How To Think Sideways — The Writer’s Job

I’m testing the tools I’ll be using to put together the How To Think Sideways course. Along with PDFs and perhaps some MP3s, I’m planning on adding video to this course. The following is JUST A TEST. While I hope you find the little clip interesting, and while it does set up one of the three big problems that thinking sideways solves, it isn’t intended to do much more than let you see a bit of what I’m planning, and let ME find out if it works for you.

There are some complications (aside from my husband hating the way the video looks, because it stretches my face sideways). So after you’ve watched the video, I have some questions for you.

Beating Head On Wall

Freaking survey isn’t working. OF course.

Survey Gizmo is WORTHLESS. Please just post any problems you had with the video, or any comments about it, here. Or e-mail me.

Questions

Did the video work on your computer?

Was the sound quality okay? Was it loud enough (or could you make it loud enough)?

Could you read my handwriting, or do I need to come up with another way of entering text when I got to the whiteboard?

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

34 comments… add one
  • KalevTait Jun 19, 2008 @ 11:48

    Other options than ‘stop motion’, powerpoint or using a webpage would be to do two passes, once for the video and once for the audio. Then your voice can continue talking while you are doing the handwriting.
    Alternatively, you may just be able to fastforward during those sections, which would be a similar result to using stop motion but would keep things looking fluid.

  • slh1900 Jun 3, 2008 @ 13:40

    It looks good so far.

  • Dale Emery May 28, 2008 @ 16:17

    The video worked fine on my (WinXP) computer.

    I could read your handwriting.

    The audio was too quiet. I had to turn the volume way up on my computer, and when I did that I could hear rumbling in the audio. Also, the volume of your voice varied, which makes it tricky to set the right listening volume.

    There are a few audio techniques that you can use, depending on what software and hardware you’re using to record and process your sound. There’s free software called Audacity that includes all of these features:
    http://audacity.sourceforge.net/about/features

    To even out the volume of your voice, use a technique called “compression”. Compression reduces the volume of louder sounds, which evens out the louds and quiets. Then you can turn up the volume of the whole track.

    To make the compressed track as loud as possible, use a technique called “maximizing” or “normalizing”. This automatically increases the volume so that it’s as loud as it can be without causing digital distortion.

    There are a few ways to reduce the rumble (caused by room sounds leaking into the microphone). First, turn off anything in the room that makes noise. Second, move the remaining noisy things away from the microphone. Third, speak closer to the microphone. Finally, you can use the “noise reduction” features of your audio software.

  • Irtanu May 28, 2008 @ 14:41

    It sounded like a fan was on in the background. But that’s to be expected from a web-cam quality camera (or was it really a web-cam?).

    Interesting, though.

  • cirellio May 28, 2008 @ 13:15

    I was able to easily watch this from WinVista64Ultimate and WinXP MCE using 3 different computers running Firefox 2.0.0.14 and IE 6 and 7.

    The volume was a little low in all 3 cases, but I was able to turn up the volume and hear you fine.

    I liked your use of the whiteboard a lot. Are you using a Wacom tablet?

  • mactheweb May 28, 2008 @ 12:19

    The video presentation worked well, and the content was appreciated.

    Sound on my desktop was fine. It was very soft on my MacBook.

    I found that speaking over your writing was mostly very personal. When you took the time to write ‘satisfying’ in blocky letters it got a bit slow. It seemed as if you had to do some fill in talking there.

  • WolfFaerie May 28, 2008 @ 11:25

    Did the video work on your computer? Yes, the sound was a little low otherwise the quality was fine. Everything you did was very understandable including your writing. I look forward to seeing more video’s like this one thru out the course.

  • Colin May 28, 2008 @ 11:11

    Did the video work on your computer?

    – Fine. I’m using Safari on a Mac Mini. (OSX 10.4)

    Was the sound quality okay? Was it loud enough (or could you make it loud enough)?

    – Sound was fine.

    Could you read my handwriting, or do I need to come up with another way of entering text when I got to the whiteboard?

    – The handwriting was a bit rough, but the audio explained most of the words anyway.

    Looking forward to the course.

  • wolverine May 28, 2008 @ 7:56

    Sound volume was fine, I turned it up a tad from my usual volume, but considering my usual volume is a few millimetres from the silent level on the sound bar, that’s not much.

    It was a bit slow. I agree with the other commentors that you could do the timing differently, maybe record the whiteboard first and then record your voice over it?

