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Dell U3415W · 34", 21:9, 3440x1440. Which is to say, pret­ty big and pret­ty sharp. Full name: Dell Ul­traSharp 34 Curved Mon­i­tor. It’s curved. I like it a lot ...
 
Gear VR Video Software · Here’s a lit­tle look be­hind the scenes on the Sam­sung “Gear VR” launch; you might want to start with the nice En­gad­get write-up. A lot of their de­mos are videos you can look around in, which (it turns out) in­volves soft­ware from Im­mer­sive Me­dia, a com­pa­ny I’ve been talk­ing to; they’re head­quar­tered in Western Cana­da near me. It turns out they have an API and you can have 3-D video in your app­s, with or with­out the Sam­sung head­set ...
 
Retina in Practice · My new 15" MacBook has a “Retina” screen, which I la­beled a good “solution to a #firstworldproblem”. Now that I’ve had the Retina-vs-not dif­fer­ence shoved in my face, I re­al­ize it’s more dra­mat­ic than you might think ...
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Hating iMovie · I took a movie of my son read­ing a sto­ry he’d writ­ten, as part of a mul­ti­me­dia pre­sen­ta­tion for school. I shot it with my Pen­tax K-5 and the 50-135 F2.8, by can­dle­light (y­ou can do things with mod­ern SLRs that Kubrick had to have lens­es custom-built for at huge ex­pense). Wel­l, and “by candlelight” I mean twen­ty or so tea-lights. When I pulled the AVIs in­to iMovie, the qual­i­ty was rav­ish­ing, the fire­light flick­er­ing on his creamy 12-year-old skin. When I ex­port­ed the fin­ished pro­duc­t, no mat­ter how many times I twid­dled the Quick­Time and oth­er ex­port set­tings, it looked rather pret­ty, but omit­ted all the sub­tle­ty of tone and thus most of the beau­ty in what the cam­era had cap­tured. So I went search­ing around the Net and yep, ev­ery­one agrees that iMovie ex­port qual­i­ty is the shitz. I guess it’s Fi­nal Cut Ex­press and its thousand-page man­u­al (y­ou think I jest?) for any fu­ture video pro­ject­s.
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Remote Harmony · We fi­nal­ly got a uni­ver­sal re­mote for the video set­up at home. We’re not ear­ly adopters and this is a pret­ty main­stream cat­e­go­ry, so quite like­ly you know all about it. In case you don’t, just want­ed to say that Log­itech Har­mo­ny 650 is a super-nice prod­uct and works re­al­ly well for us ...
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Publishing Video in 2010 · My nifty new Canon S90 shoots rea­son­able video, and it comes to mind that I’d like to video-blog from Google I/O next week. So I em­barked on an HTML5 video ad­ven­ture, and am here to tell the tale ...
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The Infancy of Mobile Video · I was hav­ing lunch with An­dre and Bri­an from Ni­to­bi, who work on PhoneGap (a re­al­ly nice piece of tech­nol­o­gy) and we found our­selves laugh­ing over our phone fea­ture crav­ings ...
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Getting Lost Outside America · What hap­pened was, we got in­to the habit of watch­ing episod­ic TV; Fire­fly, Bat­tlestar Galac­ti­ca, and so on. Both Lau­ren and I tend to work in the evenings, but a 40-minute video seg­ment makes a pleas­ant break. The prob­lem was, we got go­ing on Lost with­out re­al­iz­ing it wasn’t done yet. Thus, we are faced with the dis­mal prospec­t, start­ing next mon­th, of watch­ing TV on TV; that is, when­ev­er some net­work sched­uler thinks we should, and with ad­s. Which is clear­ly un­rea­son­able in 2010. Solv­ing this prob­lem is pret­ty easy for Amer­i­cans but hard­er for the rest of the world ...
