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7.01.09

Toxic on OSX - Bye bye Shake?

Autodesk is going OSX big time - and its about time. The company that for such a long time has been neglecting the OSX platform almost completely (exception is combustion) and only continued bought in packages on OSX (maya) has been making some big announcements. Toxic - their compositing package - with an pretty awesome keyer and an interface that enhance the node tree interface concept (its really nice) is coming. Now that the market for compositing packages on OSX was narrowed to only to the Foundries Nuke after the long negligence of Shake by Apple itself (what a shame) (and I am not counting After Effects as a serious compositing package) Autodesk has seen the light and brings over Toxic. I wont complain at all - competition is great - even so Autodesk could use some of that themself especially in the 3d market where they bought up all major 3d packages over the last two years (they posses now 3DStudioMax (its always been theirs), Maya and Softimage). Speaking of 3d - Mudbox is also coming to the Mac and I really really am happy about that announcement. ZBrush has abondend the Mac platform and lost all Mac users in the process for once and all by promising to port version 3 forever (2 years and counting) and never delivering on their promise - just last year Mudbox was catching up to ZBrush and even surpassing it in some features (real time displacement and realtime HDR is just the bomb) now its coming to my current workplatform and it will be probably a nice addition to the toolchain.
As for imagemodeller - never really used that program canīt really comment on it but the more the merrier I would say.

6.09.08

FaderFox - the ultimate Midi Controller Solution

DJ2_front_1.jpgI have been looking for years to get a "perfect" midi controller for my live visual endeavors. That is no exageration. I have high expectations toward a midi controller. I want to lug it around the world - so it has to be small enough. I want to a plethora of functions on it so it actually helps me perform and is not just a gimmick. It has to be robust to withstand outdoor gigs with sandy gusts and water spray as well as indoor gigs sweat dropping from the ceiling and 80°C heat from above lamps. It has to be scalable and adaptable to new software coming along and it somehow has to fit my own style of performing - which means the knobs need to be properly soldered on - the faders have a solid feel and the buttons been tested to withstand 1.000.000 times pressing.

I have been impressed with the Mawzer concept two or three years ago because it was poised to deliver on that promise. Yet the final product they came up with is much less extensible and much more expensive and much bigger then what was originally proposed - the midi controller for everyone it was not. So I was looking up on building your own. There are kits out there and with access to lasercutters through the web that looked like a good alternative. There was only one problem - someone would have needed to shower me with some time to make such a project feasible. Soldering, testing building rebuilding a midi controller is - no matter how good the kit you are bying - a task of months. Sure you have the perfect controller in the end for your needs but the time to get there I would rather spend on creating content that looks whicked.

Then along came a project (next blog entry in a minute) that requires to leave my trusty videomixer (an edirol V4 1st generation) at home because it ainīt going through the old route of outputting digital video through an analog cable back to a digital projector - but instead it goes digitally over the air directly to the very analog output. So the only piece of hardware that gave me direct access to my output outside of the laptop I have to toss out for that even - and since the event is quite big and lot of focus will be on what I am doing a replacement for that loss had to come.

But lets make a little detour. Some might ask "oh you have the laptop as input controller". Yes thats true and while I use the keyboard of the laptop extensively and I can feel blind where the cursor is when using the trackpad there are still some things that are not fast enough using the computer. For example changing the speed of a video clip. There is just nothing that allows you to quickly do that - quickly as in "make decission in one beat of a 120bpm clip and have the speed change at latest at the 4th beat or next downbeat". For that direct control is absolutely necessary.

So I had another information scavenging on the interwebs to see if there is any solution to my controller need. I looked at all the ones that are used by vj friends. Cheap ones, expensive ones. I tried to imagine using them and always came up with shortcomings. Most are just too big with too little functionality - not one would fullfill all my needs in one piece. I need Trigger pads, Sliders, Knobs, Rotaries and lots of them - like LOADS of them and as said in a small package to travel. I almost gave up seeing myself trying to move the mouse cursor in unmatched fashion to some crappy output.
Then I stumbled over faderfox. I donīt know how I got there and its even a german company - I have missed them all those years. Apparently they are very well known in the tracktor/live world of musicians - I jut had never seen someone using one of the controllers they offer nor have I ever stumbled across their website.

Their website at first put me off a bit - as you might have noticed in the beginning paragraph - I need some serious professional gear. I just donīt want anything to break half way through a performance. Things need to be sturdy and the knobs and faders and buttons of exceptional quality to not loose that great break in the music that might make a difference for the feel of a whole performance. So a website that looks like its done in the mid 90s and never been updated makes me suspicious as of the professionalism - yet in my midi research I found out already that the midi hardware guys donīt have a great sense of astethics when it comes to websites (doepfer anyone?). Also on their front page was something that was so ultimately intriguing that no bad design could ever throw me off before I figured out more.

