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First Bardic War technology video

Tech Check: “The Zoom Where It Happens”

The motto of an SCA artisan is basically: “Show your work and share your work”. With the release of “The Zoom Where It Happens”, it has turned out that editing a complex video is part of my skill set. And since the upcoming First Bardic War is going to include editing of group videos as a key judging metric for a number of War Points, I thought I would discuss my process for creating this video, as an editing novice.

Here are the different technical components used to create this video:

  • Video Editing: The editing together of the Zoom-style video and the various frames was done using iMovie on a Mac computer. I was able to add the Zoom frame titles for the participants, the green highlight rectangle for the various speakers, and the credit scrolls using iMovie. My process, which I will discuss in a follow-up post, was extremely labor-intensive and required a lot of rework, because iMovie isn’t really designed for the sort of advanced shot composition I was doing. (I hadn’t originally planned to edit the video myself at all, but sharing out intermediate versions of the video with the crew turned out to be very effective at getting them excited and motivated to sit down and record their parts.)
  • Audio Editing: Nearly all the singing and rapping in the video came from the video takes recorded by the participants. I then used Logic Pro, also on a Mac, to extract the audio from the video clips, edit, mix, and master the audio tracks, lining them up to the instrumental track from the Hamilton original cast album (which is of course copyrighted, but YouTube has options that allow for copyrighted material in a video). I could have done this with Garageband or most any other Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software, but since I own a copy of Logic Pro (Apple product, one-time $200 fee), it gives me some advanced features that are helpful. The mixed audios were then added to the iMovie projects to keep the videos lined up with the audio.
  • Generating Captions: The actual caption file I created by uploading an early version of the video to YouTube, and using their excellent caption generator UI to set and clean up the timings, then downloaded them as an SRT file. (More details in this follow-up tutorial.)
  • Adding Captions: I put captions directly on the final video to make sure that the audience could follow the fast-paced rap lyrics regardless what device they were watching the video on. VLC Media Player is free, multi-platform software that I installed to do this task. It is the only software I found that is designed to add subtitles using standard caption text files, such as SRT, which contain words and timings. (It is powerful software, but it’s actually pretty tricky to use and required a lot of fiddling to do properly, so I plan to do a separate post later explaining how to use it.) Though it is available for Mac, I ultimately ported the video to my Windows laptop and did the conversion there, because it was the version that worked best.
  • Video Recording: I recorded my own performance using Windows Camera software on my Windows laptop. I recorded with an external USB webcam, and an inexpensive but decent USB microphone, to get the best quality I could.
  • File Sharing and Collaboration: The ZWIH team used a Google Drive folder to share video files, audio files, and the different versions of the script. We communicated with each other on a Facebook Messenger group chat. Both of these were essential to the process of getting the video coordinated and completed on the timeframe I had in mind, but they had also both been adopted already by the Bardic War staff. (Some of the team were on FB infrequently or not at all, so there were some texts, emails, and phone calls involved.)
  • Instructing the Performers: In my experience for this project, the key to getting fantastic performances out of this large cast of star performers was communication. This meant making sure each performer understood my vision and expectations for the video, knew what parts they would be singing, and had audio to sing along to. I published the script (example here) using Microsoft Word (because it’s ubiquitous, but also because it supports tracking version changes, so it would be easy for people to know what we being modified from one version of the script to the next). I also created a guidelines file to establish dos and don’ts and best practices for recording. The files were exported to PDF so they would be readable on any platform. Then I created audios (initially with me singing all the parts, and gradually adding the other singers as I got their entries) for the performers to sing along to on earbuds (often hidden under their head garb).
  • Directing the Performers: All the performers were clear as they shared their performances that they were open to feedback on how to improve if there were things I wanted different. For the principal bards, or anyone who requested more help, I got on 15-30 minute video chats to provide feedback on where the video needed maybe a little more precision on the spoken rhythm or a melodic line. The biggest challenge was giving a full performance while listening to the track on earbuds, and reading along in the script for solo or group lines (even I didn’t try to do this off book). But the resulting performances demonstrate the commitment everyone showed to making this as entertaining and clear to follow as possible.

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