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Cupcake · Which is to say, An­droid 1.5. I up­dat­ed my G1 dev phone to­day, and hey, it’s pret­ty cool. Tons of lit­tle changes all over and an on-screen key­board. Plus, now I’m a re­al­ly bad videog­ra­pher! ...
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Video? I Doubt It · Canon’s much-ballyhooed but not uni­ver­sal­ly wel­comed 5D Mark II al­so (and this is a new thing for SLRs) op­er­ates as a high-def video­cam. There are two videos linked from The On­line Pho­tog­ra­pher and they are mind-bogglingly, jaw-droppingly beau­ti­ful. But it won’t work for you. The pic­tures you take with this cam­era will al­most cer­tain­ly look great with lit­tle ef­fort, while your videos will re­quire huge ef­fort and prob­a­bly still end up lousy.
[Up­date: The com­ments, af­ter on­ly a few hours, are out­stand­ing, full of eru­di­tion and com­mon sense. Check ’em out­.]
[Al­so: See Tim O’Brien’s two-parter in re­spon­se: Get­ting Start­ed with Video and Part 2: Steady Shoot­ing.]
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Video Pain · We’ve had a HD video­cam since 2006, and have been build­ing up a back­log of un­pro­cessed video, since the stuff is so huge and slow to pro­cess. This is one of the rea­sons I re­cent­ly bought a Mac Pro. Things are bet­ter, but the sto­ry doesn’t have a hap­py end­ing yet ...
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Compact Camera Talk · Last month at the Moose Camp, I gave a short talk on high-end com­pact cam­eras. I whipped it up in a few min­utes, made a links page, and the whole thing was well un­der ten min­utes. It was fun. It turns out that Bruce Sharpe was in the au­di­ence with a video cam­er­a, and he pol­ished up and pub­lished it un­der the ti­tle North­ern Voice 2008: Best Com­pact Cam­eras. The qual­i­ty is re­mark­able, par­tic­u­lar­ly when you con­sid­er that the whole ex­er­cise cost Bruce ap­prox­i­mate­ly noth­ing. If any­one read­ing this is in­ter­est­ed in a point-&-shoot with pre­ten­sion­s, they might find it use­ful. But here’s what’s in­ter­est­ing: in a world in­fest­ed with videoblog­ger­s, any pub­lic ut­ter­ance, no mat­ter how off-the-cuff, is, po­ten­tial­ly, an au­dio­vi­su­al pub­li­ca­tion. A per­ma­nent one.
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TV and the LazyWeb · I have a prob­lem: I want a new HDTV, I have very spe­cif­ic re­quire­ments, and I’m not which mod­els match, or even how best to find that out. There’s al­ways the LazyWe­b, and it’s show­ing new signs of life, in the form of Dave Sifry’s Hoos­got. Let’s see if it can help me find the right TV ...
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Apple Hates Grandmothers · Ac­tu­al­ly, I’m be­ing un­fair. Maybe it’s just the Quick­Time team who hates them. Al­ter­na­tive­ly, it’s plau­si­bly some­one in the Win­dows team at Mi­crosoft. Just pos­si­bly it’s some­one at Sony. And in fact this frag­ment is on­ly vague­ly about grand­moth­er­s, it’s about the fail­ures of con­sumer video tech­nol­o­gy. But it is the grand­moth­ers who are be­ing hurt ...
 
