Tag Archives: Corel

ESO player housing: Moon Sugar Meadow

I completed this house some time ago, but my video capturing and editing skills have only just caught up. This video includes a number of new features, including a soundtrack:

I still have a lot to learn but I now know how to use the ESO in-game camera a bit better. It doesn’t matter how good your editing skills may be if the raw footage is poor quality.

On the video editing front, I’ve learned how to:

  • Cut and splice the video footage with still images to create a smooth flowing visual narrative,
  • Focus on important images using freeze frame,
  • Narrate the important ‘bits’,
  • Add a ‘soundtrack’ to help tie the whole thing together.

I’m particularly proud of the soundtrack as I was just experimenting, and it worked. lol

For anyone who’s interested, I recorded roughly ten minutes of video just for the background music. Then I took the video into VideoStudio Pro 2021 [the software I use for editing] and ‘split’ the audio out of the video. This left me with just an audio track. I then added the audio track to the completed video.

What all that means is that the video is made up of three layers:

  • the edited video [complete with sound effects like bird calls and footsteps],
  • the voice over narration, and
  • the music soundtrack.

Once my skills improve a bit more, I hope to be able to create how-to videos and maybe, one day, a trailer for my books. That’s all in the future though. For now, I’m still on a massive learning curve. Thanks for coming along for the ride. πŸ™‚

cheers,
Meeks


New toys, new skills

Some months back, I invested in Corel VideoStudio Pro, as well the Action! video capture program. One helps me take good quality video footage, the other helps me turn that raw footage into something a great deal more professional. Unfortunately, both have required quite a steep learning curve, but I’m proud to say I can now do a proper ‘voice over’[1].

In time, I hope to make short how-to videos to complement my how-to posts. You saw a tiny snippet of that in my last post. For now though, I’m doing player housing walkthroughs while I learn the ropes. This is my latest walkthrough:

A narrated walkthrough of the Undercity

This particular housing project is set in an area that looks like a real wasteland, so I tried to reproduce some of the things I visualised in The Vintage Egg, in particular the story about the Christmas Roast. I think I managed to fudge the grim feel of the Undercity, but I couldn’t quite re-create the high tech architecture. Still, I had a lot of fun. πŸ™‚

I’m off to practise some more new skills.

cheers,
Meeks

[1] My first efforts saw me recording the ‘narration’ at the same time as I was trying to film the video. Okay for simple things, next to impossible for more complex things. Now I can focus on the video first, then record the narration over the top of the video. Still need a script but it’s miles easier.]


WordPress vs Medium

This post is not a full on comparison of WordPress and Medium. Rather, it’s a comparison of my expectations of the two blogging platforms. When I first started writing on Medium, I thought I would gradually shift my focus from WordPress to Medium. But things haven’t worked out that way. Instead, I’ve come to realise that the two blogging platforms bring out different types of writing from me. And I enjoy both.

Based on the reading I’ve done on Medium, I’d have to say that the writing is generally more ‘formal’, like articles you might find in an old-fashioned newspaper or magazine. By contrast, WordPress is more chatty, like a conversation amongst friends. Of course, these could simply be my perceptions of both platforms, but I do enjoy the freedom of being able to alternate between the two styles of writing.

lol – And then, of course, there are the weeks when the two overlap, like this week. I wrote an article about getting an ABN on Medium and posted almost the exact same article here on WordPress. I also created a ‘Books’ page for both Medium and WordPress. Nevertheless, these overlapping weeks will probably be the exception rather than the rule because I’m simply more comfortable writing certain kinds of things here.

What kinds of things? Well, recipes for example. Or music posts. Or progress reports like this:

The pic above is the new cover I’m working on for Vokhtah. It’s as rough as guts because I’m still experimenting with ideas, but I’m happier with this particular idea than I have been with earlier ones. In case you’re curious, these are some of the ones I’m less happy with:

or this:

or this:

There are a couple more, but they’re far less finished than even these. Once I have some finished covers that I’m happy with, I’ll ask for feedback from you guys, especially the artists amongst you. πŸ™‚

Okay, well that’s it for this Friday in Australia. I hope you don’t mind if I start the weekend without you. :p

Enjoy!

