Monday, January 19, 2009

Geek Marching Band References Games

This one needs to be updated. We need more current games to be featured in a marching band routine. America is waiting. Maybe even the rest of the world. Except for Canada.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Winter In America, Remixxed (HQ)

This is a special version, the audio is remixed, run through a virtual vocoder and treated on one level with special reverb filters. Also, compression has been added to "sweeten" the track. Be sure to listen in High Quality, the NoQ version is, as always, Monaural and pretty muddy sounding.

Shifting gears

After a week almost consumed in puzzling out a bug that doesn't literally concern me I need to get back to reality. I don't know whether this video will help that or not but I felt compelled to feature it anyway.

Anybody there? from goaj on Vimeo.

One of the things that's been on my mind lately is the way that YouTube promotes the illusion that movie making is or can be a solitary pursuit. In a subtle way, this thesis project speaks to a lot of what I've been thinking about, and the challenges that face us as we come to appreciate that many creative pursuits are almost impossible without collaboration, sometimes lots and lots of collaboration.

More thoughts as they come to me. Meanwhile, please comment oh this amazing piece of motion-ey picture-iness.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Active Issue: YouTube, HD and Audio-Video Sync

(NOTE: At least for the codecs I tested, this issue seems now (Feb. 2) to have been resolved (for the most part). There have been a few reports on this, but most appear to be caused by issues such as variable frame rates in the video, or other oddities in rendering. For now, though, I'll leave this here for comment, if anyone cares to add something that makes this more clear.)

Rather than keep addressing this issue piecemeal in the YouTube's Bug Reports & Issues Forum, I'm going to try to lay out as much as is presently known about this issue. Please be aware that this is an open draft, and likely to change from one moment to the next, often in response to your feedback here or in relevant channels and conduits within YouTube.

What IS the Issue?

Around mid-December, 2008, YouTube rolled out two dramatic new features. 16:9 rendering and 720p HD replay via Flash players, currently limited in theory to those connected within the US. with this sort of overlapping roll-out, a fair number of videos that once displayed in a predictable way, began to playback in ways unintended by their creators. The AVSync "issue" is one particular subset of these playback oddities that can be described, broadly, as follows:

  1. An affected video plays back in such a way that the video and audio streams are no longer held in sync with each other;
  2. Many affected videos will play with what sounds like a normal speed audio track, but the video will run faster, sometimes a little faster and sometimes much, much faster. A 39-second clip may run in NQ (Normal Quality) at its full 39 seconds and run in HD at 35 seconds. Or the original might be 4-5 minutes long and the HD playback run for merely 1 min 12 seconds.
  3. There may be some videos that seem to share similar behavior but exhibit traits that call into question either the cause or the best way to work around the present limitations and sources of defects. -- for instance, a video shot in AVCHD at 50i fps, uploaded as a MPEG-PS or MPEG-TS, might run normally in NQ and at exactly half speed in HD. Since the audio and video remain in sync, this is unlikely to stem from the same source, although similar workarounds may offer ways to correct the problem for those with the softwear or other tools needed to address current YouTube limitations.
  4. There are signs that this sync issue is not just limited to HD videos. It's hard to identify a single cause when there are thousands of potential ways that a video can be rendered and multiplexed into one of the several standard container files that YouTube and other streaming sites accept as uploads.

What Does an Affected Video Look Like, and What Sorts of Rendering Settings Is It Likely to Have?

Here's a playlist that includes multiple renders of a diagnostic video clip, meant to show where and how various renders are or are not out of sync with their audio streams.

Keep in mind that to see them out of sync you will need to view the HD versions on YouTube's own pages, not from within this viewer. As I revise this article, there were at least 10 different renders included in this playlist and I may continue adding to the list, if the issue is not explained soon, and repaired.

What is Known?

I hesitate to say here, since I'm guessing there are many who are dead certain they understand this, and I'm not the most tech savvy person looking at this by a long shot. What I know is that the sync issue happens and it happens fairly frequently. For me though, it mostly happens when the upload affected was rendered in some particular formats.

