Newsletter #159 - July 21, 2007
Beginning a 'Promo' Video

Last weekend our local library of Portage, Michigan, where I teach Movie Maker, hosted their first Civil War reenactment, the Battle of Charles City Crossroads
Activities such as this provide endless photo and video opps... for high quality pix and video.
CannonAs often happens in the editing phase, we try to make old stuff look new, and new stuff look old. Everything I'm using is new, so some pix and clips will get shots of sepia toning and old-film effects to jog them back in time. 
I don't want to keep all the clips old, so I'll move from the old to the new in a way no-one will notice... at least they won't notice right away if I'm successful.
the picture of a cannon
 is a link to the first draft
 of the 30 second
opening clip... made to look old
I'll make the final project file in Vista. I like how it's v6 of Movie Maker lets you mix standard 4:3 and widescreen 16:9 video clips.
I shot a few opening clips in standard and then switched to widescreen for the rest of the footage.

Copyright issues at such an event are refreshing 'non-issues'. Asking permissions when shooting close-ups or asking for specially posed ones is just for politeness. Requests are always cheerfully granted and lead to discussions and more behind-the-scenes opps. One of the reenactors took Bernadette to a tent to see a Civil War vintage camera. We've come a long way in the technology of photography.
Some reenacters played Civil war vintage music played on period instruments. The camcorder did double duty.
This is just the material gathering phase. I won't be putting it together into a finished video soon enough to make this issue.
Before getting into details, here's...
... a note...


Digital Video... DV
It's interesting how few digital8 and mini-DV camcorders are in stores today. If Movie Maker 6 hadn't come along, I'd say it was a sure bet that Movie Maker would phase out, as the XP version hung its hat on the DV format transferred by firewire.
I get my tapes in Sams Club. On my last visit, they didn't have any Hi8 tapes... just mini-DV. One of these days I'll have to stock up good before they stop being sold.
With so many people starting with or moving to the MPEG-2 files of DVD and Hard Drive Camcorders, I expect to shift more and more to covering Vista and MM6. By the first of 2008, MM2.1 and XP will be fading into the background. 
.... back to the main topic...

Gathering and Processing the Material
I work in a modular way
The project is almost finished now, but not ready to put out a full draft. Here are notes about the highlights... 
video clips
I captured the 2-1/2 hrs of mini-DV video from the 2 day event, by firewire to an external USB2 120 GB SimpleTech drive on my XP laptop system... using the WinDV utility as I wrote this newsletter and did other stuff... there were no dropped frames.
My new Toshiba laptop, where I'm pulling the project parts together into the final assembly, doesn't have a firewire connection, so importing the video with it isn't an option.
The main reason I used WinDV was to get a pack of 172 DV-AVI files instead of the 3 big ones I would have gotten with MM2.1. It makes for easier copying of a selected clip to move to another app such as an audio-editor... or to process thru Virtual Dub for some visual enhancements.... or to delete clips that are not usable for any reason.
still pix
325 pictures came from the 10 megapixel Nikon D40x. That's more than enough material for the kinds of Ken Burns pan/zoom effects that's a natural with Civil War material. The camera has been doing a yoeman's job... it's great!

Coveraccenting material
I scanned the admission tickets and a few pages from the handout brochure... things that are appropriate for the video and tie it more personally to the actual event. The image at the right is from the first page of the brochure... you'll see it scroll upwards over a few background clips in the opening scene.
The scrolling upwards is done with a custom xml title overlay and a partially transparent PNG file (using
Accent Video Clips...
I'll make a few photo stories to mix with the video clips and still pix... using selected pictures from the Nikon and scanned material.
I made 3 stories from the pictures... the lines of union and confederate forces, and bodies strewn in the field after the battle.
I added the sepia toning in Photo Story and saved the stories as standard aspect ratio clips... using the built-in profile of 800x600 pixels.
And I made 2 panning/zooming stories using marked up scanned images from the inside pages of the brochure.
Accent Audio...
I'm exploring my Vista Home Basic laptop to see the combo of features provided by Vista and those added by Toshiba... the image shows it in the process of doing narrations and recording audio files. 
As the system doesn't have an internal sound card mixer, I'm placing a small microphone next to the laptop's speaker and taking the analog route out and back in. 
Web Speak is a Toshiba app. Select some text on a website, have the utility read it, and capture it to as an audio file using Sound Recorder or Movie Maker. I tried both and got comparable quality files.... not great but workable for home movies.
The computer reading is getting better with each operating system version. The picture is a link to the unretouched wma file from the Sound Recorder for this capture. Does the computer have an accent?
After enhancing a narration in an audio editing app, it would be ready to use as an audio accent in the movie project.... this one doesn't fit, as the Gettysburg Address came years after the battle of Charles River Crossroads.
Recording Website Text
Another way to get audio for accenting is to download it from the Internet Archives. A radio broadcast special about Abraham Lincoln, done by Orson Wells, includes a segment from the time of the reenacted battle... I might use as background audio over some of the 3 panning stories...

Final Assembly
Vista's Movie Maker beats MM2.1 'hands-down' as the best assembly tool. I say that because it lets me freely mix standard and widescreen video clips without distortion.
I set the project option to widescreen, as that's how I shot most of the camcorder footage. Here's the start of the storyboard, showing
  • an opening clip made by MM2.1
  • a Photo Story 3 project showing one of the brochure pages
  • the 'Battlefield' segment... a widescreen video made in MM6
  • another Photo Story 3 project made from another of the brochure pages
  • the 'VillageScenes' segment... widescreen by MM6
  • one of the imported camcorder clips... shot widescreen 
Vista - mix standard and widescreen
Doing this in MM2 would stretch the clips to suit, to remove the black side borders from the standard aspect ratio clips... distorting the images. Doing it in Vista adds borders as needed to retain the video shapes.

Conclusion and Closing... and What's Next?
I guess I'm now the volunteer videographer for this library event... the participants who are so involved are so much in keeping with the times that they leave all their modern stuff home, including cameras and camcorders. I know a number of them are looking forward to seeing our pix and videos.
Many posters ask where to get copyright free images, video, music. A great option is to record them yourself at such an event.
This newsletter is a little later than usual... yesterday at the Ann Arbor Art Fair got in the way... more pix and clips went into the library, but nothing close to the material for the Civil War reenactment movie.
Have a great week and enjoy your summer fun and video work...