Using my Aiptek MPVR and a $5 tripod from Rite Aid, I shot four videos of the city. Each video lasted between eight and ten minutes.
- I copied the videos from my SD Card to my LaCie firewire drive and converted the *asf files to Quicktime *mov files (340×280 resolution) using FFMpeg.
- I then imported them to Final Cut Pro, stripped off the audio, and remapped the time of each clip to eight seconds.
- After exporting to lossless video files, I imported them into After Effects, retouched the color, and exported the sequence as a QuickTime *mov file with Sorenson3 encoding (320×240 resolution).
- Uploaded quicktime *mov to You Tube.
…built with data collected during the European Space Agency’s Huygens probe on Jan. 14, 2005, shows the operation of the Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer camera during its descent and after touchdown. The camera was funded by NASA. [via]
I’ve played this video perhaps two dozen times, and I’m still blown away. This is what a database looks like when you add sound, light, and time. Watching this makes me reflect on how data can be represented in so many ways and we’ve only begun to scratch the surface. This makes an Excel Pie Chart look like a stone tablet.
Download the Quicktime version here; you paid for it.
THE DREAM OF THE TAPELESS CAMCORDER
For two years, I have been in pursuit of the perfect low-end, inexpensive, flash memory, video camera. This search has proved more illusive than I ever imagined. For some mysterious reason, this product, whose singular purpose is to shoot and record compressed video for the web, does not exist in any pure form. This leaves me scratching my head for a number of reasons. First, the proliferation of flash memory video cameras in hundreds of cell phones, PDA’s, and digital cameras, beckons the development of tiny, inexpensive devices that can record video for myriad purposes. Second, the recent explosion of video on the net, epitomized by YouTube and Google Video as well as the entry of News Corp’s Myspace into the realm of streaming video. Third and less obvious is the success of Tivo and other Digital Video Recorders. These insights become obvious to me last week when I found the first digital video camera that met my stated objectives.
It was for no practical reason whatsoever that I wandered into Best Buy last Thursday. When I walked out, I had in my possession one Aiptek MPVR, which I procured, along with a 1GB SD card for less than $250. I never spend more than $150 on an impulse buy, and I most certainly shouldn’t have; however, I felt a certain buzz when I saw the indiscriminately shelved package that this might be the product I am seeking.
The Aiptek MPVR is marketed as a six-in-one (6mp digital camera, video recorder, mp3 player, voice recorder, video player, web camera). I am not going to talk about all of these functions since I am chiefly concerned with the video recording attributes, but I mention this to illustrate a point. There are many inexpensive, hybrid devices on the market, and as one would expect, they are mostly terrible. These products are poorly designed and completely inadequate for all practical purposes. The controls are put in the wrong place, the menus are non-intuitive, the cameras have lousy image quality, and the video quality ranges from terrible to most awful. I must conclude that the purpose of these neato products is for people to think they are getting a good deal without realizing they have to shell out an additional $50-$100 for a flash card.
THERE IS A LIGHT
The Aiptex MPVR is by no means a panacea, but it is the best example of value and performance in a low-end, tape-less camcorder I have seen thus far. After several years of selling novelty cameras through various schlock-dealers, Aiptek has evolved into a worthy and sophisticated brand. Their camcorder is cute, well put together, and seemingly resilient. It runs on a li-ion cell phone battery, a smart choice that combines the power and durability of Lithium with the affordability of a mass-produced battery. The menu is intuitive and relatively comprehensive, demonstrating Aiptek’s competence in UI design. A switch on the top of the camera toggles the lens to macro, which doesn’t produce the sharpest images, but allows some control over depth of field. In addition to white balance, the MPVR has exposure and shutter control. The LCD display is not terrific, but it can be positioned in any direction.
My favorite feature is the video-in cable, which allows you to plug your camera into a VCR or DVD player and record straight to flash disc. I sometimes leave my camera plugged into the TV for those times when I see something I want to record and put on the Internet (Poor Man’s TIVO). It is also an adequate tool for digitizing old tapes. While the 640×480 video may not be suitable for archival purposes, those old VHS tapes aren’t getting any younger. I’m so excited about this camera that I plan to buy another. I may buy a third, if for no other reason than to stave off the threat of the threat of the dreaded black box.
Rather than install the software I got with the camera, I opted instead to mount the camera as a drive on my USB port and drag the asf files off of the flash card onto my harddrive. I have taken great pains to find a way of converting those tricky ASF files into QuickTime MOV files, and I’ve found a method that works pretty well. I will post it in the next blog, but here’s just a taste: Quicktime Pro, VLC Player, and FFMPEG. Until then…
“…It’s our Freedom of Speech that’s at stake here.”
