Tag Archives: Apple

Augh. Video editing torture…

Earlier this week I gave a talk at an internal IBM conference.

I broke with tradition by using Apple Keynote to produce the slides, rather than Powerpoint. I love Keynote. The application is a joy to use; the rendering is beautiful; the slide transitions are lovely. It does seem to encourage me to think about not using bulleted slides, which can only be a good thing. Oh, and the presenter view is amazing – you can drag and drop different elements and create your own customised display, something that PPT does not offer.

So, presentation done. Roo was kind enough to use his voice recorder to record the session… OK, so it was in WMA format, but iTunes quickly converted that to MP3 for me. Slides, plus audio. Looking good.

On the audio side, I was able to use Audacity to balance the levels where the audience questions were a bit faint, and to cut out a few extraneous umms which trimmed the length of the talk a bit. It is a shame Audacity isn’t slightly more OS X-like, but I guess things like the lack of drag-and-drop support are largely the fault of the wxWidgets toolkit that Audacity is built on.

I really wanted to export the slideshow from Keynote as a Quicktime presentation, preserving the nice transitions. As it happens, that is possible, but you can only set a defined transition time which is the same for each slide. That meant that it would be hard to match the audio to the slide transitions, since obviously the length of time for each one, varied. I tried this anyway, loading both the video and audio into iMovieHD, and then had a go at cutting the movie up and matching it with the audio cues.

There’s a problem here. You apparently can’t stretch the duration of each video segment. So, I then thought about making still frames to go in between each slide transition. Another problem – the quality of the still frames created by iMovie was awful. OK… so then I tried exporting from Keynote as static images, and importing those into iMovie. Same problem – even after I’d got past the Ken Burns effect thing which was zooming each image as I added it as a movie frame, the still images themselves were an order of magnitude uglier than the main video.

At this point I was getting seriously frustrated with Apple’s flagship, easy-to-use, included-with-the-OS, just-buy-a-Mac-video-editing-is-a-breeze, iLife suite.

It turns out that iMovieHD uses some poor quality encoder to import and export still images. I don’t know whether this is to encourage users onto the £199 Final Cut Express, but it sucks. I tried exporting a slideshow from iPhoto, but that has limitations on the duration of each frame, too. Oh, and the transitions available in iMovie are not the same as those in iPhoto, which in turn are not the same as those in Keynote. Argh.

Next I downloaded Still Life, and had a play. This is a relatively cheap ($25/£15) application which is intended to build simple slideshows with more advanced panning, whilst retaining decent quality in the stills.

In the end, I exported my slides as images from Keynote, imported them into Still Life, set a duration for each slide of 5 sec, and then exported from Still Life as an iMovie project. Result: I had an iMovie project which had a series of 5 second frames. I imported my MP3 commentary track, and then repeatedly copied the frames so that each slide lasted for the relevant length of time whilst I was speaking on the audio track. Tedious, and I lost the pretty transitions, but it has worked.

My final challenge has been exporting the movie. iMovie provides some defaults, like full quality (estimated to produce a 9Gb file in my case – a lot for a 45 min slideshow with a bit of audio), DVD or Web. The Web version is pretty small and crunches my slides into a 320×240 frame, but it does come in at an acceptable size of 40Mb. The larger size I exported, at 640×480 frame size, ended up at 600Mb. Cote recommended VisualHub, which I’m also going to take a look at. I mean, it’s not even as if this is complex video – it’s a series of still frames with some audio underneath. I would have liked a bit more complexity, in all honesty, but it seems that was too hard to achieve with built-in tools.

I guess there was an alternative to all of this… I could have cut up my audio file into sections for each slide, attached them in Keynote, and exported in a format of my choice (Flash or QT, I suppose). It assumes that Keynote is smart enough to show each slide for the duration of the attached audio file. Maybe I’ll try that next time. Or maybe some Mac, presentation, and video editing guru will just slap me down and tell me what I did wrong. This whole thing felt a lot harder than I expected it to be.

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Safari on Windows

I was initially excited about Apple’s release of Safari for Windows.

I’ve been a long-term Phoenix Firebird Firefox user and I use it as my primary browser on both Windows and OS X. I love the fact that I can install extensions to enhance what I’m doing. In particular I like Greasemonkey, which lets me hack the pages I’m viewing using small scripts.

However, Firefox seems to me to have lost its way a bit. It seems to have sprung some pretty serious memory leaks (as I type this it is sitting at ~460Mb real RAM and ~500Mb VM) and doesn’t feel as snappy as it once was. As I’ve said numerous times before, this could be due to the way I use it – I’m lazy about managing the number of tabs that I keep open, and I do use a lot of extensions.

More annoyingly, Firefox doesn’t currently use colour profiles to display images. This is quite upsetting on the Mac, where I can quite happily use Lightroom to edit my images; export them as JPEGs; and view them on Flickr in Safari, and they will look just as rich as they did in Lightroom…. switch to Firefox on any platform, and they appear washed out. Progress is being made on improving this situation – in fact it looks like a possible fix has been checked in to the Firefox code base recently – but right now, Safari on OS X is my only way of seeing the colours I expect.

I had high hopes that Safari on Windows would do the same thing for me – display my photos as I want to see them. So, I installed it. Unfortunately, it looks like it is rendering images in the same way as Firefox – so clearly there’s something magic in the underlying libraries it is using that hasn’t come across from the Mac version.

A wider question remains though – without forced bundling (IE), advertising and word-of-mouth (Firefox), or hardware (as with iTunes/iPod) to drive it onto the OS, what will make a Windows user choose Safari? Cool factor? Well, the release made a small piece on the second page of this morning’s Metro newspaper, so maybe UK commuters will rush to download it. I’ll follow the size of the install base with interest.

