The Precursor to Google TV

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The more I discover Google TV, the more it reminds me of an Android to TV implementation that Archos accomplished. They aren’t completely the same but there are some pretty important similarities. I used the Google TV site’s overview to breakdown the similarities. I’ll tell you who does a better job of implementing each feature. Then I’ll tell you what each device offers that the other doesn’t.

First. Let’s talk about devices. Google TV is not one device. It’s essentially an optimized version of Android for TVs. It is currently being utilized by a few different folks including Logitech and Sony. Each offer a set top box version and Sony is shipping TVs with Google TV built in. The Archos 5 Internet Tablet (aka A5A) is exactly what it sounds like. A small tablet geared toward the same kinda things that you might want to accomplish on a netbook or the iPad but with the additional bonus of being an awesome PMP. Whether it achieves iPad level performance completely is another topic of discussion. The A5A has an accessory called the DVR Docking Station turning your pocket size 5″ tablet into a home theater solution. The A5A also runs Google Android but Archos did their own tweaking to optimize for TV sets.

SEARCH:

Google TV-It’s a big “duh” to say that this is what Google does best. For Google TV they’ve managed to aggregate all available media sources for a single search. Let’s say you’re searching for a TV show–you’ll be able to receive search results from YouTube, local channels, media stored on your DVR, web results a bunch more. It’s pretty cool that you can search a movie or show in almost every way you might be able to consume it. It’s almost a little scary too.

A5A-There isn’t a whole lot of change from standard search. You get Google’s search as offered on any Android device, which is great but it’ll yield the same results that you’d expect from an Android phone. Additionally this is running Android 1.6. Android 2.x offers much better searching. Android 2.2 in particular will show results from your contacts, internal storage, apps and web. If the A5A gets a 2.2 update (big IF) then it’ll certainly be elevated to being a better a search feature for TV sets but right now it’s pretty simple.

Who Wins: Google TV.

WEB:

Google TV-Pure and simple, Google TV has the actual Chrome browser. Complete access to the internet with the exception of places like Hulu that are being blocked in favor of subscription based versions:-(. So flle browsing is great but boo to no Hulu or similar content providers.

A5A-Archos uses the browser that comes with Android 1.6 but you can easily get any browser that is currently available on the Market. They all run fine and display the web in all its glory sans flash. That’s right, all the sites can viewed in normal desktop mode and work just fine but there’s no flash. This is that big IF again. IF the A5A gets the 2.2 upgrade then that will change and you’ll have a comparable experience to Google TV.

Who Wins: Google TV. It’d be a draw if the A5A had 2.2.

APPS:

Google TV-You’ll be able to access a lot of the Android Market for apps but in addition to this you’ll have access to apps that are not yet available to Android like Netflix and eventually Hulu plus.

A5A-With a simple patch you’ll be able install the Google services including Market. Again we’re on OS 1.6 here so that means you’ll only be able to use apps that work on that OS version. There are plenty but some popular ones like New York Times, Skype, Twitter and others are not available. Additionally not all apps work right on the TV since Archos does not officially support Google services on its device. YouTube for example plays fine but the video only takes up about 40% of the screen rather than filling it. Archos offers some movie buying/renting apps but the library is not that extensive nor are the releases up to date. That being said, there are still plenty of apps the work very well including: Gmail, Market, GTalk, Google Voice, Maps, Tweet Deck, greader, dropbox, photoshop, facebook, pandora, amazon, imdb wordpress and thousands more.

Who Wins: Google TV. Only because Netflix is a pretty huge game changer. Of course if your media is all recorded TV or DVD rips then you won’t really care.

REMOTE:

Google TV-Logitech gives you a pretty sweet keyboard with built in trackpad for its set top box and has an optional handheld qwerty remote. The Sony comes with a qwerty remote and both units have the option of using an Android phone as a remote. All are pretty cool choices.

A5A-Comes with a qwerty remote that is comparable to the Sony remote and gives all the control you’d expect. Additionally you can use a bluetooth keyboard and control everything. I don’t think there is a way to use a phone as a remote.

Who Wins: I’d say it’s a pretty close call. Both offer a qwerty IRC solution and a wireless keyboard solution. The phone feature is nice but if you don’t have Android then you’re outta luck. And if your phone already does enough stuff, then you won’t use that feature.

OS UI/HOME PAGE:

Google TV-Has a nicely laid out home page to quickly access Bookmarks, Applications, favorite channels etc.

A5A-The standard Android UI with an added widget call the Archos Media Center. Media is broken down into categories: Video, Music, Photo, Games and Media Club. Media Club includes those movie buying/renting apps I talked about.

Who Wins: Toss up. But I’m going with Google TV. Both of these UI’s offer quick access to your content in their own way. The Google TV UI has more reliable aesthetic performance.

DUAL-VIEW:

Google TV-Let’s you do picture in picture except the other picture can be the internet. Pretty neat. Takes out that step of using your laptop with the TV in the background. We all do it!

A5A-Offers multitasking but not at this level. The closest you can get to that is playing Pandora in the background as you browse the web.

Who Wins: Google TV

DVR:

Google TV-DVR content is integrated into the search which is pretty cool. The downside is that if you’re not on Dish Network then you’re gonna miss out. DVRing costs a monthly fee, even if it’s only $4  month but you absolutely have to be a Dish Network customer. Bummer.

A5A-A5A has a similar limitation in that you need to pay a monthly fee for a TV scheduling service to browse shows that you want to record. But that doesn’t even matter if you’re outside Europe because it’s only a European offering. The upside is that if you know what you want to record and on what channel then you can manually DVR it. You can also record live TV on the fly which is pretty cool but you can’t  pause live TV like a Tivo.

Who Wins: Contingent. If you’re on Dish Network then Google TV wins for you. Everyone else can get the lesser of two bummers with the A5A.

STORAGE:

Google TV-The units that are currently shipping are offering 5-8 GB of internal flash storage. This storage is low because it’s not meant to store your media library, just what you’re currently recording. There is no memory expansion on the Logitech or Sony units.

A5A-The folks at Archos are really great at figuring what media junkies love and they love storage options. You can limit yourself to 8GB if you want but they offer many storage solutions: 8 GB, 16 GB, 32GB, 64GB (64 is only Europe), 160 GB and 500GB. If you want this for simple DVRing then an 8GB will do just fine but if you want everything you own on the A5A then you can. On top of this, they offer a microSDHC slot for expansion.

Who Wins: A5A

UPnP:

Google TV-DLNA and UPnP are expected to work but I haven’t come across any feedback from folks on their experience with it.

A5A-Network and UPnP is another thing that Archos aces. It’s one of their specialities, it works right out of the box and is easy to access.

Who Wins: A5A. It’s more of a back burner feature on Google TV where the A5A has fast access to it right from the home screen complete with thumbnail previews of your content.

COST:

Google TV-The cost ranges from $300-$400 for the set top box and as much as $1,400 if you get a TV with it built in.

A5A-The A5A is actually on its way out because it’s last year’s tech and needs to make room for the next generation. That being said you can pick up an A5A 8 GB for as low as $150 or a 500 GB for as much as $350. Then you need to add the cost of the DVR station which is $300. For an 8GB A5A DVR solution you’re looking at $250. Not terrible.

Who Wins: A5A

GAMING:

Google TV-So far as I know, it doesn’t have it. You can play online flash based games I’d imagine.

A5A-I’ve tried a few 3D racing games on the A5A and they all perform nicely. They also fit the screen perfectly. Not to mention you can also play emulators.

Who Wins: A5A.

PERFORMANCE:

Google TV-Based off a much newer version of Android, the software is built for speed. Additionally, many units ship with a CPU/RAM combo that’ll really speed up things. There have been complaints about bugs in the Logitech Rrevue that will most likely be taken care of in a firmware update.

A5A-I like this guy but it is buggy as hell. It’s much better than it was a year ago but there are still kinks to be sorted out. Random crashes etc. If Archos decides to stop supporting it and these bugs aren’t addressed then I might jump ship. I’m working it still because I see frequent improvements and I’m hoping that some good updates are soon to follow. Tim will tell.

