Day: July 26, 2010

Video progress report #2.

Time for your mostly-friendly monthly video progress report. This one even comes at the end of the month like it’s supposed to, unlike the last one, which came a few days late. Hooray for punctuality.

This is without a doubt the most ambitious little video I’ve ever put together. I didn’t plan it that way, though I figured this one would come out a little more polished than the last one. I use the word “polish” loosely. This is still very rough, DIY, entirely self-shot-and-edited stuff, and I should have thought to use a tripod for the nighttime footage to prevent the camera from shaking. I’m still working with the tiny Flip camera and the free, no-frills version of Windows Movie Maker that came with this computer. I think I just get a little better at this sort of thing each time I make a video.

This one feels like a pretty big leap forward all the way around. The last one was mostly me talking. This one is still made up of a whole lot of me talking, but it’s broken up with a fair bit more music, more images that aren’t necessarily of me speaking to the camera, and I think in general it’s more interesting and better-put-together than the last progress report. It feels like it flows a lot more smoothly. I wanted to include more “studio” footage, but when I get sucked into recording I’m not often thinking about filming myself, and when I do give it a try it tends to take me out of the moment and slow me down a lot. Even so, this sort of functions as a “making of” and “introduction to” video, giving anyone who’s interested a bit of idea of what to expect from MY HELLHOUND CROOKED HEART and a window into a bit of what I think about it.

I have no idea why I always end up looking so serious when I’m talking to the camera. Maybe it’s the blue shirt.

The thing I keep getting a kick out of is the editing. I figured out how to cut things in such a way where I’m talking, and then I keep talking while you see some images that are relevant to what I’m saying, and then I come back and keep talking, without things being broken up or seeming unnatural. I didn’t think this was something I could do when the audio was recorded by the camera’s little built-in microphone and attached to the file itself, nor did I think I would get much help from such a basic program, but it turns out it’s pretty easy to pull off. I think it makes things a lot more interesting.

Some of the visual effects I used are probably unnecessary or cheesy (or both), but I feel a need to do something to mix things up a bit when most of the footage is a static shot of my hairy face talking. I especially like the part around twenty-three minutes in when I talk about the cover art and the editing shows you the gradual transformation of the image from a rough sketch to the finished product. That’s almost like something you’d see in a film made by someone who actually knows what they’re doing! Crazy. You even get some out-takes at the end over the credits, and a teaser for next month’s progress report.

I should mention that the video is almost half an hour long. That makes it about three times as long as the last one. I could have made it even longer, but I thought it was best to keep it from rambling on for too long. Hopefully it’s about the right length to feel substantial without overstaying its welcome.

But yeah. I put a bit more time and a lot more thought into making this one, and though it’s still rough-around-the-edges and sometimes grainy-looking (this camera doesn’t like low light situations very much and doesn’t flatter me at all when I shoot myself in dimly-lit places), I have to say I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of putting something like this together at the end of every month. It’s fun. Maybe eventually there will be enough of these video progress reports that it’ll make sense to put them all together in one designated place. It’ll be interesting to see how things develop over time.

One thing I should mention — the beginning is meant to be a dream sequence. Originally there was a brief insert of me in bed, waking up in a stupor, mumbling, “I’m not a snail”. Then it kicked into the mini-music video. Unfortunately there were a few small problems with my first cut of the video (a few edits were a little too choppy), and I didn’t catch them until I finished and “published” it on the computer.

When I went back in to clean that stuff up, things got a little strange. That little five-second insert explaining the whole dream thing mysteriously vanished from my hard drive, and somehow it ended up being replaced with some random footage of Fuzzy Duck. Even stranger: the replacement footage was exactly the same length as what had originally been there, so it kept everything that followed in sync with itself. I had to reshoot the lost “scene”, which was easy enough, cut it so it was just the right length, slip it in Fuzzy Duck’s place, and finalize the whole thing again. Which I did.

And here’s where Windows Movie Maker decided to become a pain in my ass.

The program stopped working. I would sometimes get 50% of the way there, but something would always cause an error during the publishing process every single time. I wasted almost an entire day trying to fix this with no success. I freed up space on the hard drive and restarted the computer. I tried saving to an external device. I made sure none of the other files had gone missing (and none of them had). Nothing worked. The program just didn’t seem to like me anymore, and I didn’t want to post the video with the brief fuzzy duck scene throwing everything off.

My alternative was to cut out those few offending seconds and just not have an explanation for the dream sequence at all. Problem was, I couldn’t do it with the program I used to make the video, because it wouldn’t let me do anything anymore. And if I used another program, it wouldn’t let me edit the video without compressing it, which would mean the quality would take a pretty serious hit and the video would end up looking like sunburned ass cheeks. Relatively speaking. I already compressed the file a bit so I could get a 29-minute video up here in one piece without causing my server to explode. That first time didn’t shave off much in the way of quality, but compressing it a second time would be a mess no matter how it was done.

My last idea was to try and find some sort of freeware online that would solve the problem. I already paid good money for a video editing program I don’t use — I asked for something pretty utilitarian and simple to operate and was sold something with too steep of a learning curve for my taste/patience — and didn’t feel like doing it all over again when all I needed to do was trim five seconds from a video. I just wanted to be able to do it without the quality taking another hit in the process.

Turns out this is a tall order, and something no commercially available software allows you to do as far as I know. Which I think is pretty dumb. I tried a number of programs that didn’t do much to help me, hoping I might get lucky.

I found something called Movica that seemed like it might do the trick. This was even more of a pain in the ass. Supposedly you just set set the start and end time and then trim a video, or split it into several separate videos, wherever and however you like. Sounds great in theory. In practice, what was cut out of the video had very little to do with where I set the markers. It was completely random. I tried at least twenty variations, and each time the timing was off. I would have even settled for a second or two of silent fuzzy duck…hell, that would fit with the weirdness of a dream sequence. But I always got some of him talking in there, and it was far too loud to use without throwing everything off.

Finally I managed to get something close to what I wanted. The edit wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked. Part of the scream that starts the song is cut off, and there’s now a pretty abrupt jump-cut between the end of the “dream” and the beginning of the musical intro bit. But it’s good enough. Best of all, i was able to do it without adding any extra compression to the file at any part of the process.

Performing a tiny edit in a video — doing what amounts to plucking a single eyebrow hair from its face — shouldn’t be so difficult. On the bright side, at least I only wasted a day, and I managed to get rid of the offending bit of footage. You just don’t get to see me shirtless for a few seconds pretending to wake up from a weird dream. Sadness.

That’s probably far more than you wanted to know about a part of the video so inconsequential it barely has any effect on anything. But such is my dedication to my craft that I fought tooth and nail to make it right. Actually, that’s a lie. Dedication has nothing to do with it. I just don’t like stupid shit, especially when it interferes with something that has any connection to my music, and I will keep throwing punches and swearing at it until it disappears. Persistence is the spice in my armpits. So said Nicolas Cage.

Okay, so that’s a lie too. He said no such thing. It was me all along.

Anyway. If you didn’t watch the video, I’ll just tell you that the album is finished and I’m working on post-production and packaging stuff now. With a little luck and profanity through gritted teeth, it should be available for anyone who wants it by the weekend. In the meantime, the video should give you a little taste of what to expect. I would have included more music, but I’d rather be flirtatious and hintatory.

That’s right. I just made up a word: hintatory. For those times when you don’t want to give too much away but no existing word will adequately describe your sneaky ways.