    Wolverine

  • lizb May 28, 2008 @ 7:38

    Using XP and IE6.
    The video quality was fine.
    For me, the sound was good but then I like to work in complete silence so the fact that it wasn’t overly loud was a plus. Others clearly don’t agree with that.
    I loved seeing you write on the white board; it really engaged me. It was a tad slow, though. But, I wouldn’t have liked it half so much if it had been a PowerPoint presentation or if you’d been typing it. That would have been too impersonal.
    It seems that you can’t please all the people all the time, doesn’t it?

  • LisaM May 28, 2008 @ 7:10

    – Did the video work on your computer?

    Yes, it did.

    – Was the sound quality okay? Was it loud enough (or could you make it loud enough)?

    On the whole, it was fine. I had the option of making it louder, but the difference in volume wasn’t significant. If there was any background noise near me I had difficulty hearing you. If the video was to run for longer at that volume, without my being able to increase it, I think it could get frustrating.

    – Could you read my handwriting, or do I need to come up with another way of entering text when I got to the whiteboard?

    I could read the handwriting because you spoke as you wrote the words. Others have mentioned it before, and I would agree with them, that writing the words is quite slow in real time, but watching what’s going onto the whiteboard is fun, esp. the drawing. Maybe typing the words would make them easier to read and you could use different fonts or WordArt.

    I’m really looking forward to the course. Thanks Holly.

  • InkGypsy May 28, 2008 @ 5:15

    Video? Worked wonderfully. (Mac OSX 10.4.10 w/ latest Firefox)
    Sound? On the low side.
    Handwriting? Perfectly legible.
    Overall? This is going to be a really fun and fabulous course!
    I agree re time lag BUT I love the personal immediacy of the writing on the white board – it feels more ‘one on one’. Personally I think Powerpoint would defeat some of that. And it can be time intensive to set the slides up, depending on how you want them to look. I’d suggest instead trying a little edit over the writing parts to speed up the video as you complete the word then go back to ‘real time’. I know iMovie has this edit function (very easy to use) as do other simple editing software.
    Looking forward to this course!

  • zoomerbeth May 28, 2008 @ 2:29

    Hi Holly,
    Here’s my review of the video. I’m also looking forward to this course.
    1.Sound: Volume is higher at beginning and gets softer over the course of the video. I can make it louder with volume slider on video, but about at the “One final solution” part I had to also adjust my volume on the actual computer (controls all sound volume from sound board to headset as opposed to volume within individual programs). Suggestion for improving: Use a headset with a microphone to help control the sound pickup on the program The over-ear kind work well, so you don’t have to worry about the big airline-pilot types of headsets if you’d like further shots of yourself during the video.
    2.Writing is legible (and I’m impressed by your writing/drawing on the computer skill). The cursor was mildly distracting but not much.
    3.I use a homebuilt computer running Windows XP and Vista beta. Vista of course isn’t working for anything at all. I use Internet Explorer for web browsing. I have a cable Internet connection, but the video still took about 10 seconds to load. It played just fine after it loaded.
    4.An alternative to power point: Set up the text you want in individual documents in the same folder on your computer, and hyper-link the documents. It’s fairly straightforward to do this, and you wouldn’t have to worry about making a video of a power point presentation (which sometimes can be tricky). I haven’t tried this with the artistic programs like Paint, but it should work the same way, and then you could have pictures and text interspersed.

    Sorry for the long post. Thanks for reading it 🙂
    Zoomerbeth

  • The Pencil Neck May 28, 2008 @ 1:18

    The video and sound were fine for me playing it on a PC laptop running XP and IE-6.

    The handwriting was OK but a little slow.

    For this sort of presentation, you might want to look at using something similar to Power Point. I’m sure you can finda better package than that but that’s the one I’m accustomed to.

    You can create a slideshow presentation that only goes to the next picture when you hit a key. You can pull up the first slide, speak over it, and then hit the key to go to the next slide. But you can also set it up so that you can trigger animation on the slide the same way. You can create a slide that first draws the Novelist, you speak your piece, hit a key, and then it can bring up a circle with Problem Solver, etc. Step by step, you can hit a key and talk over the next thing that comes up.

    I think it would be a little less work for you while you’re giving the presentation and it would allow you to go faster through the material.

    But overall, this worked fine for me.

  • cherylp May 27, 2008 @ 23:06

    I could see and hear the video on Windows XP and IE, Version 6.

