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16 October 2014

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How to Edit Your Digital Story

Ready to begin editing? Once you've gathered together all your ingredients you are!

How to Edit Your Digital Story by Huw Davies

First of all, gather together all your rich media assets: voice recording, still images, video footage etc.

Software

You'll need to decide on editing software. There are many packages available and although all are capable of producing a broadcast quality film, some get you there by wading uphill through treacle. As with most things, you get what you pay for up to a point because, as I've just said, they are all capable of creating a top quality end product. Whatever you decide on, the principles of editing are the same.

Getting Started

On launching the software you will be asked to name a new project and select settings.

* DV Pal standard 48kHz or DV Pal 16:9 widescreen is what you're looking for.

* Click OK and it will probably tell you it cannot find the external AV firewire device. That's a video camera or an audio device but, unless you're ready to capture some video or audio right now, just press Continue.

If you don't need to capture from the camera, you can skip the following and move straight to the next point.

If you do have video to capture, now's the time to do it, and here's how.

Quit out of the software, connect your video camera via its firewire or USB2 cable and re-launch the software. And now it will recognize the device.

If your camera records directly to a card as opposed to mini DV or digital Hi8 tape then it's a simple matter of drag-and-drop the files into a folder on your desktop.

OK back to video tape. Choose DV Pal standard 48kHz or DV Pal 16:9 widescreen as a suitable setting for your software. Go up to File and down to Capture; or Video Capture; or Import; depending on which software you're using. Some software will automatically show you your footage in the monitor; others will launch a separate capture monitor; either way there will be a Capture or Record button and a settings editor to allow you to drop the captured elements somewhere you'll be able to find them again.

For a more in-depth explanation of video capture you'll have to refer to the online guide or accompanying handbook of the software you've chosen to work with.

And if it still doesn't work: quit out of the software, unplug the camera, plug it back in, switch it on and re-launch. That usually does it.

*Right, back to editing. As soon as it's launched you'll be confronted with three main windows probably surrounded by numerous, overly colourful and rather bewildering little buttons, symbol panels and numbers. Forget about all of them for a minute. Take a deep breath and calm yourself. OK. It's not as bad as it looks. Top left or top right there'll be a monitor (like a small TV screen) and under it, controls just like on your CD or DVD player.

* Next to it will be the project bin. It will be empty and so may seem meaningless. This is where you will drop your film assets. If you're reading this at a machine with editing software on board why not do this now so you can see what it does to them.

Importing your assets into the project:

* Go up to File on the menu bar at the top of the screen and then down to Import.

* Navigate to the desktop of your machine where you will have placed all of your assets neatly into a folder labelled Film_Project.

* Inside this folder you will have placed subfolders labelled: Voice, Video, Stills, etc.

* If you haven't done this yet go and do it now, it'll make life much easier later on.

It doesn't matter what size your pictures, video clips or audio files are at this stage the software will convert it all for you and place clips on a black background. Just try to ensure your video capture and still photography is the highest quality your device can manage; although I wouldn't bother your head about HD (High Definition) right now.

Ok, you can now import the assets you need to build your film and once the machine has finished crunching all this info and is able to show you what you've imported, you're ready to find out what the bottom half of the screen does.

The Timeline

This is the beautiful bit.

* Grab a voice recording, then drag and drop it into an audio timeline in the timeline window.

* Now grab a still image or piece of video and drop that into the video timeline above the audio.

* Be aware that video clips will bring in their own audio automatically but, if the audio isn't needed, there is one of those many buttons situated to the left of the track which will have an audio symbol - a speaker or such like - and if you click on that it will turn the audio track off.

* Click Play on the monitor controls and a play head will glide from left to right playing what's in the timeline.

* Click and drag the play head and you can scrub back and forth, purely for fun or to accurately position it at a point where your next clip should come in. By hovering your mouse pointer over the end of a clip on the timeline, a bracket will appear that allows you to shorten or lengthen the clip using your mouse.

* Click to highlight, then drag the clip to position it at just the right moment.

* Click on the clip and press the Backspace button on your keyboard to delete it; up to File and down to Undo, to do just that if you get into a muddle. Working on the clips in the timeline doesn't affect their original form either in the project bin or in your folder on the desktop so, as long as you remember to save a copy of your work into that desktop folder at regular intervals, you can work away to your heart's content by trying the ''I wonder what this button does'' method of learning, and resorting to the Undo control each time you feel you've blown it, but all safe in the knowledge that your original assets remain uncorrupted on the desktop.

The ability to drop in and work on a clip where you like in the timeline is called "non-linear video editing". In its most basic form, there you have it. There's a lot more to learn but there's no need to bore you with it all right now. You've enough here to get you started. Just play around with it and you'll soon pick it up. There's a lot of jargon talked about computers but they're just a tool you have to learn to use. Just like a hammer but not as durable.

Get that Story Out!

To get your finished film out of the software and converted into a compressed useable format:

* Go up to File and down to Export/Share. Now choose from Web or Full Quality Export and the software will crunch out a compressed file ready for sending over the internet or burning to DVD.

* There are lots of numbers involved in the exporting of final projects but the most relevant are the sizes of the export. Generally 320x240 pixels for web use (YouTube size) or 720x576 for broadcast (TV size).

* It's always worth exporting the larger of the two for your own archive so that you have a good quality copy of your film for future reference.

And Finally...

If you hover your mouse over any of the buttons, after three seconds a little tab will pop up telling you what it is. There are also help buttons in your menu bar that actually can be helpful and lots of online forums to answer some of the more persistent problems. But the best way of learning is by making sure all your assets are in the right place and saved and then just exploring, safe in the knowledge that whatever strange mess you make after clicking some odd collection of buttons, you can always go up to File and down to Undo. Usually this function allows you to step back at least 50 steps. But if you can make 50 mistakes in a row without noticing perhaps it's time for a screen break.

And rest.

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