Quick Intro to SketchUp 3D Modeling

Here’s a quick intro to 3d modeling using SketchUp in the browser.

Note: you can use SketchUp online or using the downloaded app. The free version of SketchUp doesn’t support creating Bezier curves. For that and other features, you’ll have to upgrade to SketchUp Pro.

When we create a new SketchUp sketch, we see this screen.

Let’s say we want to make 4 posts for a pergola. The posts are 6″x6″x10′ tall (actual dimensions are 5.5″x5.5″x10′).

First, under Model Info, we set the length format and precision.

To create our first post, we choose the Rectangle tool.

We click once in the 3D space and drag to create a rectangle which is 5.5″ x 5.5″. When dragging, we see in the bottom right corner the dimensions of the rectangle.

Instead of dragging until you get the right rectangle dimensions, just type 5.5,5.5 and then hit Enter.

Now, to complete making the first post, we need to “pull” the rectangle (actually, it’s a square) up 10 feet. Click the “pull” button.

Then click the square and drag up.

Again, to simplify getting the right dimensions, just type 120 and hit Enter to make the post 10 feet tall. Since all measurements are in inches, we type 120 instead of 10. SketchUp then converts the 120 to 10′ in the Dimensions box in the bottom right corner.

To verify the dimensions of any side of the object, click the Select tool.

and then click a side, e.g. a long side of the post, and in the Entity Info panel, we see that the length of that side is 10′.

Now, we’ll copy and paste that post by selecting the entire post, hitting Ctrl+C and Ctrl-V, and clicking where we want the other posts to be.

Now, the 2nd post is clearly not lined up with the first so we have to move it. Moving objects in SketchUp can be confusing to new uses. Here are some ways to move an object.

Moving an object against another object

Let’s say we want to move the 2nd post flush against the first post. First, we orbit the view, if necessary, and select all of the 2nd post.

Then, we click the Move button.

and click on one corner of the 2nd post that we want to touch a corner on the first post.

Then, we click on the corner of the first post where we want that corner to touch. Now, the posts are flush and lined up together with each other.

Moving an object along an axis to line up with another object

Let’s say the 2nd post is higher up than the first post. We want to lower it so that both are on the ground, so to speak. We want to move the 2nd post vertically along the Z axis down until it’s bottom is on the same plane as the bottom of the first post. To do this,

  1. select the 2nd post
  2. click the Move button and click the bottom left corner of the 2nd post
  3. drag up and down until you see “On Blue Axis” which is the Z axis
  4. hold the Shift key – you will see the tip “Constrained on line from point” which means your movements are constrained to the axis you were on (blue / vertical / Z)
  5. while holding Shift, drag and click on the bottom right corner of the first post.

You can also constrain movements to other axes as well.

Moving by Coordinates

Using the dimensions tool, we mark the distance between the two posts along the green axis. We get 12′.

Let’s say we want the distance between them to be 10′ instead.

Relative coordinates in SketchUp are indicated as <r,g,b> or <red,green,blue>. So, if we want to move to 2′ (24″) towards the first post (towards [0,0,0]), we can do this

  1. select all of the 2nd post
  2. click the Move tool and click the bottom left corner
  3. drag a little anywhere to begin movement
  4. type <,-24,> and hit Enter

Now, the distance between the two posts along the green axis is 10′.

Absolute coordinates in SketchUp are indicated as [r,g,b] or [red,green,blue]. So, if we want to move to the center of the coordinate system, we do the same as above except we enter [0,0,0].

Using the techniques above, we can make 4 posts that are exactly 10′ apart and all on the same red-green plane.

Fix Out-of-Sync Audio When Rendering mp4 Videos

If you take an mp4 (mpeg-4) video and put it in a video editing program like Corel VideoStudio and then render the same video without any other assets (images, audio, other videos, etc), then you may find that the resulting video becomes out-of-sync with the audio. To fix this, you can use Avidemux as follows.

  1. Open the mp4 file in Avidemux
  2. In the Audio Output section, check the Shift checkbox and enter a value in the time field. Note that 1 second = 1000 ms. For me, I found that 500 ms works.
  3. Hit the play button and update the time shift value until the audio and the video are in sync.
  4. In the Output Format section, choose Mkv Muxer. This will produce an mkv file. If you choose mp4 muxer, then the output audio will be out of sync with the video again. You can upload mkv files to YouTube.

NewBlueFX Chroma Key to Easily Remove Green Screen in Video

This article explains how to remove a green background in a video using Corel VideoStudio Ultimate 2018 and the NewBlueFX Chroma Key.

