Over the past year and a half I’ve posted a few Linux and hardware-related videos on Youtube under the channel chaslinux. One thing that’s always bugged me is that it didn’t have a real intro. For a couple of the videos I used OpenShot’s text rendering capabilities to create a basic title, but nothing fancy.
Stumbling on some features of Inkscape made me re-think doing a very basic introduction. The result was the short video I posted this morning (but spent a couple of hours playing around with last night). Initially I figured I would simply export slightly moved graphics to PNG format, but I ended up discovering that Inkscape was exporting to a size outside the video frame (which is why the video shifts slightly).
Initially I imported a slightly blurry photo I took with my Blackberry cell phone into Gimp. Before applying any effects I always use levels/auto to adjust colours in a picture. I used a white paintbrush to remove background around me. I started with a large brush then zoomed in with a small brush for finer details. Since I knew I wouldn’t be using the image with all the colours I didn’t try to make the image perfect, I just removed most of the background around me and tried to keep a somewhat even stroke so when the image was converted it wouldn’t look too jagged.
The next step was converting the image to a more monochrome look. I knew I wanted something like the old iPod print ads (you know the ads, the two colour – one colour plus white).
To accomplish this feat I used Gimp’s threshold feature. I played with different threshold settings, but found the one in the middle really seemed about right – Gimp is pretty amazing that way. Going too far left removed too many details and going too far right on the adjustment made me just too blotched out.
I could have very well done everything in Gimp. In retrospect, seeing what worked and what didn’t I probably would have stuck to using Gimp and turning on and off different layers.
Inkscape has a template for NTSC standard video which is what inspired me in the first place. Before starting any of this project I noticed that when I clicked New in Inkscape I could choose from a good selection of size temples, one of which was NTSC video. With my image imported I traced around the image. Inkscape has a habit of smoothing out edges – I actually unchecked the smooth box to give the Inkscape traced version a little more roughness, but not quite the jagged quality of the original bitmap.
I knew I didn’t just want my ugly mug and some text, so I dug up an old photograph I took of a Pentium 60MHz CPU.
I used Gimp to edit around the CPU much the same way I did my photo.
One trick that helped was using the lasso selection tool to select big areas and areas close to rounded edges. With my selection made I enlarged the brush and just painted white over the selected areas. Using the lasso selection it only took a few minutes to white-out almost everything (and I say almost because I left a small bit by mistake on the left edge).
The fading rolling CPU was actually a mistake gone right.
After importing the bitmap CPU into Inkscape and tracing it I started to separate what I thought was multiple instances of the tracing. It turns out what I was really doing was separating some of the layers of the traced CPU, which created a fading effect. This gave me the idea for the darker and lighter CPUs spinning across the screen (no movement is boring).
When this was all done I combined both images into Inkscape and added some text. I made slight adjustments and then exported the file back to a PNG image. What I didn’t pay attention to was the fact that Inkscape was creating some images larger than the 720×486 frame size I wanted. As a result a few of the images were actually 721×486, which is why the video appears to shift.
In retrospect I probably would have done most of the work in Gimp and simply turned on and off layers to create the same effect.
Once I’d exported all the images I drew them into Pitivi. I limited each image to about 5 frames to keep the length to a short 22 seconds. I’m not real fond of the fact that Pitivi seems to automatically make static images a certain amount of frames. OpenShot makes static images 1 frame and allows you to adjust how many frames that image appears in – I like it better this way.
The audio was found audio from Danosongs.com, royalty free music. I brought the audio into Audacity to crop it down to size and during the process discovered a software bug. The version of Audacity in Ubuntu 10.04 seems to still use the ALSA sound system. When I exported the audio and tried to play it in Pitivi I couldn’t hear it. I’d noticed the ALSA message on Audacity’s start-up and suspected that it had corrupted the pulse audio sound system – a restart fixed the problem and Pitivi played the audio just fine.
The last step was to render the movie. I installed ffmpeg and lame so I could export the movie to .mp4 format. This was uploaded to Vimeo. Why not just use Youtube? Well I use Youtube for somewhat finished projects and wanted to keep it clear of experiments. Youtube gets a lot more hits even if it isn’t necessarily the best video site around – it’s like the old Beta versus VHS argument (quality versus cost/convenience).
The video has a number of flaws including shifting colours and movement caused by frames that are larger than they should be. But this was the first experiment in creating video. Combining what I learned here with the ideas I have for layering in Gimp I think with a bit of time I could throw together a much better intro video…