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October 30, 2008

Aiptek launches mini projector

Aiptek (known for kind of crummy solid state camcorders) has launched a handheld projector, the PJV11X. It's strictly SD, and will only project an image of about 42" diagonal, but I'm a sucker for stuff like this. A battery powered project in your pocket? Just think of the opportunities for civil disobedience!

Thanks to Macnn for the link.

Posted by at 10:07 PM

Perian: A Cruel Mistress

Perian, the do-everything Quicktime component has been a godsend for Mac users looking to play windows-centric video formats on their Macs. But Perian giveth, and Perian taketh away.

A while back I wrote about how to build your own Perian with only the components you need. Recently, I started wondering whether that was really necessary, or if it was just me being a bit neck-beardish. So, earlier this week I switched Media Mill to a current version of Perian (1.1.2) and removed our DiVX decoder.

An interesting thing happened. I started seeing compressord crashes across the board. The crash logs indicated that it was a thread running Perian that was crashing. What was strange was that this was often happening on files that, as best as I can tell, shouldn't have been decoded by Perian. For example, Quicktime files containing H264 video. While Perian does have a decoder for H264 (which supports advanced-profile h264 unlike Apple's decoder) it shouldn't preempty Apple's decoder in this case.

I haven't gone digging in the Perian codebase to see what's up with all of this, but my initial verdict was that rolling your own Perian, supporting only the codecs you can't decode some other way is still the way to go.

There is a small (very small) part of me that's inclined to setup a custom Perian build server with a nice webserver, wherein you could check boxes for the codecs you want and get a custom component.


Posted by at 1:48 PM

October 29, 2008

DMCA Good? Your head asplode!

Wired has a great blog post looking back at 10 years of DMCA, arguing that while the anti-circumvention parts of the DMCA really suck, as a whole it's been a good thing.

Essentially, they argue that the DMCA, by spelling out takedown procedures and defining the "safe harbor," has allowed for a variety of services that would have otherwise been too risky, namely YouTube. It's a fair point, and an interesting read. The safe harbor provisions definitely give me some confidence in regard to Media Mill, but I'm not sure I would go so far as to say the DMCA is a good thing. And, the DMCA is like a soufflé - it'll only get worse with age. Each new, DRM-encumbered technology serves to remind us of that. So, I'd argue that the DMCA is a badly broken law with a few good provisions. We can do better.

Posted by at 4:31 PM

October 27, 2008

Thoughts on Final Cut Studio 3

We've got about six months to go before NAB 2009, so I figure it's time to start making baseless predictions. So, here's my take.

First off, if we don't have FCS3 or some other major video announcement from Apple around the time of NAB (whether they attend the show or not), I think it'd be time for some serious questions about Apple's commitment to the product line. I don't think there's much truth in the occasional rumor about Apple shopping around Final Cut, and I assume that the big FCP shops already know the road map, but it's time to move the platform forward.

There are a few big areas that I see as logical steps for improvement.

GPU Acceleration in Final Cut
Motion already makes heavy use of the GPU for effects, and Final Cut Pro already has the capability for GPU accelerated effects as part of its FXPlug architecture. However, the bulk of the filters in Final Cut are currently running on the CPU, and the realtime effects architecture is achieved based on CPU speed alone.

Unified Solid State Camera Support
Importing video into Final Cut has gotten to be a bit of a mess these days - you've got "log and capture" for tape, "log and transfer" for P2 and AVCHD, plus XDCam and DR60 importers from Sony, plus standalone apps for RED, and a handful of others. It'd be nice to see an importer plugin architecture that allows different importers to plug in to the "log and transfer" framework, so that we could have a unified interface and workflow.

Native AVCHD
Premiere Pro CS4 does it, so Final Cut should too. I know it's not a "pro" format, but that doesn't mean people won't be creating compelling content with it. Transcoding to AIC really hobbles the support.

Kill LiveType
Please? It's already Schiavo'd, just end it.

BluRay in DVDStudio Pro
This one I'm a bit less certain of - Steve called BluRay a "bag of hurt" at a recent event, but Encore is doing it. If DVDSP isn't going to get BluRay support, it might be time to officially start phasing it out.

Better Roundtrip Support
Roundtripping is one of those ideas that works great in demos, but never seems to quite live up to expectations in real life. Final Cut -> Motion -> Final Cut tends to work ok, but FCP->Soundtrack->FCP is like russian roulette. Every now and again it'll work OK, but usually it just blows up in your face. It's not sexy or fun, but it sure would be nice if it worked.

Make Color Pretty
Nobody expected FinalTouch to get beautiful in one version, but for Color 2, it's time to get an Apple interface and a refined workflow. Better Quicktime integration would be nice, and again, improved roundtripping.

