Programming and Movies

Since I have done a lot since I’ve updated, I decided to break this into two posts. This one is about basically everything except music.

Well, my job is looking at making some web applications with me heading the project. Luckly, I got the department head to agree to load Zend Studio Corporate for me and one other person. This should be fun. Doing this makes me want to push off any major coding projects that were going to take my free time. I’m going to be coding about seven to eight hours per day. I don’t think my free time should be taken up by that too. I might change my mind though. This means any ideas that I’ve said about zpProjects are on hold probably until after summer.

See “Movies” in the title and wonder why it’s there? I guess I’ve never posted about movies before since I really don’t watch many. I finally got my dvd of Elephant’s Dream. I bought the dvd since I know Jan Morgenstern of Wavemage Productions. It was expensive, but I like supporting artists (I always send extra to Cardamar for the cds). I really was impressed. Jan did an amazing job on the sound and it was a pretty cool short. It is available for download from the above link. Consider buying a dvd to support the guys if you like it.

I also was given a short movie to process. This consisted of Windows Movie Maker and iMovie (the second was my final choice). This is a non-artist’s view of both.

Windows Movie Maker is installed by default on most Windows XP installations. I’m running XP Media Center on my desktop (3800+ X2, 2 gb ram. Specs are important for video processing. Hard Drive speed could, but I was working with a network drive and that was fine. The capture from the camera is where you need the speed). I can honestly say I was impressed by the software. It does help you to put together a decently impressive work. My main interest was splitting video, fading to and from black, adding titles and credits and maybe some chapters for the dvd and an extra title. Well, the first few are really easy. You literally just drag the effects down onto the clips or scroll to the point and click split. Very nice. Titles are easy and have a decent amount of options also. Problems arise when you want DVD as the final output. Even when outputting it to AVI at 720×480, it does not make mpeg 2 so the video needs to be re-encoded and authored by another program. This also means chapters and such have to happen elsewhere. This is reasonable. It’s movie production, not authoring. Its the fact that it does not allow you to really put in simple text without some weird transition that annoyed me. Moreso, I wanted to try iMovie from my Mac Mini and was stunned.

iMovie is part of the iLife set and technically isn’t free. I still look at it as essentially free software since it comes pre-installed on virtually every newer Mac. It’s pretty cheap when you consider how much you get in iLife also. Another important part is iDVD. iMovie gives you almost everything Windows Movie Maker does and then much more. It does not have a couple of the title and credit formats, but it brings its own. Splitting and adding extra audio and adjusting levels is all very easily done with a couple clicks. There are even complete themes to use with your movies that are very impressive looking and coordinate with the themes in iDVD for authoring. The problem I see is you cannot use the same element like credits multiple times. That annoyed me, but I accepted it and moved on. Some of the cooler aspects is the emmense amount of video and audio effects that are available. Yes, WMM has some, but there are so many more and better ones in iMovie. The especially cool ones are Quartz (the graphics rendering engine for Mac, like DirectX for Windows) based. I don’t know exactly why they are called that, but they have impressive redering effects. You must look through them to really see how impressive the effects look. Adding extra text and titles is very easy also in iMovie. I was happier to see that you can set up chapters right here since you can export the movie in a massive amount of formats including sending it to iDVD to make a DVD. iDVD is then a very nice and simple authoring program that will set up animated menus and set up animated icons from templates. I’m not sure how you can start from scratch (since, honestly, I don’t care. I’m not an artist and would probably just get frustrated with the work involved), but it might be available. When all of this is set up, I had a slight problem. I don’t have a DVD burner in my Mac. Have no fear, you can export a disc image and burn it elsewhere. You should be aware, it can take a while to render the menus and such (i think it took 30-40 minutes on my 1.67 ghz PPC Mac Mini). Just be aware, it creates a .img file that is actually an iso. Just rename the file so most burning program will accept it.

Since I really enjoyed the processing, I think I’ll try out Sony Vegas (since I’ve seen a lot of praise for it and it’s pretty cheap). I’ll update with how that went later.

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