Tag Archives: YouTube

Google+ and Windows Phone 8 surprise

Google forcing Google+ onto YouTubers has had an unexpected result for me.

I do use (and now rely on doing things through) the cloud. Whether e-mail, word processing, spreadsheet work or general video or photo storage, it’s all done remotely and for some time now I’ve been happy enough using Google. However the way they’ve handled this forcing of YouTube commenters to use Google+ has irritated me in the extreme. The result of this was to go and look around at alternative cloud sources including Microsoft’s SkyDrive. Up till now I had rather ignored it but was pleasantly surprised to see how they had integrated Office functionality into it. This in turn got me thinking about mobile cloud access.

For years I’ve had two phones on me. One working through an on-going contract, the other (an elderly iPhone 3GS) working off a PAYG SIM (and on a different network). This means that if my contract network is out of service or the phone battery flat I still have internet / cloud access through the PAYG device. (It also provides me with an alternative mobile number for when I don’t want to give out my personal one.)

Having found this SkyDrive was unexpectedly good I thought I’d give a try with Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 as a back-up mobile system (my current main phone is a Samsung Galaxy Note 2, so therefore Android). So went out and got a Nokia Lumia 520 as a PAYG upgrade which was the cheapest Windows Phone 8 that I could find.

I was absolutely amazed by it. Despite being a low specification / bottom of the range model the screen was nice and clear, apps and programs opened quickly and ran smoothly, there was no hesitation in scrolling, and from an initial charge it gave me three days use (and even then was still at 25% battery level). I really had not expected such a positive experience both from the phone itself and from the operating system. Where the icons and tiles on a desk-top Windows 8 machine annoy me (and I always switch across to the standard old style desktop) here they suit the environment really well.

The Windows Phone App store is nothing like as well populated as its Android or Apple counterpart, however almost everything I want is there. As for anything that I’m not happy with I can always access it from its web page anyway, so that’s not a great problem. The one irritation with the phone is that the screen does seem like a magnet for finger prints and smudges. I must see if I can get a screen protector for it which may improve this, but it’s not really a big issue, after all this is as smart phones go about the cheapest one on the market. I can quite see why I’ve seen reports that in parts of the world it is the best-selling smartphone!

So from being almost a Google fan-boy – Chrome, Gmail, Google documents / Drive, relying on Google Calendar,  Android user –  from their poorly executed action of forcing Google+ upon its YouTube users (me) I’ve ‘discovered’ a whole new alternative cloud structure which I’m slowly moving across to.

Thank’s Google.

My YouTube thoughts on this and the Nokia 520

My new Kindle Paperwhite.

A couple of days ago now I went and bought A new Kindle Paperwhite which had recently been released.

It’s not the first Kindle I have had. Just under three years ago I went down to John Lewis and bought what was then a 3rd generation Kindle and I remember being there wondering what am I going to make of this.
I do like my books. I like the action of turning the page, the feel of it, the cover, the fact that as you repeatedly read it it ages in changes in character. You might get a slight rip on a page or finger marks or splash of coffee on it. That all goes to making up the on-going reading experience, so what was I going to make of doing it electronically?

By the end of the first day I knew I was going to love it to bits. No worry about when the novelty wears off it’ll end up on the shelf just collecting dust. I really do like this as a reading experience and far better than using my iPad. That’s a great device where graphics are involved and for colour magazines that sort of thing. As a reader it’s not that bad a reader, but if I’m using it for more that about 40 minutes I’ve kind of had enough and want a little break, where using my Kindle I can settle down for a good evening’s read and immediately feel myself involved with the book, where using my iPad I always know I’m looking at an electronic device.

About six weeks ago my old Kindle developed a fault with some corruption up in the top quarter of the screen. This basically made it unusable. There was no hesitation or second thoughts, I immediately knew I wanted a replacement device. A quick look on the internet showed that a new model was due out fairly soon so I decided to wait. The reviews of the new Paperwhite model were all favourable so when it came out I headed off down to my local Waterstones book shop and got one.

