Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Customising the Mac

One of the things that I really like about the Mac is that there are so many little applications that you can buy or get for free which customise basic uses and procedures using the computer. It isn't that the standard set up of the Mac is anyway bad, it is just that all of us use a computer in different ways and therefore is ripe for personal customisation. I only have to look at the menu bar on my iMac to see that there are a lot of little extras I have added to my personal set up for Mac computing. Today I have been setting up a couple of extra applications to add more functionality and give me some extra ease of use.

Doing things with DropZone

I have added the application DropZone which I got in the latest Mac Heist bundle. This makes it very easy for me to take a file and do a number of things with it. I have set it up with Flickr and I can drag a picture file to the right side of my screen and the dropzones that I have configured will pop out. Dropping the file onto the Flickr dropzone will send that file off to the web. There are a number of other things that you can set up to do, such as moving or copying files to a specific folder. I will be also looking into other connections that I can make with this application. I see that it is very easy to use this for launching often used applications, if I move the mouse cursor to the right-hand side of the screen I get the option to pop out the circles.

Dealing with the Trickster

Trickster is an application which I had on my Mac before and I found it to be quite useful and today I set it up so that it starts automatically when I open up my Mac. I have only just reinstalled it since upgrading to Mavericks. I had found it useful before, but had forgotten about it and only remembered when I heard another blogger talking about it in a podcast recently. What this application does is to keep an eye on certain folders that you can specify and the files which appear in those folders. You can set the view so that it shows the list of files by date and this is very handy for a file that you were working on today or yesterday and you want to get back to it quickly without having to open up the Finder window. If there are a lot of files that you have been opening then you can filter down the files by using a search term.

Getting the Canary out of the cage

There is a developmental version of Google Chrome called Canary. I only just found out about it and decided to add it to my Mac because it gives me a menu bar icon giving me access to Google Now. What Google Now does is to look at what you are doing with your life and pops up info to your Android devices and now also the Mac. It gives you information sometimes before you know you even need it. I like to use Google Now to know when the next game is being played by Barcelona Football Club and it will also give me the scores after the games have been played. It gives me the local weather as well as information about birthdays of the people I am connected to on Google+. At the moment what it does is fairly simple, but it is something that is gradually getting better and offering more information. A good thing about this Canary version of Google Chrome is the fact that I can have it installed alongside the normal version of the application. I find that it suits me to have Google+ in the Canary version and to run my general web browsing in the other one.

More file finding with Houdahspot

There are times when you are trying to find a file and you can't remember the name of the file, but you can remember some of the words that you used within it. Houdahspot is an excellent application which gives you all sorts of super search facilities including a fuzzy search. You can combine various searches creatively to really specify exactly what it is you are looking for. There is also a menubar icon for this application called Blitz Search and this is a good way to get the Houdahspot application started and then further refine what it is you're looking for in the main window of the application.
All you have to do with Houdahspot is to fill in the details of what it is you are looking for in the what, where, exclude and limit sections of the application. Once you get used to howe this application works and you know how to make it look for things when ANY of the following is true or ALL of the following is true you will find that it is an extremely powerful searching tool for the Mac. Spotlight on steroids.

Launch Bar or Alfred

As I have been using it for some time, Alfred is my preferred application for using as a Mac Application launcher. This is also because it can do a lot of different things as well as launching applications. I sometimes use Alfred to do a quick calculation and I also have a few other extras programmed in also, but I only use those rarely. I was tempted this week to give LaunchBar a try, as it was also included in the Mac Heist bundle. I haven't added it yet, but there are many people that swear by it and I might be tempted to give it a try when I have a little bit of free time to spare.

Textexpander and DragonDictate

In the previous version of Mac OS X I was having to switch off Textexpander whenever I started to use DragonDictate, especially when I was using DragonDictate in other applications. There seemed to be some sort of bug which made it so that those two applications didn't work well together. Now that the dust has settled with Mavericks I find that I can forget about having to switch off Textexpander while I am using DragonDictate.
It really is very useful having an application that will fill in things like email addresses and complete web addresses with a couple of key taps. For example, I can put in the whole of my email address by typing in ,,w. This is very handy as I find I often have to enter an email address into a web form and by using Textexpander I know that I will always enter it correctly without any typos.
Of course, all of this article has been written using DragonDictate while I have my feet up on the desk and I am leaning back in my chair in a very relaxed mode.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Importing AVCHD video from a Sony NEX-6 for Final Cut Pro X

My previous camera the Canon 600D gave me the video files as individual files that could be grabbed from the correct folder off the camera and had dragged straight in to be used and edited in Final Cut Pro X. With the Sony NEX-6 there is a folder which looks like a file that is called AVCHD and as you shoot more video the clips get added to that single file. It seems like it would be a more difficult thing to do, to get video from the camera into Final Cut Pro X, but it is not really much more difficult than before. In this video I show you three different ways of getting the video clips from the AVCHD file into your video editing software.

Import AVCHD video into Final Cut Pro X

The simplest way to do this process is to use the keyboard shortcut Command I to bring up the import window. You can then choose the AVCHD file which you might do directly from the camera or you might have copied the file from the camera to your hard drive first. I have found that it isn't any slower to do this on the camera and when you are ready to delete the file it is better to do it from the camera menu system anyway.
I found that the database of the movies in the camera can get a bit messed up if you delete from the computer rather than the camera. I also know that sometimes with a SD card I can be a could idea to format it using the camera software from time to time also. The size of the file is reasonable using this method and for most people it will be the way to go for now.
You will see within the import window all of the video clips that you have on your camera and you can choose to bring in just one of them, some of them or all of them. In the video I selected just one of the video clips and it doesn't take long for the video to be ingested into the Final Cut Pro video editing system.

Using specialised software to import AVCHD into Final Cut Pro X

I found on the Mac App Store some free software that is actually called free AVCHD to MOV. The application is very easy to use and it also has a number of presets to make it even easier. Drag-and-drop the AVCHD file into the application window and it will then show you the video clips with the details, so that you can choose which ones you want. In the video I bring in the same file that I imported in directly so that we can compare the differences between the import methods.
The conversion that I chose to use with this software is a preset specifically for Final Cut Pro X or other high end video editing applications. This is the Apple ProRes codec 422 and there is much more information contained within the resulting file. Because there is more information contained within, the size of file is therefore rather large, in fact you might say it is completely massive, enormous or huge. In this case the file which started out as about 140 MB grew to very nearly 2 GB in size. For many of us there is no advantage to using a file of this size and in fact it slows us down because of having to do the conversion in the first place. It could even be that you need to have a larger amount of memory on your computer to be able to work with these files efficiently. Certainly, for me using these type of converted files is rather like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Using QuickTime to convert from AVCHD to h.264

There is talk that the QuickTime format is on the way out and to be superseded by other video formats, but I think it will take some time before that happens completely. You can use the application QuickTime To convert your video from AVCHD to individual video clips that you can use and edit in Final Cut Pro X. You only have to go to the file menu and click on open and choose the AVCHD file. Up pops a window which will give you the option to choose whichever of the files you want to convert or open.
So you have the video clip open in QuickTime and you can do one of two things. First of all you could use the File And Save menu option to save the file out in the correct format or what you can do is to use the share option on the menus. There you have a number of preset choices and the one that I used to convert the video clips was the 1080p which converts it to the h.264 codec. It is a simple process to get the files into the Final Cut Pro X application either using the import window or just by doing a drag and drop.