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November 12, 2013

Ease Into Video Editing with Adobe Premiere Elements 12 Guided Edits

By Stan Sholik 

201311we_PEboxshot.jpgWith every smartphone and consumer digital camera capable of video as well as still captures, clients expect professional photographers to be able to capture video on their cameras. However, many professionals are not taking advantage of this potential profit center. It's not that the process of capturing video is the issue for photographers; that is pretty straightforward. The issue is editing the video clips once they are captured.

Video editing can certainly be challenging to learn. Adobe recognizes this and has introduced a new feature, Guided Edits, in Adobe Premiere Elements 12, to guide the user through a logical workflow and lower the slope of the video editing learning curve. Guided Edits is a well-designed and welcome new feature for Premiere Elements. After using Guided Edits for a few videos, you are prepared to advance to the Expert mode of Premiere Elements, which includes the full set of tools you need to edit and output videos for your clients.

A good starting point for video editing is shooting video clips of your family using the camera you would use to shoot video for your clients. You can use the Elements Organizer included with Premiere Elements or another program to move the clips onto your hard drive.

When you open Premiere Elements 12, you select New Project after clicking the Video Editor tab. Premiere Elements 12 opens in the Quick Edit mode. Immediately select Guided from the mode selection bar to enter the Guided Edits mode and open a dropdown list of common edits that are often needed with videos.

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Start your first video editing project by choosing Video Editor, then New Project, in the Premiere Elements 12 welcome screen. Click on Guided in the mode selection menu bar to enter the Guided Edits mode. [Click any screen grab for a large view.]

The first guided edit, Getting started with Premiere Elements, quickly walks you through an overview of a simplified edit. You will find it useful to perform the tutorial with a couple of video clips that you have imported to get a feel for the entire workflow, and then to close the tutorial without saving your work. Having seen how simple the process can be, you are ready to proceed.

The first step is to bring the video clips into Premiere Elements. Utilizing the tip from the Getting started tutorial, you click Add Media from the mode selection bar to open a dropdown panel of import options. Since the videos are already on your hard drive, you select Files and Folders, navigate to the files, select them all and click Import.

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The first video in Guided Edits guides you through the entire process. The first step is to Add Media to a project.

The clips appear in the timeline below the main preview window. Since the process of adding media returns you to the Quick mode, you may want to tap the spacebar or click the right-facing triangular Play button to see a quick playback of the clips. Don't worry if the playback isn't smooth at this point. Once you click the Render button to the right of the playback buttons the video will play back smoothly. But it isn't time for that yet. As the video clips play back, the Current Time Indicator (CTI) shows the position of the playback within each clip.

Select Guided again from the mode selection bar to return to Guided Edits mode and continue the process. The first step is to trim unwanted pieces out of the beginning, end, and middle of each clip.

Click the Trimming Unwanted Frames tutorial in the Guided Edits list to begin. The clips expand in the Timeline and an animated yellow arrow at the beginning of the first clip appears. The Guided Edits instruction window advises you to drag the CTI to the location where you want the trim. Click the scissor icon attached to the CTI to make the trim. The trimmed portion is not deleted from the clip. It is only edited out of the current project.  Click the Next button in the instruction window for information on trimming the end of the clip, and for trimming in the middle of the clip. Drag the CTI through all of the clips and trim each one as needed.

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With video clips added to the project, the next Guided Edit step gives you instructions on trimming unwanted frames from the beginnings and ends of the clips.

You can drag a clip to a new position in the timeline to rearrange the order, or click on a clip to select it and then right-click and select Delete and Close Gap to remove the clip from the project. Tap the backslash key to compress the clips to the available space in the Timeline. With this rough cut completed, it is a good time to save the project. Click Save in the mode selection bar and save the project on your hard drive.

Click Guided again to reenter the Guided Edits mode. The next step is to add transitions between the clips. Select Adding Transitions between video clips from the guided edits list. The guided edits instruction window opens and the animated yellow arrow points to the Transitions panel in the Actions bar below the preview window. Click Next in the guided edits instruction window to open the transitions panel. Select one of the nine transitions and drag it between clips. Select a duration and an alignment for the transition in the Transition Adjustments panel and click Done to save the transition. Repeat this to add transitions between each of the clips, and at the beginning and end of the project if you desire.

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Adding transitions between video clips is the next step in Guided Edits after trimming the clips.

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Premiere Elements 12 offers a variety of possible transitions between clips. Guided Edits shows you visually how to add them.

