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June 2009 Archives

June 1, 2009

Presentations and Videos from Streaming Media East

Presentations from Streaming Media East conference (see previous post) --sessions and workshops -- are posted at www.streamingmedia.com/east.

Plus many of the videos from the conference and associated Content Delivery Summit are now available at www.streamingmedia.com/videos.

Some recommended viewing:

- The keynote by Paul Sagan, CEO of Akamai on "HD Online @ The Tipping Point" -- Sagan provides a fascinating review of the growth of online video on his Internet Television Timeline, and then his thoughts on the opportunity and reality of HD video online. [PDF presentation and Session video]

- Fun session on "Live Broadcasting Over Mobile and Wi-Fi Networks," chaired by Steve Garfield, Mobile Video Journalist at SteveGarfield.com. Featuring demonstrations of sharing live video directly from your phone from Bhaskar Roy, co-founder of Qik.com, and sharing and managing live video channels and archives from Max Haot, founder and CEO of LiveStream.com (formerly Mogulus). [Session video]


- Jan Ozer's wonderful practical advice on "Streaming Production: Improving Your Video Quality" (see previous post). [PDF presentation]

- Dan Rayburn's annual review of "CDN Research Data: Market Sizing and Pricing Trends" (see previous post). [PDF presentation]

For more from the show, Dan Rayburn posted a Show Recap, with links to summaries of show coverage by Larry Kless.

Sharing Photos on Portable Devices

Got pics in your pocket? You don't need to carry snapshots in your wallet anymore, much less a photo album in your bag -- That's so last decade!

Today's portable electronic devices can make great photo viewers, some with slideshows and background music.

Just take full advantage of the capabilities of the devices you're probably already using:

- Since you're already carrying a mobile phone, add a memory card to store your favorite photos, or to take advantage of the larger displays on smartphones. Then access your photos online at sharing and social media websites.

- Sync to your Apple iPod or other portable media player. With expanding screen sizes, re-doubling storage capacity, and the processing power to play videos, today's media players can provide a great interface for sharing a photo collection.

- Do more the new E-book readers like the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader Digital Book. These not only display books and other document files, they play audiobooks and music, and display illustrations and photographs. And with built-in cellular data service, the Kindle even has a basic Web browser (see previous post).

- You may not have noticed if you're not in the target demographic, but handheld gaming systems like the Sony PlayStation Portable and the Nintendo DS line have been expanding from gaming to more general entertainment devices, with photos, multimedia playback and wireless connectivity.

- And don't forget your digital camera. With bigger displays and expanding storage capacity, you can save lots of photos to browse and view on the road. And new cameras make sharing even better, with bigger displays that are easier to view better outdoors, even in direct sunlight, and the beginning of wireless connectivity to upload to photo sharing sites and display online galleries on the camera (see previous posts on the Sony DSC G3 Wi-Fi camera and Eye-Fi Wi-Fi memory card).

- Beyond pocket devices, Netbook computers are not much more expensive than a high-end smartphone designed for getting online to communicate, browse, and have fun -- including sharing photos and other media (see previous Netbook posts).

Finally, to help with syncing your photo collections between the dersktop, Web, and portable devices, check out applications like Adobe Photoshop Elements that integrates with Photoshop.com and mobile phones (see previous post), and Nero Move it, which has built-in support for converting and transferring file to a wide variety of mobile phones, PDAs, media players, game systems, and even digital cameras and camcorders (see previous post).

See my full article on Sharing Photos on Portable Devices

Also see my Portable Storage Gallery for more on memory cards
See my Portable Media Players Gallery for more on pocket players and gaming devices
See my Mobile Communications Gallery for more on mobile phones, smartphones, and netbooks

June 3, 2009

HDMI 1.4 - Theatrical Entertainment in the Home

Don't look now, but the next generation of widescreen displays and home theater is looming on the horizon. You may have heard rumblings of new technologies like 3-D television and higher-definition digital video for movie theaters. And while these are not quite mass market yet, the foundation and infrastructure to support them is being readied, in the form of the recently-announced HDMI 1.4 specification.

HDMI is the High-Definition Multimedia Interface -- the one cable that will rule them all, replacing the clutter of cables from video devices to your HDTV with one single cable that carries all the video and audio information, in high-quality digital format.

