Editor's Note: This is a follow-on to my original "How to make a video" article. In Part 1 (see article #212700320) I introduced the various pieces of hardware I've been playing with (my Flip Video, the Zoom H2 Stereo Recorder, the Gorillapod Flexible Tripod, and the Genius Graphic Tablet). Now, in Part 2, we turn our attention to the software side of things.
First we need a project
I don't know about you, but whenever I start playing with a new software tool, I find it very had to force myself to wade through any pre-packaged tutorials. It's not that they aren't well done – just that I find it incredibly boring to follow someone else's step-by-step instructions. The way I tend to work best is to decide on a "Project" I want to undertake, and then learn how to use the tool to achieve whatever it is that I want to do.
Now, we (well, my wife, really) have two Bichon Frises called Henry (pronounced "On-err-ee" in the French style), who is a big waste of space, and Lili, who is a little waste of space. Truth to tell, these are lovely, friendly, bouncy little rascals who never met a stranger... the only downside is that they are as "thick as a brick" as they say in England.
1. Two Stupid Dogs – Lili (left) and Henry (right).
I mean it – these are two really stupid dogs – I could tell you tales you wouldn't believe. So I decided that my video project would be titled: "Two Stupid Dogs" (there's a link to the video in its current-state-of-play later in this article).
So, the premise of my film is that, way back in the mists of time, primitive man was not scared of creatures such as the woolly mammoth, the grizzly bear, or the saber-tooth tiger ... instead he feared the blood-curdling Bichon!
2. Did primitive man fear the blood-curdling Bichon?
My suggestion is that Bichons used to grow to be 14-feet tall and could swallow a grown man in a single bite. Even worse, they used to be ferociously intelligent. However, at some stage in the dim-and-distant past, a Bichon we shall call Henry the First (the name just came to me) developed a "stupid gene". Over time, this stupid gene evolved and replicated and spread throughout the Bichon species with disastrous results. Thus, as the eons passed, Bichons shrank both in size and intelligence.
3. Over time, Bichons shrank both in size and intelligence.
And so we return to the present day... My contention is that some Bichons are more stupid than others (they have a "higher concentration" of the stupid gene), and that Henry and Lili represent the highest distillation of this stupidity (if they lived in a village populated solely by Bichons, they would be elected the "Village Idiots" without a contest).
And so, keeping this project in mind, let's take a peek at the various software products, tools, and other "stuff" I've been playing with.
Audio Editing Software
It has to be said that there are a lot of audio editing tools available to you. In the past, for example, I have used Sound Forge, which was really very powerful, but it currently sells for $299.95, which is way too rich for my blood (there's also a lower end version called Sound Forge Audio Studio for $54.95, but this doesn't include some features I wanted like noise reduction).
So, based on a recommendation from Rich Pell (the editor of my sister site Audio DesignLine), I downloaded a copy of the free cross-platform sound editor Audacity.
3. The Audacity sound editor GUI.
(Click this image to view a larger, more detailed version)
Unfortunately we don't have the time to describe all the capabilities of this product here. Suffice it to say that is has many more features and functions than I know what to do with. The main points as far as I'm concerned are (a) it's free [call me "old-fashioned" if you will], (b) it's easy to use, and (c) it does everything I personally need it to do.
Let me briefly describe the somewhat simplistic way in which I've been using this little scamp...
- First of all I write a rough script to accompany my film's story board (I tend to improvise as I go along, but it's really useful to have a starting point).
- Next, I use my Zoom H2 Stereo Recorder described in Part 1 of this mini-series to record my script. In some instances I may also be recording on my Flip Video, but a lot of the time I'm off-camera. If I "fluff" something up while recording, I don't stop the recorder, I just pause to take a breath and then re-record that paragraph (I'll edit out the mistakes later).
- Once I've done all of the recording I need for the moment, I'll copy the file(s) from the Zoom to my PC and then open it (or one of them) up in Audacity.
- The first thing I do in Audacity is to go all the way through the file playing it to see what's there and cutting out any chunks that I fluffed (I just select each one to discard by dragging the mouse over it and then using the Edit > Delete command.
- Next, I select the entire track and use the Effect > Normalize command to remove any DC offset (center on 0 vertically) and normalize for a maximum amplitude of -3dB. What this means is that if I make multiple recordings at different times with slightly different volumes, then using this command helps to bring them all into the same "ballpark".
- Now, I zoom in a bit, select the quite areas between paragraphs, and use the Effect > Noise Removal command to ensure there's no extraneous sounds in these areas.
- Before I do anything else, I save a copy of my processed file as a backup (just in case).
- So, at this point I have a single file which probably contains the words associated with several scenes. In some cases it may also contain some sound effects I decided to record, such as me making a duck sound or something (don't ask). The way I work is that in the case of an individual sound effect (or a special "sound bite"), I select it by dragging with the mouse and then use the File > Export Selection as WAV command to save it out as a separate WAV file (there's a similar command to save it out as an MP3 file), after which I delete this effect from my main file.
- With regard to the previous point, you may also choose to chop up each "scene" (comprising a couple of sentences) into a separate audio file. For myself, I tend to keep a number of scenes gathered together, import them into my video editor as a single file, and then chop them up later... this is a matter of personal preference... whatever works for you.
At this stage, I have the audio I've recorded ready to be incorporated in to my video. However, I should note that this is not a linear process. While putting the video together, I may decide to re-record part of the audio, or add in a new sound effect, or...
One thing I quickly discovered when I started to make my video is that I needed access to sound effects. In some cases I could easily create these myself; in other cases it was a little harder. For example, I know I'm going to need the sound of a golf club hitting a golf ball later on in the film (again, don't ask).
I don't personally play golf (I stand with the man who said: "Golf is a game that involves guiding a small ball into a small hole with an instrument that is singularly unsuited to the task!"). However, I have friends who do play, so I could go down to a local club and acquire such a sound effect. But this is a hobby project for goodness sake ... I could spend the rest of my life gathering all of the sounds I need...
As an alternative, there is a really great website called Soundsnap that has over 100,000 sound effects that you can download and play with. This site used to be totally free, but toward the end of 2008 they started to require a paid membership (fortunately this was after I'd already download a bunch of effects I wanted to play with). You can still download up to five effects a month for free, but after that you have to pay.
I'm sure that there are other free (and legal) sites out there – and I'd be delighted to hear of any that you know about – but for myself I've been very impressed with Soundsnap.