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MTV style edits and the Army

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MTV style edits and the Army
on Jul 9, 2007 at 8:35:48 pm

Okay, I'm a military trained one man band broadcast journalist. Meaning I'm a Soldier who gets to edit on Media Composer. I'm considered okay at what I do because I love to tell stories and am willing to put the time in to try and rock it. But I can also admit when I'm in over my head.

My new mission: put out information about our Soldiers in an edit style that will communicate to a younger audience. They want our products to flow faster and tighter and with caution to the wind (within reason.) I've always believed in what I do and consider this a challenge. The thing is, I don't know how to edit MTV-style. I don't know how to take some really boring information and "spin" it (because we all "spin") so its fun to watch. This were 2 of my attempts to jazz up our show:

But it feels like bland pudding to me, creamy with no taste. Anyone have any resources that I could pour my attention into? Any advice on how to "learn" to edit like I work for E! Any crtiques that I can actually use on the products I've already produced. I live in the d.c. area if you'd like to show me how you do it, the first and third round is on me.

I'm the show producer so I write, direct, shoot, anchor, edit. Our higher ups trust me and my guys to run with it and I'd like to think I offer more to our mission than an overlay and a Swipe.

thanks in advance

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John Cuevas
Re: MTV style edits and the Army
on Jul 10, 2007 at 4:45:30 pm

First off, your work looks very good, Kudos!

Spicing things up to look more "MTV" or "E" will always be limited somewhat by the subject matter. It's easier to do fast cuts to music when your story is Paris Hilton visiting a fashion show compared to a story on Chinook choppers.

Also, keep in mind that as a one man band you can't be everywhere shooting everything, while "E" can hire crews to shoot each segment.

So there are some limitations to what you have available even before you start, ie actual footage vs stock photos...

All that being said, couple of things you might want to consider. The first piece had quite a few photos, but they were all stactic. MC has the pan and zoom tool, just using that will add a bit more visual interest.

In a few of the pieces that had video, why not use the nat sound? It doesn't need to be overpowering, but it will add some texture and feel to the segments.

I liked the use of graphics between the pieces. One thing you might consider, customizing some of the backgrounds used. As I watched the 2nd video, the bkg with the squares, I thought it might be cool if you put video/stills in those squares, matching the moves. It could be just generic army stills, or if you the time you could customize it per story. The latter option would take more time, but if you had AfterEffects, you could set the entire operation up once---then just replace the footage per story.

Not sure if it's possible based on what I saw, but if you could incorporate people giving soundbites on location, that would add a bit more energy too. It looked like you were working with quite a bit of b-roll from a lot of different places, so not sure if that's an option.

Overall I thought based on the material you did a very good job as you are delivering news, not NewsTainment. One thing I did years ago when I first started editing was to keep a notebook next to me as I watched television. If I saw something I liked I would sketch it quickly, make some notes and write down ideas of how I could incorpate what I saw into the work I was doing. Just keep watching things that you like and emulate the things you think will work for you.

Again, overall, I really liked what you produced. The host's had good energy and were very positive, so that really helped keeping things moving. The segments weren't too long, you told the stories succinctly and kept me interested and not bored.

Johnny Cuevas, Editor

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Re: MTV style edits and the Army
on Jul 15, 2007 at 12:58:31 am


Thanks for your compliments and advice. I never thought of keeping a journal for all the times I said, "Now thats what I want our show to look like!" Only to forget the next morning. I'm an adamant fan of Nat sound, the only problem, like in this case, is most of the footage comes with mixed audio complete with narration. I'm still trying to figure out how to use pan and zoom creatively. I understand how to use the effect but I still find I like 3D Warp Better sans the resolution issues. Thanks for the idea of customizing the jumpbacks with our own military touches. I like that idea and think we can make that work.

Thanks again!

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Mark Suszko
Re: MTV style edits and the Army
on Jul 10, 2007 at 5:12:40 pm

I know you are doing the best you can, considering what you have to work with. The samples are not the worst thing I ever saw (or did) so don't run yourself down about it, you have "unique" working conditions to say the least. If I could suggest a couple things from looking at the linked video, just my own opinion:

Every stand up you show is pretty much the same locked-down medium shot, just positioned center, left and right... even when the person and gender of the presenter changes, because they are always the same size shot, the cuts feel like jump-cuts and they shouldn't. Don't just move them screen left and screen right withotu a plan, but break up the shots by going in tighter to the faces with close-ups for some segments, and use position to nonverbally define function: anchor HERE, segment reporters THERE. If you are a Video Army Of One, this means you either need to get/rig a remote zoom/tilt control, or you have to stop and re-position the shots, or run thru two takes, a wide pass and a closeup pass, then cut between them. You may not always have the luxury of the extra time and drive space, I know. Easy solution would be an assistant to operate the camera for you. Doesn't have to be skilled, if you have a monitor so you can see what they frame-up, you can talk them in.

