I’ve been super-mad-busy in the past week following my adventures filming exhibition stand interviews at BVE at Excel in London on 25th Feb. This morning I finished editing the last of 11 short films that have now been uploaded to YouTube and Vimeo – and the viewing figures have started to go ballistic!
Whilst it’s not unusual for a video production company to be involved in filming exhibition stand interviews, this particular project was self-generated, self-presented and funded through me selling the service to my old industry contacts who were exhibiting at the event. Essentially, they pay me a modest fee (cough) and I shoot a quick interview with them at the event and then share the film through my various online channels and connections.
My Interview Theme – BVE for the Videographer
BVE is predominantly a broadcast event but it also encapsulates an element of professional videography. Whilst there’s a lot of video content already created by the guys at TVBay who are there every year filming exhibition stand interviews the emphasis of these is really on the broadcast audience. My idea was to create content squarely aimed at the professional videographer.
This is one of the very few occasions where I’ve tapped into and profited from my past life as the IOV’s (Institute of Videography) Executive Administrator. Having spent 17-years in that role I’d obviously built up a long list of contacts amongst the manufacturers and dealers – so why not? I’ve also maintained a reasonably high profile in this part of the industry too through writing articles and reviews for various publications – as well as gathering a reasonable following for this blog and my social media channels.
The IOV’s executive committee also agreed to help me by sharing the content through their IOV News Stream channel on their website – which in turn gave them some video content to share via their IOVTV channel too. I’d like to think therefore that everyone was a winner!
The IOV also got an additional bonus as the guys at TVBay asked me to gather a panel of videographers together on the second day of BVE for a live chat show presentation from their Broadcast Show studio on the exhibition floor. Within that session, amongst other interesting stuff, my panel members shared their views on the value of being a member of the IOV. The program is 30-minutes long, but it’s time well spent if you are interested in hearing how other people do things in videography. Please note, you’ll have to turn the volume up to hear it properly (unless they’ve corrected it now!!!)
The challenges of filming exhibition stand interviews
Filming exhibition stand interviews is never easy as you don’t have time nor space for niceties such as lighting or crowd control. The H&S guys are pretty strict on that sort of thing at exhibitions. The interviewees, whilst obviously interested in me ending up with something that works for them, are really there to deal with the many customers that have come to see their new wares. Whilst booking a timeslot helps you to manage your time, in the real-world environment of a show these times can slip as events take over and you have to grab your opportunities as they arise. I say this as not all the interviews are as technically perfect as I’d like but, given the conditions and time allowed, the content should soon outweigh any shortcomings in picture quality and composition. I might be underselling them a little here but please don’t expect to see anything near to the usual end results of our other corporate work.
If you missed the individual releases of the interviews, here’s a list along with a brief intro of the contents. They can also be seen on my Vimeo and YouTube channels and are presently featured on IOVTV.
AKM Music – WATCH NOW!
An interview with Anthony McTiffen from AKM Music about their attendance at BVE in February 2014 – and gives an insight into their range of copyright free and royalty free music aimed specifically at the professional video producer and videographer.
DVC (David Vincent Clarke) – WATCH NOW!
An interview with David Clarke from DVC about their attendance at BVE in February 2014. This short film gives an insight into their range of purpose-built nonlinear editing systems aimed specifically at the professional video producer and videographer.
Genelec – WATCH NOW!
An interview with Andy Bensley from Source Distribution about their attendance at BVE in February 2014 and the introduction of the Genelec 8010 studio audio monitor. This short film gives an insight into the main features and benefits of this compact and cost-effective studio monitor which is designed specifically for smaller and mobile edit suite environments.
Holdan – WATCH NOW!
An interview with Richard Payne from Holdan about their attendance at BVE in February 2014. This short film gives an insight into the vast range of products from Holdan, including new camcorders from Panasonic and Blackmagic Design – as well as accessories and production tools aimed specifically at the professional video producer and videographer.
JVC Professional – WATCH NOW!
