Saturday, 29 July 2006
Thursday, 27 July 2006
Cape Farewell has led three expeditions into the wild, High Arctic, a place for artistic inspiration and scientific enquiry. The website is a fantastic interactive resource which allows you to explore these adventures and the teams outcomes and achievements. Featuring video, diaries, maps and information around climate change issues.
Recently Art from the Arctic, a 60 minute film directed by David Hinton, was broadcast on BBC FOUR and then BBC Two as part of the BBCs Climate Chaos season.
Gerard gives viewers a flavour of life at 18,200ft and a window on the windswept location which is Everest advanced base camp.
For more: HERE
- Paul Williams
BBC IT suggest installing adobe photoshop elements or vsn 7, but that can be pricey.
I would strongly suggest installing the free software from Microsoft; "raw image viewer". This allows you to double click on the thumbnail and view like a jpg. Install it HERE. Microsoft will ask you for validation before you can install, just follow the quick instructions. Once that's done just double click and open the image as you would any other - you can now view it in the windows XP image and Fax viewer.
Here is another prog that I have used in the past and is particularly useful for batch converting to Tiffs and viewing Raws. Great general software.
A few weeks ago I was filming in Canada and I had some lovely footage of turtles that I wanted my producer to see and comment on.
Rather than digitising from the DV cam, we were using the new panasonic P2 format, which records video directly onto memory cards, so I could import the media directly into Final Cut Pro on my laptop. I exported this as quick time files and sent these via www.yousendit.com and posted some to our FTP server.
I thought this was a really good system but I have now found something which would allow me to take this to the next level: FORScene.
Recently Forbidden Technologies came to Bristol to demonstrate their FORscene service, which has already been used by BBC teams.
FORscene allows you to upload DV content directly into a FORscene account via Firewire. Once uploaded you can edit and browse content using a simple web-based interface. Using your username and password you can view content anytime, from anywhere in the world.
What helps make this service even better is that edited video can be published simply and easily in a web page or mobile phone (you can download Forbidden's FORmobile player for free).
Above: The ForScene Web-based edit interface
I was impressed with the system and can see its potential for allowing teams who are on seperate continents to work together more efficiently. For example, we could have a team in Australia ingesting their rushes into the system during their day time, so when we woke up in the UK they would be on the FORscene servers ready for us to use. You could also send a clip to your producer who is somewhere else in the world to get his approval! Magic!
An Example:The British Army has sent a team to Nepal to attempt the summit of Mount Everest via the treacherous West Ridge.
Forbidden's FORscene post production tool has been chosen to provide mobile updates of the expedition. Viewers can catch up with the highs and lows of the summit attempt by downloading a branded player from the expedition website to their mobile handset, and will get a text message alert whenever another video is ready for download.
"This project with the British Army further demonstrates the versatility of Forbidden's FORscene platform for mobile publishing," said Stephen Streater CEO of Forbidden Technologies. "This expedition is an amazing feat for the Army, and publishing video updates onto people's mobile phones is a great way to publicise the event."
Have a go yourself: http://www.armyoneverest.mod.uk/Mobile/
To find out more about FORscene email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Paul Williams
Computer Specs for HD TV
Watching HDTV content is system intensive so you?ll need to make sure your machine is up to it. I have been digging around and I've found that the recommended minimum spec is:
For a mac: iMac G4 (although G3 users can use the latest Quicktime)
For Windows: Windows 2000/XP PC with a 2.0GHz CPU, 256MB RAM and a 64MB video card.
You will need a screen display that is capable of 1024 x 768 resolution. This delivers a better than standard definition picture although its not really true HD.
To get the best out of HD
Ideally you?ll need something a bit better to enjoy the full benefits of HD downloads: a resolution of 1600 x 1200 (now one of the most common) will let you watch at maximum resolution 720p videos, but you?ll need a widescreen plamsa/LCD display to go up to 1080p properly.
For more information than you will ever need (if you can understand it) visit the Wikipedia HD page: HERE
- Paul Williams
Also, as Mike Armstrong points out, a good, very readable and relevant source of info is the BBC's own HD Guide internal to the BBC intranet only: Here
For a TV picture to be HD it has to be one of three resolutions: 720p, 1080i or 1080p. There are other resolutions, but they're essentially standard definition (SD) sizes. The resolution's number is the number of horizontal lines that make up the image, analogous to its height in pixels. The letter, p or i, stands for 'progressive' or 'interlaced'.
Interlaced Vs Progressive Images
Progressive images are displayed like a movie, one frame at a time, in rapid succession. Interlacing is the same technique used in regular TV: send half the picture at a time but do so twice as quickly. It's a bandwidth-saving technique. Each 'half' of the image comprises alternate sets of lines, so first you send lines 1,3,5,7... etc. then you send 2,4,6,8... and so on. The first set is drawn on the TV screen, then the second lot, but the speed is such that they eye doesn't notice.
