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.