PapaJohn Productions
Newsletter #118 - Sept 30, 2006
'Europe 301'

I call it 'Europe 301' because it was our third vacation to Europe, the longest and best one yet. It's been a while since the last one, over 20 years. It was great and we'd return in a heartbeat. 
To mix favorite and familiar places with some new ones, we returned to the Swiss Alps and a number of cities in Italy, and added  Vernazza in Cinque-Terre (Italy) and Istanbul. 
Our previous trips were in the days of analog film cameras... for this one we used two digital still cameras and a digital camcorder.
Bernadette used to stand by and wait for me to finish taking pictures. Today, with her passion for PhotoShop and Painter, she was the one using our 5 megapixel Olympus C-5050 camera and our daughter's 7 megapixel Sony Cybershot, while I shot video with a Sony TRV80 mini-DV camcorder. I often waited for her.
I'll use this newsletter issue to share some info about the digital aspects of the vacation, and our initial steps to sort and use the 9,200 pictures and 20 hours of video footage we took.
The image at the above right, and the newsletter title, are links to the new website, the main way we'll be sharing our memories.
... before getting into it further, a couple notes...


Vista Corner... I downloaded and installed the latest 5278 build, my easiest install so far. It was the first time I didn't have to go into the Control Panel and update some device drivers after the initial install.
I tested DVD Maker to see if it would successfully burn a disc, something it did great for all builds up to the last one, but hasn't done since. It didn't, so I have some homework to do before I can rave about the new app again. 
The video I uploaded to Google a few months ago and priced at 99 cents is no longer listed in my account. It was sitting there waiting to go through the last checkpoint before being live, but it didn't make it. Google didn't send a note or provide an online comment, so I can only guess it didn't fit their criteria for the kinds of movies they want to distribute. I'll stop checking its status.
I installed Pixélan Software's SpiceFX Packs 3.0 for Movie Maker, which has nearly 600 transitions and effects for Movie Maker.... some are new to me and others I've had in earlier versions. 
.... back to the main topic...

I'd been thinking of a new website specific to the trip. What did I want to do with it? I'll be working toward a number of different but related goals:
Before getting into the website, here's some info about what we used during the trip.

Digital cameras need batteries... replaced or recharged regularly. The rechargeable ones need recharging every night... using Europe's electricity which is different than that in the U.S.
The Olympus camera uses 4 AA batteries. We brought a few sets of rechargeables and 2 charging units. Beyond those, we had a set of non-rechargeables which we never had to dip into. Two sets of rechargeables got us through each day.
The Sony Cybershot has a custom rechargeable battery and a power supply to recharge it. We had no backup battery for it, and only once did it run out before the day ended.
I have 5 batteries for the camcorder, and charging is done by plugging the power supply into the camcorder, which ties it up. It was rare to get as far as needing the 3rd battery after a day of shooting. There were two batteries to spare.
Each of the charging units is marked to indicate they work both with USA 120 volt electricity or Europe's 240 volt, so conversion devices are not needed. But an adapter is needed because U.S. plugs have flat prongs while Europe uses round ones.
If all we needed power for was our cameras, we could have gotten by without a 240 to 120 volt converter. But we brought a hair dryer that needed the 120 volt electricity. When shopping at home for a converter, there were big expensive units with low power ratings, and small cheaper ones with higher ratings. The difference was the small converters being electronic. 
That converter cost me one of the two charging units for the AA batteries, which blew the first time it was used with the electronic converter. After blowing I read the instructions... which said it could malfunction if used with an electronic conversion device. Sometimes it's good to read and heed, but the 2nd charging unit got us through the trip fine.
We have 3 batteries for the tablet computer, 2 normal sized ones and a larger one. The only time we had a problem was one day with the GPU, and only because we forgot to bring along the extra batteries.

Tapes and memory cards/sticks...
I brought about 30 DV tapes and used 20, carrying 3 unused ones with me at all times. I opened the packages and numbered the tapes to be ready to move on to the next one as quickly as possible. And I flipped the little recording safety tab on the bottom of each tape as soon as I finished, to preclude recording over it. Even with the precautions, when reviewing the tapes, I see one section of one tape that I inadvertently recorded over.
The Olympus uses memory cards, and the Sony Cybershot and camcorder use Sony memory sticks. We were using a 1/2 GB card and 1/2 GB stick for the still cameras. On many days, we had filled them and needed to offload the pix to the tablet.
The only problem we experienced was with the memory stick for the Cybershot. It suddenly stopped being seen by cameras and our computer, but at a convenient time... there were only a few pictures taken at breakfast one morning, and we were in the big city of Istanbul at the time. A few blocks into our next walk took us past a camera store, and $40 was all that was needed for a new 1 GB memory stick, less than the lowest price we'd seen in the U.S.

