Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Winter strikes coldly.

Just got the lens I should have had years ago, so this is a very fresh shot, processed over the past 24 hours or so. We didn't get slammed by snow nearly as badly as Philly did, but we are closer to the Shore. Though not by that much.

Winter bones by *ebbixx on deviantART

There's nothing much else here to see, except for another, somewhat less stunning shot.

Solitary lunacy by *ebbixx on deviantART

Monday, November 30, 2009

Waist Deep In the Big Muddy

Part of this post relates to censorship, something we're so great at we do it to ourselves. Or maybe not. The Smothers Brothers seem so innocuous to us now and yet, where do we find something this hard hitting except on underexposed YouTube channels that, if current trends continue, will be no more in a few more months.

In the following Fresh Air program, David Bianculli plays the never-aired last verse of "Waist Deep In the Big Muddy" as sung by Pete Seeger in one of the appearances that finally (sort of) took Seeger off the media blacklist he'd been on since the McCarthy Era.

Take a look too at the TV essays of Harlan Ellison. I had a college friend who knew Ellison as a sometime houseguest and who thought he was a schmuck. But schmuck or no schmuck, the guy had some points to be made.

I shouldn't be surprised about this. At this point we censor ourselves in part by imagining we're somehow past those times. Are we?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Doubt: the Live Action Role Play

Follow the link. See the movie. I've seen it. Now I'm living it.

What is that? Doubt. Too bad the version I'm living now is much more poorly written. And it doesn't have Meryl Streep.

Here's the bad copy of the trailer from YouTube.

I know it's probably asking too much, but please see the movie as a whole before you think you know anything. And if you watch the trailer, just watch the trailer and don't stay for the dimwitted blather that follows. There are better versions of the trailer at the official movie site, so you should probably watch there.

If you're one of my friends and supporters through this travail and travesty, then go ahead and watch the twits. They are good for a small laugh. I just wish I still had a sense of humor about this after having my daughter harassed in school on Friday, based on some fairly uninspired invention on the part of individuals unnamed.

My favorite quote was (and remains) "And that is gossip."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tonight is About Fear

Tonight's show (starting at 9:30 Eastern) is all about fear. Appropriate for Friday the 13th, especially when my daughter told me earlier about the people killing themselves in anticipation of 2012 (the year, not the movie).

Tune in on my stream or find me at the Velvet, in Second Life.

Stills on a related note:

Freezeframe of the Apocalypse by *ebbixx on deviantART

Nothing actually comes after. It's a trick.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Movie of the week: Slipstream

Anthony Hopkins directed it, hoping (at least what he says in the commentary) to provoke a reaction, to get some people to question the form of the movie itself, or at least step back and look at what they are doing, both with their lives and with the art of film. At least that's my impression of what he said.

Unless you are a Hopkins fanatic you probably did not see this movie in theatrical release -- even if you are it's unlikely you saw it in a theater, since its release was limited to a few film festivals, and a limited run before going to DVD. Which I find terribly sad, since it's one of the most inventive, interesting and risk-taking movies I've seen in years, especially if I limit that list to movies made in the Hollywood system, excluding European movies of the 60s and 70s. This is definitely not a typical Hollywood-style movie, and by Hollywood-stlye I mean the structure that tends to be imposed not just on cartoon adventure movies, but a great deal of the "indie" film making world as well, at this point in the adventure.

Still, I suppose this is to be expected, since the movie directly challenges in many ways the conventions of what a movie is and how it should operate. It's also one of those rare movies that doesn't feel obliged to offer an explicit road map to make the viewer more at ease with what transpires. It shocks, it confuses, and at the end you are left with many questions. Some of those questions can be answered by watching the movie closely again a second or a third time. I suspect a few may never be answerable, but when logic (or the human compulsion to impose "sense" on a random and unjust world) fails there is still the gorgeous camerawork to fall back on, as compensation for not getting all the answers in a simplistic little package -- if you actually think you need to be compensated for that, that is.

What struck me on watching Slipstream at first, without the amendments of explanation or intention, was the way in which it manages to represent, at least as well as something as mechanical and limited as a film can represent it: human consciousness. And perhaps that's where the negative reactions came from? From those who work hardest to avoid accepting how random and free of specific meanings or intentions our own stream of consciousness is?

I found it especially amusing to hear that critics had been upset about the color changes made in post-production to the Corvette that features in the introduction of the characters played by Christian Slater and Jeffrey Tambor. Apparently they'd been text messaging during the minutes that led up to that bit of signalling that, no, this is not your conventional narrative.

There's also a great deal here about the nature of conscience, and a commentary on the mostly American commonplace that we are somehow responsible for our fates, if not through dint of our personal will and good (or bad) deeds, then -- perhaps an even more pernicious notion -- through the workings of our subconscious. In other words, putting paid to the notion that if we "fail" it's somehow a product of our consciousness "creating" that failure.

This is put strongly, yet ambiguously, in an early scene where Hopkins' character is disoriented, while his gorgeous, yet mildly annoying young companion is going on about various New Age notions of past life regression, channeling and 12-step psychobabble, while the narrator's consciousness is flashing up images that counterpoint that sort of grandiose and ultimately egotistical claptrap -- images of the Holocaust, and mass evil from 20th century Nazism and Soviet terror, visited on people who are unlikely to have ever had the luxury to indulge in such fantasies of control.

I could discuss this movie at length, or I could encourage others to find a copy and experience it for themselves. I'm going with Option B.

After all, I can always write a follow-up piece. Unless I get hit by a bus.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Biocentrism and anthropocentric fallacies

Simply because our experience and mechanics may be central to how we experience the universe, does it follow that the universe itself takes any particular notice of us, this particular form of sentience?

Does it exclude or preclude other kinds of sentience, for instance, some sort of hive mind built up of much more diffuse operations in the universe at large. If they were going on around us, would we even recognize that they were happening?

I shouldn't post this, in particular because I have yet to give this article its due, or even begin to comprehend it in the ordinary human sense of that phrase. But the wording here is disquieting to me, to say the least. And so I am putting this out there, hoping for comments, hoping to understand, and also hoping to get across what I think probably needs to be a rather vague sense of description of some of those other forms of "consciousness" and other, possibly "transcendent" processes in the universe, both within and among organisms, structures and "clouds" of "stuff."

This came to me from a conversation Wednesday at the Psychoanalytical Round Table, in Second Life.

in reference to:

"Our science fails to recognize those special properties of life that make it fundamental to material reality. This view of the world—biocentrism—revolves around the way a subjective experience, which we call consciousness, relates to a physical process. It is a vast mystery and one that I have pursued my entire life. The conclusions I have drawn place biology above the other sciences in the attempt to solve one of nature’s biggest puzzles, the theory of everything that other disciplines have been pursuing for the last century. Such a theory would unite all known phenomena under one umbrella, furnishing science with an all-encompassing explanation of nature or reality.
We need a revolution in our understanding of science and of the world. Living in an age dominated by science, we have come more and more to believe in an objective, empirical reality and in the goal of reaching a complete understanding of that reality. Part of the thrill that came with the announcement that the human genome had been mapped or with the idea that we are close to understanding the big bang rests in our desire for completeness."
- A New Theory of the Universe: an article by Robert Lanza about biocentrism building on quantum physics by putting life into the equation | The American Scholar (view on Google Sidewiki)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I was minding my own business when this thing came along

It was almost a poem. In the mood I'm in today I'm tempted to use the text as lyrics for a song. 

For now, though, I think I'll just try to immortalize it here, in this least immortal of places.  Is my literary executor going to hate me or what?

Details on the Word Galaxy appear at:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Second Entry in Star Wars Uncut

This was a rush job. Back to school time seems to do that.

