Jul 04 2010

First Garden Video

I still don’t watch videos on the net very often. I had dialup for so long — bad dialup, that rarely ran better than 19.2Kbps — that watching videos was just out of the question.  Even once I got a high-speed connection, Adobe’s closed-source policy meant that their Flash player was usually somewhere between broken and flaky on FreeBSD, so it was hard to watch videos in a browser.  If there was something I had to see, I downloaded it overnight (or over multiple nights) and watched it later.  So even today, when I’m looking for instructions on something, it rarely occurs to me to look for a video.

That’s a mistake, because some things are a lot easier to show than to tell.  A one-minute video of someone showing how to fillet a fish is probably more informative than a whole book trying to explain it in words.  Plus, all the internet marketing gurus say video is growing in importance, and a lot of people out there are just the opposite of me — they’ll look for a video first before searching other ways — and the search engines are trying to respond to that by featuring videos.  So for a while now, I’ve been wanting to make some screencast videos.  I think they’ve got a lot of potential for tutorials and demos, and I want to do some as teaching aids for my Latin lessons.

I thought I’d get some practice by doing one with my garden pictures.  It took a while to get all the technical details figured out, but I think once I know what I’m doing, this could be a lot faster than annotating a bunch of pictures and typing up descriptions of them all.  I hope you enjoy it.  If you have trouble viewing or hearing it, or have suggestions, please let me know.  More technical details below.

I captured the video and audio with Gtk-RecordMyDesktop.  My microphone is the crummy free one that came with a sound card or something, so if I speak very loudly at all, it pops.  So once I had the video file, I stripped the audio out into a separate WAV file, and used Audacity to boost the volume, and also to suppress some of the popping.  (If I decide to keep doing these, I think I’ll have to get a decent microphone.)  Then I muxed the audio back into the video, and cropped it to a standard size and recompressed it, all with mencoder.

The spinning red circle I used for pointing things out is from the Show Mouse plugin for Compiz, my window manager.  To display and zoom the images, I used GQview.  I’m hosting the video on blip.tv, which is like YouTube except that it’s more restricted to actual shows and documentaries, and not wide open to everything under the sun.

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