Final Cut Pro

Over recent years I have been interested in creating films and particular editing the videos I have recorded of the dog, Rio and family holidays. The iMac is so easy to use for this type of work and I found Apple iMovie intuitive and allows the user to create really good looking videos. The templates for making home movie trailers are particularly easy to use and can look quite professional.

My favourites are the Grand Canyon helicopter ride…

and the San Francisco trailer…

But over recent months I’ve been wanting the do more of the editing myself and whilst iMovie is a good package, I really wanted to give Apple’s Final Cut Pro X a go. The problem though was the cost! FCP is a professional package used extensively in the film and video industry and therefore comes at a relatively high price of £199 and so kept me from downloading a copy.

And then a month ago I won an award at work and a prize of £250 Apple voucher. I duly downloaded the trial FCP X, a fully working version and soon got to grips with the new controls. My first effort was the Gran Canaria holiday video…

Having decided that the application was worthy of the price tag I then decided to buy it using my voucher only to discover that I can only spend it on hardware at an Apple store. Doh! Oh well at least I’ll be able to use it for the new iPhone when it comes out in the autumn.

So have I bought the package?

You guessed it, yep and I’m loving it.

Here’s the latest video I have created, updating a film I made last year with new footage.


My next plan is to try to persuade Tina to come with me to do some filming using a second video recorder so I can do some editing of multi-camera shots. Yeah right!

Going electronic

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog so I thought I’d get something down on the first day of the traditional blog-a-day-in february, which was first started by mate Mark over at

My blog posts have been a bit sparse of late; a combination of apathy, a mundane lifestyle and a very active puppy that constantly wants walking. Whenever I sit down at my iMac, I get a nose up against my side and a sort of whining noise and although I keep telling her to stop, Tina just won’t leave me alone!

So to my blog…

Last week I started reading an e-book on my iPad entitled ‘Paperless’ in which the author described how he had managed to go completely paper-free in his home and office, converting every piece of literature to pdf before filing in an orderly fashion on his computer. Now me being an organised type of person thought this idea worthy of some consideration and started to look at how I could incorporate this way of saving the planet into my life. But how to achieve such a feat?

Well firstly I had to look at my work and how much paper I consume on a daily basis. What with printing for meetings, one to one’s with my team, notices and process documents it was going to be a tall order but I was certain I could make it happen. I started by scanning in the large pile of paperwork that had gathered on my desk; there were a number of forms that needed to be kept but they didn’t necessarily have to be in paper format. Fortunately we now have access to an all-in-one-scanner that e-mails the output straight to your inbox. It wasn’t long before I was filling my system with exact copies of the forms, in pdf format, neatly entitled with a standard filename so I could easily retrieve it. Great. Then came the 121’s and the tricky problem of sitting down with my engineers without filling in reams of paper from which the new appraisal scheme requires. So I went electronic. Now my engineers will be able to store their performance evidence on their laptops and e-mail me once we’ve been through it. They, therefore, don’t need to carry an encyclopaedia-sized folder to the meeting and I can upload what is required for the scheme onto my storage area should anyone want to audit it. I’ve also stopped printing everything I get sent to me and instead now read it on the computer screen and then file it. I just hope our IT department do regular backups as I’m really putting my faith in this electronic medium.

ScanSnapS1300iAnd so to home. To be fair I have tried to cut down on holding on to bits of paper over recent years; the advent of the electronic utility bill and paperless bank statements have greatly reduced the amount that I have needed to hold and I have regularly scanned any statements that are sent by post onto my Mac using my as-in-one-printer, but was a long and laborious process and so I decided to invest in a dedicated scanner. I purchased a Fujitsu ScanSnap 1300i scanner and I must admit I’m pretty impressed with it’s ability to scan the documents, OCR them and file them, with just one press of a button. I’ve managed to scan a number of documents that I am reluctant to just throw away just in case I need to refer to them again, taking minutes rather than hours to transfer them to my system.

As a precaution, I’ve set up a backup routine where I have two local copies of my files and an off-site back up too so I have every confidence that when the documents go through my shredder I will be able to retrieve them.

So I’m not sure whether my contribution will save any trees; most paper these days is made from sustainable forests but at least it gives me an excuse to use tech and now I have the ability to get to my documents remotely. Very 21st century!