I really do like it and am so glad I’m back with a working device again, I think these Kindles are great examples of things that just do one thing only but they do it really well.

My new Kindle Paperwhite does not have a physical keyboard but is a touch screen device and so uses a virtual keyboard. This I prefer to my old Kindle’s physical keyboard which I found a bit irritating to use – the buttons were too small and fiddly for my liking. However there’s one thing I do prefer with the old model and that’s for page turning it actually has physical buttons down the side where this new one requires a touch of the screen to turn the page. I prefer the buttons, but that’s just my personal view on that.

With my old model I did pay extra to get it with 3G functionality, but in reality in the 3 years I’ve had it I don’t suppose I’ve used its 3G more than half a dozen times. Wi-Fi at home means that I can use that for downloading books, and for direct transfer use its USB connection. When out and about there’s plenty of locations with free Wi-Fi or I can set up my mobile phone as a local Wi-Fi hot-spot. So when I got this new model I didn’t bother paying the extra for the 3G version.

The other difference with the new model compared to my old is that this new one has a backlight. I tend not to have it on for normal usage however it is really useful when in poor lighting conditions. I can see this making life a lot easier where you bedtime partner wants the lights out but you want to keep on reading!

Another thing I really like about the Kindles which does give them an advantage over your paper book is that when you come across a word that you don’t understand it’s so easy to look it up (and without disturbing your reading routine in the way that having to put a paper book down, go and find your dictionary, look up the word, then get back to your original book and pick up reading again does). Just being able to touch the word and have a pop-up definition window appear is really nice.

The old model specifications talk about a month out of the battery for ordinary use and I found that was quite realistic. With this new model they’re talking about two months out of the battery so we’re able to go away for holidays and that sort of thing not having to worry about cables and chargers, though it will charge off any USB connection.

Would I upgrade to this new Paperwhite if I had a working older model? That depends on the importance to you of having the backlight. For me personally I was quite happy without it, however my upgrade was forced upon me with my old one’s screen fault, so going to this model was a natural choice. If you’ve got an existing one without a backlight then you’re going to have to make a decision here yourself, is it worth it or is it not. All I will say is old or new, I do love my Kindle. As I commented on earlier it’s one of those devices that just does one task and it does it really well.

So I’ll happily say thumbs up for my Kindle Paperwhite.

Resolution size and quality

Video resolution, file size and image quality.

A while ago I thought I’d take my camera out for an afternoon’s videoing and so headed off to Linlithgow Palace. Once I’d got some editing done I found I had a video of just under 10 minutes in length. Usually I render out at 720p for a YouTube or Vimeo upload, but this time I thought I’d render at 1080p just to see how things went. At the end of the processing I found myself with a file of just over 2 gigabyte. This I thought a little bit large for uploading from home so went up to Uni did my upload (to Vimeo) from there. That went nice and fast, in fact it uploaded faster than the length of time it took me to type out title, description and all that sort of stuff. Once back home thought I would re-render it but this time in my more usual 720p (other settings the same) just to do a compare and contrast. My just under 10 minute came down at just over 400 megabyte.

So we’re talking about one fifth the size of the 1080p video. Playing the two videos side by side it was hard to notice any difference in quality, it was there but you really had to pick around the edges to see it. Now and again I’d pause at a suitable moment where perhaps a a sign was in view or maybe a car number plate or something similar and try and read it, and it was more readable in the 1080p version. However as a flowing video it was quite difficult to tell the difference between the two, yet the 720 giving me so much more free hard drive space compared to 1080.

I also rendered it out in standard definition quality at 360p size (looking towards uploads for mobile devices or older smart phones). Here we had a file size of just under 60 megabyte, or a little under 3% of the 1080p file size. Comparing the video here to the others there was a very definite reduction in quality. It still wasn’t too bad to watch, however when you had this 360 next to either the 720 or 1080 the difference really jumped out at you. On the other hand it was still more than good enough for a portable device if you were on the train.

