Youtube allows web-based recording

Wow. This is huge. Arstechnica has an article about the addition of a tool called Quick Capture to YouTube. Quick Capture allows you to record video directly within your webbrowser, storing it to youtube. No more capture->edit->upload steps, just record and go.

Frankly, I was always impressed that so many people were willing to go through the various steps needed to post a video on YouTube. This is going to be a huge addition to YouTube, especially for video bloggers.

They’re making use of the various media abilities of Flash 9 in a pretty serious manner. I’ve seen similar apps for web conferencing (Breeze, etc) but this is a huge deployment. I wonder how they’re dealing with media server licensing…

If only it would let me log in …

Apple Patent for Dynamic mpeg encoding

Macnn has a post about a recent patent granted to Apple for dynamic field/frame encoding of MPEG. It’s not terribly exciting, but I figured I’d comment since I’ve seen some other sites mischaracterizing it.

Basically, when you have interlaced video, you get better codec efficiency if you compressed each field separately, instead of compressing a frame made up of two fields combined. The reason is pretty straightforward. A field is more or less a picture of your scene, taken once every 60th of a second. So, two sequential fields can be very different if there’s fast motion or the camera is moving. MPEG encoding works in terms of macroblocks – 16×16 blocks of pixels. If there’s lots of continuity among the pixels in that block, you’ll get good compression. However, if every other line in that block is totally different, you’ll either get terrible compression or have terrible quality. So, with interlaced video, field based compression is great. With progressive video, or animation, or other non-interlaced video, you’ll get better efficiency with frame-based encoding.

That’s great if you’re able to tell the compressor in advance about the source video. However, with many video codecs, it’s not easy to programatically determine whether the video is interlaced or progressive. It gets even worse when both formats are mixed within a single video!

What Apple’s patent proposes is a compression process that dynamically selects between field-based and frame-based encoding with each macroblock. The only bit that really matters is the discrete cosine transform on the luminance macroblock. So, Apple does two DCTs on the macroblock (actually double that, but then it gets confusing), one treating the block as if it were field based, and one treating it as if it were frame based. Because a DCT can easily be vectorized, you can do multiple DCTs in parallel. Then you just check to see which block has the most zeros and use it.

With H.264, the entropy encoding (CABAC or CAVLC) takes far more CPU than the DCT, so this is a pretty clever way to get better efficiency with a really simple addition.

Rock on.

Large Scale P2 Production

Check out this article from regarding large scale p2 production. One of the challenges with P2 based cameras (like the Panasonic HVX-200) is that you can’t feasibly maintain your footage on the original media. Even on a major production, burning through $30,000 in p2 cards every day isn’t a realistic option. So, you’ve got to come up with a workflow to offload that content as it’s being shot. The article goes into great detail about the process being used on the production of a significant TV pilot.

Panasonic HPX2000 Camera announced

The Panasonic AJ-HPX2000 has been re-announced (sorry, can’t find the official press posting). It’s a 2/3″ HD camera in an ENG body. It makes use of P2 cards, so it’s sort of a big brother to the HVX-200. 24p is included as expected. There’s one interesting item, which is that it can be switched between DVCProHD (their normal, 100mbps HD codec) and AVC-Intra, a codec of which I have no prior knowledge. It sounds like it’s an H264 based intraframe codec which can achieve half the bitrate of DVCProHD at the same quality level. That’s important for Panasonic, as the P2 card format puts a real limit on recording times. Note that AVC-Intra and AVCHD are not the same formats. Helpful!

Review: Indie-Dolly

The footage I posted yesterday came from our new Indie-Dolly. We’ve been in the market for a portable, affordable dolly for quite a while, and finally settled on the Indie-Dolly.

There are a number of choices in this part of the market, including the Indie-Dolly, the Microdolly and the Losmany Spider Dolly. There are pros and cons to each. The Microdolly is definitely hte most portable, with its tent-pole style track. However, I wasn’t convinced it would hold up to student use. The Losmany dolly uses flexible track, which is very cool in concept, but which I haven’t been happy with in reality. It seems like there’s always just enough movement in the track so as to be noticeable. The Indie-Dolly uses a collapsable track system which is significantly more robust than the Microdolly, but which is still reasonably portable.

The pricing for the Indie-Dolly system is pretty straightforward. You purchase the dolly itself, for around $1000, and then buy sections of track as desired. So far, we’ve got one straight track kit ($500, 12 feet) and have ordered a curved track kit ($600, 13 feet).

Everything comes in very nicely constructed bags. The bag for the dolly has wheels and a handle, similar to many luggage bags. It’s a good thing the wheels are there, as the bag weighs nearly 50lbs. The track bag is slightly lighter, though much larger.

Assembling the dolly is relatively straightforward, but it’s not an instant task by any means. It took me about half an hour the first time, though I imagine future setups will go much quicker.

Though the kit includes a seat, I think most operators will chose to just walk with the dolly. There is also a push bar included.


Unfolding the track is rather analogous to collapsing a flexfill. Even after watching the demo video a few times, it was still a bit confusing. I suppose it just takes practice.

Once you’ve got it all assembled, the movement of the dolly is very smooth. There’s no jitter when moving between pieces of track, and the individual trucks don’t seem to be shifting on the track at all. I’m looking forward to getting the curved track to do some longer moves.


In the end, I think the Indie-Dolly is a great option for those seeking an affordable, portable dolly. I believe other folks have come to this conclusion as well, as it took nearly a month for our order to arrive.