Poor Quality of Final Video
You'll have to excuse me first-off - not only am I brand-spanking new to CreativeCow, I'm also relatively new to video production work. I lack ability to describe video in tech-jargon that I'm sure all of you would easily understand, like the guy in the auto shop describing the sound his car is making to the mechanic.
I have mild experience creating videos and I'm pressing my way through it one step at a time.
I've completed a video for our company that utilized Final Cut Pro and Apple Motion. The effects are really my first ever attempts at using either 2 programs, so bear that in mind when watching.
I shot all the footage on an NTSC camera Sony VX-2100 and am finding it disappointing that the end quality of the video seems that it would never even look good on a standard quality DVD. Still images are crappy quality, text is crappy - even the video seems crappy.
I have such an abundance of questions that I would love to have a mentor that I could have an actual conversation with, but since that is probably far-fetched - for starters, what is going on with the crawling still images being so terrible looking?
Brandon, that's really not too bad at all, there's a lot to like about what you're doing, especially if you are super-new to this.
My guess about your graphics problems with the aliasing (stair-stepping effect on angled lines) is that you edited everything in a timeline using the DV codec, since your tapes were in that codec and it is easy to end up defaulting to that same codec for everything.
DV compression can be brutal on graphics, as well as chromakeys and composites. One way to combat this might be to make a timeline using a higher-quality choice of codec which will have superior resolution in the graphics. As an experiment, you might try re-doing a representative ten-second chunk of this video, done using the uncompressed 10-bit codec, or DVCPro50 codec or even Prores, on the final cut system. I think you'll find the graphics will look way better in that environment. And be sure to scale all your graphics properly from the beginning, in the dimensions and codec of the master, instead of having to enlarge or shrink them a great deal to make them fit the final composition. Then when you do the final output to whatever format you need, you'll maybe have to do a short render, but your graphics will still look better.
You guys are giving such killer constructive criticism. I can't thank you enough - I'm definitely going to be a CreativeCow-ForLifer (how would one say that...? Anyways).
Mark, everything you are saying makes total sense.
The problem I thought I would run into by using a different codec for the main sequence settings and then drop all my video clips into that sequence, is the need (my perceived need) to render everytime I do any edits to those clips.
Am I explaining that correctly?
Let me try and phrase it another way. Currently I log and capture all my clips from my Sony camcorder. When I drag and drop those clips onto my Sequence, it informs me that my sequence is improperly matched, so it changes itself to using the DV codec.
No rendering while I edit, slice and dice = beautiful.
Crappy graphics and nasty rendering when done = yuck.
Since 90% of my film is using the DV codec (raw footage), should I still perform all my edits, piece everything together, and then change the sequence settings to a codec such as Prores or 10-bit uncompressed?
You guys are spot on - I definitely need to get my study on regarding rendering - there is a lot I do not know, but I see the immense value of that knowledge.
Well, you could convert the footage once at the beginning of the project, so it is all one better codec, then your editing will still be render-free and quick.
Hey pretty good! Sure there are problems but most people won't notice the fine details. But you're right, those fine details will total up into a subconscious response that says cheap, poor, crappy or whatever. So now you learn to resolve those fine points and dial it in.
I would say the greatest areas for you to study to improve the overall quality of this video and future videos are in order:
1) Rendering - This is a whole study unto itself. You should be rendering in h264 for the web with a high quality h264 codec. I don't use FCP so can't comment on their codec or the ideal settings for it. I use x264 on windows and can output excellent results. Plan on spending a lot of time with this and you will incrementally improve. It took me a few months of regular, spread out effort, gradually getting better until I could produce excellent renders. All delivery mechanisms have their learning curve: DVD, web, broadcast, but the more you learn about codecs and rendering the easier it is to pick up a new one.
2) Typography - If you can take a graphic design class, great. Otherwise put some regular effort toward studying GD web tutorials and books to learn about type faces and stylization. The TigerRack logo is cool, but I suspect you had a GD create it. Your current ability with type subcommunicates low quality. It is affecting you, you just haven't known how to fix it. You just need study and practice.
