I’ll start with a caveat: I’m still learning the ropes when it comes to creating and editing videos, so please take the info. in this post as a starting point only.
Onward! Okay these the tools I use:
Action! video capture
Corel Draw X8 for any precise graphics
Good old Paint for quick and dirty graphics
Corel VideoStudio Pro 2021 for video editing
The microphone: Before I started doing voice overs, I did some research online and found all sorts of stuff about how to set up an area for audio recording. I also read up on the kind of equipment you would need. In the end, I bought the cheapest microphone Amazon had to offer – it was on sale – and I try to record when there’s no background noise [Offspring puttering around in the kitchen, dog barking, cat wanting to be fed etc]. That’s it. Not professional quality but…good enough.
Video capture software: I love Action! because I own it outright – no recurring subscription fees – and it’s sophisticated enough to allow me to take good quality footage. Plus it was relatively cheap.
I’ve owned and used Corel Draw X8 for a very long time. It’s a great program and I love it.
Windows Paint has been around for a very long time too, and it’s perfect for quickly resizing a screenshot, or adding some arrows and labels, or cropping out the bits I don’t want. And it’s free. Can’t argue with that.
And now to Corel VideoStudio Pro 2021…. I don’t love it. Keep reading and I’ll tell you why.
Before buying the VideoStudio editor, I tried out a number of editors, but not the Corel one. So it was an impulse buy based on Corel being a trusted brand… and it was on sale. I had trouble from the start. Installing the software and getting it to run ate up days of frustration and online searching. Once I had it running, I had trouble learning it because, although it looks pretty, the interface is weirdly unintuitive. It’s also inconsistent. It’s supposed to be great for beginners but I had trouble learning it. I’ll leave it at that.
One thing I do like is the ability to edit multiple tracks, which look something like this:
Once I have captured the actual video with Action!, I import it into VideoStudio and drag it to what’s called the ‘timeline’. The timeline can include all the tracks shown in the screenshot.
The first track to go on the timeline has to be the video track [for me]. This is my raw material. Once it’s on the timeline, I can snip out the bits I don’t like to get an overall feel for the length of the finished video and what I want/must present in that time.
The overlay track is where I place still images, or even snippets of video, that will create a ‘picture-in-a-picture’ effect. In the example above, my self portrait and the pic of Warrandyte both overlaid the video going on in the background.
Narration was always going to be important in my videos so it really helps that I can create short bits of voice-over [usually about one sentence worth] which can then be positioned at the precise locations that fit the visual narrative.
And finally there’s the music. I included music in the how-to video to provide continuity, but also to get rid of the ‘dead air’ you get in-between bits of voice-over. Essentially this dead air is the non-sound you get when the microphone is not recording. It’s quite disturbing when you first hear it. A very, very soft music track in the background just smooths the transitions from one audio clip to the next. If I could record everything in one hit, I wouldn’t need that smoothing, but I simply couldn’t do it, no matter how hard I tried. Ums, ahs, oops, coughs, and other gremlins would always creep in, even when I scripted what I wanted to say. It’s actually a lot easier deleting a blooper and re-recording a single sentence than trying to do Hamlet without a break. 😉
So that’s what I’ve learned to-date. I would recommend the KLM microphone and Action!. I would not recommend VideoStudio Pro 2021. That said, I would advise you to buy a video editor that is sophisticated enough to offer multiple tracks, including voice over, and does it without any fuss or bother. Do I know of one? No, but perhaps people will chime in, in comments.
I’ll start with the ‘why’. Once you upload a video to Youtube, any changes you make will require that you:
delete the original video, and
upload the new, updated video
Why is this a problem? Because any views or comments you get on the old video will be lost.
The only exception to this is if the changes you want to make are minor. In that case, you can use the in-built Youtube video editor to make small changes to the existing video.