What I saw was a modular midi controller concept of ultra small units that are made for ultra portability. And on top I could figure out instantly that all I need in control ever is there in a maximum of five units - with three units already controller heaven. I googled a bit more and found out that people who bought them liked them and where impressed with their professional feel. They are even running battery powered and three of them are not wider then a typical apple pro lappy. Also the DJ2 unit they offer pretty much replaces all the controllers of my Eridol V4 videomixer. So I ordered one.

The order was processed with human kindness (yes a person on the other end - seemingly the developer himself) and delivered in outstanding speed (next day after money arrived). But what I got blew all my expectations. Not only was the controller everything that was advertised - lightweight, professional build quality - faders as solid as they can be - but it was way more versatile then I ever thought. You know you look at a controller and see all the buttons and your mind maps them to functions, but this controller crams more functions in his small space then most other controllers I have looked at 10 times its size. Buttons are all dual configurable with the shift button - that means there are 36 button messages you can get out of the controller, the xy joystick (which ist sooo smooth) can send on four different channels - switchable in a nanosecond, the two rotary controller send out continuus data on 12 different channels and notes on four and have a "push down" event on eight channels. All Sliders and knobs can be muted to avoid jumps on the controlled buttons by holding down the shift key. Everything works flawlessly after a week of testing (so the rotaries are not supported by VDMX yet (nor by quartz composer) which sucks) and its a lot of fun using. There is a (chainable in case you get more controllers from them) poweradapter coming as extra add on, it all supports midi chaining and midi through. Batteries are included and are supposed to hold 80 hours (so through the longest club session ever if you are so inclined). I can recommend this whole heartly to anyone out there - especially vjs - looking for that perfect transportable midi controller with more control then the mind allows. The price - so it does seem steep for such a "small" thing - is fully warranted.

22.07.08

Brain-Computer Interface

nia_angle.jpgOCZ - a modder company selling overclocking and cooling devices normally - has introduced a computer brain input interface. No its not an "coming soon product" it is apparently available to buy pretty much now for a mere US $147,00. The devices detects brainwaves, facial muscle movements and eye muscle movements to enhance your input possibilities. There is a great writeup from hothardware using it and reading that makes me very itchy. This could very well be a great additional solution to some input woes with complex programs - especially complex programs that need fast reaction time or programs were you need to push more buttons at once then you have fingers. Like VJ programs for example... Sadly the device is Windows only at the moment and mostly aimed towards gamers. But I expect this to become a common form of input if it is really working as described in the article.

19.05.08

Ubercaster: Credit where credit is due...

Small software developers are great. You communicate with them tell them your wishes your frustrations and they listen, they implement they remain calm they even consider outlandish feature requests and tell you reasons why they might not work - you can engage with them in a chatter and see a program grow to your liking in front of your eyes - and in the end everyone benefits.
Ubercaster qualifies definitely for that. Eberhard - the guy writing the app - has now answered my third feature request filled mail in a row going into detail on every piece - it feels great to be a customer that is not a number and in return be able to do your thing more efficient.

So if you are doing a podcast - especially if you are doing an enhanced podcast I can suggest Ubercaster as a great solution - its not quite 100% there yet but with such an aware developer I am sure this is going to be THE podcast program on the mac hands down when it hits 3.0.

Find more information at ubercaster.com.

8.05.08

Bosch Air Lever (wasserwaage) für MacBook and MacBookPro

BoschWasserwage.pngThis is the greatest software invention since the wordprocessor - well almost. Firstly why I am so exited? Well I am REALLY bad with tools of any kind - I tend to be their arch nemisis. I loose them, I break them, missuse them because of the lack of the right one. Tools and me just donīt get along with my two left hands add glue paint oil+sand to the mix and you know what the few World War II tools that I inherited from my grand dad look like. But salvation has come at last - the era of fully digital tools - tools that are virtual but interface with the real world - kind of like "mind robots". I was extremely delighted to find out today that the german tool maker company BOSCH has released an application (as in software application - a thing that I never loose even over 15years and beyond, those things that rarely break on my always running computers). The application is a full functioning Air Lever - or Wasserwaage (water scale) as we germans call it. It uses the sudden motion sensors in a Macbook or MacbookPro and has a display that looks like your good old lever with simulated airbubbles as well. And yes it works - the installation is also surprisingly simple - via a Javawebapp that you can then instruct to write out a normal .app onto you local computer (because you ainīt having much of internet on most construction sites.
Now apple just needs to release a rugged MacBook that withstands an actual construction site day without a scratch and we have a tool that ainīt going missing so easy :)

You can get it at the official Bosch site (in german but the download link is called "download" and a lever is universal in language I guess ;) Oh and its free as in beer.

