Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Preschool Teacher By Day, Movie Editor By Night

As we reach the end of another school year, I find myself once more stressing out over things I know will be fine and work out easily in the end. Mostly, it's the video we put together using all the photos we took during the year to show parents all the work their kids did and how utterly adorable they are. Except... well... go back and read the last sentence, starting at "mostly" and replace "we" with "I".

I've done this every year that I've been working in the preschool, and every year I run into new problems. The first year it was all the teething issues. Video files not playing nice with the software, having to find appropriate codex's to edit proprietary video camera movie files (oh, while I'm on that subject: Fuck you Sony), recording too much background noise and then having to try to clean up the audio as best I could, and many, many more. The second year was more of the same, but with the added stress of having to one-up myself from the previous year, coupled with how attached to the group I had gotten. It was the first time I had to let go kids I had been teaching for two years, and they were an amazing bunch of kids.

This years problems started and finished with Windows Movie Maker. In past years I have had the luxury of using advanced, expensive, professional and complicated software to help edit or re-encode the video. This year, however, may be the last year that I do this, if plans fall into place (See future blog), and the preschool manager wants to be able to do this herself next year. The preschool manager is, however, very computer illiterate, and advanced, expensive, professional and complicated software to help edit or re-encode the video is far, far beyond her abilities.

So I decided to limit myself to three programs.  The bulk of the work was done between Movie Maker, Windows free built-in basic movie editing tool, and Picasa, the awesome, free and simple-to-use photo editing tool. Let it be said here that I love Picasa. It is far from a professional tool, but it's great for the amateur photographer who doesn't really care too much about the final product. And it can produce very slick looking video compilations of your photos in a widely accepted format with zero hassle. But enough ass-kissing, back to the point. The third and final program was a simple and free video converter program I needed to convert the video files we shot using the camcorder from a proprietary video format to a Movie Maker readable format (once again: Fuck you Sony).

I could do everything I needed to do, and in record time, using only these three programs. AVC would re-encode what I needed to, Picasa would put each sections set of photographs together into a beautifully presented clip, and then Movie Maker would add the soundtrack and produce a single, 12 minute long movie to be shown on this Friday. Except... It didn't.

No matter how often I tried, Movie Maker would not produce a movie. It got to 25% every time and then froze, the "Estimated time remaining" figure slowly climbing upwards as no further progress was had. After three failed attempts at getting it to work, I eventually produced each section individually. Picasa had produced three photo compilations for me, and those, along with the video segment of the children talking about what they want to be when they grow up, meant I had four sections that needed a music track. So I produced four segments of photos with soundtrack in Movie Maker, each one working perfectly, then I put them all together and produced a completed movie. I have no idea why Movie Maker refused to edit the segments together and put the soundtrack on at the same time, but happily edit the four segments with the soundtrack pre-attached without complaint.

Either way, it's all done. I set the whole thing up and showed it to the preschool manager today and we both got all teary-eyed. That's why I don't have my projector or Xbox here tonight and instead I have time to blog. They're in school waiting for Friday. I would normally wait until Thursday to bring all that stuff up, but I'm going to a friends wedding tomorrow instead. Two days left in school, and I take one off! Ha!

No comments: