Construction: My Almost Finished Living Room

A video tour of my living room, which is now almost done.

Yesterday morning, I made a video of my living room setup. Thought I’d share it with folks who want to take the tour:

On May 20, 2014, I began blogging about the construction of my new home in Malaga, WA. You can read all of these posts — and see the time-lapse and walkthrough movies that go with many them — by clicking the new home construction tag.

I admit that I sometimes refer to this as my “trophy room.” That’s because the red leather sofa, TV, and stereo surround-sound system came from the condo my wasband bought as a place to live during the week when he worked in Phoenix. To this day, I’m not sure why he agreed to let me have them. The only reason I included them on the list of personal property I wanted was so I could give them up in the bargaining process. But he agreed to the whole damn list — after stewing on it for months — in exchange for me moving out of the house. Joke’s on him: I had to leave anyway for my summer work and my RV and helicopter were already onsite in Washington.

My Living Room
My almost-finished living room; a very pleasant place to hang out.

The leather sofa is very comfortable and has a sofa bed tucked into it. My ex-sister-in-law, who I’m still in contact with occasionally, gave me two of the four pillows on it as a housewarming gift. The rug, storage “bar” behind the sofa, and black leather cushions on the chair are new from IKEA. The lamps are heirloom items — more on those in a future blog post. The rest of what’s in this video are a mix of new items I bought over the past three years and items moved to Washington from my old home in Arizona.

The room is almost done. I just need two things:

  • Windowsills. I have temporary window sills in place under most windows. I was going to make them out of 1×12 lumber and actually finished a few of them, but my friend Don offered me slabs of wood that match the tables he made for me. I can then make windowsills out of that. Trouble is, Don needs to get his friend with the bandsaw on the program to get me the slabs. Then I need to cut, stain, and finish them. It’s a big project and I don’t expect to have it done anytime soon. So I have trimmed 1×10 and 1×12 planks for temporary use. I probably won’t bother staining them, so I can use them for something else in the future.
  • Coffee table. Don made me custom TV table and end tables. They were cut from power poles that survived a fire back in 2010 or 2011 near the Rocky Reach Dam, upriver from Wenatchee. They have a lot of personality, with actual scorch marks on the live edges. I like them so much I’ve asked Don to make me a matching coffee table. We discussed it in some detail yesterday. I hope to get it within a month or so.

The jury is still out on the rug. I bought another one at Pier 1 that I’d like to try. This one might be okay with a coffee table over it.

And yes, I know I should get a universal remote. But honestly: I don’t watch very much television. The view out the windows is much more enjoyable.

The place is coming together. It’s already a far more pleasant home than the one I left behind in Arizona.

Construction: January 24 Walkthrough

A video progress report.

Here’s another walkthrough of my work-in-progress. This time, it’s showing off the nearly completed drywall.

I promise the next video — which I’ll do in about two weeks after they paint and clean up — will be better.

Viddler Content Being Pulled

I guess I deserve that for putting so many eggs in one questionable basket.

Back in 2008, I discovered Viddler, a site for sharing videos. For some reason I’ve long since forgotten, I decided that it was a better way to host my blog’s video content. I embraced it and uploaded dozens of videos to Viddler, embedding them in blog posts. I even went a step farther and wrote articles explaining to other WordPress uses how they could embed their Viddler videos in their blog posts.

Silly me.

Earlier this year, Viddler pulled the plug on all of its free accounts. Because I hadn’t used the service for so long, they did not have an up-to-date email address for me and I did not get notification of the change. As a result, I was unable to retrieve copies of my videos from their service. Now, if I want them, I have to pay a fee.

Yes, I have to pay a fee to get copies of my own videos from their service.

Needless to say, I’m not paying.

Understand that I don’t make a penny on this blog. I removed all the advertising years ago and don’t even ask for donations anymore. My hosting fees are low enough that I don’t mind footing the bill for that, but I simply can’t pay for additional services — like those offered for a fee now by Viddler. I need to stick to low-cost or free alternatives for anything related to my blog.

No More ViddlerA total of 65 of my blog posts contain references to Viddler and/or embedded Viddler content — including “video blog posts” I was creating back in 2009. I’ll be spending some time today editing these posts to remove the bad embedding code. I suspect I’ll wind up simply deleting a lot of these posts in their entirety.

There are two valuable lessons to be learned here:

  • Keep copies of all of your content. I know I have copies of the “lost videos” somewhere, but they’re likely packed with the rest of my office stuff. Or maybe they aren’t. Who knows? The point is, uploading them to a service isn’t necessarily any way to assure that they’ll always be available.
  • Stick to services that aren’t likely to change payment policies. YouTube has become the go-to service for sharing video for a reason: it’s free and it will remain free forever. In addition, being a part of a big company like Google makes it unlikely that it’ll shut down or be sold anytime soon. New services spring up all the time and they often seem like good alternatives for one reason or another. But will they stick around forever? And maintain their current cost policies?

At this point, anyone who has been involved in technology for at least 10 years can likely list several online services that have disappeared or changed policies. Viddler is one of the latest. It’s unfortunate that I relied on them the way I did.

Creating Time-Lapse Movies

How I do it.

I’ve been fascinated with time-lapse photography for as long as I can remember — and believe me, that’s a long time. I love the idea of compressing a series of still images into a short movie. But what I love more is the way it speeds up the process of things that happen slowly: clouds moving across the sky, shadows changing with sun angles, and things being built or moved. There are a lot of time-lapse movies on this site; click the time-lapse tag to explore them. I do want to stress that my time-lapse movies are very simple. If you want to see something amazing, look at the work of a master like Ross Ching’s Eclectic series.

