Archive for the ‘Software’ category

First Wedding Video

November 6, 2011

Several weeks ago I videotaped a wedding. My friend Lezlie referred the couple to me, and I accepted. I’ve always said no to that sort of thing because I’ve heard horror stories about bridezillas, but even moreso because it matters: I don’t want to be the guy that people point at and say, “That’s him…that’s the man that fucked up the record of the most important day of my life.”

There is a man named Mark with whom I have kept a casual friendship for a few years. My brother knows him: they both work for Entercom Radio/Media. We’ve met once in person, and stayed in touch through Facebook, and I knew through that venue that he’d recently purchased a set of studio lights. I sent him a message, asking if that was true. He wrote back, “Yes, why?”

I don’t know why I did it, but it was an inspired choice to contact him. My initial thought was to just ask if I could rent his lights. The question was typed and sent before my brain registered the action: “Want to help me shoot a wedding?”

I didn’t even know he had a video camera – as it turns out he has two. Between the two of us, we ended up with four cameras to shoot the wedding: bride-cam (static), groom-cam (static), Mark-cam (mobile), Me-cam (mobile). The plan ended up being to let the two front cameras capture the entire service from different angles at a fixed point of view; that would be the foundation. Then, Mark and I with our two cameras moved from place to place, capturing whatever looked interesting: reaction shots from the congregation; the ring bearer (cute but precocious kid) handing the ring to the best man; the scripture readings; things like that.

A year ago, I might have called a couple of old friends to help me with this, and I would have been nervous the entire time, wondering if they were capturing what I needed. They’re really good behind a camera, if they have very strong direction, but if you just point them in a direction and push to get them started, they will eventually wander. Their idea of “good enough” is nowhere near mine.

I finally saw his footage after finally getting a card reader and downloading it, and my impression from watching him at the service was correct: he paid attention – very close attention – and captured everything I needed him to. It was like dancing: we each just moved with the “music” of the service and reception in a loose step, me leading, him following from across the room. He even caught some moments I didn’t expect, but were absolutely beautiful choices: a close-up of the organist’s hands for instance.

Adobe Premiere Multi-Camera Monitor

The groom said to us at the reception: “Man, you guys were everywhere and nowhere.” That was the best compliment he could have given us. The priest even thanked us for our discretion at staying unobtrusive.

I learned through this process that Adobe Premiere has a multi-camera feature, where it will place four separate tracks of video into an interface where you can watch them simultaneously and pick and choose your shots on the fly. It saved me hours of time I’m sure.

I’ve nearly done editing. The finished product looks amazing.


Windows 7: What a disappointment.

November 14, 2010

So, I got a new computer. The old one, a 6 year old custom built Asus/AMD finally is starting to show its age, and when the power supply gave up I figured it was a good time to get a new system. I called my local computer store, explained what I wanted and signed the work order. It’s a graybox i7 with 12gb ram. Very fast, very slick.

The big question was the OS: Windows XP 64bit or Windows 7 64bit. I’ve used Windows 7 on a virtual machine on my old XP box and really like it (even without the Aero interface, which the old machine wasn’t powerful enough to support.) So I booted up the virtual machine and installed all my work-a-day apps on it: Cakewalk SonarAdobe Premiere and FXHome  VisionLab Studio being the really important ones. Each ran – though the FXHome product has to be run in XP Mode – and so I fired off an email: proceed with Windows 7.

I have since discovered what a mistake that was. Granted I should have done more thorough testing: I only started each package to see if it would run without error, which each did. Now, having done some additional research trying without success to work on a project, I’ve found the following things:

Recording “Stereo Mix” (a.k.a. “What U Hear”) off your sound card isn’t simple any more. On my new PC, it’s simply not an option. A Google search for a fix showed me that many others have had the same problem. The recurring theme was, “It worked fine in XP, but when I upgraded to 7 (or Vista), it didn’t work any more.” Many solutions were tossed out, like upgrading/reinstalling sound card drivers, right-clicking in device properties and checking “show disabled”, none of which worked for me, although I could be forgiven for asking

Why the hell should that even be necessary?