Taking the publishing world by storm…

Well not quite, but you may recall I mentioned in one of the February blogs that I was in the process of writing a couple of iBooks using the new free Apple application iBooks Author, an interactive book creator. Well over the past few weeks I have been working on my first book (I got disillusioned with writing the ones about my website and a daily diary but might finish them some day) and decided to do something a bit different.

Having a keen interest in all things to do with Space (I did go and see a Space Shuttle launch you know), I thought that it would make a good subject to cover in an interactive book so I did some research and found loads of information within Wikipedia. Now I know that Wiki’s can be inaccurate but as my iBook was going to be mainly photos I thought it would be an ideal source of information and it also gets over the issue of copyright as the majority of photos within Wikipedia are covered under the ‘Creative Commons‘ agreement. I could have signed up to use some stock photos but as that would cost me a fortune and I had no intention of selling the book I thought it would be perfect.

Therefore I started planning the book, deciding what to include and looking for some interactive content to include. I found some 3D models of the Space Shuttle, Saturn V Rocket and the sun which would be ideal and contacted the owners to seek permission to use their work in my book. I created a couple of timelines of space exploration using an app called ‘Timelines 3D‘ which produces superb presentations which can be inserted into the iBook. I built an interactive picture giving information on our solar system and the different components of the sun.

I finally pulled it together on Monday and submitted it to the Apple iBooks store and sat back and waited. According to others, the the process of actually checking the books for quality by the Apple people can take up to two weeks to complete so I didn’t really expect to hear back until next month. So I was particularly pleased when I woke up this morning to find an e-mail stating that my book had been published and it there waiting for anyone in the world to download and read. Just think anyone with an IPad 2 or later can view my little masterpiece. The book can be downloaded from the iTunes bookstore or below if you don’t have an iPad.

I wasn’t quite sure at what age group to aim the book at but in the end just left it as general as it might interest anyone who fancies to look at some pretty pictures. I appreciate all the same information can be obtained through the Nasa site or Wikipedia, but my book is more pictorial based and hopefully people will enjoy looking at it (I’m not looking forward to the reviews as I’m bound to get some criticism).

High from the excitement of publishing my first book on Monday, I then thought about creating another; this time something of my own creation. So I decided to bring together my holiday journal when we went to California last year with many of the photos and videos I took. Again, it would be an ideal way of displaying the trip in an interactive way and hopefully some people may find it of interest. As I was off this week with some time to spare, I started compiling the content, deciding on the photos to include and converting the videos I have previously edited and putting them all into an interactive version. I also created some maps showing the routes we took on each of the days we were travelling.

As most of the work had been done i.e. I’d already written the journal whilst I was in America, it was a fairly quick process, especially as I’d learned many of the nuances of iBooks Author when creating the Space book. And by yesterday morning the book was done and ready to submit. Again I assume that there will be a delay whilst Apple give it the once over but hopefully by this time next week I’ll have my second iBook published.

For those that don’t have an iPad (shame on you) I have created PDF versions of the books but of course they’re only going to show screenshots so you won’t get the full interactive experience. You can download The Interactive Space Book and the California and Nevada Travel Journal but be aware they are large files due to the size of the images contained in them.

So what’s next?

If reviews of the two books are positive I might add my other journals to the list!

Be afraid Mr Murdoch, be afraid!

Mac Apps

When I first got my iMac, I was impressed by how intuitive and simple it was to download and use the applications that run on it. Things became even easier when they introduced the Mac App Store, which meant that you could purchase all the software in one place, and any updates would automatically appear.

Along with the iMac I bought the standard suite of applications called iWork which included Keynote 09, a presentation app, Pages 09, a document creator and Numbers 09, for building spreadsheets. These apps are the equivalent to Microsoft’s Office suite, although in my opinion they are much more feature rich and therefore able to produce some stunning documents.

In fact I am now using the Pages app to create a couple of weekly news flyers for work, which were so easy to make, even for an uncreative person like myself. Using the templates that are standard with the product, it didn’t take me long to customise it into how I wanted and feedback from work colleagues has been very positive.

Anyhow, a couple of weeks ago, Apple released a free application for the Mac called iBooks Author, which allows you to create multi-touch textbooks for the iPad. This app integrates really closely with the iWork suite and uses many of the features seen in those apps to allow you to create an interactive book, that you can actually publish to the world.