I rely on certain equipment and software tools to create my time-lapse movies. Since I’ve been sharing daily time-lapse movies of the construction of my home, I thought I’d take a minute to explain how I make them.

The Camera

Hero HD
I use my old Hero HD for most time-lapse work these days.

The first thing you need to create a time-lapse movie is a camera capable of snapping an image at a regular interval. These days I use a GoPro. Although I have three of these great cameras — Hero HD, Hero 2, and Hero 3 — I tend to use the oldest (the Hero HD) for this kind of work so if it’s lost, damaged, or stolen, it’s not a huge deal.

The GoPro has an interval or time-lapse mode that I use quite often. Because the process of building my home is relatively slow, I set it to the most amount of time between images: 1 minute.

(In the past, I’ve used a Pclix intervalometer — that’s a time-lapse timer that triggers a shutter release on a camera at a preset interval — attached to an old Canon G5 digital camera. Again, the camera was old and worthless so if someone walked off with it, no big deal. Losing the intervalometer would have been worse.)

Skeleton Housing
The skeleton housing gives me access to the USB port and SD card on the GoPro.

Power is an issue when you run a camera for hours on end. I use the GoPro Skeleton housing around the camera so I can run a USB cable to it. The cable then feeds into a window on my RV where it plugs into a power source. The added benefit is that I can remove the SD card without opening the housing and changing the camera angle. I use electrical tape to cover up the two sides of the housing to keep dust and rain out.

The Camera Mount

For time-lapse photography, it’s vital that the camera be held still (or moved smoothly, if you’re going for that kind of effect). That means a tripod or camera mount.

Pedco UltraClamp
This is a must-have mount for anyone with a GoPro or lightweight digital camera.

I routinely use a Pedco UltraClamp with my GoPros. I can’t say enough things about this clamp-on camera mount. With a GoPro, all you need is a tripod mount adapter and you’re good to go.

For my construction project time-lapse movies, I clamped it onto one of my RV slide-outs, pointing at the construction site. Easy.

The Software

Okay, so the camera has been running for hours and it has collected hundreds of images. Most of my time-lapses run from 6:30 AM to 4:30 PM. That’s 10 hours with 60 shots per hour. 600 images.

The images are 2592 x1944 pixels. That’s way bigger than I need. In addition, I want a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is better suited for video projects these days. So I need to do some processing.

EasyBatchPhoto IconThe first thing I do is run the images through a program called EasyBatchPhoto. (Remember folks, I’m using a Mac.) I have the app set up to crop the image to 1920 x 1080 — that’s standard high definition. This basically crops away the edges of the image, focusing on what’s in the middle. The app also slightly sharpens the image and applies a date and time stamp watermark based on the EXIF data saved with the original file. It then saves it as a medium-high quality JPEG in a folder I specify. I do this for only the images I want to include in the movie; no reason to process them all. The rest of the images are discarded when I wipe the SD card.

EasyBatchPhoto Settings
EasyBatchPhoto can process huge batches of images at a time.

I should mention that you could probably do all this with another app. This happens to be the one I use. I’m sure some readers will share their solutions in the comments.

QuickTime Player 7 IconOnce I have the images in a folder, I open up QuickTime Player 7, which I’d updated to the Pro version years ago. This is an old version of QuickTime. The current version does not have the feature I need, which is the Open Image Sequence command. I use that command to get a dialog box prompting me to choose an image. I select the first image in the folder containing all of the images for the movie.

Choose the First Image
Use this dialog box to select the first image in the folder of images for the movie.

Image Sequence Settings
Use this dialog box to set the frame rate.

I’m then prompted to set the image sequence settings — basically the frame rate for the movie. There are a lot of options on that pop-up menu. After some experimentation, I decided on 15 frames per second for this project. That compresses 10 hours worth of images into about 40 seconds. Any faster and you miss a lot of the action. When I click OK, QuickTime makes the movie and displays it in a window. After taking a look at it, I save it to disk, usually in the same folder as the images.

Why YouTube?
I was really pissed off to discover that Viddler, the site I used years ago to host video, has made my videos unavailable for viewing. I think it’s because they expect me to pay for hosting, which just ain’t gonna happen. This screwed up a lot of embedded video on this site. Because some of the videos are very old, I can’t find the source files so those videos are gone forever. So I’ll use YouTube on a go-forward basis for all video sharing. It’s free and very easy to access.

The last thing I do is upload the movie to YouTube. I do this with the current version of QuickTime. I just double-click the movie’s icon to open QuickTime and use the share command to share it on YouTube. QuickTime prompts me for a movie description and tags. Within minutes, it’s online and available to anyone who wants to see it.

The entire software process takes about 5-7 minutes and is mostly automated.

If you make time-lapse movies and use a different set of software tools, please do use the comments to share your process. It’s always nice to learn about new software that might make things easier or just plain better.

Orchard to Orchard

Do you see now why I love what I do and where I do it?

This one video should give you not only a glimpse of what it’s like to fly in a helicopter in one of the most scenic areas of Washington State, but it should give you a good idea of why I love doing what I do.

It shows the entire flight — all one minute and 47 seconds of it — from the time I depart one orchard at the top of Wenatchee Heights to the time I settle in over the trees at another orchard in Malaga. I’ll admit it here: this is my favorite orchard departure path.

Enjoy this in full screen at high resolution if you can.