Find us on Google+

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Auf Wiedersehen

Guten Tag.
My wife and I are leaving tomorrow to travel Bavaria with our community choir. We'll be gone until July 3rd. I won't be posting on this blog until after the 4th of July, but you can follow us at the choir's tour blog.

Auf Wiedersehen

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Split and Trim

Perhaps the most basic thing (and one of the most important things) to learn about video editing is how to split and trim video clips.

Splitting clips means that you break one clip into two or more parts. You would use this tool if you wanted to insert another clip between the two or if you wanted to edit out the middle portion of a video.

Trimming video is similar to cropping a photo, you cut off portions of the beginning or end (or both) of the video so that you're left with only the section you want.

To split the video clip, click and drag the bar that shows your position in the video. It's a black bar that goes all the way across your video timeline and when you drag it, the preview window updates with the still from that portion of the video. In Windows Live Movie Maker (WLMM) you can simply click on the "Split" tool on the "Video Tools: Edit" tab in the ribbon. If you're using Windows Movie Maker (WMM) click on the "Clip" menu and then click "Split."

Trimming the video is very similar. Drag the bar to the point where you want the video to start (or stop) and then click on the "Clip" menu again and select "Set Start Trim Point" (or "End"). If you're using WLMM, the buttons for the start and end trim points are right next to the "Split" button on the "Video Tools: Edit" tab.

If you don't like the splitting or trimming you've done, you can use the "Undo" option. Press "Ctrl+Z" on your keyboard to set things back the way they once were. Then try again until you get it just right.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Windows (Live) Movie Maker - Introduction

One of the most accessible video editing tools is Windows Movie Maker and it's cousin, Windows Live Movie Maker. Mostly because they are free to download on Windows computers (if you have a Mac, you've got access to iMovie, so ten percent of you are in luck).

WMM (as it's called for short), is a good, if simple, video editing platform. You can do the basics of cropping a video down to size, transitioning between two video clips with a crossfade and putting a musical track over top of the whole thing. So, for most people, it has the chops to take your various video clips and make something usable. You can crop out just the section you need for PowerPoint presentation and fade the clip in and out smoothly - all in just a few minutes.

Windows Live Movie Maker is good (WLMM) for short, but it's a different program. It has some added features, and some that were taken away. With WLMM, you can upload your completed project directly to YouTube or Facebook. However WMM has the ability to create plugins that offer new features and an active community of users developing plugins.

What are the main video editing tasks that you have? What works best for you?

Friday, June 17, 2011

SlideFest: Microsoft's Presentation Competition (Results)

Guess who has two thumbs and won a PowerPoint competition . . . this guy (you really need to imagine me with a big grin and pointing my thumbs at myself). I entered four presentations into the Microsoft SlideFest competition. Two of them were selected for voting in the People's Choice award (which I didn't win).

I did win in the "Best Graphics" category for the presentation: How do Neural Pathways Work. I'm very happy with the results. You should go over to the awards site to see all the winners.

Thanks to everyone who voted for me in the People's Choice award section. I greatly appreciate it.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, I won a copy of Microsoft Office Professional 2010. Not too shabby.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Continuing the Conversation on Homosexuality

A few months ago I spent some time looking at the issues around homosexuality and the church. This is an important issue that needs to be addressed with love and respect. In a recent issue of the Christian Chronicle, they do just that. A panel of three respondents share their thoughts and experience about how the church should respond to same-sex attraction.

Sally Gary says:
For someone who experiences same-sex attraction — even someone who has grown up in church — there’s a great deal of fear in simply admitting those feelings.
It’s critical to respond in love — the expressions on our faces, our willingness to really walk with this person, beyond a pat on the back at a worship service. We must all convey a genuine desire to understand and support the person struggling with same-sex attraction.
Spend lots of time listening and less time sharing Scriptural references. If the person has grown up with Scripture, he or she knows. And, frankly, reading verses from Ephesians 4 to me when I’m angry has never stopped me from feeling angry.
Simply love me as my Father loves me — unconditionally — and let me truly experience his love through your living life with me. Feeling that love, through a brother in Christ who was and still is willing to take me right where I am, even when I’m at my most unlovable, has made all the difference in my life.

How can you show genuine love to someone? How has unconditional love affected you?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The A-Team Always has a Plan B

Chewing on the end of a Churchill cigar, Colonel  Hannibal Smith grins and says, "I love it when a plan comes together."

What made The A-Team work was the planning. What makes your presentations work is the planning. It's supremely satisfying to sit back, after a successful presentation, and love that your plan has come together.

But what if it doesn't?

What happens when your plans fail? What if the power goes out? What if things are running long and you need to cut your presentation in half? What will you do? What's you plan B?

For all the times you get to sit back, satisfied, there will be times when you have to scamper around and figure out how to adjust to a new situation. Rehearse your presentation so well that you don't need notes. Design your slides so that you can still present without them. Create a flexible presentation that can be trimmed on the fly.

It's better to have a good plan B and not need it than to need it and not have it.

