Previous article

APCUG Reports
April-June 2005

Next article Default font size
Large font size
Very Large

Monterey Bay Computer Users’ Group-PC, California
The Birth of the MBUG Video SIG
by Joseph Asling, Video Project Coordinator

The videography section of the Monterey Bay Computer Users’ Group (“MBUG”) came into existence in the summer of 2004 when Publicity Chair and President Elect Carolyn Lake called for volunteers to make an MBUG video. The goal was to produce a television program that would show how MBUG can help computer users on the Monterey Peninsula use and understand their computers better.

Fortuitously, Access Monterey Peninsula (“AMP”), the Public Access TV channel, was instituting a training program for new producers. For a nominal fee, they would teach us the basics of TV program production. We would then qualify to borrow AMP’s equipment for our own projects, the only requirement being that we provide them with material suitable for broadcast on their cable channel.

Three of us volunteered: Joyce Elisha, David Thorp, and me. Including Carolyn, we would be the first MBUG members trained by AMP. Each of us brought different experiences and skills to the group. We all attended four six-hour sessions at AMP, learning the basics of studio and remote camera work, lighting, audio, and computer editing.

AMP’s staff did a superb job of taking inexperienced, often technically challenged neophytes and getting us to where we could check out a video camera and come back with a TV show.

Our next step was to plan the production. As the purpose was to show people what MBUG does, we decided to tape two general meetings and several workshops, plus interviews with MBUG officers and members. We also scripted and staged a discussion group with “members of the community” who talked about the difficulties they were having with their computers.

We used two cameras for every shoot, because we wanted to vary the camera angle to avoid jump cuts (these are visually irritating cuts where the subject’s position changes just enough to make him “jump”). All four of us took our turns as camera operators. Audio was captured, when possible, with lavaliere microphones. A special problem was capturing the output of our video projector, as our workshop teachers like to use a portable computer in their presentations. AMP solved this with a piece of hardware that allowed us to capture the projector’s image directly to tape.

Two months later we had sixteen hours of tape (eight hours of events from two camera angles). How to boil this down to a half hour show? Each member of the team reviewed VHS copies of the uncut material and wrote down the things they thought should or should not be included. From this I developed a “rough cut”.

The interviews with President Ann Mack and News-letter Editor Regina Doyle provided the framework. As an interviewee would mention a particular topic or event, the program would cut to an edited version of that event. This organized the program by subject, rather than just presenting a series of events. The decisions involved in editing are, to me, the most difficult part of production. What to include? How to get around a stammer or misspoken word? How to put several clips from a presentation together so that they make sense?

The four of us reviewed the rough cut together. I played it using the video editing program on my computer (Adobe Premiere) so that revisions could be made on the spot. When the content was satisfactory, I cleaned up the cuts, added dissolves, and made sure the audio wasn’t too loud or too faint. Carolyn designed the end credits: a vertical split screen with the credits on the right half and meeting scenes on the left half. We added some innocuous public domain music at the beginning and the end, and sent the tape to AMP. The program has aired several times in late December and early January. We also have VHS tapes of the program that we can play to community groups.

Our SIG learned that video production requires a significant commitment in terms of time and energy, plus acquisition of knowledge and technical skills—but once you get past the initial confusion, you can make videos at close to professional quality. We are fortunate to have a superior resource in AMP for training, consulting, and equipment, but any group of interested computer users can acquire the necessary skills. (I promise them an enjoyable and challenging experience.)

Computer group members have a real advantage over non-computer users in creating video productions. Every step after taping the footage with a camcorder involves computers: capturing, editing, adding titles and graphics, creating special effects, balancing and sweetening audio. The programs have a significant learning curve (but so do Photoshop and Word!). Just as the “killer app” of the 1990's was the Internet, the “killer app” of this decade is computer manipulation of visual and audio media (indeed, with streaming video and audio, media and the Internet fit together beautifully). Computer groups and users who get involved with video are learning for the future–and having fun, too.