Thursday, February 19, 2009

Movie Intro is Complete

Click title and click watch in HD

A few things happened in D.C. I wanted to share (and no not *that* unfortunately). I watched the entire series by Dawkins called "The Genius of Charles Darwin" on the long flight. Great series. 

This put me into the frame of mind that led to the making of this video. As I mentioned in a message, the museums really are just a chronicle of killing, whether it be the ICBMS in the aerospace museum, the natural history museum with its obvious display of nature's violent and random evolutionary bridge to nowhere, or the art museums where every character painted was either involved in a war themselves or directly influenced by one. Maybe we can credit the contemporary art section for having very little killing on display despite scarcely deserving to even be in the museum (which is why it is tucked away in the rafters). 

The other thing that happened was I saw an extraordinary HBO special on Ted Haggard and what he is doing after his fall from grace. You all must watch it. The man actually manages to get me feeling sorry for him... to an extent.  I see Ted Haggard as an extremely simple mind, almost juvenile, with an amazingly and profoundly naive sincerity. He was banned from Colorado, could not find a job, ran out of money, was shuffling his family around from place to place always somewhere between that dopey euphoric smile and a nervous breakdown. The film was made by the same person who did a documentary on the man in the height of church glory. She gains access to his trust and she pulls no punches. 

I am curious to see what my dad will think of this movie. I think that my development from encouraging  believer to atheist has troubled him. He knows that I don't believe, but he doesn't grasp that I can't believe. He is a "god used evolution to create all this" person, which makes sense as long as you don't grasp evolution. The trouble with the belief lies mainly in neuroscience. If you can somehow square that the human brain was "designed" for self-deception, and that its one great criterion for selection apart from basic survival were all those qualities that get 17 year olds to spread their legs the fastest, then the belief stands. I've found no way to reconcile an intentional force driving the process. 


gail said...

Brilliant job, Aaron. I look forward to the rest of the movie.
Please forgive my ignorance, but how exactly do the French Impressionists (my favorite exhibit in the National Art Gallery by the way) fit into your theory that the Smithsonians are really "just a chronical of killing"? Well, I guess Vango did eventually commit suicide....

Aaron said...

I guess the French impressionists were an exception. Their stuff is happy, even when they cut their own ear off. Looking on Wickipedia at the origins of the style, the very first line we come across is,

"In an atmosphere of change as Emperor Napoleon III rebuilt Paris and waged war, the Académie des Beaux-Arts dominated the French art scene in the middle of the 19th century."

One of my favorite displays was the voyage of life by Thomas Cole. There was a room held just for these 4 large paintings. Each painting has a narrative from the artist. Voyage of manhood:

In the next painting, Manhood, the youth has grown into an adult and now faces the trials of life. The boat is damaged and the tiller is gone. The river has become a terrible rush of white water with menacing rocks, dangerous whirlpools, and surging currents. The warm sunlight of youth has been clouded over with dark and stormy skies and torrential rains. The trees have become wind-beaten, gnarled, leafless trunks. The fresh grass is gone, replaced by hard and unforgiving rock.
In the boat, the man no longer displays confidence or even control. The angel appears high in the sky, still watching over the man, who does not see the angel. Man must rely on his faith that the angel is there to help him. Cole states, "Trouble is characteristic of the period of Manhood. In childhood, there is no carking care: in youth, no despairing thought. It is only when experience has taught us the realities of the world, that we lift from our eyes the golden veil of early life; that we feel deep and abiding sorrow: and in the Picture, the gloomy, eclipse-like tone, the conflicting elements, the trees riven by tempest, are the allegory; and the Ocean, dimly seen, figures the end of life, which the Voyager is now approaching."[2]

The real paintings are huge and impressive.

Anonymous said...


Aaron said...

I completed another video but youtube muted it because they say the song I used was copyrighted. Weird that they didn't mute the first one. Bummer. The entire video is choreographed to the song. Maybe if i split it apart it will pass inspection.

Aaron said...

Extra lame because other youtube tracks have the exact same song in full.

Anonymous said...


