Cosplay Music Videos: PART 3 – Post Processing (by Andalantie)

by ignotae

12. Post-Production (by Andalantie)

Now that you’ve filmed all the pieces of your CMV, it’s time to assemble the finished product!

Your ingredients are:

  1. The detailed timeline script.
  2. The master scene list.
  3. The video files.

While there’s any number of more or less elegant (i.e. more efficient vs. less efficient) ways of editing video footage, here’s the approach I’ve taken to get stuff done as quickly as possible.

12.1  Label each Video File

First, label each video file.  The purpose of this is so you can sort your entire video file list alphabetically. Why?  Two reasons.  The sorted list will automatically align all of your clips to the intended finished video, from start to finish, which vastly simplifies the editing process; and it also quickly identifies any “missing” scenes or clips.

To label each file, simply play the file, and listen to the scene-caller’s audio cue (scene/clip/take).  Then give the file a name that will sort alphabetically in your editing software; I prefer to use the following format:

S <scene number> <clip ID> . <take>

For example, scene one clip b take three would be labelled as:  S1b.3

Once you’ve labelled each video file, sort the entire list and check for gaps against the master scene list.  Each scene and clip called out by the master scene list should be represented in your sorted list of video files.  If you’re missing something, now’s the time to call the director for help.  Perhaps a scene was blended with another one, during the filming process; or other improvisational adjustments were made that will account for the missing pieces.

If a scene or clip was truly missed, discuss patching over the gap with your director.  Maybe adjacent clips can be extended, or a block of filler material can be used to save the day.

12.2  Scrub all Takes and Pick Out the Good Ones

Now that you’ve got a sorted list of scenes and clips, you need to select each take you want to use in the final video.

Play all of the takes of a given clip, pick the one that’s best, and trim the clip to remove all unnecessary lead-in / lead-out footage.  Then drop that clip onto your master clip timeline.  Repeat for all clips.

Now you’ve got a master timeline loaded with all the clips that will tell the finished story, but they won’t (yet) be timed to the soundtrack.

12.3  Soundtrack Marking

Create a new timeline and drop your soundtrack in it.  With the aid of the detailed timeline script, play through the song and add a marker every time the detailed timeline script indicates a scene or clip change.

12.4  Rough Edit

Take each clip from your master clip timeline and insert it into your marked-up soundtrack timeline.  You’ll likely need to trim each clip down, length-wise.  In the unfortunate scenario where you don’t have sufficient length of video footage to span a certain block of time, you can add filler footage or use slow motion to create a longer clip.

The result of this step should be a watchable video that contains all of the essential elements called for by the script.

12.5  Video Quality Improvements

These actions are optional but can greatly improve the look of your finished video.

a) Add video transitions.  Blending or dissolving one video clip into another can make cuts seem more seamless, or can be used to create visual effects that help tell the story.  For example, additive dissolves can create a momentary splash of color and imply fear / angst or some other strong emotion; fade to white transitions can imply a mental epiphany or long passage of time; and fade to blacks can communicate a sense of finality to a sequence of events.

b) Add image sharpness.  All video editing software has some tool to add image sharpness, typically by some sort of Unsharp Mask effect.  Crank up the effect until your image is clear but keep in mind that this will accentuate any noise or graininess that’s already present within the video clip.

c) Color correction and color grading.  Color correction refers to the science of adjusting the colors throughout a video so that they all look uniform; i.e. as if filmed from the same light source.  Color grading refers to the deliberate stylistic adjustment or enhancement of colors to produce a desired “look” to the finished video.  For example, a period piece set several decades past might want to have a deliberately bluish or yellowish look to the video.  There are many tools available for color correction but almost every software package has some variant of the Three Way Color Correction tool.  Using this tool, you can adjust the brightness and contrast of each video clip, as well as the color balance (amount of red/green/blue) of the shadowed, highlight, and middle intensity areas of each clip.  Entire books (and professional disciplines!) are dedicated to the art of color grading, but a good introductory goal is to simply make it so that none of the clips in your video look “too out of place” from a color perspective.

12.6  Render and Upload

Now that you’ve got a finished video that tells the story you want to tell, and has a high quality look that meets your expectations, it’s time to encode the video and upload it to whatever distribution mechanism you like.

When encoding your video, one key consideration is the bitrate of the finished product.  A high bit rate will generate a video of very high visual quality, but the resulting file size will be large and your viewers will experience a great deal of stutter during playback, either from a) their internet download bandwidth being too slow to stream the file, or b) their computer being too underpowered to process the massive amounts of information in the video stream.  A low bit rate produces the opposite effects:  downloading and video display processing is quick and easy, but the visual quality will be poor.

A good rule of thumb, given the Internet speeds and computing power most people have access to today, is to set a target bit rate of 3 Mbps, but allow peak bit rates up to 6 Mbps.  Use a variable-bitrate encoder to achieve this result.  With these settings, people on modest home internet service, and mobile data users, should both be able to view your video with minimal lag or stutter.  Remember that it’s not really about delivering the best high definition video in the world; it’s about delivering content that’s on-demand, and visually “good enough” to make people want to watch your videos!

Youtube is good default site to upload your videos, but in general your videos will take a visual quality hit when uploaded to this site.  Youtube’s perks include its massive audience and its free-to-use model.

Vimeo is a good alternative site.  It, unlike Youtube, places a premium on video quality; so its conversion and streaming methods produce visually great content. The downside of Vimeo is its (comparatively) small audience.  Also, non-paying users can only upload one HD video per week.  You can pay for more access and privileges.

That’s it!  Have some happy videomaking adventures!