Digital Copies

I love discs with included digital copies. As a part of my Black Friday shopping I ended up with a couple of blu ray discs that had them. A pleasant surprise.

Generally I use handbrake (freeware) to rip a DVD. H.264 compression at an average of 2 mbs. It works great, but takes a long time. Recently movie makers have taken steps to hinder ripping movies like this.

They place 99 titles on the disc, with different versions of the movie that have the chapters out of order. Most new Disney movies are like this. The hope, I think, is that potential pirates will get tired of trying to find the right title to rip.

Of course technologically minded people cracked this code in about two seconds. Play the DVD, and take note of which title plays. Then rip that one.

I have no qualms about ripping a DVD I own to personally use. I paid for the license to use the content and I will use it. I won’t go download ripped movies, or make ones I rip available to others.

Even so, you do lose something when you rip. Subtitles and options for audio. And the ripped version may be at full resolution, but the compression is sometimes off.

Discs with digital copies included bypass all of that. Simply insert the disc, input the code and download the movie to your iTunes account.

Brilliant idea, really. It allows license owners to use the content on multiple devices without losing DRM protection. And it’s good for Apple because it perpetuates their products and gets consumers used to using the iTunes store for movies. And it’s good for non technical people who need something easy, but want to use their mobile devices for video playback.

I think that every video manufacturer should provide a digital copy with every disc purchase.


Adobe Licensing: Still FTL, but Fixed.

I was never able to fix the licensing issue that caused all of my Adobe products to stop launching. I tried everything I could think of, find on the internet. nothing worked. I finally had to completely wipe my computer and start over. No Time Machine back up, just re install everything on a fresh install of Snow Leopard. Then try to rebuild.

I did pull over my documents and such from my Time Machine back up, but couldn’t use any of the automatic processes. This fixed my licensing issue.

Lessons from Ocoee

A little caveat: The lessons here are ones I needed to learn. The criticisms implied are self inflicted, because I was in a position to fix these issues, and didn’t. I went back and forth about posting this because a lot of people were very passionate about this ministry. In the areas I outline below, I feel that I failed them. Please don’t read criticism of others into this.

March 22, 2008 was the first day we met at the Ocoee High School. First Orlando @ Ocoee launched as a video venue in a 900 seat auditorium, with 2 video streams, D&B audio, full band and a few hundred people.

Last Sunday, we met for the last time in the Ocoee High cafeteria; small band, 1 screen, live preaching and less than 100 people. After 20 months, these people have formed a lasting bond. Sadly, the economy has pushed the church to a place where they don’t want to be. While small groups will continue to meet, the facility cost was just too much to continue. Those who do not wish to drive to the main campus for worship were encouraged to attend a local church we have begun ministering with, Oak Level Baptist.

My wife has been very active here. I attended when I was off from the main campus, but she and my kids have been involved in the Kidz Church ministry at Ocoee from day one. She, and others like her, are trying to figure out where to plug in next. Will it be the Saturday service? Or will they drive in on Sundays again?

Times like this, when things don’t go as expected, I like to step back and see what happened. When we started we never thought we would be stopping less than two years later. I would not presume to talk about general ministry aspects of First Orlando @ Ocoee, I will leave that to others who know more than me about that. But I will look at a couple of tech/cost related issues I experienced in my work. What lessons can I learn?

Count the Cost:
We didn’t. The first year we spent over half a million dollars. That’s $500,000+. Most of that was start up costs. We started buying tech gear, and found a church that had just stopped meeting in the same location to buy some gear from. We rented the auditorium, cafeteria and class space every week. We made awesome signs, printed bulletins, and provided tons of donuts and coffee. We spent a lot of money before the first group ever met. There are better ways to do this kind of thing.

There are other “costs” as well. It takes a lot to get a video venue going, and it takes more to keep it going. In addition to everything necessary to keep a church start going, there is a lot of coordination between the venue and the main campus. It takes a lot of attention. Churches who have been successful at it change a lot about how they work. We shouldn’t have just expected the venue to flourish because the main campus did. We didn’t make the changes necessary in how we operate to transition from a one campus church to a multi-site church.

Spectacle isn’t the goal:
We expected the spectacle to draw. It did for a while, but when we had to cut back because of the budget, those drawn to the flash faded away. The main campus worship service has all kinds of tech. Ocoee started out with that, but tech doesn’t disciple.

When the budget tightened a year ago we moved out of the auditorium, cutting over half the facility cost. We also lost a lot of tech ability. Quickly we stopped using video as the sermon source. And we lost a lot of people, either back to the main campus or elsewhere. Yesterday the congregation that remained was not coming because the technology was amazing. They didn’t come for sound or lights or video. They came because of relationships. Now the budget tightens again, and we see those with relationships shift toward small groups.

