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October 2011 Archives

October 1, 2011

Corel MotionStudio 3D for Video

Corel MotionStudio 3D brings 3D animation to video enthusiasts, including flying and popping text, bouncing, twisting, and exploding 3D objects, and even fire and smoke particle systems.

What Corel has done with this new product is to build on the base of a traditional object modeling and animation tool, and enhance it for use by video editors.

Instead of needing to become a 3D export, you can get started with the library of hundreds of pre-built objects, and then apply hundreds more looks, effects, and animations.

Then customize the objects with deep control over the 3D attributes, and customize the animation with keyframe control in the timeline.

Plus, you can add your own elements by importing your own 2D graphics which are extruded to 3D, or create your own 3D objects by building solid objects from shapes.

Add more elements to build an entire scene, with global effects including fire, shadow, reflection, glow, lens flare, motion blur, and depth of field.

The result can be a single animated 3D object (flying text or spaceship), a mini-story overlay (with multiple objects, fire, smoke), or a fully animated scene.

You then can export in common video formats to play or include in other productions, especially with alpha channel for blending. Or export animations for the Web, or direct as 3D videos.

MotionStudio 3D is an impressive new product, making cool 3D effects possible for video enthusiasts. It's available as a download for $99.99 from Corel. Download the fully-functional trial version to try it out.

See my article for more on the features and interface --
Walkthrough: Corel MotionStudio 3D

    Find the Corel MotionStudio 3D on Amazon.com

October 3, 2011

Configuring Your Next Video Editing Computer

Does your computer feel sluggish when you're editing? Maybe it's time to upgrade to take advantage of the latest round of technology so you can reach 64-bit, multi-core, GPU-accelerated, warp-drive video processing nirvana.

While it's always the situation that "there's never been a better time to get a new computer," this is more true than ever -- with the completion of the transition to 64-bit computing, widespread support for multi-core CPU and GPU acceleration, and major boosts in disk interface speeds.

Even better, there's an even broader range of options for configuring a system to your particular needs, not only with dedicated editing workstations and cutting-edge desktop systems, but also with powerful laptops that can support intensive video work.

The goal is to provide the right combination of hardware to assist your editing software in providing the best editing experience -- with real-time playback of layered timelines, instant preview of edits and effects, and background rendering for export while you continue to work.

So what are the best trade-offs to best invest for your needs?

Your first priority with today's 64-bit software clearly is to bulk up on the local memory to provide more elbow room to directly process sequences.

You'll also benefit from a faster processor with more cores, especially if you often edit native compressed formats like AVCHD, or encode to multiple compressed formats.

Stepping up the GPU (see earlier post) can significantly speed up your workflow, especially if you have effects-heavy timelines with multiple tracks with multiple effects.

And the disk drive capacity and performance has become more important when editing multiple files and higher resolutions, especially if you tend to composite many layers in your timelines.

But the real question is how well your preferred video editing software takes advantage of these capabilities, so build up from the system requirements for products like Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5, Apple Final Cut Pro X, and Sony Vegas Pro 10. These companies also work with partners to recommend step-up systems for more advanced editing.

See my full article in Videomaker Magazine - Recommendations for the Best Video Editing Computer - for more on configuring a video editing system.

And see my previous article - Getting into GPUs - for more on accelerating video with GPUs (Graphics Processing Unit).

See my Video Editing Software Gallery for information and links on video editing tools.

October 7, 2011

Apple iPhone 4S - Seriously Interesting

Ecstasy!! -- It's a new Apple iPhone. Agony! -- It's not the rumored iPhone 5; it's just a "4S". The "S" may stand for a bump in Speed or Software from the iPhone 4 (see earlier post), but it's definitely not for Sexy or Stupendous. Instead, it appears that the iPhone 5 name is being reserved for a future new design and/or step up to 4G wireless speeds (see earlier post).