14.04.08

RED: Scarlet. 3k for less then $3k

red_3k_scarlet_hero.pngThe great company RED just announced the dream camcorder for each and every indy filmproducer in the low budget market. The RED Scarlet model expected to ship in early 2009 will retail for less then $3000 and will have a 100 frames per second 2/3 capable chip in it. That doesnīt give you the depth of field of a RED:One(4k 35 mm sensor) or even the newly announced RED: Epic (5k probably bigger then 35mm sensor) but is still better then the 1/3rd chip offered by pro-sumer HDV cameras. Its on paar with the next best thing - the HD-CAM Panasonic ($8000) or similar double the price HDV sony camcorders. It will sport image output in RED RAW format - thats a 7:1 at 3k from my calculation (9:1 at 4k) or 1:2 at 1k or fully uncompressed at PAL res (you would want to shoot in 3k and then downscale for postproduction in the format you need to output and work with that) . hmmmm no more shitty bluegreenscreens because of compression artefacts around the edges. 100 frames per second is plenty for normal use and more then anything available at the moment in a price range that is comparable.
This together with the EPIC will change the filmmaking world - it turns it upside down. Add in some of the vfx advancements (especially render times due to multi core computers) of late and tthe production budget shrinks manifold not even to mention that there is zero zip reason to shoot on analog film anymore (except for the dynamic range but with a good camera man and good lightning its a non issue).
I can not say how excited I am about the Scarlet personally (somehow in an almost affordable price range) and the epic on the grand scale. This will upper the quality level of all films and is generally good on so many levels its hard to list them all.

RED Scarlet
RED Epic

And RED isnīt stopping with just cameras they also announced a storage solution possibly based on blue ray and hd for on set back up of data.

RED Ray

* an artificial lifeform jumping up and down *

UPDATE: A couple of corrections and additions. The frame rate is actually 120fps and 180fps burst mode (whatever that means - probably at lower resolution), the freaking thing has Wifi control - means probably that you can remote control the sucker via a laptop from far away (time lapse! MoControl! stopTrick anims!) and when calculate into MegaPixel we are talking about a 14 Megapixel Camera! Thats right for $3000 you not only get a kickass superior camcorder but also a kick ass surprior PhotoCamera - that captures in 120fps what others capture at maximum of 10fps! Sport photography just lost all its appeal!

1.02.08

Record high quality MP4 without a Computer for cheap

VideoCaptureHW_large.jpgI normally donīt like to comment on products in general but I know that some fellow VJs have this big problem and this is just the perfect solution. The problem? Recording a 1+ hour set.

There are some solution already available but they are all bad, but lets recap them






1. Recording to a DV Camera
----------------------
The Good:
• Good quality
• small formfactor

The Bad:
• Expensive equipment
• Camera record head has limited live span and if you record a two hour set every week the camera will last about 4 month
• maximum record time per tape 120 min with reduced quality 90 minutes full dv quality
• for further distribution you have to digitize the stuff back in (loosing 90 minutes in the meantime)

2. Recording with a DVD Recorder
--------------------------
The Good:
• dvd recorder are quite cheap
• you have a dvd in your hand in the of it

The Bad:
• I have to see one DVD recorder that just works
• heavy basstly music will make the lens jump and leaves you with a broken DVD and mostly no way of recovering you footage - this happens VERY frequently
• putting it on the web (gooTube) requires you to rip the dvd - a long process.

3. Recording to a spare Laptop
------------------------
The Good:
• Full Quality/Codec/Format Control
• you have it on a harddrive and can just copy move it around recode it whatever

The Bad:
• EXPENSIVE who has earned the money to get a spare laptop to do just video recording - a raise of hands please
• Takes up lots of space
• cable mess
• spilled drinks


As we can see all these solutions are far from perfect and mostly stop gap measures to find a truly portable, cheap recording medium. Well a company that I once had a lot of love for but then got bought up by AVID and since then has not putting out much of interest has the perfect device. The company I am talking about is Pinnacle - people who have done video editing in the late 90s probably know it. They used to produce professional capture cards and computer/video stuff of high quality. Their new product is called - rather unispiring - the PINNACLE VIDEO TRANSFER. Its geared towards consumers but is just the perfect thing for the VJ warrior. It has video/audio inputs (S-Video, Composite-Video und Stereo-Audio) and a USB port. You feed it the video and connect a Harddrive of USB2 flavor or a PSP or an iPod or an Memory Stick on the USB port and it record you video to this massstorage of your choice as an MPG4 in a user customizable quality up to 720x576 25fps (full pal video (or NTSC if that is what you need). The thing without a drive costs kidney saving 129,00 Euro or as a bundle with a western digital USB2 harddrive you get it for 199,00 Euro.

