Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Night Of Nights - Preparing Images For Web PSA's

You have your plan or storyboard. You've downloaded and installed Dubit. You have got your photos or image sources converted to jpeg/jpg image format. The next thing to do is to format them for use in your project.

The first step is important. Never, ever work from your original scans or digital camera images. Make a copy. If you goof it up you can always return to the master image file.

Second, you want to create one location where all of your files, sounds, and project documents will be kept. It makes it easier to find stuff when you are ready to assemble the project.

All the images in your PSA need to be the same size. In this case, you'll want to resize it 320 x 240 for a web based PSA movie or 160 x 120 for transmission by e-mail. Dubit also allows you to set the image size but I have found that the compression is a little rough on images and type.

You'll need a photo editing or photo illustration program to adjust the images. You can use one of the following free programs:
  • Microsoft Paint - installed on all Windows based computers. Windows Paint XP is a wee more helpful however, it is a basic and limited program.
  • IrfanView - allows you to easily convert and resize images
  • Picassa - free image catalog software that has some photo editing and image adjustment features -
  • The Gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a full powered photo-imaging program. The Gimp is not for newbies, there is an installation and learning curve -
The next step? Assembling your PSA into Dubit.

Monday, March 28, 2005

This Is It – Images For Your Dubit PSA's

You do not need a $1,000 camera to shoot a web based slide show. Dig out that old 1- megapixel or 640 by 480 digital camera you've got stuffed in the closet. I've even had luck with a $20 Concord Eye Q Mini, provided I only shoot outside or inside with florescent lights. Know your camera's limitations but go for it. Remember, this is going to be viewed on the web so keep it simple.

No digital camera? No problem. If you are shooting film you can have a Photo CD made at the same time that your prints are being processed.

Have photos and a scanner? You are set to convert your images into jpeg/jpg format. If you don't have a scanner here is another option. Many camera and major drugstores have in-house photo scanners that convert prints into digital files. You will need to bring or purchase a floppy disk, memory card, a CD-R disk.

No camera or scanner? Still not a problem. Some of the classic PSA's used text or animated text with music. You certainly can make title cards with Microsoft Paint. It is located in the Accessory folder.

If you have a recent version of Corel Word Perfect Office, Microsoft Office or Open Office you have a presentation program that can export slides to jpeg/jpg format. Some folk are working in older versions of Corel Presentations or Microsoft PowerPoint. It may save images in an older proprietary format, such as .wpg or .wmf. Convert those formats by using Irfanview –

Here are a few tips for titles. Keep the background simple, stick with an easy to read typeface such as Arial or Time New Roman. Most importantly make the type big 44pts or larger. Your viewers will appreciate not having to squint to try to read your message.

Next, how to prepare your images for the slide show.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Curtains, Lights - Planning Your Own PSA's

I have an appreciation for Alfred Hitchcock movies. Even the old ones he filmed in England. Hitchcock planned every shot, movement and camera angle. Alfred did this before one frame of film was exposed. In film, television and game production this is called making a storyboard.

You do not have to be as precise as Mr. Hitchcock. Storyboarding does help to pre-visualize your slide show so that the PSA delivers your message. It does not have to be complicated. Pen and paper will do just fine. For example, you could just do the following:

Scene 1
Video: A shot of an abandoned couch
Audio: Musical loop
Duration: 2 seconds

Scene 2
Video: Title Card - Don't
Audio: Musical loop
Duration: 2 seconds

And continue until you have your project storyboard finished.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with pen and paper I do have a free software option. Atomic Learning has a free download of Storyboard Pro. It is a program that lets you enter the type of shot you want and helps you keep track of the length of the project. And as a plus the program gives tips on good film making techniques.

It is available in both Windows and Macintosh versions -
Once you have your outline or storyboard set up you can gather your shots.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Overture - Create Your Own Web PSA's

I want to share how to create a simple web or email friendly public service announcement (PSA) slide show. You can create a PSA slide show with software you probably have on your computer. If you don't have the software I'll point the way to free and open source software or an inexpensive alternative.

