JT's Blog

Things that interest me, things that happened to me, things that I like, even some things that I don't like...

iVI Pro Suggestions

iVI Pro's Conversion Queue

iVI Pro is a Mac application for importing and converting video; I've been using it to rip all my DVDs in anticipation of having to downsize in the near future. The following is a list of suggestions that I'm sending to them:

I’ve been happily using iVI Pro to rip all my DVD sets (413 sets, many of which have multiple discs, so the disc count is well over a thousand) and I’d like to offer a few suggestions that would make my workflow easier.

First, although I’ve checked the setting to assume an unidentified video is a TV show, when I insert a DVD the first import screen still assumes it’s a Movie, so I have to change that manually.

iVI Pro DVD Import Window

Now I have a lot of “TV” show DVDs that are not to be found in the normal databases, such as sets from The Great Courses. There are typically six half-hour “episodes” on each DVD, and when I tell iVI that the DVD is a TV show, it usually finds each of the episodes and checks them. So far so good, but then I have to enter the name of the series for each of them, as well as the episode number (it numbers them 1 through 6 by default). It would be nice if I could input the series name just once and let iVI Pro automatically fill in the rest. And couldn't iVI take the first episode number that I enter and increment it by one for each succeeding episode?

Then there's the problem of subtitles. If a DVD has Closed Caption subtitles, iVI Pro can't seem to find them, whereas the open source Handbrake can. So with any DVD that I think might have CC captions, I have to let Handbrake examine it first; if it finds them, then I'll let Handbrake rip the movie. It would certainly be a time saver if iVI Pro could handle Closed Caption subtitles.

I hope you'll consider these little suggestions. Thanks!


Update: I originally identified the open source software that I using as VLC rather than Handbrake. How embarrassing!

The Golden Spinning Wheel Annotated





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A Zellers Christmas 2004

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Preppin' for the Poop



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Fun with a Luncheon

When I retired in 2006, I initially asked that no one make a fuss about it. No goodbye luncheon, for example.

When overruled (apparently my co-workers didn't want to pass up an excuse to take a few hours off from work), I asked that they keep it small, just our immediate office and maybe a few other folks. I didn't want to risk having practically nobody show up.

Anyway, throw me a luncheon they did, and they did a bang up job, especially Jeannie, my boss, who came up with some clever gag gifts, as well as a few serious ones.

Co-worker Ed filmed the whole thing, and I set about editing it into a 15 minute musical video. While it turned out well, there were a few things that I couldn't do because of the lack of time.

I finally got around to re-editing the video, so here is "JT's Luncheon—The Musical!" I intended to cut back the length of the video but only manged to reduce it by about 30 seconds, mainly by shortening the "Overture".

In case it isn't clear from the video, I didn't take the nice things they said about me too seriously, but it was good to hear them anyway, and I'm grateful they took the time to give me a fun sendoff.

Music Licensing -- Grrrr! Arrgh!

Yesterday Saundra asked me about music licensing for YouTube videos; my reply turned into a bit of a rant, and since I don't like to waste a good rant, here is an edited version of what I sent her.

The short answer to the music licensing question is I don't do anything about it; I let GooTube handle it. (I'll use GooTube to refer to the Google/YouTube industrial complex.)

And here is what they do:

Most of the time GooTube is very good at finding and identifying music in my videos (they can identify it to the specific recording and more generically as well), and most of the time they simply tell me that they have identified it, but that I don't need to worry as my account is still in good standing, and they just put a button below my video that allows the viewer to purchase the music from one of several online music stores. Very civilized.

One of the first videos I ever uploaded to GooTube was a very short one of a portion of a bike race. It was a little over two minutes long and just showed the cyclists emerging en masse from around a corner onto Ridge Avenue, followed by some stragglers, and then both groups returning. For the music (and really it was nothing without the music) I used a track I had found on an old video that some anonymous Microsoft employees had put together to show how an iPod's packaging would look if it were a Microsoft rather than an Apple product. I didn't know what the music was, but it had fast uptempo sections that I used for the mass of cyclists and quieter passages that I used for the stragglers. The music worked perfectly for the Microsoft video and pretty damn well for my bicycle video, if I do say so myself.

