Friday, May 15, 2015

Dayton: Part 1

So here I am, sitting on the bed in a motel built in 1957, watching a TV show that takes place in 1965, crossing the midwest in an automobile from 1987. Without functional A/C. All the better with the windows cranked down. My back aches and I could use another cold MGD. I'm a little sunburned and windblown, but it'll pass. Tomorrow I put another 500 miles on the 'burb, enjoying the backroads and blacktops, looking to top off the 40 gallon tank.

It was a day to be sure. Second year in a row trying out the Dayton Hamfest. I figure I've got a good beat on lodging for the night and the best spot to park without breaking the bank. A medium black coffee and a breakfast sandwich got me to Hara Arena and a back pack and collapsible cart were just what I needed to survive the crowds without doubling back. Once again I made the list for youngest 5% in attendance; didn't even enter the arena this year; a rundown, crumbling, series of structures not unlike the Waterloo Cattle Congress. Here you could find yourself wandering down parking lot rows you just know you've traversed before, yet seeing new things. Sure, that backup generator switch panel looks like a deal, but do you really want to tug it along for the next two hours? Maybe..if the oldtimer would pay you some mind.

Oversized antennas grace automobiles both new and old. "Hey, nice Roadmaster!" Between the brief cloud bursts and burning sun, you make your way past the open concession grills cooking burgers, in search of some shade. You spot WW2 communication receivers for sale, professionally restored and the asking price is what you gave for your last car. Later on you spot a satisfied customer carrying one. By 11AM you're shot. Good deals. Bad deals. And outright bargains gone in the first 15 minutes. You've beat the crumbling pavement and second guessed that EPROM burner from 20 minutes ago. 3 hours is a good run for two arms and a sore back as you make your way to the grassy lot across the street, testing those rubber wheels. Time for a strawberry shake and a moments touch of air conditioning, for the next stop is a downtown factory building in Dayton; 1st and 3rd floors accessible, only. This could prove to be a long day...

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Joys of Film Conversion

The last time I did a major conversion from actual film to video was (yikes) at least 16 years ago back in the high school days. The film was Super-8 in cartridges with an optical soundtrack, however there was one small caveat. I didn’t have a functioning projector. I had audio, but no shutter sync. The trick was to play the film through a std Super 8 machine to capture the picture, and run it through the broken cartridge unit for audio. Then the two had to be brought together after the fact. Of course the speeds were different and this meant trying to adjust the picture to match the soundtrack using a powerful array of PowerPC towers after the VHS footage was copied to a hard drive. If your film was 20 minutes long (or you had a stack of these short films totaling a couple hours) then that’s exactly how long it would take to copy in and to copy out that footage. And you got to watch the same thing over, and over, and over until you were sick of it.

So this week I decided to convert a 16mm film put out by NCR to a format I could post on Youtube. This was interesting. The film is 17 minutes long. Take 1 was by projecting it on the big screen and using my iPhone on a mini-tripod mount. I wasn’t sure if the iPhone would adapt to shutter roll (a mismatch between frame rate of the projector, and “frame rate” of the camera) or if it would be something I could adjust after the fact. The initial results weren’t bad, but there was definitely a flicker I couldn’t resolve in iMovie.

Take 2 was by projecting onto a small screen and with new software for the iPhone that would let me adjust shutter speed and aperture. Initial setup looked promising but there was a new problem. The film was too bright for the camera, and thus cranking down the aperture actually affected the sample rate (obviously there isn’t a mechanical iris or this wouldn’t be a problem). After trying a few things (including projecting through a window screen), I found that blocking off ¾ of the projection lens would reduce the brightness enough that it wouldn’t overload the sensor. Now we were in business. Roll film!

First things first, I imported this footage into iPhoto in order to copy into iMovie (it wouldn’t go direct). Take 2 was much better than take 1, but again, a slight rolling. What was going on? I had a hunch. Sure enough, the camera had locked in at 25FPS instead of 24. Ugh. Time to get all the equipment back out.

