Five things series … Editing video on your iPad

Colleague Eva-Marie Ayala and I had some fun with the iPhone and Fort Worth’s new parking meters on Monday. In the process, I learned five key things about editing in the iMovie iOS app.

1. Move clips from iPhone to iPad: After shooting the video, I used Apple’s camera connection kit to import the clips to my iPad. (Editing on the iPhone’s small screen is not a fun experience.) Unfortunately, you can’t import just any video format, so if you shot video using something other than an iPhone, you’ll just have to see if the iPad will accept it. You’ll know it worked if the Photo app opens.

2. Keep your expectations low: I edited the clips in the iMovie app and overall it worked OK. The biggest drawback: The app version does not allow you to separate audio and video tracks, so B roll is not an option.

3. Use WiFi to export full-res video: I exported the video at full resolution to YouTube (It took only a few minutes.) and was happy with the quality. Uploading the HD file to Vimeo took about 15 minutes on WiFi (for a 44-second video), and I saw little difference in the quality.

4. Export to your Mac if necessary: I ended up exporting the clips to iPhoto via the sync cable so I could handle B roll in Final Cut Pro, thus ruining the entire iPad-only experiment (oh well).

VIDEO: Fort Worth parking meters, on YouTube

5. The iPad works for breaking news: Trying to shoot and edit the entire project on mobile devices wasn’t as awesome as I had hoped. But if you’re not as addicted to FCP as I am, and especially if you’re handling breaking news, the setup will work just fine.

Just know going in that your post-production options are limited, unless you want to move to a laptop.

Steve Wilson’s accessories to improve your iPhone video

Colleague Steve Wilson, whose work with the iPhone video camera was referenced in a previous post, shares his list of accessories:

Mini video kit for iPhone

“I have a little mini video kit for my iPhone that I now carry with me that reporters might find useful.

It all fits in a small bag that I keep in my desk.

The “How to Make the Nellie Cruz cutout” was shot with my iPhone using this mini tripod.

In the “Cookie Challenge” video, I used my iPhone on the same mini tripod head, but mounted on a full-sized tripod. I also used the Lavalier microphone for the sound.”  Continue reading

How to post high-quality video to Star-Telegram.com with your iPhone

The latest generation of Apple’s iPhones (meaning the iPhone 4 and the new 4S) capture high-quality photos and videos that, under the right conditions, will look dynamite on our website. (The video below was shot with an iPhone 4.)

The trick is to get the video out of your phone and onto our site without losing too much of the quality. We’re not a TV station, of course, but still, poor quality videos look unprofessional and will drive away viewers.

Here’s the best way to get good video files to us:  Continue reading

Point and shoot video test: Kodak Zi8 better than Flip?

I’m testing out a new Kodak HD point-and-shoot video camcorder as a possible replacement for the Flip camcorder, which is the basically the industry standard for simple video shoots. Here’s a little clip of my 15-year-old dachshund, who hates the paparazzi as much as any star.

I think the quality is pretty good. And it has an external mic jack, which the Flip cam doesn’t.

But the Kodak editing software is incomprehensible. I stil haven’t figured out how to save the correct portion of my edited clip.

So, we’re staying with the Flip in our shop for now.

I’d like an automated video workflow to go, please

High school game of the week

Mansfield vs. Mansfield Legacy, Sept. 4, 2009

UPDATE: I should note that the latest version of Sorenson Squeeze, Version 5, has an “upload to ftp” setting. We are using earlier versions, which is why I used the Automator workaround.

Imagine it’s 2 or 3 on a Saturday morning. You’ve spent several hours shooting and then editing video from the high school football game of the week.

Now, you face the mind-numbing task of converting your 1.5 GB file to two different output versions and then uploading them to two different servers.

Blah! Our photographers must do this every week during football season, and it’s a beating.

I think, “There has to be an automated workflow for that.” (Thanks to the Aug. 27 edition of the Mac Roundtable Podcast for getting me started thinking about automation.)

FINAL CUT AND A LITTLE SQUEEZE

Here are the pieces in the puzzle:

SAVING STEPS: GOING AUTOMATIC

Here’s what I’ve set up:

  • Export edited file from Final Cut Pro.
  • Open Sorenson Squeeze file with presets to output our 16:9 .flv file and an mpeg4.
  • Drag edited FCP file into “Watch Folder” set up in Sorenson.

