Stanford/Palo Alto Macintosh User Group Newsletter
December 19, 2009
The SMUG board and newsletter team wish you all a happy holiday season and look forward to seeing you in 2010!
December Meeting Report -
Q & A in the carpal tunnel
|Xmas Gift Ideas
|In case you're still agonizing over one or two presents, our friends at
O'Reilly publishing would like to remind you that books are 35% off to
SMUG members and ebooks are 45% off for now (in PDF, KIndle and epub
formats) - use incentive code DSUG when buying at www.oreilly.com/store
|Shareware with Owen Saxton
|Owen showed some interesting and useful shareware - Audio Hijack Pro, Airfoil, Carbon Copy Cloner vs. Super Duper! - as wel las a variety of seasonal & non-seasonal screensavers. More information is available on the SMUG website.
|December Presentation Report Part 1
CONVERTING VIDEO FILES FOR FREE, by Dave
PLAYING VIDEO: Flip4Mac, Perian, VLC
You need to be able to play the files. To let QuickTime play
Windows video and audio (.wmv and .wma), install Flip4Mac. Download and install
the free version.
Also, install Perian. (I forgot to mention Perian during my
presentation.) It allows QuickTime to play several more video formats. It is
free, easy to install, and worth it.
VLC plays lots of media that QuickTime can't. In case you
want to play a clip like, say, .flv (Flash video) before you convert it. Unlike
Flip4Mac or Perian, VLC does not allow MPEG Streamclip to open more video file
types for conversion.
CONVERT VIDEO: MPEG Streamclip
MPEG Streamclip lets me convert my video files to other
formats. It can read about any video format, even Flash video. I can also
convert audio files with this software.
You can change the size of videos, like 1080 to 720, or
640x480 to 320x240. You can change video formats, like .mov to .mp4. It reads a
lot of video formats, and converts to .mov, .mp4, .dv, and .avi video. And
maybe a few others. But not to .flv (Flash video), as far as I can tell.
As an example of shrinking some rally large video files. I
had several 1080p .mov files in my Final Cut Express Capture Scratch folder
that I wanted to share with a Windows user. (We did a Cinemasports video
together. Make a three-minute video from scratch in one day!
(www.cinemasports.com). The files I had were huge (500 MB to 1 GB for one
minute clips), and they used the Apple Intermediate Codec, which is not
playable on Windows.
I dragged the .mov file into MPEG Streamclip. I did File:
Export to MPEG-4 (smaller file size than .mov). From there, I chose a smaller
frame size of 1280x720 (still smaller file size), compression (codec) of H.264
(readable on Windows). The files shrank a LOT: a 700MB 1080p .mov file shrank
to a 10MB 720p .mp4 file.
You can trim a video also. Like if you want to edit off the
beginning or end or both of a video. In MPEG Streamclip, set the playhead to
where you want your trimmed video to start. Select Edit: Select In. Set the
playhead to where you want your trimmed video to end. Select Edit: Select Out.
Then select Edit: Trim. Then export (or save) the video as you want.
You can also export audio; that is, you can convert audio
clips to other formats like AIFF or MP3 audio, and you can make audio files out
of you video files. Open the audio or video file in MPEG Streamclip. Then
select File: Export Audio. Then pick the audio format, and save the audio file.
(I made a neat clip of chase music from an old Underdog cartoon this way.)
You can convert DVD video to other formats on unprotected
DVDs (no, MPEG Streamclip does NOT read video from protected DVDs, so don't
even ask). Navigate on the DVD to the VIDEO_TS folder, find a .vob file, and
you can convert that to, say, .mp4 video. When I did this, MPEG Streamclip
asked if I wanted to open it as a DVD. I said no. The frame size (marked as
unscaled in MPEG Streamclip) was 720x480. This works better for shorter clips,
since on DVDs, longer video segments get cut into smaller ones. An hour DVD can
be several VOB files.
I have converted YouTube clips. Here's how I did it. In
Firefox, navigate to the YouTube video you want to keep. Once you do that, STAY
ON THAT PAGE! Wait for the playbar on the YouTube clip to fill. Then navigate
to (your user account)/Library/Caches/Firefox/Profiles/zatquojy.default (or
whatever folder is in Profiles)/Cache. Look for a very recent file that is
several MB, like 10 or 20 or some such. Copy and paste it into another folder
(so you don't mess with Cache files). Add .flv to the copied file name: YouTube
uses Flash video. Drag the .flv file into MPEG Streamclip, and you can then
convert it (I usually do File: Export to MPEG 4.
Dave's Powerpoint Presentation is available on the SMUG website.
|December Presentation Report Part 2
"OWN" DVD COPIES, by Steve Bellamy
(In Steve's words! OK, only lightly
edited by Dave. As a writer, I am getting an editor's eye.)