Who Wins: Google TV. Google TV is being implemented by bigger companies with bigger developer departments so solve issues faster. Sometimes the little guys have better ideas but they lack the resources and the staffing. Such is the case with Archos.

FINAL SCORE:

Google TV-7

A5A-6

Pretty close. I should point out that this is not a flawless test. Also, this is a comparison of features. Depending on what’s more important to you, this score board could be completely different. Media junkies and TV junkies aren’t entirely the same people. Some people hoard content and others just consume is dispose when done. If you’re not into games then that is something to consider to. In short I’d ask you to consider the score I got and then look deeper into these features and see which you’d personally use. Hope this was insightful!

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Archos 43 Internet Tablet Video Tests

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My first appeal to this new line of Android devices from Archos was the fact that the Archos 43 shoots 720p video. I thought to myself that this would be like having a Flip HD with Android or a closer analogy might be a Droid X that doesn’t make phone calls or have 3G. Regardless, it still offers a whole bunch of stuff to be interested in.

I didn’t want to get too excited for this new PMP until I saw what the video recording can really do. After some searching on YouTube I came across a few video tests of the video recording quality. Have a look:

The videos were posted by HEREisOurAnswer and made ArchosLounge.net

It’s got a descent bitrate for the kind of video that it shoots. Colors, again, are acceptable. The frame rate seems a bit choppy:-( I have very low standards for these kind of portable video cameras with super tiny censors but sticking steady at 29.97 fps is pretty important. If you want a planned shoot and want to make a beautiful image then get a DSLR or something pricier. I think there’s still hope for this Archos 43. What would really help make a good determination is if we could see a video test outdoors with a centered human subject speaking at normal volume. This is the kind of discreet camera I’d like to bring with me on shoots to film a behind the scenes quick gag or bring with me to a conference to snag a quick interview with someone.

Well the Archos 43 Internet Tablet is now shipping in the U.S. so I’m sure we’ll see the video tests trickle out.

Charlie Christ Teaser is Now Live!

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Hey all, my first feature length film is heading for the home stretch. It’s got about 10% left till it’s ready to be chopped up by the editors. To celebrate this milestone, we the production staff, have just launched the official teaser trailer! Before we get into that, here’s a brief rundown of the plot.

Italian scientist, Claudio Chiuso, develops an elixir that enables him to see the heavenly realm with the naked eye; they call it ‘Immaculate Perception.’

It isn’t long before the public competes for God’s favor and plunges into World War III in order to seize their own selfish visions of paradise.

Soon, the true face of God shows itself at humanity’s most vulnerable moment. God-Man—as he is known for his human flaws and super villainy—swoops in to reclaim the throne of eden, wreaking havoc on the world as we know it; only pockets of humanity survive.

Luckily our valiant knight, Charlie Kemp, arrives on scene to give one last militia a fighting chance for survival against the hungry, undead souls of God-Man’s zombie army!

Enjoy the teaser!

My ’57 Chevy

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No, it’s not actually a ’57 Chevy. It’s a metaphor. Those Chevy’s were made to last and so are Thinkpads. Not only that, but both were designed to encourage user serviced upgrades and adjustments. I was looking for one of these last year. I got talked into getting a newer Thinkpad and then I eventually sold that one for a MacBook. I got so interested in getting something fast and powerful that I completely lost sight of that fact that I use my Quad Core desktop for fast and powerful stuff. I really just needed something low powered for admin purposes but more than that I wanted an old fixer upper. I sold my MacBook about 6 months ago and just picked up that ole ‘Chevy. It’s a Thinkpad T40. I’m going to soup it up in every way possible-just for the fun of it. Here are my planned upgrades:

1. Replace the HDD. The HDD in this laptop has been in use since its factory release 6 years ago. It runs fine but not for long. I might use an 80 GB drive.

