My First Thanksgiving

My mom is American, so I know of Thanksgiving. Plus, Australia is influenced a lot by America, thus most Australians know of Thanksgiving.

Seeing as I was in America during Thanksgiving this year, it my first year ever attending a gathering/dinner for Thanksgiving. It’s all about the Turkey; I still haven’t looked up why. I also haven’t figured out what Thanksgiving is all about, but I guess it’s a good excuse to get family together.

I was staying with Cait & Jason in Phoenix, Arizona, at this time and they invited me to Thanksgiving with Jason’s family.

I had no intention of eating the turkey. My mom has always tried to get me to eat it for Christmas, but I’d always refuse. I’m an extremely picky eater, and will suffice with bread and water. When the Thanksgiving turkey was cut in pieces it looked just like chicken. Many people know I love chicken! So I had some and it was pretty tasty! It tastes like chicken. Ha! The bread rolls (known in America as biscuits) were also yummy.

Thanksgiving is basically an American Christmas without the presents and Santa.

It was fun to check out the desert scenery where Jason’s family lives.

Here’s a video of the whole day:

Music in the video:
“I Heart Thanksgiving” by Robert Lund (The FUMP)
[Buy on iTunes/Amazon MP3]

“The Thanksgiving Song” by Adam Sandler
[Buy on iTunes/Amazon MP3]

Where Do I Go?

You may know I’m currently traveling the United States, and having a lot of giddy times while doing so!

I’ve been to Washington D.C., New York City (incl. Long Island), Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago (I want to go back!), Tampa Bay (Florida), and I’m now in Phoenix, Arizona.

I’d like to know where the best events and excitement can occur in the coming months. Sure, I can look on Upcoming or Facebook, but I want to know where YOU know is going to be awesome! Either because you live there, or because you’ve had a rockin’ time there once.

I’m planning everything around Geoff Smith’s Ustream Christmas Party at The Big Bang Bar in Nashville, TN, on the 15th of December. I feel that going to chill with Rachel after that (for Christmas?) would be the most economical thing to do, but I feel kinda bad not visiting my relatives (in Vancouver, Canada) for the ‘holidays’.

What about New Years? Is there an amazing place to see lots of fireworks and intoxicated people around? Sydney is known for some pretty wicked fireworks!

I also want to know where there are great places to go skiing. I love skiing, and I know America/Canada has much better slopes than Australia!

I’d really appriciate it if you could give me some ideas (include links) via the comments on this post, and or the video above. 🙂

Vote For Viddler in the Open Web Awards


The second annual Open Web Awards (hosted by Mashable) are on again! Nominations are over, and it’s time to vote in round 1!

Just enter your e-mail in the widget to the left and click Vote Now. You’ll then need to check that e-mail and click a link in a confirmation e-mail you receive from mashable@polldaddy.com.

You can vote for one company in each category daily during round 1 until the 3rd of December. Then the final round of voting will commence and you can also vote daily in that round until the 15th of December.

You can also vote here for companies in other categories.

See here for more rules, the nominies, sponsors and more.

Flip Mino HD or Something Else?

Nov 21, 2008: UPDATE at the bottom with reviews of the Flip Video MinoHD from people who have used them. In short, the reviews are just as I expected; pretty horrible.

August 16, 2009: The Flip Ultra HD was announced a few months ago and it still doesn’t have an autofocus lens. Even the iPhone 3GS has autofocus/tap-to-focus. The Flip is DEAD!

April 12, 2011: As predicted: The Flip is DEAD!

I don’t own a Flip Video camera, but I know many people that do. The videos created with it (example) look fantastic! Especially on Viddler. I’ve held a couple and it’s quite different to a traditional camera; you hold it in a vertical fashion rather than horizontal. It’s great if you need to capture a quick video an upload it to the web. But that’s where its use ends.

You can’t take photos. There’s a very limited menu system. There’s no expandable memory slot. It doesn’t have an optical zoom. The lens isn’t wide angle, thus when creating self videos (by holding the camera in reverse at a distance) you’ll have to stretch your arm farther to get a medium closeup. As of November, 2008, it costs about US$230 [check current price].

I’m a video guru and professional. I’ve been creating videos since I was born. So I’d like to share my thoughts on why you probably shouldn’t get the new Flip Mino HD. Over the past couple of years I spent many hours trying to decide on what kind of high-definition video camera to buy. Every couple of months a new model would be released with features such as a new sensor, more memory, and a smaller body. I could never find a model that met all my needs.

