Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gaggle of Geese Remapped

During a recent shoot with a Canon 7D at Columbia Lake in Waterloo, Ontario, I chanced upon a small gaggle of geese preparing to take off. Although I was shooting in 1080p at 30 frames per second, I tracked their launch although I would rather have been shooting at the faster frame rate of 60 fps (albeit in the lower resolution of 720p).

Gaggle of Geese Remapped from David Rilstone on Vimeo.

This resulted in approx 10 useable seconds which I plan to incorporate later in a feature I'm creating about this park. A timely "tweet" by @AdobePremiere pointed me to a CS5 Help File at help.adobe.com on Timeline Remapping.

Here is described a very simple technique, which I've employed before for "Winter Sparrows", in which to create slow motion of the geese in flight by remapping the timeline. Slowing down to 25% (7.5 fps) of the original 30 fps framerate does create a slight jerkiness in the panning, but the wing motion actually remains quite smooth. Next time I WILL shoot at 720p/60 fps so that the resultant slo-mo frame rate of 15 fps (ie. 25%) will be smoother overall.

Thanks to @AdobePremiere (follow him on Twitter -- lots of useful tweets daily!)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Songbirds Come Alive in CS5!

Anyone fortunate to participate in Philip Bloom's workshops will learn his suggested techniques towards creating a Custom Picture Style with the Canon 5D Mark 2 or 7D to help preserve maximum detail in the shadows, especially in contrasty conditions such as bright sunlight. The resulting video certainly looks a bit bland, but it's easy to bring back as much (or as little) detail as desired in post processing. One of these flat Custom Picture Styles is very easy to dial in: pick Canon's "Neutral Picture Style", then in your menu settings simply apply the following adjustments:

Sharpness -- all the way down to "0"
Contrast -- all the way down to "-4"
Saturation -- dial down two notches to "-2"
Colour Tone -- leave it where it is at "0"

Assign (ie. "save") these new settings as Custom Picture Style C1 and you're good to go.

Songbirds Come Alive with CS5! from David Rilstone on Vimeo.

As you can see in my little video above, the "Ungraded" part of each little clip looks very flat (with a tiny bit of flickering just to be annoying). As I mention in this video, I'm a firm believer in "Less is More" as far as post adjustments are concerned to preserve as close to life-like as I can. Here is all I did for each clip (labelled in the video as "Graded"):

Autocolour - Manually adjusted Black Clipping and White Clipping from 0% to 0.10%;

Shadow/Highlight - simply clicked on "Auto Amount" which put a check mark in the box

Unsharp Mask - left the default amount of Sharpening alone at "50%"
- Increased the Radius from the default 1.0% to "4.0%"
- left the Threshold value alone at the default value of "0"

Note: be very careful to use a minimal amount of Sharpening. It's tempting to use a little too much and you can get some really ugly artifacts showing up -- haloing around the edges, grainy-looking noise, and other noxious qualities.

The music is "Living Voyage" by Kevin Macleod.

Be sure to visit Phil Bloom's blog for the latest on dslr film making!

As I said in the video -- Comments, suggestions, or even just a quick "Hi!" would be very much appreciated!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Jupiter Rising

The local newspaper advised that Jupiter would be at its closest since 1963 -- a "mere" 368 million miles. Rising in the eastern sky, only the Moon itself would be brighter in the night sky.

Earlier this evening (Sept 19th), with a clear sky and Jupiter beckoning, I set up my Canon 7D and hooked in a 100-400 mm Canon telephoto with two multiplying teleconverters stacked in -- Canon 2.0 and 1.4 extenders -- giving me an apparent focal length of 1,792 mm with the 7D's crop factor of 1.6 factored in. A Marshall 7" HDMI LCD monitor was invaluable in both tracking this moving target as it migrated southward, and achieving as sharp a focus as possible. Since we are not in orbit with the Hubble telescope, a fair bit of fuzziness due to our not-so-clear atmosphere is apparent, but it's still possible to detect a gaseous band or two on Jupiter's surface.

Next I swung the lens towards the Moon -- much easier to spot and track due to its huge size and brightness. The major features of the Moon - its craters and "seas" are easily seen.

The resulting video clips were edited in Adobe's Premiere Pro CS5.

Music is "Arcadia" by Kevin Macleod.

Jupiter Rising from David Rilstone on Vimeo.

My inspiration/motivation for this post is thanks to Tom Guilmette

For those not familiar with his work, click on the hyperlink on his name above to visit his blog -- a huge variety of info on all things video. His work frequently finds him using the latest and greatest of the huge cameras at professional sport matches -- he had turned the lens of one of these monsters to the moon recently and tweeted about the short clip he got. Very impressive. And last night, with Jupiter rising in the eastern sky, no clouds, and an almost full moon to boot...... Thanks, Tom!

