Print text messages: video edition

Today I published my first YouTube video, How to print text messages on Android:

I already knew the obvious choices of software to use for some elements: Audacity to record and edit narration, Pixly to draw the hand pointer animation. I’m a novice at making videos, however, so I spent a good deal of time figuring out what program I should use to edit the video.

First, I tried Kdenlive, and managed to put together the entire video how I wanted it, only to run into a fatal error: I couldn’t export successfully.

Eagle-eyed viewers may notice that the part where I demonstrate a purchase doesn’t use an actual currency. There are actually several layers of compositing in this shot:

Purchase screen with generic currency symbol

When Kdenlive attempted to render this, it just produced glitches: it flashed images like the sad face emoji, from completely unrelated parts of the video. No settings tweak I found solved the problem.

So, on to OpenShot, whose interface feels largely comparable to Kdenlive. I soon discovered, however, that it lacked some basic effects that I needed, particularly freeze frame. Apparently version 2 lost a number of effects that were present in version 1.

Finally, I moved to Blender. I guess, deep down, I always suspected it would come to this.

Blender is a ridiculously capable program, especially when you consider how lightweight it is. It manages to include 3D modeling, rigging, rendering, animation, compositing, video editing, a game engine and more in a download between 80 to 150 megabytes, depending on your operating system. Compare to, say Maya, which can take days to download.

How Blender accomplishes this is surely black magic, but it’s not for fear of the dark side that I avoided it till last: it’s the user interface. To the uninitiated, Blender feels like learning how to use a computer for the first time.

Want to select something in the timeline, or, in Blender-speak, the “video sequence editor?” It’s right-click, not left-click. Want to move it? You can click and drag, but it won’t release when you let up on the mouse button. You need to click again to release. Scroll wheel zooms. Ctrl+scroll wheel scrolls. And so on.

In other words, Blender’s interface is comparable to Dwarf Fortress.

Nonetheless, it only took me about day and a half to re-cut my video in Blender. On the bright side, if I ever need to add a 3D Text Collector mascot and some explosions, I’ll already be in the right program.

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