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Going for a drive in my Aixam 400

I realised that in all the time that I have had Felicity, I've never made a proper video of going for a drive. So, I thought, all I need to do is attach a camera somewhere, record the journey, edit it down to something managable, and then drop it on YouTube.

This is my first, and probably my last, attempt at recording a car journey. Still, you'll get an idea of what it's like.



How the video was made

Several years ago, I got myself a GoPro body harness in the sales for a couple of euros. That, together with a cheap phone holder clip, made a reasonable mounting for the phone, my older S7, acting as a camera.
Camera mounting

I recorded in 720p because I know that it would run to about 500MiB every ten minutes using H.264 compression. Higher resolutions would be unacceptable as uploading would be simply infeasible. Unfortunately neither the camera nor the (rather nice) Samsung Movie Maker app offered any sort of control over the encoding bitrate. I'd have happily traded quality for a smaller sized file.

The first problem is quite evident from watching the video. That is to say, vibration. Partially a problem with the camera mount shaking (although it was pretty solid to feel) and partially a problem with the car's inherent vibrations, you will notice that the car radio stays pretty much dead-centre while everything else goes to hell, and every so often the entire picture jumps. This is basically the image stabiliser having a nervous breakdown. Perhaps it would have been better to have turned the stabiliser off? I don't know.

The journeys took around 22 minutes each way. Or a gigabyte and a quarter. When, at the end of the video, I express the thought that it would probably take me longer to edit than it took for the journey (an hour, including shopping time), I had no idea.

It took an easy two hours to slice'n'dice the two videos into chunks. I wanted to edit it down to something around 20 minutes in total, so I needed to have video pieces that I could assemble.
It then took another hour to assemble the video, plus ten minutes to encode it, followed by twenty minutes watching it with MXPlayer. I was't happy with some parts, so another half hour, plus ten, plus twenty. We're up to four hours.
Then came the subtitling. As an introvert, I speak softly. My car's diesel engine isn't soft by any means. So most of my dialogue is damn-near inaudible if you don't know what my speech patterns sound like. And since I don't much like speaking, most of you won't. Thus, subtitles were essential. I used Buftaku Subtitle Utility to create the subtitles. It was a fairly clumsy app to use - the inclusion of a button to "add a new line at this current position" would have greatly helped, not to mention not throwing away a line of subtitling should one forget to set the end point. But I persisted with this app because it was basically the only one that displayed a video preview, didn't hide useful features behind some sort of registration, and didn't crash on start. Yeah, that's the fun of pulling software off Google's app store.
Transcribing what I said wasn't that hard. Making all the timings line up, harder. So consider another two hours to get all of that done. Plus a twenty-odd minute watch in MXPlayer.
The final video file was 1.3GiB. It took the YouTube app, on my ADSL with it's 774kbps upload speed, four and a half hours to upload it.
And then, since I was inside by this point, in bed, I watched through to ensure all was good when I spotted something I didn't want to have in the video. Something I missed due to watching earlier outside and it was a sunny day. I made the video Private.
Cursing, I went back to the video editor project, made a small tweak, waited ten minutes for the encode, watched that part of the video, and caught that the end titles had vanished. As I edited the timeline, Movie Maker threw away the text associated with the two end titles. So I went and put them back in. Another ten minutes to encode.
Then I realised that all subsequent subs would be off. So I went back to Movie Maker, and using the original video as a reference, tweaked the new one to be exactly six seconds shorter. Then I could just walk through each line of dialogue in the subtitles and subtract six seconds from the start and end times.

By now it was early morning. I set up my phone to upload the video, plugged it into the mains, configured WiFi to never turn off, and just left it running overnight. It probably finished at six or seven in the morning.

When I got up, I tried to go into YouTube's on-line creator studio editor. It kept kicking me off, telling me my browser was too old/insecure. I realised that I was using Chrome and not Firefox, as one of the last things I did last night was look at Flightradar24 which doesn't work well on Firefox. So just for the sake of it, I updated Chrome to the very latest version and... apparently Google's sign-in will simply not let you sign in using their own mobile browser. That's madness.
Switching to Firefox, I was able to sign in, edit the video's description, and (in case you're wondering why I didn't just use the YouTube Studio app) upload the timed subtitles. The app can't do things like that, just like Google Docs can't do a lot of stuff that the in-browser version handles without a problem.