2. Upgrade the RAM. It’s got 1GB but I’m going to max it out at 2GB.

3. Fix the graphics card. You may or may not be aware of this but certain Thinkpad models suffer from something known as garbled screen syndrome. It’s a fault in the soldering of the graphics card. My little Thinkie is suffering from it. I’ve got to remove the motherboard and reflow the soldering. It’s proven to work! Should be fun!

4. Add a 2nd HDD. I rarely store work files on my startup drive. In my experience, I just can’t trust it. The startup is just for the OS, applications and other system data, nothing more. My DropBox, my Ubuntu One and any other files are always stored on the secondary drive. It’s really helpful when that second drive is built into the computer! I’m going to get an Ultrabay Slim adapter to add a second internal HDD.

5. Install a 6 in 1 for the expansion slot. I’m moving toward the DSLR movement for web, topical and freelance projects. I plan to make use of this card reader.

6. Replace the CPU. Right now it’s a 1.5 GHz Pentium M. I’ve just discovered that I can upgrade it to a 2.0 Ghz if the Front Speed Bus is at 400 MT/s. I found a good candidate: Pentium M 755.

7. After all of the hardware is squared away, I’m ready to install my OS: Ubuntu 10.10. I have it running on my pre-op Thinkie and I can’t wait to see how much better the performance is after these upgrades. The difference might be marginal in some respects but fixing up old computers is an art. I wanna get art’n’!

I’ll be using this laptop primarily for: web browsing, email, openoffice work, Celtx (pre-production software), audio recording and most importantly as an ingest station for shooting in digital. Shooting at 1080p on a DSLR or other drive based cameras eats up a lot of data. I won’t be able to review or edit the video on this laptop but who cares, I do that at home anyway. This is just a really good way to make space on the camera drives or SD cards on the fly. This is exactly how that 2nd HDD will come in handy.

I’ll let ya folks know what happens!

Open Video Conference Coverage!

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Just returned from the Open Video Conference. Well…actually it was two weeks ago. I’ve neglected my blog recently. I have some videos that I’m going to upload soon but for now I’ve got some great photos of the event available on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2065497&id=47401498

Here’s the Public link:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2065497&id=47401498&l=c046c1a747

There’s a lot that I’ve got to catch up on! Stay tuned for more entries!

KODAK Cinema Tools App for iOS

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Finally an official app from Kodak for DoF calculating. The best part about it, for me, is that they’re even representing the Super 8 gauge. This is not a full review but rather a first impressions guide. I’ll talk about each feature and I’ll have a wish list of things that would be good  to see in future updates.

Film Calculator

A simple feature that tells you how much time you have on a certain roll or reel based on film length, gauge and frame rate shot. It supports 8mm, Super 8, 16mm, 35mm 2-perf, 35mm 3-perf, 35mm and 65mm. It’s a neat feature and perhaps something I’d use if I’m entering a gauge I don’t typically work in or if I’m frequently switching between gauges and I want to get my time lengths right. Suffice it to say, If I’m working in a gauge that I know, I probably won’t need to use this little guy. I can’t deny, however, that there might be a fleeting moment where I’ll have too much film to count in my head:-P

DoF Calculator

The app features a nicely laid out DoF calculator for: Super 8, Super 16, 35mm 2-perf, 35mm 3-perf, 35mm and 65mm. This is probably the best UI I’ve seen on an iOS DoF calculator. Everything looks clean and clear and the set up is very intuitive. The little diagram at the bottom is fantastic too. I haven’t had a chance to do a field test with it, pardon the pun. I am confident, however, that Kodak’s calculations will be accurate. I’ll send a follow up once I’ve given this a shot.

Glossary

A little pocket dictionary of terms relating to cinematography. A really neat feature. You might find that you recognize most of the terms but their list is fairly impressive. It’d still be a handy thing to carry around. I’ve often found my self in a debate with the director on what exactly a certain term really means and it’d be nice confound him via Kodak’s glossary.

Wishlist

1. A film stock database. Categorized by film gauge. Within each film gauge is a list or a grid of thumbnails that represent each stock currently available. Once you select a film stock, it’ll provide you detailed information about that stock. The same kind of info found in the film stock brochures.

