Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Par-Tay!

Well I am ever so happy to report that LO's first birthday party was, in my opinion, a HUGE success! We had lots of food (too much, as usual!), lots of family and friends, some really yummy cake and an all around good time! Not to mention that I have several pictures commemorating the momentous occasion. Hurray!

Now, on to the not-so-great stuff. I guess there's really only ONE THING that turned out to be a huge headache. Silly me decided, oh, I don't know, like 3 or 4 weeks ago that it would be fun to have a sort of photo slideshow playing on the TV during the party. No music per se, just lots and lots of pics of LO from birth (pre-birth, actually, since I included some ultrasound pics) to birth (no, we didn't end up with any ill-timed photos showing off a bit more of myself than I'd like--thank goodness!) and throughout her first year--including the birthday pictures and family photo we had taken a week before the party. Sounds like a good idea, huh? A nice conversation starter, if you will? Ya, well, lemme tell ya... IT WAS A HUGE PAIN!!!

Really, creating the slideshow was cake. I used my ever-so-wonderful MacBook (it's so pretty!) and a little program called FotoMagico. Luckily, I had lots of experience working with this software as I had just created slideshows for both Mother's Day and Father's Day to be presented at my church. They came out GREAT! I guess I do need to admit here that there was one teeny, tiny little difference between those presos and this one... While they were around 60-70 photos each, LO's birthday video was, oh, I dunno, like 800 photos. ((shameful look)) Tell me, serously, how is a mommy supposed to weed through pictures of her only child and choose the ones NOT to be included in a slideshow dedicated to her? So hard.

Anyway, I'm thinking it'll be easier to share the steps of horror that ultimately led to a successful (thank the Lord!) presentation by listing them below rather than writing an unbelievably long paragraph or two. So here goes:

