URL shortening and maintaining your own brand

Long URLs are a problem in our online connected world, when sent via email they wrap and break, when pasted into a Twitter post they use up too many of your available characters.  The need to shorten URLs for sharing has created quite an industry of sites offering URL shortening services: tinyurl.com bit.ly ow.ly to name a few.

If you’re not familiar with URL shortening services here’s a quick primer:  You enter into their system a long URL like http://www.walmart.com/ip/Coleman-PowerChill-40-Quart-Thermoelectric-Cooler-with-Power-Supply/4810828 and the service adds your URL to their database and creates a unique short URL that will redirect to the address you entered, like http://bit.ly/9IBCdN.

URL shorteners are super helpful, but are there downsides to their use?

Every time you use a URL shortening service you are in effect promoting that service.  While http://bit.ly/9IBCdN will direct readers to the travel cooler I had in mind, before they click all their eyes see is http://bit.ly.  I have never had a single bad association in my mind with regard to any URL shortening service, but there is certainly the possibility of someone out there not trusting a bit.ly link or having their own brand bias. The links you post do say something about you, even the short versions of them, therefore wouldn’t it be better if the short URL they saw helped promote me or my brand instead?

You’ll see examples of this in the wild, For example the NY Times uses the domain http://nyti.ms/ for its URL shortening.  Even if you don’t click the link just looking at the URL reinforces their brand in your mind.

I had been thinking about all of this so one morning I decided to see if I could improve the link shortening I do when Twitter posting to reinforce my own personal brand.  It was shockingly easy to do.

The real key to URL shortening is the length of the short URL you’re using.  People probably prefer bit.ly to tinyurl.com because bit.ly is so much shorter, but URL length cannot be your only consideration.  If the URL was a little longer but was more valuable, maybe the tradeoff would be worth it?

I realized that my domain plate.net is pretty short, shorter than tinyurl.com in fact.  But the domain wes.plate.net more completely identifies me and better reinforces my personal “Wes Plate” brand, and it is still pretty short.  I proceeded to install some URL shortening software into my wes.plate.net domain, I chose to put it into a subdirectory because I couldn’t have it conflict with WordPress, which is what you see at http://wes.plate.net.  There are at least a few options for installing your own URL shortening service, I ended up choosing YOURLS a free collection of PHP and MySQL that is super easy to use.  In addition, YOURLS can integrate into Twitter clients like TweetDeck, Tweetie and Twitter for iPhone, which makes putting your short URL into use that much easier.  In the end a short URL like http://wes.plate.net/~/G isn’t quite as short as http://bit.ly/cgbmxm but it is more valuable to me because my version reinforces my brand and not bit.ly’s.

So now every link I post on Twitter is both short and also reinforces my brand, whether the reader clicks the link or not.  A friend even noticed and complimented me on it, so to me it is already working.  If your domain name is short enough or you can obtain one that resembles your brand, it may be a worthwhile exercise for you too.

5 bars with AT&T 3G MicroCell

My office is located in a part of our small town where AT&T’s coverage has always been a problem. Three of us have iPhones and whenever anyone would get a call on our mobiles we’d sprint to the outside deck where we had the best chance of catching a wayward signal.

Low Signal

So when AT&T announced in April that they were going to start their nationwide rollout of their 3G MicroCell devices, I was ready to jump on board. If you have followed at all the news and discussion of this solution to AT&T customer woes, you’ll no doubt have read people’s anger and frustration about paying themselves to solve AT&T coverage problems.  I will not address this other than to say it was worth $150 to us to have our phones work reliably in our office.

AT&T’s horrid Flash-based MicroCell web page offers to take your email address and notify you when the devices are available in your area. I signed up with two email addresses but never received any news, indeed I read on AT&T’s customer forums that other users never received emails about MicroCells coming available either so I kept checking back from time to time. One day out of the blue the availability checker didn’t give its usual “sorry, not available” response, instead it said they were ready for purchase! Hooray!

AT&T 3G MicroCell box

AT&T 3G MicroCell box

I called my nearest AT&T store and they said they had the MicroCells in stock, so I went to pick one up. Purchasing a MicroCell is like purchasing a cell phone: it takes way longer than it should. And since the MicroCell is a new thing for them, it took even longer to go through the buying procedure.

