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Digital Video Hacks
By Josh Paul
May 2005
More Info

How do these hacks stand up? Comment on a hack from the book by choosing the associated "Discuss" link below. You can also view the code from any of the hacks by clicking on the "Listing" or "Code" links. A number of hacks have been selected to be featured online in their entirety; you may view those hacks by clicking on the hack titles that are linked.

Jump to: Prepare  | Light  | Acquire  | Edit  | Audio  | Effects  | Distribute  | Random Fun

Prepare

HACK
#1

Successfully Complete a Project
Following a series of steps enables you to successfully complete a project, in the least amount of time and at the least expense .
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#2

Keep Your Project Organized
As you continue to edit your project, your timeline will inevitably become more complicated. By following a few organizational rules you will avoid confusing yourself .
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#3

Number Your Tapes
How you number your tapes can have long-term effects.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#4

Black and Code a Tape
You can avoid problems with digitizing your footage by prerecoding timecode on your tapes before you record footage on them .
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#5

Log Using a Spreadsheet
Logging your footage provides you with a searchable reference of your content .
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#6

Create a Digital Storyboard
Using free photo software, a digital camera, paper, and a pencil, you can create a digital storyboard .
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#7

Create a Two-Column Script
Two-column scripts clearly separate the audio and video portions of a scene. This approach provides more detail to help during the preproduction and editing processes .
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#8

Build Your Own Apple Box
Apple boxes—simple wooden boxes, commonly found around television and film sets—can be used for a variety of purposes on any shoot. They're also easy to build .
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#9

Make Your Own Slate
Using a small dry-erase board, you can keep track of your footage visually .
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#10

Control Your Camcorder Remotely
It isn't difficult to control every aspect of your camcorder from some distance away. In fact, you can shoot video without having to touch your camcorder .
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#11

Monitor Your Camera
Knowing what you are recording while you shoot can save you hours, and even days, of frustration and money during the editing process .
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#12

Protect Outdoor Cameras
Build an inexpensive enclosure to protect your outdoor security cameras from the weather .
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#13

Digitize Lots of Footage Quickly
If you have 100 hours of footage to capture and only two days to capture it, using more than one computer to transfer the footage will buy you more time .
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#14

Build Your Own Blue Screen
You can build a large—in this case, 24' x 8'—removable, disposable blue screen for under $30 .
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#15

Stabilize Your Shots
Using a monopod, your video camera, and a 5- to 10-pound weight, you can create your own shot stabilizer .
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#16

Roll Your Own Dolly
A pair of wheels, and a way to roll around on them, can make a great dolly .
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Light

HACK
#17

Compile a Cheap Lighting Kit
Put together a bare-bones, super-cheap lighting package for digital video.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#18

Light with Work Lights
"Work lights" are very bright lights, often 500 to 1000 watts, that are sold in home improvement stores. They make great video lights.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#19

Use Paper Lamps for Lighting
Cheap paper lamps can be used to effectively light a scene.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#20

Add Diffusion to a Camcorder Light
Lighting is an important aspect of capturing good video images, but you need some control over it.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#21

Take Video in Total Darkness
All sorts of interesting things happen in the dark, but how do you take video of them? These tips will help you take video in even the darkest places.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#22

Shoot a Green Screen Image
Successfully shooting a green screen (or blue screen) requires attention to detail.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#23

Shoot Clearly Through a Window
When shooting through a window, images are often blurred or overexposed. But they don't need to be.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#24

Reflect Light from a Shade
Improve your lighting by using a car windshield shade.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#25

Use Clothespins Like a Professional
Clothespins are used throughout the television and film industry to aid in lighting scenarios.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Acquire

HACK
#26

Create a Time-Lapse Video of a Sunset
Compressing a long event into a few seconds can create a wonderful transition.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#27

Mount Your Camera to Your Car
There are some elaborate rigs for attaching a camera to a car. But when it comes to "build versus buy," one product makes building a solution a tough sell.
[Discuss (2) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#28

Slate Your Cuts
Visually track each version of your video.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#29

Transcode a Movie's Codec
Just because you are using one digital video format, that doesn't mean you can't distribute others. By converting from one format to another, you can reach a new audience.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#30

Pantyhose Diffusion Filter for Flattering Portraits
Razor sharp optics are great—unless, that is, you're photographing the love of your life. In those instances, you might want to borrow her pantyhose.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#31

Convert PAL to NTSC
You can shoot on PAL format and then convert to NTSC for richer colors.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#32

Record a Television Screen Without Flicker
If you are shooting a scene in which a television or computer monitor is visible, you might notice a flicker occurring on the screen. You can remove, or at least reduce, the flicker by making a few minor adjustments.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#33

Import Footage from a DVD
Have you ever dreamed of interviewing a Harrison Ford? By importing footage from a DVD, you can have a celebrity take a role in your next movie.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#34

Use HDV for Better DV Quality
Even if you don't plan to release a high-definition project, HDV can provide great-looking results.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#35

