Syenrgy


In recent months we have been adding a few computers to the audio booth. The latest being the multitrack recording computer. I don’t have enough room to have more than one keyboard and mouse on the desk and really don’t want the confusion of more the one of each. Most of the time you would look for a KVM switcher that will allow you to switch between each machine with one keyboard, mouse and monitor. Not in this case we wanted to be able to have both monitors running all the time.

Synergy is an open source project for Mac, Windows and Linux that allows you to share a mouse and keyboard from one machine with another over the network. In our case we have a PC and a Mac. I made the decision to use the PC keyboard, so that becomes the “server” for Synergy. The setup on Windows is easy, all done through a GUI including setting it to autostart. On the mac you have to do everything from a terminal. It is a little time consuming, but not to difficult to get it working and the documentation on the site was good.

Most of the setup is done on the PC to build what Synergy calls links. The link is a definition of where the mac machine was in relation to the PC. In our case the mac monitor is to the right of the PC monitor. Make sure when you set it up you define the screens using the proper network name of the computers. We decided to name the PC Oscar and the mac Felix, but Oscar saw the name of Felix as it’s full name of Felix.local. After getting that figured out we got everything working.

So far in our testing everything seems to be working. I have tested the option and command keys as well as all the function keys and everything seems to be working. Check out Synergy at http://synergy2.sourceforge.net.

First Project with CS5

Downloaded the trial of Photoshop CS 5 while we wait for the copies we ordered. Wanted to try it out on a quick project that came up for our guest speaker. Here is the original picture the guest speaker gave me to use:

I decided that it might be cool as a title slide on our 55′ x 25′ center screen. So I used the new content aware tools (clone stamp and healing brush) and came up with this:

Turn out nice and was much easier then it would have been in CS4. I also cut out the soldiers because I wanted to use them on a lower third which turned out to be pretty easy as well.

( Sorry for my ugly mug!!!)

I think that CS5 is worth the upgrade.

Use any tool for the job.

Last week I had the opportunity to do audio recording for a short film. Recording field audio is a tough job and yesterday we were not having fun. We were shooting a scene where a man is leaving a conference room, going down stairs and out the building while talking to his wife on a cell phone. Well the location that was picked was very nice other then the incredibility loud AC system. Oh yea, it whistled and we didn’t have control to shut it off.

Due to the nature of the shots, a shotgun mic was out of the question so we used a lapel (Tram…Check them out, sounds great!). The actor was wearing a suit and We couldn’t find a hidden place where the mic didn’t rub on something. I continued to record with it, but Brandon came up with a great idea. Use the voice recorder on an iPhone to record the audio. The mic on the iPhone is not to bad and it would be in a great place to capture the audio. Just had to show the actor how to start and stop the recorder. I have not reviewed the audio we captured with the iPhone, but I figure we should use any tool you have to get the best audio you can.

Update to the Move Mail Applescript

Today I made an update to my move script that allows you to select more than one message and move them all to the “All Mail” folder. You can refer to my Things Mail Script post if you would like to setup a hot key for the script. Here is the code:


tell application "Mail"
set theSelectedMessages to selection
repeat with selected_message in theSelectedMessages
set currentMailbox to the mailbox of the selected_message
set currentAccount to the account of the currentMailbox
set filedMailbox to "All Mail"
move selected_message to mailbox filedMailbox of currentAccount
end repeat
end tell

Error in Things Todo Script

In my previous post I had in small error in the script that created the todos in Things from a mail message. Here is the updated script:


tell application "Mail"
set cr to ASCII character 13 -->You can probably use the Unicode Equivalent but I didn't know it and this worked right away.
set LF to ASCII character 10 --> Same as here
set carriage_return to (cr & LF as Unicode text)
set theSelectedMessages to selection
set the selected_message to item 1 of the theSelectedMessages
set message_id to the message id of the selected_message
set message_url to "message:%3C" & message_id & "%3E"
set TheSubject to the subject of the selected_message
set theBody to "[url=" & message_url & "]From: " & the sender of the selected_message & " - Subject: " & TheSubject & "[/url]"
tell application "Things"
show quick entry panel with properties {name:TheSubject, notes:theBody}
end tell
set currentMailbox to the mailbox of the selected_message
set currentAccount to the account of the currentMailbox
set filedMailbox to "All Mail"
move selected_message to mailbox filedMailbox of currentAccount
end tell

Things Mail Script

ThingsRecently I have been trying to be more focused on the stuff that I need to get done. Just like everyone, I have email, phone calls and such that lead to things that I have to get done. I seemed to be doing ok with most of them, but emails were getting lost in the sea of stuff that I received every day. I read this post from Michael Hyatt and thought that I would give inbox zero a try.

So to get to inbox zero I had to employ some tools to help make this happen. The rule is that if you can deal with the email within two minutes, just get it done. If not then it becomes a task. OS X doesn’t really have any good tools to handle tasks and nothing at all that would sync with the iPhone. I don’t want to go into the details of of my choice, but I ended up with Things on the desktop and iPhone.