Digital Juice clips are very popular. I think though that you should use them more like spices though, and not wall to wall. They are overpowering the shots the way you use them now. But don't trash them. I might try desaturating them and using the juicer utility to dampen down the color ranges, to strip out some of the layers, or something along those lines. This will also make them look a little more "custom" and not so canned. A side benefit may be your streams will become a little easier to compress if they aren't as "busy".

Some of your stories are hard to illustrate because you have maybe just one still of questionable rez to work with. BTDT:-) It will cost you a little time, but the more work you put into those stills, the better. Try putting up multiple copies (like 3) of the same still in various sizes, some with high transparency, then overlapping them and/or doing a simple cut-out in alpha channels around the person's body and making that a bigger layer on top of the collage. Have your stock shots break the boundaries of the square box you frame them with. It's a more upscale, fresh, and dynamic look, particularly layered over your swipes or motion elements. If you don't have photoshop or a paint program to do this with, there are free tools available on the net that will do the same "cut-out" tricks, or a buddy can send you an approved alternative on a CD...

As far as jazzing up the look for the "hep young kids of today"... well, assuming these are mainly seen on laptops with sometimes sketchy connections, you can't go TOO overboard in making it kinetic.
I would say, take your visual design cues from the video gaming industry, because a lot of your young soldiers are very comfortable with that and like those aesthetics. What that translates into, I dunno, maybe more PIP stuff, perhaps side-bar graphics with data crawls or maps.

I like how you use unit insignia in the stories, I would play this up lots more, perhaps using a faded/blurred version as the background for master graphics so that a viewer would know they are talking about HIS unit even if he just glanced across the room at the screen.

Going back to your use of the Juice elements, I would like to see the composition look "deeper". Right now your chromakeying over the very hot and big and kinetic juice clips looks flat. Can you add some cast shadow with the keyer you have? Can you make it look deeper, more layered? The available tools and time constrain just how wild you can get. Myself, I would prefer to go more of a limbo virtual set look, more "Matrix limbo" like. Then whatever elements I bring in tend to pop more than if the entire background is continually swirling like the porthole of a clothes dryer. The background is NOT the story. The background should be a subtle way of setting the tone or communicating an attitude. A frame for the story, not competition.

Finally, the news copy always needs to use active language wherever possible. Be relentless in editing the copy down to cut out passive language and unneeded qualifiers.

Best of luck with it.

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chris collins
Re: MTV style edits and the Army
on Jul 14, 2007 at 6:34:00 pm

first of all, if you want this news cast to look like mtv, then watch mtv news segments. they do this exact thing on 'MTV NEWS', but you can just emulate what they do.

as an editor for MTV for about 3 years now, the MAIN thing that jumps out to me overall, is lack of music diversity, and the 'stock' sounding 'news music' you have chosen.

We at mtv use music for a max of maybe 25 seconds per cue.
Music is carefully picked to give emotion and pacing. When you're picking music, make it as extreme as possible and then if necessary, pull back.
i.e. 'this couple is serving as a married couple, but are in different branches' etc.
For this, try the sappiest music you can, to have the viewer feel emotion for this 'cute couple' who are giving their HEARTS and SOULS to their profession, and still maintaining their LOVE! for each other (awwww....)

DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA even if its the news, notice on fox news, when some 'alert' happens, the music changes so drastically? 'COMING UP NEXT! DUN DUN DUUUUUN!' ' a cat caught in a tree!! DUN DUN DUUUUN!'

it's all overplayed, but that's what keeps the viewer feeling like this is something exciting, and not something that's dragging on.

2nd thing, is a lack of b roll or coverage. Obviously this will be determined by the footage you have available, but seeing as you have established that this is a 'guy in front of a backdrop delivering the news' in the first 20 seconds, you can from then on, assume he's there, and cut away while he's talking. Show WHAT he is talking about, don't show HIM talking about IT.

