BoT.Films BTS: Film Production

Because of a few suggestions by viewers, I have made a video explaining my workflow for a normal video. That video is posted on my channel (http://www.youtube.com/BoTFilmsM). In this post I will give a more in-depth review, supplemented with screenshots from the editing of this actual video.

To make it easier to follow, I will separate each thing that I do into steps.

Step 1: Pre-production and Shooting

The first thing that I do is set up all of the equipment that I will be needing to film. This includes:

  • camera (Sony a65)
  • tripod (Sunpak 6000PG)
  • microphone (MXL V63M)
  • audio interface (Focusrite Saffire Pro 14)
  • computer (MacBook Pro 13″ Mid-2010)
  • lights (canister lights from Home Depot)

On a side note, the Sony a65 can shoot in multiple formats. These include:

  • AVCHD (1920×1080)
    • 60i 24M
    • 60i 17M
    • 60p 28M
    • 24p 24M
    • 24p 17M
  • MP4
    • 1440×1080 12M
    • VGA 3M

For the most part I use the AVCHD 24p 24M, for the best quality. I get the most information in the video, but it creates a bigger file size. Shooting in 60p is meant for slow motion because it captures 60 percent more frames per second versus 24p. 60i means that the footage is shot interlaced, so that can be thought of as 30p.

The problem with shooting in AVCHD is that many computers do not recognize the format. That is where MP4 comes in. If you want to shoot a quick video, meant for the internet, then MP4 is the easiest way to capture your video since it is a widely recognized format. This is one reason I use Final Cut Pro X. It and Adobe Premier Pro are some of the only non-linear editors that recognize the AVCHD format and can work with it natively. If you are on a Mac, then the latest iMovie also recognizes AVCHD. In the latest update to OS X, Mountain Lion, Quicktime can also play these files… but I’m jumping ahead of myself. First we need to shoot the video.

Now that I am ready to film I plug everything in, turn it on, and press the record button. Because I am using a separate audio source, I clap at the beginning so that I can sync everything up during the next step.

Step 2: Editing

Once I have shot the video to my liking, I take my SD card out of my camera and I put it into my computer. Using the “Import from Camera” option in Final Cut Pro X, I import any footage that I want to be in my video. Usually this is just one clip, but if there are more I import them here as well. When you click the import button, you get the option to do many things, including converting the video to Apple ProRes (Proxy). This makes it easier to edit the footage if you have a slower computer, but the end product will be rendered out in full resolution.

Once the video has finished importing, it’s time to put it in the timeline. Using the audio spike caused by the clap, I am able to sync the video and audio together. Once the video is in the timeline, I can detach and delete the audio from it, so that I am just left with the video and the external audio.

I can then take the two separate audio and video tracks and make them into one, making further editing easier.

Now I can start editing the video, taking out parts where there is silence and parts that just make the video less helpful and boring. Cutting up your video can also make it more energetic and help it flow, keeping your audience more interested.

I cut the video using the blade tool. By default the shortcut is “B” and the shortcut for the select tool is “A”. These are good things to get used to because they make workflow much more efficient. Using the blade tool I set the “in” and “out” points. A way to make this go even faster is to set the points using “I” and “O” shortcuts respectively  but this takes some time getting used to. Once you have selected your trim points, you can hit “A” to go back to the select tool, select the clip and hit delete.

It can take a while to get your edits to be exactly how you want them, but once you’ve practiced a few times, it will become second nature. Once you’ve done this in all of the spots that you want to in your video, it’s time to move on to more fancy things, like titles and background music.

Final Cut Pro X (as well as iMovie) has a great selection of built-in titles. Just pick one, edit it to your liking and put it where you want it to be. My titles always start my videos so I put them at the beginning. After you have finished putting a title in, you can move on to music. Music is not needed, but it adds a nice touch to your video, making it just that little bit better. When using music, the one thing to be careful of is making sure that it does not infringe on any copyright laws. This could get your video taken off of YouTube and even get you into serious legal trouble. Copyright free music is available online, as well as there being some included with Final Cut and the iLife suite.

Once you have any and all edits that you want to make to your video, it will look a little like this:

Now you can play it back to make sure that it is to your liking, and if it is, proceed on to the next step.

Step 3: Publishing

If you are using Final Cut Pro X, you have a multitude of options to choose from when you export your video. I use the “Export Using Compressor Settings” option so that I have full control over the size and shape of the final video.

Once you click the option that you want, a window will pop up asking where you want to save your final video. Pick a location, and you are done. Just wait for the video to export and then you can upload it to YouTube for the world to see.

NOTE: Depending on the length and complexity of your video, the exporting time can vary greatly. This is also where a faster computer can be very handy. So depending on what you have, your computer may be done in a matter of seconds, or you’ll be twiddling your thumbs for a length of time.

Now that you have the final video file sitting somewhere on your hard drive it is time to upload to YouTube. Once you get to the upload screen, drag your video onto it and proceed to editing the title, description, tags, and other meta-data. The more time you spend on this, the more likely you are to get views, especially from searches containing your video’s tags.

Step 4: Finish Line

Now, I want to leave this post with a little disclaimer. In this post I show just one way of how I edit just one type of video. It is meant to be taken as a guideline and not as the end all and be all to how to edit. Furthermore the equipment and programs that I use are not the only options to making decent-quality videos. Before I had any fancy camera or audio equipment, I worked with just a much cheaper Point&Shoot and my computer. Before investing in thousands of dollars worth of equipment, make sure that shooting, editing, and uploading videos is something that you really want to do. If not, then your investment is all for naut.

One other thing. Start slow and build yourself up. If you try to dive straight in without any prior knowledge of how to do anything, then you will sink before you are able to swim. For instance, use iMovie, before Final Cut Pro. First off, it comes preloaded on all new Macs and it is a great and very powerful way to start. Once you have exhausted iMovie, then you can move up and spend the extra cash on Final Cut Pro X, but doing so before you really need it would just be a waste.

If you made it to the end of this lengthy post, then I congratulate you. You, reader, have a perseverance like none other and I hope that you will go far during your life.

Until next time,

Marco Meyer

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