Star Wars Uncut - Sc 362 from B Unis on Vimeo.

Not much else to say about this, though some viewers elsewhere thought this was a political statement. It took me several days to see that. Yes, I seem to be slowing down.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Demonstrating a point.

This is just an attempt to explore some options that may exist with YouTube's embedded players. The following player has been defined as 560x200. But any other set of dimensions should also be possible.

This is an extension of the post made recently, speculating about the reasons for the appearance of the viewers on YouTube itself. I have to wonder... at least I have wondered for quite awhile, whether this isn't some subtle incentive for YouTube's users to focus on using embedded players, rather than sending them to YouTube pages more directly. It's a silly and overly complicated speculation, I know.

Oddly enough, this particular player embeds the video at its uploaded dimensions. In this case, the video was rendered at 1200x496 pixels... a 2.42:1 aspect ratio I mostly invented. The 560x200 player provides a 2.8:1 aspect ratio window... wider than the uploaded video. The result is the pillarboxing you see below.

Below the jump, I'll put up a 600x248 (+30px for the progress bar) player, which should be roughly a match to the video contained there... My apologies to any early readers of this post, which should probably not have been published before debugging everything. I'll try to follow this up with some more technical details on just how to determine the size of your embedded player, once I'm a bit more sure of what I'm doing here.

Below: Bringing widescreen options to YouTube. One crazy person at a time.

This player SHOULD be a half-size match to the original upload.

And here's another example... in this case the image and rendering were matched... this should show neither letterboxing nor pillarboxing.

Monday, September 21, 2009

YouTube does CinemaScope

This video is presented as an example of an odd, and possibly unsupported YouTube feature. Recently, in the past few days, an ultrawide player appeared on YouTube, at least for some types of videos. The aspect ratio was around 2.35:1, instead of the 16:9 aspect ratio introduced back in December 2008.

Hopefully this embedded video illustrates this new format, but what's really interesting is if you follow this video back to YouTube, and use the new large screen switcher. It's a button with arrows pointing left and right. The "mouseover" text reads "Change Player Size." The odd thing at the moment though is that this player is only available if you avoid rendering in a way that triggers HD encoding.  For example, an otherwise identical clip was rendered at 1440x608 and displays on YouTube in the now familiar 16:9 ratio player.  Perhaps that will be fixed in a future update?  (Don't bet actual money on that hopeful statement, though).

Please note: to get the 2.35:1 aspect ratio embedded player below, you will need to (at present) manually change the values (both at the beginning and end) of the embedded player code. In this case the height value was 262, width 560.  If you're not familiar with the method (clicking the YouTube watermark) to open a video on its own YouTube page, you can click this link to get to the video behind the embedded player below.

Here are the detailed specs for the file uploaded above:

Name : Patriots90920cVryShortSM2.mp4
Format : MPEG-4
Format profile : Base Media / Version 2
Codec ID : mp42
File size : 15.0 MiB
Duration : 30s 30ms
Overall bit rate : 4 195 Kbps
Encoded date : UTC 2009-09-21 04:12:06
Tagged date : UTC 2009-09-21 04:12:06

ID : 2
Format : AVC
Format/Info : Advanced Video Codec
Format profile : Baseline@L3.0
Format settings, CABAC : No
Format settings, ReFrames : 2 frames
Muxing mode : Container profile=Unknown@0.0
Codec ID : avc1
Codec ID/Info : Advanced Video Coding
Duration : 30s 30ms
Bit rate mode : Variable
Bit rate : 3 999 Kbps
Width : 720 pixels
Height : 304 pixels
Display aspect ratio : 2.35
Frame rate mode : Constant
Frame rate : 29.970 fps
Resolution : 24 bits
Colorimetry : 4:2:0
Scan type : Progressive
Bits/(Pixel*Frame) : 0.610
Stream size : 14.3 MiB (95%)
Language : English
Encoded date : UTC 2009-09-21 04:12:06
Tagged date : UTC 2009-09-21 04:12:06

ID : 1
Format : AAC
Format/Info : Advanced Audio Codec
Format version : Version 4
Format profile : LC
Format settings, SBR : No
Codec ID : 40
Duration : 30s 16ms
Bit rate mode : Constant
Bit rate : 192 Kbps
Channel(s) : 2 channels
Channel positions : L R
Sampling rate : 48.0 KHz
Resolution : 16 bits
Stream size : 704 KiB (5%)
Language : English
Encoded date : UTC 2009-09-21 04:12:06
Tagged date : UTC 2009-09-21 04:12:06

One further point of interest, though. Even though video appears rather ugly on YouTube itself, the same trick used above, should work to conform embedded players to any non-standard aspect ratios you might want to use. See the example below:

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Modest's JPEGs

Band season is beginning and I'm starting to slow down my updates to things like this blog. Here's an attempt to integrate the two. Rough cut material from the preview/rehearsal at the end of marching band camp. The program this year is adapted from Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. Here's the first video shot from any kind of altitude above the field.

Modest's Pics - Take 3 from B Unis on Vimeo.

More to come.

I sometimes wish I had avoided adding this "jump" in the posts, since my comments are rarely that long, and it's hard to come up with more to say that doesn't seem most likely to bore someone, especially anyone coming to this blog with no particular background in the many things I tend to take for granted. Chalk it up to ambivalence about publicity and "being out there."

The video in this post is essentially a lens test, and also one in a series of rendering tests, this one being probably the most painstaking of those I've done so far. They amount to work product, and probably should just be kept restricted to those most directly involved in production and preparation of Montgomery High School Marching Band videos for the 2009-2010 season.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Coming up against the Death Star

Here's the first entry (of mine) for the "Star Wars Uncut" project on Vimeo. This version is not actually the entry, since it was decided, in order to keep access available to all sorts of videomakers, to use a 4:3 ratio that anyone can conform their video to. This version was shot and edited in the original aspect ratio used in the movie itself. The 4:3 pan & scan version that is the "official" entry can be found in a separate spot.

Star Wars Uncut - (Wide) - Sc. 429 from B Unis on Vimeo.

This seems to be my preferred render, since it preserves the composition of the shots mine were based on. However, since the project was defined as 4:3 ratio, the current pan & scan version (or possibly a tweaked version of it) will have to suffice.

Comments welcome.

There are still many scenes left to be shot and edited. You can take a tour of what's already done, what's available, and compare scenes to the original "Episode 4" at Star Wars Uncut.

More on this project as things develop.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Short film that needs more viewers

Kurt Nishimura's video interpretation of the Decemberists' "O Valencia"

I'd love to find a better source version of this for embedding.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Agnus Dei gets just a little scary

The following video is an impressive piece in that it breathes new life and thought into a bit of liturgy that has in many ways become a sort of comforting cliché. Or at least that's how I've always thought about it. Then again, my flirtation with Catholicism ended, at the latest, in my early 20s.

For the most part, though, this piece speaks for itself, though composer Tim Silva's notes do highlight some of the more striking aspects of this vocal composition, which sets the Agnus Dei at odds with the Gloria and asks some serious questions of the Creator.

'Agnus Dei' by Tim Silva from Tim Silva on Vimeo.

'Agnus Dei' (2008) turns a prayer for peace into a plea for help; a frantic crying out in a time of darkness and war. After three traditional stanzas, the singers quote another prayer ('Gloria') in an almost sarcastic manner as if to say, "Where is the peace on earth for people of good will?" Finally the pleas are left, seemingly unanswered.