When applying a chroma key to a video in VideoStudio, you have two options:

  1. using Corel VideoStudio’s native chroma key feature
  2. using the NewBlueFX Chroma Key filter

Native Corel VideoStudio Chroma Key Feature

To use VideoStudio’s native chroma key feature,

  1. select a video on the timeline,
  2. open the Options panel,
  3. click the Effect tab,
  4. check the “Apply Overlay Options” checkbox, and
  5. adjust the settings.

From my experience, this feature doesn’t work well for imperfectly lit backgrounds. Unless you are filming in a professional studio, the chroma key results will likely be poor.

NewBlueFX Chroma Key Filter

For better chroma key results, you can use the NewBlueFX Chroma Key filter. Disable the native VideoStudio chroma key by unchecking the “Apply Overlay Options” checkbox described in the previous steps. This will minimize confusion due to the application of multiple chroma keys. To use the NewBlueFX Chroma Key, do this:

  1. crop your video to remove any areas outside of the green screen. If you don’t, the background will be gray instead of transparent.
  2. click on the FX Filter button
  3. select NewBlue Video Essentials II in the filter dropdown
  4. drag the Chroma Key filter to the video in the timeline
  5. if the native VideoStudio chroma key panel is visible, close it by clicking the x button in the top right corner of the panel
  6. select the “Chroma Key” filter and then click the “Customize Filter” button

The NewBlue Chroma Key control panel will appear.

  1. Uncheck “Show in preview window” to improve performance
  2. Uncheck “Use keyframes” to apply the same chroma key settings for the entire video. Unless you need to apply different settings for different sections of the video, you don’t need to use keyframes.
  3. If your background is green, leave the “Default – Green” button selected.
  4. Check the “Show Mask” checkbox to show a black mask for any color in the video other than green
  5. Adjust the Sensitivity value until the subject is completely black and the background is completely white. If it’s difficult to use the radial slider, just enter numeric values.
  6. Drag the slider to scrub through the video to see if any section of the video shows a partially gray background or white subject. If it does, further increase the sensitivity setting.
  7. Uncheck the “Show Mask” checkbox to remove the mask and to see the video in color. If you see some of the green background spilling over on the subject (usually around a person’s hair), adjust the “Erase Spill” value.
  8. Click OK to save and exit the Chroma Key panel.
Some of the green background is spilling over around the subject’s hair. Increase the “Erase Spill” value to fix this.

Improve Performance When Working with Large Videos in Corel VideoStudio

Nowadays, videos can be recorded at 4K resolution which is great for visual quality but bad for editing performance. To fix this, you can enable some settings in Corel VideoStudio under Settings > Performance as follows.

These settings will cause VideoStudio to generate a smaller version of a large video file so speedier editing. In the example settings above, if the source video is greater than 720 x 480, then a proxy file will be created in a SmartProxy folder. On my system, that folder is at

C:\Users\abdul\Documents\Corel VideoStudio Pro\21.0\SmartProxy

As an example, let’s compare the original video size to the proxy video size. In VideoStudio, if we select a video and view it’s properties, we see that its size is 636 MB.

If we look at the SmartProxy folder, it is currently empty. Now, if we drag the video to the timeline, VideoStudio will create a proxy file containing a lower quality version of that video. You can see the progress of the proxy file creation under Settings > Smart Proxy Manager > Smart Proxy Queue Manager.

When the proxy file has been created, you can inspect its size. As you can see, the size is only 56 MB. That’s a reduction of 91%!

If the proxy file is still too large, you can tweak the proxy file settings to produce a lower quality file, e.g. instead of 1920 x 1080 frame size, you can choose 640 x 360.

You can also tweak the audio and video compression settings.

If you are unsure whether VideoStudio is actually using the proxy files instead of the original files, you can look for a specific icon on each video in the timeline. If there is a black and white icon as shown below, then the proxy video is being used.

Make a Music Video with Many Video Tracks in Corel VideoStudio

Making a music video often requires transitioning between multiple video clips. Many video editing programs have many effects for transitioning between video clips. The most common transition effect is the cross fade. In Corel VideoStudio, you can apply this transition by dragging it over the two video clips where they meet. Since this is a cross fade, the duration of the two clips necessarily becomes smaller. If you have a separate audio track and you want the video track to be in sync with the audio track, the crossfade transition will cause the video to become out of sync with the audio track. To maintain synchronousness and for transitioning many video clips, use the track transparency feature. The instructions below are for making a music video with multiple video tracks and a separate audio track.

1. Record Video Footage

You can do this using your phone. Just remember to record in landscape. If you want to show a different background behind the subject, make sure to film against a green screen.

