Web Tools: Coda and More

I’ve been doing a bit of web projects lately.

We redesigned our church’s website and moved it onto a WordPress backend.

I’ve rebranded my blog and moved it to a self-hosted wordpress blog.

In the past I was using DreamWeaver to make my edits to the code. But lately with the WordPress engine I’ve needed to focus more on the code. Even though my code mangling is based around a trial and error method I feel like I’m starting to get a grasp on CSS and HTML.

I’ve come across a new tool for web development, Coda from Panic. It’s a mac only software that combines your FTP, code editor and reference books together. And it is slick. I’ve been playing around with the demo and really like how it works. I don’t know if I’ll drop the $100 for it yet. Now that I have these sites up I don’t know how much code mangling I’ll need to do.

I’ve also found out you can develop wordpress sites locally. You can find out more here. I’ve had problems moving an existing site from the web to local development. My categories didn’t match up and caused some goofy formatting. But that could be me not following the steps right. It’s also more useful to develop a new site or redesign locally then deploy online.


January 30, 2009. Web Development. Leave a comment.

What’s The Diagnosis

I was listening to RadioLab on the way into work the other day. This episode was about diagnosis. Let me recap a story they told then I’ll share some thoughts.

Back in the early 1900s, like today, people wondered what caused SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Healthy infants would die in their sleep for no apparent reason. Some doctors decided to perform some autopsies. They discovered the infants who died had enlarged thyroid glands. Seriously enlarged thyroid glands. They hypothesized that because of the proximity of the thyroid to the windpipe these kids if were laying the right way would be suffocated by their thyroid gland.

So they came up with the idea to shrink the thyroid glands in kids by exposing them to radiation. So every good parent did this and the result was thousands of cases of thyroid cancer dozens of years later.

Lets rewind a few hundred years back to just after the revolutionary war. Medical schools were popping up in the US and there was a huge demand for cadavers. This demand was so large that a new job was created, the resurectionist. These people were grave robbers who typically dug up the bodies of the poor who were easy to find and easy to dig up. As you can imagine this created quite the uproar when people found out someone was digging up their loved ones.

This uproar was so big that countries in Europe passed laws so that anyone who died in a poor house, their body would be donated to a medical school. The demand for cadavers now had a large supply to meet the demand. And the job of resurectionist faded away. 99% of all cadavers came from a poor person.

It wasn’t until in the 20th century that someone raised the question, “What physiological impact does poverty have on a person?” People in poverty are focused on survival and have high stress levels. Years of high stress levels can cause the thyroid to shrink.

The infants who died from SIDS didn’t have enlarged thyroids. They had healthy thyroids. The doctors had only seen thyroids that had shrunk because of years and decades of stress. The basis for their diagnosis was wrong.

As a church, are their areas we think are sick but are really healthy because we’ve only seen sick “glands”? It’s too easy to do something “just because that’s what we’ve always done.” Where are we taking our cues from history or culture instead of the Bible?

Can’t say I have the answers yet but it got me thinking so I thought I’d share.

January 29, 2009. Personal Growth. Leave a comment.

Video: Rock Paper Scissors

Another intro video for our series “Don’t Forget To Read The Directions”.

Rock Paper Scissors from Dave Smith on Vimeo.

January 28, 2009. Tags: , , , . Video. Leave a comment.

The Hardest Part of FXPHD.com

The hardest part of FXPHD.com is choosing what classes to take. You can preview as many of the classes you want during the first 2 weeks but then you need to lock down your 3 choices. There are 5 classes that really stand out to me:
After Effects Motion Graphics: This is my primary way of using After Effects and I’m always looking at improving my skill set.
Cinema 4D and Design: I’m still trying to get my head wrapped around C4D. I took a class at FXPHD last tern that was over my head. So I went through the C4D class at lynda.com and got a basic understanding of the app. But I should probably just go through the last sememster’s C4D class that I haven’t touched because it was over my head.
Color 201: This class is bout using Apple’s Color to create different looks. I have a decent grasp on Color’s basics but would like to learn more about using the tools to create various looks. I’m wondering if I might be able to learn this with the help of a book or other source even though the class looks good.
The Craft of Editing: The first two classes have been a gold mine for me. I’ve taught my self to use an editor but this is really about how to edit. The craft of editing.
Paint and Roto: I can’t say I do a lot of paint and roto in my day job. But it’s using After Effects and Mocha in ways I typically don’t. It’s a good skill set to learn and it can come in handy later on.

OK so my first take is to pass on C4D class since I have last term’s class to finish. AFX Motion Graphics and Craft of Editing I’m locking in. So now it’s a toss up between Color and Paint and Roto.

