Soccer Girl and DSLR Viewfinder Loupes

Very proud of the way my daughter is playing soccer these days. No lack of effort for sure. I shot a couple of clips the other night with my Canon 7D using my 75-300 lens and edited them up quickly using Blender 2.5. The original was shot at 1280×720 at 60fps in manual mode with an aperture setting of 1/60 (thanks to Troy for that bit of advice) and then slowed down to 24fps on output from Blender.

I’m really thinking about getting a viewfinder loupe for my camera. I always forget my reading glasses when shooting and even with that nice 3″ LCD screen, focus is clearly guesswork. It wasn’t too bad on most of these shots, but it can be frustrating. I’ve been thinking about the Zacuto Z-Finder, Lcdvf or Hoodman products to help solve this problem (note: Hoodman’s site is well.. extremely jarring in terms of design. Think Geocities meets Schoolbus. You’ve been warned. ;) ).

If anybody has experience with these things and how they perform, let me know.

No Lack of Hustle from Richard Querin on Vimeo.

The OpenPilot Logo

op_logo

A little over two weeks ago, I got an email from one of the developers of a project called OpenPilot asking if I’d be interested in creating a logo for the project. OpenPilot is an open source project developing an autopilot system for model aircraft – interesting stuff. Always looking for a creative challenge to focus on, I accepted the offer. It was an interesting challenge and I thought I would post a little about the process I went through.

Before I get started I must thank Troy Sobotka for doing his usual best and being a great soundboard for ideas and great creative discussion. It’s good to have someone around who’s willing to encourage but also throw out some really honest opinions on things – even if you don’t ask for them! :)

I emailed the developer back and asked for some background information on the project. Its primary use was on model aircraft, so the audience for this would most likely be aircraft enthusiasts. Also figuring that they’d be more technically minded, I knew I wanted it to be simple, but interesting. The goal was to give the project an identity that was modern, and which expressed a feeling of quality and accuracy. After all, would you want to risk your expensive model aircraft by using an autopilot system consisting of duct tape, and a few bungee cords?

I first frittered around and sketched a few things. The first idea I had involved a sort of ‘horizon flyover’ concept:

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A quick trip to Inkscape yielded this:

concept

That initial quicky mockup felt devoid of any character to me – and it looked a bit too thin and wispy. The bottom line was that I didn’t like it, so I dropped it and decided to pursue other ideas.

More sketching yielded this sketch of a sort of takeoff flight path:

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While I thought it had some potential, it looked like it would end up too complicated for a logo. So I simplified the concept somewhat and came up with these:

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The lower one really caught my fancy as something that had real potential so I chose to pursue it. First I attempted a traceover of the sketch in Inkscape but immediately realized that I’d get the perspective all wrong, so I dropped that and decided to model a simple square path in Blender to get it right (the initial part of the path is semi-transparent so that I could see the shadow beneath):

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I took the result into Inkscape and traced that. An initial mockup gave this:

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This really had potential. Unsurprisingly, I made my usual mistake of going a bit far with gradients and shadows. This was too complicated and fiddly for a logo. Troy suggested stripping it down until it broke – and that didn’t take long. ;)

I found that without the gradients I lost the feeling of slope in the path. And without the drop shadows.. well, let’s just say it broke – big time. I had to try playing with the path more to get that elevation feeling without the drop shadows and gradients.

I found that by crossing the path over itself, I could ensure that the path moved ‘up’ in elevation. Even better, I found that by adding some subtle breaks in the path I could even give the feeling of a shadow at that crossover:

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At this point I also had to confirm how this would work in monochrome options as well:

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Two things became apparent. First, I had the happy accident of getting the letter P in some of those orientations. Second, it was so much better to have the plane going up instead of heading down. Even with the paths crossing, (arguably) inferring increasing elevation, the overall direction of the plane is downward. And that can’t be good. ;)

So the next iteration involved horizontally flipping one of the options and coming up with:

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In addition to rotating the logo slightly to better achieve the ‘P’ effect, and squaring off the dark grey background pill, I also decided to have a play at the text. While I hadn’t been terribly disappointed with it, I wanted to try something different just to see:

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I felt I was almost there. Troy suggested I man up and create a simple style guide for the logo. This would better guarantee against misuse of the logo (stretching, colouring, bling-ifying etc) and may teach me a thing or two about how these things should actually be done in the ‘real’ world.

Also useful is that creating a style guide can surface issues you hadn’t initially considered. In fact at this point I had to come with a horizontal orientation of the logo for potential uses as a wider format web header graphic. I simply hadn’t thought of that. Of course Troy had to stage a mock conversation between a few swarthy Italian-Canadian web designers over Google chat for me to understand how this situation might arise. If you don’t believe me, I’ll post the chatlog. ;)

The final logo with alternative horizontal layout turned out like this:

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I’m proud of the style guide as well. Not proud that I used Inkscape instead of Scribus to do it. That’s kind of like using the back of the pliers to hammer in a nail. It works, but it’s far from the best way. In any case I plead newbieness for mistakes like that. It’s all a learning process.