Meeks


Eyeballs Update 24/2/2018

Sorry! Just a few more responses needed, promise. πŸ™‚

I uploaded the background graphics that worked the best and took screenshots so you could see what they looked like on Medium and here they are:

And here’s the reworked pic for No. 4:

I’ll be honest. I do like this last one, but I couldn’t resist making a few tweaks. The gold circuitry on the left looks very similar to the original shape of No. 4:

And yes, there’s more on this pic than on the actual background pic. That’s because Medium doesn’t display the whole graphic. Luckily it does give you the option of choosing which area to keep so I kept more of the sky. Anyway, the small additions on the left hand side are minimal.

On the right hand side, however, I tweaked a bit more:

Now, the big questions. Do you like it with the gold? Do you prefer it with the Left pattern or the Right pattern? Or…radical thought, should I leave the two sides asymmetrical?

I promise, this is the last, and I really appreciate your feedback. πŸ™‚

-hugs-

Meeks


More eyeballs please!

Okay, I’ve been trying to come up with a background image for my new home, but nothing quite grabs me so…do any of these grab you? [Apologies for the loading times].

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

The gold circuits are from Nabatea, and I started with them. Unfortunately, each small part is ‘cut’ from a picture, so the overall file size becomes rather big and hard to work with. I was also a bit concerned the colours didn’t quite work together. So then I started with the silver circuits and wasn’t happy with any of them either. That’s when I redesigned no. 4 from scratch. But…eh. I need to step away now. :/

Thanks for the feedback.

cheers

Meeks


#Corel Draw 8’s Skew function and a new graphic for Twitter

…and here it is!

For those unfamiliar with Twitter, we’re allowed to ‘pin’ one tweet to our home page, or whatever it’s called. That tweet can be anything, including a post from another social media site such as WordPress. If there’s an attention-grabbing graphic on that pinned tweet then other people are more likely to click to see what it’s all about. Well, that’s the theory anyway. πŸ™‚

Until now, I’ve been using the awesome 3D looking graphic Chris Graham [The Story Reading Ape] created for me back in 2017. If you follow me on Twitter you’ve probably seen it a million times:

I still like the graphic, but the Innerscape episodes no longer exist so it was well and truly time for a new one. And this is where the Skew comes in.

I used Corel Draw 8 again, and I’m fairly happy with the result, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Part of that was my own fault as I underestimated the size of each book’s cover graphic. Corel can usually handle them without a hiccup, but this time it kept stalling on certain functions and flat out refused to allow me to export the finished ‘group’ of images.

I investigated the usual suspects – file size, hidden parts of images that take up a lot of resources, a bottleneck in the clipboard. Nothing. Zip. Nada.

What on earth was going on?

I’m ashamed to admit that it took me hours to finally realise that the Corel ‘Skew’ function was the problem. Basically, skewing a complex graphic or group of graphics is not like adjusting the size or any of the other, ordinary transformations. It uses resources. Lots and lots of resources. I could get away with one or two applications of the skew but after that, it was as if the whole system was seizing up.

My computer is over three years old now, and it was middle of the road even when I had it built, so my problems with skew could have been exacerbated by lack-lustre computing power. Nevertheless, skew itself must have been doing something strange as well because when I tried to export the graphic, Corel couldn’t even display it in the export screen.

Anyway, lesson learned – use Skew sparingly and preferably not at all on big images/groups.

Time now to get Twitter sorted. πŸ™‚

cheers

Meeks

 


Innerscape update

In my ‘They. Have. Arrived’ post, I mentioned that I wasn’t completely happy with how the covers had turned out. It’s taken me the whole weekend to fix them, and I’ll have to re-upload all the cover files, but I’m finally happy with the ‘final final‘ versions. Yes, I know, don’t say it. πŸ™‚

One of the things I noticed once I had 3 physical books in my hands was that the spines didn’t completely line up. They were close but not 100% [and I know Dawn likes to line the spines up…]. So while I was fixing the width of the Miira spine, I decided to get all three spines right as well. And here they are:

-grin- They now line up to the hundredth of a millimetre…

Another thing that brought out the anal in me was The Godsend background image. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t completely control the level of transparency of the original background image so…I made my own. Who’d a thunk all that math my Dad made me study would come in handy?

