Archive for the 'Apple' Category
I decided to spend some time fixing up Seansense this weekend. I’ve you’re into geeky WordPress website stuff like me, read on! If not, check out one of those other posts.
In addition to fixing broken links and general maintenance, I also thought it would be a good idea to make Seansense 100% iPhone and iPad compatible. Previously the site was a bit of a mess when viewed on an iPhone, with broken Flash video all over the place and formatting issues everywhere. I fixed all this by playing with CSS style sheets and HTML5 video. Keep reading after the break to learn more.No comments
Recently the stars aligned and my cell phone contract expired just as Apple unleashed its latest and greatest, the iPhone 3GS. The bump in features and memory was enough to finally push me over the edge and into iPhone ownership. One of the things that differentiates this model from the previous 3G is the new 3 megapixel camera with video recording capability. Maximum photo resolution is 2048 x 1536, while maximum video resolution is 640 x 480 (VGA). This thing is no HD camcorder or DSLR, but for a cell phone these aren’t bad specs.
It got me thinking… Given the best conditions, can a cell phone video camera and some basic editing with iMovie ’09 make a decent video? I took a stroll along the San Diego harbor this afternoon to find out. I’ll let you be the judge, but I’m pleased with the results.
The only hitch I ran into throughout this process was that I imported the videos via iPhoto, but for whatever reason iMovie didn’t list the movies in the “iPhoto Movies” area of the event library, so I had to reimport the clips. This seems like a weird hiccup for Apple, as media integration is usually their forte.
Overall the iPhone makes a great camera and camcorder when the lighting is good and you’ve left your fancy equipment at home. The hardest part was keeping the video stable, but fortunately iMovie ’09 includes an post-processing stabilization feature that actually worked quite well.
I’ve also put together a gallery of photos I took with the phone. Honestly would you guess these were taken with a cell phone if nobody told you? I’m quite impressed.
You may notice a new “Gallery” tab at the top of the Seansense main page. I’ve installed Gallery on the Seansense website, which is an open-source web-based photo album. It integrates nicely with WordPress and will be used in the future for all of my photos. You can access the gallery using the aforementioned tab or by navigating to gallery.seansense.net.
I’ve finished migrating all of the albums referenced in posts on this site to the new gallery. I still have more older galleries to migrate over from the MobileMe (formerly .Mac) Web Gallery and other places.
In the interest of saving $99/year I decided not to renew my MobileMe account. The main thing I used it for was the gallery; I never used the e-mail, syncing, or web-based stuff. The 20GB online storage is nice as it’s well integrated with OS X, but my web host gives me 600GB disk space. I’d like to make my domains, web hosting, and ISP the only things I spend money on for internet, because with these things I can do just about anything I want to. All the extra paid internet services are just money down the drain.
I’m also looking at various other ways to save and consolidate. Mel is starting an unpaid internship this fall so we’re going to be on one income for a while. More on that later.2 comments
A couple weeks ago my MacBook Pro developed a brand-new feature: Automatic Poweroff! When I would be doing something fairly processor intensive on battery power with around 30-40% charge remaining, it would suddenly and completely shut off. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, go directly to lose all your work. This happened about three times, none of which resulted in me losing anything important. Still, it was very annoying, especially for a computer that is just 10 months old.
Opening System Profiler and taking a look at the battery showed that it had around 160 cycles on it with a Health Indication of “Fair”. The dashboard widget iStat Pro showed that the health was “50%”.
After some research I found out that MacBook Pro batteries manufactured between February 2006 and May 2006 were being flat-out recalled. My battery didn’t fall into this group, but it did fall into the MacBook and MacBook Pro Battery Update 1.2 category. Apple had issued a battery firmware update a while back to fix “issues”, and I had installed this update. Unfortunately certain craptastic batteries would still exhibit the following signs after the update:
Battery is not recognized causing an “X” to appear in the battery icon in the Finder menu bar. Battery will not charge when computer is plugged into AC power. Battery exhibits low charge capacity/runtime when using a fully charged battery with a battery cycle count (as shown in System Profiler) of less than 300. Battery pack is visibly deformed.