Apple positions the iPhone 4S as the same thin glass and stainless steel design, but "entirely new" on the inside. That's not quite "insanely great," but the 4S actually is yet another impressive piece of engineering from Apple, cramming significant enhancements into the same, still-sweet design as the iPhone 4:

- The iPhone 4S is now a world phone, working on both AT&T and Verizon networks, as well as overseas -- and adding Sprint as a third option.

- It steps up to the same Apple dual-core A5 processor that's in the iPad, for faster performance (2x) and graphics (7x).

- And Apple has significantly enhanced the camera, from 5 to 8 megapixels, and now supporting HD 1080p video recording.

The new camera is a big deal -- Apple sees the iPhone 4S as a serious replacement for the need to carry a separate digital camera and video camcorder. You can see this in the kind of language used to describe it, which sounds more like cameras than smartphones -- with a five-element lens, enhanced CMOS sensor for 73% more light and 33% faster capture, hybrid IR filter for better color accuracy and uniformity, and an Apple-designed Image Signal Processor (ISP) enabling face detection and 26% better auto white balance.

The new design also makes the camera more responsive, taking 1.1 seconds to shoot the first photo and 0.5 seconds from shot to shot (compared to 2 to 4 seconds for some other smartphones).

Of course, the iPhone 4S comes with the new iOS 5 mobile operating system, with over 200 new features, including Notifications, iMessage, Reminders, Twitter, Newsstand, and PC Free wireless activation/updates. The update also is available free for the iPhone4 and 3GS, iPad and iPad 2, and iPod touch 3rd and 4th gen.

And the iPhone 4S also supports the new iCloud free online cloud services, to wirelessly store and sync media, apps, books, documents, contacts, calendar, and more across your computers and mobile devices. Specific iCloud services include iTunes in the Cloud Photo Stream, Documents in the Cloud, Find My Friends, backup, and iTunes Match to access your entire music collection for $24.99 a year.

But the final big deal that's specific to the new iPhone 4S is the Siri intelligent assistant -- Just hold the Home button and speak commands. Siri does voice recognition, performs sophisticated understanding of free-form commands, and speaks back to confirm and execute your instructions.

You can issue commands like Play a song, Call a name, Tell name a message, Set up a meeting in the calendar, Remind me to note, How do I get somewhere (map), or Email name about a topic. And you can look up information including weather, stocks, time, currency conversion, and general Web searches.

Along with the Siri assistant, Apple also had integrated dictation into the iPhone 4S to work with the built-in apps, describing it as natural language, conversational, contextual, personal.

Like the earlier voice support for text input on the Android, the Apple approach uses cloud services to support the voice processing, so these require an active 3G or Wi-Fi data connection. And, like other Google innovations, Apple has tagged these services as beta.

The bottom line is that while the iPhone 4S name does not have a particularly sexy name, and does not sport an exciting new look, it does pack seriously interesting new capabilities into the familiar iPhone design. It's a world phone, it performs significantly faster, and it has the potential to be all the camera and camcorder that you'll need for most situations.

The Siri assistant and dictation also should be very interesting to work with. Even basic voice recognition on the Android, for example, makes quick Web searches much quicker and easier.

Apple has kept the same pricing for the iPhone 4S -- 16 GB for $199 and 32 GB for $299 -- and matched the iPod touch by adding a new 64 GB model for $399.

At the same time, Apple has followed its pattern of discounting the older models, with the now-decrepit iPhone 4 with 8 GB at $99, and the practically-ancient iPhone 3GS still available now at $0 -- yes, that's free with two year AT&T contract.

"Seriously interesting," indeed!

See my Apple iDevices Gallery for more on the new iPhone and iPods, and a chronology of the Apple iStuff.

October 10, 2011

Apple iPod Domination

The new Apple iPhone 4S was introduced by new CEO Tim Cook at last week's keynote event, which was overshadowed by who and what was not there -- Steve Jobs and an iPhone 5 (see video at Apple's site).

