How to learn how to edit video–in 4 days.

The terms ‘teenager’ and ‘proper planning’ mix about as well as, say, a lit match and a warehouse full of explosives. At some point, you’ll end up with a huge, sloppy mess.

This is what happens when teens are assigned group projects.
1. Teacher assigns a video interview history project, including due date.
2. Teacher has teens find some still photos and video related to the project in class, which teens dutifully add to their flash drives for use later.
3. Teens give each other their phone numbers to text each other about the project.
4. Teens text each other about everything EXCEPT the project for several weeks.
5. Teacher, knowing how teens work, gives them a one week warning on the video due date.
6. Teens, now realizing they a. don’t know how to edit video and b. don’t have a program to do so, freak out and spring the project on the Geeky Mom, because of course the Geeky Mom will know how to do this.
7. Geeky Mom looks over the project, finds out what has been done (pretty much nothing, including the interview) and goes into Crisis Mode and attempts to Organize The Boys. This is slightly less successful than herding cats. 

My first step was determining if the interview had been done for this history project, which happened to be on the Cuban Missile Crisis. If you assumed it had been done, you would be assuming these teen boys were far more organized than they really were.  Of COURSE no interview had been organized!  This was not a problem, however, since both my dad and his wife were 20-somethings during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and had plenty to say on the issue.  Getting them to talk was the easy part. 

This necessitated organizing 3 teen boys into one space at one time, outside of school no less, along with me (now the designated taxi as well) and my dad.  This took 4 days of phone calls back and forth, including finding the phone number of one of the teens who wasn’t in the school directory, because my son couldn’t find his phone, which was in a pile of funky clothes on the floor of his room.

Being the savvy Geeky Mom who semi-understands teen boys, I asked, “OK, who has the video camera?”  Despite being terribly Geeky, I don’t have a video camera at home, except for my point-and-shoot camera that can also shoot short bits of video. 

I was assured that the video camera would not be a problem, that one of the teens had a video camera, but it didn’t have a tripod.  I told them that my dad, who does professional photography, might be able to help out in that department.

So, I picked up the boys, playing Skillet very loudly and singing along with it, because that’s what Geeky Moms do in minivans when ferrying around teen boys.  I did not make the mistake of asking the teen boys for directions to their houses–I knew I’d end up on the opposite end of town from where I really needed to be.  This is why God made maps and/or GPS units.

I then asked, “So, what questions are you going to ask my dad?” This was met with a dumb-founded stare, as if I’d just asked them to recite the complete chemical formula for DNA. I suggested that the interview might go better if they have some questions prepared to ask. They agreed that this was A Good Idea (mostly because I had gained Cool Points by playing Skillet in the van really loud).  They got to work writing down their ideas, some of which were actually useful. 

We arrived safely, if late, to dad’s house.  Our videographer teen pulled out–you guessed it–a point-and-shoot camera with a video feature built in.  Silly me for not checking to make sure it was an Actual Video Camera.  We then discovered that the memory was full, because it was his sister’s camera, and she’d taken the memory card out.  I’m going to delude myself into thinking that it was because she didn’t want her younger brother losing it rather than because she had idiot pictures of herself on there that she didn’t want her brother and/or a Geeky Mom seeing.

This then led to a flurry of inspections of phones and other devices for memory cards that would work in the camera.  It also led to my dad making a comment about how it might be a good idea to be more organized.  I thought momentarily about whacking him over the head for that comment, but that would have meant no interviewee. Instead, I asked “when’s the last time you tried to herd cats?”

Luckily for us, dad also had a spare memory card, and we were able to shoot video.  We had to stop several times when boys scratched in places that should not be filmed or went off on tangents about how cool nuclear explosions could be, but we finally got the interview finished, including a moment where my dad pulled off his loafer and banged it on the table, Krushchev-style.  I ferried the boys home and talked about gaming and our favorite MMOs, which apparently added further to my Geeky Mom Cool Points.  I need all the Cool Points I can get.

I discovered none of the boys knew how to edit video, and the project was due in 4 days.  No one else in their families knew how to edit video, either.  This was a 1-facepalm discovery. I sighed, and had them hand over the memory card to me.

The first thing I did when I got home was to log on to my computer and view the video. Young teens are about as adept at creating quality video as they are at reciting the complete chemical formula for DNA.  Finding the shaky video (because he hadn’t braced himself) with sound quality only slightly better than a dollar-store speaker (because no one had a microphone) was a 2-facepalm discovery.  I was going to have to do a ton of editing to get it anywhere close to presentable.

So, I asked my Trusty Friends for help on finding a good, free, PC video editing program that I could learn in a day so that I could edit the video.  Trusty Friend N’Eligahn helpfully suggested that I buy a Mac.  I made a socially unacceptable retort describing what he could do with that suggestion.  He very helpfully laughed. 

Another Trusty Friend suggested a useful torrent.  This would have been great if a. it was legal and b. I had 4 months to learn the suggested program rather than 4 days.

Trusty Friend Ross, who is a TV broadcaster, made helpful suggestions for future videos, but said “Well, there’s not a lot we can do with this one, since it looks like the kid was having seizures while filming, but otherwise it’s a pretty good interview for 13 year olds.”  I filed the suggestions away for future reference, since I’m pretty sure I’ll get tagged for similar projects down the road.

Other Trusty Friends suggested using Windows Live Movie Maker, which Microsoft very helpfully installs on your system whether you want it or not.  I was pretty sure I wanted something a little more sophisticated than that, and searched my favorite site for all things free for PC,  I found a couple programs, downloaded them, looked at the user manuals, determined ‘This isn’t happening in 4 days’, and closed them back up again. I opened up Windows Movie Maker.

This could be a fantastic beginner program if Microsoft would include 1 thing: an instruction manual.

I spent the next day trying to figure out what everything did, because Microsoft software engineers think like engineers, not Real People. For instance, the tool to snip parts of the video is not on the same tab as the tool to remove the portions you’ve just snipped out.  Now, it makes sense to me to put these two tools in the same section, but for whatever reason, Microsoft helpfully decided they should be in two entirely different spots. You also can’t edit frame-by-frame–it will only edit in 1 second frames or greater.  As someone who’s learned to edit in the thousandths-of-seconds range on Audacity, I found this a tad annoying.

After several days, and a number of hours blowing up ships in Star Trek Online because this was a better alternative than giving myself a concussion banging my head on my desk in frustration, I finished the video.  My son happily turned it in on Friday. 

He returned it to me Friday night, informing me, “Mom, our teacher says it’s too long.  We have to cut out 13 minutes to get it down under the 10 minute limit.  Lucky for us, because of the blizzard closing school for 2 days, it’s not due until Monday now.  Isn’t that great?  Just don’t cut out the shoe-banging part–we think that’s really funny!”

Woo. Lucky me. I edited out poor Adlai Stevenson, cut down Kennedy’s speech, and got rid of as much extraneous parts of my dad’s interview as I could, all in time for Monday’s due date.  The video, muscle spasms and all, are located on my JaeOnasi Youtube Channel.


One comment on “How to learn how to edit video–in 4 days.

  1. I would like to point out that some of the info in here is inaccurate. We never traded cell numbers. I gave them MINE, and didn't take theirs as I didn't have my phone and was likely to forget. And we had scheduled the interview TWO WEEKS before the project was due. So we were not a total failure. Even though we did get a D on the project.

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