Archive for July, 2007

Episode 028 – Create a Ribbon over Logo Text

Monday, July 30th, 2007

I have uploaded screencast Episode 028 to screencasters.heathenx.org this afternoon. This screencast illustrates how to create a ribbon over some logo text with Inkscape.

I was surfin’ the ‘net over the weekend and found several images that had ribbons on them. That got me thinking about how one might go about this sort of thing in Inkscape. Of course, like always, I took the simplest route in making my ribbon. I drew it with straight edges where as curved edges would have been more realistic or looked a little nicer. I suppose if I wanted to make a really nice ribbon for graphic project then I would definitely take some extra time there.

Good news is that I got this screencast under 10 minutes since I didn’t dilly-dally during the recording process. This means that I’ll have a low-res version posted on YouTube as well. My last few screencasts were over budget regarding time and that is why they are not posted on YouTube. I know what you’re thinking…why don’t you cut them up in two parts like Richard? Honestly, I don’t have the attention span to…hey! is that a chicken?

Episode 027 – Create Playing Cards

Friday, July 27th, 2007

I have uploaded my latest screencast, Episode 027, to screencasters.heathenx.org. This screencast illustrates how to create playing cards with Inkscape.

This is my first official screencast for the screencasters.heathenx.org that was recorded on my openSUSE computer. I think the video quality looks pretty good.

Enjoy.

Screencasting Workflow Mess

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

I was a bit overwhelmed last night putting together my last screencast. The actual recording of the screencast was done early last week and took about 25 minutes. But last night I set about getting things in order to upload things to the site and to YouTube. Needless to say the whole process was a dog’s breakfast and took me several times longer than it should have.

So in order to try and get a handle on it, I’ve used Gliffy to do up a simple flowchart (see below) of the shameful process I used. You will plainly see that I don’t know what I’m doing. But that shouldn’t be news to anyone. πŸ˜‰

Have a look if your interested and give me some suggestions if you see some step or process that is plainly retarded.

I’m going to try and streamline this mess so that it doesn’t take me 3 hours of fiddling to get things online once I finish recording a screencast. We’ll see how that goes. πŸ˜‰

Episode 026 – 3D Device Graphic

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

ep026_thumb.jpg

Amidst the quagmire heathenx and I are calling ‘Codec Hell’, I did manage to get another Inkscape screencast done. This one demonstrates the use of Inkscape’s guides, gradients and some shadow effects to come up with a decent looking 3D device graphic. This one is about 17 minutes long (my longest to date), so I had to split the YouTube version into two parts. Hopefully I won’t lose anybody at the halfway mark. With their 10min/100MB limitation it makes screencasting about something substantial a bit of a tough one. But that’s one of the reasons we started screencasters.heathenx.org. So if you want to see the whole video in one piece, and in significantly higher quality, check it out there instead.

Also, please let us know via the comments here if you have any trouble watching the video.

heathenx unplugged

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Back from vacation! You didn’t even know I was gone did you?

I took my family β€œup north” last week for our semi-annual get away. What makes this kind of vacation different from others is the fact that it is what I call an β€œunplugged holiday”. Sure, there are computers lying around at my in-law’s house and probably at least 10 cell phones but the cabin that we drive up to from there has no sign of that kind of technology. Going without a computer, a PDA, or a cell phone for an entire week is kind of a big deal for me. My kids and my wife going without video games and eBay is probably equally as cruel. We survived it though…and had a blast doing it.

Escanaba River

Our family’s cabin has it’s shoreline right on the Escanaba River. The river is low, only about knee deep, but very rocky. Plus the river moves at about 2-3 miles an hour. It’s southing to hear the water rush over the rocks. Very relaxing. On the hottest portion of the day, which seemed to be from about 3:00-5:00pm, you could often find me and some of my in-laws sitting in the middle of the river on lawn chairs sipping a beer or a soda. That may sound very β€œwhite trash” but boy…does it feel good in the heat.