The PSA is going to be very simple. Even if you have an old Windows 98 clunker you can create a web based PSA. So simple that I will set up a few arbitrary limitations just to make sure that you can complete the project:
  • Length: less than 20 seconds
  • Size: 320 by 240 for a web posting or 160 x 120 to send by email
  • Audio: No narration, optional music
  • Software: Dubit - you can download a free copy from
  • Photo Editing software, your choice, M$ Paint, IrfanView, The Gimp or whatever you have on your computer.
First a little history. In the back half of the 20th century most Americans only had three and a half broadcast television channels (if you lived in a big city). In the daytime hours local channels ran old movies, games shows and soaps operas. The commercials, if there were any, came from local merchants with an occasional national advertising spot.

Local store owners could only afford to buy a certain amount of commercials. To fill in the time, TV stations used freely supplied public service announcements. If the movie was a real turkey there would air nothing but PSA's. If you are curious, you can visit the Advertising Council's at to view classic PSA's of the past 50 years.

You might have doubts that you can tell a story with just photos and a bit of music. NorthWest Cable News has a selection of Quick Time and Flash animations photo essays you can view to get inspired -

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Name Game - Social Security Advocacy

I love turnips. I have a thing for rutabagas too. I know the difference between the two vegetables. Many people mistake one for the other. Websites are a lot like turnips and rutabagas. It is hard to tell legitimate web sites from organizations that want to promote their vision or agenda.

Naming an advocacy site close to an official government agency or program is nothing new. It is not necessarily wrong if visitors can quickly discern your purpose. The most common example is the difference between and the 1999 version of, which was a porno site.

Here are two examples from the opposite ends of the spectrum, and

The Cato Institute is a conservative research think tank. It has a close relationship with the current administration. How close? Some of the language used is very similar to the documentation found at the White House web site.

The Institute has created to provide information in favor of the proposed changes to the social security program. You can find calculators that demonstrate the advantages of personal investment accounts, reasons for the change and the advantages to citizens and the country.

The information is presented in an easy to read style. It does not inflame but it makes it clear to the visitor that privatization is the way to go.

On the opposing end of the spectrum is The New Century Institute. It is a liberal organization supports As you might expect, they are not in favor of the administration’s plans to change social security. The site has downloadable Adobe PDF booklets that go into detail about the realities of the current social security program.

One of those realities is that the current system is not on the verge of fiscal collapse. There is much documentation and provides links to other sources visitors can review to get the facts on the program.

My feeling is this is no time to be partisan, especially when it comes to my money. I want information from multiple sources. I will keep my eyes on both these and other sites as I continue the search for "The Plan."

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Rambling Man – Edward Abbey

The folks that came before us were not saints or noble people. But some of them did noble or heroic things. Even deep in their imperfections.

Edward Abbey had a profound love of the land. He also had an equal hatred for what humans have done to natural resources. His books Desert Solitaire and The Monkey Wrench Gang inspired generations of eco-activists who believed they found a vent for their frustrations.

Edward Abbey was certainly no saint. As a writer, you could never accuse him of using politically correct speech in his books or his personal life.
  • "Society is like a stew. If you don't keep it stirred up, you get a lot of scum on top."
  • "God is love? Not bloody likely."
  • "Our "neo-conservatives" are neither new nor conservative, but old as Babylon and evil
  • as Hell."
Abbey offended people. He ticked of critics, the government, and activists in the ecological movement. If you can get past the gruff and read the substance of his work (not always easy or possible) you might find yourself enriched.

Quotes from The Late Edward Abbey - Beloved Desert Anarchist

A very good place to start is Abbey Web – a fan tribute site that gives you an overview of his life and his death. There is something to be said about a man who wants his decomposing body to nourish cactus -

Ken Sleight has a touching tribute to his friend and mentor –

When a writer is doing his or her job correctly, it will stir people into movement from across time and space. I leave you with a passage from Mr. Abbey.

Take it to heart:
"Do not burn yourself out. Be as I am. A reluctant enthusiast and part-time crusader. A half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the west. It is even more important to enjoy it while you can, while it's still there. So get out there, hunt, fish, mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forest, encounter the grit, climb a mountain, bag the peaks, run the rivers,breathe deep of that yet sweet and elusive air.
Sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness of the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves. Keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive. And I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk bound people with their hearts in safe deposit boxes and their eyes hypnotized by their desk calculators.
I promise you this: You will outlive the bastards."

Edward Abbey, 1978

Monday, March 07, 2005

Social Security Blues – Make A New Plan, Stan...