In general, it seems that it happens less, the closer one sticks to modest rendering methods and settings that make sense for streaming video. This means for instance, avoiding huge bit rates. For video anything more than 16Mbps seems a bit absurd, considering that the advertised maximum download rate for something like Comcast cable checks out at no more than 20Mbps, and that's when you do an artificial test to a fast, nearby server. In practice, I'm seeing downloading buffer speeds that average no more than 5Mbps. I'm going to assume, until given a statement from YouTube's tech staff, that uploads are transcoded to versions that in fact run at or about these rates, 4Mbps or less for what they call HD. I'd be happy to be shown I'm wrong on this, though.

YouTube gives a grid that contains suggested bitrates and other spec for rendering. Ignoring a few typos on that chart, my sense is that success is usually possible when you follow those specs. One partial exception, though, seems to be Quicktime renders. A lot of the audio codecs I have that Quicktime will render with and play just fine locally, seem to trigger the sync bug somehow. I have almost no idea why that is, but you can find a total of one video in my playlist of trial renders that does
not have the sync bug. And it seems each codec that does fail for YouTube HD streaming results in the same proportional loss of video length.

As I type this I'm wondering if, despite the recommendations, for QT at least, a 24fps playback rate might not be in effect? This is an angle I really did not explore in these renders, since the other codecs and containers tried did not seem to insist on 24fps the way, for instance, vimeo tends to.

What is Suspected?

Include both plausible and a few implausible suspicions.

What are the Workarounds that have shown the Best Results?

Render to an MPEG-4 container if your tools allow, and you have one or more good H.264 codecs available for encoding. Stick to H.264 for video, and AAC or MP3 for audio. Be sure that you are rendering a project at 720p resolution,
NOT 1080i or anything higher, and avoid uploading raw captured video as it came off your camera. No one really wants to look at unedited video anyway, so even if it didn't create problems on replay, it would still be bad form, except as a test. And the testing mostly says, "it's not a great idea."

Nothing yet.

The Velvet Setlist

Welcoming the almost new year in the usual way, with snark, obscurity and shiny sharp knives. The playlist is there, below the fold.

I'd wanted to make up a playlist of completely new stuff, but of course, no one releases a CD on January First. Doubtful even for Jan. 2.

Here's the set list for last night's show, including a few items at the end that there was no time to play.

1. TestTones 001. (0:21)
2. Spoken Wordz - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Film Dialogue/'Thanksgiving, 1930' (0:07)
3. The Magnetic Fields - BBC Radiophonic Workshop (0:22)
4. Panic At The Disco - Camisado [Live In Chicago] (3:23)
5. Camera Obscura - Happy New Year (4:03)
6. Nortec Collective - Akai 47 (3:35)
7. The Magnetic Fields - Strange Powers (2:41)
8. Adam & The Ants - Physical (You're So) (Single Version) (4:27)
9. Rasputina - In Old Yellowcake (4:05)
10. Danny Elfman - Anita's Theme (0:52)
11. Yma Sumac - Malambo No. 1 (2:57)
12. Mary Gauthier - Evangeline (5:35)
13. Louis XIV - Illegal Tender (Album/EP Version) (3:13)
14. Björk - Immature (3:06)
15. Don Ho - Shock the Monkey (4:08)
16. Ben Folds Five - Tom & Mary (2:35)
17. Root Boy Slim & The Sex Change Band - Country Love (2:37)
18. Bombay Dub Orchestra - Love Theme from Ben Hur (Bombay Dub Orchestra Remix featuring Sophie Solomon) (6:26)
19. Damien Rice - 9 Crimes (3:39)
20. Anna Kashfi - Buttons and Bows (2:57)
21. Danny Elfman - Harvey Wins (0:31)
22. Adam & The Ants - Zerøx (Album Version) (3:48)
23. Mediaeval Baebes - Temptasyon (3:19)
24. St. Vincent - Jesus Saves, I Spend (3:56)
25. Nortec Collective - Tijuana Sound Machine (3:02)
26. Leszek Możdżer - Adrenalinia (1:13)
27. Jimi Hendrix - Little Miss Strange (2:51)
28. Bing Crosby - Mele Kalikimaka (Merry Christmas) (2:55)
29. Original Broadway Cast - Happy New Year (3:23)
30. King Django - Seventh Day (4:26)
31. Arrested Development - Raining Revolution (3:56)
32. Root Boy Slim & The Sex Change Band - Heartbreak Of Psoriasis (3:49)
33. Nellie McKay - Cupcake (4:44)
34. Kryštof - Rubikon (3:11)
35. Bert Jansch - Miss Heather Rosemary Sewell (2:05)
36. Lollies - Major Tom (Live) (1:42)
37. Anna Kashfi - The Mercy Seat (7:06)
38. BR6 - Summertime [Pleno Veráo Reprise] (3:22)
39. Elvis Costello - You Belong To Me (Capital Radio Version) (1:55)
40. Sami Yusuf - Try Not To Cry (featuring Outlandish) (4:53)
41. Panic At The Disco - Mad As Rabbits [Live In Chicago] (5:39)
42. Arrested Development - Redemption Song (6:30)
43. the cat Mary - Blue Yodel #8 (muleskinner Blues) (4:59)
44. Loreena McKennitt - Marrakesh Night Market (6:30)
45. The Young Gods - Speak Low (5:13)
46. Altan - Welcome Home Gráinne / Con McGinley's (3:20)

