Monday, September 23, 2013

Almost There

The DVD project is beginning to wind down, after a two week process that saw me screaming, shouting, curled up in the corner weeping, and eventually, smiling. I was determined from the onset to figure this thing out and do it completely unassisted, and to this point I've accomplished that goal. My biggest triumphs have been figuring out the volume fade issue (who knew all one needed to do was simply drop a "fade out" transition tile at the end of the volume track), and building the menu page...something I'd never done before.

Now that everything is completed in the project file, all that's left are the final tweaks and then of course the rendering. I'm anticipating problems with the latter, due to the fact I'm using a 2-year-old laptop and I'm not confident it has the strength to pull it off. However the silver lining is, now that I've more or less got the PS16 software down, I can rebuild the entire project in a day, should I need to redo it from scratch (which I would be doing on the computer at work).

So, I've decided to take the week and just enjoy the fact I've finally completed the entire DVD project alone, and then tackle the rendering next weekend. If the render is successful, then I'll make a few extra copies, lock them away, and wait for the release date, which I still haven't decided on. If the rendering fails, I'll simply set aside a weekend sometime in October, and do the entire thing in one shot at work.

The only other detail still left to ponder is the cover. Bridge and I have been talking about concepts, and we have a few ideas we really like. These ideas will likely require a special road trip, to find a location that fits the mood. I'm both excited and dreading it, because obviously the artistic side of me wants to find a great cover shot but the lazy side of me hates the idea of wasting a Saturday doing it. Oh well, first world problems right?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Video Update (Pinnacle 16 Woes & Discoveries)

The new video project is coming along rather nicely so far. I've finally acquired Pinnacle Studio 16, the $60 piece of video editing software I've been coveting for months. I always go with the low-end version because I don't need all the Hollywood flash and tricks; I'm doing a tornado hunting video, not a comic book CGI-laden, imagination-starved Summer blockbuster. (Sad how "imagination-starved" and "blockbuster" can be used in the same sentence regarding the typical American moviegoer).

However, when I finally got the thing installed and fired it up for the first time, I discovered that Pinnacle had done a massive aesthetic overhaul on the latest version of their basic classic. The board is more akin to Final Cut Pro or Sony Vegas than it is the basic, classic Pinnacle. Pretty much the same functions, but all the levers and buttons and keys have been moved around, re-styled, and morphed into what looks more like the console of a galaxy class starship's bridge than the easy breezy, drag-n-drop storyboard template I cut my teeth on. Needless to say, this has created a few obstacles.

The main issue I have with PS16 is the storyboard feature. Unlike the previous basic versions, which were a simple board with multiple rows that would simply scroll down if you filled the screen up and allowed you to drag and drop/flip tiles at will, PS16's storyboard is a single line at the top of the work template, which works fine as long as you're simply dropping tiles in an exact chronological order and you don't run off the page. This storyboard moves side-to-side instead of vertically, and so far, seems to have no tile flipping function whatsoever. Any attempt to grab a tile and move it to another position on the storyboard only makes the entire storyboard line move, as if you were dragging them along a rail like a train, and as soon as you release the mouse, the tiles roll back to their original position. All I'm able to do at this point is add a tile (which never appears in the spot I wanted it), and delete tiles. Without the ability to add multiple rows of storyboard tiles, or to simply manipulate the single line left or right to a given point, the storyboard feature, which I've always used almost exclusively to edit, is useless. Perhaps there's a trick I've not yet discovered that will enable the use of this feature, but my learning curve is slow and I've run out of patience. So, I'm doing the editing this time around using the timeline feature, which admittedly, has been pretty easy. Laptop mouses are not my favorite thing in the world, and because the one I'm using is so touchy, I was apprehensive and nervous; after all, so much detail in creating these videos involves hair-trigger clicks and drags. However I've gotten used to the way this mouse works/feels, and have gotten fairly quick at making things happen.

Because I've had to bypass the storyboard feature altogether, it's changed the way I create the video itself. On all the other videos, I built everything in exact chronological order, just as it appears when you watch the DVDs themselves. Because I was unable to move title pages around on the storyboard, I had to build them all first (by doing the chase video before a title page, it created too much spacing on the timeline to be able to see/monitor while attempting further updates, and I started making a lot of placement mistakes). Once I did that, I began inserting the actual chase video in between, in the appropriate places. A pain in the ass of sorts, but it's working so far. I'm sure there's an easier solution to the way I'm doing this, but I'll never figure it out before my deadline. I just need it to work for what I'm wanting to accomplish, even if I'm taking the long way around.

Perhaps my biggest hurdle so far is my inability to figure out how to create a volume level fade mid-song. On every past version of Pinnacle I've ever used, all you had to do was grab a point in the volume line of a volume track, click, and then drag the line down manually, to where ever you wanted the music to fade. On this version, all that move does is drag the entire volume line down, which only lowers the overall volume of the entire audio track itself. I got frustrated the first day attempting to overcome this issue and have not since revisited it. The 'instruction manual" was a few rungs below worthless, regarding any insight as to how to make this happen. If my next attempts on my own fail to glean a solution, I'll search out online forums and ask there.

Beyond learning the feel of a very new design and the petty technical mysteries, I've actually been enjoying this project. I'm making every attempt to complete this entire thing all on my own, which would be a first. Mickey has helped me out on every DVD, although my role in the production has expanded on each one. I've always done all the video uploads, storyboarding, and editing myself, while Mick handled all the extras like the menu page, music, and the rendering. For the first four DVDs, Mick worked with me constantly throughout the project, to help in case I hit a wall and couldn't find my way past a problem. On "Weather" he worked with me on one session, then after a six week break, brought the computer we were using over to our apartment, and left me to complete it on my own. It was pretty satisfying to slip a disc into the tower, go to a friend's house to hang out for the day, and then walk back into our living room to find a brand new DVD waiting in the tray. "Blue" was kinda screwy, as I had built the entire project on my own (minus the menu page) several months in advance of it ever being released. After we saw Rice, I went back in, deleted the May 22nd and 23rd segments, added the Rice segment, and the DVD was pretty much done. However, I still didn't know how to make a menu page, and kept having failures when I tried to render any project over an hour long. Mickey came down for a weekend in mid-November, created the menu page, and somehow figured out how to render the damn thing. Again he had saved my ass.

But this time I'm on my own. Mick's three hours away and his life is much different and busier than it was in 2010, which doesn't allow him the ability to just fly down here whenever I'm in DVD trouble. So I get to figure it all out alone, and I'm pretty certain I will, because I seem to always find a way when I don't have a choice.