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Booyeah, my latest iPhone app is approved for sale!

Standing three rows back at the Mummers Parade? Can't see a goldarn thing?

Fire up seeoverme on your iPhone and the iPhone of a friend. Your friend clicks "Send Video" and holds up his phone. You click "Receive Video" and bam, you can see over the crowd. (I almost named it "Periscope," but that's trademarked. I was also tempted to name it "Busybody," but not everyone knows Ben Franklin...)

No 3G, no wifi, no problem: seeoverme uses Bluetooth. The range is "only" 30 feet, but it's great for its intended purpose, and it doesn't affect your 3G bandwidth limit or have any trouble at all in that phone service-proof school auditorium.

99 cents in the app store.

Looking forward to hearing about other creative uses for short-range Bluetooth video!

Find it on the app store
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I installed the new Google Videochat on my Mac today, or rather I tried to.

When you click install you are directed to a page that says the installer will work automagically, which it doesn't of course. It opens (behind your browser window, at least in Firefox) as a mounted disk image and you have to launch the installer manually. No big, but misleading.

Once you do run the installer, close all your browsers as ordered, etc., it restarts your browser and brings you to chat... and if you're me, on my black macbook running Leopard, you get no video love. Not in Safari, and not in Firefox.

Back to the Google Videochat page to find the support and problem-reporting links that must be there... oops, there don't seem to be any.

My boss had the same experience.

What's the story? Has anyone made this work, on Mac or PC?

(Yes, Google Videochat claims to support video on Macs and yes, this Mac comes with both a cam and a microphone as standard equipment.)
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This guy makes "literal videos:" classic music videos with new lyrics that describe exactly what is happening in the video. The vocals are so accurate I wondered at first if it was a self-parody dating from the late eighties.

Visit dustfilms for more I haven't seen yet, including Take On Me. Can't wait to watch that one.
Ganked from [ profile] solestria.
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I've been offered an iPhone 3G. It's a very cool toy, but it would cost more on a monthly basis, and when you get right down to it:

My phone can sync with my Linux PC relatively painlessly
My phone fits the phone pocket in my irreplaceable, nigh-perfect mag
The iphone still can't shoot video at all, so far
I just discovered that my phone can shoot long videos after all, albeit at low res; the stupid six-second limitation is just a default setting (!!?! WTF?)
I love my phone
If my phone were any more awesome I'd spend too much time using it

So what would I really want to be any different about my Nokia 6126? Apart from a few dumb quirks of the built-in applications that I've learned to live with?

320x240 video would be nice. Tomorrow I'll experiment in class and find out if the 176x144 video is adequate to shoot "don't forget how to do that turn pattern" salsa videos.

Also, the ability to keep more photos and videos on the phone at one time... but that's readily available: microSD cards fit the phone, and 256MB microsd cards are dirt cheap (around $20). That's a huge multiple of the phone's capacity now.

Beyond that... oh I dunno. Let's be unreasonable: a loud-ass stereo speakerphone that can play MP3s off that microsd chip would be fun. Nice for spontaneous salsa in unlikely places.

Shameful confession: I kind of want a sansa shaker. I'd need to give it a paint job though.
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I am really feeling the lack of multitrack video capabilities in Windows Movie Maker. So at the suggestion of various and sundry, I have finally given the Cinelerra CV video editor for Linux a try. I installed some nice Ubuntu packages and typed cinelerra.

A very cool-looking interface come up. It was frozen and unresponsive.

I got this message at the console:

PluginServer::open_plugin: /usr/lib/cinelerra/ undefined symbol: __sync_fetch_and_add_4

Google reveals one other guy reporting the same problem, with no response other than "try building everything from source."

I experienced something he didn't: after about ten minutes, Cinelerra woke up! And after I cancelled the random dialogs that came up due to whatever flailing I'd done in an effort to get a response out of it earlier, it segfaulted and crashed.

