Many moons ago I blogged about a video converter called Evom. I loved it (still do) for its simplicity and for its unique features. I’ve found something similar for the PC. It’s been available for a while, but a new version (3.0) has just been released that gets close to Evom for the PC. It’s called Miro Video Converter and to use it you simply drag your video file into the window, select what device you want to convert for, and then click the convert button at the bottom of the window. There are tons of choices to convert files to. All of the latest Apple devices are listed, as well as Android devices and even the Kindle Fire. It also allows the conversion to “open” format file types such as Ogg Theora (video) and Ogg Vorbis (audio). There’s even the choice of WebM for those of you still holding out hope for that format to catch on. Though my advice to you would be to exhale.
Now my favorite feature from Evom was that you are able to drag a YouTube URL from a web browser window into Evom and it would begin downloading and convert your video. That feature works much less consistently now, if at all. So I still use Firefox and the Video Download Helper plugin to download YouTube videos. Once they are on my machine I can then use Evom to convert them to an audio MP3 file. I’m happy to report that the MP3 conversion feature works in Miro Video Converter too, though quite a bit slower than Evom. But hey, these are free programs we’re talking about.
So Miro is also available for the Mac, but I prefer Evom, for most of what I do. Mostly because it is faster. However there is one other intriguing feature that Miro has. It can convert into what are known as “ingestion” formats, such as ProRes (what Final Cut Pro X likes), AVC Intra, and DNxHD. What this means in theory is that you could convert videos into formats that are recognized natively in video editing software. How this would work in practice remains to be seen. But it’s interesting to see those options.
I have several students every semester ask how they can get the audio from a YouTube clip into their projects, and now I have a program that I can recommend for PC users.
While we’re not quite ready for our Convergence Center yet, with the help of our head librarian and some funds from the state, we will soon establish a space in the Simpson Library to facilitate video editing. We are going to go with iMacs for the simple reason that PC video editors are just dogs. And I’m happy to have the
argument conversation with anybody about which is better, just as long as we start with the comparison of video editors that “come with” the Mac and the PC (iMovie vs. Movie Maker). I put “come with” in quotes because iMovie is now pre-installed on all Macs, and Movie Maker is a free download for PCs. I will also accept submissions for best paid video editor software on either platform, though I think Final Cut Pro X is the best, Adobe Premiere CS6 is a close 2nd (and available on both platforms), and back in the day Sony’s Vegas on the PC was cool. There. Let comments fly.
Before I tell you what I’m spec’ing out, I will say that we will have both Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Premiere (as well as the rest of Production Suite) on these iMacs. So here goes. I have a budget, but I don’t know that exact figure as I’m writing this. I had to approximate the cost of each iMac months ago, knowing there was a good chance a new version would be introduced. Therefore my approach is getting what I think to be the minimum features and then adding or subtracting as needed. More importantly I’ll give you my reasons (and a few beefs).
I’m going with the 2.9GHz Quad-core Intel Core i5 version of the iMac including 16GB of memory and the 1TB Fusion drive. Also the wired Apple mouse and the wired keyboard with numeric keypad. Wired peripherals are much more reliable when editing, and the numeric keypad adds keyboard shortcuts that editors need. Now the other iMac option for the 21.5″ size screen is a 2.7GHz model, but that doesn’t offer the Fusion drive. What is a Fusion drive you may ask? It is essentially a “hybrid drive” made up of a solid-state drive (the iMac uses a 128GB drive) and a traditional platter based drive. It will all add up to 1 TB of space. Solid-state drives are very similar to USB flash drives but much faster and in a hard-drive form factor. The platter drives are what we’ve been using for over 20 years, only the speeds and capacities have changed. I remember purchasing hard drives measured in megabytes (MB). The “hybrid” is software that controls how and where the data on the two drives is saved. Files or programs that are accessed more often will be available on the flash drive, where less frequently accessed files will reside on the platter drive. Software will monitor this and operate in an optimized way (in theory).