There seemed to be some confusion between the two sales people and the store manager who were working on my order about the zip code and address the system was showing for where I was going to install the device, because our business’ mailing address is a PO box and not our physical address. But they said they got it worked out.

Eventually I was out of the store and I unboxed the pretty little thing at the office. Installation is easy: ethernet connection to our network, power and it must be installed near a window for GPS reception. AT&T warns that activation can take a couple of hours so after I completed the online activation steps and set everything up near a window I left to let it simmer. Eventually I received a text message from AT&T warning me that my activation had failed.

Activation Failed

I searched the web for similar error messages and while I didn’t immediately find anyone with error 103, I did find people experiencing error 102 which apparently meant that the address provided on the activation web site didn’t match the physical location of the MicroCell. I did try calling AT&T but since it was a Saturday they were closed, real businesses don’t work weekends. Maybe errors 102 and 103 were related? I checked the address on my account for the MicroCell and sure enough, the three AT&T team members setting up my device at the store did indeed enter my PO Box, which has a different ZIP code than my physical location. I changed the address on the web to reflect where the MicroCell was installed and soon after I had an activated 3G MicroCell!

5 Bars

This was all well and good, my iPhone showed five bars and I could make calls from corners of the office never before possible. But I didn’t want this box sitting on my desk near the window, I wanted it hidden away in the server room. I tried moving it after it was activated but it didn’t work, when the MicroCell restarted it could not get a GPS signal so it didn’t enable itself. Time for some GPS antenna action.

Information on the web about using GPS attennae with the AT&T MicroCell is scarce, and the info I did find was rather inconclusive about what to get. People suggested that the antenna port on the MicroCell might be an MCX connector, and one post I found a guy reported getting an antenna meant for a Garmin, so I followed that reasoning in purchasing from Amazon…

The nearly 30 feet total these three would span would be enough to put the GPS antenna on the roof of our building and meet the MicroCell in the server room. Fingers crossed!

Thankfully it worked great. The AT&T 3G MicroCell is happily sitting in the server room, seeing its GPS stars in the sky and providing us with much more reliable phone service.

Device In Server Room

Apparently the three phone numbers on my AT&T account were automatically added to those granted access to our MicroCell, and I only needed to add one more phone number for a contractor who works here so he could also use our 5 bars.  Adding the additional number was easy to do through AT&T’s web site.  Up to ten numbers can be added to the permission list and up to four calls can be made at a time through it.  All in all a worthwhile endeavor for us.

Playing VJ

Last weekend I had a special experience, one of my favorite musical artists came to my house and performed a living room concert.  Helios is the name of the artist, the music can generally be described as electronic and ambient.  If you’ve ever seen electronic music performed you will know that visuals are commonly performed alongside the music, and since I had been curious about the VJ experience I decided I would provide visuals for this show.

Overall the show went very well. We had 50 guests attend the show, and we tied in a Haitian charity donation opportunity for our guests and we raised $415.

In this post I’ll talk about some of the logistics I had to tackle in order to bring the visual aspect to the show.

Several friends at the show asked what software I was using for playback of the visuals.  I tried a few different VJ applications and the one I settled on was Resolume Avenue.  Applications such as this are intended for live performance, with the ability to mix different source movies, even different sources such as live cameras, plus application of effects to the video streams in real time.  These apps typically accept MIDI input for the triggering and adjustment of clips and effects, so I got an inexpensive Korg nanoKONTROL device to give me some knobs to twirl and sliders to push along with buttons to press.

With the software and the hardware interface I set off to learn how I could be a “VJ”.  I’ve been making video for more than twenty years so it was fun to learn a way to deliver the results.  But it became clear to me pretty quickly that if I was going to combine multiple visual elements in real time it was going to a) be a lot of work, b) require a lot of concentration and as a result probably c) reduce my enjoyment of the show.  So I decided that I would instead largely pre-build my performance and use the VJ software to play back my videos in sequence.

