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 Kraisner 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.

Tool Chain

Post-production Begins! I am only 1/2 through the interviews I plan to do; but with nearly 20 hours of interviews in the can, the time has come to get serious about post-production.

I have been syncing audio and picture, transcribing interviews, and bookmarking material for the trailer, promos, and Kickstarter video. (There, the cat is out of the bag!)

Anna Anthropy at Dorkbot CHI via D5100

 

 

 

 

 
I have a preliminary tool chain on place:

I am using Akimbo for bookmarking the interview audio. This allows me to listen to MP3s of each interview on an android device, bookmark them, and take brief notes. I can then reconcile this with the footage when I am at my editing station.

I am an open source kinda guy. As far as possible, I am working with free, (as in speech) tools. I am not fanatic about this however. If I need to purchase software to get a job done, I will; but I will always favor an open source solution for my needs.

Right now the suite of tools I am using consists of: Kdenlive for vidoe editing editing; Audacity and Ardour for audio mixing/cleanup; Gimp for image manipulation and color correction; Gimp and Inkscape for graphics; and many many other little utilites for various tasks.

The wonderful thing about working with Linux, is that so much of the work I need to do can be automated with scripts. I have writen scripts to wrap around ffmpeg to do transcoding and resolution shifting of the vidoe; extract MP3s for transcription; and even do background rendering. I use the Ubuntu Studio distrobution. The low-latency kernel makes working with audio and video painless. As I have gotten older, I apriciate the value of stability over having the most bleeding edge releases. As a result, in the last year or so, I stopped chasing the latest release, and settled on Ubuntu’s Long Term Support (LTS) (12.04 Precise Pangolin) as my OS of choice.

I may find in future that I need to accomidate the work flow of others, or that I just must have some feature only available in AfterEffects, of FinalCutPro. But for the time being. This tool chain suits me well.

Nagra

NAGRA--TYPE3---PL-GR

I learned today of the passing of Stefan Kudelski, inventor of the Nagra tape recorder. at age 83. For those that don’t immediately recognize the name Nagra, I can assure you that Mr. Kudelski profoundly changed the way we all hear our world. He invented the first high quality, portable reel to reel audio recorder. They were relatively compact, beautifully engineered, and rugged. These machines revolutionized motion picture production, radio  and TV news gathering, and even ethnomusicollogy. I will not eulogize Mr. Kudelski here. Others have done a better job than I could hope to.

When I was last regularly involved in filmmaking, the tools of choice for independent producers were often a 16mm Arriflex camera, and a Nagra III. This allowed one to shoot synchronous sound and picture in just about any location. In the early 1960′s equipment like this allowed François Truffaut, and Jean-Luc Godard, to make the films of the French New Wave. In the late 60′s the technology facilitated Film News Gathering, (the precursor to modern Electronic News Gathering; see the excellent film Medium Cool), and Cinéma vérité. The Nagra was a disruptive technology; putting affordable means of production into the hands of independent filmmakers and documentarians.

Affordable is a relative term. A Nagra, even used, was comparable in price to a small car. The cost of a motion picture camera was similar. Then there was the cost of film, tape, etc. “Low budget” production was a costly undertaking.

In contrast, when I outfitted the production of TransGeek Movie, all the kit, (camera, digital audio recorder. lights, stands, tripod, recording media), cost me slightly more than the price of just a used Nagra in 1986.

Now one can argue the relative quality of 1080p video vs. 16mm film, or 24bit 44.1Khz digital audio vs. analog tape; but I think my point stands: The digital production tools we have available today are making it possible for more people than ever to tell there stories.

Thank you Mr. Kudelski.

New England Interview Trip

In mid October, I set out for the Boston area to conduct more interviews. Over the course of three days I talked with six people. I had the opportunity to speak with some of the creators of my favorite science fiction; both print and audio. With out exception all of my interviewees were insightful and intelligent. I can hardly believe my fortune in being able to work with all of these great people.

Julia Rios

Julia Rios writer, editor at Strange Horizons, and Co-fonder of The Outer Alliance; welcomed me into her home for an on-camera interview. We talked about genre fiction and how some authors use it as a venue for the exploration of gender identity. The Outer Alliance blog, and podcast have been a great resource fo me while researching this film. The podcast is also the frist place I heard the term QUILTBAG.

Jennifer Pelland

Jennifer Pelland author, most recently, of  Machine, Unwelcome Bodies, and a contributor to Chicks Unravel Time, met me for an interview at Back Page Books. Jennifer deals with many aspects of gender and body image in her Science Fiction. She talked about the power of fiction, and science fiction in particular, to explore and influence societal norms. She also expressed some definite opinions regarding gender essentialism in popular science fiction.

Renate Pyhel

I also visited with Renate Pyhel electrical engineer, hardware hacker, and musician. We talked at length, both on camera and off, about the challenges of dealing with issues of gender in the context of a technical workplace. She also gave me a demonstration of her amazing Android hacking skilz.

Gina Kamantski

Gina Kamantski animator, sculptor, comic book author, and educator; sat down with me at her studio.  She spoke eloquently on the creative process and ambiguity in the intersection of art and gender. Schedule constraints made our interview all too short.  Hopefully we will have a chance to continue this conversation at a later date.

Alicia Goranson

Alicia Gorenson is the author of Supervillanz , and the Parsec Award winning radio drama The Mask of Inanna. She talked about the opportunities to write sympathetic, compelling, powerful trans characters in fiction: Observing that science fiction is a genre where she creates the world, and the reader is obliged to accept the defining premises of that world. We also discussed her largely positive professional experience at her “day job”.  I had the aditional good fortune to be introduced to Alicia’s ftiend Susan…

Susan Wolf

Susan Wolf, worked as Electrical Engineer in the medical devices industry, until losing her job as a result of transphobia. I interviewed Susan on the topic discrimination in the workplace, and the complex interactions of sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. She had fascinating insights, gained at a great cost to her career.

Susan also writes poetry, and read a particularly powerful piece for us.

Despite the busy schedule, I did not cover all the bases, and will have to return to New England to conduct more interviews.