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.

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.

24 Hour Fitness Treats Members Like Crap

***UPDATE – 05/28/2010***
Note the comment from a 24 Hour Fitness staff member at the bottom of this post. I called her back and she was very nice to me.

Later in the day the regional manager called me back and told me that one club in my area was not renting out the gym . . . yet. This was a bit strange as someone from that club had already given me a schedule for when the gym was going to be unavailable. Something obviously changed since that schedule was first given to me.

That gym will begin renting the basketball gym to the same group soon, but the manager assured me he was going to make every effort to stagger the schedules. E.g., if one basketball gym was unavailable from 2 to 6, then he’d try to schedule the other one to be unavailable from 8 to noon (something like that).

So, I have mostly unlimited access to that basketball gym – for the time being.

I must say I’m appreciative of 24 Hour Fitness’s willingness to work with me on this issue. I’m surprised they actually care what I think.

The verdict’s still out as I wait to see what the new schedule will look like. But, for now, I have a basketball court I can use. Additionally, I have to say that 24 Hour Fitness is making what appears to be a sincere effort to provide the services they promised me when I signed up.


Original Post – 05/21/2010

I’m not usually one to complain, but check this out. I’m going to complain. And here’s my complaint.

I paid a bunch of money, up front, to be a member of this wonderful club – that is, 24 Hour Fitness. Yes, I’m going to complain about that.

This wonderful club, 24 Hour Fitness, has decided that I no longer matter. I guess it’s because I paid my big money up front and my yearly fees are now pretty low. So, I’m no longer an income producer for them. I thought that this wonderful club (you know who I’m talking about now – 24 Hour Fitness) had given me a great deal, but now I’m finding out how they really operate.

Before I explain it to you (and definitely before you decide to purchase a membership), let me suggest that you read the fine print in their contract that says (to the best of my memory), “We at 24 Hour Fitness may revoke your privileges at any time. We can take away the pool, basketball or any of your other privileges at any time for no reason whatsoever.” Really, it says that. Check it out for yourself. That stupid language is reason for a complaint in itself. So, yes, that’s why (well, one of the reasons) I’m complaining about 24 Hour Fitness.

So, here’s what the wonderful folks at 24 Hour Fitness have done. They’ve rented out a portion of their facilities, that is, the basketball court, to some group – for an indefinite amount of time. Every single day (except Monday) this group is now using the basketball gym. In my home club, they’re in the basketball gym from 2 to 6 (approximately). On the weekends I think it’s from noon to 6 or something like that. I may have the times a bit messed up, but they’re close. The fact that the basketball gym is being used when I want to use it is a great reason for a complaint against 24 Hour Fitness, especially since I already paid to use the facilities.

“So what’s the big deal?” some may ask. Well, I’m a teacher. I get off work at 2:50. I head home, change clothes and go to the gym to . . . you guessed it . . . play basketball. I purchased by membership based on the fact that I can go to the gym and play basketball. I don’t like to swim. I don’t really care for lifting. I do those things once in a while because I know it’s good for me, but 95% of the time, my time at 24 Hour Fitness is for playing basketball. So, that’s the big deal. Do you still think I’m complaining about nothing? Well, keep listening.

Now, if I want to play basketball, I have to go in the evenings. That means I can’t put my daughter to bed, I can’t have dinner with my family and I can’t relax with my wife. The evening is my family time. I’m going to complain about this – for sure.

I talked to the manager at my wonderful club, you know the one I’m talking about – 24 Hour Fitness – and he said, “We set this up to affect the least number of members possible.” The manager wouldn’t do anything else for me. Nothing. That’s worth a complaint, don’t you think? I’m not usually one to complain, but come on. How poorly can you treat a paying customer?

