This weekend I spent some time taking some video footage and some audio recordings of a show some of my friends did, and attempting to mash those together into something resembling a decent video of the song that they performed. I was actually quite happy with how it turned out (although they’ve already requested a few more changes), given that this isn’t really even a hobby for me, even if I’ve enjoyed bits of it when I’ve had to try to do it. Basically what I’m saying is that I do too many things to focus enough on something like this to become competent at it (which is a choice I expect that I’ll explore in a future blog post), but it can still be fun to flail at something new and be inordinately happy with a result that other people may look down upon.
One thing that I’m trying to do with this blog is encourage others in their creativity, even if they aren’t dedicated to a particular skill, or are just beginning their journey into that type of art. Since I’ve not found a blog with quite the same set of interests as mine (or the same level of gleeful bouncing around between topics despite a lack of experience) it seems like it would be sensible to share a small bit of advice based on my exploits through activities where it feels like I’m still floundering below the level of “amateur”, to try to help those people who are as lost as I am, whatever they are trying to work with. Those with any skill in audio and video editing are welcome to jump down to the end of this post to spare themselves the agony, or to engage and give me a few pointers so the mistakes that I make in the future are entirely different mistakes to the ones that I’ve made so far.
- It’s more important to have good quality sound than good quality video. People will be disappointed if your video is blurry. If your sound is bad they will probably stop playing your video as it hurts too much.
- Try and find a way of getting better sound than from your video camera microphone – an external microphone or a sound recorder like the Zoom H2 I have can help here (I love my Zoom, it’s so handy to just set up and forget even if it’s not as good as a “proper” audio setup involving a mixing desk. Speaking of which, if you are helping someone record a gig, see if you can plug a USB stick or an SD card directly into the desk for some nice clean sound.
- Try a few different video/audio editors until you find one you like. I tried a bunch of free Linux based editors that all seemed impenetrable, and ended up buying Sony Vegas Movie Studio (a much older version than those currently available). As well as free ones like Lightworks, you can find demos of many of the most popular editors online; You may want to try out Adobe Premier Elements or Cyberlink PowerDirector as well as Sony Movie Studios.
- Sound compression can be evil, but can also make some audio usable in the first place. Play around with it until things sound nice. You may find this under “Dynamics” in your audio editing software.
- Matching sound and video from different sources is a pain. Try to find a nice sharp sound (like a clap) to match to, and do everything from there.
- Sound recordings from different sources will drift relative to each other. Good luck if you’re trying to match more than a few minutes – I’d love to know how to better deal with this.
- Learn when to use the “Auto Ripple” function and when to turn it off, unless you want a change you made to mess up all your nicely synced sounds and videos.
- If you can, use H.264 encoding for your video files as it works well and makes nice small files. If not, play with your settings before you render until you find one that gives you nice video files that are not stupidly huge.
- It always takes a while for your files to render. Learn to live with this.
- The internet is generally your friend for finding out how to do new things. Try searching for advice on specific points, but be prepared to try lots of different ways of phrasing the same thing until you find the magic phrase that the wider world has seemingly decided is the only way to describe your problem.
And as a general point for trying anything new:
- Try and enjoy the process, rather than just what you get out at the end – try and be happy that you’ve improved rather than disappointed that it didn’t work out the way that you intended.
I hope those help! Obviously I’m not anything even approaching an expert (if an expert is climbing mountains, I’m tripping up getting out of my house), but I can at least sympathise with your problems if you share them in the comments.
Also, speaking of new things, I went out to try and find some lizards with a group who are doing research into the presence of common lizards not too far away from where I live. We found precisely one lizard (which was very cute, although we couldn’t see it well enough to work out its sex), and it was actually really pleasant wandering about in the rough grass so I’m glad that I went. We (well, mainly the people who knew what they were doing as they research this sort of thing) also laid down some roofing felt to act as refugia (apparently that’s the technical term) that the lizards will hopefully like warming up on/under and the plan is for us to monitor those over the next few months, so hopefully there will be some lizard-based updates on the future. And yes, I’m a physicist so this is another new venture for me outside my usual comfort zone. Let’s see how it goes.
What have you been working on without much experience? Are there any things that you’ve achieved that you are particularly proud of? Share them here and we can support each other!