I shot most of the elements I ended up using and I also sourced some stock footage elements, plus I had a friend send me some video he shot on his sailboat, I thought it might come in handy.

Production of elements was fun.  I used Final Cut Pro to arranged clips in time then treated everything in After Effects.  I loaded on and experimented with the effects and kept myself entertained late into the night.  Overall I spent about a month working on my clips, and before long the 2TB of drive space I set aside for this project became almost nothing and I had to add another disk.

The next major consideration was how I was going to project my show.  I knew where the “stage” was going to be in our house, but there wasn’t going to be room to put a screen behind the performer and have the projector somewhere in the room.

Since we were going to have Helios play in front of the large windows in our living room I thought it might be cool to project the video from the rear, meaning the projector would be outside shining into the house.  This way the audience would see the imagery behind the musician and it would all be very natural.

I built some screens using PVC pipe as a frame and spandex material from a local fabric shop stretched across, affixed with Velcro.  They were very lightweight and it was easy to hang them on the outside of the house with hooks and eye bolts.

I felt very makey-makey as I was building the screens.  I used two different kinds of velcro, one with adhesive backing and the other kind meant for fabric that ironed on.  So one night I cut PVC sections, attached velcro to the assembled frames and ironed the other side of the velco to the spandex fabric.  Only once did I leave the iron in one place for too long and I slightly burned/melted the fabric, but it was minor and didn’t have any real affect.

My next problem was where to put the projector outside so that it could cast its light onto, and through, my fancy screens.  The windows are on the second story as viewed from the back yard so I decided to build a platform for the projector to sit on.

I’m not much of a carpenter, and maybe because of that I managed to build something that was later described as a lifeguard tower, a trebuchet, even a guillotine. I was proud of it, though, especially the top platform that was able to tilt so that I would be able to adjust the up and down throw of the projector.

Finally I had to consider protecting the projector from the elements.  I knew that the chances of rain or other wetness on a February evening in the Pacific Northwest was pretty high so I needed a weatherproof box, and that box needed to be ventilated because projectors make a lot of heat.

I considered building a box from scratch but recognizing my limitations knew I was unlikely to build something waterproof and useful.  So I chose instead to use a Rubbermaid storage container as the basis for my projector housing and I modified it to become a projector protector.  I cut a window on one side, covered it with clear plexiglass then duct taped the heck out of it, adding some caulking for extra good measure.

I cut a hole in the bottom for cool air to enter the box (through a matching hole in the stand’s platform) and cut holes in the sides for air to be exhausted.  I mounted two 120v fans from Radio Shack against these holes and then for extra credit I attached vent covers on the outside of the box to protect the fans and projector from overly enthusiastic rain drops.

The entire thing was way over-thought but in the end it all worked very well.  The visuals shined through the windows behind Helios as he played and it felt incredibly natural.  And thankfully I was able to enjoy the show even as I had to pay attention just enough to the software to trigger a clip and to fade out at the end of a song.

It was a very fun experience and I look forward to hosting another show in the future.

I have posted the individual movies of my visuals over at wesplate.com.

Since the show I’ve found this writeup on the evening from The Stranger. The writer was so complimentary about the event I won’t make a big deal of his 20-person underestimation of the number of guests in attendance. 🙂

UPDATE: This performance is now available on DVD through the Unseen Music shop… http://www.unseen-music.com/live_snohomish.html

Goodbye Jump Cut

For a long time my Dad misunderstood when people talked about jump cuts, he thought they were saying “junk cuts”. This anecdote doesn’t mean anything, I was just reminded of it as I started typing this post.

I will first credit the one who inspired me to even think it possible, what I’m about to describe. This man has actually influenced me a lot over the years, and my last blog post about Avid’s ScriptSync wouldn’t have happened had I not seen this guy give a presentation about ScriptSync some years back. Anyway, I first met Steve Audette in 1998 at one of Avid’s Master Editor Workshops. I was blown away by the work Steve showed at this presentation eleven years ago, and I’m very happy to say we became and are still good friends.

One of the things that Steve demoed back then was using Elastic Reality to morph between the clips in a jump cut, making what was two clips into one, hiding the cut.  This blew my mind. But I never used this particular idea until last week.

