Foxvideo Productions

Media Production

August 2015

Sound engineer fired for 'cat napping'

willow

You just can't get the staff these days…..

A tale of 2 laptops

An interesting couple of days commissioning 2 different laptops, one a PC the other an Apple. My daughter had been accepted for University and as such needed a laptop (her first), previously she’d used a Dell desktop in conjunction with a Blackberry tablet and an iPhone. We found a very nice refurbished Dell Vostro on ITCSales with an i5 processor, 4Gb of RAM, Touchscreen, Biometric finger scanner and a very good reported battery life however it didn’t come with any operating system, not a problem as she had a genuine copy of Windows 7 bought for the desktop. We’d ‘decommissioned’ the desktop (I got some nice spares parts from it!) so could install the Windows 7 disk, however.......a glaring omission, the Vostro had no CD/DVD drive!

How I missed that I’ll never know, I suppose I just took it for granted it’d have one. A quick rethink and I could make a Disk image of the Windows 7 disk, put it onto a USB and boot from the USB, however no large USB’s in the house! so a quick trip to a local Tesco and we had a 16Gb SanDisk USB for £7. The Disc Image was made and a look on the Microsoft site for instructions and software to load a Disk Image to a bootable USB and we were in business.

The BIOS needed a change to allow a USB boot, USB 1 in the BIOS was for a USB stick, USB 2 was for the SD Card slot (?), with the BIOS changed and a reboot the laptop jumped into life using the USB stick and the Disk Image. About an hour later we could boot normally to Windows 7. Now came the task of downloading all the specific drivers for this particular laptop from Dell - about another 2 hours work! I had to get the drivers using my Mac and a USB stick as the LAN and WiFi on the Vostro needed drivers to work, when these had been installed I could connect the Vostro to the Internet and then get the Windows 7 updates - all 175 of them! Halfway through the update download it failed, obviously one update had needed a restart after installing, after the reboot the remaining updates loaded - we were now about 8 hours into the process, with all the updates now installed, it was time for bed!

The following morning the Vostro booted fine, it had registered Windows 7 but now needed another 32 updates (!) these updates included the ‘Update to Windows 10’ option, a reserve request email was sent to Microsoft and 24 hours later we’re still waiting for the update to come through although we do have a very nice working laptop and I have a few more grey hairs!

Onto laptop two. Several years ago a very good friend had seen my commitment and enthusiasm for Macs, he’d had many problems with his Windows laptops and asked if changing to a Mac might help, we talked and then looked on eBay, we found a well spec’d 2008 Macbook Pro for a good price so bought it. Over the next few years my friend became as enthusiastic as me over his Mac laptop, using it with Pages, Keynote and many other programs. Just recently the Macbook Pro developed a very noisy internal fan which was not good for running Keynotes in Church (!) after a few phone calls to Apple repair shops we decided it was probably not worth spending out on a repair and I decided to look for a newer one at the right price.

I spotted an identical Macbook Pro in every way at a price I found hard to believe, it was offered on eBay by a reputable, Charitable organisation with a ‘Buy it Now’ price, I was very tempted to buy it but didn’t. Later that night I was working with my friend and mentioned it to him, I said I’d been tempted to buy it there and then, he said I should have done, I said I’d buy it later that night if it was still available, secretly thinking that at the bargain price someone would have snapped it up. When I got back home 2 hours later I looked and found it still for sale, so did an immediate ‘Buy it Now’.

36 hours later and I’m looking at a Macbook Pro - OK it’s a 2008 model but this thing is mint! It’s as if it’s just come out of the box brand new, not a single mark on it, a clean screen with no dead pixels, no dents or scratches, no dirty keys - nothing! I plugged it in and turned it on, it booted to OS X 10.6.2 Snow Leopard, it was quiet, no noisy fan and the DVD drive worked fine, I plugged in a LAN and started “Software Update”, an update list came up and I installed all the shown updates while watching TV. With a reboot it now showed 10.6.8 and included the App Store in the menu, I could now connect to the App Store, use my friends login and update to Yosemite 10.10.5 and all the other Apps he’d bought for his ‘old’ Macbook, OK there’s some time element involved but only download time, my involvement extends only to selecting the Apps to install and clicking the mouse, total setup time around 6 hours, in all a totally different experience, I know which one I preferred...

Now, the wife has decided she likes the Vostro and has ordered one….here we go again!

New kid on the block

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I’ve been a long time user and often recommend a free program called ScreenMonkey as presentation software for events, specifically for Church use but which can be used wherever a playlist of different media types is required for play out, however ScreenMonkey is Windows only and I’m all Mac so it meant I needed a Windows laptop just for ScreenMonkey. I’ve recently come across a ‘new kid on the block’ - Quelea, it’s no Pro Presenter which can be difficult to learn and require training if you have a rota of operators in your Church who are not all ‘computer savvy’ but….

