Adobe premiere

Video Editing

You may have seen TV commercials and magazine articles that talk about the "dawning of the new age of personal video." It is an age in which anyone can sit down at a home computer and produce a studio-quality motion picture. All you need is a video camera, the right software and a desire to create something. With today's camera and computer technology you can:

* Create a really nice rendition of your summer vacation -- far better than "home movies"
* Produce an unbelievable video presentation for work
* Create a full documentary film on any topic or issue you wish to promote
* Create your own multi-million dollar blockbuster movie, just like The Blair Witch Project

That's the idea, anyway. If you have ever tried to sit down and do it yourself, however, you know that it's not as easy as it looks. In fact, with the more advanced software packages, it can be nearly impossible to get started because they are so complicated. For example, when you open Adobe Premiere -- a video editing software package -- you are faced with this initial dialog box:

If you have ever thought about producing your own high-quality videos on your computer, but haven't gotten started either because you didn't know where to start, or because it all seemed WAY too complicated, then this article is for you! In this article, we will dive deep into the world of home video editing. You will learn:

* What is possible
* What you really need -- in terms of equipment and software -- to make it happen
* The concepts you have to understand in order to use any of the popular editing packages

Plus, you will learn how to download and set up a free demo version of Adobe Premiere so that you can try out all of these concepts on your own! At the end of the process, you will be surprised to see just how much you can do with today's technology and how easy it is to get started.

Video Standards

If you have a camcorder, then you know that it is easy to create home video. You simply point and shoot. However, if you have ever played back what you shot and looked at it, then you know how hard it is to create good home video with nothing but a camera. Even if you are extremely careful when shooting, you usually end up with a lot of "junk" on the tape. When you play it back, it looks like a "home movie" -- amateurish, disjointed, confusing, lousy sound...
Because most of us watch so much television and see so many movies, we tend to have fairly high standards when we watch anything on video. We now expect the following features in almost everything we watch:
  • A title at the beginning
  • A set of "shots" cut together in a nice way to tell a story A shot is a specific subject filmed from a specific angle. For example, if you are telling the story of your son's birthday party, different shots from the event might include:
    • a shot of the cake
    • a shot of the presents before they are opened
    • a shot of the kids at the party sitting at the table
    • a shot of your son blowing out the candles
    • a shot of your son unwrapping a present
  • A fairly high number of shots If you watch any regular TV show, you will see that it is rare for the camera angle to stay the same for more that 10 or 15 seconds. The director will cut between different angles to keep things interesting or to make different points. For example, the screen might show a man's face while he's talking for five seconds, and then switch to a shot of his hands holding a tissue (while the sound track continues uninterrupted with him talking) to show the emotion.
  • Interesting transitions between the shots For example, some shots might fade into others, some might spin into others, and some cut very simply from one to another in a quick chain.
  • A decent soundtrack, often involving narration and/or background music
  • Perhaps static shots (like a chart or graph) mixed in with the normal video
  • Titles or legends on some of the shots to identify people, places and things
  • Slow motion or fast motion to change the tempo
Even if you are trying to present something as simple as your family trip to the zoo, it is nice to include as many of these features as possible in your rendition of it. The more features you add, the more professional your work looks and the more attractive it is to your audience.
The good news is that, with just a camera, a computer and a piece of video editing software, you can create video masterpieces that include all of these features.
There are a million different ways to do video editing. You can buy a complete solution from a company like Avid at the high end, and at the low end you can use your camera and a VCR to cut things together. The solution that we are going to discuss in this article involves three different parts:
  • A digital camcorder that has a FireWire (IEEE 1394) connection
  • A desktop or laptop computer, also equipped with a FireWire connection
  • A piece of video editing software