So I downloaded it and started to build my very own interactive book. Since October, I have started to keep a daily diary of events that happened to me, much of it around Rio and how he has changed our lives, but also the more mundane stuff like going to work and doing stuff with the family. Whilst I don’t think this book will get published and become a best seller (I don’t think my daily ramblings are that interesting), it is a nice way to present the diary and link it with photos, videos and music that are relevant to the entry for the day.

Whilst building the ‘iBook diary’ I then started thinking about what book I could write which actually could get published on the internet. In the past I have often though about writing a book but I’ve lacked inspiration as to what to write about. I did once think I would write my memoirs but having a brain like a sieve it would have not been very detailed and to be honest my life has not really been that interesting, so that one’s out of the running.

As I said earlier I don’t have many creative juices but I have had an online presence for a number of years and built websites and have run a blog for about fifteen years so I thought, why not document that all in an iBook. Although not interesting to everyone, some people might find it readable!

And so I am currently in the process of gathering information about my earlier websites, those that I have built for others and the blog that I started in the mid-2000’s, which the aim of pulling all together into an interactive book. I am struggling to find an information on my early sites but I do have copies of later ones and sites I have built for others. I also intend to pick out some of the highlight blogs from this site.

My only concern is over copyright; I have started to use a lot of photos in my blogs that I get from Google and other sources and whilst putting them on a website is probably considered ‘fair use’, but including them in a book is probably not acceptable. I need to look into this or else my project may never get off the ground.

As they say in publishing, watch this space I guess.

Father’s Day

20110629-041854.jpgWhat do you get a dad who has everything?

Well from Matt I got a bit of a surprise in the form of a gnome. But it was no ordinary gnome; it was a Watford FC Hornets gnome. It now has pride and place in my study.

From Abby I got something a bit different; a iTunes voucher. And with the iTunes voucher I purchased a copy of the latest version of a application from Apple called Motion 5. This editing software allows you to create special effects for videos. And it is fantastic. It is so flexible you can create some excellent clips to use in your movies. In fact I believe many professionals use a version in conjunction with Final Cut Pro, a high end video editing package.

So armed with iMovie, Motion 5 and a few photos and videos of Tina I remade the classic part of the film in Love Actually where Mark creates a video of his secret love Juliet, played by Keira Knightley.

A bit soppy but a great way to show my newly made titles sequence made in Motion 5 🙂

I did try to upload it with the Eva Cassidy track ‘Songbird’ as that was the song used in the original film but it looks like YouTube’s copyright policy wouldn’t allow it.

So you will just have to hum it instead!

Photo Booth

One of the applications on my iMac that I have used on a daily basis since I switched last October is a programme called Photo Booth. This, as the title suggests, is an app that takes pictures using the camera on the front of the Mac.

Cameras on PC’s have been around for a long time, but they tended to be used for web chat and I can’t remember ever using them for anything else. But for some reason, this little application drew me to snapping myself sitting at my computer each day.

And so over the months I have built up a series of pix of me at my desk either first thing in the morning or later in the day. It captured me tired, happy, ill and doing silly poses.

Of course with so many photos, it then occurred to me that I could create a ‘montage’ of them, which might be fun. I therefore imported then into iMovie and linked them together to make a short story of my times at my desk.

OK, so for artistic content it’s not going challenge ‘The King’s Speech’ for an Oscar but it is a bit of fun. Anyway enjoy!

World Premiere

Following the release of the trailer for the movie ‘A Wright Christmas’ there has been an underwhelming response to the first showing of this potential blockbuster.

Despite this fact, and against the wishes of the participants in the movie, today still sees the world premiere of the festive movie of the last decade (the Director’s words not mine) starring the Wright family.

So sit back and enjoy the full length version of this potential classic.

iMovie Trailers

Ooh I been having fun with my new iMac this week whilst I’ve been on holiday.

Yesterday the upgrade version of iMovie, part of the iLife suite of applications, arrived in the post  (I missed getting a free upgrade by a week or so)  and I been playing with some of the new features. One of them is the ability to make personalised movie trailers using whatever video you have available. Now as I don’t yet own a video recorder other than the one on my iPhone, I ripped some from a DVD of Abby when she was a baby. Anyhow, I have also worked out how to upload videos to You Tube and so decided to add this one I made today. As you can see I have also worked out how to imbed video into my blogs too.

Just to balance it out I’ve done one of Matt too.

Not quite Spielberg standards but I’m quite impressed with the feature even though it’s a bit gimmicky.

I am now looking for a reasonable quality HD video camera so I can start to produce so decent videos, especially when we go to California next year.