4. recording with PINNACLE VIDEO TRANSFER
-----------------------
The Good:

• Storage only limited by the Connected Harddrive (1TB of MPG4 should get you about a week of footage)
• Small formfactor
• relatively cheap
• portable
• relatively high Quality (better then MPG2 DVD for sure! Not quite DV but close)
• little failure rate (especially when used with an SSD Drive or Memory stick -> no bass-moved heads jumping around)

The Bad (oh there always has to be one):
• Converting it to something else is about as painful as converting a DVD
• Converting it to something else is bringing you some bad quality loss

But since no one does DVDs anymore anyway you just set to the quality you need for your website and there you go no need for conversion ;)

This is what a VJ should have in its bag if she wants to record their sets - the ultimate solution for now.

You can get more information here and buy it here

20.12.07

iPhone fALks hands on short review

While there has been many praise for the iPhone over the past month and many many words written I just canīt resist to also write something about now that I finally have a test unit for two days/nights.

I got the phone simlock free (and the person who owns it wanted it with the newest firmware so he gave it to me to make it work) but apparently not jailbroken. So basically quite virgin.

Generally the build quality and overall simple user experience is everything Apple advertised - its easy as hell the gesture multitouch works beautifully and the lag that I feared is almost noexistent (it could get slightly better but its totally alright how it is). The graphics are speedy the zooms are fast the camera is good - heck even the loudspeakers rock for their size. So generally its freaking great 1.0 product that Apple has build there (I would even say its Apples best 1.0 product ever).

BUT.... I was done playing with it after 5 minutes and think I would get bored with the limited functionality after 3 days - at least in its virgin unbroken form.
So since the update to 1.1.2 the person wanted involves some tempering and jailbreaking the thing I was also able to install 3rd party apps - like a NES emulator and this is where the device gets much more interesting. But the procedures to jailbreak and the upload stuff to it is nothing for the lighthearted and nothing the average joe does. Just google maps gootube and a clock are just not justifying the products revolutionary underpinnings.

What I really find stupid: No downloads from the net -> HELLO 21st century -> I want to keep some stuff I see - like quicktime movies or mp3s or such - even legal ones you know.
No direct podcast subscribe?!! WTF now that we are producing a podcast here I wanted to see how it looks on the phone -> well either through your computer iTunes or not at all. Not even throught the iTunes Music Store app that sits on the phone - HOW FREAKING LAME.

For the rest I got too bored with it - I rather lug around my lappy for a while until things have matured. great that there are enough early adopters to fund apples research - I for once will not be part -> I think the Newton2100 still has the slight edge over the iPhone in regard of coolness factor when it came out (no I mean that 100% serious).

Interface totally great, build quality totally great, usefullness not there yet.


12.04.07

Software Company Ethics 2.0 and the pleasant surprise I had today

First and foremost: I am a very skeptical person and I am very cynical especially when it comes to today companies and their policies but what happened today shattered a small part of my world view about kapitalism in a very positive way.

A little background story: As most of you dear readers know I am doing lots of 3D animation visual FX and similar virtual pop art media work. I do this since 1992 where I started with a program called Silver3D (that then became Imagine) on an utlra fast Amiga 2000. Anyway this backstory is getting out of hand already. I love doing 3d - or at least I love what comes out in the end because it allows me to put into visual form for other people what I see inside myself (even the boring small stuff) so for me its the only way to share my inner vision. The big problem is the technical side. It consumes so much energy that I can´t just pump out stuff. Things are getting better on a grand scale in this field. Jez – I can´t keep focus. Anyway one of the coolest things that I love to do is integrate 3d into real life footage. Its lovely and puts my innerpictures right into clash with reality (and I love it). BUT for doing that you either have to take a camera on a tripod (boring) or try to recreate a real world camera move inside your computer through a process generally called "tracking" today. While there might be a third way that I will hopefully talk about soon the tracking is the state of the art thing to do. Now as easy as it sounds it is not. Its a thing that until a couple of years ago you did by hand (yes I did that by hand in a 1996 project for a local bar commercial with a flying dragon - 30 seconds handtracking 3d is something you never forget in your life as a BAD experience). Of course it was the military that developed computerized tracking guides for their missles and some Hollywood studios got to think that it would be cool to use these algorithms and created half intelligent match moving programs. Now as it is with hollywood and its inner circle - they do not like healthy competition purely based on artistic merits (some bad tongues might interpret this as they would loose their monopolistic propagandistic business model) so in good american manner they keep competition out by either completely shutting out the public (they only use "inhouse software" thats never released in any form) or they price software at sums where any independent artist would need to sell both kidneys half a liver and three quarters of a heart to get their hands on it (outside the wrath of the studios that is) - oh and its not just Hollywood its the whole entertainment "industry". But I am loosing track again (pun pun). Match moving is no exception and in the early days matchmove software cost you the sum you would pay for a house and a garden. Match Mover I think it was that cost like upward of 50.000 USD until like 2 years ago then it all changed. First a university project came to the "market" called "icarus" and it rocked (and it was available for the mac - the only one at that time). It was a very crude interface and all but what it did was generate very accurate 3d tracks. The absolutely shocking thing was: It was free. Yes some student/prof hackers did something for free that the close to hollywood developers where charging you the price of a house for. (Just for the record about the same time it was when Alias|Wavefront|nowAutodesk Maya was dropping in price from like 20.000 USD for the "small" version to 1.500 USD). So the monopoly of big industry studios in terms of 3D was falling like the sky on a doomsday. Then when all independent 3D artists where dancing in the street filmed by shaky cheap DV cameras and later accompanied by their 3d visions the software disappeared. Speculation and conspiracy theories emerged in the whispery hallway chatters in rundown artist mansions all over the world. Did a big hollywood post house bought the right to the software, did a rival company made "contribution" to the University were the software was developed - nobody really knew until a small message on the icarus website hinted that the developers where going to become independent developers and form a company called The Pixel Farm (I am not so sure on that part, PixelFarm might have existed before, but for the drama lets say they created it). The company was also based in some English country side rather then on the self-dominating westcoast of the US of A. So they brought out Icarus under the new name PFTrack (PixelFarmTrack) und they did so for a far lesser price then the original about 4500 Euros and on top brought out cheaper siblings like PFMatch (750 Euros) and PFHoe (150 Euros) that seemingly put the 3D in reach the indy artist. Just last year another app entered the market called SynthEyes (crude interface not good project management but good tracks) which sells for like 350 USD. In the end if you are serious about 3D tracking you need the big PFTrack or one of the other big two (Matchmover boujou) that came down in price to match (pun again) PFTrack. PFTrack for me would still be the choice as it offers about every option available for 3D tracking and matchmoving and scene reconstruction and track project management available and you really want all that for a good workflow without boundaries. Still I mean 4.500 Euros come on, what artist is gonna be able to pay that chunk of money?