2. Add Assets to Corel VideoStudio

The assets are things like each source video, music files, background images and videos, etc. Make sure you name each file something descriptive to make it easy to identify them when working with many tracks.

3. Drag the Background Image / Video to the Video Track

The first track in the list of tracks is the video track. Unlike the Video Overlay tracks, the Video track must start at time 0. If the background video is abstract and can be looped but is too short, you can duplicate it back to back as shown below.

4. Drag Each Video to a Separate Video Overlay Track

To start, each video can be positioned at time 0. Later, we’ll adjust the start time of each video so they are in sync with the music track. You can also mute each video track’s audio so the only audio heard comes from the music track.

5. Create Proxy Files

This will make VideoStudio use a smaller version of each file to improve performance. See how to set up proxy files.

6. Drag the Audio Asset to the Music Track

In this example, I positioned the start time of the music to 20 seconds to accommodate video clips that have a long but useless intro.

6. Sync Each Video Track with the Audio Track

To do this, read this post.

7. Determine Visibility Times for Each Video Track

Let’s say you want to make a music video containing 5 different singers each singing a different part of the song. You’ll have at least 5 video tracks to work with. You’ll need to listen to the song and determine what times throughout the song to show different videos. You can do this by creating a spreadsheet like below.

8. Set Cues / Markers on the Timeline

To make it easy to see start and end times for each video track, add a cue / marker (little green triangles below the timeline bar) on the timeline for each start time.

8. Create a Transition Between Each Video

To do this, we’ll be adjusting each video track’s transparency. In order for this to work, you can’t cut any of the video clips in the timeline.

For each track, click on the Track Transparency button to reveal the transparency controls.

In the screenshot below. you see multiple video tracks but only the transparency track for one of them. The vertical position of the yellow line indicates the video’s transparency at any given time. When the line is at the bottom (0), the video is completely transparent (0% opaque). When the line is at the top, the video is completely visible (100% opaque). You create a fade by adding keyframes to the yellow line and dragging them.

Below is a screenshot for a different video track. Notice how the transparency graph both of these video tracks are such that one video will fade out when the other fades in.

Show playlists a Google Play song is in

If you’ve got many songs in Google Play Music, it can be difficult to manage which songs are in which playlists. Google Play Music doesn’t show you a list of playlists a particular song is in, if any. To create such a list, here’s a solution that works.

https://jsbin.com/wekumiseya/edit?html,output

The result will be a JSON file containing a list of songs where for each song there will be an array of playlists the song is in, e.g.

"Madonna - Santa Baby": [
   "Christmas"
],
"Madonna - True Blue": [],

In the excerpt above, we see that the song “Santa Baby” is in the Christmas playlist but the song “True Blue” is not in any playlist. You can then find a playlist to the the latter song in so you don’t forget that you have that song.

Stable Video Recording and Action Cams

I’ve been playing around with taking videos and video editing. My main issues with taking videos are

  1. poor quality in low light conditions (e.g. indoors or night time)
  2. too much shaking / lack of image stabilization
  3. huge video files
  4. missing scenes / cut off subjects
  5. difficult to bring or to use suddenly while traveling
Cameras

Following are some action cameras worth considering.

GoPro Hero Black 7 ($400)

What I primarily like about this camera is the gimbal-like”Hypersmooth” video stabilization.  It doesn’t use an actual gimbal but it does an impressive job performing as if using a gimbal. However, it’s not as good as using an actual gimbal. The primary downside is the huge price tag at $400.

https://shop.gopro.com/cameras/hero7-black/CHDHX-701.html
Dragon Touch Vision 4 ($50)

This camera costs only $50 and comes with basic EIS (electronic image stabilization). It’s still not as good as GoPro’s HyperSmooth stabilization but it’s significantly cheaper.

DJI Osmo Pocket ($350)

The DJI Osmo Pocket is a tiny camera with mini holder than offers true gimbal 3-axis stabilization.

https://store.dji.com/product/osmo-pocket?vid=48141
Camera Holders / Selfie Sticks ($40)
GoPro Shorty

The GoPro Shorty is a stick with an integrated tripod.

https://shop.gopro.com/mounts/shorty/AFTTM-001.html
DJI Osmo Mobile 2 ($139)

The DJI Osmo Mobile 2 is a smartphone holder with a gimble. It has many features including the ability to follow a moving subject.

https://store.dji.com/product/osmo-mobile-2
Accessories
PGYTECH Action Cam Adapter for Smartphone Gimbals
DJI Osmo Pocket Backpack Strap Mount

$20 on Banggood

Comparisons
Stabilization

When you compare GoPro 7’s HyperSmooth image stabilization to DJI Osmo Pocket gimbal stabilization, the latter is better, as expected. If you watch this video at time 5:08, you’ll see that the horizon stays level in the Osmo Pocket video but it sways a bit in the GoPro 7 video as if you are on a boat. For the GoPro, you’d have to get a holder with a gimble to achieve the same level of stabilization.