It is important for me (and others) to remember that for some people the Social Security program is a small part of their retirement plan. For others, it is their retirement plan. Without the monthly payments, millions of seniors would face destitution.

There are serious repercussions if this change is not handled correctly. If you are over 18 years of age, you can't afford to ignore what is being proposed.

My first search for the modernization of Social Security was targeted directly to the official White House web site -

The first thing that I encountered was a series of press releases the White House calls "Fact Sheets." These fact sheets are produced by the Office of the Press Secretary.

The Fact Sheet "Strengthening Social Security for Future Generations" introduces the concept of Personal Retirement Accounts. I thought the idea was to transfer money from Social Security to individual controlled investments? How does this make the system stronger? I'm getting ahead of myself.

Twenty minutes and a few more links later, I think I have found the plan. I was able to download Adobe PDF files of the booklet or specific sections.

In terms of accessibility, I do think there should have been a text and/or html version of the booklet available. I zoom into section two, "Strengthening Social Security" I come away with the following:
  • No increase in payroll tax.
  • No change for those nearing retirement or have retired.
  • Supports voluntary personal retirement accounts.
Hun? That's it? But what is the plan? The process? The steps? I still have questions!

I move to section three, Personal Retirement Accounts. After reading this section, my guess is the fix is the introduction of Personal Retirement Accounts. Workers could place initially up to a $1,000 a year. The money would be invested in conservative bonds & stock funds. You would not have access to the money for loans, withdrawals or emergency needs.

Although you will be kept informed of your account activity, you don't have all that much to say about how your account is managed.

The most important point that hasn't been emphasized is that once you opt out of traditional social security you can't come back into the program. It is a one-way street.

Citizens who chose not to use personal retirement plans would continue to draw benefits from a reformed, sustainable Social Security system.

But what is the reformed system? I dunno. If you have less people contributing into the system, how is that sustainable? I dunno.

What if you investments get wiped out due to Acts of God/Nature, war or corporate malfeasance? What will be your recourse? What about inflation? Controls on theft, over billing or fees? Can the IRS claim your current or future retirement income? What about technology based security measures?

Haven't a clue. Maybe I haven't found really found the plan. I spent another 45 minutes looking for it. It is possible I have just found an expanded proposal. The search continues...

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Things You Think Are Useless - Lorem Ipsum Generators

If you are creating a prototype of a manual, web site or a presentation, you want the bean counters to concentrate on your design elements and not the text.

Hence, Lorem Ipsum. For hundreds of years printers, graphic designers and other creatives have snagged the text as a placeholder for constructing new documentation.

Some folks say it is nonsense text and some say otherwise.

I'm going with otherwise. Cecil Adams, of the beloved Chicago Reader Straight Dope column, sets the record straight with the true skivvy on this adulterated passage from Cicero -

Cecil isn't the only one who thinks Cicero lost out on a bunch of royalty checks. Over at you can check out a section from the actual translation of "de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum" –

You can find dozens of Lorem Ipsum generators on the Internet but how many can give you it in German or Esperanto? Lorem-Ipsum allows you to select the number of paragraphs, punctuation, or language – http:/

You don't have to use Lorem Ipsum – how about the theme from Top Cat? Or The Dukes of Hazard? Malevole has a text generator that will let you put the Hong Kong Phooey in that new sales brochure that you promised to create a prototype by Monday –

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Free Bird - Feminists For Free Expression

This is a strange time. I do not care for this almost puritanical rush to censor or punish any thought or expression that "may" be considered offensive, sexual or could be potentially threatening to the youth of America.

My goodness. Has anyone over 21 years of age viewed the games, music and movies that specifically are targeted to people between the ages of 3 to 21? I have seen parents bring toddlers to watch the latest blood soaked horror movie.

How concerned are we really?

Internally I may question their parenting skills. However, I have to respect the fact the parents made a choice to view the horror film with their child.

That is the key word here. Choice.

Feminists For Free Expression (FFE) understands and supports the notion that people have the right to decide for themselves what materials and media are offensive.

Mind you, I said offensive. Not illegal. Big difference.

FFE also supports artists whose work is being suppressed as well as filing friend of the court briefs to defend everyone's rights to access materials without the control of the state or certain faith based organizations -