Digital Video:
A Guide for the Fearless

Lights, Camera, Action . . .

Your only limits with digital video are size and copyright. Since just about everything we do ends up on the web, the "fair use" law which allows schools and universities to get around copyright statutes does not apply. Your best bet is to take your own video, or only use very short clips from professional footage. Since you're going to be physically bound by how much RAM your computer has anyway, short clips are the way to go. Try to stay under 10 seconds for each individual clip and you should be safe. Most importantly, remember to stay flexible. Sometimes things screw up and the result looks better than anything you could have planned. With that in mind, you're ready to begin.

Although you may need special adapters, the hardware connection itself is very simple: one end of your cord plugs into the OUT socket on the VCR (or laser disc player, camcorder, etc.) and the other inserts into the IN video and audio ports on the computer. The VCR may have separate jacks for video and audio or one combined plug (like a cable connection). This will determine what kind of cord or adapter you need.

After hooking up your hardware, start the VCR and open up Fusion Recorder to make sure the video is playing through. The most frequent problem is a loss of sound. First check the settings within Fusion Recorder under RECORD, then check the sound settings under the CONTROL PANEL (under the apple on a MAC and in the MAIN group on a PC).

Also under RECORD, select VIDEO to finish setup. Your SOURCE format should be set to NTSC, input to COMPOSITE, and digitizer to BUILT-IN. For filter choose whichever device is appropriate. Your COMPRESSION should be set to NONE and THOUSANDS, with a rate of 10 frames per second. These settings can be changed according to the needs of your project. Under SOUND you will find volume and gain. These too can be changed to suit your needs. Remember that often the louder your volume the greater the distortion and background noise.

Before you start recording, start the video several seconds ahead of the spot you want. Press record at least two or three seconds before your starting point and wait a few seconds after your end point to press stop. The video is recorded onto your computer's RAM and a counter at the bottom of the recording window will count down your memory. Be careful not to let the RAM get down to zero. The average lab machine (16 MB RAM) will let you record about ten seconds of video in a 160x120 window. The window size can be changed or longer segments recorded in segments and then put back together in Premier.

Sound clips from video can be captured in the same way. Don't worry about getting read of the picture later. Even easier, however, is taking sound off CD. Start up SoundEdit 16 and get ready to record. Then insert the CD into the computer and play the track you want. Switch back to SoundEdit and record. As in video, remember to copy a few seconds extra at beginning and end to give yourself room to play with.

After you've captured your video and audio, create a new file and save everthing together there. It makes editing with Premier much simpler. To import your clips into Premier choose IMPORT under FILE and select which clip(s) you will be using. Whatever you select will appear in the PROJECT window which is merely a list of all the parts you'll be using in your movie. Drag items from the PROJECT window up to the CONSTRUCTION window. This is where they will be edited and arranged.

Note: although Fusion Recorder and SoundEdit are much easier to work with, you can also do your capturing through Premier if you can't get to a lab with the other software.

A picture's worth a how much?!?!

Actually, you'll be suprised at important still images are in video. And you thought you'd finally escaped Photoshop! No such luck. There are two types of still images in Premier: Photoshop images (or other graphics) that you create elsewhere and bring into Premier and Premier images that you create in Premier. For the first, save the Photoshop image in the same file as your video and audio clips and then open Premier. Select IMPORT under FILE and select your image(s). They then appear in the PROJECT window. (Remember: this is merely a list of your parts. Premier doesn't make copies or save any of your images or clips until you make the final movie at the very end.) From the PROJECT window drag the image to the CONSTRUCTION window. Where a video or audio clip automatically appears at its correct length (the wider the image indicates how much time it takes) a still image can be pulled out to whatever length you need. Simply hold the curser over the edge you want to extend until it turns into a red line.

The second type of Premier image can be either a matte, which is a plain colored screen, or a title, on which text appears. To create a matte choose ADD COLORED MATTE under PROJECT. A color picker will appear and you simply click on whatever shade you desire. Like other stills, the matte then appears in the PROJECT window and can be dragged up to the CONSTRUCTION window. There you can pull on the edges to control how long it will appear in the movie.

To create a title choose MAKE A TITLE under FILE. Select NEW and TITLE. The controls here are very similar to those in Photoshop. The only main difference is the shadow tool. By dragging the shadow on the T at the bottom of the tool bar you control the shadow of your text on the title. The type of shadow, as well as size and style of font, can be changed under TITLE. When you're finished drag the title from the PROJECT window up to the CONSTRUCTION window and adjust its length. To make the title still transparent open TRANSPARENCY under CLIP. Select WHITE ALPHA MATTE from the KEY TYPE menu.