I am proud of the perspective I managed to create by hand, but I have this nagging feeling that Corel must have a function somewhere that would have done the same thing a million times faster. Needless to say, I didn’t find it, but if anyone out there knows an easier way I’d really love to know. Anyway, here it is, and please don’t say it looks just like the old one. 😦

So that’s it. All I have to do now is proof read the interiors, re-upload the cover files, reconvert the Word files to StoryBox, get more ISBNs for the ‘new’ e-versions and…

I’m calling it a night. Time for dinner and some play time.

cheers

Meeks

 


Miira cover – in 3D

Just finished the Miira cover, version nth [honestly? I’ve lost track], so I thought I’d celebrate by playing around with a 3D version. I think it turned out okay. πŸ™‚

The new blurb for the back is:

In 2101, the average person can expect to reach one hundred and ten. Miira Tahn, last Lady of Dhurai, is dying at just fifty-two. Faced with a slow, agonizing death, her only hope is a virtual paradise called Innerscape. There, the Residents inhabit beautiful, digital bodies indistinguishable from the real thing.

Or so the brochures say. But even Eden had a snake, and once inducted, the Residents of Innerscape can never return to the real world. If anything goes wrong, they will be lost in the dark forever.

Yet for Miira Tahn, even a tenuous hope is better than the fate that awaits her.

‘…sometimes you just have to close your eyes and jump…’

And finally, underneath the blurb will be this:

β€˜Miira’ is the first book of the Innerscape cyle and corresponds to Episode 1 of the original series.

After way too much angst, I finally decided to bite the bullet and redo the ebooks as well. Once I’m finished, both print and digital versions will comprise just three books:

  • Miira, book 1 = Episode 1 of Innerscape
  • The Godsend, book 2 = Episodes 2 and 3 of Innerscape, and
  • Nabatea, book 3 = Episodes 4 and 5 of Innerscape.

It’s not an ideal solution, but it’s the only one I can think of that will translate a five-part serial into three, organic story arcs. And as an added bonus, the new splits will allow me to make book 1 permafree…once I persuade Amazon that it’s necessary.

But those are long range plans. For now I’d just like to thank everyone who commented on version 1 of the covers. You’ll never know how valuable your feedback was. Massive hugs all round! Now I’m off to make a pretty toy out of books 2 and 3. πŸ˜€

love

Meeks

 


Corel X8 tips for beginners – moving objects precisely

I have to start this post by saying I am not an expert in Corel X8, but I have been using vector graphics for a very long time, and there are some labour-saving tips I’ve learned along the way that I’d like to share. The first of these involves a basic feature called ‘Object position’:

The ‘X’ and ‘Y’ numbers describe the left/right and up/down position of the object on the page. But they’re more than just co-ordinates – they can also be used to change the position of the object on the page, precisely. So precisely in fact, that you can use ‘Object position’ to move your shapes one pixel at a time.

What’s a pixel?

If you zoom in on a digital image far enough, you will eventually see a grid of coloured squares. Each one of those squares is a pixel, and they are the building blocks of the most common digital images:

In the screenshot above, the image has been magnified to over 3000%. Despite this extreme magnification, however, small errors of alignment can and do show up in much large images. In the following screenshot I created two, almost identical pairs of shapes. The pair on the left is just one pixel shy of being aligned perfectly. The pair on the right is aligned perfectly. When you place the images against a contrasting background, the small imperfection in pair A can be seen as the hint of a ‘bump’:

The next screenshot is a super closeup of that one pixel difference:

 

In bitmap images [the kind you get from photographs], there are so many shades of pixels that you would never notice such a tiny imperfection. In vector drawings, however, especially of objects with straight lines, one pixel can make a difference.

