Assignment: Sync external audio

Due February 28 – March 1, as

  • a HandBraked m4v and
  • as an iMovie (we’ll plug your machine directly into the projector)

The basic job is to produce a 2-minute film for which you record the audio with two devices at the same time:

  1. camera (maybe, laptop), recording video and audio
  2. separate device (iPhone/Touch*/Android/second laptop with or without eternal mic), recording just audio

Use a lav mic/boom mic/desk mic or place theclapperboard second device very near the subject to get the best possible audio.

When you’re done, sync the second audio to the video as shown in this YouTube tutorial. She has the subject clap his hands instead of using a clapperboard:

After you have a good sync,  export the new video+audio interview out, then re-import it so that you never lose the sync.

The best results will

  1. be shot at 1080 (maybe), so you can
    1. crop in post for close-ups and medium close-ups, and
    2. use a very slow push in during longish clips
  2. use the Rule of Thirds for framing
    1. with the subject looking at the interviewer, not the camera,
    2. generally with the interviewee facing into the 2/3 section, eyeline across the larger part of the frame
  3. beware of having the subject be too close to a wall behind them – makes them seem trapped/stuck
  4. maybe use green screen, not for stupid effect, but going for “real”
  5. maybe use a camera with a good zoom/telephoto, to shrink the depth of field to the subject’s face +/- a foot or so
  6. edit out the interviewer’s question(s),
    1. ask your interviewee in advance to re-state your question in their answer; if they don’t do it, remind them and ask the question again
  7. have a caption/title in the frame at the beginning of the interview telling us who the person is,
  8. have a mix of shots (mostly close-ups and medium close-ups),
  9. have several edits in the interview
    1. which shows that you’ve figured out how to edit both audio and video and re-sync them,
    2. some of which are covered by b-roll, and
    3. at least one of them covered by a seamless jump cut (!) with a change of framing (e.g, close-up to medium close-up)
  10. have adjusted all audio so that the volume levels are consistent, and
  11. perhaps be interesting or funny (although that’s not the point — your interview can just be dumb, as long as you get the technical stuff right),
  12. have considered the possibility of introducing the interviewee with their words before we see their face, either in a voiceover over black or title or over b-roll,
  13. have quite high production values – the whole thing as “professional” as you can make it look. Not kid stuff. Think through the framing, the background, the lighting.

The assignment is played in iMovie, so we can watch how you did it.

Some of this is covered in this Vimeo about filming an interview.

Last gasp / bellow / bang / whimper

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
— T S Eliot, The Hollow Men

Due for Seniors May 26/27.
Due for Not-Seniors June 9 and 14 (!)

Last big film – choices:

  1. You didn’t do a Major Documentary last quarter, but you still have to do one. You have no choice.
    If left undone, but sound/Foley exercise done, highest grade possible for the semester: D (obvs, no work done: F for quarter)
  2. The default assignment: you make a new I’m-so-proud-of-this-I-could-pop film. It shows off your monster skills at every level, something you could have neither done nor imagined at the beginning of the year. Just wow. Highest grade possible: A 
  3. You take clips out of Blade Runner or Apocalypse Now and assemble a voice-overed video essay exploring/de-bunking
    1. its film noir-ishment
    2. its existentialistness
    3. its ridiculousness/offensiveness/misogynistness/offensiveness/wonderfulness
    4. any statement from a critic
    5. its multiple versions, helping people see the consequences of the differences
      Highest grade possible: A, if really good and well-done and deep and interesting
  4. You’ve got no desire/energy/time to make anything original with a camera, so you make an Amelie-assignment-style voiceover-of-five-minutes of Blade Runner, noting film techniques and their effects. Highest grade possible: B
  5. You want to explore another film, in the style of #3 or #4.
  6. You have a Potentially Great Work that you have made earlier this year but you “ran out of time,” so it needs some tweaking to achieve True Greatnessitude. You explain this to me, and we negotiate what to do. Highest grade possible: A. Likely grade, B
  7. You have an entirely new thing you want to make/try. We talk. You do it. Highest grade possible: A, but we’ll talk.

Assignment: Keep the camera moving + b-roll cutaways

clapperboard 2


  • 2 minute video of a student talking about what they’re going to do after high school, with cutaways that illustrate/comment on what they talk about.