Digital Camcorders

You can use just about any desktop computer for video editing, as long as it has:
  • A FireWire port to connect the camera to - If your computer does not have a FireWire port, you can buy a FireWire card and install it for less than $100.
  • Enough CPU power, hard disk space and bus bandwidth to handle the data flowing in on the FireWire cable
Video processing in general uses lots of CPU power and moves tons of data on and off the hard disk. There are two different places where you will most feel the benefits of a fast machine and the sluggishness of a slow one:
  • When you render a movie that you have created or write it out to hard disk, you will definitely feel the speed of the machine. On a fast machine, rendering and writing can take minutes. On a slow machine it can take hours. You will learn more about rendering later in this article.
  • A more important issue comes when you are reading data from or writing data to the camera. When the video data stream is coming in from the camera through the FireWire cable, the computer and hard disk must be able to keep up with the camera or the computer will lose frames. When sending a completed movie back to the camera, the processor must be able to stream the data quickly enough or the camera will lose frames.
I have one Pentium 3 machine running at 500 MHz, with 512 MB of RAM and a decent 20-GB hard drive. It is right on the edge of being able to handle the data stream from the FireWire connection. It can not handle it if any other applications (like an e-mail program) are running. A Pentium 4 machine or a late-model Mac with 512 MB or 1 GB of RAM and a big hard disk is a nice machine to have when you are rendering and writing files. The Software
There are many software packages available for editing video on your computer. Windows XP even ships with software that's built into the operating system. Machines from Sony and Apple have software that comes with the machines.
In this article, we will use a software package called Adobe Premiere to demonstrate the video editing process. We are using Adobe Premiere for two reasons:
  • There is a free demo version available on the Web, and it will run on both PCs and Macs. Click here to download a copy.
  • Adobe Premiere is a full-featured and well respected video editing package that can do almost anything you would want to do.
In order to use a package like Adobe Premiere, you need to understand several basic concepts. Once you understand those basic concepts, however, the whole process is remarkably easy. After you are familiar with the fundamentals, it is extremely easy to expand your repertoire to include all sorts of advanced techniques.

Video-Editing Computers

So far, we've discussed the equipment you will need to edit video. Now let's learn the basic concepts you will need to know in order to use that equipment. Capture
The first concept is called capture. You have to move all of the footage out of the camera and onto your computer's hard disk. There are three ways to do this:
  1. You can capture all of the footage in a single file on your hard disk. A half hour of video footage might consume 10 gigabytes of space. (Note that some operating systems and video editing software packages limit file size to 2 gigabytes. Other packages put a 30-minute limit on file size.)
  2. You could bring it in as five or 10 smaller files, which together will total 10 gigabytes but will be a little more manageable.
  3. You can have a piece of software bring in the footage shot by shot. Adobe Premiere can do this manually, but a program like DVGate Motion (which comes standard on many Sony computers) can automatically scan the tape, find the beginning and end of every shot, and then bring them all in. Each shot will be in a different file when it's done. If you have access to a program like this, it makes your life very easy.
If you have just a few minutes of footage, technique #1 is the way to go. If you have an hour of footage, techniques #2 and #3 are useful. AVI and MOV files
The capture process will create AVI (on the PC) or MOV (on the Mac) files on your hard disk. These files contain your footage, frame by frame, in the maximum resolution that your camera can produce. So these files are huge. Typically, three minutes of footage will consume about 1 gigabyte of space. You can never have enough disk space when you do a lot of video editing. The Mac we use here at HowStuffWorks for most of our editing has almost 300 gigabytes of fast SCSI disk space, and Roxanne is always having to archive stuff off of it to make room for the new material we are working on.
Once you have all of your footage into your machine, you need a way to select the parts that you are going to use. For example, let's say that you want to include a scene in your birthday movie that shows the candles on the birthday cake being lit. You filmed this activity from three angles and have three minutes of raw footage total. But in the final movie you are going to have 15 seconds of the movie devoted to this scene, in the form of three shots:
  • A 3-second shot showing a match being lit
  • A 5-second shot showing a close-up of one candle on the cake being lit
  • A 7-second shot of the cake with all the candles lit being carried into the room
Out of the big file of all the footage, you need a way to mark the beginning and end of these three little clips so that you can move them around as individual units and bond them together into the final scene. You do this by looking at the raw footage and marking an IN and OUT point for the little sections that you want to use. Then you drag these little clips onto the timeline.
Once you have your shots figured out, you need a place to arrange them in the proper order and hook them together. The place where you do that is called a timeline. You line the shots up in sequential order. Then you can play them as a sequence.
With just three concepts -- capture, shots and timeline -- you can make a movie. It will not be fancy, but it will be 10 times better than watching raw footage. Let's run through these steps and create a movie with them.

Video Editing: Basic Concepts

Once you have installed Adobe Premiere on your PC or Mac, (see this page to download a free demo version), start the program. The first thing that you will see is this dialog:
Adobe Premiere opening dialog box
You can click OK here and move on to the next step, but if you'd like to understand what this dialog is talking about, here's a quick description:
  • This dialog is a complex way of letting you tell Premiere how your camera records raw footage. There are two parts to the equation -- the video resolution and the audio sampling rate.
  • If you have a camcorder that uses MiniDV or DV-CAM tapes, then your camera is taking images at 720 x 480 resolution. You would choose from one of the first two blocks (DV - NTSC or DV - PAL) depending on whether your camera is NTSC or PAL. The United States and Canada use NTSC, and Europe and Asia use PAL.
  • Then you have to pick whether you shot your raw footage using standard format or widescreen (16:9) format.
  • Then you have to choose the audio sampling rate. The easiest thing to do is look in your camera's manual, but 48 KHz seems to be standard for most MiniDV camcorders.
If you are using a MiniDV camera in the United States and you are shooting standard rather than widescreen, then the default that Premiere chooses is correct. Otherwise, choose an appropriate option for your situation. Once you get past the Project Settings dialog, you come to the main working screen of Premiere, which looks something like this:

Adobe Premiere main working screen
The main working screen for Adobe Premiere
There are five different areas on the screen that are important.
  • The Project Area
    Adobe Premiere project area
    The project area
    The project area keeps track of all of the different AVI/MOV files containing the raw footage that you are using to create your movie. In this illustration, the project area has had five different files imported into one bin. Each file is a piece of raw footage: one of a cougar, one of an elephant, and so on. A bin is just like a folder -- it is a collection of things.
  • The Monitor Area
    Adobe Premiere monitor area
    The monitor area
    The monitor area has two video windows. The left window, called the Source window, let's you look at different AVI files so that you can identify the IN and OUT points for the clips you want to use. The right window, called the Program window, lets you view your movie as it develops on the timeline. Both have standard controls to play, stop, repeat and so on.
  • The Timeline Area
    Adobe Premiere timeline area
    The timeline area: Note that your timeline view may be different. Right-click on the timeline to change the preferences.
    The timeline area is where you assemble audio and video clips into your final movie. This timeline initially has room for two video tracks and three audio tracks, but it can handle dozens if you like.
  • The Transitions Area
    Adobe Premiere transitions area
    The transitions area
    The transitions area lets you choose different transitions so you can drop them on the timeline.
  • The Navigator Area
    Adobe Premiere navigator area
    The navigator area
    The navigator area lets you see your whole project at a glance, no matter how big it gets. It also lets you set the zoom level in the timeline area.
Let's look at the process of editing a video with Adobe Premiere.

Running Adobe Premiere

After you shoot raw footage with your camera, you need to load that footage into your computer. To do this, connect your camera to your computer with a FireWire cable. Select the Capture... option in the File menu of Adobe Premiere. You will see a window like this:
Capture dialog from Adobe Premiere
The Capture dialog from Adobe Premiere
The controls at the bottom of the Capture dialog let you control your camera. You can rewind, fast forward and play. Typically, what you would do is:
  • Hit the Rewind button in the dialog to rewind the tape in the camera.
  • Hit the Play button in the dialog to start playing the tape.
  • Hit the red Record button to start capturing the footage onto your hard disk.
  • When the footage is done playing/recording, hit the Stop button. Premiere will ask you for the file name that you want to use for this footage.
You can either capture all of your footage in one big file, or your can capture it in a number of smaller files. (Note that some operating systems and video editing software packages limit file size to 2 gigabytes. Other packages limit file size to 30 minutes. You also need to make sure that you have enough free disk space to hold all the captured footage.) Premiere will create AVI (on the PC) or MOV (on the Mac) files on your hard disk at a rate of about 1 gigabyte per three minutes of raw footage.
As an example, look at this piece of raw footage from the zoo:
The footage is 35 seconds long, and the AVI file that Premiere created when it captured the footage is 130 megabytes. We've converted the raw footage into an MPG file so that you can view it on the Web. It is typical "raw footage" with all sorts of debris and problems that you find in most raw footage. In the next section, we'll see how to clip out one usable piece from the raw footage. Clipping
Let's take the shot of the cougar from the previous section as an example (look at it here if you have a high-speed connection). It's a decent shot of a cougar lying on the ground for 30 seconds. In the middle of the shot the cougar yawns. Let's say that you would like to clip out the yawn and use it in your movie. To do this, take the following steps:
  • You first need to "import" the file containing the raw footage into the current project so that Premiere can use it. If you captured the footage in Premiere, then it was imported automatically. If not, choose Import... from the File menu and locate the AVI or MOV file you wish to add to the project. Adobe uses the concept of a "bin" to hold AVI and MOV files. A bin is like a folder -- it is just a collection of files. In complicated projects, you may have several bins that store different types of footage. Here's what you'll see after you import the footage:
    Adobe Premiere project area with five AVI files
    This project area has had five AVI files imported into one bin. One AVI file contains a cougar, the next an elephant, and so on.
  • Drag the cougar file from the Project window into the Source window.
  • Play it in the Source window to see what you've got by pushing the Play button.
  • Mark the IN and OUT points for a clip you want to use in the Source window.
There are several ways to mark the IN and OUT points. As you are playing the video, probably the easiest way is to hit the I and O keys on the keyboard when you see the IN and OUT points. Once you rough them in, you can fine-tune them with the mouse by dragging them.
video clip of a cougar yawning
Marking IN and OUT points in the Source window: The little green bar above the time code shows you which part of the raw footage has been selected for the clip.
Now that you have selected a clip, you can add it to the timeline.