-Tim Silva

Singers (L-R):
Sarah Harrell, Gemma Levine, Kelci Hahn,
Elyse Marchant, Katharine Liu, Leslie Cook,
Tracy Cox, Dory Schultz, Sergey Khalikulov,
Christopher Remmel

Scary Noises:
Jack Randall & Elizabeth Chang

Christian Pulido (

Tim Silva is a composer to watch closely. Very closely.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

YouTube strikes again

For the past few days, the thumbnail server code that tells an embedded player which thumbnails to show seems to think you can nest a jpeg inside another jpeg. If you're here, or on any other site with embedded YouTube videos, for that matter, the player still works but the screen appears blank and black. Just hit the play button on the second player below to confirm that. This bug is presently discussed in a fair bit of detail on the YouTube Help Forums.

The following player should work (it's not from YouTube):

Duetto Buffo di Due Gatti from Shadowgate Imageworks on Vimeo.

Albemarle Senior Choir performs Gioachino Rossini's "Duetto Buffo di Due Gatti" (Comic Duet for Two Cats). Performance at Miller Chapel, on the grounds of the Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ, Saturday, July 18, 2009. Marianna Parnas-Simpson, Albemarle musical director, conducting.

This next one will work (I predict) once the code is fixed:

And so it did.

There are also so many videos being corrupted since the shift a month ago to 2GB uploads that it's stopped being funny... and I had a really great sense of humor about this stuff. That sense of humor, though, has been eroding lately, probably due to my sense of downright exhaustion, trying to field user questions and pass along pithy (or immensely verbose) observations to YouTube staff. A staff that at present seem to be dealing with far too many fires at once to be able to do more than respond haphazardly to the handful of users they've allowed to "bubble up" issues for their attention.

One more vid for the lolcat fans out there:

If I weren't so messed up in the head, I would have probably stopped doing this a few months ago, for the sake of any shreds of sanity that still remain. Unfortunately I find this whole phenomenon mesmerizing. Who knows, maybe I can turn the experience into a screenplay?

We don't really need to go into that just now, do we? I think I'll be perverse and stick two embedded players for the same videos into this post (see above), just so I can more readily see if and when the coding has been fixed.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Happy (College Radio) Daze

Since I didn't get to play this set for the NAMI Benefit, I've taken it to its psycho extreme. Here for your delectation or avoidance is a set that is sort of a tribute to WOBC-FM (Oberlin College Radio) as it was from 1977 to 1979. Except possibly a little stranger. And since the benefit is over, I decided not to stick entirely to a playlist that could have been heard in '79. Contrary to my usual practice of posting playlists days after the fact, if at all, this is being posted pre-show. My show for tonight may start a little late, but should start shortly after 9pm Eastern, 6pm Pacific time at the Velvet in Second Life, or on Shoutcast for those who don't do avatars.

In scoping things out I also just discovered that someone considers WOBC the 6th best college radio station in the country. Go figure. Check them out sometime (during the academic year may be better?)

Looking at their current playlists, surprisingly little has changed. Don't worry... it won't be painful much. A preview of the playlist is provided after the jump. It might be altered by your requests or my strange whims.


(Don't mind the lapses in numbering, I'm hiding some of the tracks I may or may not actually play.)

1. The Fiery Furnaces - Benton Harbor Blues Again (WOBC 91.5 Webcast)
3. Ladytron - I'm Not Scared (3:58)
4. Weather Report - Birdland (5:59)
5. Brave Combo - Waltz in C Minor (2:14)
6. Lou Reed - Perfect Day (3:48)
7. Frank Zappa - You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here (3:41)
8. Priscilla Lopez;Don Pippin - What I Did For Love from A Chorus Line (Album Version) (3:45)
9. Frédéric Chopin - Prelude for piano No. 4 in E minor ('Suffocation') Op. 28/4, B. 123/2 (2:29)
10. Brian Eno - The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch (3:05)
11. Jerry Hadley, June Anderson, Christa Ludwig, Nicolai Gedda, Della Jones, Kurt Ollmann - London Symphony Orchestra e Chorus - Leonard Bernstein - We Are Women (3:34)
12. Gerard Schwarz, New York Chamber Symphony & Teresa Stratas - Ausfstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny: Havanna - Lied (1:55)
13. London Symphony Orchestra & Sir Adrian Boult - Variations On An Original Theme ('Enigma'), Op.36: XIII: Romanza: *** (2:33)
14. Anna Prucnal - I ragazzi giu nel campo (lyrics by Pier Paolo Pasolini) (3:23)
15. Willie Nelson & Calexico - Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power) (Album Version) (5:19)
16. Harald Paulsen - Moritat (2:20)
17. Susan Sarandon - Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me (2:31)
18. Brian Eno - Baby's On Fire (5:19)
19. Mediaeval Baebes - Umlahi (2:14)
20. Wiener Philharmoniker - Khovanshchina - Prelude (Dawn on the Moscow River) (5:59)
21. Hungry Lucy - Ode (3:07)
22. Neil Young - Vampire Blues (Remastered Album Version) (4:11)
27. Pink Floyd - Bring The Boys Back Home (1:26)
28. Little Feat - Teenage Nervous Breakdown (2:13)
29. Talking Heads - Psycho Killer ( LP Version ) (4:20)
30. RZA - Ode To Oren Ishii (2:05)
31. Björk - Overture (3:38)
32. The Supersonics/Tommy McCook - Ode to Billy Joe (3:56)
33. Roxy Music - Both Ends Burning (5:16)
34. The Bastard Fairies - Ode To The Prostitute (3:23)
35. Theo Bleckmann & Fumio Yasuda - Ostersonntag (Brecht) (1:52)
36. The Orb/The Penguin Cafe Orchestra - Pandaharmonium (5:28)
37. David Bromberg Band - Summer Wages (3:54)
38. Ry Cooder - Paris, Texas [From Paris, Texas] (2:54)
39. Happy Rhodes - Phobos (5:13)
40. Tom Waits - The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me) (3:40)
41. Frank Zappa - Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up (5:42)
42. Wiener Philharmoniker - Pictures at an Exhibition - The Hut on Fowl's Legs (Baba-Yaga) (3:03)
43. Leszek Mozdzer - Piesn o Milosci (fragment) (1:32)
44. Justin Brown, Michaela Fukacova & Odense Symphony Orchestra - The Six Realm: III. The Hungry Ghost Realm (6:11)