When I came to America in June, I continued to look for a model that would suit me. I still couldn’t find something that was perfect for me though. Then, in August, Jan tweeted about her new Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 [Review / Buy on Amazon]. I researched this point-and-shoot camera and concluded that it was the right camera for me right now. Not perfect, but for the size and price it’s great! I bought one. Here’s the first video recorded with it:

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 records in HD 720p 30fps (same as the Flip Mino HD, but the Panasonic has a larger sensor and better lens), takes photos at 9MP, and records to SD/SDHC cards.

Note – The TZ5 also records in the following formats:

4:3 aspect ratio:
640 x 480, 320 x 240
30 fps, 10fps
16:9 aspect ratio:
848 x 480 – 30 fps, 10 fps
HD: 1280 x 720 (aka 720p) – 30fps, 15fps

I am always amazed at the quality of video that is recorded with my TZ5! It saves the files as .MOV. I compress them down using these settings and upload them to Viddler where they look stunning! I guess I’m a little biased because I own the TZ5. Though, from what I’ve researched, it’s honestly the best value. Did you know it’s currently the same price as the Flip Mino HD or less?! Check Amazon’s price. Let’s talk about some other similar options that are out there. The Flip Video’s direct competitor is the Kodak Zi6 [Review / Buy on Amazon]. Here’s some quick specs on it:

Storage 128 MB internal memory*, SD/SDHC card expansion slot
Focus modes normal, close-up
Video capture H.264 (MOV), AAC LC
Video quality HD60: 720p at 60 fps—16:9 HD: 720p at 30 fps—16:9 (default) VGA
Still format JPEG
Picture quality 3MP (stills, interpolated – the act of taking a smaller image and resampling it as a larger image; it is not actually taking 3MP images.)
Microphone mono
Speaker yes
I/O interface USB 2.0 (high-speed); component output; AV output
Tripod mount 1/4 in. standard
Power (2) AA batteries (Ni-MH recommended)

* 128 MB internal memory/approximately 30 MB available for image storage. BAM! Pretty neat, but not quite as jam-packed as the TZ5.

A quick note on batteries — In my experience, I find that most consumers prefer digital cameras that take AA batteries because if you run out of power, you can just go to the nearest shop and buy some. I prefer to have at least 2 Li-ion batteries made by the manufacturer of the camera. This way I have one in the camera and one in my bag (charged). They’re also rechargeable which means you won’t be spending a lot of money on batteries. Rechargeable batteries eventually loose their highest charge, but by the time they do you’ll have a new camera. The fact that the Kodak Zi6 uses AA batteries is one factor why I wouldn’t consider getting one.

My friend Brandice has a Kodak Zi6 and likes it because it’s like the Flip Video cameras, but has an SD card slot. She also said it has an issue with image stabalisation as the Flip does. This image stabalisation could be fixed in the Flip Mino HD’s new software (Pure Digital Video Engine 3.0), but I haven’t used one. (Please let me know in the comments if you use one and find it good.)

Check some test videos Brandice recorded with her Kodak Zi6:
Macro/Closeup

Driving/Movement
Ambient music

Next!

Most of Kodak’s current range of point-and-shoot cameras offer HD 720p video. I’ll list another and then tell you a little bit about video in DSLRs. The Kodak EasyShare Z1285. Afif just bought one and he has some an example video from it on his Viddler. It has captures 12MP photos, records HD 720p video (Kodak displays the words “True HD” on images of the camera, but that doesn’t mean it’s Full HD: 1080p), has 5x optical zoom, and can bake you a try of moist cookies in less than 4 minutes. [Auuhhhhh! Just making sure you’re still with me. ;)] It does all the other standard things you would expect from a point-and-shoot. It has a nice SCHNEIDER-KREUZNACH VARIOGON lens too!

Who cares about the lens? I want MEGApixels! — In short, it’s a mix of the lens and the sensor. You can have a millions of pixels (a megapixel), but there’s no point if it doesn’t have nice, crisp glass for the light to flow through. You know photography is painting with light, right? Generally, larger the surface area of the lens, the better quality image you’re going to obtain; especially in low-light. For the average camera enthusiest, 8MP is high enough to print large posters of your photographs!

Onward!