Proceed with take 3. 24FPS, ¾ lens blocked, audio adjusted, image focused. Let it roll. By now I was getting sick of this film and escaped to the downstairs for a few minutes. Things proceeded nicely until I checked on the recording a few minutes later (audio blasting away). With a minute-30 left, the iPhone had stopped recording to tell me it was running out of memory. Argh. Okay, let’s back this film up, delete take 2, and record the final 2 minutes of take 3. I could deal with splicing and framing in post-production. 

Good. No frame roll. Good audio. Time to transfer to the Mac. But what’s this? A manual import into iMovie from the camera results in failure. And an import into iPhoto results in an ‘unrecognized format’. Yes, those crazy .movs! Take 2 worked fine, why not Take 3? How about emailing them? Nope, too big to send as attachments. Let’s try a program I’ve got that lets me access the phone via an IP address in my browser. OK, I see the files, let the copying begin. The 2 minute clips comes over in half an hour. I let the big clip run over night.  
Next day…after work. Ok, the files are on the desktop, let’s review. Hmm, what’s this random static and audio spiking? Excellent, they’re _slightly_ corrupt. On the plus side, they play crystal-clear on the iPhone so I know my source is alright. Looks like they must have dropped a few bits during the transfer. Okay, let’s try Dropbox. I download the latest version for the Mac and install. I pull down my copy from the cloud to the phone and log in (it’s been a couple years). Clip 1 copies over just fine and, good news, a half hour later, I have it on the desktop playing clearly. Clip 2 starts but after a few minutes times out. Alright, I guess I have to set the phone prefs to ‘Never Lock’. Really? Okay, let’s try again. It cranks away for half an hour and….surprise! Upload size exceeded! 

I had already tried manual navigation with the phone plugged in to the USB and came up empty. Now what? And then I remembered…possibly Apple’s best, yet most secret app…Image Capture. I fired that up and BINGO. There were my .mov files listed and with a click-and-drag, they were both on my desktop in seconds. So, after 3 full viewings and several nights of futzing around, I now had the files.  

Thankfully, iMovie was a breeze once I had them in the queue. I was able to compensate for color drift, crop the framing, increase saturation, splice the two clips together, and adjust the audio to minimize projector noise (I didn’t use a patch cable this time around). Down-conversion to a compressed file took around 40 minutes..or so it said. It may not be perfect, but at least it’s out there. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Odds 'n' Ends

Here we are, the end of December, and the hard work is behind us. After the Don visit there’s been some puttering and a lot of ‘one-man’ type work between the odd weekends of mud and rain. With Cara’s assistance I plugged any ‘goofs’ in the steel roof with screws, however we’ll need some dry weather to put the ridge cap on.

Ben stopped out for a couple hours one weekend and we put the last piece of west side metal up, leaving only the north to worry about.

With the assistance of the picker and a free Saturday, I put the final top rows of screws in the east and west ends, put up (and squared) the gable fascia pieces, then set to work on the west side getting the soffits sorted. I spent Sunday cutting and installing all the soffits on the north side, trimming the fascia metal to size, and working on the NW corner transition. By the end of the weekend, I had all the overhead metal work done.

And here it is the weekend of the 20th… With Ben’s assistance we framed out the front overhead doors with plenty of blocking, and got the first sheet up. I worked Sunday PM, continuing the sheetmetal across the front. If I were really playing it by the book, I would have started at the center of the north face and worked east and west to ensure the front was 100% symmetrical, but I’m sure it looks fine the way it is. The only things lacking at this point are a ridge on the roof, one corner to trim out (the supplied metal is scratched), and metal trim around the door openings before the doors and tracks can go in.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Siding Weekend

It was the Friday after Thanksgiving and the forecast called for semi-warm weather, but when I got out of the truck up at the road, it was anything but. The thermometer read 20F but the winds were really whipping and the ground was still ice covered. Ben was having some car trouble at home and I figured I better just call this off. This ended up being a smart move because after the sun came out, I pressed forward with the work I had planned, which turned out to be a one-man job anyhow. This included framing out an opening for the west side service door and installing the frieze channels and 2x4 nailing boards. Lots of fine tuning was required to get these to line up straight and still be within an inch of accepting the rear siding panels (which were pre-cut) while being level with where the soffits would attach. With that, Saturday’s siding plan could commence.

