Monday, August 13, 2007

A $250 Video Camera and Lots of Time

Video capture image of Chris Snow playing guitar
shows a video that I shot with a $250 video camera for my friend Chris Snow, who is a singer/songwriter. We both have more time than money, so we avoided the professional video crew and did it "homebrew."

The video footage took about 4 hours to shoot, and then about another 10 hours to edit, using Adobe Premiere Elements (academic price $65 from ).

The most difficult part was getting all the various video clips "in-sync" with the music.

The quality of the results posted on YouTube are not very good compared to the actual file that we rendered. However, hosting your videos on YouTube is free (free account and no bandwidth charges).

Granted, this video does not have the aesthetics of a major music video, but it does a pretty decent job of getting the visual and auditory information tied together. And, the total cost of the "setup" was just over $350 (including the cost of a tripod for the camcorder). Typical charges for production are $1200 per finished minute of video (or about $4800 for this 4 minute video).

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Video Prompter Design

Video Prompter design sketch I am working on the design of a video-prompter that can be used to help faculty record videos.

The problem with most designs for video-prompters is that the one-way mirror used "reverses/flips" the text (it gives a "mirror image"). This creates a great deal of difficulty because special "teleprompter" software must be used to reverse the image so that it appears correctly to the narrator/subject.

In this design, I am creating a "periscope" which uses a mirror to flip the image once (upward) and then a piece of regular glass to again flip the image (outwards). When the interior of the box is painted black, the plain glass acts as a false-mirror -- giving back a reflection from the surface.
At the same time, the video camera shoots through the plain glass toward the subject.
Because the image the subject sees is the same that is coming from the monitor, ANY content can be used on the teleprompter window.
This means that faculty can use PowerPoint slides, scripts, websites, or news articles as their "source materials." In addition, the script window can be resized to a portion of the screen and a "video monitor" window of the recording can be shown (so the instructor can see themselves while recording in a "picture-in-picture" type of setup).

If and when I build this, I will take some photographs and post a sample video of the unit in action.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Cheapie Teleprompter Using Microsoft Word

Here is a quick "hack" which will prove useful to those who are trying to develop a teleprompter for recording their video.

One of the problems with scripts is that they are hard to "scroll" in timing with the recording. This creates stumbles and fumbles on the recording.

I've written a quick MACRO for Microsoft Word which allows the user to enter in a couple basic parameters, and then their script will automatically scroll at the speed they enter.

To complement this, I suggest that this be used on a laptop positioned about 5 to 7 feet away from the subject (at the camera position) and that 36-point font be used with page margins set to 0.3 inches (which gives maximum "display" of the text on the computer monitor). This will help avoid the subject's eyes from "darting back and forth" noticably as would happen if the user were closer to the laptop screen and the letters were smaller.

Here is the code:
Sub DownBit()
' DownBit Macro
' Autoscroll Window
Dim PauseTime, Start, Finish, TotalTime
Dim i, iMax As Integer
Dim i1, i2 As String
Dim fTiming As Double
i1 = InputBox("Enter number of Lines to Move", _
"Teleprompter Motion", 100)
iMax = CInt(i1)
i2 = InputBox("Enter Delay seconds between moves", _
"Movement Timing", 0.35)
fTiming = CDbl(i2)

For i = 1 To iMax
PauseTime = fTiming ' Set duration.
Start = Timer ' Set start time.
Do While Timer < Start + PauseTime
DoEvents ' Yield to other processes.
'Move down a small scroll increment
ActiveWindow.ActivePane.SmallScroll Down:=1
Next i
End Sub