Web Ready Digital Video
With the recent increases in Broadband speeds, delivering high quality streaming video on the web is now possible. Whilst the final result will depend to a great extent on the quality of the original video, when it is resized for inclusion in a web page, say 320 x 240, any shooting errors or compression artefacts become much less noticeable. Any consumer DV camcorder should be capable of producing video of sufficient quality for web use.
This has been made possible largely due to the new Windows Media Codecs, which produce excellent results with virtually no loss of quality from the original 720x576 (PAL) or 720x480(NTSC) input.
So what do you need to get started?
A DV camcorder
Editing software – Adobe Premiere, Canopus Edius, Vegas etc.
Encoding software (usually included on your editing package) or you can use the Windows Media version, downloadable from Microsoft. http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/9series/encoder/default.aspx
Some basic lighting – you can usually hire this for the duration of the shoot.
A clear idea of what you want to shoot. This is the most important aspect. You should spend more time in pre-production than you do on shooting and editing.
Make sure you understand your client’s message. What is the video going to say (or sell). Sort out who the ‘hero’ is – person or product. Scout the locations so you know the lighting requirements.
Write a script and get client approval.
Make up a storyboard. Show each scene with some idea of scene content.
Block it out. Shooting video is not sequential. You should block scenes in each location together and shoot all requires scenes at one location at the same time.
Make sure you have the talent available for your timetable.
Get model releases signed where necessary.
Start as early as possible in the morning. Shooting video is a time consuming process and you can soon run out of daylight getting your shots right.
Keep your camera on a good, solid tripod. Camera shake is your enemy.
If you are using lighting, make sure you have a Production Assistant to help you. Trying to do the lighting and the camera work yourself will take three times as long as it will with a PA.
Pay particular attention to the audio. This is very important. Use an off-camera mic on a boom or a lapel mic.
Don’t be afraid to direct the talent. You know what you want to see on the final video. If you do not get it right now, then no amount of post production will sort it.
Take a monitor to watch the rushes, or preferably use it to frame your shots. Professional monitors have underscan and you will be able to see the entire frame. If you use a TV, you won’t see the frame edges. Bear in mind that web video will show the entire frame. Alternatively, use a laptop and connect it to your camera via firewire and with the right software, you can watch and record direct to disk. (See DV Rack – www.seriousmagic.com)
Capture the video into your editor and edit as required.
Good video is driven by audio, so get the right music and spend time ‘sweetening’ your audio for best results.
Use the best quality graphics and titles that you can manage. Good video is often ruined by poor titles. If you want a professional look, get a graphics designer to do the titles in Photoshop.
Once you have your final video, you have to encode it for the web. You can do this inside your editor or using the Windows Media Encoder. Select your target download speed. 512K broadband will allow 320x240 streaming, 1Mb will get you up to 480x360.
Putting your video on the web
If you are planning on launching the video via a hyperlink, you can embed the Windows Media Player into your web page using Dreamweaver. If you try and run the Windows Media Player without a clickable link (i.e. on page load), Windows XP SP2 will block it, as it is an ActiveX control. If you want to run video on page load, you will have to import it into Flash and use the Flash Player as your platform. If you are not au fait with Flash, you can convert .wmv files to .swf using Wildform Flix. www.wildform.com
The mechanics of getting video on to the web are easy enough, but getting good looking video is very difficult. The skill lies in spending a huge amount of time on pre-production and knowing your camera. Spend a lot of time shooting indoors and outdoors until you are happy that you know what your camera is capable of. And make sure you have a good storyline for your video.