Entries Tagged as 'Digital Media'

Video Editing on a PC

I purchased a Mac Pro and Final Cut Studio to do my video editing, simply because I felt that PC solutions were just not there.

Adobe Encore is a joke, the only thing it was good for was crashing (and thinning out your wallet).

Sony Vegas was a descent application (and solid), but difficult to use and didn’t seem to expose as much control as I wanted over DVD production.

Times change; and now I’m not as concerned with DVD production as I am with just video editing, and two of my friends have shown interest in video editing and really don’t want to invest in a Mac (there is only one real choice for video editing from Apple, and that’s a Mac Pro, and the combination of the hardware and software is a little scary).

One of my other friends has used Vegas for quite awhile, and he’s been happy with it (of course he’s never done video editing on a Mac).

I’ve decided my project for the next several days will be to evaluate Sony Vega Pro 9.  I’ll try it out on Windows 7 and write a BLOG post that tries to detail the strengths and weaknesses without directly comparing it to Final Cut Studio; though I may use Final Cut Studio as the “standard” for what a high end video editing suite should do.

Originally posted 2010-02-19 01:00:15.

Google TV

Let me preface this post with the fact that I have not seen a Google TV device; I’ve only read about them and watched several video posts, so I’m not speaking from personal experience.

Google TV promises to be a “next generation” experience in media delivery to the home; and since based on Android and will leverage off of the Android Market Place it will have great potential to do virtually anything and everything.

Potential — that’s a good word for it; because it’s not quite here yet, and it’s very expensive to get in on the ground floor.

Consider that the price tag for a Google TV device is $299.00 (Logitech Revue)  when compared to the Western Digital Live TV Plus at $99.00.

Admittedly, they are radically different devices; but at the moment the WD TV probably provides most of the features you’re looking for today in home entertainment… and I’m sure one could argue that the Logitech Revue will grow and evolve with Google TV.  To that I’d say — are you crazy?  This is a hi-tech toy, you’ll be able to buy a device that does twice as much at half the price in a year… there is no “future” for consumer devices like this — you buy for today, and unfortunately end up discarding it tomorrow.

The really sad thing about Google TV is there’s really no technical reason that they don’t have a $99.00 device, or at least a $149.00 device on the market today… in my view this is a market that you don’t want to charge too much early on, you want to stimulate early adoption to make sure that you’re in total control of what might be an emerging market nitch today, but will eventually be the future of entertainment.

Personally I’ll hold off on Google TV for the time being… I’ll let the service mature, and the devices become affordable – for the moment I’m happy with the capabilities of my WD Live TV Plus and just keep an old laptop near my viewing area for the things it can’t do.

And, who knows, you might start seeing your cable and satellite providers offering Google TV enabled set top boxes in the very near future.

Google TV on Wikipedia

Google TV on Google

Google TV

Originally posted 2010-11-05 02:00:44.

So you want to be in pictures…

Or rather should I say that you want to be able to play “moving pictures” on your computer…

You computer may have come with software for playing back video, DVDs, etc — or the operating system version you installed might support some formats; but eventually you’re going to reach a point where you want to play something that you don’t have support for and you might not feel like spending a lot of money.

There are two major issues with playing back media:

  1. Your computer needs software that is able to decode the audio and the video portions of the media; and
  2. Your computer needs software that is able to “break apart” the audio from the video.

The first piece of software is call a “decoder” — or often times a codec.  And you’ll hear things like MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, H.264, etc for video and things like AC3, AAC, PCM, DTS, MP3, etc for audio.

The second piece of software is called a mux (specifically for play back a de-mux) — and those take particular containers and split them into the separate audio and video streams.  The file extension generally tell you about the “envelope” the data is contained in, or how it was muxed.  Some standards mux specifications, but even when the audio/video standard includes a way to mux the data, it might be in a richer envelope that supports alternate audio streams, alternate video streams, hyperlinks, closed captions, multiple languages, etc.

A growing open standard for containing audio and video is the Matroska format.  It’s generally designated as .mkv for audio/video files and .mka for audio files.

It’s a rich standard well supported on Windows, OS-X, and *nix platforms.