On August 27, 2008, Nikon released their D90 [Review / Buy on Amazon] model: the first Digital Single-Lens Reflex camera that records video. When I heard this announcement I was appalled; you can’t force the mirror on a DSLR to stay open and record video. I guess I’m traditional; I started SLR photography in a darkroom, with chemicals.

Then… I saw the video that Justine recorded with her Nikon D90 and I was amazed because of the ability the photographer has to zoom in and out so quickly (far quicker than I’ve seen any camera under $10,000 zoom). I’m still indifferent about video in a DSLR, but the DOF and zooming would definitely be a plus!

Canon retaliated less than a month later with the 5D Mark II [Review / Buy on Amazon]. It captures video at Full HD (1080p), takes 21MP photos, HDMI video output, and a microphone socket (for external mics). Those DSLRs are in excess of $1,500 right now, so that’s not an affordable option (for most) if you just want HD 720p video.

The following is what I would recommend you have a look at for affordable HD 720p video:
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 [Review / Buy on Amazon]
– Any point-and-shoot Kodak camera with HD 720p
Kodak Zi6 [Review / Buy on Amazon]
Sanyo Xacti E2 [Buy on Amazon] (Not HD, but waterproof and great 4:3 video!)
– Any of the cameras above plus the Flip Mino HD so you can use the good camera to record yourself melting down the Flip Mino HD into a gooey substance.

Articles I’ve read about the Flip Mino HD:
It’s Official: Pure Digital Launches the Flip Mino HD by NewTeeVee
A Camcorder Insurgent Goes HD by The New York Times [via Daynah]

Here’s an interesting site about the differences between CCD and CMOS image sensors.

Flip Video MinoHD reviews:
Obsessable Flip Mino HD Review
Andy Inhatko’s Flip Mino HD vs Kodak Zi6 Review
Flip Mino HD vx Kodak Zi6 vs Flip Ultra Video Cameras

Deinterlace Your Online Videos

Deinterlace your videos!

Here are FOUR simple steps to remove interlacing when you export your videos in Quicktime Pro, iMovie HD, iMovie ’08, or Final Cut Pro.

****See original size****

1. File > Export

2. If you want this to be DEAD SIMPLE choose ‘Movie to Apple TV‘ (.m4v – playable on iPod, Zune, any computer, uploads to Viddler). DONE. If you need a Quicktime MOV, then choose ‘Movie to Quicktime Movie’ and move on to Step 3.

3. Choose ‘Size…’ (The last dialog box will open.) — You can find more information about tweaking window 3 here.

4. Tick ‘Deinterlace Source Video’.

Giddy up!

Want to learn WHY you should deinterlace your videos before you put them online? Okie dokie!

(I will use NTSC (30fps / 525 interlaced lines) as an example because most online video is played at 30fps. Discover PAL here.)

Back in the days of (analog) television, video was interlaced (a technique to improve the picture quality of a video signal primarily on CRT devices without consuming extra bandwidth). This meant your television alternated between odd and even lines of light beaming out of the monitor 30 times every second. It moves so fast our eyes can’t even tell. Sweet!

Technology has changed though. First there was HD 1080i (i = interlaced), then that was superseded by HD 1080p (p = progressive). Progressive scan is a method for displaying, storing or transmitting moving images in which all the lines of each frame are drawn in sequence. First being a low quality image and progressively improving. Remember, this all happens at 30 frames per second.


This animation shows the difference between progressive and interlaced video.

Web video is progressive. If you upload a video that has been interlaced, then it won’t display properly and you’ll end up with video that looks like Justine’s My new show on Pluggedin! or Lisa’s Mostly Madonna.

Note: I know Justine and Lisa are both very experienced in video production, so I assume it was the companies that they each work for that exported as interlaced (who knows why…) and the girls just uploaded *that* file to the web.

Go deinterlace your video now and put it on Viddler.

Update! Here’s a list of programs (thanks to Miro’s blog) that can deinterlace video on Windows operating systems:
Editing Suites:
Adobe Premiere (Windows, Mac ~ $$$)
Sony Vegas (Windows ~ $$$)
Windows Movie Maker (free)

Video Processing Application Guides/Tutorials/Manuals:
VirtualDub (Windows ~ free; open source)
MPEG Streamclip (Windows, Mac ~ free)
mencoder (Linux ~ free; open source)
FFmpeg (Linux ~ free; open source)
VLC (Windows, Mac, Linux ~ free; open source)