Video Project: Week 2

10/24/10

I’d like to start off by saying that Monday through Wednesday was a wash. By the time I was able to do anything related to this project, my eyes were crossing and my head was inching closer and closer to my desk, which sucks, because I spend eight hours a day, five days a week doing that at work. If I’m fading at home and work, it’s probably a good idea to get to bed a little earlier. Preferably, before Letterman starts his Top Ten List.

By Thursday, it was time to reassess and revisit the mission at hand, which was install Ubuntu on a USB drive so I can take it with me where ever I go, and so it won’t partition my hard drive. For me, for someone whose computer expertise knowledge has atrophied and hasn’t been updated since the late Nineties, it’s a little bit of a daunting task. For other people…it’s a Wednesday. Ubuntu, the new OS that I’ve got waiting on a CD ready to be loaded onto a USB, was not doing me any good just laying dormant on a digitized, circular piece of plastic. It was essentially a Geek coaster for Geek drinks, a Geek Frisbee for inter-office extreme golf tournaments.  Since this Operating System is used and updated by a different breed of computer people, the nature of this beast is that it’s constantly being tweaked and updated on pretty much a quarterly basis. Not to mention that the days aren’t going to get any longer, and the end of December may as well be the day after tomorrow. This needs to move forward this week, otherwise, there is no point. If I don’t pull the trigger now, tomorrow, I might be dealing with a whole new set of problems on a whole new operating system.

I have sought and received boatloads of help from people I’m in correspondence with. People who know what they’re doing. People who have been using this for a while. The problem is, as helpful and wonderful as they are…and they are…they are going off instructions from say, eight months ago. Therefore, speaking in terms of technology, the information that I’m receiving is already antiquated. Trepidation hinders me. Maybe it mostly comes from that guy gene (You know, that guy gene. The one that makes us never stop and ask for directions.) Working with old instructions does little to help with new technology, and sometimes, I don’t need my hand held or to be spoon fed. Sometimes, I’m keen to figure it out myself. Although, sometimes, it’s nice to know it’s there.

It’s exactly like stopping and asking for directions; you know your destination is right around the corner, you just need someone else to see it. You want to ask. You want that warm, matronly caress of assurance to come out of someone’s mouth to prove that you’re not going crazy and that you know what you’re doing and where you’re going. But when all you have at the end of the day to rely on is blind faith, and hopefully a little dumb luck, you have to make the best out of what you got.

“Enough of this doubt thing,” my inner dialogue screaming at me. “You’re a big boy now. Onward, or give up.” Disc loaded in the drive: check. USB drive installed: check. Ability to press F8 at startup: check. Hold your breath, make sure you rise up slowly or you may get the bends. The first step is the hardest, all you have to do is let go.”

12:50…press Return….

The trigger was pulled late on a Friday Night. At start-up,  it was all systems go and everything looking like it was supposed to. Small success. Now, for my next amazing trick, I shall put this on my USB stick and make it bootable! This is where I consulted my crib notes of the information that was given to me. When I was there, I was supposed to….*squints at chicken scratch*, “tell Ubuntu to install as ‘Persistent Install’ so it will be forced to the USB drive.’ ” What I didn’t bother to write down was the part about, “most newer computers will recognize the drive anyway”. I was preparing myself a long night of trial and error. I was coming to terms with the notion that I just may not know what I’m doing. After about a half hour of side-stepping land mines that weren’t there and “taking five” to regroup, I realized that this new version of the operating system has already done the leg work for me. Click install.

….Holy Crap! It’s working….

Three cheers and a tiger for me, that part is done. Onward and upward. It’s Sunday. Girlfriend and the Littlest have gone on a play date, the oldest is about ready to spend the day at her Grammy’s. I have the afternoon to myself. Today will be installing applications and downloading pics and clips. This week, I will focus on taking more b-roll and writing a rough draft of a script.

Video Project: Week 1

10/9/10

Major hiccup.

And this isn’t in regards to the Diet Mountain Dew I just threw back. This is in regards to me biting off more than I can chew. And this is another habit that I really have to change (the Mountain Dew part, not the biting part….okay, maybe the biting part too). If I’m ready to engage in some serious time on a project such as this, I have to fuel up on a highly caffeinated, sparkly beverage. Not cool when I just finished a couple of cups of coffee and now my eyes are focusing on things that are on opposite sides of the room. Not cool when I have other obligations coming at me like a mudslide, like a 9 year old’s birthday. But still, I’m a good boy all week and a little jacking up won’t hurt for a day or so. Sometimes, it’s the only way to get the lawn mowed.

About a week previous, I was going about doing my nightly YouTube trolling duties. Off to the side of my  home page, where the showcase the brand new shiny videos. I clicked on this one, it itself was brand new; barely 500 hits, yet it was trending upward, so it was worthy of a view.