The real story (god I wish I would stay on point better): Having an ok start into my after school career at the moment and with some 3d projects that need tracking lining up on the horizon I decided to try out some demo versions to see what I really need and what tracking software would work with me best and so applied to PixelFarm to get a 3 Day fully functioning version of the app — and I loved it a lot.
After 4 days I got a lovely formulated email saying something like "thank you for testing of our product if you have feature suggestions, saw bugs or have general commentary please let us know". Needless to say that the inner betatester came out in me and I gave them a long detailed answer of my experience, send them some crashlogs and a very repeatable bug report and about six feature suggestions. A mail came back thanking me and while I planned the bank robbery to pay for the app the communication went silent. That was all about two weeks ago.

- a little pause for the suspense factor -

Today the phone rang with a number somewhere from germany that I had never seen before. Now normally those numbers only call to sell me something (like lottery tickets or "free" bankaccounts for all the money I don´t have or a vacuum cleaner or such shit). So I was reluctant to answer at first. But I do like to hear their sorry attempts to actually win me over (just so I can cruelly hang up on them) so I picked up the phone. A nice voice in broken german answered and ask if its me on the other end. I said sure that it was me already wondering why they get so personal. Then right in the second sentence he mumbled something that I understood - PFTrack. AHA...

- pause for more suspense -

Now I was preparing to ward off a reseller for PFTrack who probably got my contact details from the trial signup. First I offered him to switch the conversation to english (his german was not very understandable) so the conversation went on. He turned out to be really caring and listening and wasn´t in the slightest way pushing for a sale — a new tactic I though (I already mentioned that I am cynical and skeptical right?). Once we were over the smalltalk part of the conversation (great programm blah blah) I told him quite blunt that there is no way in hell that I can afford the program at this stage. Then (and I spare you another suspense pause) something happened that I have not ever witnessed in this capitalistic society. He offered to me that if I have a project coming up that needs 3d tracking we can talk about it that I would get PFTrack for that project for free.

O.O

He said they intend to multiply market share and get into the Industry and they need artists that can use the program and a bigger installed user base so that PFTrack can become the industry standard. Ok thats quite a capitalistic thought process but in the subsequent talk he acknowledged that companies need to care for the customers and see their needs to expand themselves and a lot of other things that normally would sound like marketing talk but sounded for once very honest. He also said that whatever I need we work something out - also for a permanent license in the future. Some more niceties and the conversation ended.
I am baffled - I mean we are talking not about a free Donut or something like that but about a 4.500 Euro software. No they won´t give it to me completely for free but help me establish my business. Something that makes SOOO much sense from my and their perspective its unbelievable.

Conclusion or that means the following: Software companies are start to realize that code can´t be sold like hardware. That there are different needs for the same product out there that deserve special treatment. That your installed user base with lots of experience using your software is more important then a single lost(or never to be done in the first place) sale. That leads to a completely new software sales paradigm for the future - the call today was definitely a right step into that direction and I will surely take them up on the offer rather sooner then later. It is a SURE way to get along with piracy or making the reason for piracy mood. I would always pay for software if I earn money with it but I can´t pay 5.000 euros for a software for projects that - at least in the beginning - only garner 500 euros - there is no relation in my not so humble opinion. Software needs to become an individual product that earns money through services (see all and every big opensource project where this works quite well already).