Yes, I will file a bug report. But I don't have time to debug Cinelerra, alas. I have a movie to make in less than two weeks. (;

Anyone know whether the cheapest edition of Sony Vegas includes multitrack editing? As in "these two cameras were running at the same time, so let me sync up the tracks and then cut unwanted chunks out of both with a single action and decide which one is visible at any given point and so forth? Rather than chopping them up into chunks the hard way?"
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I'm approaching this as a user, mostly, not as meester hacker. My honest opinions of the Linux video editing tools:

kino: very slow at exporting your finished video. Also, I managed to crash it.

kdenlive: couldn't figure out how to get useful things done.

Open Movie Editor: completely idiosyncratic "screw you do it our way" UI. Surprisingly, this fails to be complete suck, because they do some kinda-worthwhile things with that UI. The scrollbar thumb with draggable endpoints is so neat that you almost forget it's needlessly confusing in a world that has "zoom in" and "zoom out" controls burned into people's brains already like helLO.

OME almost had me, but for two things: deletes of long clips are easy to make and impossible to undo (operations on small clips undid just fine), and also I managed to crash it.

It's possible there's a newer build of OME that is more awesome, but working with video on Eleanor's XP PC was always plan A, and it still is.
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More geektalk about Linux and video. )
None of this is the fault of the Ubuntu designers or Linux in general. It's one thing to produce software with a horrible, horrible, horrible, no-good confusing UI... like the Wammu application for managing cell phone data, for instance. It's quite another to take legal risks on the part of all and sundry.
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Further travelogue from the Land of Linux on my Dell Latitude D610. For those just tuning in, I junked XP due to ugly, ugly instability and performance problems.

Video Capture

I didn't have my heart set on editing video with Linux. But just for laughs I plugged in my el cheapo cardbus firewire card and hooked up my camera. Then I installed Kino, an allegedly user-friendly video editing program for Linux. I did this via the "add/remove" menu, nothing weird or complicated.

I fired it up; it didn't see the camera. But it did display a message about not being able to access a device.

Now, it's true that this could be a showstopper for a less technical person. Kino should say something more directly helpful. But if they at least Googled the message, they'd find out that you have to start Kino as root.

Ubuntu should provide options to run certain applications as root— just because I prefer the convenience of a GUI doesn't mean I'm not smart enough to make that decision. There's no checkbox to launch an app as root, that I can see. Vista has a "launch as Administrator" feature, which is sensible, and Ubuntu should offer something comparable.

Anyway, I sarted it as root from the command line. And I clicked capture. And O HAI, I'm pulling down my daughter's after school play.

Then I then hit trouble— stuttering and other unhappiness. Then the laptop shut itself down... gracefully... with a message explaining that my CPU was overheating.

This was a frequent problem in Windows-land, too. The laptop adjusts its speed to account for activity and temperature issues, but sometimes it outsmarts itself and overheats. So I looked at the power management options and found ways to manually limit my CPU speed without too much command-line fiddling around. I had a terrible time with this in Windows. I had to do a little Googling but overall it was much easier in Ubuntu.

At work, I have a USB fan stand for my laptop, so I don't tend to have this problem at work.

Once I had a cool-running laptop and dialed back the preview quality (not the quality of the real captured video), Kino had no problem pulling down the video. Nift-o. But it crashed at the end of the process.

That's not so cool... Kino has been around a while and should be stable for the basics by now. And where is the dialog inviting me to send in a trace of the crash? Why doesn't Ubuntu offer that option when any program that is part of a standard package crashes? It shouldn't be hard work to report a bug in an open-source operating system. It's easy to send in those traces in Windows (although Microsoft may or may not care if it's a third-party program).

But when I restarted Kino, it apologized and pointed out that it had recovered all of my video. Okay, not exactly feeling warm fuzzies, but I've got my video. I'll buy that.

I added titles and did some light editing rather painlessly, but couldn't immediately export the video for y'all because too many pieces are missing. Kino depends on the mjpegtools and/or ffmpeg to actually output the Internet-friendly video formats y'all know and love. Unfortunately, for legal reasons, these can't be provided as standard equipment in a free operating system. So figuring out what to do about that is my next step.

I've also heard good things about kdenlive, an alternative Linux video editor which has a very Windows Movie Maker—like interface but is not yet available as an Ubuntu package as far as I can see.