As far as memory goes, it’s a choice of 8 or 16GB. I’m going with 16GB because programs like video editors like memory, usually the more the better. An extra $200 is a bit over priced, but it is virtually impossible to add memory later. A beef that many people have raised already. For most (non-video editing) people, 8GB would be fine for several years into the future and only people who know what the benefits of more memory will even consider 16GB. I don’t have the same beef about the memory issue. Don’t get me wrong. iMacs aren’t cheap and paying $1300 or more, some people expect more access to the components for upgrading. Well to them I say those days have sailed. We buy computers as appliances. PCs are still more accessible in terms of upgrades and tweaking. Macs are sealed up from the factory, except for the Mac Pro, and the Mac Mini to some extent. If you want to hack your Mac, you need to build it from scratch – Hackintoshes anyone?
What does make me a bit nervous (and Apple Care will have to be added for insurance) is the hard drive going bad, as our current 27″ iMac suffered exactly that fate. Taking it apart (by an Apple tech who came to campus) was not for the faint of heart. He came with a toolkit that included suction cups – I kid you not – to take off the glass screen to get to the hard drive. In some ways the new iMac may be easier to get to the hard drive because it is the uppermost component underneath the screen. However, the screen needs to be pried open with what looks like a guitar pick and then presumably needs to be resealed with adhesive. *shudder*
The other thing that makes me nervous is simply, I hope the Fusion technology works. I’m a big believer in solid-state hard drives. You can’t just order a solid-state drive in the 21.5″ iMacs, however. It’s either a traditional drive or the Fusion. The 27″ iMac does have the solid-state option (as well as user accessible memory), but it’s a $1300 upgrade (for a 768GB drive)! An option for a 256GB drive on all of the iMacs would be my preference. Often a company called Other World Computing (OWC) offers various upgrades on Macs. They may have some choices in the future.
So once again:
- 2.9GHz Quad-core Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz
- 16GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM – 2x8GB
- 1TB Fusion Drive
- NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M 512MB GDDR5
- Apple Mouse
- Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad
- Apple Care
That’s around $2000 before software. I may have to give up the Fusion drive and more memory if we’re over budget. Regardless, I still think this gives students a better creative experience for editing video (and if need be audio). And hey, we can always create a Windows partition if we need to…nahhh.
We’ll update as this story unfolds…
I decided not to wait until Friday to have some fun. All of us in DTLT are acting a bit shell-shocked to be back after Thanksgiving num-nums. I started the week by going through the process of switching hosting for this site. I’m moving to MediaTemple for all of my business and personal hosting.
In the mean time, while waiting for files to FTP to a local drive, I have been playing with Google Earth. It’s been a while, but I have always known that I wanted to incorporate “fly-over” videos into some video projects. The Google Earth Pro program allows you to export your “tours” as movies. The Pro version is $400 though. However, if you have good screen capture software (I used Telestream’s ScreenFlow), you can fake it with a little extra time and effort.
The above video was done by playing the Google Earth tour while recording in ScreenFlow. Then I cropped out the navigation buttons and graphics. I added the Shining music and then exported the video. Pretty simple as far as this goes. More experiments to come. I would love to see some folks do personalized versions of these types of videos. Make a tour from your home (or some other place in the world if you’re paranoid) to work and add the Shining opening theme to it. It’s fun.
Culpeper, Virginia. The camera slowly pans up exposing a very small man-made body of water and a grid of square and rectangular box-shapes made of concrete. A concave wall of windows is set back within each box. Text fades up on the screen that reads “Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation – Library of Congress” George Willeman is on screen talking about the first films ever made – “all these people who worked on these things are all gone now, but they have left behind these amazing shadows for us to enjoy.”
This is a scene early on in the film “These Amazing Shadows: The Movies That Make America“. Documentarians Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton intersperse film clips and interviews as well as archival footage dating back to the silent era to contextualize the films that were made and why they are important to our culture. Each year 25 films are added to the National Film Registry (part of the Library of Congress) which are deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant films”.
