Monday, 29 September 2014

Tutorial: Creating a Weather Satellite Hurricane Effect in After Effects

When I was asked recently to create a weather radar for a hurricane, I went around online to see if there were any techniques I should use to mock something up. After a bit of research, I ended up going about it a completely new and different way than what I found otherwise. 

So, I thought I would share some tips and techniques to making a cool hurricane weather radar for After Effects in this new tutorial. Subscribe to our channel for more tips like this for production, editing, animation and more, and if you have any other techniques, tips or advice on achieving the weather satellite hurricane effect, I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Monday, 22 September 2014

5 Movies to Watch for Hispanic Heritage Month

In honor of Hispanic Heritage month, which is celebrated September 15th-October 15th, I wanted to write about one of the lesser known -- and perhaps most underrated -- aspects of hispanic culture: its wonderful films and filmmakers.

Below you will find a list of my top 5 recommendations for anyone who is interested in delving into the world of Hispanic film:

1) Hable con Ella

A film by Pedro Almodovar: the eccentric, wonderful, Spanish writer and director. If you've never experienced Almodovar, this is a good film to start with. 

This film follows Benigno Martin and Marco Zuluaga, two men who start off as strangers but become close friends through their strife and tragedy. Benigno is a bubbly character, Marco is a brooding one. They are both in love with women who are stuck in a coma. 

I love this movie because it's unconventional, because it challenges the audience's moral compass and it makes you see the World through the eyes of people whose love is and will remain unrequited. Like most of Almodovar's films, this one left me with and uncomfortable feeling of not wanting to know more but not having had enough. 

2) La Nana 

This film made my list because it gives a glimpse into a world that is so familiar for those of us who grew up with a "nana" like Raquel, and yet so foreign at the same time. The complexity of Raquel's character is usually reserved for her employers, but this film breaks away from the tendency of making maid characters either extremely likable or extremely unnoticeable. 

This is a simple film: few sets, few characters, no impressive shots or special effects. The story is purely driven by Raquel's search for a way to belong, to truly feel comfortable in her own skin, and to finally feel like part of the family. 

The acting by supporting characters isn't spectacular, but Catalina Saavedra and Mariana Loyola as Raquel and Lucy (the maids) more than make up for it. 

3) Matando Cabos 


This movie mad my list because it was the first contemporary Mexican film I ever watched and because it is HI-LARIOUS! This film made me want to leave my Hollywood-movie comfort zone and delve into the world of the more raunchy, contemporary Mexican cinema, and it was worth it. 

Matando Cabos is situational comedy done right. Jaque, the main character, finds himself in a dangerous situation after Mr. Cabos - a most dreaded businessman - catches Jaque in a compromising situation with Cabos' daughter. From then on, things keep getting worse and worse for Jacque and his friend, Mudo; accidental kidnapping, near homicide, run-ins with actual kidnappers and angry, cross-eyed bus drivers, confrontations with a neighbor who owns an obnoxiously loud bird, working with an ex Lucha Libre professional who enjoys the occasional hallucinogen....this and more within the span of one night. THAT is Matando Cabos, directed by Alejandro Lozano. 

4) Valentin 

Valentin is an 8 year old Argentinian boy who is in many ways more of a grown up that the adults around him. He dreams of becoming an astronaut, but most of all, he dreams of having a mom and dad who will stick around.

This movie touches on the topic of family as a group of people who love each other and stay together through thick and thin, and it challenges the notion of family as a group of people who happen to share genetic material. 

Directed by Alejandro Agresti, Valentin is a semi-autobiographical film along the lines of Cinema Paradiso. It's a feel-good movie that will make you shed a reluctant tear or two...or three or four. It's also a movie you will want to watch over and over again, just to catch all the wonderful gems of dialogue that transpire between the perfectly flawed characters. 

5) Después de Lucia  

Out of this list, Despues de Lucia is by far my favorite. It is also the only film that has drawn me into this world so deeply that is took me hours to shake the disappointment, rage and sadness that it left with me. For days after watching this movie, I had to remind myself that Alejandra and her father weren't real, that I didn't personally know them, and that I hadn't been standing helplessly by their side as their lives took an irreparable turn. 

This film could have been written and directed by Steve McQueen. It is riddled with long pauses, slow movement, and lengthy shots that force the audience to truly see what is happening on screen. Every shot, every piece or dialogue serves to yank the audience out of their comfort zone and forces them to see, feel, and live what the characters are going though. 

This film is about what happens when people are pushed past their breaking point and it is not pretty or fair. It just is. 

Have you ever watched any of these movies? How would you rate them? Are there any movies you would add to this list? Let me know in the comments below or tweet us at @swagger_media.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Our Work: Neighbors Emergency Center's "Choices"

This past week, we worked with Spry Creative Group to shoot two new commercials for our client, Neighbors Emergency Center. We had so much fun on set that we began reminiscing about our last commercial shoot with them. Take a look at this Behind The Scenes video we put together for last year's shoot.

