Dan Price (thwack) wrote,
Dan Price

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Or maybe it's addiction. Either way, it kept me up all night working on this Star Wars parody video I'm making for basically no reason. :) Actually I guess maybe the main reason is because I downloaded a tryout of Adobe Premiere 6.0 and wanted to see what I could do with it. I think it gave me the idea that it would let me make a perspective scroll like in the beginning of star wars fairly easily. I finally went to bed around what.. 9am... 10am... and woke up around 4pm. My roommates were actually worried about me. Heh.

So anyway, yeah, I made this video that is basically the same as the opening to a real Star Wars movie, from the "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...." to the camera panning down through a star field after the perspective scrolling text has finished. But I customized the scrolling text to say something funny about some friends of mine and make up a plot about monkeys (sort of an inside joke) and the top of the scroll says "Episode II"..."The Attack of the Clones" because the monkeys are cloned. Yeah. So anyway, after the scroll finishes and fades away, the camera pans down through the star field a little bit, and then a video comes into view, floating there in space. It's a video of that monkey that scratches his ass then sniffs his finger and falls off the log. Then the video fades out and a title that matches the "A long time ago..." text appears, reading "....but the excess brain power overloaded the monkeys' logic centers and they all died." and that's the end of the video because it was taking far too much of my time. :)

The majority of my time was spent trying to get things to come out right... "right" meaning "matching the real Star Wars movies." Like, when the logo appears as the music starts, and zooms out into space, the motion effects I had to work with wanted to do linear resizes, which makes the logo look like it starts really really slow and then as it gets further away it accelerates like crazy. It just looks entirely wrong. So I had to figure out different ways to do the zoom, which ended up leading to other problems which necessitated a blur filter, etc.

As it turns out, Premiere 6.0 couldn't do the perspective scroll on its own anyway. So you know what I did? I used this old program called Simply 3D (version 2) that came with my Matrox Millennium II video card many many years ago. In there, I could create a horizontal plane, load a huge bitmap of the text as its texture, place the camera at the right angle, and have the plane move from one point to the other. After determining that in the real films, the scroll moves up by one line of text every 2 seconds, I calculated that at 30fps, I would need 60 frames for every movement of the plane by one line of text, plus enough extra frames to push the scroll nearly out of sight. That meant roughly 3000 frames. Now, these frames are 720x480 pixels each... Fortunately the software will save animations to AVI files itself, but it's basically nothing more than a batch process of rendering 3000 separate images, which takes all night.

I recorded the opening theme music from my Episode I DVD, which plays during the 11 seconds of zooming logo followed by a lengthy scroll off into space, then fades away as the camera pans down (image of stars moves up, actually) and as the monkey video comes into view I used another piece of music from the trilogy that seemed choreographically fitting with a climax right when he reacts to the smell of his finger.

Meanwhile, mind you, my system is crashing left and right. Yes, I'm running XP. But I think after the first 5 times of closing Premiere on me, it decided to stop showing me the dialog box explaining what had happened with the option of sending an error report to MS. After that, it would just close without error or any warning other than the system freezing and hard drive grinding for 10 seconds first. Needless to say, I quickly developed the habit of saving often.

Then once I had my Premiere project rendered to a nice 720x480 AVI file, I had to convert that to an MPEG-2 file that is compliant with the Super Video CD standards. The only shareware I could find to do this is this TMGEnc thing... which XP tries to close with a program error every time I try to open an input video in it.... despite the fact that the program continues to run fine, so I just drag the XP dialog box off-screen and continue. It took several tries to get the aspect ratio right. You see, the SVCD standard is actually 480x480, and the player expands that to the 720x480. Or something. I'm still not sure I quite understand that. I wanted my video to play back like a wide-screen DVD would... the way most DVD players will letterbox a wide-screen source on a normal TV... but I couldn't get it to do that, so I used different options in TMGEnc to create a 480x480 movie that pre-letterboxes the video.

Once I had the MPEG-2 file, I then had to use special burning software that is capable of burning SVCDs... I don't have any burning software because XP has burning build right into the way Explorer works. Something like Nero would work, but that's not free and I don't have it. So I got this software called InstantCD+DVD that works for 30 days, like nearly every other utility I used for this project, including Premiere. Anyway, the software complained that my MPEG-2 file wasn't compliant, but it had an ignore option, so I used it. Burned the CD, took it out in the living room and popped it into the DVD player... detected a VideoCD. Woohoo! Hit play, and woah... it's like I have my Episode I DVD in there. :) Except the sound isn't 5.1 digital or anything, but the picture is almost as good. It's better than a VHS copy of Star Wars, but not quite as good as the DVD.

Still, I'm proud. :) And lookie here, I've stayed up all night yet again... this time merely WRITING about what kept me up so late last time. I've gotta stop doing this. :) My friends are going ice skating in 5½ hours. I was hoping to join them. Blah.
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