The current HDMI format supports up to up to 1080i/60 video and 8-channel lossless digital audio. The new HDMI 1.4 supports 4K x 2K resolution (including 4096 x 2160 at 24 Hz) -- the same resolution as many digital theaters. So if you have a big enough room, someday we can think about theatrical-quality video in the home.

And HDMI 1.4 supports 3-D displays, with common 3-D formats and resolutions, up to dual-stream 1080p resolution. Put on your glasses -- the consumer electronics industry hopes that 3-D will be a big driver for new products, as the film industry continues to experiment with more movies in 3-D.

HDMI already supports two-way communication between devices, for example for automatic configuration of the best format, and one-touch play. HDMI 1.4 adds Ethernet networking, so devices can share the network for bi-directional 100 Mb/sec communications. Soon your toaster will be programming your set-top box, and vice versa.

For specific kinds of uses, HDMI 1.4 also adds an audio return channel from devices that input audio, to send audio upstream for processing and playback, and color space support for digital still cameras, for more accurate colors when displaying photos directly from a camera.

Plus, HDMI 1.4 broadens the format to more devices with a Micro HDMI connector for portable devices, supporting 1080p resolutions with a 19-pin connector that's half the size of the existing HDMI Mini connector, and an Automotive Connection System for in-vehicle HD distribution.

These enhancements will require corresponding special cables:
- Standard HDMI Cable (category 1) - Data rates up to 1080i/60 (75 Mhz)
- High Speed HDMI Cable (category 2) - Data rates beyond 1080p (340 Mhz)
- Standard HDMI Cable with Ethernet, High Speed HDMI Cable with Ethernet
- Automotive HDMI Cable - Connect external devices to in-vehicle HDMI devices

The next generation of home theater may be interesting indeed!

See my Home Digital Media Resources summary for more on home media interfaces.

June 5, 2009

SIGGRAPH 2009 Computer Graphics Conference in New Orleans

ACM SIGGRAPH 2009 is coming to New Orleans this summer, from August 3 to 8. This is the 36th annual International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques.

If you're into graphics and animation, this is the worldwide gathering to attend:
- for the Technical Program and new breakthroughs you'll be seeing in movies and video games in a few years,
- for the Animation Festival featuring high-end commercial work, state-of-the-art research demonstrations, and enchanting student projects,
- for the Art Galleries, Emerging Technologies and other showcases and interactive experiences,
- for the Exhibition with new developments in graphics hardware and software, and
- for all the other opportunities to meet and explore.

The SIGGRAPH 2009 Advance Program booklet is now available, especially with details on the technical sessions (59 pages, 2.28 MB PDF)

Also enjoy the Computer Animation Festival 2009 Preview Video (2:30)

June 8, 2009

Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 Update for Flexible Workflow

These days, digital media professionals need to do it all -- production and delivery, video and Web and print -- and work in all media -- video production, and audio, motion effects, Web and DVD. Similarly, no one tool can do it all, which leads to integrated suites like Adobe Creative Suite 4 (see previous blog posts) and Apple Final Cut Studio.

But the power of a suite is more than a collection of tools, it's also about how easily you can move media and projects among the tools. For example, Adobe provides tight integration among its tools with Adobe Dynamic Link to avoid intermediate rendering when moving assets among After Effects CS4, Premiere Pro CS4, Encore CS4, and Soundbooth CS4. Premiere Pro CS4 also includes OnLocation CS4 for initial capture with direct-to-disk recording and monitoring, and Encore CS4 for exporting productions to Blu-ray disc, DVD, and the Web.

And a suite also has to open to integrating beyond its own boundaries in order to fit into a larger workflow, so it can import and export to other tools, and work with third-party hardware.

To this end, Adobe has released updates for Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 (version 4.1) and other Adobe Creative Suite 4 tools to further open up post-production workflow options, especially though interoperability with RED Digital Cinema and Avid Technology software workflows. So Adobe now supports software-only HD workflows from capture to output in tapeless formats including RED R3D, Sony XDCAM EX and HD, Panasonic P2, and AVCHD.