You couldn’t have asked for a better day temp-wise. We hit mid-40’s with a clear sky and warm sun. This was ideal for working on the gable ends of the building, but not so much the south side where the snow-covered roof was melting in the sun and creating a muddy mess below the roof line. That said, with a 9AM start, we put in the first rear sheet to prove out the concept and to set the alignment for the rest of the 45 linear feet. Piece of cake. Then we tackled the gable ends which required cutting each panel top at the correct angle of the roof. After a rudimentary check, the 4:12 roof pitch jibed with basic geometry. A 4 in 12 rise over the width of a 3’ panel meant a 12” slope for each. Using a Malco turbo-shear (which I cannot say enough good things about), we soon got the hang of panel lengths and made quick work of the job. By sundown, we had the bulk of both walls cut, installed, and screwed into place. I spent the evening on the net trying to figure out the best way to trim out the service door, not being satisfied with the ‘standard procedure’ which didn’t seem to address the issue of things like…rain.

And so it was Sunday the 30th that Ben and I had a few minutes before our buddy Don D. would roll up, along with my father, not far behind. We put up the partial pieces of frieze runner and leveled and fastened in the service door. The temps were not as kind as the previous day and we’d spend frequent sessions warming up in the car between jobs, but on the plus side, there was no longer a mud issue and the snow was GONE. Cara joined us around the same time and after some odd jobs, we launched into the rear panel install. The work was swift, with two people staging the panels through the back wall, and three aligning/fastening them down. I’d be surprised if it took more than an hour to finish the whole rear. 

With manpower available, we snapped chalk lines, put in screws, and even cut/installed the final two partial roof sheets using the Malco to get from one end to the other of those 18’ panels. Once again I found myself on the roof, wondering what might break my fall at the bottom. By 1:30 we were done and headed into town to hear the latest Don D. tales.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Garage: Weekend 4

Up to this point, we had a total of 2 weekends invested, digging holes, setting posts, nailing girts and getting the trusses/purlins up, plus random off-weekend work whenever the weather cooperated, which wasn’t much. Add in some help from Ben on the overhang jacks and some bracing, and a 3rd Saturday for some solo-picker time getting the fascia boards on, and we were ready for the next installment.

Highs in the 40’s were forecast for the weekend of the 22nd. Though a major threat of rain/snow was in the cards for Sunday. I took care of a few details Friday after work and we were ready. Around 9AM Saturday everyone convened and we started the steel roof install. The Bosch tools made easy work of installing the (many, many) screws. The steel was dry enough that I could perch myself on the roof and slide/up down to fasten what Ben couldn’t from the ladder. By lunch we had the north slope done and were moving onto the south. The sun came out as we started on the NE end and it took everything I had to keep from sliding off. My efficiency dropped to 50% and my shoes did more scratching of the steel than grabbing. Somehow we finished up right before sundown with roof on the place. Short of a couple end strips, the most difficult job was DONE. We retreated for dinner and drinks and to complain about our aches and pains. Guess we’re not as nimble as we once were!

I took it easy on Sunday, only putting in a couple solo hours to cut/install the rear truss braces while the rain came down. Next would be the steel siding.

The Garage: Weekend 3ish

The weather got cold and the snow got deep, burying any lumber stacked on the ground and making outside work a real bear. The high temps plunged into the teens and any after-work, work, simply couldn’t be done on a daily basis. Add to that a 90 minute window before night fall each day and any work was a scramble. That said, I got the braces cut and installed in the corners, buried a PVC line out for power, and capped the skirt board ends in prep for cement.

The next major event would be putting on the steel roofing. In order for that to happen, the overhangs would have to be installed. There were a couple small things left to do before that and Ben came out to lend a hand. Diagonal purlin braces and supports for the front trusses then meant the external bracing could come down. For once the weather was cooperating.

