Archive for the 'Products, Applications and Equipment' Category

BoinxTV Offering Low Cost Alternative for High End Post Production Tools

BoinxTV, a software video mixer with high end features, is about to be released in November 11th. The product, by the award winning company Boinx, is pushing the envelope in semi-pro video productions and live events.

The product enables users to mix up to three sources (pre-recorded media, or live cameras), add transitions, lower thirds, overlays, logos, and live elements to the video feed and record it as a quicktime file or upload it to Apple’s podcast producer.

When you launch the software, you can chose a show template – news, hi-tech, sports, or blank template.

Picture 9.png

Based on your choice, a complex and unintuitive interface is opened, that allows you to define which overlays should be used, titles, lower thirds, transitions and logos.

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Though filled with options and out of the box graphics, it took me a while to learn how to operate this tool. Having said that, it is still much simpler (and cheaper) then learning After Effects or other post production tools.

This application is very appealing to churches, local football teams, schools, and other communities looking for a cheap and easy to use tool that will give their video production a bit of a boost. The same goes for video podcasters. However, it has some major disadvantages:

1. It doesn’t support live broadcasting – unlike CamTwist, BoinxTV is only for recording media, not live broadcasting. This is a major disadvantage as its live mixing abilities are impressive, and could make the life of blogtv and ustream broadcasters much simpler, and improve their production value.

2. The interface is not easy to use at all. it took me a while to get the UI concept – even though Boinx make some amazing apps.

3. Many of its features can be found in free alternative, though online, such as Mogulus.

4. And on a personal note, I don’t really like applications which promise too much before they are able to deliver it. They do make post production easier, for a very specific segment of users, but this is still not a substitute for post production applications such as After Effects. Therefore, their notion of “Say Goodbye to Post Production” is a little overdoing it in my opinion.

You can follow the application’s twitter account, watch an interview with the company, and read more about the application here.

First Days With Nokia E71 – Review

Image representing Nokia as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I just bought a shiny new Nokia E71, sometimes dubbed iPhone Killer. After several days using this device, I am very happy with it, though it could have been much better.

Keyboard: the keyboard is great though it is a little small for my fingers. The predictive text feature can be annoying, but in general it is helpful. I am not up to speed yet in writing long emails, but it is more convenient than the horrible HTC Tytn I had.

Email and messaging: good and bad at the same time. Some of the features are excellent – you can have your mailbox status on the home screen, and if there are unread messages you can see their subject and sender without opening the email application. Configuring an account on Gmail or private POP3 service was very easy, but it automatically set it to IMAP protocol. I am a POP3 kind of guy, and I found it very annoying. Also, there is no one click SMS sending – you need press some of the buttons several times in order to send a SMS. Email speed is ok – but data services might be expensive, which leads me to the next section.

Connection manager: huge disappointment. Though WiFi works great, there is no way to configure applications to choose the cheapest connection. For example, I’d like to configure the email client to use WiFi if possible, then to try to connect to a free APN, and only then to try to connect to the high cost APN of my operator. This basic requirement is not met by E71.

Menus: I am probably spoiled by Mac user experience but the menus are extremely confusing. It took me ages to understand how to change shortcuts in the home screen.

Stability: in this sense it is a very solid device. Didn’t crash too much (I managed to crash it once), responds quickly and the user experience is great.

Camera: definitely a weak point, which is a shame, cause Nokia integrated flickr sharing service in the camera application.

Video and audio quality: good enough for calls, you can watch some videos, and I listen to podcasts with it when I commute. However, the earphones are of low quality, so it is a cost effective replacement for iPod, but doesn’t match it. The podcasting software is very nice as well.

Synching with Mac: in order to sync E71 with Mac you need to install E71 Plugin for iSync. It took me several tries to make it work properly, and couldn’t sync using bluetooth. Nokia Multimedia Transfer is another application, that is used for, well, multimedia transfer from and to the device. After pairing the phone with the Mac it worked great.

Other applications: I am using Fring for IM, Opera Mini as a backup browser, testing Emoze for push email, but still looking for a good RSS reader and twitter application.

Is it an iPhone killer? No. it is not a media phone. The screen is great but no match to iPhone. the audio is pretty good but no match to iPod quality. If you are a businessman who is always connected, wants to use your phone as a modem, traveling a lot and looking for a strong, stable device, E71 is a great choice. But it is not as fancy nor friendly as an iPhone.

Overall – between 1 to 10 it certainly gets a 9.3 (mainly due to the connection manager).

