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Archive for September, 2013

Portrait Art Video Project

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Portrait Art Video
Portrait Art Video

Last week I wrote about making and posting my first video to YouTube
in Learning YouTube and Movie Maker. Earlier this week I posted my second video – The Digital Portrait Art of Jim Plaxco – a promotional video for my portrait art.

Let me tell you about the process I used to create this video. First I knew that I wanted the video to be not much longer than two minutes. Next I estimated how long I wanted each artwork to be displayed in the video. These two pieces of information told me exactly how many of my artworks I could use for the video.

My next step was to create the individual jpegs that would be used to create the video. I used Adobe Bridge to select the art that I wanted to use for the video. I then used Adobe Photoshop’s Image Processor (Adobe Bridge -> Tools -> Photoshop -> Image Processor) and the Resize to Fit option to create uniformly sized jpegs. I then created a title slide and a credits slide for the video, again using Adobe Photoshop.

Next was to bring all the jpegs into Windows Live Movie Maker. It was at this point that I sorted the pictures into the order I wanted. Once I had finished ordering the portraits in Movie Maker, I next applied a transition effect to each image. I tried to apply effects that I felt would work nicely for the artwork being transitioned from and to. Lastly I adjusted the display time settings associated with each image. Since I wanted to use a uniform display time for all the artwork in the show, I used Ctrl-A to select all the images and then used the Edit feature to set a uniform display time. I then individually selected the opening title slide and closing credits slide to give them a longer display time. At this point the visual portion of the video was complete. I exported the video and then watched it to decide if the timing and transitions were all to my satisfaction. To watch the movie I used my video player of choice – VLC Media Player

Adding sound to my video

At this point I had a silent movie. Now that I knew the movie’s final length (2:37), I had to locate suitable music of at least that duration. While I could have looped a shorter audio to fill out the video, I wanted to avoid that. Regarding music, there are several web sites that offer music under the creative commons license. Even though I limited my search to creative commons licenses that allow for commercial use (non-commercial licenses dominate) just to be 100% safe, I was still able to find a nice selection of music.

A note to those interested in using music with a creative commons license – it is important that you follow the creative commons licensing terms. The musicians are providing something for nothing except an acknowledgment in the work you produce. You know – that thing artists hate to hear — "can I use your art for free – you’ll get good exposure." These musicians have said yes so be sure to give them their proper credit in your video.

I found a very nice selection of music on opsound.org music web site. One song I found particularly appropriate was Big (Astronaut Mix) by Dave Howes. Big (Astronaut Mix) was a little bit longer than my video so I turned to Audacity. Audacity is excellent, free, open source, audio editing software. Being able to use Audacity to edit the soundtrack was wonderfully simple. There were only two things I had to do in Audacity. The first was to crop the soundtrack’s length to exactly match the length of my video. The second was to apply a fade effect to the end of the soundtrack so that the audio would fade out in the final seconds of the video.

With a soundtrack ready to go, I reopened my Movie Maker project, imported the mp3 file, and once again exported the video. It was just that simple.

With my video completed, it was time to turn to YouTube. While the video upload was in progress, I gave the YouTube entry for the video an appropriate title: The Digital Portrait Art of Jim Plaxco and an appropriate description:

A video presentation of digital portrait art created by Jim Plaxco. For details and a list of the art used, see http://www.artsnova.com/portrait-art-video.html.

Soundtrack: Big (Astronaut Mix) by Dave Howes, http://opsound.org

Also, rather than use one of YouTube’s random frame choices for the video’s thumbnail, I went with the custom thumbnail option and selected the jpeg of my video’s title slide.

I must confess that the entire project was rather a stress-free, enjoyable exercise. If you are an artist and have contemplated creating your own video to promote your art, what are you waiting for? The tools are free and the time investment in creating a video similar to mine is not bad at all.