Something to think about. Take the 1080 HD video size, which is a 1920 by 1080 rectangle. Multiply that out and it comes to just over 2 million pixels. Or to put it another way, if you’re in a shop talking about video and cameras and the sales staff are busy trying to sell you this camera rather than that camera because this camera has more mega pixels on the sensor… well, if you’re going to actually film at the native HD resolution then all you really need is this just over 2 mega-pixel size sensor. Bigger does not always mean better.

 

VEDA thoughts

Been a bit distracted over the last month uploading a video every day in April (VEDA) to YouTube.

This VEDA thing is not as easy as it sounds and many an experienced vlogger has tried but failed to achieve it.

It can start off easily enough. Everybody has those few things they like to talk about, however once you’ve got them sorted plus a few other things you want to have a good rant over, then finding something to say *every day* (remembering you have to record, edit and then upload) for the rest of the month can be really demanding. No break, no taking a day off, every day a new video has to be processed.

This is definitely something where that phrase ‘proper planning prevents piss poor performance’ (or whatever your own variation of it happens to be) really comes into its own. In a way it should not be that difficult.

The first day an introductory video, the last one wrapping things up. That leaves 28 days, or 4 weeks to be covered. Four weeks, then how about 4 stories, each story told in 7 instalments and each instalment being about a minute long. (Can’t be that difficult can it?)

Or rather than 4 stories, give each day a theme. Mondays cover your favourite foods, Tuesdays about music, Wednesdays about work (school / college), Thursday films… You get the idea, give yourself some proper structure to work around.

Just noticing that it’s about to start and saying to yourself ‘sod this I’ll give it a go and see what happens’ is not really the best way to go about things. However I did manage to do an upload every day (split across two different channels) so in that respect VEDA was achieved, but a little bit of thought and pre-planning would have made things so much easier, more enjoyable, and produced far better quality output.

YouTube Messages

Youtube mandatory e-mails!

Recently I got a YouTube mandatory email. Something of such importance that it must sent to me regardless of any email preferences I may have set.

I have no problem with that. There are times where information must be passed on. Major network disruption, significant changes in terms and conditions, something that may have to be sent in order to comply with some legal requirement… I can live with that sort of thing.

So what was this important mandatory email about… it was about YouTube wanting me to watch their 10 most-buzzed videos of the year.

That’s right, they consider it to be so important that I see parody videos and how a baseball team helped break a pop song that they sent me a mandatory message.

I find this a sad reflection of how YouTube is now descending into mass commercialism with no real thought or consideration to their users, even though these users are the very people who clicks on the advert links and the like which is in turn how YouTube makes much of its money!

The other thing is that it degrades the importance users will put on mandatory email messages. If all they are going to do is forcibly e-mail me crap then I’ll just end up ignoring them.

Or maybe I have this all wrong. Maybe my life does depend on me watching a pop song video. Maybe.

Maybe I’ll spend a lot more time on Vimeo instead.

Mac or Windows – its upgrade time.

It’s almost decision time, but will it be Mac or will it be windows?

My original move to using a Mac was relatively indirect. I, like many people, had started my video editing with Windows MovieMaker. However soon upgraded to a basic budget priced editing package which did me for nearly a year. I could see it had a potential greater than what I was using it for, but there was very little support and virtually no tutorials around for it.

So time for something new. I hunted around on the web to find sites with good general video editing tutorials. Came across the IzzyVideo site where there was some excellent Final Cut Pro 7 and Final Cut Express examples. FCP 7 was both a bit of an overkill for my uses plus too expensive, however the education price of Express was within my budget. Next, what did Express run on; OS X. This coincided with a need for replacement hardware anyway, but as I couldn’t afford a new Mac I ended up with a second-hand MacBook. So began my Apple adventure. I’ve ended up with a 3GS iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air, and with an external monitor and keyboard attached, the MacBook used as a desktop machine.