So thanks to Marcos Silva-Santisteban from FES Media GmbH - the german Pixelfarm reseller - for the enlightening conversation.


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16.12.06

Wiiiiii Mania hits me too....

Well, I have been playing Tekken two times in my live and before that four times Zelda on an Original Nintendo NES (no 64bit no gamecube the original one I am talking about here back in the days when all was better or something). I never had the urge to go out and get a gaming console - it just never appealed to me and I never grew accustomed to the "analog/cross joystick" thing and the arcane button combination to remember to make dat special move. Along comes Nintento in a highly competitive "next generation console gaming race" being mainly fought by Sony and Microsoft. In the last round of that race Nintendo was almost called out - like Sega - as the looser, but something happened that was already foreshadowed a tiny bit with the Gamecube. There was a sense that Nintendo wanted to appeal to a different species of people then the normal hardcore Battlefront Killergame player - their focus was on innovative games with innovative gameplay. Fastforward six years (or whatever that timeframe was) and the next round looks to make something obvious so obvious. Better graphics, higher Frames per Seconds, High Definition output spiffy multimillionpolygon physics accuracy are all not that important. Its the gameplay stupid and with that the tactile input. While Microsoft and Sony Battle it out in the former erea Nintendo has hit a home run through the back door with its innovative Wii controller scheme. Your very own movements are translated onto the screen, swing a baseballbat like a baseballbat, punch in boxing by swirling around your fists.
Now if this all sounds like a commercial for Nintendo to you - it did to me too until last night where I was able to test out the beast at the Nintendo Wii Lounge in Berlin. A stylish flat with two Plasmas a big bed lots of couches a refreshment bar where you could get your energy up (only Jolt Cola, RedBull and some yet undefined new Energy/Fruit Drink where served - as if you are in a Gym meets Hacker workout area). I went on the invitation of Tim Pritlove and in the end we were a team of four banging on the console that was ours for some time.
After registering our Wiimotes (the controllers) with the console we rocked some Tennis and it was very apparent that this works - right away without learning anything other then swinging your hand backside, frontside. After the first round of Tennis-double made us all hype up we decided on some box sparring. Here the controls did not work as smoothly as with the Tennis and we gave up on that when I got a knockout in round 5. We decided to give the other games available a go - formost Monkey Ball. Its 50 "party" games in one package and they range from snowboarding to Rocketlanding to birdflying to some obscure not clear what the purpose is to some "Quake for kids". We played a lot of them and the guys in the team found the "Quake for Kids" very cool (one controller looks the other walks - best controller scheme for a 1st person "shooter" ever). I did like snowboarding as well (and I won here of course :). Then we decided to give Zelda a try - the game that introduced me to console gaming so many many many moons ago - we (accidently) put in the Demo mode Disc and Tim played the Demo Level introducing the control with arrow shooting boomerang throwing to the death sword fighting (scarecrows). We rounded up the evening with a much better then the first game of wiiii-tennis and were completely perplex when we figured out that we just spend almost three hours in the white wiii dungeon.
Playing the Wii is an overall lovely experience, the more people in the room the more fun it is I would say. Its the first game console were people not playing have as much fun (watching their friends doing spastic movements in thin air) as people actual in control. While there are some small perks, like registering the Wiimotes every time you put in a new game in an obscure "hold down two buttons and pray" process and the boxing game not overly convinced us with the directness of the movement controls the overall experience is that no matter what your prior contact with gaming consoling is - this is something completely different, your mom can play it your sister can play it your grandpa can play it and all the while its absolutely great for the experienced gamer as well. Nintendo gets a big head up for going along with this (r)evolutionary approach to gaming and I am sure their sales numbers will reflect it. I would even venture to guess that it will put one of the other two consoles into third place. I would even go as far to say this is the iPod of gaming consoles.


Some pics from the session:


DSC00175.jpgDSC00169.jpgDSC00171.jpgDSC00173.jpg


And some movies:


