Category Archives: How To

How to Make a Free Professional Website Part 2

OK. I’ve finally finished my second video on how to make a completely free website. Oh, and I should probably mention that it will look professional. In other words, it will not look like something that an html know-nothing should be able to put together.

This website (the one you’re looking at) was made using the methods I describe in this video (and in my first video). I didn’t spend a dime on this site. And I didn’t need any html knowledge or coding skills to make it. As you can see, I don’t have my own domain name (see the “.wordpress.com” in the url?) but that seems a small price to pay for a professional-caliber website.

The website you’ll see in the video was also made using this method. I also point out another website that I found that I thought was pretty entertaining that uses WordPress. And to further substantiate my claim that WordPress websites not only look professional, but are professional, I’ll note that CNN, Forbes, Reuters, The New York Times, Jay-Z, Katy Perry, GM, UPS, Sony (and many more) . . . all use WordPress for their websites. So you’ll not be alone in your endeavors.

I’ll quit rambling (in a second). I just have to say, one more time, that if you’re thinking you want a website, you should definitely check this method out. Why? Because it’s 100% free. There is no advertising. It will look like it was built by a professional (because all the themes are professionally built–go figure). Your friends and family will think you’re an amazing Internet specialist. You won’t have your own domain and customizations are limited. But if you want a completely free website, that looks (and is) amazingly professional, check this method out! (And don’t worry–if you want your own domain name and the ability to tweak everything on your site–there’s a way to do that too. It’s not free but it’s still pretty easy and pretty cheap. I’ll be covering that in a new video coming in the near future.)

Check out the video.

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How to Make a Free Professional Website

I’ve got this really cool video on youtube about how to make a free professional website. Did I mention that I’m showing you how to make a completely free website that looks really professional? And guess what? I use WordPress to make the very cool free website. WordPress is powerful and it’s not just for blogging, as you can see from this website right here (which is also a WordPress site). In the video I cover the basics: how to sign for a WordPress website, how to create links, how to add pages, etc. In my next video (coming soon) I’ll cover a few more advanced topics, like adding pictures, embedding videos, creating a contact form, etc. From there we’ll advance to how to create a WordPress website using your own domain name. The video will cover significantly advanced topics, e.g., setting up a database, FTP, tweaking themes and more. Keep in mind that using your own domain name means it won’t be free, and right now we’re focusing on how to create a completely free website.

Don’t forget to check out the video!

How to Transcode .mov Files using Matrox Codecs

Not too long ago, I posted an article on how to transcode .mov files from a Canon t2i using Avid’s DNxHD codec. Overall, that was a good solution (and still is) but I think I’ve found a solution I like more.

I noticed on Eugenia’s blog that she discovered a way to trancode .mov files using the recently released Matrox codecs. The solution works, but it’s very cumbersome for the average user (no offense intended; I’ve learned much from reading Eugenia’s blog). I’ve discovered a significantly simpler (and less time-consuming) solution (in my opinion) with the help of a professional videographer who prefers me not to use his name.

This solution should be appropriate for anyone looking for an excellent intermediate format for editing in Sony Vegas or another non-linear video editing program (NLE). It’s fast, easy and free.

A couple quick words (before I start) on why transcoding for editing is a good idea.

There are different codecs for different purposes. There are capture codecs (H.264, AVCHD, etc.). They encode fast but decode slow. Thus, they’re excellent for capturing but terrible for playback. There are editing codecs (DNxHD, Matrox, Cineform) which create large files but which don’t lose much information during the color grading / editing processes. Then there are delivery codecs which compress efficiently while maintaining visual quality. These files are high quality and small.

Professionals will transcode for each step of the process, unless they shoot something at four o’ clock and they need to roll out a finished product by five o’ clock. But to maintain optimal quality, transcoding for each step is necessary. It is often possible to edit .mov files directly, but if you do much color grading and editing you’ll end up with a far inferior product than if you’d transcoded to an appropriate intermediate format.

O.K. There’s my reasoning (mostly given to me by my friend, the professional videographer). So let’s get started on this tutorial.

First, you’re going to need two items. You’ll need Prism Video Converter (free version) and you’ll need the Matrox codecs. Be sure to use my link. Don’t google it or you’re likely to end up with an older version of the codecs. That’s all you’ll need.

If you have any problems, you may need to download a few other things, but for now, let’s start with the two previous items. Download and install the items. Start up Prism Video Converter. You’ll see the following screen.