Original clip with jump cut

Original clip with jump cut

The project I was cutting I ended up with a jump cut that I couldn’t cover with b-roll. I thought about modifying the script so I could do away with one of the shots in the bad edit, but the words as they were were just too good. Since the interview subject didn’t move too much across the jump cut I was reminded of Steve Audette’s morphing maneuver.

I turned to RE:Vision Effects and their powerful RE:Flex plugin for After Effects to see if I could accomplish what I had in mind.  RE:Vision’s effects are powerful but do require some learning, so after I brought my clips into After Effects via Pro Import AE I sat myself down and read through the user guide and reviewed how the plug-in works.

Essentially you set up a series of mask pairs, a mask shape that follows the “from” geometry then directly beneath that a mask shape that follows the corresponding “to” geometry.  Clearly the more masks you create to control the morph the better results you will get, and I tried to walk that fine line of doing enough to make the effect work but do few enough that I could quickly move on to other editing tasks.

Series of alternating From and To masks

Series of alternating From and To masks

Thankfully it didn’t take all that long, and it wasn’t really all that hard.  In fact when I started previewing the morph I had to double-check that my eyes weren’t deceiving me because the morph was actually working.

Someone with real morphing and warping experience could give you better advice, but I found parts of the face and body that had easily defined areas and made my mask outlines there.  Like the eyes, the top of the blouse, the sides of the face, and of course the lips.  I previewed the effect to see where warping artifacts appeared or where the effect wasn’t seamless then added mask outlines in those areas.  If there were warping problems that I couldn’t see, well I didn’t consider those to be problems I needed to solve.

Another consideration for me was that this final video was going to be viewed primarily on the web, so a little bit of imperfection could be tolerated since it might end up masked my a compression artifact or a viewer might simply blame the defect on their internet connection.

Now with 100% more morphing

Now with 100% more morphing

The end result was definitely worth the time I spent, which was probably only about an hour, I was able to keep my interviewee saying the phrase I needed, and on camera too.

A big thank you to RE:Vision Effects for hooking me up with their powerful plug-in and another big thank you to Steve Audette for providing the inspiration.

Paper Cut and Avid’s ScriptSync

Pinewood Villa

I’m working on a promotional video, or maybe series of videos, for a local condominium complex and it presented itself as the perfect opportunity to try something I’d heard great things about: Avid’s ScriptSync.

The video project is to promote a few available units in this 55 and older condo, and I decided it would be more interesting and believable if there were no voiceover or narration, if instead the “story” was told by some current residents. So I sat down with five residents and interviewed them on camera, asking them questions about why they like living there, hoping I’d be able to string together their responses into something that made sense.


After the interviews were completed the next important thing to do was to transcribe the conversations. Each interview ended up being 30 minutes long, and I knew it would be just too hard to try to start editing right away, no matter how well I logged everything.

I had never myself dealt with transcription before so I was happy to be pointed to Steve Hullfish’s great transcription article on the Pro Video Coalition and it was very helpful in getting me started thinking about this process.

sell on the marble and gold Oh yes

sell on the marble and gold Oh yes

Because I have (and love) After Effects, I also have Premiere Pro installed, so I tried its speech recognition feature. The results, frankly, were comical.

To do this right a proper transcription was in order. First off, I knew I didn’t have the time (or the inclination) to transcribe the interviews myself, but I was curious what the experience would be like. So I downloaded the excellent InqScribe and used it to transcribe a test interview I had shot. It was a valuable experience, I know that if I were in a pinch and needed to transcribe something myself, I could, and this application worked very well.

Armed with the knowledge that this job needed to be left to the pros, I asked on the Avid-L and FCP-L mailing lists as well as on Twitter for recommendations for transcription companies. I received five referrals, so I decided to hire all of the companies to each tackle one of my interviews. I like to give business to companies that friends recommend, and I encourage you to do the same. Here’s who I worked with and how much each charged to transcribe their approximately 30 minute one-on-one interview:

The costs added up, but considering the alternative of me doing a less good job much more slowly, it was definitely worth it.

