Archive for September 6th, 2007

DVD or Blu-Ray? Here’s the question

On December the 3rd season of “Lost” will be released on the Blu-Ray and DVD formats. Until recently my idea was to continue buying the DVD version, as my other two seasons were also DVD-based. But now I realize that this would be a mistake. Because when “Lost” will finally finish HD players will be so common, that I would be banging my head on the wall for not having bought the HD versions, and I would ultimately be spending more money re-buying them in HD.

So, JBQ agreed with me that the logical thing to do is buy the (more expensive right now) Blu-Ray version, EVEN if we didn’t have the PS3 yet. In fact, JBQ was buying audio CDs over 20 years ago, and he didn’t have a CD player yet… It’s about looking to the future and making purchases that will last more.

Creative Commons-licensed music for videographers

It can’t be a coincidence. Twice in one day I was asked where videographers can find some royalty free music, so after having done my own research a few months ago (and having asked a friend lawyer and the Creative Commons’ own lawyer too) I decided to write down what I know about the issue (this is not legal advice, just my own knowledge on the subject). And it is an ‘issue’, because finding true “royalty-free” music is a difficult task.

So, according to the very restricted definition of “fair use” that most countries have, you can’t use a copyrighted, commercial composition with your home videos of your dog. Just like you are not allowed to rip your own DVDs for your own iPod. Yes, the “fair use” law is not that fair, but that’s the law, and it’s the same for most countries.

Because of these limitations, the Creative Commons (CC) project was created. CC is not a single license, but rather a combination of license components (“clauses”) that the artist can pick and choose elements to put together a custom license. Here is an overview of these clauses, which you better read them and understand what each does. The artist can use any combination of these 4 clauses (by, sa, nd, nc) to license their musical work (e.g. by-sa, or by-sa-nd, etc).

Now, as a consumer videographer, chances are that you are not shooting video for money. Which means that either Public Domain licensed music (there are not many high quality public domain recordings btw), or Creative Commons one will be ideal for your projects.

NOT SO FAST.

According to the CC lawyer, music that is licensed under the “nd” CC license (“non-derivative”), can not be used with video. Syncing between audio and video is prohibited. I personally believe that this sucks royally, because 50% of Creative Commons licensed music is actually using the “nd” clause. The CC project started with “freedom” in mind, but by defining “A/V syncing” as “derivative work” (even if the actual music was not modified over the original), it limits videographers immensely (I _really_ wish that the CC founders change that clause to include video in the future). So, any music that it’s marked with the “nd” clause is currently out of the question.

Then, there is the “NC” clause (“non-commercial). Be very careful about this one. Even if you are not charging money for your video, if you upload that video on a site that has advertisement (even if that’s your own blog, or YouTube), then that’s *commercial use* and it’s prohibited. However, if you only use it for your own burned DVDs, including burning for your friends and family, that’s ok.

Then, there is the “SA” clause (“share-alike”). This clause allows usage of the composition as long as your video is licensed under the same license. This is not too bad, but it also means that if you have a great shot that Steven Spielberg wants to use as stock footage, he can’t, because his movies won’t be licensed under the same license (he will have to get written authorization directly from you to get around the “sa” license). This is a “viral” license, similar to what the GPL is in the software world. Anything that uses music licensed as such, will have to use the same “sa” license from then on. Same goes for the popular French “ArtLibre” license (aka “Free Art License”), which is also viral.

Lastly, there is the “by” clause (“Attribution”). This is the most liberal for all the CC licenses, as it only asks to give credit to the artist, in the credit roll. That’s it, there are no other restrictions. That’s what I personally use for my projects (check my credit roll). This license is similar to the BSD license of the software world. Only problem is, from all the CC music available, there is less than 5% licensed only under the “by” license, so selection is limited.

Of course, as I said above, there can be combinations of these clauses, so pay attention when you download a piece of music. There are also some other types of clauses (e.g. CC with no clauses at all, Sampling+, etc), but very few compositions are licensed under these, so I won’t be explaining them here.

Now, you probably feel doomy and gloomy about all this, but there’s not much you can do other than learning to compose your own music yourself. Creative Commons licensed music –despite these severe limitations specifically for videographers— is still the No1 source for free music. Download such music from Jamendo (Bittorrent is not required to download from there btw, just open the .m3u playlist files with a text editor and copy the .mp3 URLs to download), and from ccMixter.

