Video Making Guide
Original: September 2006
Updated: May 2008
Iíve had quite a few queries over the time Iíve been making vids on everything from what software to use to how to rips clips to what format to output them in.† So with a little prompting I decided it was probably a good idea to finally write one single guide that I can refer people to.
This is intended to be a guide to the process of making videos from initial idea to final product.† Iím concentrating more on high level concepts and processes, rather than loads of technical detail that will make your brain hurt.† That said, obviously I have to include some specifics, but youíre free to email me and ask about anything thatís not clear!† I also concentrate primarily on Voyager vidding, but the techniques discussed could be used to make videos for any sort of fandom.
One thing I should mention that though this guide might seem clinical at times, vidding is actually a very personal (and creative) thing. These are just meant as some handy hints and tips, but in the end you should just go with what you feel and what pleases you. Each video is the imaginings of your imagination and ultimately only you can tell what you want to do with it.
Iíve divided the guide up into some sections as follows:
1. Choosing a song
Ok, so youíve decided you want to make your own video, but where do you start? In 99 cases out of 100 I personally start with the song. Nearly always I will hear a song and something about it will cause me to link it to J/7 (or whatever subject youíre interested in). Itís very, very rare that Iíll thinkÖĒI want to do a video where Janeway gets jealous of Seven and then wins her overĒÖ(or something similar) and then go looking for a song to suit.
However, donít just pick the first song that tickles your fancy. Once you start really listening to lyrics and trying to associate them with your chosen subject, youíll quickly realise you can turn pretty much any song into a video (just look at Fast Food!). You should pick something that really means something to you and inspires you for your first effort. It should also be a song that youíre not going to mind hearing over and over and over and over again (believe me, you may well never want to hear it again once youíre finished!).
One other thing to bear in mind is who your audience is. If youíre doing it purely for yourself then pick what you damn well please! However, if youíre hoping to get other people interested in watching it, you might want to consider how well known the song is. If you pick something by some really obscure artist that no one else will ever have heard of, youíre decreasing the chances that people will want to watch/sit through your video. Thereís definitely something to be said for the sing/hum-along factor in keeping people hooked just as much as whatever visuals you choose. I know Iíve started watching other peopleís videos in the past and had to really force myself to watch to the end because I didnít know/like the song.
I tend to favour songs that have a bit of pace, or at least something dramatic/angsty about them, because this gives much more opportunities for interesting visuals to accompany the song. Slow love songs may be beautiful and heartfelt and scream J/7 to you, but as videos they can be pretty samey and a bit dull (the editing has to match the slow pace of the song, and youíre going to have to use the same scenes as a hundred and one other videos Ė they sit by the fire, Janeway kneels before Seven etc etc ).
Something else to consider is access to the song. For most video editing software youíre going to need to have it in mp3 (or some other common) format. The video editing software I use doesnít allow encrypted things such as the m4ps you get from iTunes even though youíve legally paid for them. However, this doesnít mean iTunes (or similar pay services) are out of the question as a source Ė you can always burn the track to cd and then rip it back onto your PC as an mp3 to get round the problem. Of course the best source is your own collection of music on cd (if people still have them!) and another favourite of mine is WinMX. This is a file sharing program (in the form of Kazaa or old Napster just without the horrible spyware). WinMX has suffered a bit since I first wrote the guide, so the number of tracks available on it isn't as good as it used to be, but it can still be a useful source.
2. Planning your video
Youíve now chosen your song and already you probably have a few ideas flashing through your mind about what happens in the video youíre going to make - so you need to write these down!
Actually thatís not strictly true. Iin fact I donít often write my ideas down these days, but in the beginning I nearly always used to, so itís probably a good thing to do when starting out.
Notes are a good thing to make sure your video doesnít just wander along aimlessly, or start fabulously before petering out into nothingness. One thing to consider is what the overall theme/story/mood of your video is meant to be right at the beginning. Itís not much good having something that veers between comedy and dark angst (unless thatís what you really intended!).
The story/theme/mood doesnít have to be anything too deep and meaningful Ė ďJaneway kicks assĒ is a perfectly acceptable theme! Alternatively it can have its own mini plot, e.g. Roxanne where Seven flirts with various men, making Janeway increasingly jealous before Janeway snaps and hunts her down for a confrontation. Beware of making these plots too complicated, though. It may make perfect sense to you at the time, but remember the casual viewer wonít have been considering your video and song over and over for hours on end. I realised this with my Achilles Heel video when I watched it back. The multiple timelines were straight in my mind, but anyone else would have wondered what the hell was going on! (hence the addition of the helpful subtitles after the video was finished).
