Slowly, slowly

8 June 2017

Still not in a writing mode, but working towards it. As far as that part of my life goes, I’ve been working on the Pa’adhe ebook. It’s been mostly proofing (found a couple of errors), layout, making sure things are in the right order. I’ve got three cover pictures left to do, still: one to replace an existing cover I don’t like and two for the stories that don’t have a cover yet. The designs are done, but now I have to figure out what pictures to take and combine for these covers.

Talking about pictures, I’ve also been working on three photography projects. Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say two videos and one photograph.

The photograph is a three generation portrait that I’ve been thinking about for several months. Now that everyone’s present that needs to be in it, I can proceed with actually taking the photo. I’ll be using the DJI Phantom 4 for this due to the perspective needed and to avoid any part of the photographer being in it. It’s also necessary to use the drone to achieve the hidden geometric aspect I have in mind.

One of the videos I have mentioned before. I’ve a script written for it and have all the necessary gear to do the shot. What remains is to get the necessary actors together on location (herding cats would be easier) and get the video needed so I can get to work compiling the whole. This I need to get done within the next two months or it’ll be unlikely to ever get done.

The final video is one that I am not even sure is going to be anything more than an experiment. Fundamentally, it’s one of my granddaughter dancing, but it’s the perspective that makes the video what it is. Or breaks it. I can see in my head what I want to achieve, but until I actually start processing the video, I have no way to tell if it’ll work or not. In some ways, it’s abstract…but without being abstract. I’m trying to explain to some extent the problem with the visualization without giving too much away yet and that’s not easy to do. With everything else I can throw out teasers, but this one…any teaser is too revealing. Let’s just say that if I don’t get the angles right, it’s not going to work and since there’s nothing like it out there that I know of, I have no guidance to the right angle. If it’s off by even a little bit, the impact won’t be there. Even so, right angle or not it could still be a bust.

Both videos will utilize the GoPro Hero 4 Black and the DJI Phantom 4, though in different ways. I never did think I would be doing video, but there it goes. Never say never.

I’e been doing a bit of amateur radio, just PSK-31, since my last blog post. I have to admit I’m happy with the home station, but not so much with the mobile setup. I need to do some more playing with the mobile gear to figure out what’s not working, but it’s also quite possible that it’s simply there was no activity when I was using it. Or maybe it was a bad location. All I can do is keep trying different locations for a while before I start troubleshooting the gear.

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OK maybe not quite back yet

20 March 2017

Like it says, maybe I’m not yet back into the writing grind. Still, some life is better than none, eh?

Since that last post, I’ve been mostly working on my ham shack. I now have a laptop set up for use with my radios and the setup works either on the desk in the house or in the vehicle up in the hills. Simple plug and play. Plus I got my radio desk cleaned off, finally!

I designed and built a switchbox that effectively gives me a Tigertronics USB SignaLink with two different radio jumper setups. It’s a simple circuit, just bringing the SignaLink JP1 socket out of the SignaLink enclosure and creating two parallel sockets in the switchbox instead. With a jumper block in each, I can easily switch the SignaLink between the two radios by flipping switches instead of having to open the SignaLink enclosure, swap jumper blocks, reassemble the SignaLink, and switch radio cables. A 15 minute operation is now down to 15 seconds. Nice trade, if I do say so myself.

You can see this switchbox in the picture right under the SignaLink.

The ham shack today. The new switchbox is under the SignaLink between the two radios, above the laptop.

Yup, those of you that are interested, it switches between the Kenwood TS-130V on the right and the Yaesu FT-2500M on the left. Being deaf, my focus is on the digital modes and a friend who is 20 miles away and I plan to play with the digital modes on 2m. So, I expect to be switching back and forth: experimenting, playing, and chatting with my friend on 2m and doing the same on HF with whomever’s out there. The 2m setup will allow us to both get familiar with various digital modes, including CW, and get in some regular practice with them regardless of HF band conditions.

I’ve finally been able to make the test videos for my video project. I have sure learned a lot just making these two 2 and 3 minute videos. Not only post processing, but things that have to be watched out for when filming. Trust me, I’m getting a new respect for directors and filmmakers.

The GoPro has definite fisheye artifacts, as I mentioned previously. I’m still feeling my way in the editing room dealing with this, but I think progress is going well. The Phantom 4 video doesn’t need much editing, as far as colors, etc., but I do need way more practice flying. I discovered that among other things, mimicking a bird taking off isn’t quite as simple as “just push the two control sticks at the same time.” Yeah, there’s that, but you don’t push them the same amount. I also absolutely must fly the planned route ahead of time or I’m going to have very definite un-bird-like behavior.  Even so, everything looks to be saying the video I want to make is doable.

Other than that, I’ve mostly been doing reading, studying Blender, and at least thinking about writing more Pa’adhe stories. Oh, and I have some more mead brewing.

I’m Back! I think.

26 January 2017

Well, this is odd. It’s been a bit over a year, I think (too lazy to look and see for sure) since my last posting here. On top of that, this particular post isn’t necessarily my standard fare. It’s probably a mix of rant and quick updates. All ranting is my personal opinion, of course. No pretty pix, those will come later.

So, which first, the rant or the updates? Ah, you figure it out, they’re all mixed together.

Photography wise, it’s been a bust, between building the Vardo (done!), Idaho weather, my dad, and other stuff, I’ve not actually gone out “to do photography”. I’m working on that, though, and you can expect some more pictures this year. Time lapse. Video. Landscapes. Macro. Whatever grabs my attention at the moment. And yes, I did indeed say video, that wasn’t an error.