    On Windows XP and Firefox Ver. 5, I could hear it but I couldn’t see the video.

  • meg May 27, 2008 @ 20:11

    pretty much all what they above said. Enjoyable and instructive, sound a bit low, ‘specially since I am hard of hearing!
    thanks

    megan

  • libster May 27, 2008 @ 19:52

    Hi Holly

    I used Vista with IE and the video played well.
    I agree the sound was a little soft and the writing slowed it down a little for me – my mind was wanting to race ahead of you.
    But I like where you’re going with it and it sounds like it will be a great course.

    Cheers

  • ekcarmel May 27, 2008 @ 19:32

    I didn’t have any technical problems with your video at all. I have Windows XP and Internet Explorer 7. The sound and video were perfect. I had no problem reading your writing. The whiteboard process slowed things down a bit, but I like the visual representation better than if you had just been speaking into the camera.

    I’m so excited about this course – I can’t wait to get started!

  • Ulfgeir May 27, 2008 @ 18:10

    The video ran fine for me. I’m on Windows Vista Ultimate, and using Internet Explorer 7.

    The audio during the beginning of the clip, where we see the shot of you, was perfect. I didn’t have to turn it up at all. But once the video switched to the whiteboard portion of the clip, I had to crank my volume up several notches above normal, and still had trouble hearing you at times.

    I didn’t have any trouble reading your writing.

  • Writebrained May 27, 2008 @ 17:30

    Watched with IE and XP.

    Sound quality: volume too low. Hard to hear. I like the writing on the white board, and I could read what was written easy enough,but it was all a little slow to unfold. Depending on how the rest of the course is put together it might get tedious. Or maybe I’m just not patient enough:)

  • driftsmoke May 27, 2008 @ 17:15

    Did the video work on your computer?

    I have a MacBookPro, so I’m using Leopard and Safari. It all worked fine.

    Was the sound quality okay? Was it loud enough (or could you make it
    loud enough)?

    The sound quality might have been a little low, but I’ve noticed that across the board on this laptop. Generally, if I really want to hear something I have to use my headphones. It’s not just you.

    Could you read my handwriting, or do I need to come up with another way of entering text when I got to the whiteboard?

    I could read the handwriting just fine, but at times your pause as you wrote was a little long. Peter Knight may have had the right idea, although I admit I’m not too sure about what he means. If he means the drawing just flashing onto the screen, already drawn, I think I would like that. Of course, I am but one voice. 🙂

    In all, you piqued my curiosity. I can’t wait to see what the course entails.

  • hopefulauthor May 27, 2008 @ 16:16

    Hi Holly,
    The video and your handwriting and the volume worked perfectly.
    I have new laptop dell 1720 inspiron and everything looked great!
    This course lloks like fun cannot wait till you get it up and running

  • WanderingAuthor May 27, 2008 @ 16:07

    Hi, Holly;

    This looks like it’s shaping up to be an interesting course. Which isn’t a surprise; of all the writing books & courses I’ve ever tried, only yours and one other book ever proved truly helpful. 🙂

    Windows XP Pro with the latest Firefox, video ran fine (Powerpoint would not run reliably on my system, from bitter experience.)

    I listened to the video with my CPU fan on high in the background (hot day, no a/c) and another very quiet fan running. I could just hear you normally – at times, when it seemed you were distracted, your voice trailed off and was difficult to make out at the highest volume. I think a somewhat higher volume level would be helpful for those who have background noise to contend with.

    I have vision problems but see as well as anyone close up. I’ve also trained to read terrible handwriting (as a professional genealogist reading documents from the mid 1600s onward). I could read what you wrote, but it took a slight amount of work. So I think some might have trouble with that. I also found the delay distracting. Sorry.

    I don’t mean any of the problems I mentioned would keep me from wanting this course. Not at all! But I do think they might be hurdles for some.

  • FMSeal May 27, 2008 @ 14:56

    Hi Holly,
    The video worked on my computer at work – uses XP same as at home. I think I’m set up for the Windows Media viewer.
    Volume was soft – had to strain a bit to hear.
    I don’t know what software you were using on the whiteboard, but I found the cursor distracting and am one of the antsy people who didn’t want to wait. If you want to get the software for MS Power Point – it has the capability to fade in different portions of slide when you want them. Just a suggestion – other presentation software may do the same thing – PowerPoint is the only one I’m familiar with.
    Yes, I believe I’ll be buying the course when it’s ready.

