Writer ≠ Videographer

Before launching the Inkshares campaign for my “Beneath White Clouds,” the book needed a trailer. An audio-visual wunderfest to introduce people to the story. So I made this:

Making this was a helluva learning experience. Like with any DIY effort, it was a total pain in the ass… but worth it, and fun. I’d like to share with you some of the resources I found to put this together.

7072482_origWindows Movie Maker. This is nothing new. I used this briefly  back in college. Might not be what pros use, but it’s a powerful tool with an easy interface to  handle  the grunt work of  splicing slides, audio and video together. Limited in some ways, and a little twitchy, but it got the job done. Specs don’t say it’s compatible with Windows 10, but it worked just fine on my computer.

Now here’s where the trickiness ensued. Movie Maker was fine for putting my slides, captions and music together, but I hit some hurdles trying to record myself making a statement.

Well, the first hurdle is that delivering a prepared statement to the camera sucks  bad. Took me 50-odd takes. Many people across the web can probably offer better advice than me on that subject. But aside from tripping over my tongue over and over and over, I ran into some technical issues, probably related to having a  cruddy mic and webcam. The audio from my raw recordings was out of synch and quiet as a church mouse. No bueno.

So I had to rip the audio from the video, amplify it, then tie it back together. I found an easy tutorial on how to do it here. But I ran into hurdles with step 1; convert the video to an audio  file. The trouble is that free is not free.  The tutorial video is from 2011, and perhaps then RealPlayer was completely free. Nowadays, if you try to use the conversion part of RealPlayer, it will only convert 2/3 of your file. How lame is that? You have to buy  the full version to get it to convert an entire video file. So I looked around, and found a copycat industry. If you search for anything like “free video converter,” every “free” program you can install will do the same thing – do only 2/3 of the job until you pay up. I think most of them were just re-brands of the same software, and some were infected with garbage. Dookie.

tencoder-logo-iconI found what I needed  when I finally got smart enough to search for “open source.” Duh. I tell ya, reeally dumb for a smart guy sometimes. Anywhoo, I found TEncoder, a fantastic video  converter. I can”t tell you everything this program does, but it certainly had no problem delivering me a .wav soundtrack from a video. Piece of pie. The program’s got that open-source  feel, which means the GUI isn’t all shiny cotton-candy wiping your butt for you. But it does the job, and there are plenty of FAQs,  guides and boards to help you over any hurdles.

audacity_logoAudacity was the last new tool I added to my toolbox in the pursuit of crafting a goofy video.

With the isolated audio track in hand )or in hard drive, whatever) It was a cinch to pop into Audacity, amplify the volume, and export as a new, loud audio track. And that’s just scratching the surface. I don’t know everything Audacity can do, but I know it makes identifying and deleting white noise so stupid easy you’ll spit.

After that, it was a piece of pie to stitch the loud track to the raw video in Movie Maker, tweak it to synch up properly and export a good, useful video file with decent audibility.

The result  isn’t professional-grade, but it’s better than anything I would have thought within my capabilities before trying. So I end with a message of encouragement to all of you doers and makers: MAKE, and DO, and don’t ever think you can’t. We’re in an era where both artistic and technical power are in everyone’s reach. I’m not a director, editor, or sound engineer… but now I am (a little bit). So if you’ve got anything you dream of making, stop dreaming and give it a bash. I guarantee; the results of your attempt will be better than the results of hesitating and dreaming.