However the MacBook is now seriously showing its age. One reason for using it as a desktop machine is that its battery is screwed. It has trouble running some programs and others won’t install because of its outdated graphics, its processor is constantly being hammered to death (cooling fan often freaking out!) and it’s got it’s fill of RAM but needs more.

Add to that my 3GS, as good as it is, is also showing its age. It’s battery still gives OK life however there are cracks creeping up its back cover, the On/Off button is missing, many new iOS features and more and more Apps coming out will not run on it… You get the idea.

So it’s decision time. Stay with Apple or move on? Apple does make some excellent products, but they are very overpriced (even after education discount). Are they worth the price premium?

The thing is Apple appears to be losing its innovative edge; at one time it was the undisputed leader in design an innovation, but now seems to be playing catch-up.
Going back a few years, the first iPod revolutionised the portable music scene (and helped to pull the company back from a very poor financial situation), the first iPhone showed what a difference a good interface can make, the iPad opened up the world of the tablet. The MacBook Air showed how to make a really nice portable laptop, iMacs had their own unique design.

However so many recent product releases have just been incremental rather than trend-setting. Android now more than competes with its smoothness of system operation. Many other screens give a better viewing experience that a Retina display. In numbers, Google’s Play store competes with Apple’s App store and is catching up in quality and range of Apps, Google’s Now voice search more than competes with Siri. A year or so ago Apple would never have released something like its Maps App in such a poor state of dysfunction.

My phone contract renewal time coincided with the Apple autumn announcement season, so I had been waiting with the proverbial bated breath to see what was coming up, and as a result I’m now the proud owner of a Samsung Galaxy Note 2.

There were two ‘final things’ that made me not stay iPhone. First, I had hoped the iPhone 5 would have been something exciting and new, not just a slightly stretched screen and updated processor. Second, iCloud. Over the last year I’ve moved from just being an internet user to that of using the cloud for more and more for my data storage and services, and iCloud just does not do it for me. Google was born in the cloud and inherently seems to do this sort of thing so much better than Apple.

This leaves me thinking about what may happen early next year when I look towards a computer upgrade.

The new iMacs look very tempting, but at a price. However I find myself using Adobe’s CS6 photo products more and more, so for video moving across to CS6 or even Avid’s Media Composer (both Adobe and Avid are cross-platform and both have competitive education prices) would give me the option to stay Mac, but not the absolute need which staying with FCP X would require.

For less than an iMac I can get a similarly specified non-Apple machine, either Adobe or Avid software, and have money to spare for extras like external back-ups. So, as much as I like Macs it’s far from certain that I’ll stay Mac for my computing.

(One final thing, I’ve been surprised at how quickly Macs age. I have a 10 year old Windows laptop which is still in regular productive use. Ten years ago means G3 powered iBooks. I wonder how many of them are still as useful?)

Windows 8 future potential

 Windows 8, how’s it going to go.

Very shortly Windows 8 / Windows Phone 8 will be out; what’s going to happen?
I assume on the computer side of things, as new machines arrive with Windows 8 pre-installed the operating system will naturally spread through the user world. Microsoft has already ended its mainstream support for both XP and Vista, and XP’s extended support will end in the not too distant future, so corporations still hanging on to XP are going to have to upgrade soon.
Microsoft has already announced that its service pack support for 7 will end next year, so again, more reasons for looking towards 8.

What about the phones and tablets, will it break into the Android / Apple duopoly.
One thing that could give it an advantage is that it’s relatively free from the legal arguments going on between the Android and Apple communities. This could make it very tempting for the business world that does *not* like getting involved in other people’s legal wrangles. At the moment they don’t have much choice, Blackberry seems in terminal decline which really just leaves them looking towards the two arguing ‘big boys’.

So if Microsoft can come along and provide a user system with some quality phones and tablets (devices announced by Nokia, HTC and Samsung seem to be getting some good press) that will seamlessly integrate in with their desktop machines and without these Apple / Android uncertainties, then I could see business being quite tempted. Combine this business use with those individuals who want to give it a try and this should provide a more than big enough user base to get developers interested.

