Studio711

Geek

Davinci Resolve

One of the big reasons I built a new PC recently was to make it easier to edit 4k video footage as more and more of my devices are able to record it. I’ve been using various versions of Adobe Premiere Elements for 10 years, but I’m starting to feel like I’ve outgrown it. The problem is that the next level of video editors is the same stuff the pros use which means it’s complicated and expensive. The main contenders are Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro from Apple. Thankfully there’s a third option: Davinci Resolve.

Resolve initially started as a color correction tool but evolved to include a full editor and special effects tool. The best part is that it is FREE. That’s right. Free! Or at least it’s free until you start editing the next Marvel movie and then you’ll want to shell out a few hundred bucks for the Studio version of Resolve. But there’s no way a mere mortal at home is ever going to get that far.

One downside to Resolve is that it has a very steep learning curve. Thankfully I’m not totally new to editing and our library also includes a free subscription to Lynda.com. I took a ~5 hour course, learned the basics, and then plunged into my first video: a full church service.

Because we’re staying home, we decided to publish as much of a normal church service online as we could. Pastor spent many hours at church recording the various segments and DaveK recorded some organ pieces from home. I was able to get it all pieced together and posted. You can find it on our Facebook page and our YouTube channel.

Other than having to do some searches to find a few very basic things, the experience was good and it didn’t add a huge amount of time to the way I did things before. As I get better I’m confident that I’ll be able to make them look even nicer and do it faster than before. Specific things I’m already enjoying:

  • It has a feature that syncs separate audio and video tracks with a single click! This was a constant source of pain for me before because even if I got them synced up, at some point they might start to drift by a couple frames.
  • The titles are done through their full-blown effects system so the sky is the limit. I stuck with the built-in titles for this first video but I thought even those looked very nice.
  • Rendering is FAST. This software uses both my CPU and video card to get the rendering done as quickly as possible.

The three of us put in a huge amount of time getting this one service done, but it looks like we’ll have a lot more chances to optimize our workflow. The biggest hiccup was transfering ~12GB of files around but it turns out that just dumping them on the PC at church and letting Backblaze put back them up was the easiest and most reliable solution. The upload speed there is very slow (2Mbps) but reliability proved more helpful than raw speed.

It was also really tempting to try to use the special effects to light the candles, but I resisted. We’ll get those lit in real life and made some other small tweaks for next time, but if you’re using these videos and there’s anything we can do to improve your experience, please share them with us!

4k Video Editor Build

When we got our new Go Pro 8, I learned that my PC wasn’t new enough to play back the HEVC encoded video, much less do any editing with it. Sure, I could save the video in a different format, but I’ve been itching to upgrade my PC at home and this, combined with the 2.7K video that my drone records, was a good reason to go for it.

My requirements were that I wanted to be able to smoothly edit 4k video, view video in 4k resolution, and render edited videos as quickly as possible.

Every PC I’ve built or purchased before this point have been Intel CPUs, but lately, AMD has been kicking Intel around the block in terms of price to performance ratio. Just check out what the stock market thinks about the two companies over the last 5 years. The Ryzen 3770 seemed like a good price point for my build. It has 8 hyper threaded cores running at up to 4.4GHz. I built out a nice system around it with 32GB of DDR-3600 memory and an NVMe SSD. I’ve had no personal experience with that kind of SSD but wow, it’s FAST! Remember how much faster your computer was when you switched from a spinning hard drive to an SSD? This new drive is 10 times faster than the SSD in my last desktop. It reads data at a speed of 2.5 GB/second!

Here is the full parts list:

The build went pretty smoothly. The pcpartpicker.com website helped me avoid some incompatibilities. Once I got all the parts together, I flashed the BIOS, tweaked a few settings to get my RAM clocked up to the right speed and then installed Windows. Or rather, I tried to install Windows. It kept getting to about 60% of the way through and dying. As an “I don’t know what else to try” step, I rebuilt the installation media on the USB key and voila, it worked!

I capped it all off with a 4k monitor, the Asus MG28UQ. That felt like a splurge because my existing monitors were plenty good (though not 4k), but wow, once I got this all assembled, I ended up staring at YouTube demo videos and being amazed at the clarity. Plus it’s fun to see my drone footage in its full glory.

