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.
What happened was, I took lots of high-def video of my adorable soft pink new daughter with my adorable hard black new Sony. Then I used iMovie HD to make a 4'38" assemblage of heart-grabbing scenes: her brother meets her for the first time, she has her first bath, she squirms angelically in a rumple of baby bedding, Lauren and a friend rock two newborns side-by-side in the porch swing, outro of sleeping cherub in swaying bassinet in the dappled dusk.
I dunno about iMovie, on the one hand it makes me feel like an idiot, but on the other hand, when it comes to video, I am. One thing though; a 1.67GHz PowerBook just doesn’t have the raw horsepower, HD video eats gigabytes for breakfast and wants a second breakfast. Nonetheless, I wrestled it to the ground and while my attempts to pay homage to Tarkovsky may not have entirely succeeded, it’s got lots of ravishing high-definition pink baby flesh.
So I thought her grandmothers might like to see this (we couldn’t invite them down because we foolishly scheduled home renovations in parallel with the arrival). The trouble is, one of the grandmothers has a Windows box and a dial-up connection.
You may recall that earlier, I worked out a process for turning 1080i high-def video into QuickTime files that almost anyone can use. Unfortunately, I couldn’t combine this with modern H.264 compression to achieve sane file sizes.
Recently, I got a note from Jussi Hagman, who wondered why I just didn’t use QuickTime’s H.264 compressor to make my movies smaller. “Because it doesn’t de-interlace” I thought, but then I noticed that actually, it does, there’s a well-hidden button on the screen-size-selector screen. (Why there? And why doesn’t the stupid fucking thing just notice that the stupid fucking signal is interlaced and just fucking fix it?)
So I dropped all the intermediate steps and told iMovie’s Export dialog (oops, it doesn’t have an Export dialog, it’s called “Share”, awww, isn’t that so much warmer?), which is actually just QuickTime, to use H.264 and de-interlace and squeeze the sound at a level appropriate for anything less than audiophile-quality music. Bonus: It runs as fast as molasses, which is way better than the glacier-like pace of my previous approach, and my Java One movies came out at like 5M instead of 100M apiece. Thanks, Jussi!
So, the baby movie at 400x225 made a 48M file, which is still not dialup-friendly, but hey, I can drop a CD in the mail, right?
Windows + QuickTime Hates Grandmothers · I can view that baby movie in QuickTime or VLC on the Mac, and sometimes in QuickTime 7.1 on Windows. I tried it on Lauren’s current Toshiba laptop under XP (no), a 2002-vintage Athlon Win2K white-box (yes), a 2004-vintage Thinkpad running XP (yes), and a 2005-vintage Athlon WinXP white-box (no). Spot the pattern? Me neither.
I don’t have any Linux or Solaris boxes with actual screens attached around the house, so I asked Mark Pilgrim if he’d point his spankin’ new Ubuntu box at the video and tell me what he saw. Strangely, his comments failed to note my homage to Tarkovsky. He discussed illegal codecs from the Penguin Liberation Front, sucking donkey balls, and gouging my eyes out with sharp objects. Bottom line: mplayer is good, otherwise if you’re a Linux-lovin’ grandma who wants to savor that glow of baby flesh, you need to join the Penguin Liberators.
You know, in the interest of making grandmothers happy I’m OK with forgoing free file formats, I just want QuickTime on the Mac to write files that QuickTime on Windows can read. But someone out there hates grandmothers too much.