21 April 2012

Qomics Quintology IV: What If? No. 83

We take a look at one of What If...?'s boldest and most experimental "alterniverses."

Something about my current editing process:
As I'm using Linux, my video editing options are somewhere between slim and nil. For a time, I used a program called OpenShot, which I was very impressed with to the point of calling it the Linux equivalent to iMovie or Windows Movie Maker. The trouble is that I went from using a small form-factor Linux computer that I built to a Dell Optiplex that some law firm my roommate's nephew worked for didn't want anymore. It ran Windows XP, but was locked with a password and had no recovery disk, which prompted me to just running Linux Mint on it. All seemed well and good, but somehow Openshot decided it didn't want to work anymore. The first time I used OpenShot, I got an error message telling me I needed some codecs so it could properly export the video. Luckily, all I had to do was enter the names of the codecs and the error message in a search and I got a solution right away. Later, when I got the Dell, I ran into a similar problem, but when I downloaded and installed the right components (and a few others) just like before, absolutely nothing happened. OpenShot just didn't want to work at all.
This meant I had to use YouTube's built-in video editor, which is serviceable but has two important problems. The first problem is that I basically have to upload all my raw footage, edit each clip individually (namely trimming), and then open a new project in YouTube's editor. This takes hours. One of the great advantages of recording to SD cards or an internal memory is that all I have to do is drag and drop the clips into the editor, which works almost instantly. With using YouTube's editor, it's akin to using tapes, where you have to sit and watch it download in real time. The second and most irritating problem is that, if I use multiple cameras, the video's overall resolution defaults to the lowest.
The Nokia Nuron, which could well be my favorite video camera ever, has the ability to shoot with colored filters, trim and merge clips, and even allow me to dub over the soundtrack. It's surprisingly robust for a feature that's essentially an afterthought on a phone. The catch is that not only is it not a high definition video, it's barely standard definition.
Without getting into a whole mathematical mess of aspect ratios and resolutions, the key point is that my Sony Cybershot shoots HD video, which means each frame is 720 pixels tall. A DVD, by comparison, is 480 pixels tall (that's standard definition). The Nuron's widescreen mode is 360 pixels tall. Since I'm recording the introductions to most of these videos on the Nuron, that means I'm asking YouTube's editor to merge a 720 image with a 360 image. In the end, the maximum resolution of the completed video project is only 360 pixels tall. No high definition, not even standard definition. It's still 120 lines more than a VHS tape, but it basically means I'm not getting the best image possible.
On the whole, though, while shooting in HD is appealing, I care far more about my videos being widescreen, so it's a small loss and really just irritates me because HD video eats memory card space.
In short, I really should just upgrade my system to something that can handle a more practical and versatile editing program such as Sony Vegas, but two things: 1) I can't afford that kind of upgrade (got a bit eaten alive on my taxes thanks to something from my past coming back to haunt me) and 2) In the end, I don't make videos all that often. It's only rarely that I get the bug to film something and it often goes as quickly as it arrives. About the only reason I put as much effort into it as I do is because apart from sales of my prints on DeviantART, my videos are one of the few things I produce that can generate money via ad revenue. Granted, it's not going to supplant my day job anytime soon, if ever at all, but it'd be nice for a few embellishments and frivolities, so anything that can help get me a return on my investment (even for a hobby) is worth pursuing.

20 April 2012

An Open Letter to the Marijuana Community

South Park put it best, that more than likely the worst thing that's going to happen to anyone smoking pot is absolutely nothing, that its worst effect is making you alright with being bored. On the whole, I don't care if people want to get high by way of the cannabis; it's no different than any other vice or addiction, be it liquor, tobacco, caffeine, sex, roller coasters, or videogames to name a few. What matters is whether you're in control of your habit, or it's in control of you. Either way, those on the pro-marijuana side of the issue, we need to have a talk.

Here's an encounter I had with a neighbor some years back as I was on my way to work.

Him: Hey.
Me: Howdy.
Him: Say, do you know where I can get some pot?
Me: No, I don't.
Him: You don't?
Me: Nope.
Him: Why not?!
Me: Because I don't do pot.
Him: But you have long hair!
Me: That doesn't mean anything.
Him: Whatever.

The funny part of that story is that he had a crew cut. The really funny part is that I was clean-shaven, wearing a dress shirt, and spoke without a hint of a slur. The sad part is he asked me again a few weeks later. The sadder part is that in the meantime, he would condescendingly yell, "Hippie!" at me from his balcony as I walked out to my car. The worst part is that I have to live in the same building as this guy, this guy who now harbors an irrational resentment toward me because he believes I lied to him and then added insult to injury by pointing out the fault in his ability to sort people out by appearance. As I've implied, I think the illegal status of marijuana is an arbitrary double standard, but situations like what I've described haven't exactly endeared me to stand by you guys in your campaign.

I know you don't keep any sort of census or roster and it's utterly unfair of me to hold you all accountable for the actions of a few bad eggs. That said, it's no use playing dumb, either. It's also not going to do you any good to see your campaign as a black-and-white issue. Look, I don't like being lumped in with those pro-active/social anti-drug people with their lame slogans and ineffective ad campaigns, and I know you probably don't like being lumped in with the people I'm describing, the ones who can't comprehend that people who choose not to get high aren't always looking down their noses at them. I have no problem taking that step to seeing that the stereotypical "stoner" is archaic, sensationalized, and largely inaccurate, that correlation is not causation. So, why are you holding onto it? Why am I being profiled by way of only-partially fitting an image you know doesn't fully or properly represent you?

Seriously, at the risk of sounding like I'm making fun of you, with all the colors you can smell and music you can see, if you're still seeing things in black-and-white, then maybe you should lay off the pot; clearly, it's not expanding your consciousness or broadening your mind as much as you want other people to believe. Just because I'm not a help to you doesn't mean I'm a hindrance by default.

I don't want "NO means NO!" to become the new "Just say NO!" and I doubt any of you do, either.

So, like I said, I don't want to write off the Cannabis Community as a wastrels and a cancer upon civilization, but you need to respect a few ground rules if you want to be treated like responsible adults that can usher in a change in policy, namely that, even if I did partake in recreational drugs, I'm under no obligation to keep you appraised of this fact and that your habits are ultimately your responsibility and yours alone. If you do have to ask, and the answer is no, take the hint.

Happy 420, and to crib a phrase from a wise man,

Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.

P.S. Oh, one more "ground rule" before we part: Would you please stop using famous artists like The Beatles, The Doors, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and others as "case studies" for why marijuana should be legalized? Creativity isn't a substance you can breath in as smoke or bake into a brownie or inject into your veins or put under your tongue, and last time I looked, no one in any of those bands ever said otherwise. Besides, if that were the case, there'd be a lot more White Albums out there.

Peace and bacon grease.

17 April 2012

Qomics Quintology Part IIIb: Nadesico

I make a startling discovery about one of my favorite writers... and I'm driven to drink because of it.

Qomics Quintology III: Manga Formats

Probably a little more personal than previous installments, if only because I'm working with an existing collection instead of the one I'm building now.

15 April 2012

Qomics Quintology Part II: Swords of the Swashbucklers number 2

This has left me feeling just a little bit morose. My attempt to make quality video projects using only what I've got at my disposal (and a little less) hasn't really yielded the results I'd like. Still, I intend to finish what I started, and I can say that because I actually finished part 3 before I started part 2 (even shot an introduction for part 4).