Design Canada documentary

I just came across this new documentary “Design Canada” coming out soon, it looks really interesting:

Through the lens of graphic design, Design Canada follows the transformation of a nation from a colonial outpost to a vibrant and multicultural society.

Also on:

GoPro Hero 3 – 720p 120fps slowmo After Effects test

I have finally got myself a GoPro! This is a couple of test clips with footage shot in 720p 120fps mode on the GoPro Hero 3, then slowed down further in After Effects CS6 using Timestretch and Timewarp.

A bit glitchy due to the flickering from light behind it, I’ll try this again in bright daylight and compare results.

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Music / Video formats uncovered articles by Shedworx

I’ve written quite a few posts about the various products that the guys over at Shedworx develop and that have been useful to me whilst working with video (AVCHD video in particular!). They’ve written a couple of articles which are great primers for people new to working with audio and video.

The articles explain the various aspects of audio and video such as Codecs and Bit Rates and are well worth reading, especially if you’ve never given much consideration to the output of your video or audio and have just gone for defaults in apps such as iMovie etc. Even if you’ve been working in these areas and have a good knowledge of this stuff they’re still worth a read.

Apple previews Final Cut Pro X at NAB in Las Vegas

Apple made their presence felt at the NAB show in Las Vegas with a preview of the next version of their Final Cut Pro video editing app, Final Cut Pro X.

In what is no doubt a long overdue update Final Cut Pro X brings what a lot of Pro video users have been waiting for: a totally redesigned interface, 64-bit memory addressing, multi-processor support, background rendering (no more render window), GPU rendering, use of more than 4GB RAM, video sizes from standard def up to 4k, real-time native format video processing – that’s quite a list!

The other announcement that is pretty awesome – a new price: $299 (not sure what that’ll be in £GBP yet, about £199 I’d guess) and, similar to Apple’s Aperture software which had a price drop recently, Final Cut Pro X will be available through Apple’s Mac App Store.

Native AVCHD?

An often featured subject in blog posts here on Suburbia is the AVCHD file format. Previously AVCHD required transcoding into some other format such as ProRes in order to edit it in Final Cut Pro, so a good question is whether the new ‘real-time native processing’ feature means that this transcoding will be a thing of the past? This is a feature that Adobe’s Premiere Pro has had for a while, albeit one that requires quite powerful hardware to make use of it. It will be interesting to see how Final Cut Pro X compares with this.

June launch date

Final Cut Pro X is due to be launched through the Mac App Store in June. In the mean time you can find out more about the new features via a couple of YouTube clips filmed at the preview announcement:

Adobe Labs release Wallaby Flash to HTML5 converter

Adobe have released an interesting experimental tool called ‘Wallaby‘ over on Adobe Labs. It’s basically an app that tries to convert Flash FLA source files into ‘HTML5’ compatible animations. Note I’m using ‘HTML5’ in quotes as usage of the term here is more in the overall grouping of HTML5 and related technologies such as CSS3, JavaScript / jQuery, SVG etc. It’s worth reading over the Release Notes to get an idea of the current limitations, the biggest issues at the moment being WebKit browser support only and no conversion of actionscript or sound within FLAs.

I just happened to be playing around with Flash this morning messing around doing a little shape tweening with a couple of symbols I found over on The Noun Project website so I thought I’d use that FLA file and see how Wallaby coped with it.

Running Wallaby:

After starting Wallaby you get a very simple interface, a file select field that you use to select the FLA file and a large Status area that shows any errors and warnings encountered whilst converting your file. There are also Preferences that can be set which at the moment include automatically opening the converted file in your default browser and enabling logging.

After selecting my FLA file I clicked ‘Convert’ and after a few seconds it happily converted my file without any errors or warnings. I was interested to see what it would make of the shape tweened animation that I had made in Flash as this seemed like quite a challenge to convert.