Getting From HD to the Screen · As of mid-2006, iMovie HD doesn’t ex­port HD video to Quick­Time in a us­able for­m; it comes out in 4:3 rather than 16:9, the dis­play is marred by scan lines, and even at a mod­est width (say 800) reasonably-powerful com­put­ers can’t ren­der it smooth­ly. Here’s the recipe for fix­ing the prob­lem. [Up­date: For­got the ac­knowl­edg­ments! Thanks for good ad­vice to Jef­frey Cz­er­ni­ak, Mike Cur­tis, Tony Coates, and Charles Wit­gen.] [Up­date: Mike Cur­tis has sug­gest­ed a sub­stan­tial im­prove­men­t, and it work­s.] ...
 
Making Web Video · Yes­ter­day I re­port­ed on shoot­ing high-def video with the new Sony HDR-HC1, and the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of try­ing to gen­er­ate computer-display out­put. When last I wrote, my Pow­erBook couldn’t man­age to play the 800x450 MPEG-4 en­cod­ed Quick­Times un­less they were en­cod­ed at “Medium” qual­i­ty. Wel­l, I’ve al­so got this Ul­tra 20 with a 2.66GHz Opteron and an NVIDIA Quadro FX 1400 (!) so I fired up the Nex­en­ta α4 pack­age man­ag­er and picked up mplay­er. Bug: Mplay­er wouldn’t play the .mov files from the GUI; must re­port. Any­how, that com­bo eats those Quick­Times for break­fast, I even made a High-quality 435M 1920x1080 ver­sion and they all ran with­out a hitch or a glitch. The fan fired up, so I guess things were work­ing kind of hard. But stil­l, something’s not quite right. When the picture’s mov­ing I can see scan lines and pix­e­la­tion, but I want that creamy smooth­ness that iMovie man­ages, and that I see in on­line movie trail­er­s. So... Dear LazyWe­b: Can iMovie be made to morph high-def DV files in­to some­thing re­al­ly good-looking? For en­coder­s, it of­fer­s: Ap­ple en­coders in­clud­ing H.263, a bunch of DVCPRO vari­ants, H.261/263/264, Mo­tion JPEG A and B, and Soren­son Video. Or maybe I need to junk iMovie and get some­thing else? [Up­date: Lots of in­put! Sev­er­al peo­ple say “De-interlace!” and I have a point­er from Mike Cur­tis to his useful-looking HD for Indies. Stand by for more when I get a cou­ple hours free.]
 
You Too Can Shoot High-Def · What hap­pened was, we’ve had an HDTV for a while now, and the de­cent old Canon cam­corder wasn’t cut­ting it, and we’ve got a ter­rif­ic video op­por­tu­ni­ty com­ing up. So I end­ed up buy­ing a Sony HDR-HC1, which records 1080i High-Def. This was a non-obvious choice for a cou­ple of rea­son­s, and it turns out that home-HDTV is still a pret­ty bleeding-edge tech­nol­o­gy. Here­with the nar­ra­tive, with some pic­tures but no video sam­ples ...
 
Velodyne MiniVee · A year ago last fal­l, we got a plas­ma TV for high-def; 90% of the time it’s on, it’s tuned to a sports even­t. So sound qual­i­ty, even for a con­firmed au­dio wee­nie like me, just wasn’t a big deal, and I plugged in a pair of ex­cel­lent lit­tle PSB Al­pha speak­er­s, $299 or so if I re­call cor­rect­ly, and they were plen­ty good enough. The on­ly prob­lem was, where the TV’s sit­ting there’s hard­ly any room to spare ei­ther side of the screen, and the PSBs stuck out in an ug­ly and awk­ward way. So I dropped by the Box­ing Day sale at Sound Plus, my friend­ly lo­cal high-end sa­lon, and picked up a cou­ple of de­cent lit­tle KEF mini-speakers that fit in be­side the screen and sound per­fect­ly de­cent if you don’t ask them to play any low notes, which I left to a MiniVee sub­woofer from Velo­dyne and I have to say, it’s a hon­ey. Rather than us­ing the spe­cial­ized sub­woofer feed, I ran the preamp-out line-level sig­nals from the nice old NAD in­te­grat­ed amp through the Velo­dyne and back to the power-in, which has the use­ful side-effect of rolling off the sig­nal at 80Hz, so the lit­tle KEFs don’t have to waste en­er­gy try­ing to go where they can’t. The Velo­dyne has a clever cir­cuit where it pow­ers down and wakes up when it sees an in­put sig­nal. It sounds good; not close to the Totem Forests on the big music-only sys­tem; but for the price, re­mark­able. I’m sit­ting here typ­ing this lis­ten­ing to the Am­bi­ent chan­nel from Galax­ie (that’d be chan­nel 904 if you’re on the Star Choice satel­lite), and while ad­mit­ted­ly it’s brain goo not mu­sic, it’s very silky-sounding goo that’s al­so giv­ing me a friend­ly kid­ney mas­sage on the low notes.
 