Formal requirements:

  • No audio of “interviewer” – the audio should seem like the subject just happens to be talking about Mt. Ararat and their future.
  • Rule of thirds for framing.
  • At least two video-only cutaways (b-roll), during which the interview audio continues under the cutaway.
  • At least one video + audio cutaway, during which the audio of the interview is not heard.
  • At least one cutaway uses a cross-dissolve (dream? wishful thinking?).
  • Most of the video has the camera in motion – dolly/slider/steadicam. No jumpy/handheld shots.
  • Try a slow push in, in camera or in post.
  • Mix up framing of the interviewee in post – shoot wide enough (medium?) to allow this.
  • No soundtrack music.
  • Title/black and then fade-to-black intro where we hear the person talking before we see them (“J-cut”).
  • Black at end.

If you have an iOS device, it might be time to learn FilmicPro. No matter what camera you use, it might be good to review

  • 4.3 Trimming and slip editing
  • 4.5 Splitting, inserting, and connecting clips
  • 5.4 Using transitions
  • 5.8 Adding cutaways, side-by-side video, and PIP
  • 6.1 Adjusting audio levels and position



Audio / video sync

A solution for syncing separately-recorded audio and video in older versions of iMovie. Newer versions (> 10.1) seem to work fine.

MPEG Streamclip


MPEG Streamclip is a powerful video conversion tool. It has not been updated to work flawlessly with newer versions of OS X. It does, however, convert video to Apple’s ProRes, video format, used widely across the industry, if you have downloaded and installed the Pro Video codecs. This conversion seems to avoid the iMovie audio/video sync bug. File > Export to QuickTime… > Options > Apple ProRes 422 LT

YouTube long take music videos

For an adult ed class I’m going to teach in the spring, please tell me what long take YouTube you used for the YouTube recut assignment. (Adults are not very good at video hunting, and I’d like to give them a list of examples.) If you have suggestions for another film, go ahead and fill out the form twice. And thank you.

Assignment: Montage

Show a lot of things happening at once,
Remind everyone of what’s going on
And with every shot you show a little improvement
To show it all would take too long
That’s called a montage
Oh we want montage

Your assignment: make a montage. There are many definitions/subsets of “montage,” but the one that we’ll use is “a series of very short shots edited into a 3 – 4 minute sequence to condense space (at least 4 locations), time (ostensibly at least 4 hours), and information.”

You’re not necessarily telling a whole story, just making a sequence that shows the passage of time, often with “a little improvement,” as Team America has it, or more generally, just “change.” Something needs to be very different at the end than it was at the beginning.

It may help to imagine the story in which this montage fits, but the only part you need to make is the montage itself. Unless you just have to, use no diegetic sound — unify the whole thing with one piece of music, so you don’t have to deal with editing/syncing audio.

Random ideas: have a twist — set up the idea and then surprise us; do an homage — even copy something shot for shot; use your song as inspiration (c.f., almost any music video); think of your shots as video-only — all audio is the soundtrack; use a film convention (or 2 or 2) as inspiration; learn how to cook; learn how to make something; get better at feeding a baby; get a dog to do a trick; learn how to parallel park; conversely, work at something really hard and fail at it, either comically or tragically…

Have a least two shots you are proud of technically. Check out the conventions page to remind you or some; maybe

  • a tracking shot (with tripod dolly/skateboard/gutter slider/shpping cart/car/motocycle),
  • a rack focus shot,
  • a Steadicam Smoothee shot,
  • a low-angle shot,
  • an aerial shot (GoPro-on-a-stick?),
  • a match cut,
  • a swish pan;
  • etc.

Montages are almost all quick cuts, 30+ per minute, so there should be very few long takes. Note: although maybe 20 seconds can be time lapse / stop motion, the bulk of your piece needs to be a traditional montage.

Please give your final film some ease on both ends — maybe fade from and to black; maybe have credits; please begin and end audio purposefully.

Due date(s): decision/commitment November 26.


Final exam 2014

Understanding Film this year had three goals:

  1. to expand your taste, so that you became an audience for a wider range of films than the blockbusters at Regal Brunswick 10;
  2. to expand your awareness of what goes on in films, so that you see more in what you watch; and
  3. to give you some experience in making films that you could not have made before taking the course.

Write an essay in three sections (2+ ¶s each?) in which you show that you met these three goals. Use lots of specifics, examples, etc., as support in each. In the final section, be sure to refer specifically to your last film (in addition to your other films, if you wish). If you do not have a final film, refer to the other other films you made during the year. In either case, in all answers, throw around as much jargon and film terminology as you can.

Make it look like an essay — name, course, date, double-spaced. Email essay — as an attachment AND copy’n’pasted into the email itself.

This is the end

Last film.

Due May 28 for seniors

Due June 9 for undergrads

4 minutes or more of filmic greatness; exam is written defense of how much you learned this year, as demonstrated by your film — the more detail, the better.