What disasters have struck your presentations?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Everything is Different

When everything changes, that's exhausting. One of the reasons that moving and getting married are toward the top of the list of stressful activities is that change freaks our brains out.

The gray matter in your noggin is a change detector. It does an amazing job of finding what's new and ignoring what's stayed the same. All of the things in your life that are constant begin to fade into the background and just the different things pop to the surface and demand the attention of your brain power.

But when you're in a completely new situation, the change can become overwhelming. If you've ever traveled to a new country, after a while all the change just begins to drive you crazy. You have to think about where to go to the store, what all the different brands are, how to cook, how to eat and just about everything else. That is exhausting.

When it comes time to implement change. Do it a bit at a time. You might be ready to change everything all at once, but you'll lose people to the stress of too much change. But if you don't consistently change things, then people will come to ignore everything that's happening, which is a problem in itself.

How do you tackle change?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Order from Chaos - part 2

Yesterday there was a moment where there were eight children in our house between the ages of 0 and 13, plus ten adults. It was a little chaotic. Luckily we have a large house so there's room to spread out, but the noise doesn't respect walls. I'm not complaining about the chaos, I chose to live in this home with people who have kids in the hope that our house would be filled with visitors. It's great.

But it makes for some difficulty when it comes time to create. In the loudness and business of our house, I often have a hard time being productive. I like to have quiet and order to help me process my thoughts. Those conditions can be hard to come by around here.

I've invested in some noise canceling headphones for when I can't leave the house, but I need to get some work done. I use the Jabra C820S Active Noise Cancelling Stereo Headphones (note, this is an affiliate link and I earn a small commission on any purchases). They help me to tune out the noise of the world around me so I can focus.

I get out of the house (my office) to be creative. I go to the coffee shop down the street. Somehow, sitting in a crowd of people can bring peace and concentration where sitting with a group of people I know only brings distractions.

I spend time journaling to get out all of the chaos in my brain. Often the thoughts get jumbled which makes it difficult for me to pick out the good ones from the bad ones. Getting my thoughts on paper and out of my head helps to see what I've got and process things better.

What tips do you have for bringing order out of the chaos of your life?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Lament is Healthy

So my good friend and house-mate Ryan found out that he has cancer. It's terrifying and frustrating. His spinal tumor was removed (most of it) and he's been on the mend. Now we have a week of waiting for the full pathology report to tell us what the treatment plan will be and the prognosis.

Times are emotional around here. It's tough for us to go on with life like normal - and we shouldn't. We should lament at these moments. We should weep. We should rage at God. It's what the bible teaches us to do. The Psalms are full of laments and the entire book of Lamentations records the feelings of Israel when they felt abandoned by God. God wants us to feel our emotions, not numb them, not hide them, but to give them voice.

The words of Psalm 88 (a Psalm of Lamentation) resonate powerfully right now:
I am overwhelmed with troubles
   and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
   I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead,
   like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
   who are cut off from your care.

How can we make space for lamentation in our lives? When does your church need to practice lamenting?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Small Progress is Better than No Progress

I don't know if anyone else remembers the movie What about Bob from 1991, but in it Bill Murray plays a character, Bob, who is learning to deal with life through therapy. At the beginning he's learning about baby steps (baby steps down the hall, baby steps to the elevator). Even though it made for a good joke 20 years ago, it's no less true as a statement of how we learn things. We can't grow and change everything all at once.

Babies learn one thing at a time. They don't learn how to walk. First they learn where their foot is and then they learn how to push. Eventually they stand and after that comes walking. Learning is a cumulative process and it can't be accomplished quickly.

The same is true for big people as it is for babies. You can't master a new skill in an instant. One of the biggest objections to using PowerPoint in preaching (in my experience at least) is that it will take too much effort to learn the necessary skills. So, don't learn how to use the new software and how to incorporate it into your preaching style and how to communicate with a tech team and how to click through a slideshow.

Learn one thing. Take one step. Take a baby step. Use one picture as a visual representation for your next sermon series. That's just one picture for a whole series. Just one step.

What's the next step you should take in learning?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Learning All Over Again

So, my housemate Ryan had a tumor removed from his spine last week. He comes home on Thursday - just nine days after the surgery. But coming home he's going to have to learn to do just about everything anew. He can't move quite like he did before and so we've been getting the house ready (to tell the truth, some amazing people have been doing most of the work, I try to pitch in, but we're blessed by all the helpers who are making this happen). He has a new bed, he gets a shower stool (and I'm standing like a schmuck), and we're looking at getting a stool for him to use in the kitchen so he can access the lower cabinets.

Ryan is amazing, he's been working incredibly hard to rehab and get back to life as normal. But he's having to learn how to live, all over again.

Sometimes it's a good thing for us to learn things again. Things we thought we knew. But when we go through the process of learning with the knowledge and perspective we have now, we can improve and grow in more ways than the first time around.

In the couple minute video below you can see how to tie your shoes. I know that you can already tie your shoes, but you're probably doing it wrong. Learn it again and learn it better this time around.

How would you apply this to presenting?