OpenCL Accelerated Codecs
This one is a bit more "out there," and the WWDC NDA prohibits me from talking about some of it, but OpenCL would provide some great opportunities for hardware accelerated video codecs. Not just for encoding, but also decoding of formats like HDV and AVCHD. Now, whether this will happen is a bit more uncertain - it'd be a pretty sharp departure from Final Cut's reliance on Quicktime. It'd also likely be Snow Leopard only, though perhaps OpenCL can be integrated into an app, the way Core Animation showed up in Motion before appearing as an OS component.

Script Sync
Avid and Adobe are doing it now, so it only seems logical that Apple will add some sort of script-sync feature. Is this something people use in real life, or is it just nice for demos? I'm not sure.

Real Final Cut Server Integration
It'd only be logical to start building in Final Cut Server integration, to really start putting a bit more pressure on Avid in that space.

Other Crazy Stuff
If they were going to make it Snow Leopard only, there's lots of other interesting stuff that could be done - grand central scheduling, proper soup-to-nuts 64bit, etc. Maybe for Final Cut Studio 4.

Motion Pro
Hey, whatever happened to the Shake replacement?

Posted by at 11:05 AM

October 23, 2008

Ouch for Avid

Wow, earlier today I suggested Avid as one of the companies Apple could buy with its wad of cash. Avid just announced their quarterly results, with a drop in earnings compared to the year ago period and a 10x increase in their net loss.

Also announced is a plan to sell Softimage, and a workforce reduction (edit: about 410 people or roughly 15% of the company).

Posted by at 3:36 PM

I can't take it no more, so I'm going on a shopping spree, yeah


So, in Apple's quarterly earnings call, Steve Jobs made repeated references to the "opportunities" out there for a company with $25 billion in cash.

So, what could they buy? This little economic hullabaloo has beaten up a number of companies, so lets look at some market caps:

AMD - $2 billion
NVIDIA - $3.8 billion
Avid - $600 million
Sandisk - $2.1 billion
Sony - $22 billion
Creative - $155 million
Thomson (as in Grass Valley) - $400 million
Bogen - $17 million
Sanyo - $2.8 billion
Autodesk - $5 billion

Now, not all of those are great buys. AMD would be a bit like buying a lead ballon (and not a Mythbusters lead balloon). And some of these would be impossible given anticompetitive issues.

If I had that kind of pocket money though, NVIDIA, Avid, Sandisk, Sanyo and Autodesk would make a pretty nice bundle of acquisitions. $15 billion total, leaving $10 billion in cash still floating around. Nifty!

Posted by at 9:46 AM

October 22, 2008

Mr. Pixel and Mrs. Grain

Wow, FreshDV has this amazing three part series investigating Film versus Digital.

Drop everything and watch it now.

Posted by at 2:29 PM

Worst Xsan Ever.

I needed to test some allocation strategy stuff, so I threw together a quick Xsan volume on my desktop. This must be the lamest xsan deployment ever:

Xsan Admin  Smelly.Local

Posted by at 1:58 PM

Quicktime 7.6 beta

Macrumors says Apple has seeded Quicktime 7.6 to developers. One part of their writeup got me pretty excited - looks like Apple is taking a stab at transcoding muxed mpeg files in Quicktime. After more than a decade of pretending mpeg didn't exist, that's pretty interesting.

Mac Rumors  Apple Mac Rumors And News You Care About-1

Posted by at 11:51 AM

October 15, 2008

Posting Mad Men

Post Magazine has a piece about the post production process for the TV Show "Mad Men," which I have been hooked on. If you haven't seen it, it's definitely worth a look. The show itself has a very distinctive feel, and this article goes into a bit of how that feel is achieved.

Posted by at 9:58 AM

CS4 is shipping - Open your wallets

Adobe put out a press release to announce that Creative Suite 4 is now shipping. Super!

Posted by at 9:47 AM

October 14, 2008

Third party memory with Sony Xdcam EX1 and EX3

Ever since the release of firmware 1.11 for the Sony EX1, there's been some hubbub in the community about support for third party memory cards, as an alternative to the very expensive SXS cards from Sony and Sandisk.

There's a great thread at DVInfo with lots of real world results about what works and what doesn't. Shockingly, it seems like the best combo right now is a Kensington expresscard media reader combined with some Sandisk SDHC cards. So, instead of $850 for a 16gig sony SXS, you can drop $65 for a 16gig SDHC card and be on your way. Read the thread to find out the pros and cons - it's not all puppies and rainbows, but very nearly...

Posted by at 11:29 AM

Red Rants

FreshDV linked over to a critique of Red written by director Rian Johnson. Nothing that you'll find too shocking, but sure to get the Red fanboys up in arms ...