I agree w/ Mark as well, that the digital juice clips seem overdone. However, i also see that that is the 'thematic' element of your newscast, making it 'the army newscast' and that will be memorable to the viewer and feel familiar. I would just make sure you have a reason for every thing you do.
As for transitions, I saw a 'morph' effect in there once used to get from one shot to another. A morph is showing the change of one thing to another, not as a dissolve. If you're just cutting to another shot, do something less distracting, try a push in w/ a blur effect, try a wipe, try a flash to white, try creating something unique, but ALWAYS have a reason why you're using it instead of a straight cut.

That's all, hope it helps. If you see mtv lately, there aren't a whole lot of graphics usually, except on certain shows like Making the Band.

You mentioned E! I used to cut there, and the rule there is literally, to use a graphic transition between almost every element. It gets monotonous, but it is a style and it makes each show feel cohesive and like, 'that show.' so you're editing looks a lot more like E! than mtv right now. Just an fyi.

right on.
-chris collins


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Re: MTV style edits and the Army
on Jul 15, 2007 at 1:39:25 am


I rely heavily on StackTraxx for our music because our "old" collection had that traditional midi sound. I've taken classes on Reason to try and push my boundaries but find I'm just tone deaf and talentless in creating music. What music libraries would you recommend to add some diversity?

I'll put B-Roll in whenever I can get my hands on it. Unfortunatly this section of the show, which takes up our first block, is really meant for quick headlines or interesting human stories. This section use to consist of VOs and VOSOTS with a single OTS told from a news desk.

Did you feel the information was coming across in a way that would actually interest a viewer? Or was it boring?

From studying "Top 10" and the like, I noticed how every.single.transition involves a graphic wipe. I'm not daring enough to emulate that yet in a military newscast but what I don't understand is the "have a Reason" factor? Maybe its a concept I don't understand but I chose the Morph effect merely for a visual effect... to break up the montony of the dissolves. What else should I be thinking about in terms of wipes? I don't use wipes and dissolves for my news packages but for these VOSOT style anchor reads I thought it was all about "buffing the turd." That wasn't meant to sound cynical just realistic.

Your right we've emulated E! a lot these days. One trick we are trying from MTV is to play up our anchors as "focal" points on the show. Some composited sequences of them looking um... "grand." when they are about to deliver some news.

Thanks for taking the time to critique our product. Its nice to hear from someone who does what we are being asked to do. Please feel free to pass this forum on to any of your cohorts for their two-cents because we can use any feedback at all. Thanks again.

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Re: MTV style edits and the Army
on Aug 16, 2007 at 8:12:18 pm

I can certainly relate to your problem.
I work for a university. One of our main clients is the Athletic Department. We produce 30 minute shows for football and basketball, plus recruiting videos and end-of-the-year highlight videos.
The problem is with our other clients. Let's say our "News" department, for example, wants a video. A new provost will be meeting with honors students at a pizza party. You can imagine how dreadful that would be to watch(much less, edit.) Without fail, they complain that their videos aren't as "exiting" as the sports videos. I have to hold back spewing profanity when they ask for "MTV Style."
Too often, flash is used to cover up a lack of content, but I can see where you are trying to go with your material. I think trying to customize your Jumpbacks would help. I am not sure where your footage comes from, but if you work in more comments from the dogs in the field, maybe that would help?
My best friend did a few years working in AFRTS. I respect what you guys do.

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Re: MTV style edits and the Army
on Jul 15, 2007 at 1:07:24 am

I took your advice and tried to do the single photo/multiple layer trick. I especially liked the idea of having the photos break the square border for more presence. I tried it for our last show but I didn't pull it off exactly as planned but I'll keep working on that tool.
What you said about the unit insignia I found very interesting. We often have trouble with people wanting to say paratroopers from 3rd Squad, Alpha company, 2nd battalion, third brigade, 82nd Airborne Division fought their way into an insurgent strong hold.... I think taking your advice and stamping the individual segments with the unit patch is a unique and non-juice element that definitely brands the segment appropriately.
Concerning the deeper look, I'm still having trouble making our Lite Ring/Chromamatte set up work appropriately. Enough so that I stopped using it and stage the anchors on the set, like in my second example.

Thanks for the critique. I showed it to my co-workers and fellow producers and they were blown away that people actually cared enough to say what they thought. Thanks again.

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Timothy J. Allen
Re: MTV style edits and the Army
on Jul 15, 2007 at 4:51:30 am

Your question is really about design. I

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Bob Bonniol
Re: MTV style edits and the Army
on Jul 18, 2007 at 1:50:03 am

Here's the key, in my eyes:

(and all the other advice is fine as well).