What kind of changes? Let me show you in this 4 minute, how-to video that I created:
I decided to have a little fun with the ‘speaking bits’ so used one of my gaming avatars to ‘animate’ the boring bits. Ahem…
In the example shown, the ‘tail’ of the video was too long. The tail is the bit right at the end which is where you want to display end screen information:
These ‘elements’ encourage viewers to see other videos you’ve created, or subscribe to your channel. The last thing you want is for viewers to switch off without seeing more of your content.
So the end screen elements are very important, but they can only be added after you upload your video. This makes getting the timing right a bit of a challenge. I’m sure professionals know precisely how long to make the ‘tail’ of the video, but I always seem to make them too long.
According to my research, end screen elements need to be on-screen for a minimum of 5 seconds. Anything less than that and they simply don’t appear. The maximum time they can appear is 20 seconds, so you need to find the sweet spot and time your ‘tail’ to match.
After much messing around, I finally got my end screen elements to appear just after the ‘blow kiss/goodbye’. And I had to use the method shown in the video to do it. 🙂
And finally, this is the video that made me scoot down this rabbit hole in the first place:
I’m having a lot of fun creating these gaming walkthroughs, but I’m also learning the skills I’ll need once I start making how-to videos in earnest.
After the amazing PowerPoint effects achieved by Diana Wallace Peach in my previous post, I just had to see if I could master some of those techniques myself. The answer is…kind of. This is my, ahem, masterpiece:
I don’t think I’ll be headed to Cannes any time soon. But…I did learn some really useful skills, and today I’ll walk you through the PowerPoint ‘Remove Background’ option. If you’ve tried this option before and given up in frustration, don’t worry, I had the same problems so we’ll do it step by step. 🙂
The first step is to open PowerPoint [hereafter known as PP] and select a blank slide.
Next, click the ‘Insert’ option on the Ribbon and find an image that you want to work with:
The image below is the first one I worked with:
The picture frame looks as if it’s empty, but in reality the middle is not transparent at all. It’s white.
In order to have the mask appear as if it were inside the frame, I had to get rid of the white in the middle. Easier said than done. When I tried to remove the background in PowerPoint, PP wanted to delete the frame, not the white in the middle!
PP helpfully colours the area[s] to be removed in purple. Pity that’s precisely what I want to keep. -rolls eyes-
I guess the default setting assumes that whatever you want to keep will be in the middle…. Trust me to do everything backwards. In my own defence, however, the labels on the buttons and the explanations of those buttons only made sense after I’d finally worked out what to do and how to do it. -grumble-
Anyway, allow me to explain the buttons:
Mark Areas to Keep
If you hover your mouse over the ‘Mark Areas to Keep’ button, you’ll get a tooltip that says: ‘Draw lines to mark areas to keep in the picture’. I assumed that the word ‘lines’ had to be some kind of misnomer. It would take a lifetime to draw enough lines to take out half a picture! Ditto for the ‘Mark areas to Remove’ button. I was wrong.
When you click on the ‘Mark Areas to Keep button’, and then draw any kind of line across your picture, a whole section of the picture will be selected. In the following screenshot, I clicked ‘Mark Areas to Keep’ and then drew a line from the top left of the picture frame to a point near the bottom. The line was not straight:
Given that the picture frame is made up of straight lines, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to ‘fill in’ the frame properly. What I discovered was that the ‘line’ is not set until you release the mouse button at the end point.
In other words, you click the mouse at your start point and hold it down as you drawn the line. If the line is wonky, you can straighten it just by moving the mouse. So long as you keep the mouse button held down, you can keep moving the line wherever you want:
Mark Areas to Remove
Once I’d ‘marked’ all the purple areas and changed them to ‘keeps’, it was time to mark the middle as an ‘Area to Remove’. The principle is the same as for marking areas to keep: click the ‘Mark Areas to Remove’ button, click the mouse on an area to be removed, hold down the mouse button as you move the mouse across the image, release the mouse button to trigger the ‘remove’:
If you make a mistake, you can undo the last line by clicking the ‘Delete Mark’ button and then clicking the line you wish to remove. That second part is critical as nothing will happen unless you do. You can also use the keyboard shortcut CTRL-Z to ‘undo’ the last thing you did. So much easier.
