Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Might Be Okay With iMovie

Discovered today that I still have a copy of iMovie '11 version 9.09. But I don't know if I can use it side-by-side with version 10.0. For one thing, my event library has been "updated," which might mean that any editing I want to do in 9.09 has to be done with fresh imports. And if they share the library folders, they may conflict.

Right now I need to concentrate my attention on actual editing, writing, shooting, and singing, and so I won't have much chance to explore the ramifications of this change for the next couple of weeks. But I think I'm going to have to spend some time around the Apple forums to see what this all means for my workflow.

I'll keep you posted. Meanwhile, no work on the Challenge today; had to run errands with my wife, including getting myself my first iPhone, which I hadn't actually planned on doing.

I love the way life throws me curve balls.

Monday, October 28, 2013

An Upgrade. Sort Of.

Apple offered a free upgrade from iMovie '11, version nine-point-whatever to version 10.0, which it touted as "streamlined." But in many ways it seems stripped down. I've only edited on short piece with it so far, but I already miss being able to export through QuickTime, which allowed me to choose not only format, but bit rate and audio quality. This is not a step up.

But I can't afford anything like Final Cut, so I will mush on with this version of iMovie, as I always do, and I will make it work. Meanwhile, the postproduction of "Fluid" is taking its sweet time, but soon after I get it done and uploaded, two more videos will be available on my YouTube channel.

And meanwhile, I will soon be offering a gig on Fiverr, recording thirty seconds of talking in front of my green screen, with a graphic keyed in, for a mere five bucks. I'll let you know when the gig is ready.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Running Behind?

So I haven't posted anything new since the 18th, when I uploaded Summer to SoundCloud. By now I should have posted an additional video, and I should have a song ready for Tuesday. Okay, it's barely possible I'll have a song for Tuesday.

But am I running behind? No, not really. Not so far. Granted I have some re-shooting to do for the next two videos I'm uploading, but I also have two other complete videos in postproduction now. My Kindle article on formatting might not be done by the first of November, but I am confident that both that and the next article will be done by the first of December, and perhaps even before that.

There's a certain amount of ramping up to so, a certain number of works in simultaneous progress, and before long, I expect them to start catching up with and even passing the schedule.

So, if you haven't yet, follow me using all the links above. There might not be tons to see now, but it will start to accumulate.

I promise.

Teleprompter As Viewfinder

Good grief! Over a year since I built my cheap teleprompter, and I finally got to try the trick I mentioned in the blog post about it: using it as a viewfinder while shooting myself without a crew. Here's the video about it:

It isn't exactly what I envisioned, but I don't want to fuss with it too much. As you can see in the POV shots, the lens of the camera can't be in the middle of the monitor. That's because the cabling keeps me from putting the monitor dead center. The monitor is also too thick to tuck back into the teleprompter far enough the center the lens top to bottom.

I could use right-angle cables to solve the first problem and raise the camera to solve the second (although then I have to be careful about getting the top of the picture frame in the shot). But the fact is that it works really well the way it is, and I was able to use only gear that I already had to make it work.

To be honest, I haven't actually used the teleprompter as a teleprompter all that often. Just lazy, I guess; it takes a lot of tweaking to get anything resembling a natural rhythm from the teleprompter. But now that I've repurposed the box, I can't imagine getting in front of the camera—when I don't have a crew—without it.

If you didn't read the blog post, or see the video, about the construction of the teleprompter, take a look here.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Why My Challenge Is So ... Challenging

I have yet to shoot all the footage for the video that, if I were following a strict weekly schedule, would have been uploaded today. It all comes down to the availability of the talent—my 13-year-old son—and timing.

It doesn't seem like a video a week is that much. Some TV shows are released every day, albeit with a big budget and a crew. Songs? The Beatles are said to have written all the songs for Hard Days Night overnight in a hotel room. But then, they were, you know, The Beatles.

But the Challenge is not my day job. The publishing business is, along with being a stay-at-home dad. So when my tremendously talented wife tells me she has a new book concept she wants to bring to market before Thanksgiving, that comes first. As does making sure dinner is on the table before 5:45 so that my youngest son and I can go to his Scout meeting before I go off the the theater to discuss lighting for the latest production (no, I don't get paid to do that, but it's in my blood now, and I can't help it).

I suppose it would have been easier had I decided to count every video that I produce or help to produce during this year as a part of the Challenge. And maybe I'll use that as a fallback position (after all, I can always edit the blog after the fact and change the rules; you won't tell anyone, will you?).

But for all the interruptions, schedule conflicts, technical difficulties, and mental brick walls (which are the worst part of this work), I still think that I have a good shot at this. And when I manage to post another song or video, it feels great. I don't know if anyone likes the songs or the videos (that's not entirely true; I had one friend compliment both the stop-motion video and my first song), but the point is not to hit the mark every time; it's to get the work out there and see what comes of it.

With luck, I'll produce some good work in among the mediocrity, and improve as I get into the groove (ooh, a rhyme; another song title, maybe). And, if you'll do me the honor of following along, I'll do my best to keep it interesting and entertaining.

