Aiptek launches mini projector

Aiptek (known for kind of crummy solid state camcorders) has launched a handheld projector, the PJV11X. It’s strictly SD, and will only project an image of about 42″ diagonal, but I’m a sucker for stuff like this. A battery powered project in your pocket? Just think of the opportunities for civil disobedience!

Thanks to Macnn for the link.

Perian: A Cruel Mistress

Perian, the do-everything Quicktime component has been a godsend for Mac users looking to play windows-centric video formats on their Macs. But Perian giveth, and Perian taketh away.

A while back I wrote about how to build your own Perian with only the components you need. Recently, I started wondering whether that was really necessary, or if it was just me being a bit neck-beardish. So, earlier this week I switched Media Mill to a current version of Perian (1.1.2) and removed our DiVX decoder.

An interesting thing happened. I started seeing compressord crashes across the board. The crash logs indicated that it was a thread running Perian that was crashing. What was strange was that this was often happening on files that, as best as I can tell, shouldn’t have been decoded by Perian. For example, Quicktime files containing H264 video. While Perian does have a decoder for H264 (which supports advanced-profile h264 unlike Apple’s decoder) it shouldn’t preempty Apple’s decoder in this case.

I haven’t gone digging in the Perian codebase to see what’s up with all of this, but my initial verdict was that rolling your own Perian, supporting only the codecs you can’t decode some other way is still the way to go.

There is a small (very small) part of me that’s inclined to setup a custom Perian build server with a nice webserver, wherein you could check boxes for the codecs you want and get a custom component.


DMCA Good? Your head asplode!

Wired has a great blog post looking back at 10 years of DMCA, arguing that while the anti-circumvention parts of the DMCA really suck, as a whole it’s been a good thing.

Essentially, they argue that the DMCA, by spelling out takedown procedures and defining the “safe harbor,” has allowed for a variety of services that would have otherwise been too risky, namely YouTube. It’s a fair point, and an interesting read. The safe harbor provisions definitely give me some confidence in regard to Media Mill, but I’m not sure I would go so far as to say the DMCA is a good thing. And, the DMCA is like a soufflĂ© – it’ll only get worse with age. Each new, DRM-encumbered technology serves to remind us of that. So, I’d argue that the DMCA is a badly broken law with a few good provisions. We can do better.

Thoughts on Final Cut Studio 3

We’ve got about six months to go before NAB 2009, so I figure it’s time to start making baseless predictions. So, here’s my take.

First off, if we don’t have FCS3 or some other major video announcement from Apple around the time of NAB (whether they attend the show or not), I think it’d be time for some serious questions about Apple’s commitment to the product line. I don’t think there’s much truth in the occasional rumor about Apple shopping around Final Cut, and I assume that the big FCP shops already know the road map, but it’s time to move the platform forward.

There are a few big areas that I see as logical steps for improvement.

GPU Acceleration in Final Cut

Motion already makes heavy use of the GPU for effects, and Final Cut Pro already has the capability for GPU accelerated effects as part of its FXPlug architecture. However, the bulk of the filters in Final Cut are currently running on the CPU, and the realtime effects architecture is achieved based on CPU speed alone.

Unified Solid State Camera Support

Importing video into Final Cut has gotten to be a bit of a mess these days – you’ve got “log and capture” for tape, “log and transfer” for P2 and AVCHD, plus XDCam and DR60 importers from Sony, plus standalone apps for RED, and a handful of others. It’d be nice to see an importer plugin architecture that allows different importers to plug in to the “log and transfer” framework, so that we could have a unified interface and workflow.

Native AVCHD

Premiere Pro CS4 does it, so Final Cut should too. I know it’s not a “pro” format, but that doesn’t mean people won’t be creating compelling content with it. Transcoding to AIC really hobbles the support.

Kill LiveType

Please? It’s already Schiavo’d, just end it.

BluRay in DVDStudio Pro

This one I’m a bit less certain of – Steve called BluRay a “bag of hurt” at a recent event, but Encore is doing it. If DVDSP isn’t going to get BluRay support, it might be time to officially start phasing it out.

Better Roundtrip Support

Roundtripping is one of those ideas that works great in demos, but never seems to quite live up to expectations in real life. Final Cut -> Motion -> Final Cut tends to work ok, but FCP->Soundtrack->FCP is like russian roulette. Every now and again it’ll work OK, but usually it just blows up in your face. It’s not sexy or fun, but it sure would be nice if it worked.

Make Color Pretty

Nobody expected FinalTouch to get beautiful in one version, but for Color 2, it’s time to get an Apple interface and a refined workflow. Better Quicktime integration would be nice, and again, improved roundtripping.

OpenCL Accelerated Codecs

This one is a bit more “out there,” and the WWDC NDA prohibits me from talking about some of it, but OpenCL would provide some great opportunities for hardware accelerated video codecs. Not just for encoding, but also decoding of formats like HDV and AVCHD. Now, whether this will happen is a bit more uncertain – it’d be a pretty sharp departure from Final Cut’s reliance on Quicktime. It’d also likely be Snow Leopard only, though perhaps OpenCL can be integrated into an app, the way Core Animation showed up in Motion before appearing as an OS component.

Script Sync

Avid and Adobe are doing it now, so it only seems logical that Apple will add some sort of script-sync feature. Is this something people use in real life, or is it just nice for demos? I’m not sure.

Real Final Cut Server Integration

It’d only be logical to start building in Final Cut Server integration, to really start putting a bit more pressure on Avid in that space.

Other Crazy Stuff

If they were going to make it Snow Leopard only, there’s lots of other interesting stuff that could be done – grand central scheduling, proper soup-to-nuts 64bit, etc. Maybe for Final Cut Studio 4.

Motion Pro

Hey, whatever happened to the Shake replacement?

Ouch for Avid

Wow, earlier today I suggested Avid as one of the companies Apple could buy with its wad of cash. Avid just announced their quarterly results, with a drop in earnings compared to the year ago period and a 10x increase in their net loss.

Also announced is a plan to sell Softimage, and a workforce reduction (edit: about 410 people or roughly 15% of the company).

I can’t take it no more, so I’m going on a shopping spree, yeah


So, in Apple’s quarterly earnings call, Steve Jobs made repeated references to the “opportunities” out there for a company with $25 billion in cash.

So, what could they buy? This little economic hullabaloo has beaten up a number of companies, so lets look at some market caps:

AMD – $2 billion

NVIDIA – $3.8 billion

Avid – $600 million

Sandisk – $2.1 billion

Sony – $22 billion

Creative – $155 million

Thomson (as in Grass Valley) – $400 million

Bogen – $17 million

Sanyo – $2.8 billion

Autodesk – $5 billion

Now, not all of those are great buys. AMD would be a bit like buying a lead ballon (and not a Mythbusters lead balloon). And some of these would be impossible given anticompetitive issues.

If I had that kind of pocket money though, NVIDIA, Avid, Sandisk, Sanyo and Autodesk would make a pretty nice bundle of acquisitions. $15 billion total, leaving $10 billion in cash still floating around. Nifty!

Posting Mad Men

Post Magazine has a piece about the post production process for the TV Show “Mad Men,” which I have been hooked on. If you haven’t seen it, it’s definitely worth a look. The show itself has a very distinctive feel, and this article goes into a bit of how that feel is achieved.