Another thing to think about is whoís meant to be singing it? I.e. is the singer Janeway, is it Seven, or is it just sung about them by an anonymous third party? You can switch between viewpoints during the video if you want to, but as with the above note on convoluted plots, this might get tricky for the viewer to understand. Your watchers shouldnít need a reem of subsidiary notes to understand whatís happening in your video! The song and images should be self explanatory for the most part.
A few other considerations are what the timeline of the video is meant to be (is some of it told in flashback? Is it set over a certain season?) and whether there are recurring themes/lyrics where you want similar things to happen each time.
How you make your notes is up to you. My preferred method (which I donít actually employ anymore!) was to get the lyrics to the song and then put them in a table with a spare column to the right where I could note down what happened in conjunction with those specific lyrics. Sometimes that was just something general, e.g. Janeway is watching Seven (which I would later need to find a matching scene for), sometimes that was a specific scene if I had one in mind already, e.g. Janeway kneels before Seven in Voyager Conspiracy (as you can imagine that one cropped up in a lot of notes!).
I personally found writing it out like this would make sure the whole video was consistent. If you just go straight to editing, chances are youíre going to lose track of where youíre going Ė itís good to have a goal in mind. Planning also helps keep the excitement/tension up in your video. If you just start at the beginning and work through as you go, you might use all the best/exciting scenes up and have nothing to stick at the end of your video. Or even worse you might get fed up and finish it in a hurry with filler for the last couple of minutes.
An alternative to making notes is to edit as you go. Iíll mention this in a bit more detail in the section on making your video. Even if youíre going to do this itís probably a good idea to at least know what the vague story/theme/mood and the viewpoint of your video is meant to be before you start.
3. Video editing software
This is the software you use to actually join your visuals together with your audio to make your video and create an output file. Itís what youíre going to need unless you intend using the power of your mind to broadcast your masterpiece to the world.
Here I have to admit to being no expert (that is in video editing software, not using the power of my mind to broadcast to the world, in which, of course, I have loads of experience). Iíve used only two different applications to make by videos - the stunningly basic (some might say crap) WinProducer and more recently the stunningly fabulous Sony Vegas .
The most commonly used application by other vidders is Windows Movie Maker, primarily because itís free if you have Windows XP, rather than because itís actually that good. I donít have first hand experience of WMM, but Iíve heard itís meant to be rather prone to crashing/seizing up randomly and making you want to put a fist through your screen as you realise you didnít save that scene you were editing for the last 3 hours. That said, itís probably your best bet if youíre new to vidding and donít want to shell out for an application Ė just make sure you save your work regularly!
A couple of other alternatives that will cost youÖ*gasp*Ömoney (unless youíre one of those naughty hacker types) are Adobe Premiere which comes in two forms Ė Elements (about $100) and Pro (seriously expensive) Ė and Pinnacle Studio (also about $100). Just google either of these if you want to splash the cash! The aforementioned Sony Vegas also costs money unless you have any nice friends *innocent whistle*
Iím sure there are a multitude of other applications too Ė just use your friendly neighbourhood google for more details.
4. Getting Clips
Youíre not going to get very far without some source material to create your video. There are a few ways you can go about getting the necessary clips:
a. Download existing videos and chop them up
b. Rip whole episodes yourself
c. Rip specific scenes yourself
(N.b. ďripĒ means convert all or part of a dvd into a compatible file format to import into your video editing software, e.g mpeg, avi etc. You can rip video too, but since I have no experience of this Iím going to concentrate on dvd)
a. Download existing clips and chop them up - this may sound a bit naughty and cannibalistic, but actually itís a good place to start, especially if you just want to have a play around. Most vidders wonít mind you doing this with their videos as long as you donít take great lumps of their videos and just re-present them to different music. Be aware of taking their editing too, such as use of slow motion, greyscale, transitions or spliced scenes (two scenes put together to make a new one). Once youíve downloaded their video and imported it, most video editing software will cut it up for you automatically into smaller scenes that you can refine.
b. Rip whole episodes yourself Ė if you do have the dvds then you can create your own source material. This can be time consuming, but at least youíll know your video is 100% original. I donít actually know the best software for ripping whole episodes since I actually use method c below. This is because my video editing application doesnít do that handy thing I mentioned of cutting large scenes automatically up for you. The prospect of having to drag 40 minutes of video through the timeline every time I wanted to find something was not very appealing!
c. Rip specific scenes yourself Ė This is the method I use mainly for the reason given above. Also with smaller files, you know what each one is about and you get exactly what you want without lots of extra unwanted stuff (endless scenes of Chakky looking wooden, Tuvok looking stoic etc). The downside is that if you realise you need something else youíre going to have to go back to the episode and rip that specific bit.