An interview with John Kelly from JVC Professional about their attendance at BVE in February 2014 and the launch of their new 800 series camcorders covering their many features and specifications. John also gives an outline of the range of camcorders JVC have that are aimed at the professional video producer and videographer.
Portaprompt – WATCH NOW!
An interview with Jim Keating from Portaprompt about their attendance at BVE in February 2014. This short film gives an insight into their range of tele-prompting and presenter cueing systems aimed specifically at the professional video producer and videographer.
Production Gear – WATCH NOW!
An interview with Simon Beer from Production Gear about their attendance at BVE in February 2014. This short film gives an insight into their range of new products that were shown at BVE – concentrating on the DJI Phantom UAV, its accessories and the regulations facing UAV use in the UK.
RØDE – WATCH NOW!
An interview with Alex Theakston from Source Distribution about their attendance at BVE in February 2014 and the introduction of the RØDE VideoMic Go. This short film gives an insight into the main features and benefits of this compact and cost-effective microphone designed specifically for DSLR shooters.
Sachtler – WATCH NOW!
An interview with Nino Leitner of Nino Film e.U based in Austria who is a Brand Ambassador for Sachtler. Nino talks about his relationship with Sachtler and reveals what features and qualities he looks for in a tripod.
Sony – WATCH NOW!
An interview with Álvaro Ortiz from Sony about their range of camcorders, monitors and audio products aimed specifically at the professional videographer.
Thear Technology – WATCH NOW!
An interview with Rod Thear of Thear Technology about their attendance at BVE in February 2014. This short film gives an insight into their range of servicing and repair services offered by Thear Technology and explains their ethos and values in providing for the professional video producer and videographer.
I will be hosting a discussion panel at BVE on Wednesday 26th February which is being broadcast as a live webstream from the exhibition floor. Please come back to this webpage at 11:30 to 12:00 on 26th to watch it live.
Entitled ‘Videography Today’ this live webstream will include a panel of professional videographers who will share their views and experiences on the industry – covering the creative, technology and business aspects of the industry. The panel will consist of Stuart Boreham, Ben Marlow and Jagvinder Rana.
I hope you can join us for this live webstream on Wednesday. If not the session will also be available from the Broadcast Show website after the event.
I’m massively impressed with my Edius system from DVC – head over heels in love with it to be more precise. It’s as steady and reliable as you can get and does 99% of what I want to do in a quick and logical way. However, the one thing that always fills me with envy is seeing some of the more sexy things other producers seem to be able to do, with ease, with their titles and graphic effects. Edius basic QuickTitler is just that, pretty basic.
Towards the end of last year I came to the conclusion that I really had to start getting my head around Adobe After Effects as it seemed to be the program of choice for the videographers whose work had inspired me. I’d flirted with it for many years previously, in various editions, but it simply wouldn’t stick in my head. Unless I’m using a program day-in day-out it doesn’t take long for me to have to re-learn basics in order to get results out in a reasonable amount of time.
Determined to get going with After Effects I signed up for the Adobe Creative Suite free month’s trial and set myself a challenge. If I could get to the stage of being able to quickly knock up attractive lower-thirds caption backs and animated title sequences within the free trial period I’d take out one of Adobe’s subscriptions. I failed miserably. After Effects simply doesn’t fit in my head – and I doubt I’m the only one to have come to this conclusion.
At that point I had accepted the fact that if I ever wanted anything more than I can currently do using Edius (and a bit of Photoshopping) I’d probably be hiring those services in. Either that or maybe it was time for me to start looking elsewhere.
My route to Vistitle 2.5
It was shortly after my final After Effects experience that David Clarke of DVC approached me about reviewing the latest edition of Vistitle (2.5). When I originally ordered my edit suite from them they’d bundled it up within the quote but it had been one of the cutbacks I had to make in order to get the system that I thought I wanted. Whilst I thought I knew what Vistitle was and how it might help me, I didn’t really fully appreciate how I’d grow to need and want it.
