UMW New Media at the University of Mary Washington Sun, 26 Oct 2014 16:02:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Audio Players Sun, 26 Oct 2014 15:00:02 +0000 Audio file open with

In order to play digital audio files you need to have a player program installed on your computer. Most people think of iTunes as the player of digital audio files. However, QuickTime on the Mac, and Windows Media Player on the PC are also available to play most audio files. There are lots of other player programs for PCs, Macs, and even Linux computers, but a good one that works on all three is VLC. Remember, VLC is not just for video. The reason that I distinguish between iTunes and other players is that sometimes you want to play an audio file quickly. iTunes is a music (and video, and podcasts, and audiobooks, etc.) manager program, and it does take a few seconds for it to start up. VLC on the other hand is a small program and will start playing your audio almost immediately.

You can permanently change the default player for your audio files, but a quick way to play an audio file in a different player is to right click on it and choose “Open With…” and choose from a list (this works on both Macs and PCs).


The Formats

VLC will play a variety of formats, but here are the ones worth mentioning. The standard audio file format for the PC is the WAV file. There are different quality settings of wav files, from CD quality stereo, down to telephone quality in mono, and many combinations in between. The equivalent sound file on the Macintosh is AIF/AIFF and it has similar quality settings to the wave files. They are both examples of what is known as uncompressed audio. The method by which the files are encoded is called PCM, or Pulse-Code Modulation.

A widely popular format for several years has been the MP3 format. Originally this format was conceived to be audio and video, however, the video portion was dumped and the MPEG-1 Layer 3 audio format was born. These files are popular because they are compressed (smaller) in comparison to wave files, but the sound quality can be virtually indistinguishable. This makes them good for transferring over the internet because of their relatively small size.

Apple’s format for compressed audio is AAC or Advanced Audio Coding. Apple is backing this MP3 successor that is part of the MPEG-4 specification. If you download music from Apple’s iTunes store, it is in the AAC format. Another type of compressed audio comes from Microsoft. The Windows Media Audio (WMA) format is another direct competitor to MP3. iPods can play AAC and MP3 files, while other MP3 players can play WMA and MP3 files. At this point, MP3 seems to be the universal format that is playable virtually anywhere.

There are many more formats, but I’ll mention just two more that come from the open source community (as in completely free to use and encode with). FLAC is the Free Lossless Audio Codec and as it’s name implies it’s free and even though the file is compressed, the sound quality is true to the original. The other is Vorbis which along with the open source video codec, Theora, is gaining in popularity.

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Fast, Cheap, and Under Control Sun, 12 Oct 2014 16:53:00 +0000 Angry female naked mole rat.Credit: Buffenstein/Barshop Institute/UTHSCSAThis is the infamous page that is a catch-all for digital video resources. It is a page that on first glance needs more structure, but it’s also chock full of useful information. As one person said “it’s like Xmas for teaching video”. And so, here it is.

With the new building, we will have equipment available for checkout at the ITCC Information Desk. There is still equipment available in the library that can be used in your video projects. We will gradually be adding more higher end equipment in the ITCC.

When it comes to using digital media in your projects, it is recommended you get familiar with Copyright and Fair Use, and read the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video (Here’s the PDF). Then watch “Everything is a Remix – Part 3” and realize how copying and tinkering with what already exists has lead to innovations throughout history.

A documentary employing elements under fair use – Punchlines For Progress: Freedom of Speech and The Court Jester (Warning! Adult Language)

Encountering digital video on the web

* h.264 (YouTube, Vimeo) vs. Flash (flv) – Reached its zenith?
* WebM – the future? Maybe it doesn’t have a future.
* Dirac – open source broadcast quality codec
* Windows Media Video (wmv files) Less associated with web video. Windows (Internet Explorer) is moving to h.264.

If you have trouble playing or working with various video on you computer, it’s probably because of a missing codec. If you are using a PC, try downloading the K-Lite Codec Pack. On the Mac, Perian will add several popular codecs to your system.

VLC is a multi-purpose program (available on Windows, Mac, and Linux) for playing all manner of digital video. It will also allow the creation of video clips from DVDs. VLC is strongly associated with the open source x.264 project.