As an addendum to Dave's
presentation, I demonstrated how to remove the copyright protection from a
protected DVD. This is something one is not normally legally entitled to do,
but there are certainly legitimate reasons for wanting to make your own copy.
One example is that I wanted to get a film of my wife and one of my sons
jumping out of a plane over Hollister that was made by the Sky Diving company
on that day. You can only get at the film on the disk to convert it if you can
extract it from the DVD to your hard drive minus all its copy protections.
Another example is if your relatives in England (hey, how about Sweden?) have
sent you a DVD that you'd rather play on your TV than on your computer. You
need to remove the region controls that commercial DVD publishers put on it
before you can burn the movie back to DVD-R for use in a DVD player.
The best software tool available is
called MacTheRipper, 2.6.6 being the latest version). It is free from versiontracker.com,
macupdate.com or mactheripper.org. (Dave: Uh oh, mactheripper.org goes nowhere
now, but versiontracker and macupdate still work.) Once you've downloaded and
installed it, load the DVD you want to rip into your computer's CD/DVD slot, open
Mac The Ripper, and you'll see a window that automatically sees the disk you
have loaded onto your computer, ready to extract. Note that the "New
Region" tab is set by default to "All" and that by default it
extracts to your "Movies" folder. However, you can change this save
location once you click on the "Go!" button.
I was asked during this
demonstration whether the resulting movie, if it was in European PAL format,
would play in the US, which normally uses NTSC color encoding. I didn't
adequately answer this, because personally I hadn't had a problem, but on
reflection I realize that my lack of problems could be due to two possible
reasons. The first is that a great many DVD players will play PAL DVDs without
any problem, once the Region is taken care of. The second is that I usually use
the Toast software program to burn a DVD to put in my DVD player, and you can
set the default in Toast to NTSC (in fact it was already set to this, so I
hadn't even thought about it). There are cheaper programs than Toast to burn
DVDs but another method would be to create a QuickTime movie, as I demoed with
Handbrake. MPEG Streamclip, as demoed by Dave, might be even better. (Dave:
MPEG Streamclip is free, and might do the job nicely. I have not tried this,
but I bet it would work fine.)
Handbrake and MPEG Streamclip (both
are free) enable you to create an MPEG 4 file that you can put into iMovie
and "trim" off the bits
you don't want - in my case, the beginning and end of the skydiving movie,
which were only ads for the Skydiving School in Hollister where Laurel &
Danny jumped. (Dave: You can trim in MPEG Streamclip, but iMovie, as a video
editor, lets you do a lot more editing, and anyone playing a bit with video
should learn some editing). If you have an older computer, prepare for a long
wait while you load your movie into iMovie. As Dave pointed out, any
"translation" of video takes a lot of processing power - you can
never really have enough.
|December Presentation Report Part 3
DEMONSTRATION, by Steve Bellamy.
At our December meeting, I made an
attempt, despite my lack of painting skills (virtual or otherwise) to demo
ArtRage, one of the few painting programs still available for the Mac that
won't cost you a week's wages and a 40 hour learning curve to master. Painter costs
nearly $500, Photoshop and Illustrator around $300 each, while ArtRage is just
a $25 online download. (Dave: on the online store, I found prices from $20 to
The program has tools that include
pencil, brushes, oils, roller, paint tube, palette knife, glitter, airbrush,
crayon and markers, which all seem to work as the "real" tools would
- you can smear the paint about with the palette knife and mix colors on the
canvas. Additionally, however, it has the ability to work in separate layers
just like the more expensive programs mentioned above. You can easily adjust
the thickness of the brush and, if you are using a Wacom tablet or the like,
adjust the light and darkness of what you are drawing by the pressure you exert
on the pen. Also with a tablet it's a lot easier to use ArtRage's tracing
feature, where you can import any jpeg image and trace around it. ArtRage will
even try to match the colors on your trace to the original image. There are
also "child-friendly" fun stencils to paint, color in or draw around
(beats having kids throw the paint around on the kitchen table) - apparently
you can create your own stencils, too.
My own learning curve came up
against my lack of a steady hand fairly early on, as well as a problem with
trying to turn off the eraser once I'd turned it on (it isn't obvious that it's
an eraser tool - also, you can't just clear everything you've done with one
This program is probably more for
the enthusiast than the artist - I can imagine getting irritated by its
limitations in time, but it's a nice starting point to experiment with painting
(Dave: I forgot to take notes while
Steve was demoing: funny that I spaced out like that! Maybe I am working on my
novel too hard. Anyhow, I remember thinking that it looks like a fun program to
play with, and if you ever want to try out painting software, it is a good idea
to start with an inexpensive program and work up from there.)
P.S. Thanks, Steve, for providing so
much of the notes this time.
Happy New Year! See you in 2010!