Tuesday, December 29, 2009

iPhone 3GS Gets Video Tools

The cornerstone of a whole new set of tools for the iPhone video enthusiast is ReelDirector, a full featured editing environment that allow you to assemble, trim and cut clips, apply transitions, titles and credits and record voice over - all without ever leaving the iPhone 3GS. In the last few days, with the upgrade to version 2.4, Nexvio has added the ability to add soundtrack music. This is a fast, on-the-run video editing set that even the most professional video editor or producer can take advantage of in assembling videos without the aid of a computer or dedicated editing bench.

The essence of the ReelDirector editing environment is the clip assembly screen, where you can see a timeline of you video, photo-stills, and audio clips along with the current frame where the playhead is active. The elegance of ReelDirector is simplicity and the application should serve as a reminder to Apple programmers who messed up the iMovie interface and perhaps could even simplify the Final Cut apps to locate the user in current mode and place in their projects. Never-the-less, once you project elements start to come together, regardless of the users ability level with video editing, you'll be surprised at the capabilities of the iPhone to assemble sophisticated videos with simple touch and drag interface. With virtually no keystrokes, commands or multiple drop down menus, you can do you entire project while waiting in line at the motor vehicle license bureau or dentist office. We've come along way.

A good friend who has been a film/video producer for 25 years said when I showed him ReelDirector, "We are going to see a feature film shot and edited on a iPhone real soon."

And there are a few other apps that also portend the future of film/video making on the iPhone. When used in conjunction with ReelDirector, these little aaps add style and flexibility


This video app allows you to capture video in slow motion, accelerated motion or take an existing clip you've shot with the iPhone's built-in video software from you're Photo Gallery and render it in slow motion. While this application will allow you to take a single clip and apply the effect to varying results, using it conjunction with ReelDirector in an montage of editing treatments, it becomes more powerful as an add-on to ReelDirector and a methodology in preparation for editing. This provides storytellers with a set of tools to make your productions more impactful and interesting to view.


I cannot help but feel VintageMaker is the first in what could be a class of applications for videomakers on the iPhone. Currently, VintageMaker has three style templates - 20's Movie, 60's HomeVideo, and Black & White.

Essentially, using video filters and music, VintageMaker takes a video clip and applies a look that is evocative of the name. The 20's Movie applies black and white as well as a scratched celluloid effect, speeds the frame rate 2X (although you can adjust it faster or slower) and you can select piano music that sounds like the soundtrack that might accompany a 1920s silent film. After rendering the clip for the special effect, you can then import it into ReelDirector in a longer piece or add title cards, end credits and voice over narration to complete your movie.

VintageMovie's other effect is 60's home movie that adds a orange/reddish cast common to film stock from that period, scratches a jittery frame effect and the sound of a 8mm projector to evoke the feel of the 1960s.

While the styles are specific in their use, you can easily imagine of suite of effects that could be applied to video for other effects or corrections to video that will evoke specific moods or placements in time and place or for effects used in genre's like sci-fi, westerns, film noir rock-vids, or experimental video.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

iVideocamera Brings Video to non-3GS iPhones

For a long time we've known that the iPhone 2 and 3G were certainly capable of recording video. Jailbroke iPhones have had, through a software app, been able to record video but now Apople has approved iVideocamera for the App Store.

Some of the limitations on this app are bewildering. For instance, the frame rate is low and you are severely limited by not being able to record more than a minute at a time. The price for iVideocamera is .99.

I would add the caveat that this is a severely impaired application and that one might be better served by installing Qik on the 3G iPhone and/or iVidCam (version 2.0) ($.99). iVidCam looks like the best option for 2G and 3G iPhone users at this time because the screen res is higher and it can record unlimited sized clips (depending on space available on your phone).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

ReelDirector Let's You Edit Video

ReelDirector 2.0 is a new iPhone App that allows you to really edit your iPhone clips into a movie very simply and intuitively on the iPhone. And for a limited time ReelDirector is available in the Apple Apps store for $4.99 as opposed to its regular retail price of $7.99.