Since I use c, thatís the one Iím going to talk about here. When I talk about ripping specific scenes, I mean ripping one or two minutes of footage from a particular episode, e.g. the Delta Flyer Scene from the end of Voyager Conspiracy (though actually that oneís about 5 minutes long, but you get the point!), and saving it as an avi (in my case, though you can save it as other formats).
Of course the first stage is deciding what you actually want to rip, and thatís down to your video and what you need. This is where your knowledge of Voyager is going to come into play unless you want to watch all 170 odd episodes in search of the perfect scene of Janeway smiling. Over time youíll obviously build up a library of clips that you can re-use but when you start out, youíre just going to have to go by what you remember (or what you might have seen in other videos) and rip accordingly, e.g. you know you want the Delta Flyer scene from Voyager Conspiracy, them sitting by the fireside in Omega Directive etc.
An alternative to this is to painstakingly work your way through all the dvds and rip all the scenes you think might come in handy at some point. This is what I did once I got the dvds but it takes a long, long, long time! (I hate to think how long, but it was done sporadically over a period of months). So now I have a library of over 1000 clips (at which point the task becomes remembering whatís in each one!) that I can just use when I want to make a new video. Even then I sometimes have to go back and rip new scenes. If youíre going to take this approach I recommend making some formal notes of what the key things in each clip are in some document/spreadsheet/database that you can refer back to, e.g. Janeway smiles, Janeway drinks coffee, Janeway fires Betsy etc. I did this for some of mine but then got lazy and now I have to try and just remember which clip I need when Iím looking for something specific.
Naming your clips consistently is also going to help locate the right images. I gave mine a naming convention of a prefix for the episode, a prefix for who was in the scene and finally a descriptive name, e.g. imp_J7_Sickbay (from Imperfection and features a J/7 sickbay encounter) or kg_J7_NaziExplosion (from Killing Game, featuring J/7 running from the exploding building) or ng_J_QuartersMood (from Night, Janewayís all moody in her quarters) or end_ship_InConduit (from Endgame, the ship flies down the borg conduit) etc.
So how do you create all these lovely files? Well, thereís lots and lots of ripping software out there, but the one I use is called 1 Click DVD Ripper. Iím not claiming this is the best by any means, but it works for me. There is a charge if you want the full version (about $30), or you can get the free version which rips 30% of what you want. You might think this sounds a bit crap Ė what good is 30% of what you want? Ė but you can fool the application if youíre only requiring small bits of an entire episode by telling it you want more than you really do (e.g. if you want the scene at 1:00 Ė 2:00, you just tell it you want 1:00 Ė 4:00 and you get what you originally wanted!). I just got fed up of having to make all these calculations since I was ripping so many clips and shelled out for the proper thing.
Iím going to give a brief guide to using 1 Click here, so you can skip this bit if youíve got your own ripping app, or youíre just bored by what I have to say ;)
1. Put a dvd in your cd drive
2. Play the dvd in your dvd playing software for a couple of seconds (or force it to be played if this doesn't start automatically - you need to do this to initialise the decoder for some reason)
3. Stop the dvd being played and close the playing application.
4. Double-click on 1 click dvd ripper
5. You get a window with "1 click dvd riper" in the main bit and "wizard" "start" and "burn cd" buttons at the bottom
6. Click the "wizard" button
7. Select the "Open IFO or VOD" option, then click the three dots button to browse for the file you want
8. Navigate to your cd drive and pick the appropriate ".IFO" file. This is important - don't pick one of the ".VOB" files - you want the IFO!! E.g. if you are trying to rip from the first episode on the dvd, then select "VTS_01_0.IFO", if you want episode 2, then pick "VTS_02_0.IFO" etc The IFO file is like the index to the episode, whereas the .VOB files are the raw video.