Discard All Changes
This is like a global undo. If you select this button you will delete every single change you have made. Use with caution.
This is the button you hit once you’ve done all that you want to do to the image. ‘Keep Changes’ bakes all the changes so they ‘stick’. No more undoing any of the changes. It’s the last step in the whole process.
And now for those eyeballs.
PP is very good at detecting curves so long as there is a strong contrast between the object and its background. The eyeball I wanted to use is perfect…except for the bit at the top where the eyelashes are basically the same colour as that part of the eye.
To excavate that eyeball from the eyelashes, I made the image as big as possible using the slider down in the status bar [bottom of screen]. Then I clicked on ‘Mark Areas to Remove’ and drew teensy weensy little lines. <<cue grinding of teeth>>
My stubbornness persistence paid off because I managed to get an almost circular eyeball, but when I tried it in the mask, the not-quite-perfect curve was noticeable. So I cheated. I turned the eyeball upside down. 🙂
I should say here that the easiest image to clean up was the mask!
Although the left side of the mask is in shadow, the shadow is a different colour AND there’s still enough contrast to allow PP to detect the edges.
All in all, I’m loving the ‘Remove Background’ function in PP. It has limitations – the lack of curved lines is a big one – but for large jobs that can be a little rough, it’s miles easier than vectoring an image in Corel. As always though, you have to use the right tool for the right job.
My thanks to Diana for introducing me to a very useful tool indeed. 😀
For those who don’t know, Diana Wallace Peach is an immensely talented writer in the scifi/fantasy genre, but today we’re not talking books. Today we’re talking book trailers, and the graphical wizardry that Diana achieves with PowerPoint.
I have to tell you that despite knowing how to use Power Point as a presentation tool in business, I never knew it could be used to create something like this:
I wish I could show you the whole trailer, but that won’t be available until Diana’s new book launches in mid August. In the meantime, I’m going to share with you what Diana told me when I asked her how on earth she achieved such amazing effects.
Take it away, Diana. 😀
Hi Andrea, my techie friend. Thanks so much for having me over and asking about trailers and how I make mine. I’ll try to give enough information to get someone started.
I’m pretty clueless when it comes to technology, so I rely on my old business days, and I make my trailers using PowerPoint. Yep, just old-fashioned PowerPoint.
I learned by trial and error and just playing around with the program. It’s fairly intuitive, or I wouldn’t have been able to figure it out. I encourage lots of experimentation, and no one should stress – the undo button is our friend.
Finally, don’t try this if you’re facing a deadline. It’s not hard at all, but it is very time-consuming.
Now, to get started, here are ten basic steps:
Start with a blank slide, and “insert” a black rectangle that covers the whole thing.
Choose an image (or 2 or 3) that will work as your background and cover the black rectangle. Use copyright-free images, and stretch them to fit if necessary. Pixabay and Unsplash are great resources for free images. Or use your own! (Example 1)
Insert the images that you’re going to blend into your final picture. I chose 4 of them for this tutorial, but for some of my slides, I might have many more. Before I can use them, I might need to remove the background. Note that when you double click on an image, a little box appears in your menu bar that says “Remove Background.” (Example 2)
One at a time I remove the background from the images by marking areas to keep or remove. (Example 3)
Then I’m going to layer the images, rotate them, resize them, and position them until I like how they look. (Example 4).
To make them blend a little better, I right-click on each image and click on “Format Picture.” Here, there are loads of options from softening edges to adding a glow, shadow, or special effects. You can lighten, change contrast, or crop. You can also manipulate color. I softened the edges of these flowers a little, but for most of my composite slides for trailers, I do a lot of manipulation to make them blend into one scene. Just experiment until the slide looks right to you. (Example 5)
Insert text and format it! (Example 6)
Transition: Transition determines how your slides are going to transition from one to the next. Play with the “how” of the transition (fade or wipe, for example) and how many seconds you want it to take. Your whole slide will transition with all its images.
