Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Guidelines for Use of Copyrighted Music in Education

At some point, you or one of your students will want to use a popular song as a background in a video production. And as nice as it could be to hear a current song while you are watching football highlights, remember that you are using someone else's property without permission. And that can bring on a heap of trouble.

Remember that it's not "music," it's the "music business." Somebody owns the song, someone else owns the recording of that song. And they all hope to make money by selling what you want to steal.

But, if you buy the CD, don't you own the right to put one of the songs onto your video?


Another question that I am asked: is it acceptable if you have a student perform the song in question, instead of using the original recording?

Remember that someone owns that song, the words and the music. So having Johnny perform the song in question is using their property without permission. It's still a copyright violation.

I've heard all the excuses for using copyrighted music:
But the kids really like it.
Who is going to know?
We're a school; nobody would sue us.
I bought the CD, isn't that good enough?

And my favorite:

But I got it on the internet...doesn't that mean I can use it?

I guarantee that sticking to the law won't make you popular with the students who want to use "their" music on a school video. But it will keep you out of trouble, and that should keep you (and your administrators) happy.

Here are some suggestions that should help you along this slippery path. And a disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer, and I don't even play one on TV. As always, consult an attorney for legal advice.

1. To be 100% safe, don't use copyrighted music without written permission from the copyright holders. Instead, use copyright-free music or buyout music.

2. If you choose to use copyrighted material, consult the Fair Use Guidelines for Music:
a. Use 10% of a song, not to exceed 30 seconds,
and do not show the finished video out of the classroom.
Do not duplicate, distribute, broadcast, webcast or sell it.

b. Proper attribution must be given when using copyrighted materials. i.e.
"I Am Your Child" written by Barry Manilow/Martin Panzer.
BMG Music/SwanneeBravo Music.

c. The opening screen of the project must include a notice that "certain materials are included under the fair use exemption and have been used according to the multimedia fair use guidelines".

d. Your fair use of material ends when the project creator (student or teacher) loses control of the project's use: e.g. when it is distributed, copied or broadcast.

3. If you wish to use more than 10% of a copyrighted song, you must obtain written gratis permission from the music publisher and the record company. This is a long process with limited chance of success.

4. Remember that music publishing firms will litigate schools and institutions who violate copyright laws. Fines can be thousands of dollars per violation.

What to wear when you are on camera

Please don't wear:

* Large amounts of white or very light pastels
* Large amounts of red or black (jackets, skirts, dresses)
* Very bright, shiny jewelry
* Fabrics with narrow stripes, polka dots, or tiny patterns with high contrast (black & white herringbone)
* Harsh makeup, very short skirts or shorts
* Don't get a haircut the day before the video shoot

Please do:

* Wear pastels, pinks, blues, greens, browns, golds (red, black and white in small amounts)
* Wear regular street makeup
* Wear jewelry that is not very shiny
* Bring compact (powder), blush, lipstick
* Make sure hair is neat
* Bring some liquid makeup in case one of the male cast members has a skin blemish

Friday, November 04, 2005

Creating Titles

In the old days, video equipment that made titles for TV shows were called Character Generators. Today, titles are Computer Generated. So titles are often referred to as "CG's". Here are some simple tips that will make your CG's more pleasing to the eye.

1. Avoid thin lines.

Because of the way that our NTSC television system was designed back in the 1950's, thin lines will appear to flicker when seen on a TV screen. This has to do with interlacing, odd and even scan lines, and other technical stuff you probably don't care about. Just remember, if you make a title screen with a fine horizontal line, the line will flicker. Don't do it.

2. Computer screens and TV screens are two different things. Be ready for surprises!

When making CG's, some titles will look great on the monitor. When you drop them onto videotape & play back the results, your title might look awful. What happened? The RGB or computer monitor screen is much more advanced than the NTSC TV screen. What looks good on a 21st century computer monitor looks awful on a 1950's designed TV. Sorry. What do we do??

