Friday, March 31, 2006

What is DRM?

As defined by, Digital Rights Management is ..

A system for authorizing the viewing or playback of copyrighted material on a user's computer or digital music player. DRM has centered around copyrighted music, with Apple's FairPlay and Microsoft's Windows Digital Rights Manager being the two predominant DRM systems. Video DRM is on the horizon as broadband Internet and more highly compressed video formats take hold. See FairPlay, Windows Digital Rights Manager and copy protection.

Wikipedia goes into greater detail concerning the general controversy.

Digital Rights Management is a controversial topic. Advocates argue DRM is necessary for copyright holders to prevent unauthorized duplication of their work to ensure continued revenue streams. Some critics of the technology, including the Free Software Foundation, suggest that the use of the word "Rights" is misleading and suggest that people instead use the term Digital Restrictions Management. The position put forth is that copyright holders are attempting to restrict use of copyrighted material in ways not granted by statutory or common law applying to copyright. Others, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation consider some DRM schemes to be anti-competitive, citing the iTunes Store as an example.[3]

Obviously, anyone who creates their own content, either music or video or even software should have the rights to control and profit from it's distribution. But where will the control be placed, in the hands of the consumer or the corporation?

Update: More About Digital Rights Management

2007/01/28 - Here are a few more resources concerning DRM that will help. Pay particular attention to the first link from concerning a call-to-action for everyone.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Why Call It ColorBurst ?

Although ColorBurst Video has been around for a while, we've only recently added a web presence. Do a search for "colorburst" and you'll find lots of references. So why are we named "ColorBurst Video?" I chose the name some years ago as a deliberate play on words describing technical parameters of a video signal. The two words together also had the "feel" of brilliant, vibrant images that almost leap off the screen. Since we are all about using video to tell personal stories in a compelling way, the name stuck and we began using it on business cards and stationery.

If you are interested, here's a bit about the technical side: The color part of a television signal (chrominance) is superimposed on the monochrome or black-and-white (luminance) part of the signal using a subcarrier. Different colors are represented by the phase of the color subcarrier. When color television was being developed, there was a need to be sure that the monitor had a way to synchronize with the camera that originated the image. The colorburst is a very brief signal sent at the start of each line of the picture. In NTSC, it is 8 cycles of 3.579545 mHz with a phase of 180-degrees. (I TOLD you it was technical.) Circuits in the tv monitor use the signal as a known reference point to determine what color to display on the screen at any moment in time. You can find out more information about technical side of television at Tutorials on NTSC color television.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Why Home Video?

I have this theory that most of us bought a camcorder so we'd have a quasi-documentary of our lives (especially the good parts.)

In 20-years, DisneyLand or Mount McKinley will just be "a place we visited." What will always be more interesting is why we went to McKinley, how we got there, what we looked like, and what else was going on during the time we traveled to McKinley.

With that in mind I always chop-out more than I keep.

Some simple rules about what I keep:

1. TELL THE STORY - tell it visually, and only allow the dialog if it adds to the story. Its not a travelogue and its not just "Vacation Video;" its the story of your time and your life. Get the images of those people/things/places close to you!

Mount McKinley will still be there 10/15/20 years from now. You could go back or you can always buy postcards. What you'll really want 10/15/20 years from now is 'the Story of Us' planning, getting ready for, packing, driving/flying, getting lost, the hotel we stayed in (with that awful green swimming pool), Suzy after getting stung by the bee, having to dial 14 digits to get an outside line, the music we listened to (and the songs we sang), those interesting paddle boats/ski lodges/fireplaces, getting homesick (then not wanting to leave when it was time to go), the turtle we found, the trip home (and getting lost again), unpacking the car, etc.

In 10/15/20 years, you'll want a visual reminder of the old VW bus or yellow-AstroVan, and you'll laugh about that awful green swimming pool. The way baby Olivia's hair went into tight curls whenever the humidity went up will be a pleasant discussion for almost everyone except Ollie (as she likes to be called now.) That strange purple hairdo worn by little Johnny (who will be 6'3" by then) will be funny and might even invoke a, "What was I thinking!?!"

The painful bee sting will have become a darling piece of nostalgia, or maybe even a family legend. And Little Suzy will be married and have a Suzy Jr by then, who can't imagine how many freckles mom used to have.

2. Maximum Seat-time is 20-minutes - The preacher used to say he'd have trouble saving souls if his sermon lasted more than 20-minutes. It's unlikely your video will be of greater importance or interest. By keeping it short, you'll have to cut out the junk. Look at the Travel Channel, or MTV for some examples of how to hit the highlights in a short time. 20-seconds of screeching and gasping by Aunt Jeanne (after she fell into the pond) will be funny - two minutes would get tedious. But a few seconds of 'audience reaction' might be fun to look at, over-and-over. Remember the travelogue is really secondary to the people and "The Story of Us."