Make a Movie Without a Camcorder
Even if you don't have a video camera, you can still make a movie by downloading video footage from the Internet. The Internet Archive web site provides free video you can use to create your next masterpiece.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#36

Freeze Time
Roll your own "bullet time," a la The Matrix.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#37

Convert Analog Video to Digital Video
A media converter will help transfer your old Hi8, VHS, and Beta footage to digital video.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#38

Create a 3D Video
You don't need really expensive equipment to create your own 3D video.
[Discuss (1) | Link to this hack]

Edit

HACK
#39

Digicam Movie Editing Made Easy
Almost all point-and-shoot digicams capture video footage in addition to still photos. But how do your turn those short snippets into your own personal movie?
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#40

Make Videos with Windows Movie Maker
You can make better home movies and other videos with XP's built-in video maker.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#41

Make a Movie Using iMovie
Apple includes its iMovie video-editing application with its computers. You can use it to create movies of almost any length.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#42

Rotate Your Movie from Horizontal to Vertical
Who says you have to shoot all your movies horizontally? Just as with stills, sometimes it's fun to turn the camera on its side. But when you upload your movies to your computer, they're turned the wrong way! Here's how to fix that.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#43

Create a Submaster for Editing

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#44

Use a Television to Avoid Surprises
A computer monitor doesn't operate in the same way as a television. When editing, if you use only a monitor, you might get a few surprises when you watch your project on a TV.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#45

Convert a Closed Caption File to a Script
If you've closed captioned your project, you can use a small amount of Perl code to extract a script for others to read.
The Code
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#46

Make a Tough Cut Easy on Your Viewers
Whether you're working from a single source or multiple sources of video, occasionally an edit "feels" wrong. Using a simple editing technique, you can help an edit become less jarring—or even unnoticeable.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#47

Create an Interactive Video Catalog
We've all seen dramatizations of, or heard about, the day when you could be watching a television show and click on an actor's shirt to find out about it or even buy it. That day is today.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#48

Fix Timecode Problems on an Existing Tape
Broken timecode will cause you headaches in the long run. Fix it early or invest in Excedrin.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#49

Add Bookmarks to Your Movie
Both QuickTime and Windows Media have a feature to allow viewers to jump to specific points in a video. Using this feature, you can create a casting reel for your movie.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#50

Create Faster DVD Navigation
Navigating DVD menus doesn't have to be slow and tedious. You can use a simple setting in your authoring software to speed up the next/previous page actions.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Audio

HACK
#51

Mobile Audio Booth
You've probably got a perfectly good sound booth at your house, and you don't even know it.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#52

Reduce a Microphone's Wind Noise
Microphones are designed to pick up sound, but some sounds, such as wind, are unwelcome guests. A windsock can help reduce the sound of wind as it blows past a microphone.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#53

Make Your Own Boom
To capture better audio than that offered by your camera, you'll need a long pole and a decent microphone.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#54

Export Your Audio for Mixing
Using an application designed specifically for audio, such as Pro Tools, can make a tremendous difference in how your audio sounds. But first, you need to get your audio to your mixing system.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#55

Cover Missing Audio with Room Tone
Sometimes, such as when a crewmember sneezes, you need to eliminate audio completely, but missing audio is immediately noticeable, even to those who have an untrained ear. Capturing "room tone" helps remedy this problem.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#56

Make Your Audio Sound Better
Audio might take up only a small section of the audiovisual signal, but it has substantial impact on how your audience perceives your project.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#57

Fool Your Audience's Perception
What you hear isn't always what you see.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#58

Get Music for Free
Music is one of the most important aspects of a movie. If you know what you are doing, you can get great music for free. Sometimes you can even get someone else to pay the artists who provide it!
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#59

Wrangle Your Music and Sound Library
Using Apple's iTunes, you can create a complete digital library of your music and sound effects.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#60

Cut to the Beat of Your Music
Whether editing a music video, your friend's wedding, or the next great action movie, music is a tremendous addition to help set the mood for a scene. If you can cut to the beat of the music, your scene will benefit even more.
[Discuss (1) | Link to this hack]

Effects

HACK
#61

Give Your Video a "Film Look"
You can get that expensive film look, even when using digital video.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#62

Make Your Own Weather Report
As the famous song says, "I don't care what the weatherman says/When the weatherman says it's raining/You'll never hear me complaining," because it's easy to create your own weather reports.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#63

Zoom In from a Satellite
Use a series of satellite images to establish a location.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#64

Remove an Unwanted Object
Sometimes objects, such as boom microphones, briefly appear in your raw footage. Here's how to get rid of them.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#65

Create an Invert Effect Using Movie Maker
Windows Movie Maker includes an invert effect that isn't really available for use. Here's how you can get it out of the depths of Movie Maker and into your project.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#66

Turn Video into Matrix-Style Symbols
The Matrix Trilogy was a pop-culture phenomenon. The streaming green text symbols that appeared in the movie slowly found their way into screensavers, web sites, and even on T-shirts. Here's a way you can watch almost any digital video in a similar way.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#67

Create a Surreal Scene
Using a layering technique, place people "inside" a surreal environment, such as a dream sequence.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#68