Wallaby’s HTML output:

The conversion process results in quite a few files being exported as the animation is recreated using a combination of HTML, CSS and jQuery / JavaScript, here a screenshot of the files I got:

It turns out that to make an HTML version of our tweened FLA animation we need two JavaScript files, one CSS file, one HTML file and a folder containing 246 SVG frames. I think it’s fair to say that tweened animations are a bit of a challenge! Looking at the Release Notes it does state that it creates an SVG file for each frame of a shape tween. As a result the approximate sizes of the exported files look like this:

  • Energy-html.html: 75kb
  • Energy.css: 49kb
  • Energy.js: 2kb
  • jquery-1.4.2.js: 70kb
  • Energy_assets: 176kb

That’s a total of 372kb in order to recreate the tweened animation in HTML / CSS / JS / SVG.

Flash’s output:

So how does this compare with the files output by Flash? Well, not very well when you look at both the amount of files required and their file size:

  • Energy-flash.html: 2kb
  • Energy.swf: 4kb

A grand total of 6kb when it’s rendered as Flash swf output. That’s quite a difference in size, although admittedly Flash’s default HTML file doesn’t use any JavaScript such as SWFObject to embed the file which is generally common practice, so I would argue that the Flash output should really have the following additional SWFObject files added to it’s output:

  • swfobject.js: 10kb
  • expressInstall.swf: 1kb

Even with that it’s still only a total of 17kb, about 1/20th the total size of the files that Wallaby outputs.

Why not use video instead?

This particular animation is obviously a challenge for Wallaby to convert into anything closely competing in file size, so perhaps in this case it would be a better option to use a video clip to provide a non-Flash version of the animation? The same animation can be output as an H.264 video at the same frame rate and it comes in considerably smaller at 192kb:

  • Energy-video.html: 1kb
  • Energy.mov: 192kb

That’s about half the size of the Wallaby output. It’s also likely to playback much better on mobile devices such as iPhone / iPad / iPod touch as Adobe warn that the output of shape tweened animation can result in playback performance difficulties on iOS devices.

In the interest of being consistent I should of course add some additional JavaScript video embedding option such as JWPlayer as again this is common practice when it comes to adding video on web pages. Using JWPlayer would add the following additional files:

  • jwplayer.js: 104kb
  • player.swf: 96kb
  • yt.swf: 1kb

This adds 201kb to the total file size required so that brings it to about 393kb, almost the same as Wallaby’s HTML5 output. I’m sure there are possibly slimmer options compared to JWPlayer for embedding that could reduce that down a bit but I reference JWPlayer as I consider it to be one of the best cross-platform methods of embedding video on website.

Of course I haven’t mentioned anything about delivering video in alternative codecs such as Ogg Theora or WebM to serve browsers like Opera, Firefox and Chrome, this would further increase the files and sizes involved. However, given that Wallaby is trying to provide a way for animated content created in Flash to be output and made playable on devices such as the iPad and iPhone it could also be considered that providing any kind of Flash fallback for video is unnecessary, so we could ignore the JWPlayer / JS completely and just use the regular HTML5 <video> tag and a single H.264 video, so we’d be back to a considerably smaller size than Wallaby’s output in this instance.

In Closing…

Overall Wallaby looks to be a pretty handy tool for people that are struggling to find a way to get their content viewable on the millions of devices that don’t (and likely never will) run Flash. For animation that doesn’t involve shape tweening I think the resulting file sizes will be a lot more favourable and it will be a reasonably efficient way to create animated content using standards-based technology.

I would say that the primary target user for Wallaby, at least at first, is for people doing online advertising. This is an area that is seeing a lot of activity with tools like Sencha Touch appearing, there’s definitely opportunity for a ‘killer app’ that makes creating banner advertising using all of these new emerging web technologies in a way that people are used to doing in the Flash IDE. There’s a lot of challenges in there technically, as well as a lot of issues such as accessibility, graceful degradation etc, but I think a lot of companies are focusing on this challenge now, so it’s good to see that Adobe is thinking about various ways of providing tools for the job.

