Showing posts with label video. Show all posts
Showing posts with label video. Show all posts

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Amazing zomby show

Three psychology researchers (including the Queenslander Matthew Thompson) have hit upon one of the most amazing distortion illusions I've ever seen: http://mbthompson.com/research/

While you're gazing at the cross in the middle of the screen, nothing prevents you from taking a brief glimpse at times, to the left or right, just to make sure that the video creators were not cheating.

The viewer's situation reminds me of what a driver might see when he's traveling at night along a narrow mountain road, with his eyes fixed on the road ahead. This was often the case back in 1993, when I resided for three months at St-Pierre-de-Chartreuse, which is separated from the outside world by a treacherous winding trail through dark gorges, between cliffs and ravines.


I can now understand retrospectively why I often imagined, in the darkness, that I was driving along a mountain road inhabited by the medieval ghosts of Saint Bruno and his fellow monks.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Steven Spielberg of molecular animation

American-born Drew Berry has achieved fame as a creator of amazing animated biological videos in a celebrated scientific environment in Australia: the Walter and Eliza Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne. Here's his recent presentation for TED [Technology Entertainment and Design]:


After watching that, I can almost sense the presence inside me of all those marvelously-efficient little molecular factories, working around the clock to churn out new strands of DNA. Thank God I didn't have to finance the construction of these factories, or pay out salaries to the employees. Maybe I should look into the idea of transforming some of their production into something more tangible: automobiles, say, or maybe even crisp new banknotes.

Drew Berry has also collaborated recently on the Biophilia album of the exotic Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk.



It's weird and wonderful that we have to depend now upon the artistry of graphic poets to show us the workings of marvels such as molecules.

POST SCRIPTUM: In the Biophilia video, did you notice the fleeting presence of this strange set of molecules?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Curious seventh singer

Some of my readers are likely to wonder whether I found this story by hanging around sleazily on websites about Japanese adolescents. In fact, it was a tweet from the British New Scientist magazine that provided me with the initial link, since the technological feat in question is quite astonishing, along with its artistic and cultural repercussions.

That's a photo of the seven members of a Japanese girls' band named AKB48. In the middle, you have the lead singer, named ‪Eguchi Aimi‬, whose harmonious facial features can be admired in this portrait:

For a while, the group was composed of only six girls. Then they were joined by Eguchi Aimi, and one of the first performances of the enlarged group was a video ad for candy, seen here:


Fans of the AKB48 group were recently flabbergasted to learn that the charming lead singer ‪Eguchi Aimi‬ is in fact, not a real human being, but rather a synthesized screen-only creation. In other words, a virtual singer. But the most amazing thing of all is the way in which this artificial singer was assembled. The design team "borrowed" features from each of the real singers, and then scrambled them all together to give birth to ‪Eguchi Aimi‬. For example, the eyes of Eguchi (on the left) come from the real-life young lady on the right:
Eguchi's sensuous mouth has been taken from another member of the group:

Her nose comes from yet another genuine singer:

Here's a fascinating video that provides you with a taste of ‪Eguchi Aimi‬'s talents as a performer, while showing you briefly how she was put together:

 

In any case, she's an attractive girl, she sings quite well (using God only knows whose voice), and she's certainly a natural seventh member of the group. If Eguchi Aimi didn't exist, it would surely be a good idea to invent her…

CORRECTION: Since writing this blog post, I've discovered that AKB48 is not simply a small girls' band, as I mistakenly imagined, but an entire cabaret company of some 60 performers, with their own theater in Tokyo. The Japanese are so well-behaved that no Japanese cabaret audience would ever dream of standing up and crying out for a live on-stage appearance of Eguchi Aimi. Fortunately...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Portrait of dogs

I shot this video clip this morning, at the top of the stone staircase (which I built last year) leading down into my flower garden. Sophia, constantly impatient, is letting me know that she's not particularly keen on posing in front of a camera. So, she wants me to hurry up. Fitzroy, on the other hand, seems to like being treated as a video star.



Monday, May 2, 2011

Video talk for bloggers

I recorded this video talk on Sunday afternoon, before the amazing US raid on the Bin Laden compound in Pakistan. It's essentially an experimental project, enabling me to know what's involved in using the camera as a blogging tool. Incidentally, I screwed up my mention of two well-known software products. My video editing tool on the Macintosh was Final Cut Express version 4.0.1 (not the Pro product, as I said mistakenly). And the browser that doesn't seem to be able to handle HTML5 is, of course, Internet Explorer, not Express. Also, as with quite a few English words, I'm simply not sure how people pronounce the verb "beatify" (which I can nevertheless pronounce perfectly well in French). The truth of the matter is that I hardly ever listen to English-language TV, and I've become rusty concerning my spoken mother tongue.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Video in websites

WARNING: This is a rather technical blog post. Maybe it won't interest many people. In fact, I'm totally unaware of the number of Antipodes readers who might be concerned by the construction of websites.

