Ice Cleanup

We get all 4 seasons. And all that comes with them . . . like Ice and Snow in the Winter.



OD20171122 or Don’t You Just Love Kaleidoscopes?

optical diversion 20171122 – a little thing I whipped up with Adobe After Effects and Premier. music is 7th Floor Tango by Silent Partner from YouTube’s Free Audio Library.
Press Play and go away for 2 minutes 21 seconds

Nature videography

Cloud Formation and Dissolution

I’ve got a soft spot for time lapse video and that overlaps with watching clouds.

I used to live out on the plains where the sky is huge and the storms gigantic. Now I live in the mountains. The storms tend to be tamer and the sky smaller . . . but it’s still interesting to watch.

Where  I live is at the junction of a North-South valley and and East-West valley. It’s a place where clouds are born and die every few minutes – it’s quite dynamic but you have to use time lapse video to get the true essence of all that activity. That activity is cloud formation and dissolution due to wind encountering Orographic features (mountains) and the pressure changes that take place because of that make the air fluctuate through its DEW and super saturation points . . . and we get the activity you can see below. Enjoy!

Some background on cloud physics and orography courtesy of Wikipedia.


Kayak in Silouette

At Christina Lake, B.C. Homecoming 2015

360 degree video videography

A Little Sunday Drive in 360 degrees.

We had occasion to drive out to Christina Lake, the next town to the east of us, today. I took advantage of the opportunity to use the SP360 camera to work on capturing highway driving.

This video is the drive out from downtown GF to mid Christina Lake. I used a piece of music from Kevin MacLeods’ excellent website

I shortened the video run time to match the music. So it’s traveling along faster than normal speed.

As I did this one I thought about how to do titles and credits again. In my previous video I put them around the edge repeated 120 degrees apart. I wasn’t happy with the result. Likely the limited drawing abilities in Premiere’s Titler and my limited ability to utilize them to best effect.

Here’s the thing with titling and 360 degree video: Unless it is visible to all angles it might be not seen. Unless satisfactory pre-warping is done the titles get a wavy look to them when they run the circumference of the viewing dome.

So where to put the Titles?

This time I chose to put them in the apex of the dome. So the viewer just has to Look Up. To make them aware I use the hand point up symbol from the Wingdings font and put eight suitably rotated and place versions around the circumference with all pointing to the centre. Then I could just make them all bounce up and down by making the Scaling go from 100% to 80% and back again.

Oh before I forget: If you want to see this and get the full 360 degree video effect you have to watch it with Google’s Chrome web browser at this time.

Ok – now that I’ve looked at it I can see some issues with the titling

  1. because I wasn’t sure which would be the initial angle that the video start with the titles were upside down when you looked up from the ‘front’ direction.
  2. the actual amount of time that the titles were on was far too short to accommodate the clumsiness in turn the view right side up.

And I’m still not all that happy with the rendering … if you watch it in Firefox and the unwrapping is not happening the image looks nice and clear. Watch it as a 360 degree video in Chrome and there’s a definite soft mushiness. Kind of like the difference between the SD Wide and the HD versions of the Hero camera.


360 Degree Video a reality

Each year for the last few I’ve been looking at the state of 360 degree video. And it’s been a bit of a tease … one company has a lens/mirror attachment BUT it costs and arm and a leg AND it’s not clear where the video would be hosted and How would the visitors to my web pages view the content?

In the last two years a number of companies have put out KickStarter campaigns and I’d hoped this year they’d be ready. Not all are but I came across a company called VSN Mobile and they had a product that combined everything that expensive lens I mentioned had PLUS an imager and wireless control. When I contacted them with my questions they mentioned two places to go for viewers and then mentioned that YouTube was working in support.

The very next day YouTube announced Beta support for 360 degree video!

One their blog page they mentioned 4 cameras / companies. One I was tracking and knew they were still in pre-order mode. The last two were Ricoh and Kodak. The Ricoh camera is like a slender Bloggie with two fisheye lenses, one front and the other back. It’s a Stitcher. The Koday is a single 3K imaging element looking through a fisheye lens.

In viewing the sample videos, and my own experiences with stitching still images together, I knew I’d prefer a non-stitching camera. So I got the Kodak SP360.

And here are my first videos.

I’m trying the YouTube Playlist first.

In my first attempt to post a video I found that you had to be using Google’s Chrome to view the video … so if you cannot make the video’s view angle change work try watching in Chrome.

The most recent video is the First.

April 18 – I’ve made a test video with editing. I brought it into Adobe Premiere and chopped it in two pieces. Replaced the audio under piece two with Music. Played with varying the speed. Added titling (as credits) at the end. Exported as a 1440×1440 40fps video (as close to the SP360 format as I could) and the PixPro software accepted it for YouTube export (other unfolding modes cause it to crash right at the end but the YT export works thankfully 😉

April 19 – I just added a benchmark results video showing how long Pass 2 takes on 3 different machines. Power and GPU make a difference.


