Archive for April, 2009

Whoah! On Digg’s front page!

Wow, I had no idea, until the thumbnail I was looking on Digg’s pages looked familiar! Scott McIntyre submitted my jellyfish video on Digg, and he managed to get it to the front page! So far the video has acquired 24 new “likes” and over 5,000 new views! Thanks Scott!

Some random pictures

We went to a park this afternoon, got some pictures. I used my HV20 with a manual focus ring, flower hood & ND filter to get some handheld pictures in higher shutter speed. They came out underexposed. I think I will be using Zebra at 100% from now on, instead of 70%.

My JBQ snapped a picture of me with my tricked out HV20. He shot it with his Canon 5D Mark I and his ultra-nice portrait lens (check that background blur).

Me, shooting with my HV20

My (noisy) HV20 pictures (all licensed under the CC-BY 3.0):

In search of a Hi-Fi system

Our 300 CD changer holder is out of space with our 400 CDs, and there’s no way to playback our digitally-bought 3.5 GBs of mp3/aac files that we have around. We need either something like the AppleTV where we can move all our 35 GB of ripped music in there, or a new 400 CD changer system like this one but with the ability to also play mp3/AAC and have a UI viewable via composite-out.

As it stands right now the AppleTV doesn’t do what we need because it doesn’t have composite-out, as I would like to use a small portable DVD player as external monitor for it. I simply don’t want to hook it on our 50″ TV and have our TV “on” all the time just so we can listen to music. If that was the case, we already have a PS3 that can do that (I currently use it for video playback only). It’s such a shame that the AppleTV doesn’t do RCA because it would have been perfect for music. 🙁

As for the linked Sony CD changer above, it doesn’t do AAC, it doesn’t have a hard drive (and I am not sure it reads mp3 files from DVD-R disks and not just from CD-Rs), while its UI simply sucks from what I read online.

The funny thing is that the device we need actually existed once as a prototype product. Back in 2000. And it was created by my husband’s then-company, Be Inc. The Be Aura was a beautiful device (unfortunately I couldn’t find any picture of it online to link, there used to be one), with a specialized UI, a remote control, and had a nice monitor too. Surely you could put together a small PC today with Windows Media or Linux on it, but it will still look like an ugly ass PC in our living room. That was a targeted device like the AppleTV, not a quickly-put-together PC job. Update: The device I was thinking was called “HARP”, btw. “Aura” was the software platform for it.

So, we basically need a device that can accept a SATA drive with mp3/aac and preferably FLAC music, has composite-out with a usable UI, and good digital-out for audio. The CD changer feature is optional as long as there’s a hard drive in there and there’s lossless FLAC support. So, do you know anything that would work for us?

Update: We might just be going for the Sony 400 CD changer it seems. We feel that the home entertainment systems today are in a state that resembles mobile phones before the iPhone arrived. The Sonos system is close to what we need, but no cigar.

You are hungry, hungry I tell you!

Last night we had this Archer Farms‘ pizza that JBQ bought at the Target superstore (where he also bought a new bicycle). While I was reading the back of the pizza box to find its cooking time, I noticed the pictured map of Italy and surrounded countries. Suddenly my eyes go to the uppermost right corner of the map, where “Hungary” was misspelled as “Hungry”.

Picture taken with the T-Mobile G1 phone and its autofocus ability.
It was impossible to take the above macro shot with my iPhone!

I crack a smile, and I tell JBQ to look at it too. We figured that we could send the box to Jay Leno for his “funny products/headlines” section of his show. But immediately after I became suspicious that this was a deliberate “mistake”. That this is a subliminal message. This was a word that was easily reached by the eyes at that corner, a word that subconsciously was telling you that you were hungry. Hungry enough to buy their product.

Honestly, being one of the geeks, I never liked (or more accurately, I never understood) the marketing bunch of people, and such sleazy practices, in association with other viral campaigns out there, make me really dislike the whole marketing “art”. I am a very straightforward person, you see. I could have never worked in marketing.

