December 2008 Archives
December 19, 2008
There’s a wonderful synergistic relationship between:
- Sennheiser EW112P G2 radio microphone sets, and the
- Apple Bluetooth (wireless) Mighty Mouse.
See, you never want to put old batteries in a radio mic set. There’s nothing worse than them packing up part-way through an interview, and you can guarantee they’ll give up right in the middle of the best delivery you get all day. This is particularly key when you’re a one-person crew, in that you usually can’t monitor audio as much as you should.
The only way to avoid the scenario is to install fresh batteries for each shoot. Fine. But then you end up with squillions of half-dead batteries lying around. What do you do with them?
Feed them to the mouse.
It’s even a good way of checking your shooting ratios. If you’re racking up batteries faster than your mouse can chomp through the dregs, you’re either editing very quickly, or you’re shooting too much stuff for the amount of edit time you’ve got.
December 18, 2008
From the mailing list of the fabulous British Interactive Group:
I know lots of BIG chatters are big fans of Make magazine and will know about the Makers Faires it puts on in the US. Now Makers Faire is coming to the UK as part of the Newcastle Science Festival on 14th/15th March 2009 in Times Square outside the Centre for Life and various other nearby spaces, so we’re looking for Makers to take part. (to get an idea of what they get up to in the US ones, see this site, although this first UK one won’t be anywhere near as big)
If you want to come and show off your projects, run a workshop etc etc we’d like to hear from you. There’s going to be a banner announcement going up on the Make Blog in the next couple of days that will connect you to a sign-up form, so please sign up there rather than mailing me direct. Sign-up deadline is 30th Jan, so you have the hol to think about what you might want to do.
Please pass this on to any makers of your acquaintance — we’d love to see as many people participating as possible, whether they weld big bits of metal, programme arduinos, hack toys or make weird bikes, all are welcome.
I’m told they’re also recruiting a project manager for the event.
December 12, 2008
…and not a drop to slurp.
I’m in Cambridge, staying in a very pleasant room in Trinity College which sports four (count ‘em, four) gigabit ethernet sockets. So why, one might wonder, am I sitting in Café Nero round the corner, having just bought a 24 hour voucher for BT OpenZone?
Because the University Computing Service have cancelled my account. Gits. It’s only been 14 years since I last logged in as ‘jjs13,’ what were they thinking?
December 8, 2008
Have I mentioned before how much I hate bad video compression? Ugh ugh ugh. Genius model, though. Utterly charming, in a ‘who has the time?!’ sort of way.
via Tony Hirst of the OU, on Twitter. He also points to this later (and better-shot) aircraft factory:
This rather puts me in mind of Chris Burden’s 1999 Tate installation “When Robots Rule: The Two-Minute Airplane Factory”, which was a terrific thing even if it never actually, you know, worked. When I saw it, at least, it was generating heated discussions about the place of industrial machinery in an art gallery. I thought it was beautiful; some other visitors, er, disagreed. Strongly.
Further to my previous post, some more links for your delectation:
The Wikimedia Foundation — the charity behind Wikipedia — have issued a statement on the situation, a press release. and some FAQs. Interestingly, they say the Internet Watch Foundation have confirmed the ban to them, which I didn’t think was IWF policy… but I can’t get into their website right now. No, really, their server’s non-responsive as of 0935 GMT. Go, as they say, figure.
Meanwhile, BBC News Online has the story on their front page, but rather misses the point (to my mind, it’s not about the banned image — which may indeed be considered child pornography under UK law, I wouldn’t know — it’s (a.) the lack of transparency and accountability in the process, and (b.) the cack-handed methodology that’s led to editing Wikipedia being off-limits to most of the UK).
I missed the 0854 segment on the Today programme this morning; the earlier bulletin update was simply the first half of the News Online story.
I see nothing at the Guardian or Telegraph yet, but the Independent does have it. My ISP, Be, have issued an interim response. Which doesn’t quite get things right either, but at least they’re talking about it.
This isn’t the first time this has happened, either: here’s an excellent, if lengthy, run-down of the story so far.
Finally, there’s a pledge at Pledgebank, to move to an ISP that does not censor internet access. Trouble is, implementing the IWF blacklist is something ISPs covering about 95% of the UK population already do on a voluntary basis. That’s ‘voluntary’ in the sense of ‘would be imposed by government if they didn’t do it voluntarily.’ You can move ISPs all you want, the government’s intention is that you won’t escape the blacklist.
It’s policy and/or process we need to move, not ISPs.
