Tuesday, February 14, 2006

High Definition Became the Story

CSI HDTV Closeup
Originally uploaded by gadget.
Just after the year 2000 non-catastrophic event, my team at Net Talk Live was ready to revamp our 1996 era TV show and blast into the world of HDTV. We designed a new black set with "miles" of depth plus Intellibeam lit sails along with camera shaders and even fashion experts to make sure that we "popped" on screen with our "new for the millennium" show, Net Talk Interactive. The show looked great and was shot it HD then ultimately broadcast in standard definition because editing expenses were so high. Even if we made an EDL, or Edit Decision List on our standard definition Avid editor and used that to automate the High Definition edit suite, it would have broken our bank. Today, the $999 Final Cut Pro HD gives $2000 Macs amazing capabilities for editing in HD, but the point of this story is that we now need more than just pretty faces and scenery to make viewers stop and take note.

What a difference five years makes. CSI: Miami has put viewers with HDTV sets into the scene, right along with the detectives. In the "Three-Way" episode broadcast mid-February 2006 a contact lens was found at one of three crime scenes. A witness was called in for questioning and the detective said that it was probably hard for her to get around with only one contact lens. Right after this line was delivered, the camera zoomed into a closeup of her left, then right eye where the ring of the contact was clearly visible in HD. You would only see fuzzy eyes if this were standard definition television. Using technology to build the storyline naturally, without being overtly technical is an art that Jerry Bruckheimer's team should have many others playing catchup with. McG did a great job with eye candy in Fastlane and Charlie's Angels but CSI gets the details on the candy.

The capture above is from my Media Center PC as a 720p JPG lifted right from the broadcast with the wonderful Gadwin Print Screen utility to capture images.

Click on the image or here to see more from my flickr photo stream.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Google Earth To Go

Google Maps on a Blackberry 8700
Originally uploaded by gadget.
We live in a drive through fast food, need our information now society. To help with finding this so called information, mainly just confirming useless trivia at parties, I have been carrying Google on my hip since the original black and white T-Mobile Sidekick was released, but have since moved onto SMS and Treo Blazer browser access of their increasingly mobile driven applications. Text driving directions were OK on these platforms, but Google has outdone themselves with this BlackBerry application (no browser used here folks) that attaches via your data plan to the Google Map and Satellite databases to stream imagery to the phone in real time. My favorite additions are the "push pin" search results and the extremely fast updates via the EDGE data network.

Get your Finnish, Asian or Motorola J2ME flip phone or Blackberry nearly as smart as your GPS by heading to google.com/glm online. As per Verizon's stranglehold on BREW, those subscribers are going to have to live without this software or service.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Be Sweet on Valentines Day

Valentines Day Candy Bikini
Originally uploaded by gadget.
Despite my trademarked nickname of "Gadget Guy", some of my favorite gifts are the un-technical unique products that do not require batteries. Two of them hark from the other side of our pond, in the UK. Now with St. Valentines day and other made-up holidays like Easter around the corner, not to mention my birthday, I wanted to share these gift ideas. Oops, I just mentioned my birthday didn't I?

For your friends with all of the bright ideas, look for the Glow Brick from Suck, UK. This gadget gathers light during the day, then glows during the night. Don't expect a voluminous amount of candlepower output, just a faint yet haunting glow. It would make for a great item to throw at would-be burglars as it is quite heavy. It's more art than function and looks like a MOMA piece, without the dangling cord of a power cable. BTW You can find these discounted on eBay.

This next gift is sexy sweet, literally. The Candy G-String from iWoot, or I Want One of Those, is not meant for everyone as one size fits all, but is sure to get things hot and sticky. Meant to be worn over skin directly, Alessandra Ambrosio adorned hers over skimpy Victory Secret wear at the winter 2005 fashion show, click the photo for the photos. The iWoot Candy G-String will make you want to change your sheets.

Shipping can take some time and a bit expensive on these items when sending them to America, so either hit your girl up with them when you are on holiday or order early for your favorite real or made-up holiday!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Managing HD Media Center Files

Originally uploaded by gadget.
My HDTV Media Center 2005 box has a half-terabyte inside and is bursting at its capacity seams. I want to rip my movies to its media drive, but hours of 24, CSI (Miami or New York with the helecopter shots) and the other beautiful HDTV programs like the Victora's Secret show take up just too much space on my drive. For example, the Grammys, Superbowl and pre-game show were each 30GB as stored in high definition!

Enter DVRMSToolBox - despite both an ugly name and user interface, this program is my new love. I have taken the 4.3GB that it takes for each HDTV 24 episode and shrink them down to 2.6GB all while maintaining the MPEG2 resolution and Dolby Digital sound, but removing the commercials and fluff.

All automatically. No kidding. It works by looking for the station "bug" in the corner of the screen, or black frames before commercials in the programming and removing what doesn't have the bug. So far it's not wiping out video that it shouldn't, thanks to the commercial cutting engine of the Dragon Global ShowAnalyzer, and not requiring any editing time on my part. I love that, and have set it up to monitor a directory of media converting files with certain keywords of files that I want to archive. Not all shows will get converted, just the ones I want to hang onto.

A two hour HDTV show takes under an hour and a half to convert and remove the commercials on my Hyper Threading P4 running at 3GHz with a gigabyte of dual channel RAM. All while taking around 60% of my CPU cycles. I can even watch HDTV or work on the computer normally during the conversion! This type of multi-tasking while converting video is unheard of normally.

Currently, the video converted to MPEG2 format does not contain the META guide data and description, but you can remove commercials and retain this by keeping the file in the DVR-MS format if you wish. I chose to go the MPEG2 route so that I can share the data on devices like Media Center Extenders, Roku's or portable devices. This is a program that you must have if you are recording and archiving high or low definition programs with XP Media Center Edition.

Now I just can't make myself cut the commercials out of the Superbowl, but you can cut the commercials into their own video and destroy the program as an option. Based upon the quality of the the 2006 Superbowl XL, I think that is the path to take.

DVRMSToolbox @ Download.com