Remote Video Production: Tools and Workflows for Post

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Covid has changed video production, possibly forever.  Elements of remote workflows will likely remain, even when we “return to normal.” Let’s take a look at some options with respect to post-production collaboration (editing, audio mixing, color grading and effects).

Realtime Collaboration

Ensuring that real-time collaboration happens has always been a challenge as teams have become dispersed, and often include a mix of staff and freelancers. For years, we’ve had a remote-team setup in my production company, but have always liked being “in the room” for final edits, audio mixes and color grading. One tool that brings creatives “into the room” remotely is Streambox . Check out colorist Robbie Carman’s article on remote set-up using Streambox software for synchronous color-grading sessions with his clients. Sound designer and mixer Cheryl Ottenritter, of Ott House Audio also uses Streambox when offering remote synchronous client-supervised audio mix sessions. Cinesync, Evercast, Source Live and Session Link Pro all offer low latency, high quality synchronous reviews of video productions. Evercast also includes pre-Vis options, such as streaming Maya or other animation platforms. A slightly different post-production tool for the work-from-home user is BeBop.  This system was designed to help avoid costly individual hardware and software purchases, and allows the user to remotely access a powerful virtual computer in order to create VFX projects, edit media files, animate, process images, or collaborate in real-time.

Photo: Matthew Kwong, Unsplash

Frame Accurate Reviews

Other collaboration tools for reviews and feedback that were once “nice to have” are now becoming essential. Frame.io, Vimeo and Wipster all provide frame-accurate client reviews and the ability to share comments back to the team. I’ve been a personal fan of Wipster—that’s my affiliate link in the previous sentence–because I think they’ve been especially responsive to the needs and interests of the post community. Project management software such as Basecamp, Slack, and Teams is even more vital to keep teams and projects organized across different time zones.  I’m also becoming a fan of Milanote for sharing storyboards, vision boards, deliverables lists and more at the early phases of a project. Rich Harrington recommends using these kinds of tools, but reserving a Slack channel for quick-turnaround internal discussions that need to happen outside the channels with clients.

Wipster side-by-side comparison feature

Fixing Flaws, Speeding Up Delivery

While we are capturing some less-than-ideal footage these days, there are some fabulous tools to solve problems. Three great tools from Digital Anarchy can really help. The first is Flicker Free which removes flicker and rolling bands out of footage. The second is Samurai Sharpen, a plug-in that does just what it says–helps to sharpen out of focus footage. The third tool is Transcriptive, which will rock your world if you haven’t used it before with interview-driven content. I have other posts on this topic, so won’t delve into it today, but this plug-in transcribes footage, makes it searchable by words, and makes your captioning workflow a breeze.

Editing with Transcriptive from Digital Anarchy

Tapping Your Archives

I started my career delivering archival content to feature films.  And while the internet has certainly made digging easier, the process of tracking down rights holders can remain elusive.  Just because you find an image on Google doesn’t mean you can get the sync rights. And even images you source from a well-known archive like Getty may still require tracking down certain rights holders. If you need to source outside content, consider buying a package plan with the highest level of usage clearance, so you can use the shots for multiple projects. Shutterstock is currently offering several specials. And don’t forget national treasures like the Smithsonian Digital Archives and the National Archives collection, which often contain federally-created content that is free to use, or historical content that is no longer under copyright (but you still need to check!).

Remote video production isn’t as fun, frankly, as collaborating together in a room. But it’s workable. And some tools and workflows are improving quality and efficiency along the way.

Amy DeLouise is a writer and digital creative director working from home.  She has authored a variety of LinkedIn Learning video courses and a new book on nonfiction audio from Routledge Press.

Better Audio for Your Zoom Calls and Mobile Videos

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Like you, I’ve been recording more “selfie” mobile videos and participating in more recorded Zoom webinars than ever. What I know from my work as a professional video producer is that better audio leads to better online engagement. People may forgive some wobbly video, but if the content is good and they can hear you clearly, they’ll stick with you. Have poor audio? Forget it. So here are a few tips from my last 60 days of remote recording. Wired mics have always avoided interference best, and can come at a fairly low price point for the home user. Producer Nicki Sun recommends the Power DeWise wired lav mic which runs at about $40. iPhone video consultant Kim Foley recommends customized solutions to her clients, including the Mosotech Omnidirectional Condenser Lavalier Mic, which at the moment is priced under $20. (Remember you may need adapters for iPhones.) If you can go up a bit in price, you can get good quality for less than $80 with the Rode Smart Lav/Condenser . If you need distance from your mobile device or computer, then wireless is the way to go. I just bought the Saramonic Blink500, which works with mobile phones, computers and tablets and cost about $200. It comes with a transmitter you can clip on your belt, and a receiver that plugs directly into your phone (available for Android and iOS).  I’m also a fan of the Samson Go Mic Mobile package, which gives you a wireless direct-to-mobile signal for under $200. If you are more often seated in front of your computer and want a podcaster-style setup, consider the Rode NT-USB podcast mic, which runs about $250. For significantly less, the Blue Snowball gives a decent sound–I just used mine to give a series of webinars on Zoom.

Blue mic works well for podcasts

Other Pro Tips for Better Sound From Home

If you are recording audio that really matters–say for a podcast or to be the recorded on your computer for a video, avoid hard surfaces and noisy appliances. That includes your computer, which has a fan that can affect your sound. Some talent who record professional voiceovers will go as far as recording inside a closet or anywhere with dampened sound such as a carpeted hallway if they cannot be in a sound booth.  When using VOIP (Skype, Zoom, any Voice Over Internet Protocol system) to record an interview, my friend producer Walter Biscardi recommends using e-Camm recorder software with Skype, and then making a backup audio recording direct to a digital audio recorder, such as the Zoom h4n. If you don’t have access to these tools, that’s OK. You can at least increase the data rate of the recording you make inside the VOIP system. On Zoom, that means checking the box that says “Enable HD” and “Optimize for Third Party Editor” whenever you are planning to record your session.  This greatly improves the data rate, and therefore the quality of the recording. My colleague and tech guru Rich Harrington, CEO of RHED Pixel, recommends making a “double ender” recording–in other words, not just the cloud recording that Zoom will make for you, but asking someone else on the call to hit their record button and make a local recording. Note that these video files will oddly be auto-saved into a folder under Documents (but at least it’s labeled Zoom!).

More tips to come on making mobile video and Zoom recordings. In the meantime, if you want more audio tips for your professional video productions, check out my new book Sound and Story in Nonfiction Film and Video.