Mac + HDTV · We have an HDTV, not a great one, a ba­sic Autumn-2004 Hi­tachi 42", works great for watch­ing high-def sport­s, al­though plain old (non-high-def) TV still looks lousy. Ever since I’ve got it, I’ve want­ed to plug it in­to my lap­top, but nev­er could get the video driv­er to do much more than park a fuzzy 640×480 postage stamp in the mid­dle of the 16×9. We’ve got fam­i­ly vis­it­ing for Christ­mas, and I re­al­ly, re­al­ly want­ed to have a slide show, like we used to in the old days with the pro­jec­tor and the rick­ety roll-up screen and ev­ery­one sit­ting around crack­ing jokes about the pic­tures. I have a new 15" October-2005-vintage Pow­erBook, so I sal­lied forth in­to the breach and gave switchResX an­oth­er try and it worked this time! It doesn’t have the world’s most in­tu­itive UI, and I for­get the ex­act tin­ker­ing se­quence that got me there, but now the Mac sees the the HDTV as an 848x480 out­board screen which isn’t ex­act­ly 16×9, but there’s no vis­i­ble stretch­ing. That res­o­lu­tion isn’t great, but is OK for look­ing at pic­tures. One more trick was re­quired to get the slide-show work­ing: use the “Arrange” tab on the Dis­plays pref­er­ences to make the out­board HDTV in­to the pri­ma­ry dis­play by drag­ging the menu-bar on­to it. Then I sus­pect that any of OS X’s slide-show op­tions (iPho­to, Fin­der, Graph­ic Con­vert­er) will work; I’m us­ing Graph­ic Con­vert­er. Tonight, the fam­i­ly will be gath­er­ing around the big screen to look at 124 pic­tures telling the sto­ry of the year. Seems to me that if you want your com­put­er to serve as a “home me­dia center” or what­ev­er the mar­ket­ing buz­zword is, driv­ing the HDTV is a pret­ty ba­sic re­quire­men­t, so Ap­ple needs to ei­ther hire the switchResX folks or repli­cate the func­tion­al­i­ty. Let me know how Win­dows & Lin­ux do in this de­part­ment and I’ll post a point­er.
 
On Consumer Video · I think the cam­corder ven­dors are about to make a lot of mon­ey. First, there’s the ad­vent of af­ford­able con­sumer HD. Ob­vi­ous­ly, the con­sumer prod­uct has all sorts of prob­lem­s, most no­tably the lack of high-def play­er­s. But if you care about what you’re shoot­ing, this is the first-ever archival-quality op­tion, and that mat­ter­s. The re­al rea­son is that, in­creas­ing­ly, there are a lot of people—I’m one—with a wide-screen TV and a cam­corder that can’t fill it. The ba­sic val­ue proposition—take movies that look good on your TV—ain’t there. At one lev­el, it would be re­al­ly tough to up­grade to 16:9 and not go all the way to HD. But that cam­era Pogue wrote up (It’s called the “HDR-HC1”, but Sony’s site, gimme a break, I am not so fool­ish as to link to URIs be­gin­ning sonystyle.com/is-bin/INTERSHOP.enfinity/eCS/Store/en/-/USD in the hope that they’ll last); any­how, that cam­er­a, you’re pay­ing a whole bunch and there are is­sues. It’s go­ing to be in­ter­est­ing times.
 
Java One Day One: Blu-Ray · So what hap­pens is, Sun saves up all its good news for months & month­s, and crams most of it in­to an open­ing two-hour bar­rage at Ja­va One. It’s pret­ty im­pres­sive, and so are the audio-visuals, with open­ing high-intensity cy­ber­elec­tro­mood­jazz from a band whose name I can’t find but fea­tur­ing Paul Horn. Any­how, news: BigIBMDeal, GlassFish, Real­lyFastWork­sta­tion, NewJavaNames, and there’s more. The one that I hadn’t known about and was a re­al sur­prise was the news that Blu-Ray play­ers are go­ing to come Java-enabled. This is sur­pris­ing, but ob­vi­ous when you think about it; along with your HD movie you can put a few class­files on the disk to do menus and up­dates and special-effects and, well, just about any­thing. For those who don’t know, there’s this fe­ro­cious multi-year bat­tle that’s been go­ing on for years be­tween two ri­val camps who want to pro­duce the next-gen DVD: Blu-ray and HD-DVD. It has noth­ing much to do with tech­nol­o­gy, it has to do with col­lect­ing per-disk patent roy­al­ties like the ones Phillips gets for ev­ery CD. The Ja­va move might be sig­nif­i­cant in this big com­pli­cat­ed chess game.
 
Geophony · I’m gin­ger­ly ex­plor­ing video... this week­end I added a Sony ECM-MS908C mi­cro­phone to my Canon DV cam­er­a. Here­with a re­port and thoughts on which way the me­dia are go­ing. Warn­ing: con­tains a 54-second 8-meg Quick­time rock video (but I did fig­ure out how to keep the video from auto-starting) ...
 