Your camera has to get closer, and it should move. Of course there's only you working on this... But the theory of quality in = quality out applies. Whenever you are operating, get it off the sticks, even just up on the shoulder, or holding steady. Just removing the stability of the sticks, and with you trying to keep it steady, the footage is immediately going to be more dynamic, (and I'm not talking radical...) just a free float, multiple takes from just slightly different angles for cutting between, getting in past the MS waist to head + room and moving in on your subject.

As others have said, a unified design is critical, but that's not all happening on your NLE and in camera, it's also happening in the writing. Sequencing, pacing, rhythm, finding a zinger, mixing in interview footage in 'interest stories' breaking up the flow..

Build up insert stock when you aren't busy with the rest. The military, and your stories, are packed with cool technology, radical looking elements, and genuine human interest and courage. Rope your buddies into letting you film little close up cut sweep aways, of them in uniform, get out on your post and find the wicked little details, a tank tread rolling, a shizzle piece of armament, little human details, hands coming out of uniform cuffs, details of service decorations, the visual texture that makes the army the army. Go find it, shoot it in macro focus 5 second cut aways, and build a library of topical awesome, textural stock. This is going to be a huge go to tool for you.

Macro focus is a goto tool in music video and compelling contemporary graphics.

You say your tone deaf, but it is apparent you have rhythm. I'd pick the pace up about 10 to 15%, and personally, I'd get away from using lots of wipes and keep it mainly cuts, particularly when you are doing the internal edit of a segment, reserve the cool signature wipes for going from big piece to big piece.

Good luck, keep it up...

Bob Bonniol

MODE Studios
Contributing Editor, Entertainment Design Magazine
Art of the Edit Forum Leader
Live & Stage Event Forum Leader
HD Forum Leader

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Tim Kolb
Re: MTV style edits and the Army
on Jul 18, 2007 at 2:45:46 pm


I'm late to this party, but I think there's a lot of value in the responses you have here...

To me "MTV" style cuts mean you have to show a drummer that is doing something that has nothing to do with what the drummer is doing in the song at that a drummer myself, I have hair on the back of my neck that is permanently standing up from repeated exposure to this phenomenon.


(...and I'm obviously referring to music videos themselves, not the programs or news and interstitials that are done by MTV themselves.)

Anyway...back on point. The graphics are fine, but I think when you are presented with situations where you have to use stills, some movement is necessary. If you don't have multiple stills to sequence, you may need to be zooming or panning the still you show to keep things "in motion."

On-camera... This guy you have on-camera does a fine job, but there is only so much one can do to gesture and stay "active" looking for any given period of time. After he uses his arms for about the fourth or fifth time, it becomes distracting. Cutting away to full screen cover more often, even if it has to be a still in motion would give him a break from being on-camera and would also speed the pacing up.

Personal note: I'm not military guy myself, but I've always appreciated the sort of "can-do"..."drive-on"...action-oriented sort of messaging that the military has had over the years ("We do more before 9am than most people do all day.") I can't help but wonder if there wouldn't be a way to get your on camera guy outside with some gear or equipment around him instead of the studio greenscreen shoot. You could get the camera handheld and use movement to also help the feel become more "active." You may have to subdivide the script into bitesize pieces and have your guy walk into and out of frame for each small segment, but it would definitely pick up the momentum... For the stuff that you know will be the over-the-shoulder graphic layout, you could still shoot him on a tripod and position him, but move him whenever possible...

Also, I agree on the sound cues...shorter music selects, maybe tied to segments or stories would also help the feeling of progression. Audio transitions to go with your visual transitions would also hlep break it up a bit.

You have an assignment to communicate information, which you're doing...all the style tweaks are bonus points depending on the time and resources you're given. That's how we all have to work.

It's great that you're looking for ways to progress but it seems you're accomplishing your goals so you're already ahead of about half of the video production I encounter...

Be safe.

Kolb Productions,

Creative Cow Host,

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Mike Cohen
Re: MTV style edits and the Army
on Jul 20, 2007 at 5:15:29 pm

Cool job you have there.

An an alternative to the greenscreen, why not setup each show so perhaps the intro and conclusion are greenscreen. I like the idea of adding some military imagery to the jumpbacks, even just some b-roll at say 10-20% opacity mixed with the background elements.

Then for the actual news segments, find some different locations. One could be next to, or slightly in front of a plasma or LCD display, with the news graphic or some b-roll/titles in the screen, then cut to the story full screen. Make the background a black drape, maybe with some flags out of focus in the background - stick a fan off camera to give the flags some motion.

