Monday, November 3, 2014

Jim Goes Hollywood

I confess the blog title reeks of hyperbole, but what better way to announce that I am now in the video business? In a day and age where three-year-olds post selfies to Facebook and kindergartners make YouTube videos from their smart phones, I am perhaps a bit behind the curve. I decided to rectify the matter and create YouTube videos of me reading the opening scenes of my Seamus McCree novels.

While my son, Brad, was vacationing at our camp in the U.P. in September, he and I experimented with taking videos using my Nikon camera. Our first attempt used the lake as the background. That produced a fine picture of the lake with trees on the far shore in high color. Unfortunately, I was so underexposed as to look like black death.

We tried the woods, which fixed the exposure issues, but the microphone picked up each leaf as it crashed to the ground. Too distracting.

Next we tried the screened porch of our cabin (backlight problem again). Finally we waited for a day with no wind and recorded a great take of me reading the first chapter of Cabin Fever out in the middle of our woods. By then, Brad had figured out the optimal distance to maximize hearing my voice and minimize background noise; he’d figured out the zoom so I was not too big and not too small. He had it nailed—except the budding videographer neglected to focus the shot. The tree behind me was in exquisite focus; I appeared as if painted by Monet.

I put the project on the back shelf, and we enjoyed the rest of his vacation exploring the woods on our ATVs. In mid-October, Jan was gone for a few days visiting family and I had the camp to myself. What better time to try this again? The opening picture of this blog is a still taken from me reading Bad Policy.

It took a few test shots for me to figure out the framing, focus, etc. I had already decided I would need to edit out errors and had some simple software to accomplish that task. A few hours later, I had two movies—but they were huge space hogs. (The Nikon takes HD video.) YouTube does its own compression, but whenever I tried to load one of the videos, it would almost complete the process and then return an error message.

So, I downloaded free video compression software, squeezed the file to manageable size, and performed the YouTube uploads. Here are the two files if you are interested:

Cabin Fever Reading:
Bad Policy Reading:

Will having YouTube videos available on my website bring me more readers? Who knows, but they are available if someone happens to stumble across them.

A time/value analysis would undoubtedly indicate I would have been better off spending the time writing the next book. But hey, who said everything in life should be about the most efficient way to use my time? I had fun and who can resist the fire in the background?

~ Jim

This blog was first published 11/2/2014 on Writers Who Kill

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