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Waiting Well (or Why Cellphone Lots at the Airport are Awesome)

It took a while, but airports finally figured out how to harness the power of mobile telephone technology: make people wait in a place far away. And the weird thing is that we're all happy to do it. We joyfully drive off to the cell phone lot. You sit and wait. You don't know how long or when it will end. You just wait.

Waiting is terrible. We are a waiting averse people. We don't handle down-time well at all. We want to be busy and moving, so when it comes time to wait we're frustrated. We find ways to distract ourselves so that the waiting seems less painful. We build fantastic lines for rides at a mouse-themed park so that the wait is just a discovery of all the nooks and crannies of the line. We whip out our phones and text, play games or check Facebook. We make a quick call to move back the appointment we're supposed to be at right now (just passing the waiting on down the line).

When there are moments of waiting in a presentation time, what do you do? Make it purposeful, if you can. If you know there's going to be some down-time, put together one of those movie trivia type presentations, but tailor it to your topic. Put up slides that invite people to get to know each other, rather than just waiting silently next to other people. If you're the presenter, spend time mingling with the audience and talking to them while you all wait.

How can you wait well before your next presentation?

Monday, June 06, 2011

I Like to Movie it (Move it)

The human brain is designed to track motion. We may not be as bad as the T-Rex in Jurassic Park but we tend to fixate on things that move. On a recent episode of Nova: Science Now, they looked at how the brain works and one of the key points was that our brains key in on motion. "It's better to think you see a tiger stalking you and be wrong than to think there isn't one and be wrong."

We perceive things that move as more important and we even invent motion when it's not there. So when you think about a presentation, if you want the audience to pay attention to the screen, good use of motion, video clips, animation and transitions will capture the eyes of the people. They won't be able to help it.

If, however, you want the audience to pay attention to you, then you need to only use still images on the screen and you need to move. Get out in front of the screen. Move as you speak. Use your hands and body to communicate.

How can you use motion to direct the attention of your audience?

Friday, June 03, 2011

Video Primer - part 2

When it comes to editing video there are some basic terms that can be helpful to understand. If I were to tell you to insert a wipe between two clips, that might not make much sense, but it's a perfectly natural thing to say in video editing parlance.

Clip: A short segment of video. When you import a video into your editing software it will be divided into clips of a few seconds long so that you can move things around and edit things as necessary.

Split: If you have a clip that's too long you want to split it into multiple clips. You might take a clip that's two seconds long and split it into two clips of one second apiece.

Wipe: This is the video equivalent of a transition effect in PowerPoint. A wipe moves you from one clip to the next using some visual effect. Think of the transition from the scene of the star destroyer in space to the desert of Tatooine in Star Wars, that's a wipe effect. Other transition effects might be more subtle than a wipe.

Fade: A cross-fade will reduce the previous clip while fading in the new clip so that, for just a moment, you see both clips over each other. You can also cross-blur where the old blurs out and the new blurs in. You can fade through black or white. Fades are good, subtle transitions between clips.

Render: When you've piled on all the edits that you want in your video it's time to render. That means that you have the computer putt everything together. You might think this step is simple since you can watch a preview of your editing right in the software, but it's a low-quality preview. Rendering the full video can take quite a while, especially with a high-quality video. You might have your computer rendering for hours before you get a final video.

What other video editing terms are important to know?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Video Primer - part 1

There's a lot of specialized terminology associated with digital video. Even knowing what's going on in the DV (digital video) world requires navigating acronyms aplenty. Here's a quick run-down of some of the more common terms you'll need to know.

Codec: the algorithm used to code and decode video files in a compressed format. A codec figures out what information can be dropped out from each frame of a video in order to make it smaller. The more aggressive the codec the lower the video quality, but the smaller the file. Some codecs are: DivX, Xvid, MPEG4 and H.264.

File Type: This is the indicator for what type of program should be used to open a video file. This is different than a codec. An Xvid encoded video can be in the AVI file type or WMV or even MOV. Not every codec is compatible with every file type, but each file type can support different codecs.

Media Player: This is the program that reads the file type and decodes the codec to play the video. So Quicktime is Apple's video player. It reads MOV files and decodes them for play on your computer. You can't play a WMV file in Quicktime since that's the Windows Media Video file type and it plays in Windows Media Player, though both the WMV and MOV file might use the same codec. Typically AVI files are the most compatible across different media players.  One media player that can address nearly every file type and codec is the VideoLAN VLC player. It's what I use.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Video Editing Basics

You're expected to be a Jack (or Jill) of all trades. Not only do you need to know what you're going to share, but you need to know how to craft a PowerPoint presentation that will back up your message and to include relevant media with the presentation. So you need to learn a bit about photo editing, some about audio and some about video editing.

The month of June I'm going to focus on some basic video editing tips. You won't learn how to use a professional video editing bay, but you'll be able to use the tools that are probably already on your computer to make slight changes in videos. You might need to convert videos from one file format to another. You might need to trim a video or splice a couple of clips together.

What do you wish you knew about video editing? What tips do you have to share?