Video Essay Tutorial

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Video Essay Tutorial

For entire assignment specifics and a couple of examples go here. In short, you need to select several scenes from your favorite film (or one of your favorites), and edit them together and comment on some of the filmic elements of the scenes? Why do you like these scenes? What strikes you about them? What makes them good cinema? Is there a subtext at work in this film? In short, construct an essayistic commentary on the scenes as a narrator explaining to your audience what you find important about the scenes and why. What’s more, what do the details you have pinpointed say about the film more generally.

Getting the digital video

Downloading media from the web

It may so happen that you can find a good number of the scenes you need for this assignment from video sharing sites like YouTube, etc. This would probably be the easiest solution (though quality varies greatly, and terrible quality videos certainly detract from the experience) and the following tools should be a great help in downloading them:

Recording Segments of a DVD with VLC

Alternatively, Andy Rush also blogged about using VLC to record segmets of a DVD straight to your hard drive on a Mac or PC. This could be an easy and useful alternative for those of you who still own DVDs, like me. That said, like all things video whether this will work for you depends on a wide range of variables depending on installed codecs, your computer, etc. Try it out, if it works, good for you, if not, look for another solution.

Ripping DVDs

If YouTube and/or VLC is not your solution, you can also rip scenes directly from a DVD. Here are a few useful tools for that:

  • DVD Fab (PC) -Recommended free ripping tool for PCs
  • MacTheRipper (Mac) - Allows you to rip entire DVDs as well as extract particular chapters
  • Mac DVDRipper Pro ($10) --Not sure you'll need the pro version, but just in case.
  • Handbrake (Mac/PC)

I already have my media in a usable digital format on my desktop

Good for you, hoss, if you have your media in a digital video format on your computer (i.e., mpeg4, avi, divx, mov, etc.) then jump to the next section, you're done here.


Preliminary Editing and Compression

Getting the specific clips you need out of a longer clip or even an entire DVD could be resource intensive and time consuming in an editing program like Movie Maker, iMovie, or some other program. So, to save you time and effort, we recommend you trim and compress the particular scenes before you import them into your editing software.

Once you have gotten the digital video of the film you will be commenting on, you will need to both get the specific clips you want to talk about and compress them. We recommend you use a tool like MPEG Streamclip (PC/Mac). Important: When using a Mac or PC and working with video editing/conversion tools like MPEG Streamclip (or any of the others listed above) it is highly recommend that you make sure to install Perian (for the Mac) or the K-Lite Codec Pack (for the PC)---both of which are free utilities that add a series of codec recognition tools across the various video applications on your computer.

What MPEG Streamclip will allow you to do is select and trim exactly the clips you want to discuss from the longer scenes. Doing this in MPEG Streamclip will save you time and energy before importing it into a video editor like Moviemaker or iMovie, both of which bloat video unnecessarily and take a lot more time and resources to work with. Note that you may have to cut a longer scene up into various clips that you will then edit together in your final version. Also, when converting the clips, make sure they are the same aspect ratio as the original, and that you are saving them in the proper codec for your video editing software. (Note: MPEG Streamclip will convert files to Windows media format.)

  • For a tutorial for using MPEG Streamclip go here or here. Note you may be asked for the MPEG2 Playback component while using MPEG Stream Clip to edit .VOB files, let me know if you need it.

When you Export the file from MPEG Streamclip, you have the option to save as an assortment of file types. Save as mpeg4 (H.264) for working with iMovie and Wondows Media format if working with Movie Maker.

Important: If you are having problems with MPEG Streamclip reading your AVI or VOB files (in other words no image and/or audio when you bring the files up) you may need to use Quicktime Pro (Mac/PC) to convert the files to a different format. Given Quicktime Pro costs $$ and is for compression and format conversion of files only you should save yourself some precious time if you get stuck at this point and come see me in duPont 310, or email me. For a tutorial for using Quicktime Pro (compression only) go here.

Editing and Narration/Voice Over

Most of you will have one of two basic video editing tools: Moviemaker (PC) and iMovie (Mac). I will expect you have some basic competence in either of these. If not, there is this thing called Google…. What you will need to do here is import your clips, organize them accordingly to the logic of your commentary, and then record your commentary on top of the clips (which can be done in either of these applications).

Here is a quick tutorial for adding a voice over commentary in iMovie:

And here is a tutorial for adding commentary in Windows Live Movie Maker: Note, if these videos aren't useful, there are tons more, just search your tool and voice over and/or commentary. Also, if you don't have either of these tools and are looking for an online editor, check out Jaycut, it is free but there are also some real limitations. Also, Videospin might be a good free alternative for PC users.

Upload it to the Video Hosting Service of your choice

Finally, be sure to save a copy on your computer or external drive and then upload a copy of your finished video to a video service of your choice. Here are some recommendations if you don’t have one already:

After that, grab the embed code and blog your video, be sure to tag it videoessay. Also, give us a brief breakdown of your work flow; a general sense of what worked, what didn't, and why.

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