Even though Vistitle was very popular within the Edius community (integrating neatly with it from very early editions) at that time it all seemed a little too template driven to me – and the examples I’d seen produced with it left me a little cold. I really should have given it a go back then as I think I’ve been missing a real gem. What is it they say about hindsight?
With its close integration with Edius, Vistitle hasn’t really gained much take up outside of that community. That’s very understandable, especially in a marketplace where you have such a strong standalone product as After Effects and its complete integration with Premiere. But Vistitle 2.5 has changed all that as it now integrates neatly with Avid and Premiere too giving a really powerful alternative for many more PC-based editors looking for a little more than their NLE’s basic titling package can offer.
The full review pack sent to me by DVC included the five additional plug-ins and retails for around £250 inc. VAT. There’s upgrade paths too for those with earlier versions of the software plus you can also buy the plug-ins separately to keep your initial investment low.
What is Vistitle 2.5
In a nutshell, Vistitle is a PC-based title effects/animation software package. It enables users to quickly create complex, multi-layered 2D/3D animations of text and objects – applying textures, depth, glows, sparkles and lighting effects. It also enables you to quickly add dynamic graphic backgrounds for text and graphics, and with the optional plug-in packs provides particle effects, handwriting animations, 3D charts, converts 2D paths to 3D and there’s also a dedicated Karaoke plug-in should you need it.
Edius users will find the layout, menus and controls very familiar – mainly because it was specifically developed to address that NLE’s titling shortcomings. Whilst Avid and Premiere users might be daunted with this prospect I can only urge you to give it a go (there’s a watermarked demo you can download here). I’ve played with most NLE packages in my time and I think that Edius is, by far, the most intuitive and easiest to pick up. Vistitle follows that example.
The minimum spec for the PC is an Intel CPU with 3GHz processor or faster (Intel i5 or i7 is recommended). You’ll need a Direct3D 9.0c or later supported graphics card, at least 2GB of RAM (4GB if you are running Edius 7) and at least 4GB of storage space for the installation. You’ll also need a spare USB port to connect the USB dongle – and your system must first have either Edius, Avid or Premiere installed.
Vistitle utilises the graphics card to render in real-time – so the better card, processor and RAM you have the better performance you’ll achieve. But even with a minimum specification system you’ll be able to work at full HD and render out complex text and graphic animations – which it does comparatively quickly.
YouTube is awash with free tutorials about After Effects, along with books and online resources aimed at beginners and advance users alike. That’s no surprise when you consider the size of the user base and the complexity of the program. Despite accessing many of these resources by the time I’d reached the end of my month’s trial I was still an After Effects stumbling fool.
Vistitle tutorials on the other hand are sparse – but thankfully most are well thought out and, mores the point, easy to follow. The program comes with the usual PDF user manual but, in addition, you also get a set of mute video tutorials covering most of the program’s features. DVC have also got an excellent collection of beginner tutorials on their website which is where I started and they got me up and running in no time. There’s also a range of more advanced tutorials on DivideByeZero’s YouTube channel which I’m presently working my way through – plus there’s a new set of paid-for tutorials at http://sgdvtutorials.com/ (which will be available through DVC) but I’ve not looked at these at all yet.
The end result for me was that by the end of the first day I’d got my head around basic navigation and controls of the program and had output a rudimentary title with an animation. By the end of a month of using it I’m far from being expert but I am at the stage where I’m choosing to use Vistitle more often that Edius’ own QuickTitle.
Vistitle Interface & Workflow
I understand that there are some differences to workflow between using Vistitle with other NLEs, so anything talked about here is purely relating to using it alongside Edius. Outside of your NLE you’ll be working within the main Vistitle interface, but once used inside your NLE you’ll be accessing it in a number of ways.
