The Show & The Shave: how it all started

Sunday, April 14, 2013

"Video Killed the Radio Star" and now it's killing me

My plan has been to post about The Shear/The Shave/The Act of Going Bald, accompanied by a nice little video of the event. How hard could it be? The answer to that seems to have an age variable, parallel to learning a foreign language. For the 12-year olds uploading thousands of hours of video to YouTube on a daily basis, it is as easy and natural as breathing and texting. It is, unfortunately, an exponentially greater challenge to the over-60 virgin videographer.

This has become my “Thomas Edison Project”. Just as TE found 1000 things that didn’t work for the incandescent light bulb before finding success with tungsten, I am discovering 1000 ways not to make a simple video.

Two weeks before The Shear, I got a Sony camcorder at Costco, hoisted it onto a tripod, and video’d myself relating how A Year of Living Baldly came about. How hard can it be to sit in front of a camera and talk? (Notice this “How hard can it be?” theme. It has the reek of the passengers on the Titanic, giddily sailing off, confident in their beliefs that “God Himself cannot sink this ship.”) So yeah, how hard can it be for a natural-born talker to sit in front of a camera and talk? It is excruciating. Gazing into the camcorder's single eye, I look and speak like some wooden object with a stick up my wooden butt. It took about a bazillion attempts to capture something even marginally acceptable.

On the day of The Shear, photographer, friend, and colleague Dennis Thayer video'd the event from the first buzz of the clippers to the rosy glow of my denuded skull. All of the raw footage I wanted for my video was now “in the can”. (Are terms like "footage" and "in the can" used when it's digital?)

In preparation for combining and editing these segments for my filmmaking debut, I updated my iMac to the latest iMovie editing software, a deal at $14. But wait...Apple wouldn't let me update iMovie ’11 until first updating my iMac's operating system. More US$ sacrificed on the Altar of Apple. Done. Once again I was ready to download everything from my camcorder to the Mac. But alas, I was impeded by yet another learning experience on the road to tungsten. It seems that Sony and its resulting videos are partial to Windows/PCs. I won't go into every gnat's ass detail describing hours of enlightening dead ends, but I learned that I could have used a setting on the camcorder that would have given the video a taste for Apple. But I didn't, and too late now—that hair isn't coming back for a repeat performance. My only alternative for the Mac was to spend some more bucks on converter software to make Apple deem my precious video footage acceptable. Good to know, damn you Steve Jobs, but first I’ll pay a visit to The Land of Bill Gates.

I downloaded everything to an old PC with Windows XP (success), and fired up Windows' bundled (i.e., free) video editing software, Movie Maker. The learning experience—still devoid of tungsten—continued. XP does not like HD (high definition), which is, of course, exactly what my video files are. This was where I learned about more formats, codecs, and converters. Downloaded some of the free ones, then spent hours uninstalling them and getting rid of the malware that had come with them.

And then came—not tungsten, not quite yet—but still, some kind of magic. I downloaded the videos to my Windows 7 laptop. A la Sally Field: “Windows 7 likes me [and my video files]. It really likes me.” Unfortunately, I found that I didn't like the Movie Maker software. It was as intuitive as my wooden butt. So I downloaded the free trial of Sony Movie Studio. Bless Sony. Their "free trial" is all one could want in a test drive. The software is fully-enabled (not like some software companies that disable every useful element for free trials, rendering it useless) and it's good for 30 days. No advertising crap or viruses come along with the download. And it is really, really good. I have thanked them by purchasing it.

Beloved though Sony Movie Studio might be, it is nevertheless winding along the learning experience maze and taking longer than I expected to master the basic functions. But Thomas Edison is getting closer to tungsten. And if Thomas Edison had a Skinner rat, it would be smelling the cheese about now.

This whole video pursuit has been frustrating, if not downright painful. Despite the pain and unlike the radio star, this video gig isn't killing me but making me stronger. Even eager and excited. I'm grateful to be exploring such a spectrum of mysteries of the technical universe and to be learning a new skill that's fun and creative with potential for so many applications. I count this laborious and time-consuming pilgrimage to find my tungsten and eat my cheese altogether worthwhile. 

In the meantime, it is slowing down my blog posts. Please stay tuned. The Shear, and its recounting via video will eventually be posted. Really. How hard can it be?


  1. You are some kinda' wonderful...I am vicariously accompanying you on this amazing adventure.

    1. Backatcha on the wonderful, Darlin', and thank you so much. I just backed my virtual U-Haul up to your blog and plan to stay awhile.

  2. omg nightmare. I wish you soft and hardware strength! xoxo

    1. Ya know, it is sorta bad dreamish in some ways, but I'm not kidding about it also being a terrific journey. I'm so lucky to have all these (functional & not-so-much) computers to learn from, and fabulous resources like YouTube & Google to learn from, and the few bucks it's taken for admission to The Tungsten Club. I'm just hoping I don't totally embarrass both of us once I finally spring this 5-minute wonder on the world.