Monitor Troubles

If I hook up my external monitor before booting Ubuntu, it spots it and fires it up at its maximum resolution. If I hook it up later, it still spots it... but assigns it a crappy resolution and refuses to go higher. Yuk!

I'm not sure why this happens, but since Ubuntu boots in less than a minute, I can live with it until I have some time to play with it. I still want to get a "one big desktop" configuration going, and I know that's going to require some hand-tweaking anyway.

I want to reiterate that my laptop is already working vastly better than it was in Windows. An end to the awful pauses and crashes has made me vastly more productive at work. Good is a huge step in the right direction— perfect can wait.
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Y'know, I just rewatched Nine More Minutes and now that I have a little distance from it, I am pleasantly surprised by how good it is. We came up with a good concept for that little film and we executed it very successfully, especially considering the 24-hour time constraint of Blogathon.

Have I mentioned lately that I love my crazy-talented friends?

(That film has been viewed 398 times on YouTube, similar to most of my attempts at "real" videos. My #1 video is... the Ballad of Charlie the Unicorn. Sigh. Not by an enormous margin though.)
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Last year when I was blasting out Songs to Order, [ profile] ronebofh asked me to write "shoegaze post-rock." So I wrote Old School. And the song came out pretty well, as these things went anyway.

But I also shot some video to go with it. And then I got busy. And then I got really busy. And then I decided to concentrate on one art form, one job (*), one kid and one girlfriend at any given time. (Yeah I'm lulu crazy like that.) So the guitar hasn't seen much love lately.

But tonight I was editing some unrelated video and came across the Old School footage.

Do I have time to lip-sync it up in post? No. Do I have time to reshoot it with me actually lipsyncing properly and no dirty laundry in the background? No. Do I have time to paste the MP3 into the video and discover it works pretty well, considering the mock-disdainful snootpunk nature of the whole endeavor?


(*) Okay, one and a half jobs.
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So I wanted to make a 3D movie, and I thought "maybe I can convince the netpbm image conversion utilities to do it in some roundabout way."

Yeah, or I could just run ppm3d.

I the netpbm utilities.

It's slow, though. I need to set up some kind of kickass pipelined thing where I'm not creating and destroying temporary JPEGs all over the place so as to avoid temporarily storing zillyuns of enormous ppm image files. Not to mention setting up new processes for every frame. I hear named pipes calling my name.
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Lauren Galanter knows blogging. Especially videoblogging. And while I'm good on the underlying low-level nuts and bolts, I'm crap on the social aspects and don't know much about the popular blogging software and sites. So today I'm picking her brain over chai at Chapterhouse.

Jason Tremblay of the Indyhall crowd is also hanging out today. Indyhall is a real honest-to-god coworking office in Old City. You can pay by the day or by the month to be among other indies who are working like hell (and, occasionally, not). Before they found an actual office, they met regularly in coffee shops. Now that they have an actual office, they still do that occasionally for nostalgia's sake.

But back to Everything I Need To Know About Blogging Lauren Taught Me On A Monday:

Hosting the actual video files for your own video blog is asking for high bandwidth bills. Smart people use While technically similar to embedding a YouTube video in your blog (which you can certainly do), blip permits higher quality and higher resolution and allows viewers to watch videos in the format they want... not just Flash. Flash is definitely the common denominator but the option of WMV or QuickTime is slick to have. And embedded Blip just looks more professional than embedded YouTube. There is also opt-in in-video advertising available— you receive 50% of the revenue.

Blip supports audioblogging too, only natural for a site that already solves the tougher problem of video. And did I mention it's free?

Of course, while Blip looks pretty robust, they could go away, so you should never ever ever throw away your original video files. Even if though they are huge. So if you can't keep your raw project files, at least keep that high-quality WMV or Quicktime file you originally uploaded to Blip.

I recommend picking up a Western Digital 512GB MyBook for backup. Cheap enough to make me nervous... but also cheap enough that I bought two for serious reliability. Sure, with one as a backup of the other I only really have 512MB, but I can still plausibly brag that I have a terabyte of storage on my desk. A muddafuddin terabyte on my muddafuddin desk, people.