With this video in particular, I would increase the negative space around the type to allow it to breathe. I would change the font to something more quickly readable. That font is difficult to read quickly. Go with a sans-serif font. All caps is good; it is faster to read. I would pick a different color; something that contrasts more. I would add a style such as a drop shadow; however whatever styles you do add, make sure they are subtle. Amateur graphic design is immediately noticeable due to non-subtle application of effects. Great GD is subtle. Also do your titles in After Effects. It is excellent with type and has some magic that makes even simple fonts look great. If you've done it in FCP, just toss it, forget about it and redo it in after effects.
The type fade is weird. It's yellow, then the color fades leaving a shell of the letters, then the letters fade out. I really don't like it. Let the whole thing fade out. Again if you did it in FCP, toss it. Redo it in AE and just do a simple opacity fade.
3) Motion blur - turn it on for your animated type and objects
All of that is a must do. If you nail the above, below is less of an issue for you. Your sound design is just fine, transparent like it should be.
4) Editing - Your skill will improve over time. This is ok. Not bad. There are a few times where it can be subtly improved. The repetition of shots makes it less interesting. Some of your cuts are a little jolted, or a little slow, and some are just fine. Overall it's fine; focus on the above stuff. When you've finished the above, step away from the project for two weeks. Then come back and watch it anew and you'll see where it should be improved. Not that you need to for this one, but that will help your editing for the future.
Oh and your still photos do have messed up colors. Add color correction to the list of things to continually improve upon.
I looked at it again, and my suggestion is there is too much "tromboning" of the zoom in and out, and you have a cut where a zoom in cuts into a zoom out in a scene that's too similar. The jump-cuttiness and the zooming I can tell are how you are trying to spice up the shots of what is essentially a big machine that sits still. I did like the various angles you got of the mechanisms in motion, but if a part of the machine moves, I'm not sure you need to add camera motion to those particular shots.
Here's one other tip. Watch this silently, or better yet, have a disinterested third party who knows nothing about the product first watch the thing with the audio turned off. Do they still "get" the major points, even without audio, or did comprehension of what the thing is and what is good about it/ why you want one, fall way down?
That will tell you if the shots really are strong enough of a narrative, or if you're just doing a radio spot and plastering video over the top of it. Now go back and just listen to the audio alone, without reinforcing visuals. Ask yourself the same questions about how clear the message is, and if there are things you can do with music and sound effects to enhance enjoyment as well as comprehension. When these two elements are as powerful standing alone as possible, they become even more effective once put together, each leveraging the strengths of the other. Using this rule, I'd say the video is too long right now and too wordy, telling more than showing. It isn't bad at all, but it could be better.
On the graphics, I think your existing graphics will "pop" better with a bit more shadow around them, and this can also help with aliasing artifacts a little bit. One of the tricks of making good TV graphics with text is to look at the overall composition using the blue-only or monochrome setting of your monitor. What this will do for you is show how color-blind people will see this, and it will also point out color choices that look pretty contrasty in color, but are actually very similar in overall luma value, and thus they don't stand out with as good of a readability as they otherwise might. I understand your color choices here are probably trying to match the official logo colors of the product and their fonts. That can be very unifying and is often a good idea. But see if your choices of background can support that with better color and luminance contrast. You can use seriffed fonts in video, but they usually have to be a little bigger and "fatter" than a corresponding sans-serif font. Another trick to gauge readbility is to step two body lengths back from the computer and see if it is still readable.
I disagree with the suggestion of all-caps being more readable as a universal fact. It can be, for very short titles, but my reading about text tells me that we as adults read words by their overall shapes, decoding the entire word at once by recognizing the ascenders and descenders and spacings, rather than letter by letter. If you make your text all caps you generally destroy the customary word shapes you subconsciously already recognize, and the brain must now go backwards a little bit to decode each word letter by letter, slowing the recognition process and adding a layer of distraction. This is why I always suggest to use mixed case in teleprompter copy, though some old-timers are more used to all-caps for that. The all-caps thing in prompter copy came from an early technical limitation of camera and paper-roll-based systems, and some folks just never broke the habit of it. It's just what you grew up with.