Play a DVD with VLC (Windows)

Play a DVD with VLC (Windows)

Play a DVD with VLC (Mac)

Play a DVD with VLC (Mac)

Record a clip from a DVD movie using VLC (Win)

Record a clip from a DVD movie using VLC (Win)

Record a clip from a DVD movie using VLC (Mac)

Record a clip from a DVD movie using VLC (Mac)

Use Clips Recorded with VLC in Movie Maker

Use Clips Recorded with VLC in Movie Maker

Video Concepts

Interlaced video – De-interlacing – “Comb” – effect of interlace video with fast motion

Progressive scan video – complete frame drawn

Telecine – motion picture to video


* Composition, Framing, and Rule ofThirds –
* Lighting (Standard 3-point lighting, flat)
* Audio – as important if not more important – mono vs. stereo
* Use Headphones to monitor what’s being recorded


* Compression – What it is.
* Taking away information (“lossy”) with minimal affect on video quality – making smaller files
* Contrast Ratio and Backgrounds affects compression

Aspect ratio

* Common ratios are 16:9 (newer, high definition TV) and 4:3 (older, standard definition televison)
* Stretching 4:3 to widescreen (fatties)
* Shrinking widescreen to 4:3 (skinnies)
* Text – beware of text when changing aspects ratio
* Aspect Ratio Calculator – Allows you to resize videos properly


h.264 has by far and away won the web video format war. It is also known as AVC (camcorders labeled as AVCHD). It is also used as one of the Blu-ray codecs.

h.what? The Conversation podcast about h.264 licensing

An alternative is x264 an open-source implementation of h.264 (Handbrake – see below)
x264 for Mac
x264 for Windows

Video “Hosting”

* YouTube –
* Vimeo (HD) –

YouTube Quick Answers

* Help –
* How to Upload
* Optimize Your Video

If you are having issues with video that’s been uploaded to YouTube, start with these troubleshooting tips.

Vimeo Info

Vimeo Basics including how to upload videos to Vimeo

Vimeo Video School


Other Links

YouTube Creator Hub –

YouTube Creator’s Playbook

UMW New Media Center –

Digital Media Cookbook –

Digital Video Site –

Diary of an x264 Developer - The Future of Internet Video


Videos to make you think about video


Top Tools

Handbrake (PC/Mac)
MPEG Streamclip (PC/Mac)


Jing (PC/Mac) – Free for 5 minute recordings to Flash output. Unfortunately, Jing Pro is gone. Jing Pro allowed you to save in MPEG-4 format which was easier to edit or add to video projects. It was $15/year. If you were a Jing Pro user you can get a program called Snagit, that does video capture as well as screenshots.

There is built-in screen recording in the Mac OSX QuickTime Player (as well as video and audio recording). Other low-cost screencasting software for the Mac include iShowU (starting at $20) and Screeny ($15). There is also BB Flashback Express (starts free) on Windows.

More “professional” screen recording software would include Camtasia Studio ($299) for Windows (there is a $99 Mac version), and Screenflow ($99) for the Mac. Be aware that there are education discounts that can save you some money. You will need to provide proof of enrollment at a school. The current pricing is $179 for Camtasia Studio, $30 for Snagit, and $89 for Screenflow. The educational discount for Camtasia for the Mac brings it down to $75.

Video Conversion

Evom (Mac)
Handbrake (PC/Mac)
MPEG Streamclip (PC/Mac)
WinFF (PC/Ubuntu)
Miro Video Converter

YouTube Video Downloading

Using Video DownloadHelper to Download YouTube Videos

Using Video DownloadHelper to Download YouTube Videos

Video Download Helper – Download YouTube videos in the browser

Download YouTube videos as MP3s – SnipMP3

TubeChop – take a clip from an existing YouTube video and change the start and end time.

Video Editing

Helpful Wikipedia chart comparing video editors

iMovie (version 10) –

Windows Movie Maker –


YouTube Video Editor – Edit your existing clips in your YouTube account
Jaycut another online video editor

Avidemux – Simple video editing (successfully used by Aaron)

Video Analyzer (codec identification and video information)

MediaInfo (PC/Mac/Linux) – Allows you to analyze multiple files and export as a spreadsheet.

Video Players (alternatives to QuickTime and Windows Media Player)


Movist (Mac) – can sometimes outperform VLC

MPlayerX (Mac) – A player for Mac

List of video players at Wikipedia

DVD Ripping Programs

Mac DVDRipper Pro ($25) – I highly recommend this program
(PC/Mac) –

MacTheRipper (Mac) – Very difficult to get any more.