The crew got a reprieve for weekend three and I worked solo on putting up the 2x6 fascia boards and shimming them into line on both gable ends and along the front and rear. Some purlins had to be trimmed in place to smooth out the fascia, but it wasn’t too bad of work, aside from frequent breaks in the car to keep my fingers and toes intact. When the flurries rolled in mid-afternoon, I hitched up the picker and headed back to the lodge. It was getting dangerously COLD.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Garage: Weekend 2

Day 3:
The threat of cold temps and snow loomed in the forecast for Monday, and we knew we had to make some headway before the white stuff hit the ground. I had taken 2 hours off work Friday afternoon and tried to get ahead on any small work that could be done, which primarily consisted of installing the grade board after finding slab height, then marking the posts for the new header height.

8AM, I got up to the site and measured for the small sections of grade board that would go between the doors. I got those cut as Ben rolled up and we set about installing the headers across the front.

The day’s primary objective was to get the trusses up, and hopefully make some major headway on the purlins. After marking and blocking the east end for the proper truss height, Ben, Cara, myself and the parents lifted one end up onto the captured block, then hoisted the other end up onto the truss. After some adjustments with a BFH, we ran screws and spax through it, committing it into place. In a matter of a few minutes, it was up and fastened. We did the same thing on the west end, then pulled out the string lines to see how straight the end walls were and adjusted as appropriate.

The next truss would be a little harder. This time, there’d be no lateral posts to help keep it in place while lifting. To give it a little stability, I screwed a 20’ long 2x4 to it from the point on down and the girls used this to keep the truss upright while Ben, my dad and I lifted from each end. Again, in just a few minutes it was up, but Ben and I had just about spent ourselves for the day lifting and fighting it and nobody wanted to go through that again. In the interest of working smarter and not harder, we backed the picker into one of the ‘stalls’, removed the header so we could raise and rotate the boom so it was in the center of the building, and decided to use it to do the heavy lifting. The next truss was a breeze, but truss number 5 fought us…and then the rope broke! The very definition of “not good”, it dropped in a controlled way and luckily nobody was in the fall-path.

While the trusses were going up, we began to run lateral braces across the bottom chords to give them some stability as the wind was really whipping. We finished with truss #6 using a heavy duty tow strap which would easily carry the weight. Then maneuvered the picker out and restored the header section. It was early afternoon and the parents’ took off while we finished up additional bracing. Ben and I then put up the second row of headers as a combine and tractor pulling a wagon came blasting in and headed for the field. We worked while they got the combine header on, then started to wrap things up. There was still some evening light but we were exhausted. A little Seafoam action in the DeVille capped off the evening. We were now ready for purlins.

Day 4:
It was 8:30AM on Saturday when I crested the hill with the 40’ extension ladder which had already toppled off the truck once, and spotted Ben turning off the main road. We dragged out the tools and radio, and while the thermometer said high 40’s, the wind and overcast sky made it feel about 10 degrees cooler...that is, until you started working. Sunday would teach us a very good lesson on hard labor. Before anyone else showed up, we attempted to install the overhang jacks on the rear. Things went from bad to worse- the jacks needed trimming to fit right, the east truss wasn’t where it was supposed to be on the rear post, bits were stripping, and the parents arrived along with Cara and they had nothing to do but watch us try to fix the situation.

With geometry corrected, we proceeded to install the purlins. Purlins are 2x4s that run on their edge to support the weight of the steel. They get nailed to the trusses with, get this, 6” long nails! With me scaling the building, and Ben on the extension ladder, we toiled our way across the rear and up to the peak running these 2x4’s, hammering in these spikes with the biggest hammer we could find, and swinging both arms to get them to go in. By lunch we were exhausted, but we had the rear roof section done.

The McDonalds did not hit the spot, and I felt sick to my stomach the rest of the day. By mid-afternoon, my feet were burning, every muscle ached from balancing precariously from the roof structure, and Ben looked like he might drop at any minute. Somehow we persevered, completing all but the top row which would require careful cutting before installation. Installing these isn’t a very good use of people’s time. It’s essentially two people, one at each end of a board, nailing these things in, and a third to pass up tools and materials. That said, I know I appreciated the help.

Before we called it a day, we cut/installed the jacks for the front overhang and pulled down some braces. Victorious, but flattened, we all drove to the Wild Hare in our construction garb to drown our aches and pains in cold beer and boneless wings. A skilled crew would probably have trusses and purlins set in a day if not sooner, but accomplishing it all in a weekend isn’t bad for a ragtag crew like us.