Well, almost. In practice, this approach can create visible artefacts when rapidly moving images and there's a slight downgrade in the image's effective resolution. This isn't an issue with progressive pictures, which is why most US HD broadcasters show programmes in 720p not 1080i, even though the latter has more pixels and therefore should be more detailed.
Visit the Trial HERE
Using iTunes, or directly through the BBC website, you will be able to access weekly highlights of the Ten O'Clock News and Newsnight. The third programme, StoryFix, will offer a tongue-in-cheek look at the week's news - not as original an idea as it may seem - Sky have been producing a similar service for the past 6 months!!
Adrian Van Klaveren, the deputy director of BBC news: "There is no doubt that the bias among devices that are capable of playing the MP4 format tends to be younger, whereas news programming skews older." The trial, which will be evaluated after 12 months, will also aim to determine the length and style of content viewers want to download.
I'm really excited that the BBC are finally moving forward on this, Video Podcasting has been possible with a few simple clicks for an awfully long time. It is just that the BBC is so regulated by policy that everything has to pass "public value testing" which can take upto a year. In addition the BBC are working really hard to try and solve all the rights issues that are associated with using such technologies.
- Paul Williams
A number of UK media partners have signed up to the service including Talkback Thames and ITN. They will initially use the site - video.google.co.uk - to offer "free promotional excerpts".
Unlike the US version, Google Video Store, which launched in the beginning of January, there are no immediate plans to enable UK customers to rent or buy premium content.
Mark Wood, chief executive of ITN, said: "As one of Google Video's original launch partners in the US earlier this year, ITN is very excited to enter into the next stage of global roll out of this unique service."
Aardman are doing it with their short films sent straight to mobiles and others created exclusively for the web. Now Talkback Thames is to enter the burgeoning UK on-demand market, launching a broadband service by the end of the summer that will allow consumers to pay to download its content direct from the internet.
The RTL-owned company will initially make available 200 hours of its flagship British comedy series, including Tommy Cooper, Goodnight Sweetheart and Men Behaving Badly.
More recent Talkback Thames series will be added at a later date.
"It is important to start to give consumers the choice in how they want to view their programming. If we don't give them options, someone else will."
More in Broadcast if you are a subscriber
Wednesday, 26 July 2006
Our first dive was around Sail Rock - a large reef jutting out of the sea miles from anywhere. Swimming around the reefs and pinnacles you quickly gain an appreciation of the delicacy and richness of these environments. I saw fish of every possible colour, moray eels, snappers, shoals of barracudas, and little Nemo Clown Fish. We saw some large trigger fish which are quite territorial and can be aggressive if you get too close - so we didn't. If the UK was this warm and clear I would be happy to dive every weekend. It's truly magical, another world and one that I feel very privelidged to be able to see first hand. I always said that after I learned to drive I would learn to dive and finally I have - now I can Scive! We are thinking of heading to Goa for a spot of diving over Christmas - "the Sea is our oyster!"
Sail Rock - Jutting out in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand.
We spent last night on the Island of Koh Tao with a room directly on the beach a couple of hundred feet from the sea - no air conditioning though, so it was nasty and sweaty, even with the soothing sounds of the sea to hush us to sleep. We did spend an hour having a Thai Massage in air conditioned rooms which was incredible, a much needed retreat from the thick air outside. After cracking your bones, twisting your limbs, and doing things that completely baffle you - the masu leaves you feeling like a million dollars, before you sweat to death again! This island is certainly an idylic and relaxing paradise and has not yet been transformed by tourism, its only a matter of time before it's just like Samui, my boat back to that island leaves in 10 minutes so I will have to dash - bye for now.
"The Twins" - two pinnacles seperated by a sandy plain - we dived these twice.
As a I reflect on my brief moment in the magical kingdom of Thailand I can't help but be impressed by the friendliness, persistence and hard working of the Thai People. When faced with swarms of people bearing such riches as we (westeners) must seem to have, many people would find it hard not to be envious, angry or full of disdain. But the Thai people treat us courteously everywhere we go. Whether they are bestowing the pleasures of their skilled massage crafts to our weary western bodies, or bringing rich and flavourful dinners to our bloated appetites, they are full of smiles and Wai Greeting (their traditional method of greeting - with hands together in a prayer like position). We felt constantly indebted to our hosts and showed this in the form of generous tips for just about everything we could.
Thailand is the most culturally rich country I have ever visited; the food and scenery are majestical and the weather is exquisite. The temples are glorious and stand out in even the most slummiest neighbourhoods like flecks of gold on a muddy bank, glistening in the sun. The people are dedicated, religious and hospitable. The sea is warm and the beaches white - what more could we ask?
