Week of 7 July 2008
Update: Sunday, 13 July 2008 08:50 -0500
Barbara stayed with her dad last night. She called this morning to say
that the doctor thought Barbara's mom was doing so well that he was
sending her home today. She'll have to return later for tests, but
things are looking pretty good right now.
The dogs will be happy
to have Barbara back on her usual schedule. They're used to her leaving
in the morning and returning at dinner time. They're even used to her
leaving for a few days to a couple of weeks periodically. But they
aren't used to her coming home for a short visit during the day or
evening and then leaving again and remaining away overnight. They've
behaved better than I expected, but they sure will be glad to have
Barbara back on her regular schedule.
Today, I'm reviewing the video footage before I burn the files to DVD
and send them to Phil Torrone at O'Reilly/MAKE to edit them into
finished videos. The problem is that, by necessity, we shot stuff out
of order. I need to do a timeline, so that Phil will know which .dv
files belong to which videos, and what order they belong in.
edit the footage myself, but I have no clue where to start. I've tried
several Linux apps, including Kino and Kdenlive, which appear to have
the capabilities necessary, but I have no idea what to do with them to
get from raw footage to a finished video. My first thought was that
Linux video editing apps just weren't good enough to do what I needed
to do, but that turns out not to be the case. There are Linux-based
video editing apps that are good enough for professional use. High-end
Linux video editing apps have been used to produce feature movies, so
clearly they have the capabilities and performance needed.
real problem is that I simply don't know what I'm doing. It's kind of
like a newbie sitting down in front of Photoshop expecting to use it to
produce professional results. The learning curve is simply too
difficult for casual users, and I don't have the time to master the
skills needed. So I'll send the raw footage up to Phil, who already has
I got five DVDs burned and off to Phillip Torrone. It was almost four,
but then I realized after I'd sealed the envelope that I'd left out
three of the video segments from the second video. So I ripped open the
envelope, burned the fifth DVD, and repackaged everything. Barbara's
dropping it at the post office today.
Ron Morse posted the following over on the messageboard:
If you were me, you would fight your spouse for the MacBook Pro and use iMovie.
up a new project which gives you a blank timeline, drag and drop your
segments from the desktop onto the timeline in the correct order, use
the druids to automagically equalize white balance, color levels and
sound levels across the entire project, waste^k^k^k^k^k spend a couple
of hours finding snazzy transition effects and then click to burn the
entire thing to disc. My learning curve was about 25 minutes, most of
which was spent on, "I wonder what happens if I..."
for your purposes, since Phil has to finalize the production anyway,
all you would do is drag the segments onto a new project in the correct
order and burn that for transport.
know you have some philosophical problems with Apple and their business
practices, and I won't take issue with those, but when it comes to s*it
like this nobody can touch 'em.
you mentioned, there is quite a bit of stuff for Linux that will edit
video and some of it even works for people who are not certified video
editors (and the good stuff REALLY is pro-level), but I haven't seen
anything that comes close to iMovie on any platform for quick and
I can do most or all of that with Kino, but I'm sending it to Phil as
raw .dv footage because I'm afraid that anything I do to manipulate it
will cause data to be lost. I should probably take the time to try out
the Mac Mini that my editor sent me. If it turns out that I can do this
stuff reasonably well on a Mac, I'll start doing at least the
preliminary work myself.
And Edmund Hack added:
slightly different take from above. You have two learning curves to
traverse - the easiest is the tool. The harder is learning the
"language" of film. A good editor can make a good film great or find a
good film in a mess. A bad editor can make a great film a mess. Stories
abound in the business of all three.
show I'd recommend as a model for your videos: Good Eats on Food
Network. The show is science oriented, concentrates on one technique or
ingredient per show, and is pretty straightforward. The props are
amusing and the show's creator/host Alton Brown has used some pretty
amusing and informative ways to show the chemistry behind things like
protein coagulation, how emulsions work, etc. After all, cooking is a
craft - a melding of science and art.
point, and one that I'd already considered. Of course, even a great
cook can't make a decent meal from bad raw materials, and I'm not sure
that the raw footage I'm shooting qualifies as good raw materials.
one of the raw video segments, with no color correction or anything. I
just called up the raw .dv file in Kino and told it to export as MPEG.
This is Dr. Mary Chervenak doing the intro segment for the first video.
Click on the screenshot to grab or view the .mpeg file, which is 32
Interestingly, the raw video appears very overexposed and with a
yellow bias, but when I told Kino to grab a screenshot, it provided
this still, which is much better exposed and without the yellow bias.
I'm assuming that the raw .dv data is kind of like digital camera .RAW
files--all of the data are there and it's up to the person processing
the data to make adjustments for brightness, contrast, color balance,
etc. At any rate, I hope that's the case.
Regarding the questions about Mary: Yes, this is the same Mary who
ran around the world last year. Yes, she does have a great voice, but
as far as I know she's never been a radio DJ. No, she is not looking to
meet a guy. She already has a husband, who's larger than some
NFL defensive linemen and has no sense of humor.
