Foxvideo Productions

Media Production

March 2012

Incredible (but dangerous!) software

I setup a computer a while back for a friend to run ScreenMonkey in her local church, it's worked well for 6 months but on Sunday when she went to use it, Windows gave a 'hal.dll' error and wouldn't boot so she phoned me, I told her to drop it over and said it shouldn't take too long to replace the hal.dll file and she'd be sorted.... little did I know!

Tried booting to a DOS prompt, wouldn't have it, removed the hard drive and put it in my PC, the drive wouldn't mount or read, after several attempts it finally mounted so I ran CHKDSK to repair any errors - it failed to complete. Tried all the recovery programs I had and got nowhere, tried the freezer trick, that got the drive to mount but it wouldn't let me drag any files off and then unmounted itself after 30 mins. I tried deleting the partition and re-formatting, knowing some programs would let me recover files from a re-partioned and formatted drive and by this stage I thought I had nothing to lose, then it failed half way through re-formatting!

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I remembered a free program I'd tried several years ago that recovered files from a drive that wouldn't mount called PhotoRec, I downloaded it and the drive showed up, it gave me an option to recover certain file types, txt, tiff, jpeg, doc etc so I set it off.  12 hours later (it was a 120Gb drive) and it looks like I've recovered most of the data files including mp3's, mov's, pdf's and doc stuff from a drive I considered dead - amazing software and at a price that can't be beat!

By strange coincidence, there was a programme on BBC2 tonight all about data recovery and data theft from thrown away hard drives and it just showed me earlier today, how easy it was using freely available software. I do destroy the platters of any hard drive I've thrown away but I have bought used hard drives from Ebay, it's got to be so easy for anyone with just a little knowledge, to try PhotoRec on used hard drives from computer fairs, Ebay or even from the local tip that have supposedly been wiped....... so be warned!

Bitz & Pieces

Last week I had 6 "mini videos" to produce, all from stills for The Peace and Hope Trust, it's the second year they've asked me to do it. Peace and Hope are a UK charity providing help and support to a small community in Nicaragua and they send groups out from the UK for 2 weeks at a time several times a year. The volunteers come back with hundreds of photos they've taken and these get put together in a presentation for the AGM. I use Final Cut Pro as it gives me a lot more control than Powerpoint or Fotomagico, I can time it better, add a voiceover to fit the pictures, add some graphics, add a music track under the pictures where suitable and then provide the output in different formats - a DVD for the Trust's AGM and web clips for their site and Vimeo, see my Showreel page for a short sample.

I'm still getting the 'glitch' problem using Master Templates in Final Cut Pro that I mentioned a while back, it's almost unnoticeable, just 1 frame in a 30 second clip, but I know it's there! Don't know where to go with it, I've re-seated the RAM, junked the prefs, reloaded all the templates and just about everything else I can think of. If I ever find the problem you'll see a post on here explaining what it was!

Coming to this week, it's been a ScreenMonkey week, 2 laptops to load with ScreenMonkey for
Nia's tours this year. I'd introduced Nia to ScreenMonkey last year after attending one of her concerts and seeing all the flight cased kit she had, a DVD player for video clips, A CD player for backing tracks, backup kit, and a laptop for Powerpoint - ScreenMonkey on a laptop would do away with several bits of kit making transport and setup easier.

ScreenMonkey is now up to 3.6 (or 3.7 if you're on the beta program), Nia had been using 3.5 all of last year with no problems, setting up 2 laptops for this year I thought we'd go for 3.6, could I get it to work? - No Way! Despite having 3.7 run perfectly here on my kit it wouldn't load or run any Powerpoint stuff on the laptops - tried everything I know and some stuff I didn't know I knew but totally failed to sort it, so it's back to 3.5 on both laptops and they're now working fine, I'm now beginning to suspect it's an Office 2003 / 2007 Powerpoint  problem, so more trouble-shooting will be required.

RapidWeaver v5

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Just as I'd got used to the idiosyncrasies of Apple iWeb and finished 3 different sites, Apple decided to drop MobileMe and will probably drop iWeb as it relied heavily on MobileMe for most users. In my case, I used my own hosting and not MobileMe, so that side of it wasn't a problem, but I can see Apple dropping future development of iWeb for the time being and so I thought I'd look around for an alternative.

The most talked about and used web program for the Mac is
RapidWeaver for around £55, I'd looked at it a few versions ago and didn't seem to get on with it, but I decided to have another look. I found a free version of v4 on MacUpdate, very difficult to find but still available if you look hard enough, just download and register at Realmac and they'll send you a serial number along with a discount offer to upgrade to the new v5 for £25, which I did straight away.

There's a few free 'get you started' tutorials on the RealMac site, the intermediate and advanced tutorials are available for subscription, I subscribed (£6.51) for 30 days then download all the tutorials as .mov's and cancelled future subscriptions. Watching all the tutorials certainly got me off to a good start and within 48 hours I'd got the basics of my first website using RW.

