Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Learn to use Garage Band!

GarageBand allows you to record multiple voices, add music tracks, add still images, and create podcasts with chapters. You don't even need any musical talent to create some fantastic songs. Apple Systems Engineer Michael Wolk will be presenting on this powerful but simple piece of software this Friday, March 21, from 12noon-1pm in the WIC Seminar Room, just down the hall from the Digital Media Lab. Feel free to bring your lunch.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Obama in 30 Seconds

First of all, let me make it clear we're not taking sides here. But this is such a cool contest that I wanted to make sure all of our lab users know about it. It's sponsored by MoveOn.org, and the goal is to make a 30-second tv ad for Barack Obama. The winner gets $20,000 (that's twenty thousand dollars) in video equipment, and gets their video aired nationally on television, so whether you're in it for the fame, for the money, or just to make a difference, this contest has something for you.

Moveon.org even provides resources for finding collaborators (locally or online) in case you want to participate, but don't want to go it alone.

Deadline is April 1st. Check it out at http://www.obamain30seconds.org/

Thanks to lab user Jessica Manlove, who brought this contest to our attention! If you know of similar contests for other candidates, let me know and I'll be glad to post them here.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Don't Forget the Mashup Contest!

Ok, I've put signs all over the Information Commons, added a slide to the plasma screen presentation, and even put flyers on the various kiosks and bulletin boards around campus, so frankly I don't see how you could have forgotten, but just in case you did: The deadline for the 2008 Video Mashup Contest (March 17, the day everyone returns from spring break) is fast approaching. You just need a 3 minute video. And if you're reading this, then chances are you've already done something for a class assignment that qualifies for entry into the contest, so why not submit it? It's free, and you might win a video camera. (Last year's winner made THIS with the camera he won.) You've still got more than a week left, and it's not like classes are in session, so you really have no excuse not to make a video. We'll even show you how; just ask us!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

What Do You Want?

As we start to plan for next school year (yes, we really plan this far in advance. We'll probably make many of the purchases for next year sometime in the next 3-4 months.), we're looking at various possibilities for upgrading existing hardware, adding new functionality to the lab, buying new software, etc.

It would be very helpful to know what YOU would like to see us add to the lab. Is there a piece of software you think we should have? Have you been dying to see us add an 8-track deck so you can make mp3's out of your parents' obsolete music collection? Maybe you think we should add a combination Bluray/HD-DVD player. You want us to start lending portable hard drives? Do you think we should have a couple midi keyboards available for lab users? Well this is the time to tell us! (And no, we're not installing a jacuzzi, so please stop asking. You know who you are.)

We really do take your feedback into account when we make these decisions, so please email us (wic1@pobox.upenn.edu) and let us know what you'd like us to do to improve the lab.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Portable Hard Drives

Let's talk hard drives. If you're working on a project in Photoshop, or Illustrator, or Dreamweaver, or even GarageBand, a USB flash/thumb drive is probably all you'll need to transfer your files, or back them up. But if you're working on a video project in the lab that will take more than about a week to finish, we strongly encourage you to buy a portable hard drive to save your files onto. You should expect to use about 13GB per hour of standard, DV video and 40-50GB per hour of HD video.

There are 2 types of hard drive to consider:

1) There are the tiny portable ones, that fit in your pocket or almost into the palm of your hand, and only require a USB or Firewire cable to connect them to your computer. These tend to be in the 100GB-200GB range for $75-$150 depending on what brand you get and where you buy it. They're extremely convenient, and if you don't mind paying a premium for their extra portability, they're probably the best option.

2) There are the bulkier, heavier drives that tend to be a couple inches thick, and require you to plug them into a wall outlet in addition to connecting them to your computer via USB/Firewire. They tend to range 300GB-750GB for $100-$200, so you get a lot more bang for your buck, but you can't just throw them in your pocket, and you need an electrical outlet to use them.

You can find refurbished hard drives a little cheaper, but in my opinion, it's not worth risking your data just to save a few bucks.

You can buy both types of drives at:

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Three Days

Although we would love to be able to store all of everyone's files forever and ever, we just don't have the storage space to be able to handle it all. So we have a policy that we will store your files on our networked hard drive for up to 3 days. And if you come back during that time and work on them some more, we'll keep them for an additional 3 days. And so on. And so forth. Etc. Etc.

Until now, we've managed to be pretty liberal with this policy, deleting files only when we run out of space, and we've kept files for weeks, or even months past the promised 3 days. But recently we've seen an explosion in the use of Hi Definition video in the lab, which takes exponentially more room than plain old DV video. Anywhere from 40-50GB per hour, in fact, compared to the 13GB per hour for standard video. So our User Storage drive is filling up much faster these days, and we've been forced to start following our deletion policy much more strictly. (Today, for example, I deleted over 150 GB of files to make room for the people working in the lab.)

So if you're working on a project in the lab, be sure to come back every 2 or 3 days to work on it to avoid risking deletion. And please consider buying an external hard drive to store your project on. This gives you total control over your files, and you never need to fear that we'll delete them when you need them most. More on external drives in a future post, coming soon.