Silent Vader at Disneyland

Not gonna lie – I’m pretty good with iMovie. In fact, I teach people how to use it professionally. (I’m an instructional technologist.) So instead of planning out my video projects this week, and then executing them next week, I’m just going to stagger the projects. And maybe do a couple extras just for fun, we’ll see.

My first project is inspired by the recent acquisition of the Star Wars franchise by Disney. As soon as I saw the Disneyland commercial starring Darth Vader (and a few anonymous storm troopers, as all storm troopers are) I knew I wanted to use it for one of my video projects. And given the brilliance that is Silent Star Wars, I felt inspired to make my own attempt at a Star Wars silent film. A Disney one, that is.

To create this, I followed my usual process of pulling the video from YouTube via PwnYoutTube. I then imported the video into iMovie (File -> Import -> Movie) and copied the entire thing into a new Project. I removed the beginning and end stills and added my own. The introduction uses the “Far Far Away” title format, and the end uses a basic “Centered” title. I then removed the audio from the main portion of the commercial:

  1. Hover over the footage until the blue Options gear icon appears.
  2. Click on the gear.
  3. Select Audio Adjustments.
  4. Bring the Volume down to 0%.

I liked the sound of Darth Vader breathing from the beginning of the original commercial, so I selected that portion of the video in the Event Library and dragged it onto my opening title slide (be sure that the playhead cursor is at the point where you want the audio to begin, in this case the very beginning of the footage). This brought up the overlay menu and I selected Audio Only. The audio clip wasn’t long enough, so I had to duplicate it to cover all of the opening.

For the main portion of the video, however, I wanted to use a traditional silent film score. Some Google digging brought me to Incompetech’s listing of freely available stereotypical silent film scores (if you are looking for a particular film’s score, you’d probably have better luck with the Internet Archive or another repository of copyright-free resources). The song “Merry Go – Distressed” had the playful tone I wanted (plus, Vader actually rides on a Merry-Go-Round, so it seemed like a felicitous song to use). I dragged it into iMove (again matching the playhead). The song is longer than the footage, so I had to add a fade-out. To do this:

  1. Click on the green Options gear icon on the audio track.
  2. Select Audio Adjustments.
  3. For Fade-Out select Manual.
  4. I set it to a 1.9s fade. I find that slower fades are less jarring.

The most challenging part of this was generating the film grain – iMovie has some default options available, but none of them had the look I wanted. I went with the Aged Film effect (Options gear -> Clip Adjustments -> Video Effects), and then started to dig for other options.

I really liked what Ben Rimes (@techsavvyed) achieved with his Silent Era Back to the Future (and discovered that apparently we had used the same score source), so I looked into the Particle Illusion graphics he used. I found working with the individual images to be cumbersome, so I converted them into a separate movie, which you can view or Pwn on YouTube. I then imported the movie into my Events Library and dragged it onto the footage to create an overlay. From the overlay menu I selected Cutaway (some tutorials will tell you to use Picture in Picture, but this doesn’t allow you to change the opacity). I then went to the Options menu for the grain overlay and under Clip Adjustments set the Opacity to 21% (the exact percentage will vary depending on the main footage you are working with, but I’ve found that somewhere in the 20-30 range allows you to see the grain without making the footage difficult to see).

Finally, inspired by the gorgeous title cards Ben had used from CopyCatFilms, I redid the end still of the twitter hashtag #starwarsdisney. And thus was born the Silent Era version of Darth Vaders first trip to Disneyland.

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2 Responses to Silent Vader at Disneyland

  1. CogDog says:

    Utterly brilliant, Emily, and I appreciate so much how you explained all the techniques (the Cutaway overlay is new to me). You cannot go wrong with the Incompetech music for this assignment.

    The thing I don’t like about the iMovie Aged Film effect is how it gives the sepia tone. I found that it worked well on my last version of this to drop the saturation to 0 (so it is black and white) and then the Glow effect gave it that flashy feel. I also experimented with splitting the clips up and speeding up a few clips where there was movement so it gives more of that jerky style. Mileage may vary
    http://cogdogblog.com/2012/07/10/silent-harry/

    But this is a supreme example, thanks for sharing your methods!

  2. Ben Rimes says:

    Nice work! I had no idea that you could overlay video and then just change the opacity in iMovie, thanks for the tip! The application is quite versatile. I’m still trying to play around with the “jittery” footage in Premiere to get that stutter right, but I’m glad that there’s a reasonable way to create a pretty good silent film using software on all of my students’ Macs!

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