Saturday, November 30, 2013

In Which Instagram's #WHP Kicks My Ass

I love Instagram.  Some might say a little too much.  I'm not one of the people taking pictures of every meal they eat, or endless "selfies".  I tend more toward trying to capture places, or events, or nature -- trees in autumn, the way a moss-covered statue sort of blends in with its surroundings, the Dead End sign directly in front of a cemetery.  You get the idea.

If you are not familiar with Instagram, every Friday they post a Weekend Hashtag Project (#WHP).  They give you a topic or idea that you are supposed to work with over the weekend, and then you post your photo or video using the hashtag they have assigned.  It is really pretty cool to see how creative and inventive people can be, how many different ways people can interpret the same prompt.    At the end they feature what they think are the best submissions.

I try to enter when I have the time to do it.  I actually did get chosen as one of the featured submissions once, when they first rolled out the video feature.  The number of people "following" me went from like 12 friends and family members to a couple hundred.  It was insane!  Also, it happened while my niece and nephew were here visiting, so I got to be "cool" in front of them.  Thanks, Instagram!  Here is the video, if you'd like to see it.

This weekend Instagram posted a project to submit a video shot in slow motion. #WHPslowmotion  Excellent!  I really want to try this.

Except I have no idea how to shoot in slow motion. Best go back and read that write-up again, as I think it gave suggestions on how to accomplish this.

Okay, so it would appear that I need to get an app, since I don't have an iPhone 5S.    They suggest SloPro.  I assume Instagram knows what they are talking about, that this is the best one to use, so I get the app.

Now the hard part: what am I going to shoot that will look cool in slow motion?  Birds!  Birds flying in slo-mo will be pretty neat.  This, as it turns out, will be the easiest part of the whole project.  I stake out the birds in my back yard, and I record them.

Footage, check!

Now to use the SloPro app.

Not going to lie, I wasted quite a bit of time on this part.  Not a lot of directions or help were included on what the hell you are supposed to be doing to edit your footage.  Eventually I figure out how to clip it down to a more usable length.  I was a little nervous that I was probably going to screw up the only usable video I had might make a mistake, and I didn't see an "undo" feature.  Also, there was a wee bit of poor planning on my part.  While recording my bird footage, I kind of spaced on the fact that it was going to take longer to watch in slow-motion.   Yeah.  Little oopsie on my part.  Turns out a minute and a half of footage is way more than you could ever possibly need for a 15 second Instagram video in slow motion.

Moving on.

After a large amount of time -- more than I will ever admit to here -- I get it down to 28 seconds of slow motion video.  Alright, feeling good!  I just want to save it to my camera roll.  I'll pick the 15 seconds to show when I post it to Instagram.   Except, as it turns out, you can't just save it to your camera roll.  You can post it to several places -- Vine, Viddy, Youtube, to name a few -- but not save it to your iPhone.  The option is there, but it is not available.

I click on it anyway.  Turns out you have to buy the app for $3.99 to be able to save to your camera roll.  Mother f@#$ing figures.  You win, SloPro, you win.  I just wasted hours of my life too much of my time on this to not be able to save the damn video.  Here's your money.  Just let me save my damn video.

Now I go to Instagram to post.  Beautiful, lovely Instagram where everything makes sense and there are no problems.  I get the video, I chose the part I want, get all the way to the preview and what the heck has happened to my video?!?!  It looked fine when I was choosing which part I wanted to use, but in preview it looks completely distorted.  I don't have the slightest idea what happened.  It looks almost like I shot it with a fish-eye lens.  I know what I am supposed to be viewing, and I am hard pressed to tell what I am looking at.  I didn't use a filter for fear of messing things up, but something has gone horribly wrong in any case.

I will spare you the gory details where I cursed out SloPro many, many times.  After repeatedly saving different versions of the video, and getting the same spectacularly screwed up results when trying to post to Instagram, I was more than a little frustrated.  I had also spent too much time on this to NOT post this freaking video.  I had it saved to my camera roll now, so maybe I just needed a different app to get it to be normal when I use it with Instagram.