Watch the video
The Digital Portrait Art of Jim Plaxco Video

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Learning YouTube and Movie Maker

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Movie Maker Masters of Lightning Screen Shot
Movie Maker Masters of Lightning Screen Shot

I’ve decided to dive into the world of publishing videos on YouTube. I had given it some thought last year after creating a CG animation but took no action. I recently created another animation and decided it was time to take action. The videos I have or plan to create are of four types:

  1. computer graphic animations I’ve created
  2. instructional CG videos based on lectures I’ve given
  3. promotional CG videos for my art
  4. videos I’ve shot at events

Before publishing any videos to YouTube I decided to do some research – which led to a trip to the library. I came away with the following books:

  • Conquering YouTube by Jay Miles, 2011
  • YouTube and Video Marketing An Hour A Day by Greg Jarboe, 2012
  • YouTube for Business, Online Video Marketing for Any Business by Michael Miller, 2009

The library had more but given the rate of change, I ignored all older books on the subject. As it was I almost took a pass on YouTube for Business as 2009 qualifies as ancient.

Conquering YouTube wins my award for Most Misnamed Book. Going through the book it became clear that the only reason that YouTube was in the title was for the book’s own marketing purposes. The book has absolutely nothing to do with YouTube. Rather it is a book of tips for creating live action videos. As a book on how to use your video camera to frame and light a scene, create special effects, and to construct a movie, the book succeeds but the book’s content ends there. Video file formats are not discussed. Post-processing on the computer is not discussed. Video software is not discussed. And using YouTube to host your video is never mentioned.

Briefly looking over YouTube for Business, Online Video Marketing for Any Business, it appears to be exactly what I was looking for with sections on:

  • Marketing Your Business Online with YouTube
  • Producing Your YouTube Videos
  • Managing Your YouTube Videos
  • Working with YouTube Video Blogs
  • Promotion and Monetization

With a publication date of 2009, there is a fair chance that some of the information is no longer accurate. For that reason I decided to focus on YouTube and Video Marketing An Hour A Day by Greg Jarboe and published last year.

Before getting into the book, I decided it would be better to first get some hands-on experience by uploading and sharing a video. Fortunately I had a video of a Masters of Lightning singing tesla coils performance collecting electronic dust on my computer. My first task was to create a title and a closing jpeg image for the video. Yes it is extra work, but it does provide the viewer with useful information and it clearly establishes the ownership of the video. To create the title and credits images I used Photoshop. This consisted of taking a screen shot of a frame from the video, adding the text, and using a layer style to enhance the text’s visual appeal.

I hate to say it but I used Microsoft’s Windows Live Movie Maker to attach the two jpegs to the video file and create the initial transition effect. Unfortunately Movie Maker only allows you to save your video as a WMV (Windows Media Video). No problem though as YouTube accepts WMV files. Uploading and filling in the required fields on YouTube was a piece of cake. The video that follows is that video.

Masters of Lightning play the Dr Who theme song at the Duckon Science Fiction Convention

Having created and published this video, I’ve started in on YouTube and Video Marketing An Hour A Day which contains the following chapters:

  1. A Short History of YouTube
  2. Map Out Your Video Marketing Strategy
  3. Month 1: Make Videos Worth Watching
  4. Month 2: create Content Worth Sharing
  5. Month 3: Customize Your YouTube Channel
  6. Month 4: Explore YouTube Alternatives
  7. Month 5: Optimize Video for YouTube
  8. Month 6: Engage the YouTube Community
  9. Month 7: Trust but Verify YouTube Insight
  10. Study YouTube Success Stories
  11. A Quick Look at the Future

This looks to be exactly the sort coverage that I was looking for. According to Greg Jarboe, the book’s author, "over three billion videos are streamed every day on YouTube." Creating a video and getting it watched on YouTube represents quite a challenge. From the book: "… more than 70 percent of all videos on YouTube make up only 1 percent of the views on the site." meaning that less than 30 percent of all videos get 99 percent of the view traffic. Clearly a challenge for every video creator out there.

Windows Live Movie Maker Tips

There are two things I’ve discovered with my initial work with Windows Live Movie Maker that I’d like to share with you.

Movie Maker Tip 1

Let’s say that you’ve imported an image into your video. Let’s also say you’re unhappy with it so you go back and make a change to the image. Movie Maker will not recognize that change. In fact if you delete the image from your video and re-import it, Movie Maker will recognize that you previously imported that image and will use its cached version instead of the file you’ve updated. I found that what worked was to save the image with a new file name and import that new file into the movie.