Sample Animation files:

I have included the HTML5 output as an iframe and also links to each animation in HTML5, SWF and H.264 formats. There is also a link to download all the assets of Wallaby’s output in a zip archive:

Wallaby’s HTML5 output:

View Wallaby’s HTML5 Output in new Window
Download the Wallaby HTML5 Assets as a Zip

SWF output:
View SWF Output in new Window

Video output:
View Video Output in new Window

VoltaicHD 2.0: Edit, Convert, Upload AVCHD / AVCHD Lite video

Shedworx‘ essential AVCHD tool VoltaicHD just took a healthy step forward in functionality with the recent release of VoltaicHD 2. Highlights of the new features in the update are the ability to preview AVCHD / AVCHD Lite clips, the ability to edit native AVCHD video and the ability to upload video to YouTube and output to presets like iPhone, iPod etc.

Native AVCHD / AVCHD Lite editing

Version 2 of VoltaicHD increases the scope of the app from simply being a tool to convert AVCHD format video footage to now include basic native editing of AVCHD footage. You can now preview AVCHD / AVCHD Lite video clips within the application and then set simple in and out points to define a section of raw AVCHD / AVCHD Lite video clips which can then be trimmed down and converted.

The interface is reminiscent of the new Quicktime X player that comes with the Mac OSX 10.6 Snow Leopard. It’s very easy to set the position of the start and end as the position in seconds within the movie is shown in a little tooltip when sliding them around. My own criticism with it is the same that I have with the new Quicktime X player in that you can’t use the mouse to fine-tune the position of these points. That’s a little thing that I miss from the old Quicktime Pro player’s editing capabilities.

Overall though the ability to trim down clips before conversion is a massive timesaver, instead of having to convert a whole chunk of AVCHD footage you can just roughly trim down to the section you want and then convert only the bit you want. Definitely a great and helpful improvement!

Upload to YouTube, output to iPhone / iPod and AppleTV.

Along with the new preview / edit capability there is also the ability to convert and upload trimmed clips to YouTube directly from VoltaicHD 2.0. There are also preset output options for iPhone / iPod and AppleTV.

One of the things you’ll notice when you run VoltaicHD 2 compared to the previous version is the new drop-down menu options at the top of the window. From this menu you can select the specific option that you want, then combine that with a little bit of previewing and trimming in the clip details panel and you’re ready to go.

Both of these options make it really easy to get footage off your camera and online or onto your devices, take it with you or watch it on TV. Shedworx make another application called RevolverHD which enables you to create AVCHD DVDs that will work on most blu-ray players, however I find the ease of exporting video that’s ready to go onto my iPhone really convenient. As blu-ray players become more commonplace then I think I’ll use RevolverHD much more as a perfect way to send HD footage to my extended family.

Worth the upgrade cost for existing users?

It’s most definitely an upgrade I’d recommend for any VoltaicHD user, it’s worth noting that this is the first paid upgrade to Voltaic since it was released in July 2007. Don’t forget that VoltaicHD is available for both Mac OSX and Windows operating systems too.

If you’re an existing VoltaicHD user then you can upgrade to version 2 for only $9.99, or if you happen to have bought the previous version since July 2009 then you’re eligible for a free upgrade to VoltaicHD 2.0. First-time customers can buy VoltaicHD 2.0 for $39.99 which is still a great deal for a great bit of software!

iTunes 9 and other wonders…

Apple’s 09/09/09 Media event introduced some new things both expected and unexpected, many expected an iPod touch with a camera but instead there was an iPod nano with not only a camera but FM radio and a built-in pedometer! I was surprised about the FM radio as I never expected that to be added to an iPod. Here’s a few of the things Apple introduced today along with some thoughts / notes etc:

iPod shuffles – shiny rainbows

Now in multiple colours as well as a special edition stainless steel model. There were rumours that this tiny little iPod was going to be ditched but that didn’t happen. They also announced a new 2GB model along with shuffle-compatible third party headphones and controller peripherals. I’m not sure how much smaller you could make an iPod shuffle really. (iPod shuffle ?)

