Archive for November 27th, 2009

Kodak digicam HD editing with PiTiVi

One thing that bugs me with the 720/30p MPEG4-SP format found on Kodak digicams (not on their digirecorders, as these use h.264), is that it’s very slow to edit on Windows. Most Windows video editors use the Quicktime engine to decode that MOV format, and Quicktime on Windows just plain sucks ostrich balls. I mean, sure, if you have a very modern, very fast PC, you’ll get some acceptable performance out of it, but on a modest PC, you won’t get more than a few fps on the editor’s preview screen. And besides, Sony Vegas is super-crashy when using the Quicktime engine. Every time I had to edit footage from these Kodak digicams, I had to use proxy files. The MPEG4-SP format is NOT a heavy format (it’s even lighter than XViD, which in turn is much lighter than h.264), it’s just that PC’s Quicktime somehow sucks with it.

These days, I am preparing a laptop to give to my mom. She’s 54, she’s never used a computer before, but she wants to learn. So I’m thinking of giving her my HP 1120NR netbook (1.6 Ghz Atom, 1 GB RAM, 16 GB flash storage, 1024×576 res, latest well-configured Ubuntu). I have already left with her the last time I was in Greece my Kodak Z1275 too. It’s a digicam with 720/30p recording capabilities at 12 mbps (no manual controls in video mode, not even exposure compensation). I think she would really enjoy shooting pictures and videos with it — something she didn’t do so far since she had no computer to enjoy them (she just has a 14″ TV with no A/V inputs, but she might buy a 32″ HDTV soon).

So while I was preparing that netbook, I also installed PiTiVi, the only easy-to-use GTK+ video editor that can do HD. KDEnLive is a bit overkill for her I think. So while I was testing PiTiVi with Kodak’s MPEG4-SP format, I found that at least ffmpeg/gstreamer were able to playback the format easily, even via a video editor (which usually adds performance constraints to the decoder), and even with the usage of an Atom CPU. And when removing the toolbars and making its UI “fullscreen”, even at a 1024×576 resolution, video editing was very acceptable! Only one screen needs to be trimmed down to fit in that resolution (the Project Properties dialog).

Of course, PiTiVi, has no support for transitions, effects, or titles. It’s just a straight-cutter right now. But for someone like my mom, I think that would be good enough. It’s fast for the specific video format, somewhat stable (not amazingly though), and it can export back in a 720/30p format (XViD) that the Atom CPU can handle in real time either via VLC or Totem (720/30p h.264 is too close of a call with that CPU, plus, the latest Ubuntu “unrestricted” ffmpeg package has removed AAC support once again). So I envision a scenario of my mom shooting some video, editing it with PiTiVi, exporting as XViD to a 16 GB SDHC card, deleting the working files to save space in the measly internal storage, and playing back the XViD file from the SDHC card on a (new) HDTV via the HP-2-HDMI dongle (if I ever find to buy it, since it’s a rare hardware addon for that netbook model).

As for still pictures, I’m excited about the new F-Spot that features basic image manipulation tools.

Not sure if she will ever manage to learn all that stuff, since she can hardly use her Nokia S40 cellphone, but hey, why not? JBQ’s grandmother learned how to use a PC with Vista at her mid-70s, so it’s never too late.