46. Depeche Mode - Tora! Tora! Tora! (Album Version) (4:28)
47. Azasaurus Regina - Various Modems (1:09)
48. Nellie McKay - Yodel (1:36)
49. Elvis Costello - You Belong To Me (2:25)
50. Dreigroschonoper Band - Zuhälterballade (3:01)
51. Joy Division - Shadowplay (3:51)
52. Das Palast Orchester & Max Raabe;HK Gruber - What Good Would the Moon Be? aus "Street Scene" (An American Opera von Elmer Rice nach seinem gleichnamigen Bühnenstück), 1946 (4:32)
53. Franz Schubert - Winterreise, song cycle for voice & piano, D. 911 (Op. 89): Book II, Im Dorfe ("Es bellen die Hunde, es rasseln die Ketten") (2:42)
54. Dead Kennedys - When Ya Get Drafted (1:22)
55. The B-52's - Party Out Of Bounds (Album Version) (3:21)
56. The Patti Smith Group - Pissing In A River (Digitally Remastered 1996) (4:52)
57. Mediaeval Baebes - This World Fareth As A Fantasye (4:07)
58. Hélène Grimaud - Après une lecture de Dante, Fantasia quasi sonata from Années de pèlerinage, 2e année " I'Italie " S.161I, Italy (15:22)
59. Leonard Slatkin - Carmina burana/O Fortuna (2:43)
60. Three Songs After Poets By Arthur Rimbaud (1:40)
61. Three Songs After Poets By Arthur Rimbaud (2:00)
62. Three Songs After Poets By Arthur Rimbaud (1:26)
63. Mediaeval Baebes - Temptasyon (3:19)
64. Joshua Bell;Esa-Pekka Salonen;The Philharmonia Orchestra - Anna's Theme (Instrumental) (2:52)
65. Pink Floyd - Pigs On The Wing (Part One) (1:25)
66. Leo Kottke - The Last Of The Arkansas Greyhounds (3:17)
67. Genesis - For Absent Friends (1:42)
68. Yvonne S. Moriarty - Am I Not Merciful? (6:33)
69. Talking Heads - Don't Worry About The Government (Album Version) (3:00)
70. Manos Hadjidakis - The Urchins Down in the Meadow (2:30)
71. Luis Rossi - éxtasis tanguero (3:05)
72. Rainer Maria - The Awful Truth Of Loving (LP Version) (4:57)
73. Glenn Gould - Variations Chromatiques (14:10)
74. Berceuse, Op. 57 (4:11)
75. The Clash - Hateful (2:44)
76. Flobots - Stand Up (4:39)
77. June Tabor - The Band Played Waltzing Matilda (6:24)
78. Vangelis - Sword Of Orion (1:55)
79. Brian Eno & Laraaji - The Dance #3 (3:21)
80. Donna Summer - Hot Stuff [12" Version] (6:43)
81. Brian Eno - Put A Straw Under Baby (2004 Digital Remaster) (3:25)
82. Talking Heads - Buildings On Fire (3:38)
83. Lou Reed - Walk On The Wild Side (4:17)
84. Grateful Dead - Good Lovin' (5:59)
85. New Riders of the Purple Sage - California Day (2:37)
86. Little Feat - Mercenary Territory (LP Version) (4:26)
87. Joe Strummer/Mescaleros - Redemption Song (3:27)
88. David Bowie - Cracked Actor (3:01)
89. Tom Waits - Nobody (2:50)
90. Keith Jarrett - Köln, January 24, 1975, Part IIC (6:56)
91. Randy Newman - Short People (LP Version) (2:51)
92. Tim Curry - Sweet Transvestite (3:23)
93. Fela Kuti - Zombie (12:24)
94. Randy Newman - Jolly Coppers On Parade (LP Version) (3:49)
95. Eagles - Life in the Fast Lane (4:45)
96. David Grisman - Blue Midnite (LP Version) (3:40)
97. Warren Zevon - Play It All Night Long (LP Version) (2:52)
98. Ani DiFranco - Manhole (3:44)
99. Regina Spektor - Man of a Thousand Faces (3:11)
100. Goxnadly - Werewolves of Acid Planet (3:24)
101. Panic! At the Disco - Lying Is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off (3:21)
102. Al Franken - Senator Wolfman (11:18)
103. The Dresden Dolls - The Jeep Song (4:50)
104. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - The New Stone Age (3:41)
105. Louis XIV - Paper Doll (Album Version) (3:25)
106. Jacques Brel - Les Bourgeois (2:53)

Commodity Prison(s)

This video is a response to two movies I saw recently, movies that are in many ways connected to one another. The movies are Dušan Makavejev's SWEET MOVIE and Pier Paolo Pasolini's SALÒ. Hard movies to love, and in the case of SALÒ, a movie some seem to believe was partly responsible for Pasolini's brutal murder, not long after its release. SWEET MOVIE also led to its share of sorrow for some of those involved in its making.

Both movies are about (among many other things) property, consumerism and human nature at its most extreme and repulsive. People do not tend to thank others for making them look too closely in the mirror.

In part because using their original approach to these subjects would probably result in instant censorship and banning from various video sites, I've taken another tack here, one that I expect will probably result in no shortage of bewilderment among some, because its impact is so oblique.

If you want to see this in HD, it may be best to follow the links to vimeo.

Commodity Prison from Shadowgate Imageworks on Vimeo.

This is also a sort of response to discussions that have been running, off and on, in a vimeo group where I've been a bit vocal, and where I first learned of the works of James Benning, who may or may not have found inspiration in the same two movies.

That discussion can be found at The Pictures Don't Move and in particular, in the forum for that group.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hungry, Hungry Piranhas

A new product after long last, inspired by a late night conversation at the Velvet. I've spent so very long doing nothing but DJing, and refamiliarizing myself with Blender felt sort of like getting a few gentle love bites from these guys.

Unfortunately it's not a dress or other outfit, but I suppose you could wear them if you choose. They're available at my Second Life store, dropdeadcute.

Video must be rotting my brain.

Expect further development, varieties, maybe even a controller HUD if anybody decides to buy these little guys. I might even make some that look like actual piranhas, rather than the toxic pigments that would be sure to exist in the glaze for these sweet little things, if they were actually available in real life. I don't know, maybe I need to contact some old co-workers and see if I can find out how to contract with a sweatshop? Or maybe not.

How I wish I had something witty to say right around here.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Anthems, Sin and Sing Sing

It was a fairly dead night. Or maybe my set drove them away. Anthems, sin and singing. Not necessarily in that order. I think I might be losing my touch, or it could just be that so many were away for the holiday weekend.

Those who were there (a few of my usual "stalkers" and someone new from Brittany) were appreciative, but probably also tired. And the numbers just weren't there for a huge conversation.

But Nickel was kind enough to help clean up my random (aren't they all?) color-changing particle script. It worked great when I tested it out, though I haven't tried to edit it yet. It definitely looks more elegant and direct than the cannibalized approach I'd taken with all the extra, pointless variables that were survivals from an earlier random shape-morphing script.


1. Various Artists - The Anthem of Communism (2:22)
2. Moxy Fruvous - Maple Syrup Time (3:35)
3. Cotton Henry - Eskimo Nell (2:04)
4. Roy Zimmerman - Norwedish Hate Anthem (0:50)
5. Fountains of Wayne - Imperia (1:57)
6. David Byrne - Big Business ( LP Version ) (5:06)
7. David Bromberg - Suffer To Sing The Blues (Album Version) (4:54)
8. David Bowie - Rebel Rebel [US Single Version] (2:59)
9. Roy Zimmerman - Jingle Bell Iraq (2:22)
10. The Chipmunks - Jingle Bells (2:36)
11. Marvin Gaye - Star Spangled Banner (LIVE NBA Allstar 84) (3:12)
12. The Diplomats - Dipset Anthem (4:08)

(more after the break)

