from what we were enjoying in OS 9 and before.

You’re saying, “Dude, just quit the other apps!  If Facebook and your email are distracting you, quit them and only run Media Composer.”

To that I respond, “What are you, some kind of monster??!”

Even ONLY MC running, visual vomit

Even ONLY MC running, visual vomit remains

There ain’t no way I’m completely disconnecting from the world while I’m editing, that ain’t the way I roll.  Hell, you probably know I’ve been posting on the Avid-L since, what, 1996? 1997?  And to the Avid First Class BBS before Avid-L came along.  I had my Mac-based Media Composers connected to the internet back when some of your mommies were telling you that was a no-no.

You can’t NOT have other apps running, you need your Photoshop and After Effects running, but my complaint here is not that your eyes– sorry, I should be talking about me– my eyes are distracted not only by non-work-related Facebook, Twitter and email overload, my eyes are distracted by just the visual mess that you see here to my right.  I’ve been saying for a long while now that when you’re in the Media Composer you should not see your Desktop image behind you, no, there should be grey there!  At least give me the option.

There’s still a whole ‘nother problem with bringing the Media Composer back to the forward app by simply clicking one of its windows, you wind up with bins remaining hidden behind other app’s windows.  Why on earth would I want my Composer window to remain behind my web browser when I click on my Timeline window?  Sorry for the aside, I’ll get back on topic.

Now that's what I'm talking about

That's what I'm talking about!

Ok, so what I’m proposing is something that looks like the image you see to the right of this very text I’m typing right here.  It is visually appealing.  And as an added bonus, when you accidentally miss a bin and click on the grey background you don’t switch out of Media Composer.  Get out your award nomination forms, I’m about to tell you how I pulled off this coup.

  1. Head over to Many Tricks’ web site and download Desktop Curtain.
  2. Next, download my suggestion for your grey backround.
  3. Launch Desktop Curtain and drag my grey PSD into the image well.
  4. If when you launch Desktop Curtain all you see is your desktop covered with the default OS X space picture, launch Desktop Curtain a second time.  This will bring up the settings window.  That is the weird thing about the app, it is faceless and doesn’t really give you any indication it is running but if you “launch” it and it is already running you’ll get the settings window.
  5. The settings window, btw, is where you quit Desktop Curtain when you’re done with it.
Yes, I did donate.

Yes, I did donate.

I set my “Curtain Level” to “In front of the items on the desktop”, which means I’m not actually hiding any apps with this satisfying greyness, I’m hiding the Desktop.  And when I’m done posting an update on Facebook I just remember to Hide the web browser (Command-H) then all I see is Media Composer and Grey.

Anyway, I’ve used Desktop Curtain many times in the past for what it is intended for, but using it to make my life better in this way made me very very happy indeed.

DIY camera dolly

I have seen several times over the years online posts about how to make a DIY camera dolly that uses PVC pipe as track. It came up that I could use a camera dolly recently so I put one together and it is great!
There are many many tutorials, guides and videos online explaining how to create one of these, I took inspiration from these…

I used some thick plywood as the platform, then mounted inline skate wheels to aluminum angles, then attached those assemblies to the bottom of the platform. To take the thing to the next level I affixed some indoor/outdoor carpeting to it. The entire project was pretty easy and the results are fantastic.

Here is the finished edit of the video I did for PacWest, there are a few dolly shots in there: