Friday, December 18, 2009

Local tie-ins to Ken Burns' "National Parks"

After my volunteer work on the Doctor Who project wrapped, the next episode of KTEH's "This Is Us" was crunching just a little. Everything was shot, but now there was a stack of segments piled up in the edit room at KTEH. I was asked to edit two of the packages, working as a paid freelance editor this time.

First was the story of Betty Soskin. There was a good amount of new video, plenty of HD-sized pictures and some bits of SD archive video. Also, the writer was a pro who knew how to hand off a script with all the music cues marked and the stills numbered. Always a nice thing when you're editing something you didn't produce yourself.

The story of the Buffalo Soldiers was a little more challenging. The pictures were just too small for HD. There were over a hundred of them, though, so there was a workable solution. I went to KTEH for two days and didn't touch the Avid. I sat at Photoshop and constructed scenes by layering pictures on top of one another. I became good friends with Magic Lasso selector and Soft Erase brush that week.

The weekends that I was working on these two packages was probably the highlight of the year for me. My full-time job is for a great company, but it isn't a media company. It feels good to be in an environment where everybody is a media maker and speaking the same language.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Doctor Who project at KTEH

Sorry, no updates for a while... I was finally finishing all the "How Who Are You?" videos for KTEH. This was a six month project that was produced by Stacy Bond and Becca King Reed. The goal was to interact with the Doctor Who fans in KTEH's audience by having a video competition that would allow the winner to host several evenings of Doctor Who on KTEH. Behind the scenes photos and essays can be viewed at:

It began with a sample "home made" video that would accompany the contest announcement email. This was to serve as an example that the participant's submission didn't have to be a professional video.

Next was an on-air :30 promo for the contest to air on KTEH. It can be seen from 2:00 to 2:30 in this Doctor Who pledge break appearance, which also promoted the competition.

The competition ran for a few months and there were nine qualified entries. These were edited into three 5:00 promo reels that ran on-air for six weeks to encourage voting.

After viewers chose their favorite, a date was set for the studio shoot with the winners. They did the wraps live to tape, and also passed-off some field tapes they had shot. There were a total of eight studio segments and three field packages to edit.

The whole project was a lot of fun for me to work on, as a fan of both PBS and Doctor Who. The commitment of the winning fans and their in-studio guests was unbelievable and it was a completion of a circle for me. I first started watching Doctor Who on the PBS channel from Ohio University in 1985 and it was one of the things that influenced me to pick a career in TV production.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Getting Granicus captions onto YouTube.

If you are captioning your live meetings and also using Granicus, you can put those captions on your YouTube page. You will need to download the .sami format captions from Granicus, then convert them to .srt format using the free Subtitle Workshop program, then upload to your YouTube page. This process was put together by Tom Loftus at SFGTV. The free Subtitle Workshop program is only available for Windows.

On Granicus: log into your account, go to the Archives tab, find your video and click to highlight it green. Click the "edit" button at the top of the window. When the new page loads for that video, click on the green "Captions" tab. You'll need to now scroll down slightly, so that you can see the radio button to choose Download. Click the "Go!" button.
You should have a windows pop-up and you'll choose to Save File and click "Okay." You should have a new file on your desktop called captions.sami with an unassociated file icon.

You can close Granicus and go to to download Subtitle Workshop. Under the Downloads tab, the current version is: Subtitle Workshop 4 BETA 4. Install the program and open it.

In SubWork, go to: File, Load Subtitle and open the .sami file from Granicus. It should open a spreadsheet with the IN/OUT times and single lines of captioning. If you click on any cell of caption text, it will appear in the bottom panel of SubWork. You can do text editing there, for spelling corrections or homonym mistakes.

Your SHOW/HIDE times are probably delayed by about four seconds, if you're using an off-site captioning service for your meeting coverage. Click in the first row of text. Now go to: Edit, Timings, Set Delay. A new window will pop up. You can choose to "+/-" your times by "HRS:MINS:SECS,milliseconds" but you probably want to change the SECS which are in front of the comma.

You should go to your YouTube video now and log in. Find the video you want to caption and click the Edit button. In the new window, there will be four tabs. Choose "Captions and Subtitles". In this window, find the correct time that you want the captioning to start.

Back in SubWork, you can now add or subtract a few seconds, select "For All the Subtitles" and Apply it. Don't worry about the milliseconds. Your captions will tend to float ahead or behind the actual speech, the same way that the captioning lag varies in real-time. You could go through and correct every line of your SubWork spreadsheet, but it will be extremely tedious for any spot longer than 60 seconds.

When you're done editing the text, go to: File, Save As... In the new pop-up, you'll need to scroll down to the SUBRIP (.srt) icon and double-click it. Rename and save the new file. You can close Subtitle Workshop.