Adding a Vistitle is a simple as clicking on the ‘T’ (add title) button in Edius, which will launch you straight into the main interface. Once you’ve created a Vistitle, double-clicking it on your timeline will first take you into the Vistitle Mini interface. In here you can simply and easily adjust the text content of your title (the actual words, font, weight, kerning, layer ordering etc.) without the need to go into the full interface. That’s a smart feature and is great for quickly editing and adding captions of a similar design. For instance, once you have created the look and feel of your captions, added lighting effects and swirling backdrops, logos and particle effects, all you have to do to create another matching caption is to open the first in Vistitle Mini, change the text and then ‘save as’ with a different name.
If you want to change the Vistitle in more detail, such as amending the animation or altering light effects and colours, then you need to click on the button to take you to the full interface from within Vistitle Mini.
Whilst there’s definitely a link to Edius in Vistitle’s layout it is not going to seem too alien to an After Effects user. There’s a timeline, a preview window and a properties/control box for editing the currently-selected object.
The preview window is switchable between the main title graphic design and its effect view which includes the selected object’s animation path. Dividing the views up like this gives you a very uncluttered and easy-to-work-with view of your title and the objects within it.
The timeline area will also appear very familiar to NLE and effects package users with each object having an expandable view for controlling transformations, effects, in & out points and key frames. This window can also be switched to reveal a template library of graphic elements, backgrounds, sub-titles, multi-layered particle effects captions, 3D objects etc. – for you to easily and quickly add to your design and customise as you see fit.
For really quick application you can also call up a template design to drag and drop straight on to your Edius timeline. Once installed Vistitle will add an item to your ‘Tools’ menu in Edius, called ‘Edius Title Template Library’. The library consists of a variety of pre-constructed Layouts, Sub-titles, Images, Movies and DynaTextures.
Layouts include a vast range of lower-third captions, full-screen graphic designs with 3D objects and other demonstration templates which show off all the capabilities of Vistitle. Just drag one to your timeline, double-click to change the text content in Vistitle Mini – or completely change its properties within the full Vistitle interface and then save them. You can also import any previously designed Vistitle projects into this library for quick deployment.
Many of these templates are cheesy – but the point of them is they get you started quickly – and in opening them up and starting to tweak them to your own design is a great way to learn how to create your own Vistitles from scratch.
The Sub-title templates work in a similar way. These give you a range of single lines of text which you can add to your timeline as sub-titles – at timed intervals. Simply drag and drop the subtitle on to your Edius timeline, stretch it out over the video section that you want to sub-title, double-click and then start adding the titles line-by-line and place exactly over the right section of video.
The Image library contains both static images and static graphical elements – which again can be just dragged onto your timeline. You can also import your own TGA, PSD, BMP, JPG, GIF, EMF, WMF, TIF, PNG and ICO images to this library for easy deployment to your timeline.
The Movie library contains a handy set of animated icons and graphics in .VXMOVIE format. This includes spinning globes, explosions and other more obscure objects which can be dragged and dropped onto your timeline. Unfortunately you can’t import normal video files into this such as AVIs or MOVs – but why would you want to? However, if you have an animation created in another program, and can export that out as an image sequence, you can then import these into a separate utility program that comes with Vistitle called VxMvMaker. This gives you the option to output your image sequence in various video formats – including .VXMOVIE.
The final section in the library contains DynaTextures (Dynamic Textures). This wide selection of swirling masses of colours and shapes are ideal for creating backdrops for titles or video. You simply drag them on to your timeline and then stretch them out to the required time length and they automatically animate over that period. You can then of course alter the qualities of these within Edius’ own effects and image adjustments. I’ve used these plenty of times already.
My first Vistitle project
With my head pretty much around the program I set about creating my first Vistitle project from scratch. I’ve wanted to create a suitable video ident or credit for Video Artisan for a while now and it’s the kind of project that Vistitle was created for. News also came in around that time of my entry winning the IOV’s Video of the Month competition so I thought it would also give me an opportunity to shout about that too. The end result can be seen here…
I’m not saying the end result is an amazing, multi-layered marvel that demonstrates everything that Vistitle can do – but it works for me. It does however utilise lighting, animation and particle effects – and the very, very useful DynaTextures. The award wreath is a PNG file with transparent background and was imported as an image into Vistitle. After deselecting the ‘Always Use Image Colour as Face Colour’ option I was able to apply colour, lighting, texture and depth effects to these objects and easily time the glows to coincide with the passing of the 3D particle effect underneath.
