Let’s Make a Movie

Techno-babble by Roy


This document provides a description of the process of digital video production at the Bow School District in Bow, NH.  Roy Bailey, Director of Technology, is the school district’s liaison for the statewide PT3 Project New TEACHERS II.  The videos described can be viewed online at http://www.bownet.org/pt3/video/videos.htm.



Step 1: Produce the movie

This is the most important step and should be our first goal. The process of telling a story is usually more involved than the lay person thinks.  It would be very conservative for me to say that 1 minute of video will take at least 1 hour to produce. Using Bow’s “Overview” video as an example, producing the movie consisted of:


a)      Preproduction: (2 weeks):

·        I emailed all of the faculty and staff at Bow to explain that we were going to start making movies which highlighted some of the ways technology is used in Bow. I told them that the first video would be an overview of the district, which featured a “minute of this, and a minute of that”.  I explained that I would be video taping between the dates of A and B and requested that anyone who had anything to share during that time allow me to video tape a few minutes of their class.

·        I then received invitations from numerous faculty members and planned my schedule accordingly.


b)      Production (2 weeks): 

·        Using the schedule I generated during preproduction, I visited several different classrooms throughout the district and videotaped the events I was invited to. Whenever possible, I videotaped the event and then tried to get teacher commentary afterwards. I discovered that students and teachers act very different when in front of the camera and, as such, started trying to find ways to videotape in a less obvious way. For example, although the teachers knew I was videotaping them, I would often point the camera towards the floor when asking them questions. I did this with the intention of using just the audio I recorded.  This often put them more at ease.

·        After filming 5 minutes here and five minutes there, over a period of 2 weeks, I ended up with about an hour of footage.


c)      Post Production: This is where you’ll do most of your work.

·        I first watched all of my video and logged which parts were useable and which parts weren’t.

·        I then used a computer to video-capture all of the useable parts into a video editing package.

·        I then broke the captured clips into smaller sections and rearranged them on the time line in order to “tell my story”. This process is very consuming, as one watches the clips over and over again, changing the length and order of the clips, etc… in order to better convey the points you’re trying to make.

·        Once I had a rough draft of what I wanted to do, I wrote and recorded a narration to accompany the video clips, went back out to record missing footage necessary to “tell the story” and created title screens and text overlays for the video.

·        I added this additional footage and audio, tweaked and cleaned the audio as necessary, and continued to cut more footage in order to make the video flow well. When all was said and done, 20 hours of work and 1 hour of videotape resulted in a 12-minute video.


Technical Specifications

The post production process is easily accomplished on either the Macintosh or Windows computer platform, though additional hardware/software may be required. If using a DV camcorder, your computer will require a Firewire interface (a.k.a. DV, iLink, ieee 1394) and some sort of video capture software.  Most Macs built since 1999 have this interface and many of the newer Windows machines do, as well.


Mac users can use Apple’s freely downloadable iMovie software. Windows ME (as well as Windows XP) includes Microsoft’s Movie Maker software as part of the operating system.  Both of these packages are easy to use with similar feature sets. As easy-to-use and free, they also have limitations, but I’ve found that my faculty find these limitations to be comforting. If your computer lacks a firewire interface, there are numerous packages, which offer the interface card bundled with entry-level software for $80 or less.  Popular cards would include Pinnacle System’s DV Studio and ADS’s Pyro DV.


Those who are so inclined can look at more sophisticated packages such as Adobe Premiere 6 (Mac and PC), Apple’s Final Cut Pro (Mac only) and Avid’s Xpress DV (Windows 2000 only) which will run $250 - $1700. Movie makers should also keep disk space in mind, as one minute of DV video will consume about 250MB of hard drive space. Bow’s “Overview” started with an hour of video which required 13 GB of hard drive space.


Step 2: Compress the Movie:

Before a movie can be shared on the Internet, it has to be compressed into a format which is suitable to the type of server that it is going to be served by as well as suitable for the type of user who will be accessing it.  Since different people use different types of computers, which run at different speeds and connect to the Internet via different methods, a single movie should be saved into multiple formats, such as QuickTime and Real Player.  Each of those formats should include different clips suitable for 28.8 modems, 56kb modems, ISDN, T1, LAN, etc.  The Bow “Overview” video current resides on the Bow School District server in no less than 11 different versions.


Compressing itself is a black art and one that can’t be covered in any depth in this paper. Terran Interactive, Inc. has written a useful book called How to Produce High-Quality QuickTime, which would be a good place to start.  This art does require knowledge in such areas as appropriate aspect ratio and frame size, correct codecs for video and frame-rate, correct distribution rates for video and audio streams, etc.