Animation: Animation is how to delay the appearance of some images once the transition is underway. Again, you get to play with the “how” and “how fast.” You can have images fade into view or fly in (for example). I will typically create all my slides and then add transitions and animations at the end. You can preview what you’ve done under “Review” and make a hundred adjustments (like I do) until you’re satisfied. (Example 7 – video)
Audio: You can add copyright-free music or add your own recording. For me, this means more fiddling with transitions and animations to make the slides line up with the music. Once you’re done you can export the entire trailer to an MP4 video. Easy Peasy! And Have Fun!
Easy Peasy she says! -grin- I don’t know about you, but I still think there’s a bit of magic in there somewhere. I also think that Diana is much more of a techie than she gives herself credit for, so…. I’m making her an Honorary Geek, complete with this lovely engraved award to put on her mantle piece:
I’ve used Excel for a very long time, but I literally just discovered this neat trick so I’m going to share. 🙂
Ok, to start at the beginning, I started an Excel spreadsheet to create a super accurate timeline of the Vokhtah story. To track the number of days of the timeline, I created a column and ‘filled’ it with a sequence of numbers. Most people know how to do this but I’ll cover it nonetheless:
Step 1 Type in two consecutive numbers and then select both together:
Selecting these two consecutive numbers tells Excel the step order – i.e. 1 + 1 = 2, 2 + 1 = 3, 3 + 1 = 4 etc. If you typed in 10 followed by 20, Excel would know the step order was 10 + 10 = 20, 20 + 10 = 30, etc.
Once Excel knows the step order, clicking and holding the small square [as shown below] allows you to drag that step order to as many cells as you wish:
In the screenshot above, I dragged the handle down to the 7th cell, filling all the cells with the correct sequence of numbers.
So far so good? Stay with me. This is where it gets exciting. Being able to fill a series of cells with consecutive numbers was perfect for tracking how many days there were in the timeline, but that didn’t help me work out on which calendar day the journey/story began.
To put this as simply as possible, imagine a task takes you 10 days to complete, and you finish it on the last day of March [which has 31 days]. Now imagine if someone asked you which day of the month you started the task. If it’s only a few days you can easily count backwards, but if it’s more than a few days, you might have to drag out a calendar to work it out.
On Vokhtah, there are no months per se. Instead, there are 4 seasons which have an irregular number of days. Book 1 of Vokhtah takes place during the season of Tohoh, which has 100 days. To find out which calendar day the story began, I needed to do a backwards fill. This is how I did it.
Click in a vacant cell.
Look at the top right corner of the Excel toolbar and click the small arrow next to the ‘Fill’ icon:
This will display a small, drop down menu.
Select the ‘UP’ option from the drop down menu.
Now type the last number of your desired fill sequence in the cell.
Next, type the second last number of your desired fill sequence in the next cell up.
Select both cells.
Click-hold-drag the small square box UP to fill the cells from last to first [or any point in between]:
In the example shown above, I only dragged the small square as far as the number 4. In my real spreadsheet I dragged it from 100:
to Tohoh 42 – i.e. the day of the season on which the journey/story began:
I know a lot of writers out there will be shaking their heads right about now. “Use a spreadsheet? No way!”
To be honest, as a pantster, I would never have thought of using a spreadsheet to work out how the story should progress. But once I started writing books in a series, I had to make sure that info. in the first book married up to info in the second and third books. And that’s where Excel comes in because it allows me to outline in reverse.
So there you have it. Outlining in reverse aided by a backwards fill from Excel. It’s been a good day. 🙂
We’re all aware of the need to be careful when we download something from the internet, but how does ‘being careful’ actually work?
In this short post, I’ll show you how to enjoy the benefits of the internet as safely as possible. The screenshots in this how-to are all taken from Windows 7, so if you’re not running Windows 7 the details may be different, but the core principles will be the same. Onwards!
Do not rely on your Windows firewall etc to keep your computer safe. Buy a good, reputable antivirus software and install it. I alternate between Kaspersky antivirus and BitDefender antivirus, which are both reputed to be the ‘best’ at the moment. From memory, both cost under $50 US for 12 months protection. That price includes both the software itself and the updates that keep it current with information about all the latest viruses. Antivirus without updates is like a car with all four tyres deflated.
