Armed with a pair of cameras, a Surface RT, and a WP8 phone, Tony McSherry shows how to make and distribute video in a Microsoft environment by way of a wedding.
My partner's daughter had her long awaited wedding a few weeks ago, and I was selected/press-ganged to produce the wedding video. My video production experience is in training related videos and documentaries where I could direct a small crew in a studio. This crew, however, would be myself and the mother of the bride on camera, in a reverberating church and only ambient lighting. We also had to be silent and discrete.
To shoot the wedding, I used 2 Sony HD cameras with 120G hard drives, a Surface RT, and my HTC 8x Windows phone. To make things easier for editing, I set-up one of the HD cameras at the front of the church to take in the altar and congregation. This would allow me to synch the video from the other devices to a continuous audio track. While the framing would be fixed, I could use close ups and pans during the post-production process to generate different sequences.
The other HD camera went to my partner, as she would be always close to the action as the mother of the bride, and I took the Surface RT to shoot from a different perspective. Once the bride reached the altar and I joined the congregation, I switched to my Windows Phone.
The Surface RT produced 1,280x720p video and the phone gave me 1,920x1,080. While the phone matched my HD camera in frame size, the optics didn't, with the picture a little darker and murkier. Since I'd be reducing the video to around 854x480 to limit file size for internet distribution, I was happy with the video source files.
My current video editing suite is Sony Vegas Pro 12 (64-bit) on a Windows 8 PC, with an Intel I7-3770 CPU at 3.4 GHz, 8GB memory and a terabyte hard drive. I've used a number of different editing applications, from Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro to Windows Movie Maker, but I find Sony Vegas Pro the most comfortable for both professional and home video production.
Editing was simple, if arduous. I put down my video and audio track from the fixed camera, and then cut back and forth from it, synching the various sequences by matching their audio tracks. The main problem I had was cropping various sequences to avoid the wedding photographer, who, despite having huge lenses on his multiple still cameras, insisted on being as close to all the important moments as possible. The reverend had offered to record the ceremony on his Mac with a strategically placed microphone, but the MP3 file hasn't arrived yet, so for the moment, I went with the 5.1 sound of my fixed camera, which was adequate, despite the acoustics of the enormous church dome overhead.
I ended up with a 30 minute MP4 file at 300MB, so now it was time to consider how I wanted to make it available.
My first try was to put it up on one of my company's servers and give people a link. This seemed to work fine in Australia, with the video streaming well and being able to jump ahead in the video without undue delay.
When I gave the same link to my overseas friends, they got different behaviour. The video wouldn't stream, and even when I put up a web page, they were not getting the Save Target As option when right clicking on the video. I'd be interested to know why this happened, so feel free to enlighten me, but perhaps my commercial server in Sydney prevents overseas streaming.
My next try was SkyDrive, but trying to upload it from my SkyDrive app told me that the file was too large. I was about to move on to my next option, but a Microsoft page that turned up in my web searches informed me that simply moving the file to my local SkyDrive folder would automatically upload it (2GB limit). I placed the file in my SkyDrive folder on my PC's hard drive, and when I came back in an hour, it was uploaded. It also made me realise what those green ticks that appear on your SkyDrive files mean — the file is synched with the cloud.
Now I could give my overseas friends access to the file by selecting it in my SkyDrive app and choosing Share from the Charms menu. This allows you to send an email with a link and thumbnail. When you select the link, you'll be taken to a video page with the ability to tag people and enter comments.
By this stage, clever readers are wondering why I didn't use YouTube. This was due to me not keeping up with its latest features. A few years ago, I wanted to upload a Tasmanian documentary I'd edited, but the file limits were too restrictive. When I finally looked at the current YouTube, I found that I could load a 2GB file, as long as I validated my Google/YouTube account with an SMS code.
After the validation process, I started uploading my file to YouTube, which took around 3 hours — much longer than SkyDrive. I was given the option of public access, named access, or unlisted. I chose Unlisted, which was essentially the same as SkyDrive in that it let me send a link in an email.
The YouTube link gives a familiar YouTube page, complete with advertising and "related" videos, and like SkyDrive, it allows you to leave comments. Playing the video when logged in to my YouTube account will also pop up a Google ad, which suggests that I might like to monetise the video.
I've been producing video for some years, and distribution has always been a problem, as well as the compression necessary to run the video successfully from the internet. Thankfully, these days are behind us, as the MP4 format and ubiquitous broadband provides relatively high quality video and easy streaming.
While both services provide a platform to distribute your videos and provide much the same features, YouTube offers you public display to promote your video to a global audience. In my case, I usually have a limited distribution list, and don't really want to send my friends or clients to a video page with ads and "related" videos to click on to expose them to more ads. I also like the Windows 8 layout and typography, so for clients, the wedding list, and a limited number of videos (7GB storage is free), I prefer SkyDrive.
However, I can now easily upload that documentary to YouTube to enable it to be seen by a wider audience, and even retrieve some costs by including Google advertising. In addition, YouTube has detailed analytics, unlimited uploads, and the option to enhance your video, add a soundtrack or closed captioning, which may be useful if you are only using a simple video editor or utilising raw video.
In the end, it's all about the advertising with YouTube, and you can easily monetise your videos by linking your account with a Google AdSense account — assuming anyone can find your videos and wants to watch them, but a global audience at least makes that a possibility.
My final task for the wedding is to cater to the generation stuck in the last wave of video distribution, and I'll probably just do a standard DVD, as their Blu-ray use is spotty at best. I didn't purchase the accompanying DVD application from Sony, as there are a number of adequate open-source DVD titling and production applications. I'm currently trying DVDStyler from http://www.dvdstyler.org.
I started producing videos on tape with dedicated editing machines, and the move to PC-based video editors and digital storage was a blessed relief. I was similarly relieved when tape was replaced by CD and DVD. YouTube, SkyDrive, and other similar internet-based video storage and distribution systems replace the need for producing physical media and removes the costs, time, and carbon generation associated with its reproduction and distribution. As a video producer, they also have one critical advantage — you can fix errors in an hour or two, rather than find an entire production run of DVDs produced with the wrong video (true story, unfortunately).
For those interested, the wedding went well, and more importantly, the mother of the bride was happy. However, the next day, both of us had excruciating pains in our elbows due to hand-holding the HD cameras and my phone. The Surface RT was the easiest to use, with its comparatively large screen and 22 degree camera tilt. If there's a next time, I think I'll invest in a camera stabiliser or Steadicam harness.