Thank you for reading the 67th DVD Catalyst Newsletter.
As mentioned last week, I have been trying out a variety of different development tools in order to create a multi-platform version of DVD Catalyst. Because I had my head in code all week, and due to a lack of ideas for subjects to write about, I didn't post up any new articles on the tools4movies website.
First, this week's Tech News:
For the last month, all the tech-sites are buzzing about Ouya. First announced in early July, it broke records on Kickstarter, a site that helps startup companies bringing ideas to life.
The idea behind Ouya is simple. It is easy for just about everyone to develop games and apps for smartphones, however, for people to create stuff for big-name systems such as the PS3, XBOX360, Wii, Vita etc, the process is a lot harder, which basically keeps small companies away from having their work running on a big-screen TV in a living room/game room.
Ouya wants to change this by providing a living room device that will let you access apps and games, with a controller, on your TV. Sort of like an Apple TV, but then with games and apps.
It's Kickstarter campaign to acquire funding closed yesterday at a whopping 8.5 million, almost 10x the amount they requested!
Apple & Youtube.
Also big news this week is the decision of Apple to remove the Youtube app from its latest iOS update. Earlier this year, Apple replaced Google's Maps for something of their own, and it seems now its another Google service that ends up biting the dust on Apple.
Of course there is speculation about why Apple decided to no longer include a stock App that has been part of its iOS platform since the very beginning. No real answers have been provided, but you can't help but wonder.
Is this related to the battle between Apple and Android (mainly Samsung at the moment), or, with Apple's big focus on iCloud, is it planning to release its own "iTube" service?
Back in 2009, Apple acquired a music streaming service, Lala, and asie from integrating music playback into iCloud, could it be that there is more in the pipeline? With the September keynote coming up close, I'm sure we'll find out more soon.
Nikon released a digital camera running Android.
With smartphones being released with better build-in cameras, the digital camera sales have been declining rapidly. Of course there are advantages to using a camera-only device, the fact remains that people always carry their phones with them, and thus it is easier to use that for taking pictures.
Last year, I assisted a forum member do some brainstorming with a school project on digital cameras.
My first thought on the concept was functionality. With phones having 6-8-10megapixel cameras, many people don't have the need for a separate digital camera, so in order for digital cameras to add something more, upping the resolution doesn't really help entice customers to purchase one. But, by adding features like geotagging (mark the picture with an actual location of where it was taken), wifi, sharing on social networks etc, a dedicated digital camera might be a more viable option. Of course brainstorming went a bit further, with suggestions like TV beaming (airplay), integrated projector, 3D capability etc, but with smartphones merging into camera territory, the only thing for camera makers to do is to cross over to smartphone territory.
There is plenty of room for innovation in this area, so I really hope that Nikon will be successful with this move.
Last week, I started fiddling with the latest version of the tool I have been using for development since 2003, and with the help of a forum member, I managed to get at least part of the main functionality that I need for DVD Catalyst to work. This particular functionality doesn't port over to the MAC, but it shouldn't be too complicated to enable similar functionality at a later point.
Currently my main goal is to rebuild most of DVD Catalyst 4 into the new development tool. DVD Catalyst 4 was a continuation of DVD Catalyst 3, and while not much of the original code remained, the original base code is now about 4 years old, and with near monthly updates, some of the functionality has been tweaked and fiddled with more than once, and of course lots of new stuff was added, so it will be a complete rewrite of DVD Catalyst. A lot of code will go through spring-cleaning in order to optimize it.
Most people who use DVD Catalyst just use the basic conversion functionality, which isn't all that tricky in programming code, however, some of the features people take for granted, such as the automatic border removal code, but also the transparent batch and even the drag&drop filetype-filters are so complex that small changes to any piece of code can cause big complications.
With a previous version (PocketDVD 2.0 back in 2004) I made the mistake of removing functionality (scene-split) that I thought was not used by anyone, and after release it ended up being used by quite a few people, so this time, I will make sure that everything is ported over into the new version, however, at a later point, I might post up a questionnaire in order to get a better feel of what people expect in DVD Catalyst 5.
Please note that this does not mean that DVD Catalyst 4 is no longer being developed. I will continue to release updates, and, similar as what I did in the past with DVD Catalyst 3 and the "Boosterpack" engine, when I run into something that would be of great benefit to current DVD Catalyst users, I will add that to DVD Catalyst 4.
I have not put much thought into an actual price yet (it depends on added functionality), however, with DVD Catalyst 5 the price will go up a bit. For current users of DVD Catalyst 4, I will ask an upgrade fee, but this amount, combined with your purchase of DVD Catalyst 4 will not exceed the price for DVD Catalyst 5.
Of course, if you have any ideas for features and functionality, please let me know. The main reason as to why I build DVD Catalyst to begin with was because I couldn't find anything out there that did what I needed it to do, and I extend this to the people who use my software. If you are looking for functionality in a conversion tool that you can't find anywhere, just ask, and I'll do what I can. A lot of DVD Catalyst's features and functionality come from user requests and suggestions.