I’m a distracted person and for me to keep up with a system it has to be easy. I quickly get frustrated by software not being integrated so I go back to my same old ways. If this was going to be successful I would need to implement some apple scripts. Two keystrokes is what I needed. If I had handled the email I need a command to move the message to my “All Mail” folder and if not another command to create the task. Things has extensive Apple scripting support so I was on my way. I found some sample code in the Things Wiki and modified it to suit my needs. I will put the code for the scripts at the bottom of this post.

Come to find out the scripting was the easiest part of this project. It was harder to find a way to run the script from a keystroke. During my research I keep coming up with MailActOn which I downloaded and it did the trick, but I just couldn’t bring myself to purchase it. The only feature I needed was the keystroke mapping and thought there had to be an open source solution to my problem. After digging deeper into Google, I found out that the swiss army knife of Mac software, Quicksilver, could solve my problem. I’m not going into the detail of how to set it up in this post, but with a little research I was up and running.

I have been working with this solution for about a month and so far I have really liked it. Of course the scripts only work on my laptop and not on the iPhone, but with copy and paste in iPhone 3.0 I have survived. I hope that the Things people add a way to create a to do from a mail message on the iPhone.

Move Message To “All Mail” Folder Script:
At some point I’m going to update this script to move multiple selected messages, but right now it only moves one.

tell application "Mail"
set theSelectedMessages to selection
set the selected_message to item 1 of the theSelectedMessages
set currentMailbox to the mailbox of the selected_message
set currentAccount to the account of the currentMailbox
set filedMailbox to "All Mail"
move selected_message to mailbox filedMailbox of currentAccount
end tell

Create A To Do And Move The Message To “All Mail” Folder Script:
tell application "Mail"
set cr to ASCII character 13 -->You can probably use the Unicode Equivalent but I didn't know it and this worked right away.
set LF to ASCII character 10 --> Same as here
set carriage_return to (cr & LF as Unicode text)
set theSelectedMessages to selection
set the selected_message to item 1 of the theSelectedMessages
set message_id to the message id of the selected_message
set message_url to "message:%3C" & message_id & "%3E"
set TheSubject to the subject of the selected_message
set theBody to "[url=" & message_url & "]From: " & the sender of the selected_message & " - Subject: " & TheSubject & "[/url]"
tell application "Things"
show quick entry panel with properties {name:TheSubject, notes:theBody}
end tell
set currentMailbox to the mailbox of the selected_message
set currentAccount to the account of the currentMailbox
set filedMailbox to "All Mail"
move selected_message to mailbox filedMailbox of currentAccount
end tell

* Updated after an error was found

Unitaskers

Snow ShovelKind of sounds like a word that I made up, but it is not. Do you watch Food Network at all? Now come on men you don’t have to surrender your “man” card if you do. I love the show Good Eats and Alton Brown uses the term unitaskers all of the time. He doesn’t think a kitchen tool should only have one purpose. This got me thinking about my production environment and how many unitaskers we have.

I have attached a picture of a snow shovel or is it just a snow shovel? When we moved to NC it would snow on occasion, but I never wanted to pay for a snow shovel for the one to two times a year it would snow until I saw a neighbor use it as a dust pan. Might be the best dust pan I have ever used. Now it has value beyond the single task, I can own it. Of course I live in Southeast TX now and it has become a unitasker again, for now.

At churches we have lots of unitaskers, could be buildings, tech gear, volunteer positions. Sure there are times that you have to have unitaskers, but with some thought or changes could they be used for more? Let me share some examples from my world.

Do you have any wireless systems with only hand helds? Seems like it makes sense that you would have a handheld mic dedicated for solos or the worship pastor. What happens when VBS hits and all you need is headsets or lapels? It costs a little more to add the body pack, but think of the flexibility it adds. We have used them as guitar packs, drama mics, countryman on a violinist for a specials. I think that it is crazy to get a wireless with out both. Multiple times a year we use packs on channels we thought would be dedicated to handheld use.

We have yet to add a dedicated recording console in our worship environment, but I would make sure that I added a vocal booth or maybe even a larger room for doing voice overs/over dub/general recording as well and connect it to the recording console. Why should that be dedicated to doing a service mix only. The same applies to a dedicated video studio how could the equipment in your worship environment be leverage for the creative video work you do. This could be as simple as keeping a few backdrops in the worship center for shooting green screen or other types of shots. You already have the cameras, lighting systems and recording equipment. Would it be the most optimal? Maybe not, but it would be a good use of the equipment that that sits idle other than service times.

We are adding a stage camera next budget year and the camera we have budgeted for is not a studio only camera. I wanted something that could be used standalone for remote shoots or creative video projects. Adding a stage camera will also add a volunteer position that I think we can cover by the training the stage manager that has no responsibility during the worship section of the service. I don’t know about you, but volunteers can be harder to get sometimes than the money for new equipment.

I have two MacPro CG systems sitting in the worship center that are quad core Intels with a Declink Extreme capture cards for ProPresenter with Alpha channel. Great setup, but is that not also a video editing system? Why not have someone do video editing on them during the week? In our case it is pretty expensive to have someone work in the worship center due to a/c and lighting costs, but if you have a video booth that is out of the main room why not leverage this equipment for video editors. At the very least, I plan on setting them up as render nodes when the room is cool enough in the winter.

I could go on and on with examples, but you get the idea. We are spending money given to us by our Lord, it is not our money. We can’t totally eliminate unitaskers from our environments, but especially in financial times like we are in now we need to spend our money and use our resources wisely. Down with unitaskers!!!!

SaveSave

Blender

Over the past few months I started seeing some interesting animations created with Blender. Blender is a open source 3d animation package similar to Maya or Cinema 4D. If you are not familiar Blender check out their website at http://www.blender.org/. Also check out Memory and Big Buck Bunny, both created with Blender. Being that I have a soft spot open source, I figured it was the package for me to try and learn even though we use C4D at work.

Blender runs on OS X, Linux and Windows (if you must) and was a easy install on my Mac. I launched the software and the interface scared me. This is a common issue with Blender and most would give up right there. In fact, I had looked at it once before and did give up. With a little more determination this time, I did some research and found lots of online resources for teaching yourself the software. I will list a few resources at the end of the post.

The UI is designed for productivity and not user friendliness and it is daunting, but once you work with it a little bit, you will get the hang of it. Most of my struggles have been with learning 3d terms that would be an issue with most of the packages. After a few hours of tutorial I’m able to do some basic molding and animation. Still lots to learn and that is exciting as well.

To date I have created two items that I have used in service at Sugar Creek. First I modeled and animated the logo and composited it with some graphics built in After Effects for a lower third. I came up with the idea to see if I could export videos with an alpha channel from Blender.

The second project was just a quick title animation for a guest speaker. This was designed for a screen setup we had that is two projectors projecting a 2048×768 image on screens floor level behind the speaker. The grass and the “LIFE?” are 3d elements with the clouds being a 2d image. The animation is just a basic camera move.

Life? Sermon Background from Rick Russell on Vimeo.

Both of these are very simple examples I know, but they have been a great learning experience. Over the next few months I’m hoping to continue to come up with projects that will help me to develop my skills. If you are interested in 3d, give Blender a try, but commit to taking some time to do some tutorials to get you up to speed on the interface. Plenty of information is out there.

By the way, 3D projects can take lots of time to render and if you choose Blender, there are no extra license fees to setup a render farm on any hardware you have around you. Bonus!!!

Free Blender Resources:

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Blender_3D:_Noob_to_Pro
http://www.blendernation.com/
http://www.blenderguru.com/
http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Blender+Tutorials&search_type=&aq=f

Recently lynda.com released 9 hours of training if you have a subscription.

iPhone 3.0

Today Apple gave a sneak peak into the next release of the iPhone software, version 3.0. I have been watching all of the blogs to see what the new features would bring to my favorite portable device. Cut and paste was a nice addition and push notifications will also bring some good new features to applications like Facebook and IM applications.

The iPhone is a great device for some one like me, who spends the majority of my time away from my desk. I might not be traveling around doing sales, but most of my work during the week is preparing for Sunday or repairing equipment in one of the many A/V equipped rooms. Much of the work that I do is driven by requests that I receive over email.

The one feature that nobody seemed to talk about was tasks and task syncing. Not really that surprising being that Apple just added a task support to mail in Leopard. I guess that we have two more releases before we can expect to see it on the iPhone. Thanks to the app store, we have many applications on the iPhone that handle task management, but to my knowledge none of them allow you to create a task from a mail message.

I can’t tell you how many things slip through the cracks because I read an email on my iPhone and I don’t create a task because it is not easy. I say “I will create that task when I get back to my desk.” When I am back at my desk the message is lost in the shuffle. So does 3.0 help me? Only time will tell. Apple did release 1000 new APIs and I can only hope that one of them will enable the application developers to access the emails and let us create action items from emails easily on the iPhone.

Panasonic AV-HS400A

Panasonic AV-HS400AWe recently purchased a Panasonic AV-HS400A switcher for our student worship room. If you have not seen this switcher, check it out. I don’t think you can find a switcher on the market with the same features for the price. We have been putting it through its paces in our worship center while waiting for our Grass Valley Kayak HD-100 switcher to arrive.

All was good for about the first month including three “Imagine Christmas” performances. But over the past few weeks, the switcher became unreliable leading up to three lockups (in the span of two services) last week. Needless to say, we were getting worried. I did a quick review of Panasonic’s site and didn’t find any software update or listed issues.

Then I went to the first rule of trouble shooting. What has changed that could be causing the issue? I had to rack my brain a little bit because we change things all the time. After a few minutes, I called the director on the intercom and asked him to unplug the network cable from the back of the switcher. We had no issues for the rest of the day. We have run another Sunday now with no issues., so I think that it is safe to say it was the network connection.

We really were not using the networking features, we just wanted to try out loading some graphics over the network. If you need to load graphics that way I would recommend you not leave it plugged in during a production. I have no idea if our network configuration was to blame, but if you run into the issue it is something you will want to test during your trouble shooting.