Mac, Gmail, Spam and an Apology

The Macintosh Classic, Apple's early 1990s bud...Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday my contacts received an email from my email address, promoting a web site. This email was not sent by me, and I immediately started to look for the source. I have to admit that my journalistic tendency made me hope that I was a victim to a Mac virus. However, after a thorough review, I found that Gmail was the source of the problem. I took the required measures, including removing my contacts from online services, in order to prevent this event from happening again.

I apologize to all my contacts for the inconvenience. This case is a certainly a reminder why online services are not necessarily a better future…

The Perfect Online HD Video Production Kit For Less Than a $1000

As a media geek I am very excited with my new gear and setup. So excited that I’ve decided to share with you my enthusiasm with my latest purchase – the Canon HV30.

When I started building my little video production facility, camera and editing computer were my first concerns. I made two decisions – one was to buy a strong PC for video editing, and the other was to buy the Panasonic NV-MD10000, a great SD PAL camera with a lot of manual control of key parameters.

MD10000_big_c.jpg
Panasonic NV-MD10000

When I moved to Mac, I’ve experimented with Final Cut Express, which quickly led me to buy Final Cut Studio and make it my only editing solution.

However, on the camera side I wasn’t happy with my choice. The main reason was size. Going to shoot an event became a hustle, I had no way to take the cam with me just for fun, and the whole process became too much work and not enough fun.

So, I went back to my imaginary drawing board and decided to so a short requirement list for my next camera. I came up with this:

1. Small enough to fit into my laptop bag

2. Expandable with a standard shoe

3. HD

4. Light weight

5. Under $1000

6. External mike jack

In my last visit to NYC, I met with my good friend Bill Cammack, who has a tendency to take pictures of himself with social media divas, and asked for his guidance.

Bill is using Canon HV20, which is a great camera, that has it all. It fits the palm of your hand, supports HDV format on Mini DV cassettes and has many additional features (24p, external mike jack to name two of the more important ones) that make it a great buy.

After a lot of research I bought this little piece of equipment – Canon HV30:

canon-hv30.jpg

It is based on the same body and sensor of the HV20, but with two significant upgrades:

1. Support for 30p- meaning, the camera can shot HDV in 30 frames per second in progressive mode. This is the reason that it is so great for web video – many video distribution reduce video frame rate to 15 frames. Video shot in 24, or 50 frames per second looks choppy a bit when down-sampled to 15 frames. 30 frames works like a charm.

2. It has a black body – which is way cooler than the silver one 🙂

Audio is THE most important part of video productions, especially for the web. The external mike jack is not XLR, which means that it is not a professional interface. However, there is an amazing and affordable mike from Rode called VideoMic (not the most original name in the world….). This is shotgun directional microphone, that does not require phantom power, and has a standard shoe. One of the biggest issues with the Canon HV20/30 is that the motor noise is picked up by the onboard mike. If you are aiming at a decent production, on board mike is a complete no no. I bought my VideoMic a while ago, and it is a great supplement to the HV30. It costs less then $150. And if you are into interviews, take a look at Shure SM58 – a great handheld mike, with great audio results, and costs only $100.

31TQDbWLlLL._SL500_AA280_.jpg

I had a chance to check out my new setup at TWS2008. I brought the nifty little camera with the VideoMic, and had a blast. I shot several videos with ease, and even brought the cam with me on stage. That’s exactly what I was looking for. I also recorded some indoors videos with it, using a tripod, and a small lavaliere. So basically, this camera provides the full range of use cases – interviews, studio shots, outdoors shots and everything you need from a small camera.

Talkiing about expandability of this camera, check out this setup of a great guys in the HV20/HV30 forum:

1001618jn4

It is in no way a professional camera. It doesn’t have an XLR input, and even the MD10000 has more manual control on key parameters. Also the menus can drive you crazy sometimes. But it works great in 99% of cases, and with some effort and expansion you can cover almost all your needs with this small but smart piece of equipment.

So, here it is, your HD production kit for the following:

1 Canon HV30 – $785

1 Rode VideoMic – $139

———————————–

Total $924

And you still have some change for additional accessories (tripod is a must, so spend your money wisely….).

You can see some video footage taken by this little piece of equipment in this Vimeo group. Here’s one to note:

I will upload some of my videos soon.

A Dent in Apple’s Shining Armor

It started with the definition of pathetic:

People Waiting in line a week before iPhone Release

People Waiting in line a week before iPhone Release

And continued in a PR and operational disaster.