For more information visit the Matroska Offical Homepage:

You’ll not only find information on the Matroska format, but links to many free tools to help you play back that audio and video format you’re having trouble with.

Originally posted 2008-12-14 01:00:52.

Digital Photography

Most of my digital photography for the last several years has been with my Canon 20D and Nikon D40 DSLRs.  Often I shoot in RAW mode and then use an image editor (GIMP) to reduce the image and optimize it for web viewing (JPEG).

I consider the Canon to have by far the best image quality; but the Nikon is much smaller / lighter and easier to carry around.  The Nikon is actually much newer than the Canon; I got it for convenience.  Both of the cameras are great; and come from a long line of DSLRs.  If you’re serious about digital photography either of these would be a good option.

I also have a point-and-shoot camera.  A Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX33S which I carry with me when I just cannot afford the extra space and weight a DSLR would cost (outdoor activities) or when the risk to damaging a DSLR would be too great.  I personally don’t care for point-and-shoot cameras, and I hate to shoot without a real view finder (and LCD panel on the back of a “camera” is awkward for me at best).  There are times, though, when I’m thrilled to have a descent camera with me, and this is a descent camera and very compact.

My older digital photography was done with a host of cameras; starting with two of the first Kodak digital cameras in the late 1990’s.

Before that I shot almost exclusively with a Nikon F2 and Nikon F4 and a Yashica Mat 124G (6x6cm – twin lens).  I have some shots using a Canon F-1 (borrowed) as well.

I’ve never been very skilled with a camcorder; but I do have some old footage done on two different JVC DVC models and will be taking more with my Panasonic HDC-SD10 HD solid state unit.

Canon 20D
Canon 20D

Nikon D40
Nikon D40


Panasonic DMC-FX33S

Panasonic
Panasonic HDC-SD10

Originally posted 2010-02-26 01:00:09.

Panasonic HDC-SD10 High Definition Camcorder – Post Note

It was sunny (but cold) on Saturday, so I did get a chance to get outside and shot some bright daylight footage.

The color was excellent, the motion quality was very good.

With adequate lighting I don’t think you can touch the quality of this camcorder for twice the price.

Panasonic HDC-SD10 High Definition Camcorder

Originally posted 2010-01-10 02:00:24.

Image and drawing programs

Most people don’t need a very sophisticated image editing or drawing program to meet their needs.

It’s simply insane that many people shell out the money for crappy products like Adobe PhotoShop, Adobe Illustrator, or Microsoft Visio for the work they need to do.

Simple image (digital photograph) editing can be done with a number of free software packages.  For many Google Picasa or Microsoft Live Photo Gallery will do everything that’s needed and allow for easy posting of images to a web site for others to view.

For people who want a little more power, and not to be so tightly wed what Google or Microsoft think you should do with your digital assets there are other good choices.

Paint dot Net for Windows is a good basic image editing program.  It will satisfy most of your digital image editing needs.  It does only run on Windows, so if you’re looking for something for your Mac (because you don’t like iPhoto) or something for Linux…

GIMP is a highly portable image editing program.  It isn’t basic, it’s sophisticated and can require a moderate learning curve (think Adobe PhotoShop).  There are versions of it available for most any Linux distribution, Windows, and OS-X.  It’s totally free, and the choice of many casual and professional users.

If your needs are more along the lines of diagramming, you could simply use the Draw component in OpenOffice.  Draw is plenty capable to do meet most of your diagramming needs.  However, if you want something with more capabilities…

Dia is intended to create structured drawings.  It has many of the capabilities of Visio and simple CAD type programs.  It’s absolutely free, and available for most Linux distributions, Windows, and OS-X.

Obviously there are cases where you will need to pay a licensing fee for software; but if you’re a home user I’m sure you have much better places to put your hard earned cash.

Also, if you do feel you must buy PhotoShop, make sure you allocate the time and money to take a course at your local community college — it’s not likely you’re going to become very proficient using it on your own.

Originally posted 2010-01-16 02:00:46.