Movie Maker Tip 2

With respect to image resources on your computer that you have imported into your Movie Maker project, Movie Maker does not make its own copy of them inside the video. Rather it relies on linking to where the resources were at the time you imported them into Movie Maker. If you subsequently move these resources to a different directory or drive, the next time you open your project, you will see empty gray boxes where your images used to be. You will need to double-click each and every box individually to open a Windows Explorer dialog so that you can tell Movie Maker where that image is now located. My tip: make sure you keep all your resources for each video together with that video project. This makes me wonder about tip 1 – what would have happened if I had closed Movie Maker, modified the image file, and then reopened Movie Maker and the project.

Closing Thoughts

It’s always fun to learn something new on the computer and to acquire new skills. I expect that the next video I release will be a work that promotes my portrait art. For that video I’ll need to come up with a sound track – which represents yet another challenge. I hope that I”m up to it.

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Adobe Creative Cloud and the Photoshop Photography Program

Friday, September 6th, 2013

Making Art with Photoshop
Making Art with Photoshop

As a digital artist who regularly uses Adobe Photoshop and other Adobe Design Premium products irregularly, I follow Adobe to keep up with their software updates. With the CS6 release of the Adobe product family, which includes Photoshop, Adobe announced their Creative Cloud licensing model. The Creative Cloud has pluses and minuses. For me the principle drawback is the software license. Instead of the perpetual-use license you get when you buy the software’s boxed version, the Creative Cloud license limits your use of their product to that period of time for which you have paid the licensing fee.

The Creative Cloud licensing model has certainly generated a lot of heated debate in the Adobe user community. Unfortunately a fair amount of it is poorly informed and betrays a basic misunderstanding of what the Creative Cloud entails. On the plus side, the licensing terms make it possible for people to use Adobe’s software on a month by month basis at a fraction of the cost of what one would have to pay to buy the boxed version of the software. On the minus side, there are many users who prefer to pay for the boxed software because of the perpetual license.

For me the question is does the Creative Cloud model make economic sense given "my" circumstances. It’s important to note that I am not one of those users who rushes out and buys the new version of Photoshop the minute it is released. My Photoshop upgrade path has been as follows:

  • Photoshop 5
  • Photoshop 7
  • Photoshop CS
  • Photoshop CS4

Based on my situation, it did not make sense for me to go with the Creative Cloud. I looked around for alternatives to Adobe CS6 and the Creative Cloud. I wrote about my findings in the article Free Software Alternatives to Adobe CS6

In recognition of the opposition some Adobe users have expressed over the Creative Cloud model and in the spirit of the free market, Corel now has a special offer for those disgruntled Adobe users. The Corel promotional page reads "Welcome CS Users… Looking for an alternative to Creative Cloud?…Try Corel software today for free" For complete details, see Corel’s special offer to Adobe CS users

Adobe has evidently been paying attention because they are now providing Photoshop users with a brand new option – the Photoshop Photography Program. Adobe customers who own Photoshop CS3 or higher are eligible for a special Creative Cloud membership offer that is priced at $9.99/month and includes the following features:

  • Photoshop CC (Creative Cloud)
  • Lightroom 5
  • 20 GB of online storage
  • Behance ProSite package
  • Access to Creative Cloud Learn’s training resources
  • Ongoing upgrades and updates

Visiting the Behance web site, Behance charges $11/month or $99/year for their ProSite package. Given that this is included in the Adobe Photoshop Photography Program package you are basically getting a Behance ProSite for free. For more, see Behance’s ProSite

Adobe’s Photoshop Photography Program is a very tempting offer. Fortunately I have until December 31 to make up my mind on whether or not I’ll buy in. Additional program details are available at
Adobe’s Photoshop Photography Program blog post.

The Art Used to Illustrate This Post

The image I used to illustrate this post is a screen shot of a cityscape that I am working on in Adobe Photoshop. It is just one of my many experiments in digital painting and may never progress to becoming a finished work of art. Only time will tell.

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