9. Once you've picked your file you go back to the 1 click dvd ripper screen and click next.
10. Now you have the "step 2: Input Settings" screen. You don't need to anything on here apart from click "next"
11. Now you are on "step 3: segment select". Select the "choose a segment by time" and enter the time segment you want. Now click "next". Note that 1 Click isnít spot on perfect Ė youíll find that itís often a few seconds out one way or the other. So be generous in specifying the time limits of the scene you want (add on a few seconds at either end).
12. You are now on "Step 4: Output Setting". By the "output file path" input box is another three dots browsing thing. You need to select this and enter a file name, otherwise it won't work properly. Once you've entered the file name click on "save" and you're back on the "step 4" page again with your file name now filled in. You MUST use the browse button to do this. It won't work if you just type in the file name. In terms of the settings for the resolution/size etc here are my recommendations, but you can play around if you want stuff bigger.
a. Movies (2.34 or 2.4 : 1, widescreen) Ė though theyíll say 16:9 on the back of the box this isnít strictly true Ė theyíre wider than that Ė hence you still get some black bars even if you watch them on a widescreen TV. Therefore I recommend you select the ďMediumĒ zoom level when ripping widescreen movies to minimise black bar-age (you can edit out the rest in your editing program if you want). So settings are:
Resolution (size): 640 x 480
File type: mpeg-2 (SVCD)
b. Widescreen TV programs (1.78 : 1) Ė this is proper 16:9 widescreen, hence widescreen TV programs take up all your widescreen TV with no bars.† Therefore, no need for the medium zoom level:
Resolution (size): 640 x 480
File type: mpeg-2 (SVCD)
c. Non-widescreen TV programs (4:3, i.e. Voyager):
Resolution (size): 640 x 480
File type: mpeg-2 (SVCD)
13. Click "finish" and you should be taken back to the main window
14. Click "start" and off it goes!
For subsequent scenes from the same episode you donít need to go through this whole process again Ė you can just select the segment (step 11) and the output file (step 12) without having to go through the whole wizard again by using the menus up top. Make sure you browse to change the output file name as described in step 12 above each time.
One more thing Iíve found is that you have the region 2 discs, then season 4 of Voyager doesnít have all the required .IFO files on each disc. It only has one for the first episode on that disc, meaning there are about 20 episodes where itís a lot of hassle to get a clip. You can do it using the .VOB files, but itís very tiresome and not something Iím going to go into here. If you do have this missing .IFO problem then contact me for some help if you need it!
5. Creating your video
So finally you have some clips and an idea of what you want to do, so itís time to get down to making your masterpiece!
As mentioned before there are a couple of ways you can go (especially if you donít have a specific written plan for the video) when you get to the stage of actually putting the scenes to your chosen music:
prefer the latter of these for the main reason that Iíll often have key points
in the song where I know exactly what I want to happen Ė theyíre defining
moments of the video. I like to get these right
first and then build the rest of the video around them. Often one of
these key moments will be the end. Having this in place near the start of
the process also helps define where youíre going with the video and avoids a
common problem with videos Iíve watched where they seem to lose course halfway
However, a lot of other people like the start at the beginning approach (maybe due to ease of use with their chosen video editing software). Itís entirely up to you how you do it! I do sometimes start at the beginning when I have a very defined plan for the video since I know Iíll get to my dramatic moments eventually.
How you actually edit your video is also entirely up to you and your song, I canít tell you how to do that here! However, I will offer a few tips from experience of watching and creating videos:
1. Outputting your video
finished your first version of the video and you want to see what it looks
like, which means you need to output it to a single movie file.
Obviously each video editing application has its own methods for doing this. In general you need to specify some output parameters of your video such as the file type, frame rate, kbps, size etc.
Hereís the important bits I use in Sony Vegas, though itís usually just best to go with whatever your software is defaulting to:
File type: mpeg-1
Frame rate: 25 (this is PAL, NTSC is 29.9)
Video bit rate (constant): 1700 Kbps
Audio: 224 kbps, 44 Mhz
Pixel aspect ratio: 1.0
Widescreen for You Tube Ė same as above except for:
If you want
people to download this off a site of your own, you might want to convert it
into .wmv after this as an
mpg is quite large.† For this I use
Windows Media Encoder which is free from Microsoft with the following settings:
File type: .wmv (this is the most commonly used, though some people use .rm)
Size: 320x240 (this is standard 4:3 size Ė your ripped clips might not be this size and you might want to adjust this slightly to stop everyone looking fat or thin!)
Frame rate: 25fps (this is the PAL frame rate, NTSC is 30 though Iím not sure how much this matters when youíre dealing with computers!)