And this comes after.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Showing my Bias

Because this might be controversial, and because there are too many videos on the main page, I'm putting this below the fold. well, not this exactly. The this is the one that I'm giving props to, but it's a video and, well, phhhbbbttt....

I was briefly thinking about commenting here about the complaint by one user (echoed probably by many others) that YouTube has a bias to censor materials on recent events in Gaza, but instead I'm plugging a cute channel that does wonderfully witty reviews of something that's always been a guilty pleasure for me, and a source of unseemly fascination -- namely, perfumes and other commodity fragrances.

If you'd prefer some interesting thoughts on bias and materialism (as well as the Middle East), then you should probably click on those words instead of clicking below where it says "Read more!"

But the video, alas, Lass goes below the fold this time. I hate the fold. Really, I do!

This video has very little to do with Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

I'm sure this means there's a bias somewhere. Everything that is not about conflict is probably an opiate, designed to distract and take away the pain, at least for as long as the sweet fragrance remains.

Now I'm getting SO tempted to order up some Desir de Rochas and some Laundromat by Demeter. Maybe if I know that I've written them down here I'll at least have the patience to wait until I can visit a real perfume shop and at least try a whiff before spending more money on fragrances that tug at the limbic system in strange ways that I pretend not to understand.

Nominations: Best YouTube Tech Support

Maybe not. But I just wrote what has to be my personal favorite reply to a technical question so far. And I don't want to risk it being nuked, so I'm going to save it here for as much eternity as we have left.

The post should appear in context at this YouTube address.

If it's missing, or you just don't want to go to YouTube support, read it below the fold.

The post should appear in context at this YouTube address.

On Jan 1, 9:38 pm, anmoose wrote:

> I swear... We live in a society that's completely eaten up with
> instant gratification. If things don't happen two seconds after we
> click a mouse, then it must be broken. Jeez!

> Read up on the word "patience." It used to be a fairly common word.
> Then, if you can figure out how, try exercising a bit of it. In the
> real world, it can take a full day or two for search databases to
> update. Under heavy loads, it might even take three.

Well, I think these newfangled Babbage Engines did a lot to undermine
that whole "patience" concept. Personally I'm calling the War on
Instagrat over with the win totally for the Instas, d00d. ("Instagrat"
-- because Instant Gratification is just WAAAY too much to type in the
Wrld o Lulz).