Since then I’ve gone on to use Vistitle in a couple of real, paid-for, projects. The most recent is the short doc on the M&IT Agency Challenge which was filmed at the Landmark Hotel, London (https://vimeo.com/85261908). I’ve mentioned this project as it’s typical of how I’ll be using Vistitle going forward. The only Vistitles in this are the interviewee caption backs (the first comes in at 1’ 30”) which have a very subtle 3D particle effect in the background just to help the text stand out.
Final thoughts for this Vistitle Review
Whilst the additional plug-ins do add to the overall cost of ownership I think they are vitally important addition – if only for the ‘3D Particle Effects’. The ‘Handwriting’ plug-in is also really nice to have in your arsenal as one day you will be asked if you can do this. Not only can you use it to reveal text as if it’s being written on the screen but you can also do the same with objects and images. ‘3D Charts’ are also something that your clients will just expect you to be able to do, so again another useful tool to have in your box. I have to admit that I’ve not spent much time playing with the ‘2D path to 3D’ plug-in (enabling you to extrude 2D objects to 3D and add textures, light paths etc.), and I can’t imagine me ever using the ‘Karaoke’ plug-in but suspect there’s a market where this too would prove to be very handy.
I guess that it’s a good sign that I’ve not found much at all to moan about with Vistitle so far. The only thing that had me stumped for a while is that in the full interface, by default, the project layers are displayed back to front – with the top layer being at the bottom! However David at DVC pointed out that if you right-click in the timeline area and select, “track layer matched with object layer” it puts them the sensible way round.
Like all whiz-bang effects you have to learn to use title and graphics effects in moderation. They are never a substitute for good basic cameracraft, editing and storytelling. I would even go as far as saying that if you notice them then you’ve probably overdone them. You must also keep in mind that every minute spent creating a nice title and graphic is costing you or your client money. Even with its simplicity and ease of use, Vistitle will absorb a lot of time in designing, tweaking and rendering out graphics – all of which adds to the production’s budget. Therefore you’ll need to always ask yourself if the film really needs it and whether your client is prepared to pay for the work involved. My own Video Artisan credit piece took about a day to create including aborted designs and fiddling about with the animations and lighting effects.
The big question is, is Vistitle a direct replacement for After Effects? I guess the simple answer to that is “no” – but only because of After Effects’ many years of development and take-up within the creative industries. But for anyone who is starting from scratch or looking for a much simpler and more intuitive title effects package that you can get your head around in a much more reasonable amount of time, then Vistitle is a much better solution. With the introduction of version 2.5 and its integration with Avid and Premiere I can see the user base expanding quite rapidly – and with that I can see Vistitle being developed and improved even further.
2014 kicked off with us filming a team building event hosted by CAT Publications – namely the ‘M&IT Agency Challenge’ held at the Landmark Hotel in Central London. As publishers of Meetings & Incentives Travel Magazine, these events bring together buyers and sellers from within the corporate travel industry for a fun-packed day of activities and presentations.
This is the second time we’ve been engaged to film one of these tremendously successful events (see here). Through better engagement buyers get a clearer understanding of the range of services and destinations available to them – whilst suppliers are provided with the opportunity to build better relationships with new and existing clients. Going by the feedback from all attendees and the general atmosphere I think CAT Publications have got the mix of learning and fun in the right proportions – and it was great to be part of it.
More than just filming a team building event
Filming a team building event presents its own challenges, but in addition at these events we also supply video camera kits for the teams of delegates to use in one of the many challenges which they have to complete during the day. The video challenge this time was to create a 30-second commercial based on any one of the supplier presentations given on the day. If that wasn’t challenging enough, they only had 30-minutes in which to plan, script and shoot it!
