We're a little crazy, about science!

My scicomm video is done!!

I finally finished my video for the outreach project my main-PI tasked me with (this was the last post talking about it). There was a lot of time, effort, frustration, and I will admit, some not so kid appropriate language I was using during the editing process of the video. Mostly because I’m an idiot who had to find the most difficult way to do this project. Today we’ll cover what I did, how I hate myself enough to do it, and the end result. Let’s just say I’m not going to be a movie director or actor anytime soon…

Welcome to another day in the life of, well me. I’m a third year PhD candidate in neuroengineering and this is a daily blog about what it is that I do. I’ve been blogging about my journey for about two years now and with a little luck and a lot of effort, I’ll be done in another two. I mostly talk about research because I love my work, I’m studying how spinal cord injury changes communication to the brain. The hope is that we can restore some function by understanding those changes better. Right now I’m pioneering a “super secret” technique, which won’t be a super secret if I ever get the chance to publish some of the work… soon! With that let’s get into today’s topic.

A while back I was given a project by my main-PI. It wasn’t something I could say no to doing and frankly I had like a month to do it, so even though there was a lot going on I had no reasonable excuse to get out of doing it. I don’t particularly like being in front of a camera, hence the blog and not a vloG, but I put on my actor cap and set out to make a movie. It needed to be between 10-12 minutes long and my main-PI really, really wanted me to give a tour of the lab. Unfortunately, the request included a project for the kids (grades 5-8 I believe) to do. So after discussing it with my main-PI I proposed a project, he greenlighted it, and the rest was up to me.

A few weeks back I filmed the tour of the lab, but I didn’t get around to doing the “do it at home” project they needed. Well with that pesky R21 grant finally submitted and out of my hair, I could get back to doing the video. I filmed the project I came up with, a fun little prosthetic finger demo to show how we can look to biology to design prosthetics. Since our lab focuses on brain-machine interfaces, I figured this was the best way to give a hands on demo without needing all the hardware they would definitely not have access to. I mean technically if you’re controlling it with your muscles you’re using a brain-machine interface!

I had no idea how much I had filmed, but the entire time I was panicked that I didn’t have enough stuff to justify a 10-12 minute long video. That is until I sat down to do the editing… For the past few days I’ve been doing the voiceover work, because of course I would do something really complex like that, and cutting up the clips of the video so it made sense and more importantly made people laugh. Now my sense of humor may not be the same as others, but hopefully someone will at least smile when they see it. I will probably (maybe, possibly) share the link to it here once it gets posted. I haven’t decided yet.

Once I had it all setup I had roughly 25 minutes of video. Yep, over twice as long as it needed to be… oops. So I had to cut out some of the show and tell portions, literally speed up some of the assembly video by running it at 8 – 16x speed, and basically cut it down to the right size. It turns out that wasn’t even the hardest part. Once I had it all done, I had something that was surprisingly close to the vision I had for the video in my head. I don’t want to say it was well done, or that I would win an award for it, but it was pretty good in my mind. Now I was ready to export the video and create the movie. That was where I started having issues.

Yesterday evening before my late night class I set it up to render the video and even on my super impressive desktop computer (seen here), the free software I was using was giving me serious trouble. First I couldn’t use the graphics card to render the video I had to use my CPU. No worries, at 32 cores, it shouldn’t even be an issue and really… it wasn’t an issue. Until I opened the video to watch it.

The first thing I noticed was the first second or two had a clip and audio from a different part of the video, I re-rendered it and it did it again, so I checked my video timeline thinking maybe I left a chunk of the video by mistake, no such luck. I also noticed I left audio on one of my clips I dubbed over, that was on me. The most concerning part though was the clips near the end of the video that I sped up to save time for the assembly portion of the project. They came disjointed and out of order. I had random bits of other video at 8 -16x speed popping up where they shouldn’t be in other clips I sped up.

After trying several different ways to resolve the issue, I settled on rendering the video in a lower (slightly) quality. This seemed to fix most of the problems, but the sped up portions of the video just weren’t playing nicely. I could have tried to export just those portions and get them working right, then throw them back into the main video in place of the clip I sped up in the software, but that would’ve been so, so much work and I didn’t have the time, energy, or desire to do that. In a last desperate attempt to solve the problem I downloaded the software again, hoping there was an update even though the version looked the same and reinstalled it.

Finally that fixed the problem. Seriously, sometimes you just need to update your software I guess. Since it didn’t auto update or even let me know that it needed an update I checked the change logs for the software on the website and saw that there had been updates, but for some reason or another my version number was the same as the version number they were listing. The odd thing was I downloaded my copy at least a year ago, so I don’t know maybe I was mistaken. In the end I got it to work and the video came out just how I had made it, so really that’s all that matters.

I literally just sent it off to my main-PI for review and if/when he approves I need to figure out if he’s submitting it to the event coordinator or if I should submit it. It’s not due until Monday so we have some time to make minor changes (if needed) before we submit the video. If all goes well he will be impressed and I will have yet another thing I can add to my resume of accomplishments. I love doing outreach so it wasn’t a horrible thing, I just hate being in front of a camera. Who knows though, maybe this will launch my career as an actor and filmmaker/editor (spoiler, it wont).


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