Sunday, January 31, 2010


This is a further development in video editing from my multi-cam blog below. It's always fascinating to run a split screen with wildlife videos to show the subject up close and simultaneously show the same subject from further back in its environment:

Sparrows in split screen from David Rilstone on Vimeo.

As with everything else I'm finding in Adobe's Premiere Pro CS4, it's easy once you know's the gettin' to know how that's difficult! For anyone who just wants to run a video camera and get it up on the screen/TV/Internet as quickly as possible, I'd strongly recommend either Sony's Vegas Platinum Studio 9.0c or Adobe's Premiere Elements 7.0: both cost about $100 and can do a ton of things with a lot less fuss. Obviously, there won't be as many features or special effects you will find in the more elaborate (and expensive!!!) Premiere Pro, but I've found these two programs offer a ton of stuff and are TONS more intuitive than Premiere Pro. As a bonus, the techniques you learn in Vegas or Elements give you a better idea of how things work, to a point, with Premiere Pro if you should ever decide to enter The Dark Side.

Once I understood what was involved with split screen editing, the technique itself was really easy. All you're doing is running both videos, together, at the same time. Premiere Pro simply has you place one video clip ("Video 1) on the time line on "Video Track 1", then place Video 2 on the time line's "Video Track 2" immediately above it. Then, using the Premiere Pro's "Video Effects" you simply apply the "Four-Point Garbage Matte" to first Video 1, then Video 2. What you have the Four-Point Garbage Matte do is simply block off (ie using the "matte") one half (or so - you can adjust how much) of Video 1, then do the same with Video 2 and block off the other half. That way when you run the two overlapping videos together you only see the unblocked halves of each video track running.....the split screen!

An important thing to mind is that when shooting the videos to produce a split screen effect is that you have to remember to keep the subject in Camera 1 in the left side of the frame the whole time, and in Camera 2 the subject has to be in right side. This is because this particular technique does not allow you to shrink down the video in any way to "get 'em to fit" on one side or the other. The split screen technique can also be done top/bottom, or even with 4, 6, or even 8 split screens running. Same principle, just a bigger headache!

I spent quite a bit of time in post processing getting everything sync'd up: the two videos and the Zoom H4N audio recorder. Practice makes perfect and I've found that expanding the tracks to absolute maximum helps with dragging each track the tiny little bit needed to get perfectly aligned with the other is so much easier.

Friday, January 29, 2010


For a new challenge I wanted to try shooting a scene with two cameras running simultaneously to lend added perspective to what's going on. Ultimately my goal is to shoot and produce nature documentaries, but to do so effectively I believe it's important to show the wildlife subject up close coupled to wider shots in its natural environment. Certainly this can be done with consecutive video shots using just one camera and switching between 2 (or more) lenses...... certainly this is the most portable means when tramping the hinterlands. That said, if two cameras can be brought to bear on a single subject at the same time, a certain continuity can be achieved when watching a wildlife subject close & personal and simultaneously from further away as it interacts with its surroundings.

To that end, I needed to hone a skill set in both the physical setup and actual running of two cameras together, then tying the two video clips later on the computer. Just to add some extra fun to the mix, I introduced a third parameter -- remote audio recording to be sync'd in as well.

I'm doing everything the hard way on a number of fronts:

1. Video dslr's.....the bad: everything is manual, ergonomics ain't the greatest, h.264 codec is efficient for recording but overloads a PC, recorded sound is not the best using the built in mono-microphone and really puts a need for an external microphone. Also, Canon has seen fit to mandate Auto Gain Control in its built in audio recording, resulting in a low hiss when recording quiet subjects as the camera "strains" to hear something.

.......the good: FANTASTIC 1080p video quality, lots of lens choices, ability to isolate subject from background with thin Depth of Field, the cameras themselves are relatively inexpensive (my wife may not agree) to purchase compared to pro vid cameras (but the needed accessories will kill ya! Karen would agree to that, I KNOW).

2. Adobe Premiere Pro CS4......the bad: PC version won't scrub the .mov vidclip files smoothly for editing; you need 3rd party software to transcode into more PC-friendly format. (I use Cineform's Neoscene, others use Streamclip). Also PP CS4 is expensive and a bugger to learn -- it's NOT intuitive at all. Anyone gonna produce a "Premiere Pro CS4 for Dummies"? I'll buy a copy.

