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The Little Digital Video Book

Consumer video has gone YouTube. -- It's so easy and fun to shoot a short little clip on your camera phone, grabbing a brief slice of life (cool -- the cat in the toilet!), and then upload it to enjoy and share with the world. However, that's not terribly creative, compared to the kinds of productions we see on TV and at the movies. But the step up to doing video editing is so daunting -- getting your video into a computer, learning editing software, figuring how to get it back out again -- as well as putting yourself in a position to having your amateur production skills compared to broadcast series and Hollywood movies.

But if you are interested in creating your own videos, then Michael Rubin's The Little Digital Video Book is a great way to get started. Rubin lays out the basics of shooting and editing video, along with good advice about how to keep the process enjoyable.

One of Rubin's key points is to not overreach -- not to try to make "movies," but instead create what he calls "video sketches," shorter pieces that start with around 20 minutes of raw video and can be edited down to around a 4 minute enjoyable sketch.

This is a much more reasonable target -- you can shoot for a while at an event to try to capture a sense of it, and then spend a couple hours editing it. You're then not feeling the pressure to shoot an entire event, and you don't have a big production with days of work hanging over you. Instead, you can tweak it for a couple evenings, and then declare it done.

For the same reason, Rubin recommends not loading yourself down with extra equipment while you are shooting -- tripods, lights, special filters -- but instead provides extensive descriptions of how to get a good selection of shots that you can later edit into a clean production (close-up, medium, wide, establishing, cutaway).

After you're done shooting, Rubin has an extensive discussion of organizing and logging your tapes and then getting the clips captured and organized on your computer so that you're ready to edit. It's easy to take shortcuts at this point, but you'll regret it later, when you can't find a certain clip that you remember in a pile of unmarked tapes, and as your computer fills up with large unidentified video files scattered around the disk drive.

Rubin finishes with advice on the process and art of editing, with a series of "assignments" to lead you though shooting different types of videos (interview, music video, slice of life).

In some ways this is an old-fashioned book, focused on the art and process of editing instead of instant-gratification uploading, using tape-based (DV) camcorders (which are disappearing in favor of memory card and hard disk drive formats), and ignoring the exotic new high-definition formats.

Instead, Rubin is interested in making video editing fun and enjoyable, so you can be creative in shooting interesting material and then editing it into enjoyable vignettes.

The book is indeed little, and approachable for beginners, at 7 x 7 inches and 240 pages. And it's particularly well illustrated with shots of the different components and controls of a camera, visuals explaining different shooting styles and types of shots, and screen shots illustrating the basics of editing.

Plus there's plenty of good advice here even if you already have a camera and some editing experience.

Order The Little Digital Video Book from Amazon.com

Details ...

The Little Digital Video Book, Second Edition

    by Michael Rubin

    Peachpit Press, September 2008

    Paperback, 240 pages, ISBN 0321572629

    List $24.99, Street $16

Table of Contents

1. The Basics
2. Your Camera
3. Shooting Your Camera
4. Organizing Video
5. Getting Ready to Edit
6. Editing
7. Finishing Up

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