TUTORIAL: Making Your Magic Video - A Quick Primer

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by MaxDeVill, Sep 13, 2007.

  1. I’ve seen a slew of really bad video’s coming out lately, and some of them are even video’s I’ve purchased to learn from. As I’ve done quite a bit of video production in the past, I figured I would share my knowledge in hopes that it will improve the quality of video’s I see online and that I purchase.

    In video production, budget isn’t really everything. I’ve seen some really creative people make a damned fine looking video with an old analog camcorder and their computer.


    First, we will talk about lighting. Lighting is the most important aspect of video production. If your shot is lit well, you will not have nearly as much work to do once you start editing and color correcting.

    Every light source has its own rating in Kelvin. I’m not going to go into all the different light sources and their ratings, but a quick google search will turn up a ton of information.

    When you are shooting inside, lights tend to be more orange than if you were shooting outside. Thus, you will need to adjust for that if you plan on shooting in two different places. You can either light the interior with a different type of light, or match the colorization in post production (editing).

    Ensure that the lighting is even throughout the entire shot. Your subject should be lit all around, unless you are working for some sort of artistic shadow look.

    Once you have consistent lighting though out the shot, you need to set your white balance. A white balance is the rate at which the camera picks up the color white. Many of the lower end camcorders automatically set the white balance when it turns on, so if you do not have a manual white balance adjustment, point the camera at a piece of blank computer paper and turn it on. Ensure that it is not the only thing in frame, the sensors need contrast to determine white balance. If you DO have a manual adjustment, buy a white balance card, or print one off the internet. It’s a gradient that you can use to set exactly how powerful you want the white to be.

    Now that you have your white balance and lighting set, its time to talk audio. Audio in a teaching video is very important. If you can’t hear what the instructor is saying, you’re basically losing everything aside from the ability to see what is happening.


    What are the options for audio? Most camcorders come with an onboard microphone. This is the worst choice. It picks up the camera’s operation sound as well as any movement on the body of the camera by the person shooting the video. Your best option, if you have it, is to use an external microphone that has a line directly into your camcorder.

    Another option, which is much harder, and expensive… but gives you a lot more freedom is to record the audio separately. Using a microphone and something like a mini disc recorder, you can record your audio separately and do all the work of cleaning it up and “defuzzing” in your audio editing program.

    How do you match up the audio with the video in this way? The old “Take One! SLAP” clapboard. In your video editing software you move the audio until the loudest line of the oscilloscope is directly on the frame that you firstly see no light coming from between the clapper. Your audio is lined up and ready for editing.


    Now, for shooting. When it comes to the performance of the trick on the street, get at least a little of the trick in the shot. Just watching the magician in a crowd of people talking and then the people freaking out is worthless. The point of a video is to show people what you can do, not what the reactions of the people are. Sure, everyone likes to see people freak out and be like “#$%!!” but it’s a magic video, show some magic!

    One of the main things to remember is the “Rule of thirds”. When you’re looking at the LCD screen of your camcorder imagine that it has a Tic-Tac-Toe style grid running through it. You want to keep your subject that you are shooting in a square of 4 of those smaller squares. It doesn’t really matter which ones, but it is more aesthetically pleasing to the human eye in this format.

    When you’re on an uber low budget, remember this motto: “Shoot to edit”. It may take a few tries and failures until you completely understand this principle, but after a while you’ll pick up on exactly what you need in order to edit it properly later. A few seconds to about 1 minute of video before and after the action is a good bet in order to be able to effectively edit the video later. It gives you room to play with.


    During post production (putting it all together), you can use whatever you would like to. Programs like Windows Movie Maker are free, and you get what you pay for with Microsoft. Other programs like iMovie pretty much come standard on all Macs and is a pretty good piece of software to edit basic video with. You may not be able to do a lot of things that you would like to do such as alpha levels and multiple video layers, but it is good enough for standard video and audio editing.

    Final Cut Express or Final Cut Pro are the industry standards. They are fantastic pieces of software, but the learning curve is pretty steep. Start off with iMovie. On a Windows based system, Adobe Premiere is another fantastic professional editing suite. It is very comparable and in some places better than Final Cut Pro. But again, the learning curve is steep.

    When you’re editing your video, don’t go crazy with wild transitions and special effects. They don’t make your video look professional or cool. They make it look lame and amateurish. Stick with standard cross fades, cuts, and smash cuts. A quick google search of video transitions will help you learn about these.

    Once you have your video edited and in place as you want it, you need to play with your codecs on your computer to find the best one for video size and quality. I don’t know much about Windows codecs anymore since I haven’t used one in a couple of years, but Quicktime is an awesome codec. It makes small files with wonderful colorization and clarity. Also, you can pop in on an iPOD and take it with you easily.

    I hope you enjoyed the first part of this. If you have any questions, feel free to PM me and I’ll work with you.

    NEXT time… “Choosing a Camera”
  2. Avid is industry standard editing system. Final Cut Pro is slowly coming up but not everybody in the industry uses it.

    but thank you for this. Poorly made videos drive me nuts I can't even enjoy the magic with bad production value
  3. Yeah, Avid is probably Holywood standard... but for the mid range video production industry, everywhere I've worked used FCP.
  4. Good read.

    this should be a sticky.
  5. Thanks for this post my management has been shooting me for the past year to release a 4 part DVD series and some of the things you said really cleared some of these things their doing up. Thanks!
  6. I use Sony Vegas for my editing...

    I used to use Adobe Premiere, but sort of slid off of that once I found Vegas. Just thought I'd throw out another potential editing program.

  7. Give me more info on Sony Vegas
  8. I use Sony Vegas 6 to edit all of my video. I used to use Adobe Premier Pro, but moved over to Vegas due to the fact it has more features, and in my opinion produces better looking effects and transitions.

    Sony Vegas started out as an audio editing program, so you will find that it has a rich set of audio editing capabilities.

    If you have any specific questions about Vegas, Adobe Premier Pro or anything to do with production work, please feel free to ask.

    Here is a link to the Sony Vegas software:

    Brian Rodgers
  9. Appreciate that information.
  10. Question

    Question what kind of Camera do you guys use. i was thinking of buying a Camera but i don't know witch one is worth the price. I'm looking for a mid Price range type of Camera.
  11. Depends on what your definition of mid range is. You can get a cheap MiniDV camera for about 400 bucks, or you can get a Canon HD cam for abour 3500 bucks.. so a mid range camera would be about 1500? Canon XL1 or GL2?
  12. Theory11 uses the Sony FX1s. I have the Canon XH A1.

    You might want to check out this thread about about "what kind of cameras do you use": http://forums.theory11.com/showthread.php?t=737&highlight=sony.


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