Archive for June 15th, 2009

Why free mp3 samples work

I just stumbled against a band called Art in Manila, for whom their label give away 2 free mp3 samples. I heard the songs, I liked what I heard, and went to iTunes to check the rest of their songs. I liked 4 more of their songs via the iTunes preview, which I purchased. Looking around for more info, I found that Orenda Fink is their singer. I checked her 2 free promotional mp3 songs, and I also liked what I heard. So I ended up purchasing one additional song from the singer’s solo album (“Blind Asylum”). Snooping a bit more, I am now looking at the O+S band, which is the singer’s latest project and they also have 2 free songs. If I like what I hear again, I will be buying once more tonight.

Moral of the story: 1-2 free mp3 samples (e.g. your 4rd or 5th best song) of your album should be given away for promotional reasons (and make absolutely sure you have tagged them correctly). However, this will only work if your songs are actually good. If you only have 1-2 good songs in the whole album, then you should get another job anyway.

Update: Bought a song from O+S too just now (“Lonely Ghosts”).

Smooth slow motion test

Swedish music video filmmaker and reader of this blog, Matti Nurmilehto, put my “butter smooth slow-motion” tutorial into action with his PAL 50i HV20 camera and Sony Vegas. Here’s the smooth slo-mo footage he got out of it after following the tutorial:

You should expect even smoother slo-mo from a 60i NTSC camera using my tutorial.

Background apps on the iPhone/iPod

Stu “Prolost” Maschwitz posed the question of what filmmaking-related app would be nice for the iPhone. I replied that a cast & crew scheduling app, with push or wifi notifications, GPS locations of the crew, alarms, IM between the crew, and a backend DB somewhere, would have been great. If the app was to be developed & designed carefully, an iPhone can last at least 2-3 days on WiFi with the app constantly connected to check for messages (I was getting 3 days of registered VoIP on WiFi years ago already on my Nokia phones of the time).

And then it hit me: without background apps on the iPhone, this idea is busted. It just wouldn’t be a realistic solution.

Sure, we can talk all day about background apps needed because we want our Twitter or IM notifications in real time, but in all honesty, that’s more play than work. The idea above instead, is a real work app, and can easily save a lot of money during the shooting of a feature film. To me, this example made me feel even more the need for bg apps, than any other example in the past given by the average net user.

IMO, Apple should get a clue, and make sure they offer bg apps by January. That’s all I have to say about this. Either their phone is a smartphone that’s it’s truly useful to people, or it’s a glorifying ‘feature phone’.

Then, of course, there’s the Android platform, which does allow background apps.

The SanDisk Sansa View 16 GB

Geeks.com, sent over the SanDisk Sansa View 16 GB for a review, along an 8 GB microSDHC card for it. In the box, we also received its USB cable (proprietary connector is used) and some standard earphones.

It took about 2 hours to fully charge the player the first time. The UI loads within 10 seconds and greets you with a scrolling interface. The icons are: Music, Photos, Videos, and More (Radio, voice recording, device settings). When a song is playing, a new icon appears called “Now Playing” (it doesn’t show up otherwise). The UI is controlled by an iPod-like wheel that is actually rotatable rather than touch-sensitive. There’s also a “Home” button, a power on/off/HOLD slider on the side of the device, next to the microphone. The 3.5mm headphone jack is placed on the bottom of the player, next to the proprietary USB connector. The 2.4″ LCD screen is very readable and supports many colors, however the font used in it is pretty ugly.

The device sports 16 GB of internal flash, but it also has a microSD card slot. We tested the slot with an 8 GB card that Geeks supplied for the test.

The music menu has all the normal options one would expect, e.g. playlists, artists, songs, podcasts, audiobooks, genres, and a few more, like “recently added”, “my top rated”, and [voice/FM] “recordings”. When you click on a song, it will start playing, with the band name, album title, song title on the top, followed by the album art, and the progress bar. Clicking the bottom part of the wheel, it will bring a new menu up, that includes options like “Add to Library”, Rate music, repeat, shuffle, EQ, Go List and even “Delete song”. The device supports MP3 and WMA, but the latest firmware adds AAC support too (.m4a). Audio quality was very good.

The Photo menu has some nice slideshow options, while the video menu allows you to resume a video you had started watching earlier. It supports WMV and h.264 videos up to the QVGA resolution. The FM radio option allows you to set presets and even record radio stations, while the voice recording is also pretty straight forward too.

It all sounds good in first glance, and someone could go as far as to say that this might be the next best mp3 player after the iPod, if it wasn’t for the inconsistent UI. There are multiple ways to go “back” to a previous menu, that make the whole usability pretty confusing. On that, we should add that the device failed to read all of our AAC’s album art, and about 40% of our mp3 album art (all jpeg files embedded in the tags, ID3Tag v2.3). The Nokia cellphones also only read about 50% of my mp3’s album art, but if at least there was consistency in the failing of the two devices, I would have talked about a bug on my tagging, but both devices fail on different songs, so it seems that they are just buggy (iTunes and Mp3Tag can read all of them for example).

Also, the player is advertised as having gapless playback, but while the feature seems to have been worked on, it was certainly not as gapless as the iPod is. There was still a small sound heard when hoping between tracks.

The biggest problem however was the database corruption that I experienced twice within the last 3 weeks. The device would fail to recognize that it had GBs of songs in it, even when the “system info” utility correctly reported how much of the flash space was used. In order to fix the problem, you need to either delete or add a song via a PC, so you can force a re-generation of the DB (that takes up a few minutes when the device is full). Problem is, if you are high up in the mountains camping, and you don’t have a laptop with you, here goes your music for the time being.

The USB usability is a bit weird too (the UI for it doesn’t make it clear which mode is set on). More over, when I try to “eject” the device from Explorer, the device reproducibly crashes my Explorer (other devices don’t do that).

On the up side, the player can deliver over 25 hours of continuous playback, which is a feat. Overall, this is a good player if you just want to listen to some music and radio without having high expectations of a consistent interface and usability. It’s definitely better than most cheap mp3 players out there, but nowhere near the mighty iPod (or even the Zune).