Friday, March 18, 2011

Capacity Focus, 6: Blender's video sequence editor and video production for all

A key part of the capacity focus series in this blog is about building capacity to use digital and related multimedia technologies to help transform our capabilities as a region. Audio and video are two key technologies for multimedia -- wiki: "a combination of text, audio, still images, animation, video, and interactivity content forms . . .  -- which is a key to C21 education and capacity building for the region.

Tay Vaughn helps us see why:
Multimedia is any combination of text, graphic art, sound, animation, and video that is delivered by computer. When you allow the user – the viewer of the project – to control what and when these elements are delivered, it is interactive multimedia. When you provide a structure of linked elements through which the user can navigate, interactive multimedia becomes hypermedia. [Vaughan, Tay, 1993, Multimedia: Making It Work (first edition, ISBN 0-07-881869-9), Osborne/McGraw-Hill, Berkeley, pg. 3. (Hypermedia tells us that interactive web-based content with A/v elements is also multimedia, like current posts in this blog.]
Unfortunately, video editing software -- one key to effective multimedia -- tends to be expensive and/or fairly complex, so the challenge is to find an effective open-source approach to video production for all.

Right now, that boils down to ZS4 and Blender's Video Sequence Editor. 

Of these, Blender VSE is the preferred technology because of not only the upcoming version 2.5, but because the suite is a comprehensive, pro grade 3-D modelling, animation and A-V production, open source tool. (That has the side-effect that it is fairly complex, but with appropriate tutoring, that can be worked around. Remember, people have actually used Blender as a 3-D engineering design tool, as well as 3-D computer animations, for movies and for creating interactive games.)

It's worth the pause to link Big Buck Bunny, which showcases what can be done:

This post is therefore an initial, work in progress report, on adventures with Blender.

First, I tried to work with the 2.56 beta test [since an earlier version of the beta has been used to produce a short movie, even before it reached beta stage].

While the program downloaded well, and installed, when I set up the video sequence editor and loaded with movie strips, I could only see a white box in the preview. 

Several days of trying to track it down ended up with the conclusion that there may be a driver problem on the Netbook I am using. I also noticed that FFMPEG capacity for Windows was at least one beta version away, so I reverted to the last "stable" release [with a significantly less polished interface], Blender 2.49b.

Worked like a charm, though of course for this version I had to download and install Python 2.7 first. I used the Windows x86 MSI Installer (2.7.1) (sig) .  (NB: Blender was developed on 2.6, and on startup demanded it, but 2.7 worked well.)

An AVI video strip loaded well, and presto, we have video preview, a necessity for effective non-linear video editing.

Here is an introductory video:

(A useful step by step, illustrated tutorial on basic non-linear editing with transitions is here, with the follow up page on exporting here.  The Blender manual [a fair sized Wiki], as a PDF is here, but that is strictly for reference, it is not a tutorial! I downloaded the June 22, 2010 version, 1561 pp, and the video sequence editor section begins at p. 1416, which can be reached by using the bookmarks for the PDF. [Click on the view menu, then click on "bookmarks."])

There are of course many other videos and tutorials on various aspects of Blender.
This one is on the Blender 2.5 interface and integrating animations, video and audio strips, but the same basic principles apply to 2.49:

So, it looks like we are up and running with Blender as an Open Source [= free for download, and effectively no restrictions on commercial use] video editor, for developing multimedia capacity.

So, it is now over to the techies, and the educators, to develop a full bore Blender Workshop for teachers, trainers, capacity-building activists, church leaders, professionals, youth and community leaders. A component for an envisioned ICTs Productivity as a cyber- and- workshops course.

Work in progress, stay tuned . . . END

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