Monday, October 11, 2004

 

I'm Ready For My Closeup Mr. DeMille

I don't know why the MPAA worries about consumers copying DVDs. The simple fact is that DVD burning is not yet a consistently successful process and as well all well know despite everyone's best efforts at testing all of the permutations of desktop configurations out there I still find that I'm burning about 35% coasters. TDK and Memorex media seem to get the most consistent results, but the variables that have entered the process for desktop video production at the High Altar, things like SP2, and various and sundry other processes like DLA that screw up the results (the blasted thing is that it's inconsistent - there've been occasions when I've burned perfect DVDs with some processes running that various software vendors have said should be shut down, and there are other occasions when I've assiduously followed the checklist and have gotten half a dozen coasters for my trouble). I suppose if I were truly serious about things like this I would get a Mac, but I have absolutely no interest in having one, as I have legitimate, licensed access to some of the most powerful software suites and tools out there, and that access provides me with bupkis for the Mac.

The latest frustration now involves a DVD of some video camera footage burned by a good friend. Said DVD won't read in the computer and one of our home theatre DVD players. It will read in an el-cheapo Sanyo player the kids use, as well as in a portable player we've got. The obvious answer was to somehow get the video into my computer and burn DVDs for the family that I knew would play on the good system. A touch of Windex on the disk just in case didn't help, and since I couldn't explore the disk (despite running the gamut of the checklist) the decision I took was to take the analog outputs out of the portable player, plug them into my analog capture device, and re-render the sucker. The analog device I have is a Dazzle USB capture board which I picked up last year, and it's done a decent enough job for me, but since Dazzle has been subsumed into Pinnacle there's really no more support for the hardware and software. I connected everything up, captured the video, checked the captured file in Windows Media Player, and it looked like I was in business. I really didn't want to use the Dazzle DVD editor, as it's pretty Mickey Mouse (it's serviceable, but I get better results out of Pinnacle Studio, which is also installed on the High Altar). I imported the captured video into Pinnacle, and guess what, no sound. Wait a freaking minute, I just checked the file in Windows Media Player and all the sound was there. OK, a couple of iterations later, it occurred to me that for some reason or other I'd have to re-render the MPEG file. Usually it's not necessary with the Dazzle captures unless you've edited them, but seeing as how I was getting ready to throw something, I figured it couldn't hurt. A little while to render, then back into Pinnacle. The sound kicked off wonderfully. About 6 seconds into the video all the motion stopped, freeze frame, nothing, zero, zip, nada.

At this point, I'll probably try one more capture/render cycle to see if it gets fixed (I captured using the S-Video output, so I'll try the analog video out just to see if there's a bug in the S-Video code somewhere), but given that the Dazzle device has gone the way of the dodo bird vis a vis support, I'll take a look at what's out there currently to get my analog stuff in. I'll probably look for a Firewire A/D converter, just to take it off the USB and dedicate some cycles to it, but then again with my luck when I finish rendering the video (I'm actually planning on editing it into some other video I've got using Pinnacle) I'll be back to worrying about coasters emerging.

I know, I know. Get yourself a dedicated video machine if you're serious about it, but compromise is the spice of life.

My other rant du jour concerns Musicians Friend and Rogue Sitars. I can't justify $700+ for the Jerry Jones version for an axe that's going to be used only for Paint It Black (although it would probably sound cool on Over Under Sideways Down), so if I want to get an electric sitar, I've decided that it's the Rogue (unless a used Jerry Jones pops up on eBay; they don't seem to very often. Incidentally, the Jerry Jones is a fine instrument, extremely well made - I played one for about an hour at 30th Street Guitars a while back). Problem is that Musicians Friend is real schizo with pricing this thing. It's either $299 or $399. Usually it's $299 when I decide it's totally idiotic to buy one, and it's $399 when I want it. After a discussion yesterday with bandmates, I was ready to pull the trigger on one today, but not at $399 (nope, no JJs on eBay, other than the baby version, and none of those at a good price either; I want the one with the sympathetic strings - even if the thing is made of masonite it's still farking cool). MF, love ya, but for cryin' out loud, these things aren't going to sell at the higher price. At $399 it's not that much of a stretch for a pro to say give me the Jerry Jones instead, and it's above the impulse purchase level for a weekend warrior like me to buy.

And speaking of MF and guitar dealers in general (assuming that Henry at Gibson comes to his senses), can someone please differentiate between what Gibson calls Iced Tea and what most people would call Iced Tea in finishes. It seems that what I would call Iced Tea is what Gibson calls Light Burst, but the damn pictures that are out there just don't tell the real story. Henry, for crying out loud, let your dealers publish hi-res pictures, so we know what we're getting. Otherwise a PRS Custom 24 might result......

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