So I would not be too surprised if in a couple of years time it had sorted itself out to be something like 40% Android, 40% Apple and 20% Windows 8, and (unless they can do something quite amazing really quickly) RIM / Blackberry seriously struggling.

One thing to remember; before the iPhone came along, in places like the USA those earlier Windows Mobile based phones had about 40% of the market, so if they’ve done it before then there’s a fair chance they can do it again.

7 Inch Tablets.

I can’t make up my mind about these new 7 inch tablets.

I like the larger screen sized phones – easier to see web pages, maps are nicer to use, more room for a virtual keyboard etc . I also like my iPad – a ‘full size screen’ device which can do much of what a lap-top can do but a lot lighter, more portable and longer battery life.
So what about those that fall between the two, the new 7 inch devices which are becoming more and more common. Too large to fit in my pocket or in a pouch on my belt so they’ve lost that portability factor. A lot smaller than an iPad so they’ve lost a lot of functionality that comes with a physically larger screen. The worst of both worlds.
Or is it a case that thought they’re not pocket size they are small enough to fit into almost any sort of bag or carrier without taking up any significant amount of space, yet big enough to provide a really useful size of screen. Also powerful enough with dual and quad core processors to do whatever’s demanded from them.

There’s one thing that must be in favour for at least for some of these devices and that’s their price. The Nexus 7 or the 7 inch Galaxy Tab2 may be smaller than the iPad but they still have a similar level of functionality, however they come in at around half the cost. This for parents thinking of providing their children with a tablet type device for school must make it much more tempting. Also for those uncertain about the whole tablet thing a price at the £160 to £180 range is far less of a risk than the £400 or £500 for an iPad. We’ve also got the much rumoured iPad mini which should be appearing soon.

If I was to be upgrading my phone now I could be tempted with a Galaxy Note 2 with its 5.5 inch screen, a device still small enough (just) for me to carry around on a belt holder. As for these 7 inch tablets, at the moment I’m not too sure.

A case of wait and see.

Irritated with YouTube.

I’m getting really irritated with YouTube.

If someone’s gone to the effort to produce some music or make a film then I think it’s quite right that if others are going to use this work then the original author should get rewarded for their efforts. If others are going to take that material and use it for their own gain without at the very least seeking permission to use it, then I think that’s wrong. So in general I’m not against this thing of YouTube and their associates trying to have a clamp down on the misuse of copyright material. However what has really started to annoy me is that YouTube seems to be supporting their associates like Rumblefish in claiming copyright of material that they are not entitled to.

Recently I uploaded various videos, each with some background music sourced from Kevin MacLeod. He very generously provides a lot of music royalty free, all licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0. To use this license all you need to do is to correctly attribute the music in your video. (There’s no cost to use music under the Creative Commons License.)

Within minutes (sometimes seconds) of uploading I’d get a message from YouTube saying copyright violation and that some music rights collecting society (usually Rumblefish) has claimed copyright on the music I’ve used. There is a big implication of guilty unless you can prove your innocence, and the only way to achieve this is to go through the whole dispute process.

If this happened just once every now and again then I could understand that nothing is perfect and mistakes can be made, but when it happened every time I uploaded a video, that’s shite. You could of course take the easy option and ignore things, but then they will monetize your video by placing adverts in it and then in turn they’ll make money off the back of someone else’s efforts.

So on one hand we’ve got YouTube saying how wrong it is for individuals to misuse copyrighted material on their videos, the next minute they’re supporting companies to claim other people’s work as belonging to them. To me this smacks of fraud, but YouTube does not seem to care, we’re part of the Google empire therefore we have more lawyers than you so we’ll just do what we want.

After all, if YouTube has the technology to scan and identify the patterns in the sound and music of the videos being uploaded, and do this in virtual real time, then surely they have the technology to check in the Description box and look for valid acknowledgements and attributions, especially where a valid ISRC code has been included.

