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Advanced Video Effects And
When To Use Them

Advanced editing effects--menus, bullet points, scene titles, and elaborate backgrounds--are an excellent way to spice up your presentation, to make it give off an air of professionalism, and to let it stand out from the rest of the direct sales sites out there.

Advanced effects are also cheap to produce (depending on the editing software you're using, of course) and don't take much of your time either. They also don't take up much of your viewer's time, since an effect, once it's placed into a sequence of footage, can just stay on the screen, letting your viewer look at it at his or her own pace. It's a nice way to get the best of both worlds: the time-independent advantages of text, plus the drama and impact of video.

Because of all of their advantages, there's a tendency on the part of first-time editors to use too many effects in a single presentation. Avoid this temptation, for the reasons we addressed earlier in the chapter. Too many effects start to get confusing for your viewer and make your presentation seem either crass or incomprehensible.

When should you use advanced effects? One rule: never use advanced effects for their own sake.

What does this mean in practice? Say your product is a new piece of graphics software with an innovative GUI. Your presentation shows a screen shot of the GUI in use. It's easy to make overlay menus and effects, so you fill up the entire screen with them, labeling every interesting new button and feature all at once. Then you let this complicated overlay play in the background while your presenter is talking about all of the great features in this new program.

The problem here has to do with the advantages of advanced effects that we just talked about. Advanced effects, especially overlay graphics, give your viewer something information-dense to look at and to read while your presenter is talking. That's all well and good.

But if your viewer is spending too much time reading and deciphering your overlay graphics--figuring out exactly what each label on each button in our GUI says, in the example--then that viewer isn't paying attention to what your audio track is saying. You spent a lot of time on that audio track; it's key to your design concept, and you want them to pay attention to it. So don't give your viewer other things to pay attention to!

Here's a good way to use overlay graphics. Take the same GUI example. Your presenter is talking about the advanced features it gives you. As he talks about each feature, add the overlay graphic for that feature and that feature alone to the footage.

The viewer's attention will go to the feature; he'll read the information in the graphic, and his mind will be back on what the presenter is saying before you know it. It's elegant and it actually heightens what the presenter is saying, visually emphasizing his points. And once the information is on the screen anyway, you can leave it there for the rest of the speech or take it off, depending on what your concept is.

Overlay special effects can be fun, but should also be used carefully. Say your presenter is talking about a new hypnotherapy CD that you're trying to sell. The presenter throws up his hands when talking about the "power of hypnosis", and you use your editing software to add a quick animated lightning flash. It's definitely funny, cheesy (in an endearing way), and dramatic, but it can also get distracting if used too much. If you plan to do this kind of thing, try to avoid doing it more than once or twice per video.

Chroma-key effects are a different story, since in order to include them you have to be planning to film chroma-key footage from the concept stage onward. In other words, it doesn't make sense to say "use chroma-key effects sparingly" if all of your footage is filmed against a green screen.

What you can do, however, is make sure that your chroma-key effects look as seamless as possible. When possible, try to use existing photographic backgrounds, large, crisp images of your product, or anything that doesn't look blurry, stretched or visually distracting. And above all, make sure that you can make out your presenter or your product against a chroma-key background. There's little worse than having your presenter's red shirt disappear against a sunset background, or similar color mishaps.

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