Updates in Premiere Pro CS4 version 4.1 include:

- File-based workflow for RED R3D files, without transcoding or rewrapping, in Premiere Pro CS4 4.1, After Effects CS4 9.0.2, and Adobe Encore, using RED’s beta plug-in. -- See Native support of RED R3D files in Adobe tools.

- Avid project import without recapturing media files -- Improved interoperability with Avid Media Composer software through AAF and the MXF-wrapped IMX format.

- Uncompressed SD and HD acquisition and accelerated HD workflows on leading post-production hardware including AJA Video, Blackmagic Design, and Matrox, through compatibility enhancements.

- Full support for 64-bit systems with faster performance and responsiveness to accelerate compute-intensive postproduction, though bug fixes and faster project load times. -- See www.adobe.com/go/64bitsupport.

The new Creative Suite 4 versions are available at no cost via the Adobe updater and from adobe.com. Trial versions are available online for download.

See summary of the Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 4.1 Update

See my full article, Summary: Adobe Creative Suite 4, for more on the CS4 suites and individual applications.

See summaries of video applications and versions in my Video Editing Software Gallery.

    Find the Adobe CS4 Production Premium
    and Master Collection on Amazon.com

June 10, 2009

The WebAround -- Simple Backdrop for Webcam Videos

The WebAround is a simple idea, nicely realized, to help you make better-looking, more professional webcam videos.

The problem with shooting informal Web videos is that it's just not very classy to shoot clips that show the clutter of your office (much less your home) behind you -- and it also lowers the quality of your video by wasting compression on the details in the background. Instead, you can present a much nicer look by positioning a clean backdrop behind you. But it's a pain to set up and break down a backdrop in a cramped and temporary space, or to try to hang and drape cloths around.

Instead, the WebAround is a flexible, collapsible, portable webcam backdrop. It's made from a light-weight nylon material, opens to a circle 40 inches in diameter, and -- here's the best part -- it has an adjustable strap to stand it up by slipping it over the back of a chair. Just set it up, sit down, and you're shooting in your own personal studio. This also gives you some privacy when you're working in an open space.

When you're done, the WebAround folds up to around 15 inches. You can clean it with a damp rag, and use a streamer or iron to remove wrinkles.

The WebAround is available for $29.95 in green, gray, or blue, and comes with a 30 day money back guarantee. You can also order it with custom designs or logos.

There's also a new reversible green screen / blue screen version with a surface designed for chroma-key work.

June 16, 2009

FlipShare Software Updated to Share Videos Online

The Pure Digital Flip Video line of pocket camcorders (see previous Flip posts) continues to demonstrate the attraction of small and easy-to-use devices for shooting video -- Flip Video models were ranked as the top two best-selling camcorders in the U.S. for the first quarter 2009, according to The NPD Group.

The Flip Video cams fit in your pocket, turn on instantly, and have simple controls -- just push the big red button to start recording. And then to access your clips, the Flips have a pop-out USB connector to hook up directly to your computer, and built-in FlipShare software for PCs and Macs on board the camcorder -- so you don't need a separate install, you can just run it directly from the device to view, organize, and share your videos.

The FlipShare software already provided simple video editing to make your own movies, and then share via e-mail and also by uploading directly to MySpace or YouTube. And Flip Video has just updated the FlipShare software to now share your videos through Flip Channels -- your own personal video collections shared on the web (at FlipShare.com), or with the new free FlipShare iPhone application.

You can create collections of clips from your FlipShare library, upload them as custom Flip Channels, and then share them with friends and family (by sending the link to list of e-mail addresses).

Much as with the growth of photo-sharing websites that would like to host your photo collections, we're seeing more options for hosting videos online as well, from video-centric sites like YouTube to social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. While photo and video editing tools are adding support for uploading to these popular sites, they are also building more tightly integrated connections to their own dedicated sites, like Adobe Elements and Photoshop.com (see previous post). Similarly, the FlipShare.com site follows the simplicity approach of the Flip Video products by focusing on organizing fun collections of video to share with various groups.

The new 4.5 version of FlipShare software can be downloaded for free from the Flip Video support site, and will begin shipping as the on-board software for all Flip Video camcorders as of today. The FlipShare for iPhone application will be available for free in the iPhone App Store.