There is so much to do for relaxation up there. Trail riding on our ATV’s, walking up and down the river side exploring, swimming, drinking lots of beer :), sitting by our camp fire that blazed 24/7, gazing at the stars, bar-b-q’ing, and viewing all the wild life that comes passing by (deer, turkey, wolves, fox, rabbits, eagles, ospreys, and water chickens among others).

It was truly a great vacation and a great way to recharge one’s batteries for a while. There are so many places to visit and vacation in the United States but I am more than happy to keep going back to that one special place that feels like a second home to me. God bless the U.P.

Back to Encoding Hell – or – Why Some Videos Don’t Play Right

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

Following on from the comment I left on the previous post, it seems we might be within the sweaty confines of encoding hell once again. heathenx is preoccupied for the next little while – something about a set of hair plugs and a week long brazilian wax πŸ˜‰ – so it’s very likely I can’t fix the problem completely but I’ll summarize the situation.Β  Abrogaticus left a comment describing the fact that while the intro to episode 018 played well, the main screencast was without sound. I’ve done a little testing from my end which leads me to the following observations:

Episode 018 (the downloaded avi file) plays entirely fine on my Ubuntu box at home using Totem. As does every other episode I’ve tried.

On my work box however it’s a different story. One which will undoubtedly get heathenx pulling those expensive hair plugs right out…

My own episodes play fine in WMP 11 and in VLC on windows – like that was any surprise [snicker].

Episode 002, the first one heathenx uploaded with the latest and greatest encoding scheme plays fine in WMP11 and VLC on windows.

Episode 016 and 018Β  avi files (the only two I’ve tried so far – both recently re-encoded by heathenx) play on both WMP11 and VLC with normal intro sequences, but the audio in the main screencast portion is double-speed. “Chipmunked” is the term we coined for it during the development of the site.

So I couldn’t replicate Abrogaticus’ problems with no sound – I just got chipmunked sound. Which is probably worse than no sound at all. We ran into this problem when we were doing our xvid encoding a month ago. It involves a mismatch in bitrates between the main portion and the intro. It’s fixable, however I don’t want to mess with heathenx’s videos (if I even have access to them), and I’m not sure I know where the problem is in the lastest and greatest encoding scripts. I haven’t been really involved in the development of them, and it may very well be that he mistyped a flag or two (he has sausage fingers which makes for clumsy typing – just ask him!).

So for the time being, here’s a few comments and suggestions:

– Download only my screencasts – just kidding. Give heathenx’s a try if you don’t mind and leave some feedback here on what your experiences are – what platform, what video player, and how it played back.

– You should be able to watch the streaming versions (they all seem to play correctly), and the latest flv conversion that heathenx has done on his streaming videos are very nice quality indeed.

– I’m going to try the same reencoding process and see if it works for me or not. I will not change my avi’s on the site until I know for sure. However I like the quality of the flv encoding that he’s doing, so I do intend to update the streaming versions of my screencasts over the next few days.

– Please give lots of feedback here on the blog. It may help us identify where or what the problem is. I know for a fact that heathenx tests his video playback on both linux and windows and with a couple of different players, so I’m quite surprised to get chipmunked audio here on my windows box at work.

Needless to say, he’s going to be pissed.

Cheers. RQ

Encode and Upload

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

Richard and I will be encoding and uploading new AVI’s and replacing our SWF’s with FLV’s for the next few days. Unfortunately, our AVI videos have grown in size since we have to encode them differently now. We are trying to do things as efficiently as possible by reducing the amount of extra encoding. We have determined that if we encode our AVI files a certain way then they lend themselves to be converted quite nicely into FLV files for our streaming version.

So far I have updated episode 002. I wanted to re-record this episode for sometime. This was my very first screencast and back when I originally recorded it, I recorded my entire screen rather than just Inkscape itself. Live and learn, right? Since we resize our videos to 800x600px, resizing this particular screencast from 1152x864px to 800x600px made things a little difficult to read. My new version is much better. I will leave the original on YouTube for now.

Moreover, episode 002 is our very first episode to have an FLV file as the streaming format.Β  It’s a prototype of sorts. So you be the judge regarding quality and functionality. Personally, it plays great on all of my computers.