Compressing can also be very time consuming. The BHS News, which we produce twice a week, is only 7-9 minutes long. I typically compress 9 different versions of each broadcast and the process ties up one of my computers for 8-10 hours. After the video is compressed, I have to complete the following steps:


1.      It must be uploaded to the appropriate server.

2.      A reference movie has to be built (which tells the end user’s computer which movie to play (i.e. 28.8 modem vs T1).

3.      The reference movie has to be uploaded onto the web site, and the appropriate html code has to be entered into the web page in order for it to display the movie.


Here is the html code needed to display the movie on the web site:


Real Player example from the “Overview” video:

<EMBED WIDTH=320 HEIGHT=240 SRC="http://www.bownet.org:8080/ramgen/pt3/overview.rm?embed" CONTROLS=ImageWindow CONSOLE=one NOJAVA=true>


<EMBED WIDTH=375 HEIGHT=100 SRC="http://www.bownet.org:8080/ramgen/pt3/overview.rm?embed" CONTROLS=All CONSOLE=one NOJAVA=true AUTOSTART=true>


At a minimum, you will require QuickTime Pro ($30) and Real Producer (free) to create these compressed movies. With these “minimum” tools, you need to load the original movie and then “save as” into each of these formats with the correct settings as mentioned above.  A product such as Media100’s Cleaner 5, allows the user to load the movie once, run a wizard to determine the correct settings, and then have it generate all 11 movies at once. For best results, the user will still need to tweak the automatically generated Cleaner settings to fit their needs.


Step 3: Serving the Movie:


QuickTime: FastStart QuickTime movies (Hollywood’s favorite) offer the highest quality experience and can be served from any web page. Unfortunately, it is only suitable for short clips (60 seconds or so) and fast bandwidth.  All other streaming QuickTime requires the use of Apple’s QuickTime Streaming Server software. This software is free, but currently must run on an Apple G4, which in turn is running either OSX workstation or OSX Server.


Real Video:  Real Video clips, which work at a single download speed, can also be served from any web page. However, clips that adjust for different connection speeds such as 28.8 modem vs. T-1 (known as Sure Stream) must be served from a Real Video server. Real Video Server Basic is free but limited to only 10 concurrent connections. It must be installed on either a Linux or Windows NT/2000 server.


DVD - an Alternative:

You can totally bypass the cost and QOS (Quality of Service) issues of putting the videos online by distributing them on DVD. A single 4.7GB DVD can hold around 2 hours of high quality video, more hours of lower quality video, and/or data such as pdf files, etc.


There are currently 2 types of DVD-R recorders on the market, both of which create discs, which can be played back on most consumer DVD players, and Mac/PCs with DVD drives. 

·        You can use DVD-R Authoring, which can produce encrypted (copy-protected) media. The Authoring player costs $4,000 (Bow has access to one now) and the discs are $25-30 each. 

·        DVD-R General has just been introduced as Apple’s SuperDrive and in high-end Compaq computers. The recorder is currently in short supply outside of Apple and Compaq computers, which bundle the drives, but it should run around $1,000 as an add-on for all computers by Fall 2001.  DVD-R General records on less expensive discs which run $10-15 each, however this alternative does not allow for copy-protection.


Producing a DVD consists of compressing the video into MPEG2 video and audio clips and then programming how users will access the video through menus and chapter stops. Bow already has the software necessary to author these discs in the form of Apple’s DVD Pro ($500 for schools). The PC equivalent is Sonics’ DVDit PE which runs about $1,000. At today’s prices, you could purchase an Apple G4 with SuperDrive for $3,150 – 3,800, which could both compress the streaming video clips and author/burn DVD-R’s as an alternate form of distribution.



Roy’s Let’s Make A Movie Table of Prices







Apple’s iMovie (free and Mac Only) requires Firewire

Microsoft’s  MS Movie (free and Windows Only) requires Firewire


(includes Firewire) Pinnacle’s Studio DV, ADS’s Pyro DV, etc…($80-90)




Apple’s Quicktime Professional ($30)


RealVideo Producer Basic (free)



Apple G4 with OSX Workstion and free Quicktime Serving Software


Windows NT/2000 serve and free RealVideo Server Basic (only 10 connections)


512kbps now available (2 concurrent high bandwidth users)



Adobe Premiere ($250) requires Firewire



Media 100’s Cleaner 5 ($300)




Apple’s Final Cut Pro ($500 and Mac Only) requires Firewire


Avid’s Xpress DV ($1500 and PC only) requires Firewire




Media 100’s Cleaner 5 Compressor Suite ($1100)



Stand Alone T1 – please check prices but I’m guessing $2000-2500 for 1.4mbps (5 concurrent high bandwidth users)



You don’t want to know



Media 100’s Cleaner 5 PowerSuite

($5800) – greatly accelerates the compression process



PT3NH Project New Teachers II: Digital Video Info --- Fall 2001