Vector graphics tools
can be a bit daunting to learn... but powerful and fun to use. Last
April I received a pointer to Inkscape, an ongoing open source
project. It seemed to work OK but I didn't spend enough time learning
it, and didn't see where I'd put it to use in my movies and
stories. The picture has changed.
Newer versions keep rolling
out, downloads passed the 2 million mark in January, and vector
graphics is becoming of more interest in many areas. It's time for another
look, even a newsletter.
Inkscape exports graphic images
to .png format, complete with transparency... perfectly aligned
with using them as custom title overlays in Movie Maker.
Here's the link to get it.
Clip (click the image)
With gobs of features, I expected to go into
it far enough to explore the making of custom overlays for movies...
... but it sucked me in. I was having too much
fun cloning things like the penguin, so I added that feature to this
issue. Click the image to see a clip with the cloned penguin.
... a few notes...
Making Movies with
Vista is a six page article in the Spring 2007 Special
Edition of MaximumPC (see page 78). It's on
bookstands now to May 29, 2007. It covers the movie making
process from camcorder tape to viewing it on a standard video DVD.
new v2.70a of GSpot that works in Vista,
and it now includes checking wmv and mov files.
For info, the
Interactive Sessions that I use for training and tech
support are gaining in demand and working
well... sessions have gone as long as two hours, and I've
yet to lose a connection. I'd been using my house phone to chat as we work
interactively, but recently started using the Skypes service with a
USB phone... which hasn't noticeably effected the sessions.
.... back to the main
Let's open an image, do some cloning, and then export the
image for use in a movie or story.
Here's the main working
File > Document Properties to change the size to a custom 640x480 pixels to
align with standard aspect ratio video
importing a penguin image... File > Import
> tux.png from the c:\Program Files\Inkscape\share\clipart
grabbing the upper right image handle and using
it to make the penguin smaller, and moving him (or her) to the lower left of
From the main menu... Edit > Clone > Create Tiled
I tested various settings to end up with the row of them
Select the object you want cloned. Then use the Create
button. Take a look at what happened, use the Undo icon to start over,
tweak the settings, and try again... until you get what you want.
The software doesn't preview it this way... I copied the results
from the working page to this figure to save some space.
When you finish playing with your picture, you'll need to
save it as a .png file to use with an .xml file as a title overlay...
Use File > Export Bitmap from the main menu. Opt for the
'Page' if you want the 640x480 area within the working window...
The file will have a .png extension, the file type that's
just right for an overlay. Select the folder and file name.
Press the Export button and it'll take only a split second
to save it... longer for more complex images.
For a widescreen image to pan in a Photo Story, exporting
a 'Selection' might work better. Note that each of the 7 lines of
penguins is a separate 'object'. To save them all together as a single
object, use the selection tool (the one with the arrowhead) and drag it around
them all... then use Object > Group from the pull-down menu.
After grouping them, saving the selection will result in
a .png file that looks like this, transparency and all.
In IrfanView the transparent parts of the picture will
appear black... but in places where the transparency works.... such as in
this newsletter or as an overlay in Movie Maker, the blackness will be
To undo the grouping of an object, select it use
'Ungroup'. That'll let you work on them as individual objects.
Let's look at another example, making a high resolution image of
Using a few sample images to arrange this image, I ended up
with a 6 megapixel image for a Photo Story... 3103x1898 pixels.
Click the link or image to see the story, saved to an 800x600 pixel
It took just a few minutes to put together the
collage, using graphical eye candy samples that came with Inkscape.... it
was longer to render the image to a .png file.
The steps to make it were
open one of graphics samples that comes with Inkscape...
clone it a bit... to your taste
import another sample file... I used the 4 gears... no
import a third sample image... the car
use the Control-A keys to select all the objects in the
group them using Object > Group.... that links
them together as a single object
select the object (if it's not already done for you after the
export the Selection to a .png file... note the
white background in Inkscape is transparent... in IrfanView, Photo Story, and
Movie Maker, the background appears black.
Large images in Inkscape use lots of memory... and
the exporting process is CPU intensive... Inkscape used 630 MB of
memory, and the rendering to the .png file used 50% of my CPU for
about 5 minutes. Being a 2 processor system, it limited itself to
using one of the two, while I continued work on the newsletter as it
I added the text in IrfanView (making a mistake by referring to
it as newsletter #139 when it's really #140).
The photo story used six copies of the .png file,
another one for each change of panning/zooming motion or speed.
That's enough to get you started... you can get images into
Inkscape, play with them a bit, and export the results to a .png file.
Closing... and What's Next?
There's a rising tide of interest
in software that uses vector graphics. One advantage is a
vector image can be any size without being pixilated.
Inkscape is a great open source
app... well developed and getting stronger.
It crashed on me a number of times
when I tried to execute some cloning.... an error message followed
by shutting down. I'd open it back up each time, and assume it
was something I needed to learn about. I still haven't read the directions
about how to use the app.
If you don't want to lose what you've
done so far, save your work regularly.
Next week will be the
last newsletter before I head off to Seattle for the MVP Summit, followed
by a somewhat traditional vacation in Carmel, California on the way home.
I'll be skipping a week when gone.... maybe two.
Have a great week!!