Blender tutorial and usage

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Well, since spending $1000 for some editing software just because iMovie doesn’t grok AVCHD seems a little dumb. Instead, I’ll waste way more than that in time moving to an open source video editing tool. Actually, this all makes sense with Adobe jacking the prices up so significantly and the high price of NLE video. In the end, this conversion to full open source might be the right thing:

  • RAW Conversion. Moving from DxO to Raw Therapee or RPP
  • Photo editing. Moving from Photoshop CS5 to Photoshop Elements or Gimp (if I can figure out printing and color management!)
  • Video editing. Moving from iMovie if you really need 60 fps movies, then use Blender or VDEnlive
  • Panoramic stitching. Already o Hugin
  • HDR. Moving from Photomagic to something else.

In terms of editing, it turns out that if you just need anything that is 30 fps or less then iMovie is fine. The main trick is to wrap the MTS files into something that iMovie likes which are MOV files. Some splunking reveals that Media Converter with a specific preset will do this. It doesn’t transcode but rewraps. Here is how:

  • Download Media Converter (this is an outgrowth of the Burn project). 
  • On Mountain Lion, it doesn’t create the /Library/Application Support/Media Converter directory as it can’t for some reason
  • Download from Media Converter Presets the “Re-wrap AVCHD fro Quicktime – uncompressed Audio” preset
  • Run this against the MTS file and it produces a MOV file which you can import into iMovie

    Blender tutorial
    On the way to that conversion right now is figuring out how to use Blender. I get Nonlinear video editing and a 3D modelling tool. The tutorials and things aren’t super clear and this aint no iMovie, but here are. Blender in short is a really strange graphical user interface product. Everything is movable and hard to figure out. It’s interface was designed in a vacuum compared with Windows or a Mac, so you kind of have to read the user interface tutorial as the old days of a menu at the top and then pulldowns are no where to be found here:

    • The default screen is an information windows at the top. One strange thing about Blender is that the menus are themselves windows, so you can resize and screw them up royally as a result.
    • There is a header for each windows and in Blender, the header at the *bottom*. So this interface is reversed. When you want to do something with a windows, look at the bottom and not the top (I know, I know).
    • Each one of these Windows has a magic icon thingy at the left. It is super important and very hard to figure out as it literally has no text next to it to tell you want it does.
    • To change a windows (there are no menus remember!), you go to a line separate things and then you can drag it. You need a middle mouse button as well (This is mapped to Ctrl-Right click on the mac), but you go to the border and then it comes up with split or join. You right click on a menu border and choose Join Areas.

    so follow these instructions exactly from the tutorial by blenderdiplom.com) or spend time and go through a video course to learn it well

    • Figure out how many frames per second the video is. You have to do this *before* you use blender. There are many ways, but the easiest is to start QuickTime, load the video and choose Windows/Infomation (or Cmd-I) and see the fps. For Canon 5D2, this is 29.97 fps (don’t ask!) typically, for a Sony RX-100, it is 59.96 fps as well it looks like from Quicktime which you have to get with a base rate of 60fps and a ratio of 1.005. But see tip or use Videospec to figure this out.
    • Start Blender and flip it into Video Editing mode (nothing on Blender has actual text, so it is hard to explain how to do this, but right have the Help menu, there is a Window icon, pull it down and you will see video editing (pox on all these user interface designers that are in love with miniscule identical icons!)
    • Now go to the first wierdo icon (this looks like some sort of master menu selection), click on the Properties (find the icon that looks like black and white box with a smaller box with two dots). Now the property box may be invisible, so you have to go to the lower level and click and drag it down. Whew, wierd product.
    • Now go to the lowest menu bar (the product loves menu bars) and choose add and select Movie and go through browser and load it
    • The thing for some reason only takes 250 frames of the whole thing, so you have to lengthen it to the clip length. The clip length is the last number shown in the little blue bar (which is the video) or the green bar (which is the audio). At the very lowest text line, find the End field, click on it and type in the number (wow, why do you have to do all this stuff)
    • Now to play to make sure it works, also on the very last line is a play button or you can use ALT-A and it should play. To keep the play in sync, click to the right of the bar, this is the Sync Mode pull down and select Frame dropping and there you have it.
    • Moving the various clips is also very wierd. You don’t point and click, you first select the items with the right click and thenype “G” and this puts it into move mode (don’t ask me why), you just move the mouse and then click to finish. If you want to make it perfect, then when you right click on a clip, just type in the start frame that you want.
    • When you want to add another clip, you have to make sure you click at the end of the last clip because it won’t auto add to the end.
    • To add titles and transitions, see the Youtube tutorial, basically you create a title with Gimp as a drop shadow. You have to create a key frame with the button I.
    • When you want to create the movie, you go to the top menu item and choose File/Save to save the .blend file. A hint is that a double slash means just use the current directory
    • It seems more natural to me to render the movie in Default (vs Video Editing mode). You can see the property sheet and you can see the frames that are being annotated
    • Then select the properties again and go down to the output section (with again that strange you may not see the property sheet unless you drag down the toolbox) and scroll down to output and pick an output file name. Use “//” if you want it to go to the current directory) or use the file browse button at the far right. You want to pick a file name and get rid of the
    • Now go down two lines and select the File Format. I normally pick H.264 to keep iPhones happy, this causes an Encoding tab to open up with the most important parameter being the bit rate. It defaults to 6Mbps (actually 6000 kbps) with a maximum of 10Mbps, The RX-100 produces a maximum of 28Mbps of AVCHD output, so this is really about the compression you want to use. Then pick the audio encoding, I pick AAC again to make iPhones happy.
    • Blender by default renders only at 50% of the size. You have to also change this in properties. I find the easiest way to edit properties is to go to the Compositing view and you see the property there.
    • Blender doesn’t render audio property, so in the bottom menu there is the Playbook at the bottom choose AV Sync and Audio scrubbing so it works properly
    • Now to render, go to the top menu and click on Render and choose Render Animation and off you go. You probably want to choose H.264 and change the audio codec to MP3. I tried H.264 and then AAC from the preset and set it to 256Kb for AAC (which Quicktime says is the input from the RX100) and this seemed to work.
    • Right click on the audio soundtrack (the green bar) and on the right a property sheet comes up. Scroll way down and choose “cache” and “pick waveform”

    Now this is because iMovie doesn’t support 60 fps clips, but if you take the advice of folks that know, the best ratio is actually 1080i60 which is really 1080p30 which iMovie can digest. So if you don’t want to take the time to learn Blender, you might try this:

    • iMovie won’t import an AVCHD file directly (things names .mts or .m2ts, you need a third party converter like Mediaconverter, Handbrake, ClipWrap, Voltaic HD or Quicktime itself.

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