With ReelDirector you can assemble multiple clips, trim and split, apply transitions, titles and rearrange your edit in the time line. You can also import still photos and (since version 2.0) apply the Ken Burns effect to animate their motion. A very important feature for YouTubers and video bloggers is the ability to add a voice over narration track. Once you've rendered your final edit you can email it or save it to your camera roll. All this makes the full assembly of a edited video possible without ever leaving the iPhone and loading it into a editing program on your computer.

A few enhancements would make this app dynamite. First, allowing users to add a music score from their iTunes library would fill it out and make it a full-featured editing environment. Second, being able to preview the entire assembly before rendering (even if the preview could not show transitions or titles) would be valuable to the average editor.

And third, while you can post your finished videos to YouTube from your camera roll or using other third party apps like Pixelpipe, it would be fabulous to use the Shared button to upload directly while presently you can only send it to yourself and friends using email. And the email feature is severely limited due to the duration and file size limitation on the iPhone.

Most owners of this app will tell you it is a bargain at $4.99.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Apple TV's Bleak Future

A few years ago I bought an 160 GB Apple TV with the hope and expectation that I'd be able to store, time-shift and obtain a level of video-on-demand that digital technology and the web have been promising for decades. Only to be disappointed.

Last fall, when my home was broken into and the Apple TV stolen (without the remote) I figured the slim little aluminum box spent the entire winter in a ditch next to the freeway. Even a thief had to come to realize what they had was a closed system of little resale value and without the remote it could not be controlled.

If you go back through the history of Apple and its successes and failures, you will list the Newton, Mac Cube, and perhaps the Performa TV as big failures, Now, you should add Apple TV to that list. But, but the slim little silver box would say, "I cudda been a contenda..." And that is a true statement.

Designing a closed eco-system for Apple TV was the first big mistake. Apparently Apple wanted users to obtain all their film, TV and music content for their Apple TV through iTunes. Initially, downloading content from iTunes was extremely slow and ripping copies from your DVD collection like we did with our music from CD collections was not officially approved. This barrier put a big damper on wide-spread use and acceptance.

Another huge drawback to the Apple TV eco-system is the device did not have a DVR and could not record and time-shift your favorite TV programs, movies or documentaries. Apple insiders speculated before one keynote after another that Apple would upgrade Apple TV and make it more like other serious media center players (such as TiVO) but Apple uncharacteristically ignored customer demand. Software writers scrambled and wrote apps to jailbreak the box, making it easier to put content where we wanted it, add web surfing to access media on web sites, and still Apple refused to heed the call an improve their product.

When you looked at the back panel of the Apple TV you saw a USB port and the very first idea that flashed into my head was, Wow, now I can take an external USB storage drive and archive material to it but Apple wouldn't allow this and the software never supported it. When I asked the Genius' at the Apple Store "Why?" all they could say in agreement was, I doesn't make any sense other than there was probably some "Apple Legal" reason for it. That's not a good thing to tell faithful consumers of your products. And Apple seemed to never find a compelling use for that USB port.

Now, as many tech reporters have noted, Apple avoids talking about sales and what's happening to the Apple TV. Apple likes to characterize their commitment to the box as "a hobby." Meaning what? Apparently nothing more than just a cursory interest in pushing its technology, not providing serious upgrades and refusing to be on the cutting edge of the media center technology. Steve Jobs persistently throws off questions about Apple TV unit sales, which by his own observations about Kindle sales, means they are not hitting any kind of hoped for sales projections.

Easily Apple TV could be better. It could be a contender. Simply add a DVD player, DVR recording capabilities, and upgrade the software to include the record and capture features in EyeTV or with TiVO and you'd have a serious media component to add to the livingroom media center. I simply replaced my Apple TV with an old Mac Mini (see my iPhone remote controller review below) and the major motivation for this was bringing a DVD player next to my TV. Software improvements, beside the superficial 2.0 upgrade that did little more than improve the look could take full advantage of wifi and the inerconnectivity of all software and Airport connectedness of home networking.

Has Apple now completely missed the train as it leaves the station? Digital media set top boxes and the Netflicks, TiVO, Boxie, hulu, and other video-on-demand services emerging, has Apple basically thrown in the towel with Apple TV and stopped innovating on that platform?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Air Mouse iPhone App

My newest app find is Mobile Air Mouse developed by RPA Technology in Boston, MA. I decided to take my old Mac Mini and hook it up to our HD flat screen TV basically to use it as a DVD player. The hook up went easily after purchasing a HDMI cable to connect the Mini with the TV.

However, in order to control the Mini I still needed to connect the keyboard and mouse and, even though I have a wireless QWERTY keyboard, it still quite weird sitting on the living-room couch with a keyboard, not to mention using the mouse on "mouseable" surfaces.

Then I discovered the Air Mouse in the apps store on sale for $2.99. It fit this bill perfectly and more.

As I said, it had been my intention to simply use the Mini as a DVD player, However, the Air Mouse is so useful, surfing the web, reading emails off the Mini and viewing photos in iPhoto that there are multiple functions I can use the TV set for now that I never imagined before.


The Air Mouse application for iPhone will work with both Mac OSX 10.4 or higher and Windows PC XP or Vista but they must have wifi capability on the target computer. After purchasing the app from the App Store, you are required to go to the Mobile Air Mouse web site and download the free Air Mouser Server to be installed in your applications folder.

Once you launch the Air Mouser Server application on the target computer, you will see an icon of a yellow mouse on your menu bar if you are running a Mac, or an icon in your system tray if you are on a PC. You can then start up the iPhone app and the iPhone will automatically find the target and you are off and running. Air Mouse also lets you configure specific IP addresses, set passwords and control multiple computers. The setting are stored with the Air Mouse Server so you can control a Mac at home and a PC at the office, each keeping its own settings.


The Air Mouse has a few different screens designed specifically for running your DVD and media player as you can see in the photo above. The media screen screen contains the most common buttons you need to control most media apps. The large round middle button is used to play/pause media tracks. On either side are the Back and Next button, for going to next or previous tracks. If you double tap the Next/Back buttons they can be used to Forward or Rewind your media. Below these keys are a volume up/down, Mute, Channel Up/Down and a numeric keypad for changing channels. The Menu button has many purposes that vary depending on what program you are running on the computer but usually takes you back to the next level up or the menu selection level on the DVD player.

On the top half of the screen is the track pad. It works like the trackpad on you laptop computer allowing you to move the cursor around on the screen tap, double tap and select items or buttons on the screen.

All this was more functionality than I ever expected from an iPhone App for remotely controlling the Mini. While Apple's Remote application for controlling Apple TV is simple and elegant it can be oddly difficult to navigate menus linearly with the limited options of both the iPhone Remote App and the small white one button remote that ships with Apple TV. Air Mouse has them both beat just for running Front Row or other media apps.

BUT WAIT, there is more...

Air Mouse has another screen called web keys that can be used while you are surfing the web in Safari, Firefox or your chosen web browser. Below the top trackpad area, the web keys screen contains the most common buttons you'll need to control a web browser. The top row of keys contain Back, Search, Home and Next buttons. To open a location, double tap the search button. The second row of keys Reload, Stop, Bookmarks and Zoom In/Out buttons. These are up for the most common browsers, but if your browser is not included, you can add a new browser by clicking the Web key in the server settings for your target computer be it Windows or Mac.

With so much multimedia content being transformed and shifted to the web, you'll find as much media to access using a browser there as in any healthy DVD collection. Certainly this was more than I'd imagine I'd get from a $2.99 app.

The Air Mouse also uses the iPhones accelerometer as a substitute for the trackpad. When you are in the Accelerometer mode (you get there by tapping the crossing arrows symbol in the top left hand corner of the trackpad) you can move the pointer on the screen with hand motions while pointing the iPhone at your computer or TV screen. There is a little finesse to get used to controlling the motion and it is best for you to view the Demo video on the Air Mouse web site before trying but it really is simple and intuitive.

Air Mouse can be used in combination with any application as a substitute for the mouse and keyboard on your computer. In addition, you can assign macro functions to keys that allow you to, for instance, launch Front Row or iPhoto by one touch. The keyboard also works for text entry, typing URLs, writing in a text application or responding to emails. Air Mouse is one iPhone app that you will find increasingly more useful as you use it and one of the best Apps in 2009.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Is Apple Evil?