I have a friend in the same boat as me. He went there and asked for a rate reduction, since, as he says, “The folks at 24 Hour Fitness are telling me that they’re renting out the facilities to another party, collecting money from them, but I’m already paying them for the same services, and now they’re telling me I don’t have access to those services.” The manager refused to offer him a rate reduction and even told him that he didn’t have to be a member there. O.K. I’m going to complain about that comment and I hope my friend complains about it too. The folks at 24 Hour Fitness tried really hard (in the beginning) to sell us this membership. They (the 24 Hour Fitness folks) convinced us that buying this membership was the best thing for us to do. Now that they’re treating us badly and we’re complaining about it, they tell us we don’t have to be members. How two-faced is that?

What these people at the wonderful club called 24 Hour Fitness don’t seem to realize is that many of their members pre-paid for services. This is the best deal – especially over time. So, we people who like to save money jump on such deals. But sometimes, obviously, such deals can turn sour. The fact that I was suckered into this membership gives me excellent reason to complain. So complain I will.

I, for one, will not be a fan of this club (yes, 24 Hour Fitness) until they compensate me for the services they’ve taken from me. I can no longer work out unless I do something other than what I want to do or unless I radically change my schedule. I won’t change my schedule as it will interfere with my family life. And I won’t lift and swim every time I go there because I don’t particularly enjoy these activities. So, the folks at 24 Hour Fitness might think I’ll go quietly in the night, but they’re wrong because when I pay for something I expect to get it. I’m going to complain and I’m going to do my complaining from the rooftops.

So, 24 Hour Fitness. Are you listening? How can you take services from paying members without compensating them in some way? Hey, 24 Hour Fitness! Can you hear me? Stop treating your members like garbage. We’re your lifeblood.

If you want to complain about the way 24 Hour Fitness has treated you, then please . . . leave a comment. If you’ve had a negative experience with 24 Hour Fitness, let’s hear about it. 24 Hour Fitness, we know you’re a big company and we know that we pre-paid members really mean nothing to you, but I’m making it my personal mission to tell everyone how 24 Hour Fitness has treated me. And until you change your tune, I’m going to be spreading the word around my school district and my community (yes, I’m a teacher and a respected member of my community) and I’m going to be spreading the word online, through my blog, through twitter, through review sites . . . until you do something about this. In other words, I’m going to keep complaining until the cows come home.

I’m also going to be going to my club and finding members who feel like they’ve been hosed by 24 Hour Fitness. I’m going to get them to sign a petition saying how it’s unfair that 24 Hour Fitness has unilaterally decided that the basketball gym will be unavailable to members except at certain times.

24 Hour Fitness – if you’re listening – please, do the right thing.

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.

Adobe Flash – 64 Bit

I’ve been off the blogosphere for a while.  Sorry.  Like anyone cares.

But something’s been bugging me lately.  It’s like a splinter in my mind.  What is it?  It’s Adobe’s inexplicable inability to produce a version of Flash that works with a 64 bit browser.

64 bit operating systems and hardware have been around for years.  Technology’s supposed to be moving forward.  Shucks, even HP provides a 64 bit version of their drivers for my printer.  Adobe, did you know that Windows 7 is out?  Did you know that some computer companies (like Puget Systems) install 64-bit versions of Windows on their new computers?  You have to request something different if you don’t want it.  And why wouldn’t you want it?  It’s the 21st century!  We’ve been in a 32-bit environment long enough.  We can do thing better; we can do things faster. 

So we get our fancy new computer home, we fire up Internet Explorer (the 64-bit version of course; we’d fire up Firefox if we could but they’re behind the 8-ball too) and we try to watch a video on nba.com but nothing happens.  Why?  Because the defacto software for viewing animations on the Internet won’t move forward with the rest of the world.  Come on, Adobe.  Quit trying to cripple our Internet experience.

 

Excellent e-Sword Add-on

If you’ve had e-Sword installed for any amount of time, you’ve no doubt downloaded a few add-ons.

One of my favorite add-ons for e-Sword (the most excellent freeware program ever released to mankind) is the Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge.

It’s listed under “Commentaries” even though it’s not really a commentary.  It’s a cross-reference tool.  It’s like the Thompson Chain Reference Bible on steroids.  It’s amazing for topical research; it’s a component of e-Sword that I absolutely wouldn’t want to live without.

What’s your favorite add-on?