I was once asked if I thought that this venue would threaten the existing churches in the area? I replied that it shouldn’t. If every seat in every church in west Orange county was filled, there would still be thousands on thousands in the community that didn’t have a church home. There is still a need for thriving churches out there. I hope that places like Oak Level will continue the ministry we started there. Maybe someday we will take what we learned from this and do it again, better.

Sneaking Into Blu Ray

I have been slow to adopt Blu Ray. Not because it’s not amazing, or the clear winner of the HD disc wars, but because I have a huge investment in DVDs and am not sure that disks are the final solution for video entertainment. I think movies will be stored on drives, and downloaded or streamed as a final solution to the “How to watch HD movies” question.

But Blu ray Players are getting a lot cheaper. This Black friday… I may have to get one. Lots of great deals to be had.

Knowing that, and my habit of ripping movies and watching them on my Apple TV (video from a hard drive or streamed), I noticed that a lot of Blu Ray discs come with a digital copy. Last night I bought a Blu Ray movie and I don’t even have a player. but I can play the digital copy. That version isn’t HD, but it looks as good as my regular DVDs.

I’m sort of sneaking into the Blu Ray world.

Hard Days

Some days are harder than others.

We learned a few weeks ago that the 2010 budget would include a significant reduction in operating expense, and that would include some staff changes. The changes cover a lot of departments and include a range of salary adjustments, converting FT positions to PT, and position eliminations.

A lot of conversations later, 3 people in my ministry area were affected. Yesterday I had to tell two employees that their jobs were converting to part time. This morning I had to tell another that her position was eliminated.

While my feelings can’t compare to what these 3 are going through, or the others across the staff, I don’t mind telling you that this was a couple of the hardest days of my professional career. I have had plenty of hard conversations with staff that were not performing well. I’ve let people go with cause. I’ve never had to do multiple life-altering conversations with people who did not deserve it.

It could have been worse. The initial proposal brought to me had 3 positions completely eliminated. At least I was able to have some input. As soon as I knew for sure what was going to happen, I let my staff know what was coming. It’s still to close to the holidays for my liking, but we had to wait until the budget proposal was complete.

Over the next few days the rest of the staff who are affected will find out. Please keep them in your prayers.

Acts of Love Sale

Yesterday we had over a hundred families at the church for a huge yard sale. The proceeds of the yard sale wil go entirely to those in need. Hundreds of people showed up to buy thousands of items.

My involvement as a seller came late. We didn’t decide to participate until Friday. I loaded up the Freestyle and took a few tools and toys we no longer needed. I didn’t bring nearly what most people did. I priced things to move. Within an hour I had sold everything I brought. $63 worth of sales in less than 60 minutes. And $63 is nothing compared to some sellers. But it’s $63 I know will be used to help people.

Then, I went out shopping myself, and got a couple good deals. Again, it felt good to know that my money was going to be used to help people.

I had a few things I didn’t need, but that someone else might need. I sold them at a low price. I gave that money to the church to be distributed to people in need, just like Acts 2:45: “And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”

I would rather sell those things than have them sit in my garage, unused. I would rather let some of my excess go to help those who have a need.

Adobe Licensing FTL (For The Loss)

I am very disappointed in my Adobe CS3 Production Premium software. I mean the mad, angry, upset sort of disappointed. For what seems to be no reason all of the CS3 programs give me this error upon launch:

Searches online have revealed it’s a major issue, with all kinds of solutions, none of which have worked.

I have tried the “licenserecovery109” from Adobe, the “CS3Cleanscript”, repairing permissions, and all kinds of other permission fixes. These were after three attempts to reinstall the programs. I even tried to install only the shared components.

Currently I cannot even play a flash video, much less actually do the video animation I need to do. All Adobe programs have been compromised.

I have wasted too many hours on a known issue, but one that Adobe doesn’t know/care how to fix.

Kodak Zi8 in Stock… Sort Of

Best Buy online has the Kodak Zi8 in stock, and Kodak is offering a free 4GB SD card with purchase.

Could it be, they are finally available? If I go to my local store, will I see one?

Just yesterday I was in a conversation about how to shoot decent quality video and quickly be able to play it back. The Kodak Zi8 came up as a possible solution. With it’s external microphone jack we could capture decent video and audio for immediate playback before an event. The ability to drag footage in a play it back without capturing it and then exporting it would really help our workflow for this event.

$180 plus the XLR to mini transformer for the microphone, and we could be golden. If only I could hold one and see it in action.