I apologize for linking to BoingBoing posts all the time. This is the last one this week I promise. Via BoingBoing, David Isenberg of “Stupid Network” fame wrote a Dr. Seuss style poem explaining Network Neutrality. I can’t think of a better way to illustrate a confusing and arcane subject …except possibly a Youtube Video?
Now the law has a flaw, or so they say
So the telcos send our data to NSA
As if we’re all Osama and we might get away
Myspace has changed its policy on embedded flash content.
Now, when you embed a YouTube Video or a Google Video into a friend’s comment, it says you have to wait for your friend to ‘approve’ the comment before it gets published. My friends have told me that they have inadvertantly deleted people’s comments because when Myspace alerts the user that he or she has a new content with embedded flash, the message is confusing and leads the user to believe that this is some kind of fraud or scam. Comments are deleted. I deleted one comment that had a video in it before I could approve it and three people I know did the same thing.
Is this a hiccup that Myspace is working to fix? Or is this their response to the lukewarm reception given to their new MySpace Videos section. This new service co-opts the technologies behind YouTube and Google Videos to deliver user-uploaded videos in embeddable flash players. And as with Youtube and Google, these videos can easily be integrated with a Myspace Profile by cutting and pasting the embeddable video code. These are the only two things that Google Videos and Youtube have in common with Myspace Videos.
Finding any decent content on Myspace is futile. There are hardly any videos of quality, let alone videos not depicting a lousy webcam shot vlog of a stupid lush behaving like an idiot. The videos look like crap when you watch them: lots of chunkiness and video noise. Uploading videos to MySpace couldn’t be more difficult. I have to click through three pages of steps before I can upload the video. I tried uploading several videos and none of them worked. To add insult to injury, each time the file upload failed, I would have to start again at page one. And lets not forget the ominous tone of this warning…
Note: If you upload Porn, your MySpace.com account will be deleted.
Although I’m itchin’ to know what the company that brought us close to fascism deems pornographic, I am going to give Myspace the benefit of the doubt. That is, I will not forfeit my MySpace account if they roll back the new guidelines on posting embeddable content. MySpace… you’re on notice!
UPDATE April 30, 2006 @ 23:16
The Youtube video I posted showing Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report was taken down. C-SPAN, the owner of the video, claimed Youtube infringed on its copyright; however, they have permitted Google Video to show the same video. [via]
I just read that Star Wars Kid, Ghyslain Raza, has settled a lawsuit with a group of youth who posted a historic video on the Internet. The video, which depicts Raza “training” for battle in a school tv studio spread like wildfire, and we all know what happened next.
There’s a particularly good mashup album available for download and I presume it’ll be “all the rage” among “the kids.” The group is called The Kleptones and the double album is called 24 Hours. The music includes artists from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, Pop, Rock, Alt, Punk, Downtempo, Industrial, techno, rap, hip-hop, R&B, Motown, lots of sampling. No matter who you are, you’ll like at least one song. They’ve also got a decent music video on Youtube.[via]
There is something insidiously cool about Ajax. As a nonprogramming-type, I will always be on the periphery of new technologies; however, when I see loads and loads of sites hyping a new web development tool, I take an interest. For months now, I’ve been observing a lot of chatter about Ajax. I could tell it was a revolutionary application, but I didn’t really know what it did. If you look at this chart* from Technorati, you will see how mentions of ‘Ajax’ went up from around a hundred per day in March of 2005 to roughly five or six hundred per day in March of 2006. That’s a trend worth noticing.
So, what is Ajax? Even after a bit of background reading, I am not quite sure what it is or what it does. From what I gather, Ajax is a programming language, like java or flash, but it allows you to build complicated applications that run in a webbrowser. Somehow, these applications take seconds to load and don’t strain the CPU.
Today, I took an Ajax application for a test drive. The application is called Ajax Write 0.9 [via]. The site loads in seconds. It took me a moment to get my bearings because I really didn’t believe that Ajax Write looked exactly like Microsoft Word, but it does. And even though its a little buggy, some of the functionality is missing, and their are not a lot of fonts to choose from, I believe Ajax Write will become a popular and robust word processor. Its great to know that if I’m every jonesing for a word processor (like when I’m using a public computer terminal), there’s a familiar interface I can use. Also, since one of my computers is running Microsoft Windows 95, I welcome the free upgrade.
*chart updates daily, so this will not longer be relevant in 2007.