I’d been using Animoto for a number of years to produce my short promotional YouTube videos—my collections of still images set to music in an animation template. Animoto was easy to use. I could choose from a selection of templates, although the limited template variety eventually became problematic. One big problem beyond template variety? I couldn’t select the display time appropriate for each visual component of my video. Still, I figured out how to make things work and was mostly happy with the results. Thank you, Animoto, for being there for me. You got me started.
To deal with the limited template issue, I chose the frameless one (no inner animation), adding video clips as well as still images to bring my creation to life. Then everything changed, and I couldn’t figure out why. The sound volume dropped during some—but not all—segments containing footage versus those containing still images. I attributed the problem to the sound track itself: offered by Animoto at no additional cost. Before, I’d paid for sound tracks, mostly from Sounddogs. Then I realized the problem might be related to Animoto’s design limitations and not its provided music.
Desperate to produce a quality video about why it took me 20 years to write “The Engine Woman’s Light,” I asked a friend for advice. She was using Wondershare Filmora9. So I shelled out the money for Filmora9, a program for weaving sound and visual content into finished video products. It took me a full day—mid-morning to late night nonstop—to figure out the basics, starting with a couple of instructional YouTube videos. As I recall, figuring out the basics took a bottle of wine after dinner, as well. And many, many, additional trial-and-error hours in subsequent days to deal with the quirks in the Filmora9 system. Determined, I accomplished my task to produce “Writing Steampunk” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUro1sD-ItY), which now has over 156,000 YouTube views.
Comparing my best Animoto video to my first Wondershare Filmora9 production was like comparing an early draft of a story to the one going out for final editing. The difference in quality amazed me. And working on my second Filmora9 video, “Steampunk Romance,” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZduXoZuQJk) taught me a number of important lessons I’d like to pass on to prospective and new Filmora9 users.
- Filmora9 has three areas for content. Think of the first one as a supply cabinet where you import and store your images and footage into the overall program. Think of the second area as your worktable, where you arrange materials from your supply cabinet to draft videos. The third area is the preview screen, to determine if you’ve arranged your materials in the way you actually wanted, or need to return to the worktable to make adjustments. When your draft product meets your expectations, you export it to produce the final product. All is not lost if you later decide your final product has a blemish. You can go back to the draft program in Filmora9 and make additional modifications, producing a new “final” product.
- As with working in Animoto, all your still images must be “ready to use” before importing them into Filmora9. I use Adobe Photoshop Elements 2020 to make image modifications, such as cropping, layering or adding text. As for footage, I use the simple photo/video editor in Windows 10 to isolate the segments I’ll place into my supply cabinet. If last minute trimming needs to be made on the worktable, footage clips can be shortened at the end in Filmora9 (see #4 below).
- Back to the supply cabinet. It helps to import your images and footage clips into your supply cabinet in the same order you intend to place them onto your worktable. This is not essential, but it does make for a smoother production process. When moving your images and footage clips to the worktable, do so in the sequence you want them viewed, starting on the left-hand side. Your closing image (often used for showing licensing credits) will be on the far right. When I haven’t used this transfer order, ghost images and flickering have crept into the final draft product. THE BEST WAY to remove ghost images and flickering is to clean off the entire worktable and input the content again. It’s painful, but it’s worked for me, at least so far.
- Use the viewing screen to preview your draft video. Decide which images and clips are viewed for too long. Adjust them by right clicking on the corresponding section on the worktable and clicking on “Duration” or “Speed and Duration.” For the type of videos I create, I run most images and video clips for four seconds each, at least to start. My max has been eight seconds, and my minimum three seconds. Obviously, if you are speaking to your public, your video clip will be longer. DO NOT adjust the position or length of the images/footage, by trying to drag their edges to the left or right. This can result in “ghost images” and flickering. Plus, start at the beginning of the video you are creating, moving one image/video at a time from left to right to modify the time duration of each component.
- Now you are ready to add your sound track, including any music you have licensed and any verbal comments needed. I use Audacity to create my sound tracks. I started using Audacity (a free program) around ten years ago and have never encountered a reason to change to another program. The length of the sound track should be about the same length as your video run time. However, you’ll also need to consider if the variations in the music coordinate with the starting points of each image and video clip. This is not a hard a fast rule. Artistic imagination should always prevail. The best way to see what works is to import your sound track mp3 and move it to the worktable, below the assembled images/footage clips. Then run the preview multiple times. Does the action on the screen coordinate well with the sound track?
- You can also add the sound track during the basic video design. The music can provide inspiration. However, I’ve accidentally messed up the sound track while doing other manipulations. If you add sound beforehand, be ready to delete it and add it again—not a problem for me, but might be for others.
- Remember that final adjustments can be made so that the video/image track matches the sound track. Four seconds per image can be reduced to 3-1/2, or increased to 4-/12, or whatever is needed. An image containing more than a few words of text might need five seconds viewing time. Coordinate the ending so that the video and sound end where you want them to. This could happen together with a fade out of sound during the credits, or the sound could end before the credits do. Again, art applies.
Best of luck to you in creating YouTube videos! If you have questions regarding this blog, leave a comment at https://laurelannehill.com/contact/. I’ll do my best to make a helpful response.
With warmest wishes,
Laurel Anne Hill
Author and Former Underground Storage Tank Operator