Editing a Video: Capture and Clips

Once you have marked a clip by selecting the IN and OUT points in the Source window, you can add the clip to the timeline. Simply drag the image from the Source window down to the timeline. You will see something that looks like this:
video timeline with a single clip in it
The timeline with a single clip in it (Note that your view of the timeline may look slightly different. Right-click on the timeline and change the preferences to select your view of the timeline).
What the timeline now shows is that your movie contains one clip, about five seconds long.
Now what you can do is repeat this process and drag several more clips onto the timeline. You will end up with something like this:

video timeline with three clips in it
The timeline with three clips in it
This is the simplest possible movie -- a bunch of clips strung together on a timeline. But it is a movie nonetheless, and it is 10 times better than raw footage because you have chosen the best parts of the raw footage to assemble on the timeline. To play your movie, you can click the play button on the program portion of the monitor area, or you can click in the time portion of the timeline area to move the pointer and then press the space bar to start playing from that point.
Let's say that you would like to change the length of a clip once you have it on the timeline. There are several ways to do this:
  • You can drag either end of the clip on the timeline with the mouse.
  • You can use the razor blade (upper left corner of the timeline window) and cut a clip, and then delete either end by clicking on the end and hitting the delete key. Then you can right-click on the gap that you created and choose Ripple Delete from the menu that pops up.
Sometimes simple cuts from one clip to the next work well, but other times you might want to use fancier transitions from scene to scene. For example, you might want to use a dissolve, or a wipe or a fade. Premiere has all sorts of transitions available. Simply choose one from the transitions area and drag it to a spot between two clips on the timeline:

Adobe Premiere transitions area
The transitions area contains dozens of transitions for you to try.
Once in place on the timeline, right-click on the transition to adjust it if you like. The transitions will look like this on the timeline:

video timeline with a transition in place
The timeline with a transition in place
When you play your movie, you will not be able to immediately see how the transition will actually look. That's because transitions take some extra processing to complete the effect. Premiere tells you that extra processing still needs to be done by putting a small red bar above the transition, as seen in the previous illustration. To activate the extra processing, you Render the timeline. From the Timeline menu, choose Render Work Area. When the processing is finished, you can play your movie to see the transition.
In the next section, we'll learn how to add music and sound effects to your movie.

Editing a Video: Timeline and Transitions

When you shoot your raw footage with your camcorder, it has a sound track. There are three reasons why you might want to supplement or replace the existing sound track:
  1. Many of the TV shows and videos you see today, and almost all movies, have a musical background during all or part of the action. Music can lend atmosphere and create a certain feeling. In the case of amateur production like we are talking about in this article, music can add a lot of professionalism to the finished work.
  2. An additional sound track is frequently used to handle narration. Most documentary and nature films use this technique.
  3. In many cases, the sound you record is unusable, or just not quite right, for the movie you are creating. For example, if a lion roars at the zoo and you capture the image, you may not be able to capture the sound because the lion is 50 feet away and you are using a zoom lens to film him. In that case, you'll want to substitute a better roar for the one you have.
To handle music, you have several options:
  • You can make up your own music and record it yourself. For example, I recorded this music loop using a little $45 keyboard by connecting its headphone jack into my computer's line-in jack. I used the Sound Recorder built into Windows to record it at 48K samples per second. Obviously you can get a lot more sophisticated than that, but it shows you how easy it is.
  • You can buy CDs full of royalty-free music loops and sound effects.
You can import many different types of sound files (including WAV, AIF, etc.) into a Premiere project and then position it on the timeline in Audio Track #2. Now when you play your movie, Premiere will automatically mix the original sound track of your movie with the new audio track and play it. To handle narration, probably the easiest thing to do is simply read your narration into the camera, and then capture the video as you normally would. You can separate the narration sound track from the video track and use the sound track. Simply drop the raw narration footage onto the timeline, right-click on it and select "Split Video and Audio." Click on the video portion and delete it. Now you have the narration sound track that you can lay on the timeline at the proper point.
Particularly with narration, timing the video with the audio becomes important. Once you have the narration sound track on the timeline, you can slice it up with the razor blade tool to either add gaps or delete sections to help with timing.
In a big project, it is not unusual to be working with half a dozen sound tracks. Premiere can manage an unlimited number of audio (or video) tracks. To add a new sound track, all you need to do is right-click on the timeline and select the Track option. Select to add a new track.