If you’ve never done the transcription thing before, here’s how it went for me: I exported a QuickTime movie of each interview then compressed it to a small size suitable for sending over the web. Some of the companies provided me with a login to their own FTP server, others I just uploaded to my own site and provided them with a download link. When they were done they sent back a Microsoft Word document. It couldn’t be easier.

They say a good editor can cut using any tool, can a good editor use scissors?

Non-linear editing

Paper Cut

I’ve never actually performed a paper cut before, but this situation called for it. I’m sure there are better approaches, but here’s what I did: I printed each of the transcribed interviews onto colored paper, a different color for each interviewee. Then using scissors I quickly went through and snipped out my questions and useless answers, then placed the remaining paragraphs into a theme-specific pile.

I had these large legal size pieces of paper on the counter, each with a heading written at the top… “Community”, “Security”, “Parking”, “Common area” and so on, each with various bits of paper containing a response that vaguely fit that category of conversation. If you stood back and squinted your eyes real tight it vaugely resembled the interface of an NLE– bins filled with clips.

My first paper edit, I'll have to save this for the museum.

My first paper cut, I'll have to save this for the museum.

Then I went through each category and refined my cuttings, paring them down to just the bit I was likely to use, then I arranged the responses on the 8.5×14 paper so the ideas kinda flowed, then I taped them down. The result was a rainbow colored script!


So the first part of my editorial process was decidedly low tech, but the next was on the other end of the spectrum. I converted the transcript Word docs into text files, adjusted their formatting and then the real fun began.

Select the text in the script then drag the associated clip onto it.

Select the text in the script then drag the associated clip onto it.

In Media Composer (I’m using 4.02) you choose New Script… from the File menu. You’re prompted to select a text file, then a new window appears containing the transcribed text. Select all of the text in this window, or the part that corresponds with the clip you’re about to link with, then drag the master clip or subclip whose audio matches the script onto the the script.

Next comes the real magic sauce. Choose ScriptSync… from the Script menu and the Avid magically listens to your audio media and associates the words on the script to the words said onscreen. It is a fast process too, indexing one of my 30 minute interviews took just 50 seconds.

You can open source clips by double-clicking words in the script.

You can open source clips by double-clicking words in the script.

Now you’re able to search the script window for words or phrases, then once found you double click on the script and the clip opens in the source window with the position indicator parked right where the person is saying the words you clicked on. It is incredible.

So I just went through my taped together script searching the script for a key word in that section and I was very quickly able to create a rough sequence based on my paper cut. It really is amazing.

So that’s that. I’m now in editing mode, cleaning up the bites and covering with b-roll and figuring out what I need to go back and shoot. I couldn’t be this far along this quickly without this amazing feature of Media Composer, check it out for yourself!

Replaced ending "s"

Replaced ending "s"


Some of these interviewees just aren’t phrasing things as I need. ScriptSync is magic here too, because for example I’m able to search for “s.” to find a sentence that ends with a proper idea-ending “sss” sound.

Original bite as spoken by subject:  

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

I searched for the characters “s.” and quickly found other places in the interview where apparently my interviewee ended a sentence using a word ending in “s”. A quick edit and I have something that sounds much better.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Imagine doing this without ScriptSync, well I know you don’t have to imagine, you’ve done it.  So have I.  This way is definitely a nice alternative.

Decluttering Media Composer on the Mac

Cluttery and distracting

Cluttery and distracting

I’ve been using Media Composer since version 5 point something, which will confuse you new kids who think Media Composer 4.0 just came out. So I’ll put it this way, I started using Media Composer in 1995. I’ve used a lot of versions, and have always preferred using it on a Mac, even though Avid tools feel less stable on the Mac than they do running on Windows. I hate using Windows that much. But stability aside there was has been one big thing that has bugged me about Media Composer since it came to OS X, and I think I’ve found one way to lessen the annoyance this causes me.

Since going to OS X, Media Composer on the Mac did away with the nice grey background of the application that would shield your eyes from temptations beckoning from behind your bins.  This feature still exists on Windows, but somehow it was decided Mac users couldn’t benefit from what we were enjoying in OS 9 and before.