The fact that the Packard Campus is just 40 minutes away in Culpeper is a film buffs dream. Each month they put together a film schedule that includes some classic films. Some are on the Registry, some are not. The movies are free, you just need to make a reservation to get a seat. I know, you’re jealous. I understand. What is even better than that is “These Amazing Shadows” in on Netflix instant watch (as well as on DVD), and it’s a great film to watch and get more suggestions of movies to put on your Netflix queue.
The passion with which the archivists do their jobs restoring the films is compelling. The excitement with which the featured actors and directors talk about film discoveries will inspire you to see lots of movies. James Billington, the Librarian of Congress will be your new hero. I can’t recommend “These Amazing Shadows” enough.
There's a bit of history surrounding "The Kit". It all started with a presidential initiative back in 2006. We worked with a company to provide live streaming of lectures, and “boxes” that included all of the hardware needed to accomplish it, such as the computer, audio mixing board, two PTZ (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) video cameras, and a wireless microphone. It all got lugged around in a large rolling case, like something you’d see a band use on their world tour, pushing it in and out of the semi-trailer. It was huge, but it contained everything that was needed – except maybe the tripod wouldn’t quite fit.
The computer was a Shuttle PC with a Video Toaster card inside. I wrote (briefly) about it almost 4 years ago – Time to Make Video Toast.
It was a pretty sweet system in its day. Interesting how four years can seem like a generation ago when it comes to technology. This was also at a time when there was the shiny allure of recording in High Definition video. It was an upgrade for the Toaster that didn’t exist, even though HD cameras were available. Nope it was all Standard Definition video, with a composite connection to the Toaster, so the video quality was pretty low. When the time came to stream the video, a lot of the detail was being lost. For the 2009 Faculty Academy we used the Toaster with Ustream.tv. With no built in streaming capabilities (nothing cheap like Ustream anyway), we used an intermediary program called WebcamMax to get the captured video output to Ustream. It worked, and we got good feedback on the live stream, as well as exposing more people to the magic of Faculty Academy.
For 2010, my old Macintosh DNA was re-surging. I had started using a MacBook Pro in 2008, but I was using it to run Windows Vista. Pretty quickly I might add. I began making the switch to OS X in 2009, and I was beginning to investigate video solutions that would replace the Toaster. I found that the Mac platform had an interesting set of developers. There was also this strange phenomenon of bundled software deals available for Macs. In early February there was one called MacHeist. This was the third edition of this “event” and one of the programs included in the bundle was called Boinx TV. If enough people bought the bundle for $49, Boinx TV would be “unlocked”. The software normally sold for $249. I would get Boinx TV and other cool programs like WireTap Studio, Acorn, and Kinemac all for $49.
For Faculty Academy 2010 it was all Mac and Boinx TV. However, we still had the issue of using an intermediary program for streaming. CamTwist, a free program, was used to take the video output from Boinx TV and route it to the Ustream broadcasting page. It works by taking an area of the screen and making your computer think it’s just a built-in webcam (WebcamMax did the same thing). It did pretty well, but it necessitates some window juggling that adds to the interface complexity. The whole system was a general success, though the size of the iMac used was still a bit difficult to lug around.
A month later I presented at the 2010 NMC Summer Conference. Using my laptop and Boinx TV, we were inching closer to the ideal. It was a very well received presentation as I did a live show – broadcasted to the live audience and streamed live to the world. It was titled “This Old New Media Center” and the idea was to show how DIY “sweat equity” could be applied to new technologies for someone moderately technology-able to create a live streamed presentation.
At the beginning of 2011, I began to think of creating the ideal streaming kit. It would have to be a laptop, and one with some horsepower as this live streaming/recording is quite CPU intensive. Everything else would have to be compact as well. It would all have to fit in a backpack, with the exception of a good solid tripod. At about the same time, I was asked to be involved in recording our president give a State of the University speech. While we wouldn’t have the kit ready in time for the speech, we were able to cobble together most of the pieces that would ultimately make up the kit. Much as we liked the Boinx TV software, a critical piece to streamlining the live broadcast and recording was using Telestream’s Wirecast software. It has built-in streaming to several different services such as Ustream, Livestream, and Justin.tv to name a few. It also has a relatively simple interface for doing simple shows. It can also be used for some more complex tasks like chroma-keying (green screen) to put different backgrounds virtually in a video. It certainly is the next step in simplified live streaming.
