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Unread 02-13-2016, 09:46 AM
Jessica Boucher Jessica Boucher is offline
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So you want to build a reveal video...

It's that time of year again...your team wants to build an amazing video to show off all the hard work that you've created. You want it to be impressive, giving a preview of what teams should expect from you at your first event. You also want it to be powerful, giving the FRC community something to talk about.

I can't tell you how many reveal videos I've seen. I've been here through the days of reveal photos, to the refusal of showing anything before the event, through the minibot iteration saga, and up to the point where we're making parody videos of reveal videos. I'm by no means an expert in video editing, but I can tell you what I feel makes a good video, and I encourage others to jump in and share their thoughts as well.

1.) BREVITY. Want to know what my favorite reveal video is? Killer Bees 2012. It's twelve seconds long. You can google all you want, but the attention span of humans on the internet is shorter than you think. Ideally, keep it under 2 minutes.

I love the Killer Bees video because I can pause it, look at it, and make a decent guess as to what they can do at competition. Want to do a slide show of your kids? Verbally thank all of your sponsors? Throw that into an extended cut. Movies do this all the time, it gives the brand extra exposure, and the super fans will watch both because you're probably going to throw some extra robot footage in there too.

Alternatively you can show the fun stuff at the end, after you've shown the robot. Make it obvious - do a thank you slide to your sponsors and then cut to the fun stuff. You're respecting the time of your fellow teams.

(Side note: don't fit your video to the length of a specific song you want to use. Audio editing is super easy to do as well.)

2.) Functional display. Your video should tell a story, but not in the way that you think. A match has three distinctive parts: auto, tele-op, and end game. Your auto may not be done yet (but if you haven't given your robot to your programmers by now, do it!) or you may want to hide that before competition, so this can be skipped. However, if you do a scouting video specifically for Champs, you definitely want to show auto.

For tele-op, think about the tasks a team could do, and how frequent you think you'll see robots being able to do that task. Then, inverse it. You've got a great drive train? Awesome. You're going to be driving through most of the video, so don't spend too much time on it. Instead, show how you get over different obstacles, especially the more advanced ones.

What about shooting the ball? I like to think of a rule of threes: Once proves you can do it, twice proves you can do it with some consistency, three times is overkill. Unless you're going all Russian Ark on us and doing an elaborate single cut (which if so, YES PLEASE), it's easy to assume that you're cutting out the scenes where you missed.

I haven't seen a team do this yet, but I would love Youtube links to specific functions - to do that, pause the video at the time before the function is shown, click on the "Share" button, and then select "Start at". Then copy that link.

End game should go last. It makes sense - the end game is arguably the most exciting part, and from a storyline perspective it should go last.

3.) Keep it interesting. There's three reasons robot videos go viral: 1.) The team is a big name and can get away with putting out whatever 2.) The robot is amazing 3.) The video is amazing. Out of all those three, the easiest one to make happen is the last one.

This is arguably the nerdiest essay I've ever written, but I hope you've enjoyed it and I look forward to a lot of discussion below. Video is easier to create than ever before, so there's no reason why you have to build just one. Make one for your sponsors, make one for your parents, and most importantly, make one for us. We can't wait to see what you've been working on.
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Last edited by Jessica Boucher : 02-13-2016 at 10:25 AM.
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Unread 02-13-2016, 10:11 AM
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Re: So you want to build a reveal video...

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Originally Posted by Jessica Boucher View Post

3.) Keep it interesting. There's three reasons robot videos go viral: 1.) The team is a big name and can get away with putting out whatever 2.) The robot is amazing 3.) The video is amazing. Out of all those three, the easiest one to make happen is the last one.
This is a great thread and a tremendous start. To build upon point #3: unless you are 100% confident you have a creative or interesting video, keep it short and focused on the robot. I don't care how many advanced film techniques you used to film someone using a drill press... it is still just a video of someone using a drill press, which everyone has seen and is boring.

I really agree with showing off functions. Personally, I would treat the reveal video as if the #1 seed was coming by our pit and asking what our robot could do. I think they offer great opportunity to show all your abilities and that you have thought about strategy. There were a ton of reveal videos in 2014 that never showed the robot passing the ball, which was a huge aspect of the game. Have these teams not thought about strategy or were they so off base with it that they didn't think robots needed to pass? I think you can learn a lot about a team by what they show and what they don't show in their reveal video.
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Unread 02-14-2016, 02:22 PM
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Re: So you want to build a reveal video...

Jessica, Thank you, thank you, thank you. There is a great deal of poignant advice and recommendations.

The only recommendation I would add is if you are going to show a high shot and want to impress, make sure that it is not staged, that is, a stationary robot shooting from a great distance. Instead, show the robot driving, acquiring the target, then shooting and moving off. Too many reveals show actions which were all too rarely replicated on the actual field with similar speed and accuracy. When a first seed is reviewing reveals in the hotel the day before selection, there's nothing worse than hearing, "Wow, wouldn't it have been great if dteam "XXX" could actually have done that in a real match?"