As much as I was hating SloPro at the moment, they might also have helped me dodge a bullet.  Poor planning point #2:  I totally forgot about the background noise.  After watching the same slo-mo bird video over, and over, and over, I realized that the soundtrack was a scintillating composition created of equal parts of me breathing and the melodic sound of traffic on the highway in the distance.  Yes, it did warn about that in the initial Instagram post.  No comments from the peanut gallery.  No one likes a know-it-all.

Fantastic.  Time to hit up Google and find out how to add music to an Instagram video.  I cannot post this video the way it is.  One of the first results is for the app Video Star.  It's got good ratings and, best of all, it is free. I like free, especially after having to bribe SloPro to let me save my video.

So I get the Video Star app.  This looks a little more complicated than I anticipated.  However, to their credit, they have an easy to find Help section, and lots of tutorials for doing fancy things to videos.  It's really a shame that I do not care about multi-layered anything at this point.  I just want to put some music to my damn bird video and post this shit to Instagram.  Is that too much to ask?

Yes, yes it is.

I get the snippet of music I want to use with the video.  Turns out you can take it directly from the music on your phone.  Fantastic!  I thought that was going to be the hard part, that I was going to have to scour the internet for free music that wasn't going to get me sued into oblivion for using it.  What I cannot find, however, is the option to use a video that I already have on my phone.

I waste a lot more time reading through the "how to create a video" section and watching tutorials.  I don't see anything about using a video you already have on your phone.  I'm pretty sure that I could now create a video of my cat sleeping, complete with computer generated flowers blossoming around the edge of the frame, while the dulcet tones of Metallica's Enter Sandman speed her off to little kitty dreamland in the background.  What I cannot figure out how to do is use a video that I already have on my damn phone.

Back to Google we go.  I literally searched "how to import video from iphone to videostar".  My brain was shot by this point.  I just wanted this over and the video posted.  I find a review of the app, and it is there that I learn that you cannot import video that you have already taken.  Are you kidding me?  Are you freaking kidding me?  GAAHHHHH!!!!!

The same lovely review mentions that iMovie is still the best for doing fine editing, adding music, using video you already have, and probably some other stuff but I stopped reading at that point.  iMovie, you say?  I really hope that isn't something you can only get when you buy an Apple computer.  Back to the App Store we go to search for iMovie.

Success!!  Thank you Apple for having an app for that!

And it costs $4.99.

Screw it.  I'm buying it.  I do not care how much it costs at this point!  This sounds like the magical app that is going to solve all of my problems.

So I open iMovie.  I swear to God a choir of little angels should have been playing!  Thank you Apple for making it pretty damn self-explanatory and easy to use.  You can hit one freaking button and get prompts for what everything on the screen does.

Apple, I love you so much right now.  

No lie, using iMovie it took about 15 minutes to edit that video and add music.  Saved it to my camera roll, posted it to Instagram, and it all worked perfectly.  Perfectly!!  If I could reach into my phone and hug an app right now I totally would.

When I think of how long it took to do this, the wasted time and effort I spent on this stupid "fun" project, I could cry.  And the video?  Not anything spectacular.  But I did it.  I realize there are probably pre-teens out there who can knock out a much better video in a fraction of the time, probably with one hand tied behind their back and blindfolded.  I do not care!  I freaking did it!

Here is the masterpiece.  Try not to be overcome by how spectacularly boring it is.  Or to wonder how in the world it took me so long to only come up with this as the result.

 Click to view my labor of love. The bane of my existence. You know you want to. Click me!!

In summary:  Just buy iMovie and save yourself a world of trouble.

**Turns out you can make a whole slow-motion video on iMovie in seconds too -- from start to finish.  Just discovered that now.  F@#$ing figures.**

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