[ Update 1055: The Guardian has the story on their front page, allegedly posted eight hours ago (but it didn’t show up in a search at half-past nine?) Better reporting than most, though they don’t mention the blanket editing ban aspect, which to my mind is much more insidious than blocking one suspect image. Guardian Blogs has a comment thread too, with more insightful comments than the article itself. ]
December 7, 2008
Vinay, when he’s writing about things I understand, turns out to be a surprisingly good writer. I think I’d failed to notice previously only because everything I’ve seen from him in the last decade was either a work-in-progress, or gibberish to me. Often both.
Now, however, he’s written a terrific review of the new Bond film, and I found myself reading it as much for the style as the content.
Perhaps he’s outsourced his blog. I wouldn’t put it past him.
Lots of talk on Twitter today about this: six major UK ISPs (including mine, the previously-rather lovely Be/O2, also Orange, Virgin, Demon, EasyNet, PlusNet and Opal) appear to be routing all their traffic through just two ‘transparent’ proxy servers, which in turn are loaded with blacklists from the Internet Watch Foundation. The IWF are the quango tasked with policing the web for illegal content; along with the police, they have the power to determine what constitutes child pornography.
All well and good — less child pornography is a good thing, right? — except that the IWF isn’t exactly transparent in their process and procedures. I can’t find a dispute procedure on their site, for example. Which I was looking for, because as of today I can’t create an account at Wikipedia. Huh?
Apparently, all traffic from these six ISPs to Wikipedia is being routed through the two IWF blacklist-loaded servers, and hence many UK users appear to be the same person. So we’re all tarred with the ‘bad apple’ brush. We can still log into Wikipedia and edit pages, but we can’t edit anonymously, nor can we create new accounts.
The starting point appears to be this specific page; if you follow that link and see a page about the Scorpions’ album Virgin Killer, with an image of its original, and controversial, cover, then all is well. If you see ‘404 not found’ then you’re being filtered — remember that Wikipedia invites you to create the page you were looking for, rather than displaying a 404. That error is coming from the proxy server, not Wikipedia.
Incidentally, if you do get the 404 you can still see the page by visiting a slightly different URL. Durr.
What alarms me about this is the lack of openness to the process. It’s hard to see Wikipedia articles silently disappearing on a national basis as anything other than state-sponsored censorship. Cock-up or conspiracy? Doubtless the first. But this is a cock-up that makes conspiracy trivially simple.
Put it this way: if you were the security services, you’d be derelict in your duty if you didn’t have procedures in place whereby you could arbitrarily add sites to the IWF blacklist, and hence now — trivially — have them blocked for basically the whole UK.
And we wouldn’t even know. Unless we were, instead, tunneling all our web traffic via encrypting proxies.
…and if circumventing these restrictions is so straightforward, then what’s the point? You’re not going to block specific individuals or small groups from discussing child porn, or racial hatred, or sedition. All you’re doing is making mass communication less convenient.
Now why would a government want to do a thing like that?
( ZDNet Coverage; Register coverage (they fire a bizarre closing barb at the Wikimedia Foundation); discussion at the Wikipedia admin’s board; Bill Thomson on the BBC more than four years ago, raising concerns about the process. )
December 6, 2008
Here’s an excellent, short presentation from the Nature Conservancy, outlining their use of Digg to drive traffic to a new website they were promoting.
I guess there’s nothing new here, but it’s rare to find solid data written up so clearly.
December 5, 2008
Computational Fluid Dynamics… in Flash.
This is plain wrong, I tell you.
December 4, 2008
I finally succumbed, and bought a proper camera. A video camera, none of your stills nonsense, nor yet a stills camera masquerading as a video camera (though that’s, you know, a really nice piece of kit. Ahem). No, anyway, I have a snappily-named Panasonic AG-HMC151E.
Caution: geek post follows.
- It rocks.
- Low light performance is quite remarkable. It’s not that the sensors are particularly light-hoovery, more that the gain noise is extremely smooth. Even 12dB looks pretty good.
- Depending on your international region, it’s an HMC150, HMC151, HMC152, and likely a few others too. Panasonic, this is daft. You can’t google wildcard string matches. Durr.
- The manual is pretty awful. Most of it’s in a PDF, it’s surprisingly hard to find out what some of the buttons do, and most of the picture tweak settings (matrix, master pedestal, knee, skin tone detail, whothewhatthewherenow?) are barely explained at all. There’s lots to tweak, and it’s hard to know where to start without a test chart and a vision engineer on hand. Blech.
- The new Final Cut Pro 6.0.5 update pretty much fixes import/ProRes transcode problems for the HMC’s AVCHD format video. But…
- You still need to disable Perian, or Log & Transfer crashes and takes Final Cut with it. Though, so far, for me, only with 720p50 files. Odd. Also:
- 720p25 still doesn’t work correctly: I see occasional but bad macroblock glitches in my test footage. Back to 1080p25 for me…
- I’ve seen reports that dropping the bitrate from the top ‘PH’ mode to ‘HA’ mode (who names this crap?) solves import problems… but then, there are no progressive settings at HA bitrates. Clang!
