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New Camera!

Hey everybody, we got a new camera for recording blog entries and the like!

Watch the video, then read more of my thoughts on this fascinating subject below. :)

ttyl!

--Alex

Blog Video (SD)
Blog Video (HD)

Camera Thoughts

So, the big deal about this camera is that it captures video in "full" HD at 1080 progressive lines of resolution. But how good is it really? Doesn't a $200 full-HD camera change everything?

My answer is no. We still have our nice (old, but nice) Canon XH-A1 camera, and even though it's not (quite) full HD, I still plan to continue using it for our entertainment video production for the foreseeable future. (Although I can see us using the Bloggie when we need a secondary camera or we need a camera for a very dangerous/risky stunt.)

Don't get me wrong, there are lots of things I like very much about the Bloggie. But it's not suited for too much serious work, and here's why:

» First, if you intend to use a camera in any serious production, it must have some way to feed in an audio source from outside the camera itself. Boom mics, hand-held mics, lapel mics, wireless mics – all these and more are completely off the table if you're using a camera that has no audio input.

» Also, it needs to have a good lens which can zoom quickly and be manually focused. The Bloggie has a good lens, but it doesn't have a great lens. Compared to other blog-oriented cameras, the Bloggie's lens is golden, but compared to our Canon's lens the Bloggie just feels like a toy. The practical effects of this can even be seen in the video above. Auto-focus likes to get distracted and focus on the wrong thing. (*sigh*)

» Sensor quality is another huge factor. The sheer pixel count is important, but it's almost never the main driving force behind the overall quality of the final video. What about color reproduction? Low light sensitivity? Sampling speed? Clearly the Bloggie is doing its best, but the color reproduction is questionable and the slow top-down scanning speed across the sensor leaves considerable artifacts even with minimal motion. Again, this is all designed for a quick video blog entry here and there, so it is performing admirably. However, the Canon is so far out of its league I'm not even sure it's fair to compare.

» Intermediate video storage is another huge consideration when talking about doing serious work with video. The H.264 video that Bloggie produces is a very convenient format for most general use, but I fear trying to edit with it. To be fair, the Canon's HDV storage is probably not much better, but at least it's a "known quantity" in many respects. I've been working with HDV for a few years now, and I know all about its quirks. Not so with H.264, so we'll have to see – in the long run – how it works out.

So there, my thoughts on the Bloggie. It's very nice to have around for blogging, and it could even turn out to be an asset for production in rare cases, but I am being realistic. When it comes time to replace the Canon XH-A1, we're going to have to drop a lot more than $200 on the table.

HD Playback Thoughts

So after our discussion about how to get HD on the site, I've implemented it here. This blog entry is the first of what I hope to be many videos that we offer in both SD and HD!

The SD video is 360p, which is about par for web video. It is suitable for the iPod and iPhone, and I've even seen it play on a Droid before! (Although that was an egregious hack – I'm still working on good support for Droid and related platforms.)

The HD video is 720p. We're shooting for a bitrate of under 3 megabits/sec, so most decent broadband connections should be able to stream it. It's not full HD, but it is on par with most current web standards for HD video, and it is more than adequate for our purposes. (Also, if we ever sell Blu-Ray disks, I'd like to have a higher quality to offer than what was previously given away.) This HD video should be compatible with the iPad, but I have not yet been able to confirm this.

I'm noticing that the HD video can be substantially more challenging for a computer to play back. If you're having trouble with lurching and jittering, but the video has fully buffered, you might want to upgrade to the latest version of Flash and/or the latest version of your video card drivers. Full screen mode may also help.

If you've tried everything and the video is still not playing smoothly, your computer may not be fast enough to play back the HD version. Please try falling back to the SD version, and we are sorry for any inconvenience.

As far as the user interface for playing videos on the site, we wrestled long and hard with this, and we suspect we've gotten it right:

» The big splash screen at the top of the page, when clicked, will immediately begin playing the SD version. This is more compatible with older computers than the HD video, and it also loads and starts quicker – even on moderately fast internet connections.

