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Graphic Digital Video Hacks

by Joshua Paul
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
Retail Price: $29.95
ISBN: 0596009461
Pages: 432
Table of Contents

Information provided by the O'Reilly Network Safari(R) Bookshelf

Digital Video (DV) shooting and editing require the duality of left- and right-brain approaches. The creativity of videography flows in a tactile, right-brain way as you shoot, and there is a definite creative-edge advantage to editing with imagination and flair.

But all the right-brain creativity in the world will fall through the cracks if the shooting process lacks left-brain technical prowess and execution or if the edit process is disorganized and inept. Digital Video Hacks by Joshua Paul does a great job of presenting both disciplines for shooting and editing in the easily-digestible format of Hacks. Like other publications in O’Reilly’s Hacks series, the tips, tools, shortcuts, and seasoned pro advice are presented in short blurbs labeled as Hack #1 to Hack #100. Hacks in this context are “quick and dirty” solutions to problems, or clever ways to get things done.

The list of contributors is impressive. The author, Joshua Paul, is an experienced post-production specialist and producer for prime-time network and cable specials. The additional 13 contributors include digital media gurus, computer programmers, technical reporters, digital filmmakers, home automation specialists, a Mac research developer, and assorted multi-talented geeks. DVH is not lacking in experienced advisors and hands-on mediaphiles.

The book is organized into sections that make it easy to find information quickly. Hacks books tend to be most valuable in the middle of a project, when you suddenly want to find out how to do something technical, and need to find it fast.

To this end, aspects of the video process are divided into chapter headings of: Prepare, Light, Acquire, Edit, and Distribute, with a bonus section entitled, Random Fun.

As someone involved in production of corporate videos in a prior life, I was relieved to see that digital video procedures retain the chronological process of analog video. There are of course, new ways to shoot and edit required in the age of DV. Consequently, Digital Video Hacks is invaluable to us “old school” videotape veterans who need to update our media chops in order to join the ranks of digital-knowledgeable young media folks who grew up in a digital world.

Whatever your experience, however, many of the Hacks in the book are clever tricks that could have been utilized in analog videotaping as well. For instance, Hack #19 describes using cheap paper lights for lighting. Hack #38 tells you how to make a 3D video inexpensively. Hack #53 details making your own boom for your microphone.

However, Digital Video Hacks, as the title suggests, was compiled primarily for the digital video world. Hack #64, Remove an Unwanted Object, for example, is purely a digital video edit technique. One nice thing about the book is that it accommodates several editing systems by listing differing step-by-step procedures within a Hack for Avid, Final Cut, Movie Maker, iMovie and Premiere editing. Of course MacHeads will want to see the iMovie or Final Cut commands over those for Avid’s dedicated system or Premiere and Movie Maker in their current Windows- only status.

The variety of Hacks provides a range of instructions that is a grab-bag for DV fans. Stop-action, time-lapse, Matrix-like bullet time, green screen shooting, as well as other tricks are covered, but tips for practical everyday tasks take up most of the ink.

You might be more interested in Hacks that explain how to cover missing audio, smooth over cuts, and replace flubbed dialog. Need to do color correction or soundtrack cleanup? These topics, as well as the geekier content, are all covered. Getting your movie to DVD, streamingvideo, vlog, web interactivity, codec differences, and converting analog video to digital are each individual Hacks.

The O’Reilly Hacks format is a great one for concise explanations, easily located, and written by experts in user-friendly style.

Downsides?
This is not the right book for you if you’re looking for one that analyzes camcorders to help you chose the right one, or if you need a book that recommends one editing software application over another. DVH assumes you have taken care of these decisions and are ready to jump into producing, shooting and editing. Novices and experts alike can benefit from the book. Just pick your Hack of interest and you are off, refining your skills.

Whether left- or right-brain in your approach to digital video, Digital Video Hacks is a good choice to expand your skills and tighten your production schedules.

Review by NCMUG member John Hershey