It’s been an odd week, with lots of rain and too little sleep, but I have been fairly productive. First up is my latest how-to video: ‘ESO – how to build a pointy wall’. It’s quite a long video so I don’t expect anyone to watch it all the way through!
The reason I’m showcasing this video is because of the new skills I’ve learned using VideoStudio Pro 2021, my video editing software.
The first thing I learned was how to create short, animated visual directions. The video below is only a few seconds long and demonstrates what I mean about a ‘visual direction’:
The animation is created from within VideoStudio Pro 2021 using the Painting Tool. I can see this tool getting a lot of use once I start making how-to videos for self-publishing.
The second thing I learned was how to manually fade the background music in and out. VideoStudio Pro 2021 has a feature called ‘Audio Ducking’ which is supposed to make the music go quiet when there’s narration on the video. The feature is okay, but I wasn’t too impressed with when it decided to raise and lower the volume of the music. So I went looking for a manual solution and found one. 😀
The blue track is the music track, and the purple one is for narration. When I’m talking, I want the music to be very soft, but when there’s a gap in the narration, I want the music to swell. The section of the tracks I’ve circled in red is one of those gaps. As you can see, the white line showing the volume of the music goes up – i.e. becomes louder – while I’m not talking.
To make VideoStudio Pro display the audio controls, press the icon circled in red below:
Controlling the volume of the music manually is a bit time-consuming and ‘clunky’, but I think the end result is much better.
In case anyone is interested, the music was created by Peritune, a Japanese composer who writes lovely, non-jarring music that compliments my videos beautifully.
And last but not least, I’ve just made my new Youtube ‘handle’ :
I’m not quite sure how the handle is actually supposed to work, but apparently in time, it will be used to personalise the URL of my Youtube channel. A small thing, but Indies have to grab their branding where they find it!
It’s Sunday here in Melbourne, and for a wonder the rain has stopped so I’m going to do a garden promenade with the animals.
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. 😀
All my appliances are between 10 and 15 years old, so they’ve all started to die. Today it was the turn of the washing machine. Unfortunately, it was full of towels at the time…
I’ll leave all the expletives deleted to your imaginations and plunge straight into the how-to. Firstly, my washing machine is a top loader and has an outlet hose that empties the water into my laundry trough. This means I can move the outlet hose wherever I want.
I could have moved the outlet hose to a bucket, but my back’s bad enough without having to lift heavy buckets of water. Luckily, I happened to have some garden pipe available so I pushed the garden pipe through the dog door and placed the end of the outlet hose inside the much bigger garden pipe:
I raised the garden pipe UP to the outlet hose. I did not lower the outlet hose to the garden pipe.
Believe me, this is vital because as soon as the end of the outlet hose drops below the level of the water in the washing machine, gravity will send that water gushing out. You really, REALLY don’t want the outlet hose to do that. Think soapy water all over the floor. 😦
In fact, the picture shows both pipes resting on top of a glass vase to ensure that none of the water comes back up and out onto the laundry floor. When you think you’ve finished draining the washing machine, life both pipes up together before withdrawing the outlet hose. Oh, and make sure the garden pipe has drained fully before laying it down as well!
Well, I’m going to have to put more water into the machine now, to rinse those damn towels, so I’ll just wish you a better Sunday than mine has been.
Down the bottom you can see a number of playlists. They’re just categories of videos. The how-to playlist only contains one video, but in time, I intend to create videos for all of the relevant sections of the free ‘How to print your novel with Kindle Direct Publishing’ book.
I’m not there yet in terms of skill, but the video below is my first attempt to do a how-to for the ESO housing editor:
This video will be the first in a series, but boy was it hard to do. Having a chatty narration ‘style’ is one thing, waffling on is another.
Lesson number 1: boring viewers is a cardinal sin!
Lesson number 2: waffling on is boring, especially when the viewer only wants information. 😦
As my narration style is naturally, um, ‘chatty’, I’ve had to do a lot of cutting and splicing to get rid of the waffle. Great practice in editing, not so great for the sound quality which waxed and waned with each splice. In the end, I was forced to do one long take with deliberate pauses so I could edit out the worst of the gaffs without affecting the sound quality too much.
Those hiccups aside, I’m really enjoying this learning curve. If any of you are already experienced in creating videos or have recommendations for tools to use, I’d love to hear them. I’m currently using RecMaster which is a great entry level video recorder, but maybe not quite powerful enough for my ambitious projects.
I also have a favour to ask – could you please subscribe to my channel? Youtube will allow me to have a customised URL for my channel – i.e. something with my name in it instead of hieroglyphics – but only after I reach the magic number of 100 subscribers. At the moment I have 4. It’s a big ask, I know, but I would really appreciate your help on this one.
In a recent post, I wrote about my search for a screen capture app and showed you two short videos I made using Bandicam. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that I was not using a free app. I was using a demo version with severe limitations. I was tempted to buy the app, but the price was a little too high for my liking.
After some more searching, I discovered RecMaster which combines dead easy screen capture with a [very] basic video editor. I bought a year’s subscription for $19.99 USD and made a video…but when I inserted it into this post, I was horrified by how hard it was to read!
