Friday, November 30, 2012

iMovie - a great app for combining short videos!

Have you ever wanted to take a few different video clips and merge them together in a short video?  That was the task I found myself wanting to do for a law school committee I am chairing concerning law school admissions issues.  One of the great strengths of the law school is the intelligent and accessible faculty, but it is hard to truly convey that to prospective students.  We know that if an applicant visits our campus and attends a class or meets with faculty members, the faculty make a lasting impression on applicants.  Slick, high production videos are nice, but, they are slick and high-production, something that in the era of tight budgets is not going to happen, and frankly might not convey the warmth and welcoming nature of our faculty.  Plus, how many faculty could we really profile in that kind of video? 

 So I decided I would try making short iPhone videos to introduce the dynamic nature of our faculty and the diversity of their interests and activities.  But first I had to find a way to do that was of sufficient quality.

I called my go-to person for all things media related: Justin Counts in the media resource lab.  In need of quick assistance, I told him what I was trying to do – merge three short video clips into one – and asked him what program he would use to do that.  That quick phone call led me to the iMovie App. 

iMovie on the iPad is very user friendly and is perfect for this kind of project (well worth the $4.99 price).  This is especially true if you use the iPad to take the video.  One simply “drops” the video clips into the project and selects the desired transitions between the clips.  It really is that simple.  In fact, it was so simple I decided to get a little “fancy” – I added a title screen at the beginning and a title screen at the end by dropping photographs into the project in those places, double tapping the photographs, and adding titles.  Again, super simple!

The one hiccup I had was that the sound levels were a bit variable in some of the clips.  This came from the fact that I was much closer to the iPad than the person I was interviewing.  So my voice was louder than the other person’s voice.  I needed to “level” the sound.  Again, my go-to person saved the day:  Justin introduced me to “levelator” –  a handy little program used by NPR (yes, that NPR) that can take a sound file and “level” the sounds over the entire file.  I guess it makes sense that NPR would have a need for such a program, given all of the field interviews that NPR reporters do.

Unfortunately, I ran into more problems with levelator and the file formats of videos from the iPad.  Levelator only can handle .wav or .aiff files.  So, again, with Justin to the rescue, we found a work-around. First we had to pull up the movies in quicktime and then “export” the audio portion of the file into a .m4a file.  Next, that .m4a file had to be saved into my itunes account.  Once we pulled up that file up in itunes we were able to convert it to a .wav or .aiff file.  Then we could use levelator on that .wav file to even-out the sound.  Finally, we were able to use iMovie to add a new audio track (the leveled .wav file) to the movie.  We then turned “off” the original sound track and just had the new sound track be the audio track for that clip.  Phew!  That was a lot just to level out the sound!  Lesson learned: the interviewer needs to speak softly so that the sound levels are similar.

I continue to be a big fan of iMovie.  So far I have created four videos introducing different faculty members.  They haven’t been fully vetted and released on the law school’s admission website, but once they are, I’ll be sure to post a link on this blog!

Submitted by Lydia Loren WITH LOTS OF HELP from Justin Counts!

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