It’s very annoying

Tuesday December 26, 2006

We wandered down to the local retail park late this morning in search of videotapes for my new toy. Now, the day after Christmas Day here in the UK is known as Boxing Day and is the second public holiday of Christmas. It gets more complicated when Christmas falls on a weekend but let’s not worry about that. It’s also St Stephen’s day, with its own traditions, but let’s not worry about that either, because it’s only of interest to a select bunch of old fogeys.

No, the true significance of Boxing Day is that it’s when the stores start their winter sales. The theory is that people will be bored after spending Christmas locked up inside their homes, with all the shops closed, and will want nothing more than to take their plastic out for a run, adding to the big end-of-year credit card bill blues as if they aren’t going to be bad enough already. That’s the theory, anyway. Doesn’t apply to Graham and me, not generally it doesn’t, because we like to stay home and pretend it’s still Christmas.

This time though, thanks to the mean, penny-pinching approach of the Sony Corp., we were driven out to buy a videotape.

On the profit side, we were treated to a vision of shopping hell we’ve not seen before, reinforcing our instinct to stay home Boxing Day. The carpark was full to overflowing. The stores were filled to overflowing. People wandered around the aisles like urban zombies are supposed to look if you believe the movies.

“Arrgh!” I said. “I wish we’d not come.”

“Arrgh! indeed,” said Graham. “Let’s be as quick as we can. This is not a place for civilised people.”

So we shouldered our way to the display and, with some difficulty, selected a pack of five tape cassettes—they don’t sell single cassettes, it would seem—and I went off to pay for it while Graham looked at the offers on LCD TV sets. It was a remarkably smooth transaction, mostly because the computer didn’t instruct the operator to try to sell me an extended warranty, and I waved my bag in Graham’s direction to let him know I was ready to leave.

“Thank heavens for that,” he said when we got outside the store. “Let’s go home.”

“You mean you don’t want a MacDonald’s lunch?” I asked.

“You gotta be kidding. If the stores are like this can you imagine the crush in MacDonald’s?”

“You’re probably right. Besides, we’ve got that nice organic smoked salmon to eat, and a delicious organic seeded wholemeal loaf to go with it.”

“Lead the way.”

Actually, it was far too early for lunch, so I settled down to the task of extracting the cassettes from the bubble wrap and one of them from the cellophane, slipped it in to the handycam, and shot my first video without even getting up from the kitchen table. Considering the difficult lighting conditions the results are astonishingly good and I have high hopes that I’ll be able to produce some pretty good quality moving pictures with my new toy.

Getting the clip off the camera and on to my computer was not so smooth and easy. As is typical with electronic gadgets the software is clunky and almost totally lacking in intuitive qualities.

“Arggh” I said once more. “My brain is melting!”

“Good. Turn it all off, we’ll have lunch and a nap, and then you can come back to it all fresh and ready to solve anything. I bet it’s something daft, anyway.”

Lunch was delicious. The trick with smoked salmon, as with any salmon, is to go for quality rather than quantity. Much the same can be said for just about any foodstuff of course but with salmon it seems particularly true.

Graham was right about the problem being something daft, too. There’s a setting in the menu system to switch USB streaming on or off, the default, according to the manual, being ‘ON’. I’d checked it yesterday, just to be sure. Well, it seems that when you use the ‘EASY’ setting for shooting a movie clip, it turns the darned thing to ‘OFF’, and leaves it there. The manual doesn’t warn you about that. When I corrected that the whole thing whirred into life and I was able to download my first effort without further difficulties.

The software provided ‘free’ with the video camera is junk. I’d thought that MS Movie Maker was bad but this is really bad. Research indicates that I need to invest in a copy of Adobe Premiere Elements, which is likely to do all I want in the way of movie editing and making. I shall do that, and will also treat myself to a spare battery and a soft case to protect the camera when I’m out and about. My techno-fund will just about cover the cost.

I went on to sign up with You Tube so I can publish videos and, possibly, a ‘video blog’ (VLOG). I haven’t yet decided where I shall go with the VLOG thing and shall not do so until I’ve gained some video making experience. One thing is certain. I shall continue with the online journal in its present form even if I do branch out. I’ll put in cross links, of course, but the two activities will proceed in parallel, with the written word taking precedence for the foreseeable future. I know where my roots are.

Oh, boy, but it’s fun! I used Windows Movie Maker to create a short (7 seconds) clip from my first shoot, and have put it up on You Tube to share my joy with you all. It gives Graham the last word on the whole subject. Don’t worry, while I’ll report my progress as I learn, I shall do my best speedily to relegate video making to the background where it belongs. The last thing I want here is to be annoying.




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