13. Roy Zimmerman - Multinational Anthem (2:39)
14. America - Muskrat Love (3:07)
15. GrooveLily - Screwed-Up People Make Great Art (4:36)
16. The IT Crowd - Piracy Ad (0:51)
17. Elvis Costello - Sulphur To Sugarcane (5:59)
18. Terrence Mann, Victor Garber, Greg Germann, Annie Golden, Eddie Korbich, Jonathan Hadary, Debra Monk, Lee Wilkof and Patrick Cassidy - Another National Anthem (From "Assassins") (6:08)
19. Philip Glass - Anthem, Pt. 2 (3:48)
20. Suzanne Vega - Blood Sings (3:17)
21. Leonard Cohen - Anthem (7:20)
22. Coco, Steel & Lovebomb - Les Chrysanthemes (5:39)
23. Theo Bleckmann & Fumio Yasuda - Maskulinum-Femininum (1:49)
24. Frank Zappa - The Mammy Anthem (5:41)
25. Roy Zimmerman - The Man, the Myth, the Mccain (3:15)
26. John Zorn - The Ballad of Hank McCain [Vocal Version][*] (5:27)
27. Martin Wolfson - Morning Anthem (0:49)
28. Kraftwerk - Radioaktivität (Single Edit) (3:19)
29. Roy Zimmerman - Buy War Toys for Christmas (3:01)
30. Patti Smith - Death Singing (3:44)
31. Leap Year - The Rational Anthem (4:57)
32. Carter Burwell - Way Out There (From "Raising Arizona") (1:56)
33. Magical Polaris - Dan Lirette Hearts Lowtax (2:43)
34. Three Dog Night - Pieces Of April (4:12)
35. PJ Harvey - I Think I'm A Mother (4:02)
36. Sinéad O'Connor - Jealous (4:17)
37. Panic At The Disco - Mad As Rabbits (Album Version) (3:48)
38. Melissa Etheridge - Breakdown (3:54)
39. Hege Rimestad - Krishnas Kusine (Krishna's cousin) (3:19)
40. The Bobs - Angels of Mercy (3:04)
41. Erin McKeown - Queen Of Quiet (1:48)
42. Mary Gauthier - Our Lady of the Shooting Stars (3:29)
43. Tom Waits - What's He Building? (3:20)
44. Ira Gershwin/Kurt Weill - Jersey Plunk/The Trouble with Women (Quartet) (3:00)
45. Cliff Eberhardt - Summers in New Jersey (3:47)
46. Arthur Siegel, Denise Nolan, Vera Knotty, Nancy Hilner, Mona Lott - Way Out West In Jersey (2:54)
47. Elvis Costello - Lost in the Stars from Lost in the Stars (3:56)
48. Odette Florette And Jean Lenoir Orchestra - Fiancée Du Pirate (3:20)
49. Felicia Day - Penny's Song (1:23)
50. Teresa Stratas & Richard Woitach - Buddy On The Nightshift (2:45)
51. Theo Bleckmann & Fumio Yasuda - Über Den Selbstmord (Brecht) (3:20)
52. Scott Merrill - Call from the Grave (3:22)
53. The Bobs - Alabama Song (3:01)
54. Ute Lemper / Jurgen Knieper - Trouble Man (3:45)
55. Ira Gershwin/Kurt Weill - Very Very Very/Wooden Wedding (2:40)
56. Theo Bleckmann - Like Brother and Sister (4:44)
57. The Persuasions - Oh, Heavenly Salvation from The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (3:36)
58. Count Your Blessings (3:14)
59. Liz Phair - 6'1" (3:06)
60. R.E.M. - Radio Free Europe (Original Hib-Tone Single) (3:47)
61. Gerard Schwarz, New York Chamber Symphony & Teresa Stratas - One Touch of Venus: I'm A Stranger Here Myself (4:07)
62. The Dresden Dolls - Sing (4:40)
63. Nancy Andrews - Deep Down In The Seine (3:52)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Double jeopardy @ Le Velvet

Started out subbing for one and wound up playing from 10pm until around 2 am. Everyone was there and we barely talked about Michael Jackson at all. The playlist appears below the "fold." It started out being about babies and yoga and then the requests started.


1. Ben Folds Five - Satan Is My Master (1:33)
2. Flobots - Anne Braden (4:21)
3. Le Tigre - Phanta (3:14)
4. Stuart Davis - 8 Days in the Lotus (3:08)
5. Nelly Furtado - Baby Girl (3:47)
6. Anne Sofie Von Otter/Elvis Costello - Baby Plays Around (3:12)
7. Ben Folds Five - Twin Falls (2:25)
8. Dar Williams - The Babysitter's Here (3:57)
9. Death Cab For Cutie - Soul Meets Body (Album Version) (3:48)
10. Frank Zappa - Baby Snakes (1:50)
11. Belle & Sebastian - Dirty Dream Number Two (4:14)
12. Mike Craver - Butterfield Stage (2:12)
13. Dressy Bessy - Baby Six String (4:34)
14. Damien Rice - Baby Sister [Live From Union Chapel] (4:24)
15. Richard Shindell - I Saw My Youth Today (3:20)
16. The Young Gods - Alabama Song (5:51)
17. Marianne Faithfull - As Tears Go By (3:47)
18. The Smiths - Pretty Girls Make Graves [Troy Tate Version] (3:35)
19. Felix Da Housecat - Pretty Girls Dont Dance (0:29)
20. Nellie McKay - Swept Away (1:53)
21. Sigur Rós - Fljótavík (3:49)
22. Tom Waits - Little Trip to Heaven (On the Wings of Your Love) (3:37)
23. Veruca Salt - Sleeping Where I Want (3:19)
24. Jacques Loussier - Nocturne No. 11 in G Minor, Op. 37, No. 1 (1:56)
25. Snow Patrol - Isolation (2:36)
26. Metric - Patriarch On A Vespa (4:32)
27. Belle & Sebastian - We Rule The School (3:27)
28. Ladytron - I'm Not Scared (3:58)
29. Paul Siebel - Louise (3:42)
30. Panic! At the Disco - This Is Halloween (3:37)
31. Lou Reed - Perfect Day (3:48)
32. Billy Bragg & Wilco - Walt Whitman's Niece (3:53)
33. Bob Marley - Redemption Song (Live) (4:06)
34. Root Boy Slim & The Sex Change Band - Too Sick To Reggae (3:06)
35. The Fifth Dimension - Puppet Man (Digitally Remastered 1997) (2:58)
36. Flobots - Same Thing (3:29)
37. Laurie Anderson - Baby Doll (3:38)
38. Cry Cry Cry - I Know What Kind of Love This Is (4:30)
39. Trio Bravo+ - Rondo Ukraine (3:45)
40. Rollercone - Palais Mascotte (5:46)
41. Dido - Us 2 Little Gods (4:48)
42. Fifi - Mirror In The Bathroom (2:35)
43. Máire Brennan - Song Of David (4:08)
44. Feist - I Feel It All (3:39)
45. Lollies - Sweet Home Alabama (1:57)
46. Frank Zappa - Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up (2:52)
47. Buffalo Springfield - Broken Arrow (6:13)
48. Darcie Miner - Ohio (3:49)
49. Tom Waits - Rains On Me (3:20)
50. Lura - Romaria (3:59)
51. Marianne Faithfull - Ghost Dance (3:45)
52. David Bowie - Fill Your Heart (3:07)
53. Robyn Archer - Alabama Song (3:43)
54. Roddy McDowall - The Seven Deadly Virtues (1:26)
55. Theo Bleckmann & Fumio Yasuda - Moon Of Alabama (Brecht) (3:49)
56. Stuart Davis - Wand (3:24)
57. Dust Poets - Good Enough For Me (5:22)
58. Veruca Salt - Wolf (4:19)
59. Tom Waits - Clap Hands (3:48)
60. Das Palast Orchester & Max Raabe;HK Gruber - Alabama-Song aus "Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny", 1929 ((Oper in drei Akten von Bertolt Brecht)) (3:32)
61. Neil Young - Motor City (Remastered Album Version) (3:12)
62. America - Ventura Highway (3:47)
63. Lori McKenna - The Needle and the Damage Done (2:26)
64. Bill Whelan - American Wake (The Nova Scotia Set) (3:08)
65. Kathleen Ferrier; Bruno Walter: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra - Mahler: Kindertotenlieder - Nun Will Die Sonn' So Hell Aufgehn (4:51)
66. Fleet Foxes - Tiger Mountain Peasant Song (3:30)
67. The Mountain Goats - Love Love Love (2:48)
68. Brian Eno/David Byrne - America Is Waiting (Album Version) (3:38)
69. Joy Division - Digital (2:52)
70. The Gothic Archies - Freakshow (2:55)
71. Tomoyasu Hotei - Space Cowboy (2:32)
72. Jef Stott - Aegean Dub (5:08)
73. Charlie Haden - Is This America? (Katrina 2005) (3:40)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Set for Rapture

Somehow I came to the conclusion during this set that we are in the middle of the Rapture, and that it's not quite the Rapture some might have been expecting. Playlist after the jump.

