DVD production on the iMac

I put together my first iDVD project this weekend using iLife ’05. I shot some video of my son’s trampoline competition in the morning and put the project together in the afternoon. Bottom line: to edit about 40 minutes of tape into a 15 minute movie took me about six hours to edit the tape, add transitions and titles, add music, adjust sound levels and create the iDVD project itself. I had used earlier versions of iMovie and iTunes to put together QuickTime movies (since I didn’t have a SuperDrive), but this was my first time through with iDVD so I expect that I will be a bit quicker on that part next time.

iMovie HD is very nice, and still very easy to use. One of my biggest complaints about earlier versions was the inability to edit the audio levels on the video track, but you can now do this without having to first extract the audio. Another key difference I noticed was how the iMovie project file is saved. In earlier versions, the iMovie project itself was a small file with all the various clips saved as separate files. In HD, the project is one large file.

Since this DVD is for my family to enjoy, I just pulled a couple of songs from my iTunes library to use as soundtrack. One complaint with the interface here is that you can’t view selections by playlist. You get a list of the entire library with the option to sort by Song Name, Artist, and Time. The last is especially useful if you know how long you need the piece to be. If you know what music you want to use, though, you don’t really have to worry about the time, since you can split, crop, and otherwise adjust audio tracks once you’ve add them to your project.

I didn’t use iPhoto to pull any images into this movie, but I did use it to build the menus in iDVD. Here the interface is very nice, and does allow you to browse your albums in iPhoto (not just the entire library like iTunes).

Since this was my first time using iDVD, I had to take a little time to learn what was what. The chapter markings and movie are automatically brought in from iMovie, so it is really just a matter of packaging. The first thing I had to do was think about how DVD menus work, what I’ve seen and liked before, and what I wanted to have my DVD menus look like. (This was, in fact, a recurring theme throughout the project. The applications themselves are incredibly easy to use, but the process of putting together a project requires a lot of thought to make sure you get what you want.) I tried several of the different iDVD 5 themes (there are themes from older versions available as well) and found one I liked. The “drop zones” allowed me to put photos from iPhoto or movies/clips from iMovie into the menu, creating a very professional looking effect.

Burning the DVD was as simple as clicking on the Burn button and inserting a blank DVD.
A couple of lessons learned worth mentioning (though I’m sure there were many others I didn’t capture):
  • Wait until you have completely finished your edit before adding chapter marks in iMovie. I added my chapter marks in and then did a little more editing. When I went back and checked the chapter marks, they were right where I left them on the time line. Unfortunately, the contents on the timeline had changed so the chapter marks were pointing to the wrong place. Easy enough to change, but why do it over when you can just wait until the edit is complete.
  • As you are going through your edit in iMovie, use the Save Frame feature to capture frames to use later on your DVD menus.
  • In iDVD, you have to create each menu and sub-menu separately. If you don’t modify them, they will use the default. Since I had 12 chapters, this meant I had the main menu and two sub-menus. On the one hand this is very nice because of the flexibility it gives you (for instance, if you are combining several different events onto a single DVD, you can distinguish them with different menus). On the other hand, if you just want everything to have a consistent interface it can be kind of a pain.
The six hours didn’t include the time to import the video (about 40 minutes) and the time to burn the DVD (about an hour). The long time to burn the DVD is mainly due to the rendering required for the menus and other aspects of the project itself. I only burned one copy, but I’m assuming subsequent copies will burn much faster.

(Note: After burning straight to a DVD, I discovered that you can now burn an iDVD project as a Disc Image. This allows you to quickly burn multiple copies of the project without having to render each time.)

All in all, a lot of fun with a nice product at the end. The only iLife app I didn’t get a chance to use on this project was GarageBand (and that’s only because I haven’t hooked up my piano yet). I have the feeling that it will fit in nicely.

