There’s a lot of good information on video production scattered across the Internet … there are external links so we can’t control their content, but it’s just a sample of the good information out there in the world:
- The Shirtless Apprentice (video podcast about video production)
Check out the wiki maintained by members of the Yahoo! Videoblogging Group. It talks about video production on a small budget. Some of the tips here are not directly applicable to Dragon*ConTV, but it’s a great resource for putting video on the Internet.
Green Screen (Chroma Key)
Dragon*ConTV uses chroma key effects, commonly known as “green screen” or “blue screen”, to recreate sets we’re too cheap to build or too lazy to visit. Getting a good chroma key is hard, and we’ve spent a lot of time working on a good system to produce quality chroma keys. Looking at our videos over the years will show the times we got it right and the times we messed it up.
Also check out Brian Richardson’s tips for the Dragon*ConTV basement green screen setup …
The trick is even lighting across the screen and the people in front of it. Much like a Babylon 5 episode, shadows are the enemy.
I use four lights on my screen (make your own Star Trek joke here). Two 1,000 watt soft boxes are used to light the screen. Two 500 watt umbrella lights are used to light the “talent” (quotes provided based on my bad acting capabilities).
A new word for your vocabulary is “color temperature” … All of the light bulbs in your setup should use the same color temperature (I use 3200K).
Don’t get too close to the green screen. Once you get within three feet of the screen, shadows start to form … and they will mess up your key.
Another trick is to take your camera off of “automatic” … Letting the camera adjust color/white balance in the middle of a green screen shot might cause problems editing (the value of “green” will change as people move in & out of the scene if the camera tries to adjust).
Editing Software (Windows)
Many Dragon*ConTV folks edit their videos using Sony Vegas (Pro versions 6.0 or 8.0). Vegas is professional editing software for Windows that is easy to learn and doesn’t come with a steep price tag compared to similar software. A good resource for Vegas is VASST … they sell training videos & books, but they have a lot of free tips and Vegas plugins. If you want to try Vegas without dropping any cash, you can get a free trial version from Sony.
The Avid Free DV editing package is free (hence the name) but no longer supported. It is a crippled version of Avid’s professional software, but powerful enough for most projects (assuming it will work on your system … remember, it’s unsupported).
For simple video projects, Windows Movie Maker on Windows XP and Windows Movie Maker and Movie Maker HD on Vista (the programs that comes free with the operating system) are not that bad. It’s very limited compared to … well, most anything on the market, but it can be used for basic video editing. It’s best to run Windows Update and check the optional upgrades to make sure you have the latest version. If you want green screen features or the ability to handle multiple video/audio tracks, skip this for something like Sony Vegas.
Editing Software (Mac)
We have a few Mac folks on staff, like Patrick Freeman (super effects dude). There’s great Mac software out there if you have the white & shiny iThing ready to rock.
- iMovie (simple)
- Final Cut Express (more advanced)
- Final Cut Studio (expensive but professional quality)
Editing Software (Linux)
We know Linux video editing packages exist, but we don’t have any experience with them. The commercial tools for Windows & Mac are more refined, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a good video using pengiun power.
Special Effects Software
Many editing packages don’t offer too many options for special effects (explosions, lightsabers, etc.). That’s why we have special effects software. These have a bit of a learning curve, but you can make things explode, zap, sparkle and disappear once you master these programs.
So what software should I use to edit my video?
The one that works for you. If you read enough of this wiki, you’ll see an obvious preference to certain tools or techniques. That’s only because we have limited experience with what’s available in the video world. If you can make a good looking video using SVHS and A-B roll editing, more power to you … just don’t submit it on videotape :)