Moving Pictures

Chapter 5

A brief recap, since I doubt you've read this entire story from the beginning. When I started making Farscape videos, I used an analog/digital converter from Formac to grab clips of the show from DVDs and convert them to the DV camcorder format required by Apple's iMovie program. By the time I started my third video, I'd discovered how to get the clips right from the DVDs. That saved me the quality loss caused by converting the video from digital to analog (inside the DVD player) and then back to digital (in the Formac Studio). The downside of going all digital is that the conversions are painfully slow, taking a couple of hours to convert each episode.

I mention this backstory because with my ninth video I went back to the beginning and my A/D converter. I'd grown weary of the process of finding clips I liked and then having to do something else while my computer did its laborious conversion. It kept breaking my creative energy. It also caused a change in my attitude toward the videos, as I found myself favoring videos I could make from just a few episodes. Two of my videos contain clips from a single show each. And while I enjoyed making them and think they turned out well, I wanted the option of using lots of different episodes.

Anyway, the story of video #9. A friend had lent me three CDs from an a capella vocal group called Da Vinci's Notebook. I was enjoying the music, an odd combination of novelty numbers and straight covers of pop tunes, when I came to a song on their most recent CD. The song is called Enormous Penis, and it's a barbershop quartet-style number about what makes a man feel really good about himself when things aren't going his way. And the moment I heard it, I knew I had to turn it into a Farscape video. It would be just perfect for a tribute to Ka D'Argo, the over-testosteroned Luxan warrior played so memorably by Anthony Simcoe.

My technique for creating this video was simple: put each DVD into my player, fast forward until some good D'Argo scene came along and then decide whether and where I could make it fit. If I found a place for it, I'd use the Formac to capture the scene into iMovie. Then I'd edit it into the video, working on the timing of the clips and transitions to make them fit the music and lyrics. I didn't need to be perfect, although I wanted to be close; my intent was to recapture all the footage directly from the DVDs after I was done with my A/D work. To make that easier, I labeled every clip with the episode number and chapter from whence it came. (Always wanted to use whence in a sentence.)

I'd forgotten how much faster it is to import video than to convert it. Within a few days I'd zipped my way through all 22 episodes of season one and well into season two. The only big delay would occur when I got caught up in a scene. Have I mentioned that Farscape is addictive?

It wasn't long before I had all the clips in place. Then I went back and began the slow effort of recreating every clip using the digital process I've described earlier in this saga. In the process, I found a few clips I liked better. And I had to reconvert a couple of clips to repair sequences I'd mistimed. But I learned that the best technical solution isn't always the best solution. The immediacy of my earlier technique was worth recapturing. (There's a pun in that last line. But not a very good one.)

I hope you enjoy the result. And if you found this page because the phrase Enormous Penis brought to mind something other than barbershop quartets, well, you have my sincerest apologies. Sadly, there doesn't seem to be a good way to tell search engines not to notice certain words.

(This is the 22.8 MB version of the movie. The lower quality version is 7.1 MB.)

Computer Graphics

Of course, there's another source of cool graphics that I have barely begun to explore. Not being terribly artistic, I haven't done much at all with Photoshop or 3D packages like those of Alias/Wavefront. But I did figure out how to make extruded text for some of my page titles. I built those with an Open Inventor demo program called textomatic. Open Inventor is a 3D modeling library that makes it easy for the graphics-illiterate to produce pretty impressive results.

The model at the right took a few minutes to produce, including the addition of a narrow spotlight pointing toward the middle of the letters. And if I can do stuff like this, just imagine what someone with talent and time could accomplish!

The title on this page, my home page and a few others were the result of some experimentation with GIMP, a freeware graphics package that runs on Unix systems. Given enough time and talent, you can create some remarkable effects. You can also use it to fix up scanned images, like the job I did on this vintage Matt Helm paperback for my mystery writers page. GIMP is sort of PhotoShop for the fiscally challenged. Well worth a look if you're lucky enough to be running Unix.

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 Comments to: Hank Shiffman, Mountain View, California