· · Video
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 ... [5 comments]
· 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. [4 comments]
· 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 ... [5 comments]
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 ... [12 comments]
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 ... [33 comments]
· 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! ... [2 comments]
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.] ... [31 comments]
· 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 ... [8 comments]
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. [2 comments]
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 ... [15 comments]
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 ...
· 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.
· 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) ...
· 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.
· 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 ...
· 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 ...
· 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 ...
By Tim Bray.
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