Well This Is Weird

In my previous post I ended with the following reflections:

“The irony of all this is that I’m able to bring an unprecedented level of live TV broadcast (on the web of course) to this event and I’m just as unhappy with it as I am proud of the accomplishment … last June I broadcast a 5 day baseball tournament by myself with only one person to spell me off two or three times. For Free. Doing it was a real accomplishment but I keep feeling I could have done better.”

Well after lat night’s forum was live webcast I found this strange conversation thread on Facebook:

DB: Thank you very much for broadcasting it live Les. I got there at 10 to 6 and the nearest parking was halfway through Perley’s lot… too far for me and my cane.
CS: I agree – I wish we had one of you over here in the West Boundary, Les. Grand Forks is lucky to have someone putting in the time and effort that you do…..
NG: The town is insanely lucky to have Les.
ME: ya, ok, er, thanks you guys … now stop please.
NG: Only if you charge more:)
IM: I was pondering whether it would be possible to support Les via a crowdfunding campaign. I’d contribute

Crowd funding? WTF?

Here’s my situation: I’m now 61. Almost all my experience is with computers – mostly programming and mostly in ancient times. That makes me a dinosaur.

When I moved to this little town I volunteered with the local Community Access Cable Channel. I’d done that once before and felt it was a way to get involved and get known – we were trying to fit in and find work. Plus being able to shoot, edit and produce all my own material didn’t hurt. I got a job with the local museum. My wife found good work as well. When city council changed they resurrected the idea of live broadcast on cable. (it had been done before but stopped while city hall was being renovated after asbestos abatement) I ended up being the guy who broadcast that. Over time I became known by many as that guy who showed up with cameras and shot things for free that then appeared on cable TV.

Then my wife was killed on the highway. I ended up with a pension. Which meant when my employer and city hall got in a fight and my job ended I wasn’t in that much of a hurry to find another. I ended up on the board of the Chamber of Commerce (boy would my youthful friends be surprised by that). During that time I’d started a free community event calendar website, That too long for you? works as well. And a friend talked me into doing a small podcast style video each week about the things coming up in the next week. We did hundreds of those over the years.

It was fun. And apparently it was a bit ahead of its time as well. We were self financed and community driven. Beholden to no one. For a few years it was great fun. was put into hiatus for a number of reasons. First – I felt that it was being ignored by the community at large. I hadn’t put in the work needed to popularize it and I wasn’t using it as a revenue stream. (pension, remember?) So many people forgot it existed. The most traction we got was the videos on facebook … I felt like I was putting in a lot of work to enhance a billionaire’s enterprise. for free.

And it was work as well. I was using DotNetNuke as the underlying site software. On GoDaddy. No real assistance there. None around here either. And trying to push the limits of what I could do on a limited budget. (I got $25 for each evening I broadcast city hall) During that period of fighting city hall I decided that I wanted to ensure that the populace could monitor city hall even if they had not showed up to watch in person. (almost NO ONE does) So I started audio-recording the meetings. and making that available on the website. And the Agenda documents were PDFs but they were just images of pages froma photocopier. So I bought Acrobat Pro and started running them through that and OCRing them. And putting in internal links. And uploading all this to the whatsupgf website. Now the site was getting a spit personality:Booster of the community AND Monitor of city hall.

Along the way the local cable provider was purchased by Shaw Cable Systems, a giant in our country. And a few years back Shaw invested a bunch of money into upgrading this little place and used our town as the test / getting-feet-wet case for shifting us to Digital Cable. Which meant no more live broadcasts … so I looked around and bought into the Amazon S3 service. So I could host webcasts of city council that you would watch on the web.

At some point YouTube let us put things up longer than 10 minutes. And then longer than 15 minutes. So I started recording events in the community and putting them up on the web so others could see them.

While whatsupgf was in hiatus I developed the idea of trying to do more citizen journalism. Eventually I created and whatsupgf got folded into that. So everythign goes through there.

Along the way I sold my house and paid down my credit cards. And then chewed through the money from the sale … it took a few years but I’m almost back to poor normal now.

So I do more and more video production in the community. I keep saying I’ll stop and get on to things that I should be doing (like being a writer) but I’ve started to see how TV, radio and newspapers have real value in make a group of people and buildings feel life a community. And I think I can help my town be a better place to be.

I’ve left lots of things out and glossed over a bunch but essentially the above history captures a lot of what I’ve been doing here for a while.

And now someone has suggested I could be crowd funded … oi!


Software Video Mixers Suffer From Software Issues

In a blog post from yesterday I mentioned that I was going to be livecasting a political forum. And that I was hoping that my mix of software video mixing programs would finally allow me to use the cameras I have together … well it didn’t work out that way.

Some background: A video mixer is the device that lets you switch between various video signals and mix them together as required. I have been using a Roland EdiRoll V4. That device allows for 4 video inputs and has a whole bunch of functionality that I never use. What I do use is the smooth transition between sources as well as the Picture-In-A-Picture ability. But it’s old school. SD video, not HD. No computer sources, just SD video or S-Video. No streaming – it just puts out a video signal.

On the computer there are various software programs that try to do all that Plus more. After you have selected which video and graphics sources are configure which way they provide a ‘virtual camera’ so programs like Skype and Google Hangouts have something to show the world.

