Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Jobs out to sell downloadable movies for $9.99

This time I think Jobs has let the success of iTunes go to his head. I, for one, am not willing to spend $9.99 for a downloadable movie when I can order pay-per-view for $3.99, video-on-demand for $4.99, and sale DVDs for less than $7. You better reconsider your price point Steven!

New York Times: "Consumers have been willing to spend 99 cents to buy Shakira's 'Hips Don't Lie' or $1.99 for an episode of 'Desperate Housewives' from iTunes.

Now Steven P. Jobs is betting they will also pay $9.99 to download 'The Godfather' to play on their iPods.

For weeks, Apple Computer has been talking with executives at all the major studios — including the Walt Disney Company, 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers and Universal Studios — about adding movies to its popular iTunes music store, several people involved in the negotiations said."

Friday, June 16, 2006

New FujiFilm FinePix F30 low light camera a technological miracle!

My new Fujifilm FinePix F30 low-light photography camera arrived yesterday and I tested it out. I turned the lights off in my office, had the blinds closed (the room was quite dark) and took a picture of a vase of roses I have on my desk. The picture looked like I had taken it with a flash. I used the “museum” shooting mode setting (one of the presets) which automatically suppresses the flash and turns off all of the audible sounds of shutter, etc. It automatically adjusted itself to an ISO of 3200 and an aperture setting of 2.8 with a shutter speed of 1/15 and I had zoomed to about 2X. Normally, hand holding at 1/15 second is pretty risky, even with my Panasonic FZ20 and its advanced image stabilization system. But the Fujifilm has an even more advanced image stabilization system and the shot was impressive.

Shooting with its intelligent flash is even better (when you’re permitted). I took a picture of the same vase of roses using the totally automatic setting and the resulting image was evenly exposed (foreground and background), the ISO adjusted automatically to 800, the shutter speed adjusted to 1/90, and I got an aperture setting of F4.

Another thing I like about this camera is the ability to switch from a displayed menu back to shooting mode by just touching the shutter. It also has a one touch Macro mode and a power save LCD adjustment that lets you change from standard LCD viewing to fine detail LCD viewing. Among its preset shooting modes is an underwater setting that I hope to use for aquarium pictures. Although I won’t be physically underwater, I will be shooting through glass at fish underwater so I’m hoping this setting will help to correct the color balance that is usually skewed a bit because of the tint of the glass and the water. It also has a special flower setting that is designed to capture true vivid flower petal colors, a text setting for taking clearer shots of letters, and a color mode menu option that lets you switch from standard contrast and color saturation to F-chrome with contrast and color saturation set to high for landscapes and flowers – sort of like in the old days when you would use Kodachrome film for better color capture instead of Ektachrome that often had a slightly bluish cast to it but was available in faster film speeds.

The camera also has a custom white balance mode where you can take a picture of a white sheet of paper in the existing ambient light and it will autoadjust the white balance setting accordingly. The battery is also recharged inside the camera by way of a very petite AC charger and, in fact, the camera itself fits in the palm of my hand so I can pack it right in the same case as my large Leica lens 12X zoom Panasonic FZ20 so I don’t have to add one more bag to sling over my shoulder. I hope to give it a real field trial over at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art next door before I go up to the Maryhill Museum of Art in Goldendale, Washington for a scheduled shoot in August.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Online Video Editing prompting people to switch to still camera video snippets

I found the following article very interesting. I knew that online video editing would soon follow online still image editing and online "photostory" editing but I was intrigued to note the observation that people are tending to switch from camcorders to still cameras capable of recording short video snippets. If you've ever paid close attention to professionally produced video or viewed it frame by frame you will note that it is usually a collage of short video segments switching scenes frequently. People seem to be catching onto this technique and like the more interesting results created by combining short snippets.

New York Times: "While sites like YouTube and Veoh have lately become popular for allowing users to share their self-produced videos, Jumpcut (www.jumpcut.com) is part of a new class of sites that also offer simple tools for stringing together video clips and then adding soundtracks, titles, transitions and unusual visual effects.

All of the sites, which include Jumpcut, Eyespot, Grouper and VideoEgg, have been introduced within the last year. This summer, they will be joined by another site, Motionbox, based in New York.

Their shared objective, the founders of the sites say, is to reduce the complexity of video editing and to reduce the cost to zero.

'We wanted to make video editing over the Internet faster than desktop editing,' said Jim Kaskade, co-founder and chief executive of Eyespot, based in San Diego. 'We think it will broaden the base of people who are creative, but may not have thought they were, by creating this tool kit for them. Editing video is eventually going to be as simple as sending e-mail.'"

All of the sites, except Grouper, require that video clips be uploaded to their servers before they can be manipulated. That can take a long time, and there are limits to the size of the files that can be sent. (For Jumpcut, the limit is 50 megabytes per clip.)