Tom Cole's work is clearly a work of genius. It's a pity that he was annihilated at the premature age of 47.

How long has it taken you to make your movies?

How many megabytes of video are required for each minute of filming (both in HD and standard resolution)?

How long does it take to transfer the .mov file created by the Kodak Zi6 camera to the Mac? How many megabytes per second can it do over USB?

How difficult is it to keep the camera still while filming, so as to prevent the jerkiness effect?

How long does it take to charge the batteries?


Aaron said...

Takes only a couple of minutes to transfer 4GB from the Kodak. It plugs straight into the USB port. The movie clips get sent to iphoto then I have to send them to imovie. There is probably an easier way to do it, but I put everything on the desktop and then import to imovie. I could not import directly from iphoto, but I didn't spend much time trying to find an alternate route.

Then imovie must create thumbnails which takes another couple of minutes. All told an entire 4 gigs of film (about 1 hour in HD and I have no idea how much in SD, probably 2 hours) takes about 10 minutes to get from the Kodak to imovie and ready for editing.

It takes a full day to charge the batteries.

You have to focus on holding the camera very still if you want to minimize shake. The image stabilizer on imovie 09 is great but the more shaky the video the more pixels it will wash out to take it away so if your video is very shaky it will zoom in slightly and your resolution will slightly decrease. If it is only slightly shaky it will completely smooth it out and you won't notice. You can control how much trade off you want between zoom and shake.

The compression to send it to youtube creates a slightly overexposed look to the whites. The detail is better straight from the computer. idvd allows you to burn it however you want but better quality takes more time.

You will never figure out how to upload to youtube in HD on your own. Took me lots of searching on youtube tutorials to figure out the right settings to get it in HD and have the sound match the video. Here are the fields I know of that work:

16x9 widescreen
Export using quicktime
export using MPEG-4
File format MP4
MPEG4 basic
Data rate 5000
Image size 1280 x 720 HD
frame rate current
frames 24
Audio format AAC-LC
Data rate 320
Output sample- 48,000
code quality- better

Youtube has a 1GB or 10 minute limit. 2 minutes in HD compresses to about 150MB.

Aaron said...

But I already know that you would never buy the Kodak Zi6. Because then yours wouldn't be better than mine. You absolutely MUST get a higher quality camera and you know it!

Anonymous said...


I didn't realize that you could store a full hour of video on a 4 GB SD card. That's amazing. It's disappointing, though, that it takes an entire day to charge the batteries. Doesn't it take AA-like batteries? If so, then you could use an external charger to charge up multiple sets if you plan to do extended shooting.

What I really wonder about is how well the video looks if you put the video camera on a small tripod and simply film yourself speaking. I'm particularly interested in what it would take to do this well at night; in other words, what type of lighting would you need to set up, and how well would the end result turn out?

I ask this because I want to start creating long movies, and I'm not sure how feasible it would be to do so using the Kodak. I'm optimistic, though. I'm also impressed that it doesn't take long to transfer that much data over USB 2. This is very important, because one of the things that has held me back from purchasing a 17" MacBook Pro has been the fear that it would quickly become obsolete once USB 3, which is an order of magnitude faster, becomes broadly available in laptops in 2010.

I still haven't entirely decided if I want to spend $3,000 on the MacBook Pro or wait. In an ideal world, I would have both my MacBook Air (for travel and most other situations), and the powerhouse MonsterBook for those times when speed is of the essence, such as in post-processing video and in running Windows within a virtual machine.

The MacBook Air is a very, very good machine, ideally suited to most of my purposes, but in some cases, it simply won't do, which is when I really need something that will smoke everything else.

Regarding the idea of my purchasing a "better" camera than yours, on the contrary, I think that you've purchased the best camera out there under the circumstances. Yes, you could have purchased a Canon HF100, but it's big and heavy. We're not professional filmmakers. I think that people tend to go overboard.