  1. I did good. I started working on the presentation about 2 weeks before the party. How smart am I? The week before the party I was putting the finishing touches on the video. We're talking 800 photos that I had to manually adjust start/finish, zoom and rotation settings on each one. I'd estimate in all I probably spent at least 3 to 4 hours on this masterpiece.
  2. Now the fun begins. The presentation was too large to compose on my MacBook (down to less than 5GB of free space!), so I had to save it to my external HD, which is formatted like 60-40 Mac-PC (some of you may get that, others may not... just keep reading). So I saved the file and was ready to export it to a DVD that I could sling in my DVD player and call it a day. Keep in mind, this is happening the day before the party, because, really, how hard could it possibly be to export a video onto a DVD? I'm using a Mac after all, so it should happen with my eyes closed!
  3. Not so much. Houston, we have a problem! It seems as though my formerly-faithful FotoMagico has let me down--BIG TIME. See, it runs the export for about 30-40 minutes, then suddenly, on Step 3 of 4, decides to have a FATAL ERROR. In other words, no export for me!
  4. I try it again. And again. And one more time. Fatal error. Fatal error. Fatal error. I send the error log to the folks at Boinx (the people that made FotoMagico--such fun names, right?). Unfortunately our Boinx friends are located in Germany and at the time, it was like 11PM out there. No such hope of technical support for me! I had a secret hope they'd get my email while I was sleeping that night and send me a quick and easy fix the next day. I bet you already know whether or not that happened! Oh, I also tried deleting half the files (for testing purposes) to see if it'd export a smaller (i.e. 400-ish photos) file. No such luck.
  5. So insert Plan B here. We decide to buy a little cable that can connect my MacBook to the TV and just run it from there. We stop at Best Buy after dinner and pick up a Dynex Mini DVI-to-Video Adapter (NOTE: I didn't say "APPLE" Mini DVI-to-Video Adapter). We get it home. I hook it up with an S-video cable directly from my TV to my MacBook. The result? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Are you kidding me? It's supposed to "just work." Why is it not working. I'll fast-forward a bit on this one, but let's just say hubs and I tested and tried 2 different S-video cables, 1 set of composite cables, 2 different TVs, and basically had the same result. The amount of time this fast-forward eliminates from my post? Quite literally about 4 hours. That's how long hubs and I spent trying to get that durn adapter to work. Oh, and the best party? After about 2 hours of struggling, I looked up the reviews for the item on Best Buy's website. Out of 4 reviews, only 1 person said they were able to get the adapter to work. Everyone else said theirs didn't work, they tried a different one from the store, and it didn't work, either. Great, so my daughter's first birthday comes down to the fact that these "Dynex" people make stuff but don't bother to make sure it actually works before manufacturing 80 billion of them. Geniuses. (Side Note: I called Dynex since they had 24 hour support. Miss I-Barely-Speak-English-And-Can't-Pronounce-My-Own-Name's response to my issue? "Oh, it sound like you do all de troubleshooting I can have available to me to tell to you. I give you case number for if you need to call back with problem again later?" Riiiiiiight. Gee, thanks.
  6. Around this time I speak with my bestest Mac guru/guide/genius who also happens to be one of my best friends and mentors on the planet. He is such a dear and makes some phone calls for me to his other Mac friends to see if one of them happens to have an APPLE Mini-DVI to Video Adapter. I find out the next morning that he does have a friend with one and is able to get it to me as a back-up. Thank you @tgodby and @NewMacUser!!!!!
  7. Okay, so back to the story, it's 11:30 PM, and hubs has this brilliant idea (hey, it happens every now and then!). Why not split my ginormous slideshow into smaller, individual ones? Maybe then FotoMagico would be able to export them to the DVD? Hmmm... I would THINK that would work. Okay. So I create a new test file using 100 images. IT WORKS! And it only took about 25-30 minutes! Yippee! Only 7 more files to go! I stayed up 'til almost 1:00 AM exporting these smaller individual files. I then finished the rest of them the next morning.
  8. Okay, so let's just say I finally have all 7 or 8 individual files I was able to export. Now to burn my DVD. But can iDVD do what I'm wanting it to do? I must check with my bestest Mac guru/guide/genius who also happens to be one of my best friends and mentors on the planet yet again. (Note: He's been on vacation for the week or two prior to this and happened to only be in town ONE DAY -- the day I needed him the most! And he SO came through for me!). So I ask my question. His response is as I expected. "Well, no, iDVD won't be able to do that, but what will work is pulling the files into iMovie and exporting them as a single file to iDVD." (He ALWAYS has a solution for everything!). Okay. So now I've just got to pull the files into iMovie.
  9. PROBLEM #12,647: I ran out of space on my external HD! The partition formatted for Mac was full! D'oh! Could anything else possibly go wrong?! I called my buddy again and he's offered to lend me a 1 Terabyte (yes, a Terabyte) external HD. We're golden!
  10. While I wait patiently for hubs to return the original crappy cable to Best Buy, stop by my mom's to pick up a table we needed for the party, then stop by the church to get the external HD and APPLE adapter from Tim, I decided to keep looking for solutions. I decided maybe I could move some of my external HD files to my useless PC that is basically empty since I don't use it for anything anymore. If I could move those files over, I could free up the space I needed on my external HD! I powered up my ol' faithful Windows PC for the first time in about 2 months or so. And what to my wondering eyes should appear? An error message stating, "DISK BOOT FAILURE, INSERT SYSTEM DISK AND PRESS ENTER." Seriously!? Oh, ya. I couldn't make this stuff up.
  11. I then got the bright idea to move some of the files from my Mac partition to the PC partition on my external HD, freeing up enough space to accomplish what I needed to. This worked, although I'm still not sure if I somehow corrupted my lovely Mac files by putting them in a PC environment ((fingers crossed)). It only took about an hour to move the files (lots of videos of LO--they were HUGE).
  12. Whew! I've gone ahead and moved the files and can now try to export that durn slideshow file to iDVD. I call my Mac buddy for the trillionth time in 12 minutes to verify the export file settings so I wouldn't end up doing this more than once. Long story short, it would literally be about 2 hours to complete this process. Yes. And how much time before the party starts, you're wondering? Oh, about an hour and a half. Suddenly exporting to a DVD looks less and less feasible. That APPLE mini-DVI adapter was becoming less of a back-up plan and more of THE plan.
  13. Hubs finally arrives. I tell him exporting to a DVD is not gonna happen, and that all of our ducks are in a basket (??) with the hope that the APPLE adapter works. I plug in the S-video cable to the TV. I plug in the other end to the APPLE adapter. I plug in the APPLE adapter to my MacBook. I look at my TV. WHAT A GLORIOUS SIGHT!!! It's my MacBook desktop, broadcasting on my lovely TV! I cried tears of joy (literally) and launched my FotoMagico presentation. It. Looked. Beautiful. In addition, it worked like a charm! Literally plugged in the APPLE adapter and was DONE! That was it!!!!
  14. Insert HUGE sigh of relief here. I launched iTunes and selected a lovely playlist that was broadcast to my surround sound stereo via my APPLE AirPort Express, and was FINALLY able to get back to all of the little details of getting ready for my baby's first birthday party. Hallelujah!
Okay, so I guess this post doesn't actually include photos of the party or really, any details pertaining specifically to the party. But this story had to be told. And to satisfy those of you who were expecting to see some pics, here's one that's very near and dear to my heart:
Yes, friends, this is the Apple Mini-DVI to Video Adapter that saved my baby's 1st birthday party. Moral of the story? ALWAYS buy certified genuine APPLE accessories for your Mac. Just think of the trouble and time this would've saved us had we owned this little gem before LO's party.

Oh, and I've got another post in the works about the actual party, including actual party pictures!! So stay tuned! :)