Lauren recommends WordPress for both conventional and video blogging. She is part of the team putting together Show In A Box, an all-in-one video blogging solution based on WordPress. The goal of Show In A Box is to make videoblogging easy. However, Show In A Box is a work in progress, so don't expect total polish or ease of use from it just yet.
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Eleanor and I made a movie! It has frickin' ponies with frickin' wood screws glued to their frickin' heads! It is a tribute to Charlie the Unicorn, featuring an original song by me. And ponies. With frickin' wood screws glued to their frickin' heads.

I have a favor to ask: please rate it on YouTube. That helps to put it in front of more people.

Watch our movie on YouTube

Watch the original Charlie the Unicorn

Charlie the Unisong: lyrics and chords. )
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If you have never seen Charlie the Unicorn, you really ought to watch that first.

My first-ever YouTube video response. Please to watch and rate!

(Yeah yeah yeah shoulda used a tripod)
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Watch Charlie the Unicorn while listening to Death Cab for Cutie's "Transatlanticism" (that specific song, not the whole album).

It changes everything! Everything!

DVD and HD

Sep. 13th, 2007 07:03 pm
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Conventional DVD players output images at a resolution of 720x480 (in the US, according to Wikipedia).

They can output interlaced images to suit the average cheesy TV ("480i"), and they can also output noninterlaced or "progressive scan" component video images ("480p"). 480p is better, I get that. Less flicker is always nice. And component video cables deliver better fidelity than a single composite cable. That makes sense to me too.

But vendors are pushing HDMI-capable DVD players. In English, that means they can directly deliver a digital video signal to the TV. And they brag that they "upsample" the signal to 1080i resolution! But is there any real win here?

Not so much. Upsampling 480p to 1080i is like making a small image bigger in Photoshop: you see big blocks when you're done. And the TV effectively does the same thing internally before displaying a 480p picture.

The only real advantage I can see is that digital delivery does ensure you won't lose part of the signal. After all, you did start from a digital source, it seems strange to convert to analog and then back to digital. But I already have a DVD player with an analog component video output. And we're not talking about transmitting an analog signal 60 miles through the air with all sorts of unpredictable losses. We're talking about transmitting it three feet through big fat wires. I think it'll get there okay.

HDMI only seems worth the trouble for the new post-DVD formats, BluRay and HD-DVD, and other high-resolution sources. DVD, not so much.

Am I missing anything, folks?
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Primer is a movie [ profile] jeremym would love to hate. On the one hand, it's about two guys and a startup, garage-based, skunkworks company. What's not to love? On the other hand, the plot is insanely complicated science-fictional wackiness. What's not to hate?

I liked it. A lot. And I think I finally figured out the business with the boxes.

How we watched it is just as interesting, though. [ profile] solestria and I wanted a movie and we didn't feel like going back up to South Street and the TLA. And the only netflix movie for grownups in the house was "Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny," which sucks. But I'd heard a rumor that Netflix had added some sort of "stream over the net" feature. So we gave that a whirl.

Netflix has taken an interesting approach to marketing, or not quite marketing, the online watching of movies. They are not pushing it on you— it's not IN UR Q, PUSHIN UR MPEGZ. "Watch Instantly" is simply a normal button at the top of the page along with other major buttons like "Queue." Click it and you may discover that some of the films in your queue are available to be watched right now, over the interwebs, at no added charge.

Dude! Not bad. But does it suck? No, not at all. We found the video quality to be quite good over my Comcast cable modem connection. Honestly, on my older 19" NTSC TV, the quality was about as good as video or DVD... except in a few darkly lit scenes where the infamous squares of low-quality MPEG doom became visible.

What wasn't great about it? Well, it's a browser-based experience, but I was required to install software, which ran only on IE. So apparently it's not just streaming Flash video. Also, I wouldn't enjoy this if I had only your laptop speakers or headphones, for the same reasons I can't watch DVDs that way: the dynamic range is too great, so dialogue is too quiet to hear. I am waving my magic wand as we speak (if you know what I mean, and I think you do), summoning a dynamic range compressor that Just Works and allows me to listen to this sort of stuff on headphones on a train.