Put another way, I have this relatively expensive (several hundred dollar) Canon camera (not video, just digital image) that I've taken less than a dozen pictures on since I purchased it a year ago! It doesn't make sense to purchase something incredibly expensive if you're not going to realistically use it, or if whatever marginal gain it might give you over an inexpensive solution is dwarfed by the enormous price.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, in competition with you. I don't suffer from status anxiety. Aaron, how could you even think that? Even my car is nearly two decades old. The only "expensive" things that I own are my MacBook Air and...five pairs of $200 shoes, four $100 fountain pens, and a prized $200 Pelikan fountain pen. That's it. I'm not a materialist.

I like Macs. I like fountain pens. But in the grand scheme of things, unlike you, I don't own anything that's expensive.

Also, I'm concerned that you don't understand something that's important to me. I don't want you ever to feel defeated by comparing yourself to others, such as the Mohammadan girl. You know as well as I do that some people win the genetic and environmental lotteries through dumb luck.

However, I remind you that you have a first-rate mind and that you can, and should, become a medical doctor. You can absolutely do it and I would be your biggest supporter. What worries me most about you, Aaron, is the sinking feeling that you've given up, that you've concluded that although you could become a doctor, it's not worth it.

But it is. In so many ways.

I think that every once in a rare while you understand that I do, actually, care about you, but you find yourself naturally resisting associating with me because I'm a threat to your hard-won freedom from the irrationality of the New Age movement.

The main difference between us is that I want, and hope for, life after death, whereas you don't believe that it's possible, while you simultaneously acknowledge that you, too, want it to be true. You want me to be right.

I understand too well your desire to cling to rationality. It gives you a way of understanding the world that no other "system" can. The describe-predict-control holy trinity of science is a weapon of grace and stupendous power.

But I believe that rationality can't solve our problems. Nothing can. It's just that some tools are better than others. Sanity and excellence involves having an armory of diverse tools and applying them at precisely the right time to achieve the best outcome possible for everyone involved.

You were--after some difficulty--one of the first people I knew who accepted that I was gay. This is an amazing breakthrough for someone who was once a Baptist Christian, and a fundamentalist no less. Of course, now you know that I'm not exactly gay. I'm a scholar. That dominates all other groups to which I belong (either by choice or against my will).

You've come a great way in your understanding of human beings, and I really do understand why you're enthralled by science, but I still believe that there's something more. I hope that at some point either philosophy or art will allow you to see beyond the pail of science.

Now, back to the Mac. I believe that for my own purposes right now, it might be possible for me to get away with buying the 17" MacBook Pro and be able to do all that I want to do using the built-in iSight camera. There's only one way to find out. One of the disadvantages of a MacBook Air is that it has an inferior iSight camera--and not by a small amount. All images come out very blurry, probably because of the narrowness of the case inside of which the camera is embedded, which necessitated severe compromises on the focal length and so on.

In your first video, you inserted a picture of yourself. You look well. And you look good.

Now, listen to me for the first time ever: go and get your medical degree.


Aaron said...

Steve, declaring that you own 5 pairs of $200 shoes is the same as openly shouting from the rooftops that you are gay!

I never really priced the true HD handhelds, but if what you want to do is film indoors on a tripod I would prefer one of those over the kodak Zi6.

I have 3 sets of batteries, yes they are just like AA's. One set comes with it and an extra set is $8. A 4 gig sdhd chip is $20.

The benefits of the Zi6- take it anywhere and not be noticed, get great pictures cheaply, it also has surprisingly good sound. Another bonus- any true HD camera you get might be really expensive and may go obsolete really fast.

Anonymous said...


I concur with your assessment of the Zi6 and may wind up getting one. Is there any way to charge it while it's filming? Is there a connector for an AC adapter, or can it possibly be charged via USB while filming? Also, I wonder how many charge cycles those batteries can go through before they need to be replaced.

Regarding the other things that you've written, I'd be happy to discuss them with you in e-mail, but that's quite impossible if you ignore my messages.

Sean has written a divinely inspired polemic against charlatan Ulrich Leonard "Eckhart" Tolle.

Not to worry. The fraud is sixty years old now and surely shall not live to see "A New Earth."


Aaron said...

