Archive for April, 2008|Monthly archive page

The Kid Movie Mess

as everyone knows, i’ve got these two curtain climbers running around the house.  since we can’t play legos or trains or star wars all the time, sometimes they just watch a movie or two.  (not more than an hour or two a day, tho — that passive stuff rots your brain)  and, well…  like any parent in this day and age, we have a crap-ton of kid’s dvds that get handled by people <=4 years old.

that means scratches.  that means misplacement.  that means irritation.

for example, only 8 or so of the 15 baby einstein dvds will still actually play in a dvd player.  and then, only if it’s a REALLY forgiving one.  (stupid, picky sony dvd players!)  like how the beginning of monsters, inc. is completely hosed.  and our aladin disc, one of my top-5 favorite movies of all time, doesn’t play at all.

in the days of vhs, parents didn’t have to worry about that stuff.  vhs movies are sturdy and unbreakable in their hard-plastic shell.  as a kid, you could just about stack them up to build stairs in order to climb up and reach the vcr.


i figured with my kid’s affinity towards all things digital — the computer, my 360, cameras, you know: the usual — it was time to start ripping all the kids’ dvds.  little did i know it’d take about 3 weeks to figure it out!  good lord….

okay.  i shouldn’t say 3 weeks to figure out how to do it.  i should say 3 weeks to get the x264 options and production pipeline just right.  my requirements:

  1. it not look like ass.  meaning, none of the blocky compression artifacts or the streaky horizontal motion lines.  (“telecine judder” is the nerdy term.)
  2. at least 640×480 and at least 23fps.
  3. it have a relatively small hdd footprint.  these are kids movies after all.  a half an hour show needs to be less than 200mb.
  4. the final product needs to play on my 360.
  5. it needs to have a “one-click” encoding pipeline.

see?  not too much to ask for at all.  and, to top it off, i’d seen it done.  for a delusional-but-brief stint, i thought it would be easier to just bittorrent the movies instead of rip/encode them — um no.  bittorrent sucks for the long tail.  you should try to pull down a baby einstein with utorrent.  ha!

i’ll spare you all the painful gore of me moving from solutions like automkv to megui to mencoder to avidemux and about a hundred others in-between.  movie mucking misery.  so, about 500 test encodings later, i have some success to report:

handbrake is the bomb.

the end product looks fantastic and the audio syncs up perfectly.  here’s the killer features it had that helped me to meet my goals:

  • it will rip specific chapters. (key for discs with 5 or 6 1/2 hour episodes!)
  • it has a one-click mentality.
  • it has an xbox 360 preset to start with.
  • it’s batch-able.

after a substantial amount of testing, i’ve even boiled the settings down even more finite:

  1. rip the disc with dvdshrink first.  nothing anywhere does anything before you get the video off the stupid physical disc.  handbrake reads iso files, so there’s not need to mess with messy TS_VIDEO directories and their ilk.
  2. start with the 360 preset. (it also has psp, ipod and all the other standard presets)
  3. change the level to 41 instead of 40.
  4. set the bit rate to 900.
  5. set the audio to 128kbs and 44.1khz.
  6. uncheck the two pass video option.  one pass works just fine for low bit rate kids cartoons.

click “start” and you’ve got a half an hour cartoon encoded in about 30 minutes (well.  at least that’s how long it takes on my laptop….) and the file was 185mb.  i then dropped them on my media center and successfully watched them — and they look HOT! — on the 360.


now, if only the powers that be would discover this huge, huge market just waiting for picking, i’d be a happy camper.  i want to buy kids movies cheap, small and digital.  and, i don’t want to stream crappy versions of them for god’s sake.  mr. future retailer, it’s to your benefit because you only pay for the bandwidth once instead of the 20-billion times a week we watch book two, chapter two of avatar.  and, i especially don’t want to be locked in to some stupid proprietary format. 

and, most of all, mr. future retailer: please see the success people are having selling cheap mp3s vs. streaming vs. drm’d files.

just make it easy.  you should know by now that most people (especially me!) are lazy and value our time.  easy and cheap (not the same as easy and expensive) trumps hard and free.


My Web 2.0 Panel

i’m heading up to san francisco next week to speak on a panel entitled “Children of Flickr: Making the Massively Multiplayer Social Web.”  i’ll be arguing with such luminaries as justin hall, rajat paharia and gabe zichermann.

okay.  prolly not “arguing” per se.  i bet we’re all gonna be pretty much on the same page and bouncing ideas around at about a thousand miles an hour.

…maybe even a million.

this super-killer-fascinistic talk is summaraized as such:

Flickr was one of the first popular Web 2.0 web sites: a social photo sharing web site that helped popularize tagging. Flickr was born of an attempt to make a browser-based Massively Multiplayer Online Game about information exchange: “Game Neverending.”

Today, the children of Flickr are continuing to work massively multiplayer game mechanics into social web sites. This panel will discuss strategies, models, and pitfalls for harnessing the power of play to promote the social Web.

Panelists include people working on backend server architecture for adding game functionality to social networks, inventors transforming non-participating sites into online games, Firefox extensions making play in the web browser, and other people sneaking fun into everyday online life.

we’ll see you there on wednesday, april 23rd from 10:50am – 11:40am.


Back From the Dead

so.  after a substantial hiatus where i was architecting what you guys know will be The Next Great Thing™.  i’m talking, of course, about my part of metaplace — the webby parts.  all i can say right now is “holy-kick-ass-batman!”  it’s certainly one of the most awesome projects i’ve ever been a part of.


i’m going to make a concerted effort to get back to my long-neglected blog.  especially since we’ve announced and i now feel comfortable talking about webby things again without giving anything away.  hoo-ray!

talk to you soon.  (real soon, actually, i’m going to write a quick post pimping my upcoming web2.0 panel)