Microsoft Live Essentials

With Windows 7 Microsoft has removed email, instant messaging, address book, calendaring,  and movie maker from the Windows install.  If you run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor it will direct you to Live.com (a Microsoft) site for tools that will add back these features to Windows.

Live.com has offered most all of these tools in one form or another for over a year; and for quite some time now the entire suite of tools.

I’ll just quickly list the features:

  • Live Messanger
  • Live Call
  • Live Mail
  • Live Writer
  • Live Photo Gallery
  • Live Movie Maker
  • Live Toolbar
  • Live Family Saftey

Live Messanger is the replacement for Windows Messanger, MSN Messanger it’s substantially the same as what ever Microsoft messanger you might use — with an updated look and feel and of course, new features.

Live Call is Microsoft’s entry into the voice communications market.  I’ve never used it, so I can’t really comment on it.

Live Mail is the replacement for Outlook Express and Windows Mail (for you Vista users).  It somewhat resembles both of it’s predecessors, but carries forward many of the refinements from Windows Mail; and introduces a number of “bugs” that had been stomped out long ago in the code line (I reported several during the BETA — they still haven’t been fixed, and I expect until they annoy someone on the Live Mail team they won’t be).  On feature that has been added that many will find useful is the ability to interface with Hot Mail/MSN Mail/Live Mail web mail directly (at no cost).

Live Writer is a WYSIWYG editor for BLOGing.  It interfaces to Live BLOGs as well as a number of blogging engines and web sites.

Live Photo Gallery is Microsoft’s attempt to get some of the media sharing market.  I don’t use it, but I’m sure they’ve figured out some way to make money from it (like all the others).

Live Movie Maker is the replacement for Windows Movie Maker.  I haven’t used it.  The previous software might be fine for novices; but I prefer to use Final Cut Studio on my Mac; so I don’t think my opinion of this software is relevant to the target audience.

Live Toolbar is like most toolbars, a waste.  Whether it’s invasive like most of them or not I can’t say — I have no need for toolbars; and you probably don’t either.

Live Family Saftey is designed to limit access to questionable internet sites and content.  I’ve never used it; but I would guess like most it errors on the side of caution.

There is also a Microsoft Office Outlook Connector, and Office Live Add-In which provide access to Live features directly from Microsoft Office (why?) that you can read about on your own.

Overall, many of the “free” tools in Microsoft Live Essentials are probably well worth the small amount of time and energy to download and install.  One note, make sure you uncheck the items you don’t want (you can add them later if you change your mind) and pay close attention to the attemp to change (and lock) your browser’s home page and search tool.

Microsoft Live Essentials

Originally posted 2009-11-22 01:00:50.

GIMP

GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring.

It has many capabilities. It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc.

GIMP is expandable and extensible. It is designed to be augmented with plug-ins and extensions to do just about anything. The advanced scripting interface allows everything from the simplest task to the most complex image manipulation procedures to be easily scripted.

That’s what the GIMP site says; but what GIMP is is a free Open Source alternative to programs like Adobe Photoshop and Corel Paint Shop Pro that runs on Linux, OS-X, and Windows.

GIMP is reasonably easy to use, powerful, and rock solid.

If you understand the principles of image/photo editing you’ll be a pro at using GIMP in no time — far easier to use than Photoshop, far more functional than Paint Shop Pro.  And it’s free — totally free — just download it an install it.  There’s lots of plug-ins for it as well (so make sure you take a look at some of those add ins).  Be sure and review the online documentation, tutorials, and FAQ; plus there are a number of well written books on GIMP available for purchase.

GIMP.org

Originally posted 2010-03-08 02:00:45.

WD TV Live Plus – Network Media Player

I purchased the WD TV Live Plus about a month ago from Amazon (good price, free shipping, great return policy if you need it)… I looked at several other alternatives including the Seagate FreeAgent Theatre, Roku Digital Video Player, and Apple TV.

Rather than high light the weaknesses I perceived in the other devices, let me underscore the abilities that I felt were compelling in the WD TV Live Plus, but let me start by listing the minimum requirements.