Tripods and monopod... 
I used the monopod for the camcorder fairly regularly.
We brought 3 tripods, a larger one that stands as high as about 5 feet high, a middle sized one that only goes up a couple feet, and a tiny one only inches high. The middle sized one was pretty easy to carry around and ended up being the only one used. It was a borrowed one, but I'll be buying one like it soon.

We have no extra lenses for the still cameras. I have a 0.6 wide-angle lens for the camcorder, along with a polarizing filter. The polarizing filter goes on the camera itself, not on the wide-angle lens... so it's one or the other, or neither... not both.
I try to be really casual about shooting video on a vacation. As a result I leave the camcorder lenses setup as is until there's a compelling reason to change. I shot most footage with the wide-angle lens on, switching to the polarizing filter only a few times, such as when we took boat rides and I wanted to reduce the reflections off the water.

Camera/Camcorder Settings...
After shooting the first few video scenes in standard mode, I changed the camcorder to widescreen mode and never looked back. Widescreen seems here to stay so I'm shooting in that mode more often. 
I use the 10X optical zoom but deactivate the more powerful but pixilated digital zoom.
Still pictures were taken in high quality modes for the full 7 and 5 megapixel pictures... not pushing the cameras to higher setting options.

We had a Fujitsu Stylistic tablet with us, with about 18 GB of free space at the start of the trip. We also brought a Dell music jukebox with a 20 GB drive, which can double as an external hard drive.
The still pix were transferred at least daily to the tablet, and more room made on the tablet a couple times by moving files to the Dell jukebox. We returned home with a good bit of free hard drive space to spare.
The tablet has a firewire connection, but I didn't capture any footage from the tapes as we traveled. As a precaution against loss, I carried the recorded tapes with me in carry-on luggage.
We used Microsoft's AutoRoute 2006 mapping software, which works with the GPS sensor from the U.S. Streets and Trips app. Maps always lag a bit behind construction and other changes... so when it gave directions to drive down a road and make a right turn onto the next major one, it was fine... except in cases where there was a new fence up making the road a dead-end, right at that nice big road. They had changed the entry point and the map software didn't know. Things like that taught us not rely on the neat new software as the only navigation tool. 

I didn't have to think much about distribution. With online access so routine, and broadband getting better and better, a website is the right place for me to roll out our memories. With it having been such a special vacation, I thought it warranted an equally special website.
It reminds me of setting the stage for a special dinner... setting the table before the food starts coming.
I prefer a total customization to a canned website package... so it's done using Notepad, Movie Maker, Photo Story, and my toolbox of software utilities.

For different custom background images for each page, I'm using the camcorder to take snapshots from the video footage, and then Paint.NET to lighten them enough to be able to easily see black text over them. 

Clip Art - FilmFor links to videos, I checked Microsoft Publisher for Clip Art... Film Link
... and used the one at the left to turn into embedded website links to videos, such as the one on the right... 
using Paint.NET to make them GIF images.

A first for my websites will be sounds of the area, a WMA file made from selected audio segments of video clips.
Audio Link
I hit Microsoft Publisher again, this time to get a clip art file of a speaker to turn into a website link image.

Picture Gallery LinkFor a link to a picture gallery, I'm using a large thumbnail sized image of one of them. I haven't developed any of the picture galleries yet to link to, but here's the first of the thumbnails.

Conclusions and Closing
I encourage those thinking of traveling to do it as soon as they can, as the memories from such trips will last a lifetime. 
The Cybershot camera got a wider shot than the Olympus, and it did better in lower light situations. But in bright light the Olympus seems to have gotten better color results. The camcorder, with it's wide angle lens got even more of a view, and does better in low light.
The two cameras have 3X optical zooms... while the camcorder has 10X. For close-ups from a distance, the 2 megapixel snapshot with the camcorder does better than the 7 megapixel camera.
We're back a week now. I'm caught up on my email backlog, back into regular posting on newsgroups and forums, have the new website off and running, and re-started the newsletters. Things are back to normal.

Have a great week...