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Using the iPad as a Teleprompter - [Review]

We may not have flying cars or a Mars colony, but dammit, we live in the future and we have iPads. And all of us in media production have used iPads in our workflow at this point, whether it's previewing something or used as a slate, or just a game device during renders. How about a teleprompter? It's actually pretty nifty.




Last year, the company I work for researched and purchased a teleprompter setup built for an iPad from Prompter People. Basically, it's the reflective bit and iPad holder that fits on a camera and tripod. It can accommodate our smaller JVC ProHD camera, or a larger ENG camera. You can also purchase it from the company with an iPad, but we already had one so we didn't. It arrived in a couple of boxes pretty quickly, and was simple to assemble. It's very similar to a regular teleprompter, though I found it lighter and simpler, which is good because it was marketed as such. It's not so light that it's not properly balanced on the tripod though. Basically, it's pretty much what you would expect from any other teleprompter. When we bought it, it was about $600.

The iPad slides in snugly and is reflected onto the screen. We did find two minor downsides to this: the screen got dusty a lot from the black material that fits over the lens, and the iPad really needs to be plugged in if you're using it at any length. But these were very minor and easily fixable with the right amount of lens cleaner and duct tape.

So the actual teleprompter device with an iPad is great, but the thing that really makes or breaks it at this point is the teleprompter app you choose. The Teleprompter People device didn't come with one at the time, so we had to go in the app store and figure out what we wanted. Apparently it now comes with their app iCue which doesn't have very good reviews at the moment, but if it comes with it I'd definitely try it out anyway.

The app we chose is Teleprompt+. Overall, I think it's a great app, and over the several shoots we have used it on, we've had no issues with talent adjusting to it. In fact, our last talent told us there was absolutely no difference to her between this iPad setup and a full-on teleprompter. This app is currently $14.99. Gasp, paying for an app? Yea, do it. Sheesh.

It has basically everything you'd want to be able to adjust - font changes, size, color, speed. It has a mirror on or off function, so you could simply use the iPad itself without a a teleprompter setup if you're running your own thing - prop it up by a camera and let it run. It also has a voice recording feature so you can practice your speeches, which is kind of cool.

In theory, you can control the teleprompter speed and position with another device paired to the iPad, like an iPhone. We found that this never really worked as expected, so the camera operator or an assistant needed to stand next to it and adjust as needed. We found that using a stylus really helps a lot. I'd say a stylus is necessary, comparing the ease of use between shoots.

For editing scripts on the fly, you can do that on the iPad itself. It's pretty cumbersome to do so when it's all hooked into the teleprompter system, and you can't really be taking it out of the area repeatedly without getting annoyed. However, if you have a wifi connection and an extra person with a laptop, you can have scripts upload from Google Docs. I'd upload all the scripts to Google Docs (letting Google conform it to their format.) Then go on the iPad and upload them. Whenever a change needs to be made, hop onto the Google Docs account and edit the script. When you go back to Google Docs within the app, it'll mark the scripts that have been updated and need to be re-uploaded. The only minor setback with this is the initial upload of scripts - there's no way to batch upload in the app, so if you have a lot of really short scripts, you have to upload them one by one. After that, it's pretty flawless. You can also upload from Dropbox, but I didn't have as smooth an experience and I'm not sure that you can make edits within Dropbox.

Overall, using an iPad + app + Prompter People system works really well for our setup. We typically have small shoots, often with just one talent speaking. We didn't have to drop thousands on a teleprompter system that we don't use more than 6-7 times a year usually, or pay a teleprompter operator day rate which is probably the same or more as the cost of this system minus the iPad. We already used the iPad for other stuff, so that wasn't really a part of the expense in my opinion.

If we were producing something with higher production value? Yea, we'd hire a specialized prompter operator. But for our small company and simple shoots, this works great.

Yeah for the future!

(Nobody gave me any money to write this. But I'd take some...)


Posted by: Kylee Peña on Aug 31, 2012 at 9:52:59 amComments (1) ipad teleprompter, video production

The Impersonators - My First Feature

Here's one for the baby book: I'll be cutting my first feature film this fall. The Impersonators, directed by Joshua Hull, started shooting today in the central Indiana area. I attended the last full table read and production meeting last night, and this is definitely going to be an interesting film to edit. The Impersonators is about a team of superhero impersonators who normally find themselves rented out for birthday parties or other recreational activities. Their whole team is booked to spend time in a small town bringing up the morale with their presence. Soon enough, they find themselves in a real superhero situation, and hilarity ensues. It's got a pretty large cast and stars comedian Josh Arnold. The audience is definitely the comic book movie lover - there are a lot of jabs and self-referential pokes in the script. It's also quite crude. I love it.



This will be the largest project I've ever cut on Avid Media Composer, and well, the largest project I've ever cut at all. The tone and what I'm guessing the cutting style of the film will be really matches closely to the kinds of film aesthetics I personally enjoy, which is exciting. The production will be shot on two GH2's with a bit on the AF100, so I've spent some time checking out the workflow and pitfalls of the footage.

