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content development:

We like to make our own content. Some we sample from old movies, and some we create from scratch - such as our downloadable freebies:

More info about making your own loops using a PC can be found in our introductory manual on PC-based VJing from our Painting With Light workshops.

Here are some tips for making your own clips:

Dripping food colouring into a large jar of water, filmed with the lens of the video camera right against the glass. Easy to do, but looks really good.

Ripping from vintage animation. Animation is much easier to edit loops from than non-animated films, as the same drawing is used repeatedly - you just need to find when the same animation cel is repeated, and edit to the frame before that for continuous movement. A lot of vintage animated films are now public domain. Apart from Disney films, we wouldn't touch those with a ten foot pole, they're very territorial about their copyright.

Ripping from vintage movies. Dance scenes are especially good for VJing, as are scenes featuring musicians. Live action never really repeats itself perfectly, so we will often reverse a clip and butt it up to the end of the original clip to make a seamless loop (or using a VJ program like Resolume, you can just do that within the program). "Bouncing" doesn't work so well if someone's walking in one direction and then goes backwards, but it works really well with dance steps etc.

Everyday urbanity. We're lucky enough to have a very good DV cam. The kind of stuff we film around our city - electricity poles, trains rushing by, light-trails of cars at night - all quite unremarkable in itself, but looks great layered with VJ effects. Which is why such content's a bit of a cliche in the VJ scene - easy to get, looks good, all around us. It's not exactly creative, but it works well.

Low Lux and Super Nightshot. Many DV cameras, even really low-end ones, have these functions. They create a really pleasant motion blur. The former shows colour more readily, often intensifying the colours - eg we shot a dancer at night on the beach with the last dying rays of sunlight behind her. With the camera on low-lux, the colours of the sky were much brighter. We also got some non-low-lux footage of her silhouetted (with no motion blur) to mix in with the intensely coloured low-lux stuff - to get the best of both. Nightshot (think Paris Hilton video) and Super Nightshot (even more light-sensitive, with motion blur) produce greenish mono footage even in almost complete darkness. If you don't like the green tinge, make it B&W with a filter on your desk or in your editing or VJ program.

Video codecs are a nightmare. They were the bane of the whole process when we first started out, and so many people told us conflicting things about which codec to use.

We've tested a lot and decided that the main one to use on our XP machine is the Ligos Indeo Video 5 codec with .avi format. It resizes well (is scalable) and is fine for scratching so long as you remember to put in keyframes every frame when you're editing. It doesn't get your files terribly small in size, but as we've got enough hard-drive and RAM on our XP machine, that's not a problem.

Ligos Indeo codec - we use the latest (commercial) version of this codec as it resizes footage well, and does a really good job of compressing footage while maintaining quality. Unfortunately, it only works on XP and the latest version costs money. An old version 5.1 was free, and is still available from www.free-codecs.com - and if you're using Windows XP you should already have a codec that can read Indeo-compressed avi's.

There was a problem with our G4 Mac Powerbook though, as currently this codec isn't available for OSX. Sad. Solution? Got rid of the Mac :P

On the Mac, we used PhotoJpeg codec with .mov format, with a compression rate of 90% for most things (depends on clip). Not to be confused with MotionJpeg, which we haven't managed to get very good results or performance with.

There's a good summary of video codecs at Wikipedia although doesn't really cover VJ requirements.

What size to make one's clips?

This really depends on how much content you've got, how powerful your computer is etc. Most VJs these days seem to be using 640x480, although a lot of the higher-end VJs turn their noses up at anything less than Broadcast Quality. As we have a HUGE number of clips (probably tens of thousands of loops and clips) that just isn't realistic for us. Hard drives are coming down in price, but there's only so many you can logistically manage at once.

We have good graphics cards and use a codec that upsizes well, so we find that for live gigs, 400x300 is just fine and that's the resolution most of our video is at. We resize it up to 800x600 in Resolume and that's the resolution we project at. As 300x400 is a multiple of 800x600, it scales up easier than 384x288, the resolution we initially started VJing with.

When we're recording for release on DVD, we work at higher resolution, re-ripping what we need from our Master Sources (usually mini-DV tape) and clogging up a hard-drive for just long enough to make the video clip, then deleting it all again or saving it onto data DVDs (be aware that DVDs are far less archival than CDs at this stage though). We always keep our Master Tapes for anything we might possibly want to re-use.

Some other VJs whose work we really respect also use these settings:

SleepyTom.co.uk (he also has VJ resources such as codec comparisons)

Please note: Resolume runs MUCH better if your clips are all the same size, with an appropriate codec and (especially if you're going to be scratching) keyframed every frame. Everytime we hear people complain that they have trouble with Resolume crashing, it usually turns out that they just throw in clips at whatever format, size and codec they found on the web, without reformatting them to a consistent size and format. Since these also usually seem to be losers using an illegal cracked version of Resolume, they deserve to have it crash on them anyway.

copyright all material 2005 kat black & jasper cook