Fun with Video

Posted in General at 11 am

A while back I made a decision to start learning about DVDs and video production to support it. Well, that goal has been given a real boost over the past week. First off, Amy bought us a DVD player. Till now I had simply been using the DVD that’s built into my Blue & White G3, which is fine (mostly) but the computer is not oriented to be watched from the couch. (Though with that new cordless optical Logitech mouse I got, this became easier.)

So the stand alone DVD player has been a real boon. The 7 or so DVDs that we own look great on this DVD player. However, this isn’t just any DVD player. It’s one of the cheapest available. It also happens to be one of the most flexible hackable players available. Called the Apex AD-1500, it can play “DVD-VCD-SVCD-CD-CD/R-CD/RW – MP3s – NTSC and Pal” formats. At this point I’ve tried DVDs, Audio CDs, an ISO 9669 disc of MP3s and a VCD. All worked great except for one track of MP3 audio, but that may have been the source, not the player.

I’ve already found firmware upgrades that will disable the Macrovision copy protection and eliminate the Region 1 limitations. I haven’t applied the firmware yet, but I have burned an ISO 9660 CD-R with it, in case it disappears from the Web at some point. I figure I’ll only apply it once I actually run into one of the above limitations. The limitation I’m most likely to run into is the Macrovision blocking.

Is Ross turning video pirate? No, I’m turning Video producer. You see the second purchase that has advanced me towards my DVD wizardry goals was Toast 5 Titanium. T5 can burn regular CDs, Video CDs and DVDs. But Ross, you have no DVD Recorder. No, but I can burn CD-Rs and Video CDs. T5 will take regular QuickTime movies and create VCDs on the fly. There’s an encoding process that takes about 15 minutes for each 1 minute of actual video on my 400 MHz G3, but that just means if I have a lot of video that I let it crank overnight or while I’m at work.

My first foray into this was creating a Video CD of a Depeche Mode video (“Freelove”) that I got off of some Akamai server. Lots of artifacts, poor quality sound, but the source material for the 4 minute music video was only 30 Megabytes (Mebibytes). Even if the quality isn’t wonderful there’s one advantage that it has over VHS tapes hands down: durability. This VCD will stay nearly perfect for a long time to come, regardless of the number of times we play it. The VHS tape of DM Television Appearances has some definite wear showing. Audio drop outs being first and foremost. Once I can get that VHS tape captured on one of our machines, I’ll burn it to VCD and we’ll have it for much longer and actually be able to watch it without worrying if it will be the last time we can watch the shows.

So now, I’m diving into VCDs and getting a handle on that format. This will prepare me for the day when I get a new Mac (middle of next year?) that has a DVD-R drive on it, Final Cut Pro and DVD Studio Pro. Till then I can play with iMovie, Toast and whatever video sources I can scrounge up. Right now I have at my disposal:

400 MHz G3, CD-R burner, Toast 5 with support for VCDs, a DVD player; The ability to make Quicktime movies from 3D programs, download Quicktimes from the Web, and possibly capture video with the old ATI card (that has video-in) that Bob lent me a long time ago. To that I can hook up my toy tapeless/wireless video camera. I may need to borrow a VCR with video out. (Ours is built into our TV).

My Web Design/Development hobbies my be curtailed a bit while I’m exploring this arena, however, if you want a copy of what I produce, let me know. A CD-R may be in the mail.

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