Sunday, February 2, 2014

Behind the Scenes

In my first video for Kriya Yoga Course 4, it appears as if I'm sitting outside in the snow, but I'm actually warm inside and have just superimposed myself onto the frozen lake behind my parents' house. This was accomplished by placing a green screen behind and under me when filming inside and then using software to replace the green with the background image. I purchased a Cowboystudio Chormakey Green 9 x 15 ft Muslin Backdrop for this purpose.

Separately, I went out onto the frozen lake and shot the footage for the background. We had shovelled the snow off part of the lake for the kids to skate on, so this is where I filmed. I'll also mention that I purchased a new Canon VIXIA HF R30 Full HD Camcorder which films at a resolution of 1920 x 1080, which is far superior to my old camera's resolution of 720 x 405.

After filming all of the footage and transferring it onto my computer, I noticed that the playback was very choppy as my old computer couldn't handle the HD picture resolution, so I then had to purchase a new computer too. This was turning into a more expensive venture than I had anticipated, but I was able to find a Lenovo G505s 15.6-Inch Laptop (Black) on sale which was able to play the HD footage smoothly.

I now needed some software that could produce chroma key green screen effects. I had been using the free tool Avidemux for some simple editing of the footage from my old camera, and while it worked great it didn't have a chroma key function. After searching a bit I discovered another free tool called Wax 2.0 which could do the job. Upon trying to load my video footage, it immediately crashed. I eventually figured out it only supported the wmv file format. After converting my footage, and then trying to apply the chroma key effect, it crashed again. I eventually figured out that if I removed the sound from my footage, the tool would finally produce the chroma key effect I was looking for.

It was quite a painful process for just this one function, so in the end I decided to buy PowerDirector 12 Deluxe which works really well, and I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to create more professional looking videos. It supports many file formats, has many special effects features in addition to chroma key, however, I discovered that when I mixed chroma key with fades the end result was a bit choppy. To solve this, I had to create an intermediate video which just applied the chroma key effect, and then used that video to create another video which added the fade in/out effects on scene changes, along with beginning and ending titles. My video footage was now complete.

The soundtrack was another story. Many people had complained to me about the low audio level in my videos, so I was eager to solve this problem. The soundtrack editing and mixing features in PowerDirector are pretty good, but in this case I found a free tool that was even better: Audacity. With just one click of the "Compressor Effect" the audio level in the entire soundtrack was raised to an optimal level without causing clipping.

Finding music for the soundtrack was far easier than I expected. From within PowerDirector I was able to search for sitar music, listen to different samples, then directly add the one I liked to my video. However, mixing the music with my voice was most easily done with Audacity. In this case I used the "Auto Duck Effect" which automatically lowers the music volume level when I'm speaking. I exported the video with the mixed soundtrack to my computer and was quite pleased with the final result.

All I had left to do now was upload my video to YouTube. PowerDirector will do this for you automatically, so I expected this to be a breeze, but my first attempt caused PowerDirector to crash. I suspected I was again trying to have PowerDirector do too many things at the same time, so instead of loading my project file, I imported the finished mp4 video and tried again. This time it looked like everything was working, except it got stuck at 100% complete and eventually spit out an error saying the upload failed. I tried to directly upload my mp4 file, but YouTube complained about that format. Using PowerDirector, I tried converting the file into different formats until wmv finally worked. The quality is not as good as the original mp4, but the video is now finally up at YouTube. Check it out below. I have also made the original mp4 available at Sellfy to download for $0.95.

Lastly, I just wanted to thank everyone that has sent me donations, either here at my blog or at my YouTube channel. I'm currently just collecting the money, but once I have enough I'll set up a non-profit dedicated to spirituality and sustainability. Thank you with all my heart.