I am a major fan of sans-serif fonts. Unfortunately, the owner of the company has an obsession with Rockwell. I tried my case and my hands are tied with that font - readability or not.
Mark, your comments on the tromboning zoom effects is very well received. Thanks for pointing that out. I have been wondering that myself. And you are right - in the end, all I'm shooting is a machine sitting still, which makes the temptation to make my camera a visual insemination machine, a strong one.
Being the director, shot designer, cameraman, editor and producer on our films is stressful, exciting and terrifying all at once, but I still don't really know what I'm doing yet. Thanks for the honest feedback guys.
I just got back from a trip to Michigan to film a customer's usage of a couple of our machines. I'm in process of editing and producing now - I'll throw it up when I'm done and hopefully learn a bit more about this.
Well, I'm working in my 22nd or so year of doing it, and I still don't feel like I've "mastered" any part of it. That's one reason it still is intersting work to do, I guess!
I suggest that you get comfy with Apple Motion by grabbing one of their existing pre-made templates, saving it out with a new name, and taking it apart to see how it works. Highlight the type box and change the text to your own. Mess with the keyframes and camera placement. Swap new images in for the ones in the template. This is a quick way to create a unique look without reinviting everything from scratch, and you get a feel for the various controls. Also try the COW's motion forum for help and ideas, the guys there are incredibly responsive and helpful.
Cory - you rock buddy. I give you a virtual man hug. That's exactly the kind of mentoring I'm looking for.
I designed the TigerRack logo for our company. I'm a self-taught amateur graphics designer with no formal training. Thanks for the feedback on the type. You nailed it and I can see it.
I've noticed poor quality type effects in FCP as well. I'm an avid Adobe user when it comes to graphics, we have CS5 Design Premium, but I lack Adobe Premiere or After Effects, unfortunately. I'm sure Apple Motion will be a good substitute for the type. It is just painstaking to creating titles in Motion and then import them into the FCP timeline etc. etc. There must be a better way - I just don't know of it yet.
I'm currently working on another project as we speak - I can't wait to start applying all of your awesome feedback into it.
FCP and Motion actually work very well together, almost as good as Premiere and AE. You don't necessarily need to render out the Motion project to use it in FCP, by the way. You can do what is called "round tripping" between the two apps and what you send from the FCP timelien to motion and update in Motion will be reflected back in your FCP timeline. Indeed, one of my early common mistakes was re-re-importing renders from Motion back into Final Cut, instead of using the round-trip functionality.
The extra rendering not only wastes your time, it can compound quality loss if you render to something like the DV codec. These things come with more practice and experience and breaking the Man Rules by the occasionally resorting to the practice named by the acronym "RTFM":-)
Ahhh good ol' RTFM. A well-used phrase in our company technical support as well. :)
Ha, don't say "avid adobe user"! You'll lead others to confusion.
When you said you have Apple Motion, I misread that and thought you said AE. I don't know anything about motion or it's ability with typography.
Ask your boss if it is important to hang on that one font or if he is open to finding a font that will provide the greatest impact possible. That font is not good. If you must use it you can tweak it with sizing, aspect ratio, scaling, tracking, kerning. Continue your studies of graphic design and type and learn how to make that crap font look good.
Check out this video, it has some great editing and color correction. The titles are also pretty good, but they are done in 3DS Max and then composited in After Effects (adding things like the glow behind it).
To add interest to your shots of this machine in your video you can do similar slow-mo ramps (like 300). I'm not sure if FCP does that, but I would bet that it can. And if not, After Effects sure can. Check out this tutorial:
Instead of converting all your DV footage @ the beginning of an edit;
I would Shoot DV (only if you have to)
If you shot DV then, Edit DV
Once the edit is locked...
THEN, change your sequence settings to 8bit Uncompressed.
Output as current settings
drop that file into compression program to make your DVD files and web files.
Video Atlanta LLC
This would only work in FCP, as far as After Effects goes - always go hi-res.