No it cannot be charged while filming.

Anonymous said...


I'm still contemplating what to do. I've set everything up so that I can simply press a single button and purchase a MacBook Pro 17", but despite the urging of a couple of very good and knowledgeable friends, I'm still reluctant to do so. Unless I buy it within the next few days, I'll lose out on the opportunity to get the best price possible (for a new machine), as there is a discount from MacMall at the moment.

It's not impossible for me to get by with my MacBook Air at work, which is what makes this prospective purchase highly desirable but technically nonessential. Due to economic uncertainty and some new developments related to that in my own business, as much as I want the most powerful laptop ever made by Apple to date, $2610 (after a 3% discount, sales tax, and a $100 mail-in rebate) is an enormous amount of money by any stretch of the imagination. Yes, it would improve my productivity and could perhaps be justified on that basis alone, but I'm undecided.

By spending the money, I would be injecting it into the economy and supporting a company whose stock I own, which is another way of saying that it's a way of investing in a company, a small part of which I, myself, own. I could, of course, buy an inexpensive PC laptop to run Office 2007 and Microsoft's other proprietary applications (Office 2007 on Windows is vastly superior to Office 2008 on the Mac, incidentally), but I've been down that route before and simply don't want to deal with the malware and the inevitable slow performance in running utilities to combat it.

What I like most about the 17" MacBook Pro is that it has a large hard drive that I could partition so that I could literally boot into Vista. It would turn into a PC. What I like even more is that based on what little I know, the performance is sufficient to run Vista within a virtual machine and have enough processing power, disk throughput, and memory left over to also run Mac apps.

The problem that I have now is that my MacBook Air has a very small (80 GB) hard drive that cannot be upgraded internally. I do have a large external drive, but I can't install and boot into Windows using an external hard drive. While I can and do run VMWare Fusion when I need to access the Windows-based Microsoft apps that I use, for all practical purposes, that means rebooting my MacBook Air and only running VMWare Fusion. That's okay, but I also like being able to run Mac apps simultaneously, which I could do if I had a 17" MacBook Pro.

Ironically, I really only need access to just one Microsoft app, Project, but it took me 16 minutes to get Project running within VMWare after I had several Mac apps running. I haven't been able to identify the bottleneck. It doesn't appear to be the CPU, although the 1.6 GHz Core 2 Duo is the slowest in Apple's lineup. It may be the lack of memory (only 2 GB, which can't be upgraded), or the slow (4200 rpm) hard drive.

Most people who use the Mac either have a powerful one that can do what I want to do and not have to compromise, or they have a MacBook Air, which is sexy and extremely portable (which is very important to me, since I travel among different locations). The reason that I want the 17" is that it could solve multiple challenges in one fell swoop: high performance, the highest pixel density screen ever shipped on a laptop Mac (which means a much clearer display--less jagged diagonal lines and better appearing text), the ability to easily create videos (the webcam on the MacBook Air is inferior, by a wide margin, to that on all other Macs, and high-quality video is a very important need of mine in order to promote training offered by my business), work on my writing more efficiently, etc.

It also has one other advantage. Since my father wants a laptop, I could give him the MacBook Air and keep the 17" for myself. However, there is a tradeoff. The MacBook Air is highly desirable. It's a beautiful machine that's perfect for most people's needs, even though it's rather expensive.

I can watch movies anywhere I like with my MacBook Air. I can't imagine how difficult it would be to carry the behemoth 17" MacBook Pro from one room to the next, never mind from one location to another. No matter what one picks, there are advantages and disadvantages. There is always a tradeoff. I wish that I could have both machines, and a 24" iMac, for that matter.

So there you are. I want the 17" MacBook Pro, but I don't technically need it. Would it be a good idea to have? Yes. It really is a justifiable business expense. Is this a good time to buy one? That, I really don't know. And what would happen were I to find myself without work for a long time? The situation could turn ugly quickly, which is ultimately why I'm hesitant. But if everyone hesitates, then the economy will continue to stall.

Under the circumstances, what would you do? Should I simply say no?