Background Music and Narration

Any TV program or movie that you see today contains B-roll. In the vernacular, A-roll is raw footage where there is a person on-screen talking. B-roll is everything else. If you were to film a high school play, the raw footage would be almost pure A-roll. On the other hand, a nature documentary can be created with nothing but B-roll, and then a narration is laid over the top of it. If you are creating a movie that explains something, it is very common to use B-roll to provide close-ups of the thing you are explaining. You see this technique all the time in any video that HowStuffWorks creates. The process of cutting a piece of B-roll into a piece of A-roll is often referred to as a split-edit. For example, earlier in this article we talked about a scene where someone is talking on camera about an emotional topic. In the middle, the director cuts to a tight shot of the person's hands holding a Kleenex. During the scene, you see the person talking, then the Kleenex, and then return to the person's face, and the sound track is uninterrupted by the B-roll.
To add B-roll and create a split-edit in Premiere, you simply add the B-roll footage to the time line using video track 2. Premiere's protocol is to use whatever video is in the highest numbered track when playing the movie. For example, let's say you set this up:

video timeline with a split-edit in it
The timeline with a split-edit in it
You have the shot of the polar bear lying around. For contrast, you want to cut to a shot of two grizzly bears wrestling. You simply place the grizzlies on video track 2. When Premiere plays the movie, you will see the polar bears, then the grizzlies and then back to the polar bears.
In some cases, you want to completely discard the sound track of the B-roll. Right-click on the B-roll and select "Split Video and Audio." Then click on the audio portion and delete it. Or you may want to eliminate the sound in the original footage. We'll see how to do that easily in the next section.


If the visual part of a movie is perfect but the sound is not, then the movie looks amateurish. Fortunately, Premiere offers sophisticated tools for getting the sound right. We've already discussed how to add new sound tracks to the timeline. Now you need to understand how to adjust each sound track so that everything sounds perfect. On every sound track, there is an arrow icon. Clicking it will expand the view and make an adjustment area for the sound track available, as you can see here:

Adjustment area for an audio track
Adjustment area for an audio track
In this adjustment area, you can add new control points simply by clicking anywhere along the red line. Then you move the control points by dragging them with the mouse. The control points control the level of the sound. For example, in the following illustration, the level of the sound in video track 1 has been taken to zero so that the sound on a split-edit is used instead:

Modifying the level of an audio track
Modifying the level of an audio track
What you will normally do is listen to the sound track and "even out" or "sweeten" the sound by adjusting things so that the sound is uniform throughout your entire piece.
It is important to mention that having a good microphone can really help sound quality, especially when you are filming someone talking. A good lavaliere microphone (the kind that you clip onto the front of the speaker's shirt) can make a huge difference. Lavalieres come in both wired and wireless versions. You will especially notice the advantages of lavalieres when you are filming indoors -- a lavaliere will completely eliminate the echoes and "booming" sound that you will frequently get from recording someone indoors with the camcorder's built-in microphone. Check out Shure's Wireless Microphone Systems for details.

Video Editing (but a bit out of date)

Video Editing

Getting organised - putting the different elements of video editing together

main screen
Editing, by its very nature, is the assembly of numerous unrelated elements (footage, music, graphics, sound effects etc). The aim of this tutorial is to import these various elements in an ordered and simple manner ready to use.This tutorial  uses Adobe Premiere Elements.
However, these principles of project organisation can be applied when using any video-editing program.The majority of users will have their video footage recorded on some form of digital camcorder.
Even if you don’t, the principals of importing footage remain the same; to simply take the footage currently stored elsewhere (e.g. on the tape/disc of a camcorder or mobile phone) and copy it onto the computer, ready to be edited.
When starting this tutorial, don’t worry if every single element needed for the project isn’t to hand. The whole reason for organising a project in a structured manner is so that extra sound effects, footage, music tracks, etc, can be added later, thus avoiding any ‘where's that clip?’ moments.

1Choosing a drive or folder to save the project

step 1
Video consumes more storage space than any other type of media file. Therefore, while not essential, it’s preferable to store media on a separate hard drive.
Check whether you have an additional internal drive in ‘My Computer’. Your main hard drive is labelled ‘C’ and an additional drive (or suitable ‘partition’) will usually be labelled as ‘D’. Create a folder called ‘MEDIA’ on the root of the ‘C’ drive or ‘D’ drive if you have one.

2Creating additional folders

step 2
Within the ‘MEDIA’ folder just created, make 4 more folders: ‘Video’, ‘SFX’, ‘Music’ and ‘Graphics’.
These won’t all be needed initially but as the project is built they will each serve a purpose; when media elements are imported later, each can be saved or copied to the relevant folder, regardless of how many projects are created. Storing all media in this manner also simplifies matters when backing up projects and their associated media.