Check the Flip site to compare the Flip products

See my Digital Camcorders Gallery for more on the Flip line and digital camcoders.

Find the Flip Mino and MinoHD on Amazon.com
Find the 2nd-gen Flip Ultra and UltraHD on Amazon.com

June 17, 2009

Logitech Vid - Simple Video Conferencing Software

Logitech has an extensive line of QuickCam Webcams for notebooks and desktop use, ranging from around $29 to $129, some with built-in mics, high-quality glass lenses, autofocus, and even motorized tracking.

These are compatible with video instant messaging and calling applications like Windows Live Messenger, AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, and Skype. And Logitech includes several QuickCam software applications for capturing photos and sending video e-mail, options to enhance the video and audio quality, plus Video Effects to overlay fun face masks and decorations and apply photographic-style filters.

But Logitech has found in its consumer research that setting up IM applications for video can be difficult, and trying to use them can be confusing as the video part gets lost among all the other features. Meanwhile, Logitech acquired SightSpeed last year to develop its own video calling technology and services. (SightSpeed offers consumer video calling services including video e-mail, and business video conferencing with 4- and 9-way connections and collaboration.)

The result is today's introduction of Logitech Vid, simple video conferencing software for PC or Mac. Vid has a simple setup, which uses e-mail addresses to identify you and your contacts. It automatically finds your webcam, mic, and speakers, although you can change them in the settings dialog. (It also automatically reduces background noise and performs echo cancellation.) There's also a handy Practice Call option on the main screen to record a brief clip to test your equipment.

The main screen then shows thumbnail photos of your friends, so you can just click to start a video chat. Again, there aren't a lot of confusing options -- just mute, full-screen display, and picture-in-picture to show your local camera view. It also works fine without a camera for audio chats. You can leave Vid running in the background to show other users that you are available, and respond to calls.

The video is good quality, VGA 640 x 480 resolution, at full 30 frames per second. It's designed to run over a 768 Kbps connection (receive and send), but will run down to a minimum of 256 Kbps.

Vid is compatible with SightSpeed and Dell Video Chat, but does not work with the various instant messaging and calling applications -- although you still can run them on the same machine.

Logitech is making Vid available as a free download for users with Logitech webcams. You also can send e-mail invitations to friends to download the software for free and connect with you, no matter what kind of webcam they are using.

Otherwise, if you don't have a Logitech webcam and have not received an invite, you still can use Vid on a 30-day trial basis. You can't by the software by itself, but you can get a Logitech webcam (starting at $29) to authorize the software -- or find an old model.

See more on webcams in my Home Media Gallery

Find the Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000
and QuickCam Pro for Notebooks on Amazon.com

June 18, 2009

Eye-Fi Adds Ad Hoc Networking, Uploads of RAW Photos

Someday we will be able to get rid of our collections of data cables and card readers -- when all our devices are wireless. But until then, the Eye-Fi SD cards are a step in that direction by adding Wi-Fi networking to cameras, so you can upload photos (and videos) automatically and wirelessly to your computer or to photo sharing sites.

Eye-Fi added video uploads in March, along with a 4 GB card and a free iPhone app (see previous post). And now the new Eye-Fi Pro card can upload even big RAW image files (along with JPEG photos), plus supports Ad Hoc networking directly between a camera and a computer, even without a wireless router.

In addition, Eye-Fi has added a new Selective Transfer feature for all of the Eye-Fi cards, so you can mark only selected photos and videos to be uploaded, using the "protect" or "lock" feature in the camera menu. This is a new free option in the Eye-Fi Manager software.

The Eye-Fi line starts at $49 for a 2 GB card that connects over your home network, then adds cards to upload to online sites, support video files, geotag photos, and support Wi-Fi hotspots (these are also available as add-on services). The new Eye-Fi Pro card with 4 GB adds the RAW format and ad-hoc networking, and is $149.

See my article on using the Eye-Fi Wi-Fi SD Card for Digital Cameras.

See my Digital Cameras Gallery for details on the Eye-Fi cards.

Find the Eye-Fi Pro on Amazon.com

June 20, 2009

Smartphone Potpourri: Apple iPhone and Palm Pre

The new smartphones are here -- the new Apple iPhone and Palm Pre are finally ready for action.