Users of Grouper (www.grouper.com) must first download a free piece of Windows-only software that works in tandem with the Web site. It permits users to trim and rearrange clips on their computer and upload only the finished product, in compressed form.

The sites make possible new kinds of collaborative editing. A group of parents attending a school play can upload all their video, and then edit a single version of the play that makes use of the best shots.

Many of the earliest users of the online editing services report two changes in the way they capture and assemble video. First, they tend not to use their camcorders as much, because the tendency with a camcorder is to record long, meandering stretches of birthday parties and parades, which are time-consuming to import to a computer and edit. Instead, they record more impressionistic scenes of a few seconds or a few minutes, using a digital still camera or a cellphone.

Second, even if they have experience using more powerful, PC-based editing software, they find themselves using the online services more often when they are working with the shorter snippets — and trying to assemble them quickly for a grandparent in a distant city."

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Digital Camera Superheroes

New York Times: "THE SEE-IN-THE-DARK CAM Life is filled with beautiful scenes bathed in natural light — but most cameras muff the job either by blurring the shot (because the shutter must remain open a long time) or by nuking the whole affair with a flash.

Not the Fujifilm FinePix F30 (6.1 megapixels, $400). This camera's sensor is eight times as light-sensitive as most pocket cams. To put it in geek terms, its ISO (light-sensitivity) range goes to 3200 — a first for a consumer camera.

You can turn off the flash and still get amazingly clear, colorful, well-lighted shots, even at twilight, by firelight or indoors. At the highest ISO settings, a few digital colored speckles creep in, but only on shots you'd otherwise have missed.

As a bonus, this camera is an industry leader in battery life (500 shots); the electronics are quick; and the "intelligent flash" attempts to throttle back as necessary to avoid turning your friends' faces into overblasted bleached blobs. There's no eyepiece viewfinder but otherwise, this camera is a photographic knockout."

I was so excited about this camera that would be a perfect companion camera to my Panasonic DMC-FZ20 that I ordered one. I love my Panasonic's Leica lens and 12X zoom but when I am shooting pictures inside museums that are often poorly lit, even the Panasonic's ISO 400 setting is not enough. I also noticed in researching the Fuji camera on other websites that it has garnered a number of awards for innovation and technical excellence. I can hardly wait to try it out! I'm planning a photography shoot up at the Maryhill Museum of Art the second week of August so it should be a perfect opportunity to give it a real workout.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Why Web 2.0 will end your privacy

bit-tech.net : "So Murdoch knows everything about MySpace. The financial gurus at Yahoo know all about your personal thoughts, pictures and bookmarks. The guys at Google know everything about your search habits, and you can bet they want to link 'em up to your email and calendar and whatever else you end up using online. How much is that data worth? With marketing spends online going ever upwards, as more and more of the world 'logs on', you can bet that it's only going to get more and more valuable.

And where it's valuable, it will be bought and sold. Our social networks, searching habits, visual identifiers and personal preferences will be mercilessly sold to anyone who wants to get their hands on our particular demographic. And when your photos, your files, your email and your friends are all online, you'll have to be online - and thanks to net everywhere, like the Google San Francisco project, you'll always be able to be online. And as long as you're online, they can market to you.

When the Web 2.0 bubble bursts - when the massive buyouts are done, the millionaires are made and the sites we love today are in the hands of big business - the innovation will grind to a halt, and what's left will be the endless grinding of the marketeering machine.

But hey - at least you'll be closer to your friends. And you'll have free photo hosting, too."

I think this prediction is far too dour. Social computing, like any activity requiring interaction between two or more persons, by definition requires the loss of at least some of your privacy. But I think I would rather focus on the benefits to individuals and the facilitation of creativity than obssess over who may be able to profit from the knowledge of my individual preferences based on my public communications.

As someone who has worked in marketing in previous careers, I am acutely aware of the value of knowing what a customer wants. But as a customer, don't you think I would rather have someone offer me something related to my needs or interests instead of watching countless hours of commercials for products like Bowflex, Cialis, or Lexus automobiles (I find their ridiculous ads during the holidays particularly irritating - as if the average wife could afford to go out and SURPRISE her husband with a $50,000 car for a gift)? I may be a bit strange but I actually appreciate the targeted suggestions of books and movies I receive from Amazon based on my search and purchase history.

I also think the warning that our beloved Web 2.0 services will become stagnant pools of data without the benefit of future innovation is relatively baseless as well. The PC industry has always been user driven and I think the large media companies realize the continuing need to improve their users' experiences to keep them coming back to the wellspring. Articles have already appeared discusing the fact that these same media companies expect users to be a valuable source of creative content in the future. So I doubt that services such as Flickr and YouTube that facilitate content creation and sharing will become viewed as simply a drain on corporate profits.