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Digital Video Hacks

By John Virata

Digital Video Hacks is a 404 page manual filled with quick hacks to make the digital video editing, project management, and acquisition process flow smoothly. The book is divided into eight chapters with each of the chapters focusing on individual tips and techniques within a specific topic, rather than a standard chapter style flow. Within this review, we'll take a look at some of the 100 hacks in the first few chapters of the book compiled not only by the author, Joshua Paul, but a whole host of contributors as well. 

The chapters in Digital Video Hacks include Chapter 1: Prepare; Chapter 2: Light; Chapter 3: Acquire; Chapter 4: Edit; Chapter 5: Audio; Chapter 6: Effects; Chapter 7: Distribute; and Chapter 8: Random Fun. For example, chapter 1: Prepare, includes 16 hacks with topics such as Log Using a Spreadsheet, Make Your Own Slate, Protect Outdoor Cameras, Build Your Own Apple Box, Roll Your Own Dolly, and Build Your Own Bluescreen.

Chapter 1: Prepare features 16 hacks, including Hack #8, Build Your Own Apple Box, which includes a quick definition of what an Apple Box is and what it is used for. Also included in the hack is a list of items required to build an Apple box as well as the measurements of the box and color pictures of the process of drilling holes, assembly and final look of the box. Hack #12, Protect Outdoor Cameras offers instructions on how to build an enclosure to protect outdoor security cameras from the elements. As with Hack #8, this hack includes a detailed list of items needed as well as instructions on how to cut and prepare the items to build the enclosure. What outdoor security cameras have to do with editing and acquiring video I haven't the faintest clue, but the instructions are clear in Hack #8. Hack #16 Roll Your Own Dolly is a pretty interesting hack in that it shows several alternatives to a traditional Dolly, such as a wheelchair, Rollerblades, longboard skateboards, and jogging strollers. For the most part, these dolly techniques involve a second person who is assigned to move you forward and backward to ensure a smooth motion.

Chapter 2: Light includes nine hacks, covering such topics as Light with Work Lights, Use Paper Lamps for Lighting, Add Diffusion to a Camcorder light, and Reflect Light from a shade. Hack #20, Add Diffusion to a Camcorder Light discusses the use of Scotch tape in front of the light to help diffuse the light. A tip Paul received from an independent producer in Los Angeles, using Scotch tape will also soften the light, which helps to reduce some of the harshness that camcorder light produce. Hack #23, Shoot Clearly through a Window discusses the use of a neutral density gel to minimize blurred or overexposed video when shooting through a window. Paul discusses how to adhere the gel to a window with the use of gaffer's tape as well as the costs incurred when purchasing certain types and sizes of gel. He also lists places where you can purchase gel via the Internet.

Chapter 3: Acquire features 13 hacks, including Hack #27, Mount Your Camera to Your Car. This hack discusses the use of The Cleat, a heavy duty suction cup that includes a camera mount, so you can mount a DV camera to your car door, trunk or any similar flat surface. Paul discusses how to install the Cleat on your car, how to mount the camera, how to start the recording process, and how to remove The Cleat once you are finished. Color photographs that detail some fine points to using The Cleat are also featured in this hack. Hack #32, How to Record a Television Screen Without Flicker offers tips detailing how to record flicker free Television. In Paul's case, reducing and removing flicker is as simple as turning off the DV camera's image stabilization feature, This he says, will reduce and oftentimes remove the flicker. If you are using a camera such as the Panasonic AG-DVX100, you change the frame rate to the appropriate rate (29.97 for NTSC) to record the TV screen flicker free. Hack #34 Use HDV for Better DV Quality is a pretty sparse hack. The author discusses what HDV and HD is, understanding HDV, and downconverting HDV to DV for editing. What isn't discussed here are the non-linear editing applications that support editing native HDV, such as Adobe Premiere Pro Apple Final Cut Pro and Pinnacle's Liquid Edition. Rather, HDV is given a brief overview.

Click here to buy Digital Video Hacks
Digital Video Hacks includes 100 hacks that will help you to get the most out of your digital video camera and your video editing endeavors. There are quite a few useful tips in this book, including a section on keeping your project organized that is worthy of note. Despite a few sentence fragments sprinkled here and there, the tips are very useful. This book is a good reference tool to have in your library. It is like having a collection of quick tips at your fingertips, all in a central location. For more information, visit

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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at
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