Cook still followed the typical Jobs keynote format, starting by highlighting Apple's progress across the board -- the retail stores and OS X Lion, and then iTunes, the iPhone, iPad, iPods, and iOS and App Store. He then highlighted the new features in iOS 5 (see my summary), and the new iCloud services (see summary).

Then came the new products: the iPods, and the big news on the iPhone 4S and the Siri intelligent assistant (see previous post).

Unlike last year, when the iPod line was significantly re-focused (see earlier post), this year's iPod announcements were rather low key, focusing on price reductions:

The iPod nano was updated a bit, although it's still the same small square with multi-touch screen for playing music and listening to FM radio. (The 16 GB model holds about 4000 songs.)

The new nano adds larger icons on the 1 1/2 inch screen, and more clock face designs (from analog to Mickey Mouse) for wearing as a wrist watch. It also steps up as a fitness device, tracking walking and running, and even providing motivational real-time voice feedback.

The nano price has dropped to $129 for 8 GB, and $149 for 16 GB (was $149 / $179), and it's still available in silver, graphite, blue, green, orange, pink, and (PRODUCT) RED.

The iPod touch was not updated, but also dropped in price, so now it starts just under the $200 level -- or $199 for 8 GB (was $229), and the same $299 for 32 GB, and $399 for 64 GB -- but now available in black and white.

Apple continues to position the touch not so much as a mini-iPad which runs the same apps, or as the world’s most popular music player, but also as the #1 portable game player. [The new iOS 5 update is available for not only the current iPod generation 4 (with cameras), but also the previous gen 3 product (with Wi-Fi).]

Unmentioned in the keynote, the iPod shuffle (with no display) continues to be available with 2 GB for $49, and the boring old iPod classic is still hanging around with 160 GB hard drive for $249 -- in case you need to carry a massive media collection.

Apple's lack of exciting news on iPods demonstrates not only the maturing of the market, but also the lack of serious competition -- although in the keynote, Cook did note that of the 45 million iPods sold in the last 12 months, almost half were first iPod for that customer -- so there's clearly some action still in this market.

Apple's dominance is demonstrated by a nice graphic of Apple U.S. Market Share in the Oct. 7 issue of the New York Times. All the Apple products have shown nice growth over the years (except the iPad dropping from 92% to "only" 76%). But the iPod line has been particularly spectacular, starting at around a 38% share after its introduction in 2005, growing to 50% in 2006, 60% in 2009, and now up to around 76%, with a total 315 million units sold.

This market domination is further assisted by the lock-in from the Apple infrastructure, including the iTunes store for music, videos, and books (with 16 billion downloads since the introduction in 2005), and the App Store (18 billion downloads since 2008).

And now iOS 5 strengthens your electronic connections with PC Free, so you can activate and update your device wirelessly, and with the free iCloud services to store and sync your media, apps, contacts, calendar, and documents all online -- plus iTunes Match to store your entire music collection virtually online, so you can access all your music from any device.

Yes, dedicated music players no longer spark great excitement, especially as their features are integrated into the iPad and iPhone. But they're still useful for dedicated listening, especially for travel and exercise, and still clearly a nice market for Apple.

See my Apple iDevices Gallery for more on the new iPhone and iPods, and a chronology of the Apple iStuff.

Find the Apple iPod touch on Amazon.com

October 15, 2011

Logitech Wireless Boombox

The Apple iPad is a great music player, whether you're relaxing or doing useful work. You can plug in to listen with headphones, but unplugged the iPad speakers are a tad underpowered if you want to really enjoy the sound.

A better answer is wireless speakers like the Logitech Wireless Speaker (see earlier post -- now for $85), which let you continue to listen without being tethered to the device.

Separate powered speakers also let you crank up the sound to better fill a room, so Logitech has cranked out the new Logitech Wireless Boombox speakers with even better sound for $149.

The Wireless Boombox has eight (yes, 8) drivers to separate the sound frequencies: two 30-inch neodymium drivers for full mid range, two 1/2-inch neodymium tweeters for crisp highs, and two 2-inch passive radiators for deep bass.