Install your antivirus and make sure it can access updates automatically. You may think you’ll do it every day, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions…right?
Once your antivirus software is installed and updated, it will work quietly in the background, keeping your pc safe. BUT! You can also use it to ‘manually’ check every app you download from the internet.
This check should be carried out before you actually ‘run’ the app or install it. How? So glad you asked. 😀
Download the app and save it to a location on your computer. It should look something like this:
Once you download and save the app., use Windows Explorer to find it. My location will look different to yours. Don’t worry, just keep looking until you find the app on your computer.
Once you’ve found the app, right click on the thumbnail [picture] of it. This will open the right click menu as shown below:
Again, my computer will look different to yours, but every version of Windows I have ever used has a right click menu, and on it you will find the name of your antivirus software.
Click the name of your antivirus software and you should see a little sub-menu. On that little sub-menu you will find an option that allows you to scan the app. Click the scan option.
Most reputable apps will only take a short time to scan and the scan will come up as ‘clean’. When it does, you’re ready to use the app. If, however, the scan comes up with an error of some sort – DO NOT USE THE APP!!!! Delete it immediately because you’re better safe than sorry.
If the app is one you’ve paid good money for, contact the publisher and explain that your antivirus has found an error. A good publisher will thank you and send you a ‘clean’ version.
Okay, that’s it. Learn to love your right click menu. It really can save your bacon. 😉
Bad news for WordPress.com users – the progress bar can only be installed by those using WordPress.org. The reason? Only the paid, hosted version allows bloggers to install plugins. And the progress bar is a plugin.
How do I know? This is a screenshot from the download site for the progress bar. It shows what the plugin looks like after it’s installed:
For newer bloggers, that’s the old Admin. Dashboard. With WordPress.com you cannot add anything to the Dashboard menu. Nothing. Zip. Rien. Therefore, the screenshot must be of the WordPress.org dashboard. And that means us Freebloggers can’t use the progress bar. -cries quietly-
While looking for something else entirely, I discovered a WordPress widget called ‘Gallery’. And voila! There it is on the sidebar to the right. The images are a little small, but it’s nice to be able to do something useful with all those faces!
And the gallery provides a nice introduction to the price change for the Innerscape Omnibus. In line with most other bundles on Amazon, I’ve raised the price to $5.99. This price point makes it slightly cheaper than buying each book separately, and it allows me to do ‘specials’ every now and then without having to do an exclusive via KDP.
The instructions mention that you can get this app via the WordPress widgets. That’s not quite right. It is not available on the free, WordPress.com widget page. I assume it will be available to the paid WordPress.org sites. If someone could check that out for me I’d be eternally grateful!
Still on the progress bar, there is a manual way of inserting it into your blog but I haven’t tried it out yet. If I get it to work, I’ll post a mini how-to about it. Alternately, if someone out there gets it to work, please post some instructions, preferably with pictures so we can all start using it!
Ahem, and the reason I want that progress bar is because, as Robert Chazz Chute says:
‘The meters really get me amped and moving. I don’t want to see a static progress bar and measurement gives me a sense of momentum. That which cannot be measured will not be improved.’
Like Robert, I’m all betwixt and between at the moment. Once I sit down and start writing, I’m okay, but getting myself to that point has never been this hard before. I know what’s causing at least part of the problem – that miserable virus – but knowing and ignoring are two very different things. So, I’m hoping a progress bar will give me that little bit of extra incentive to ignore the outside world and escape into Vokhtah again.
Okay, I feel as if I’ve been productive enough. Time for some lunch. Cheers!
The following how-to uses the WordPress interface [as at July, 2020], not the old Admin. Dashboard. When you’re done, you’ll end up with a small, slideshow of images that can be quite effective at catching the eye of casual visitors.