More info on Crank: High Voltage

More info on how the Crank 2 movie was shot. They used five XH-A1 cameras as primary, and fifteen HF10 ones as crash-cams, sometimes shooting all at the same time (with several random crew members just grabbing a camera and shooting — mostly on rollerblades)! They used very high shutter speeds, between 1/1000th and 1/2000th, and with “neutral” picture settings for saturation and contrast, while they cranked up the in-camera sharpness. On the XH-A1 they also used its cine gamma settings, but on the HF10 it was not possible to use its Cinemode ability because it can’t be used independently to manual shutter speed settings (customizing the shutter speed obviously takes precedence in such an action movie). That’s yet one of the reasons why I am still rooting for that hybrid consumer-prosumer camera that doesn’t exist yet. But NAB is here, so let’s see what Canon will announce in two days time.

A few more tidbits about the movie:
– The movie is actually insane, but in a good way. Here’s a positive review.
– It seems that the movie won’t make more than $6-7 millions in the box office this week, but when you add in that count the next few weeks’ earnings, the worldwide release, and DVD sales, it will easily recuperate its $12.5 million of cost.
– If there’s going to be a Crank 3, it will be in 3D, the directors have let us to believe. These two directors really are cool.
– And good looking too.

Pirate Bay founders found guilty

A court in Sweden has jailed four men behind The Pirate Bay (TPB), the world’s most high-profile file-sharing website, in a landmark case“, says BBC.

So, the four founders were convicted, even if the files were not hosted in their servers. According to DMCA — that Sweden doesn’t abide to — if you help others to pirate in any way, you are guilty. So they got themselves convicted.

In my opinion, they are indeed guilty — they have been total assholes to lawyers who have sent them takedown notices over time. These dumbasses think that they are some kind of revolutionist heroes. Yes, a revolution is needed for copyright laws and the entertainment industry today, but these guys haven’t realized that in this day and age there is only one way to start a revolution: work through the existing system’s limitations and lobby extensively for new laws. Anything other approach will be shot down by the system and the corporations. This is not 1789 France. You can’t win with riffles, and picketing or rage anymore. You simply can’t ignore the laws. We live in a bureaucratic, corporation-led world, and so you will have to work through these constrains to change the world (e.g. via Creative Commons which is a clever approach that doesn’t cancel the current laws, so it can’t piss off the establishment to come after you). This Gandhi approach works: if you don’t buy the RIAA/MPAA-bound products, these empires will eventually fall, but it’s the only way to do it.

I hold the same opinion about the anti-Scientology Anonymous group: they go at it the wrong way by picketing outside the Scientology buildings and hacking their web sites. Oh, rest assured, I don’t like Scientology one bit, but writing a complaint to their Congressman is probably a more productive way to fix the problem.

I wrote this blog post not to debate if the Pirate Bay founders are guilty or not though. Instead, there was a comment on CNN that caught my eye:
Mohammad: “In my country, if we don’t share new movie, there are no ways to get it!”

The issue here is political. It has nothing to do with royalties, or the entertainment industry, or cheated artists. It has to do with something that’s bigger than any of that: the communication between people from different places in the globe that can’t communicate otherwise because of religious or political reasons. If the only way to get touched artistically, and learn about the lives and hopes, and dreams of the western people is to pirate their precious movies and music, then that’s what you will have to do. Cultural communication is more important than the billion dollars entertainment industry. But I am sure MPAA/RIAA would disagree, although in this case CIA probably wouldn’t.

Color grading of the week, Part 6

Both pictures by Tabass Co./Tatiane Brito, licensed under the Creative Commons “BY” 2.0.

Sony Vegas plugins used: NewBlue Duocrhome, Channel Blend, NewBlue Pastel Sketch, Magic Bullet, Color Corrector, Unsharpen Mask, Bump Map for lighting. Compositing “overlay” mode used.

Sony EX3 on “The Unusuals”

The digital revolution is trying to take a serious shape. I was watching this brand new TV cop show “The unusuals” and I was thinking that it looked “different”. There is almost no shallow depth of field in it. I kept thinking that they used a cheap(er) camera, and they did: the $10,000 Sony EX3, with its 1/2.0″ sensor. They also use the much more expensive F23 sometimes, but the EX3 seems to be the camera used mostly. The CC and lighting is minimal and that makes the show look cheap, but I guess this is part of the idea behind the show to make it look like a documentary. Still, it’s cool to see a digital camera used for a TV show, because on most of the rest of the primetime shows, they use film.