These days, to build websites (including those that can be viewed on an iPad), developers are encouraged to use HTML5. I've already mentioned the fact that I've started to play around with HTML5, to see how it feels from a developer's viewpoint. What I've done, for the moment, is to build a website that displays the following little movie (shot by Natacha last summer, and included here in its YouTube version):



To view this video in the context of my website, you'll need to use a modern browser such as Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

If you have such a browser, you can use this banner to access my website, and then click the VIDEOS button to display the movie. OK? Now, you might be saying to yourself: So what? Well, the rest of the present blog describes what is happening behind the scenes. If you're concerned by HTML5 development, then what I have to say might interest you greatly, because I have implemented a complete solution, which is not necessarily documented in an easily-accessible fashion. When I say "complete", what I mean is that you can view my included video either with Chrome, with Firefox or with Safari. (I apologize for making no attempt to propose a solution—if indeed this were feasible—that would work for people who persist in using an antiquated version of Internet Explorer, incapable of handling HTML5.)

To obtain this "complete solution", I've built three different versions of the video:

— For Safari, there's an H264 video file. This solution makes it possible to view my video on an iPad. For the moment, H264 seems to be the only format accepted by Apple.

— For Firefox, there's an Ogg video file. Normally, Firefox should be capable of handling Google's WebM format (which was recently accepted as a standard by the Free Software Foundation), but this doesn't seem to be the case yet.

— As for Google's powerful and elegant Chrome browser, it can accept either H264, Ogg or WebM.

To examine my code for the video tag, simply display the source code of the page with the movie.

Incidentally, when I speak of having built three different video files, I'm exaggerating a little. The original movie is an .mp4 file, fresh out of my camcorder and Final Cut Express. That's the version that works with the H264 codec. To obtain the Ogg and WebM versions, I used a delightful little free Mac app named Miro Video Converter.

Now, if you wish to understand all the HTML5 concepts behind this video stuff, then the perfect solution is this amazing online book created by a Google guru, Mark Pilgrim:

Normally, at this point, I should encourage my readers to shell out a few dollars to purchase a paper copy of Mark's excellent book…

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gore blimey!

Many observers of the English have evoked their eccentric nature. It would be silly to generalize, of course, but I've always had the impression that certain citizens of this sceptred isle can be amazingly tasteless at times, in spite of their fine manners and cultivated upbringing. Look at the Queen's hats, for example. The following English attempt at producing a clear and outspoken message on climate change is a fabulous calamity, on a par with the English invention of the meaty foodstuff called spam.



Maybe the creator of this video shocker is a descendant of the guy with a big axe who used to chop off heads for Henry VIII in the Tower of London. Maybe his great-grandfather was Jack the Ripper. In saying this, I must be careful, though. For all I know, this eccentric video artist might be a genetic cousin named Skyvington or Pickering...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Busy days at Gamone

If I haven't blogged much over the last week, it's because I was busy tidying up the house for the arrival of Manya and Hakeem.

I rarely behave in the manner of a conscientious Chartreux monk who keeps his abode spick and span for the simple reason (so he thinks) that God is observing him non-stop. Why should I act that way? I tend to clean up the house only when I'm expecting a visit from somebody who ain't the Almighty. Otherwise, I don't bother too much about unmade beds, dusty floors and furniture, and a backlog of dirty dishes. Whenever I think about housekeeping tasks, I've inevitably got something more urgent to do. Consequently, the countdown to a forthcoming visit is always an exceptionally busy period, during which I clean up the mess.

In these circumstances, last Monday, Henri-Jacques Sentis, the ex-mayor of Choranche, dropped in unexpectedly to ask me if I would be prepared to participate in a documentary movie that was about to be shot at Choranche. Why not? The following afternoon, two members of the movie team turned up at Gamone to talk with me and get a feeling about what I might be able to contribute to their future movie. At that moment, I had no idea whatsoever concerning the intended theme of their future film, nor did I know who—besides myself—would be participating in it.

Late on Thursday afternoon (following a brief and violent rainstorm), the movie crew turned up at Gamone… where I was still preoccupied by last-minute cleaning-up in view of the arrival of my daughter on Friday evening. I discovered that the camera-man was an experienced Moroccan filmmaker named Mohamed Chrif Tribak, who had been invited to the Vercors by a French movie association in order to organize a workshop. And he was calling upon workshop participants (local individuals) to perform the various production tasks.