New in this week's newsletter, a section regarding questions I received this week. I am still restructuring the website (on a temporary location at the moment to make sure things look right before I do it on the tools4movies website) in order to make things easier to find, but in the mean time, I figured it would be helpful to include some questions along with answers in the newsletter.
Q: How can I adjust the file-size of the video files?
A: After a DVD (or video file) is scanned, DVD Catalyst shows the estimated filesize for the video file that is being created in the list entry, after the filename. This estimated filesize is calculated based on the quality settings set in the selected video player device profile, video quality and audio quality, along with the playlength of the actual video.
By adjusting any of these 3, the file-size will be affected accordingly.
To manually adjust the filesize, just tap on "Modify" and adjust the video quality setting, and the estimated filesize changes. Of course the audio quality affects the file-size as well, however, it doesn't have as much of an impact going from 160Kbps to 128Kbps as it would by going from 2000Kbps for video to 1200Kbps.
However, rather than adjusting the video quality this way, my own preference in regards of adjusting the file-size of the video files is to use one of the HQXT profiles, and (with "Power User" enabled) play with the CRF setting in "Modify" order to get great-looking files at a reasonable size. The CRF setting adjusts the quality settings automatically during conversion, resulting in the same visual quality for whatever you convert. Unfortunately, because it adjusts itself based on the movie's content (faster scenes need more, slower scenes need less) the file-size estimation doesn't apply here, but the trade-off is worth it. Files usually end up smaller than if you use a different profile.
This article contains some tips:
Q: I have been using DVD Catalyst with my Android Tablet for years now, but I just purchased a new iPad, do I need to convert my DVDs again, or can I convert the files I already have?
A: Actually the MP4 video files you created for your Android Tablet are fully compatible with the iPad. With most conversion tools you are (aside from usually requiring you to purchase their "other" conversion suite) forced to re-convert your movies in order to make them play on a completely different device, but the MP4 files created with DVD Catalyst will work on most of them without any complications. If you have been using DVD Catalyst with an iPhone, and then replace it later on with an Android device, you can just use the same video files.
Depending on the device you use(d), there might be some limitations though. Older iPhone and iPod Touch models (3rd generation), as well as certain tablets like the NOOK color, have a screen-size limitation. While this doesn't matter if you upgraded from one of those to a newer model, if you picked up a cheap older model and try to play videos made for a newer device, you might run into such limitations. If you are using current-generation devices, you should not encounter any issues though.
Q: I have been using product X to convert my movies, but the files it created don't work well on device Y. My DVDs are in storage, so can I use DVD Catalyst to re-convert those video files?
A: You can, however, I would not recommend it. Aside from complications you might run into due to settings used in the other conversion tool, with each conversion step, there will always be (even if it is small) some quality loss. I always recommend using the original video source for your conversions in order to get the best quality. Regardless of what conversion tool you use, the video you create will never look better than the original, so if you are converting a file that has quality issues already, those quality issues will remain.
Q: I made some settings changes, and would like to see the result, but I don't want to convert the entire movie before knowing what it looks like.
A: The easiest way to do this is to just start a conversion as normal, and when the conversion process gets a few minutes in, tap the "skip" button. This will tell DVD Catalyst to stop the conversion and close the file properly so you can preview the result.
Q: Is it possible to split a video into multiple parts?
A: Yes, there are 3 different methods you can use"
The easiest is if the DVD has its video set with scene markers. (like scene selection with movies).
If you enable the "Power User" checkmark in DVD Catalyst, before you start the conversion you should see an option of "split in parts of x scenes". If you enable that, and set the number to the scene number of where the second part starts, it will split the movie at that point.
If the video needs to be cut in the exact middle, you can also tap on the "split" button (Power User needs to be enabled), which will do just that.
Lastly, you can set a start and stop position for the conversion in the preview.
First tap on "duplicate" to create a second entry for the video you are converting.
Select the first one, and then tap on "preview.
Move the position slider to the spot where you want to end the movie, and tap on the button on the far right of the position slider, the one that shows the duration of the video. This will set that spot as the end spot for the conversion.
Close the preview, and select the duplicate, and tap on preview again.
Move the position slider to the same spot, and tap on the far left button, the one with 0:00:00 in it. This will set that spot as the start position for the conversion.
Youtube and its automatic copyright claim system.
I always wondered why I am getting some stupid advertisements in some of my YouTube videos, but never really looked into it much. Earlier this week, I found an article on a tech site (Ars Technica), which featured an article about a video that contained public-domain NASA videos that were claimed by companies as being their own.
The article goes into some detail as to what happened with this particular video, and how the automatic Content-ID matching system that YouTube uses, is favoring the big companies, and hurting the small ones due to the way the dispute process works.
For most of my own YouTube videos, I usually exclude sound altogether from them (I don't have a "broadcasting" voice), which thankfully keeps the ads out.
If you use Youtube to share videos, the article is quite an interesting read.
Online ID hacks.
Big news this week after hackers basically took over (and deleted) pretty much everything digital of a writer for a popular news site.