So, now you have it. A weird and wonky drive in the passenger seat of my car. And no, I usually don't hear all that noise as I usually have either symphonic metal (Nightwish, Amaranthe, The Dark Element, Xandria, Ayreon, Epica, etc etc) or an eighties mix (Erasure, Mr. Mister, Spandau Ballet, Pet Shop Boys, etc etc) playing, and I didn't want YouTube to block the video over copyright even though quite a few of the songs on my playlist were ripped from YouTube in the first place! ☺

I hadn't really made any plans for Monday, but I sure as hell hadn't planned on doing that. I guess it was something of a labour of love that I persisted, and also in a way a testament to why Samsung used to be awesome. Because in case you missed it in the description, everything was created entirely on my S7 (I didn't use my S9 as I didn't have enough free space).
One of the things I liked about Samsung was that it had a pretty decent camera, and came combined with a built-in Movie Maker that wasn't bug free but was a lot more stable and useful than anything (free) I've used on Windows/Linux. Plus, of course, you don't need to have a full-sized PC running. I could, quite literally, record some video and photos, assemble them into a larger narrative on my phone, and upload it directly. In fact, there's a pretty good chance that any video I've uploaded in the last three or four years that isn't a simple single shot has been passed through Movie Maker. If I had to rely upon a desktop machine, I simply wouldn't bother.
[it's like how I'm writing more often on my blog than previously - I don't need the PC (WinSCP) to access the blog any more, I've devised other means, so I can write when I feel inspired to write something, and not when I feel like dealing with Windows]


And, finally, a rant...

Sadly, Samsung appear to have replaced Movie Maker with some dumbed-down rubbish (Story Video Editor) that looks like it is appearing to people who want to post four second snippets (videos can be combined in ~4 second pieces) to social media. Indeed, one of the main reasons that I never upgraded to Android 9 on my S9 is because apparently Movie Maker doesn't run on Android 9. I need to keep it active on the S9 as the S9 records in HEVC, I'm not sure the S7 can cope with that codec.
Here - here's an example of what the "Create movie" option in the gallery does now. Movie? Bollocks! It's basically a 2020's version of an animated GIF. Oh, and notice the fancy ending doesn't work. Brilliant job!



Your comments:

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Gavin Wraith, 15th July 2020, 11:15
Thanks for the drive Rick. You are fortunate to live in beautiful surroundings. The forested parts contrast with the open fields, and I presume were once more widespread. I am ignorant of the history of France's physical geography, but I suppose old maps would give an impression of what happened over the last few centuries.
David Pilling, 15th July 2020, 13:46
You need to channel Nigel Mansel, like behind that tractor, a few random flashes of the left indicator would have given white car something to think about. As would going over the white line a few times. 
Keep further back - makes it harder to overtake two vehicles. 
Rick, 15th July 2020, 14:49
You need to understand French drivers, David. I'm not a person, this isn't a real car, it's just an obstacle in the way. And anyway, their attitude is often *I* *OWN* *THE* *ROAD*. 
It was no different when mom was driving a car capable of hitting the speed limit. Psychologically, every driver feels compelled to be"the lead car". At least at my sedate 45, there's time to go around me. At 80 or 90? They're the same, only this time it can lead to some spectacular accidents. 
Gavin, yes, it's really open and green and beautiful here. It's nicer around Vallet/Clisson (why mom and I used to go down so much), but nevertheless, I don't regret leaving the concrete jungle that was the Hampshire/Surrey border. Not inner city, but still pretty urban. 
Yeah, there's a lot of farming around here. It has changed a lot in the last fifty or so years, the introduction of mechanisation meaning it's possible to plough and harvest using machines instead of horses and people; and the Common Agricultural Policy meaning lots of little farms have disappeared to be replaced by big industrial scale exploitations. Where I live? Used to be a farm. The fields across the way? Used to be horse-in-a-day size with hedgerows. 
Now the hedgerows are gone and the land around me is rented to the pig farm on the hill who grows crop for something like five thousand pigs. 
But, still, this is probably France's equivalent to hillbilly country, so the prime threat to forests are farmers wanting larger fields, and hacking trees down to create dual carriageway roads between other (more important) places. 
Luckily the forest that I drove through in the video is owned by... CERN. Yeah, *that* CERN. Not entirely sure why, but it's kept closed off (private hunting), well maintained, and when the bypass around the town that I work was being planned, the trace route around the east side of town was immediately rejected because everybody knew that there's no way they would be permitted to touch the forest. Technically the entire forest is private land, and they're supposed to close the road one day a year or something to assert that right. Well, they tend to close it in the autumn every three or four years, which just happens to coincide with logging, felling, and tidying up along the sides of the road. 

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