The result is clear, clean sound even at full volume (which won't blow out your ears).

You then can stream stereo audio wirelessly up to 33 feet over Bluetooth, from a PC, iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, or other devices -- so your system can remote control playback on the speaker.

The Wireless Boombox plays for six hours with its removable rechargeable battery, or can run powered using the included AC adapter. It has an auxiliary 3.5 mm input for wired playback and a flip-out stand.

As a Boombox, it is a bit bigger than the Wireless Speaker (approximately 15 x 5 x 2 1/2 inches compared to 10 x 4 1/2 x 2 inches) -- but you'll understand why when you hear the sound from the eight vs. two speakers.

See my Audio Accessories Gallery for more on portable speakers and earphones.

Find the Logitech Wireless Boombox
and Logitech Wireless Speakers on Amazon.com

October 18, 2011

Logitech Tablet Speaker for iPad (and More)

The Apple iPad is a great music player, whether you're relaxing or doing useful work. But the iPad speakers are a tad underpowered if you want to really enjoy the sound.

One option is wireless speakers like the Logitech Wireless Boombox (see previous post) that can blast out powerful sound.

But sometime you need something more portable, like the Logitech Tablet Speaker for iPad, priced at $49.

This has a smart rectangular design that clips conveniently on to either side of an iPod (or other tablet) -- landscape or portrait -- where it also can serve as a stand to tip up the tablet.

It connects to your tablet with an old-fashioned audio cable to the headphone jack (there's no Bluetooth wireless). The rechargable battery plays for 8 hours, and charges through USB.

The Tablet Speaker puts out good sound for personal listening through the speakers at each end.

As a bonus, I've also found it to be a nice size for use as a portable speaker for a laptop, at 8 1/2 x 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches.

See my Audio Accessories Gallery for more on portable speakers and earphones.

Find the Logitech Tablet Speaker on Amazon.com

October 21, 2011

Logitech Wireless Headset for Music and Phone

You can enjoy and share your music from an iPad or smartphone with small attached speakers (see previous post) or larger wireless speakers (see previous post), but sometimes you want to listen by yourself, with headphones.

And if you're hooking headphones up to an iPhone or other smartphone, then it only makes sense to add a microphone so you also can use the headphone for calls.

And, of course, it's clumsy to deal with a headphone cable to a small device that lives in a pocket or a bag, so the headphone might as well be wireless as well.

Which explains the Logitech Wireless Headset -- A nicely designed Bluetooth headset that pairs to up to eight different devices, including the iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and other players, tablets, and smartphones.

You can enjoy your music, and then transition to phone calls -- and use it for FaceTime video calls.

The Wireless Headset has an adjustable headband with soft ear cups for a comfortable fit, and folds up for travel. The noise-canceling microphone rotates up to nest under the headband while listening, and then folds down to position for talking. [Yes, the picture is a visualization -- there aren't four mics...]

It charges over USB, and runs for six hours. One earpiece has power, mute, and volume controls.

Logitech Wireless Headset lets you listen to your personal music from a variety of devices -- tablet, phone, computer -- and then switch to phone or video calls without swapping around your gear. It's available for $69.

See my Audio Accessories Gallery for more on portable speakers and headphones.

Find the Logitech Wireless Headset on Amazon.com

October 23, 2011

Native Union Moshi Moshi 04 Bluetooth Phone / Speaker

As with the Logitech Wireless Headset (see previous post), wireless connections let us make things more interesting and more useful -- Start with a corded music headset, and then go wireless to work with multiple mobile phones and portable players. And since the headset talks with mobile phones, it only makes sense to add a microphone to work for phone calls as well.

The Moshi Moshi 04 Bluetooth Phone / Speaker follows this same kind of progression, but in the opposite order -- and with some serious design styling.

First, convert a telephone handset for use with a mobile phone, as with the Moshi Moshi POP / Retro Handsets (see post from last year), providing the comfort and convenience of a traditional hand-held handset for conversations.