3.06.06

The artificial lifeform has a new heart

KC85UserManuelCoverPic.jpegWell well. It had to be done at one point I just thought I could put it off until I am finished with school and have a bit more time at hand. I upgraded the prototypen.com blog software to movable types 3.2. As said before I was looking into migrating to a nonproperitory solution but this would have cost me even more time and all other solutions out there are just not so well when you have a multiblog/multiauthor environment and I just want this to work without having to adjust things all the time - because if I hate one thing then its webdesign and programming. Because of the older blacklist version ceased to function the only other viable solution was to upgrade. I can not say how much pain it still was. I donīt know what the people at sixapart smoke all day but to change EACH AND EVERY CSS HOOK made "moving the templates to the new version" just not possible - the comments wouldnīt work or this and that would not work - you might even think that they made it on purpose to sell more "service contracts" that offer you painless upgrades. Not only did they change every CSS class name the new names utterly made no sense whatsoever calling the side navigation "beta" is the most stupid thing I have ever heard - you always think its something that is in beta and has not been fully implemented - logic descriptions that could be readable by other people seem not to be in the knowledge base of the movable type originators. To make things worse - all my old templates lost there formatting leaving me with a garbled mess of code (and I do style my code so I can change it later on). And then there is something called "clever commenting" that makes other people read your code easier - especially when you absolutely know that other people need to understand your code in order for your program that you sell for lots of money to work. Needless to say that there was only rudimentary commenting in place - and most seemed to be left in for the programmer himself as it the codes and shortcuts seemed utterly non understandable.
So for all you out there looking for a blogging solution - Six Aparts Movable Type is NOT IT. I am stuck with it and I hate it and throwing money into their mouth is really not the thing I really wanted to do in the first place but could not circumvent - if I can help that they are utterly destroyed tell me how and I am on the front line.
The reason why I had to upgrade - the spam plugins - while looking shining new and nice on first view do nothing different then the blacklist plugin - except for a few functions that are tied in the proprietary "Type Key" registration that is also a Six Apart project. I am utterly against any "proprietary authentication" entity and so I choose not to enable this - well I have more spam then ever - not that its filtering through to the blog because I am moderating almost all messages now but its sitting there waiting to be looked at and handpicked by me and I thought that those times would be over with the upgrade... SixApart if you read this - you have a very very very unhappy customer. Not only was I forced to pay for an upgrade from a former free version of your software your software sucks in all things that are not basic CMS especially for people wanting to alter it and people with a spam problem may a fast crash of the economy be your grave.

One positive thing is of course that I had to touch the design side of things with the blog that has not seen a design upgrade since day one. So I am not fully happy - especially do I hate fixed width websites - the new design is a bit more to my liking and I have a blog logo now - something that I always thought missing. Originally it was to become the picture on this entry (the artwork is from the cover of the KC85/III east german "home" computer that I started of with venturing into digital territory when I was nine years old) but I decided for a simpler solution and the ascii face representing the artificial life is better so I think. As for the fixed width: I will probably go into that at one point when I have more time - at the moment it has to be like this - even so it goes against all things dynamic web layouts should inherit - blame Six Apart not me.

26.11.05

iTuneMyWalkman

Well well after over 3 years I finally needed to ditch my old cellphone that couldnīt accept any calls anymore nor could dial and get a new one. This time around I thought that getting music for on the way would be a good thing. Beeing not that much of an iPod fan and only having about 1 gig of free music on my computer (mostly dj recordings etc) I thought I would go for one of the new Sony/Ericsson Walkman handies - the W800. It comes with 512 MB exchangable memory stick and can read MP3s is connectable to a USB One bus on my trusty TitaniumPowerbook (which is a real problem with the new iPods you know). The size about in the middle of a full blown iPod an a Nano and it has a good interface comes with very good earphones and has a 2Megapixel Camera that is much better then I ever thought a camera in a phone could be - with enough light it does actually make usable photos and for taking that quick snapshot of a surface to be used as a 3d texture its brilliant - because always when I see things that I could use I never had a camera with me - so yes its useful. The video on the otherhand is a little gimmik and absolutely substandard to any full blown camera on the market - the mp4 is so blocky you would rather paint the video by hand but its a handy so I forgive.
Someone also thought about the interfaces. The MP3 player and Camera funktionality are pretty hidden from normal phone use - but accessible with only a button or opening the camera lens, using the phone just for phone purposes is actually better then the last two phones I possessed and about as intuitive as phones were when they were phones and not all-in-one-gadgets. Getting connected to the net is a little too easy - a function I really really do not need - I took out all the connection data from the setup so now no calling home anymore.
Today then I stumbled across an article on macnews.de that pointed me to some very useful utilities to be used with the phone. Yes its easy to copy over MP3 right into the memory card via the usb cable but its even nicer to do it the iPod style through iTunes. The software "iTuneMyWalkman" does just that and you think you have an iPod connected to your comp - not a competitors product. Also if you crave to watch shitty compressed video on the W800 (or similar SonyEricsson phones) you can get two automator plugins that compress video to MP4 and upload them via bluetooth. Good way to use that Automator Program for once.... All in all I am a happy camper can listen to music on the bike now and take photos in that extreme conditions and the phone functionality is simple and easy. Oh yes the sync of contacts and calendars was fast and easy as well but I wouldnīt have expected less as the older phone was already doing it pretty good. Oh and it has a good functioning FM radio as well - something Apple doesnīt believe in - I do with the radio saturation in Berlin being so high there actually is something informative going on from time to time.