Again, be careful under which clauses each album/song is licensed under. Finally, if you actually download from ccMixter, be very careful to NOT use compositions that remix upon commercial songs. For example, a potential ccMixter remix of Linkin Park’s “Numb” song will be a violation of Linkin Park’s copyright if you use it on your own video, even if the actual remix is licensed under a CC license (allowed exceptions: journalism, parody, educational purposes, or if the song was directly licensed from the band/label). In other words: choose original compositions, and choose wisely!

Good luck with this mess.

Alternatively, you can simply license a full album from Magnatune for just $5 (includes youtube allowance, although it’s required that your video is non-commercial otherwise), and be done with it. You can select from 500+ professionally-recorded albums.

Vegas Pro 8 announced

Sony Creative Software publicly announced a few days ago the release of Vegas Pro 8 for $700. The software is being demoed as we speak at the IBC and it will officially be released on September 10th.

According to the press release, it comes with some great new features like 32-Bit floating point video processing, an audio mixing console, no recompression when rendering long-GOP video formats, ProType titler, multicamera workflow, digital Signage and Portrait style (vertical) video editing and more. For the price, these are some very high-end features right there. These are features that until recently you would need to spend over $5000 to get.

Not everything is perfect with Vegas of course. It still won’t support all kinds of AVCHD cameras, while learning to use Vegas properly is an exercise in patience (usability could have been much better). However, the biggest obstable that Vegas has to overcome is the kind of obstacle that many “newcomer” applications have to as well: plugin support. Plugin support, plugin support, plugin support… There are fewer than 30 third party filter/plugins ever written for Vegas, while there are about 1000 for Adobe’s After Effects. This is where Vegas Pro 9 must focus its effort: in an additional plugin layer that adds support for After Effects Windows plugins — no matter the amount of engineering required. Which is the same thing that everyone else in the industry had to do about their graphics or audio Pro applications.

In my opinion, Vegas Pro is on the way “in”, and Avid on the fast way “out”. Vegas is replacing what Avid was representing for years. Adobe doesn’t have much to fear for a few more years because they simply still have all the industry support they need, and Final Cut Pro is secured on its Mac niche. But if Vegas thrusts itself the way it has so far, we might be looking at a new champion in the video editing space in the next 5 or so years. Either that, or Adobe will be forced to slash its prices in order to compete — at least in the prosumer market.

And of course, we should not forget their cheaper product, Sony Vegas Movie Studio 8-Platinum, which is the most powerful consumer video editor in the market today ($130). The only consumer NLE that supports 24p (even if unofficially).

Numb – Linkin Park

“Numb” is such an amazing song. The best song of Linkin Park IMHO (from their second album, “Meteora”). Update: Haha, great parody of that song.

We bought their new album too (“Minutes to Midnight”), but I only like 3 songs in it so far… My favorite of their new album is “Bleed it out”.

Their first album, “Hybrid Theory”, is still their best. It has at least 5 super songs in it and I can’t decide which one is my favorite. Either “Papercut”, or “Crawling”, or “In the End”, or “One Step Closer”. No wonder they are the most popular alternative rock band (“nu metal” to be more exact) on earth for years now.

Cheesy attack leads to assault charges

“A man has been charged with a cheesy snack attack on his dad, police said. The weapon? A bag of Cheetos.”

Riiiight…

We’ve thrown each other much worse things than cheetos bags in my family, but we never got any police involved. I guess that father had enough of his son so he used that as an excuse to call the police, otherwise it wouldn’t make sense.

My gift list

Nope, I am not going to buy most of the following products for a long time from now, but it’s good to dream every now and then.

* A powerful DELL video station to take care of renderings ($2500).
* A second generation AppleTV with 1080p support. (~$350)
* An iPod Touch with 32 GBs flash storage. (~$400)
* HTC Kaiser/TyTN-II smartphone. ($800)
* An impedance matcher for my microphone. ($15)
* Westcott Photo Basics 304 5-in-1 Reflector Kit. ($90)
* More steady tripod legs. ($100)
* Shotgun mic for my HV20. ($150)
* Wide angle lens for my HV20. ($220)
* Macro lens for my HV20. ($100)
* A universal tripod dolly. ($60)
* And eventually, a modern 1080p TV.

Funny thing is, the last time I bought clothes or shoes was like a year ago, and I don’t have any plans to buy any either…