Dissecting the production of a YouTube video

I want to share how I handled a few of the technical challenges that came up during production of the following YouTube video called “Katie and Peter present, Start Your Day With Organic Sulfur” that I made to promote my new online store, Organic Sulfur For Health.

Q1. How did I create the intro music?

A1. The track was created in Soundtrack Pro using a music loop that comes installed with the Final Cut suite. Working in STP’s multi-track editor, I used the Search function to audition loops until I found one I liked. For the video, I chose “Acoustic Piano Loop 09.caf” that I located under Instruments > Keyboards and added it to the timeline.

My goal was to insert background music to accompany my opening sequence of title slides that I planned to show on screen for about 15-20 seconds. I noticed that a single copy of the loop lasted 4 seconds. Consequently, I replicated it four times in the timeline in order to fulfill my requirement. To vary the melody upon playback, I increased the semitones of instances #3 and #4 of the loop by +5, using the Transpose function available under the Clip menu.

Transpose clip menu in Soundtrack Pro

Q2. How did I create the watermark logo?

A2. Adobe Photoshop is my image editor of choice and I usually save my importable stills as compressed TIF files. My original watermark consisted of a piece of editable text saved on a transparent background. When I superimposed the TIF image in the Final Cut timeline, the transparency disappeared and was replaced by white pixels.

Remembering the training I had received in one of Larry Jordan’s classes on Final Cut Pro, I went back into Photoshop and resaved the watermark image as a PSD file. When I superimposed the PSD version in the timeline, the background pixels remained transparent.

Q3. How did I create the two voices?

A3. I used text-to-speech software to create the dialog. The male voice (Peter) was created in Mac OS X, while the female voice (Katie) was produced using Windows software called TextAloud that’s developed and sold by NextUp.com.

No doubt you’re wondering why I elected to use two different operating systems for this task. I’m glad you asked.

Until recently, I had been using TextAloud under CrossOver for Mac for all my digitized speech projects. The arrangement has been working to my satisfaction. Because Apple has been steadily improving the quality of its text-to-speech engine in its most recent operating systems (most notably, in Snow Leopard and Lion), I wanted to test this for myself.

For this video project, I selected the ‘Alex’ voice that was the early standout among Apple’s offerings (more realistic-sounding voices are available for Lion; click here for details).

Creating dialog using text-to-speech is a multi-step process:

1. Compose your scripted conversation using your text editor of choice.
2. Digitize the voices using text-to-speech software.
3. Merge and equalize the voices using a multi-track editor like Soundtrack Pro.
4. Save the composite file as an AIF and import into Final Cut Pro.

Converting text to speech is straightforward using TextAloud. I copied and pasted the dialog into the TextAloud edit window and auditioned several female voices that were installed on my system. I selected the British-sounding voice called ‘Audrey’ that’s developed by AT&T and used TextAloud’s toolbar to export her spoken words as an MP3.

Accomplishing the equivalent task using Snow Leopard or Lion is not obvious to anyone attempting this for the first time. Converting text to speech is dependent upon two configuration settings in System Preferences.

1. Open the Speech pane in System Preferences, click the Text to Speech tab, and then make your selection (e.g., ‘Alex’) from the dropdown list of System Voices.

Text to Speech Preferences

2. Next, open the Keyboard pane and click the Keyboard Shortcuts tab to highlight that selection. In the far left column, select Services (hint: look for the gear icon).

Keyboard Preferences

3. In the right side of the Keyboard dialog window, scroll down the list until you see the subheading labeled ‘Text.’ If necessary, click the small disclosure triangle to reveal the list of options. Click the box next to “Add to iTunes as a Spoken Track” to place a check mark there.

4. Exit System Preferences.

5. Open the text editor where you created your script. Highlight all of the text (Command-A). From the menu bar, select Services > Add to iTunes as a Spoken Track.

Add to iTunes as a Spoken Track

After you create the speech file using this method, iTunes should automatically open and display the new track in the Library (default name: Text to Speech). It will be saved on your hard drive as an AAC file and have a file extension of .m4a.

iTunes Get Info window

Import both tracks into your multi-track editor, do whatever sweetening you need to do, then import the composite file into Final Cut.




Filed under Apple Software, Third Party Software, Troubleshooting, Video

2 responses to “Dissecting the production of a YouTube video

  1. If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, it is possible to install the Lion TTS (text to speech) engine and voices in Snow Leopard. See instructions provided by the following blog article.

    Mikofox’s Cabin Fever Blog
    February 20, 2012

  2. Pingback: Filmmaking Instruction

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