    Squeeze Watch Folder

    Squeeze Watch Folder

  • Hit “squeeze.” (Note: Sorenson says that if you are using just one compression setting, you can just drag the file into the Watch folder and it will compress automatically.)

For now, the photog still must go get the .flv file and upload it manually to our video player. (I have some ideas on how to automate this process.) But the mp4 is auto-uploaded to the archive server, saving time and steps.

WHAT’S NEXT: GOING MOBILE

We have one more step to accomplish: Converting the original file for use on mobile devices. I think we can automate this process, too.

FOOTNOTES: THE AUTOMATOR SETUP

I set up a Folder Action to use on the “CompressedOutput” file, which is where Sorenson’s Watch folder dumps the compressed videos. Once the files are output to that folder (after the Squeezing), they are automatically uploaded to our archive server. The photog will still have to go into the CompressedOutput file and manually post the .flv.

Upload to FTP using Automator

Hey, where’d my audio go?

The little Flip video cameras by PureDigital are useful for busy reporters who want to capture live video but don’t want the hassle of carrying around a mini DV camcorder and going through video capture hell.

But there’s a big downside — the audio is a real problem. There is no external mic, so if a reporter is interviewing someone who doesn’t speak loudly, or if the interview is being conducted amid a lot of background noise, the video can turn out to be useless.

Don’t panic, though, if you dump the AVI file on your desktop and you don’t hear any audio in your Windows Media Player. (They are .AVI files and thus are much easier to work with on a PC.)

We had a case like that last week, where a reporter at one of our weekly papers had shot an interview with a soft-spoken boxer. He couldn’t hear any audio on playback and worried that he had lost the interview.

Turns out the audio was there, but it was so faint that it wouldn’t play back. He was using Adobe Premiere Elements (for cost reasons), which only allows you to boost the audio by 6 db. Still wasn’t enough.

I pulled the avi file into Final Cut Pro and boosted the audio by another 12 db. It wasn’t a perfect solution because, of course, the background hissing and humming got too hot. But at least he’s able to use the footage.

Of course, I could have tried other alternatives, such as exporting the audio track into Goldwave or another audio editing program, but then I would have had to line up the video and the audio again. I also could have used Soundtrack Pro, which comes in the Final Cut Studio bundle, but I was able to do enough boosting in FCP to make it work.

Just another one of those workarounds required when you work in a print industry and have to fight for every dollar spent on multimedia equipment and software.

Creating video from your computer screen. Easy? Nope.

I’m here to tell you that making a video off your screen isn’t as easy as it sounds, not if you’re worried about quality.

It took me parts of three days — many, many hours — to create a short video introducing the features of our new star-telegram.com site. (We’re scheduled a launch Aug. 25.)

Among the problems I had to figure out:

  • Improving the quality of the text. I’m not sure why I expected it to be crystal-clear sharp, but with the tools I have it’s not possible. I need to try it on my larger, high-def monitor, but I don’t think it’s going to make that much of a difference.
  • Enlarging the page so people could see the smaller features. I’m using a MacBook Pro, and I figured out how to enlarge the screen using “universal access” in the “system preferences.” After some experimenting, I was able to get the settings right. I checked only “smoothed images” and “screen image moves only when the pointer reaches an edge.” (This is important if you don’t want your whole screen to move all over the place when you drag the cursor.)

I used Snapz Pro X to record the screen. I tried a couple of other programs, including the more expensive ScreenFlow, but none in my price range worked better than Snapz Pro. In the end, I used several jpegs and just panned and zoomed in Final Cut Pro (I’m still using FCP 6), because the quality was better on the still images.

By the way, I used “fixed camera” and “smoother” in Snapz Pro, and exported the video using the “animation” codec, at 30 fps. I tried other codecs and frames, but this one seemed to work best.

It’s still not perfect. For one thing, I can’t figure out why there is a ghost cursor. If anybody has an idea …

Oh, and it helps to have people on staff who know how to do voice-over. The narration is by J.R. Labbe, director of our editorial page.