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Basic Home Video Editing Studio

An important part of the joy in shooting and creating video masterpieces is the post processing, or editing, of the video and audio files captured by camera(s) and audio recorder(s). Once the province of dedicated editing houses, with the advent of high definition digital video cameras and high fidelity digital audio recorders, the third party software houses have kept pace. Now, with enough dedication and perseverance, the amateur videographer can create a respectably polished final video product that only a short time ago would have been virtually impossible within a household budget. Most significantly, the creative process can now expand enormously well beyond the actual video shooting and sound recording. Best of all: it's fun! :)

Let's keep in mind that the home video editing studio is, and forever will be, a Work-in-Progress. As you and I both gain in knowledge and experience the equipment and software will evolve. Techniques will improve, new ways of creating and editing will develop.....it's all good! The above shot of my home studio is really simplicity in itself. Here are a few notes:

1. Dual monitors: so handy when working with a Non Linear Editor (NLE) such as Adobe's Premiere Pro CS5. Here I've got the CS5 workspace on the left monitor, with the second monitor dedicated to a full-screen of the video preview. This was very handy for the "voice-over talent", my wife Karen, to watch as she spoke about the embroidery subject in the video.

2. Zoom H4N audio recorder: with a Rode Videomic shotgun microphone plugged into the H4N recorder, I had a very simple but effective audio mixing station that I could operate while Karen was speaking into the Videomic. I recently acquired a remote switch for the H4N which was worth it's weight in gold in organizing the controls of this unit.

3. Sennheiser headphone: any quality headphone will do, but it's a must to monitor the quality and level of sound entering the H4N.

4. Not shown: just off-screen is my PC. It's a 2.67 Hz quad-core with 12 Gigs of DDR ram, along with a couple of external 2 Tb harddrives for storage and backup. Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 is now 64-bit, so the extra ram is utilized and is a major help when it comes to manipulating and rendering huge video files.

5. Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 - a godsend to Canon dslr video shooters. It's important to have specified Nvidia video cards (mine's a GTX285 - a gamer's favourite!) installed in your PC to take advantage of the new Mercury Playback engine that optimally utilizes the Nvidia card's GPU to smoothly scrub and playback the otherwise-awkward H.264 codec files courtesy of Canon. Earlier versions of Premiere Pro would choke on these files, so it was necessary to use a third party transcoder, such as Cineform's excellent Neoscene, to pre-render the Canon video files into a usable format. However, this took time and resulted in a set of much larger video files to store and manipulate. No longer necessary with CS5.

A note on the audio:

I was never happy with the voice-over quality using my Sennheiser headphone/microphone plugged into my computer's Realtek audio card. The voice quality just seemed thin, flat, reedy, and nasal to me. Today I stumbled upon an excellent blog post by Dave Dugdale that described a quick & easy sound mixing station using a Zoom H4N audio recorder connected via USB to your PC with a Rode Videomic shotgun microphone plugged in turn into the H4N. The Sennheiser headphone/mic is certainly good quality, but besides the lacking (to me) sound quality there was an annoying feedback in the headphones no matter how low the headset mike was turned down -- very distracting to anyone trying to record! If you shifted the headset off your ears while recording into the attached mike (very awkward!!!) the mike would pick up the feedback, resulting in a faint echo being picked up and recorded -- not good.

The Rode Videomic hooked into the H4N provided very clean yet full audio quality. No worries of feedback since it was no longer necessary for the voice-over talent to wear a headphone while actually recording (I wore it for sound input monitoring). Here is the result, you be the judge:

Voice-over Sound Comparo - H4N + Rode Videomic vs Sennheiser Headphone Mic from David Rilstone on Vimeo.

Karen, doing both voice-overs, did not read from a script but instead recorded freestyle directly to the video as it was being previewed. She prefers the Sennheiser to the H4N/Rode Videomic, but I feel the Sennheiser sounds disembodied compared to the H4N/Rode's richer, fuller tone.

By the way, this was the finished video (using the Sennheiser - customer's always right!):

Ladybug on a Towel from David Rilstone on Vimeo.
Music royalty-free by Kevin MacLeod.

Certainly another method of voice-over recording is to record Karen directly into the H4N itself, or with the Rode Videomic hooked into the H4N (but not hooked by USB into the PC), then syncing into the video later. We actually tried this, but there were disadvantages. Just by the very nature of unscripted free form recording there will be false starts and other verbal glitches. This results in a whole bunch of sound files that need to be sorted out during final editing -- a real nightmare to keep organized. The other alternative is to just go back to the beginning after each flub and start all over........not fun. Been there, not worth the t-shirt!!! Things get a little stale after the tenth full repeat, or so.

This is a window into my video editing studio thus far. It's been a lot of fun and a real challenge to learn my way through this. As always, any comments and suggestions are very welcome -- please make sure you post 'em in the Comment section below!