[Taps foot impatiently]

But with the laptop hooked up to the stereo, and the TV hooked up to my S-Video output... and once we found the darn "full screen" button, fumbling around with the mouse pointer on the TV display... it was pretty great stuff. I don't feel I missed anything of significance watching it this way.

Next time, the setup will be less painful. But starting things up on your secondary display could be Less Work, it really could.

Spoiler: working out that wacky plot device. NOTE: spoilers hereby permitted in comments. Don't read them if you're a big whiner. The movie is three years old people. )
OK, enough slacking. I gotta go file stuff. Chief cook and bottle washer, that's me.
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1. My handheld digital camera, a Fuji Finepix A345, is about to die. The lens refuses to zoom out and uncover itself about 50% of the time. Soon enough that will be 100%.

Any recommendations on my next affordable handheld camera (sub-$300 at most)? I want it to do two jobs: take good stills, and shoot good-enough-for-YouTube video. A wide field of view is also a big plus.

I've noticed that Jill's Exilim EX-Z50 shoots video that's plenty good enough for YouTube, with a very wide field of view. Saves a lot of trouble compared to fussing with my mini-DV, which has a very narrow field of view. Although the sound recorded by Jill's camera was pretty rough, even when we remembered to turn off the air conditioner. Heh. Of course, it would be nice to have the luxury of several weekends in which to make a movie sometime and properly dub the audio, rather than using the raw audio recorded by the camera.

2a. Something disgusting happened to my guitar case. I'm not prepared to discuss it. You can probably get it out of Eleanor if you give her enough chocolate.

2b. Eleanor's guitar wall mount, which was a flimsy wooden thing, split down the middle.

2c. I would order replacements for both from Musician's Friend, which always has killer prices, but they are moving their distribution center and won't ship for another two weeks. In other words, they are broken. Can anyone recommend an alternative low-cost musician's supply site that they trust?

3. As mentioned, my cell phone's ringer has died, and I must wait until 9/11/07 to get a free replacement. I'm checking for messages a lot.

4. After weeks of missed appointments, the dishwasher repairman finally came out to look at my Kenmore, which obviously has a logic board problem. He looked at it for three seconds and said "yep it has a logic board problem." The logic board will be shipped to me. The appointment to actually install it will take place in... I don't know, February I'm guessing. Yes, I paid good money for this service plan.

5. The plan was to get a little pergo-ing done this morning. My jigsaw blade broke. I didn't make it to the hardware store because my motivation-izer broke.

6. Instead I worked on burning Nine More Minutes to an SVCD. I tried to burn it with Nero, which has completely forgotten that I paid for it. I was unable to immediately locate any documentation of this fact, though I am sure it is on a credit card statement somewhere. Then I tried ffmpeg and cdrtools. cdrtools broke on the first try, but mysteriously worked after a reboot.

Strangely enough, I'm more amused by all this than anything else.

Shake It Up

Apr. 9th, 2007 01:10 pm
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Just for fun: a rejected version of the "San Francisco" cut scene from House of Capers. (That's a very short Windows Media video file.)

Technically, this one is interesting: it's an Arnold Genthe photograph, taken after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake... but it's not the famous one. I shook the frames with the netpbm utilities pnmrotate and pamcut, then used FFMPEG to assemble them into a Windows Media file that Windows Movie Maker would accept.

At first I went for more realistic shaking - changing the center of the image, including a random component in the angle - but bopping left and right and gradually increasing the angle just turned out funnier.

In the end, though, this bit lost out to a more dignified still of Genthe's Looking Down Sacramento Street, San Francisco, April 18, 1906 (see the original photo on Wikipedia).

I had planned to use yet more Perl to slowwwwly zoom that one in, Ken Burns style. And yet, strangely, there were other demands on my time. What's up with that?
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The Director's Cut of House of Capers is up on YouTube. All badger scenes restored! ... Okay, no, but almost all of [ profile] ms_violet's script has been restored. And that's even hotter. Yes, hotter than badgers. THAT. HOT.

Oh yeah - I remember taking a long time to bother learning how to embed YouTube videos I saw on other people's LiveJournal pages. It's not as obvious as it should be.

So, to link to the movie, just pass on this URL:

To embed the movie, follow that link and copy and paste the "embed" code into your blog.

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