Video Editing Software
Now, this is where things started to become really interesting. On the one hand we have totally free software like Windows Movie Maker, which has the advantage of being free. A lot of people really like this tool, and it's certainly designed to be simple to use, but I had a play with it and it did things I didn't intuitively understand. Also, it didn't appear to support the number of audio tracks I thought I required, so I decided to look elsewhere...
I actually put a lot of time into this, perusing and pondering numerous reviews from a wide variety of sources (I located these sources via a search on Google). In the end, I opted for a package called Corel VideoStudio Pro X2 which I purchased for only $38 from Amazon.com.
In fact, the price of this package seems to vary on almost a daily basis. A few weeks after I'd purchased my copy the price had risen to $99. I just checked a few minutes ago as I pen these words, and it had fallen to $79.99. Personally, after working with this tool for the last month or so, I would say that it's well worth whatever they happen to be charging for it at the time.
Let's take a real quick "tour" around the interface:
4. The Corel VideoStudio Pro X2 GUI.
(Click this image to view a larger, more detailed version)
In the upper left we have the preview area, where you can watch a video clip, listen to an audio clip, or view the entire project. In the upper right we have the library area, the contents of which depend on what you want to look at. If you select the Video option you see the video clips associated with your project (it is to this library that I imported the video clips I took with my Flip Video). If you select the Image option you see any still images you've decided to use. If you select the Audio option you see all of the audio clips you can use (it is to this library that I imported the audio clips I recorded with my Zoom H2 and processed with Audacity). If you select the Transitions option you are presented with all of the effects you can use to transition between videos and images (more about this later). And so on and so forth...
At the bottom of the GUI we have the various views of the project. There's the Storyboard View, the Timeline View, or the Audio View. In the screenshot about we're looking at the Timeline View; this currently shows five "tracks", which are (from top to bottom): the main video/image track, the overlay video/image track, the titles track, the voice track, and the music/sound effects track. I believe that you can add/employ more video and audio tracks if you require, but I haven't found the need for them myself.
I should note that there's a separate audio track that's included with the video that's not shown here. This would be where the sound from the Flip Video is presented, but for what I'm doing I've tended to turn that off in the Video Editor and instead use the audio I recorded on my Zoom H2.
So, you start by dragging video clips and images and dropping them onto into the video track in the timeline. Wherever you have a video-video, video-image, image-video, or image-image interface, you can drag-and-drop a transition effect onto that interface. Next, you drag-and-drop audio snippets into the voice track and/or the music/sound effects track.
In the case of images, you can select their duration. You can also select an image or a video snippet or an audio snippet and split it at the selected point. You can move the start point of an audio snippet and – when in the Audio View, you can adjust its "volume envelope" by dragging a rubber-band effect around. (This is a bit hard to describe, but it means that – for example; – you can easily fade the background music down when someone starts to talk).
I could waffle on about this tool for hours. Suffice it to say, however, that it's incredibly powerful while still managing to be very intuitive and easy to use. I am very, VERY impressed!
Video Translation Software
Before we move on to consider my video thus far, I would briefly like to mention a free tool called the Format Factory from www.formatoz.com.
5. The Format Factory GUI.
(Click this image to view a larger, more detailed version)
This is an incredibly useful tool that allows you to take one or more videos in some format (AVI, WMF, MOV, SWF, FLV, etc.) and at some resolution ... and to convert them into some other format in some other resolution.
My Two Stupid Dogs movie
So, I'm currently around 1/3 to 1/2 of the way through my video. It's hard to describe just how much fun this has been. I think it's because this is something "creative" that's different from the "hum-drum" activities of my normal work day (for someone who does video editing as a job, they would probably have the opposite reaction).
Let me walk you briefly through this video. I wanted to make this as "cheesy" and "tongue-in-cheek" as possible, so we start with a classic 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 countdown sequence. I accompanied this with an "8mm Projector" sound effect that I acquired from the Soundsnap site.
6. We start with a classic count-down sequence.
Next, I added the main title. The video editor includes all sorts of clever title effects, including 3D text flying across the screen, but I opted to use its Painting Creator tool, which allowed me to capture my drawing the text in real-time (using my Genius Tablet). As backing, I included some stirring music that came in the video editor's audio library.
7. This title is hand-drawn in real-time.
Next we have a bit of me waffling, then a bit showing the dogs, and then I say something like: " Now we have to go back deep into the mists of time..." I then use a "Transition-through-White" effect to take us to a "Mists of Time" image accompanied by the sound of harp music (another audio snippet from Soundsnap).
And then I continued to waffle on accompanied by images and sound effects in my own happy way. Currently, the video ends with us returning back through time to the present day. I wanted to use an H.G.Wells "Time Machine" sequence for this, but that's seriously copyrighted material, so my artist friend Denis created some images for me that do the same thing. This final sequence is currently too long and slow, but I intend to "tweak" it when I continue with the next segment, where we get to see Henry and Lili in action and we perform "scientific tests" like comparing a coconut (representing the brain of a dung beetle) with a peanut (representing Henry's intellectual capabilities).
Ah... so much to do, and so little time to do it all in...
But wait, there's more...
If there's one thing I've learned through all of this, it's that making videos is a LOT HARDER than one might think. We're now so used to watching professional material on TV and at the cinema that most of us have no clue as to how sophisticated those folks are.
Since I started playing with this, I've been much more aware of what I'm watching, like manning and zooming and .... "stuff". For example, I now realize that there are an incredibly variety of ways in which you can perform transitions. Watching a program yesterday evening, for example, I observed that a group of related snippets from the same overall scene simply chopped from one to the other, but then there were cross-fades from one major scene to another. One of my ambitions is to maybe take a film/video class at my local community college if they offer such a beast...
And, in closing, I'd like to thank Rich Pell and Cliff Roth, who are the editors of my sister sites Audio DesignLine and Video/Imaging DesignLine, respectively, for their sage advice. Also, I'd like to thank my friend Denis Crowder (www.CroDesign.com) for his help and advice, and I also want to thank all the readers of my blogs who emailed me with helpful suggestions... until next time, have a good one!
Clive "Max" Maxfield is president of TechBites Interactive, a marketing consultancy firm specializing in high technology. Max is the author and co-author of a number of books, including Bebop to the Boolean Boogie (An Unconventional Guide to Electronics) and How Computers Do Math featuring the pedagogical and phantasmagorical virtual DIY Calculator.
Widely regarded as being an expert in all aspects of computing and electronics (at least by his mother), Max was once referred to as "an industry notable" and a "semiconductor design expert" by someone famous who wasn't prompted, coerced, or remunerated in any way. Max can be reached at email@example.com.