iPod nano – complete with camera

At first I didn’t think an iPod nano with a camera was that big a deal but after watching one of the video clips demoing the video features I found myself wanting one to carry around so that I could film things again. I’ve missed being able to film stuff since getting my iPhone 3G, however, there’s no way I’m buying yet another iPod so I’ll just have to look into getting an iPhone 3GS at christmas time instead! The nano’s video format is 640×480 pixel h.264 video and looks to be pretty good quality, it almost makes me wish Apple would just make a dedicated camera but I don’t think that will happen. (iPod nano ?)

iPod classic – memory bump

There’s nothing that different in store for the iPod classic, just a simple storage bump from 120GB to 160GB instead. I still like the classic iPod and the scroll wheel, it’s a great interface for accessing files. The iPhone / iPod touch’s touch screen is great but the scroll wheel is still very efficient I think. I wonder though how much time is left for these iPods? Probably still a fair bit, but once flash memory gets into at least 128GB sizes I think the iPod classic will be assigned to the history books. (iPod classic ?)

iPod touch – 64GB model and price drop

There was no rumoured iPod touch-with-camera announced, just a price drop on the existing model as well as a 64GB model announced. I think a new version with a camera is in the works, it just doesn’t make sense for the nano to have it and not the touch. Also the lineup is now 8GB, 32GB and 64GB, I’d expect to see it become 16GB, 32GB and 64GB when the new model is announced. That’s just my speculation though. Update: This press release from Apple about the new iPod touch updates paints a slightly different picture though, it indicates that the 32GB and 64GB iPod touches have the same internals as the iPhone 3GS, “The 32GB and 64GB models also include up to 50 percent faster performance and support for even better graphics with Open GL ES 2.0“. Interesting. (iPod touch ?)

iTunes 9

An expected announcement and one that took up the majority of the media event. iTunes 9 introduced a revamped interface (with it’s usual introduction of unusual / new interface aesthetics!) and a few other new features. One thing that’s disappeared though is the shopping cart feature, now you have to either add it to the also newly added Wish List feature or you have to use 1-Click purchasing! That’s a little bit scary.

There’s now also the option to share items on the store to either Facebook or Twitter, I was hoping for more integration with social networks, particularly last.fm but alas it’s not to be. One other thing I noticed is that iTunes now finally behaves like all other good Mac apps and will actually maximise when you click the maximise button! Previously this would toggle iTunes into it’s Mini Player mode, I’m really glad they’ve changed this.

Here’s a rundown of some of the new features of iTunes 9:

  • iTunes LP – Intended to introduce the digital equivalent of album covers complete with liner notes, lyric, videos etc. This is something that is long overdue, I look forward to checking out some of these. Another question though is how are these made? I’m pretty sure they won’t involve Flash but I’ll be keen to find out how they’re produced.
  • Home sharing – This basically allows you to easily share tracks between up-to five machines that you can authorise to play back songs. This seems really handy for households with more than one computer, drag and drop songs between shared libraries.
  • Redesigned iTunes Store – Improved navigation is one of the main tweaks, it now seems more like a web page with consistent navigation along the top of the window. You can also set an option in the preferences to use the full window when browsing the store, this basically gets rid of the list of options on the left hand side. It’s quite handy to get a bit more space when browsing the store.
  • iTunes Extras – Another long overdue feature! I’m not that impressed with the iTunes store’s video offerings, many movies are not available to rent until long after many other rental stores have had them. So these movies are only available to purchase, what’s more they’re a bit expensive too compared to picking them up in DVD format from somewhere like play.com or even at your local Tesco supermarket. Ok, rant over. iTunes Extras basically adds a bit more value by including the special features that you’d get on your regular (and cheaper!) DVD purchase. I’m a tiny little bit more likely to buy one now (I still probably won’t though).
  • Genius mixes – An interesting new feature, it finds songs that go well together and automatically makes mixes out of them. One thing to point out though is at first I couldn’t see where this feature was, you need to choose ‘Update Genius’ from the Store menu in iTunes in order to update and activate the feature.
  • Improved syncing – Undoubtedly one of the most sought after features by anyone who owns an iPhone or iPod touch and has a lot of applications on it, you can now organise the layout of all of your apps inside iTunes itself. It’s not quite how I’d proposed it but close ;)