The magnitude of the difference one pixel can make was brought home to me over the last few months as I’ve been working on the covers to my books. Like most people, I began by eyeballing the position of the shapes and moving them around manually. If I’m careful, I can line them up perfectly, most of the time. But if I have a lot of shapes, and they all have to be aligned perfectly, the strain on my eyes, neck and shoulders can become intense. That’s where the ‘Object position’ comes in. Instead of relying on hand-eye co-ordination, I simply type in co-ordinates, and X8 does the work for me.

So how do you use ‘Oject position’?

The first step is to ensure that your ‘Object position’ is counting pixels not milimetres etc. To change your page setup to pixels, click on the Layout tab and select ‘Page setup’ from the drop down menu as shown:

Next, select ‘Pixels’ from the drop down list and click ‘OK’:

 

The next step is to learn what those X and Y numbers actually mean.The X numbers show the object’s position from left to right, and increasing the number moves the object further to the right. For example, if the object’s starting position is 50, changing that number to 60 will move the object 10 pixels to the right. By the same token, changing the number from 50 to 40 will move the object 10 pixels to the left.

The following is a before-and-after screenshot of a real project I’m working on:

The X position of the shape in the pic on the left is 2266. The X position of the shape on the right is 2273. In other words, the shape moved 7 pixels to the right.

Unfortunately, using the Y numbers is not so intuitive. For reasons I will never understand, you have to decrease the number to move the object down and increase it to move the object up. In the following before-and-after shot, I increased the Y number from 406 to 411 in order to move the object up into alignment:

Using the Y position, in particular, is a bit hard to get used to, but once you do, a combination of up/down and left/right adjustment will ensure that your objects align with each other perfectly, every time.

The mantra to remember is:

  • Left = less
  • Right = more
  • Up = more
  • Down = less

In the next post, I’ll be talking about converting shapes to curves, adding and deleting nodes via the right click menu, and how to create a ‘mitred’ joint between two shapes.

cheers

Meeks

 

 


Using the Createspace cover template with Corel X8

This post is a bit premature as I haven’t yet shown you how to find the exact number of pages of your manuscript, but…I’ll do it now while it’s fresh in my mind. So, here goes. To create the cover, you will need:

  • the trim size of your finished book – i.e. the finished size you want the book to be. Mine is 5.5 x 8.5. You’ll find info. on trim sizes here.
  • the number of pages you end up with when you pour your manuscript into the appropriate trim size template – i.e. with the margins, etc., preset by the template.
  • and some kind of graphics package. The one I use is Corel Draw X8.

Finally, you will need the Createspace cover template for the trim size of your choice:

You can find the ‘Build Template’ here:

https://www.createspace.com/Help/Book/Artwork.do;jsessionid=5C5EE350ED4B426685472D15E9996AB3.2129a643a7ae5ba6aeba4b626969fb21

To use the Build Template, simply select the trim size of your book from the drop down list like so:

Then type the total number of pages into the box for ‘Number of Pages’ and click the ‘Build Template’ button. The little app. does its thing, and in a moment you should be looking at something like this:

Click the ‘Click here to begin Download’ button and save the file to your computer. As the file is a compressed zip file, you will need a program to unzip it. Most people use Winzip. I prefer a non-Microsoft product called PowerArchiver. Whichever product you use, the file will be unzipped to look like this:

5.5×8.5_BW_230 is the name of the unzipped cover template and it comes in two versions – pdf or png. As I don’t have an app that works with pdf files, I imported the png version of the file into Corel X8.

This is what it looks like:

 

The instructions for using the template start with ‘Create a new layer in your image editing software. This layer will serve as the design layer.’ In other words, keep the cover guide separate from the graphic you build on top of it.

This is good advice as you don’t want to accidently meld the guide and your cover, with potentially drastic results. Nevertheless, I didn’t use the layers in that way. After tracing the dimensions of the cover template, I superimposed the tracing over my background image and worked with the tracing on the same layer as everything else. That’s what the faint white line is on the cover:

 

I could have used the guidelines in X8, but at one point I had so many of them all over the place, it would have been impossible to see what I was doing. Now I just have to remember to delete the guidelines before I send the image off to Createspace. [And boy do I hope I haven’t just jinxed myself!]

I hope you’ve all had a pleasant weekend,

cheers

Meeks


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