.........the good: very powerful editing suite, can do lots of stuff with it. Easy when you know how (I just haven't figured out "how" yet....). Get lots of respect when you tell people you "post process in CS4" (because no one else on this planet knows "how" either. We all just pretend we do to impress each other).

3. Using outside audio - Zoom H4N audio recorder......the bad: a real pain to sync with video in post processing in CS4 (see '2' above), it's another set of controls to fuss with -- 'record' button requires TWO pushes to activate - how dumb is that?, use of clapboard not the best technique when filming nervous subjects like whitetail deer, songbirds, armed Brinks guards.

......the good: excellent sound (when you actually DO remember to push the 'record' button TWO FRICKEN' TIMES), small size, light weight, and fairly robust design.

4. DVD burning/uploading to Vimeo.......the bad: relates to '2' above (no surprise there, eh?) -- how to burn a disk that will actually PLAY on a DVD player without some stupid "disk error" message scrolling across the screen, how to find a way to upload a video clip to Vimeo that will actually look good.

........the good: after wasting 50 or so blank DVD's and the same number of hours I finally figured things out. (Well, blank disks ARE cheap and everyone has a DVD player to watch your creative masterpiece). Again, it's easy when you know how (I use Nero 9 to burn AVDHD format to DVD - works like a charm and looks great on my 1080p LCD bigscreen TV). With Vimeo I just transcode to 720p .mov first, then upload -- looks good on the Vimeo website.

And so it goes. I learned how to use PP CS4 to sync the video and cut back and forth from one camera to the next: Next time I hope to have jumpy whitetail deer or songbirds (I'll pass on the Brinks guys). Here is the multicam setup I used with a Canon 5Dmk2 (24-70L wideangle) and 7D (100-400L telephoto):

How to fill a birdfeeder from David Rilstone on Vimeo.

I haven't gone into the step-by-step of camera settings (get Phil Bloom's DVD in my Jan 5th blog!), nor the Premiere Pro CS4 steps, etc. etc. for sake of brevity. If there's any further specific info you would like, post your email in the comment section below with your question(s) or email me directly at

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


In a word: more.

To be honest, I held off purchasing Phil Bloom's 7D Training Video (and the earlier 5D Mark 2 version). I balked at the original selling price of $175 USD, reasoning that I already had most, if not all, of the information already in hand. Much of the information I felt I needed had already been gleaned --for free-- off such excellent forums as Cinema 5D and DVinfo (to which Phil is a contributor), plus blogs such as Phil Bloom's himself, Vincent Laforet, etc. etc. In other words, why would I lay out serious coin to buy something I believed I already had?

Recently my wife and I acquired two 7D's (Karen for her bird-in-flight photos, mine to complement my 5D2 nature videomaking). Following Phil Bloom on Twitter and Facebook, I was aware that he was promoting a new 7D video in addition to his 5D2 version with more 7D-specific info, plus he had applied a couple of discounts just before Christmas. I got the download off his blogsite for what amounted to $108 USD ($116 CDN). It ran fine on my PC using Microsoft's default Media Player, plus I burned it to a blank DVD so I could play it on my big screen LCD tv.

The video is an easy watch despite being crammed with information on camera settings, lenses, techniques, and useful accessories. Karen watched it with me and felt that some parts moved too fast, but that's the beauty of a DVD......simply play it again if you missed something. The video does move along briskly and there is a bit of Phil's dry Brit humour to provide a bit of relief to all the detail.

I confess that I was surprised there was a lot of camera-specific info that was new to me. Further, it was useful to have techniques demonstrated on video that are otherwise a little difficult to understand through words alone.

Is this video worth $108? Yes. Is it worth $175? Yes. You could do as I did and spend over 100 hours perusing the internet forums and blogs for a far lesser yield of information. Is your time worth $1.75/hr? How about all those [expensive] photo & video mags singing the praises of the 5D2 and 7D but tell you ZILCH on how to get serious results with the video aspect?

I haven't delved into the post-processing part of this 7D Training Video as yet. It deals in part with Final Cut Pro which is Mac-based, but there are techniques that Phil discusses that should translate over to PC-based Non-Linear Editors like Premiere Pro or Sony Vegas. I'll leave that for a future blog.

In the meantime, if you have a Canon 5D Mark 2 or a 7D and wish to do some video shooting, cut to the chase and get the DVD.