PS -It's not nerdy at all (think of your audience).
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Unread 02-15-2016, 08:41 AM
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Re: So you want to build a reveal video...

Nice post Jessica!

Her post has an undercurrent to it that may not be obvious but you should have a plan for your reveal video (or any video you make, really).

There are two basic approaches you can take when making videos. The first is to take a bunch of random shots of whatever and then stitch together the best of what you have to make a video. (The "family vacation highlights" approach.)

The second is to start with a "script" or even just a basic storyboard and know what shots you will need for the reveal video, then make plans to shoot each scene.

Jessica's post gives some hints as to what those shots might be: autonomous modes working, going over obstacles, etc.

Obviously the person behind the camera has to go with the flow a little bit, as the robot won't always work or they won't always be ready for you when you want that shot. But going in with a plan is way better than just filming "everything" and then having to sift through the footage later looking for that one awesome performance, or worse, realizing you forgot to get a crucial shot.
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Unread 02-15-2016, 09:06 AM
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Re: So you want to build a reveal video...

Thank you for this post. Our team plans to produce a reveal video for the first time so this advice is really valuable.
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Unread 02-15-2016, 09:10 AM
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Re: So you want to build a reveal video...

This is very good advice. We are shooting a super creative reveal video this year with a lot of cool unique cinematic shots but, most reveal videos are just of people practicing in their shop.

Another thing is use royalty free music if your posting to youtube.

Machinimasound and Monstercat are great places to start.
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Unread 02-15-2016, 09:13 AM
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Re: So you want to build a reveal video...

One thing to add, don't pick music that only YOU like. Get your team's consensus on what music is best to use - don't pick crazy heavy metal hard rock, for example. Good songs that are pop and are upbeat will appeal to most viewers.

Otherwise YES please make this a sticky.
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Unread 02-15-2016, 09:31 AM
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Re: So you want to build a reveal video...

It doesn't matter what music you use, I always mute reveal videos.

Great thread!
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Unread 02-15-2016, 10:21 AM
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Re: So you want to build a reveal video...

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Great thread!
I agree, can this be made a sticky somewhere please?
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Unread 02-15-2016, 10:41 AM
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Re: So you want to build a reveal video...

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Originally Posted by Caleb Sykes View Post
I agree, can this be made a sticky somewhere please?
Done. Thanks
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Unread 02-15-2016, 10:56 AM
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Re: So you want to build a reveal video...

Definitely favored for future usage
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Unread 02-15-2016, 12:32 PM
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Re: So you want to build a reveal video...

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Originally Posted by Jessica Boucher View Post
What about shooting the ball? I like to think of a rule of threes: Once proves you can do it, twice proves you can do it with some consistency, three times is overkill.
A good exception to this rule, is if your video shows a 3-ball auto done by two copies of your robot, simultaneously, all in one take. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFZy8iibMD0


Quote:
Originally Posted by EmileH View Post
One thing to add, don't pick music that only YOU like. Get your team's consensus on what music is best to use - don't pick crazy heavy metal hard rock, for example. Good songs that are pop and are upbeat will appeal to most viewers.

Otherwise YES please make this a sticky.
118's videos are good examples of not having to resort to really "macho" music. They let the robot's performance speak for itself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qWiIx_SzIE
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Unread 02-15-2016, 12:42 PM
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Re: So you want to build a reveal video...

I'd like to add that if you choose to go the "cinematic" route, I strongly advise a few things:

Storyboard your shots

Every cinematographer knows that there needs to be some kind of plan, and storyboarding helps those involved with shooting have a better idea of what will happen in every shot. Draw these frames with time stamps, so whoever is editing can make sense of your raw footage. If your team is gonna go full cinematic, there's a good chance you'll have multiple people on set with the job of camera operation, dolly operation, direction, and lighting. Having pictures with rough sketches of the scene and arrows indicating camera motion make it easier for people to work together.

The other benefit to storyboarding is that it can involve multiple people, and with a good amount of discussion and brainstorming, you can plan some pretty interesting shots. Even a drill press can seem interesting with the right camera work, mood, purpose, and editing. Anything can seem interesting when keeping those things in mind. The mundane that everyone has seen can be made anew with some creativity and technical skill.

Know your equipment, its capabilities, and its limits

You don't need an insane amount of equipment to give something that cinematic look, but at the very least you gotta know what you're doing with it.

Whether you have a basic camcorder, a phone, a DSLR, something more advanced like a RED or Black Magic, or choose to use a mix of those kinds of cameras, you gotta know the settings inside and out. If you have something more advanced than a simple camcorder, then make sure you know how to use the manual settings on the camera. Keeping the camera on an auto setting will rarely give you the exact amount of exposure, aperture size, and/or sensor response for the shot. If you have multiple lenses, make sure you know which ones to use for what kind of shots and lighting level you want.

If you are using audio equipment to record sounds, know how to set the levels so that the audio is not too quiet or too loud and clipping.