The new Apple iPhone 3G S provides up to 2X performance improvement, plus several long-awaited features found in competitive products, including a 3 megapixel camera with autofocus (was 2 MP), video recording (was photos only), and hands free voice control (as in mobile phones).

Apple also released the iPhone OS 3.0 software, again with much-requested features including cut & paste (finally), MMS multimedia messaging, Spotlight Search, landscape keyboard, and a Find My iPhone feature for lost phones (via MobileMe) with a Remote Wipe self-destruct option.

The iPhone 3G S is available from AT&T with 16 GB for $199, and 32 GB for $299. Since iPhones are sold at discounted prices with a service plan, AT&T is charging higher prices for recent purchasers to upgrade. Apple also dramatically reduced the iPhone 3G to $99 with 8 GB (the original iPhone from two years ago was $599 for 8 GB).

And the Palm Pre is now out, with some interesting new ideas in the design of a smartphone interface, including the "Activity Card" interface to flip easily between multiple tasks, and integrated views combining from multiple sources for contacts, calendar, e-mail, and messaging.

The Palm Pre is available from Sprint for $199.99 with a two-year agreement and $100 mail-in rebate.

See Gizmodo's Smartphone Buyer's Guide: The Best of the Best, with helpful charts comparing hardware, software, and costs for the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3G S, Palm Pre, HTC Magic (expected T-Mobile G2), and BlackBerry Storm.

See full article: Apple iPhone: Product Summary
See full article: Palm Pre: Product Summary

Also see my Mobile Communications Gallery for more on smartphones

June 23, 2009

Logitech QuickCam Webcams

If you're interested in getting a webcam and using software like Logitech Vid to chat with friends and family (see previous post), then Logitech has a nice selection to choose from.

The Logitech QuickCam webcam line starts at $29, with cameras that can sit on a desk or clamp onto monitors, and notebook cameras designed for travel.

You can start at around $29 to $39 with the Logitech QuickCam Connect and QuickCam for Notebooks, VGA-resolution cameras (640x480) with a built-in microphone for headset-free calling, and Logitech's RightSound technology for reduced background noise and echo cancellation. [image: QuickCam Connect with now-traditional eyeball design]

Then step up to higher-res sensors, higher-quality glass lenses, RightLight 2 technology for dimly lit scenes or poor backlight, Carl Zeiss Optics, and autofocus. The QuickCam Orbit AF ($129) even has motorized tracking to follow as you move around the room.

Near the top of the line are the QuickCam Pro 9000 and QuickCam Pro for Notebooks (each $99), with all of the above (except tracking), featuring a 2 megapixel sensor for up to 1600 x 1200 video, and photos enhanced up to 8 MP. [image: QuickCam Pro for Notebooks]

Logitech also bundles a variety of software with the higher-end camera, including Logitech Video Effects, Fun Filters, Intelligent Face Tracking, HP Photosmart Essential (to capture, edit, and print images), and video chat and conferencing software (Windows Live Messenger, Skype, Yahoo Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger).

Interestingly, in this age of rapid product innovation and turn-over, Logitech's webcams have amazing longevity -- the QuickCam Pros and QuickCam for Notebooks were intorduced in 2007, and the QuickCam Connect in 2006. Even more amazing, Logitech has been able to hold the price points on these products (which were aggressively priced to begin with). Meanwhile, Logitech has upgraded its software and added new applications like the Vid video conferencing -- check the support area on the website for QuickCam software updates.

See more on webcams in my Home Media Gallery

Find the Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000
and QuickCam Pro for Notebooks on Amazon.com

June 26, 2009

SanDisk Extreme SDHC Card -- 32 GB Capacity, 30 MB/sec. Speed

SanDisk has just announced its latest 32 GB Extreme series SD Card, due in August with 32 GB capacity -- and running at up to 30 MB/sec. read and write data rates.

Capacity is easy to get a handle on -- more bytes of storage gives more room for bigger photos, music, and high-definition video. But what's all this about speed and performance?

SD cards are marked with several types of information (besides the manufacturer), including the "SDHC" logo (SD card, High Capacity format), the storage capacity (i.e., 32 GB), and the speed "Class" -- the circle "C" with a number (i.e., 2, 4, 6, or 10).