Sorry, I’m a little miffed. Seems to me that for content producers like me and others, this task should be a fundamental assumption so why should we have to work so hard to do it after “UP”grading? Microsoft in bed with RIAA..?

Ya think?

Yes, I can use the stereo mix to record stuff off YouTube…yes, that’s a violation of copyright…yes yes yes yes friggin’ yes. However, there are plenty of legitimate reasons to record the Stereo mix – not the least of which is a mix-down of audio tracks and MIDI-controlled audio output from my keyboard, something I do ALL THE TIME.

Or at least, I used to.

In XP.

Yeah, okay, now that we’re here, there’s MIDI. Same issues: worked fine in XP, doesn’t work now. Even the company that built my PC knew that 7 doesn’t support legacy MIDI interfaces, though they let me choose 7 anyway.

Which is why I’m miffed. No, not miffed. Pissed off.

I’m a user. I don’t build PCs for my living. According to what I’ve read this morning, audio/MIDI issues like the ones I’m facing now were introduced with Vista, so given that track record, my PC builder – who knows me and what I do – should have known about these issues and recommended – no, insisted on – Windows XP.

That I am discovering this now, mid-project, that I will have to take two hours out of my day to take the PC back and have it fixed (twice, if I have to drop it off and then go back), that I will have to reinstall all of my applications, another four hours gone: for all these reasons, I’m pissed off.


Contributing to the War Effort: Gimp vs. Photoshop

July 6, 2009

It was recently suggested to a friend of mine that he try out Gimp on his newly upgraded Mac. This friend already owns a copy of Photoshop CS4 and thus has no compelling reason to switch. Good.

In many books on the subject, the claim is made that Harland & Wolff describes the Titanic as “unsinkable.” This claim is not true. They touted the double-hull construction, and then the media of the time took that ball and ran with it: it was the press that called the great ship “unsinkable.”

Likewise, the Gimp team has never suggested that The Gimp is a Photoshop replacement. Bloggers and the rest of the open source community did that for them.

They’re wrong, in any case.

I like the idea of open source software, but, taking Gimp as our example (and, by extension, Inkscape), its single biggest advantage is that it is free. That’s where the Yellow Brick Road ends.

So, as I said, Gimp is marketed – as much as anything open source is marketed – as a Photoshop replacement. Let’s accept that, then, midguided as it is, and look at a few key areas where such an assertion is patently wrong, and I’m going to do so with real reasons.

Today, July 6th in the year of our Lord two thousand and nine, if you do a Google search on “gimp vs. photoshop” you’ll get more than seven million results. Of those, let’s say half are legit and/or not repeats. Of those, let’s say that just over three-quarters are whining about how the interface is different. Well, no shit. Different software, different interface. Let’s get qualitative:

1. You can’t nest layers, so organizing your graphic is pretty tough. No, scratch that. In real practical terms, it’s impossible.

2. Adjustment layers. One of Photoshop’s most powerful features. Gimp doesn’t have them. Sure, you can add layers that adjust layers below them, but that’s every layer from the adjuster, down. To isolate the effect, you have to merge the adjuster and the target, at which point, your adjustments are done. Better get it right the first time…or duplicate your target and hide it so you can go back and try again, further complicating the document.

3. Stroked paths that curve, pixelate and do weird shit with the stroke width.  Gimp can make Web2.0 style buttons and frames, but only if you’re willing to put up with awkward looking corners.

4. Text rendering is sloppy, with similar symptoms as issue #3: curves pixelate. You can get around this somewhat by creating your text huge and scaling it down, but that’s a real pain in the ass. You can also drop into Inkscape* to do any work with curves, but then you have to deal with differences in scaling between the two applications, likewise a real pain in the ass.

These are HUGE failings that Gimp is going to have to overcome before it will ever seriously compete with PS.

…which it isn’t officially trying to do anyway.

* Inkscape is also a serious memory hog, and if you have anything visual going on – in another window, for instance – the Inkscape interface just stops refreshing. Maybe that would go away with a better video card, though it irks me that I’d have to upgrade what’s already a higher-than-baseline PC.