If you are using stabilizers such as dolly systems, track systems, arm-vest-sled systems, jibs, drones, and tripods, know how to use those as well. Make sure you are practiced on all your stabilization equipment to make the most of it. It is important to rehearse shots before doing the real deal, and the rehearsal is important for when you've got multiple people operating equipment. Stabilizers can range from the DIY-able to the very expensive. If possible, go for the more professional way and get the equipment made for professionals. This doesn't necessarily mean making a purchase; there may be someone locally who has something. If not, it is not difficult to find tutorials online on how to make your own stabilizers. Some stabilization may not even need much building. For example, as a dolly system, you can put a tripod on a pull cart and have someone operate the camera while someone else pulls the cart. It is important to choose what kind of stabilization you need to get the camera motion you want. Digital warp stabilizers can be alright for shots that are fairly stable but need smoothing, but they generally are really bad for shots that are too shaky, leaving you with an over cropped frame and a wonky background. If you're gonna stabilize do your best to keep it analog.

It is also important to know your editing program. There are tons of editing programs available, and some are entry level and some are on the professional end. There are some free ones available on the net. A good reveal doesn't need any crazy advanced editing to make it look great. As long as the shots are well planned, the lighting gives the right mood, and the audio sounds good, then all you really need at the bare minimum is something that will put together your shots. Also, keep the transitions simple. Straight cuts and fades are really all you need.

Set up your own custom lighting

Lighting is possibly one of the most important aspects when choosing to do a cinematic look. The overhead lighting provided in most classrooms and shops can be harsh and light up too much of the room, possibly taking away the focus from the subject. Focusing on the subject with light can be helpful for teams who do not have access to lenses with a shallow depth of field. Overhead lighting can also be very undramatic. Lighting and choice of color allows you to set up a mood. Darker colors can convey a more serious and epic mood, while lighter colors can convey a more fun and lighthearted mood. Using team colors in shots can be great to maintain branding in the video as well. Be aware of color contrast and make sure complementary colors are used, but not too much. There are plenty of videos online that get more specific on lighting. If you have an editing program that can do color correction, try to minimize the use of digital color correction and maximize organic on-set lighting. Too much digital color correction can cause a shot to look unrealistic and have too much of the "Instagram filter" vibe.

Include audio of what is happening along with the background music

A great film is not great without great audio. If you have the equipment for it, try to avoid using the microphone that is on the camera. When doing more advanced moving shots, you'll likely catch sounds of the camera casing getting touched, footsteps, and the breathing of your camera operator. Opt for using an external microphone mounted on top of the camera, on a boom, or use a wireless microphone. I used a lavalier microphone last year to capture all the cool sounds of the robot's motors and pneumatics. I just set the microphone inside the robot and the results were pretty good.

Having an external microphone isolates sound so you can capture just that sound and not the room ambiance that results from having an internal microphone that has to be the same distance as the camera. Getting too much room ambiance can give the reveal a "home video" sound. This is why most reveal videos don't include audio.

It is also a good idea to grab sound effects from online. I use freesound.org, which is a rather large library of free user uploaded sounds.

The music in your video doesn't have to sound like a Hollywood sound track. It can be whichever genre your team prefers. I sugest choosing music for the video before shooting, so your storyboarding can follow the music and make for an overall coherent video. If you choose to use dubstep, choose wisely.

Warning

Doing a cinematic reveal takes a lot of planning and my team's reveal this year has been much more thought out than last years. The reason I mention this is for time's sake. There needs to be a team or person who is appointed with the task of following through with all the work necessary to make a cinematic reveal happen. If you don't plan early enough and don't have someone in charge of the project, then you may not get the look or feel you want. Worst of all, it may never be finished..
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Unread 02-15-2016, 02:15 PM
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Re: So you want to build a reveal video...

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Originally Posted by philso View Post
A good exception to this rule, is if your video shows a 3-ball auto done by two copies of your robot, simultaneously, all in one take. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFZy8iibMD0
Yes, but this would fall under the "auto" category, not tele-op. The point you quoted referred to tele-op only - seeing multiple cut shots of shooting does not add to the audience's confidence that you can do it consistently.

Also, @bEdhEd, I really like your additional comments. I was going for more of a basic requirements and I loved that you added advanced topics such as storyboarding, sound equipment, and lighting. I'd be interested in hearing your viewpoints on what will be the next hot thing in reveal videos: in my opinion parodies are still great but are becoming formulaic, and I'm thinking drone-shots are about to jump the shark.
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Unread 02-15-2016, 02:28 PM
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Re: So you want to build a reveal video...

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Originally Posted by Jessica Boucher View Post

1.) BREVITY. Want to know what my favorite reveal video is? Killer Bees 2012. It's twelve seconds long. You can google all you want, but the attention span of humans on the internet is shorter than you think. Ideally, keep it under 2 minutes.
THIS. If I had a dollar for every reveal last year that was five minutes of a robot picking up totes the same way over an over (insert any year's main task, performed ad nauseum), I could buy a lot of corn dogs (insert your choice of FIRST-related food jokes, cheesecake, BBQ, etc.). Show us an aspect of the robot, maybe show it a second time, then move on.

Leave us wanting more.
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