It's the final installment of our 'Improve Your Edits' series from our Morzine filmmaker Sam McMahon. After showing us the ropes when it comes to SLRS and GoPros, using your equipment effectively and the basic editing process, he's rounding off with an advanced session on the finer details that will polish off your edit.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been telling you everything you need to know about filming snowboarding - from equipment and camera techniques to the basics of editing. If you’ve been following, your shredits must be up to standard by now. But when you compare them to professional grade films, something might still be lacking.
It could be down to equipment, but if you really know your gear and editing software inside out and you’re using it to its full potential, then you should be fine on this count (don’t fall prey to Gear Acquisition Syndrome).
A trick that a lot of people miss is post-production, or editing your composition after you’ve already got the shots, timings and any effects down to your liking and pieced together perfectly. Filming and editing is the meat and veg of video, whilst post-production is the garnish and presentation that makes it really shine. While the temptation is to get it done and simply whack it on Facebook, a little more time spent on the details really shows and will impress even the most seasoned whitelines.com readers.
While we’ve refrained in past articles from recommending certain products, here there is no real comparison - the most widely used software for post-production is Adobe After Effects. It’s the industry standard and provides a good work flow with other editing software. This means you can swap footage between the two and only have to render once, a real timesaver (more on that later). It’s kind of like Photoshop for video and is unfortunately even more complex, but just as powerful.
There are whole books written on how to work with AE, so we won’t go into too much detail here about the actual innards of it. If you get stuck using it (and you will), don’t despair - a quick Google search and a bit of patience usually fixes most issues.
A Word of Sound Advice
Most of what we’ve touched on so far has been visually based - it’s film not radio after all. Before we dive back in, it’s worth pointing out that one thing people tend to forget about during editing is the sound. After all when you’re riding, sound is one of the more important senses of the experience – from icy turns to your friends whooping and hollering. It’s part of why we all love snowboarding, but it’s easily forgotten. Therefore it’s just as essential to get the sound right in an edit as the angles or timings in a shot.
Unless you’ve invested in a decent quality microphone for your camera rig, chances are that what you’re working with won’t all be gold, but most editing software allows you to be selective in what makes it into the final version.
I find that GoPro edits especially tend to ignore sound. There’s a lot of clicking and rattling noise that comes with having it mounted in a plastic case on the end of a pole and it sounds awful. So why not just mute it all, unless there’s a specific noise you want to capture, like the ‘ding’ as someone lands on a rail or some cheering when they ride away.
Wind noise can be a problem. You can find some filters to cut it down, but sometimes it can work by emphasising speed on say the steep run out from a drop or on the way into a big kicker. Do what you want with it, but make sure you’re at least thinking about sound whilst you’re editing.
Play with Colour Corrections
For most people, post-production means one thing: colour correction (brilliantly covered in this edit on edits from Torstein Horgmo). It’s a great way to rescue imperfect footage that’s under/over exposed or needs a bit of tinting to compensate for a slightly off white balance.
The main settings you need to look out for are Levels, Curves and Exposure. These all do a similar job but in different ways. In my experience, there’s no real secret - just play around with them until your video starts looking right to you, whether it’s to get a specific effect or just to touch it up.
Make sure you see how any changes affect the whole video. Instead of applying it as a blanket to all your clips, you’ll want to change settings for shots depending on lighting etc. You can sometimes get away with this if all your shots were taken in the exact same conditions, like in a snowdome. Using colour correction tools like these are a sure-fire way to lift even the worst quality GoPro footage.
Experiment With The Past
With the advent of technology comes great advancement in video production techniques. However, digitalisation has also brought back a nostalgia for old analogue practices. This is that technique of giving a photo or video that popular ‘vintage’ feel. We’re now in a bonkers situation where people shell out megabucks on high-definition cameras just to then make their images deliberately blurry or distorted on Instagram.
The ‘Instagram effect’ is quite popular with snowboard movies. Big budget production companies like Absinthe still use 8mm cameras on occasion. If you don’t fancy buying another camera immediately after shelling out for your new DSLR, then you can create effects in post-production that only the most highly trained eye could spot the difference.
It’s too complicated to go into detail here, but a few minutes on Google will show you how to add shakes, scratches, grain and distortion to even your clearest HD footage. You can even get hold of stock footage like film burn, light leaks and old camera countdowns to blend in with your shots, but please use these thoughtfully and sparingly. Only use an effect when it will compliment your edit rather than slapping them in because you’ve seen it done somewhere else.
Create Style and Atmosphere
These are two different companies with two very different styles in mind. Nike’s edit uses a very neutral colour pallet and quite stylised HD filming, whilst Airblaster opts for very loud and colourful visuals along with 16mm style FX. They’re essentially bringing their respective outerwear styles into their post-production.