By the way, I have removed the 10% loading limit too. These new FLV’s will start to play instantly, however, they play the best after you have downloaded a certain percentage. Since the FLV’s are a quarter of the file size that the SWF’s were, you should be able to download them much faster now. Also, I have chosen to use a different streaming media player. The controls will be simpler now.

So you have been warned. We hope our changes are better for everyone and we will try to minimize any disturbances to our website while we are updating things.

Now go draw something…

Making FLV files with FFmpeg or MEncoder

Sunday, July 8th, 2007

Ok folks. It seems I’m back in encoding hell. I am looking for the best and most popular streaming format known to mankind. Why, because I want to move away from our shockwave files to a format that allows for true streaming. Furthermore, our shockwave files are rather large. In some cases over 100MB. I think I want pure flash files but I’m keeping an open mind.

I know how to convert my H264 AVI files to FLV (Flash). So far I can make a beautiful 1:1 FLV file but the file size grows to 2-4 times that of the input AVI. No good. I can also make several shitty FLV’s that are pixelated when played. So basically, I can make really good one or really bad ones. Nothing in between.

What I need is some help. Who out there knows of a FFmpeg or MEncoder guru who is willing to lend a hand? All one has to do is download episode 024 or 025 (these are for sure encoded in H264 format) and try converting it to a flash file. Resolution has to be 800×600 with decent sounding audio.

Help me Obi-Won Kenobi. You are my last hope.

Episode 025 – How to create a business card.

Friday, July 6th, 2007

I have uploaded my latest screencast, Episode 025, to screencasters.heathenx.org. This screencast illustrates how to create a business card using the available business card template included with Inkscape.

I actually use the business card template often here at work. I do quite a bit of communicating with my vendors through the use of email. Most of the time my vendors will include company name, phone numbers, email address, and other information as part of their email signature. I often take this information and cut-n-paste it into Inkscape so that I can make a generic business card of sorts. I’ll print that off and place in my Rolodex. I can easily find information about my vendors in either Thunderbird or my Rolodex for future use.

Obviously, one can use Inkscape to make business cards for themselves or others. If you intend to print from your exported bitmap then I recommend that you change the dpi from 90 to 300. This will ensure a high resolution print out. Scribus and OpenOffice are other applications that can produce business cards too but this just gives me another excuse to use Inkscape. πŸ™‚

Changes, changes, changes.

Thursday, July 5th, 2007

Well, our initial website launch has been going well. Traffic to our website has not been phenomenal but it is achieving steady growth. I suspect by this time in 6 months we’ll be bigger than Google. I think I remember Richard saying something about world domination…I don’t know…I really wasn’t listening.

Richard and I have been trying to make a few changes to our site as rapidly as we can. It has been suggested that we alter a few things for the better and we are trying to implement those changes where we can. Getting some feedback has been great.

One of the improvements that we intend to make very soon is the switch over from XviD AVI files to H.264 AVI files. H.264 allows for better quality video in a smaller file size. Although, Richard’s H.264 AVI’s tend to be slightly larger for some reason. That doesn’t make sense but I’m sure we’ll figure it out in the end.

Making the switch to H.264 took very little arm twisting. I was pretty much sold on XviD for our AVI’s. I did notice, though, that my videos were a little on the blurry side and a little dark. I just figured that I wasn’t doing something right. Besides, the flames from β€œencoding hell” were starting to burn my ass and I was looking for the exit door.

It was suggested that I give xvidenc and h264enc a try. Microchip, the creator of these scripts, suggested that I go with the H.264 format…and boy, was he right. xvidenc and h264enc are two Linux shell scripts that walk you through the process of encoding your videos with MEncoder. When you are all done answering the questions that it asks, you have the option to review and save the MEncoder script to file before it starts the encoding process. I use the saved copy of the script to cut-n-paste into the terminal when I want to encode other videos at a later time, exactly the same way, keeping all of my videos consistent. Thanks to Microchip’s hard work we MEncoder novices can create some pretty decent videos.