2. Featured articles from Kodak In Camera magazine. The magazine is free anyway and is deserves to be more accessible. If it was integrated into this app you could read about all the great stuff that’s being done with a film stock that you’ll be interested in using.

3. Videos. Any videos produce by Kodak or endorsed by kodak that feature their film stocks. I recall seeing a video promo for Vision3 when it was released. Videos like that would be nice to see.

4. Make a version for Android 😀

Share your thoughts! What else would you like to see? Why? Maybe you think the app is good the way it is? Maybe it’s no good at all. Don’t be shy to share your view!

The Open Source Journal: #2 “The Right Stuff”

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If you didn’t have a chance to read it, here is the first entry from this journal:

Entry #1

So now on to finding the criteria to reach my goal. The search begins with me, what I do as a filmmaker, the content I produce and how I post-produce.

I’ve been using FCP (Final Cut Pro) since version 4 or 5. I can’t really remember which exact version. I first worked on one of Apple’s first multi-core offerings, the PowerMac G5. In 2009 I upgraded to the MacPro Nehalem. Literally this week, I downgraded to the new iMac 21″. It’s not a huge step down for the things I use it for. And what I use it for is precisely what I’ll be getting into. The following is a list of the criteria that I need to find complete or near complete in the open source alternative to keep doing what I do. It’ll also lay the framework for this journal series. I’ll research each of these criteria and see if in fact they are a met.

Codec Support-I know about the revered ffmpeg of the linux world. I have very specific codecs that I use for recording, editing and delivering. My next post will cover what I use in FCP and if there are decent equivalents out there in open source.

Quicktime Pro/Compressor Equivelent-ffmpeg offers command line transcodes but I want to see if there’s a good GUI that’s feature packed that’ll take care of my needs.

After Effects-For animation of course. I also use 2D motion tracking and filters that add granular texture to an image. Creating new light sources is important too. There’s also some smaller silly stuff.

Adobe Illustrator-I make storyboards in illustrator but sometimes I create 2D images in illustrator that I will then animate with after effects.

Soundtrack Pro-I usually use this for foley and dialog mixing. I don’t usually use more than stereo as my projects are seldom surround.

Final Cut Pro Equivalent

The following are features in FCP that I’d want to have in an open source NLE to sufficiently fulfill my editing uses.

Color Correcting/Image Control-3-Way Color Corrector in FCP has made the process very easy. I like it a lot but I don’t need an exact replacement of this feature. I don’t, however, want an alternative that significantly adds time to my workflow.

Motion Key-framing-I like to make neato opening credits that glide across the frame or follow a moving object in the frame. I also use this for documentaries with still images. Again, this is a feature that Apple makes very simple for the end user.

Chrome-keying/compositing-I do this less often but if I say goodbye to Apple forever then I’d like to know that I could use it in open source if I need to.

Media Management-This is mostly because I’m compulsive but I like FCP’s bin, sequence file system. I usually edit by scene in separate sequences and then combine all the scenes into one master sequence. This is a nice feature but not a dire one.

Low Quality Playback-This is helpful when editing something at a high bitrate and resolution with a lot of rendering going on. This would be a pretty important feature to have.

Customizable Short Cuts-This too would be pretty important.

Customizable Window Layouts-Depending on the task, I find it critical to have a layout that allows best access to the content and controls you need to complete the task.

Sub-Clips-When I capture things in bulk, I like to chop them up into their independent shots. Then label and organize those shots, making notes of things like, “best take.”

Slug-In FCP there’s a thing called a slug. It’s just empty space that you can manipulate. I usually use it for things like title sequences and the like. You can crop it, resize it, change the opacity and animate it. It has become an everyday component for me. I suspect that I can just make a slug with Gimp and import it. That being said, I’d still want to be able to manipulate the same ways.

I’d say that’s enough criteria to get a good starting point. If I can meet all or most of this criteria, then at the end of this series I want try and produce a short film completely post-produced in an open source environment. Stay tuned for the next post when I’ll discuss codecs!

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