3. Stick with colors that work!

Never use highly saturated or "hot" colors on your CG. Bright red is awful, bright green is worse. Note that the most popular background colors are dark blue, grey and black. The most popular colors for fonts are off white, a golden yellow and grey. If you are using Photoshop or other photo editing software that uses RGB colors, never have your color values lower than 15 or higher than 235 (on a 0-255 scale).

5. Center your text

Don't put a lot of info on a CG screen. Keep the letters in the center, and away from the edges of the screen. Keep text in the "safe area" of your TV screen.

6. Step back to read it

After you make a CG, step back about 10 feet and see if you can read it easily. Look at your finished work the way your viewers will; step back from the screen.

7. And the most important tip ...
steal ideas from the professionals!

You watch the best tutorial for TV production every day in your living room. Multi-million dollar productions are broadcast just for you to pick apart and borrow ideas from. Watch the CG's on the air like a videographer would watch them. Notice the colors of the fonts and backgrounds. See how large the text is. How is the composition? The professionals show you their best work every day; it's up to you to learn from it.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Multiple takes & logging while shooting

When working on a video project, I always go through the three basic steps:

Pre-production (planning)
Production (shooting)
Post-production (editing)

The key to success in a video production is organization. And I'm a rather disorganized person, so I'd like to skip that part and just keep all that information "in my head." But I've learned the hard way that a little organization during the planning and shooting stages makes life a lot easier when it comes time to edit.

In class, I always do a simple demonstration of logging an interview while taping it, to show students some techniques that make the whole process easier. It goes something like this:

Ed: "I need two students to help with this demo." And I grab a couple at random, asking them to come to the front of the class with me.

Ed: "All right, we're shooting an interview with Jenny. I'll have her stand in front of the camera, and Bret will be my gaffer." With this, I hand Bret a pencil and paper.

Ed: "Every videotape that I shoot needs a name. We'll label this tape as 'Jenny.' So I want Bret to write 'Jenny' at the top of his piece of paper. This is our Tape Log."

Bret writes this down and waits for further instructions.

"I'll start the camera rolling. Remember that we need 10 seconds of pre-roll before the action starts. While the camera is rolling, I'll ask Jenny to say and spell her full name."

Jenny looks at the camera and says, "Jenny Jones. J-e-n-n-y J-o-n-e-s."

Ed: "Very good. Jenny, I'd like you to hold up one finger, because this is Take One of the interview." Remember that the camera has been rolling during this.

Jenny holds up one finger for a minute. We're ready to start.

"All right, everyone 'stand by." This is Take One, coming in 5-4-3-2...."

And I don't say "one" because I want a moment of silence there before we begin.

I ask Jenny a couple of questions, and then I cough or clear my throat while she gives me her reply. Ah. A ruined take. I look at Jenny and say:

Ed: "I'm sorry. Guess I messed up that take. So Bret, would you write down 'Jenny interview Take 1, no good.'"

Bret does this and we continue.

Ed: "Note the camera is still rolling. Tape is cheap, so we don't bother stopping the camera or rewinding the tape between takes. Jenny, please hold up TWO fingers, so we know this is Take 2."

She does so. Bret writes down "Jenny interview Take 2" on his paper.

We do another take of the interview, and we successfully complete it. I look at Jenny and Bret.

Ed: "Were you happy with that take? Was that all right?"

They think it was fine.

Ed: "OK. The camera is still rolling, and we know it's been at least 10 seconds since Jenny finished. I'll turn the camera off, and I'd like Bret to mark 'OK' next to 'Take 2' on his log sheet."

Bret does so, and I thank both students as they go back to their desks.

Ed: "Class, when we've finished shooting everything, we'll take a big stack of tapes into the editing suite to begin putting this project together. At some point, we'll look at our script and want that interview of Jenny."

Ed: "Where do we find it?"

And the students reply, "On the tape labeled 'Jenny.'"

"What take do we want to use?"

Students: " Take 2."

Ed: "And how do we know that?"

Bret: "Because I wrote it down."

Ed: "How do we know which take is Take 2?"

Jenny : "Because I held up two fingers while you were taping to show it was Take 2."

If you use the technique of logging your takes and selecting the "good" take while you shoot it, you save a lot of effort and frustration when it's time to transfer the good stuff to your editor.