It’s great practise to think about how all your elements like camerawork, riding styles, music and editing all come together and trying to polish that off during post-production. Think about how the two edits above would look if they swapped their post-production effects - like colour grading and film styles - and how that would work.
To get started, look closely at the edits and films you like the most. Try and emulate their ‘feel’ with your post-production tools - without totally copying them. You’ll start seeing what looks good to you and you’ll come up with your own visual style that’ll blow the world away...
The Art of Mega-Mo
You’ve seen the Art of Flight and were rightly impressed by the super-slo-mo double-cork action, yeah? It’d be great to get the same kind of effect in your videos but you don’t really want to drop ten grand on an 800fps camcorder just for a couple of shots.
As we covered last week, footage filmed at 50/60fps goes all jerky if you slow it down to much under 50% - but a handy little trick called frame interpolation might be able to help. Don’t worry if the title makes it sound all IT Crowd. It basically means that software plugins such as Twixtor can create new frames to go between the ones you’ve filmed to smooth out for slo-mo. Clever eh?
Be warned though, it’s not a complete substitute for a proper fancy camera. Unless your subject is wearing bold, block colours against a fairly plain background, weird things start happening at the edge of the action. So, as with everything, use your knowledge to check if it’s really necessary for your edit.
#filmerproblems Image: XKCD.
Most people have probably heard the term aspect ratio but might not properly know what it means. It’s essential to know what ratio your video is shot in so that you can edit it correctly without it getting squashed vertically or horizontally.
With most software, this is determined automatically at the start of a project so there’s not too much to worry about. If you start seeing ‘letterboxing’ (black bars at the edges of the screen) you should look into your settings again and make sure they match those of your camera.
Most cameras shoot at standard 16:9 ratio (for every 16 pixels horizontally, there are 9 vertically). This is handily the standard aspect of most computer monitors and TVs. If you want to get real tekkers, you can start playing around with widescreen formats, like this dryslope edit (below). You can crop out segments from the top and bottom by setting the vertical pixels of your composition to be less than that of your footage. Mostly it’s just important to make sure you’re not squeezing your shots. Oh, and if you ever find yourself shooting video in portrait, you’re now banned from using your camera again.
One final piece of the editing puzzle is adding text or logos to your video. By now you’re a proper producer, so you should probably start calling these ‘titles.’
For best practice, I would recommend saving these until last, then you can see how they look with everything else that’s going on. Also any effects you’ve applied to your video won’t inadvertently mess up your titles. Personally, I think it’s best to keep things simple. Stick to rider’s names and maybe a title for your video. Keep it to a font that’s clear to read and isn’t too ‘wacky.'
Annotating your video with lengthy descriptive text in between shots is boring to look at. If someone can’t tell what’s going on just by watching, it means you could definitely improve your story telling through editing. There’s no reason you can’t get creative and even make some custom titles, like in this season’s Bearmotion series (above).
So everything is finalised. You’ve got your perfect shots, edited them with some sweet cuts, tightened up the audio and even thrown some rad post-production skills into the mix. Now all you have to do is get your edit out of your software and onto your computer or a DVD.
Somehow software developers have turned something this simple into one of the biggest challenges in video editing. There are about a million different formats and then a million more different options within each one. They’re all a headache to deal with. My advice is to think about where your video is going to be played and then research the best format rather than just choosing randomly.
Most likely your edit is destined for the web. I’d recommend Vimeo over YouTube for quality and support. It has provided a whole bunch of handy video guides on how to render your video perfectly for all of the main software packages here. One thing that’s worth noting is you can never ‘upgrade’ the quality of your video. So if you’ve filmed it in ‘standard definition’, there’s really no point in trying to render it in 1080 as it will just ruin all your hard work so far.
Leave it Alone
One last tip from myself. In this age of instant uploads and instant gratification, it’s quite easy to try and get things on to the internet as quickly as possible. As a result, quite a few edits I’ve seen have a rushed look about them.
Unless I have a deadline, I always try and sleep on a project in between me finishing and submitting it. This gives me time to look at it the next day with fresh eyes and can pick out mistakes before anyone else sees them.
Thankfully, if any slip past you, Vimeo lets you re-upload videos without losing viewing stats etc, which was helpful for RK1 last year when they had to cut the ‘N’ word from their otherwise awesome end of season recap (above). Should have slept on it boys...
A Final Word...
So now you should have a grasp of some basic filming, editing ideas and techniques, plus a few more advanced ones. So now it’s time to get out there and make something from them. Getting involved in filming has been one of the most fun and rewarding aspects of snowboarding for me. Hopefully if you’ve stuck out these articles this far, you’ll find that too.
As with snowboarding itself, the most important thing to remember is to never let it get stale. Always try and push the limits of what you can do and try new things. If it doesn’t work out then at least you know you tried. And have fun! Now show us what you got!