I definitely fell under problem #3. Instead of having to call into tech-support hell as I did with my Dell (“and now we press the power button…”), I just made an appointment at the closest Apple Store and took it right in. Despite the fact that the store was jam-packed with an odd combination of geeks and ultra-trendy SoCalites, I only had to wait about 10 minutes. The guy at the “Genius Bar” was nice without being overly friendly. He proceeded to run a whole bunch of programs at once to try to drain the battery quickly, and was able to reproduce the problem after another 15-20 minutes. Once that was done he printed up some paperwork, put in a brand new battery, and sent me on my way. Easy. No stupid questions, no waiting on hold, no pulling out hair trying to explain that I don’t need to defrag the hard-drive.
When I first had this problem my confidence in Apple’s quality took a big hit. Finding that the problem was acknowledged by Apple on their website was a good first step. The totally painless battery replacement experience was a great second step. Dealing with a real, intelligent human face-to-face sure beats the alternatives provided by other computer manufacturers. I’m still disappointed that this happened at all, but I’m glad it was easily resolved. Here’s hoping that the new battery works better than the old one.
I do know one thing for sure: I’m glad I sprung for the 3-year AppleCare plan when I bought this computer.No comments
The new AVCHD support in Apple’s Final Cut Express (FCE) 4.0 makes the program seem like a good choice for use with today’s AVCHD camcorders. All the newest AVCHD models (including the Sony HDR-SR11) record true 1920×1080 HD video. But despite Final Cut Express (FCE) 4.0 advertising support for AVCHD, there is an important limitation: FCE 4.0 only supports a maximum resolution of 1440×1080.
“Wait,” you say. “I thought HD was filmed in wide screen, with an aspect ratio of 16:9 (1.7777). 1440/1080 has an aspect ratio of 4:3 (1.3333)!” Yes, that is correct, but 1440×1080 video is still widescreen HD! It’s just anamorphic widescreen.
Anamorphic technology was developed to squeeze widescreen video into a traditional 4:3 frame without letter-boxing. When anamorphic widescreen video is recorded, the widescreen picture gets squished so it fits in the 4:3 frame. When the video gets played back, the player takes each pixel and stretches it laterally by 133%, resulting in rectangular pixels that fill up a 16:9 aspect ratio screen.
So yes, this is disappointing, but it’s also understandable. AVCHD is new technology and FCE 4.0 is built upon very solid anamorphic foundations. HDV (High-Definition Mini-DV, the predecessor to AVCHD) and older professional HD formats including XDCAM HD, DVCPRO HD and HDCAM are all anamorphic by nature. Rebuilding FCE with native support for 1920×1080 was probably too substantial an undertaking for the 4.0 release; let’s hope it’s coming in the next version! The good news here is that when 1920×1080 support is added you won’t have to transcode all of your video again; FCE 4.0 transcodes 1920×1080 AVCHD video at its native resolution.
You can always export a true 1920×1080 video from FCE 4.0 using Quicktime Conversion, but this video will have been interpolated from the FCE 1440×1080 rendered video. And interestingly enough iMovie ’08 doesn’t seem to have this limitation; there’s no rendering required when working with 1920×1080 video. I can’t confirm that the output from iMovie would be any better than what you get out of FCE.
The thing to take away from all of this is that anamorphic vs. non-anamorphic HD video editing isn’t going to make a huge difference in the quality of the final product. Some people still prefer HDV to AVCHD in terms of video quality, despite the fact that HDV is anamorphic. A bigger concern is encoding the output, as a poorly encoded movie will dramatically decrease the quality compared to the source footage. In fact, to share our edited HD movies we often chose relatively low bit rates to decrease file size, and this choice instantly negates any discussion of anamorphic vs. non-anamorphic due to the amount of quality lost to compression.
Thanks Michael for bringing this to my attention!29 comments
Mel and I had been looking forward to heading out to the Wild Animal Park all week so we could try out the new video camera, so this morning when we saw big dark clouds coming we thought for sure our day would be ruined. But we pressed on, making it to the park in time to beat the majority of the crowds. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the clouds from the coast seemed to scatter and dissipate before they reached the park, so we wound up having a beautiful sunny day. We saw lots of animals, I took lots of video, and we ate a tasty (but pricey) lunch at the park.
