Video: Cat Drinks Water!

December 27, 2007

High-speed rehydration.

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Stuff like this has me rolling my eyes. Why? Because what it’s saying that iMovie ’08 fails to be a Final Cut wannabe when that’s not the point. A quote:

[In iMovie ’08] each clip is represented as a number of stills, and there’s a thin break between each clip. As you move the mouse over the clip bin, the clips play both audio and video—I found this very distracting and not at all useful. In addition, if you’re using the mouse like this to preview clips, you have to drag it from the rightmost edge of the frame back to the left in order to continue playing the clip when it spans more than one row. Overall, I just couldn’t adjust to this new paradigm, finding it imprecise, visually busy, and not at all intuitive.

It’s true that iMovie ’08 is a massive departure from just about every video editor out there, which take an approach similar to editing film or tape, splicing sections into place. But iMovie ’08 borrows the familiar concept, as Jobs said when introducing the product, of selecting text and dragging it around. I think this really works.

Normal People shriek in horror when first introduced to that traditional way of working. I have a great example of when my friend asked how he should edit his video. He showed me some clips, as imported from his DV camera. In one clip, he stood in a square in NYC and moved the camera around the various streets, zooming in and out, with various wobbly transitions in between. It’s what all raw footage from a handheld camera looks like.

What I would do with such a clip was cut it up, so you look down one street, then cut to another, or the guy in the shop doorway, and so on. Basically, remove the crappy bits and keep the good stuff. As this footage was from NYC, quicker cuts would be ideal.

In the old iMovie, the process would go something like this:

  • Locate the clip by its thumbnail, drag it into the timeline.
  • Scrub through the video to select the start and end points of the first bit you don’t want.
  • Delete the unwanted section, probably splitting the track into up to three pieces. The before and after sections will stay in the timeline while the other goes in iMovie’s Trash.
  • Repeat with each segment to discard.

Another approach I’ve used is to play and split tracks at the start and end points. This saves losing things in the Trash, but creates as much mess.

In iMovie ’08, the process makes much more sense:

  • Move the mouse over the clips to find the start point.
  • Click the start point and drag to the end.
  • Drag the selection into the timeline.
  • Repeat with each segment to keep.

So, for starters you don’t end up with severed clips everywhere. This is not only cleaner, but useful. Say you want to adjust the time of the clips. In the old version, you’re screwed, and either have to Undo or go to iMovie’s Trash and drag the deleted clips back into the timeline and edit again. In the new version, just drag the start or end points to make the clip longer or shorter.

As another example: reusing a portion of those clips (e.g. for a quick preview) would require duplicating the clips and editing them down. Horrific! In iMovie ’08, you can select and drag clips to the timeline as many times as you like. The other advantage is you can find the starting point much more quickly moving the mouse over the video than playing through it. I have lost countless clips through not having the patience or time to play it all way through, or by skipping bits as I scanned through it.

What really made me realise the approach was so much better for people who don’t edit video regularly was just explaining it: “select the bits you want and drag them into the timeline” is so much easier than telling someone how to split or delete clips. It’s the difference between working with the bits you want, rather than the bits you don’t want.

I even know a professional video editor who really likes iMovie ’08 because it allows him to create a rough cut very quickly. He then uses its export features to take the clips into Final Cut Pro and saves himself a ton of time in the process.

iMovie HD was really powerful, but that was becoming its downfall. It was like a not-quite version of Final Cut, brilliant in many ways but infuriating for its shortcomings. I can use iMovie ’08 put a movie together in 20 or 30 minutes that would have taken hours before.

iMovie ’08 can be annoying too, in that it doesn’t have as much control over things such as mixing different audio tracks, and is less precise. Admittedly, I couldn’t have achieved some of my more complicated videos with it, but that’s not what it’s for. That said, I reckon with a little creative thinking I could have got pretty close.

I think Apple is right to draw a line and say that if you don’t need all the power of Final Cut Pro, but need that sort of control, Final Cut Express is for you and the latest version is nicely priced for such semi-professionals. For everyone else, iMovie ’08 is something that anyone can master.

…for a change.

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Rhymes with Fuck

November 30, 2007

“Work really hard and your dreams will come true,” to quote the Queen of Pop herself (I’m aiming for my target audience here, OK?).