Most of the interview with me was shot in my living room. But I talked so much about my computers and the Internet that Mohamed suggested that it would be a good idea if they were to create some footage in my upstairs bedroom. Everything worked out fine… except that I still couldn't guess the intended theme of the movie they wanted to make. At one moment, I had the impression that they wanted to create some kind of a cultural document aimed at promoting the lovely idea that, in the Vercors, we're all a bunch of jolly neighbors. Unfortunately, I had already squashed that concept by explaining at length that the Vercors is an abode of solitary "fools on the hill".



On Saturday afternoon, my daughter and her friend (both of whom are media professionals) accompanied me to a viewing of the final result: a short documentary entitled Three Voices of the Vercors. Why three? Well, Mohamed and his crew had in fact shot interviews with seven local individuals, but they concluded that it was preferable to exploit only three. I think everybody agreed that the video is a tiny gem, of an unpretentious kind. In a nutshell, the three of us seemed to be saying, in very different ways, that the Vercors is indeed a haven for loners who are determined to live as such, and to remain that way. Inversely, the Vercors is not exactly an environment for friendly house parties and neighborhood barbecues. Well, we've all known that, all along… but it was nice to see it said so succinctly in the movie.

Funnily enough, the screening of this austere video summary took place in a splendid bucolic atmosphere, at the homestead of lovely Angélique Doucet, who's a goat-cheese producer on the slopes of the Cournouze at Châtelus. At the foot of the magnificent limestone cliffs, the sun was shining, and everybody sat around chatting with one another in such a friendly manner that one might have considered that the three "voices" in the movie were exaggerating when they suggested that this was a harsh land for loners. The truth, I think, is that the Vercors is both: a mixture of soft and hard, sweet and sour, cultural togetherness and solitary extremists. It's not a land that can be described by any single adjective.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Solar lamps in the garden

On Bastille Day, Natacha and Alain came to visit me at Gamone. Knowing that I'd created a garden, they gave me a set of solar lamps.



These gadgets remind me of the aircraft I mentioned in my recent article entitled Taking to the sky [display]. That's to say, the lamps soak in energy throughout the day, then, as soon as it's dark, they start to emit an eerie blue glow, which continues to the end of the night.

This is my first-ever attempt at putting a movie on YouTube and then displaying it in my blog. Meanwhile, I'm still investigating the video approach of HTML5. For example, if you happen to have the Chrome browser, you can see this movie on my website at www.skyvington.com. But I haven't succeeded yet in getting it to work with other browsers.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Optical illusion

This amazing little video was produced by pointing a camera at a real-world scene composed of four tracks that guide the movements of rolling marbles:



As soon as the table is turned around, providing you with a view of the scene from the opposite side, you can immediately see the tricks behind the illusion. The tracks simply slope downward towards their intersection, and they're designed in such a way that, when viewed from a certain angle, they seem to slope upward. The creator of this excellent illusion is Koukichi Sugihara of the Meiji Institute for the Advanced Study of Mathematical Sciences, Japan.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fasten your video belts

From an artistic viewpoint, this English road-safety video is particularly aesthetic:



One might wonder, though, whether this strong dose of loveliness (that's the first silly word that springs into my mind) is really effective in getting the message across. Maybe the whole thing could backfire completely, in that recollections of this video might soothe the driver into imagining dangerously that he's accompanied constantly by a pair of guardian angels, ready to intervene miraculously as soon as a bad situation arises. Besides, I find that they guy has a dumb grin on his face. I wouldn't feel safe as a passenger with that fellow at the wheel.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Manuals

When I worked at Ilog in Gentilly (just outside Paris) and I annoyed my brilliant colleagues with nasty technical questions (mainly about Unix stuff), I would periodically receive a kind but firm RTFM reaction: "William, read the fuckin' manual! " But this kind of blunt advice was relatively rare, for the simple reason that my job consisted precisely of writing most of the company's manuals. In any case, I often felt that it was extremely efficient, in the case of complex computer queries, to question a wizard in an adjoining office—there were many such creatures at Ilog—rather than plowing through tons of documentation. (Incidentally, Ilog shares are being purchased by IBM at this very moment, in the context of an official month-long takeover bid that went into action a few days ago.) Needless to say, as a former professional in this domain, I've always respected and admired good documentation... of which many of the planet's finest specimens have been signed by a Californian company named Apple.

