Methods of work: Testing the design and automation of lower thirds.

From the nightly news, (does anyone watch that anymore?) to mocumentaries, directors have found it necessary to identify the person speaking on camera. The typical device that is used to do this is the “lower third”. So named for it position, (occupying the lower third of the frame, below the image of the speaker).

For *TransGeek Movie, I wanted to design a lower third that was visually interesting, distinctive, and easy to reproduce It should not, however, disrupt the viewer’s experience of the voice of the person on camera.

17 (16) segment display

I have not settled on a final design yet, but I think I will be using an animated lower third that emulates an old school, 17 segment, alphanumeric display.  This is easy to read, and adds a bit of geeky eye-candy.

Testing the design and automation of lower thirds.There will be many lower thirds throughout the film. Composing and animating each would be far too much work to do manually; and prone to error. Automation is a lovely thing.

I designed a template in Inkscape, an open source vector editing package. I then wrote a bash script that modifies the template with the appropriate text. It outputs the individual customized frames, using Inkscape’s command line interface; and then strings it all together into the final animation using  avconv. ImageMagick is used for creating the key channel.
I am currently using Kdenlive as my editor and compositor.

The result is satisfactory. At least until I get a real graphic artist and editor on board.

It doesn’t hurt that my test clip features Mattie Brice sharing some wise insights.

Edited 16 Dec. 2014 for clarity.

Clip Reel

While we work on our trailer, we thought we would show a few of our interviews in more depth.

Here we are a few selections from our interviews with Anna Anthropy, Alicia E. Goranson, Mattie Brice, Cheryl Morgan, and Tab Kimpton. The footage is uncorrected, and the edit is rough, but the interviews speak for themselves.

This is the clip reel we showed at GaymerX2.

Editing is hard!

I‘m getting ready for GaymerX2 and the Kickstarter. That means editing; a lot of editing.

Editing Room

CC BY-SA 2.0 by lu arembepe

Editing is hard. Yes, the mechanics of editing are hard; but much harder than the technical aspects, are the decisions about what will not make the cut. Reviewing so many interviews for material for the finished film, and more urgently, the trailer; I am struck by how many powerful, eloquent, and important words are not going to get into the final documentary. I have an embarrassment of riches. So many people have been so generous with their time, and thoughts. Every decision I make hurts.

Alicia Goranson quipped at the end of our interview, that she would be happy to see 30 seconds of our one hour interview on screen. I think she will get more screen time than that in the trailer; but her comment does give a sense of the enormity of the task.

My goal is to launch the Kickstarter campaign very close to GaymerX2. The vaugeries of moving halfway across the country, the day job, and Kickstarter’s approval process may have negative influences on those plans; but I want to start sharing some of the awesome footage we have recorded.

See you at GaymerX!

Trans*Geek Movie @ Trans*H4CK

The weekend of March 28th-30th, Sayer and I drove to Chicago to film at Trans*H4CK.

Dr. Kortney Ziegler, Kevin McCarthy and Sayer Johnson at Trans*H4CKThe hackathon, which took place at Dev BootCamp, is: “A hackathon and speaker series that radically shifts the ways trans* people live by creating technology that economically empowers, improves access to social services, promotes gender safety and community sustainability, while bringing visibility to trans* led startups.” The winning team of developers, RAD, got to present their project at the Trans100 that Sunday night. Continue reading

New(ish) Post-production rig.

Aside

Up to this point, all of the post-production of Trans*Geek Movie has taken place on my venerable ThinkPad T61P, running Ubuntu Studio 12.04 LTS. This continues to be my main machine, but I find myself in need of some more horsepower and flexibility, to pick up the pace of production.

There are two issues I keep bumping up against with the laptop machine: First, render time for video is painfully long. Secondly, the few tools that I must run in a Windows environment are not very happy in the VirtualBox installation of Windows 7 that I run.

Before and after, SparkServer to 8 core XeonFor this reason I have repurposed a retired 8 core 2.0 GHz Xeon server mainboard as my new post-production box. It takes up residence in a repurposed SparkServer chassis. (I know, this is IT sacrilege.) I have configured it as a dual boot machine; Windows 7 and Studio Ubuntu 13.10. At this point, it has no sound card, and plain vanilla VGA, but the reasonable power of the CPUs means that PluralEyes runs smoothly, and I can offload rendering from Kdenlive while continuing to edit.

I will be adding an HDMI capture board, reasonable GPU, and sound support in future; but this is a good start.

[Long overdue] Production Update

Last year was not the most auspicious year for me. I will not bore you with all the details of my life, this is not the forum for that. Suffice it to say, what was supposed to be a minor, routine surgery, turned into a major health challenge, (thankfully behind me); and a contract for the “day job” ballooned from a three month commitment, to a year-long slog.