Here’s the completed style guide if you want to have a look.

OpenPilot Logo Style Guide

This was a fun project. I’m proud of the logo because it took a lot of work (at least compared to most things I’ve worked on in the past), it proceeded rather logically, and I feel good about the result. As usual I learned a lot of useful things along the way which can’t be a bad thing either.

Blender Editing Project – Park Visit

Recently I’ve been trying to expand my limits with Blender, video editing and more fluffy things like creative projects and how to drive them. While I haven’t produced a whole hell of a lot, I am learning at a good clip. It sure doesn’t hurt to have someone who will push you and force you to think in alternate directions. Find yourself one of those if you can, and thank him profusely. :)

Anyways, we’ve been chatting about editing and I was desperate to stop talking and start doing. Using what might be called Shakey-McShakerton handheld video I shot the other day, I spent approximately 4 hours editing it down to a 3 minute music video sort of thing. There’s no overarching purpose to it, no message per se (other than summer fun I guess), but on the way I did manage to hone certain skills I already knew (like cutting, ipo curves etc.), and learn some new useful things along the way like cutting to music, using markers, and using a few new keyboard shortcuts.

Clearly it’s amateur. Hardly better than a typical home movie. But it took effort and I learned a few things. A ramp to bigger, better and hopefully more interesting things:

Aurora Town Park – August 2009 from Richard Querin on Vimeo.

Blender Video Editing Screencast No. 3

Okay so it’s been about 5 months since I last posted a Blender screencast. Guilty as charged. Let’s move on.

I’ve posted my third screencast about editing video using Blender. This one is a quickie at about 9 minutes in length. It covers a few very useful keyboard commands along with an introduction to using the proxy feature to really start boosting your editing efficiency into high gear.

Also worthy of note is that I did the post processing in Blender as well. I wasn’t 100% happy with the flash video rendering output I got from Blender on this one, but this will just take some further tweaking, mostly to limit filesize and maintain quality. So for this screencast, the last step involved rendering to avi from Blender and then falling back to my mencoder script for the final conversion to Flash.

You can find this third screencast right here.

Here are the links to my previous Blender screencasts No.1 and No.2.

Expect more in the way of Blender screencasts and Blender video editing info. Troy Sobotka and I have been discussing where to go with this. Of course I’m going to try and drag Heathenx in as well so I can share the blame around. ;)

ps. For some weird reason, I had a helluva time trying to get the flash version to work properly for this episode. Kudos to Heathenx for doing an OGV version (for those with Firefox3.5) with a Flash fallback for those with other browsers. Heathenx, you da man! :)

Big Arse Snowflakes

I was driving home late tonight after teaching and found myself confronted by what could be described as a flurry of fat arse snowflakes. The Flip camera was lying on the seat so I thought what the heck. I dubbed in some nice piano music just to hide the fact that I was blastin’ Miley Cyrus from the stereo… :P

And yes, I know handholding a video camera while driving on a snowy road isn’t the smartest thing in the world to do, let’s just put it down to old age…


Biggy Snowflakes from Richard Querin on Vimeo.

Bed jumping.. slow-mo now included

Thanks to heathenx for pointing out that I could achieve slow motion on a single clip by adding a speed generator effect to it, setting an IPO curve for the speed gen effect and making sure the ‘use ipo as velocity’ button was enabled. It all sounds so logical to me now, but I was so befuddled and frustrated last night trying to achieve it. Isn’t that always the way? Things look impossible, and then you find out they’re much easier than you thought. That concept seems to pervade my life. :)

Anyway, I’ve replaced the original video with this one, slow-mo effect included.  Thanks heathenx, you’re a smart guy.. despite what everyone says.


Bed Jumping – revamped from Richard Querin on Vimeo.

More Blender thoughts and Bed Jumping

I’ve been battling what I’m pretty sure is strep throat for a day and  a half now. Unfortunately a combination of extremely crappy sleep and my poor excuse for a desk chair  have conspired to give me the gift of a major back ache at the same time. Oh joy.

Tonight I turned to Blender for a little distraction (do you know I have been able to go about 15 full minutes with nary a painful swallow?). One of the first things Troy Sobotka suggested to me was having a screencast to show how to set up the Blender video sequencer for more efficient editing, and in the process give people some insight into the customizability and power of the Blender interface. The main problem with that is I am not all that familiar with the Blender interface. So I’m trying to use it in more little projects and get accustomed to it.

I did manage to get it laid out somewhat like Troy had suggested to me, with the most frequently used tools in places that make sense:

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

I’m thinking that the next screencast I do will show the novice Blender user how to go from the default Blender Video Sequencer window layout into something like I’ve shown in the screenshot.