Regarding 3D filmmaking

High frame rates and 3D video are in our near future. Many times I have cheered for 60p over 24p, but I think this won’t be accepted by many directors until 3D becomes a reality. 3D just looks better in high frame rate, and so this might be the catalyst for the move to higher frame rates. Even James Cameron said so.

In the last year, 3D filmmaking has seen a strong comeback as new digital cameras help out with the complicated workflow. Even the TIME magazine did a special article recently about the 3D comeback. However, the true revolution won’t be here for another 10 years, when TVs will display 3D objects without the need for glasses. The current monitors/TVs that do no-glasses 3D are still not very good, so there’s at least a 10 year maturation period in that technology.

I have thought out the traditional 3D process, and I might give it a shot if I get a second HV20 or HV30. All I need to shoot in 3D is a second HV camera, a clapper for synchronization, and this tripod accessory. Then, the workflow to edit in anaglyph 3D on Vegas is pretty straightforward. Sure, there’s some extra work involved, but it’s not unachievable. Maybe one day Vegas adds 3D editing capabilities by automatically packing two or more different clips into a single track (and I am not talking about the “takes” feature here).

I have already exported a small 2D clip I had around as pseudo-3D anaglyph (by misaligning the two stacked copies of the clip in the timeline by 2-3 frames), and even that worked great when using the red-cyan 3D glasses! Download the Vegas Pro .veg file here to see how I did it (use a clip of yours, and pay attention in the track’s plugins, compositing settings and misalignment of the two clips by a few frames). The pseudo-3D trick with the Vegas Movie Studio versions requires a somewhat different workflow, follow it here.

The whole 3D craze started for me a few weeks ago when I saw the above 3D music video by Golden. I even wrote a review for the band’s album too, should be published soon at the local Bay Area OWL Magazine that I occasionally contribute at. Video requires red-cyan 3D glasses, best watched full screen. Download the original HD file for best 3D results.

250 official HV20/30 music videos!!!

This is such an unprecedented record for any consumer camera ever, and surely for many prosumer cameras too! There are out there over 250 official music videos shot with the HV20/30 cameras (update: they are over 320 now!!). It really shows how easy it has become to attain high quality output from a $500 camera and how people jump on the opportunity to take advantage of this great deal!

Here’s a recent music video by the Outsider, shot with an HV20 and a JVC camera, I love the song. Can’t wait to get released on iTunes soon!

The only thing that’s mind boggling and shows how slow and stupid big corporations are, is Canon not taking advantage of the huge HV20/30 success and fanatical community in the last 2 years. They do nothing with this unique opportunity, apart from slightly refreshing the brand with the upcoming HV40 model (which was basically a cheap throw in to shut us up). But when I am saying that they should do something about it is not about creating new HV models (their time is passed, people don’t want tape cameras anymore). What I am saying is, heck, where are the official HV20 t-shirts I could buy? Where are the paid firmware upgrades that could make thousands of us flock to pay that 50 bucks per year in order to get full manual control, or native 24p.

The problem is that Canon believes that the way to cater to these needs is to release a new camera. Like these new super-noisy and non-stabilized HF-S10/S100 models. Erm, no thanks. Canon fails to realize that a good percentage of enthusiasts like us don’t move to another product so easily. We are here for the long run. Users who already own the legendary HV20/30 won’t rush to upgrade as easily as someone who upgrades from a Sony HD camera, or from a plain DV camera. Reason being, we already have a “good enough” camera.

Canon needs to wake up and smell the money they are losing for not appreciating this thing called ‘community’. They see their buyers in a flat way, but unfortunately for them, the HV20/30 enthusiasts are not your average customers. And there are thousands of us. Not to mention the whole marketing game that they don’t take advantage of, as many HV videos are very popular and potential new customers keep asking over and over what camera was used.