The big named ones might be able to do everything they claim but the field is evolving and the software makers are just keeping up – maybe. When someone with a limited budget goes to try and shop for a multi-camera solution it gets complicated. And expensive. I’d like to use pan-Tilt-Zoom cameras and there are a lot of them out there. Really cheap ones starting around $100 going to quite expensive ones over $1000. When you look at which ones are compatible with the serious software the list is really short and not inexpensive. It doesn’t help that when you go to shop for the cameras they advise you to use you find out they are discontinued items. That tells me the software makers are not keep up with what’s out there.

When I say serious software I’m talking VidBlaster and Telestream’s Wirecast. They start in the $500 region and go north of $1000 once you start adding functionality. I’m NOT about to plunk down $500 on a program when I cannot afford the cameras to go along with it. There might be less expensive ones out there but I live in a very small town so I cannot drop in at a shop and try out everything before I walk out the door.

So I look at the lower cost versions of things. XSplit and ManyCam are both in the $50 region.

XSplit I paid for last January because it looked promising. Unfortunately every time I go to use it it lets me down …

I thought ManyCam would solve that issue. It could see my IP Webcams with no problem (I ad to bring in a DirectX filter to make an IP cam emulate a webcam for XSplit to see it) But when I went to mix that with the USB Analog A/V interface I found that it would NOT see the USB Grabber. It kept complaining that some other progeam was using it when I could not see any other program running.

Then I heard that some had success using SplitCam to see cameras ManyCam could not and then have ManyCam use the SplitCam’s virtual camera output. I tried that AND IT WORKED! But when I ran Google’s Hangouts OnAir it would not see any video at all on the ManyCam virtual camera output … arghh!! I spent 15 minutes in the half hour before air time struggling with all this software until I finally fell back to just running Google feeding directly from the USB Grabber. Which would mean the only switching I could do was externally with the Roland.


Ok, I feel better now. I’m starting to suspect that the directX filter arrangement in my O/S has become polluted. I started to think this when Google showed me the XSplit logo screen instead of the ManyCam or SplitCam virtual cameras. XSplit was not running at the time. At least it wasn’t supposed to be …

So here’s how it impacted me: I brought 4 camcorders and two IP Cameras.

mic-camerasDown on the floor there were two microphones. I place a pair of cameras in front of each. One IP Camera sending video up to the laptop via a wireless network. One camcorder recording it all just in case the IP camera solution did not work.

I was situated on top of the control booth at the back of the room. With two more camcorders, the video mixer, the laptop and tablet.

base_webcast_rigI had the tablet so I could update facebook. The laptop was talking to the IP cameras through the wireless network and internet through the cable network jack. But the network is inside a school and the one web site  could not get to was Facebook. So I used the tablet to connect through my phone’s hotspot and sneaker netted the link info from laptop to table with a USB flash drive.

I should have taken the audio from the sound board … oh well. Audio is one area I’m deficient in. Lights is the other area I’m lacking in. (I’m sure there are more … 🙂

Anyway – IF the software mixer had cooperated I would have been using the video from the IP cameras in front of the mics … but now I have to take ALL the recordings from all four camcorders into the PC and produce a better product (I was going to do this anyway) BUT if the IP cams and software mixers had worked I’d have had a better live production and I’d feel more proud of it.

The irony of all this is that I’m able to bring an unprecedented level of live TV broadcast (on the web of course) to this event and I’m just as unhappy with it as I am proud of the accomplishment … last June I broadcast a 5 day baseball tournament by myself with only one person to spell me off two or three times. For Free. Doing it was a real accomplishment but I keep feeling I could have done better.

To see what I’m talking about here are the livecasts:

The Forum last night

The Grand Forks International Baseball Tournament

Some of the videos we did back in 2010


Lights, Cameras, Action – Democracy

Well this evening our town is having a public forum for some of the candidates in the upcoming civic election. Last time the forum was the School Trustee Candidates and City Council Candidates (Aldermen). Tonight it is the Candidates for Regional District Area ‘D’ Director and City of Grand Forks Mayor.

Last time I did this I broadcast it but i wasn’t what I had hoped from a technical standpoint. I’m constantly searching for a low cost solution to video mixing and broadcast that works on my laptop. In January I tried XPlit. It looked good but every time I went to use it I was let down. Recently I purchased ManyCam. It looked good too but when I tried to do my first live webcast it failed on me as well. (I should really get these things tested before I take them to the live events, I know) Tonight I am going to try again … using SplitCam, ManyCam and Google HangOuts On Air. In addition to my hardware video mixer, a Roland.

Please do not think I go to these events and simply throw my hands up when things fail – I almost always have a fall back. And most often I can livecast. IF that’s not possible I record and produce a more polished version later.

What I’m trying to achieve is to mix real cameras coming in through a USB capture device with IP Webcams down on the floor. Simple enough on the surface. Oh, and record it as well while it’s being livecast. I’d like to be able also use USB webcams in the mix in other situations … tonight I won’t need that.

Here is the last forum in two versions: The top one is the live webcast and the bottom are the produced versions (I split the school trustees off from the city council). Right off the top I have to apologize for the sound …

The live forum

The School Trustees Forum

Council Candidates Forum