Be that as it may, and feeling a Burgess Merideth librarian episode
coming on too ... I suggest instead looking up the term "propagation"
because some huge percentage of posts here (of a number that I'm just
too darn impatient to estimate) seem to be about a concept that many
of us Instanauts don't yet fully grasp, but one that will make our
lives all thrills, sparkles and pixie dust, once we do wrap it around
our heads, like a fetching headscarf.

In short, the series of Tubes that is just the YouTube is composed of
not one but many "databases" that I prefer to call magical bit-
piles. A change to one usually sends out an entrancing sparkle of
fairybyte dust that mesmerizes the worker ants and sends out a
pheremone signal to tell them to get their ant butts in gear and come
grab some of these bits, and make some copies (using methods that are
illegal to show in many countries, and most southern states).

The controlling mistress fairy, Lady Latexia, then sends them out to
all the other good little fairy princess anthills, otherwise know by
their cover identities as "databases" -- this "database" is a word
chosen for its magical power to lull most people to sleep or at least
to have them tune in the shopping channel and save the economy while
the magical anthill fairies do their strange and dangerous dances.

Sometimes fairies get lost. Sometimes pirates in Yemen run over a
magical fairy dust trunkline at the bottom of the Straits of the Gaze
and billions of fairies drown in salt water, providing the secret
ingredient for salt water taffy. Sometimes things go along being very
complicated and logical [and then a miracle happens] and then things
are more or less the way you expected them to be a few days ago and
Bruno the memory mopper runs over your head with a tow truck, spilling
memory-muddling salts all over the place. This is where that whole
"sandman" story comes from. And thus all is right in the world.

I hope you've enjoyed this episode of Sister Mary Explains the
Intertubes. I know I have.

Aren't you glad now that you followed below the fold?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

First stab at explaining why your YouTube videos are all messed up

During December, YouTube finally did what I'd long hoped they would do. They went and changed viewing screens. They took that 1950s, 4:3 format so beloved by Barbara Billingsley fans, and swapped it for that spiffy 16:9 ratio you see every time you walk by the TV section at your favorite mass merchandiser.

Sad to say, like so much in life, this change came at a cost. For many of us who had been letterboxing our widescreen video in the old viewer as the only way (or so we thought) to preserve the original aspect ratio, to keep our subjects from looking like the inhabitants of the Planet with Incredibly Stretchy Air -- suddenly, our old, tired videos look something like this, if we're lucky:

Actually, on this page that viewer doesn't look so bad. On the YouTube page though it looks more like this:

This is very frustrating -- don't you just want to grab the corners of the image and just
streeeeeetttttch them so they fill that little screen? I'm betting you do.

In fact, I'm betting you probably want your video to look more like the next video you see (points) "over there!" -->>>> (well, somewhere soon).

It's my plan, at least, to try to suggest some ways to make your video look more like the second example and less like the first.

Something you probably don't want is a version that looks like this.

Once I deal with giving you the settings and what to watch for so your videos do the proper tricks where aspect ratio is concerned, them maybe I'll get to tell you how I messed that one up, and why I even did it on purpose. In the meanwhile you might want to take a look at the file specs for that one too which, as with the other videos, is included at the end of the description block.

And so, here are the boring details.

Until I do spell this out in all its gory details (or at least the details that probably matter to the Average Josephina with a video camera, you may want to take a look at those two videos and compare them on their individual YouTube pages. In particular, look at the details given in the description for file format and other details of how each one was rendered, paying special attention to the lines about width, height and display aspect ratio. The last one can be a biggie, and there are several ways to screw up so I'll try (and most likely fail) to keep it simple.

Widescreen, but crammed into a Dior housedress of a Leave It to Beaver pseudo-screen:

Luxurious Luxorvision (16:9 video in a 16:9 Player):

I'll try to work on a more detailed explanation in the meanwhile, aimed at those who may just be starting to learn about all the variations possible when it comes to rendering, and some of the reasons why you may be better off rendering things in moderate quality for the present and keeping control over the results, to whatever degree that might be a realistic goal.