This afternoon I spent a lot of time editing the video in Final Cut Express (FCE). iMovie ’08 (which I had previously been using to edit videos) is a great program that is easy to use and produces good results, but I was already starting to feel a little limited by it. Making the jump to FCE is huge; it is the same basic program as Final Cut Pro, which is used to edit multi-million dollar movies and TV shows, just missing the more advanced features. Think of it as the Adobe Photoshop of video editing. At first it comes across as a very complicated program, but after spending some time reading the user manual (an 1152 page PDF document) and watching the tutorials on Apple’s website I started to get the hang of it. I can see why people like this program; it allows for a huge amount of control and has some very nice features. It’ll be fun to work with it more in the future. I still have a lot to learn!
And so here it is, my first video from the Sony HDR-SR11 edited in Final Cut Express:No comments
Yesterday was a big day… As soon as 5:00 PM hit, I was out of the office and on the road to go pick up my new toy. It arrived at my house on Friday but nobody was home, so the meanies at UPS held it in their warehouse all weekend. Waiting was painful, but it was certainly worth it. This is one awesome piece of kit!
After spending a significant amount of time mulling over all the pros and cons of HD camcorders, I finally settled on the Sony HDR-SR11. It is an AVCHD camcorder that records to a built-in 60GB HDD. It features a 5.66 megapixel 1/3″ CMOS sensor, 12X optical zoom lens, 3.2″ touchscreen display, viewfinder, 5.1-channel mic, and plenty of other fun features like Nightshot and Slow Motion Recording.
The first thing I noticed when taking it out of the box was that it has a bit of heft, much more so than the Sony DCR-HC48. This is not a bad thing; it feels very solid and well-built. All of the ports are covered by very robust doors, and the on/off/mode switch, zoom toggle, record button, and other controls feel very substantial and well placed. I like the knurled metal knob at the front for doing manual adjustments of focus, exposure, AE shift, and white-balance shift. The touch screen is beautiful; it’s larger than most and has 921,000 pixels, over four times as many as typical camcorder displays. The touch-screen interface seems straightforward, but it can be difficult to find certain settings at first.
Video Quality and Playback
Video quality is stunning; I took it out in the yard and made some quick videos of flowers and trees, then plugged the camcorder’s USB port into the Playstation 3. I was able to play back the AVCHD files via the PS3 without a hitch, and Mel (my wife) and I were both blown away by the beautiful picture. Color representation seemed very good, as did contrast and sharpness. The zoom is also excellent; at 12x optical, it bests most HD camcorders. The amazing thing is that the digital zoom seems completely useable up to 25x. I noticed no picture degradation, likely because the camera is using the sensor’s extra pixels for the zoom. (Remember, HD video only requires 2.1 megapixels, and this camera has 5.66.)
Editing on the Mac
Without loading any software or drivers, I simply plugged the camera’s USB port into my MacBook Pro, which is a 2.2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo “Santa Rosa” model with 2GB of RAM and OS X 10.5.2. Since I took a few still photos, iPhoto launched automatically and offered to download the pictures to my library. That process went very smoothly, just like with any other digital camera.
Next I launched iMovie ’08, which immediately recognized the camcorder and showed a thumbnail of each clip on the camcorder’s HDD. iMovie also allowed me to play back previews of the clips and to deselect any unwanted clips prior to transfer. This sure beats tape-based camcorders! I recorded only 1 minute and 20 seconds of video, but it took around 5 minutes to transfer and transcode. So far this seems to be the only real downside to AVCHD. The video also ate up a whopping 1.36 GB of disk space… Ouch! Once the video was on my computer, editing was very snappy; moving clips around and adding transitions and effects seemed as fast as with SD footage from the DCR-HC48. The only time I noticed some slight hesitation was during transitions when previewing the movie full-screen.
I used Quicktime to export the movie at 720p for upload to Vimeo using the instructions found here. Exporting the 51 second movie took about 10 minutes and resulted in a 32.2 megabyte file. You can watch the video in SD Flash below, or click the link to go to Vimeo and watch in HD Flash or download the Quicktime file (bottom right corner of Vimeo page).
Overall I’m very pleased with the camcorder so far. I’m looking forward to spending more time with it this weekend. Because this camcorder touts “10MP still images”, I plan on doing a little write-up on the still photo performance soon. Hopefully someone out there is interested in all this gobbledegook, but at least I’m having fun being a geek and playing with my toys!
UPDATE 3/31/08 The still image testing of the HDR-SR11 is now available here.52 comments