Updated May 29, 2003

So, you want to make a Farscape music video, or are at least thinking about it. Before I got into Farscape, I had no idea people made fan videos. One day, I found a site that had one music video, I downloaded it, and was hooked. At the time I lacked the technical expertise, equipment and software to make a video of my own. Learning how to make videos has been an odyssey, filled with frustration and great satisfaction. I'll try to save you some time and a few of the mistakes I made. This page isn't a technical guide to making videos, but a starting point. There are links to the right that you will definitely want to check out. Some of the sites are quite technical, so don't worry if it all seems a bit overwhelming. I suggest sticking to the basics and let your own skills lead you from there. Who knows, this could lead you to a whole new career or lifelong passion.

There are at least five parts to making a basic fan music video:

Part 1: Choosing the right music

Part 2: Capturing

Part 3: Editing

Part 4: Exporting

Part 5: Sharing


Part 1. Choosing the right song for Farscape can be difficult, or not. What's difficult is finding lyrics that match what's happening on the video. Is your video meant to be a literal expression of the song, is it metaphorical, or will you ignore the lyrics entirely and allow the music to lead the video? In the summer of 2001, I was driving home from work and an old song I had never heard before played on the radio that left me stunned. The song, Sail Away by Styx, amazed me because the lyrics were perfect for John Crichton's early experiences in the Uncharted Territories. I got home, downloaded the song, and played it again and again. The lyrics were so perfect, I had the video edited in a matter of hours, but only in my head. Needless to say, Sail Away is pretty close to being a literal translation of the song. My personal preference is to find songs containing lyrics that work with the video. Other people choose songs based on the music only, with little consideration of the lyrics and how they work with subject matter. It's your video, so the choice is yours.

Usually, I find myself listening to songs on the radio or at work and considering each and every one as a potential Farscape video. Obviously, most songs aren't right and I simply wait for the next contender. To my advantage, is that I work near other people with taste in music very different from my own. Listening to their songs of choice exposes me to music that I would never have discovered otherwise. If your taste in music is narrow, so is the pool of material you are limiting yourself to use.

Part 2: Capturing the video I think is the toughest part for some people to grasp, at least until they realize it's not difficult at all. As far as I know, there are two popular way of capturing the video to modern computers: a video capture card or external device, and high speed data connection such as USB2™ or Firewire™ (also known as IEEE1394 or iLink™.)

Firewire and USB2 are two popular standards for transferring video to your computer hard drive. If you own a relatively modern Macintosh or Sony computer, you already have Firewire. Most new Windows PCs ship already equipped with USB2. Expansion cards for both Firewire and USB2 are available and are fairly cheap. Basically, Firewire allows you connect your digital camcorder or VCR to your PC. However, most VCRs don't have Firewire or USB2 data ports, so it may be necessary to use a data converter, which acts as a bridge between the two machines. Most digital camcorders will work as a bridge just fine. Use the RCA jacks (the red, white, and yellow plugs) to connect the camcorder to your VCR. Then use Firewire or USB2 to connect your camcorder to your PC. Just like that your analog video is converted to digital and is ready for capture.

Another choice, the one I prefer, is to use a video capture card. Probably the most popular line of consumer cards are manufactured by ATI. My card is the ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon 7500, which costs around $150. The ATI comes with all kinds of features I never use, so a less expense card will probably work fine. Pro capture cards can cost thousands of dollars, in case you were wondering. A nice feature of the ATI card is its ability to export back to VCR without any special equipment. You can capture from a DVD with the ATI card as well. Note, capturing DVD works for me only when I use the S-Video cable that came with the DVD player, not the cable supplied by ATI. I have no idea why.

A couple of tips for capturing video:

Faster is better. 7500 RPM hard drive is better than 5400 RPM. Faster processors are better than slower ones. I captured video on a 233 MHz Pentium 2 for a while, but the machine was limited to 320 x 240 size video and 15 frames-per-second. Oh, and it took hours to compress a five-minute video. Faster is better.

Part 3: Editing the video is the fun part. The only problem is choosing your editor.

If you have no money:

Windows ME and XP have a built in program called Windows Movie Maker. This program isn't great, but you can make a decent video with it. Note, WMM isn't designed for exporting to VCR, so the vids made with it are best viewed on the web. Start > Programs > Accessories > Windows Movie Maker.

If you own a modern Macintosh, you are in luck. Your machine already has a great little editor called iMovie. Far more sophisticated than its Windows counterpart, iMovie has all kinds of transitions, effects and so-forth. iMovie can export to your VCR via a digital camcorder or digital bridge device. The only downside to iMovie is that it works with digital video only.