Quelea is easy to learn although in very early stages of development at the moment, it's certainly not as flexible as ScreenMonkey (yet!) but it has promise and I used it this week for a children's Summer Camp with only one hiccup (my fault!). The advantage of Quelea? - it’s totally cross platform - it runs on Mac, Windows or Linux using Java, I installed it on my Macbook Pro, authored 5 event presentations - single slides, Quicktime H264 movies, Powerpoints and ‘Songs’ and it ran perfectly for 4 nights, the 5th night I lost the second screen output simply because I didn’t check the output video options tab in the prefs and I’d assumed it was a program fault, in my defence it was 10 minutes before going live to 40 or so hyped up youngsters and I needed something on screen quickly!

This is not a full review, more of a taster and in use Quelea is quite logical, you have a playlist, a preview and a ‘Live’ window, you can add photos, videos, Youtube clips (with suitable internet connection), it’ll import songs or hymns from other church presentation software programs or direct from the publishing house, songs and hymns can have multiple verses and user selectable still or video backgrounds, there are built in Bibles with hundreds of other Bibles available for download, there’s a ‘Notices’ function and a ‘Stage’ video monitor function - useful for your church band as it’ll display chords along with lyrics.

The Powerpoint play out function uses Open Office to play Microsoft PP’s so you need to have Open Office installed, this function
can  be a little temperamental but worked for me although PP slides with animation won’t work. Other functions I didn’t have time to try or use were the ‘play out’  to mobile devices using a browser and auto song language translation.  One ‘missing’ function is the ability to play audio only stuff but I’m sure you can figure out a workaround by producing it as a .mov, the developer is looking to add this function soon. Quelea has huge possibilities and is under constant development with a growing user base, there’s a Facebook page and Google user group for support and when I used it, the Developer replied to me at 10pm at night almost instantly!

If you’re looking for church presentation software (especially if you use a Mac) and would like to contribute to it’s development, I suggest you give Quelea a try.

Wye Invader (again!)

The latest episode in the Wye Invader story continues with Wye Invader 2.

The Wye Invader 2 is the Wye Invader's little brother, a normal size narrowboat and the owner, after spending months refurbishing her has re-created his (in)famous run up part the River Wye. When it left Sharpness on the River Severn on Wednesday morning, I was positioned underneath the Old Severn Bridge to film her as she navigated the stretch of water under the bridge and on round to her turning point to enter the River Wye. I'd arrived about an hour beforehand to find the location, luckily there was pub nearby serving coffee, The Old Ferry Inn (NP16 7HH), if you ever get the chance I'd highly recommend a visit! After several coffee's and with the tide falling, I went down onto the beach with the camera and found a spot where I could follow the Wye Invader 2 from when she came into view and then under the bridge.

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Not the best shot of the day, the weather was dark and overcast, I could really have done with a longer lens and that boat was moving fast!

When she went out of view, it was a dash to the car and off to Chepstow where they were mooring up for the night. The SatNav got me there in about 15 minutes so I had a good start on finding the location, there were barriers all around town and I found a car park near to where I wanted to be, apparently it was the British Cycling Elite Series coming through in around 3 hours time! I grabbed the camera and tripod and set off on a short walk to the River Wye and found a location where the Wye Invader 2 should come into view, moor and then berth for the night. I'd given the skipper Frank Barton a 2 way radio and he gave me a shout around 3 or 4 minutes before he came into view so I'd set the camera rolling.

chepstow

Shooting conditions were much better by now and I got some usable footage as she rounded the bend in the river and the few hundred yards to her mooring point. A few quick words with Frank over the 2 way as to the timetable for the following day and it was pack the camera up and head back home. What I hadn't seen in my hurry to leave the car park was a sign saying no cars would be allowed to leave the car park after 4pm until midnight - thankfully it was 3.30pm, so I got out quickly!

The following day I'd arranged to film at Brockweir but looking on Google Street View I could see the was a good opportunity to film at Tintern and then get to Brockweir before the Wye Invader 2. I could park right by the roadside and get a good view as the boat came round the horseshoe bend in Tintern. I was using something I'd never tried before with the camera, an SJ4000 in the top shoe mount, with a moving subject I thought it would give me an option to cut to if I missed focus or zoom with the main camera.


tintern

I still look at stuff shot with the SJ4000 and can't believe the quality, it's certainly given me some good footage for cutaways or an alternate angle if I need it. When the boat went out of view at Tintern it was a quick 'pack the gear' and back up the road to Brockweir where they were mooring up for night before the trip back to Sharpness.

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At Brockweir I filmed Wye Invader 2 arriving and mooring up, I also got some good cutaway shots to use in the edit, on the stern of the boat you can see an FX1, I'd given this to Frank and Andy a few weeks previously along with some basic instruction, it'll give me a POV angle to use in the edit.

brockweir

So, all I have to do now is edit my footage, the footage from the onboard camera and produce an edit for the website, write the words for the website, author and upload the website stuff (www.wyeinvader.uk) write an article and produce some stills for Waterways World.......the Wye Invader saga continues and all from a Contact Form on my website two years ago asking if I could do 'something' with some old VHS tapes!

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