» The built-in player is full featured, and can be made fullscreen, etc.. However, it is not very wide, due to constraints on the width of the page layout. This actually prevents us from showing HD-quality video using the built-in player, because the HD video would be squished to fit inside the tiny player. So instead we use the pop-up player.

» The pop-up player we use for HD videos can be placed anywhere on the screen, and it can be resized to whatever size fits best on the user's desktop. It can still be used in fullscreen mode (which is actually recommended for users with slower computers) and it shares all other features with the built-in player.

» For users who do not wish to be bothered with scrolling down and seeing/reading/understanding the big button, the SD video playback should provide a quick, reliable, medium-quality solution for most cases, while still not getting in the way of the quality-conscious user who doesn't mind finding the right button to press.

As I said, I feel like we've done this right, but I would still like feedback. If anybody has any suggestions on how the user experience could be improved, please let us know!

Thanks!

--Alex

Media Downloads

NameSizeAction
Blog Video (SD)24.71 MB Download Now - 24.71 MB Watch Now - Blog Video (SD)
Blog Video (HD)32.45 MB Download Now - 32.45 MB Watch Now - Blog Video (HD)

Comments

Himself's picture

Heh

Well, I don't have time to fiddle with actually trying HD streaming right now, but the nice huge button that's painfully screaming CLICK HERE!!! HERE!!! HD VIDEO!!! HERE!!! THAT'S RIGHT!!! RIGHT HERE!!! wins out of sheer epicness:)

Lo, blessed are our ears for they have heard;

Yea, blessed are our eyes for they have seen:

Let the thunder break on man and beast and bird

And the lightning. It is something to have been.

Alex's picture

:-D

Himself said:

Well, I don't have time to fiddle with actually trying HD streaming right now, but the nice huge button that's painfully screaming CLICK HERE!!! HERE!!! HD VIDEO!!! HERE!!! THAT'S RIGHT!!! RIGHT HERE!!! wins out of sheer epicness:)

I'm glad you approve! :)

Fyi, you may need to refresh the page a couple times for the button to actually show up correctly. It should work, it just might not be centered correctly until you refresh the page.

Everybody let me know how you fare!

Oh, and by the by, I have uploaded HD versions of both videos on MarkleyBros.com. So the announcement and the Malex Minute 105 Live video are now both being presented in HD.

ttyl!

Alex Markley

“Arrogance is bliss! Or is that ignorance? Either way, I win!”

Very awesome.

HD button looks good! Haven't used it yet, but it looks very good. Your sarcastic comments about the iPhone's video made my day! Keep in mind though, I've only been up for an hour, so there hasn't been a lot of day to make. :P

Und alvays rememba cheeldren: Delta ecks eqvals fee nought times time ploos von half accelerashun times time sqvared.

HD!

I tried the HD button. It worked very well. It didn't even have any trouble loading or anything. Looks like you might have to fight with the bloggie's focus though. Sometimes it seemed to decide that the wall behind you was more interesting than your face...

Everything looks perfect from far away.

um...

for me...it had trouble loading a bit...it kept buffering

God gave us music, that we might pray without words

Alex's picture

Buffering

lizziem4551 said:

for me...it had trouble loading a bit...it kept buffering

So, naturally the HD video represents a lot more data, so the loading time will be slower. If your internet connection is slower than 3 Mbit/sec down, you'll need to let it buffer before you try to play it. (However: If SpeedTest.net reports a speed of > 3 Mbit/sec, and you are having trouble streaming the videos, please let me know.)

We have no plans to replace the SD video, so users with slower internet connections or slower computers should still be able to participate in the madness. :)

ttyl!

Alex Markley

“Arrogance is bliss! Or is that ignorance? Either way, I win!”

o.o

Sure, I'll take some M&Ms! o.o

Praise the Lord! Hallelu!

I don't care what the devil's gonna do!

The Word and faith is my sword and shield

And Jesus is Lord of the way I feel!

Alex's picture

Sorry

gnnb94 said:

Sure, I'll take some M&Ms! o.o

Sorry, you're too late; they're all gone now. :)

Alex Markley

“Arrogance is bliss! Or is that ignorance? Either way, I win!”