At the 2011 ACCS of Virginia Conference in March, I again did a live show to unveil “The Kit”. I was able to stream live using Ustream and also make a recording, in HD no less, to the hard drive for archival purposes. I was able to present using the Wirecast software to the local audience and also stream the identical program. My Keynote presentation integrated nicely as Wirecast supports playing Keynote QuickTime movies, so I can advance a slide at a time, or even a bullet point at a time complete with the animations and transitions. A resource page for “The Kit” has the recorded presentation as well as a list of the components.
I have since given two more presentations with the Kit, and it really is pretty simple to set up. Thanks to the great network of individuals found in the phenomenon known as DS106, we have already seen this employed for something known as DS106 TV. When the concept of DIY technology is unleashed on talented people, great things happen.Tweet
HTML5 video is taking over the world! It’s just that the world isn’t ready for it yet. Flash has powered both good and bad websites for years now, but video publishing has been democratized by the ability of anyone to publish their content by embedding a Flash player into a blog post or a web page. Shoot your video, upload it to YouTube, and publish. Simple.
And now, the downsides. Flash is a plugin in a web browser, which needs to be installed – and updated on a regular basis. The other downside? It doesn’t work on iThings – iPods, iPhones, iPads. Flash is having it’s performance problems on other mobile devices, and it doesn’t seem to be that Apple is just making it up.
So how does this all clear the way for HTML5 video? What is HTML5 anyway? The what is it question is answered by a very informative website called Dive Into HTML5 by Mark Pilgrim. HTML5 is (the shortened description) a specification about how components work in a web page, but they include fancy new capabilities like animation and video, and more interaction – you know, like Flash – but without the plugin. It does it natively with whatever browser you have, as long as the browser supports the capabilities. It’s why HTML5 is not quite ready for prime time yet. Not all the browsers fully support it. The Internet Explorer browsers have been particularly slow to adopt it, though IE9 will make up quite a bit of the distance that its predecessors left it.
HTML5 video is being adopted more quickly that the other HTML5 bits because of the Flash deficiencies mentioned previously. However, the browser support issue needs to be dealt with. A common way forward is to program for the HTML5 video and then have a “fallback” plan in case it isn’t supported in the browser. In other words program so that Flash kicks in if there is no HTML5 video support. Do a search for “html5 flash fallback” and you get a bucket load of procedures.
Now this is where you should be shouting, “You’re doing it all wrong!” Why? Because the HTML5 support is immature, and it shows. The built in players just don’t have the functionality of the Flash players. Use the same search terms for falling back to HTML5 and you get much less information. But that’s how it should be done. Look, Flash works great in the modern web browsers because it has been around for so long. It has years of development on its side. So use it. Then if your device doesn’t support Flash (I’m looking at you iPhone and iPad), fall back to HTML5. A great tutorial by Lee Brimelow shows you how it’s done.
A word of caution is that the HTML5 fallback works for standard web pages, but it gets tricky to make it work in a WordPress installation. Luckily there is a nice plugin for that. Rodrigo Violante has created the HTML5 and Flash Video Player plugin which allows that Flash player with HTML5 fallback functionality, and it works like a charm. It should be noted that sites like YouTube and Vimeo are also using a Flash interface, but support for the iDevices is there as well (you need a Vimeo “Plus” account for their mobile, non-iPad, support). However, keep in mind – it’s still early. We’re still in the dress rehearsal phase.
Flickr photo by ShellyS
Welcome to the new school year. I’m still shaking my head about where the summer went. I’m also still grinding gears from vacation last week, but despite those issues, I’m very excited about 2010/11 at UMW. While perusing my RSS feed today, Lifehacker reminded me about Evom, a Mac only (sorry) video converter that is super slick and easy. If it were on the PC it could be the one program I would recommend to do a myriad of tasks.
