Archive for December 9th, 2007

More color grading

I did some color grading tests for two very nice videos on Vimeo today. Ben’s video is here, grading tests here and here, and Bill’s video is here, a small grading test here.

OLPC vs Rice?

John C. Dvorak claims that $200 worth of rice is a better idea than offering OLPC to poor countries. Dvorak feels that it’s better to have food than education. Well, my problem with the situation is that a lot of food was offered to Africa (for free) for over 30 years now, and yet we saw no ending in their hunger. If anything, the spread of AIDS made their situation worse. If we had offered them education instead, many more would have died, but the ones who would have survived would have built a better environment for themselves by now. New businesses, less violence, knowledge about AIDS etc, a new Africa.

I am a humanist, but I always try to see the bigger picture, and this bigger picture is not always compatible with the “humanist approach”. The poorest of all would die, the not-completely-poor would get education to help them rebuild their countries. It is more important for me to look at the future generations and how to eliminate the problem, rather than try to fill up bellies right now, make people happy short term, and potentially see no ending to the bigger problem.

Having said that, Dvorak makes the mistake thinking that all the hunger-striken Africans will get OLPCs, while this is not true. To get an OLPC, you need to be going to school, and the kids who go to school there, are not at the same fate as the ones who need the rice right now. Therefore, the OLPC makes sense, it reaches the right kids, and hopefully these kids will grow up and “fix” most of what is wrong around them.

Now, the real question is not ‘OLPC vs Rice’, but rather ‘OLPC vs recycled books’. If books are cheaper, then they make more sense than the OLPC. In that scenario, OLPCs are indeed a bad, insulting, joke to these people.

The next Web media format

W3C has mandated OGG Vorbis/Theora as the next multimedia standard. It is encouraging seeing the organization picking open formats that shun the usage of DRM (forget that Nokia wrongly called OGG ‘proprietary’).

Apple and Nokia are completely right fighting for h.264/AAC instead of Vorbis/Theora though. H.264 is a much more mature format, it has been designed to work perfectly with AAC, and a good encoder implementation of it provides a much better quality than any Vorbis/Theora encoder. Technically speaking, W3C did the wrong decision here. Theora does not work well not even on open source players that have added support for it years ago. Download any Theora file you want and try to play it back, and at some point try to click at another point in the timeline, and chances are that you will be greeted with screen artifacts until the video re-syncs. And if that was not all, the Theora developers had to go around patents and use less efficient algorithms (by their own admission). Sorry, but this is not the kind of experience the market wants. There is an opportunity to now choose the best damn delivery format available today, and that’s h.264, not Theora.

I am obviously a proponent of h.264, although I would have preferred it coupled with WMA instead of AAC. Generally speaking, WMA is able to deliver better quality at low bitrates (best for web usage), mp3 is better at medium bitrates and AAC at high bitrates. But given the fact that h.264/WMA is a pipe dream that Microsoft would never agree to, h.264/AAC is where it’s at.

Now, the whole juice of the situation is just this: would you prefer a F/free but lower quality solution, or a higher quality but proprietary one? The open source advocates would go with the Free solution even if it will piss them off every other minute when using it. The companies and the general public would go with the best solution though, even if they have to put money on the table to license it (the consumer will end up paying for it anyway). I am personally a hard and harsh realist, so I only use the best tool for the job. I don’t want to get angry at software more than I already am. And most people are just like that too.

In other words, would you buy the cheapest shampoo on the market if you knew that it doesn’t completely take the grease out of your hair? Sure you would — if you were only making $5-$10 per day. Like how much the people in the third world countries make. Which is why Linux is so popular there. Because it makes economic sense according to their budget. But the rest of the world doesn’t have to use the same solution. The rest of the world can afford the extra $2 to get a better shampoo/solution. Is it unfair? Maybe, but that’s how it is. Of course, the more expensive shampoo is not always for the best interest of its user. It has been observed to create skin cancer in some situations (DRM). But the chance is small, the market find it an acceptable risk and they go with it, because it makes curly hair look fabulous. It’s the prerogative to live dangerously because the immediate result plays a bigger role to their life. Are they blind consumers who risk their lives over curly hair and don’t think enough of their families and the people they can hurt if they die? Maybe. But so is that guy.

Exporting with Pinnacle Studio in 720p

Hermawan TJioe (aka “Head Shot” on Vimeo) was generous enough to take screenshots of his Pinnacle Studio setup and show us a workflow of how to export HD footage as 720p DivX file for Vimeo HD uploading. An alternative method (using WMV) would be to use the trick described here, save the encoder profile to the default Windows profile location, and then Pinnacle’s WMV exporting panel should be able to pick up your custom profile.