The next step in the Guided Edits list allows you to add sound (a music score or sound effects) to your video. By following the directions in the Guided Edit, you open the Audio panel in the Action bar. Premiere 12 includes seven categories of music available for download. You can click on each of the icons to preview the music. When you find the appropriate music, drag it onto the audio line in the timeline. It takes a few minutes to download and size to the project. The soundtrack adds to any ambient sound you recorded in the video clips. In the Expert mode you can remove the ambient sound if you prefer. You can also use Guided Edits to add a narration track with the option of muting the existing audio while adding the narration. You are guided through the narration process just as you are with the other Guided Edits.

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Adding a music score is another of the Guided Edits options. Premiere Elements 12 includes seven categories of music with downloadable options in each category.

Also available as a Guided Edit is the ability to adjust brightness, contrast, and color, to add a title, to create a picture-in-picture effect, and to animate graphics in your video. And when you are comfortable with the workflow shown in the Guided Edits, you are ready to move on to the video effects in the Action bar, and then to the Expert mode.

The Export mode offers a more detailed Timeline with the ability to add additional audio and video tracks. Here is where you can alt/option click on the ambient audio track to unlink it from the video portion, then right click on it and unclick the Enable checkmark to silence the ambient sound you recorded.

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In the Expert mode you can unlink and mute the ambient audio recorded so that the added music track  is heard, along with any narration you may have added using Guided Edits.

When you are satisfied with your efforts, click the Render button to put everything together into a smooth running video. Click the full screen icon and tap the spacebar to play your video. If it looks good, click Publish+Share and choose and output format appropriate for your needs. It really is that simple.

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After rendering and reviewing the video, clicking Publish+Share opens a panel of output options.

The new Quick Edit mode of Adobe Premiere Elements 12 provides the instructions that still photographers need in order to provide a comfortable transition from still to video editing. The look and feel are similar enough to Adobe Photoshop Elements and Adobe Photoshop that Premiere 12 doesn't appear completely foreign. And when you are ready to move on to professional level video editing, you will find the transition to Adobe Premiere Pro equally comfortable.

Adobe Premiere Elements 12 is available as a standalone boxed program for a street price of less than $100. Adobe provides the usual wide array of video tutorials and helpful information on Premiere Elements at adobe.com.

Stan Sholik is a commercial/advertising photographer in Santa Ana, Calif., specializing in still life and macro photography. His latest book, "Photoshop CC: Top 100 Tips and Tricks" (Wiley), is available now.

 

System Requirements

Windows

2GHz or faster processor with SSE2 support; dual-core processor required for HDV or AVCHD editing and Blu-ray or AVCHD export

Microsoft Windows XP with Service Pack 3, Windows Vista with Service Pack 2, Windows 7, or Windows 8 (Adobe Premiere Elements Editor runs in 32-bit mode on Windows XP and Windows Vista and in 64-bit or 32-bit mode on Windows 7 and Windows 8; all other applications run native on 32-bit operating systems and in 32-bit compatibility mode on 64-bit operating systems)

2GB of RAM

4GB of available hard-disk space to install applications; additional 5GB to download content

Graphics card with the latest updated drivers

Color monitor with 16-bit color video card

1024x768 display resolution

Microsoft DirectX 9 or 10 compatible sound and display driver

DVD-ROM drive (compatible DVD burner required to burn DVDs; compatible Blu-ray burner required to burn Blu-ray discs)

DV/i.LINK/FireWire/IEEE 1394 interface to connect a Digital 8 DV or HDV camcorder

QuickTime 7 software

Windows Media Player (required if importing/exporting Windows Media formats)

Internet connection required for product activation

 

Macintosh

64-bit multicore Intel processor

Mac OS X v10.6 through v10.8

2GB of RAM

4GB of available hard-disk space to install applications; additional 5GB to download content

Graphics card with the latest updated drivers
1024x768 display resolution

DVD-ROM drive (compatible DVD burner required to burn DVDs; compatible Blu-ray burner required to burn Blu-ray discs)

DV/i.LINK/FireWire/IEEE 1394 interface to connect a Digital 8 DV or HDV camcorder

QuickTime 7 software

Internet connection required for product activation

November 19, 2013

Sigma USB Dock: Improving Autofocus Performance

By Ellis Vener

Reliable autofocus is the result of a technological dance between two complex systems: the lens and the camera. Modern high-end DSLR cameras that have active live view come with a second autofocus system based on contrast detection. To avoid overcomplicating things I'll just set contrast-detection autofocus aside to discuss another time. 

So how does standard autofocus, the kind you use when viewing your scene through the viewfinder, work? The big reflex mirror — the one that directs the image-forming light up through the ground glass, pentaprism, and eventually out through the viewfinder has multiple semi-transparent spots in it and some of the light passes through these spots to a secondary mirror that directs the light downward to an array of autofocus sensors in the bottom of the mirror box. The light rays are now directed to a pair of receptors and the computers behind the receptors turn the light into electronic signals and analyze the signal for differences that signify an edge or a tonal differences. As the late Bruce Fraser liked to say, "Difference is detail." The image is in focus when the peaks and valleys in the two signals coincide and come into phase with each other. This is why this is called phase detection autofocus. All this happened in milliseconds.