Don't tell Spielberg . . .

. . .But editing and special effects are a piece of cake in Premier. To edit the length of video clips, simply double click on them in either the PROJECT or CONSTRUCTION windows. When the clip appears in its play window there will be two counters beneath the window. The top is the entire length of the clip in seconds, the second shows your current place in the clip. To the right of these counters are two buttons marked IN and OUT. Play the clip by pressing the arrow button to the left, or move it forward with the slide button or gradiated bar above it. When it reaches the point at which you want your clip to begin press IN. When it reaches your cutoff point press OUT. That is now the portion of your clip which will appear in the CONSTRUCTION window. If you lengthen the clip in the CONSTRUCTION window (by pulling on the edges as you would a still) then the clip in the movie will change. You can press ENTER on the keyboard at any time to view a preview of your movie.

Premier makes professional editing techniques very simple with a variety of "canned" transitions and filters. To use a transition place your first video clip on the top track of the CONSTRUCTION window and your second on the bottom track. Then simply drag a transition from the TRANSITION window and place it on the bar between the two tracks. Although you should technically line up the end of the first track with the beginning of the second (letting the transition overlap each an equal amount), playing with the spacing will provide interesting effects. Gaps between clips will show up as black screen.

To use a filter, highlight your clip (by clicking on it once) then select FILTERS under CLIP. ADD the filter you wish to apply and press okay. Some have additional settings which appear in a pop-up menu when the filters are applied. These filters can also be removed.

The talkies may have killed Valentino . . .

. . .But you shouldn't have any trouble making use of sound files in your movies. While files should ideally be edited in SoundEdit 16, simple volume control can be done easily in Premier by raising and lowering the line below the sound file in the CONSTRUCTION window. These are also useful to fade in and out your title stills.

Sound can be captured into SoundEdit 16 as described above. Simply open your CD player, play your track, and begin recording in SoundEdit. To edit a clip simply select the section you wish to alter. The standard edit commands--cut, copy, and paste--all work here. More complicated editing can be done with the filters which appear under EFFECTS. These can be applied to the entire clip or selected sections. While many of the filters can provide interesting effects, don't bother with the FADE filters here. The same effect is much easier to control and less complicated using the lines which appear under clips in Premier.

A common problem in digital audio is volume. Often sound clips come through very faint in playback. If you're working with background music that is too faint, or simply need a louder portion, try the ENVELOPE filter. A window will appear allowing you to manipulate the sound level in the area of the clip you have highlighted.

Is it Real or is it Rotoscoping?

Rotoscoping can be used to make extreme alterations to your movie. Any change you can make to a photo in Photoshop you can make to a movie. By saving your movie in FILMSTRIP format, you can open it into Photoshop. (Note: the filmstrip will not have sound. When you load it back into Premier after rotoscoping you can replace it.) There are three main points to remember when using Photoshop: 1) Do not change your image size. 2) Do not save the filmstrip in any other format. 3) You can create layers while you are working but you must merge them before you save. If you forget any of these points then Photoshop will not let you save the filmstrip. The only way to get around this without loosing your work is to choose ALL under SELECT and then COPY under EDIT. Then choose REVERT under FILE to return to the saved version of the filmstrip. You can then PASTE your changes over the filmstrip. For this reason it is always a good idea to create a new layer on which to make your changes. Then you can save your changes in a Photoshop file for correction or addition later. Basically you can do anything to your filmstrip. You can colorize a black and white, change a blond to a brunette, add a person to a frame or take them out. You can also blend two separate filmstrips into one, which is the technical definition of rotoscoping. It was this technology which allowed Tom Hanks to shake hands with JFK in Forrest GumpThe only limits are your artistic ability and your patience. Each frame needs to be painted (or pasted or stamped) with precision. (Note: you will have to zoom-in on the filmstrip in order to work on the individual frames.) If the object is moving then the displacement is crucial. Natural movement begins very slowly (with very little difference between frames), speeds up (with larger distances between frames) toward the climax of the movement, and then slows again as it approaches rest.

When adding an object to a filmstrip--whether moving or still--pasting is usually your best bet to maintain continuity between frames. Select your object and paste it onto the filmstrip. Move it into position and select PASTE again (you can do this by pressing CTRL-V). Now hold down the SHIFT key and press the down arrow once. This moves your object to the exact same place in the next frame. For a moving object, press the left and right arrow keys to displace the object. Remember how many spaces you moved it and you have a guide by which to judge your speed. The easiest way to preview your work at this point is to return to the top of the strip and hold the curser down on the scroll bar just above the down arrow at the bottom right corner of the window. This will run the film by quickly and give you an old-fashioned filmstrip run-through.

