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Leads, plugs and reticent Anchored Objects – part 1

I know, I know, I’ve not written a blog for ages, so here’s a massive one!

I followed “A Total Idiot’s Guide to Online Marketing” and page one says that a blog is a really great idea and that I should write something at least once a week. But I’ve been busy on other things over the last month, namely expanding the Portfolio and and talking to a few potential clients as well. I’ll probably make a start on page 2 of “A Total Idiot’s Guide to Online Marketing” in the coming days…

What is different since the last time I wrote is that the sun has completely disappeared. Seriously. No-one has seen it for about six weeks. The last time I saw it was out on a hike with my hiking buddy. One of my favourite walks is starting from the insanely pretty village of Burnsall in the Yorkshire Dales, a half hour drive away. I’ve done a route starting from here dozens of times over the years but now that I consider 6 or 7 miles ‘a stroll’, I expanded it by taking in Linton village — where m’colleague and I planned to have a cheeky pint of Timothy Taylor’s but couldn’t because the power in the Fountaine Inn was out (don’t know why they added an ‘e’ to their name…) — and then o’er field and dale to Grassington, where we did have a pint and enjoyed the cold afternoon sunshine whilst talking about life.

Over the tops along High Lane to Hebden and back along the river to Burnsall. And, for some bizarrely inexplicable reason, I seem to have developed a fear of bridges. The suspension bridge over the river at Hebden is now a genuinely terrifying experience for me. I was almost tempted to use the stepping stones instead, despite the Wharfe being in full flood.

And that, dear reader, is pretty much the only time in the last 6 weeks that I’ve been outside, apart from the odd forays to Morrisons where, because of week-long lack of human contact, I made the lady on the check-out uncomfortable by having a half hour conversation with her about yogurt. There was a Halloween Ghost Walk around t’village last week, but it was dark. There are some very twisted kids living here: dressing up as that girl out of The Ring and hiding in bushes. Ah, rural village life!

But yes, the Portfolio.

When I worked in my last job I worked mainly on designing collateral for Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Like many big companies, they had a Brand Guide, which had to be strictly adhered to (the HP Brand Police were a real thing). And whilst this made designing easier, it did get a bit samey after a while. Now though, The Documentalist is completely free to mess around with different ideas for different publications and I’ve had a great time transposing hastily scratched out pencil designs and ideas gleaned from the web into striking and engaging document templates. I now have a collection of templates, some containing over a dozen Masters, ready to go for your next brochure, poster or flyer.

However, there landed a rather large bluebottle in a small jar of unguent. Anchored objects.

Anchored objects are great but I came up a scenario where they simply did not want to behave themselves. Adding an anchored object inside a text frame resulted in the first line of the origin paragraph not wrapping around the object like it was supposed to, even with text wrapping set for it. After hours and hours and hours of trying to get the thing working, I found out that it is actually not possible. A bug? A feature? I have no idea; I simply cannot think of a reason why this should be so. There was an update to the application a few days ago, which I hope would address it but it didn’t. It did add column rules though, which is … useful… I guess.

But this gave me an idea. I literally said “hello!” to myself when I thought of it, though actually it is something I had planned for perhaps 6-12 months down the line.

Get this, here it comes.

I’m going to record a series of video tutorials explaining the simple and the more complex aspects of using popular software, such as Word, Powerpoint, Illustrator and InDesign. Brilliant huh? I’ll bet no-one else has thought of doing this ever!

But I want to do it properly. There is no issue with recording video directly from my screen, despite the 2580×1080 resolution: I’ve tested it and it works really well, though I’d hate to see how video compression will affect the finer details, but I’ll fall off that bridge when I come to it.

Problem is getting decent audio. Yes, the iMac has a built-in mic but the result is echoey and I’m pretty sure that one of those CIA geeks in the movies that ‘cleans up’ audio from the baddies who are having a conversation on a runway just as a plane is taking off so that it has the clarity of a Radio 4 discussion programme would have problems making it sound less rubbish.

I did consider stapling empty egg boxes to the walls to dampen the sound but, despite having about three dozen empty egg boxes (I’m really into frittatas at the moment) in my possession, I didn’t really fancy doing this, even though there is the advantage of increased storage that egg boxes stapled to the walls would afford. I could use them to store stuff. Like eggs.

I was chatting to my brother, who is also doing his own online video, and he very kindly gave (well, sold) me a proper XLR mic that he has. All that I needed to do was to get an XLR to 3mm jack cable for it. A friend of mine, someone I have known since school who is a sound engineer and very talented musician that travels all over the world on big ships (no, no, no. I think I just have a fear of deep water…), was my first port of call when trying to set up a decent audio rig.

Oh, and he worked on David Gilmour’s Pompeii gig in 2016 too. Just thought I’d throw that out there.

He also told Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull to ‘go away’ in rather blunt terms over the issue of their Rider…

He told me to get a Pop Shield, which are those cool barrier things that you see people using in recording studios. I just thought it was something to do with not getting electric shocks from a mic in some bizarre Spinal Tap comedic accident. Can you tell that I know very little about pro audio? A shield apparently gives the spoken word more ‘depth’ according to my best friend who worked on David Gilmour’s Pompeii gig in 2016. ‘Depth’ is probably a sound engineer term for “not rubbish”.

So I ordered the XLR to 3mm jack lead, the pop shield, installed them and tried plugging the mic into a USB audio-in dongle. It didn’t work. It turns out that I needed a mono XLR to 3mm jack lead, not a stereo one, as well as an adaptor with a 4 pin TRRS jack and two 3mm female ports for line in and line out. I got the adaptor yesterday, now I’m just waiting for the XLR lead.

On my desk now, I have the mic (with pop shield), a magnifier (for close-up work) and a thing for holding an iPhone. The cat thinks it’s an assault course specifically built for her.