Monday, May 10, 2010

Homework for Family or How I Spent Mother's Day

Mother's are familiar with this drill. Child comes home with complicated project requiring Mom to pitch in--but over Mother's Day Weekend? Needless to say, nameless high school Public Speaking teacher received her share of "curses" this weekend as I spent my Mother's day either without my only child's company or in front of the computer trying to find the right computer program to meet the teacher's very specific demands.

On Friday, my daughter's class was told that they had to have an "instructional" speech ready to for Tuesday. This speech had to be about 7 minutes and on an activity the class wouldn't necessarily know how to do. This speech had to be taped and either downloaded to a DVD (not a CD) or on a device that could be hooked up to the TV (e.g. a camcorder).

Well here's the deal--our camcorder died in 2006 and given the advancement of digital cameras and their ability to provide video, we never replaced it. And burning DVD's? Well, we really didn't have the software.

I know, Windows Movie Maker can now burn DVDs--I found that out after a call to a teenager two years older than mine. However, my Kodak Camera takes .mov video (Apple's Quicktime program) and Windows Movie Maker only accepts .avi. That was the first issue.

The second issue was my daughter's choice of subject: How to make a cannoli. For those who might not recognize the name, a cannoli is an Italian pastry stuffed with a sweet cream/cheese concoction. Problem: she's never made them before and neither have I. And, as we found out, cannolis are NOT easy to make. The stuffing may be a breeze but the pastry--NOT.

But being a teenager, neither problem dissuaded my daughter.

Saturday I had a college alumni event to go to--one I'd been looking forward to. Thankfully, my husband agreed to step in and take her for the ingredients. $60 in supplies after three hours of shopping later (warning: you need special rods to form the pastry which you can only find at a specialty kitchen store. Imagine my husband trying to figure out where to go for that little tool!)

The filming began and took the rest of the day. At six o'clock I returned home to a kitchen mess, an exhausted husband and child, and a batch of delicious looking cannolis. I viewed the thirteen videos that captured six hours of cooking (yes, six hours as there's a lot of steps and waiting for things to cook and cool down in making this delicacy) and as an admittedly biased parent I must say she did a great job. It was like watching a Food Network episode from the way she organized the kitchen and ingredients to the demonstrations.
But now my work began. How to get these .mov videos into .avi format. In my family, I am the most computer savvy--which shows you just how bad off we are here. I apparently needed a special codec (whatever that is) for Windows Movie Maker to accept the videos if I couldn't convert them to .avi. I'll spare you the trials and tribulations that had me searching the Windows web site (they no longer support codec paks for this transfer), the web (based on the postings, this is a common problem with few solutions offered), web downloads (most are just "fronts" for other products and/or their downloads don't work or look fishy).

After spending most of Saturday night and Sunday, after we got back from brunch, (having forgone our traditional trip to a special outdoor garden so she/we could work on this) I finally I thought I found an answer--someone posted that upgrading to Quicktime Pro would allow you to convert the files. So I paid the $29.95 ($32.05 with tax) and upgraded.

But, the "save as" button didn't allow me to change the file type. Now nearing 4 p.m. on Sunday, my daughter was ready to give up and take a 20 point demerit on her presentation deciding to just burn it on a CD and be done with it. I persisted looking on the web despite her pleas to stop. There on Youtube I found a video that explained in simple terms what I had to do to convert .mov to .avi using Quicktime Pro. (I could have kissed the guy!) You have to hit the export button and then you can convert it. Who knew? Within a short period of time, she was in front of Windows Movie Maker splicing her videos together. She burned the DVD and tested it on our DVD player and it worked! By six o'clock Sunday we were both dancing around the room and high-fiving.

Not exactly what I had planned for Mother's Day but it was definitely spent doing a motherly activity. :) Now let's hope we get an A. :)