When it works, and it mostly does, phase detection autofocus works really well. But the individual lens and individual camera body are two complex systems working together. If you want really sharp photos and are not willing to settle for photos that are slightly out of focus, the two unique components need to be calibrated so they work together perfectly, otherwise you get some degree of back focusing or front focusing. This happens because the computer in the camera and the autofocus motor in the lens are not communicating properly.

Until a few years ago this kind of lens/camera tuning could only be done by an authorized repair center. The potential for misalignment also predates both the introduction of digital imaging and autofocus. Some photographers would test multiple lenses of the same model to find one with a real sweet spot for their camera body and would then have the focusing alignment of cameras and lenses recalibrated every so often.

In 2007 both Canon and Nikon started including autofocus micro-adjustment tools into their higher end cameras so individual photographers could do their own testing and AF tuning. Starting with the EOS 5D Mark III and EOS-1DX cameras, Canon went a step further and gave users the ability to tune autofocus accuracy can at the longest and shortest focal lengths of a zoom lens. 

While you can make your own target and use your naked eyes to evaluate the results, there are at least three companies which make targets and software to automate and improve the accuracy of the results. Even though I prefer the LensAlign Mark II plus FocusTune software combination from Michael Tapes Design, Datacolor SpyderLensCal (target only, no software), and Reikan FoCal software also work well.

Whichever target and software you use the process is the same: you shoot several frames of the target at different AF Micro adjust settings and repeat until you find the best setting. I start by shooting 5 frames each at -20, -15, -10, -05, 0, +05, +10, +15, and +20 and have the FocusTune software evaluate the results. I then shoot a second round of tests around the best results. If both my eye and FocusTune agree that the best results were at -05, I'll shoot a second round of five frames each at the -07 to -03 settings. Once I've nailed down an adjustment setting that looks best I go out and make real world photos.

The qualitative difference between the untuned and tuned result are usually pretty obvious. Having your focus perfectly dialed in also has a psychological benefit of boosting your confidence in the quality of your work.

As good as the adjustment might be, though, there can still be problems: the AF might work great at one range of subject-to-camera distances but not quite so great at others. To solve this problem a more complete reprogramming of the lens is necessary.

Recognizing this, Sigma has recently has gone a step further and introduced the Sigma USB Dock and Sigma Optimization Pro software. The dock and software allow you to reprogram autofocus performance and update firmware for the new Global Vision line of Art, Contemporary, and Sports lenses. The 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sports lens (there is only one sport lens currently in the Global Vision line) allows for AF speed, focus limiter, and optical stabilization customization as well. 

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To tune the AF performance, shoot a target at four specified distances. With the zoom lenses you can do this for four focal length settings. My experience with Sigma Optimization Pro and the 35mm F1.4 DG HSM is that you can get lucky and need no fine tuning at one distance, but it takes a minimum of two and often three rounds per distance. The process takes roughly 40 minutes with a fixed focal length lens, so plan on about two hours for a zoom.

There are a couple things to consider. First, all of this fine-tuning takes time. Second, you must be very precise about how you attach and remove the lens from the dock. Attach the lens to the dock and then the dock to the computer. After adjusting a lens's setting, the process goes in reverse: disconnect the dock from the computer and then the lens from the dock. I discussed this with a Sigma technician and he advises users to never hot-swap lenses on a camera; turn the camera off first and then swap lenses. Turning off all power to the lens removes the possibility of bridging the contacts on a lens or on a camera body.

If you are using the lens with more than one camera, set your primary body's AF micro adjustment to zero and then fine-tune the focusing using Sigma's software. Set your backup camera bodies' AF Micro-adjustment to match your primary body's AF performance. In practice this works very well.

That's a lot of testing and you are probably wondering if it's really worth all of the time or is it just pointless hairsplitting. The argument for doing it is pretty straightforward: In return for a small investment in time and money (the dock retails for just under $60 and the software is free) you get your full money's worth of image quality out of both your lenses and camera.  

I'm glad to see Sigma innovate in this manner. They seem to really be making an all out quality push these days and perhaps Canon, Nikon and Sony will release similar products to Sigma's Optimization Pro and USB Dock.  It won't take care of all of the performance tuning an authorized service center can perform but it's a start. 

Pelican ProGear: Unique Laptop Case and Camera Backpack Combinations

Review: Pelican ProGear Sport Elite S115 and S130

By Ellis Vener

I doubt there few experienced photographers alive who haven't owned at least one Pelican case. These are heavy-duty, and heavy, molded crush-proof ABS plastic cases providing excellent shock protection. Pelican is the de facto choice for anyone who needs to keep delicate optics and electronics protected from the elements, errant assistants, and careless baggage handlers. They are also watertight to a depth of one meter for 30 minutes, and are rigid enough to stand on. 