Blown away. End of story. In my opinion, it was on par with anything that comes out of the House of Mouse or Dreamworks, but on a different level. What blew me away even further, was the way it was produced.

For a fraction of the cost of a usual summer blockbuster (almost $600,000, the lion’s share coming from online donations), groups of animators and amateur filmmakers from around the world contributed time, money and talent to finish this project in a matter of months. This almost fifteen minute long epic wasn’t the product of HP or anything belongs in the Apple library, this was made with something called Blender. Now, for the untold hundreds of you using a Linux operating system, please allow me to break it down to my underprivileged Windows-Using Folk.

Since the inception of Windows 7, Widows People, like me, who like to post things on YouTube and in the process, finally got used to the persistently buggy Windows Movie Maker were faced with the terrible dilemma of freedom. The latest version of the Widows operating system does NOT include Movie Maker (a fact in which I’m still scratching my head over, because the computer that we got is specifically designed to handle massive amounts of media…whatever). Faced with the absence of the only movie editor one has ever known, one would be presented with a number of options. The first would be to be one of the devoted, go to the Windows Live website, download the latest version of Movie Maker, grin and bear it (even with the latest version, it’s still a little wonky), and go about your business of stitching together pictures of your grandmother’s birthday party with some cheesy transition effects, throwing in whatever music you have lying around over it and calling it good. OR, capturing and posting your latest accomplishment of leveling up on Call of Duty so you can brag about it to the world. The second would be to totally freak out and get a Mac (!). The third, and I think this is what the developers had in mind all along, is that you go out on your own to either purchase software, or to find a comparable application. Hopefully for free. The terrible dilemma here is that it’s a huge market with many caveats and pitfalls. You just want something that works, something that’s friendly, that isn’t going to bust you, and maybe just evolve with you as your talent grows.

So, where to begin?

Before I go any further, I’d just like to point out that I finally, after years it seems, took a legitimate vacation. The type of vacation that let’s get out of Dodge for a while, not the kind where you stay at home in your pajamas. A real vacation! I took pictures on this trip, as anyone going on a trip would do. I also took some video with my little Sony Digital Camera that I bought years ago. But my footage wasn’t of anything significant, it was more like B-roll. It was B-roll that was shot with full intention of it becoming B-roll. Before I snapped my first picture on this trip, I was committed to the idea that I was going to make a small movie that was disguised as a vlog with dreams of becoming a documentary. I had an ambition to make it better than the first one I made. It was time to move forward and become an actual filmmaker, and to finally admit to myself that I didn’t give up the fight. After all these years, I still have at least one creative bone in my body.

Okay, back to the present…

So, I watched the video above, fell in love with it, left a comment on it to the effect of, “Well I was going to start on my video project this weekend, but after seeing this, I kind of don’t see the point now. *sulk*” Which prompted the weekend video warriors to come out of the woodwork and exclaim, “No! Go for it!” etc. One such person engaged me in a game of message tag.

He asked why I was using Windows Movie Maker.
I told him that that was the only option available to me.
He told me that the movie I just watched and commented on was made on Blender, which I could find online and use for free.
I said, “No way?!”
He said, “Way!”
I said, “I have to have this!” Because anything that is capable of making a movie like this that’s available to the public like books in a library is damn near impossible for me to pass up. Especially when I’m looking to step up my game. Not that I’m planning on producing any animated epics…yet, but if their editing applications fit what I’m looking for, this will be mine. Oh yes…this WILL be mine!

He then directed me to something called kdenlive, an open source video editor which works and plays well with Blender, and at first glance, looks like it may crush anything that Windows ever made as far as movie editing applications. After some research, I felt the deep, primal need to use this and to hide it under rock in case tribe from other village come and take.

Now, this is how the rest of my week went:

In order for me to get this application, I have to download it. In order to download it, I have to have Linux (even though they say you can do this in Windows, what they really mean is that you have to have Linux in the mix on another partition). In order to do that, I may have to make some room on my hard drive, which I’m not too crazy about. But, wait! There’s a way that I can get what I need without performing brain surgery on my computer!

Visions of a super-neato-keen operating system are all I see. 

So without giving it another thought, I get myself an 8GB USB Flash Drive. It came in about 3 days, this was a good time to further investigate the operating system that I will be using. It’s called Ubuntu; think of the all the highlights of Windows, Mac and Linux, thrown into a casserole dish, baked at 350° for 45 minutes and served with a side of asparagus. By this time, it was the weekend again. By this time, my message tagging friend contacted me after a few days after I tried to confirm with him that I can do a full install on a flash drive. Taking these baby steps kind of bothers me. My days are taken up, but at night, I try to get in as much of this as I can between familial obligations and sleep, which leaves a very small window. He says that I can load it directly on the flash drive, but it won’t be a complete install. If I booted from a disc, let the operating system load, it should give me a prompt where I can load it on to the flash drive.

So, now I need a blank disc.

