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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Easy Digital Video

Add some movement and sound to your next trip into the wilds

Like many of the small cameras, the G9 doesn’t allow you to zoom while you’re recording video. I’m not sure that that’s really a problem. All too often, photographers who aren’t used to using video will overuse the zoom control. The camera is lightweight, so it’s easy to use as a moving camera, panning across the scene, and even literally moving the camera through things like a clump of flowers.
Always check your movement in shots like this by looking at the LCD playback. How fast you move the camera through a scene or across a scene does makes a difference, but sometimes it’s hard to predict what speed you need. A given scene may have more or less detail that looks best at a certain speed of movement. And many scenes look best with a camera locked down on a tripod while you let the movement of the scene, such as flowers blowing or waves crashing, carry the action.

Often, photographers using video for the first time will use the camera like a regular still camera. They capture snippets of the scenes without giving any shot a long enough capture of video. For editing purposes, you need to have at least 10 seconds of any given video shot. Yes, you can edit shorter bits, but you’ll find it frustrating to work with very short bits. Having at least 10 seconds gives you a lot more flexibility and options when you edit your video.

When shooting video, you need a large memory card. A 10-second clip of video can take 20 MB of storage space, while a minute can take 120 MB of space (this depends on the video resolution and the camera). You can see it wouldn’t take very many minutes to use up a small memory card. But to be honest, I don’t use these little cameras for epic video productions. When I go out to specifically shoot a lot of video, I take a dedicated video camcorder, such as my high- definition Canon XH A1. I use the little cameras simply to have the opportunity to shoot a variety of scenes when I’m at a great location, scenes that can be combined later to create a short, fun piece that can help me remember and reexperience that location.

Once you shoot your video, you need to edit it. Editing video has become so much easier to do than it used to be. You need a fast hard drive with enough space for your video. There are many easy-to-use video software programs on the market today. If you have a Mac, you probably have iMovie already installed. Adobe Premiere Elements and Pinnacle Studio are inexpensive and easy-to-use programs that offer a bit more power than iMovie.

Typically, you can simply drag and drop your video files from the memory card to a folder on your hard drive. Then you import those files into your video program. I used iMovie for my Montaña de Oro video; I selected all of the video files in the appropriate folder and dragged them into iMovie. The program imported them all for me. Then I built a video by dragging and dropping individual clips onto the timeline. I made clips shorter or longer by dragging their ends. I used simple transitions between clips, using mostly one-second dissolves.

Finally, I added some music. I like the music software from SmartSound, which allows you to create music to a specific length, and you can use it for slideshows or videos. There are no issues with rights when using this music either, which can be a problem when you simply take some music from a commercial music CD or an MP3 file.

You can see the results of this short video I made on the OP website at www.outdoorphotographer.com. These videos are a lot of fun to do. They can be a great addition to any photographer’s website, or you can just put them onto a DVD and send them to friends and family to show them a little more of what you were doing last time you were in the field. All of the programs mentioned here make it easy to put these videos either on the web or a DVD.

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