6.10.05

magazine review: sceen

sceen_nr1.pngLast saturday at the Bermuda Visualisten open rainy air vj art happening Marcel Magis introduced me Alexender Scholz who in turn is the editor in chief and one of the publishers of the new magazine called "sceen". After a nice little too short chat he gave me their holy first issue to have a look and comment - and I do in public please forgive me ;)

The first impression - trying to forget what I had been told about the magazine - was "not again one of those". It looks at first as a gazzillion other magazines look like - standard format, high gloss printed color pages all in a neat but clean swiss layout (even so they spare you with the swiss font and throw in a serif for the body text). Not overly exited I opened up a random page and started reading. "Hell what is this" .. I thought ... "its in english"... after reading half a page - what a nice surprise in todays globalized world for a magazine revolving around the underground technology scene. Reading the articles randomly I was stunned how much they would suck me in - at least the ones from the featured demo scene festival, the interviews I liked as well. Turning the pages toward the "vj" part of the magazin I was dissapointed again - two 4 page artikels only revolving around tools and some thoughts of their creators - not a single article dedicated to content or philosophy of vjing... on minus point so the articles about the tools were indepth, focused and something you wouldnīt read in DJ mag or similar mainstream press. Then I continued enjoying the interviews with the demo scene people that hack into cellphones and thought - I would like to do this - where is the demo code? So I popped in the DVD that is accompanied with the mag (all in the mags simplistic bright grey CI) and saw a moving picture of about every piece that was shortly introduced in the mag - a novum and something I extremely like – but sadly still no code to tool around with.
Continuing reading I thought that the articles are all a little randomly distributed over the mag - 8bit sound, demo scene, vjing, more demoscene more music. Or even the structure within the articles seems experimental - something the layout wouldnīt suggest - an interview on the right half of the page and an article on the left half both continue on different pages - making you turn the paper again and again. In the end this was something that really supllements my reading stlye of magazines in general - highly unlinear.
Overall I still have not decided where this magazin fits in. Is it a geek mag? Then its definitely missing code photos of dissassembled gear and the overall layout is too "nice". Is it a mag targeted at the de:bug crowd - that would be too sad as it has the potential to add more depth to the highly "stylistic" articles in the other mag, or is it solely targeted at artists, then again I miss some small how toos or other hand on stuff.
In the end it served me as a nice inspirational resource. Its a nice place for crossbreading scenes to be discovered - realtime, 8bit music, 4k demo, vjs, pixels, netlabels. I just wish it would be a little more different and I really miss honest op-ed articles that show the opinions of the authors and would add a little more personality to the mag. Also a technology hands off part showing the real life as artists without the creations - having an insight into living styles and philosophical thoughts would be something I could see in there and a political standpoint - that most scenes referred in the mag have - may be essential to grab a loyal fellowship.
Its a nice number one issue with lots of potential. I had some good time flipping and reading. I wish the creators a lot of success and hope they reconsider the price of 6,50 Euro ones they have more advertising - or keep the mag mostly advertising free as its now.

17.05.05

Sony New Consumer HDV Cam

hdr_hc1_main.jpgUsually I only talk about strange future products or products from Apple but today Tim asked me what I think about the new Sony Consumer HDV Cam. Well I didnīt know about it but what I found out made me very happy. Apparently Sony is doing some things right lately. The Camera is called HDR-HC 1 and Sony is taking one radical aproach - they ditch CCDs. Yes no more half or 3 or 3rd chips only one CMOS. Well you may think - wasnīt CMOS something that was used in the past and dismissed as to blurry and not good enough and analog and all - so every digitial camera - moving or still switched to CCD. Well yes you are right its this CMOS technology that years later has been refined and put through modern production lines and now outdoes even 3xCCD chips and is cheaper to produce. Sony implements it first in a moving picture camera (I think - I have not heard anyone else doing it yet). Noise in dark shots and red blurriness should be a thing of the past for consumers.
Sony doesnīt stop here. It puts some nice little "details" in the cam that should have been in cams all along. Firstly the "zebra" finder lets you see if you have overblown areas in the picture - a lot of pros will tell you that this is a very handy feature. Also it implements a digital zoom function only for you to see if your shot is sharp - no more zoom in, adjust sharpness, zoom out.
HDVTape.jpegAnother noteworthy thing is that the specs read "can use MiniDV and HDV Tapes". Well? What? HDV Tapes? I have not heard of them and could not find any reference to them other then some pro resellers already having them in stock. My very first reaction was: "YES. Less compression! More Datarate!" The thing I really do not like about HDV is the HIGH compression rate in the chroma channel. Try to pull a key or color correct HDV footage and you see what I mean. If the new tapes would double the data rate then this would be revolutionary and rivial digital betacams in terms of quality when you go back to normal video resolution! But as said pure speculation until someone enlightens me on those new HDV tapes...
Anyway great camera all around - not so very cheap for 2000 Euros but definitely more within range then the pro-sumer models and the CMOS really is yummy.

Sony Pressrelease