From the beginning Pelican has sold their products to all sorts of people, and photographers have always been a prime market. Recently they began making backpacks designed specifically for photographers. This review covers the S115 Sport Elite Laptop/Camera Pro Pack and the S130 Sport Elite Laptop/Camera Divider Pack.

What really sets these apart from other photography-oriented backpacks? The amount of protection built in. The foundation of the pack is a lowprofile crush-proof padded case for a tablet or laptop computers up to 15.5 x 10.5 x 1.1 inches  (a 17-inch Apple MacBook Pro just fits). The hard case portion is hinged at the bottom, and the spring-loaded latch at the top locks the case shut with a satisfyingly clack and requires two steps to reopen. For additional security you can add one or two padlocks. As with other Pelican cases, the top and bottom halves of the case meet in a tongue-in-groove seal with a rubber O-ring gasket on the groove side, making it water tight down to one meter for at least 30 minutes. A pressure equalization valve prevents vacuum lock situations when moving from a low atmospheric pressure environment to a higher pressure one.

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The S115 Sport Elite Laptop/Camera Pro Pack

The non-watertight backpack portion of S115 is shaped like a traditional soft-sided carrying case: a tough woven nylon shell covers a well padded box. The padded sides and base are integrated into the overall structure of the backpack and the usable internal storage area measures 15.5 x 10.5 x 4.5 inches. The front of the pack opens with a zipper running around three sides of a hard panel that protects against impact damage. Three zippered mesh pockets are sewn to the inside of the front panel and a rigid internal panel separates this storage area from the main compartment. The panel adds another layer of impact protection and reinforces the overall structural integrity. The storage area and movable dividers are padded and bright yellow, making it easy to organize and see what is packed inside.

The exterior sides of the backpack portion have flat zippered compartments, good for a cell phone or a passport. On the right side of the pack is a similar but smaller zippered compartment and in the upper left side corner is a strap for securing a tripod. 

Essentially the S115 is a gear case and computer case combination with backpack webbing. The webbing for the shoulder straps, along with the lumbar, back pads and the main compartment are permanently attached to the case. A removable hip belt is included as well. While there is a hard but rubberized handle at the top of the case, the one major criticism I have of it is that it needs a cloth handle on the side of the case so you can carry it more easily going up and down stairs or getting it in and out of vehicles.  

Empty the S115 weighs 8.65 pounds, and the exterior dimensions are 18.5 x 13 x 10 inches. It retails between $200 and $280 dollars. 

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S130 Sport Elite Laptop/Camera Divider Pack

Built on an identical hard case foundation, the S130 is more like a traditional daypack with a large top-opening compartment and a zippered door covered with a stiff ABS plastic plate protecting the lower portion of the pack. A padded insert holds a medium-size camera kit. You slide into the top opening and down to the bottom of the pack where you can access its contents through the lower door. These insert zippers shut as well for a second level of protection against the elements and potential theives. The soft space above the box can be used for accessories, jacket, or possibly another body with a reasonably large lens attached. I have been carrying a Nikon D800 and AF-S 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED IF VR Nikkor combination, wallet, keys, and a light fleece pullover in there.  On the bottom of the S130 are straps for carrying a tripod, and the top flap has a larger zippered pocket for items you want quick access to.

Depending on how much gear you carry the S130 is reasonably comfortable, at least for me. I'm not sure I'd want to hike 10 or 20 miles wearing it across the Mojave, but I spent a warm fall afternoon wearing a fully loaded S130 while shooting stock images at a local zoo. (Trust me: Baby rhinoceroses and baby lowland gorillas are irresistibly cute.) Like the S115, the S130 external measurements are 18.5 x 13 x 10 inches, but it retails online from $179 to $260.

Fashionwise, the S115 and S130 don't cross the line into paramilitary style but come fairly close. The S115 can carry a full set of image making tools, but it looks exactly like what it is: a gear case with shoulder straps attached. I think the S115 would be perfect for a battery-power lighting kit and the S130 for shoots when the camera and lens choices are simple. Both packs have a crucial feature I wish more photo backpacks had: when you put them down they are stable upright - no more having to lay the pack down on the shoulder straps. 

These are innovative backpack/cases and I look forward to using them in more challenging circumstances. If I can just convince Pelican to add those side handles I'll be very happy. 

November 27, 2013

December 2013 Issue

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About November 2013

This page contains all entries posted to Professional Photographer Magazine Web Exclusives in November 2013. They are listed from oldest to newest.

October 2013 is the previous archive.

December 2013 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.


 
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