Silent “Pixels”

After spending a ridiculous amount of time on my LEGO stop motion short film, I peeked into the assignment bank hoping for something quick and easy. I’m terrible with video editing on the whole and was rather pressed for time, so I decided to give the “Return to the Silent Era” assignment a whirl. I decided on making a silent trailer for the upcoming movie Pixels, since the Age of Ultron trailers all have far too much dialogue.

I focused on trailers because the assignment’s directions were:

Take a 3-5 minute trailer of a modern movie and render it in the form os[sic] the silent era- convert to black and white, add effects to make it look antiquated, replace the audio with a musical sound track, and add title cards for the dialogue.

Boy was I wrong. “Quick” and “easy”, this was neither. It took me a long while just to figure out what kind of files Windows Movie Maker would even accept, so I had to attempt to download the trailer in a few different ways until I finally had it formatted to WMV.

After I had that situation sorted out, I realized that Movie Maker does not have many effects built in, so I had to resort to just altering the picture to black and white. Then, I selected the entire clip and turned the volume all the way down (there’s probably a better way to do that, but, oh well).

So I had a silent film, albeit a lackluster one without cue cards. I went back and found the areas with dialogue and “split” the clip a frame or two after being delivered. Then, I added a “Title” pane, filled it with the dialogue, and shortened its display duration accordingly.

I now had literally a silent trailer. But, what’s a silent movie without some fun ragtime jingles?

I headed to the suggested incompetech site that hosts royalty free music, and found a few suitable clips, which all happened to be submitted by the same person (Kevin MacLeod): “Mesmerize”, Villainous Treachery”, “Iron Horse – Distressed”, “Grammophone Taps”, “Breaktime”, “Evil Plan FX”.

I threw all of those into Movie Maker, and adjusted their lengths to align with what I considered to be the general mood of each split segment.  Eventually, it ended up sounding decent after adding a few fades in for good measure. Alas, there were still no gritty visual textures to add.

I uploaded my clip to YouTube once I felt reasonably satisfied with my work.  So, here it is!

I’ll have to look around for some better video editing software before I get too deep into my assignments next week.  Movie Maker was really nice for my stop motion video, but it just feels really clunky and lacks a lot of the depth GIMP has for visual work and Audacity has for audio work. So, it looks like I’ll be going open source.

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  • The computer science side of you may be a hazard of missing the simple. It is a curse.

    Open Source doesn’t always mean easier or totally free (at least from a business standpoint), but it does mean access and development – and flexible control. Plus it satisfies the need to know how it works and master gene.

    For your “fast and furious” video editing or things that might be short lived – most video is – look to some of the online sources. @mdvfunes just recommended WeVideo – it has a free version and allows for some manipulation, but also has plenty of presets to crank out something quickly. Animoto is one used in education some limits on creativity.

    For a more robust program with more features (aka as more control and tedious work) most of my Windows based colleagues have recommended Blender as the choice.

    Tablet and iPad editing apps are great for some quick and easy editing as well. All of the general consumer versions can be used well if you understand the complex versions. Going in and knowing what a key frame is and have one already set to tweak is easier than starting out from scratch – but many don’t even know why it is panning or zooming – they just accept it as it is delivered.

    Your video turned out well and the next one will be better – you have to have a baseline somewhere and each should get better – otherwise what’s the point in being perfect and predictable and ultimately boring? Improving brings back viewers to see what is different and next. 🙂

    • Spencer says:

      Thank you so much for the great comment/advice!
      I’ll definitely be looking at new software, so I’ll check out your suggestions first.
      I wholeheartedly agree about the baseline. Have to start somewhere, and there’s always room for improvement 🙂 This was definitely a learning experience for me. Your input made it even more so.

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