  • support full HD (1080)
  • support component video (I have one older panel that doesn’t support HDCP)
  • support TOSLINK and/or SPDIF digital sound
  • support HDMI (video plus audio)
  • support Netflix streaming
  • support media from local sources

Additionally there were a few more items on my wish list

  • not require any proprietary software installation (ie iTunes)
  • support MPEG2, MPEG4, h.264 plus as many other CODECs as possible
  • support audio
  • support browsing SMB/CIFs shares
  • support media servers
  • straight forward user interface
  • reputable vendor with reasonable support and updates

The WD TV Live Plus (don’t be confused by the other models WD offers — only the high end one supports Netflix) did everything I required, and everything I wanted — plus it has features beyond what I care about.

Let me start by saying I unpacked the device, plugged it in, and it worked — I didn’t need to read the manual, I didn’t need to change any settings, I didn’t need to do anything to play local media off of file shares or media servers.  The only thing I had to do to play Netflix through the device was type in the device registration code on my account screen online and it was up and running.

I cannot say that the device is perfect; but I can say that it works as well as any set top box I’ve ever used (including cable boxes, satellite receivers, U-Verse IP-TV, and HPCs).

Like all those devices you’ll get sputters on occasion (though I’ve never seen any issues with playing local media that is properly encoded), but a quick power cycle (the power button on the device actually seems to do a reboot of the device — but unplugging the AC adapter is always a sure fire way of resetting the device).

My Netflix queue started with well over 100 items in it; I’m actually watching items in the queue faster than I’m adding new items to it… it’s just so easy to watch, and so comfortable.  You kick back on the sofa and watch a movie as you’re writing a BLOG post (like I’m doing now).

I really like this device, and I’ll buy a second one for the panel in the bedroom, but I’m hoping that WD will reduce the price to be a little more competitive, and I hope that they continue to update the firmware and improve the device.

For the moment, I recommend you read the information on Western Digital’s web site – that will help to answer questions you might have.  I found that downloading and reviewing the user manual was actually the fastest way to answer most of my questions.  You can also read many other articles about the various media players available — but always keep in mind when you read the opinions of others that they are looking at the device for their needs with their perspective… consider what they say more than their conclusions.

And keep in mind, buy it from Amazon and if it doesn’t meet your expectations the return is as easy a printing a return label with the click of a button and dropping it at the post office.

WD TV Live Plus

WD TV Live Plus

Originally posted 2010-10-16 02:00:43.

Google Music – Release

Back on the 17th of November Google announced the generally availability of Google Music…

We’re excited to announce that Music Beta by Google is officially graduating from beta today! Google Music will remain a free service, and you can continue to store up to 20,000 songs in your personal music library.

As well as an updated terms of service, and a music store (that works via Android Market).

The terms of service clarifies that each individual uploads and maintains his individual copy of a music file (unlike Apple’s service which may well substitute your copy with one from the iTunes store).

And while I think Google Music is a great value (it’s free), I think it might still be a little buggy…

My music library has in excess of 30,000 MP3 files, and while I understand that Google will not upload all of them, and that I might not be able to control exactly which 20,000 songs they upload without creating a copy of the songs I have in a separate directory structure, I’m at a loss as to why I only have 19,088 from my collection uploaded — and the error I see in the load is “too many files in account”…

While I wouldn’t have been shocked if I got 19,999 songs uploaded, it seem to me that there’s definitely a deficiency in Google’s uploader and it’s logic for determining when you’ve reached 20,000 songs in your library.

Like I said, I think the Google Music service is a good value; but it does lack the ability to use it as a “backup” of your music library (there’s really no facility to retrieve the music you upload, other than the very painful, manual effort you’d have to put into retrieving files from the cache it builds as you play them and renaming them).

An alternative is the Amazon Music service; they only provide 5GB free, but for a modest yearly payment they do allow unlimited (Google hasn’t even set pricing for raising the limit on their service); and with both the song you purchase don’t count toward your limit.  The upside of the Amazon service is that it does work nicely as a backup; you can retrieve the music you upload.

For the time being, I’ll use the Google Service; but my guess is that I’ll just migrate to Amazon if Google doesn’t really focus on making the service work correctly, and provide for additional storage.

Originally posted 2011-11-25 02:00:48.