My theory had something to do with Purim and how God's a real joker, assuming He's anything at all. It started out as something very different, but I'd been offline for the internet meltdown that came from the deaths of Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett Majors and Joe Christ.

1. Philip Glass - Said and His Shadow Dance (2:50)
2. Django Reinhardt - Gipsy With A Song (Take 1) (3:06)
3. Blue Öyster Cult - Flaming Telepaths (5:18)
4. DJ Mariachi - Malo (3:29)
5. M.I.A. - Boyz (3:27)
6. Rasputina - Howard Hughes (3:14)
7. Blondie - Under the Gun (4:53)
8. Patricia Kaas - Regarde les Riches (3:39)
9. Felix Da Housecat - Mad Sista (0:33)
10. Belle & Sebastian - A Summer Wasting (2:06)
11. Professor And Maryann - Good Morning (3:29)
12. Ockham's Razor - The Night Before Larry Was Stretched (3:54)
13. St. Vincent - All My Stars Aligned (3:47)
14. Amanda Palmer - Straight (5:11)
15. John Gallagher Jr. & Boys - The B**** Of Living (2:53)
16. Ry Cooder - My Dwarf Is Getting Tired (3:59)
17. Tom Waits - Heigh-Ho! (The Dwarfs' Marching Song) (3:35)
18. The Heads - Indie Hair (with Edward Kowalczyk) (3:49)
19. Centro-matic - The Fugitives Have Won (2:42)
20. Jackson Browne - Time the Conqueror (5:26)
21. Liz Phair - My Bionic Eyes (3:52)
22. Röyksopp - Boys (4:45)
23. Frank Zappa - Hungry Freaks, Daddy (3:32)
24. Rupaul - Kinky/Freaky (3:58)
25. Roxy Music - Like A Hurricane (7:44)
26. Citizen Cope; Dido - Burnin Love (4:11)
27. Snow Patrol - Set The Fire To The Third Bar (3:23)
28. Indigo Girls - World Falls (3:44)
29. Danny Elfman - Ballet De Suburbia (Suite) (1:17)
30. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Stagger Lee (5:14)
31. Le Tigre - Phanta (3:14)
32. Azasaurus Regina - Various Modems (1:09)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Kaddish for Stephen Tyrone Johns

Playlist from my Friday set at the Velvet. This set was structured (roughly) around the tradition order of songs during an evening Shabbat service, culminating with the recitation of the Kaddish (the haunting Hebrew prayer for the dead). If James von Brunn dies, consider it Kaddish for him as well.

1. Lion King - Can you feel the love tonight? [Hebrew] (3:00)
2. Rasputina - Hunter's Kiss (4:14)
3. Thomas Newman - Angels In America, Opening Theme (2:27)
4. Stuart Davis - Deity Freak (3:21)
5. Yusuf Islam - In the End (4:02)
6. Tears For Fears - Mad World (3:35)
7. Anne Sofie Von Otter - Rope (3:56)
8. Damien Rice - Accidental Babies (6:33)
9. Loreena McKennitt - Sacred Shabbat (4:00)
10. Neshama Carlebach - Adon Olam (5:26)
11. Al Franken - Ann Coulter in the Green Room, Pt. 1 (2:48)
12. Christine Pedi, Bryan Batt - Kiss Me Kate - Corrective Casting - Jerry & Liza [Forbidden Broadway] (1:49)
13. Stuart Davis - Rock Stars And Models (2:33)
14. David Bowie - Amlapura (3:48)
15. Johnny Cash/kayvee - "Jan Geld" Kayvee Style [from Planet Acid] (2:17)
16. Synthesonic Sounds - House Of The Rising Sun (2:35)
17. Sinéad O'Connor - Jerusalem (4:20)
18. Al Franken - Ann Coulter in the Green Room, Pt. 2 (1:51)
19. Klezmer Conservatory Band - Shlof, Mayn Kind/Zibn Firtsik (3:37)
20. Meryl Streep, Al Pacino - Tumbalalaika [excerpt, Angel in America] (3:44)
21. Rasputina - Incident In a Medical Clinic (3:52)
22. Nick Cave - Mack The Knife from The Threepenny Opera (4:55)
23. Neshama Carlebach - V'shamru (6:44)
24. Paul Robeson - Joe Hill (2:59)
25. Raoul Vaneigem - La Vie S'écoule (2:52)
26. Django Reinhardt - Moppin' The Bride - Micro - (2:24)
27. Abayudaya Congregation, Solo By J.J. Keki - Lekhah, Dodi (5:23)
28. Roy Zimmerman - Summer of Loving (4:42)
29. Zev Feldman & Andy Statman - Wedding March (3:04)
30. Al Franken - Ann Coulter is a ____ (1:09)
31. Kate & Anna Mcgarrigle - Little Boxes (petites Boites) (3:39)
32. Carly Simon & Others - Carly Simon & Others - New Jerusalem (3:22)
33. Laurie Anderson - On The Way To Jerusalem (1:20)
34. John Cage - In The Name Of The Holocaust: A. 3'36" (3:37)
35. John Cage - In The Name Of The Holocaust: B. 2'21" (2:22)
36. Itzhak Perlman, John Williams - Immolation (With Our Lives, We Give Life) (4:43)
37. Ben Shenkman, Jeffrey Wright, Meryl Streep - Kaddish [excerpt, Angel in America] (5:06)
38. Mägo De Oz - Somewhere over the rainbow (4:35)
39. Sung By Gershom Sizomu With Abayudaya Community Response - Kiddush And Motzi (1:14)
40. Lion King - Can you feel the love tonight [Arabic] (2:45)
41. Zev Feldman & Andy Statman - Gypsy Hora & Sirba (4:24)
42. Patsy Cline - Wayward Wind (3:20)
43. Stanford Marching Band - Golgi Apparatus (Stanford Marching Band) (3:56)
44. Wiener Philharmoniker - Pictures at an Exhibition - Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle (2:28)
45. Aladdin - A whole new world [Hebrew] (2:36)
46. Stuart Davis - Universe Communion (4:31)
47. Nellie McKay - The Big One (4:02)
48. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Nobody's Baby Now (3:52)
49. Rasputina - Cage In a Cave (3:50)
50. Tears For Fears - Ideas As Opiates (3:45)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Farewell, David Carradine

It's not your typical fan video. More like a meditation on mortality. I could try to explain, but does explaining really get you anywhere?

RIP, Kwai Chang Caine.

Friday, June 5, 2009

They Shoot Squid, Don't They?

Deep in the Connecticut woods, in a land filled with the great mystics and the casino aborigines, there lived that most controversial of groups, the fearless seal wranglers known as the Riders of the Purple Squid.

To this day, a controversy rages, at least in certain quarters, over whether their mode of transport was ethical, or as truly cruel and evil as some of the protesters claimed that it was.

One should always lie to children, it prepares them for life in general.

But one group came to dominate this debate. They started out calling themselves "People for the Ethical Treatment of Calimari" but soon changed their name when someone told them that Calimari only referred to the cooked version of their object of pity, the noble squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni). People who still refer to the group as "PETCa" do so at considerable risk to their lives and welfare. The preferred acronym is now PETSqi.

Cute video, evil child liar:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Options to convert SD/DV to H.264/AVC

This overview of editors and converters started out as a reply in the YouTube Help Forums. I've adapted it here to try to give an overview of some of the options, and the pros and cons, when it comes to looking at the many, many choices available for dealing with video, especially converting standard definition camcorder (or DV) video to the AVC/H.264-based formats that have become the preferred options for getting the best quality for the lowest bandwidth cost for streaming video sites, from YouTube to Vimeo and beyond.

