Tag Archives: video

The police body camera data problem

The Washington Post reports that some police departments are dropping body camera programs because of the expense. I’ll admit that my first gut reaction on seeing the story was that it’s just an excuse. In some cases it probably is. But it’s a fact that while the cameras are cheap, storing and managing large amounts of video data isn’t. The question needs objective examination.
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Apple’s HEIF and HEVC

At this year’s WWDC, Apple introduced a new format for still images and video. The container is called High Efficiency Image Format (HEIF), and it uses a codec called High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC). HEIF files can store still images, video, or both at once. Apple doesn’t have proper documentation on its site, as far as I can see, but a slideshow on HEIF and one on HEVC provide a lot of information. Kelly Thompson provides a technical overview.

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VR180, a 3-D video format from Google

VR180 promises “the world as you see it.” That is, people with normal peripheral vision can see the world in front of them and to the side, but not behind them. Google is looking at it as a way to bring practical 3D video to YouTube. The technical effort comes from Daydream, Google’s mobile VR division.

Limiting the view to a hemisphere lets a video contain denser information in the same number of bytes. It’s also a lot easier to build a camera that takes 180 degree pictures than 360 degree ones. Adobe is joining the effort, promising support from Premiere Pro in the near future.

But just what is the format? Google hasn’t put any technical details on the Web yet. There’s a website for VR180, and you can sign up for a mailing list, but at the moment it gives no clues about the specs. According to Google’s blog, the videos “look great on desktop and on mobile,” which suggest they can fall back to a flat view.
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More what you’d call guidelines than actual rules

Do pirate sites have rules? Apparently so, according to Beta News. It tells us that sites like Pirate Bay have “fairly strict rules dictating capturing, formatting and naming releases” and “astoundingly lengthy standards documents covering standard and high definition releases of TV shows.” These rules “mandate” a switch from MP4 to the open Matroska (MKV) format as of April 10, so they’re stricter than the Pirates of the Caribbean.

I have no love for pirate sites. They play up their reputation for making stuff from big, evil, litigious companies available, but they’ll grab anything they can get their hands on, including music by small, independent artists who are having a hard enough time making a living. A couple of sites have even grabbed my filk recordings, which have no market beyond a couple of hundred people. But I’m amused that pirates have their own strict rules, and a move anywhere toward open formats can’t be a bad thing.

Closed captioning formats

CC logoAn online discussion led to my learning about Udemy’s support for closed captioning and to the formats available for it. Since I hadn’t heard about these formats before, I’m guessing a lot of other people haven’t. They can be useful not only for accessibility but for preservation, since they provide a textual version of spoken words in a video. These are just some notes on what I’ve found in a cursory investigation. In general, sites that support closed captioning expect a text file in one of several formats, which has to have at least the text of the caption, its starting time, and its duration or ending time.
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The weather’s been great lately, so here’s a special offer, just through March 13, on my Udemy course on file format identification tools: Just $12 with the coupon MARCH11! The list price is $28. This also celebrates Udemy’s fixing a … Continue reading

Update on my Udemy courses

Udemy has made some serious changes to its pricing rules. This will result in some price changes in my courses, starting on April 4.

In one respect, this is a good thing. Currently, any course participating in Udemy’s marketing programs is periodically subject to huge discounts on zero notice. A $300 course might suddenly be offered for $10. If students enroll in the course through the marketing program, the instructor may get as little as 25% of that. On the other hand, if students enroll using my coupon codes, I get to keep 97% of the money. It’s not hard to see how this can put instructors in a price war against themselves. I want to sell courses through coupons so that Udemy doesn’t gobble up most of the money you pay, but this encourages instructors to set a high price and then discount it heavily so students will use the coupons.

This wasn’t making anybody happy, so Udemy has changed its policies, promising not to discount courses by more than 50%. But this comes with a new set of price restrictions on the courses. All prices have to be between $20 and $50 and — I don’t know why — be a multiple of $5. We can’t give discounts of more than 50% with our own coupons. If a coupon violates this limit, we can’t change it; it will just expire on April 4.

This means I’ll be making the following changes in my prices:

  • Managing metadata with ExifTool: The list price will drop from $36 to $30.
  • Personal digital preservation: The list price will go up from $16 to $20.
  • How to tell a file’s format: Five open source tools: The list price will go down from $28 to $25.

If you’re here, the list prices are irrelevant, since you’ll be buying using the coupon code unless you like spending more and letting me have less. But there are also changes in the coupons. Until April 4, you’ll be able to enroll in the ExifTool course with the code EXIF14 for $14.00. Starting April 4, you’ll have to use the code EXIF15 with a price of $15.00.

The introductory offer for Personal Digital Preservation expired at the end of February. The new code PRESERVE lets you enroll for $11. This won’t change.

The coupon code TOOLKIT for How to Tell a File’s Format: Five Open Source Tools continues to get you a $20 price.

The biggest annoyance is that I like to give students a really deep discount for a course that builds on another one (e.g., on the ExifTool course for those who’ve taken the file identification tools course), and I’ll be limited in what I can do there.

By way of compensation, I’m offering a special rate on Personal Digital Preservation till April 4: Just $8 with the coupon code MARCHAIR! After April 4, you won’t be able to get that low a price for any paid Udemy course.

Hopefully this will all work out well. I’m looking into adding another course, though it’s too soon to give specifics.


Solving file mysteries with ExifTool

Here’s a new YouTube video of mine illustrating some ExifTool techniques for figuring out why files behave strangely. It also serves as a teaser for my new course on ExifTool.
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A new video course on ExifTool

ExifTool course thumbnailMy latest Udemy course, Managing Metadata with ExifTool, is now live! The list price is $36, but with the link here it’s just $12 through the end of February. OK, to tell the truth, Udemy’s payment structure practically mandates setting high prices and then discounting heavily, but this introductory rate is the best one you’ll see for a while.

As far as I can tell, this is the only publicly available tutorial on ExifTool which covers the topic so thoroughly. Here’s the outline:
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Notes of a reluctant video teacher

Question mark superimposed on file iconsAs you’ve doubtless notice if you follow this blog or my Twitter feed, I’ve made two video courses and put them up on Udemy.com. You may be wondering why I’m doing this, especially if you know how much I hate being on camera.

Several steps have led to my being here. One is that the more gray hair you have, the more likely clients and employers are to assume the gray matter has leaked out of your brain, even though that’s nonsense. So I have to find other sources of income. I’ve been doing writing, including the book Files that Last, and having some successes there. Many people, though, like video learning, and turning written material into video presentation isn’t a huge step. I liked the arrangements Udemy offered, so I’ve given it a try.
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