iPhone OS 3.1

iPhone OS 3.1 for iPhone (and 3.1.1 for iPod touch) were announced too. It introduces a few new features that tie in with iTunes 9’s new features, nothing massively new but then again it is a point update. Amongst the various features shown on the iPhone OS software update page a couple of little tweaks caught my eye:

  • Remotely lock iPhone with a passcode via MobileMe
  • Warn when visiting fraudulent websites in Safari (anti-phishing)

Being able to lock an iPhone remotely enhances the already brilliant MobileMe feature of locating your iPhone via GPS and also remotely wiping a lost iPhone. Anti-phishing support in Mobile Safari is a great feature too, something all browsers need these days.

Anyway, enough writing about it all, I’m going to go and re-organise my iPhone apps :)

AVCHD Lite – What is it (and why can’t I edit it in iMovie or Final Cut)? (updated)

After a few years of being available there are now many hard-disk based video cameras that use the AVCHD format for video, support for the format in video editing software is well supported now on both Mac OS X and Windows by apps like Final Cut Pro / Express, iMovie, Adobe Premiere, VoltaicHD and more. This all leads to a much simpler experience for users of AVCHD cameras than it was a couple of years ago.

AVCHD Lite – Throwing a spanner in the works?

Image of Panasonic Lumix camera that uses the AVCHD Lite format

More recent digital stills camera have started coming with the ability to shoot HD video, for many of the small compact cameras there became a need for high-quality efficient video format that could be used in small compact cameras with less capable hardware. The solution to this was a variant of the AVCHD format called AVCHD Lite.

The main differences between AVCHD Lite and the regular AVCHD: a maximum resolution of 1280 x 720p in AVCHD Lite compared to 1920 x 1080p in regular AVCHD and a less-intensive compression method – both of which make the format more suitable for less powerful camera hardware.

Why can’t I edit AVCHD Lite in iMovie or Final Cut?

AVCHD Lite throws a spanner in the works because many of the existing AVCHD editing packages are incapable of supporting it without an update to the software. At the time of writing none of Apple’s video editing applications such as iMovie, Final Cut Pro or Express support the AVCHD Lite format. Adobe’s Premiere and Premiere Elements applications also do not appear to support AVCHD Lite at this time.

The only solution for AVCHD Lite on Mac OS X at the moment is the one that saved many an early adopter like myself a couple of years or so ago when AVCHD cameras first came out – VoltaicHD by Shedworx. This is a $35 app that will convert your AVCHD Lite footage to the Apple Intermediate Codec format that can then be used in any of Apple’s video editing applications.

Some Handy Links / References…

Here’s a few links to some handy information about AVCHD Lite:

Update:

As of 04/06/09 iMovie now supports editing of AVCHD Lite files with the iMovie 8.0.3 update!

FlamingoHD 1.0 released

I wrote a review of FlamingoHD a couple of months ago of their new media management application for Mac OS X called FlamingoHD (made by Shedworx, the makers of VoltaicHD).

At the time of the review FlamingoHD was available for sale as a beta version (for those early adopters!), however, Shedworx have reached their first milestone and have now released version 1.0 of FlamingoHD to the world!

The main new feature in the final version 1.0 release is a new filmstrip view that lets you see keyframes from the video clips in your library. This is really handy and lets you see what scenes are within your various clips:

For a more detailed overview read my previous post: FlamingoHD – Helping you manage your AVCHD media or checkout the FlamingoHD page on the Shedworx website.