As for Rumblefish and any ‘concern’ that they may have about making money of the back of others, they recently tried to claim the copyright over some ambient bird song noises recorded when a guy was out doing some gardening, and when he went through the YouTube dispute process, they still said he was using their copyrighted music.

If YouTube want to have the trust and respect of their users then they should do a little less ‘we’re bigger than you so we’ll ignore the small time user’ to a bit more of ‘remember it’s the small time user that watches these videos and clicks on the advert links that make you money’.

This whole situation means I’m getting really irritated with YouTube. Therefore I’m viewing less YouTube content so seeing fewer ads so they’re generating less revenue from me! Instead I’m starting to upload more and more to Vimeo, a site I knew about but never really used until this started happening .

YouTube may be the biggest kid on the block at the moment, but even the mighty can fall.

Final Cut Pro X

 Final Cut Pro X

It’s now around six months since I got my copy of Final Cut Pro X.

A bit of history. My first video editing experience started off with Windows Movie Maker, but I soon wanted something that could do a bit more, and could also do HD. I mucked around with the 14 day trial versions of various programs and eventually settled on getting CorelDraw’s VideoStudio Pro X2. Cheap ‘n’ cheerful and did a competent job.

It didn’t take long to settle down to some basic YouTube video editing, and I could see that this, for the money, was quite a powerful editor. However it’s one thing to be a powerful editor, it’s another for the user to know how to use these powerful features, and perhaps its one biggest weakness was lack of availability of really good on-line tutorials.

I must have had it about a year (6 months of getting to know it, then 6 months of getting frustrated with it!) when I decided it was time to move on, with the priority on not just finding a good video editor, but an editor with good tutorials!

It was then by chance I came across Izzy Hyman and his www.izzyvideo.com web site. Here was a place with some really well presented tutorial videos on 1) making videos in general; 2) using Final Cut Pro 7; 3) using Final Cut Express. This was exactly what I wanted. The cost of Final Cut Pro 7 was way out of my budget, but Final Cut Express, at student price, was affordable. This also meant a shift from Windows to Mac (which was something I’d been thinking about anyway), and through the help of a friend I got hold of a 2nd hand MacBook Pro. This MacBook was a couple of years old and not exactly ‘high spec.’ but ran Express quite nicely.

It was about 7 or 8 months after this that Final Cut Pro X came out – and met with a very errrr…. ‘mixed’ reception! The pre-release press comments had been quite favourable, however when it came out they gave it a serious slagging. A lot of this was because they had thought that all the new features in FCP X would be in addition to / on top of all the existing Final Cut features, but on release they discovered that quite a few features considered important by the film making community were now missing. However for my use these missing features were not important and Apple had priced it very competitively. Izzy Hyman very quickly got onto his site some really good Pro X tutorials, so upgrading for me was an obvious thing to do.

The install went without a problem and it appeared to run smoothly, however the window that displayed the actual video stream only displayed it in what looked like 16 colours (the editing & other windows were still in full colour). After a bit of investigation it turns out that my MacBook had a compatible graphics card, but Pro X wanted 256 meg of RAM minimum where my machine only has 128 meg. Though a pain, this was not the end of the world, I was surprised though that the Apple app store / iTunes had allowed me to install it on a below spec. machine.

After using Pro X for a while I also realised another reason why some of the ‘professional types’ didn’t like it – it was too easy to use! Here was a powerful bit of software that had, with it’s new drag ‘n’ drop interface, taken out a huge amount of the mystique of video procuction, and at a cheap price too. It really has speeded up my routine of processing a video. Selecting which bits from different clips and adding titles and effects has not just become easier, but so much quicker.

I have since upgraded to a MacBook Air which runs it very nicely, this now means I can get most of my editing done on the train journey back from things like YouTube gatherings, which is nice.

So if anyone is thinking of a move from their basic editing software to something a bit more powerful, check it out. I certainly have no regrets, even though I had to change operating systems too.