Tuesday, December 09, 2014

How I created the 'Day in the Life ......' video

Several people have asked me how I created the animated clock which appears on the video 'A Day in the Life of Peckforton Station' and also how I synchronised it with the shots of trains arriving and departing.

Initially, filmed virtually every train movement which occurred at the station during a complete operating session, which actually took me around two days. Normally a full timetabled operating session takes about a day and a half but setting up the camera and occasionally having to repeat a train movement when, for example, the camera was too close to the track and got knocked over, meant that it took a bit longer than normal.

These individual clips were then edited together to make a first cut of the video using Corel VideoStudio X5 - but any video editing package could be used for this.

Once I was happy with the core video I then looked around on YouTube for an animated clock which I could superimpose on the main video. Fortunately, I found a neat little clock with a green screen background with open ended permission for non commercial use - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIcSapc8CTE .

This was downloaded using Any Video Converter which is a freebie program which allows you to download Youtube videos and save them in virtually any format. I saved my download as a .wmv as I knew this would be readily compatible with VideoStudio.

Next, I consulted the timetable which I have created for my railway, which was based on the timetable for the Southwold Railway in 1923.

This enabled me to fix the departure times of all the trains from Peckforton station during a typical day. The approximate times for each of the other train movements (eg goods trains and mine trains) were then plotted and their times noted down. The clock video was then loaded into MediaPlayer and paused at the appropriate times. A screenshot was then taken of the screen (using the PrinScr key) and then pasted into Paint, where it was cropped to show only the clock face with some of its green background.

Once all the 'stills' of frozen clocks had been taken, the clockface images were inserted into an overlay track in VideoStudio and then positioned in the bottom left hand corner of the video screen.

The green background was then made transparent by selecting the Chroma Key properties of the overlay image and using the eyedropper tool to choose the specific shade of green in the background.

This process was repeated for each of the clockface images.

The next stage of the process was to trim the animated clock video into chunks to fill the gaps between the stills with animations of the clock moving from the time shown on the first image to the time shown on the second image. This was a bit fiddly to ensure the trimmed video sections were accurate to the actual minute shown on each of the still images - but became quite repetitive amd hence easier over time.

These trimmed sections were then inserted into the overlay track between the two still images of the clockface. The final and quite time-consuming job was to finely adjust the size and position of each of the overlay images and animations to ensure they were in exactly the same position throughout the entire movie - even one pixel of misalignment showed up on the final movie (you may notice a couple of places where I still haven't got it quite right).

And that's basically all there was to it. The most difficult part conceptually was understanding how to make the green background transparent using the Chroma Key option but there are plenty of tutorials out there on the web showing how to do this in various video editing packages. The most time consuming part of the process in VideoStudio was making sure the clock face images and animations were precisely aligned with each other. Maybe on other editing packages this process is easier, but on VideoStudio it has to be done manually for each and every clip.