I’ve also posted up another little diddy using footage that I shot with my Flip camera on a tripod (although being a complete novice, I moved the tripod slightly during the filming duhhh). The one thing I was trying a few times to get right was applying slow motion to a single clip. I used this wiki page as a reference for achieving that effect, but I still kept having problems getting things to pick up full speed at the end of that segment. More to learn I guess… Anyway, here’s what I came up with very quickly. I didn’t include the slo-mo clip, I just wasn’t happy with it. It’s a short little flippy video thing. The sort of thing I wanted a video editor on Linux to do quickly for me. Blender is making me so happy these days. Now if it could only cure strep throat and massage my back. ;)

Update: Video now revised to show one segment in slo-mo. Thanks heathenx!


Bed Jumping – revamped from Richard Querin on Vimeo.

Really basic Blender video editing screencast: Part 2

A few weeks back I did my first Blender screencast showing how to do a few simple things with video using Blender. In that one we covered editing and joining clips, fading between clips and exporting our video. In this second screencast I cover how to fade into and out to black, add a simple title screen and how to add a soundtrack to your video.

It’s all pretty simple once you get the hang of it, and keep in mind that I’m very much a newbie at Blender so expect a few flubs. In fact there’s a slight train wreck about 3/4 of the way through when I forgot how to create a new node for editing sound curves. I didn’t edit it out simply because I couldn’t be bothered and I also thought what the heck.. if I’m learning this application, then why pretend to know every little thing about what I’m doing when I clearly don’t.  Feel free to shake your head in disgust when you watch that part. ;)

Also, as you might have seen in this post, unlike me, Troy knows what the hell he’s doing with Blender. Two good things have come of this, we’re discussing what other  in-depth tutorials might be worthwhile when it comes to introducing people to video editing in Blender and even better yet, he asked me how I screencast. I think it would be great if someone who really knows this stuff was able to do a little teaching. :)

Even though we’ve started this discussion I still thought it would be worthwhile to throw out this second screencast because I think once people get over the initial hurdle and actually produce something (anything) with Blender it only gives them more confidence to spur them on and learn more. That’s how I am anyway. I like to try challenging things, but it’s damn nice to actually achieve something worthwhile quickly to maintain and build my enthusiasm.

Anyway, I’m likely rambling (as I started to at the end of this screencast btw) so let’s cut to the chase. Here’s the link: http://screencasters.heathenx.org/_misc/bve/bve_02.html

Note: If you change the file extension on the above link from ‘.html’ to ‘.flv’ you can download the FLV file directly and watch it offline in something like VLC if you’d prefer. This goes for the first Blender screencast as well.

Another home video edited with Blender

The other night I put together another video using a bunch of Flip videos I took of my daughter skiing. I’m getting more familiar with Blender now and it took me only about an hour to slice and dice together 9 clips, add start and end titles and some music (The concept of fair use is not dead in my mind if you care to ask). I think Blender has definitely turned into my video editor of choice. Expect more screencasts on this topic.

 


Skiing At Hockley Feb 01-09 from Richard Querin on Vimeo.

How I edit videos using Blender (maybe part one?)

A little while ago, Heathenx and I decided to investigate the use of Blender for editing video. I’ve played around with Kino, Kdenlive, and Cinelerra among other things for basic video editing on Linux, none of them has worked for me as well as Blender. If there is one area where Linux currently falls short, it is in the area of video editing. Although I don’t doubt that this will change, I have found that Blender is what gives me the most stable and intuitive way to accomplish what I want in this area.

And what I want, is to be able to do some basic edits of the video from my Flip camera. By ‘basic’ I mean that I want to be able to edit clips, splice them together with some basic fades, add a music track, maybe add a title and a fade-to-black or two. Nothing earth-shattering, but that’s what I’m after.

I’ve used it now on two or three of my Flip videos with great success. Now while it’s fresh in my mind, and after @tmray asked me about how I did it, I thought I’d put together a quick screencast on a whim. A couple of notes first:

1. Yes, Blender is a bit daunting at first. Sure, there is a learning curve. But it’s not all that steep for what we’re trying to accomplish, but it’s there. I won’t lie to you. But I think there is a learning curve with any video editing application regardless of platform.

2. I am no Blender expert. I am well and truly a Blender newb. So if you watch this and have any Blender experience, you’ll likely find things that I’m doing wrong, or things that could be done much quicker. Don’t hesitate to post suggestions in the comments. I’m all about the learning. ;)

3. In this screencast I cover only a couple of basic things: How to import videos into Blender, how to shorten and move them, how to create a cross fade between clips and how to output the final video. I may do a couple more screencasts on this to cover things like creating a title screen, fading to black and adding and editing a soundtrack.

Anyway, enough of the blather. You’ll find the screencast right here.
Update: I’ve now done 3 Blender screencasts. Here are the posts with part 2 and part3.