When you are satisfied with your changes, save the filmstrip back to the same file that you saved your video clips, audio tracks, and stills. Now you can either open your project and delete the video--replacing it with the filmstrip, which can be imported--or simply create a new project. In your new project import the filmstrip and all your sound clips to reconstruct your movie.

You've made it, but can you use it?

I'm sure you've noticed by now that you're video is taking up quite a lot of file space. What precisely are you going to do with a 20MB file on a web page? This kind of thing could get you banned from the internet! To turn your movie into something that is actually useful, you'll need to compress it. Yes, you may lose some of that detail you spent days trying to create but the alternative is to condemn your video to the depths of your hard drive, never to be played again. Compression ensures that your movie will make it to the web and travel out across the internet to grace the world. Fame has its price.

After you have completed your video select MOVIE under MAKE. Under OUTPUT OPTIONS change QUICKTIME COMPOSITE to QUICKTIME MOVIE. Press OK and then select COMPRESSION. It is here that you have a variety of choices--all of which will affect your final product.

There are three main points to consider in compressing your video. The first is the type of compression. JPEG compression most often results in the smallest file size. For web work keep your files below 2MB. After you choose your compression you may--depending on the type choosen--have the choice of thousands of colors or 256. Since most monitors on which your work will be displayed will only be able to view 256 colors, this may be the better choice. Your third option is frames per second. For web work the norm is 10-12. Although you might see as few as three. Normal analog video consists of 30.

After you have saved your movie select OPEN under FILE in Premier. When your movie appears in its own window, select EXPORT under FILE and choose FLATTENED MOVIE. Your movie should have the .mov Quicktime extension.

The Final Frontier

When you're finally ready to put your movie on a webpage there are two options. The first is by linking to it within the page with a link. In this way viewers can download the movie and play it off their own hard drive.

The second is to embed the movie within the page itself. Netscape 3.0 beta version 4 supports in-line video, but the Quicktime plug-in still needs to be installed separately. If your browser is equipped to view it, than the same sample video linked to above appears to the right. Just click on the image to start the video. A control bar can also be displayed with the video. Here are the HTML tags necessary to embed a movie and explanations of each:


Use the EMBED tag to place QuickTime movies into your document. When the document specified in the SRC parameter is a QuickTime movie, then the QuickTime plug-in will be used to display it.

SRC=[URL] - The source document.

PLUGINSPAGE=[URL] - This parameter allows you to specify a URL from which the user can fetch the necessary plug-in if it is not installed. Set this parameter to: "" in this case.

WIDTH=[SIZE IN PIXELS] - This attribute specifies the width of the embedded document, in pixels. If you don't know the width of the movie, open your movie with the MoviePlayer (PLAYER.EXE or PLAY32.EXE on Windows 3.1) that comes with QuickTime and select Get Info (Get Movie Info under Windows) from the Movie menu.

HEIGHT=[SIZE IN PIXELS] - The HEIGHT attribute specifies the height of the embedded document, in pixels. If you want to display the movie's controller, you will need to add 24 pixels.

HIDDEN=[VALUE] - This parameter sets the visibility of the movie. There are no values to supply for this parameter. If you do not supply HIDDEN, then the movie will be visible. If you supply HIDDEN, the movie is not visible on the page. You can use this setting to hide a sound-only movie.

AUTOPLAY=[VALUE] - Acceptable values for this parameter are TRUE and FALSE. AUTOPLAY=TRUE causes the movie to start playing as soon as the QuickTime plug- in estimates that it will be able to play the entire movie without waiting for additional data. The default value of AUTOPLAY is FALSE.

CONTROLLER=[VALUE] - The CONTROLLER parameter sets the visibility of the movie controller.

LOOP=[VALUE] - When set, the LOOP parameter makes the movie play in a loop. Acceptable values for this parameter are TRUE, FALSE, and PALINDROME. PALINDROME causes the movie to play alternately forwards and backwards.

PLAYEVERYFRAME=[VALUE] - This parameter causes the movie to play every frame even if it is necessary to play at a slower rate to do so. This parameter is particularly useful to play simple animations and slide shows. Acceptable values for this parameter are TRUE and FALSE. This should not be used with movies with audio or midi tracks as it will turn the sound off.

HREF=[URL] - This parameter provides a link to another page when the movie is clicked on.

Home Graphics Video Design

compiled by

Julie K. Rose and Michael R.H. Owens

last updated 6/20