Me, programs, examinations and coursework.

Posts tagged ‘technology’

Apple Store Refresh?

Update @ 21:13 HKT: The US Apple Store returned. It appears that Apple updated its store to include Father’s Day promotions.

Update @ 21:12 HKT: The Hong Kong store has returned, but the US Apple Store remains offline.

The Apple Store appears to be offline today, after I logged on to check out the prices of some accessories I wanted to buy. We’ll see what changes Apple has made after their store returns.

Encoding Exports

After doing all the editing, the final stage of any videomaking process is to render the whole thing.

Adobe Premiere has a built-in Export tool, which allows manipulation of tens of settings that all change the final output of the video. I chose H.264, a common encoding format for videos, and used PAL DV High Quality at first, although switched to another preset later on.

What’s most interesting is the buttons along the bottom right of the user interface. There’s the standard Cancel button, a Metadata button that allows me to edit all the metadata included with the video (every single bit, which is thousands), and then there’s a Queue and Export button.

What’s the difference?

Export immediately creates the video, from anything that Premiere has on hand. It’s the fast, dirty option, programmed for quick results.

Queue, however, sends all the Premiere data to the Adobe Media Encoder and renders the video there. It’s much sleeker and efficient because the Media Encoder is better at creating the file type, and saves space. Unfortunately, the rendering takes several times longer.

After it’s all set, all that’s left is to hit Return, let the Media Encoder start, drain a tonne of Alex’s resources, and render the video.

I sat watching the Encoder go through the entire project for a full ten minutes, spending the first eight of those minutes rendering the first 5 seconds of the video and the last two minutes rendering the remaining 3 minutes or so. Apparently, Adobe Media Encoder is very good at rendering out video clips but takes painstakingly long on still images. I have not thought up a plausible explanation for why.

Still, Adobe’s powerful suite of programs is pretty good, I must say.

Correcting Edits

I hate video taking, and the reason for that is simple: I look terrible in front of a camera.

What goes on after that, however, is something I find very fun and probably the most interesting bit of any videomaking process.


Your Feed is being Piped


Image representing Pipes as depicted in CrunchBase

The Yahoo! Pipes logo. Image via CrunchBase.

Yahoo! Pipes is a pretty cool thing that basically allows users to, as they put it, ‘aggregate, manipulate, and mashup content from around the web’.

The thing about Yahoo! Pipes is that it’s supposed to be a tool to let users take content from all over the place and then do interesting things with it, and reformat it so that it fits their needs. Like stock market information. Or… blog posts. Or… RSS feeds.

You see, I’m currently working on this website project that has a little tiny widget that is supposed to take my school’s online bulletin system’s built-in RSS feed and display it on the site. It’s a little feature that I like, and I’m hoping it’ll drive more student traffic onto the site.

Here's the little guy, displaying a poor error at the beginning of the project.

Now, this was set up over the holidays, when the RSS feed was empty and there was nothing on it. When I first saw it, I assumed that the error was a result of an empty feed. So I ignored it.

However, later, I soon discovered that the bulletin was being updated, and the RSS feed was, but this little guy was not. So I had a little search. The site is hosted on, and soon enough, I found a little line in WordPress’s support documentation:

Feed URLs that start with “https://” will not work on our RSS Widget.

And I was not even surprised to find out that the RSS feed my school provided was set by the server’s requirements to only send the feed over HTTPS. As a result, I was stumped. There was no way to directly get the RSS feed over to the widget.

Determined to fix the problem instead of just dropping the widget, I began to search for some options. As a result, I came across Yahoo! Pipes, which I soon discovered was just perfect for the widget.

I’m not a fan of Yahoo!, and I certainly use none of their products (preferring Google), but Yahoo! Pipes proved amazing. While the task I used it for (RSS reconfiguration) could possibly also have been achieved by Feedburner, Feedburner refused to load my school’s RSS feed and claimed my school’s server returned 400 errors. (Which is probably likely.)

Yahoo! Pipes uses a drag-and-drop programming method, not unlike Scratch. It’s really easy and intuitive to use and the only problem I ever encountered was that the ‘pipes’ I created occasionally refused to save and I had to duplicate-save my project six times to get it to work properly. Still, it’s a wonderful tool for anyone who needs to take information from all over the Internet and put it in one place, especially if you need to reformat that information into another form.

I haven’t tried all of it out, but I definitely will take a look at the other features offered by Yahoo! Pipes.

What really interested me was that Yahoo! allowed me to sign in with my Google account, through OpenID. I wonder why that is? Does anyone have any ideas?

Alex: Linear and Non-Linear Video Editing Systems

Having just finished a video editing project, I find it fair to launch into an explanation here.

Video editing suites have changed substantially over the past couple of years. At the beginning, film was edited manually. The special effects of that age were limited and often simple. Even transitions were incredibly easy. 

The film industry term ‘cut’, to refer to a rapid change in scene (no less than 1 frame), is derived from the ancient technique of doing so. Back then, film strips were literally cut by the editor and pieced together again to form a final video. It was crude, and any error on the part of the editor would result in irreparable damage. You can imagine the pressure that they were under at that time.

It also meant that video editing was linear. Editors had to start at the beginning and piece everything together bit by bit. Sure, they could assemble everything outside of sequence, but it still went from the beginning and straight to the end. Nothing more.

A Sony BVE-910 linear editing system's keyboard

These controls were specially designed for linear video editing. Image via Wikipedia.

When computers were invented, they further enhanced the limitability of linear editing systems. At this point, random access still had not been invented, so that the editor had to load pieces up in order and assemble them like so. I have never run a linear editing system, so I can hardly go into the details.

Today, however, the majority of video editing happens on non-linear video editing software, like iMovie, Adobe Premiere, or Sony Vegas. These programs are use non-destructive video editing techniques, rather like how Adobe Photoshop works.

The principle is simple. These editing suites, instead of editing the video, simply write a text file stating the location of the video clip, which sections of the video clip to play, and then where that is placed in the relative timeline. This means that the original video file is never altered or edited — being non-destructive — but the fact it writes the relative position on the timeline also means that they could be rearranged at leisure. After all, you’re not moving about 1.5Gb of video data — you’re simply rewriting one line of text in a 1KB file.

Naturally, this revolutionised the film industry. Now, nearly all video editing takes place on some non-linear video editing software because of its ease.

The downside to using non-linear video editing software was that none of the actual video files were placed together. As a result, the software file itself was meaningless. To share the actual video, the user needed to render the video out, so that each individual bit was converted into a video, and assembled to form the final film. This process often took hours, perhaps even days, depending on the intensity of the editing. In other words, the system traded the time around, granting ease and speed of editing and increasing time needed to produce the product.

Premiere logo.

Adrian loves this program. Image via Wikipedia.

Still, Adobe Premiere runs fine on me, and I’m not complaining. Even if it does drain my RAM a bit. A bit more than a bit. 

Get the joke?

Goodbye, Skyler. Amazon Customer Service will take you.

Skyler, my Kindle, was officially pronounced dead this morning. RIP, Skyler.


Megabits and Megabytes

I don’t hate telecommunications companies — what I do hate is their lack of ability to standardise what they are doing.

My latest assignment was to create a test music video of about 60-90 seconds, with the intention of learning video editing software. Alex is currently writing an article on the differences between linear and non-linear editing techniques and how Adobe is one of the best information technology companies that were ever created. Or so he claims.

I shall be ranting about why I get confused all the time about upload speeds and file sizes.