Audio format: 64 Kbps, 44 Mhz
Video Bit Rate: 250 Kbps
p.s. donít ask me any complicated questions about frame sizes and PAL and NTSC etc, because itís all just as confusing to me! I just played around until it looked ok and worked!
Iím afraid you canít output the video at the same lovely high quality you created your clips at (unless youíre doing it just for yourself), since most people arenít going to bother sitting around while a 50Mb+ video downloads.
You should aim for something roughly 10mb in size as a maximum (depending on the length of the video). I find that a 3-4 minute song comes out somewhere around the 7-9 Mb mark with the settings I use.
You can play around with the settings on your particular application until you get the output size and quality you want.
7. Releasing Your Video
Youíve finally done it Ė youíve got your video and itís finished Ė now to release it on an unsuspecting world! But wait! Just hold on a minuteÖ
I know youíve been working at this thing for ages and now you just want to share it, but I speak from experience when I say hold onto it for now. If you keep it to yourself for a couple of days and then watch it again, I can guarantee you that youíll spot at least 10 things you want to change. I personally keep mine back for weeks (sometimes months) re-watching them periodically and tweaking until I get them just right.
Of course you could keep doing this ad infinitum Ė there comes a point where you just have to let your baby go and be free!
Once you are satisfied that youíve tweaked it enough then you need to find somewhere to let people get at it. You have a few options:
a. Create your own website
b. Get someone else to put it on their website
c. Put it on a video sharing site (i.e. YouTube)
d. Put it on a file download site
A bit more on each of these:
a. Create your own website Ė not as hard as maybe it sounds with all the tools now available, but if you just want a free site then there are often restrictions on both the size of files allowed, that might exclude your videos, and the bandwidth (which affects how many people will be able to download it). As an example my site is paid for and I have a limit of 80Gb bandwidth a month that I regularly exceed! (though I do have nearly 200 videos on there!). In general if youíre searching around you want something (either free of paid for) that offers as large a bandwidth limit for the price youíre willing to pay. If you have your own site you might want to zip up your files to prevent people watching them direct off the page (and killing your bandwidth), or use some other way to force them into downloading it to their own computer before watching (I donít do this, which is probably the cause of my bandwidth nightmare!). Note that you could combine having your own site with c. (putting it on a video sharing site).† In this case you create the basic pages, but the videos are hosted on the video sharing site and the links (and player) embedded in your pages.† This is relatively easy as the video sharing site should give you a link which you can just cut and paste into your page to achieve the embedding. (p.s. thanks to annika for making me think of this last point!)
b. Get someone else to put it on their website Ė much easier than a. since itís free (unless your friend is really tight!)
c. Put it on a video sharing site Ė Basically this means YouTube. If you've been living on the moon for the past couple of years then a very brief bit about it. Itís really easy to use Ė you just need to create an account (donít worry itís all free), and you can start uploading as many videos as you want. The only downside is that people will have to watch them off the YouTube site or from links embedded in other web pages. There are ways to download the video and take it away (if for example they want to transfer it to some portable device), but these aren't as immediately accessible as options a or b. Still this is the best place to start if you don't have your own site and I use it in conjunction with my site due to the large number of visitors.
d. Put it on a file download site Ė there are a few of these around too like PutFile and YouSendIt, where you just upload your file and then receive back a link that you can give to other people for downloading purposes. The main drawback here is that thereís usually either a number of downloads or time limit after which people wonít be able to access the file.
Whichever method you choose youíre going to want to advertise your new creation. If youíre talking Voyager or J/7 then some places you might want to plug it include:
www.voyager-conspiracy.co.uk/forum - general J/7 forum
http://j7faction.com/community - another general J/7 forum
http://www.groups.yahoo.com/ Ė groups to join include Janeway7, janeway7ers, VoyagerMusicHub, KissMeKate
And there you have it Ė just wait for all that lovely feedback (or not!). Donít be disappointed if you donít get much beyond Ė ďthat was greatĒ or ďI loved that videoĒ. Though youíve probably watched it 101 times and know every nuance of editing and timing, most people will watch it once, enjoy it (or not) and not really think of it again. Itís rare you get detailed feedback on how profoundly moved someone was by the way you faded between Janeway and Seven at 1:43, or how they felt elated by how you matched the surge in music to a triumphant moment or how they really understood Janewayís pain from the story you told. Still, you had a good time making it (right?) so who cares what anyone else thinks!