One man and a teleprompter – part 3

This is part 3 in a series by guest author Gary Elley. Armed only with our teleprompter, Gary set out to produce his first video DVD without any outside assistance. This is the story behind the rest of the tech required to bring the project to fruition.

Aside from my trusty PromptDog teleprompter, software used on this project included:

  1. DV Rack 2.0 HD
  2. Cineform Neoscene
  3. ULTRA 2
  4. Sony Vegas Pro
  5. Veggie Toolkit
  6. MS Powerpoint
  7. Ovation
  8. Fraps
  9. Camtasia
  10. DVD Architect
  11. Macromedia Flash

Here's how each program fitted into the workflow:

    • DV Rack 2.0 HDTo my mind, DV Rack is one of those 'must have' programs if you want to undertake a project like the AdWords video. While it has many great video monitoring and recording features, three stand out as particularly useful in this context:
      • DV Rack waveform monitor The waveform monitor is a tremendous help when lighting your green screen. What you're looking for is a straight horizontal line. When you get that, or as close to it as you can, you know your screen is evenly lit. Easy.TIP: Turn your talent lighting off while setting up the lighting for your screen.
      • DV Rack vectorscopeLikewise, the vectorscope will tell you the level of color saturation in the image being recorded by the camera. The idea is that the green screen should be highly saturated. The closer the signal gets to the outside edge of the vectorscope circle, the higher the saturation level.In my case, it only reached about two thirds the way to the circle, but that was enough to pull a good key.
      • The third must-have feature is 'direct-to-disk' recording. By connecting the camera to my PC, I could capture video direct to the hard drive and then great playback controls allow instant shot review via the DV Rack monitorDV Rack monitorDV Rack has a 'slave' mode which allows you to control proceedings via the camera remote, but I found it easier to set up a keyspan remote to control DV Rack directly. Either way, remote control alows a one man operation to record multiple takes direct to disk without moving from the presenter's mark.
        I guess the advent of cameras with built-in hard drives may change the landscape in this respect for shorter productions, but this setup worked well for me.
    • I purchased DV Rack as a stand-alone program from Serious Magic. However, Serious Magic was bought out by Adobe and DV Rack is now marketed under the brand name OnLocation as a component of Adobe Creative Suite.
      The good news is that you may well be able to buy it as a stand-alone item on eBay for some time to come.
    • Cineform NeosceneCineform Neoscene is an intermediate codec that is used to ease the load on the processor when editing HDV. Sony Vegas (my editing software) has improved handling of native format HDV significantly since version 7.0 release, but Cineform comes into it's own once you load a Vegas project up with color correction filters, masks, transitions and the like.
    • ULTRA 2Serious Magic Ultra compositing softwareULTRA is where the chromakeying magic happens. Like DV Rack, this program is now only available new as part of the Adobe Creative Suite bundle, but I've also seen it for sale on eBay as a stand alone item.
      ULTRA is not hard to use (in fact it can be lightning-fast once you set up a template project) . . . but like all software, you need to know-how.
      I'd recommend you get yourself a copy of the training DVD produced by Karl Soule at Serious Magic on this program. Not only is it a great example of how to use Camtasia for software training purposes, it will definitely cut down the learning curve.
    • Sony Vegas ProI used Sony Vegas Pro to edit this project.
      If I had to pick one Vegas feature I liked the most, it would have to be project nesting. Nesting allows you to add an existing Vegas project (.veg) to the timeline and edit it in the same way you would any standard piece of media.
      That means you can edit your project in bite-sized chunks . . . and then assemble those chunks in a master project before rendering. That's exactly what I did with the AdWords project. In fact, I broke every chapter down into segments and then rendered each chapter from a master project compiled by nesting those sub-segments.
      One tip to remember when nesting . . . keep the project properties of .veg files to be nested (in a master project) in their native media format.
      So if you are dealing with HDV media, for example, the sub-segment project files should remain as 1280x720 or 1440x1080, as the case may be. Only change the project properties and render format (to 720x480 for example) when you get to the master project level. If you don't use this workflow, you'll get horrible results and wonder why!
    • Veggie ToolkitI only need 2 words to tell you why you need to own this fantastic tool if you edit with Vegas . . . batch rendering.
    • Powerpoint and OvationAside from screen captures made with Camtasia (see below) the graphics used in the AdWords project were mostly made with Microsoft Powerpoint treated with a secret sauce . . . Ovation (by Serious Magic yet again).
      Animated Powerpoint slide via Ovation
      Ovation silde overlaid with graphic in Sony Vegas
      Ovation treated slides used as B source input in Ultra compositing software

      For example, image 19 above is a regular Powerpoint slide imported to Ovation where it was treated with a motion background, high-resolution text, and TV-style transitions.
      Unfortunately, Ovation is still very much a work in progress and development under new owner Adobe has apparently been put on the back burner. It doesn't do a very good job importing graphics for example, so to get the result in image 20 above I used the basic Ovation background and overlaid the funnel graphic in Vegas as a transparent .png
      Despite good intentions, the developers at Serious Magic also never got around to offering .avi as an output format before the Adobe purchase, so myself and others used Fraps ($37 from to record out of Ovation for input to ULTRA and Vegas. (We tried using Camtasia but nobody could get it to work for some reason).
      For slides with transitions, I found that I could slash the file size by transcoding the Fraps .avi to Huffyuv format (using Veggie Toolkit) in a lossless conversion.
      Once recorded out of Ovation, graphics that were once simple Powerpoint slides could then be used as 'B Source' input (as either stills or video) to ULTRA during the keying process. The result can be seen as image 21 above.
      The graphics turned out well, but it's not a workflow I'd use again for such a large project. Much too laborious. Next time I'll either use the upgraded titling feature in Vegas 8 or look at using a Windows Vista generation presentation product like Standout and shoot live transitions in a real OTS (over the shoulder) monitor.
    • Camtasia

Find out everything you need to know about getting software screen capture videos onto TV and DVD with Camtasia by purchasing a copy of Bill Myers' great DVD guide on the subject.

  • Macromedia Flash 8The AdWords video posted on my site was encoded with Macromedia Flash 8, but you could get the same result using Flix Pro.
    The media player is FLV Player by Proxus, the video is hosted by Amazon's S3 service, and the feed was encrypted with Bill Myer's free video code protector (although that probably wasn't necessary).

Final Thoughts

Anyway, there you have it. If all this sounds too hard, then it probably is. But if you're intent on creating some King Kong sized chromakey magic of your own, I hope you find these tips of some use.

Just try to remember one thing . . . your most valuable commodity is time.

Gary Elley


You can read part 1 of this series here and part 2 here.