You’re saying, “Dude, just quit the other apps!  If Facebook and your email are distracting you, quit them and only run Media Composer.”

To that I respond, “What are you, some kind of monster??!”

Even ONLY MC running, visual vomit

Even ONLY MC running, visual vomit remains

There ain’t no way I’m completely disconnecting from the world while I’m editing, that ain’t the way I roll.  Hell, you probably know I’ve been posting on the Avid-L since, what, 1996? 1997?  And to the Avid First Class BBS before Avid-L came along.  I had my Mac-based Media Composers connected to the internet back when some of your mommies were telling you that was a no-no.

You can’t NOT have other apps running, you need your Photoshop and After Effects running, but my complaint here is not that your eyes– sorry, I should be talking about me– my eyes are distracted not only by non-work-related Facebook, Twitter and email overload, my eyes are distracted by just the visual mess that you see here to my right.  I’ve been saying for a long while now that when you’re in the Media Composer you should not see your Desktop image behind you, no, there should be grey there!  At least give me the option.

There’s still a whole ‘nother problem with bringing the Media Composer back to the forward app by simply clicking one of its windows, you wind up with bins remaining hidden behind other app’s windows.  Why on earth would I want my Composer window to remain behind my web browser when I click on my Timeline window?  Sorry for the aside, I’ll get back on topic.

Now that's what I'm talking about

That's what I'm talking about!

Ok, so what I’m proposing is something that looks like the image you see to the right of this very text I’m typing right here.  It is visually appealing.  And as an added bonus, when you accidentally miss a bin and click on the grey background you don’t switch out of Media Composer.  Get out your award nomination forms, I’m about to tell you how I pulled off this coup.

  1. Head over to Many Tricks’ web site and download Desktop Curtain.
  2. Next, download my suggestion for your grey backround.
  3. Launch Desktop Curtain and drag my grey PSD into the image well.
  4. If when you launch Desktop Curtain all you see is your desktop covered with the default OS X space picture, launch Desktop Curtain a second time.  This will bring up the settings window.  That is the weird thing about the app, it is faceless and doesn’t really give you any indication it is running but if you “launch” it and it is already running you’ll get the settings window.
  5. The settings window, btw, is where you quit Desktop Curtain when you’re done with it.
Yes, I did donate.

Yes, I did donate.

I set my “Curtain Level” to “In front of the items on the desktop”, which means I’m not actually hiding any apps with this satisfying greyness, I’m hiding the Desktop.  And when I’m done posting an update on Facebook I just remember to Hide the web browser (Command-H) then all I see is Media Composer and Grey.

Anyway, I’ve used Desktop Curtain many times in the past for what it is intended for, but using it to make my life better in this way made me very very happy indeed.

One of my shirts on national tv

Saucy indeed.

Saucy indeed.

My good friend Dawnelle works with Marination Mobile, a fantastic “food truck” in  the Seattle-area that was featured on November 21st’s Good Morning America Weekend.  GMAW is hosting a contest called the Best Food Cart Challenge and Marination Mobile was one of the four finalists chosen from around the US.

In anticipation of the TV crew’s visit to Ballard to try out Marination Mobile’s cuisine, Dawnelle asked me if my new screen printing hobby/business would make her a shirt that said “Saucy”, just in case a shot of her made it into the piece.  And Woot!  You can see Dawnelle in the segment, apparently performing crowd control, wearing her custom Saucy shirt for all America to see.

UPDATE:  Marination Mobile won Good Morning America Weekend’s Best Food Cart Challenge!  http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerindex?id=9147915 Congratulations!

T-shirt shop produces first fruit

When I stopped drinking in 2008 it was suggested that I would end up with some time on my hands so I should take up a hobby. I had been interested in screen printing for a while, and my friend Robin had said it was easy, so armed with her encouragement and the need to keep my mind clear I started learning about screen printing and started buying equipment and supplies.

My daughter Sarah Michael was interested in doing this new hobby with me, and we talked about designs we could make together.

But I didn’t end up with that much free time needing to be filled, I seemed to be pretty busy. We also had a nightmare home remodel that started in the winter of 2008 and so it took a while for the t-shirt shop idea to actually become a reality.