I'd been asked to put together some ideas for a new website for a video client, using RapidWeaver allowed me to develop a basic site using one of the included Themes and to then apply it to any of the other Theme styles with little or no extra work as they automatically adjusted to the new Theme. Rapidweaver also changed my thinking of designing websites, previously I'd not really thought about web
design just the content and I tended to use a DTP approach to my layouts, RapidWeaver changes that ideology and you find yourself thinking more about 'web' design.

There's a huge market of 3rd party Themes and Plugins available, adding 2 plugins to RW helped in the design of my new sites, Blocks and Stacks ($49 together) add significant functionality, I needed to add a specific table design to one page and Blocks allows you to add text which it then renders as an image - a real problem solver! The almost instant live update to the web using the built in FTP is great for seeing any changes you want to make and for future site updates.

I'm far from being a RapidWeaver expert, I've only just scratched the surface of what it can do but, I've managed to use some custom CSS code to make changes to the layouts and it really is a program that I can learn and develop my web design skills with and, enjoy using at the same time.

Spray and pray?

I was reading a pro photography forum a day or so ago, there was a post that left me annoyed / speechless and sad all at the same time. The poster was asking how many shots you'd take in a day at an auto event, he explained he'd normally take around 1500 shots in 3 hours and then delete around 1300 to leave him with 200 images from the day, this was not a guy using the event to practice his camerawork, this was normal for him at this type of event. I could have understood the attitude more if he had been supplying all the competitors in an event with individual pictures, like a running race or cycle event with hundreds or thousands of entrants but to just throw 1300 images away because they were obviously not good enough?

It just goes to show in my mind, that some 'photographers' of today have no idea how to actually take pictures - all they do is 'spray and pray' that they'll get some usable images. In the past I've covered motor racing, rallying, football, rugby, equestrian, cycling and general 'open day' type events all using 2 or sometimes 3 film cameras at the time and at most, I don't think I ever used more than 10 rolls of 36 (360 shots) on any event and I've still had front page pictures used, covers, centre spread layouts and even 3/4 of all the pictures in a supplement special on more than one occasion.

I agree it's so much easier today with auto focus, 5 or 8 fps cameras and large capacity storage cards then, back at base, it's fast to unload the cards, do a quick cull on-screen and end up with a selection of the best pictures from the day or event, but the skill in anticipating and capturing those 'good shots' seems to have gone, a sad day for pro photography.

DVDoctor - Can a Phoenix rise twice?

The Internet has changed the way we do things beyond all recognition, we now gain instant information, get work and make friends, sometimes without ever meeting the client or the friend.

When video production and editing started to move away from the confines of the broadcast domain, the Internet was in it's infancy and magazines were the medium of the day, attracting readers with articles and tutorials, equipment reviews and of course, adverts from the emerging supply companies all keen to attract business from this new breed of 'videographers'.

One of the first of these magazines was Computer Video, it carried an informative (and sometimes controversial!) editorial, reviews of the latest cameras, information and reviews of the new 'non linear' way of video editing using a computer along with tutorial articles. Magazines are informative but they are always between 4 and 6 weeks out of date by the time they hit the shelves, the editor of Computer Video saw the Internet was going to change the way we did things and setup an 'online' forum where users could get up to date information, ask other members for help and advice - with an almost instant response method and, for it to become, 'the place to go' for the many people now producing and editing with this new affordable video technology. I signed up in 1999 and have been a regular reader and contributor since apart for a short period when I got banned and then re-instated (a long story).

The DVDoctor forum soon attracted a wide range of readers - amateurs, part-timers, professionals and retired industry professionals, information and advice was freely dispensed, friendships forged and work between members obtained. Sadly the magazine was not so successful and eventually it was pulled by the publisher much to the annoyance of it's readers (but that's another long story!). The forum also suffered - it was hit by a hardware failure and much of the archives were lost, it rose from the ashes and went on to become a hugely successful forum well known around the world.

Come forward to January 2012, the forum was hit by a hacker attack and went down, after a couple of days, a notice went up advising of the attack and that work was going on behind the scenes to bring the forum back. It's taken around 4 weeks so far and now the old DVDoctor forum is back up and running using a totally different forum software front end. I know and understand that many hours of hard work, late nights, takeaways and cans of Red Bull have gone into the revamp by people unpaid for their efforts but there's a couple of things I don't understand. The previous vBulletin based software was known to be vulnerable and updates were issued to prevent these hack attacks but don't appear to have been implemented on the old DVDoctor site, the vBulletin software is successfully used elsewhere on the web, if a backup of the forum data was available as it seems to have been, why was the vBulletin software not updated and then restored from backups? - as it is, there is now a forum design that most users hate, software bugs and glitches that are going to take months if not years to sort out and the result is that many, many users have now moved on to other forums or are not bothering to visit the DVDoctor forum at all.

I don't think it'll ever recover to it's former glory, so sadly I've also moved on, DVDoctor has been a great help to me over the years, I had work from members, made friends I'll stay in touch with and I'll be able to say I was part of it, when it was the place to see and be seen.

UPDATE 7/3/12
It looks like the site now has the services of a 'Drupal Guru', some major improvements have been made and it's beginning to look and feel a lot more 'usable' - maybe a Phoenix can rise twice!

UPDATE 09/02/2017

DVDoctor forums finally closed forever.

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