3. LONG-SHOT, MEDIUM-SHOT, CLOSE-UPs, CLOSE-UPs, CLOSE-UPs - Television tends to be an intimate medium and you're really trying to capture personalities. The cinematic practice of an establishing shot (long-shot) to provide the setting; a medium-shot to transition; then some close-ups is a simple and fool-resistant technique. My personal thinking is that you really can't have too many closeups.

4. Embarassing? Maybe, but NO REAL PUT-DOWNs - Editing is a judgement call about rewriting history. That strange girl with Goth makeup that cousin Tom dated really was at Thanksgiving dinner, even if they had a fight later that week and he never saw her again. Whether to show "Uncle Charlie's Mooning Incident," will depend on the circumstances of the accident and how Charlie really feels about it. (Even if he can't ever go back to that same church.)

If it is likely cause real pain, its better left 'on the cutting room floor.'

Oh, and did I mention lots of closeups.....

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Backing Up Is Hard To Do

  • Q - Should I make copies of my videos?
  • A - You only need to back-up the ones that might be important some day.

We're getting lots of queries about backing up home videos. And a lot of the readers are approaching the idea with some ill-advised logic: "I can compress video with MultiSuperGigaDivz Encoder and fit 10-hours on a CD! The specs say that it is DVD-quality and I put every tape I've ever shot on 50-cents worth of CDs I got in the clearance bin at WallyWorld. Then I erased and re-used the tapes." Well maybe not that bad, but a lot of people seem to think that digital media is "so expensive" that we need to penny-pinch with it.

At ColorBurst, we want to remind you just how valuable your videos are, and how they increase in value with age. I have a closet full of videotape shot over two-and-a-half-decades that represents the only moving images of that part of my family's personal history. Along with about 15,000 negatives, this represents a lifetime of images. They are, without a doubt, priceless. And the video I'll shoot at a friend's 5-year old's birthday party this weekend will be just as priceless particularly as it ages. Here's why - While she will have many more birthday parties as she grows up, this will be the only 5th birthday party she will have. When she graduates from Harvard, there will be no opportunity to go back and shoot video of her 5th birthday party to show at the graduation celebration. Perhaps one day, she'll fall in love, get engaged and marry. The videos her friends project at her rehearsal party won't have images from her 5th birthday party unless someone has copies from what I shoot this weekend.

Magnetic media stored carefully should last at least a decade or two I would think, and good CD-Rs or DVDs perhaps even a century. But technology will surely pass them by much more quickly. We need to back up our video in a robust form that is easily transferable to newer forms of technology as it comes along.

I know I've harped on this in the past, but let's not forget all those "disaster" kinda things that happen to physical media. How about earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, floods, theft, vandalism, magnetic-pulse, and (for us Midwesterners) tornadoes! Add in broken pipes, mislabelling, forgetfullness, pets-in-heat, malevolent soon-to-be-ex spouses, and toddlers-spilling-liquid-substance, and all sorts of possibilities exist for damaging/destroying the physical media.

My family thinks it's wonderful because I'm often giving-out copies of videos on DVDs, and CDs full of still pictures. While I'm sure they enjoy the material, it also physically disperses copies of material that could never be replaced.

If I come home one day to find the fire-department hosing down the charred remains of my home, I know the insurance company will (eventually) help me replace my housing, clothing, furniture, and most of my video toys and goodies. I'd probably never be able to reconstruct a lifetime of images, but there are enough copies of the more important ones floating around that I could recover them.

You can buy name-brand DVDs for less than 40-cents each, and most PCs now have a DVD burner built in. Make DVDs of all of your videos, and spread them around.

"You only need to back-up the ones that might be important some day" (I do 'em all!)

Tech Musings - NTSC is not your PAL

Spend any time with video and you'll come across the four-letters "NTSC." Contrary to some beliefs, it is not an acronym for 'Never Twice the Same Color'.

From its early days, American television has 525 lines of information that is refreshed 30 times each second. NTSC color was designed so that it would not obsolete the thousands/millions of existing black-and-white television sets of the era (the 1950s).

If you are a real glutton for punishment, dig out some NTSC reference books and spend a month or three with information theory math. In just a brief dozen weeks or so, you too can learn about the complicated interaction between scanning lines, refresh rate, fields versus frames, signal bandwidth, luminance resolution, and other exciting stuff.

You'll learn how the color subcarrier was chosen to "fit in between" the parts of the bandwidth that are not used by the luminance signal; specifically, so that it would NOT affect the resolution. And why, until the digital era, that choice made recording a television signal so difficult. (The only change that occurred for the b/w set owners of the time was a slight adjustment of their horizontal hold control to compensate for the change from 60 fields/sec to 59.96...fields/sec.)

NTSC --> Natonal Television Systems Committee, a group that meets to develop standards for television.

Tomorrow - "Why French television is more of a PAL."