One should also be aware that some sites (Funny or Die comes to mind as one example) still prefer not to support H.264 encoding, in part because of the challenges it presents to getting consistent performance for all sorts of video and film styles, H.264 works remarkably well and efficiently to get high quality and smaller file sizes, but it works best when the video image only changes infrequently.

For example, if you shoot from a tripod, and most of your video is a long cut of yourself talking, or of a peaceful landscape, H.264 can do amazing things.

If your video clip looks like a scene from Cloverfield, on the other hand, you may see some artifacts in your H.264 encoding that may drive you a little bit bonkers.

But since so much of the "approved" content on YouTube consists of "talking head" vlogs, H.264 seems like the no-brainer solution.

For those still waiting to switch, I also suspect they've concluded that Adobe Flash's recent addition of H.264 support in recent versions of the Flash Player are just not entirely ready for "prime time." (That topic is something I may get into in more detail in some future blog entry).

I come from a somewhat biased place, since most of my editing and rendering experience has been in Vegas Pro and started with its consumer-oriented, slightly crippled siblings.

For most SD camcorders, AVI has long been the standard container format saved by most capture utilities that transform your taped video to a form that can be edited digitally. Perhaps I'll dig into one of those files one day soon and describe what you may find inside.

There are some standalone packages, many of them open source, that are mostly useful because they convert one or more video container types to a range of other types. In some cases that may be everything you need.

Since Vegas (and most NLEs) have transcoding and rendering modules built into them, I haven't really explored these packages deeply enough to have a strong opinion of them. It's best to find someone with a lot of working knowledge of these converters, to get a sense of their pros and cons, and whether they are something you need.

A lot of other video editing packages can do this as well, and there are at least some open source programs that will also create H.264 video which tends to be a little more important than whether the container is MP4 or another type (MOV, AVI, even FLV) as long as it can hold an AVC/H.264 encoded video stream.

Your choice should be based on a combination of budget factors, as well as how deeply you expect to get into editing and production.

If your time is more scarce than money, one of the commercial packages may be simpler to learn (and have more resources for training... plus, Vegas, FinalCut, or at the really high, Hollywood and Vancouver high, ends, Avid, are all tools widely used in film and TV production, (though Vegas has found it's niche more in local news and maybe cable ad production than it has found acceptance in features and among film school grads). You may find that your learned skills are somewhat more marketable, if you can claim intimate knowledge of one, and better yet, all of these programs.

I wound up gravitating to Vegas mainly because I already had a few years experience working/messing with the consumer-oriented package that Sony bought and built into Vegas Pro, and until last year I was still using one of the somewhat crippled consumer versions, so the cost of upgrading was less than if I had been starting from scratch.

For a long time I actually used Nero a lot for editing. I haven't used Nero for editing or rendering lately, so I don't know whether it has H.264 support, and if it does, just how strong that support is.

But I will say that for a long time I found Nero to be more robust and flexible than Vegas, but not nearly as adept at the (non-gimmick) creative controls that Vegas offers in abundance, and I'm not speaking of gimmicky special effects that scream "amateur" -- but the really powerful ones, like color grading and heavy duty audio editing, some of which are available in limited ways in the consumer versions, but are only fully enabled in the Pro package.

Here are some links that may get you started looking at some of the open source alternatives that have some kind of H.264 (or X.264, an open source equivalent) support:

A Listing of current Final Cut "equivalents" -- An open source fanboy introduction to and listing of all the open source NLEs that penguins love to dream about.

Blender - for the exceptionally brave
It's extremely powerful, and that's the problem. But it is open source and has a dedicated user community. But the learning curve is widely recognized as very steep, in part because Blender is also a full featured CGI rendering package that, at least in theory, could be used for theatrical release production -- as long as you have a render farm handy.

I found these (and other) links by searching the terms: "open source" NLE video -- the search gave over 8,000 other hits.

I'd encourage anyone still reading this post to do as much homework as you have time for -- especially and talking to, and lurking in forums where users of the packages you're considering are most actively congregating.

The real investment here is the time you'll spend learning to edit and deal with video in all its forms -- the time (and I mean lots of it) is the real cost, compared to that, the base cost of your chosen NLE pales by comparison. In fact, I'll lay odds that within a year or two you'll have accumulated a raft of programs to assist you in production, and most can be mixed and matched, within reason. Photoshop, Painter, GIMP, and many specialized texture creating tools, for instance, may come in handy, especially if you are an admirer of Robert Rodriguez and his 5-minute Film Schools.

Likewise for audio production tools. If you're a solo artist, especially, you'll very likely wind up with more tools than have time to learn well. Which is where collaboration comes in, if you can work it out. Even with the power that computers provide in making production something one person can do alone, real talent in all areas of production is rare, and your work can be much better if you can put together a team of friends or co-workers who each have mad skills in a particular area of production work.

All programs ( of any kind, but especially NLEs) have their quirks, which you'll usually find discussed in the online forums dedicated to each package, as well as in those dedicated to to video and audio production in general.

I hope you've found this a useful starting point for investigating basic editing (and file conversion) for streaming video. Please add comments and questions, so I can do better next time... or suggest a specific area to focus on.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Is the HQ35 Mystery Solved?

[This post is under review: Expect revisions soon (or not). Specifically, I spotted some issues in my test video that have me questioning some assumptions I've made so far. More detail will be added, once I've sorted out just how significant the effect of these discoveries may be on the issue at hand, getting smooth, high frame rate playback under HQ35 encoding and the related issue of getting the HQ35 encoding at all.

At this point, getting HQ35 has become such a rarity that I've backed off on seeking an answer to a question that has almost become moot.]

Sadly it's going to be a little hard to tell since so far, uploading test videos comparable to the ones in the previous demo of this problem will not seem to render to HQ35. However, without the alternating squares in each pair of frames, there still seems to have been significant progress, in this video.

and in this one:

The first video was rendered in Sony Vegas Pro 8.0c. Full specs are provided in the description section of the video's YouTube page.

I need to confirm just how the second video was rendered. I suspect it was done in Final Cut Pro, probably as a Quicktime container using H.264 video and AAC audio.

The key either way is to boost the number of reference frames or (in Quicktime) keyframes. Onno (maker of the animation) says that he increased the keyframes to 1 keyframe per frame... in other words, each frame is also a keyframe. I hope he will see fit to share more detailed rendering specs and settings that I can download and implement. This was discussed in some detail in a recent thread in YouTube's recently renovated Help Center.

A render of my adapted test video, with the alternating blocks appears below the fold.

Be warned, though, that at least at the time this was uploaded, it only received the HQ18 encoding. I suspect this may be because, to defeat frame droppage in HQ35, videos have to meet a certain standard of "compressibility," so as to avoid presenting them at such a high bit rate that they become too difficult, time consuming, (and costly) to stream effectively, particularly for those of us with slower connections.

So here's the one with the bouncing boxes:

Enjoy! And please leave comments if you find that this information is not helping to eliminate stutter and lost frames in your HQ35 videos. This is a very new development and I'm far from confident that this is a definitive answer.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

James Benning and Direct Cinema

(adapted from a posting on vimeo, in the group The Pictures Don't Move)

I want to profile an interesting independent filmmaker here, James Benning. I first heard about Benning from a vimeo user, Made for Full Screen. Benning fascinates me first of all for at least one of his films that I haven't seen, but that I wish I could find and view, in part because it happens to tie into my own family history, and I'd really rather talk about it from a base of experience, rather than what I infer from what I can find to read about his approach.

The film I'm thinking of is Deseret (1995), reviewed at the link.

While I don't want to make too much of it without seeing it, there seems to be a difference between Benning's practice and what used to be said about Direct Cinema or Cinéma vérité, often characterizes as filmmaking that consisted of plopping down a camera on a tripod and recording directly whatever happened in front of the lens.