3Checking the import settings

step 3
It’s important to choose the right setting for a project as it can’t be altered later. From the Premiere Elements start screen, click ‘Setup’. In the resultant window, choose the relevant setting.
UK based camcorders are ‘PAL’ format. You may need to check the camcorder documentation to be sure of format (MiniDV/HDV etc). If the footage was shot in a widescreen mode, choose the relevant ‘16:9’ preset to ensure the video maintains correct proportions.

4Create the project

step 4
Choose ‘New Project’ from the Premiere Elements start screen. In the resultant window, name the project. In the box below, browse to the ‘MEDIA’ folder created in Step 1.
Should you need to change the settings again, do so by clicking the ‘Change Settings’ button. Now click ‘OK’ and the main Premiere Elements interface will load. On the right hand side of the interface, the ‘Get Media’ tab is usually selected. If not, select it.

5Premiere Elements interface

step 5
The upper left section of the Premiere Elements interface is called the ‘Monitor Panel’, where playback of a project takes place.
To the right is the ‘Tasks Panel’. This section is used to browse the different media elements of a project, choose effects and titles etc.
The bottom portion of the interface is the ‘My Project Panel’, also described as the ‘Sceneline’ view. This is where a project is assembled.

6Importing files manually

step 6
If any video needed for the project already exists on the computer, copy and paste it into the ‘Video’ folder within the MEDIA folder.
Now, within Premiere Elements, click ‘Files and Folders’ from the Tasks Panel and browse to MEDIA\Video and select the files to import them into the project.
Once imported, they will show in the ‘Organiser’ section of the interface as a series of visual ‘tiles’.

7 Importing files directly

step 7
Import footage directly from a phone, camcorder, DVD, Webcam or Card Reader can all be done directly from Premiere Elements.
Connect the device to the computer using the relevant cable (Firewire or USB for example) and select the appropriate option from the ‘Get Media’ tab.
Now browse to the media and click ‘Get Media’. For DV/HDV Camcorders, ensure the tape is rewound and click ‘Get Video’.

8Importing CD music into your project

step 8
It’s not possible to import music tracks directly from a commercial CD. So insert the CD and choose ‘Copy music from CD using Windows Media Player’ from the Windows dialog.
Ensure MEDIA\Music is selected as the ‘copy to’ location. Check this by choosing Tools > Options within Windows Media and clicking the Copy Music tab.
Click the Change button to browse to the correct location, then import. Now select those files through the ‘Files and Folders’ option within Premiere Elements.

Film Extras

What exactly is an extra?
Extras are the random, non-speaking characters dotted around the sets of TV programmes and films. The surly lads who walk past Dot and Pauline whilst they’re downing tomato juice in the Vic; the hair-flicking girls who never finish their milkshakes in the Summer Bay Diner; the battle scene masses in boys films.

Can anyone be one?
Just about anyone. Extras are simply used to populate a scene so depending on what the story is just about anyone can be required be they young, old, fat, thin, whatever. The only criteria are that you have to be capable of following instructions and fade into the background. There’s no room for attention seekers and waxing your hair into a Mohawk and cart-wheeling across the set will probably get you escorted from the premises. Subtlety and adaptability are key.

Easy money then?
If you can be arsed with standing around for hours on end then this is the ideal slackers job. Obviously we’re not talking reliable nine-to-five style cash at the end of the month but minimum equity rates for a nine-hour day are 65 and the catering van on location shoots is a bonus. Lower budget productions may advertise locally and pay cash at less the equity rates. Oh and we have it on good authority that if you say more than ten words you get paid more. (Add a few extra ‘yes’s’ onto anything you get given to say). Be warned though, just like other jobs you may not get paid till 4-6 weeks after the shoot (so you’ll have to have money for travelling to locations before you start). Also, you’ll have to pay your own tax and work can dry up over certain periods, usually the start of the year, so you could be high and dry if this is your main source of income.

Is this my passport to fame and fortune?
In a word. No. But you’ll be amused to find your fellow extras do very much divide up into two camps. There are those who have got a few mates together and come down for the laugh and a bit of cash. Then there are the misguided thespian, luvvie types who reckon they’re stepping the stones to a glamorous career. They’re not. In fact the agents of proper actors make them avoid extra work as it undermines their professional staus.

Do I get to wear cool clothes?
More often than not you’ll have to supply your own clothes. Extras don’t get any special treatment being the lowest of the low and all that. You’ll also have to do your own make-up. Basically unless it’s a period film or something involving a definite costume you’ll just have to make sure you look right for the part. Storming into wardrobe and demanding to know where your personal dresser is ain’t going to go down well.

