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Old August 5th, 2010, 06:41 PM   #1
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1st Video - Positive C&C Requested.

I bout a Sony A1U a couple of months ago and have been having a lot of fun with it.
I know that I am not a pro at this, but I would appreciate honest positive cretique and criticism of my very first video draft.

You can watch it here:

Description: This is the rough draft of my Harmel's forage from July of this year.

I spent 5 days at the Harmel's Ranch Resort (Colorado Dude Ranch Guest Ranch CO Family Vacations Ranch Vacations) on the Taylor River In Colorado on vacation with my family. In those 5 days, I was able to shoot 178 scenes (about 1.5 hrs) and I am using about 30 of of them in this project. This is just a timeline setting with a little adjustment on audio and a music track added. I have added in sounds recorded from the trip and laid down a music track as well. I have not done any color correcting, yet, just not sure where to start.
Chris Sgaraglino
The Outdoor Life Blog | Widow Creek Photography
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Old August 6th, 2010, 06:18 PM   #2
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I didn't think it was that bad...

Ok, look folks, I cannot get better if I don't get feedback...
Chris Sgaraglino
The Outdoor Life Blog | Widow Creek Photography
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Old August 6th, 2010, 07:04 PM   #3
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Okay, so here are some comments.

Number 1: Patience. If I'm working on a computer and doing a bunch of video editing today, do I want to look at somebody's vacation video? Probably not today, But, maybe later. So, expect it to take a while before you get enough folks to look at this and offer comments.

Number 2: It helps to have specific question rather than asking general questions. What I mean is that, rather than asking "what do you think of this" you'd probably get more feedback with specific question such whether you should use shorter or longer dissolves in the water scenes, or if you should set the audio levels higher or lower for the water relative to the music. Or maybe, you have an equipment question.

Number 3, figure out who is your intended audience for this, show it to them and get their opinions on how much they like or do not like. Is this memento of the vacation to be shared with the folks who went on this trip with you? Then their feedback will be likely be a lot more useful than anything we can say here (especially given how crusty some of us are.) Is this video something Harmel wants to use on its website? Is this a promo that will get sent out on a disk with brochures to prospective customers?

Or, is this a video you want to use as a demo to seek video work in addition to the still photography you already seem to do? If so, we are back to asking more targeted questions.

So what I can say right now? Well, I've had an HDR-HC1 (consumer version of the A1u) for about five years and thought it was a pretty good little camera for packing around on back country stuff. I skipped through the video. Nothing you did struck me as terrible. Do I want to go into more depth on this -- see point number 1 above.
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Old August 7th, 2010, 04:43 AM   #4
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Uhhh - what's the message?

Footage looks nice - well exposed, pleasant, pretty place, nice people. Insipid pointless bedtime music - sort of Muzak like. Too much water sound - people tend to want to go to the bathroom when continually exposed to the sound of running water. Frogs or whatever were nice.

Technically looks nice

But so what? What am I supposed to take away with me after watching it? I used to travel to Japan monthly and I stayed in some quite nice hotels - they had a canned program on TV sort of like this video that was supposed to be relaxing and soft and low tension with lots of running water - it was intended to help you fall asleep quickly!

Put another way - it seems like a nice piece of background material that nobody would ever pay attention to long enough to see it all. I think it could easily be cut to 2 minutes or probably less - might be best to start with a short piece of scenery to set the environment and then a little water as the music speeds up, then cut to the rafting shots - 10 seconds, maybe with more energetic music, then a bit of the fly casting - maybe 10 to 15 seconds with calmer music, then a few short flowing water shots with the same kind of music as at the beginning to wrap up as you zoom out to a wide scenery shot to mirror the initial establishing shot..

The zoom in from outer space - out! Makes me think of the old DIsney animal movies or something- it's been overdone to death. It might work OK if there was some specifc focus and something going on when you came to earth that sort of justified the trip.

To net it out - I think you did a nice job technically but there isn't any inherent direction - you have to decide if you just want to put together a nice piece of background or whether you want to hold someone's interest with a beginning a middle and an end.

Give it a shot!!!
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Old August 7th, 2010, 08:01 AM   #5
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Ok, great, totally fair to be patience and ask for specifics... Being new here I am not familiar the protocols, this is very different from the photography boards I visit daily.

Direction and purpose, this is missing and this I think is what I am missing from my transition from photography to video. When I shoot a photo, I always have a purpose in mind, but that purpose can be simply "a pretty flower". Photography, in my opinion, seems to stand on it's own for interpretation - kind of what it is for. Shoot a photo, print the photo, and let people discuss and come up with their own story. Video, on the other hand seems to be quite the opposite, videos should be more direct in the story telling and should adhere to a story line with a more traditional plot, theme, and direction - which my video does not do, it failed at telling the story.

I think this is why when I got home with the footage from this project that I was so over overwhelmed with what to do, I had no clear (or murky) direction for these clips or the final video, and it shows.

Yes, this footage was shot while on vacation but at it's current state there is actually little to do with my vacation in it. I need to change the title as it doesn't apply anymore.

So where does that leave me and the clip this morning? Well the rambling above might be a good indicator that I am still not sure?

The intent of the project what to go out and shoot, then later take what I shot and make something out of it that I could learn from. I battled a lot of problems while I was there, heat, panning, weather, water glare, and high noon sun - and I learned a lot and even over came most. When I got home I battled, importing, tagging & cataloging, sorting and storing. Then when it come time to make "something" well, things shut down in my brain for a couple weeks...

Where I think I am at today; Harmel's wants to run it on their site - they like it and think it will be great for potential vacationers to watch. I also want something that I can post on my site that shows some of the work that I can do. I am not looking to get into the video business just yet, but I do get asked a ton when I am on photo shoots if I can shoot video as well. It is something that I need to embrace and adopt to my core photography business!
Chris Sgaraglino
The Outdoor Life Blog | Widow Creek Photography
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Old August 7th, 2010, 09:26 PM   #6
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For your own good, I am going to shred this video. Above all else, you need to edit and in future videos cut off the finger you use to zoom before you go out again. Maybe that is too severe. Glue a thumb tack to the zoom controls so you will use it sparingly. The only clips where the zoom was acceptable were the shots that had a moving subject that had to be kept in the shot and the climber where the reveal couldn't be done with a cut to the wider shot. The river rafter shots with zoom didn't look like zoom so it was appropriate. The horses leaving the corral was okay for a moment to track them.

Cut out the first 45 seconds. Nothing happens until 45 seconds into the video. Start with an interesting shot of the location. Choose one or two stream shots to set things up then cut to the fish. I would go straight into the next shots being those of people fishing in the area. Don't cut on a zoom. You cut from one deer shot to the next while the first shot was jerking and zooming. The next deer shot should be cut before the camera jerks and the deer poops.

If I were you , I would go back and cut at least half of the video out. Cut out the zooms and redundant shots. Only show a setup and result in the action shots. Show people casting their lines then cut to them netting a fish. Avoid all the jump cuts in the middle that don't advance the action. Tell more of a story of the place and what people and animals do there. You have many good shots as your photography is good, but even the good ones linger too long. If you want to convey the peacefulness of the place, do it at the end to leave the audience calm but put something interesting at the beginning to get their attention.

Your static shots are good with proper composition and exposure. The color is vibrant but not overly saturated. A few of the shots are fun and exciting and can be used to get the audience hooked. (BTW, the sound of water didn't bother me so I would leave it where appropriate.)
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Old August 8th, 2010, 12:07 PM   #7
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Hi Chris,

I enjoyed the video and coming form the UK I loved the chance to see some great vast US landscapes, nature etc and don't have a problem with any perceived lack of narrative or direction as clearly that is not what this is all about - you just want to show what a great place it is and you've gone some way to achieving this, for me at any rate.

Some criticisms though:

1) All your edits are dissolves - why? - it gets very tiring. I'd use these very sparingly and make the straight cut the main technique - this will mean you've got to work harder to get the edits to work though.
2) The shots seem roughly all the same length which is boring - given that there isn't much to engage us apart from the scenery you need to work more on a varied pace of editing to inject some more life into it, more surprise and dynamic (you can use sound in this way too).
3)The piano soundtrack etc is bad - far too bland and schmaltzy for me (but then this does seem a very American trait) so I'd lose it completely and concentrate on the on-screen sound - you've made some nice recordings and you could do far more creative things with the sound - it would be a good discipline to get it to work without music.
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Old August 8th, 2010, 03:14 PM   #8
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I'm no professional so take my opinions with a grain of salt.

It looks nice but is honestly not terribly exciting. Overall the video is nice, just drawn out and kind of bland. It would make a nice promo to watch on a local access channel here in the south.

Like most others said, shorten it and reconsider the music. The worst thing I can say about it is the camera audio track in most shots needs to be lowered considerably or muted altogether. The first scenes were the rushing water and music are combined at their original volumes is distracting because you can't hear the music.

Next, definitely play around with color correction and filters. If you don't already have any plugins New Blue has some nice, reasonably priced packages that work well and don't take a ton of processing power.

BTW, I actually kind of liked the globe zoom in video. How did you do that? Is it a feature in Google Earth? I've never used the program so I haven't seen that before?
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Old August 8th, 2010, 04:08 PM   #9
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Hi Chris,

First off, thanks for posting the video for us to check out. Most of us here are well aware of how daunting a task it can be to cut up a video, trying to choose from so much content, and the labor of love involved in analyzing, identifying and manipulating your footage in just such a way that help express your own creative vision.