OutsideLandsFinally this summer I started to put the T-shirt shop together and make sure we had all the stuff we needed. But what I really needed was something to motivate me to actually produce a design and make a shirt, and that something was a trip to San Francisco for a three-day outdoor music festival called Outside Lands. I thought it would be fun to screen print my own Outside Lands shirt design to wear to the shows, and it ended up being quite fun indeed!

I stayed up very late a few of nights before I left for my trip watching DVDs on the shirt-making process, then printing my design, exposing and washing out the the screen then finally printing onto some shirts.  There was a lot to learn and do, but it was a lot of fun.

And I even had people comment to me on my shirts!  Two different people came up to me and said “I didn’t see that shirt at the merchandise table.”  I felt proud!  I told them I designed and printed the shirt myself, but I didn’t bore them with the long drawn-out history.

Now I just need to keep making shirts, and start charging money for them too, cause if I don’t these Outside Lands shirts will be the most expensive pieces of clothing I have ever worn.

DIY camera dolly

I have seen several times over the years online posts about how to make a DIY camera dolly that uses PVC pipe as track. It came up that I could use a camera dolly recently so I put one together and it is great!
There are many many tutorials, guides and videos online explaining how to create one of these, I took inspiration from these…

I used some thick plywood as the platform, then mounted inline skate wheels to aluminum angles, then attached those assemblies to the bottom of the platform. To take the thing to the next level I affixed some indoor/outdoor carpeting to it. The entire project was pretty easy and the results are fantastic.

Here is the finished edit of the video I did for PacWest, there are a few dolly shots in there: http://www.vimeo.com/6299207

How to make Sun Jars

I recently came across a Lifehacker post about a DYI project to make Sun Jars and was inspired to try it myself. It is easy to do– in fact my method was even easier than Lifehacker’s– and the results are spectacular.
For this project you need a jar, a solar LED garden light, frosted glass paint and epoxy.

First, a few words about the materials used.

I found these excellent Westinghouse solar garden lights in the Home and Garden section of our local Fred Meyer. The label on the underside of the box calls them “WH Gladiator 1PC Pewter”, the packaging also calls them “Item #474005-41” from International Development Corp. and Westinghouse. I’ve searched Google for all of these keywords and can’t find these lights anywhere, so I just bought a bunch from Fred Meyer. These lights are perfect because they fit perfectly into the lid of the jar so you don’t need to dismantle the light like the Lifehacker post instructs.

Commenters on the Lifehacker page reported problems finding jars for this project. I found quite a few at local stores (Fred Meyer and McDaniel’s Do it Center), and McDaniel’s happily ordered me more when I exhausted their stock. Amazon lists them as in stock, so they’re out there.

[UPDATE] it rained recently and we were dismayed to find that the Fred Meyer jars actually filled with water! The “Fido” jars I got from McDaniel’s, however, did not have this problem. So I definitely recommend getting “ermetic” jars.

Let’s go!

  • First, dismantle your jar, removing the lid and the wire latch. Keep the pieces, especially the small wire loop that keeps it all together.

  • Paint the outside of the jar with your Frosted Glass paint. You don’t need lots of coats, just one will probably do just fine. You do want even coverage, however, so spray lightly and don’t get too close to avoid pooling the paint on the surface.

  • While the paint dries let’s work on the lid.

    Remove the light from the stick/reflector part, just rotate it and it will come apart. Discard the stick/reflector part unless you can find another use for it as an olympic torch or magic wand or something. Mix your epoxy and apply it to the top of the light assembly as shown in the picture. You should first place your light into the lid of the jar to a) make sure it fits and b) get a sense of what surfaces of the light come into contact with the glass lid. To me it felt like the contact was around the ring of the light, not just the top face, so I applied my epoxy to the edge as well as the top.

    After the epoxy is on the light, set it into the lid and allow the two to bond.

  • When your paint is dry and epoxy completely set you’re ready to reassemble the jar.

  • If you haven’t already done so, pull the plastic tab from the light assembly, this engages the rechargable battery.

  • That’s it! You’re done.
    Put in the sun to charge and when it gets dark enjoy your new Sun Jar.