Inspired by the thread regarding FIRST parodies and the need for good video production, I’ve created a few bullet points that 3309’s media team follows as guidelines in all its videos. Hopefully, these points and any that the CD community would like to add will help rookie and veteran FRC teams beef up the quality of their filmography.
3309’s Unofficial Guidelines:
Keep It Short:
Like all robots, the simpler a video is, the better it will become. In videos, however, simplicity is found primarily in the run-time of the video. When making a film, putting constraints on oneself such as time constraints allows one to be more creative and think within the limits imposed. Born out of this can be a pithy, short, but quite unique film for all to watch.
Stick to A Formula, But Don’t Live By It:
On Team 3309, all of our videos feature a formula within the editing process, and it goes a bit like this: Pick a good song, get interesting shots that show action, cut your shots together to match the beats of the song, color-grade, and publish. It honestly is that simple. If you watch F1, ESPN, or blockbuster films, directors follow this same pattern because it just works. Feel free to play with the pattern, though. Instead of choosing songs of the same genre, expand to other types of music (i.e. going from alternative to rap).
Strive to Be Different:
Yes, we know. Fallout Boy makes good songs that are decent for FRC videos, but please, change it up a bit. For us, we mix up our song list in our recaps to keep things interesting and to challenge how we edit our videos together. If you edit to the beats of the song, then your editing as a heartbeat or tempo to it. Choosing the same artist repeatedly makes your editing become a tad repetitious and that doesn’t allow you to grow your craft or learn new things.
Don’t Be Too Different, Though:
Again, like any robot in FRC, innovation for innovation’s sake doesn’t mean that the robot will be amazing. Sure, you could film everything from a first-person action cam because that’s different, but it doesn’t mean that you’re going to hit the jackpot on the next big breakthrough in filmography. Instead, take tips from popular FRC editors (looking at you, Justin Ridley) in addition to F1 and ESPN highlight videos to see what works and what doesn’t.
Do Multiple Types of Videos:
The editing required for a regional recap video teaches your media team how to edit in a fast-paced, adrenaline-creating manner. However, great editors/directors can do more than just one type of video. Learn how to film a Chairman’s Video with inspirational, slower soundtracks to understand what editing practices are necessary to evoke an emotion of joy and/or tears. Better yet, do a robot reveal to learn what is necessary to evoke an emotion of anticipation and complete awe. In reality, though, it’s not the type of video that dictates what you’re learning. It’s the song you’re editing to. Compare the 2017 Robonaut Robot Reveal to the 2016 Cheesy Poof Robot Reveal to see how the same type of video can evoke a different emotion (happy Fitz and the Tantrums vs. confident and awesome E-40)
I thought some of this stuff has yet to be said on CD, so I might as well make a short post about it. If you feel that you have something to add to this list, please do!
Here’s 3309’s 2016/2017 Video Playlists for Reference: 2016 and 2017
If I could give just one tip to people making videos (of any kind, not just for FRC) it would be: focus on your sound.
We’ve all seen videos with bad sound. Videos of matches taken from up in the stands where there’s so much echo that you can’t hear the announcer. Interview footage where you can’t hear the student because of all the power tools behind them.
You probably care about sound much more than you do about image quality. You could watch a movie on your phone or tablet screen as easily as you would on a 200" projector. Put on a home theatre surround system, or a good pair of headphones, and you’re happy. Ever watch a video when your internet connection has a hiccup and it switches from crisp HD to a blurry SD mess? You didn’t really care that much right? But glitchy sound makes it unwatchable.
So how do you get good sound? Physics says there’s only one way: you need to get the mic closer to the sound source.
Option 1: Use (borrow, rent, buy) a video camera with an external microphone, and then spend $50-100 for a wired lav mic like the Rode smartLav for your interviews.
Option 2: Use a wired mic on a “boom” the way professionals do.
Option 3: Record your video track with whatever camera or phone you’re happy with, and connect the wired mic to a smartphone or other portable recorder. It’s easy to put the sound track under your video track in a tool like iMovie, and sync them up. This is how we made this video.
Option 4: Don’t want to buy a mic? That’s cool, just use the smartphone. Put it on a table or chair discreetly in front of the subject and use its built in mic. It’s still closer than your camera probably is.
Here’s my “Top Five” list for a great recap/reveal video:
The music has to be dubstep (dubstep remixes of pop songs are also acceptable).
Start with a 5 minute slideshow of your team members goofing off or using various machine tools. Bonus points for inside jokes that nobody else will appreciate.
Focus on showing off your robot’s colorful LED lighting above anything else. Even better if your video is shot in the dark and/or with the use of fog machines.
When you finally show the robot doing something, cut the shot selectively so you only show off the good parts, preferably in unrealistically perfect conditions. Have a shooter? Completely ignore the need to aim and place your robot in the ideal shot before you start recording. Only show the hits, never the misses.
Based on your team history, you have personally won 0 robot reveal video awards, and haven’t created any valuable media that is worthy of similar accolades, so are you really qualified to be telling people what it takes to make a high quality robot reveal video, especially when some 254 videos break all of these rules?
Last I checked, no qualifications were nescessary to provide advice on a public forum. But incase they were, I believe the fact that I hold a certificate stating I am a Jedi Knight, and have contributed absolutely nothing to our Chairman’s Award videos for the past three years in a row, would suffice.
Film the person/people filming the robot, and include this footage. (To prove the robot’s existence.) The more cameras included in the shot, the better; especially if the extra camera is a smartphone pointed at the viewer.
1a: Dubstep is great. But for ultimate reveal effectiveness, there is only one legitimate song choice: “Intro” by The XX, played over slow motion, darkly lit footage of a robot performing difficult technical tasks like turning in place, or demonstrating legal signal light operation. Songs “taken” by 148, 118, or other all time classic videos from previous years are also acceptable.
8: Even after you show the robot in its entirety, spend lots of time building suspense over whether or not it can in fact perform the primary game objective, or if that wheeled shooter looking thing up top is just for show.
9: When you show off your mecanum wheels (because you DEFINITELY have mecanum wheels, it’s like a prerequisite to making a good reveal video), make sure that it’s an unweighted drivebase. Never drive the completed robot sideways in the video, or demonstrate functionality which is enabled by not driving it tank style the whole time.
10: The more super close up shots of robot bits that start out blurry then come into focus, the better. Bonus points if these are primarily focused on your fancy lightening patterns.
I know you’re being sarcastic, since people like to complain about all of these things here on CD, but I want people to consider that most reveal videos aren’t made for the general FRC online community. They are made for students to show their parents and friends, and for the team to send to potential sponsors and members of the community. How are parents and sponsors supposed to know how much fun the kids are having prototyping mechanisms that unfortunately couldn’t be incorporated in the final design if there isn’t a nice long montage detailing these activities?
The intended audience of these videos is usually not the FRC aficionados craving robot action because competition season hasn’t started yet, so they’re sitting on the edge of their seats going through robot reveal playlists trying to mentally separate the wheat from the chaff. There are specific videos that are created with this demographic in mind, such as 973’s great reveal video, but these are in the minority.
Regardless of performance or ability, teams tend to be very proud and excited about their robots – and that’s a good thing! It’s nice to see when a team reveals their robot’s sweet LED lighting with a hilarious dubstep remix of a pop song. It makes me think about how much fun they must have had while making their robot and editing their reveal video.