Posted by at 9:11 AM

October 8, 2008

Sony EX3 studio rig

ProVideoCoalition has some shots from a little Sony show out in CA. One of the interesting things is the Nipros rig for the Sony EX3. I'd heard a bit of discussion about this rig in the past, but hadn't seen any shots.

If you're familiar with the Camplex line of products, it's very similar - a little box that muxes together a bunch of connections, spews it down fiber, and another box that demuxes it at the other end.

You get intercom, return video and remote control, plus an HD-SDI feed. There aren't enough specs out yet to really evaluate the product, but it could be pretty interesting. Sony says $29k will get you an EX3 + the rig, though perhaps you'd want to drop another $15k for a nicer lens.

Posted by at 9:15 AM

October 7, 2008


As promised, I'm posting some sample code for converting from DFXP to SCC. Actually, the SCC generated is contained in a class (captionConvertClass.php) independent of the DFXP parsing. To use it, all you do is:

$myClass = new captionConvert(startingTimecode);
$finishedCaptions = $myClass->outputCaptions();

the "startingTimecode" item is somewhat important. Quicktime files can have timecode tracks that don't start at zero, but DFXP captions are always relative to a 00:00:00.00 start time. So, if the timecode track of your movie begins at 01:00:00:00 (as any file coming out of FCP will) but your DFXP file starts at 00:00:00.00, you need to let the convertor know so that it adds the right times.

Otherwise, it's pretty simple and pretty basic. There are lots of things it doesn't do (scc formating, proper Drop Frame handling, foreign characters, etc). But at least it's a start. If you want to see conversion done right, look at SCC Tools, which is much more feature complete, at the expense of being much more complicated and ... perl.

captionConvert.phps (sample dfxp parsing)

captionConvertClass.phps (plain text -> scc conversion)

Posted by at 2:24 PM

October 3, 2008

Visualhub Discontinued

TUAW is reporting that Techspansion is shutting its door and, thusly, killing off VisualHub. That's a big loss for video conversion on the mac platform. Hopefully someone will come along to fill their shoes. Bummer.

Posted by at 4:50 PM

Quicktime 7.5.5 allows Sanyo Xacti HD1000 1080i playback

The recently released Quicktime 7.5.5 update brings back the ability to display the 1080i H.264 files generated by the Sanyo Xacti HD1000. Nifty!

Posted by at 3:40 PM

Captioning with Compressor

There's a lot of misinformation on the net about how to do proper Quicktime captioning using Compressor. Here's the deal.

To start with - Compressor 3.0.4 can caption MPEG-2 files, as well as MOV and M4V files. When it first shipped, it could only deal with MPEG-2, and some sources haven't been updated to reflect the additional formats. That means, you can add a proper closed captioning track to a quicktime movie, and have it playable on an iPhone or Apple TV, etc.

Next, the captions must be in the Scenarist Closed Caption (SCC) format. This is a really funky format, as my recent rants have attested. The definitive site on the format is that of the SCC Tools project. There's not a ton of other information out there, as much of the spec is locked up in a design document that'll run you $170.

I believe the commercial MacCaption application will output SCC, as will a handful of other applications. Next week, I'll post some sample code for converting DFXP (flash) captions into SCC.

So, to get started, open Compressor and add your video. Highlight the background space of your imported video and then click the "additional information" tab.


Now, select "choose" at the top and point to your SCC file. Click save at the bottom of the pane.

Now you just need to pick your preset (again, any mpeg-2, mov or m4v preset) and submit the job as per usual.

Posted by at 3:11 PM

October 2, 2008



Posted by at 4:20 PM

Scenarist captions hurt my brain

If you were going to pick a format for closed captions in the year 2008, would you a) choose and easy to use, xml-based, human readable, machine parse-able format, or would you b) choose a format that uses 7bit hex values with 1bit parity, in two byte chunks with machine level control codes (clear buffer, move cursor, etc) and make it a proprietary format that costs $170 for the spec?

If you selected b), you might be Apple!

Ugh. Scenarist captions. Brain hurt.

I'll do a bigger post about how to properly do captions with Compressor before too long. As soon as I get done writing a DFXP->SCC parser. Woot.

Http   Localhost ~Colin Captionconvert.Php-1

Posted by at 2:49 PM

Oh noes, your mac pro is killing you!

So, there's all sorts of news today about how Mac Pros emit toxic odors that will murder us all.

Normally I wouldn't bother posting this, but I found it humorous. When I got my Mac Pro a couple years ago, I gave it a name based on a particular characteristic I noticed:


Oh noes!

Posted by at 10:26 AM