Change a Scene from Day to Night
Using color-correction tools, you can make a scene that was shot during the day look like it was shot at night.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#69

Create a Credit Flag
Most digital video software enables you to easily create text on screen. Some are even quite advanced and can create really cool titles. But sometimes, a more rudimentary approach can yield equally impressive results.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#70

Composite a Green Screen Image
Green-screen compositing allows you to create Hollywood-style effects.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#71

Create a Shadow for a Green Screen Image
Compositing someone or something into a scene is an accomplishment. But to make it believable, you might need to add a shadow.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#72

Alternate Endings Based on the Time of Day
An alternate ending is merely a different ending to a movie, as opposed to the one shown in the official release. Using some of the hidden features in QuickTime, available through Totally Hip's LiveStage Pro, you can provide an alternate ending to your movie based on the time the viewer is watching it.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#73

Alter a Video's Look After Editing
Even if you've completed editing your video, you can still alter its appearance.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#74

Expose Only One Color
The movies "Pleasantville" and "Shindler's List" have scenes that appear in black and white while exposing one color, such as red. You don't need a big budget to use this effect in your movies.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Distribute

HACK
#75

Make a Window Burn Copy
If you want to make notes on your edit, it is best to make them while you're away from your editing system. Creating a window burn allows you to do so.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#76

Skin Your Movie
Delivering a completed movie is an accomplishment. If you are distributing your movie online, you can get people to remember your movie from the others by wrapping it in a "skin"—a unique interface that will become a part of your video.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#77

Determine Which Codec to Use
Knowing how you plan to use or distribute your video will help determine which codec you should use.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#78

Play a Movie Off a CD in a DVD Player
DVD media is expensive. CD media is cheap. By compressing your movie using the MPEG-1 codec, you can burn your movie to a CD while still being able to play it in a DVD player.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#79

Distribute Your Movie on DVD
Burn your digital video to a DVD and play it in a standalone player.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#80

Stream a DVD
You can stream a DVD to one or more people, across the Internet.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#81

Vlog Your Life
Web logs, also known as blogs, are text-oriented web sites people that update on a daily or semiregular basis. Vlogs are the same concept, only they are video-oriented.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#82

Host Your Video on a Web Site
Putting your video onto a web site is a fun and easy way to distribute it.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#83

Encode a Video to Stream on the Internet
Video files tend to be quite large, even when compressed, and can take a long time to download. By streaming a video, your viewers can get near-instant satisfaction.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#84

Take Donations via PayPal
Make your video open a web page that accepts donations.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#85

Set Up an Internet Television Station
Using the free Darwin Streaming Server, create an Internet TV station, complete with a schedule.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#86

Use BitTorrent to Distribute Your Video
Use BitTorrent to Distribute Your Video Using BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer network application, you can have other people distribute your movie for you.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#87

Attend a Conference from Another Location
Sometimes you just can't make it to a meeting, a conference, or a lecture. Using Darwin Streaming Server and QuickTime Broadcaster, you can watch the action from a remote location.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#88

Play Your Video on a Pocket PC
If you own a Pocket PC computer, whether it's a cell phone or an organizer, you can carry and play your videos anywhere.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#89

Play Your Movie on a Cell Phone
Some cellular phones allow you to watch video on their tiny screens. Here's how you can convert videos from your computer and play them on your cell phone.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Random Fun

HACK
#90

Record a Streaming Video
VCRs and PVRs have enabled us to record live video content. Using an application called VLC, you can do the same with streaming video.
[Discuss (4) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#91

Create a Movie Using LEGOs
Using stop-motion software and LEGOs, you can create a movie on a very low budget.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#92

See Through Walls
A portable wireless video camera, combined with a portable TV, provides remote viewing for times when you really could use an extra set of eyes.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#93

Rental-Car Tips and Other Auto Hacks
A video camera can help you prove that you didn't put those dents in a rental car. And if you do get in an accident, it can document what really happened.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#94

Save Your Presentations to DVD
With a little forethought, you can save your business presentations to DVD, as well as offer them online.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#95

Watch TV on a Palm Pilot
Transfer prerecorded television shows, or any video, to a Palm Pilot.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#96

Back Up Your Computer to a DV Tape
Digital videotape records digital information to create audio and video. But the data doesn't have to be audio and video.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#97

Play "Movies" on an iPod photo
I picked up an iPod photo the other day, and most observers have asked me, "Can that thing play movies?" The short answer is no—only music and photos—but the longer answer is "sorta, but not really anything worth calling a movie."
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#98

Inventory Your Home
Your home is filled with your possessions, and most of them are valuable or priceless. Using your video camera, you can inventory your home quickly.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#99

Capture Life's Little Moments with Camera-Phone Video
No, you're not going to record camera-phone video of your son's entire graduation ceremony. But you might catch him receiving his diploma.
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#100

Weekend Project: Create a Documentary
Using free footage and still photos from the Internet Archive, and a little creativity, you can make an historical documentary worthy of PBS.
[Discuss (1) | Link to this hack]


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