We haven't put together our sneak peak for the upcoming commercials yet, but here is a look at some onset magic. 

Getting the wide shot in the children's sized room.

Making goofy faces after "soccer practice".

Sometimes you just need a second look...or a third, forth, or fifth look.

What a lovely neighborhood for a morning stroll.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Setting Up Adobe Creative Cloud Backup

As an editor, I'm always looking for new ways to make sure I have my precious work backed up. Just the thought of losing a project I've spent hours working on is nauseating. Recently, I came across the Adobe Creative Cloud Backup feature in Premiere Pro. By no means should this replace your hard drive backup, but it's a nice tool to use in conjunction with it. 

The Adobe Creative Cloud Backup Tool allows you to save a duplicate version of your project to your creative cloud account, thus making your project accessible anywhere you are. You can feel safe knowing you will always have access to a backup of your project. I have outlined the 3 easy steps below. 

1. Click on "Premiere Pro" in your file menu. 

2. Select "Preferences" from the drop down menu. Then, click on the "Auto Save" option. 

3. Check the box next to "Save backup project to Creative Cloud". Then select "OK". Note: Make sure "Automatically save projects" is checked and saving every 5 minutes. I also recommend setting your "Maximum Project Versions" to at least 50. 

Now you can continue working on your project worry-free because you'll have at least 2 backups! 

What are some recent discoveries you've identified in the latest Adobe release? I would love to hear about them, so comment below! 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Hyperlapse: The Hottest New App You Should Be Using

Time-lapse photography has been a growing passion of mine over the last year. When you string together hundreds or thousands of photos and play them back at 24 frames per second, you can demonstrate the changes that occur over a few hours in a matter of seconds. The new Hyperlapse app from Instagram seems to still be a work in progress, but already I'm very impressed with the result I can get with just three minutes of video. Here are some things I've learned about the app over the past week, some tips and tricks that will hopefully help you get the most out of this great new app.

1. Watch out for your battery life.
This app will suck your battery dry in minutes if you're not careful. I shot about 15 minutes worth of video and drained ~40% of my battery; that's worse than streaming video! Luckily the Hyperlapse doesn't seem to be affected at all by the phone charging while shooting (though if you're shooting longer chunks during hotter months, you may experience some overheating problems). I'm pretty ok with this since, if I'm charging while shooting, I can wrap the cord around something for added stability.

2. Aim for about three minutes of video.
Any time I shoot time-lapse, I aim to produce about 15 seconds worth of end result video. This gives enough tail end on either side of the 5-10 second clip an editor will likely use. But, it also gives me a long enough clip to use if I wanted to combine all my work together into a reel. Three minutes worth of video sped up 6x will produce 30 seconds of video, and sped up 12x will produce 15 seconds. 90% of the Hyperlapses I've shot have looked best at 12x speed, therefore I recommend shooting about three minutes of video.

3. Use a tripod if possible.
If you're shooting a static scene (your camera doesn't move at all) you should try to use a tripod. The app will stabilize your footage for you but this really works best when the camera itself is moving. If you hand hold a static for three minutes you'll just end up with a static shot that kind of bounces around like the logos on old DVD player loading screens. If you don't carry a tripod everywhere you go like I do, you're probably not out of luck. Find yourself a flat surface with something to lean your phone against and you're good to go, just make sure you're close by to snatch your phone if it falls.

4. Try to visualize the end result, not what you're currently seeing.
This can be a difficult thing to do without some practice. As you're setting up your shot, try to think about what the scene will look like three minutes from now an what will have changed in those three minutes. This is critical to a good Hyperlapse because if nothing changes in you shot, you're going to have a relatively boring 15-30 seconds of video. Things like traffic, people, clouds, etc. can all be captured moving fairly quickly in the span of three minutes, so practice with these things first to get the hang of what you can and cannot capture in a short window.

5. Edit your Hyperlapses.
There are dozens of free editing apps in the app store that allow you to trim, crop and adjust your video in many ways that will make it much more interesting than the video straight out of Hyperlapse. You can use Instagram's interface, which I've found is a powerful little editor, or you can use video specific editors, like Videoshop, which will let you combine multiple videos and even add a voice over, music, or sound effects if you'd like.

I'm very excited to continue using Hyperlapse to create some nice looking video. It's simple and very intuitive to use, and while I'd definitely like to see some UI improvements in the future, having the ability to shoot Hyperlapses with my iPhone is truly incredible. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for this app!

Have you used Hyperlapse yet? What has your impression been? Let us know in the comments and tweet your masterpieces to @swagger_media!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Our Work: Uptown Park - Crave Cupcakes

CLIENT: Lewis & Partners, a marketing solution agency representing Houston's premiere shopping center, Uptown Park.