Last weekend Apple released two important updates:  iPhone 3G hit the stores, and iPhone 2.0 version software update was released. In a futile effort to limit iPhone grey market, iPhone 3G activation process was changed to include in store activation by AT&T or Apple representatives. As everyone (besides Apple apparently) feared, that process didn’t work that well. Some early shoppers had to wait for couple of hours before in-store activation succeeded, some were sent home to continue activation through iTunes, just to find the activation server down. Twitter and FriendFeed were full of horror stories about this process.

However, this is not the whole, or even the important story. The important story is the unfulfilled promise of MobileMe, the new .mac service from Apple. The service, dubbed by Apple as “Exchange for the rest of us”, supposed to automatically and instantly synchonize contacts and calendar entries between laptops, iPhones, iPod Touch and the web. Guess what? This insanely expensive service just doesn’t fulfill it promise. While web and mobile device sync works like a charm, desktop applications are synched between once to four times an hour. That means that if you add a meeting to your laptop calendar, and then close it, it won’t be synched with either web or iPhone/iPod. This point made some of MacRomurs readers pretty angry. These discrepancies are major enough to challenge even the most devoted Macheads.

So what did we learn today? First we learned that Apple, with all its glory, screws up once in a while. The shining armor just got a dent. Not clear if it will become a hole, but it is certainly a dent. Second, it is a reminder that at the end of the day, Apple makes software and hardware, not divine entities. Yes, they are much better than Microsoft’s product, in design, look and feel and overall user experience, but they are still, you know, computer stuff, that don’t always work.

As for me – I just hope that this is a mishap from Apple direction, and not a slippery slop towards Microsoft’s product’s level…

The TV Network Challenge Part 1 – Does blip.tv Have The Silver Bullet?

Sitting on the couch at blip.tv’s offices in Manhattan, chatting with Dina Kaplan, the company’s COO and Mike Hudak, CEO, I realized that one thing that Dina said was the true story behind this small company – that probably their content and distribution is the biggest and most unnoticed threat to TV networks.

Blip.tv is a video distribution and monetization platform. it offers distribution services to its customers, such an embedable player, distribution to main video sites, twitter notifications, and cross posting to blogs. The company also cut sponsorship deals for its customers with brands, as well as using basic advertisement technology to provide CPM/CPC of deals.

Their uniqueness is in their business strategy – focusing on independent producers of online shows:

Independent producers are in most cases the ones who are not linked to major TV networks, the guys who just go out there with their own money (or, in some cases, investment money) and produce their own shows.

Shows are not the dog on skateboard videos you see on YouTube, but an episodic content, just like regular TV shows.

Blip is hosting different kinds of shows, such as cooking shows, drama, comedy, technology and news.

Here’s an example of such a show, Political Lunch:

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1067725&dest=-1]

So, what’s the big news?

Well, couple of weeks ago, Mike and Dina showed me one cool thing – their integration with Sony Bravia. Sony Bravia has an Ethernet socket. And what I saw at blip’s offices is their content on a large screen TV with blip’s menu and interface.

Though Internet and TV integration is not a huge news, blip’s move into this area is significant.

Till now, independent creators had to face two challenges:

– The limited user experience web video offers

– How to promote their shows without the huge marketing budgets the networks have.

Now, blip’s player is no longer confined to the limitations of web video viewing experience. If users can just as easily see Political Lunch or The Closer, the competitive landscape is fundamentally different that the traditional separation of Internet video and TV experience. And again – the key here is that the content we are talking about is not the regular UGC low end content, but well produced shows, that are not a part of the TV industry.

In this new deal, blip.tv challenges the TV networks as they are providing new kind of content, from a new kind of creators, but on the same display vehicle – TV. By breaking the walls around web video user experience, and increasing the exposure to independently created shows, blip.tv are on a heads on attack on TV networks. Sure, they don’t have the money the big guys have – TV advertisement models and price range are much more profitable than what blip.tv and other online video communities can get today. However, like every innovation, things might take time, but they are definitely changing the landscape in a fundamental way.

It is yet to be seen if blip.tv will be around 3 years from now. I believe that they will be successful and snatched by one of gorillas in this market.

However their success or failure will not only indicate if they are good business people. It would be a clear sign for things to come in the market niche of independent content creators.

Information Tids Bits About Media and Technology

Tim O'ReillyImage via Wikipedia

– Apple got a new VP of Product Design – Doug Field from Segway. Tim O’Reilly has an interesting observation about this move.

Friendfeed is under fire:

HeySpread provides cool service for multisite video distribution and encoding. Business model is similar to wordpress.com – users buy credits for encoding, watermarking etc. Read more at their blog

Have a great day!


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