While there's an element of that in what Benning is doing, there's also far more. What I have managed to see, mostly in the form of low-quality YouTube excerpts, since Benning's work has not been released on VHS or DVD, but has been broadcast on, for instance, German television. Most of his films seem to run between 90 and 100 minutes. They consist largely of long static shots that apparently illustrate particular lines of text, or audio readings of particular lines or statements.

The divergence is even greater with his Utopia, excerpts of which are found on the Yoob, and are reviewed here where parts of the soundtrack from another documentary are set against his static shots of mostly Southwestern U.S. landscapes and "townscapes."

The shooting style is similar, but there is editing going on here, editing that seems to imply some meaning, some guidance or direction of the viewer, at least in terms of selecting statements to illustrate, and choosing the order in which they are presented. I'm reminded of Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali's landmark film Un chien andalou, or at least the received wisdom I was given as to what it was "about." The irresistable human impulse to find patterns in chaos, to make sense of the random and the senseless.

I really want to see both films in their entirety, in part because it seems refreshing compared to the commercially-dictated sort of editing one might see if the same subject were shot for, say, a History Channel or Discovery Channel "documentary," where topics are discussed, dumbed-down, and manipulated, all to apparently conform to the convention of commercial "breaks."

I don't know about anyone else, but I know I find that particular structure fairly annoying, especially when it comes to my attention (and it usually seems to after 10 minutes or so).

Anyway, as I've said elsewhere, I'm looking forward to any dialogue to be sparked by the films/videos presented here (The Pictures Don't Move). On a number of different levels.

I think I need to go out and shoot something. I said that almost a week ago and yet I am almost paralyzed about doing this, and have instead spent a week looking for every possible distraction from creating anything or recording anything, up until, at least, putting together my first rough, shared cut of Ockham's Razor.

This is a test, a really stupid test

All of me that I'm ready to share. Okay, maybe not all. But all my Yooby Yoobness. Okay, maybe not all. How about the most recent 49 public videos I've uploaded to this channel?

This might be a better example, from a channel with very few videos:

This one doubles for the moment as a demo of database latency (see video below). I just deleted one of the videos from the channel in the second viewer, but for at least awhile this player (the one directly above this paragraph) is likely to show 5 rather than 4 videos.

As an added bonus, here's more than you ever wanted to know about database latency, or at least YouTube's take on it from almost a year ago:

Don't bother with the jump.

I told you not to bother. But I'm embedding something here anyway, just to assure myself that it will embed.

Ockham's Razor

William of Ockham was a Franciscan. Okay, so he was excommunicated for opposing the authority of the Pope. But he did invent this nifty device that we continue to use to this day.

Here's some links you might want to read:

William of Ockham was, like, the John Wayne of late medieval philosophers.

There's a video surprise after the jump.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Mystery of the Disappearing M2TS Encodings

There have been a fair number of threads in YouTube Forums lately complaining about the fairly sudden disappearance of M2TS upload capability. For those who think I may have coughed and hit 4 random keys back there, M2TS stands for MPEG Transport Stream. It's commonly the container format used by many HDV and AVCHD cameras today when video is captured from the camera and moved to local disc for editing purposes, though if you followed the link to the Wiki article, you'll also note that it's a container format primarily meant for digital broadcast (not quite the same thing as streaming video). It's a fine format for that. Uploading it to YouTube for streaming presents some problems though.

For one it's much higher definition (usually) than anything YouTube (or any other site) can actually stream back to most users, considering, for example that the data rate is usually at least 15MB/s, and can be as high as 30MB/s -- while a fast cable connection under the very best of conditions streams not much higher than 20MB/s and in reality is often limited to 6-10MB/s.

That said, it is actually possible to upload the format to YouTube and get it to convert adequately. This, however, is not an example of success:

But the following video did convert more or less correctly:

A few ideas on why these videos converted differently come after the jump...

My leading theory has to do with interlaced versus progressive scan video. The big difference between those two renders was that the first one was defined at the frame rate that my Canon XL H1 (and many HD cameras) claim to shoot at. In my case, 60i, meaning 60 frames per second, interlaced. If you're in Europe or somewhere else where PAL video is the standard, the equivalent is 50i (50 fps, interlaced).

Look at the rendering details in the video description, though, and you'll see it's closer to 30 fps, and though it's still interlaced, something tells me that YouTube want to make that act like progressive scan. Somewhere in the encoding process there's a bit of confusion, and the result seems to be that all the frames play at 30fps, in effect making the video twice as long as real time.

In contrast, the successful version was rendered at 30fps and the project definition was also at 30fps. There are some slight defects in that version that I suspect are related to it being uploaded in an interlaced format, though, and among other things that means that YouTube decided that a much higher resolution interlaced video was more artifacted and did not rate the HQ35 rendering that many people have been striving for as the happy middle that gives decent quality and sharpness without requiring viewers to have the hottest, fastest new computer or a super-fast connection.

A few key threads from YouTube Help Forums:

- Failed to convert MTS...

- M2TS Files Failed to Convert

- AVCHD and .mts files

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Testing strange things

Testing an issue with playlists and favorites. This is an embedded list of 20 videos taken from my favorites. I've since pared it down to 16 videos, eliminating private videos and those that appear to not permit external embedding.

This is the part above the jump.

And this comes after. This is a video uploaded from a cellphone. (Or recorded on a cellphone, transferred to a PC, and then uploaded to the Yoob).

It's pretty chunky when viewed in "blowup" size on its YouTube page. It's not so hideous when shown in a tiny window no larger than its original resolution.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

YouTube's High Quality Mystery

For those just tuning in, in about the past month or so, various problems have shown up for many people, most dramatically, the tendency of HQ videos -- those that have been encoded to YouTube's Format 35 (&fmt=35) -- to play back at roughly half their intended, uploaded frame rate.

So far there's been no real word on what's going on with the High Quality format. I do have it on reliable authority that this issue has been brought to the attention of YouTube's engineering department, but so far no word has gotten back to me that the source of the problem has been found.

The following videos will demonstrate this behavior, at least as long as the problem persists. I tried in this and other videos to duplicate the method used by user kekkomatic and described in detail in his video description.

Basically, an alternating pattern, frame-by-frame of graphic boxes were laid into the video as two overlaying video tracks. The boxes alternate left-to-right, frame for frame.

If there were no dropped frames one would see these as a sort of constantly "shimmering", rhythmically consistent set of images. When frames are dropped, instead one is likely to see the boxes "stick" on one side or the other.

To confirm that this is limited to HQ35 encoding, you can go to any affected video and force display at another quality level by pasting the following to the end of the video URL.

NQ5 - add "&fmt=5" (without the quotes)
NQ34 - &fmt=34
HQ18 - &fmt=18
HD22 - &fmt=22 (where available)
Related videos should include several other demos. Here's a playlist of several tests, including ones that did not get HQ35 encoding and are therefore largely unaffected by frame droppage. (Playlist appears below the fold).

Playlist of test videos, as noted above, appears below. (The preceding hotlink will also take you to the playlist on YouTube itself).

Videos that were not strongly affected by dropped/skipped frames are in the playlist, towards the end. The following is a further attempt to explore issues related to this problem, but it seems to have failed to achieve the HQ35 encoding. It's included here instead to test whether one can truly disable related videos in a auto-generated custom player. Only one video should be playable in this player, if that's true.

Beluga Whale Speaking

Here's footage of the beluga whales at the Mystic Aquarium (Mystic, CT) taken on April 4.

Nada. Sorry. SRSLY

Friday, March 27, 2009

Just Because...

Mostly testing the new flavors of fail and not so fail...

Another one:

What does 48fps look like and does it address or prevent frame drop in YouTube?

If I were sensible I wouldn't torture this blog so.