GOAL: Create a :60 video that highlights the careful efforts that go into creating the delicious Crave Cupcakes in Uptown Park.

SPOT: Uptown Park: Crave Cupcakes

Monday, 1 September 2014

How To Add Subtitles To Your Video in 4 Easy Steps

As a bilingual member of the SWAGGER team, subtitling videos has become one of the many editing tasks I get to do, especially when our clients want to broaden their scope to other audiences, like the Hispanic one. Ever since I entered the world of subtitling, I've gathered tips, recommendations and generic, unspoken rules from the web in order to enhance my subtitling skills and, today, I'm ready to share these with you.

So, if you're looking all over the internet for a subtitling guide, you've come to the right place, my dear.

Is your video completely DONE? If your answer is YES, then you're ready for Step 1. Whether you're adding English, Spanish, Portuguese or any other subtitles to your video, the first thing I would recommend is to get a full transcript document. Make sure you transcribe all dialogue, voice overs, and any other audio/text elements involved that you will want to include in your subtitles.

What's the goal of your subtitles? Do you want to do a straight transcription or a translation? Disregard this step if you're adding subtitles using the same language of your video or if what you need to create are closed captions. (I will explain this further in a bit.)

Of course you will need to translate your transcript if the subtitles you're creating are meant to be in a different language, but, here's the catch: You need to be a smart translator. What do I mean by smart? Well, not only do I not recommend relying on Google Translator; but also, when you're translating, please pay attention to the length and timing of the speech in your video. You want to try to fit that exact information in the same or close to the same amount of characters as your transcript. - This will make a lot more sense once you get to it, I swear. 

NOTE: There's a slight difference between 'subtitles' and 'captions'. Subtitles refer to on-screen text, typically used to provide full transcriptions or translations of the dialogue, voice over or audio of an audio-visual piece. Captions are mostly created for hearing impaired viewers, which can be always visible (open captions) or may need to be activated, in order to appear on screen (closed captions). Captions can also include sound information and music symbols. - If you want to learn more about Closed Captioning, check out this great tutorial from Adobe Premiere users. 

I'm a Premier editor, so I would strongly recommend you design, test and create your subtitles using Adobe Premiere's title tools. This way you can test them over your video and adjust them without closing your editing software.

If you're creating your subtitles in Adobe Premiere, simply go to Title > New Title > Default Still.

Adjust your settings according to your video settings (size, frame rate, aspect ratio) and give your first subtitle a name. For example: Subtitle 1.

Then, in your Title Properties window, go to the left panel and grab the Text tool. Now you can start designing and creating your subtitles over the exact frame you're on in your video timeline.

When designing your subtitles, please keep in mind these are made to be easy to read. See my specific design recommendations below:
- Font: I recommend Helvetica (regular or bold), or any other generic font without serifs. Serifs can be hard to follow.
- Color: White subtitles looks classy and clean. But sometimes yellow or black can work well, depending on your background colors.
- Size: I recommend 50-55 pts max.
- Style: Please avoid italic or underlined font. If you want to make the text pop a bit more, you can add a slight drop shadow to it (15%-20%). You can also add an opaque bar behind the text, using the rectangle tool in your left panel. Remember: the simpler, the better.
- Location: Subtitles usually go on the bottom of the frame, but sometimes we can place them at the top to avoid covering important footage or graphics at the bottom. 
Use a couple of lines of your transcript or translated transcript to test your subtitle design over your video. Once you're happy with your design, proceed with creating the subtitles for the rest of your transcript.

TIP: Go to the subtitle file you just created (Subtitle 1) in your project window, right click on it, duplicate it and rename it Subtitle 2. Edit this subtitle with the next line(s) of your transcript and repeat until you finish. This will help you keep consistency throughout all of your subtitles.

Recommendation: Place each subtitle right after creating it, so you can adjust timing and content immediately before going into the next one.

- Break up lines or sentences per statement, not in the middle of a statement, in order to accomplish a smooth read. Look for clauses and use them as a guide. (Fuzzy on independent clauses? No worries. Refresh yourself here.) For example:
She was going to the supermarket
when her dad called her.

She was going to the
supermarket when her dad called her.

 - Time Subtitles according to the speech or audio timing of your video. This is why using almost the same amount of characters during the translation process is so important. 
- Add a 3-4 frame cross dissolve in between each subtitle to make them flow better. 

Once you're done placing and timing all the subtitles on your video, watch it, make sure the pace and timing is not rushed and that the text is perfectly readable. And... that's how you do it! 

Hope this guide was useful for all the editors or avid subtitle creators out there. Now tell me, how do you like to create your subtitles? What software do you use? Do you have any other tips or recommendations that we can add to this guide? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or tweet to us at @Swagger_Media! 

¡Hasta la próxima!