Another location could be a behind the scenes shot, with the anchor on a stool with an unused camera and other video gear in the background.

Or get a second camera handheld to shoot a side view, wide shot or close-up, during the greenscreen shot.

Another type of shot you see on both MTV type shows, and occasionally during interview shows, is a shot at ground level, with the primary action in the background, out of focus, and in the foreground is a video monitor showing the output of the primary camera. Show this for a few seconds here and there, it breaks up the monotomy of your shots.

If you have a mini-DV camera, try positioning it in various spots in your studio during the primary greenscreen shoot. Up high, down low, hand held behind the main camera, in a doorway, looking in through a window. Anything to keep viewers on their toes.

Another thing you could do with the greenscreen, in have the anchor screen right, head to toe, then knock back the background a bit, and bring in a graphic in the left 2/3 of the background. He does not necessarily need to refer to the screen, but that might be cool to try out.

Rather than beginning the clip with a guy at a desk saying "Here's what's happening around the army," why not have a 10 second intro with some patriotic music, flags and military imagery.

Or alteratively, go around the base and get some soldiers to say the intro line. A guy standing on a tank saying "Here's what's happening around the Army" is much more interesting, plus it lets your viewers say "hey, that's Private Smith. I want to watch this..."

Some ideas, we all look forward to seing what you create next...Good luck and thanks for your service.

Mike Cohen

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Mark Suszko
Re: MTV style edits and the Army
on Jul 20, 2007 at 10:50:09 pm

Mike, I absolutely love your idea of the various people doing the opening, they should use that straight away, but I have a pet peeve involving your suggestion regarding flag usage. Maybe it's just me.

Now, I'm not military myself, and the issue is a little different, I suppose, if you are talking regimental/unit flags or whatever, but I personally have a problem with using the Stars and Stripes for props or backgrounds for anything as "common" usage as this. I feel that it should be reserved more for high ceremonial display.

Now, I will admit, if anybody has a legit claim to be able to stand in front of our flag on camera, and wear it on their uniforms with pride, absolutely it's our wonderful and heroic military men and women, who uphold that flag with their very blood. It's precisely because of that dedication and devotion and honorable service though, that I hate seeing Old Glory get overused as a prop or backdrop for situations that are more "everyday". Perhaps I'm making too much of the situation, or not seeing it with the same eyes as others, and I'm willing to be schooled about that. I'd be curious though if anybody else gets "burned-out" on putting the Flag behind anything they want to have seem like it has more "gravitas". To me, it's like using the fine china dishes for every casual meal.

I also see many situations where it becomes the default choice to use in a shot, only because of a failure of imagination on the part of the client. I'm compulsive about flag etiquette, always correcting people if they place it on the wrong side of a shot, but I prefer even more if they leave it out when it's presence is not motivated by the story being told. I work carefully to make sure that everyting I put in my frame has a specific reason and message to be there, and that it contributes to the story being told. If it doesn't I take it out to reduce clutter.

Am I obscessing or not? :-)

I think using the Army Service flag might be very appropriate, or maybe making a faded background wallpaper out of the crest/symbol from that flag. But I recoil from using the Stars and Stripes as wallpaper, the same way I don't like it when someone puts it on a rear pants patch pocket.

That's me.

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Re: MTV style edits and the Army
on Jul 23, 2007 at 10:20:00 am

I find it funny you guys telling bumpthekoala to consider his target audience and why he needs to target that audience, then the next sentence telling him some of his graphics look too "stock". Only to experienced editors/video professionals will it look too "stock", not to 18 y/o soldiers. Very interesting. I don't recognize these graphics. At anyrate all other advice is top notch.

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Re: MTV style edits and the Army
on Aug 13, 2007 at 7:35:30 pm

what I would recomend doing is go crazy. Make an insane, edited to insanity version of the show. see how fast you can cut stuff, see where you can go. and do NOT think of ever showing anyone this. this is for you, because odds are, 90% of it won't work. but you tried. and the 10% of "special sauce" you just found will come in handy.

as for shooting, tis the army. get handheld. go out on location., heck, explosions are good. and so is comedy. everyone likes to laugh, and its usually the normal funny stuff that everyone can identify with it.

also, be original. it's what made MTV what mtv was, and has created what mtv is, a big boring pile of 16 year old girls crying over a new lexus. don't copy anyone, but take away pieces that you like from other things,a nd incorporate it in.

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