What are the chances I’ll score a date with the leading lady/man?
Umm, glamorous superstar gets it on with third tree on the right? I don’t think so. Extras are at the bottom of the acting food chain, below the catering team (who at least provide food) but you may well make friends with fellow plebs and make some good contacts if you play your cards right.

OK I’m still up for it, what do I need to do?
Firstly register with an agency that casting directors use to find extras. There are heaps of agencies but some respected ones can be found at or if you live in London try Just call them up and ask if their books are open, i.e. are they taking on new faces at the moment. Alternatively check out the ads in the back of The Stage (you can get this at newsagents) or look out for local ads.
NB. Just like the modelling industry, you should be wary of paying large sums of money up front (most agencies will take a standard charge for photos/admin out of you first day’s work) and agencies that only have a P.O. Box number as an address.

What then?
Once you’ve found an agent who is happy to take you on (it can also be an idea to have more than one agent – the whole point of extras is that they are not recognisable – lots of TV shows that regularly use extras use a range of different agencies so they don’t end up with the same faces in the background) You may need to go in and meet your agent and you’ll also need some photos for use in their books (8” x 6” prints are standard) – usually the agency will take these for you and charge you a set administration fee to be taken from your first pay check. Once you’ve done this they’ll start to find you work. You just have to be ready to go when they find you a job.

Any more tips?
You need to be able to get up early in the morning as average set call time can be 7am and in London that can be at studios 45mins-1 hour out of the city, when the only public transport available are the night buses. Having a car, being extremely organised and being happy to be up before the milk man starts his day makes things a lot easier.

Insider knowledge
Quote from a girl who knows (not by choice but via the eighteen year trauma that is parents in the business) ‘Extra work is basically an ok way to earn a bit of cash. It doesn't even vaguely constitute a career choice and very few people can handle the boredom on a regular basis. Most work is in London but most large cities have production companies that use extras. My main tip would be do it for a laugh, just to see what it’s like, but don’t expect to want to come back for too much more. Being covered in mud, dressed as a Welsh valley-girl, re-shooting scenes involving torrential rain and inane shouting about strawberries at 9 o clock on a Friday night was the end of the line where my extra career was concerned.’

Further Reading
If you’re still up for it and want to learn some more about the business, Rob Martin’s ‘You Can Be A Movie Extra’ provides a step-by-step guide to getting your face on screen. Order it here.

Here are some key sites:



"FilmExtras is where production companies, TV producers and broadcasters come when looking for Extras, Contestants, Audience Members, Pets, Families, Models or Actors. Agencies contact you directly or through your agent.
Every year hundreds of film and TV productions are shot on location and in studios across the country and around the world. FilmExtras makes it easy for Talent Agents and Casting Directors to locate willing Extras and Actors for their production needs."


Ofvm actor database


100 Greatest Hits YouTube

2 minute silent record may become number one...

Litterbug - film proposal - comments welcome

Title: Litterbug

Genre type: Thriller/Suspense/Horror

Point: Evaluation/self-questioning of attitudes towards public

- Fish + Chip shop on Iffley Rd (establishing shot);
- Footpath between Iffley and Cowley Rds (story development);
- Florence Park (concluding shots);

1. Council worker/Refuse Collector (main character);
- he thought he could innocently enjoy some fish + chips or his day
off. Can he? What are the consequences? Did he actually eat them, or
was it a dream?

2. Mysterious stranger
- man in black/exorcist type figure; wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses
+facemask - maintain mysterious/anonymous identity; with a steel-
tipped umbrella; shoes producing a threatening tread.

3. Man sitting on a park bench
- witness to the council worker waking from his nightmare.

Mysterious mans - distinctive clothing to create an Exocist like
Council workers dark jacket (voluntary), Rubbish grabber + Rubbish
Fish and Chips/Soft drinks/Plenty of fast food wrappings (in bags);
Newspaper  - for man on bench;

Rationale behind project/proposal:
1. Short film (duration: 3/4 mins) can be make in a day;
2. Actor roles appropriate for a male-dominated film grounp;
3. Plenty of opportunities for a variety of camera angles; sound work;
lighting work; post-production editing
4. No expensive props or special permission locations(with possible
exception of the park + fish+chip shop) required;
5. All location shots within walking distance of Catherine St. - easy
to get back to OVFM to do editing work


1. Council worker leaves Iffley Road chip shop eating his lunch -
relaxed mood; nonchalantly walking towards Donnington Bridge Rd camera
sees him walking past mysterious stranger standing in the background;
council worker looks right through him as if he didn't see him

