Fixing it in post

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Macworld secured a nice little scoop the other day— a first look at Adobe Photoshop CS3 beta along with an exclusive video interview between Macworld’s Editorial Director, Jason Snell, and Photoshop’s senior product manager, John Nack.

As host of Macworld’s video podcasts, it was my job to not only supply the intro and outro bits, but assemble the stuff in between. As Jason handed the material over he casually mentioned, “Oh, in the interview the camera is off a little bit, leaving too much space on one side. Anything you can do to fix that?”

After rejecting the idea of building a time machine, dashing back to the day before, and ensuring that the interview subjects appeared in the center of the viewfinder, I considered another couple of options.

Should worse come to worse, I could launch the movie in QuickTime Player and use Ambrosia’s SnapzPro X 2 to capture both the audio and video, making sure my selection cut off the extraneous material on the right side. But making a movie of a movie seemed a little cheesy.

The other option was to cross fingers and hope that the fine folks at GeeThree had devised an iMovie video effect that could crop and scale the video. Scrolling through my ten-volume collection of Slick Transitions & Effects I found exactly what I needed—the aptly named Scale & Crop from Volume X of the collection. Calling up the effect, I clicked the Configure button, chose NTSC 4:3 in the Cropping pop-up menu (to maintain the 4:3 aspect ratio we use in the video), scaled up the image a couple of notches, and then shifted the image to the right so that Mr. Nack appeared in the center of the frame.

The video required a couple of other fixes that allowed me to use one of my favorite tricks. At the end of the interview, Nack did exactly what everyone else on earth does when they’ve finished an interview and are slightly uncomfortable on camera—he shifted his eyes down and then left and right. This is the universal sign for “Okay, we’re done, I wish you’d turn that damned thing off.” It’s a completely natural thing to do, but it looks unnatural in a video. When those in the know finish an interview like this, they plaster a half smile on their mug and hold it for five seconds. This gives the editor a little breathing room before the edit to the next scene.

Because I next needed to shift back to a clip of me introducing the next segment I wanted a transition less abrupt than a quick cut—a fade was what I was after but I didn’t have enough material at the end of the interview to impose one without fading out while he was speaking.

So I created some.

I did this by cropping the end of the interview at the point just before Nack looks down. Placing the playhead at that final frame of the interview I chose Edit -> Create Still Frame. This placed a still image of that frame in iMovie’s clip bin. I then dragged the still into iMovie’s timeline and shortened it to around a second. This gave me the extra material I needed to fade out. If you look at the video with this technique in mind you’ll see that it does look a little unnatural that John freezes at the end, but quickly cutting away from him to me would have been worse.

I used the same technique when splicing together Jason’s individual demo captures. He didn’t leave much room at either end of the clips he sent and I wanted to be sure that viewers understood that each clip was a separate entity—again, a fade nicely conveys that impression where a quick cut might not.

Same idea. Create a still from the last frame of the segment, drag the still into the timeline, resize it, and impose the fade.

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