Archive for May 20th, 2009

The new sci-fi shows of the 2009-2010 TV season

Flash Forward (ABC)
The whole population of the planet blacks out for 2′:17″.

A re-imagining of the 1980’s miniseries about the world’s first encounter with an alien race.

Day One (NBC)
It’s the story of life on earth following a global catastrophe that has devastated the world’s infrastructures.

Past Life (FOX)
A psychologist and a former NYPD detective who have to unravel mysteries in the present and the past.

Human Target (FOX)
The new series is more of an action thriller with a few brushes of sci-fi.

Eastwick (ABC)
The series is based on the popular movie “The Witches of Eastwick”. Fantasy.

Vampire Diaries (CW)
A young woman is torn between two vampires — one good, one evil. Fantasy.

The ethics of an alien invasion

My daily brain thought stream can usually be divided into three categories: music, video, and… exo-politics. I am afraid there’s no space left for good taste in fashion.

I am not a [firm] believer of UFOs or alien abductions, but I surely try to keep an open mind about it all. So, let’s assume that the alien abductions are true, and that — according to Temple University professor David Jacobs, Ph.D — the aliens’ sinister plot is to replace the human race with new Grey-human hybrid beings (so they can survive in this planet, while otherwise being Grey). To continue reading this blog post, please read the link above. Now, how is all that “alarming” and “unethical”?

Sure it’s alarming for our race, and our history, and our culture, but is something like annihilation of a species unheard of? Humans have been killing other humans to take over their land, they have killed off whole species numerous times for no good reason, and as very correctly my husband pointed out the other day: “how’s our genetically modified soy, or corn, different than this alien-human hybrid?” The same ethical rules apply (saying that sentient beings have priority over other lifeforms is sorely misguided). That didn’t stop humans from devouring this planet, and changing it and its species fundamentally. It’s one thing to hunt for food, and another to act like you own the whole star constellation.

So why are all these UFO web sites, and forums, and alleged abductees are crying foul? Why do they think that humans can do all these things to others but no one else can do this to them? Oh, of course, the various abductees will reply to my argument with a “but I personally never did any of these things”, but we all know that they didn’t do anything to stop it either. When was the last time you wrote to your Congressman, or camped outside the White House to protest a bad environmental law? Or even stopped buying corn or soy products? Fuck, you can’t even stop buying RIAA music (I know I can’t), no matter how much you disagree with their tactics. We are ALL responsible for what we collectively do, so shut the fuck up and enjoy your alien anal probe.

And who is to say that “evolution” is only a natural process, and not also an artificial one? So if our next step as a species is to be part alien, and adhere to new philosophies or beliefs, why is this exactly bad? I am pretty sure when most of you who have read of the Neanderthal species and how it eclipsed to make space for Homo Sapiens, you applaud it (even subconsciously). Well, what if this is something like this? Why stop progress? Who is to say that we are better than this hybrid species and we deserve to continue be who we are? And who says that if we weren’t the ones with the superior technology we wouldn’t do the exact same thing to other alien species? I bet you $100 that’s what we would do!

Maybe at the very end it is all about the law of the jungle, but on a galactic terrain. Don’t get me wrong. In the event of an alien invasion, I will be in the front line, fighting for my, personal right(?) to live. I fantasize of punching Greys in the face. But this doesn’t mean that I don’t “understand” where these beings are coming from, and why they do the things they do. It’s just that when I read comments online from alleged abductees saying that “the Greys are not ethical beings”, it first makes me chuckle, and then it makes me angry. Are we all so blind, hypocritical, and arrogant anymore?

Ok, back to real world now. Felt good in the la-la land.

Basic video editing with FFmpeg on Linux

Here’s a small guide editing your DV/HDV clips with ffmpeg under Ubuntu Linux. All cutting, processing, and exporting is done via the command line (oh, the joy!). Sure, this method doesn’t have niceties like fades, titles, effects etc, but it works for basic editing. Please note that not all AVCHD formats from all such cameras are supported.

First, you need to install the right version of FFmpeg, that supports all codecs (the default Ubuntu version doesn’t, for legal reasons). Follow the “B” solution from this tutorial to install the full version of ffmpeg on the latest versions of Ubuntu.

Now, find the DV/HDV or AVCHD video files you want to trim, or slice & cut. Watch a video file on a video player (e.g. VLC or Totem), and on a text editor (e.g. gEdit) type the minutes/seconds you want to cut. For example, you can type:
– section 1: keep from 00:00:01 to 00:00:15
– section 2: keep from 00:02:37 to 00:03:54
– blah-blah…
– blah-blah…

Then, load your glorious terminal, navigate to your videos’ folder, and type:
ffmpeg -ss 00:00:01 -t 00:00:15 -i "video1.m2t" -acodec copy -vcodec copy "edited-video1.m2t"
This means that ffmpeg will only save to a new file the video from the first second up to the 15th second. Adjust the numbers according to your needs. The transcoding will be completely lossless and done in mere seconds. Do the same for all your other sections/files. The original files won’t be destroyed btw, so you can re-cut them if needed.

After you have done this for all your files, you can put together the various edited files in a single file!
cat edited-video1.m2t edited-video2.m2t edited-video3.m2t > chapter1.m2t
Warning: The files must be of the exact same type! You can’t mix and mash different formats!

Now, you might want to burn a DVD! Here’s how to create a widescreen PAL DVD:
ffmpeg -i "chapter1.m2t" -aspect 16:9 -target pal-dvd "chapter1.mpg"
Use “ntsc-dvd” for NTSC videos instead of “pal-dvd” above. Also, you can have many different “chapter” files, that can act as different chapters to your DVD. You can use an app like DeVeDe to put together the various edited chapters/videos, and burn your DVD.

And here’s how to export for YouTube/Vimeo/PS3/XBoX360 in 720p HD h.264/AAC .MP4. First, let’s put all the chapters in a single video (if you have gone that chapters route):
cat chapter1.m2t chapter2.m2t chapter3.m2t > myvideo.m2t
And then, do the final export:
ffmpeg -deinterlace -i "myvideo.m2t" -threads 2 -f mp4 -vcodec libx264 -level 41 -refs 2 -loop 1 -deblockalpha 0 -deblockbeta 0 -parti4x4 1 -partp8x8 1 -partb8x8 1 -coder 1 -subq 6 -brdo 1 -me_range 21 -s 1280x720 -r 30000/1001 -b 5120k -bt 8192k -bufsize 15000k -maxrate 16000k -g 300 -acodec libfaac -ac 2 -ab 128k "myvideo.mp4"
Use “-r 25” instead of “-r 30000/1001” if you are on a PAL instead of an NTSC region.

And one last tip, for those who want the ultra-widescreen cinematic look. Add the code below to your (final) exporting code of ffmpeg, and adjust the numbers accordingly to your taste and create horizontal letterboxing:
-padtop 44 -padbottom 44 -padcolor 000000

Then, sit back, and enjoy the video on your TV. Oh, did I mention before that my TV runs on Linux?