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How to Make an iPod Video Ad

Geek!This is LegoShark’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

We’ve all seen the iconic iPod ads on the television and the Internet. Have you ever wanted to make one? Actually, it’s not that difficult. By the end of this video and written tutorial, you will know how to execute “The iPod Ad Effect” in your garage. You can watch the video included with this article for a more in-depth view of the effect.

What will you need?

  • Dancers – People need to get in front of a camera, and they need to be willing to put a lot of make-up on. The make-up is a key component in an editing technique I’ll cover in a moment. Let them know what song you will be using, and give them as much direction as you can while still letting them do what they want. The face paint can be purchased at a local party store. I got the tubes for mine at $2.50 each, and they MUST be black. They also need to wear black clothing: the more, the better. Another good quality in a dancer is to be able to dance. This is, of course, essential.
  • An iPod – This iPod should preferably be a fifth-generation iPod, white. You cannot use normal iPod headphones, as they are too thin to be detected by a normal camera. You will need an iPod sync cable, which you likely received with your iPod, to act as a wire. Black tape will be used to tape the wire to the dancers’ ears. An alternative to using the sync cable is to use thick, white elastic.
  • A Good, Properly-Licenced Song – Song choice is very important when making an iPod ad. Try not to pick indecipherable, hardcore punk rock music, classical music, or anything Apple has already used. The point of this is to be creative; using familiar music is not creative or enjoyable to the viewer… unless you add a spin. My spin, when I made my iPod ad, was the use of children as dancers.
  • Green or Blue Screen – You need a well-lit, solid color chroma keying screen. Blue is preferred, because it reflects less light on the subject. Great lighting can be achieved by using at least two lights. While incandescent lights are fine, industrial work lights and fluorescent lamps are great options. I used a Bowens Tri-Lite, picked up at a near-by photography shop, and a desk lamp with a fluorescent bulb. All of your lights need to be the same kind, because each lamp will have a different color of light. Incandescent lamps give off yellow light, and fluorescents give off white light. The difference will be apparent in post-production. The proper way to set up the green screen to to have it curve up from the ground to the wall, so as the entire area around the dancer is one color. Do a few tests with your green screen before shooting. You don’t want to see any shadows.
  • A Camera – While this is assumed, you should know that you will need a camera with decent quality. iSight cameras and other webcams will not work nearly as well as a simple DV camera. I used a Canon HV20 set to DV mode (to save hard drive space), but if you really want to do HDV, go ahead. Make sure that all of the clips are the same format, because the aspect ratio needs to be consistent throughout recording.
  • Decent Editing Software – Sorry, but iMovie and Windows Movie Maker just won’t cut it. I used Final Cut Pro for my video, but Adobe After Effects or Sony Vegas will do.

And now, the video tutorial with supportive written instructions:

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  1. Cover your dancers with the face paint (letting them do it themselves is also a good idea). Any skin that is not covered by dark clothing must be covered with the black face paint.
  2. Give the dancers the iPod and wires. Direct them to the green screen.
  3. Play the music. Dancers need music, after all! Try to have the same song playing that you are using in the video.
  4. When you feel you have enough footage (good dancing, enough to complete the 30 – 50 second commercial), take the camera back to your computer to start editing.
  5. Find or create different solid-color images to set as backgrounds for the green screened dancers.
  6. Chroma Key the green or blue screen. Make sure that the only visible part of the video is the dancer. Implementation varies from video editor to video editor. Refer to the Help file if need be.
  7. Overlay the edited clip atop the solid color background.
  8. Find a contrast-adjusting effect. Bring the contrast all the way up. This is the aforementioned editing technique. As you bring up the contrast, you will see the darks get darker, and the whites get whiter. The highlighted iPod stands out, the dancer darkens, and the desired effect is achieved.

Now, apply these steps to all clips. The end product should look just like an iPod ad, as seen on TV! If you already have an editing program and green screen, this should only cost about 10 dollars. If you don’t have a green screen, then go and get one. It’s always a great prop to have on hand. I hope that you try this yourself, and have lots of fun doing it. Let us know where to watch the results!