On TV · Last Sun­day, the whole fam­i­ly was over at Peter & Kim’s place to hang out, drink some left­over New Year’s Cham­pagne (Mumm’s yum­m), play with the new pup­py, but most­ly to watch TV. Be­cause we don’t have any (well, a de­cent lit­tle Toshi­ba for watch­ing DVDs) but P&K have a satel­lite dish and a high-end Run­co pro­jec­tor and 5+1 sound and gen­er­al­ly the whole tick­et. Wel­l, some of you may not have seen live sports on a good HDTV satel­lite feed with the 16:9 as­pect ra­tio and so on: Trust me, it’s an en­tire­ly new art for­m. Saw the KC/Indy game; The con­ven­tion­al anal­y­sis was that the KC de­fense col­lapsed, but I’d say it was sim­pler than that, the Indy of­fen­sive line shut down the pass rush and since Man­ning was on, that was all she wrote; but with that kind of pass pro­tec­tion I could have thrown some of those tight-end-slant com­ple­tion­s. Then Peter ex­er­cised the au­dio with choice cuts from the Con­cert for Ge­orge DVD; nice to see Ro­ry Gal­lagher lay­ing down some chops and if you didn’t shed a tear or two when Paul opened up Some­thing in the Way She Moves on ukelele well you need to get in touch with your feel­ings or what­ev­er. Any­how, the to­tal­ly bizarro part of the event was IBM’s weird Lin­ux ads fea­tur­ing this ug­ly blond kid who makes me think of the Real­ly Bad char­ac­ter in a Stephen King piece. Nar­ra­tive by Hen­ry Louis Gates and Kurt Von­negut and so on is pret­ty classy, but I’d still like the pen­guin back. Plus the ads on the IBM Web site—even the Quick­time versions—won’t play on my Mac, which is lame. What with the HDTV and DLP and so on, we’ve been think­ing about a satel­lite dish and big­ger screen; and while the foot­ball and the con­cert were great, watch­ing the com­mer­cials re­mind­ed me why we haven’t had TV all these years. Giv­en the com­pe­ti­tion, the weird blond kid was a high­light. Maybe that’s the point.
 
Telephony R.I.P.? · I have an iSight and a nice new Mac lap­top. I al­so have a beat-up old Mac and a de­cent Canon video­cam that I don’t use that much, not hav­ing (yet) de­vel­oped videographer’s re­flex­es. Any­how, the Canon has firewire out­put, so I plugged that in­to the old Mac and what do you know, it works just fine with iChat AV. So we put the old Mac and the Canon with a lit­tle tri­pod on a desk in a qui­et but wired area up­stairs and it’s a free video­phone to any­where in the world. Res­tat­ing for em­pha­sis: when­ev­er I’m any­where in the world and have an In­ter­net con­nec­tion, I can have a free video­phone call home, that goes on as long as I need to and nobody’s count­ing min­utes or run­ning up a phone bil­l. Let’s see; free tele­phone with video, or pay-for-it tele­phone with no pic­ture. Cost­ly and voice-only, or free with a pic­ture. I think this is what an in­flex­ion point smells like.
 
DVD Player Stupidity · Like most peo­ple, we have a DVD play­er, we climbed on board the band­wag­on some­time in 2002. Un­like many who live in North Amer­i­ca, we have strong fam­i­ly ties to Ger­many and to Aus­trali­a, and have ac­quired DVDs from both places. Of course, we couldn't play them on the Sony DVD play­er be­cause the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try puts "region codes" on DVDs, di­vid­ing the world in­to six movie-viewing is­land­s. I am not go­ing to dig­ni­fy this id­io­cy by re­lay­ing their ra­tio­nale; re­al­ly just an­oth­er symp­tom of the brain dis­or­der af­fect­ing the in­dus­try that caus­es them to view their cus­tomers pri­mar­i­ly as thieves and abuser­s ...
 
Burning Gigabytes · The first thing you need to know about Video is that it's the Great Mother of All Disk-space Eaters (writ­ing this makes me won­der how many oth­er Mid­dle Eastern dic­ta­tors have in­tro­duced a phrase in­to English?). A 10-minute movie will cost you 2.5G or so ...
 
Video · I got a nice Canon video­cam for an ad­vance Christ­mas pre­sen­t. Works fine, the 85-page man­u­al is kind of in­tim­i­dat­ing but like most good mod­ern per­son­al gad­get­s, it has a mode where you point and shoot and it does the right thing ...
 
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