More on handy Mac apps

Yesterday I did a little playing with various applications on the Mac to see if they were going to be helpful…

endo
I have been using using Vienna as a feedreader, and it works fairly nicely. I was reading that Maria Langer uses endo (from the same stable as ecto, which I use for writing my blog entries on the Mac), and since there’s a trial available I thought I’d give it a go. I’m not entirely convinced by the layout… the subscription groups are in a bar across the top, and I would rather have them running down the side, but that’s a comfort thing. There are a couple of nice features, though… it supports microformats like hCard, so if I’m viewing Upcoming events, endo will offer to put them into iCal for me. The setup wizard offered to set up a number of personalised feeds for me, for example the comments that people had left on my Flickr photos, and Technorati links to my blogs – a nice touch.

TextMate
So far, I’ve been through TextEdit, Smultron and TextWrangler as editors on OS X. Last night Al was telling me about TextMate, and that also has a free trial, so I’m giving it a go. TextMate appears to be a bit of a hardcore programmer’s editor… and since my choice of editor on Windows tends to be gVim, I think this might work for me. There’s a lot to learn, though. I’ll see how I get on.

Keynote
I’ve heard lots of people say that Keynote is far better than PowerPoint, and then I realised that I have a trial version of iWork on my MacBook Pro, so I can give it a go before choosing to upgrade to the full version. So far it seems nice… I have a number of presentations to give in the next few months and I’d like to see how I get on with Keynote. The animated slide transitions are particularly lovely, and I read that the visual quality of the slides is better than on Windows… it is certainly very easy to use.

Twittervision screensaver
The latest version of the Visionary screensaver runs either FlickrVision or Twittervision (real-time Flickr and Twitter postings popping up on a Google Map), or the 3D version of Twittervision. It’s just a bit of fun, but pretty cool.

And now, a few via Lifehacker

Ejector
Really simple – Ejector is a menubar app that provides a drop-down menu to eject any device, including disk images. The default Apple version only lets you eject CDs.

AppDelete
People had previously recommended AppZapper to completely remove applications from the machine – AppDelete is essentially the same thing but freeware.

RCDefaultApp
Whenever I plug a camera into my Mac, it launches the Canon CameraWindow software. I spent quite a lot of time trying to stop it from doing this. The RCDefaultApp preferences pane lets you adjust the default behaviour when devices are plugged in, or the default app used to launch various file types. Handy.

Finally…
So i discovered yesterday (via some Twitterings) that you can hold down ctrl and use the scroll button on the mouse, or the two-finger scroll movement on the trackpad, to zoom the screen. Very cool.

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Playing around with Skitch

I’m sat in Edinburgh airport and thought I’d have a play with Skitch.

Skitch is a new screenshot / drawing tool for OS X. It is currently in closed beta. The application is by plasq.com, the makers of Comic Life. It is ridiculously easy to use – and very cool.

The interface takes a little getting used to, as it departs from some of the UI conventions that we’ve come to expect. No menu bar. Preferences on the “back” of the window, more like a Dashboard widget. The tools and features are kept to a minimum. But, no problem – when you first start it, a small screencast leads you through the features and the way the tool works. It really is very easy.

You can quickly grab the screen, part of the screen, or take an iSight photo… and then resize it by dragging the window corners, which physically resizes the image inside it. To crop or expand, you grab the edges of the image inside the window, and drag. Once you’ve got something to play with, there are a series of simple drawing and shape tools, and a limited palette of colours. There is also a very cool text tool – simply start typing and your text will appear. To resize the text or change the thickness of the lines, there is a size slider on the left of the window.

Skitch-Editor-1

Even cooler is the fact that all of the stuff that you do to the image is automatically done on layers, so text and lines can be moved around later – Skitch also keeps an image history so that you can quickly find stuff you’ve edited before.

To save, you simply “rip” off a tab at the bottom of the window, having typed a filename and chosen from one of the formats (JPG, PNG, SVF, PDF or the Skitch format which preserves layers, so that you can exchange the editable file with friends). There is also the ability to email, or you can upload to a web service like Flickr, an FTP server, or Skitch’s own mySkitch site at the click of a button.

I love it. It’s so simple. It took a little bit of getting in to, but now I’m using it more, I find it so quick and easy. Definitely one to watch, for Mac users.

As for Firefox, he’s not my friend anymore. Why use 70% of my CPU when there’s no network connection and the application is minimised and idle?

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Mighty Wireless Windows Mouse

I mentioned the other day that I now own a wireless Apple Mighty Mouse. I wasn’t sure whether it would work with Windows. It does – for me, anyway.

I switched on Bluetooth on my Thinkpad T60p and scanned for devices. It found a mouse. I paired to it using the key ‘0000’. The drivers installed themselves.

A few issues:

  • The mouse works fine, but the scroll ball doesn’t go side to side, and the side buttons don’t seem to do anything.
  • On suspending and resuming the laptop, the mouse seems to lose the connection, and I have to re-pair. Really annoying. The Macbook copes with this with no issues.
  • Once it was paired with the Windows XP laptop, the Macbook lost it. I had to remove it from Windows via the Bluetooth options, and then re-pair with the Macbook. Once I’d done that, I kept getting prompts on the Windows machine that a mouse wanted to pair with it. Confusing!

An interesing experiment, but I think I’ll keep the mouse native to the Macbook. I quite like the Trackpoint on my Thinkpad, anyway.

Useful Mighty Mouse links:

How to Configure a Mighty Mouse (in OS X)

Bluetooth Mighty Mouse Review

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