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Bad Music = Bad Video & How To Beat the Shakes

I attended a workshop tour put on by David Ziser a few days before my first DSLR arrived, and he got me hooked on hybrid slideshows. I used to use Animoto to make these, and more recently I prefer ProShow Web, but I also like to make my own productions using Photoshop (Richard Harrington has a good introduction for video in Photoshop right here). These hybrid slideshows are always a win for weddings and family and senior portrait clients, but I also make them for some non-profit clients. The thing is, nothing is more moving than powerful imagery coupled with powerful music. Conversely, nothing makes a video harder to watch than jerky camera movement. I made a video to feature each member of one of the boats of the men’s rowing team, and I think it’s a good one to demonstrate the power of music, and also offer a tip to beat the camera shakes.

Audio is Half the Picture

What I’d like to demonstrate is the difference between using great music and free music for a slideshow. I found a terrific song, On Top Of The World by Imagine Dragons, on Songfreedom. I found several other excellent choices there, too. In the past, I’ve tried to save money by finding royalty free music, and there are several sites to find this kind of music. The trouble with the free music is, I find myself choosing between several mediocre songs–choosing the one that is the least bad. Mediocre is not a word I want associated with my work. On Songfreedom I find the same music that’s in my own library, plus loads of other well produced Indie songs, sound tracks, and scores, and I can buy a license to use them legally. On the royalty free sites, I find music that sounds like I didn’t pay for it.

I made this video to feature each of the members of the Men’s Rowing team. Compare these two videos–the only difference is the music…I can barely make it through the second one!

Brace yourself…this one is hard to view. It really is true that half of video is audio.

The Other Half Has to be Watchable

I shot all the photographs and video above from the bow of a small motor boat, which is probably the worst place to shoot video. It was bouncing and shaking all over the place, and viewers can’t bear watching shaky video. Video editing software often includes shake reduction tools, but the result is a cropped video, which is probably a lower quality image than you’d like. To make matters worse, I used two telephoto lenses to film, which exaggerate camera movement even more. (I used the Panasonic GH4 with the Leica Nocticron and the Olympus 75mm f/1.8)

In order to counter the serious camera shake, I switched the camera to shoot in slow motion. At 96 frames per second, those bumps get a lot smoother! Using that fast frame rate extends each bump so it’s not so sudden. The results are much better than the staccato motion I’d get at normal frame rates.

Even mobile phones have slow motion features, and they really help solve this camera movement problem. If your camera doesn’t have a high frame rate option, then you may be able to slow down your footage in post production. It can be done in Photoshop, and all the other apps I’ve ever tried, including older versions of iMovie. It doesn’t look as good as shooting the video in slow motion, but it may look better than jerky camera movement.

Conclusion

Poor music and shaky footage make a video practically unwatchable. I thought about cutting a version of the above slideshow with both the bad music and shaky video…but I couldn’t stomach it! Check out Songfreedom and I know you’ll find music that makes your video better–heck, you can even try a watermarked version of the song to see if it fits–and try shooting at a fast frame rate to smooth out the camera shakes. You’ll end up with a more viewable video. As I keep practicing, I hope my video stories become more worth watching, too ;)

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