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Pet peave: User un-friendly URLs

Because I sent my last post in via e-mail, which was composed offline, I only included one hyperlink, to the Apple iMac page. I couldn’t remember any others, and thought I was safe with what I thought would be an obvious URL. Here is what happened:

  • I added the link to http://www.apple.com/iMac
  • When I connected and the post was published, I checked out the link and received an error message (as you likely did if you followed the above link)
  • I found the actual URL for the iMac page (www.apple.com/imac/)
  • I modified the link in my post to be http://www.apple.com/iMac/. (The astute reader will notice the difference between what I entered and the actual URL)
  • To be safe, I previewed the post and the link. To my surprise, I found myself at the error page again.
  • I checked the URL and (as you may have figured out by now) realized my mistake. When I changed the URL to http://www.apple.com/imac, the link actually took me to the iMac page.

Now, I remember from my early days that many web servers are case sensitive for URLs, and that the “/” also is sometimes important. That’s not what bothers me. What bothers me about this is that Apple didn’t have the sense (decency?) to make all of these work. If the “wrong” URLs took me to a generic (or at least the same) error page, why not have them redirect to the actual page? Or at least have the actual URL be www.apple.com/iMac, since that is how they spell it in their ads, etc.

Sorry for the rant, but those that know me know that this (automatic redirect for obvious, and short, URLs) has always been a pet peave of mine. Something so simple, yet effective….

Back on Mac (finally)

For the past few years, we’ve had a mixed household of Windows (the primary family computer) and Mac (my son’s G3 iBook).   I’m a big Mac fan, while my wife has an “I don’t care what it is as long as it does what I want it to do” approach to computers (and technology in general).  When the PC finally reached end of life (due to being 5 years old and seemingly permanently infected with Ad/Spy Ware), I convinced her that we really needed a Mac.  There are lots of arguments to be made for Mac vs. Windows (which I won’t go into here), but it came down to:  “Will we have all those pop-ups?” and “Will this one last for 5 years?”
While I was tempted to get the MacMini, when I added up all the other stuff I would need to get to have what I wanted it turned out that the G5 iMac was really the way to go.  Picked up the 20″ at the local (Edison, NJ) Apple Store along with a couple of accessories (Protection Plan, Virtual PC, some blank DVD-R’s) and took it home to set up.  What a joy:
  • Open the box.
  • Take the packing material off the top.
  • Pull it out of the box.
  • Hook up keyboard, mouse to the keyboard, power cable.
  • Turn it on.
It’s going to be harder than that to disassemble and put away the PC and all the stuff that goes with it.
Plugged in the LAN cable, had a connection.  Ran Software Update.  Very smooth.
To install iLife ’05 (which came as a “drop-in” disc set) and Virtual PC I needed to upgrade the RAM.  Forgot to get that at Apple Store, but picked it up locally at Circuit City.  Installing the RAM chip was a snap, though if my wife had seen me standing over the iMac with the back cover removed she may have freaked out a bit. 
iLife went in without a hitch, as did Virtual PC.  I installed both WinXP (for a couple of key apps we have) and Win98 (for the old games that the kids haven’t been able to use since we upgraded to XP), process was very smooth in both cases.  I set up the Windows folders as shares, connected from the iMac and transferred all the key files and data (like the iTunes library).  Most tedious part was running the Windows Update.  The emulated hardware on the PC side shows up as a 550+ MHz pentium with 265K of RAM.  Works better/faster than the PC we replaced.  Like getting three computers in one!
The only real problem I’ve come across is installation of some OS9 apps in the Classic environment.  As far as I can tell, Panther (OS X 10.3.7) doesn’t support/allow installation and booting from OS9, it only provides “Classic environment.”  For the most part this is working fine, but a couple of apps haven’t installed properly because of security access issues.
Only one thing left to figure out before I can just start playing:  how best to pull in audio through line-input to capture old cassettes, etc.
p.s.  This is my first post via e-mail.  Depending on how much work it needs before being publishable, I will likely be doing this more often.  So much more convenient when you can post off-line.  (Don’t know why I haven’t tried it before….)

AOK: What Makes KM Sustainable

The AOK has started off 2005 with a Star Series on “What Makes KM Sustainable.” (for a little more, check out Knowledge Jolt with Jack: AOK: What Makes KM Sustainable). I didn’t have a chance to contribute, I did mostly keep up with the postings.* Very good stuff, I believe you can find the archives in the Yahoo groups that AOK maintains.