I wrote up some production notes for the video files that I sent to
Phil Torrone. Then I decided that it was time I shot a video segment
with me as host, so I wrote up notes for a segment where I'll use three
chemicals commonly found around the house to make a powerful drug used
against rheumatoid arthritis. That drug, dicopper 2-acetyloxybenzoate,
is also known as copper aspirinate. Barbara will be behind the camera
for that segment.
And now it's back to working on the home
forensics lab book, which'll occupy me for the rest of the week. Except
Friday, when I have to go to the dentist to get my fangs cleaned. Don't
expect much here for the next few days.
Heads-down writing interrupted by some lab work as needed. Today, I'm
dissolving fabrics in different solvents as a means of discriminating
between different artificial fibers, such as nylon, acetate, and
polyester. If the readers of Illustrated Guide to Home Forensics Investigations have even half as much fun as I'm having, this should be a very popular book.
- Still doing heads-down writing interspersed with some lab work.
haven't heard from Phil Torrone yet, but I'm going to assume that the
footage I'm sending him is usable. This weekend, if Barbara has time to
handle the camera, I plan to shoot the fourth video in the
HomeChemLab.com series. I'll host this one.
I'm also trying to
come up with some videos for the home forensics lab book. At first, I
thought that'd be difficult, but after thinking about it I concluded
that it won't be any harder than doing the chem lab videos. I'll have
to use a lot of still images shot through the microscope and embedded
in the video, but that shouldn't be difficult.
Someone over on
the messageboard suggested doing an outtakes reel with the leftover
footage from the chem lab videos, which I may do. We've had some pretty
funny stuff happen.
My favorite so far was when Mary was
weighing out potassium iodide to the hundredth of a gram
and transferring it into an Erlenmeyer flask. As she talks
about quantitative transfers and taps the potassium iodide from the
weighing paper into the flask, a big chunk rolls off the paper, bounces
off the rim of the flask, and lands on the counter. "Oops," says
Mary, who proceeds to pick up the chunk with her gloved fingers and
drop it back into the flask. In the background you can hear me say
"quantitative transfer", and we all start giggling uncontrollably. And
if you don't think that's funny, you're not a chemist.
there's Paul lighting the guncotton we'd made. Some of the cotton balls
were obviously better nitrated than others. The first one, the one
we'll use in the video, was perfect. Paul just touched the flame to it,
and it ignited in a ball of flame that lasted about a tenth of a
second, and was bright enough that the autoexposure of the camcorder
couldn't keep up with it. When the flame disappears, there's almost no
Alas, we didn't leave well enough alone. Paul
proceeded to ignite the other nitrated cotton balls, none of which was
nitrated anywhere near as well as the first. They burn, but not all
that much faster than a regular cotton ball would, and they all leave a
lot of residue. You can hear Mary and me in the background giving Paul
a hard time about his pathetic guncotton. At the end, you hear Paul
saying, "I'm Dr. Paul Jones, and I suck at making guncotton."
As everyone knows by now, Apple yesterday utterly botched the attempted
roll-out of their second generation iPhone. And, unlike the botched
roll-out of their first-generation iPhone, which affected only the US,
this one was a world-wide botch, rolling across time zones. Talk about
a world-wide iPocalypse.
Let me be the first to suggest a new slogan for Apple: It Just Doesn't Work™
can't say Apple doesn't learn from its mistakes. Their first-generation
botch affected only newly-purchased products. This one killed not
just new iPhones, but existing first-generation iPhones as well.
stunning how much abuse Apple customers are willing to accept. It's bad
enough that the product is grossly overpriced--on the cheapest plan
it's something like $2,000 for phone plus the required contract--and
lacks even something as essential as a replaceable battery. But many of
these idiots who stood in line for literally hours only to find that
Apple wasn't able to provide them with a working phone will return
sometime in the next few days to hand over their money anyway. Geez.
For years, I've used K3b for burning optical discs on Linux. I've been
completely happy with it, with one exception. K3b simply won't let me
duplicate a CD.
I'd forgotten about that problem when Barbara
brought a stack of audio CDs into my office yesterday. These are
commercial pressed CDs that won't play in her car CD player. She asked
me to dupe them for her. I fired up K3b, chose "Copy CD", and
immediately remembered the problem.
Ordinarily, on a system with
one optical drive, one would expect to be prompted to insert the
original CD, have the software make a copy of it, and then have it
prompt to insert a blank CD-R. K3b doesn't do that. Instead, whether I
start K3b with an empty drive or a drive with an audio CD in it, K3b
immediately prompts me to insert a CD-R. It's very annoying. K3b
obviously recognizes the audio CD in the drive. It even displays the
name of the CD that it apparently can't otherwise see. But there it
sits, displaying the prompt to insert a burnable CD and with the start
button grayed out. There's no way I can find to force it to read the
source disc, so it's obviously impossible to copy a CD.
screwing with it for a few minutes, as I always do when this problem
rears its head, I gave up and did what I always do, which is use a
different burning app to copy the disc. This time, I didn't have any
other burning apps installed--I obviously hadn't needed to dupe any CDs
since I installed Kubuntu 7.10 back in November--so I grabbed Brasero
and used it to copy the CD. That's one very nice thing about Linux. If
one app doesn't do what you need to do, you can simply download and
install a competing app with only a couple of mouse clicks.
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 by Robert