Record a clip from a DVD using VLC (Mac)
Record a clip from a DVD using VLC (PC)
Ripping a DVD Using HandBrake

Imaging Programs

Paint.Net (PC graphic editing program)
Seashore (Mac graphic editing program)
Gimp – a cross-platform editing program

QuickTime Extras

QuickTime Pro ($30) – Essentially MPEG Streamclip has the editing features, which does trimming and converting, but still has many option for working with video and images.
QuickTime MPEG2 Playback ($20) – Works together with MPEG Streamclip on Macs prior to OS X Lion
Get a copy of the QuickTime Player 7 program (you upgrade QT Player to Pro by “registering” it.

HTML5 and Video

* HTML5 (h.264 or Ogg – Theora and Vorbis) – Video for Everybody

* HTML 5 WordPress plugin.

MediaElementJS HTML5 Player – WordPress plugin for doing video, and audio (!), embeds with Flash fallback. Just announced that this will be built-in for WordPress 3.6

Encoding and Digital Video for DS106:

DS106 Video from umwnewmedia on Vimeo.

Fast forward to the 2:18 mark to bypass the final setup tweaks I do and get to the meat of the presentation.

UPDATE: Since this video was produced in 2011, I wanted to update a few things. Fastest YouTube Downloader has been an up and down program. They have since moved to a monthly fee model where you get faster response based on what you pay. I can’t say I’m a big fan of that model when the Video Download Helper plugin for Mozilla Firefox exists.

As far as codecs go Flash (FLV) is on the wane. h.264 is becoming the standard for web video because of it’s high quality.

Videolan (makers of VLC player) are STILL working on a video editor, VideoLan Movie Creator. Still no release of this beta software.

(end update)

Finally, here’s a bit of basic information regarding streaming video. Many things have changed since it was broadcast, but it covers some good basics.

Link to PDF of slides

Source: Video: streaming production: improving your video quality

Naked Mole-rat Flickr image by Jedimentat44

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YouTube Downloads – Endgame Tue, 07 Oct 2014 17:19:59 +0000  

4K Video Downloader

This post is an update (using much of the text from my previous posts) to an ongoing series that answers the proverbial question of how to download videos from YouTube’s website, to use in academic scholarship. More about why I stipulate scholarship later.

The question of how to download videos from YouTube allows me to revisit a topic near and dear to us in the Teaching and Learning Technologies division. The idea of repurposing and transforming existing media to tell digital stories.

I’ve gone down this path before after a comment on a previous post led me to look into YouTube’s terms of service. The question is about the breaking of the terms of service for YouTube videos. Things constantly change about the YouTube service, but what has remained constant is the fact that the technology behind watching videos at their site is still “progressive download” and there is a whole raft of tools dedicated to exploit that fact.

To save you time, and because the most likely reason that you would be reading this is to see the tools we recommend for downloading videos, I’ll get right to it.

My favorite and most consistent tool over the last few years is the Video DownloadHelper plugin for Firefox. The big advantage with this method is that, in my experience, it works the most consistently with the most number of videos available on YouTube. Relatively recently, YouTube has moved away from Flash format video and toward MPEG-4 video. The reason being that iOS devices don’t support Flash and the push of HTML5 compatible formats has pushed h.264 technology to the forefront. Video DownloadHelper will allow you to see both the FLV and the MP4 format files for a given video. The downside to this method is that Firefox might not be your browser of preference, and there is the plugin that needs to be installed. It isn’t terribly difficult to set up, but I do recognize that I only use Firefox when I want to grab a YouTube video.

The next tool that I have found that works pretty consistently is 4K Video Downloader. Don’t let the name fool you. It’s not just for downloading 4K content – which YouTube does have and this program will support. Using it is pretty simple. Go to the YouTube video that you want and copy the URL of the video in your web browser’s address bar. Then in the 4K Video Downloader program click the “Paste URL” button. You’re then presented with numerous resolutions (quality) choices. Choose one and then click the Download button and it’s on its way. It’s pretty fast too. The makers regularly update this program to support changes in how YouTube presents its video content. The reason these programs need to be updated regularly is because YouTube seems to be actively discouraging the downloading of video (and sometimes they succeed). There is some secret sauce in YouTube’s implementation of progressive download technology. I believe it has to do with balancing the idea of using a technology that provides the best experience (progressive download), but uses a few tricks to hide the video file that is downloaded to your computer.

So what of the ethics of downloading YouTube videos? Well, the caution is that most of the videos on YouTube have full “all rights reserved” copyrights. You can’t obtain YouTube videos and do with them as you wish. There is a Creative Commons (CC) licensing system, but it’s rare that the average uploader takes advantage of this. What has changed over the last few years is that you can select CC licenses as your default copyrighting choice when you put a video up on YouTube.

The paradox is that YouTube’s terms of service states that “unless you see a “download” or similar link displayed by YouTube on the Service for that Content”, you aren’t allowed to download. However, the technology is based on the browser downloading the given video every single time. It is part of the definition of “progressive download”. Now in browsers such as Google’s Chrome, and Apple’s Safari, the secret temporary storage is quite well hidden. With Firefox though, it can be proven that the video is saved in a cache folder and therefore the user is breaking the terms of service every time just by watching the video.

Finally, we had previously recommended the Torch Browser to get media from YouTube and other sites. It became very sketchy, and therefore I have not recommended it for quite a few months now. It is still alive (the Torch blog was updated in September 2014) and may work for some. My most recent attempt at installing it gave me an “Installation Failed” error. Not a good sign.

So that’s the Fall 2014 list of YouTube Downloaders. Here are the links once again:

About the title of this post and others – YouTube Downloads-The Quickening, YouTube Downloads-The Sorcerer – have you not noticed that I’ve been using editions of the Highlander Franchise for the articles about YouTube downloads? I’ve never watched a Highlander movie, but I’ve always loved the titles of the sequels. The tradition of using them with my updates to YouTube downloader programs continues.

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Video Capture Wed, 01 Oct 2014 20:00:17 +0000 Summary: If you don’t have your video in a digital form yet, what are you waiting for? The process is relatively painless, and once it’s done you can throw out those shoe boxes of VHS tapes.

The whole reason to get your video into a digital form is the relative ease in which you can manipulate it. Part of the ease is being able to instantly access the different scenes in the video that you shot. When we say instantly, we are comparing it to traditional videotape where accessing a given scene involves fast-forwarding or rewinding to get to the specific spot on the tape. With the video stored on a computer as a digital file, you can access a given scene by clicking a spot on a time-line and boom, you’re there.

The other advantage to having the video in a digital form is that the final product that you produce will lose little or no quality compared to your original footage. Analog video editing is accomplished by taking scenes from the original footage and copying the scenes to another tape, thereby losing a generation of quality. So let’s get our video footage in a digital form, shall we.

Most camcorders made today have done away with tape. While Mini-DV camcorders are still used, and have certain advantages, flash media cards (SD cards are most common), or internal hard drives/memory is used to store video. For most people, their VHS and 8mm tapes are lying in a closet wondering if the will see the light of day again. Mini-DV tapes, which we will discuss shortly, are actually a digital version of video tape. Analog video needs to go through a process called video capture. A device attached to the computer provides inputs for the video as well as the two audio channels (left and right). You basically plug your analog camcorder’s (you can also use a VCR) output into the inputs provided by the video capture device. Run the capture software, press play on the camcorder or VCR, and press record on the software’s interface. The video signals will then be recorded to the hard drive as a digital file. The Elgato Video Capture device is shown below.

Elgato USB Video Capture device

Elgato USB Video Capture device

Mini-DV is still around, is easier to get into your computer, and it’s certainly better quality than VHS tapes. However, a computer with the right interface, known as Firewire, is required to transfer the digital data on the tapes. Sometimes a card can be installed in your computer that will enable the transfer of the video from the mini-DV camcorder. The digital transfer procedure is similar to the video capture of analog video. However, the transfer software usually allows the control of the camcorder. So you can press record in the software and the camcorder receives a signal to start playing automatically. Like analog video capture, the video signals get recorded to the hard drive as a file. This process is entirely in a digital form, so there is a direct transfer of digital data. It’s a very high quality route to go. Plus, mini-DV has a higher resolution than even S-VHS or Hi8 video. Mini-DV has about 500 lines of resolution versus about 400 for S-VHS and Hi8 (standard VHS has 240). More lines equals better picture quality. By the way, the two high-definition resolutions are over 700 lines (720p) and over 1000 lines (1080p)

A PC Firewire Card

Firewire 800 cable and port

Firewire 800 cable and port on a Mac

If you’re still with us, let’s go to the editing room.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by patrick h. lauke

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Logitech H390 Headset Microphone Wed, 01 Oct 2014 15:33:49 +0000 logitech h390

The Logitech H390 Headset Microphone can be used as a regular pair of headphones. However, when the “boom” microhpone is lowered into position, they can also be used as a microphone enabling recording of voiceovers, screencasts, and even making Skype or Google Hangout calls. The headset should automatically be recognized by the computer, but if not, you may need to go to the audio control panel on a Windows machine, or system preferences on a Mac.

This item is available for checkout at the ITCC Information Desk.

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Slik U9000 Tripod Wed, 01 Oct 2014 14:02:09 +0000 slik U9000

The Slik U9000 tripod can be used to help give you steady shots in your video projects. It can be used to stabilize a video camera, as well as a still camera. A quick release plate is used to allow you to quickly go from the tripod to hand-held. The tripod also has a “fluid” head to allow for smooth panning of the camera.

This item is available for checkout at the ITCC Information Desk.

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Video Encoding Thu, 25 Sep 2014 18:48:42 +0000 CompressionEncoding is just another term for data compression. Data (or file) compression is a cornerstone of our Internet-based world. Computer files take up hard drive space. Transferring computer files over the Internet takes time. The way that you save hard drive space or speed up the transfer of files is with file compression. Examples of file compression are JPEG images, DVDs (encoded as MPEG-2 video), MP3 audio files, and “Zip” archives. We’ll talk here about Video Encoding (video compression).

When you have finished editing your video, the editing programs allow you to save the video in a variety of formats, or share to a variety of video hosting sites such as YouTube or Vimeo. If you have a DVD recorder, you could create a DVD disc that can then be played in a home DVD player. If a video is not too long, you can even send it as an attachment in an email.

When you encode, or compress, a video in a particular format, you generally are taking something away, to make the file smaller. In general the quality will be lower. If you are encoding your video into a smaller physical dimension, called scaling, you will also generally make the file smaller. If you record video with a typical HD camcorder, the video will be 1920 x 1080 pixels. If we encode the video with smaller dimensions, say 640 by 360 pixels, that will result in a smaller size file on the hard drive. We can further reduce the “quality” settings and get an even smaller file. So what is this “Quality” setting anyway?

As we’ve said before, most video editing programs have the ability to save in multiple formats. When you save the file in a given format, it will ask you to specify a level of quality. If you want to distribute the file with virtually no quality loss, or save it for archiving purposes, you will likely use the highest quality setting. You may have some viewers using a high speed broadband connection, and a high-quality version would be appropriate for them too. However, if they have a lower speed connection, or a mobile device, you might offer a medium quality setting for them. If you want to email the file, then a lower quality setting would be appropriate.

If you upload your video to YouTube, it will be automatically encoded at several different sizes, or resolutions. This will allow people to see your video on many different types of devices – from computers, to media devices (Roku or Apple TV), to tablets, to mobile phones. YouTube supports up to 4K resolution (3840×2160) video, but will also will encode in 1080p (1920×1080), 720p (1280×720), 480p, 360p, 240p, and 144p. While these are not “quality” settings per se, the 1080p version will appear “sharper” than the lower resolution versions when you watch them on your computer screen (especially at full screen size). The differences will be less noticeable on a smaller-screened device like a tablet, or a mobile phone.

Just keep in mind that video at a given resolution is not always equal. Something called bit rate will govern the quality at a particular resolution. For example, the bit rate of a 1080p movie on a Blu-ray disc will be much higher than the bit rate of a video you would watch on Netflix or YouTube. The movie file would also be significantly larger on the Blu-ray disc. The following images will give you an idea of how high quality (high bit rates) will differ from medium and low quality (lower bit rates). The fuzziness around the text is known as artifacting, and it gets more pronounced as you choose lower and lower quality settings. You’ll notice that colors also start to become less vibrant.

High Quality (high bit rate)

zoomed in

Medium Quality

zoomed in

Low Quality (low bit rate)

zoomed in

There are a few standalone compression programs that are worth mentioning that will convert a video to another format. Two of our favorites are Handbrake (Mac and Windows) which specializes in converting DVDs to MPEG4 video, and Miro Video Converter, a more all-purpose converter, including audio conversion. Handbrake uses the x.264 codec which is a fully compatible version of the h.264 codec. It allows you to save videos for devices like the iPhone, the iPod Touch, and the Apple TV. Miro Video Converter uses a different compression “library” called FFmpeg. Again, it allows a greater variety of input and output formats.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by CoreyHarris

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Video Editing Sun, 21 Sep 2014 23:40:55 +0000 Summary: Video editing is storytelling. There are many programs and tools that will help you assemble your story in an effective and entertaining way.


The whole reason to go digital with video is the ease in which we can manipulate the media we use. With our editing program, we can literally drag a section of the video footage from one area and drop it into another area and see the results instantly. I should say that we can at least preview it instantly. More on that later. We can also use the editing program to apply visual effects like different transitions between scenes, or color filters, or even add titles.

The premium video editing programs that are used today are Adobe Premiere (available on the Mac and Windows) and Final Cut Pro X (Macs only). On the free side, Windows computers come with a program called Movie Maker, and Macintosh computers come with iMovie. Both are basic editing programs, but iMovie (version 10) is very much like Final Cut Pro X, but with a reduced feature set. There are still around four versions of Movie Maker depending on what version of Windows you are using.

Using these editing programs is pretty straight forward. You drag video clips to an area of the program called a timeline. You can then add transitions and titles, as well as music, in a separate audio track. The programs are generally intuitive and you can edit your video project quickly. However, you should save some time to render the video. What is rendering? Well, all of the editing you are doing is kind of a miniature preview of the final project. When you save your final movie (or upload it to sites like YouTube or Vimeo), you must sit back and let the computer create all of the frames of video including the transitions, titles, etc. The more special effects and changes to the original video you have, the longer the rendering time generally is.

Once your video is finished, your output is limited only by the ability of your editing software. Generally your options would include, uploading to a video sharing site such as YouTube or Vimeo, creating a video appropriately sized for a mobile device, making a DVD (a less popular option these days), or just creating a video that will play on a computer. In all of these cases the video editing program will encode it into a specific format.

See our articles on iMovie and Final Cut Pro X for more information.

Wikipedia has a pretty extensive list of video editing software that is available.

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Shooting Video Sun, 21 Sep 2014 15:43:58 +0000 Summary: Remembering just a few simple rules will give you the best chance of creating good video.


Learning how to shoot video is, for the most part, on-the-job training. If you’ve taken at least one still photograph in your life, you know you get the person or other subject in the frame and press the button. That’s basically how shooting video works. You frame your subject and press record. However, framing your subject, choosing your background, recording quality audio, using good quality lighting, and a myriad of other things, will determine the quality of your video project. So here are a few tips:

Properly light the scene – This doesn’t mean you need to go out and purchase a professional light kit. Understand that your camcorder adjusts for light, or lack of it, automatically. If you are shooting a subject that is standing in front of the sun, chances are that the subject will be a black shadow. Avoid bright backgrounds, and at the other extreme, avoid poorly lit areas.

Avoid using the zoom buttons – This doesn’t mean don’t use the zoom feature of your camera, but try zooming before you hit record. Shoot some video, pause, zoom in or out, and then record some more. Excessive zooming while you’re recording can make people feel a bit ill. Also, using the extreme zoom setting magnifies the unsteadiness of a handheld camcorder. If at all possible, use a tripod when you’re zoomed all the way in.

Use a tripod! – Holding the camera steady is important to good video. Also, with a good video tripod, one with a so called “fluid” head, you can follow your subject with a smooth panning motion. However, avoid panning back and forth in a scene, or following a person back and forth. Again, you may make your audience sick.

Rule of Thirds

Use the Rule of Thirds – When framing your subject, mentally divide the image you see in the viewfinder into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. Put your subject under one of the lines of intersection. Give your subject some room to move, or some space to look toward, when you frame them in the viewfinder. You can also break this rule when you want to go for some interesting symmetry.

Don’t forget about audio – Remember, unless you’re making a silent movie, you are not just recording video. Be aware of noises in the background. Our brains do a good job of blocking out background noise, camcorders usually don’t. Also, use headphones to monitor the audio. Use a recording device that can show you audio levels (an audio meter). Note in the picture at the top of the page that the videographer is using headphones. You may need to use an external microphone, either a lapel mic or a boom mic, that picks up the subject’s voice better. If you’re shooting from a distance, a “shotgun” mic is often used.

More good information is available at the Media College website.

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

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Getting Started with Final Cut Pro X Sun, 20 Apr 2014 17:54:12 +0000 Final Cut Pro X about picturesq

This document summarizes the different concepts that are necessary to get started using Final Cut Pro X. We’ll go into greater detail elsewhere and provide video tutorials to help you learn this powerful program.

When it was first introduced, the complaint about Final Cut Pro X (FCPX) was that it looked a lot like iMovie. However, don’t be fooled, this is an incredibly powerful program. There are lots of professional video editors making a living with this program. If you shun it simply because of what you’ve heard, well then you’ll be missing out. If you’re willing to give it a chance, my opinion is you won’t be disappointed, and you my even come to love it like I do.

If Final Cut Pro X is ultimately too intimidating, you can start out by using iMovie, a simplified editing program that shares some of the great features of FCPX. We have information and tutorials on iMovie elsewhere on this site.

Hard Drive Prep

The first thing that you should do before using FCPX (or iMovie), is to prepare a hard drive to use for editing. Like all video editors, Final Cut Pro X need lots of hard drive space. It is also best not to use the internal hard drive, as it will fill up quickly. It is recommended that you get a fast external drive of 1TB (1,000 gigabytes – GB) or more. In general, buy the biggest hard drive you can afford. Currently the newest technologies are USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt drives with the former generally cheaper than the latter. The price of drives is constantly changing and usually always getting cheaper and cheaper. However, there is often a sweet spot and you can find it by dividing the price of the drive by the number of GB. For example the price of the Seagate 3TB drive listed below is ~$109. If you divide that by 3,000 (that’s how many GB in a 3TB drive) it costs 3.6 cents per GB. The 1TB (but more portable) Western Digital Passport drive is ~$70 for 1TB (1,000GB) which comes out to 7 cents per GB.

Here are a few suggestions:

These drives have decent performance for copying files, but editing video is a complex process and the bottleneck is usually hard drive performance. That’s why high end systems use what are known as RAID hard drive systems. RAID stands for “redundant array of independent (or sometimes ‘inexpensive’) disks”. What RAIDs allow is combining the speeds of the drives to get much faster performance. Something like the PROMISE Pegasus 2 RAID System allows you to get to speeds that enables the editing of 4K video (4 times the size of HD video). Larry Jordan, a professional video editor who uses Final Cut ProX has a good breakdown on hard drives for editing.

One additional point on hard drives, and specifically formatting. You may have a situation where you are trying to move files from a Windows computer to a Mac or vice-versa. It can be done in a fairly straight-forward way by formatting the drive as what is known as ExFAT. If you have a relatively new Windows or Macintosh machine, ExFAT should be available as a formatting option. We previously talked about prepping a hard drive to work with Final Cut. However, if you format the drive to work with FCPX, it will not be readable in a Windows PC. If you format the drive on a Windows PC, it won’t be usable in Final Cut Pro X. An ExFAT formatted drive will work in both a Mac and a Windows PC to read and write files, but you can’t use an ExFAT drive for editing in Final Cut Pro X. It needs to be formatted specifically for the Mac.

If you search the web, and especially YouTube, you’ll find plenty of tutorials for getting started with FCPX. If you decide you need to get a complete tutorial with a ton of information, including great tips, I highly recommend Ripple Training and their Apple Pro Video Series – Final Cut Pro X tutorial.

UMW New Media will be publishing video tutorials to help you as well.

Import Your Footage

The next step after prepping your hard drive is to start Final Cut Pro X and import your video footage. Before you import, you may want to create what is known as a camera archive. It allows you to simply dump your footage from the SD card to your hard drive. Then you will have a file on your hard drive that will look and act like you have the SD card still plugged into your computer. Very handy (and quicker than importing the media into FCPX) if you want to use the SD card as soon as possible.

Whether you are importing directly from your SD card, or using the camera archive, the next step is to import your footage into Final Cut. The import dialog box will ask you about transcoding your media. You can create optimized media (very high resolution and quality video that takes up lots of space), create proxy media (good quality video that takes up less space and is created more quickly), or you can do both. Clip optimization (the Create “Optimize” media choice) transcodes to high-quality ProRes (an Apple codec for video). “Create proxy media” uses a more compressed version of ProRes. Again, Larry Jordan has a good explanation.

Begin Editing

Now it’s time to edit. After your footage is imported (it will continue to transcode, but you can begin editing), it will be shown in the Event Viewer. This is where you pick what footage you want to use in your story. Why do I say story instead of project or production? Well, it points to what Final Cut Pro X is great at. Many people refer to clips that are added to Final Cut Pro X’s “Timeline” as the “Storyline”. It is partly a semantic difference, but it is conceptual as well, and it helps inform you as to what FCPX’s strength is – helping you tell stories.

It’s called the “Magnetic Timeline” – everything collapses together automatically on the timeline. There are no gaps that you need to close when clips are removed from, or around in, the timeline. It may not be what you’re used to, but if you get the hang of it, I think it’s the most powerful way to edit.

It should be said that there is a certain amount of organization that needs to happen with your footage. The Event Viewer does much of this automatically for you. When you import FCPX will organize footage into shots that contain people (one, two, group) and types of shots (wide, medium, closeup). You can the review the footage and begin tagging favorite clips, or reject clips that you won’t use. We won’t go over it here, but just be aware that Final Cut has very powerful organizing tools to help you get the right material in your story.

Next, I’m going to introduce the keyboard shortcuts that you should learn for FCPX. Using the keyboard for editing, especially for new users, might be somewhat counterintuitive, but once you learn the commands on the keyboard, you will fly through your editing work. Trust me.

Keyboard shortcuts – Learn Them!

⌘ (Command)+1 – put focus on Event Browser
⌘ (Command)+2 – put focus on Timeline
⌘ (Command)+3 – put focus on Event Viewer

⌘ (Command)+b (mnemonic “blade”) – Splits the clip at the Skimmer/Playhead

Spacebar – Will Play or Pause your video in the Timeline. This is probably THE most important keyboard shortcut. Think about it. How much sense does it make to grab your mouse and zero in on and click the play button, or instead tap the biggest “key” on your keyboard?

Home – Move playhead to the beginning of the timeline (if you’re using a Mac laptop the “fn” key + ← [left arrow] is equal to the “Home” key)
End – Move playhead to the end of the timeline (if you’re using a Mac laptop the “fn”key + → [right arrow] is equal to the “End” key)
*** Note, Home and End only appear on the Mac Extended Keyboard ***

i – mark the in point
o – mark the out point

/ (slash) – play selected clip from beginning

↓ (down arrow) – go to start of next clip in storyline

↑ (up arrow) – go to start of previous clip in storyline

→ (right arrow) – move forward one frame in storyline

← (left arrow) – move backward one frame in storyline

e – add clip to the end of the storyline (mnemonic “eppend” or “add to end”)
w – insert video at playhead (mnemonic “within”)
q – connect clip to primary storyline (mnemonic “qonnect”)

Option+[ - Trim start of clip to the position of playhead, or skimmer, if active.

Option+] - Trim end of clip to the position of playhead, or skimmer, if active.

Option+w – Insert a gap (default duration of 2 seconds) into the Timeline at the position of the playhead, or skimmer.

Shift+? – Play around the current position when the playhead is between clips. This is handy for checking an edit between two clips including any transitions.

Shift++f – Display Timeline video full-screen.

Control+s – expand the audio track contained within video clip on the storyline.

v – Disable/Enable a clip in the storyline

Note that for all commands the Skimmer is primary and Playhead is secondary.


j – play in reverse (repeat press doubles speed)

k – pause

l – (lowercase “L”) – play forward (repeat press doubles speed)

k+j or l modifies the speed to half in forward or reverse

, (comma) key nudges clip one frame in storyline to the left – . (period) nudges it one frame to the right. Shift + comma or period nudges in 10 frame increments. Option + comma or period gives 1/80 frame accuracy

Control+p followed by a timecode entry – Jumps the Playhead to that specific timecode in the Timeline.

Create a Gap clip by using Delete key ( ? ) – note this is not the standard “backspace” key, but the one only found on the Mac extended keyboard.

Shift+Q – Back-time the selected clip in the Event Browser as a Connected clip. Back-timing edits the end of a clip to the position of the playhead, or skimmer.

Shift+D – Back-time the selected clip in the Event Browser as an overwrite edit to the Primary Storyline.

Option+[spacebar] – When the skimmer is active, this starts playback at the position of the playhead. (Not working in 10.1.1)

You can view the keyboard shortcuts that you can download as a PDF.

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