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Case Study: Captioning in Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2018

How Adobe Premiere Pro's Caption panel helped save an otherwise-unsalvageable project.

As I’ve written about on this site before, a big part of my work with Streaming Media is producing and editing videos for Streaming Media East and West as well as other conferences for Streaming Media’s parent company, Information Today Inc.

For the keynotes and five main tracks at Streaming Media East and West, we work with Streaming Media columnist Mark Alamares and his able crew at Mobeon to capture the sessions and stream the keynotes and the track that runs in the keynote room. Meanwhile, I do booth interviews with key speakers and interviewer extraordinaire Tim Siglin, as well as capturing B-roll, timelapses, and testimonials throughout the show. At this year’s Streaming Media East, I also shot the Content Delivery Summit conference on the Monday before the conference started.

After the show, I edit and post the interviews to and the full sessions to our Conference Video Portal. Finally, over the months between the conferences, I edit and post Short Cuts highlights videos twice a week to

My other key responsibility with these conferences is to produce snappy promo videos to promote the subsequent year’s event. This is where the B-roll, timelapses, and testimonials come in, although pretty much everything we capture at an event including the Mobeon videos from the conference program is fair game for these promos. So pulling these videos together requires having all of the footage associated with the show available to draw from in the edit.

Within a few weeks after Streaming Media East 2018, I had every clip captured on the show stored on a single 8TB Western Digital external hard drive. Of course, there are better, more reliable, and more redundant ways to store irreplaceable conference videos than a single, un-backed-up hard drive, from RAID to NAS to Cloud, but until this point my growing collection of low-cost, individual-conference hard drives had served me well.

My luck ran out when I dropped my Streaming Media East 2018 hard drive on a hardwood floor and found, to my great disappointment, that it neither bounced back into my hand like a tennis ball, nor functioned again in any way after I reconnected it to either of my computers. The verdict, when I sent the drive in for recovery, was that it was a “level 3 repair,” which meant that it would cost $1,500 to recover the data, and if I committed to the recovery, I’d have to pay the full $1,500 even if they were able to retrieve only a single file.

After declining the recovery, the first thing I did was send another hard drive directly to Mobeon to get back all of their program footage, which they were well-organized enough to have on hand and gracious enough to replace free-of-charge.

Recovering at Home

Next, I downloaded a data recovery app called EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Professional ($69.95) and initiated the painstaking task of attempting to recover my data on my own. I’d gleaned from discussions with IT folks that even deleted files often remain stored on a hard drive, hidden, in highly compressed form. One concern I had was that even if I could get back the files, they might not be the same as before, something like Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. But it was certainly worth a shot.

I had briefly stored all of my footage from the conference (Content Delivery Summit, interviews, timelapses, B-roll, testimonials) on my laptop’s internal hard drive, so I started there. The data recovery app quickly revealed a host of deleted files, some of which proved usable and others didn’t (Figure 1, below). As a general rule, I found that a good portion of my AVCHD files (B-roll and timelapses) proved recoverable, while my MXF/XAVC files (Content Delivery Summit, interviews)--confirming my Pet Sematary fears--had been transformed into unopenable (and, as it turned out, unconvertable) SWF files.

Figure 1. My first batch of recovered files

I went through the same procedure with my SD cards, with similarly mixed results. Because I was shooting at another conference the week after Streaming Media, I had dutifully cleared all my cards after dumping them onto my single, un-backed-up Streaming Media East hard drive. But I was able to increase my collection of retrieved files to a limited degree.

Salvaging the Promo

Because I had posted all of the edited conference videos and interviews before dropping the drive, I didn’t have to worry about those deliverables, and after Mobeon returned the new drive with the full Streaming Media East program, I was able to continue posting highlight videos without any hiccups. The real concern that remained was how to produce the promo video for Streaming Media East 2019 in time for the show site's launch in September 2018, given that the promo videos (as mentioned before) drew on all of the videos from the show, much of which I still didn’t have.

The essential element of most of the conference promo videos I produce is testimonials--"man/woman on the street"-type clips of attendees saying what they like about the show, what they learned, why they came this year, and why they hope to come back again. I shot six testimonials in the Streaming Media booth at Streaming Media East 2018, using the same two-camera setup I had for speaker interviews. All were shot during the opening reception in the exhibit hall--the best time to catch attendees in a good mood, but also the noisiest part of the day. One camera captured clean audio from a lav mic, the other with an on-camera shotgun mic primarily used for syncing (though usable in a pinch at relatively quiet times).

In all my dredging of hard drives, SD cards and the mini-SD cards in my TASCAM recorder, I was able to recover four testimonials, but only one camera--the one with the shotgun mic, as well as he cutaway angle, but that wasn't nearly as big a concern as the audio. On two of them, I found the audio completely unusable. On the other two, the background noise was annoying, but it was possible to make out what the speakers were saying with some effort--albeit, more effort that a viewer would prefer to expend while watching a video that’s essentially a come-on for a conference.

I didn’t have high hopes for noise reduction. I often shoot speakers and interviewees in rooms with noisy air conditioners or other intrusive room tone, but generally those noises are confined to a specific frequency range that can be mostly eliminated using Adobe Audition’s Noise Reduction filter without harming the dialogue in a given clip. Because exhibit hall noise is generally people talking, it’s pretty hard to tamp it down without diminishing the speaker’s audio as well, or giving it alal an overprocessed sound. That proved the case here; when I applied the Noise Reduction feature, both the speaker and the background noise sounded worse than before. I reduced the Gain a bit (again, this was reference audio for syncing, so it was a little overdriven to begin with), but otherwise, I left the audio alone.

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