By May 18, 2013 7 Comments

Using Video as a Background

McGizmo Mule Beam

McGizmo Mule Beam

Why not change up your hybrid photography video by using video as a background?  It works great for showing off products but would work for other applications too.

Most hybrid videos you see are more like a slideshow of stills and videos with some music and fancy transitions between them. However for a restaurant eProduct, I wanted to do something different. I used the video as a background instead of the main focus of the video. My client loved the end result.

I took a wide angle video using the Olympus OMD E-M5 + the Lumix 20mm and brought it into Screenflow as the bottom layer of my project. That way I could have the still photos (also taken with the same camera/lens combo) and text in a layer above that to make them the foreground. I muted the colors of the video clip to make it a black and white and turned down the opacity so it wouldn’t be too distracting since I wanted the main point of focus to be the still photos I took of the food. 

LED light in action

LED Light in Action

The restaurant was a little dark so I used my favorite LED flashlight, the McGizmo Mule, to light up the dishes.  Unless you shoot a lot of low light restaurant food this may not be the flashlight for you. It is not cheap but it is slightly cheaper than a Nikon SB-910.  It’s made of titanium so will last you a long time. The flood light on this flashlight is the best I’ve seen. It’s a nice white light and has a very wide even spread of light, virtually no hot spot at all. You won’t find these flashlights at any store, they are only sold via the candlepower forums.  There are plenty of cheaper options if you don’t want to pay $400+ for a flashlight.  Fenix and Surefire make some decent flood flashlights that are under $100.  These lights probably aren’t as white and the flood not as spread out and even as the McGizmo but they will work.


About the Author:

Food blogger Paula Thomas is carefully adding an element of motion and sound to her imaging to help describe the food experience she's so passionate about. Originally from Montana, this Olympus Pro team member now enlightens foodies of the Northwest from her home in the Seattle area with the critically acclaimed Gapey's Grub blog at Paula shares the steps involved in her transformation from a still photo only blog, to a hybrid imaging blog here on as well as with our friends at Not interested in the complicated video solution, Paula keeps it simple using only free or low cost tools for editing and assembly. Check out her vlog posts here to see how she choses to record photo, video, and audio files then blends them carefully into one spectacular file to present on her food blog. You can find Paula on social media at , Facebook and Twitter

7 Comments on "Using Video as a Background"

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  1. johngriggs says:

    Great stuff, Paula. I like the video.

    It’s something I may use to effect in my little videos as well and thanks for sharing. Not being much of a video expert, I discovered how the layering works by accident and used it on my “Naamas Tunnel” video in a similar way to this.

    Basically I ran the track of me walking through the tunnel in the lowest track in Premiere Elements and faded the still photos in and out from a higher track. But the reason for that was driven by a desire for a continuous soundtrack of the water and footsteps underneath with out a lot of cutting and splicing — keeping it simple as I don’t want to spend 3 hours editing sub-2 minute video if I can help it, lol.

    But I allowed the photos to completely take over the screen when they faded in and I’m wondering if I shouldn’t have left a bit of the background showing and I will try that in the future.

    I also like how you faded and made b/w the background to make it less intrusive.

    Thanks again.

  2. Paula Thomas says:

    Thanks John. Your tunnel video was a great way to integrate video and stills differently than a typical slideshow type presentation. You can do a lot with layers in video editing.

    One thing I have done in the past is detach the audio from the video which puts the audio on a separate layer and allows you to put stills over the audio.

  3. proteous77 says:

    Hi Paula
    I think your sushi video is a great idea which can be used for any Restaurant and maybe even create a video menu which can be displayed on any HD tv or video monitor as a visitor presentation within the Restaurant . Have you ever tried a LED Ring light such as the F&V R-300 for lighting food, I know you can’t beat the portability of the McGizmo Mule Flashlight. Congrats on the great video.

  4. Paula Thomas says:

    Yeah, a video menu type of thing is kind of what I was going for and think it would work pretty well for just about any type of restaurant. Getting the background video was pretty easy for this particular restaurant since the conveyor belt provided some movement. An alternative might be some video of the kitchen maybe or of the bar.

    I haven’t tried a ring light but I would imagine it would work pretty well for food. Not sure I would want to carry one around all the time though.

  5. proteous77 says:

    Your expert opinion do you think the McGizmo Mule is worth the price, I contacted Don and the price is $415 plus shipping. I looked into other flashlights but like you said they have hotspots and concentric circles in the pattern. What do you believe is a good price for this kind of service, I live in the Naples fl area. Any advice is very much appreciated. Thanks

  6. Paula Thomas says:

    If you plan on using it a lot I would say it’s worth it. I don’t have any regrets. The build quality and materials used on those flashlights are superb and is why they are priced so high. There might be some lights out there that have as good of light quality built with cheaper materials but I haven’t found them yet. He used to make aluminum flashlights that were cheaper and if you’re lucky you might be able to find one used. You might find this thread I started when I was first looking for a flashlight helpful:

  7. proteous77 says:

    Thanks for your help and advice the McGizmo Mule looks like a smart and wise choice for portable, pocket, go anywhere light that is always with you. I will most likely be getting one very soon.

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