I'm also on the post team for Kate Chaplin's feature film Ingenue. I'm not sure what my final role will end up being, but I'm providing editorial support, color grading, VFX, and an opening title sequence for the film. Ingenue has a bit of buzz around it, which is exciting. My friend Katie Toomey is editing the film, which is pretty cool because it will be HER first feature. It'll be interesting to go through the whole experience of editing for long form as she does as well.



I know a lot of editors all over the place have a desire to cut a narrative feature and don't ever have the opportunity, so it's pretty crazy that I have the opportunity to be doing work on TWO in the Indianapolis area. I was originally slated to co-edit a horror feature this fall, but that project fell apart in a matter of days. I'm glad to have this film to work on - it's suits my style, it's not so crazy that I'll need help, and the filmmakers have a great background. Lots of great stuff to chew on as an editor, too.

I'll be chronicling my experience editing my first feature in this blog series, documenting the successes and inevitable failures that will ensue. I'll probably also be asking for help occasionally too, so hopefully one of my dozens of readers may oblige.

So, to bring the whole thing up to speed until now, over the last month, I've been slowly getting ready to take this film on. I spoke with the director to get some idea about how post would go and set up the expectations, and we had a great conversation about the tone of the film. I did some refreshing in Avid, and some research since the last time I spent hours at a time in MC was not very recent. I edit in FCP7 all day at work and I can't switch to Avid there, so I'm going to have a really split personality by the time this film is locked. I really don't want to cut this in FCP7 for a number of reasons. I'm also in the process of re-arranging my edit cave to make it more habitable since I'll be in there a lot. It kind of feels like nesting.

We'll have a teaser available really soon after wrapping the film, long before post is even close to done. I'm not sure how often I'll be on set for the next week, which I think is good, keeping separation. I work better when I don't have any idea of what's happened during the shoot. I'm expecting to be working on the color grading and titling for this one too, so there will be plenty to do and talk about in this blog. Both The Impersonators and Ingenue are following a similar post timeline, so I guess I'll be spending another fall season mostly indoors (the way I like it.)

I'll be picking up the first batch of footage on Monday and I believe I'll start transcoding to DNxHD36 for the offline (unless for some reason that's a dumb idea), then start the logging process. Happily, there is a script supervisor on set every day who happens to be a familiar face that I trust.

So, a little more edit cave nesting tomorrow, then it begins.


Posted by: Kylee Peña on Aug 18, 2012 at 9:56:33 pmComments (4) editing, independent film

A Dream Job in Video Production - literally



In light of the Mars Curiosity landing successfully on the planet after an incredibly ingenious deployment technique, I've been thinking about my dream job. When asked, I know a lot of us editors probably have similar answers to the dream job question: to edit a TV show, to edit features, edit documentaries, edit a meaningful piece about humanity, edit national advertisements. But what's my dream job?

If I were to create a job out of thin air (that may or may not exist, I'm not even sure), I think I'd have to go with Space Videographer/Editor. I would work for NASA or SpaceX or whatever other space exploration firm is out there, producing all their video for broadcast, the web, and whatever else.

My duties as a space video producer? Well, obviously I'd have to go to space every once in a while to do some shooting. That's a given. I don't care if robots and astronauts can do it, I need to go up there and get some shots of my own. The job would be maybe 10-20% "travel" (to space, duh) and the other percentage would be spent on Earth, either documenting the exploration process or in the edit, putting it all together. And these aren't cheesy or dry videos - they're fun, engaging, or inspiring. Did you watch the 7 Minutes of Terror video that was released? They'd be more like that than NASA TV's 4:3 feed of their control room. Powerful, inspiring, and relateable video about SPACE!







Another aspect of my dream job duties would be the ongoing curation of an educational video series for kids to inspire them to pursue learning about space exploration. I love the idea of designing videos that actually engage young minds and deliver the knowledge of the universe. It's also my contribution to erasing the effects of Jersey Shore and the like.

Basically, I would sit down and watch the greatest minds in the world explore space, and figure out how to take the information they give me and produce it in a way that's understandable for the masses, but not in a watered down way. Oh, and also go to space. How great would that be?

Alas, I don't think my dream job exists, so I might have to settle for editing a TV show about space someday. Some edit bays are as cold as the vacuum of space, so I could get pretty close to a simulation.

If you could make up a job out of thin air, even if it's not remotely feasible, what would it be?


Posted by: Kylee Peña on Aug 15, 2012 at 9:52:46 amComments (5) video production, nasa

Wedding Video: Thoughts, Advice, and Crowd Sourcing a Wedding Day

This past weekend, I was in the wedding of one of my favorite couples. We met in college when we all worked at the Zoo together (they actually started dating there) and stayed friends beyond into the real world. During my bridesmaid stint, I was thinking a lot about wedding videography. As a video producer/editor, I'm always (painfully) aware of the video being produced during a wedding, especially if I'm attending a wedding for someone I really care about. I want their videos to look amazing, almost at times jumping up and grabbing a camera or source material to edit it myself.

I guess you can call it half caring and half control freak.