View from my room on Koh Tao
On the down side, it was hard to see children as young as 7 spending their days alone on the beach trying hard to sell a few flowers, or to see men and women older than my grandparents strolling endlessly up and down the hot streets desperate for their one sale of the day. We may not like the ever apparent sex trade which follows you like a shadow wherever you turn, the animal welfare standards or the stories of corrupt authorities, but we must remember that we are placing our western views and opinions on an eastern culture, it will take time, as all cultures do, to develop to a level where these problems make way for new challenges. I only hope they can retain their traditional and historical ways and fight the "mac-culture" epidemic which is spreading across the world, already having made victims of the once idyllic retreats of Phuket, and even Samui. In a few years Koh Tao will be as Samui is today, Samui will be like Phuket, and Phuket... well, it can't get any worse than Ibiza can it!
Anyway, that's enough of my wax lyricals, all I can say, is GO! Get there fast, and see it for yourself.
See my photograph page for pictures from my trips.
We know some people on the island who took us to a friends bar to see a ladyboy show last night - it was suprisingly very good and entertaining. The costumes were incredible and it was a great mix of comedy drag and classical culture. Its quite weird to be mesmerised by the dancing of men! But if you could see these "girls" I am sure you would be stunned too - the only way to tell (so I am informed) is that they are too beautiful to be the real thing. There was a Tina Turner act and he was brilliant - everything was just like the real artist, I'm sure Tina would be proud. We are of to visit the Dive shop and then to buy an "Armani" suit, get my eyes tested, buy some designer japanese glasses, and then go for a dip in the sea. I went for a swim at 2am and the water was so warm it was like a hot bath - if we dont get back in the water we'll be reduced to three pudles on the pavement... we melt away into the bustling street outside...
We've had a very busy day on a tour of the island. Saw elephants, monkeys, big buddha's and lots more - we were transported on the back of an army truck and it was so humid we melted - a swim in the pool at the bottom of a waterfall helped for a brief moment. We were taken on a landrover safari to the top of the mountains, along some very dodgy tracks, sure that we were either going to slide down a steep mountain side, tilt over, or be kidnapped by a mountain tribe - but it all turned out well in the end!
When we arrived back to our "beach bungalows" we quickly dived in our showers and then headed for the Armani Shop for the second fitting of our designer suits. I ordered two three piece suits - a pin stripe one and a tuxedo, and a couple of shirts, tailored just for me - it cost 350pounds! This place is so incredible for making a pauper like me feel like a prince. I even had a pedicure and a manicure.
Yesterday I got my eyes tested and it seems my prescription is now slightly worse since I last had it checked (I guess two years staring at the computer screen will do that to you), I bought some pilot frameless specs and some ray ban presciption specs for 100pounds each.
Tomorrow we are going to be picked up at 7am for the first of our diving trips. I will be with an instructor finishing my open water course.
The adventure continues...but first to deflect these girls!!
In the words of the 1985 song "One night in Bangkok and the worlds your oyster"
We got here well after a 11 hour flight. Thai airways lost my luggage - bit of a bugger but not too much of a problem. Its very cheap, fake (although difficult to tell) top designer clothes a few pounds each - filling my bags up with shirts and shorts! Bangkok is a crazy city - hot, humid, weird smells, weird food, incredible buildings and temples. I'm staying in tallest hotel in city - on 63rd floor (it has 90!!!) we eat in the restaurant on the top floor - fanstic views of the city. Weather is very hot - dark tan on first day!
I have to barter with everyone I buy things from but thats part of the fun. Everyone trys to sell us things - they follow you around trying to get you to buy things. We also have a crazy journeys on the back of tuk-tuks, bikes which take you around the place - it fills us with fear, but its exciting too!
Flying down to islands from Bangkok tomorrow to go diving, should be lovely.
Earlier this month I spent a week travelling around Scotland with Steve. It was my first chance to drive after finally passing my test - we drove almost 2000 miles in just 7 days. I never realised just how beautiful Scotland is, little islands and vast mountain ranges, a real explorers paradise. I also found out that you can survive on nothing much more than haggis and whiskey!
More on this later...
When I lived in upstate New York, Catskill Mountains, I used to help look after the injured raptors. They are incredible animals and can sure squeeze tight if your not careful. They gave me a real insight into how fascinating the living natural world is, until then I had been mostly fascinated by the prehistoric and by fossilised animals. If your ever in the Catskills stop by Frost Valley and send my best: http://www.frostvalley.org/
Me and my buddy Vinny tried to climb as many of the Mountains as we could, he is passionate about birds and I learned a lot from him. In exchange I told him all i could about the geology of the region. Here I am on my favourite; Slide Mountain - you could even see our house from the top.