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

From Our Mailbag

Dear Jim,

I have a pretty large project in mind, but have not a clue where to start! I have at least 10 hours of old home movie footage on about 12 vhs video tapes. I want to 'digitally remaster' the footage after capturing into Premiere so I have the best quality footage as is possible. I then want to output to DVD. All this is in the hopes of preserving my family's archival footage for the future, on a DVD-based format that will outlast any magnetic based tape (vhs).

  • Q1: Do I capture my vhs footage as mpeg2? or is this a conversion from avi after the event?
  • Q2: Is there a good 'cleaning up' tool or software that would suit my needs?
  • Q3: Is there a place I can go to get a tutorial - or even a book, using a particular piece of software?

I have scoured the web for a month and have looked at all manner of sites from police crime video tape to professional applications but all to no avail !!! Thanks for reading this and PLEASE respond if you think you could help with this mammoth task, thanx :: Tommy B.



I've been working on the same kind of project for a while - lots of planning time (thinking about) and recently, some real activity. Mine involves almost 60-hours of priceless home video. Some of the material is from the 80's using the early "home-video outfits" that consisted of a separate recorder and vidicon camera. Later versions involve VHS-C and even S-VHS camcorders. All sorts of birthdays, holidays, weddings, and other events; and numerous people who are no longer with us. Almost all of it was shot in existing light, some by a very inexperienced cameraperson (me). I started out with the goal of moving the images from the aging VHS tape to something more stable and durable. Also, I wanted to get it into the "digital domain" so that any future copies would minimize generation loss.

My opinion - it will eventually come down to how much money, time, and effort you are willing to spend to preserve your history.

Here's what I'm doing: First, I sorted the old tapes by date and divided most of the source material into 45-60minute projects. This is manageable from a hard-drive standpoint, and conveniently fits on a miniDV tape, VHS tape, and of course a DVD. I use a capture card to capture the analog audio and video to hard-drive (as an avi file).

The raw material is then opened in Adobe Premiere for clean up. I first go through and pull out all the real junk - start of the tape, low battery, crash-edits, footage (pictures of feet when someone forgot to turn off the camera), 8-minutes of the inside of the camera bag, and other distracting elements. Make this a project by itself within Premiere because you may choose to save the unedited version to DVD.

Then, you'll need to make some decisions here about how much you want to re-write history - I've been careful NOT to start editing out events and people. That boat you couldn't wait to get rid of in 1988, was the same boat you couldn't wait to buy in 1987! AND That Nehru Jacket you HAD to have might be embarassing to think about, but everyone will enjoy reminiscing about their crazy fad clothing. Save that footage of Aunt Jeanne's tumbling into the lake - someday even she will appreciate it.

Then I put some simple titles that indicate the event and date. You might want to identify any place or people that current/future generations might not know. I also put a billboard title at the beginning of the project to indicate the source of the video and any known technical information (camera, microphone, etc) and the date of this transfer.

Then, (and here is where the real time-cost exists) I tweak the video using levels and saturation controls in Premiere. This has to be carefully done on a scene-by-scene basis. There is significant time involved both in the tweaking of the controls and the rendering time, but you can greatly improve some existing-light video.

I've searched-there's no magic button, plug-in, or procedure that will make that wobbly hand-held old camcorder look as good as an $80K broadcast camera on a rock-solid tripod. You can purchase some plug-ins that might help here - Vixen or Video Finesse (and others) provide proc-amp type controls within Premiere. Vixen also has the ability to do some picture noise-reduction. Both tools used to have downloadable demos.

If you really want to burn some time, you could also try some audio filters and tweaks to accommodate those built-in microphones in camcorders. There's even the possibility of using a plug-in to stabilize that old hand-held video (SteadyHand?) You'll just need to strike a balance between improving the original camera footage and the amount of time it takes to finish the project. On the web and in numerous books, you can find hints and ideas to fix (or at least improve) specific problems with your footage.

Premiere allows you to output the timeline directly to DVD, but I prefer to output MPEG2 format for DVD authoring. While you're are still in Premiere, export some still-frames for your photo album and to use on the DVD case. I use Adobe Encore for authoring, but there are any number of good DVD authoring programs out there. If there is enough room on the DVD, I also store the project files, titles, and artwork used for DVD case and labels. Any notes I made during the 'production' go into a 3-ring binder.

Some of the 'major events,' like young Jon's Pinewood Derby victory, older son Jim's Boy Scout Eagle presentation, or the big Marching Band competition, can also be made into a separate program, complete with titles, graphics, music or narration.

If you want to be a real hero, you can make additional copies to hand out to some of the people involved.

One thought - Set yourself a reasonable timeframe to complete each DVD. Otherwise you might tweak your footage endlessly. One other thought - look at this as a long-term labor-of-love where you'll also learn a lot about shooting, editing, and enhancing your skills. It'll be a lot more fun!