Prism Video Converter

Click on “Add Files” in the upper left and select the videos you want to transcode. It’s easy to select multiple videos at once by holding down the “Ctrl” button on your keyboard while clicking each video clip you want. After you’ve selected the clips you want, click “Open.”

Select Your Videos

Next, you’ll want to change the “Output Format” to “avi.” Since this tutorial is primarily focused on making intermediate files that will play nicely with Sony Vegas, it’s important to create .avi files. Why? Sony Vegas likes .avi files and gets along with them, that’s why.

Output Format

Now it’s time to set the “Encoder Options.” Be sure that your “Video Compressor” is set to “Matrox MPEG-2 I-frame HD” and set your “Sound Format” to “48000 Hz, 16 bits, stereo.”

Encoder Options

Before closing out your encoder options, click on “Video Compression Settings.” Set your data rate to whatever you’d like (I use the maximum, but that really is overkill; 150MB/sec is a good starting point) and set the frame rate to match your source file.

Video Compression Settings

Under “Video Options” set the size to match your source file. You shouldn’t have to do this, but if you happen to get an error message when converting, this is something you can try. Tick “resize video” (even though we aren’t really re-sizing). Tick “shrink or enlarge the video to the selected size.” Untick “constrain proportions” and then type in the numbers to match your source file (e.g., 1920×1080). Then re-tick “constrain proportions.”

Video Options

Click the “Browse” button (lower right) to choose your output folder. I typically choose the desktop because it’s a nice temporary location. Remember, we’ll be deleting these files after we edit them. There’s no need to save these monstrous intermediate files.

Set Your Output Folder

You can now click “Preview” if you’d like. It’s an optional step. What it does is convert the first few seconds of the video and place the clip into your output folder. If you get any errors at this point it’s time to try something else. It’s a good idea to try this step before converting a huge batch of files.

Preview

If you don’t run into any errors during preview, it’s now time to hit “Convert.” Prism will do it’s thing and you’ll end up with some quite large Matrox .avi files on your desktop. You’re now ready to edit!

Convert

If you do run into errors, don’t panic. There’s something else to try. Go to “Options” then click on the “Conversions” tab. Under “Decoder Options” tick the box that says, “Use FFMPEG decoder (try this if you are having problems converting or playing the file).” Try converting again. If you still continue getting errors, this is where things can get dicey.

If you’ve tried all the above and you still can’t convert your files, you probably have a codec issue. Either you have codecs you shouldn’t have or you don’t have codecs that you should have. You can try downloading ffdshow tryouts, installing it (stick with the defaults), then attempting this process again. I typically don’t like codec packs and avoid them whenever possible. I’m running Windows 7 without any codec packs. The only extra codecs I’ve installed at this point are the Matrox codecs. If all else fails, you can try re-installing Windows (you should do that once in a while anyway). It’ll make your computer run like new and alleviate any codec problems that you may have inadvertently created.

Not too long ago I could not get this method to work. I couldn’t get any of my files to convert – no matter what. I finally installed ffdshow and only then would Prism convert my files. But without ffdshow it simply would not work. Over the course of the last year I’ve downloaded lots of different codecs for this reason or that reason. I also tried a few different codec packs. Over time, I collected a lot of conflicting codecs and codec packs. Simply uninstalling them didn’t fix my problems. The solution? I re-installed Windows and only installed the codecs I absolutely needed. For now, the only additional codecs on my computer are the Matrox VFW codecs. That’s it. And now this solution works flawlessly every time.

How to Transcode .mov Files

*** Update ***

I created a new tutorial on how to transcode .mov files using the Matrox VFW codecs and Prism Video Converter. There are some advantages to this method; .avi files are created which are perfect for editing in Sony Vegas, and the Matrox codecs support additional framerates, most notably 29.97 at 1920×1080, an option not found with the Avid DNxHD codec. It’s a more complete solution for PC users and it’s faster than DNxHD.

Check it out here: How to Transcode .mov Files using the Matrox VFW Codecs


Some video files aren’t easy to edit on a PC.  That’s especially true of .mov files produced by Canon compacts and DSLRs.

What options do people have?

The best option I’ve found (if you use 24p or 720p) is MPEG Streamclip in combination with the AVID DNxHD codec.