For a perf test, I fired up Handbrake on my old desktop and this new one, gave it a beefy video file from the drone and adjusted Handbrake with the same settings on each machine. This new machine got through it almost exactly 3 times faster than the old one. It’s not all roses though. I had a much nicer CPU cooler on the old machine and this new one is noticeably louder (but it has built in RGB leds… oooooo.)

It’s fun to have this new machine and it’s certainly going to make editing all those videos for church less painful. I’m also very excited to start watching things in 4k. I expect this will translate into a 4k TV before too long and then a 4k projector once my current one dies.

As a small reward for reading through all this nonsense (or at least scrolling to the bottom), here’s the first video I edited on the new machine. It’s all 2.7k footage from my Mavic Mini. Elijah and I went down to 60 Acres and took turns flying it around.

YouTube Music vs Spotify

We’ve had the Spotify family plan subscription for many years and we get our money’s worth out of it, but I’m always willing to switch to something better if it comes along. YouTube Music is intriguing largely because it comes with ad-free YouTube and downloadable YouTube videos. The family plans for each are withing a couple bucks of each other so if I could get a similar music experience and add those two other features for about the same price, why not?

Before switching Tyla over, I tried using it for about a month. The first hurdle was that I have built up some big playlists that I use a lot on Spotify. It’s a non-starter to move more than 1000 songs over by hand so I paid for a month of soundiiz.com. It connects to various services and copies playlists. It’s not perfect but it was plenty good enough to make me feel like it was worth the cost.

Initially, I was impressed with YouTube Music. The selection seemed roughly on par with Spotify. For example, when i converted a 1000 song country playlist, it found over 980 of the songs. Additionally, YouTube Music had a couple albums that I haven’t been able to find on Spotify.

Unfortunately, after a month of usage, I couldn’t justify switching. My main interaction with music is on my desktop because I use it from work and YouTube Music only has a web interface. They have a Chrome App that at least gives you a separate window but the whole experience feels halfway done. Spotify is smooth and easy. YouTube Music isn’t.

I’ll keep an eye on YouTube Music because I’m still interested in getting downloadable videos (for trips) and ad free videos for roughly free, but it’s just not worth the pain yet.

New Edge Browser

Back in 2016, I switched to Chrome. It was so far superior to Internet Explorer or Edge that I couldn’t resist anymore. But for the last few months, I’ve switched completely to the new Edge browser on desktop and mobile.

If you haven’t heard, the Edge browser has been completely rewritten on top of the same rendering engine that the Chrome browser uses. So if it’s Chrome underneath, why switch? Two reasons: 1) Since Microsoft already owns me, I’m more comfortable with them having access to my browsing information than Google. 2) SPEEEED. Chrome is no slouch but it has gotten a bit bloated and the new Edge browser is sleek and fast. I especially notice it in pages that run lots of Javascript.

Switching was relatively painless, but the one thing that still annoys me is that Edge can’t sync my extensions across various installations of the browser. So when I add a new extension, I have to add it to all of my machines individually. The feature is coming, but it does annoy me regularly.

So if you’re interested in trying a different browser, I give the new Edge browser two thumbs up. You can download it for free here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/edge

Disney+ Review

As the parent of a six year old and a lover of both Star Wars and the Avengers, signing up for Disney+ was a no-brainer. I jumped on an early deal and pre-paid for 3 years of the service so we’re on board whether it’s good or not. The only hiccup I’ve had so far came on launch day when the app was overloaded, but since then the reliability has been great.

As I sat on the couch last Friday watching Jungle Book with the family, I kept wondering what my 10 year old self would have thought if it could have seen me watching Jungle Book on a 10 foot screen in my own house without any tapes or discs in a player as it is controlled via my phone.

I’ve seen some comments about various movies that aren’t on the service, but it’s a treat to scroll through the list of what IS on the service. You know how you scroll through Netflix or Hulu and you’ve never heard of most of it? Not so with Disney+. It’s hit after hit after hit. No more frustrating “Disney vault”. It’s all there at your fingertips.

Over the past few years, I’ve felt the Disney brand rising up the list in my head. They’re becoming synonymous with a high quality but sometimes pricey product. Thankfully Disney+ only gets the first part of that. The cost is $6.99/month with cheaper options if you pay ahead. That’s crazy low when you compare it to other services.

Disney+ gets two thumbs up from me!