Thursday, January 28, 2010

Understanding Legalism

Nearly every Christian agrees that legalism can refer to works for salvation. When you take the concept of legalism into the workings of the Christian life and apply it to rules and standards, you confuse some and outright offend others. They arise with the question, if being sanctified means having your life conformed to Christ, why would you NOT want rules and standards that enforce just that?

The first answer is that right action is the result of sanctification, and not sanctification itself. Enforcing right action without having the sanctifying grace of God is like being religious without having the justifying grace of God. You've got a lot of works and nothing's really changed about you.

The second answer pertains to our own finite condition. By striving for holiness through these codes and standards, we have made the assumption that what we perceive about ourselves is an accurate depiction of our spiritual state. We may cry, "search me O God," but the "heart is desperately wicked, and who can know it?" It is quite safe to say nearly all Christians fail to see themselves as they are, for if they did, you could not stop the revival that would result.

The following is a quote from H.A. Williams:

"...the opposite of sin can only be faith and never virtue. When I attempt to make myself virtuous, the me that I can thus organize and discipline is no more than the me of which I am aware. And it is precisely the equation of my total self with this one small part of it which is the root cause of all sin. This is the fundamental mistake often made in exhortations to repentance and amendment. They attempt to conform me in my lack of faith by getting me to organize the self I know against the self I do not know. The result is that growth in self-awareness is inhibited. There is a sort of devilish perversity in this organizing me not to sin by means of the very thing which ensures I shall."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sides of 4:3 Fullscreen DVD Movie Cut Off

Last week I began working on creating my first DVD. I found several great free programs to do this:

WinFF - used to convert source videos to MPEG2 (DVD NTSC, HQ preferably)
DVDStyler - use to create DVD menus and combine with videos, then generate the actual DVD
Both are available for Windows and Linux.

You don't have to convert to MPEG2 before importing into DVDStyler, but I HIGHLY suggest it, no matter what DVD authoring program you use.

Everything seemed great until I stuck it in my standalone DVD player connected to my standard def full screen tube/CRT TV. My menu AND videos were cut off at the sides, even the full-screen 4:3 video! The DVD played fine on my computer...

The culprit turns out to be something called "overscan," and it only affects CRT TVs. To correct for it, you have to add padding around your video and menu to push everything into the TVs viewable space. To make matters worse, there is no set amount of overscan that applies to all CRT TVs- some sources say 3-5%. My TV ended up requiring nothing vertically and 10% horizontally.

This is another good reason to use WinFF to convert to MPEG2 before importing. Since WinFF uses ffmpeg, you can specify some ffmpeg switches to add the padding automatically when the MPEG2 video files are generated.

The numbers discussed here would apply to 16:9 widescreen and 4:3 fullscreen video. Here's how to do it:

Consider that you are generating a DVD NTSC compliant MPEG2 file with a video resolution of 720x480. You decide to add 5% vertical padding and 10% horizontal padding. Calculate the padding for each side:
720 x 0.1 = 72 / 2 = 36 pixels on left and right sides
480 x 0.05 = 24 / 2 = 12 pixels on left and right sides

Now calculate the resolution of the video inside the padding:
720 - 72 = 648
480 - 24 = 456

Now you load up WinFF, choose the DVD NTSC HQ preset (fullscreen or widescreen depending on the source video) and add your input files.

Go down to the options and set a resolution of 648x456. The go to the advanced options where you can enter command line parameters and enter the following:
-padtop 12 -padbottom 12 -padleft 36 -padright 36 -padcolor 000000

You can leave off the top and bottom padding for widescreen videos, because these will get letterboxed on CRT TVs, which are all fullscreen. If you do this, adjust your vertical resolution back to 480. You still need left and right padding though.

"Padcolor" is a hex value specifying the color of the padded area. "000000" is black. A tool to generate codes for other colors can be found HERE. (Just make sure to leave off the # symbol.)

(CAVEAT: You must use only EVEN numbers for the resolution and padding sizes. If you use odd numbers, ffmpeg will complain about it not being a multiple of two.)

That takes care of the video. What about your menu? When creating your menu, just make sure that 36 pixels from left and right, and 12 pixels from top and bottom, contain no text or other items you care about. If your DVD authoring program does not automatically draw safe zone lines, consider creating a background that somehow identifies this space.

Ultimately, your DVD authoring program is not designed to correct for overscan. Overscan can only be corrected by modifying your source videos and graphics so that no essential information lies in the overscan area. It may be that the important stuff in your video already stays toward the center of the screen, and you may not need to correct for overscan at all. But for video with text and menus, correcting for overscan is essential.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Book of Eli: Which Bible Version?

There has been some debate over which version of the Bible Eli actually read and carried. I just watched the movie last night, and being a student of the Bible versions issue, I think I can answer.

The first clue we get is when he quotes Psalm 23 to Solara. His quotation is definitely from the old King James Version.
The second clue we get is when Eli and Solara approach Alcatraz island, and he calls out that he has a King James Version of the Bible.
The third clue we get is when Eli begins to recite the entire Bible to the librarian. It sounds like the old King James until the second verse of Genesis 1 when he uses the word "hovered" instead of "moved." This quotation is the New King James Version.
The last clue we get is when the librarian places the finished Bible on the shelf. The binding reads "New King James Version."

The Bible Eli carried was definitely NKJV, not KJV.
If the story were real life, I would account for the contradictory clues by noting that Psalm 23 has been a favorite passage of the church for a long time and is included in many liturgies. As such, the old KJV rendition of it would be more familiar to the memory.
Eli's announcement at Alcatraz that he has a King James Version of the Bible is simple generalization. Unless you have immersed yourself in a study of Bible versions and texts, or happen to be affiliated with the "King James Only" crowd, the NKJV is merely an updated KJV, for all intents and purposes.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Referential Authority

In a chain email I received recently, the claim was made that the urban-legend-debunking website Snopes.com has verified the information in the email. So, I read the article, and it clearly does not. The item was listed as a mix of fact and fiction. The explicit claim being made in the chain email was false, but the basis for the claim was true, even though it did not have the import assigned to it by the email. The person sending the email felt that merely referencing an authority with the claim it supports them was sufficient. It boils down to simply not taking the time to read.
In addition, this authority takes another form, where someone points out that many books/people/etc. have refuted or established an idea, as if that fact alone proves the case. This boils down to simply not examining the issue for yourself.
Most people are unwilling to invest the time to be fair when the way things appear to them already suits their existing outlook. This is just another way of allowing the ends to justify the means.