Friday, February 29, 2008

Mac Video and Machinima Pointers

Well last night I have a bit of adventure in video editing, and its cause was something I've run into before but just didn't catch this time. Since the best mistakes to learn from are from other peoeple's mistakes I thought I'd share what happened, how I got there, and how I fixed it.

I'll also share some observations from my first attempt at Machinima (movies made using 3d games or virtual worlds)

So the first part will be Mac specific, the second part more generally applicable.

This was a pretty simple project. Take video of a walking tour, take snippets and make a reasonable short video of the tour. I thought I'd do this in iMovie08 1) because FinalCut Pro isn't on my machine and 2) FinalCut Pro sounded like way overkill.

I imported my .mov files into iMovie08 (after having fiddled with them briefly in iMovieHD). I started editing but soon found that every click and movement of the play head resulted in the machine stopping for a good 5-10 seconds. (Spinning beachball.) With about an hour of screen capture footage that was to be cut down to 5-10 minutes things didn't look good.

I finally gave up, exported the video I had made thus far (to preserve voice overs) so I could import it into FinalCut Pro.

And that was when it all became clear - there was no video on the export. Audio was fine but the video was all blank. The codec that the original video was in was one that iMovie08 doesn't like. The solution is - convert the video to something iMovie does like, like H.264. (There are probably other codecs but I know that one works.)

A bit of converting (using Quicktime) and re-importing and iMovie was all happy.

The way I got here was I used Snapz Pro X to capture the video. The default codec that the version I have choses when encoding video is not one iMovie likes. However, when you go to save the video you can edit the video encoding settings and save as H.264 - and you will save yourself a lot of headache.

(And as an addendum. I just found this awesome blog, Unlocking iMovie '08, with lots of good pointers on iMovie08 - including info on features you might think are missing but aren't.)

As I was editing the video I was reminded how it takes practice to take in a scene and see what the camera sees instead of seeing the filtered scene that your brain presents to you. Our mind does a great job of filtering out noise but that isn't what you want on film. Experienced film makers probably know this all intuitively but for the rest of you I'll share my bloopers.

1) Turn off distracting information - I remembered to turn off the display of HUDs, but I left SL voice on - which since I wasn't actually recording the SL Voice resulted in a unnecessary lovely white dot above my head and in odd places in the scene. Turn off extra displays, look again, and then make sure there isn't anything you missed before going on.

2) Look at your lighting - Most of my scenes were fine, but in one area it was night with minimal external lighting. I adjusted the exposure on that scene, which resulted in blown out colors but otherwise the details of the scene would have been near invisible on a windows PC. I could reshoot but the smarter thing would have been to notice the light and done something about it before shooting the scene (force sunrise/sunset)

3) Lose the pointer arrow - Most of my scenes I did ok with this, but in one scene I have this little arrow moving occasionally on the screen. There are times you can't avoid this but use what tools you have when you can (e.g. camera controls) and don't just randomly leave the mouse pointer in the middle of the screen.

I'm sure I'll learn more with my next machinima, but those are my lessons from this round. I hope they proved helpful for at least a few of you. And if you have pointers for me feel free to leave them in the comments, or drop me an email. (goldiekatsu at gmail)

1 comment:

Hache said...

Hi Goldie, just checking out your blog. I read this last post, and a question came to me. In the part where you're talking about adjusting the exposure in a scene thats not well ligthed you say "the details of the scene would have been near invisible on a windows PC", so I'm wondering, does video in general look different on Macs? you see I use only PC so I wonder if the things I do here seem different on your machines, or is it just a Machanima Software thing?