A nice little program good enough to make online videos is QuickEditor. Available in both Windows and Mac versions, this editor is free to use and never expires. For around $30 you get expanded features. It is required that you have QuickTime (free download) installed on your system for the editor to work. If the QuickEditor link isn't working, you can download the program from here. I made the following videos with this editor: Boogie or Die (original version) | My Heart Will Go On | Bed of Roses

If you have less than US$100:

If you have a Mac, but not iMovie, you can buy it from Apple for US$49

For Windows, the program I use and enthusiastically recommend is Video Factory 2. For $69, you get a complete video editor with over 170 transitions and effects, two video tracks, a text track, three audio tacks, and all the export options you could possibly want. Download the free trial (can't export) and give it a try. I made the following videos with this software: Boogie or Die 2 | Hey Jude | 1812 | Sail Away | A Day in the Life | Smooth Criminals

Over US$100

Apple recently released a trimmed down version of its professional editor called Final Cut Express. I personally have never used this software, but from the many reviews I've read, there's nothing "express" about this program. Full-featured, including most of what you will find on Final Cut Pro, this program has been called a "bargain" at $299. I'm planning to replace my old iMac with a new Mac soon, which means a more detailed review of this software posted to this site is on the horizon.

Vegas Video 3 (Windows): Made by the same people who make Video Factory 2, this software definitely worth a look. $419

Adobe Premiere 6 (Windows & Mac): Probably the best consumer grade editor out there. $549

Apple Final Cut Pro (Mac): If you have a Mac and take your editing very seriously, this is the best there is. $999

Avid Xpress DV (Windows & Mac OS X): If you are a pro and use Avid at work, this is for you. $1699

More software can be downloaded from www.download.com

A few hints on editing:

Probably the most common mistake made by new editors (myself included) is using clips that are too long. Thinking back to my first couple of vids, I used clips that were way too long because I felt they were important for the video. As if to make sure you didn't miss my point, I included virtually the entire scene. What I didn't realized back then, is that a succession of brief, yet related clips are far more effective in conveying a thought than a really long clip. Keep the clips short, absolutely no more than 8 seconds for slow moving videos, 1 or 2 seconds (or less) for fast moving vids.

No matter how many fancy transitions your software may offer, keep the transitions simple. Simple is better, and try to use no more than two types of transitions through the entire video.

Refrain from using clips of people talking, particularly if there is only instrumental music playing. Seeing an actor's lips moving can be distracting. Unless of course, you are able to synchronize their lips to words in the music - that is very cool.

Think about the clips you are using and why you want to use them. Watching a video with clips that seem to have been placed in a random order and make no sense to the music can be a big turnoff.

Part 4: Exporting the video.

Okay, you just made your video, now what? Choosing the right export option depends on how you plan to share your video. Here are some of the options to consider:

Frame rate. Video and film are viewed at about 30 frames-per-second. High quality vids will use 29.97, 30, or 24 fps. Lower quality vids will use 15 or 8 fps.

Compression. Less means higher. As in, higher quality and file size. If you plan to export to a VCR, .AVI (or raw video) with little or no compression will provide the best quality, particularly if you used a DVD as your original video source. However, the file will be quite large. The raw video of my Sail Away vid, which is about 5 1/2 minutes long, is 1.2 gigabytes in size. However, Windows Media encoder brought the vid down to less than 20 megs, which works fine for the web. Here's an example of a QuickTime video I made a while back:

Bed of Roses export settings:

Video: Sorenson Video 3
Quality: Medium
Frame Rate: 24
Key Frame Rate: 20
Data Rate: 35 Kbytes/sec.
Sound: QDesign Music 2
Sample Rate: 48 kHz ; bit rate of 40; 16 bit stereo sound

Most editing software will use templates that offer few custom settings. You simply choose the overall quality of the video and the software does the rest. Unless you are really into video, using templates is the best option.

When possible, I will post at least two versions of the same video to my site. A large file for people with broadband, and a smaller file for dial-up modem users.

Part 5: Share your video.

This is the easiest part, and you probably already know what to do. Farscape Fantasy is home to the largest collection of Farscape music videos anywhere. Most fan sites contain few, if any, music videos because video is expensive to host. This site exists on its own dedicated server, which allows about 2000 gigs of data transfer per month. Yes, it costs some bucks, but adding a new video (or thirty) to the site archive every month seems to be working fine. Click here for more info on submitting your video.


<<Return to the Music Video Page


Helpful links:

www.DV.com - Forums, articles, and lots of info regarding digital video.

www.vcdhep.com - Anything you can possibly want to know about making VCDs, capture cards, DVD, and all things video. Huge site, can be a little intimidating to the DV novice.

Alam DV2 - Special effects for videos.

Copyright information - This site has info on video and music copyrights.

Apple Computer - Home to QuickTime, iMovie, and Final Cut Pro.

Microsoft - Home to Windows Movie Maker, Windows Media Player, and Windows Media Encoder.

Sonic Foundry - Home to Vegas Video and Video Factory

Adobe - Home to Premiere and After Effects

Avid - Home to professional editing systems and Avid Express DV for pro-sumers

LTG's videos, How and Why - Scaper explains how to make a Farscape music video. Site is home to several music videos.

Dallascaper receives no compensation for links to commercial sites.

Know of a good video link? Contact Dallascaper




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