I deeply sympathize with Mat over the damage that was done, but his experiences work as an example on how vulnerable we are on the web. Of course we have seen numerous hacks being publicized on the web the last couple of years, with companies' below-par security resulting in the theft of client account data including usernames, passwords and even creditcard information, but the hack in this case seemed less of a hack than all others in the past, but still managed to inflict massive damage to a single person.
Since the publicity, the companies in question have (of course) changed their ways. Of course using the same (or similar) password for the majority of your online accounts, easy as it is, is asking for trouble, but either due to security flaws with the company's servers, companies storing passwords in plain text and companies using different data to enable you to "restore" access to your account, but by using easily accessible information from an account on one company in order to gain access to password-reset functionality on a different company proves that when it comes to online security, some things will need to change.
On top of this, it brings up something else as well. Aside from access to data online, and the ability to delete all that, due to integrated security systems, these hackers were also able to "remote-wipe" phones and computers. A nice feature in case your equipment gets stolen/lost, however, in the case of a lost/stolen account, it gives hackers total control over your life.
With everything moving towards "the cloud" these days, security becomes a major issue. In a couple of years, we will all be using limited storage devices like tablets and phones, with all data being stored online, but who can you trust with your data? Aside from security, storing your data in some online file-locker also gives that company access to your files. Companies like Google index the files in your account in order to make it easier for you to find the stuff you are looking for, other online services compare your files (songs, videos etc) to files that were uploaded by other users in order to reduce space taken up on servers. While those processes might be fully automated, you never know what else is being done with the data that is gathered.
Of course this also leads (it seems to turn into a weekly thing) to online videos. I mentioned in previous newsletters that for using a service like UltraViolet, you end up having to setup accounts with every movie studio you get movies from. These companies also reserve the right to remove any videos you purchased without your consent, whenever they seem fit (quote Paramount: "Company may add, change, discontinue, remove or suspend any of the Material at any time, without notice and without liability.").
Which reminds me. This week, I've been using my Blackberry Playbook to watch videos, and I was browsing the Blackberry video store out of boredom. I happen to notice a Mortal Kombat series, and remembered seeing something about it last year, so I googled for it, and found the official show on Youtube
In the Playbook Video store, these 12min episodes are selling for $1.99 a piece, but the official ones on Youtube, are free, so if you are looking at videos, and they are not big-name movies or TV shows, it pays to do a quick search on the web to see if these are not actually free-release videos on sites like Youtube.
Earlier this week, I finally managed to make my NOOK tablet a bit more useful. I don't do much reading, and because I do have a large amount of other tablets, it doesn't get much use.
Even though I have the 16GB version, the way B&N split the amount of memory into 2 parts just doesn't work well. Maybe out of optimism, but leaving 1GB of the space user accessible and the rest for content purchased through the B&N App store is a bit strange. Especially if you use the NOOK tablet for movies, or even for some songs, 1GB just doesn't cut it.
For a couple of months, B&N has been offering a "repartition" service in its stores. The one in my area is a bit out of the way for me, and the times I do end up in that area are usually spontaneous or accidental, so I don't have the NOOK tablet with me. This week, my wife wanted to look at some books (she isn't much into tablet-reading), so I took my NOOK tablet along with me.
The experience was friendly, but I guess that the B&N employees don't do the repartition service too often. It took a few people and some time looking for the special memory card and the instructions, but after that, it was just a 15 minute wait period and they brought me my NOOK back. All in all, a pleasant experience.
During my visit to the book store, I couldn't help but wonder about eBooks. Earlier I mentioned something about security issues, but if we take this a step further, if by means of some catastrophe, we happen to lose all our electronic technology, how many years of knowledge will be obliterated? With physical bookstores becoming more of a novelty rather than a necessity, and eBooks overtaking physical sales though sites like Amazon, it would not be too long before physical books will become extinct. A lot of technology from the past was documented in physical form by means of cave-paintings, stone tablets and paper, and while a lot has been lost, archeologists did manage to find a lot. But with the convenience of electronic storage, what happens if we lose our electronics? We already experience some electronic hick-ups due to irregularities from our sun, and of course thunderstorms are a large cause of electronic havoc as well. With our climate changing, these things could get worse.
Over 2000 years ago, the Library of Alexandria was established to collect all the worlds knowledge in a single location. Now, we have "The Internet Archive", www.archive.org, an organization that tries to collect everything in digital form, from movies, music to books and even a history of websites. But should we implement something similar in physical form, a place where all the knowledge of the human race is stored in a safe location?
Maybe we need to go even further than that.
Of course there is the Smithsonian museum complex, where some of our most valuable assets are kept, but what about more everyday things, or the tools that are needed in order to create these every day things.
While we might not (I hope not) need something like that in our lifetime, it is possible that one of the next generation might run into complications, and having the ability to get themselves back to a similar technological state might be the only means for survival.
Thank you for reading this week's newsletter. As mentioned earlier, if you have any requests of suggestions of features you are missing or would like to see in DVD Catalyst, please send me an email and let me know. While I might not get to it right away, I will do what I can in order to implement it or come up with something similar in order to make it more useful for you.
Thanks again, and see you next week,