- The best place to go for information is the DVXUser forum. Great community.
- The cheap 16Gb Class 6 SDHC cards I bought from MyMemory.co.uk (in Jersey) seem just fine, so far. I probably needn’t have hedged my bets buying half own-brand, half-Kingston Class 4.
- High-capacity batteries are still not available from Panasonic UK, though they’ve said ‘first two weeks of December’, and that they’ll contact me when they have news.
- I think it’s going to fit the Century bars/matte box from my old PD150. Unbelievable. If only I had some filters to use it with…
So far, I’m impressed. Some of the buttons seem a bit more flimsy than I’d expected, and I’ve acres of manual to plough through, but the camera handles very well and the footage I’m seeing looks terrific. Considering it’s, you know, shot in my messy flat, at night.
It’s seeming like a camera that begs to be run in fully-manual modes, which is probably a good thing for me, but may turn out to be something of a design flaw — conceptually, it’s a camera well-suited to run-and-gun filming with untrained camera operators, turning footage around and publishing it to the web extremely quickly. Solid performance in auto may be anathema to ‘proper’ camera operators, but… who’s one of those, these days?
It’ll be interesting to see how it performs in practice; it may well be that the autos are just peachy, and it’s simply that the buttons for manual are bigger and better-placed than they are on the Sony Z1, tempting me to push them.
First proper shoot is next week, I think, then we’ll put it through its paces in a bunch of workshops. Before all that I’ll have to try strapping microphones to it, and it’s going to take me days to work out how to operate the new Kata bag I bought with the thing…
December 3, 2008
In 1906, Alexandria train station was built by mistake in Dalaman. … In 1905 the then Khedive of Egypt Abbas Hilmi Pasha had acquired a large part of the fertile plain and had decided to set up a plantation in the region. He had ordered the plans and the material for his projected residence here to his architects in France, at the same as the plans and the material for a train station for Alexandria in Egypt. Unfortunately, the two simultaneous shipments were misdirected, the materials for his residence heading towards Egypt, and the Alexandria train station ending up in Dalaman. Since it was going to be too costly to re-ship everything to the right destination, the station was built in Dalaman anyway, with even a few miles of purposeless railway track.
Is realising this sort of thing hard? Yes. Is the execution technically impressive and original, creative, etc? Yes. Does some bunch having been paid to do this detract from the film? No.
Passing it off as a fan film, however: that’s plain wrong. There’s simply no need. It’s cool. We like it. End of story.
December 1, 2008
“For any organisation that needs to store tens of terabytes of video data, MatrixStore is the appropriate solution,” says the (incorrectly-deinterlaced, badly-dubbed, content-repeating ahem) marketing video. For their system, you need three (count ‘em) RAID storage clusters, and the cost is ~$1,000 per terabyte of stored data. MatrixStore seems to be one of the cheaper and, thus, more exciting long-term video archival platforms, and it’s built to work with Final Cut Server.
Well, OK. Let me count up the bits that are spinning away on my desk right now:
- 1Tb media RAIDs: 3 off.
- 500Gb backup/archive drives: 3 off
- 500Gb Time Machine drive: 1 off
- Other drives: 320, 250, 160Gb: 2 off, each.
Rrrright. So… in two years, I’ve spawned about five gig of data, roughly-roughly. And I’m about to go high-def, shooting a fully-digital workflow (so, no tape backups).
I’m about a year, perhaps eighteen months, away from wanting to archive ‘tens of terabytes’ of video data. But there’s no way I’m in the market for an archival system that’s in the £20,000 bracket. Not a hope that I could pass that cost on to my clients: it might work for broadcast, but that’s not the world I’m in any more.
Yet my only real alternative, currently, looks like a Drobo, which tops out around 2.8Gb. As far as I’m aware you can’t span across multiple Drobos. One might tide me over for a while, and even at current prices it’s not far off DV tape costs (well, double, ish — could be worse), but ultimately… yikes.
So my question is: how unusual am I? How rare, really, is a need for expandable, redundant storage in the 10Tb+ bracket?
My guess? ‘More common than you might expect.’ Keep your eyes open for sales figures of AVCHD video cameras, particularly mid/high models like Panasonic’s HMC150. You don’t buy one of those unless you’re planning to use it quite a lot, but currently, there isn’t a really sane long-term storage plan for the things. If the HMC starts to eat marketshare from HDV cameras, there’s the market for ‘low-end’ media archiving in the 10Tb+ range.
Of course, the quick way out of this would be a Drobo with eight drive bays. If I start the rumour, do you think it might happen?