Evom comes from a company called Little App Factory, makers of the Mac DVD ripping software RipIt! I don’t know where the name Evom came from, but the program works great. It converts many types of videos, and uses the ffmpeg engine to perform its magic. The beauty of the program is the ease in which it gets video into the right configuration for Apple devices. You drag a file from your hard drive into the interface and you get asked which device you want to prepare the file for.
Choosing the iTunes or iPod buttons gives you the option convert the video, or to ditch the video and just save as an MP3 audio file, so it’s handy for ripping audio from video files. You can also prepare videos for an Apple TV (and therefore iPad), or for uploading to YouTube. It’ll even take care of the uploading part (supply your YouTube credentials). You also have the option to simply save the file to a folder anywhere on your computer.
OK. So lots of converters do similar things to Evom. Big deal. Well, for me the big deal is that it can also convert videos that are ON YouTube. If you’re using Safari or Firefox, simply drag the YouTube link from the address bar to the Evom window, and then choose your destination. The downloading and conversion can take a while, depending on connection speed, length of the video, etc., but it all happens in the background. So it’s YouTube to iPod, or iPhone, or iPad, or Apple TV, or to PowerPoint or Keynote, in minimal steps.
One wrench in the works, and it’s not Evom’s fault, is that the Google Chrome browser doesn’t allow the dragging of links into the Evom window. I don’t know what prevents this, but there’s a simple solution. Simply copy the link, with a Command-c shortcut, or by clicking the Edit menu and Copy, then paste the link into Evom (use Command-p or choose Edit>Paste in Evom). Since Google Chrome still does not have a YouTube downloader extension, this is a great solution for grabbing those videos.
One final word about Evom. It’s free!
Standard disclaimer about grabbing YouTube videos or ripping audio from files. Remember there are copyright issues.
In the “how long were you going to have that feature and not tell me” category comes the ability to record in the Mac version of VLC. What it allows you to do is record segments from a DVD. You see, in the Windows version of VLC (since version 1.0 came on the scene), you have been able to record a DVD that is playing. The Windows version has a record button in the program (you need to select View>Advanced Controls to make it available). Once you do that you can hit the button to start recording, then hit it again to stop.
For almost a year now, and even during my recent NMC presentation, I have been under the assumption that this was a Windows only feature. In exploring the new version 1.1 for the Mac, I discovered in the keyboard shortcuts area a “record” option. Invoking “
Shift-Command-r” Option-Command-r starts a recording, and pressing the same key combo again, stops the recording.
This, of course, dramatically helps the workflow of using clips from DVDs on the Mac. After saving the recording, I would use Handbrake to convert it into a web ready MP4 file, then upload it to a web server. See my screencast on Recording Segments from a DVD. Insert the standard disclaimer here about copying DVDs and Fair Use.
I was getting nostalgic about my blogs (as nostalgic as I can get with something that started in 2004). I wondered how I could get an easy view of my blog posts, and review where I had gone over the last 5 years. I decided to use a plugin that I used at the New Media Center website called Dagon Sitemap Generator. Anyway, I stumbled upon a post from March 2005 called GroundhogChase.com. It wasn’t the site that I had originally blogged about. It was and is a site produced by the Pennsylvania Tourism Office, but the videos have been updated (in 2006 maybe?). It’s a whole remake of The Shining, with Groundhogs! It’s brilliant!
Now go see the site Groundhog 202. Any Shining fan will laugh out loud, especially the scene where “Wendy” interrupts “Jack” while typing out his “novel”. Why didn’t this get more play. Thanks to my blog, it will now.
I did find the original videos that were there back in the day. It was a series of 8 or so videos complete with both endings – if the groundhog saw his shadow, or not. Here it is in one all-encompassing video from YouTube:
Good stuff, but the update is fantastic!
This is just a quick post that will be used as an introduction to my New Media Buffet presentation. Actually this is old, new media, but the Video Toaster/Webcam Max/Ustream.tv was put into service once again this year to stream the events. We also recorded the video so that we can post them online for later viewing. As ever, I want to go back and review these sessions as soon as possible. I’ll update/blog/twitter when we get these videos up.