I could add on the 4th class but I’ll have problems keeping up with it. It hurts to say it but I think I’m going to take the paint and roto class just because I think I can more color training or pick it up else where compared to paint and roto training.

January 27, 2009. Personal Growth, Video. Leave a comment.

FXPHD Roto Class 2

Just wanted to show some of the class work I’m learning in FXPHD. This class is about paint and roto, so removing unwanted things from the shot.

Here’s the source footage. Notice the guy on the stairs:

FXPHD Roto210 Class 02 Source from Dave Smith on Vimeo.

Now we took a still from the shot. Took it into Photoshop and using clone and other tools removed the guy on the stairs. We then tracked the shot back into the source and tried to match the camera move and camera parallax.

Here’s the final shot:

FXPHD Roto210- Class 02 from Dave Smith on Vimeo.

If you decide to join fxphd.com remember I’d appreciate the referral. I get a free class if you site me dave.smith as your referring member.

January 26, 2009. Tags: , , , . Video. 2 comments.

Monitor Wars

Maybe monitor wars is a bit extreme. But if you’ve ever been responsible for the FOH (Front of House) mix, you know the battle between the volume produced on stage impacts the quality and the volume of the mix in the house.

I’m not a musician. I’ve tried picking up various instruments but it just doesn’t click in my mind. My brother on the other hand plays several by ear. I think he got all the musical talent in the family.

I said that to say I don’t fully understand what a musician needs in their monitors for them to do their best. From who I’ve talked to the majority see monitors for the band to stay on time and on key. They don’t need to replicate the house mix. They need the best mix for them to stay on time and in key so they can give their best performance.

I haven’t had to fight the monitors war much at Grace Outreach Center. This is because before I came (9+ years ago) they were using a TDM Monitoring system from Harry Boling. Harry was a long time volunteer who ran FOH for us. It was 16 channels that were split at our patch bay. They ran over coax cable to the mix stations. We’ve also had electric drums. (My thoughts on electric vs. acoustic drums).

Eventually the system started to wear down and a little over 4 years ago we installed an Aviom system (my thoughts on the Avioms).

After that transition we had a worship leader who liked the Aviom but couldn’t get used to IEMs (In Ear Monitors). He felt too cut off and because of our speaker placement there is no good locations to get a crowd mic without picking up a lot of the FOH mix. This ended up putting a delay effect into the Aviom. Really goofy. I know there are some better IEM solutions now. Sensaphonics Active IEMS come to mind but they are around $2k for the setup + your wireless if I remember right. And there is someone out there but I can’t remember who it is but they have IEM that you can control how much isolation you have via “plugs”. The plugs give you different steps of isolation. I think they were around $750 + your wireless.

So for that worship leader we tried a “hotspot” monitor from Galaxy Audio. There is now kind way to say it. It sounded like crap. But the volume was much lower than a typical wedge because the monitor gave a more focused throw pattern and was closer to his ears. The next step was to improve the audio quality we tried a studio monitor. We ended up with a Yamaha MSP3. Not the greatest monitor in the world but it’s a small footprint and gave the volume we needed. Everyone was happy.

Well in 2008 we brought on a new worship leader. There was a communication break down and I didn’t know when he was going to be playing. So I improvised when he was going to play. I typically found out about 5 minutes before rehearsal. So I grabbed what I had available and that was a powered Mackie speaker out of our portable rig and ran it as a monitor. He loved it because it was freaking loud!

He eventually wanted to move to an Aviom setup that fed the Mackie. Problem was there would be times where his monitor would be louder than the house and drowning out the FOH mix during quiet times.

So it was time for a fix. He doesn’t want to go to IEM. The budget is tight. So the idea came up to move from the powered Mackie to the Yamaha studio monitor. From the soundbooth, with just his monitor we would measure around 86dB C weighted. This impacted the FOH mix and everyone on stage complained they couldn’t hear their monitors. Then other monitors get turned up now the house has to get turned up and the cycle continues. We switched to the Yamaha Monitor and now his volume was reading around 70dB C Scale from the sound booth.

Now the other vocalists and choir can hear their monitors. The FOH mix is quieter and cleaner. And overall it’s a win.

I know using a studio monitor may not be a typical solution for stage volume so I wanted to share the solution we came up with.

January 23, 2009. Tags: , , . Sound. 4 comments.

Video: Name The Color

We’re continuing our series on “Don’t Forget To Read The Directions”. So we’re using the Brain Age style games to see if people can follow simple directions. Last week we asked people to count how many people went into and out of a house. This week it was calling out the color you see. Super simple video. Made it in After Effects but that’s just because this is the program I know the best. You could have done it with Keynote or any video editor if you wanted to.

Let’s see how well you do:

Color Names from Dave Smith on Vimeo.

January 22, 2009. Video. Leave a comment.