There’s certainly something to be said for hard work, talent can be useful and good judgement counts for a lot, but you can put all these together and get absolutely nowhere. Success in life is so often about timing and luck.

Throughout my life, I’ve worked hard, always tried to do my best and been told I possess considerable talents in whatever until I’m sick of hearing it. And yet, most of the time I find I’m no better off than someone who does the complete opposite, and often worse off. And that sucks.

I’m not saying I haven’t made mistakes or couldn’t have done better, but I always try to ensure I don’t make the same mistake twice, if that counts for anything.

All the best things that have happened to me are seldom of my making. At times my hard work has helped, but really it was being in the right place at the right time that got me anywhere. Conversely, I’ve had some pretty rotten luck too with a succession of problems landing at my door at the very worst moment.

Like a game of snakes and ladders, it’s perfectly possible to clamber up, only to slide all the way back to the bottom again in a single move. Too often, it’s been someone else that rolled the dice, as though they don’t want me climbing their ladder.

I’m not talking about a career ladder or a social ladder. It’s more a survival / happiness ladder.

And actually, I’m not complaining. All this has upsides. I’m always grateful for what I’ve got and feel considerably accomplished when I achieve anything without being handed a golden ticket, even if I do feel like I’m being worked doubly-hard, not because I want to exert all that effort but out of necessity.

I know I don’t always get things right and I’m happy to accept my mistakes. I know I’ll be even happier if I didn’t let the events that are out of my control get me down too. That’s not so easy.

Right now, I’m happy. My hard work seems to be paying off, for a change. I can’t deny though that I’ve also been very lucky these last few weeks and as for timing, heh, it’s uncanny.

Ask me how I feel in a month! 😀

The Gingerbread Man Cometh

November 20, 2007

With our three days of summer (that much?) and both days of autumn out the way, we appear to have arrived squarely in winter. Freezing cold, dark as hell, prone to outbursts of lashing rain and howling winds. And that’s just my frame of mind.

Oh yes, what a year it’s been. It was nice in April, then rained from May until September. Then there were a few nice days that were obviously cooler because of the time of year, followed by this icy hell.

It’s just as well I worked every hour of the day during that time (apart from June, in the US), there was nothing better to do outside the house.

Walking into the Borders with the Starbucks today, the plump blonde girl who always greets me with a giggly stream of consciousness, summoned me from the Crime section.

“Eat my samples,” she said, “so I don’t have to go out into the cold!”

Well, who was I to refuse?

The samples were mini gingerbread lattes and little squares of gingerbread cake. Very nice. So then I had a proper gingerbread latte and watched the idiot clones do their Christmas shopping in Borders below.

So, winter does have its benefits. Winter food! Lots of it! NOW!!!!!!

Scientists claim that exercising 30 minutes a day, not eating red meat, bacon, ham, sugary drinks or alcohol, the risk of cancer can be reduced by a third.

Of course, you’ll probably spend your extended lifetime wishing you were dead.

So how come in Mediterranean countries where they do plenty of the above, sit around half the day to pour expressos down their throats and smoke pure tar cigarettes, everyone lives to be 147?

I think it’s because they eat well, enjoy life and do everything in moderation. They also work and commute less than people in the US and UK, where obesity is such a big deal. It seems we have less time to sleep others too, since there are only so many hours in the day.

Surely a healthy lifestyle must encompass all things.

So much research is based on the puritanical fad du jour. By coming out with claims about this or that, scientists justify or obtain funding to continue their existence. And you have no idea who is behind these people half the time. Claims and counter-claims are volleyed around the media leaving nobody any wiser. Or maybe, just maybe, these people aren’t real scientists at all.

I think what annoys me is that these “scientists” like to look at things in isolation, to remove the variables, and yet the truth is that life has an infinite number of variables. In making such bold claims, people roll their eyes and switch off. Surely the truth is inconvenient for a scientist’s research budget: we just have to use our heads and be sensible.

Helping people to understand what being sensible means would be worthwhile and helping people to live in a healthier way is another. Nobody should be forced to do anything, but being allowed to make informed, sensible choices would surely be a step in the right direction. So little of what is reported even comes close to achieving that.

Filmed in Aberystwyth with Rory.

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Some photos from the day on Flickr.