I’ve written a small script, more a proof of concept idea than anything else, that I plan to video. If it turns out good enough, I might even look into YouTube. My granddaughters want me to start putting my videos up there and I’m tempted. If this project works, I probably will start putting a couple of older videos up and create more. I never expected to get into or enjoy making video but I find I do.

Don’t expect much in the way of audio on my videos. I’ll try and include music based on the input of other people, but I have a beef with the lousy captioning on YouTube and am going to extract my revenge by including captions and no voicing. So there. I swear, I never know whether to laugh or cry when I see the automatically generated captions on most of the YouTube videos. It sucks. The only ones any good seem to be those that go out of their way to include captioning themselves.

This next video project is showing me a bunch of stuff already, and I can’t get out to the Owyhees to film it. Film it…video it…whatever. I have a DJI Phantom 4 and that’s what gave me the idea for this video. Next up, I needed a video recorder that could become your eyes, so I wound up asking around and borrowing a GoPro Hero 4 Black. The video specs for that match well with the video specs for the drone, BUT the Hero 4 is a fixed fisheye. More on that later.

The Hero 4 has no playback capability and the only way you can get any kind of immediate feedback or live feed, is to use their Capture app. Or a third party one. And guess what? Those idiots at GoPro seem to think you absolutely need to log into their servers before you can get any use out of the app. Yeah, right. Waaaay out in the middle of the Owyhees, where I set up for my video on the GoPro and test it, where there’s NO cell service? How in Hades am I supposed to log into their servers from there? Stupid and pointless. However, I did manage to find an older Capture version and that one lets me have live feed and control over the camera to change settings WITHOUT having to log into their freaking servers first. Those of you out there wanting this…look for the newest version prior to 3.x. It also has the older logo. Just be sure and don’t allow your apps to automatically update or it’ll get replaced with the new one. You’d think losing their market share would warn them and that it’s logical that if you want to keep your fan base, you shouldn’t push out an upgrade that makes it impossible to use the app where there’s no service. Especially for a camera intended for extreme stuff out in the middle of nowhere. I guess common sense isn’t part of the job requirement there.

Now about the GoPro fisheye situation. For my wants, the fisheye gives me a great wide field of view, but it does have those pesky fisheye effects. You know, the curved  vertical and horizontal lines that should be straight.

To remove the fisheye effects, there are plenty of tutorials and apps out there. The first I tried was the GoPro PC app. Posts, reviews. blogs all say it has a built-in fisheye fix that’s good. Guess what? Yup, you got it. It, too, requires a server login. Forget it, I’m not gonna look for an older version of that, too. That made it easy to uninstall and discard with only a second or two’s thought.

I moved on to four programs that I already have. I’ve restructured my home systems so I have a laptop that’s just for photography work. On that machine, I have Linux as my OS: Ubuntu Studio. There are some things I don’t like about the OS layout, so I may just migrate to a clean, minimal Ubuntu 16.04 and have only the video and graphics programs that I find work for me. And yes, there is a point to mentioning this.

The four programs I was looking at for the fisheye removal are: Adobe After Effects (Win), daVinci Resolve Free (Win), OpenShot (Win/Linux), and Kdenlive (Linux).

OpenShot was the first I looked into, and while it’s a nice basic editor, it was taking me too long to find out how to deal with the fisheye effect so I dropped that approach. I then went and played with After Effects and it did a reasonable job, but the file size went from 357 MB to 12 GB. HUH? OK, I figured that was user error and I could set the parameters better later or transpose to a different format. At the same time I was playing with After Effects, I was messing about in Kdenlive. That one was not only easy to deal with the fisheye, but it had a couple different ways to do so. After I got done trying After Effects, I then looked into daVinci Resolve. This was just as easy to use as Kdenlive but the free version is apparently time bombed or has a file size or video length restriction. Unlike last time I used it, this time it slapped a watermark on the entire video. I’m going to look into that, but if that’s the case (time bombed or file size) then I’m going to toss it.

So, looking at the various outputs, I was rather surprised to find out that the best resulting corrected video came from my Linux machine: Kdenlive’s Defish filter. Not by a little, but by an easily noticeable difference. File size, quality of resulting video, quality of corrections…Kdenlive was the best. daVinci Resolve was the next, but it had a huge file size as well. That I expected, though, as Resolve doesn’t output the final video, only the feed into the conversion. That I could live with. To be honest, though, when I started looking at these I really didn’t expect the Linux program to come out ahead like that. That was a very welcome bit of support for my Linux love.

I’m going to take a look at PiTiVi (also Linux) later and see how it compares to Kdenlive, but going forward right now it looks like for my project I’ll be using Kdenlive as my editor.

On the writing front, I’ve been assembling an ebook with the various tales of the Pa’adhe. It has a cover for each story plus the ebook itself. I need to create three more covers, so I’m waiting for the weather here to get better so I can go get the pictures I need. We’ve busted the local records across the board for snow this winter. We got more than the winter of 1985, and that was on the ground only about two weeks. This winter’s snow has been on the ground for over a month now, and it’s been piled high. Buildings have collapsed as a result of the amount and type of snow.

I’ve sure enjoyed my first year retired, but funny enough, I sort of seem to be way more busy than when I was working. And I’ve still not gotten back into my radio stuff. Maybe this year!