With success comes envy and Apple, after decades of being the underdog, is now on the receiving end a wave of success envy.

Many in the industry would say that is a good problem to have and Apple stock and sales seem to agree.

But then you've got the haters. Most would say, who cares. And I agree.

The major objections that people raise with Apple today have to do with the success of the iPhone and the Apps Store. In recent months Apple (not that it did not do so before) has been restricting applications for being available on its Apps Store. Most notably the Google Voice App and s slew of porno apps that developers and some users want Apple to sell badly.

I completely agree with the concert expressed by iPhone owners with Apple restricting Google Voice calling app, not to be confused with Google Voice that has existed on the iPhone for almost a year. Google has been an excellent partner to Apple's growth in the smartphone market, developing excellent apps like Google Maps, Google Earth, and the Google Voice driven search apps that wows non-iPhone users to the point that, I believe, it drives iPhone sales.

Apple has every right to restrict the use of applications on the iPhone that threaten the stability of the iPhone platform. They have the right to restrict apps in their store by shady or unreliable software developers that might infringe upon or sully the iPhone users experience and drive customers away.

But Google is a very reliable partner, a great software developer and they write incredible apps that sell iPhones.

Some critics speculated that in the contract between AT&T and Apple there was a clause that allow AT&T to veto or blackball applications that gave iPhone users the ability to add functions that competed with the AT&T contract. That's highly probable and even understandable since AT&T gives money to Apple in its contract. But AT&T said no, they did not stop the Google calling app from the iPhone.

At that point Apple should have put the Google app up on the Apps Store. End of story.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

10 Things to fix with iPhone 3.1

1. Wifi syncing
2. Ability to edit video (combine or string clips, add music, add voice over)
3. Control over iPhone "desktop" or ability to organize icons
4. Allow Google Voice app on iPhone for calling
5. Get rid of AT&T exclusive contract
6. Customize keyboard to add row for numbers or frequently used characters
7. Take picture by pressing anywhere on screen rather than small button
8. Customize the background under the icons
9. Give users great control over prefs, such as Hide Icons that you use infrequently but don't want to delete completely; have customizable views for Home, Work, Travel, or Weekends; easier control over toggling on/off things like accelerometer, GPS, Bluetooth, 3G, Wifi, and Edge
10. Background applications (providing Apple can insure stability)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Augmented Reality App Shows You What's Nearby

This NRU shows off Zagat data, by just pointing your iPhone around the place you are standing. Marko Balabanovic, head of innovation at http://www.lastminute.com labs in London, UK, gives us a sneak peak at how it works.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Scene Recognition Engine

A software engine for iPhone to recognize static scenes of architectures, streets, posters, rooms, and so on. Due to the ability to specify what user is watching in real time in very strict manner, SREngine has applicable to wide range of AR-related applications (AR: Augmented Reality).

Friday, June 12, 2009

To Jailbreak or Not to Jailbreak?

That is the question that's been running in the minds of many iPhone users for months if not a year.

But on the 2nd anniversary of the release of the iPhone and with the announcement of the new 3GS iPhone with video and enhanced digital camera capabilities, many of the original iPhone owners will have handsets outside the AT&T exclusive contract. And what do you do with an old 1st Gen iPhone or the 3G iPhone you are leaving behind for an upgraded 3GS?

The jailbreak and unlocked iPhone option seems much less criminal now than it originally did. Concerns about voiding the warrantee, getting around the contract, violating copyright, etc. become moot looking at the piles of old iPhones stacking up in the drawers of buyers who went for the upgrade.

Both Apple and AT&T must see the huge change coming to the marketplace of "exclusive" control over the device and digital delivery system it uses. Will Apple, as it once did, still brick iPhones not in contract or using jailbroken software? I think they will have to rethink these actions in the future. There will be a lot of enthusiastic iPhone users who are not under an exlusive contract and who want to buy content and apps using jailbroke software.

Times are a changin'...

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Watching this clip from one of the first MacWorld San Francisco conferences just 90 days after the release of the Macintosh computer in 1984, one cannot help but mark a beginning and fill an evolution from that time to now and all the revolutionary steps along the way.