Digital video hacks: Review

Last Christmas someone bought me the O’Reilly book Digital video hacks: Tips and tools for shooting, editing, and sharing by Joshua Paul. It is almost 400 pages and is well illustrated and written. I brought it along on one of my recent trips and I thought I’d pull out a few choice quotes and give you my thoughts.

This book is meant for: Amateur to prosumer video enthusiasts. A great deal of the hacks are either industry standards or are cheaper ways of doing/making/achieving something that a much more expensive commercial product already does. That is in no way meant as an insult. If you are shooting a super low budget production then some of these hacks could be lifesavers, but on the other hand, you would need to be more selective if you are on a higher budget shoot. There is no way I would use the “scotch tape as a light diffuser” hack on anything more expensive than a best buy hot-shoe light.

The book is one of the O’reilly Hacks series, which means that it is organized into chapters by content, and then each chapter is made up of (100) individual “hacks” This makes for great bathroom reading, and it makes it really easy to find specific subject areas within the book.

Two of my favorite hacks from the book have to be “#18 – Light with work lights” and “#51 – Mobile Audio Booth“.

In #18 – Light with work lights, he explains how to get a lot of light cheaply in the form of hardware store work lights. These are an amazing value in terms of light output, but they can easily be too bright and put out a very harsh light. He shows some sample lighting setups and then adds that you can use baking parchment paper as a low cost diffuser. This hack could easily be worth the price of the book for a beginner filmer.

In #51 – Mobile Audio Booth he mentions that if you are looking for a quiet place to record voiceover or ADR, then the best place is often your car! This obviously won’t replace a soundbooth for pro-VO, but you already own it AND it’s already on-set!

A lot of the hacks in this book are these kind of gentle revelations. Either you know them or you don’t. My only issue with this book is that some of the hacks seem very short-lived, and are dated already. “skin your movie”, “Play your video on a pocket pc”, and “play a movie off of a cd in a dvd player” might not have even been cutting edge when this book was published in 2005. VCD’s? Really?

To sum it up, Digital video hacks is an easy read and probably has something to teach everyone. Don’t take yourself too seriously, do try to learn something new, and take the software related sections with a grain of salt.

Is there something you would like to see reviewed? let me know in the comments!

~ by ross on September 10, 2010.