Creative|Ideas is Moving

I started this blog as an experiment and for personal growth. Hopefully a few others have benefited as much as I have from it. But I’m making some changes:

– I’m moving my blog from being hosted on wordpress to it’s own domain. This gives me some creative freedom (the design has been pathetic for awhile of my blog). It also give me some extensionability I’ve been looking for. Finally it gives me the ability to learn how to design and tweak the wordpress engine.

-My blog is no longer going to be known as Creative|Ideas but is being rebranded as CreativeChurchMedia.net. If you look at what I’ve been writing about is mostly falls under church media and hopefully it helps you to be more creative.

So please jump over to CreativeChurchMedia.net. If you’re subscribed via RSS please subscribe to the new feed: http://feeds2.feedburner.com/CreativeChurchMedia. It’s a work in progress but all new content is going to be published at http://creativechurchmedia.net/ instead of here.

January 21, 2009. Blogroll, Books, Graphic Design, Links, Marketing, Music, Personal Growth, Random, Sound, Tech Stuff, Uncategorized, Video, Web Development. Leave a comment.

Adobe CS4 Roadshow

This week I took an afternoon and visited Adobe’s CS4 Roadshow stop in Dallas. I thought I’d get a chance to get my hands on CS4 and see how Premiere compares to FCP. I’ve wrote about it before, non-profits can pick up the master collection for just under $1,000. This is a great deal! But I’m used to Final Cut Studio. But do I like it enough to justify the extra $600 to $1200 to keep both Final Cut Studio and Adobe’s Master Collection on my machine.

Just so you know the Adobe apps I use every week are: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, After Effects and Dreamweaver (but I’m using Dreamweaver less now that we redesigned our church website to use WordPress as a Content Management System. Needless to say by the time I buy the software I need it’s pretty close to the price of the Master Collection.

The Roadshow was held at StudioMovie Grill and it makes for a great venue for this kind of event. And then at the end I’ll wrap it up with few thoughts.

-On location looks sweet. Meta data can be great but have to take the time to enter the info.

-Premiere. Playing back 4k looks great. It’s half res.

-AVCHD falls apart. Don’t know if this is footage from the new Pannasonic HM-150 or a consumer level cam. They guys just talked about both. Don’t know of it’s the RT or the codex. 150 is supposed to play great with FCP. This guy is also on a HP windows machine.

-Premiere doesn’t auto sense & correct mismatch format to timeline.

-Mix and match format ok. AVCHD playback is process heavy.

-Claims premiere pro was used with Superman Returns.

-HVX200 looks soft compared to ex1 and red.

-Premier After Effects dynamic link is sweet. Just showed a clip being replaced with AE comp. Can you send sequence or multiple clips?

– Premiere can import AE and soon Avid. Is this Autoduck? Or is it going to kill auto duck?

– Speach to text demo. Footage is of a person with headset mic. Worked flawless. Very cool for dialogue editting. Interesting to see real world examples.

-Example video for presidental debate. Video recording is overmodulated and you can search for any word. Great for finding sound bites etc…

-You can create web pages that tie into the video and meta data. Should be out in a month or so.

-Specialized dictionaries for various specialize fields.

-Blend modes in Premiere is a new feature?

-Content aware scallong in Photoshop is nuts!!! Great for cropping /scallong for slide shows.

-NVidia card sowing off zooming around a 442 MB photo.

-Blob paint tool in Illustrator rocks.

-About to show a PC importing FCP project. Won’t bring in livetype or motion files. Title, basic motion annomation, psd files, transition. Working on export and Avid i/o.

-Media encoder. Lots of presets, YouTube, HDTV, iPod, AppleTV. MPEG2 quicker encode, good quality, larger file size that H264 for short BlueRay projects. Hmmm test BlueRay MPEG2 vs. BlueRay MPEG4 for ProPresenter playback.

-Nvidia has a crazy export plugin that can export using all the cores on the card. Results is 2-4x realtime for “their” settings.

-Encore. BlueRay. Author to flash is crazy sweet. What’s your server requirements on the back end?

-Soubdbooth: Now multitrack. Designed for someone who doesn’t do audio fulltime. Tasks geared to automate processes like volunt correction, remove a sound, create a loop, clean up audio, change pitch or time.

-Drawing on spectrograph to remove sounds is crazy!

-After Effects! AE can import Premiere Pro sequence. Big push on we want to play with everyone. Not that we are better than FCP or Avid but that we play well with everyone.

-Comp navigator nice. Especially for going back to old projects of handing off to someone else.

-Sequence search finds any parameter on any layer.

-Check out after effects cookbook.

