Otterman speaks... (2003-2007)
Weblog about cycling, macintosh, natural history and life in Singapore.
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Otterman speaks...

Cycling, macintosh, natural history and life in Singapore - Archives

List of Categories : travel * museum * cycling * Singapore Naturalist * science * kakis * mangroves * movies * mac and the internet * meow * NUS * life in Singapore * lit * world *

Wed 13 Jun 2007

Learning from Geeks - this time its "Sharing Videos Online"

Category : mac and the internet

Learning from Geeks

I have had regular chats and meetups with geeky macaddict friends over the years. Through them, I learnt enough to overcome my inertia, harness a blog engine and get Habitatnews and Raffles Museum News started in 2004 when Blogger was a far cry from what it is today.

It's why you see this on my blogs' sidebars, you'll see "Made on a Mac with Claris Home Page 3.0. Blog engine: Samizdat, based on PHPosxom, based on Blosxom." Heh, I just use the stuff!

Video compression

In March this year, I was scratching my head over how to best compress a video clip of Jes Ebrahim singing. He had performed in support of World Tree Day after a panel discussion I hosted at Wildlife Asia and I had recorded him with my Panasonic Lumix from across the room. Two days later, and seconds before meeting Kevin and Ivan, I posted this clip on Habitatnews. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, as I had the post up within two days of the event. My friends actually wrote/SMS-ed to say they liked it, a real rarity.

Could have done it the same day had I figured it out earlier, though!

Can you see the grappling lizards?

I still had a lot of questions, for an earlier, larger clip of grappling monitor lizards I had posted in memory of Steve Irwin's passing was not viewable by all my friends. With IE-using PC owners still dominating the market, its not enough when something works on a mac.

Several options were available online and it was enough to confuse me. Each portal has its advantages and limitations and there was all this stuff about codecs that was driving me nuts. What is a codec anyway and why I can't view some stuff on Quick Time?

Why I want to post videos online, quickly

During the last lecture of my animal behaviour class, I discovered with a shock that about half of the class hadn't seen a wild monkey in Singapore. That needs fixing, and since there is a significant limit to what we can do in class (until the syllabus is revised) an injection of local natural history information can be used to supplement courses. NUS even introduced module blogs, so the mechanism is there, it just needs content and time.

Happily there are loads of pictures and stories these days, thanks to a new generation of nature bloggers. But there are few relevant video clips. They needn't be complex, just specific, since people haven't seen, erm even mudskippers. So I'll be going on field trips with other museum staff with my existing still (not dedicated video) cameras; that will suffice for starters.

But I need to figure out how to get my simple material up quickly and painlessly without significant loss of resolution. Else I'll end up being a hoarder of content with nothing to show for it, or be uploading really sad looking material that hardly resembles quality of the footage I have. There is a real urgency about the need for this sort of education, so I'd like to figure this out quickly. There are so many options its confusing, and I know that simple pointers from geeky friends will save me hours of work.

That meeting in March

At that meeting in March with Kevin and Ivan (Rambling Librarian), Kevin got quite animated when he listened to my questions. It turned out he has been tinkering with videos for at least a decade! He's done it the hard way so can appreciate current conveniences and was bursting with solutions, tips and trends.

It wasn't my imagination, for Ivan said,

"Kevin got all excited when Siva asked for suggestions on video compression. I learnt that Kevin is a walking reference library when it came to on video compression, codecs, the subtleties, pros and cons of various video sharing services."

Ivan and me looking at Kevin's geeky toy!

The discussion-tutorial that erupted on the spot was shelved - there was too much to absorb and we had five years to catch up with. So Kevin and the very organised Ivan immediately proposed he conduct a class, and we could invite others along! They are both very public-spirited, you see.

Then, Kevin had blogged to say,

"One of the things Siva made me realize about myself was my knowledge of video encoding. With video sharing becoming a staple with educators, knowing how to upload to the different video sharing services out there is one thing, but knowing how to encode video with the right balance of quality and size is another. I think I could do a workshop on that if there are any future meetups. I might not know everything about video, but with my years of tinkering with it (since Apple Macintosh IIfx days), I think I know a little more than the average joe."

And Ivan threw a rare comment in that Habitatnews post that started it all, to say:

"I was going to suggest to Kevin that he could do a talk/ workshop/ meetup at the library. Doesn't have to be very big scale. Some sharing of tips etc, just to raise awareness. I'm sure there's a demand for such an event."

It's finally happening!

It tickled me that we had discovered a veteran at such an opportune moment, and after three months, its finally happening next Tuesday at the NLB - "Youtube and beyond: What you want to know but never knew who to ask". I'll bring my notebook and pen along to take notes.

Kevin speaks very clearly, has lots of anecdotes, plenty of practical experience, links the big picture to both details and background, and gets excited when he talks about possibilities. He also just finished a lecturing stint at SIM and is used to handling newbies. Ladybug will be back from Boston that morning and will probably fight off jetlag to make this session too. She can probably produce even better stuff than me, given a little headway.

Meanwhile, I have a week to shake off the flu!

Posted at 1:27PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | , .