Post & Editing

To record in Stereo or Mono - that is the question?

builtinmicMost domestic and semi-professional video cameras have a stereo ‘internal’ microphone set into the front of the camera.  We’ve all seen the ‘home’ videos were you can hear the person with the camera breathing heavily rather than what’s on the pictures.

Well you’ll be surprised to know that professional cameras don’t have this microphone!  Although they have the capability to record in stereo (they have two audio tracks), the microphone attached the front (which can be unattached or replaced) is a single mono microphone, which is much more directional than the stereo version.

Unless you are recording a TV drama or film, professionally you would not tend to record in stereo on location.  The use of stereo on location recordings complicate the post production editing and sound mixing (dubbing) process and takes up valuable time, which if you’re up against schedule limits, be that broadcasting or exam, it’s a pressure you can do without.

The only time I would contemplate the use of stereo would be on an atmospheric shot - say a wide shot of students milling around a campus - and then only if really necessary.  The fact is most material/programmes will be viewed on a TV with the loudspeakers only a little distance apart, meaning all your effort in producing a stereo programme will actually be lost on the audience.

Location recording is not just about getting the best quality recording possible, but it is about planning ahead and trying to make the post production as simple and easy as possible.  The more simple you can make the recording and the more decisions you can put off until the edit/dub, the better.

On a professional camera the audio tracks are not actually labelled left and right, but simply called tracks (or channels) 1 and 2.  What you have is the potential of having a 2 track audio recorder!  The ability to record two separate things.

xternal Mono Gun & internal Stereo microphones on a Semi-pro camera

Even on a semi-pro camera, there will be external xlr connections marked channel 1 and 2, so make use of them!  For instance, if you are recording an interview and were to mix the two microphones together whilst recording, they are forever joined, you can’t separate them later, so you are tied into the decision made then and there.  The trick is to separately record the interviewer on track 1 and the interviewee on track 2, so when you come to the edit (and have good listening conditions), you can mix the sound tracks accurately or it maybe you can decide whether you actually want the to use the interviewers questions at all!

If you’re recording an event or something that is happening live, i.e. you have just one opportunity to record the situation, give yourself options!  Put a decent directional camera mic on track 1 and your presenters radio mic on channel 2 - you can decide which to use or how much of each to use later in the dub.  You could have the camera mic on channel 1 and someone with a sound mixer (with all the other mics) on channel 2?  Or take both channels from the mixer output and separate specific microphones left and right (to tracks 1 and 2) - give yourself options!

Think and plan, don’t just turn up expecting the internal stereo microphone to do the job - unless you’re into ‘atmospheric’ and echoy programmes!

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Death by Transition

Will somebody please warn students about this nasty disease that seems to be prevalent amongst media students?

In my travels around the country, I see many students’ short films/videos and often cringe at whizzy transitions between shots, which add nothing to the film but often distracts from what otherwise could be a very good piece of work.

SPECIAL TRANSITIONAL EFFECTS should be used appropriately and for a particular purpose, otherwise they may detract from the director's intent.

A film transition is a technique by which shots are joined together to make a scene. Most films will include selective use of transitions, usually to convey a tone or mood, suggest the passage of time, or separate parts of the story.

CUT The simplest transition between shots is a straight cut, which occurs when one image is immediately replaced by another. It is the simplest, most common way of moving from one shot to the next, and is considered a ‘smooth cut’ if there is continuity between the two images. For example, in a conversation scene such as the one shown here, the cut moves directly between the two pupils.

FADE A fade works much like a theatre curtain. A fade-in shows the beginning of a sequence, as the screen gradually changes from black to a picture, and a fade-out shows the end, as the image returns to black.

DISSOLVE The dissolve is also known as a cross dissolve or cross-fade. Two shots overlap each other with the first gradually disappearing while the next one appears, and then remains alone on the screen. Thus, one shot blends into the next one. Unlike the cut, it takes up time and space on the screen. A dissolve influences the audience's perception of screen time and the rhythm of events. It suggests a thematic tie between two shots. An example of a time bridge, or change in time, might show a teenage girl playing tennis dissolving to the same person a few years later nursing a baby. A dissolve can also show change in event rhythm. For example, by dissolving between a canoe on a river to a bustling harbour.

WIPES The wipe is the technique where one shot is replaced with another by the movement of a distinct edge, or shape, which replaces the previous shot by “wiping” it. There are hundreds of different wipes. Some of the common ones are a straight line, an expanding circle and a page turn – often used in tacky wedding videos! However, like all transitions, wipes have their place if used appropriately. One of the most cited examples is their use in Star Wars, to make the film seem more classic and epic.

Normally, these types of transitions are used to lead the viewer from one location or time to another, or more specifically from one segment of a story to the next. Wipes are highly conspicuous, and as they evolve to become more elaborate, they are increasingly popular with students as a quick and dirty way to liven up their film. If a film needs livening up, then there is probably something wrong with the content or structure.

In my view, students need to understand that their choice of edit, be it a cut, fade, dissolve or wipe, should be chosen for purpose and not because it’s a gimmick. They should ask themselves, does this transition contribute to the look and pace of the film, does it enhance and clarify the visual sequence, and is it appropriate to the content of the programme? If it doesn’t earn its place, don’t use it. Cut

Video excerts from 'Book to Screen' - Dramaticmedia

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Mac or PC??????

It’s the age old question fervently fought over by passionate enthusiasts on either side!!stevejobsbillgatessmall

It pits one man against another - well two in particular!!!

So which man do you believe in then???   Which one has the better machine for a multimedia based education platform?

The only thing to do is weight up each platform, so let’s start by looking at the equipment provided by Mr. Gates:-

  • The PC’s main advantage is that it’s cheap.
  • You can build it from cheap parts if you require a specific type of machine.
  • It’s completely customizable, build the machine to suit its use, install the custom software you require.
  • As well as hardware there’s a myriad of software available for it.
  • Everyone has one, the world uses it, so it’s familiar to most students.
  • The IT department love them because they can play with them to their hearts content - it gives them a reason for being!

Mr Job’s offering is a very different animal and approach to computing.  Now, I’ve used both computers over a good many years and still use a PC , so here are my list of Mac advantages.

  • The Mac’s hardware is designed with it’s software in mind - it’s truly plug and play - you’re not on the internet trying to find drivers all the time.
  • It’s software is integrated - open iMovie to edit video and itunes provides your sounds and iphoto your stills.
  • You don’t need third party apps to burn a DVD.
  • You can migrate third party software from one mac to another, you don’t have to reinstall.
  • You have most multimedia software as standard.
  • You won’t need the constant attention of the IT department.
  • It’s not virus prone.
  • Open the box - it works!

Now it sounds like I’m biased here, but that’s because I am!  As I’ve said I’ve used both PC and Mac for a good while.  Yes a Mac is expensive initially, but……. it’s all there to run your media based courses at the beginning - no video capture card and software to buy and fit, and drivers to find because it doesn’t quite work with the PC motherboard.

From the moment you plug in the firewire from your camera, to the moment you burn your finished DVD, it’s already there and integrated so one programme talks to another - no leaving one programme and then having to work out how to get your material into another.

Getting a PC to work on a wireless network for instance has always seemed to be hit and miss.  My Macbook Pro picks up the networks so well,  I don’t even notice.

One of the most positive things I can say for the case of Mac over PC that will interest you is work flow.  I’ve literally found the amount of multimedia work I can do to be quicker with a Mac.  Be it in the architecture or the way the programmes work together, I can simply get more done - an important thing to consider when you’re thinking about your students project work.

I’d be very interested to hear your opinions and experiences???


Tape is Dead : Long Live Tape!

We have come a long way since cave painting was used as a means of documenting or telling a story, but in the last century the rate of change has been dramatic, and over the last twenty-five years that progress has been exponential.

Moving picture recording of any quality used to take a pantechnicon full of wire and associated hardware, is now available on a mobile phone.

For the first three quarters of the 20th century, Film ruled supreme, then in the late 1970s and early ‘80s; tape came snapping at its heels. Film inheritently had its own archiving in the form of the negatives, which were storable for years and new prints could be struck with no fear of obsolescence.


Film was beautiful, a black art form in its self, mysterious and expensive.

Tape was comparatively cheap in comparison and the cameras were more accessible as domestic versions gave acceptable results for the masses. But the professional formats seemed to change almost annually. There was `Quad, `one inch, `‘U’matic, `Beta, `Beta-SP, `SX and finally, in 1993 the much revered `Digibeta(digital betacam). The Beta format in its various guises stayed ahead of the various `DV-CAM and `DVC-PRO Semi-pro formats. And archiving on tape was both cheap and straightforward and the digital tape media could be dubbed and copied many times with very little generation loss.

The 21st century has brought us to the next watershed, namely recording to solid-state media.

There are some massive advantages;

  • Instant access to the video rushes, no winding through a cassette.
  • Lower power consumption in camera, few moving parts!
  • Lighter smaller domestic cameras.
  • Tiny media cards – SD, Flash etc.
  • Faster downloading of rushes into the edit system, not real time like tape!
  • No ‘run up’ time from standby, so recording starts the instant the button is pushed (some cameras even have a built in ‘cache’, which means it is constantly recording over a 15 second memory slot if the camera is switched on!).
  • The ability to instantly delete the last take (but handle with care!),

…….to name but a few.

But, if we thought film was expensive then the price of professional digital media cards - SxS, P2 etc - takes media costs to a whole new level.

So as I slide toward having shelves full of portable Hard Drives at a Terabyte a time, but are they safe? What about archiving?

One little knock, simply the drive falling onto its side can see you forking out for Data Recovery in a panic…………..

So, where do we go from here?

The ‘in’ term is “work flow” and what ever that is, you have to ‘get it sorted’!

I have been using a semi-pro Sony EX3 that uses a Sony bespoke media card since November last year and I’ve only really just worked out a safe and acceptable archiving system.

I purchased a tiny Hewlett-Packard laptop with a built in Express card slot which allowed quick and easy downloading from my expensive Sony SxS cards to the hard drive of the HP note book and a 250 GB external hard drive. I now get two copies of 58 minutes of material on separate drives in about twelve minutes.

So is this latest generation of solid-state media digital camcorders worth the trouble?

The answer I think has to be a resounding yes. But…….

Archiving is very easy and cheap with tape and the cost of archiving media cards is expensive. Putting a labelled camcorder tape box on a shelf is a lot easier than trying to store a SD card the size of your fingernail! Let alone remembering where you stored your students’ rushes on the hard drive!

In the end it’s both a technical and budget driven argument.

So to sum up, in my humble opinion, the future is bright and the future is ‘Solid’.

And tape is dead, but long live tape!

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