Monthly Archives: December 2009

Nothing Is Ever Simple

… at least as far as computers and video are concerned.

I consider myself to be something of a geek. At least, I am able to install software and get it running for most things. I have lots of experience of editing audio on a PC, so I thought that it really wouldn’t be too hard to get my head around video making and editing. How wrong I was.

Samsung FlashCam SMX-C10GP

Samsung FlashCam SMX-C10GP

You see, we (the royal we, actually, since it was really Sue) bought a video camera as our joint Christmas present to each other. (A Samsung Flashcam). I duly took on the role of Steven Spielberg and have been shooting all sorts of interesting things onto the SD card in the camera

This has proved to be very straightforward to use and I am certain that a bright future awaits me as a producer, director and camera operator, with an equally bright future for Sue as the star of a series of great films. 

Now just a moment, I am not talking about THAT sort of film – and you should be ashamed of yourself for thinking that we would want to inflict anything with an even slightly blue tinge on you and an unsuspecting world.

Filming proved to be easy enough, although I doubt that I have explored all the features built in to our camera yet. But those shots of our family Christmas Eve meal and a walk around the lake at Rufford Park certainly need editing before being seen by anyone at all. (In fact, my son Daniel was quite keen that our Christmas Eve footage shouldn’t appear on Facebook and so far, at least, it hasn’t.)

But this is where the fun started.

Uploading the rushes to my computer was straightforward enough and also led to the discovery that a neat little programme called Intelli-Studio came with the camera, so the shots  were quickly uploaded and I started exploring the programme. I quickly discovered Intelli-studio’s shortcoming. This software allows me to sequence complete video clips, but does not allow me to trim out the camera wobble or other extraneous sights and sounds.

However, I persevered and compiled a seven minute film, added titles and music tracks and decided to convert it into Windows Media Video (wmv) format so that Sue could see it in Windows Media Player.

I should have heeded the alarm bells when it took more than three hours of processing time to create the WMV file. The following morning, when I tried to play the newly created file, the sound ran fine, but the screen stayed resolutely black before crashing the computer’s display.

I needed something better. So I wandered aimlessly around Google for a while before stumbling on Auto Movie Creator.

The first thing I discovered about this was that it would cost me only $39.95, but also that I could download a trial version and play with it for free. Unfortunately, the trial version leaves a watermark stamp on your cinematic masterpiece, and before I could get to grips with this piece of software, Tony, a good friend and rather more competent geek, told me about Serif’s MoviePlus software. At £59.99, this is a little more expensive, but Tony’s enthusiastic review, as well as my own positive experience with other Serif programmes over a number of years, led me straight to MoviePlus x3.  This excellent programme delivers exactly what I need. I can now trim out the junk, and produce a polished end product that will, I am sure make James Cameron, David Lynch and their peers look over their shoulders.

However, a strangely familiar problem quickly arose. I could hear the audio, but the pictures were missing. After some scratching of heads, Tony and I decided that my computer’s on-board video could not cope with the demands we were trying to put on it. Tony disappeared back home and returned a few minutes later brandishing a GeForce Graphics card. He foolishly handed it over to me and departed saying something like, just plug it in, download the drivers and it will be dead easy.

It wasn’t.

I did plug it in. I downloaded several sets of drivers before finding the right ones. On boot up Windows XP sometimes told me that the card was there but not installed and just as often said nothing at all. Two days later, Tony returned and after some more head scratching, announced that the card must be faulty. With that he took the offending graphics card and said that he would pop into the supplier and get another before abandoning me to me fate.

I, and my embryonic career in film, await his return in another day or so.

Ride Safe
Dave

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Santa – After Christmas

Boxing day marks a very significant day in Santa’s year. The presents have all been delivered, the Christmas Dinner has been cooked and eaten and its finally time to relax. And to something about the beard.

It’s been a very busy few weeks, but the preparation takes many months. Even longer than it takes the brussels sprouts to cook!

First of all the beard has to grow to a proper seasonal length. There are plenty of Santas who simply rely on cotton wool beards, but the REAL Santa has to grow his beard. This has to start about July or August so that it reaches full luxuriant growth in time for the December public appearances.

I’ve also noticed that it gets a bit whiter with each passing year. This year’s beard was a magnificent one which drew many admiring comments from parents and other adults.

Santa's Beard Before Christmas Eve

Santa's Beard Before Christmas Eve

 This picture was taken with our newly acquired webcam, about which I’ll tell more in another post soon.

As I have mentioned, today is also the day to revert to Santa’s “rest of year” look. This is achieved by putting the red suit away and most significantly, trimming away several kilogrammes of beard.

The result is that I now look like this:

Santa's Beard After Christmas Eve

Santa's Beard After Christmas Eve

I’ll be able to go out without being recognised by every child I encounter, although that is a very mixed blessing because one of the great things about Christmas is that it is the only time when I can chat to children without their parents looking horrified in case I am about to kidnap them into child slavery.

Anyway, the reindeer need feeding and the sleigh needs a good clean before I put it away until next December, so with a final “”HO HO HO”, this is Santa signing off for this year.

Ride Safe
Dave

Merry Christmas

It’s Christmas Day and the Chuffing Hog family send best wishes to you and yours for today and for 2010.

Ride Safe
Dave