Fortunately, the production of Trans*Geek Movie has not been as neglected as the blog.

I was able to fit a few individual interviews into the family travel schedule, and undertook a major interview trip.

Danielle Kraisner

I interviewed Danielle Krassner early in 2013. She spoke about how she became interested in electronic engineering, hardware hacking, and the opportunities for building community online. She also spoke compellingly about the challenges of transitioning in the work place. Continue reading

On the internet, nobody knows you’re cis.

Update Feb. 13, 2014 @ 10:22

@SailorPlutoid suggests that the title of the post should probably be more like:

On the internet, nobody knows everyone assumes you’re cis. Until you use the word “trans”.

Damn! Here I thought I was being so clever.  In fact, I was only demonstrating that I don’t even know what I don’t know. Thanks @SailorPlutoid for helping me navigate the minefield of my own prejudices.

Back to our original post…

In the interest of full disclosure: I identify as a white, middle aged, heterosexual, cisgender, male. There are two reasons I feel it is important to state this explicitly. The first is a practical concern that affects how I go about making this movie. The second is, perhaps, a more important observation about why I think this project is important.

Over the past month I have had three separate interactions with people on Twitter that made it clear that they assumed, not surprisingly, that I am a transman. Well of course: My Twitter handle is @TransGeekMovie and I tweet a fair amount about LGBTQI and gender issues. Nonetheless, this misunderstanding came as a surprise to me. It’s clear that I needed to make my gender identity explicit. Continue reading

The right tool for the right job.

In a previous post, I have noted that I have a strong prejudice for using Open Source/Free Software tools. However, when a proprietary tool is the only one that does the job, I will use it. I also believe that when I find a great tool, I should call it out.

PluralEyes is one of those great tools.

Anyone who is familiar with motion image post production, knows that one of the most odious task that an editor faces is syncing audio and video. For the purposes of quality, picture, and sound are often recorded on separate devices, necessitating their reintegration during the editing process.

Traditionally, this synchronization is done by identifying a common feature in both the recorded audio and video that can be matched up. Everyone is familiar with the archetypical movie slate.

Clapper

The idea is very simple. When you slate a scene, you are creating a simultaneous visual and auditory event that you can use later to synchronize sound and picture. There are also other methods based of a shared timecode in the camera and audio recorder, but these tend to be expensive and complicated.

The slate has one major draw back when shooting documentaries, and especially interviews. It is distracting as hell. If an interview spans a camera or audio recorder stop, you really don’t want to get up in the face of your subject with a slate in the middle of a conversation, just to get a good sync mark.

That’s where PluralEyes comes into play. So long as your camera footage has audio, PluralEyes will automagically synchronize your external audio with picture. All you have to do is drop the audio and video clips into the GUI in the correct order.

This is not a perfect fit with my tool chain. First of all, PluralEyes does not come in a native Linux version, so I have to run it in a Windows VM, (I haven’t tried WINE yet). Second, it does not support a edit decision list format that is compatible with the editing software I am using. It does output Final Cut Pro XML Interchange Format, which is well documented, and I should be able write a script to parse it into a form that Kdenlive can use, but in the mean time, I have a “good enough” workaround using PluralEyes’ media export function. What is undeniable is the  great gain in productivity compared to manual synchronization.

Finally I am making headway towards putting out some teasers,  and a Kickstarter video.

Thanks to Lars Fuchs for turning me on to this tool.

Trans*Geek Movie is going to GaymerX!

Trans*Geek Movie is very excited to be going to GaymerX! “The first LGBT gamer convention focused on the queer geek culture”

We are hoping to talk with all sorts of geeks while we are there.

We have questions…

  • Why do you game?
  • Why do you cosplay?
  • Who are your favorite characters?
  • Tell us about your avatar.
  • How do stereotypes affect your gaming experience?
  • Is geek culture a true meritocracy?
  • Do you use gaming or cosplay as a way to express gender?
  • How do we make gaming more inclusive?
  • Are cons safe places for LGBT gamers?
  • How can we use games to change the way we look at gender identity?
  • Are we asking the right questions?

…and we want to hear your answers!

If you are trans*gender, genderqueer, or cisgender and have something to say about gender identity and geek culture; we want to hear your story. You can find us at GaymerX, wearing the Trans*Geek Movie t-shirts, or contact us via:

Twitter: @TransGeekMovie

Facebook: fb.com/TransGeekMovie

Email: kevin (at) transgeekmovie (dot) net

txt/voice: 618.210.6080

 

Trans*Geek Movie is not associated with or endorsed by GaymerX/GaymerConnect in any way.