HD Works Fine for Me

Well I really do like the HD now and for me now the videos load and buffer fine. I think the first time I saw this video though it buffered slower in SD. That problem probubly was just the time of Day I was watching it because, sence I work 2 jobs and have no other time to watch videos, I watch them from like 10 pm to 12 am. Other then that very nice and keep up the good work guys.

Mike- Hey Bob, you know what I hate?

Bob- What’s that Mike?

Mike- Giant Snakes that pop out of nowhere and kill ya.

Bob- You know, I hate those too.

“Crash.”

Random guard tower guy- Wow, good thing that was the guard tower next to us.

Alex's picture

Thanks!

The Real JFK said:

very nice and keep up the good work guys.

Thanks for the encouragement! I'm so glad things are working well for you. :)

Alex Markley

“Arrogance is bliss! Or is that ignorance? Either way, I win!”

Alex's picture

By the way...

On closer examination, it seems the Bloggie is scanning from the bottom of the image to the top, not the other way around as I had previously suspected. Now I wonder why? Does the lens assembly end up inverting the image (as the human eye's lens does) so if the Bloggie scans from the top of the sensor that would equate to the bottom of the image? If not, why would they engineer it to scan from the bottom of the sensor up?

You might wonder why I'm even pondering these issues. The thing is that over a hundred years of raster imaging techniques have focused on line-by-line scanning, and nearly always from top to bottom. So, for me, to discover a sensor scanning from bottom to top is weirdly like finding a screw the won't loosen unless you turn it clockwise.

Maybe I'm just weird. And knowing my luck, this comment has demonstrated some major gap in my education. So all cameras work this way, and I get to be both weird and stupid – all in one comment!

ttyl! :)

Alex Markley

“Arrogance is bliss! Or is that ignorance? Either way, I win!”

Nice

Well, I'm sure the Bloggie is going to become a close companion of yours, guys. I was fine until the wobbling started. I noticed that in another of your videos, too. It actually makes me dizzy and a bit nauseated. Please don't do that anymore. X-|

We should take our comfort from God's word, not from the circumstances of our lives.

Alex's picture

iPad Compatibility

Alex said:

This HD video should be compatible with the iPad, but I have not yet been able to confirm this.

Hey guys, I'm actually at the Apple store now, and I can confirm that the iPad plays our HD videos perfectly. I'm actually typing this comment on one now, and I have to admit, it's kinda cool. Probably not magical or revolutionary, but definitely cool. :)

So yeah, nothing else to say here. They're closed now, so I think we're getting politely kicked out... By geniuses. Geniuses of the trademarked variety. :-D

Ttyl!

Alex Markley

“Arrogance is bliss! Or is that ignorance? Either way, I win!”

Hey- I can confirm that the

Hey-

I can confirm that the video, both SD and HD, looks gorgeous on my brand new iPad (which I'm also posting this comment from... :-D)

I did have to hit the play button two times; I guess the first press caused the HTML5 player to be created and the second press actually started playing the video object,

--Quentin

Peter's picture

Cool!

Thanks, CoolerQ! :D

“Timby, I know you’re awake! Don’t lie!” –Nixy (Contradictionary - Party)

Alex's picture

Feedback! Yay!

CoolerQ said:

I can confirm that the video, both SD and HD, looks gorgeous on my brand new iPad (which I'm also posting this comment from... :-D)

I'm glad to hear that! Would you mind testing everything again? Last night's code push introduced HTML5-based fallback for non-flash devices. It works on my iPhone, but I have yet to positively confirm iPad support.

CoolerQ said:

I did have to hit the play button two times; I guess the first press caused the HTML5 player to be created and the second press actually started playing the video object,

I cannot figure out a way to prompt the iPhone OS browser to autoplay video. My guess is that it's a privacy/security/sanity feature. I know I absolutely hate autoplaying video when I navigate to a new page, but when the video was added in response to user input, the measure becomes a tad redundant.

Alex Markley

“Arrogance is bliss! Or is that ignorance? Either way, I win!”

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