On your YouTube Captions and Subtitles page, Browse for the .srt caption file you just made. You should probably name it "English" or "English subtitles available". Then select English in the Track Language drop-down. Upload the file. The caption option won't appear immediately, but should be available on your video in less than a minute. Go back to your main YouTube page to check it.

Single-line captions can be hard to read during playback. If you want double-line captions, you can open your .srt file again in Subtitle Workshop. Highlight two lines of text, then keystroke Ctrl+K (or navigate Edit, Subtitles, Combine Subtitles). You will have to do this for every two lines of text. An average video can have 200 line entries for ten minutes of speech. The repetitive process of selecting two lines and Ctrl+K (combining them) can be automated by using a free keystroke macro program like AutoHotkey.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Please, allow me to contradict myself.

A few months ago, I was questioning some panelist's advice to "work for free" to advance your career. Too much free camera work or editing would devalue the services offered by camera ops and editors.

Except I really wanted to attend the SCAN NATOA conference in Santa Monica, coming up in May. I have a few videos entered into the competition and I'm also interested in being seen by some SoCal stations (in case I need to move to Los Angeles for career advancement).

The City isn't funding conference attendance this year, due to budget cuts. The only way to attend the conference for free is to be a speaker. So I sent a cold-call email to one of the organizers and sold myself as being knowledgeable on the subject of online video distribution. During the past month, I've been setting up the official SFGTV pages on YouTube for our different TV series. I had to make a plan for distribution, learn page layout settings and spend hours and hours comparing the look of compressed video on YouTube. I've been putting my own videos on YouTube for two years, but the standards have recently changed and the old settings aren't the best choice anymore. In addition to YouTube, I've also been comparing other online video sharing sites. Some of them have special features that would work well for educational and How-To programming. Some of them have no special draw, except that they rank well in Google search results.

By speaking at the panel in exchange for free admission, I've decided to do some free labor to bootstrap myself professionally.

And then I did it again.

The San Francisco MusicTech conference is also happening in May. The topics are interesting to me, but not $300 worth of interesting. They don't directly relate to my career, except that these events often help as sideways advice six months from now. So again I made the cold-call email to the organizer. This time I offered to crew the video production in exchange for admission. From last year's videos, it looked they could use an extra hand. And again, my offer worked.

I'm working for free and devaluing the TV production business.

I guess you could look at it that way. I'm thinking about it as being paid in terms of education and exposure. Basically, the same things I was skeptical about last time. The difference for me is that I'm doing it on another level. If I did straight labor for free, then yes, I'd be ripping myself off at this point in my career. But I'm moving past straight labor. I'm entering knowledge worker territory. Look out!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

There's No Business Like...

I'm not sure what is going on in the world of media production these days, but it doesn't seem good (at least for people trying to pay the rent from production work).

This year's NATAS panel at the annual Snader equipment show was about Job Hunting. After seven years of HD panels, the number one topic is jobs. Going into the meeting, I was expecting a room of recent college graduates. Instead, it was filled with dozens of people who have over 10 years experience working in production. As usual, the NATAS panelists were a combination of out-of-touch, slightly unrealistic and sometimes hypocritical comments. I love 'em, but very few times do I get an "ah-ha!" feeling from something I'm exposed to at a NATAS event.

There was some good career advice about the value of knowing everything and not being pigeoned as just Audio, or just Editing. There were also some blasts at the broadcast unions. Unfortunately, the natural extension of this advice is a vast pool of widely qualified job-seekers who will work for any money or even no money. This pool will de-value the entire ecosystem by undercutting each other in an environment without minimum standards of pay or work conditions. I understand what the panelists were saying to the individuals in the audience, but when you scale it up into the thousands of people looking to make media, it falls apart. Everybody starves.

After attending the traditional big money media event of the Snader show, I went to the Disposable Film Festival panel later the same week. Two dozen enthusiasts were having an open discussion of their concerns and issues about making media with disposable media tools. The odd part was how much they sounded exactly like the From Here To Awesome participants from last summer. The distance from Disposable Filmmaker to Independent Filmmaker is about two or three feet. I could hear the sound of grinding gears as these people tried to figure out if there was any way to make some money off of what they were doing.

I actually think the Disposable crowd may be in the best position to have a balanced life. They have Regular Jobs and they make media for fun. They are still enthusiastic and creative in their approach to their hobby and they can still pay the rent on time through their nine to five. I understand the emotional urge to go into production as a full time occupation. After seeing the older NATAS crowd, I'm just not sure I can recommend media as a sensible career choice for everybody.

Hopefully everything changes in a few years. The economy recovers to the point where it can support more media production again. In the meantime, the disposable filmmakers will be two years more experienced in their hobby. There might not be as much call for "Professionals" anymore.