The problem is two fold. First, the default Windows fonts used in titles and menus are so small that when you reduce them even further to a standard video format, they become impossible to read. Then I discovered that WordPress makes them even smaller. Vimeo does have a fullscreen setting:
But I worried that people would not know to turn it on. So I fiddled with the Windows screen settings. They are now much too big for normal use, but they’re just about right for a video…on Youtube. Here on WordPress, the size is still impossibly small.
I was going to update all my how-to posts, especially the self-publishing ones, by adding videos of important bits, but now I’m not sure I’ll bother. Or maybe I’ll bite the bullet and get a Youtube account.
Do you use the fullscreen mode in either Youtube or Vimeo? Is it more trouble than it’s worth? Should I keep experimenting and make the default Windows fonts even bigger?
Anyway, the video below was recorded using the larger fonts. To me it’s still horribly squint-worthy. What do you think. Please be honest as I don’t want to waste my time making videos that no one will watch.
One of the things that distinguishes the iVokh Traders from the normal iVokh is that Traders aren’t afraid of fire. In fact, they light their underground cave system with burning torches. This means the colour of the light is different – yellow flame vs blue glowworm – and the smell is distinctive.
That all came from my imagination, but now I’m writing scenes that require a more factual approach, so how did primitive peoples make torches?
The whole video is fascinating, but the highlight for me was around the 6 minute mark.
So, what are these primitive materials, and would the iVokh have access to them?
The main ingredient in primitive torches [in the Malaysia jungle] is rosin. If any of you have played the violin, you’ll know that rosin is vital for the bow [thanks Dad]:
Rosin is a solid form of resin, the sticky substance that comes from trees that is not unlike sap….Violin rosin is made by heating fresh liquid resin, until it becomes solid. It smells a bit like pine and has a glassy, orange look.
I underlined the bit about the smell of ‘pine’ because that too is a distinctive feature of the Traders’ caves.
But wait…there’s more. I did ballet as a kid and I remember putting rosin on the soles of my ballet shoes – for grip . In fact, as I went from link to link, I discovered that rosin has a million and one uses, even today. Not so primitive after all. 🙂
Anyway, rosin is only one of the ingredients used to make primitive torches; ‘punky wood’ [dried rotten wood] is the other. Crumbled together in a 50/50 ratio, this mixture will burn quite happily for a couple of hours.
In the Junglecraft video, the presenter used bamboo as the locally sourced ‘container’ for the torch, but I’m pretty sure most of the inhabitable parts of Vokhtah are savanah rather than jungle, so I think the iVokh would have used animal horns instead. I haven’t actually created a horned creature per se, but I’m sure there must be a few somewhere in Vokhtah. Maybe down south where where only the Traders have been… 😉
So there you have it, my latest bit of research. I had fun, and I hope you did too.
Before I finish though, I have a small rant to get off my chest: I HATE the new preview function in WordPress. With the old Preview function, I could preview my post in a new tab and can jump back and forth between the two tabs, fixing typos as I find them.
With the new Preview function, I get a floating [sic] pane that can’t be moved. As the ‘edit post’ screen is underneath the preview pane, I have to close the pane each time I find a typo. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit. Then reopen it to continue proofing. Then close it to edit…
Grrrr! Do none of the ‘Happiness Engineers’ ever test run their ‘improvements’? Or do none of the testers bother to fix bloody typos? Ahem… Okay, end rant.
Back when I was a kid, my Dad used to sharpen all his own tools with a whetstone. This is a modern day whetstone, and how to use it:
I really enjoyed that video because it was instructive and funny. Unfortunately, the iVokh don’t have modern day tools, so the next step of my research was to see how primitive peoples sharpened things. This is what I found:
This video explains how to sharpen a stone arrowhead, but what I really want to know is how to sharpen a claw…a to’pak claw. Luckily, the tool used to knap the edge of the arrowhead is an antler, and antlers are made of bone. As an aside, the presenter sharpened his antler tool on a piece of sandstone. Yes! Getting closer.
And here, at last is what I was looking for – a [replica] black bear claw with a sharpish point that could be sharpened even further with that sandstone!
In the scene I’m currently writing, the Yellow sharpens a to’pak claw and uses it to carve Death’s hide…as a punishment. Thrilled that it’s possible in my world as well as theirs. 🙂
Soundcloud strikes again! I fell in love with this track first thing this morning and have been playing it on repeat ever since. To hear the track for yourself, simply click the orange ‘play’ button below:
If you want to place Soundcloud tracks in your posts, ignore the confusing instructions about embedding etc and just start a new paragraph [in block editor]. Next, copy the URL shown under the Share option in Soundcloud. It’ll look something like this:
To copy the URL [web address] circled in red above, simply click inside the address box. The whole URL will be highlighted in blue.
Now, press the CTRL C keys on your keyboard [this will ‘copy’ the URL to your Clipboard].
Finally, go back into your WordPress post, click inside a new paragraph and press the CTRL V keys on your keyboard [this will copy the URL from your Clipboard into WordPress.
Note: these two keyboard shortcuts will work on any computer running a Windows operating system – e.g. Windows 7 or 10 etc.
After WordPress does its magic, you should see the track displayed with the background image and the Play button. Click Play and away you go!