  • PJ May 27, 2008 @ 14:43

    Did the video work on your computer?

    Yep. I am running MacOS X – Leopard using the latest Firefox and it ran just fine. 🙂

    Was the sound quality okay? Was it loud enough (or could you make it loud enough)?

    The intro sound level was fine, but once you switched to the whiteboard it was a bit on the soft side.

    Could you read my handwriting, or do I need to come up with another way of entering text when I got to the whiteboard?

    I could read your writing just fine, however, I think several others here have also mentioned the time lag. As this isn’t real time, there are several shortcuts you could use to speed that up a bit.

    That all having been said: I think this is a wonderful idea, and I’m looking forward to taking the course!

  • Peter Knight May 27, 2008 @ 14:06

    Just two years ago I was a white-collar redneck off the grid, in the boondocks shooting mah rafles at targets an’ thangs: please take comments with a pinch of saltpeter.

    Did the video work on your computer?

    Worked fine. I use Real Player (after trying Windows Media and Quicktime) – R. Player works best for me right now: I also used the ‘download to video file’ option. I could replay on large screen, excellent definition (and you are looking good, ma’am! :))

    Was the sound quality okay? Was it loud enough (or could you make it loud enough)?

    A little low (though I’ve seen that this varies a lot from computer to computer). I’ve found it a good idea to hook up another sound system through a small amplifier just for these cases (cheap and easy to do, or one can pick off the sound from the speaker jack into one’s one’s portable: we always seem to gather a number of these, maybe ex- tape only replaced by CD repalced by MP3 …)

    Could you read my handwriting, or do I need to come up with another way of entering text when I got to the whiteboard?

    Just fine, very clear. At this connection, a little slow maybe. You could use some ‘stop action’, intermittent, frames (after the start; perhaps some sequences – just an idea) for a quicker pace.

    In general I’m sure it will work; the “thinking sideways” concept is intriguing. Yes, Id do this course and recommend it.

    For what it’s worth
    Peter

  • worldsapart May 27, 2008 @ 13:58

    I’m on a laptop with XP and IE, and it worked fine. Your voice was quiet and the background noise substantial when I turned up the volume, but I could understand you just fine. I could also read the handwriting, but I can foresee that in a longer format, it would get tedious waiting for you to write each word. Have you thought about using PowerPoint or something similar?

  • tkeller May 27, 2008 @ 13:33

    Holly,

    I used a laptop with Windows Vista basic to view (and Firefox to view it in). I had no problems. My integrated speakers, which aren’t that great, had no trouble with the sound.

    I could read the handwriting fine, though I can read all but the worst handwriting fairly well. But, I think the fact that you say it as you write it makes it easier to read. It might be difficult for some if the text is just there, and not really explained. Hope that helps!

  • joelysue May 27, 2008 @ 13:07

    The video played fine and I could hear it, although your voice is naturally rather low in tone, I think. (I telecommute from home and I’m used to listening very hard during teleconferences to various tones of voice.) It was a little slow to watch you spell out the words–my brain worked faster and was ready to leap ahead.

  • soleilnoir May 27, 2008 @ 12:03

    Looks good to me Holly, I could see and hearing everything just fine. Can’t wait to see more for this course.

  • Kyralae May 27, 2008 @ 11:37

    Morning Holly,

    This looks good and I’m looking forward to the course. The video was nice and clear, the sound I could get loud enough but there was a background hiss through all of it. Not enough to annoy but it was noticable. The handwriting was okay. If I were to be trying to just read it, I might have had a few problems. But, since you were speaking as you were writing I could make out what it said. You must be using some sort of tablet–I’ve used those in graphics work and it just takes a bit of practice to get the hand coordinated off to the side of the display. Hope this helps.

  • Leahsandra May 27, 2008 @ 11:33

    Holly, your writing came off fine for me, tho I can see where someone with bad vision could have a problem. The volume was just a wee tad too soft. I do wonder about people’s antsy-ness, waiting for you to spell out each word? That felt fine for an intro, but would the whole course be that way?

    Bright Blessings on your project!

  • Deedlit May 27, 2008 @ 11:07

    The only problem I had was with the sound level. I cranked the volume right up and it was still kind of quiet. I’m not sure what you could do about that.
    Other than that it was a fun video and oh so true!

  • djmills May 27, 2008 @ 7:31

    Thanks Holly, I can’t wait to get my hands on the course. It will no doubt be as well explained and easy to understand as all previous courses.

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