Low Light Performance

The GoPro Hero 7 seems to have better low-light quality.

Field of View (FOV)

With a wider field of view (FOV), you’ll obviously be able to see more. The GoPro Hero 7 appears to support a wider field of view compared to the Osmo Pocket.

Replaceable Batteries

With the GoPro, you can replace the batteries. With the Osmo Pocket, you have to charge the embedded battery.

Conclusion
Infrequent use

For infrequent use, I’d just get a gimbal for my smartphone that also supports the GoPro Hero in case I ever get a GoPro. After reviewing the Moza Mini-Mi, Zhiyun Smooth 4 and the Osmo Mobile 2. The Osmo Mobile 2 is the best.

Frequent Use

For frequent use, though I like how small the Osmo Pocket, I think I’d get the GoPro Hero 7 since it includes Hypersmooth stabilization, a wide field of view, and supports replacing batteries. To get gimbal-smooth videos, I’d just buy a holder with a gimbal for use with the GoPro.

Scene Capture

When filming with a regular action cam, you have to point the camera at what you want to film. If the person holding the camera doesn’t aim well or is on a moving around a lot, e.g. on a roller coaster, the subject can easily get cut off. To solve this, you could get a 360 degree action camera. They record everything around you regardless of which direction the camera is facing. In post processing, you can choose which direction you want the final video at face at any given time frame. This is called “reframing” the video to convert it to normal a flat video.

360 Action Cams
Mounts

When traveling, you don’t always know when you’ll come across a scene you’d like to film. Fortunately, many cameras are small enough to put in your pocket. However, it’s nice to be able to record hands free. There are many mounts and accessories available including

  • Chest mount
  • Wrist / hand mount
  • Neck lanyard
  • Wrist lanyard
  • Invisible stick

At the very least, using a lanyard would be wise in certain situations like on a roller coaster so if you drop the camera, you won’t lose it.

ScanSnap iX500 – Orange Light Error & Basic Use Instructions

The Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 document scanner is one of the best sub $500 scanners. Unfortunately, the documentation isn’t good. I tried scanning a document over wi-fi to my laptop, which normally works fine, but one day the blue light would keep changing to orange. I ended up having to uninstall and reinstall the installation software. Fortunately, my scanner’s wi-fi settings were still saved. Here are some tips which I’m writing more as a reminder to myself but which may be of help to anyone reading this.

ScanSnap Icon Color

On Windows, in your system tray there should be a ScanSnap icon. When the scanner is off,the icon is grayed out and the tooltip message says “ScanSnap is not connected.”

Scan over wi-fi to laptop

To scan over wi-fi to your laptop, do the following

  1. Turn on both the ScanSnap scanner and your laptop
  2. Wait for the ScanSnap icon to change as shown below. The tooltip will also say that ScanSnap is ready to scan over wi-fi.
  3. Load a document and push the blue button on the scanner or right-click on the ScanSnap icon and click either Simple Scan (one-sided) or Duplex Scan (double-sided)
  4. The document will pass through the scanner and a window will appear on your desktop asking where you’d like to save the document, e.g. local folder, Google Drive, etc.
Scan over USB to laptop

If you want to scan to a laptop over USB, e.g. if you are having wi-fi problems, do this:

  1. Turn on both the ScanSnap scanner and your laptop
  2. Connect both devices with a USB cable
  3. Wait for the ScanSnap icon to change as shown below. The tooltip will also say that ScanSnap is ready to scan.
  4. Load a document and push the blue button on the scanner or right-click on the ScanSnap icon and click either Simple Scan (one-sided) or Duplex Scan (double-sided)

Battery Voltage and Capacity

Following are typical alkaline battery specs.

Battery TypeVoltageCapacity (mAh)Typical Drain (mA)Typical Battery Life (h)
D1.51300020013000/200 = 65 hours
C1.560001006000/100 = 60 hours
AA1.52400502400/50 = 48 hours
AAA1.51000101000/10 = 100 hours
9 Volt950015500/15 = 33 hours
6 Volt Lantern61100030011000/300 = 37 hours

Battery Capacity: the capacity of a battery, measured in mAh, is how much amps the battery can provide in one hour. The larger the capacity, longer the battery will last.

Continue reading Battery Voltage and Capacity