Then go wireless, so you can park your mobile phone by the window or wherever you get the best reception, and then use the handset at your chair or desk, up to 30 feet away.

Then the real clever step -- since Bluetooth supports music as well, enhance the headset with speakers at both ends, so it also serves as a stereo speaker. After all, telephone handsets are typically symmetric at each end, so why not take advantage of the design? (And as a bonus, add an audio jack on the back of the handset to play directly from other devices.)

Finally, take advantage of these features by laying the handset down on a charger / base, where it also can serve as a conference / speaker phone, with the two speakers plus an additional secondary microphone with noise reduction for conference calls.

The resulting Moshi Moshi 04 has a sexy design for the handset plus base, with brushed aluminum face and soft-touch surfaces, available for $179 in taupe and copper or black and silver.

But there's one more step -- the Moshi Moshi 04i extends this design by adding a slide-out iPhone dock/charger in the base for $199.

This is a really interesting idea, executed with a clear design style, albeit with some idiosyncrasies -- including the non-obviousness of which end is which for the ear vs. the mouth...

But if you're interested in extending your mobile phone with fun and functional handset designs, do check out the Native Union Moshi Moshi line.

See my Audio Accessories Gallery for more on portable speakers and headphones.

Find the Native Union Moshi Moshi 04
and Moshi Moshi 04i on Amazon.com

Some other nits:

Continue reading "Native Union Moshi Moshi 04 Bluetooth Phone / Speaker" »

October 28, 2011

Logitech Joystick for iPad

I cover a lot of high-tech gadgets, but here's a simple little accessory -- that even technically qualifies as wireless -- the Logitech Joystick for iPad (and iPad 2).

This is a clever little device that helps gamers better control the motion of an on-screen joystick or d-pad on the iPad, compared to trying to position your hand and thumb precisely at the corner of the screen.

Instead, this thumb-stick style game controller attaches to the corner of the iPad with two small suction cups. The coiled spring design then provides force feedback as you slide to the sides, and guides you back to the center position.

So for more precision in your game action, check out the Logitech Joystick for iPad, available for $19.99.

See my Portable Accessories Gallery for more on PC and portable accessories.

Find the Logitech Joystick for iPad on Amazon.com

October 31, 2011

Logitech Wireless Touchpad

The future is in touch -- Both Apple and Microsoft see tablets and touch interfaces as the future for their new desktop operating systems. So you'll scroll by grabbing the page and moving it directly, instead of moving the cursor over to a scroll bar and dragging the box in the opposite direction (cue the arguments on which is more natural)...

Yet while Keyboards are still important for a lot of tasks on PCs, a tablet-like interface can be very intuitive if you're doing a lot of browsing and scrolling and clicking.

So if you'd like to try out the touch experience, see the Logitech Wireless Touchpad, a 5-inch pad that supports multi-touch clicking, scrolling, and swiping with different numbers of fingers:

  • Move the cursor, and tap to click with one finger
  • Scroll up or down with two fingers
  • Scroll horizontally with three fingers (or swipe diagonally for page up/down)
  • Switch between applications with a four-finger swipe
However, this kind of multi-touch functionality is not (yet) implemented directly in Windows or in the applications; instead it is provided as a virtual mouse interface. This works best by downloading the Logitech SetPoint control panel software and Scroll App for Windows 7 for smoother scrolling in browsers.

The Touchpad also is wireless, using a low-profile Logitech Unifying USB receiver dongle with a 2.4 GHz wireless connection. It runs on two AA batteries, with a life of up to four months.

So if you're looking for that tactile tablet experience on your desktop, check out the Logitech Wireless Touchpad for around $49.

See my Portable Accessories Gallery for more on PC and portable accessories.

Find the Logitech Wireless Touchpad on Amazon.com

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About October 2011

Entries posted to Manifest Tech Blog in October 2011, listed from oldest to newest.

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