You will need at least one sidebar in your theme – i.e. a visible area next to or below the spot at which your blog posts normally appear. I have two sidebars on my theme and they both appear to the right of the blog post area:
My particular theme also allows me to have a ‘footer’ bar, and this is where I’m going to put my slideshow.
Next, you will need to have images to place in your slideshow. Yes, obvious, I know, but you will need to:
edit the images so they’re all the same size – it looks better,
upload the required images to the WordPress media library before you begin creating the gallery.
Once all the images have been uploaded* to your media library, you’re ready to begin:
If you are in Reader, click the tab for ‘My Sites’ [top left of your WordPress screen],
From the list of available options in My Sites, click ‘Design’,
Design has two further options – Customize and Themes. Click ‘Customize’,
From the Customize options click ‘Widgets’,
You should now see the areas that can take Widgets**
As mentioned earlier, my particular theme has three such areas and they look like this:
Finally, select the area in which you want your gallery [Widget] to appear. For me it was ‘Footer Widget Area’.
You should now see a button for ‘+ Add a Widget’. Click it to be taken to a list of available widgets [listed in alphabetical order]:
Scroll down the list until you reach ‘Gallery’. Select it. You should now see the gallery widget, ready for you to use:
Type a title for your gallery [because you can have more than one], and then click the ‘Add Images’ area as shown above [big red arrow].
You should now see the images in your Media Library. Unfortunately, there is no helpful message to tell you what to do next. A simple ‘Select an image’ would have been so helpful…ahem.
Click the first image you want to include in your gallery. Don’t worry about the order because you can change that later.
On the right of the library of images you will now see a box for adding information about the image you have chosen. Type in the title and…
DO. NOT. CLICK. ‘Add a New Gallery’ ! ! ! This is not how you complete the selection of your first image! ! !
Okay, I’m really going to get grumpy here with the WordPress developers. Not giving any clues as to where bloggers are supposed to go next is just asking for trouble. Most people are not mind readers. Really poor design.
To complete the selection of the first image and go on to select a second image…just click another image. Yes, I know, about as intuitive as a kick to the head.
Continuing clicking images until you have selected all the images you want to place in your slideshow. At this point, mine looked like this:
Down the bottom of the screenshot you can see the six images I chose. The bit on the right shows details for the last image I chose. I added a title for clarity, but you will get a chance to add a caption later. Last but not least, there is the blue ‘Create a new gallery’ button. Now you can click it.
The next screen will be the ‘Edit Gallery’ page. Here you can re-order the sequence of images by dragging and dropping them into the correct position. You can also add captions to each image and change the size of the image [Thumbnail is the default]:
I only added two captions to these images, but I did move the image for The Vintage Egg to the end of the list.
When I was happy with the sequence of images, I clicked the small down arrow next to ‘Type’ to show the available display options [the default is Thumbnail Grid]. Down the bottom of the list is ‘Slideshow’. Click it and then click the blue ‘Insert gallery’ button as shown.
Almost done! You should now be looking at a preview screen. As my gallery is in the footer, I had to scroll all the way to the bottom to see it working:
If the preview doesn’t work as expected, click the ‘Edit Gallery’ button to the left of the preview. If everything does work as expected, click ‘Done’ [to save the gallery].
Finally, click ‘Save Changes’ to save the whole lot.
To exit from the customize area, click either the back button or the ‘X’ button [to the left of Save Changes].
Apologies for making this such a long how-to, but I wanted it to be suitable for even the newest blogger. And some of the interface was down right murky.
Have fun, Meeks
p.s. this post was created using the block editor. To get the * asterisks down the bottom to show as asterisks [instead of automatically beginning a bullet point list], I had to press the spacebar a couple of times. Apparently this ‘told’ the block editor that I wanted to stay in the paragraph block. -rolls eyes-
* Please contact me in Comments if you need help getting to this step.
** Widgets are small ‘apps’ that you can insert into your blog to make it work the way you want it to. Widgets can include anything from images and buttons to galleries and links. Widgets can only be placed in certain areas of your blog. Those areas will depend upon the type of theme you chose when you first created your blog.