I jumped on the HD Video DSLR bandwagon about a year ago as a way to tell conservation stories with a mix of stills, video, and audio. I’ve still got plenty to learn, but I’ve managed to finish a few short documentaries in the last few months. It has been a lot of fun, but learning video post-production has involved a steep learning curve, as I’ve struggled to learn about things like codecs and bit rates, while trying to edit using “prosumer” software like Adobe Premiere Elements and Sony Vegas Platinum. Both programs are fine for basic editing, but they also seemed to be buggy when using the native video files straight out of my Canon 5D MarkII and 7D (I’m a Windows user, which causes some of the trouble as the cameras’ Quick Time files are better suited to Macs.) They worked better when I transcoded my footage to AVI files first using a program called Neoscene Cineform, but that’s a time consuming process that also results in huge files that quickly clogged my hard drives.
Last week, I finally plunked down the money for Adobe’s Production Premium CS5 suite, which includes several programs including Premiere Pro, After Effects, and Soundbooth. Wow, what a difference! The CS5 version of this suite works flawlessly with my Canon .mov files, even letting you mix footage shot at different frame rates and resolutions without having to transcode them first. Editing on Premiere’s timeline was fairly intuitive after having used Premiere Elements and Vegas for several months, so even though I have a lot to learn about this software still, I am already able to work on projects with relative ease. After Effects makes color correction and other changes easy as it has many effects that are familiar to Photoshop users, such as curves, vibrance, and unsharp mask. CS5 also uses something Adobe calls the Mercury Playback Engine, which takes advantage of the processor on your video card to render video previews at HD resolution on the fly. You may need to upgrade your video card to take advantage of this (currently, it is only supported with certain Nvidia cards,) but it save a ton of time if you are adding effects, transitions, titles, etc. to your video.
During the last couple of days, I put together the below video using CS5. The footage had been in the can for a couple of months, but I was waiting to make my new purchase before piecing it all together. It is a story about the removal of a dam on the Ashuelot River in SW New Hampshire. The river is home to a federally listed endangered species, the dwarf wedge mussel, whose range in the river was being restricted by the dam, which was no longer being used for any economic purpose. It’s a good story of how we can sometimes fix old mistakes.