Editing for the virtual studio
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Using a Virtual Studio and making videoblogs on YouTube

Editing for the virtual studio
Editing for the virtual studio

Virtual studios and video blogs: I’ve produced and edited my first videoblogs, and here I’m going to give some indications of how they were made. The videoblogs mean I can tell you about interesting things in plant sciences and about my work, and explain informally some of the stories around the things we publish in Annals of Botany or on AoBBlog.com. Please watch in HD if you have a fast internet connection.

The first three videoblogs were about the background images on our covers:
The 2012 cover is introduced at: Cerrado ecosystems and the meskal daisy on the cover

and a previous background image in Bananas on the cover: a videoblog

The third videoblog is Cover pictures: A video blog about insert pictures and roses

Please watch in HD if you have a fast internet connection.


Did you know that YouTube is the third most visited website in the world, after Google at number 1 and Facebook, and ahead of Yahoo, Baidu (the Chinese search giant) and Wikipedia at 6th (www.Alexa.com). YouTube is an important source of information as well as entertainment – so I think it is very important that organizations have a presence there. My content is related to scientific research, so won’t draw huge audiences, but it is important that my work is available in this channel, and as editor of a not-for-profit, charitable, plant science journal, I want to make sure our content can reach another audience through that channel and tell people about interesting news in botany too.

I’m Pat Heslop-Harrison with another videoblog for AoBBlog.com

Lots of people have been asking me about the virtual studio setup I used. Well, it has amazed me how access to technology has moved on. When I first started photography, getting anything – even different types of film – was expensive and meant talking to patronizing types from the likes of KP Professional or Calumet, who went out of their way to be unhelpful, had minimal knowledge even of what they sold let alone the manufacturers ranges, and meant then shelling out vast amounts of money for slightly the wrong thing.
Fortunately, now both information and products are available easily on the internet, and the combination of energy efficient lights and far better high speed photography makes everything easier. So making a studio, and then editing videos is very straightforward. There are three excellent computer programs for video editing – Sony Vegas, FinalCutPro and Adobe Premiere. All do more or less the same thing, and I happened to use Adobe Premiere largely because of my familiarity with Photoshop, which I use daily for microscopy and imaging in my lab.

The video editing methods let you build up a virtual studio, with you as presenter, a digital studio, and images or other videos showing everything you are talking about. In my case, as presenter I am sitting or standing in front of a backdrop which is a colour contrasting with my clothes and skin – a greenscreen. As shown already, we then use a process called keying to make this background transparent, and then you are presented in front of any image you chose – the virtual studio. As in many real studios, I decided to put a framed clear area within this background for more, changing, images. You then end up with a series of layers – me presenting, the studio wall, and the image on the screen. You can cut between these and change sizes and positions independently.

Some surprising points are just how many images you use in a short video clip – the three cover videoblogs with about 8 minutes total time had 104 different image, video and sound files. While writing the material is no more difficult, nor any easier, then for written blogs, you do need a lot of extra pictures for a video blog – 10 to 15 file ‘assets’ per minute of YouTube time. The usual problem is finding pictures: my computer has about 83,000 photographs from digital cameras, I have about 30,000 slides, and then another 120,000 digital and film micrographs from microscopes. I had hoped that the video blog format might be faster than the written format, but that certainly is not the case – the editing time alone is about an hour per minute of output.

I hope this format will be useful to learn more about interesting science!

Thanks to Danosongs.com for the music.

Editor Pat Heslop-Harrison

Pat Heslop-Harrison is Professor of Molecular Cytogenetics and Cell Biology at the University of Leicester. He is also Chief Editor of Annals of Botany.

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