The topic immediately piqued my interest because of something I read when I first started out in the KM biz, an article by a new CKO about what he thought his job was. I’ve not been able to track down the original article or the exact quote I’m looking for, but to paraphrase: “My job is to put myself out of a job.” Kind of odd, but at the same time reflective of the attitude that seemed to me prevelant in ’98-’99 about KM.

In other words, at least how I interpreted it, this CKO believed that if he changed the culture of his organization so that it was “knowledge friendly,” existing KM initiatives would continue on their own and new ones would spontaneously emerge to meet the needs of the organization. This Star Series discussion basically puts that idea to rest and discusses why KM, like anything else, requires a lot of hard work and dedication to get it in place and to keep it there.

One issue for many cases of once prominent and successful KM programs failing is the departure of the KM champion. While we like to believe that what we do and establish will continue to flourish after we leave, the fact is that without the constant influx of energy that the champion puts into a program, entropy (that ever present demon) will always win. But this shouldn’t really come as a surprise.

Executives and other senior people in any organization make up the personality of that organization. Each one contributes his or her own individual personality into the overall organizational personality. If you lose, or replace, a person the overall mix changes. Obviously, the more people that make up the organizational personality, the less effect a single individual’s departure will have.

If, on the other hand, you only have one or two champions in a huge organization and you lose one or both, that personality trait essentially disappears from the collective. As we’ve known all along, the lesson to learn here is that the more people you can get to champion your KM (or any other) project/initiative, the better your chance of continued success even after one or more of those champions leave.

*Unfortunately, this has been a bit of a trend over the last month, reading when I get the chance and writing when I find a spare moment

More Than Human – THINKING AHEAD – CIO Magazine Dec 15,2004

From the Dec 15, 2004 CIO magazine – More Than Human. The article presents a basic overview of Transhumanism, but its main focus is on the potential benefits and challenges to managers.

Transhumanism—the practice of enhancing people through technology—sounds like science fiction. But when it arrives (and it will), it will create unique problems for CIOs…

From a purely capitalist point of view, one virtue of transhumanism is that it incorporates both body and mind into the continuous upgrade cycle that characterizes contemporary consumption patterns. Once a given modification—such as a cortical display—is successfully invented, newer and better ones will crop up on the market every year, boasting lower power requirements, higher resolution, hyperspectral sensitivity, longer mean time between failures, richer recording, sharing and backup features, and so on…

When brains can interact with hard disks, remembering will become the equivalent of copying. Presumably, intellectual property producers will react with the usual mix of policies, some generous, some not. Some producers will want you to pay every time you remember something; others will allow you to keep content in consciousness for as long as you like but levy an extra charge for moving it into long-term memory; still others will want to erase their content entirely as rights expire, essentially inducing a contractually limited form of amnesia…

Peter Cassidy, secretary-general of The Anti-Phishing Working Group, is one of the few analysts thinking about neurosecurity. He says that a key problem is that the brain appears to consider itself a trusted environment. When brain region A gets a file request from region B, it typically hands over the data automatically, without asking for ID or imposing more than the most minimal plausibility check. It is true that with age and experience our brains do gradually build up a short blacklist of forbidden instructions, often involving particular commands originating from the hypothalamus or adrenal glands (for example, “bet the house on red,” or “pick a fight with that bunch of sailors”), but in general, learning is slow and the results patchy. Such laxity will be inadequate in an age when brainjacking has become a perfectly plausible form of sabotage.

These are just a couple of quotes, the article has much more detail. We may not have to deal with these issues anytime soon, but they definitely give food for thought on some things we are dealing with today.

Another definition of “Knowledge Worker”

At a break between meetings at a recent big get together, the following defintion of a knowledge worker occurred to me:

A knowledge worker is someone that makes it up as they go along.

Though that expression is usually used in a pejorative way, that is not how I mean it. Over the last couple of days I’ve taken some time to think about the process of these meetings in addition to the content. I realized that although there was a well established process for what we were trying to do, the benefit we were gaining – the knowledge we were creating – came from the way we changed the process on the fly to meet our needs and meet our current goals. We literally made it up as we went along.

Of course, the “new” process will be captured as part of an after action review and lessons learned recorded for the next time this type of event occurs. But I have no doubt that for that next session to succeed as this one has that group will need to take things into their own hands and make it up for themselves as they go along.