First you’ll need MPEG Streamclip.  You can find it here. Choose the Mac or PC version, download it and install it.  Then download the AVID DNxHD codec.  You can find the codec here. Choose the Mac or PC version, download it and install it.  You’re ready to go.

Open MPEG Streamclip.  You’ll see the following screen.  Click “List” at the top.

MPEG Streamclip

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Next, click “Batch.”

MPEG Streamclip Batch

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Then, the following screen will appear.   Click “Add Files” in the lower right.

Add Files

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Next, hold down the control key and select the files you want to transcode with your mouse.  Then click “Open” in the lower right.

Select your files

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After clicking “Open” you’ll see the following screen.  Make sure it says “Export to Quick Time” in the dropdown box.  Click “OK.”

Export to Quicktime

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Choose the location for your future transcoded files then click “OK.”  As you see, I chose the desktop.  That’s where I’m going to find my transcoded files when the process is complete.

Future location of transcoded file

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After clicking “OK” the the “Movie Exporter” screen will appear.   In the “Compression” dropdown menu, make sure you have selected “AVID DNxHD” codec.  Then click “Options” in the upper right part of the screen.

Choose the proper codec

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Next, click the box that’s only barely appearing in the Codec Configuration screen.  I don’t know why AVID released software with such a buggy interface but that’s neither here nor there.  Click it.

Buggy Interface

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Once you’ve clicked the almost invisible box, the following dropdown will appear.  Choose the profile that’s appropriate for your video.  I record (typically) in 24p with my new t2i.  Sometimes I record in 720p.  If your configuration isn’t there you’ll have to use Neoscene.  Sorry, goodbye.  Have a nice day.  I hate to say it, but 1080p at 30fps isn’t there.  There’s a profile for 720p @ 30fps.   Why is this?  I have no idea.  Back to it.

Anyway, since I record in 24p, I’m going to choose the option that says 1080p/23.976 DNxHD 175 10-bit (best quality).  Once you’ve made your choice, click “OK.”

Choose the Correct Profile!

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After clicking “OK,” you’ll be back at the “Movie Exporter” screen.  Make sure your quality slider is at 100%.   Make sure your frame size matches your video. Uncheck “Interlaced Scaling.” Finally, click the button in the lower right that’s labeled “To Batch.”

Choose Proper Options

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After you’ve followed the above steps all that’s left is to click “Go” on the last screen.

Click Go!

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Open up Sony Vegas (or whatever program you’re using) and edit your files. If you don’t know how to render them, ask me and I’ll tell you.

Bing, Google, or Yahoo?

O.K.  It’s time to put the hype to rest.  You now can easily decide, for yourself, which search engine is the best:  Bing, Google, or Yahoo!

Go visit http://blindsearch.fejus.com/ and try a few of your own searches.  Choose the results you feel are the most relevant.  Post your results here.

I’ll start.

I tried 11 searches (not 12) and I chose Yahoo! search results 8 out of the 11 times.  Weird, but true.  I chose Google twice and Bing once.  I expected Google to top my list, but Yahoo! came out the clear winner.

Verify Your Internet Connection Speed

So, you pay big money for 1.5mbps (megabits per second) download speed and 800kbps  (kilobits per second) upload speed.  You surf around happily for days, weeks . . . years.

Are you really getting what you’re paying for?  Most people have no idea.  I  recently asked my parents  if their Internet connection was performing as expected.  They said, “Well, it seems sort of slow, but we don’t know.”  I checked it for them.  They were paying for 512kbps download, 256kbps upload.   Their actual download speed?  100kbps.  Upload?  The same.

I called their ISP (Internet Service Provider) and they agreed to bump them up to the next level of service for the next three years (the same amount of time they’d been getting hosed).

Test your Internet speed by doing one of two things:

  1. google “online speed test” and try a random speed test or
  2. go to speakeasy and check out their free online speed test.  Click on the city nearest you (under “choose a server”) then wait (hopefully not for long).

Buyer Beware …

I posted a new video on youtube explaining a couple steps I always take before buying a new computer.

I check out resellerratings.com and I check out bbb.org (Better Business Bureau). Both of these places reveal important information about the company. The information comes from actual customers. Nothing could be more relevant.

By investigating companies a bit before you buy from them, you can avoid an unpleasant buying (and owning) experience.

Check out the video (best viewed in HD – full screen).

Also check out my page on the top 5 things to look for when buying a new computer.