Thankfully for them they didn’t have to edit it too. That was left to me and meant that I had to complete the edit on all six team videos only an hour or so after the last team finished filming so they could be judged and then screened later on in the evening during a gala dinner.
Whilst I was tucked away in a separate break-out room for much of the day either editing or briefing teams on how to use the cameras, my wingman for the day, Dilip Patel, was doing the ‘filming a team building event’ bit. This was far from filming entire coverage of each and every presentation and team challenge but rather gathering enough b-roll material so that I could cut together a 3-minute short documentary of the day.
The narrative was achieved by filming an opening and closing piece with Martin Lewis, the Managing Editor of CAT Publications. Luckily Martin is a natural in front of camera and he also acted as interviewer at the end of the day to capture some of the feedback from delegates which helped us tell the whole story.
The video challenges were staggered throughout the day, with either one or two teams doing this challenge at any one time. This started off with me giving them a very brief introduction to the cameras they’d be using. Once again we’d relied on Hireacamera to supply Canon XF105 cameras which were configured in full-auto mode to free up the teams from having to learn how to control focus, exposure and sound levels. Once they’d started creating their films I would then follow the teams to make sure they didn’t have any technical issues and, at the same time, capture of few shots of them creating their films to add to my b-roll. Thankfully these cameras are extremely easy to use in full-auto mode and didn’t present any problems for the teams who were working to an extremely tight deadline.
I’d installed my backup desktop Edius edit suite in my breakout room and, thankfully, none of the teams presented me with too much of an editing challenge – although not one of them managed to stick to the 30-second duration. This was one of the criteria the films were being judged on so no one managed to get an advantage in this respect.
Once the judging was completed I had to then get the files out in a format that the staging company could play out later that evening. There were one or two challenges with this but we got there in the end. The result was it created a fun opening to the gala dinner that evening where each team got to see their own film, and the other team’s, for the first time.
Kit used for the event documentary
Canon 5D DSLRs are great for filming a team building event but even they struggled under a range of challenging lighting conditions. In the main presentation area the staging company were using those wonderful blue LED lights to create a wash of light around the room – and this was coupled with natural daylight from windows and mix of tungsten and fluorescent house lights. No matter how hard you try it’s impossible to get a really accurate white balance under those conditions. During the evening events we had to work pretty much under candlelight alone. Other than that it was perfect!!!
Will we be filming a team building event for CAT Publications again? You bet! Plans are already underway for another one in the not too distant future. Like anything in life the more you do something the better you get at it. Whilst we managed to tick all the boxes for CAT Publications again this time we’ve got some ideas on how the video challenges can be improved further.
If you are thinking of running a team building event or corporate away day in the future and are looking for a fun and productive way in which to engage your delegates – and at the same time capture the event on film for future promotions – then please give us a call.
This is the first time I’ve had a chance to share the news about winning the IOV’s ‘Video of the Month’ competition for December 2013. This competition is run every month by the Institute of Videography and is open to its members who can submit any film, on any subject, from which the IOV’s Executive Committee select one as the winner.
Our winning entry for Video of the Month in December was a video diary produced for Stylfile on their amazing Nipper Clipper product which was having its first ever public exhibition at the Baby Show 2013 – Olympia. See previous blog here. The video diary is presented by 2011 BBC Apprentice winner, Tom Pellereau – inventor of the Nipper Clipper (and other amazing nail care products) and business partner of Lord Sugar.
I’m especially pleased to win Video of the Month with a film created for Stylfile as they are firm believers in the value of commissioning a video and fully understand the important role it plays in search engine optimisation. This video diary is featured on Stylfile’s YouTube channel (alongside other video films created for them by Video Artisan) which is central to their video marketing efforts.
This reminded me that I needed to produce a new credit sequence for Video Artisan – which proved to be a really good test for Vistitle which I’m in the middle of reviewing (to be published here soon!). Nothing too overstated – but nice to be able to shout about winning an award or two (or five if you include 2nd place in the 2012 Best Doc category of the IOV Awards!)