Category: Technology

Of GoPros and automated video

Rachel and I recently returned from an amazing once-in-a-lifetime kind of trip to Chile. The highlight by far was the five nights we spent “glamping” outside of Torres Del Paine National Park down in Patagonia.

We got a GoPro for Christmas last year and, outside of a handful of smaller hiking and kayaking trips, haven’t had much of an opportunity to put the thing through its paces. This trip was the perfect use for it and I have to say I came away pretty impressed.

The resolution that this thing is shooting at is absolutely incredible to me given its size. And the wide-lens fisheye thing it has going is absolutely perfect for our purposes. We both wanted to be in the photos and video we were shooting as well as getting all the natural grandeur of the Chilean wilderness.

Probably my biggest beef with it is that it’s difficult to use to take photographs. I got a monopod (don’t call it a selfie stick!) explicitly for this purpose and figured that hitting the shutter on burst photo mode would still give us time to frame a nice photo before it finished taking shots. Not so. I also had the unenviable habit of making a squinty face whenever I checked that it was on, which didn’t look so great in 1080p.

But anyway, cutting together footage was a curiosity once we were back stateside. I had used GoPro’s video editor with some success in the past so that’s what I used on the first pass. Unfortunately, their templates are pretty limited, so if you want to get more creative with the music or the cuts you have to start from scratch. Here’s how it turned out:

I also recently started using Google Photos, and their platform has this near-magical “Assistant” that swoops in and programmatically creates animations, collages, stylized Instagrammy stuff and, yes, video. Check out this montage it created and tell me its not as good or better than the GoPro software.

Franzen: eBooks are damaging society

Link: Franzen: eBooks are damaging society

Franzen’s argument seemed to have to do largely with the permanence of text. He sees digital media as something ethereal that can be deleted or changed altogether with the touch of a keystroke.

From a certain perspective, however, it’s those paper books that are actually the fragile versions. Once a book is proliferated in digital form, it is functionally immortal. You could hold the entire contents of the Library of Congress on a single machine. Compare that with the great library lost in Alexandria.

The problem, of course, is the imposition of digital rights management on top of books. It restricts the free use of legitimately-purchased content and allows for these abuses by companies like Amazon. Anybody who has followed the ebook market for long will remember that famous instance where copies of 1984 were removed from paying customers’ libraries.

I think a happy compromise could be reached if publishers followed the lead of indie-music labels, offering free downloads with the purchase of a hard-copy; that would be the best compromise for technophiles, paper fetishists and independent bookstores.

That Old Electronic Ennui

I consider myself a pretty rational person when it comes to money. I live in an expensive area and I make even less than I did in my first job, so I monitor my spending habits like a hawk. (Mint.com is especially helpful for this.)

The one category of spending that always exposes a lapse in my Protestant virtue is new electronics, and computers in particular. I hate shopping for most anything else, but the system-building aspect of comparing brands and technologies, looking for deals, and ensuring that I’m hitting the peak of some imaginary value/performance graph puts me in a trance. The whole process speaks directly to the endorphin centers of my brain, and pushes it to a state of near-ecstasy when you add raw uncut consumer delight to the mix. It is indeed a heady brew.

It probably speaks to my personality, however, that I experience diminished excitement with each subsequent stage after identifying the parts and purchasing them. Assembling my monster machine of doom was a somewhat predictable lesson in tedium. Mounting motherboards, formatting hard drives, and installing drivers is not sexy work. There is some latent self-satisfaction in being able to succeed at a task which would mystify most, but it is fleeting.

Here’s my super sweet rig for those nerdy enough to click a build list. His name is Voldemort and he cost me less than $600, including Windows 7. While he plays games smooth as a dream (the principle reason he was created was to play Battlefield 3, which comes out in late October), there are actually few games I actually want to play at present, or could afford in any case.

The only step that remains now is to pay off the credit card bill. The mixture of shame and serotonin-lack that come now are not entirely dissimilar to a hangover after a wild night of partying.