Daily Dairy: Den Haag — VIDEO, part 1

by practicallymax on 8 August 2010

The “making of” process for this video is actually much more interesting than the video itself, but, nevertheless, I’ll give you the video first:

Now, the more interesting and painful details for why it’s taking me so long to get these videos out there.

1: The Beginning “Booms”
In taking everyone’s picture, I had envisioned a dramatic sequence at the beginning of my video, once I made it, that would flash between everyone’s faces, then casually introduce the rest of the clip. However, after pouring through a few hundred sound effects on a half dozen websites online, I couldn’t find anything remotely similar to what I was looking for. Deciding to milk the post-production route, I guessed that a batman movie would have what I was looking for, and on my first search hit gold: this batman trailer had the sort of sounds I was looking for. Then, using audacity, I isolated the first “boom” (because, if you notice, the beats to the soundtrack start soon after and it would sound odd to repeat the next few), split it into several tracks so as to preserve the reverb, synced them up to a pattern of increasing tempo, adjusted the timings so that they flowed well, then sped up the whole thing by 25% for added effect, did a bass amplification, added an echo layer, alternated between left and right stereo channels, and voila, sixteen booms for our sixteen-part-troup.

2: Music
Seeing as 90% of us have laptops, and MacBooks at that, almost everyone has a pretty extensive library of their favorite music, either from CDs, iTunes, or unmentionable sources. However, not owning a laptop, on this trip I took my dad’s small netbook, so the music I had on it consisted of … well, the demo music that comes with Windows. Fortunately, I had my iPod Nano, but your beloved Apple has decided that the control of all of your music belongs to them, not you, so they don’t actually let you take music off of your iPod and put it on your computer. Luckily, smart folks in the free world have engineered workarounds, and this article on Engadget describes the process for both Win and Mac folks. Though it was a bit more work than was probably warranted for the one or two songs I would use, sticking it to Steve Jobs always feels good, as does having control of the music you own.

3: Processing and syncing
This is where the lovely magic of my single core, 1.2 GHz processor comes in. As seems tradition in The Netherlands, the UvA facility where we are at is open the bare minimum work hours during weekdays, usually when I’m on school-appointed trips or doing research with Greg. This is reasonable, I suppose, but after 24/7 access to the UW art-of-the-state computing labs at good ol’ Paul Allen CSE, my expectations have become bloated and unreasonable, like Oprah. Without a real computer’s aid, I was forced to use my netbook. And it sucks. Pardon my French, but this hunk of circuitry and lights is le crap. Word processing (e.g. typing this post on WordPress) strains the brainpower of my little device, and if I ever fold it closed when it is not fully powered off, it will become confused and enraged and refuse to awake until I do a hard reboot.

Anyway, in terms of editing a video, this is bad news. I’m not an accomplished veteran of the industry, but I have directed, edited, and produced several dozen movies in my time using Windows Movie Maker, so I can do a bit of interesting editing and make mundane things look a little less mundane. However, using this excuse for a PC, I can’t even line video up with audio, because it’s too hard for it to coordinate display a picture at the same time as playing audio. Don’t even THINK about trying to play video (with audio) at the same time as music, that is a ridiculous, impossible feat.

Fortunately, I had a trick up the sleeve of my T-shirt: if you zoom in far enough, you can see the patterns of the sound waves in the audio, so matching up your pictures and transitions to audio is possible by sight alone.

Notice how I can't actually match up the pictures to the sound waves, because that would be FAR too logical and convenient.

This worked on the first sequence with the “booms,” but, lo and behold, by the time we got to the second scene, “Diggin on James Brown” was a bit too funky for my fail box to handle, and lining my pictures up with the clear blasts of Tower of Power proved a futile effort – everything was totally off-sync.

The astute reader would now be wondering, “but Max, your toy-you-pretend-is-a-computer can’t actually play music and pictures at the same time. How would you be able to tell if the audio and video line up?” Well astute reader, you are most correct, and the only way I can tell if things are working or not is to fully publish the movie and save it as a video file. Only then can my computer muster the codec strength to squeeze through a video. How long does this take? Well, about twenty minutes. That’s right, every time I wanted to see how things were shaping up, I had to wait upwards of twenty minutes to even get a preview.

After carefully timing the funk music sequence to compensate for the completely inexplicable second-and-a-half delay, I realized that future editing was pointless, partly because I was running out of RAM, partly because it would take many hours to continue coordinating audio and video via guess-and-check, but mostly because no one would ever care. So, I decided to stick the rest of the pictures and videos intermittently throughout and call it quits for part one. I’ll probably provide some brief narration for part 2 before my computer totally craps the bed. Oh, that reminds me of one last thing:

4: Windows was programmed by monkeys
This is not entirely true, but there are some aspects of it that you come across one in a while that leaves you in utter awe and bewilderment of the complete lack of foresight. For example, when I was blindly dumping the rest of my picture collection into the timeline to fill out the Madurodam movie (part 1), I decided that five seconds was too long for each picture, and I wanted two instead. Going into the options menu, there was a way to change the default setting. Success! However, the options window in which you change this setting was physically too big for my screen. There was no way to access the “save” button at the bottom. Pulling the window to the very top of the screen only partially reveled the “Reset to defaults” button, and there is no way to resize a window like this. None. Apparently, it never occurred to anyone that someone would run this program in anything less than a 1080p plasma monolith, because there just aren’t enough pixels on this netbook (which came installed with Vista) to do what needs to be done. Fortunately, through some guess-and-check tabbing I was able to change the setting, but I’m willing to bet most people (who would be using Windows Movie Maker, the crap free software for broke basement-developers) would not be able to remedy this.

There are not enough pixels.

Anyway, this explanation/rant has gone on far too long, and I fear I have not included enough pictures with my text to hold anyone’s interest. Part 2 will be of crappier quality, and I won’t bother explaining why – it will be a combination of the grievous obstacles here and many more untold hardships. Stay tuned, dear readers.

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