The Class rating specifies the guaranteed data transfer rate, in megabytes per second. This is the baseline or minimum guaranteed performance of the card, so you can be sure it matches the recording rate requirements of your particular device. For example, AVCHD (H.264) format recording on an HD video camcorder requires a maximum of 24 Mbps (bits/sec), which corresponds to 3 M Bytes per second -- which means a Class 4 device (at 4 MB/sec.) provides all the performance required for the device, and a higher-performance class 6 card would provide no additional benefit, at least for recording.

So as SanDisk announces that it is stepping up its top-of-the-line Extreme cards from Class 6 to the new Class 10 (for a minimum of 10 MB/sec. recording rate), what's this about also promoting a 30 MB/sec. maximum speed?

What SanDisk, for one, would like you to understand that there's more to using memory cards than just recording photos or videos. When you upload all those HD videos to a computer, for example, or sync your media library of photos, music, and movies, a higher maximum speed gives headroom for a quicker transfer time.

And, interestingly, shooting photos can require higher data rates than HD video. Digital images now have higher resolution than HD video, and also are moving to less-compressed formats like RAW, so individual images are growing larger in size. And cameras aren't just for shooting one photo at a time, they support rapid burst modes to record continuous sequences of photos in fractions of a second.

In addition, the lines between different categories of devices are blurring -- today's digital cameras also shoot HD video, and today's HD camcorders also shoot high-quality high-res stills. So a camera's minimum Class rating may be set by its video recording mode, while a camcorder's read/write performance may be stressed by its photo burst recording mode.

So when shopping for a memory card, remember that while the Class defines the minimum baseline required data rate for a specific product, additional headroom in terms of the maximum speed rating can add visible performance benefits including longer burst recording.

See my full article: Flash Memory: Technology Summary for more on memory card formats and features

See previous posts: 32 GB SD Cards and Future Terabyte Memory Cards

See my Portable Storage Gallery for more on storage formats and devices.

Find the SanDisk Ultra II and Extreme III SDHC cards on Amazon.com

June 29, 2009

SanDisk ImageMate USB Reader/Writers - Sleek, Small, and Fast

Once you've finished shooting photos (and/or video) to your flash memory camera (or camcorder), you'd like to quickly upload them to your computer to view, edit, and share. This is where memory cards with higher maximum read/write speeds can shine (see previous post), as long as your card reader also has the performance headroom.

Since SanDisk is so interested in high-speed memory cards, it makes sense to also have introduced the SanDisk ImageMate USB Reader/Writers that are small, sleek, and, of course, fast. Both are glossy black, with a detachable metal tripod stand, held on securely with two indents and magnetic attraction.

The smaller SanDisk ImageMate Multi-Card USB Reader/Writer is only some 2 1/4 x 1 1/2 x 3/8 inches. The trick to making it so small is that it has only one card slot, which can handle the basic variants of all four main memory card formats (SD / MMC, Memory Stick, and xD) -- though not the micro sizes or Compact Flash. It's rated to support up to 30 MB/sec. read and 27 MB/sec. write speeds with a SanDisk Extreme III 30 MB/Sec. SDHC card. Zoom!

The sibling SanDisk ImageMate All-In-One USB Reader/Writer is about twice as long, to fit the more traditional four card slots (for microSD, SD/MMC, Memory Stick / Duo, and CF variants). And it's rated to support up to 34 MB/sec. with a SanDisk Extreme IV 45 MB/sec. CompactFlash card.

These ImageMates also have a Transfer button on the top to launch a selected favorite application or website (using a downloadable application).

They're fast, sleek and small, to take up less space, particularly mounted vertically on the stand. The smaller SanDisk ImageMate Multi-Card is around $22 ($16 street), and the ImageMate All-In-One is $33 ($28 street).

See my Portable Storage Gallery for more on storage formats and devices.

Find the SanDisk ImageMate Multi-Card USB Reader/Writer
and ImageMate All-In-One Reader/Writer on Amazon.com

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About June 2009

Entries posted to Manifest Tech Blog in June 2009, listed from oldest to newest.

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