And kudos to you for having what it takes to put your video out there for others to view and critique.

That being said, I have to agree with most (not all) of what has already been posted. You've got a good eye, and put together a series of what is mostly very nice imagery.

I also agree that you should toss out the earth zoom - it just doesn't serve a purpose. It's a novelty that may have some application - but that is not evident here.

Water sound was fine when paired appropriately with corresponding visual elements. A need for better balance of levels may be called for at some points.

I didn't find the exposure dynamics at around 2:35 to be very appealing, and the "driving by the lake" shot around 3:14 was especially uncomfortable for me - basically because it was crooked. The lake and the horizon should be level, I think...even if you are driving up an incline. (This doesn't apply in all cases, but it should for this type of shot.)

I guess, basically taken on a whole, it is rather boring. Perhaps not for viewers for whom it would have significant relevance - such as those you were vacationing with, but for general viewing, there are some things you may consider to help make the video more engaging.

Some of the shots were simply beautiful - but many times, it felt like some of them were hung on to for too long. While it is easy to say that the shots are too long, I think it is a bit more complex than that.

The video lacks any form of narrative. A narrative component can be applied in a number of ways - including the specific order and sequence of the presentation to what it is about each image you want the viewer to grasp and take away from the viewing experience.

One such approach could involve something like a voice-over describing the experiences of your trip. The narrative would provide the appropriate focus, and then imagery can be sequenced to complement the VO (as opposed to providing a VO just to describe the imagery already sequenced.) Additionally, you even opt to intersperse the footage with brief talking head interview clips of yourself, or others in your party, offering personal perspectives of what an amazing experience it was to be there.

Such elements would help put order into the sequence of imagery, as well as dictate how long or short to utilize particular images.

Thank you so much for your simple and graceful use of transitions. I am pretty much a fan of the old school of "less is more". Simple fades and dissolves usually do the job admirably. It is often a signature newbie effort to employ every form of crazy and chaotic effect and transition your NLE is capable of. Good on you for your approach. There are some ways you can employ tasteful use of effects and transitions to add extra 'pop' and 'zing' to some portions, though that would largely be dictated by how you choose to build your final version - and highlight some special action moments. Otherwise, other simple elements such as graceful use of blurs and vignetting could do well for some of the images you have here.

Finally, I liked some of the music, not all of it - but found that pretty much most of it didn't fit for the corresponding imagery. (and some of the bird sounds got pretty annoying.)

Perhaps this represents a limitation of the music you have available to you - but the end result was a sense of lulling into a comatose state. While a few of the shots are meant to feel laid back and relaxed, others really call for a greater sense of drama, adventure, and excitement.

All in all, quite a good effort for a draft - especially having noted that it is your very first such effort - but with plenty of room for improvement, in my opinion.

I very much look forward to seeing what this will become after some revision.

Good luck, and have fun.

"Are we to go on record, sir, with our assertion that the 'pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, and green clovers' are, in point of fact', magically delicious?"
- Walter Hollarhan before the House Subcommittee on Integrity in Advertising - May, 1974

Last edited by Jonathan Jones; August 8th, 2010 at 06:34 PM. Reason: typo
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Old August 9th, 2010, 08:50 PM   #10
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Thank you everyone for our honest opinions. I will be going through these posts and my clips to see what I can do to improve this video and still maintain the laid back feel.

I love the fact that there are many diverse opinions - this is good for me to see.

The music; this is a weak spot for me. I am going to have to work on this.

Again, i do really appreciate the comments, it is the way I am going to learn!
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The Outdoor Life Blog | Widow Creek Photography
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Old August 10th, 2010, 12:45 PM   #11
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Chris, please don't be offended because I don't mean it that way. You video looks like a photo shoot, not a video. It's a big jump from photography to video. Your obvious skill with important elements like exposure and focus are impressive and are also very important to video work.

When you first used a video camera, it probably seemed a bit strange and even unsettling when you realized that it wasn't just a click and the moment was captured as a photo. With video the moment continues into an endless flow of moments tied together. It also opens new dimensions that harness the flow of time and the ability to embed a story.

One of the most interesting (and challenging to produce) elements in video work is an interesting story that ties it all together and makes you want to watch it. I suggest you include people from the very beginning - and not just people posing in the picture but people that communicate and are a part of an embedded storyline. The creative challenge is defining a story that ties everything together in a cohesive manner.

My hat is off to you for your camera handling skill (except for the overuse of zoom). It is a solid foundation for producing good video. When you nail the story component, I'm sure you will produce some great work.
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