Wedding video is not as widespread as wedding photography. Even as a video person myself, I don't consider wedding videography to be a priority. If you're working with a budget, I would always suggest putting more into still photography than video. In my opinion, weddings are more effectively captured one frame at a time. There's a romanticism you can only get in a single still frame that you can finesse and process to bring out the good qualities and hide the bad, and then over time, that's what you remember that moment as - perfection. With video, you have to have some great talent behind the camera to achieve that same feeling.

There are some amazing wedding video producers out there today, you just have to be prepared to toss a bit of money their way. And for what you get, it's a fantastic purchase. Wedding cinematography is gorgeous when it's done right, and provides you a keepsake that you'll probably actually go back and watch a few times.

The thing is…if you hire a wedding video company and pay like $500 for your video, it's probably not going to be this fantastic, romantic and flawless product. Great wedding videography is hard, and it's expensive.

Which leads me to my next thought - a wedding video company called Wedit. My friends chose this company to document their wedding day. The basic concept is that you are given 5 Flip cameras to distribute throughout your wedding. Your bridal party, you, and your guests are charged with documenting the entire wedding day or weekend. The cameras have little tags on them to remind people what kinds of shots they need to get. Then after the wedding is over, you mail the 5 cameras back to the company, they edit a wedding video from your footage, and post it along with all the raw files for download.



Now, I'm not really sure what I think about this. On one hand, it's a cool concept because your guests may know you better than a videographer, so you'll get more natural reactions and everyone is more comfortable around the camera. It's also really interesting to potentially have 5 angles from different and unique POVs at any given moment. If a regular wedding videographer shot everything on Flip cameras, handheld, you would slap them in the face. But because you set the expectation that these are all shot by guests and bridal party members, there is a level of acceptance for flaws in the video. It's closer to a documentary than a cinematic experience, which works because you aren't expecting any more from it. It's also relatively cheap - probably about as cheap as hiring a bad videographer.



But again, the expectations make it work better.

One downside is having 5 cameras to track and distribute. But the biggest downside, in my opinion, is putting the burden of recording the major moments onto your guests and bridal party. For our group, it wasn't a big deal because I always have a camera anyway. But I noticed during some of the reception events, there were people up and standing around, recording things instead of enjoying them. When you have a wedding reception, you sort of want your guests and everyone to relax and have fun, and this adds a burden of responsibility on them.

Another downside is making sure the big moments get proper coverage. With 5 cameras floating around, one person might want to actually enjoy a moment instead of capture it, thinking "oh, one of those other people is recording." Then nobody records it and you have no video of your first dance.

The biggest thing to remember is: with a service like Wedit, the success of your video is determined by the enthusiasm of those involved in your wedding. The video can only be as good as the footage captured.

I kept a camera with me the whole weekend and documented everything the way I'd want it if I were editing the video. I got loads of coverage - transitionary shots, establishing shots, closeups, reactions, nat sound, everything. And shots that are held long enough to actually use! I also got a ton of great pre-ceremony footage - the little nervous sighs, the mascara being applied, the gentle light in the readying room, the sparkle of the dress. I tend to think a lot of people that shoot these wouldn't get this stuff because they aren't used to telling a story with visuals, and that makes me wonder how these videos usually turn out. The very best moments of a wedding video are the little things you capture, the environment the people are in, and the care you take to making people look good (or reasonably good, there's only so much to be done with a Flip!) I hope the editor of this Wedit video does it justice, because I'm pretty sure you could edit a decent video out of just the stuff on my camera. And I hope the editor appreciates having b-roll for once.

I am a little concerned about the quality of the edit though. The service is only about $400. If you have 5 Flip cameras with 2 hours of runtime, you could potentially have 10 hours of footage to sort through. I'm guessing most weddings don't fill all 5 cameras (ours didn't, not even my 150+ shots), and the company relies upon this to turn things around and remain profitable. But even for $400, how can your video be devoted the proper amount of time needed to review footage, find all those great little moments, figure out where camera overlap occurs to multi cam it, and pull out a cohesive story? Needless to say, I have massive doubts on this.

If you're reading this, trying to consider if you want to try a crowd-sourced wedding video service like Wedit, or wedding video at all, I would just consider 1) if your guests and bridal party are the kind of creative people who will pitch in to shoot some video without being prodded, 2) what kind of wedding video you want (Is a guest POV, probably shaky camera all you wanted? Or do you want a theatrical wedding video with crane shots and dolly moves?) and 3) what kind of budget you have. Always put more budget into still photography - I'm begging you. Believe me as a video producer telling you this - you'll cherish still photos more than video, 99% of the time. Overall, I think Wedit is an interesting concept for the right group of people.

It's been interesting to see the evolution of wedding video. Now there are apps where you can upload pictures and video during the wedding to a central location, which takes the Flip out of the equation entirely. But it still comes down to the willingness of your group of friends and family to contribute. If it's important, it's always better to defer to a professional than to get disappointed.


Posted by: Kylee Peña on Aug 10, 2012 at 10:09:03 amComments (4) wedding video, video production



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