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Quick and Dirty Recording

I finished writing the first song in the Challenge, or at least writing most of it for the Challenge. The song is Summer, which started as just a verse and chorus for an assignment for Pat Pattison's songwriting class on Coursera.

But I'd started a story with that song, and I wanted to see how it turned out. So I told the rest of the story, wrestled it into some lyrics, and recorded it today, after waiting for the neighbor to finish using his leaf blower (the hazards, I guess, of writing a song called Summer in the fall).

It's up on SoundCloud now, and I'm thrilled to have a song out in the world that's part of the Challenge.

But I can't spend too much time being thrilled, because I have to do the next video, write the next song, and work on the article, book, and movie script of the moment.

I think it's a good way to keep my little successes from going to my head.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

It's a Song

I'm beginning to love deadlines. Even though I didn't actually make my deadline for my first song, having passed it really made me concentrate and explore possibilities that would never have occurred to me had I just let the song come to me in its own time.

And I like the results, I think, better than anything I'd expect from my muse. I say "I think" because I don't actually know what I would have come up with over a longer period of time, but based on past experience, I think it would have been more forced, and certainly of lesser craftsmanship.

So, a big shout out to Pat Pattison and his theory of rhyme types, which I love not only because it works, but because it opens up so many expressive possibilities.

And by the way, if you didn't sign up for the songwriting course on Coursera, you're not too late. Even if you join late in the week, you can still catch up. Go for it.

And look for the song on SoundCloud tomorrow; I don't have the voice for recording tonight.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Video Number Two

I was expecting to do morphing experiments as my second video, but I ended up deciding to have my middle son be the star of that production, and he's not available to shoot until later in the week. So I bumped the next video into the number two slot:

This video introduces my new character Ed, who likes to sit on the back porch and think about things. He has a lot of other things to think about, so you'll be seeing more of him in the future.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to fix up those last six lines on the first song. And I've decided on a feature film to write, or more accurately, rewrite. It's called "Wake Up Call." It's the story of a woman who owns a singing telegram service who manages to get into a lot of trouble when she goes on a call for one of her performers. It's a cute idea, for which I wrote an absolutely awful screenplay many years ago. This time, I hope, I will do a better job on the script.

Stay with me. And follow!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Songwriting Course!

Today the Songwriting course offered free from the Berklee School of Music through Coursera.org and taught by Pat Pattison begins another session. If you have any interest at all in songwriting, or for that matter of you write in verse, even without music, you should take this course.

I have already taken it twice, and the tools I've added to my repertoire have improved my songwriting immeasurably (as if you could measure these things anyway), and I've been writing songs for over 35 years.

I'm bowing out this session, but only because with the Challenge going on, I'll be writing a song about every two weeks, and I wouldn't have the time to do the early coursework. Especially as I am also taking Berklee's Introduction to Music Production, which also starts today.

But even though I'm not taking Songwriting again, I have downloaded all the lectures, and I will be revisiting them often throughout the next year.

I urge you to take this course. And if you do, please send me a link to your final song, six weeks from now. I'm looking forward to hearing it!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Deadlines, Deadlines

Deadlines are scary. Deadlines loom like large brick walls at the end of a freeway.

And deadlines are amazingly useful. The force me to think about my projects as things that are happening now, not someday when I have the time. They make me make the time, squeezed in among all my other obligations, making the best use of those little snippets of time that some between, when I'm waiting, when I'm doing something that occupies my hands but not my mind, and (sometimes unfortunately) even when I'm sleeping.

I'm not saying that I'm going to make every single deadline. My second video, for example, not only comes right on the heels of my son's 13th birthday, but it's also more complex than the first, with lots of special effects shots to process (not to mention the complexities of shooting for them).

My overall deadline is an aggregation, a finish line. Some projects will happen in less than the allotted time, and some will take longer. Some projects will be developed alongside other projects, so that their releases happen almost on top of each other. Some might even be sequels to others. And much as I try to work on one project at a time, the ideas for others keep coming (again, often in my sleep), and I have to stop and capture them with whatever I have at hand, from a piece of paper (which is easy to lose, so I try to avoid that) or my cell phone (I love Evernote).

So if I don't have a video each and every Tuesday, don't panic (or laugh at me, whichever you're inclined to do); the work is still happening behind the scenes. And I will do everything I can to catch up.

Especially if you follow me, nag me, and otherwise keep me on my toes.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Video 1: Follow the Leader

Here is my first video:

It's a bit of kitchen-table stop-motion animation, with a soundtrack created with Garage Band and a program I'm trying out called Reaper, with some programming using an interface I'm learning from Georgia Tech called Earsketch.

It isn't in High-Definition, not because the original images don't contain enough pixels, but because, as I'm still feeling my way around this stop-motion with a still camera thing, I neglected to crop for the 16:9 ration of high-def, and a lot of the action in the first section takes place in the upper part of the screen where it would get cut off.

But inauspicious beginnings often lead to better things down the road. And certainly lessons learned. So watch, enjoy, and follow!