Anyway, GooTube identified the music as a Danny Elfman track called Breakfast Machine (From "Pee Wee's Big Adventure"), and they put a button below my video to let people buy it. When I saw that, I bought a copy myself from the iTunes store for 99 cents. It seemed like a reasonable thing to do. I'm listening to it now. It's a very catchy piece.

About a month or so ago, I noticed that GooTube had silenced that video because the music violated copyright or something. So I deleted the video, because without the music it was boring. And it's not like anyone would grab the music from the video because the video included the sounds of the cyclists, etc. Nor was I in any way profiting from using it; if anything the copyright holders might see an occasional purchase from time to time. Very strange.

On some of my other videos I see a notice that they are blocked in some countries because of copyright violations. That's the case with video of my parents' 50th wedding anniversary (people in Germany can't view it). By the way, that's the second video I ever edited (from VHS tape footage shot in 1993 by two relatives) and it's probably my favorite of all the ones I've done. It has flaws and if I were doing it today there are a lot of things I'd fix, but I still like it a lot. Probably for sentimental reasons...

Go ahead and watch it; I'll wait...

Something else that's strange: The videos of the final piece in the Philadelphia Orchestra's Pop-up Concert, which the conductor Yannick explicitly gave the audience permission to record, are marked as "Matched Third Party Content". The music is the Polonaise from Chaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, well over a hundred years old and clearly in the public domain. The performance itself doesn't match any commercially recorded performance. But there is a company that licenses the orchestra parts for that piece and they are claiming it as theirs and GooTube is going along with it. I protested, but GooTube overruled me. It really doesn't matter because it doesn't prevent anyone from viewing it, but it's the principle of the thing.

As a side note, the two videos of that concert that I uploaded are 1) the raw footage that I recorded on my iPhone and  2) a mashup of thirteen of those videos, or as the Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns put it: "one with several camera angles edited together to suggest a multicamera PBS production." He didn't mention my name though. Or even give me a link.

Anyway, I think the mashup (not really the best term for it, but I thought it might attract the youth audience) is the far more interesting video, and I spent the better part of a week editing it and teaching myself how to use Final Cut's Multicam editing features in the process, but because my first video had a head start, it has and is still getting far more views than the mashup (843 vs. 84). It has more Likes as well (5 vs. 1). I believe when someone searches for the pop-up concert, my original video appears much higher in the rankings because it has more views and Likes; a self-perpetuating cycle.

Go ahead and watch it. I could use the views. And if you like it, maybe you could Like it by pushing the thumbs up button.

Then there's The Case of the Indiana Jon Video. It went from Matched Third Party Content, to Video Blocked in Some Countries, to Video Blocked World-wide (no one could view it), back to Matched Third Party Content. It uses the last five minutes of the end title music from the first Indiana Jones movie, starting in the middle of the music. There are other sounds on the video, like rushing air, dialog, etc. In other words I can't imagine anyone "stealing" that music from my video. What I guess is happening is that the rights holders are changing their minds from time to time over how they want to handle these things.

Right now the only videos of mine that don't have a notice of some sort next to them are:

The two Sunday in the Park With George videos, both of which consist entirely of clips from the video of the Broadway show.
The Dick Van Dyke Opening Times Three which shows the three different openings of that classic show side by side (this has been my most popular video so far with over 37,000 views).
The two videos of my Ken Jennings (no, not that Ken Jennings) interview which consist of audio from my interview with him while clips from his performance in Sweeney Todd are flashing by.

What they have in common is that they all are clips I took from DVDs. If they don't match third party content...<sigh>

Sorry this is so long, but when I start on a rant, there's no stopping me. Did I answer your question?

Update 2/6/2014: I just noticed that the videos which indicate they are blocked in some countries cannot be viewed on mobile devices.

I Can't Dance, Either...

As I explained in a previous post, while watching "All In with Chris Hayes" a few weeks ago, a comment that Hayes made about the (possibly temporary) legalization of same sex marriage in the state of Utah reminded me of a song, and I set about making a song parody video. You can read that post to find out why it's taken me so long to produce anything, but the (good or bad, depending on your point of view) news is I now have a rough cut of the video up on YouTube.

I let a few selected friends see a preview and I received some very positive feedback. For various reasons I've decided not to edit it any further but to leave it in its rough state.

With the caveat that this was a self-teaching tool and I just wanted to have some fun, here is the video.

In Utah State - The Rough Cut

A couple notes (Warning: SPOILERS!):

Of the feedback that I received from the previewers, I got perhaps the best review anyone could hope for: "It was much, much better than Cats!"

I think of the two characters as Good Twin and Evil Twin. It was always my intention that the Good Twin should get progressively more banged up because of his ineptitude, including poking his own eye with a cane. But when I got near the end of filming, I found I had forgotten to film the scene where a hat pops onto the Good Twin's head and a cane flies into his hand. With little time left, I improvised and had the Evil Twin "accidentally" poke the other's eye, which makes for a more satisfactory plot, but alas, I didn't shoot enough retakes to make it look credible. Hence, the rough cut. In case you're wondering, at the end the Good Twin is trying to inch away from the evil one, but the actor moved too far so part of his body sometimes goes out of the frame. That's the trouble with working with amateurs.

I Can't Belt! Don't Ask Me!

A few days ago I was watching a news program where the topic was the court's declaration that same sex marriage was now legal in Utah, and something that someone said suggested a song parody and video to me. As it happened, Apple had just released a major upgrade to their Final Cut Pro X software, and I decided this would be just what I needed to give me some experience working with the revised program, as well as learning how to do green screen and lip synching. I didn't seriously expect to release the video in the wild, as it would just be a self-teaching project. What could go wrong?

It didn't take long before I had sketched out parodic words to a well-known popular song, so the next step would be to record the soundtrack. I found a karaoke version of the song on Amazon.com, and fired up Amadeus Pro to lay down my vocal track.

As it happens, Amadeus Pro is a very powerful audio editing program, but if one only uses it occasionally (like I do), it can be rather daunting to figure out how to make it do what one wants. But that was just another learning experience, and as I worked with it I found it could do just about anything that I wanted it to do.

Except one thing. I can't sing, and try as I might, I couldn't figure out how to fiddle with the software to make my voice acceptable--even to me.

I thought adding a touch of reverb would sweeten up anyone's voice. Not mine, apparently. I did multiple takes, and re-takes, and re-takes of the re-takes. All told I spent an entire afternoon plus the following morning and some of that afternoon, but try as I might, I couldn't coax a listenable performance out of me.

Now here's the thing. The song that I picked is a show tune (actually, it's originally from a movie, but it's by a couple of venerable Broadway songwriters), so I thought I could partially mask my lack of a good singing voice by just belting it out.


It turns out that belting a tune is not a simple matter. Every time I thought I was belting, on playback I found that I was using my head voice. Well, call it an approximation of a head voice.

Suddenly I have even more respect for Ethel Merman.

As I have now found out, there is more to belting out a tune, than, uh, just trying to belt out a tune.

Eventually, however, I decided enough was enough. I wasn't going to release the video, was I? Well, maybe to one or two people who might get the joke, but certainly not to the general public. So I simply took the best of a bad lot, and decided to start recording the video.

Now the real fun began. Several years ago I had purchased a green screen kit from Amazon.com, but I had never gotten around to trying it. (That's not the one I bought, but it looks very close.)

So I dug out the kit and watched the accompanying DVD, which made setting it up look like child's play. They even showed a bunch of children making a movie with it.

And for once one of those videos was correct, it wasn't particularly hard to set the thing up. Right up until I was ready to put a bulb into one of the lamps. One of the bulbs was smashed. Presumably it had arrived like that however many years ago, and I had just never inspected the contents.

Oh well, Amazon.com still carries the replacement bulbs.

Tomorrow is another day.