Every now and again, I say to myself that we modern humans should strive constantly to free ourselves from excessive documentation concerning various devices. I'm thinking, not of my Macintosh nor even of my Nikon, but of simple hardware such as my splendid Riviera&Bar bread machine. A month or so ago, I decided audaciously that I was determined henceforth to use my appliance intuitively, without browsing through the instruction booklet. Normally, that should have been easy, because there are only three parameters for which values have to be chosen: the program for the desired kind of bread, the weight and the kind of crust. Well, I noticed that there were up/down arrows on the control panel, and I immediately imagined that these might be used to jump back and forth between the parameters. When the ingredients were ready, and everything seemed to be set up correctly, I pushed the start button... but nothing happened. So, I repeated the set of operations, but to no avail. I concluded that the machine was broken, so I emptied out the ingredients and ended up cooking the bread in my ordinary oven. The next day, I took the bread machine along to the repairs section of the shop where I had purchased it. Three weeks later, they phoned to say that the machine had been fully tested, and that they had not detected the slightest fault. This time, I decided to browse through the instruction booklet while setting up the machine. On the first page, I discovered that the up/down arrows on the control panel made it possible to delay the start of the baking process for any number of hours, which explained why the machine had given me the impression that it wasn't working. This time, of course, I didn't touch these arrows. The machine went into action immediately, and finally gave me one of the best loaves I've ever baked. The moral of this anecdote is that it always pays to read—and maybe even reread—the fuckin' manual.

In a quite different domain, I've decided to finally make an effort to master the nice little Sony camcorder that I purchased last year.

So, I invested two hundred euros in the following Apple product:

It's unthinkable to attempt to manipulate a sophisticated software tool such as Final Cut Express in an intuitive manner. In other words, I'm obliged to study the documentation. The only problem is that the manual is a PDF file 1152 pages long! So, I've spent hours today printing it out on paper. I'm not complaining, though, because Final Cut Express is a truly amazing software tool. The Sony HDR-SR7E camcorder, too, is an awesome piece of technology... and its manual is a "mere" 117 pages long. That's even shorter than the 157-page manual for the LiveType software tool for inserting titles and graphics into a movie, supplied at no extra cost with Final Cut Express.

There's no doubt about the fact that electronic machines in general, and computers in particular, have made our existence vastly more sophisticated and complex. And we're obliged to spend a huge amount of time reading fuckin' manuals.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Powerful talk

Randy Pausch, a 47-year-old professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, died yesterday of complications from pancreatic cancer. Among other things, he was a great teacher in the domain of virtual reality. If you haven't yet seen his celebrated Last Lecture, delivered un September 2007, I strongly recommend that you set aside everything for an hour or so and sit down calmly in front of your computer, maybe with friends and drinks (for a private wake: a kind of Pausch party), while you watch this extraordinary video:



This video is indeed an amazing statement about vitality, and a rebuttal of the numbing effects of imminent death. Randy Pausch has provided his children—and us spectators, too—with a profound heritage.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Don't Tase me, bro!

Australian TV viewers thought it hilarious when a comic crew succeeded partially in getting through the security barriers at the APEC circus a fortnight ago. Personally, I found the stunt lukewarm, neither terribly funny nor even brilliantly executed. The comedians simply demonstrated that some of the security folk must have been pretty dumb... which isn't really surprising.

The reality show in which Florida student Andrew Meyer got subdued by police using a Taser stun gun was a much better TV event, from every point of view.

Here's the video, already viewed by millions of people throughout the world, which starts with US senator John Kerry ending his speech, and Andrew Meyer asking his questions:


It amazes me to realize how the Internet can turn people into planetary stars in a rapid and almost effortless manner. If we compare the two events—the comedians at the APEC conference in Sydney and this fame-seeking guy questioning John Kerry in Florida—their common feature is the presence of law-enforcement people armed with guns. That's to say, the Sydney comedians could have easily been shot by over-zealous security officers, whereas the Florida student was well and truly the victim of a firearm. In a bid to be acclaimed in a video show, I'm not sure it's worthwhile running the risk of being shot at. But maybe I'm a coward, and that's one more major reason why I'll never be a famous video star.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Cosmic video

I'm most impressed by this beautifully simple video:



The association of religious music with the images of astronomical bodies is most effective. Indeed, there's something vaguely "religious" in this vision of the heavenly bodies. Or maybe, inversely, there's something "cosmic" in that fabulous music. Or both.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Video clip of Dédé

I'm pursuing my experimentation with the Sony camera and the Macintosh editing software called iMovie. Click the following photo to see a tiny clip of my neighbor Dédé Repellin, who wanders up along the Gamone road most mornings, early, and drops in for a chat:

As I say to Dédé in this clip, I'm thinking of starting a documentary project on the village of Pont-en-Royans, as an exercise enabling me to get used to working in video.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Sophia becomes a video star

This is post #333 in my Antipodes blog, it's Friday 13 [a lucky number for the French cineaste Claude Lelouch... so why not for me too?], and this is my first video [of a simple kind], starring Sophia in a mystery movie. What's the mystery? Simply the fact that neither you nor I nor even Sophia will ever know the nature of the "something" that Sophia has sensed, causing her to look around her and bark. You can hear the birds of Gamone. You can also hear me asking Sophia [with my dog-talk accent]: "Qu'est-ce qu'il y a ?” Click here to see the movie.