-Walking through Mocha. Plannar tracker. Not covering adjust track. Talking about comping but not talking about gray scale matching with levels and grain. Bad comp, track is slipping and colors/ grain not mathching. Boo!

-AE stuff too basic heading out. Big feature is Mocha and I already have the full blown Mocha.

Overall CS4 biggest improvements in my book are:
-Photoshop Smart Scale

-Soundbooth Multitrack, tasks for common actions and editing a sound wave visually

-Encore always looked great for authoring to multiple formats and even Flash. But I haven’t had a need yet. All my DVD projects have been SD and simple.

-Dynamic Link is the bomb! No longer do you have to render out versions of your project for different applications. Master/ Project files are embedded in each application. Less chance of using wrong version of loosing a file. Render once. You don’t have to render out of AE at animation only to embed in your Premiere Project and render out of your NLE again. You can RAM preview to check everything and then render at the very end.

-None of the conversation was addressed at why they are better or you should switch from Final Cut Pro or Avid. They just talked about their workflows with both. How they can import FCP project files on the mac and PC and will soon be able to import and export for Avid and export for FCP. I don’t know if that means they conceede the NLE war or just want you to ease in and try Premiere and hopefully like it.

Production Suite vs. Final Cut Studio
Productions Suite:
+ Dynamic Link
+ After Effects: Mocha addition is very nice
+ Soundbooth Tasks and Visual Tools
+ Encore publish to Flash, DVD, Blue-Ray etc…
+ Photoshop
+ On Location (mac now)

Final Cut Studio:
+ Final Cut Pro: Great NLE that I know well and work fast in.
+ Color: A great grading tool and easier than AE for grading tasks
+ Soundtrack is great for scoring sound FX and included library is good. They didn’t show that side of Soundbooth

If I could only have one, FCP or Production Premium I’d choose Production Premium hands down. But I also need After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator and I’ll pay my dues to get used to Premiere Pro. The other tools included are well worth it. The bang for the buck is just too good. If I have the budget will I keep both? For now I am but we’ll see how Apple responds. I’m not rushing out to buy CS4. Our budget has been tightened and I don’t see the killer feature that I need right now. I already have Mocha and I have Automatic Duck to get from FCP to AE easily.

January 21, 2009. Tags: , , , . Video. 4 comments.

Flip MinoHD Workflows

As I’ve written before I picked up a Flip Mino HD in a previous post.

Overall I’ve liked the camera. Most of the time I’m shooting home videos and the posting the videos to Vimeo for family or loading them onto a MacMini we have connected to out TV.

This week I actually used it at work. The Children’s Ministry wanted to put up a quick promo video online for a special class they are doing. It was going to be a talking head kind of video. They were going to shoot it using the iSight camera on a MacBook. I was about to set up the HVX-200 but then I remembered the Flip and thought I’d give it a shot.

Since my last post I’ve experimented a bit with the workflow for editing the videos:
Bundled FlipShare software: Simple enough but I’m not wild about it

-iMovie08: Works well but it generates thumbnails on import, a time consuming process.

-Premiere Pro CS3: Doesn’t recognize the native file. You would have to transcode to another format.

-Final Cut Pro 6: It doesn’t like the native file format. I’m running FCP 6.0.5. There are no presets for MPEG4 editing. So I let FCP adjust the sequence setting to match the clips from the Flip.I’ve run into two problems: 

1) Audio previews fine in the viewer but has to be rendered in the sequence. This maybe because I’m missing something simple but changing the sequence audio settings to 44.1 to match doesn’t help. I’ve gotten so used to working with DV and then footage from the HVX-200 I’m not used to trouble shooting different formats. 

2) The other problem I’ve run into is after I get around 10 clips in my timeline I get a “General Error” and my canvas window goes red with white text saying “Display Unavailable. Close and Reopen Window To Restore”. Once I close the window and open the window I get the general error again followed by an out of memory error. Restarting FCP doesn’t help. Trashing preferences doesn’t help. It’s like the project file gets corrupted and then you have to start over and hope you don’t run into the problem again, but around 10 clips the problem happens again. That’s why I don’t use FCP with the native files.
3) I’ve used compressor to transcode the files into other formats (ProRes, AIC, HDV) and all worked fine. It just takes time and disk space. 

-iMovieHD seems to be the best. If it recognizes the Flip as a camera it doesn’t import correctly. I’ve found it best to drag the files off the Flip via the Finder and then import into iMovieHD as files. It imports faster than iMovie08 and has a better feature set than iMovie08.

So the workflow I’ve settled on is using iMoveHD to edit footage from the Flip. If you have a mac that came with iMove 08 you can download iMoveHD here.

I’ll post the video from this shot tomorrow as I talk about how to get the video online.

January 20, 2009. Tech Stuff, Video, Web Development. 14 comments.

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