2. Iffley Rd

On a couple of occasions council worker nonchalantly drops litter
(chip paper + coke can);
Extreme close ups - dropped litter
He walks on;
Extreme close ups - an umbrella tip seen fondling the rubbish;
Close up shot of council worker - you hear in the distance menacing
tread of the mysterious stranger;
Medium close up shot - Council worker looking round;
Distance shot of Iffley Rd - nobody in sight + silent;
Council worker walks up to Cowley Rd footpath -The sound reappears and
gets louder;
Scene finishes with medium close up of mysterious stranger's feet,
lower legs + umbrella coming into shot and stopping by the footpath

3. Iffley Rd/Cowley Rd footpath

Medium/long range shot - Council worker is walking down the footpath;
Sound of footsteps is louder behind him;
Range of close up shots show him getting more apprehensive, increasing
his step, looking round more frequently;
Close up shots of Mystery man's legs+feet marching quicker and quicker
(tread getting louder and louder);
Scene ends with medium/long shot of Council worker starting to run
down footpath;  Interspersed with Extreme Long Shots of the the clear

4. On footpath (Cowley Rd exit)

Council worker approached Cowley Rd exit - panting after running -
looking round (Extreme Close Up)- clear footpath (Medium Long Shot) -
thinks he's safe
Medium shot - approach gate - head on shot - suddenly Extreme Close Up
shot of him startled;
Medium shot (over Council man's shoulder) of mystery man blocking exit
to Cowley Rd.

5.On footpath (away fron cowley Rd exit)

Council Worker seen turning round and running back down footbath;
Close up - mystery man's leg+feet start to march (measured tread)
towards Council worker;
Medium long shot - council worker is turning in all directions;
close up - extreme anxiety on council worker's face;

6. Florence Park entrance

Council worker takes only escape route towards down entrance towards
Florence Park (more brightly lit than other directions);
Council worker stops suddently;
Medium Long Shot shows council worker in the foreground and mystery
stranger in the distance blocking passageway to the park (lighting -
the scene gets darker to match council worker's mood)
Close up shots of council worker Looking round suddenly interspersed
with shots of mystery stranger in every direction - Council Worker is
Council Worker shouts (in trepidation): 'who are you?';
No reply;
Council Worker shouts:'Leave me alone!';
The council worker is frozen to the spot (sound: threatening music to
increase tension); Medium/close up 'council man point of view' shots
of mysterious stranger closing in from every direction,
The mysterious stranger stops holds up the Fish +Chip shop plastic bag
- with is the discarded rubbish;
Council worker turns round - close up of the mysterious stranger on
the other side seen raises his umbrella (shapes like a spear/club)
above his head to strike council worker
Scene ends with close of 'point of view' shot of umbrella descending
towards counciol worker.

7. Florence Park Bench

(Council worker and Man on bench reading his newspaper)
Council Worker wakes up screaming 'NOOOOO!';
Teh two strangers Look in embarrassment at each other and giggle;
Council worker realises he has had a nightmare during his lunch break
+ apologises to stranger;
Stranger asks if council worker is alright;
Council worker rubs his eyes, looks around, and apologises;
Council worker picks up his rubbish bad and rubbish grabber + prepares
to start work;

8. Around Florence Park

Council worker is seen working picking up rubbish around the park and
putting it in the bins - he looks relaxed;
Medium close up - council worker says to himself: 'This rubbish is
starting to play on my mind!'
Scene finshes

9. Closing Scene - Near the entrance/exit gates (Florence Park)

Council worker (relaxed humming/whistling) seen packing away tools and
preparing to go home;
Council worker disappears from shot as he leaves park;
Camera zooms out and the mystery stranger comes into shot 9into
mysterious stranger Stops;
Film ends with mystery stranger walking towards the gate the council
worker has just exited through;
Scene finishes: As mystery stranger disappaears black screen appears
for closing credits (sound:  footsteps can still be heard walking into
the distance).

10. Film Credits (on top of black screen/film noir affect)

- Actors/production crews' names appear - 'one by one' white text on
black background
- Final Credit 'no rubbish was dropped during the making of this
- All credits disappear - shot of a litter scatter around the park/
blown across the frame to the sound of the mysterious stranger's



Additional shots required:

Medium shot - Sign above Fish+chip shop (scene 1);
Medium Close Up - Council worker eating his fish and chips (scene
Extreme Close Up - various rubbish shots; rubbish being poked by
unbrella tip (scenes 233)
Extreme Close Up- Mysterious stranger's sun glasses with image of
Council worker in them as he closes in for the attack (scene 3-6)
Extreme Close Up expressional shots of Council Worker; (scenes 4-6)
Close ups of Mysterious stranger from front + behind, butnever
revealing face or identity (various scenes);
Medium Close Up of mysterious mans shoes as he is walking (after
council worker) - scenes 3-6