Borrowed one from my mother in law, went through the steps, got the installer, started loading it on the disc… ERROR! Bad disc. Since it wasn’t re-writable, I was screwed until a got a fresh disc. Went to Office Depot, got a fat stack of discs (preparing for the worst), started over again, SUCCESS!

It is now a week later. I have the hardware. I have the software. I have the time. I have the frosty beverage. I have the ambition.

Now, I need to take the red pill and see how far the rabbit hole goes…..

……anytime, now……

The Psych Up

The little voice in my head is taking over tonight after a quiet moment.

“Okay. You’ve got you’re shiny, new 8GB USB flash drive in the mail today. You’ve found launchpad and kdenlive and they’re both ready to be loaded and played with. You’ve got more than a few pictures and B-roll clips from your vacation on your camera and cell phone waiting to be downloaded and spliced together. You’ve found a number of sites for royalty free music. Sure, most of them sound like porno music, but you’ve sifted through the rubbish and found a few that are exactly what you’re looking for. On top of that, you’ve lined up a couple of CD’s of your own, and for some strange, serendipitous reason, a score of you-tubing musicians have suddenly decided to become your friend. You’ve got a blank page in front of you, but it should be no problem filling it up, right? You’ve got plenty of time and all the resources you need, so let’s get to work! C’mon, let’s jump on that project! It’s quiet right now. Your daughter is falling asleep and you don’t have work tomorrow. Great! Let’s go!…..Let’s goo!…..Le…

…or, we can go to bed and work on it tomorrow.

Good plan. Just like old times….”

With a Little Help From My Friends….

I have an eight year old who has an interesting problem. She is constantly in trouble in school for being too…helpful. We have been told by counselors and teachers that she needs to focus more on what she’s doing, rather than being involved with other people’s affairs. It’s a rare situation where I’m in agreement with the figures of authority. I see her do it. In certain measures. Weather it’s lending a hand in a task that’s just beyond her grasp or making a fussy child laugh despite herself. We were informed by these figures of authority that we should be mindful of her behavior, and develop habits that would draw her focus back to herself. On paper, this is a simple task; keep lines of communication open, be involved in everything that she’s doing, you know, Dr. Spock’s greatest hits… Since she’s been in my life, her mother and I have made huge strides. But, as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, she’ll eventually revert back to becoming her typical nosy little self. She helps. More importantly, she tries to help; she makes an effort. In a situation where she can help, or she thinks she can help, she will. And I’m not completely sure I want to modify this little trait. Mostly because it’s a sign of character, but partly because it reflects something in me.

It’s not that I have an innate sense of lending a hand, it had to be drilled into me (only child syndrome). But as I grew older, I found myself helping in situations, not for any sort of personal or financial gain, but because it’s the right thing to do, much to my detriment. Sounds familiar. And I know it’s not just me. Many people attribute it to a higher power, “It’s the Christian thing to do” whatever that means. No matter how ugly the human race shows itself to be, we also have an amazing capacity for charity, for giving, for helping, for doing the right thing, and when we are faced with the realization that there may be nothing that we can do to help, to become utterly helpless, we learn the other side of being human.

As of the time of this posting, I managed to visit my Jewel of the Northeast, Portland, ME for a day, and a lovely day it was. In that one day, I reunited with friends that I thought I would never see again, including my alter-ego, Jamie. She hasn’t changed. Sure, she’s married now and has two fantastic young boys and a fantastic husband, other than that, she is still the same thoughtful, wandering poet that she always was. As with all my friends, I keep up with their respective families and what they’re up to via facebook. Before I left, I was introduced to Jamie’s husband through a mutual friend. His name is Ken.

Ken keeps, to the best of his ability, a thoroughly engrossing blog, and I highly recommend you all follow it, here. What does he blog about? Family, for the most part. But recently, he has been blogging about an aneurysm he has developed in recent months. He is frightfully optimistic about it. If it were me, I would be screaming holy hell as soon as I heard the news. But he’s handling it as if he were mildly inconvenienced, “Today, well let’s see…today I have to go to the store, pick up my dry cleaning, dentist appointment, and oh yeah, I have to remove this humongous growth in my brain.” It’s a sign of character. It’s a big thing with me.

As of tonight, Ken is in Intensive Care. He has been in and out of surgery for the past two days. I know very little of him. But what I do know is that he is the husband of one of the most crazy and brilliant women I know. I know that I will live a hundred years and never see her come to any harm, therefore by association, her family as well. I am the furthest thing from pious. I walked away from the fold many years ago. I’ve been sending out positive waves the best that I can, but at the end of the day, I can’t help but feel…helpless.

Please, it will only take a few seconds. Please send out positive vibrations of your own, say a silent prayer, light a candle, do one good thing that will tip the balance of the universe into his favor. I’ve done all I can, which isn’t much. I’m hoping the more positive people out there who are willing to help, the world will show it’s better side again.