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Posts tagged with "video"

Captionista: Simple, Flexible Video Subtitling for the iPhone and iPad

One of the tradeoffs I see a lot in the apps we cover is between simplicity and flexibility. Simplicity has its virtues, but often apps designed to make things as easy as possible for users end up being inflexible, resulting in cookie-cutter output. The flip side is that maximum flexibility can get out of hand fast, leading to a steep learning curve. Striking the right balance is hard, but the apps that do are always among my favorites because they work so well for a wide audience. That’s exactly how I feel about Captionista, an iPhone and iPad app for adding text to video. It’s simple to understand but includes the kind of depth that epitomizes what it means to do one thing well.

I don’t work with video a lot, and when I do, my needs are pretty simple. Often, I want to demonstrate something with a screen recording, which isn’t always easy to follow without some sort of explanation. That’s where Captionista comes in.

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Apple Releases Behind the Mac: Skywalker Sound

To mark Star Wars Day, Apple released a special Behind the Mac video featuring the sound designers of Skywalker Sound, who rely heavily on Apple devices. The film, which runs just under 17 minutes, is a fascinating look at how the Skywalker Sound team captures and mixes real-world sounds that they transform into otherworldly sound effects for the Star Wars movies and other films.

The Behind the Mac video, which is currently featured on Apple’s homepage, focuses on Skywalker Sound’s production process from start to finish. Behind the scenes, the group’s mixing and editing are backed by a lot of Apple hardware. Sound editor Ryan Frias is featured in the video touring Skywalker Sound’s central machine room, which is filled with racks of Mac Pros. According to Apple’s press release:

With the power of approximately 130 Mac Pro racks, as well as 50 iMac, 50 MacBook Pro, and 50 Mac mini computers running Pro Tools as their main audio application, along with a fleet of iPad, iPhone, and Apple TV devices, Skywalker is advancing sound artistry and reshaping the industry.

That’s a lot of gear, but the video’s primary focus is on the creative process of the professionals at Skywalker Sound, who have been pushing the boundaries of sound design for many years. If you enjoy getting a behind-the-scenes look at creative people doing cutting-edge work, I recommend checking out Behind the Mac: Skywalker Sound.


Play: A Fantastic Utility for Saving and Organizing YouTube Videos for Later

Today, Marcos Tanaka released Play, an iPhone, iPad, and Mac app for saving links to YouTube videos for later. The app doesn’t save the videos themselves. Instead, it saves their URLs, along with metadata, making it easy to organize, sort, filter, and rediscover videos that might otherwise fall by the wayside.

Play is an excellent example of how purpose-built apps often outshine more general solutions. There are many ways to save a YouTube video for later, from a bare URL pasted in a text file to a bookmarking or read later app. YouTube has its own solution, too, with its Watch Later playlist. Each solution I’ve tried in the past works to a degree, but by focusing solely on the experience of saving YouTube links for watching later, Play outshines them all.

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Matthew Panzarino Tests the iPhone 13 Pro’s Cinematic Mode and Interviews Apple Executives

Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch’s Editor-in-Chief, put the iPhone 13 Pro camera’s new Cinematic mode through its paces at Disneyland in an excellent real-world test of the new feature. Panzarino also spoke to Kaiann Drance, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide iPhone Product Marketing and Johnnie Manzari, a designer on Apple’s Human Interface Team about how Cinematic mode works.

As Manzari explained:

“In cinema, the role of gaze and body movement to direct that story is so fundamental. And as humans we naturally do this, if you look at something, I look at it too.”

So they knew they would need to build in gaze detection to help lead their focusing target around the frame, which in turn leads the viewer through the story. Being on set, Manzari says, allowed Apple to observe these highly skilled technicians and then build in that feel.

“We’re on set and we have all these amazing people and they’re really the best of the best. And one of the engineers noticed that the focus puller has this focus control wheel, and, and he’s just studying the way that this person does this. Just like when you look at like someone who’s really good at playing the piano, and it looks so easy, and yet you know it’s impossible. There’s no way you’re going to be able to do this,” says Manzari.

“This person is an artist, this person is so good at what they do and the craft they put into it. And so we spent a lot of time trying to model the analog feel of a focus wheel turning.”

To make it all come together into one, coherent feature, Apple’s engineers had to solve a long list of technical challenges:

Some of the individual components that make up Cinematic Mode include:

  • Subject recognition and tracking
  • Focus locking
  • Rack focusing (moving focus from one subject to another in an organic-looking way)
  • Image overscan and in camera stabilization
  • Synthetic Bokeh (lens blur)
  • A post-shot editing mode that lets you alter your focus points even after shooting

And all of those things are happening in real-time.

Despite everything that goes into Cinematic mode, Panzarino notes that the battery impact of using it throughout the day was surprisingly slight.

Cinematic mode isn’t without its flaws, which are covered in the story, but it’s worth watching the entire video that Panzarino shot during a Disneyland visit with his family to get a sense for it yourself. If you study the video closely, you’ll pick up on the places where Cinematic mode struggles. However, sitting back and casually watching the video like you would after a vacation or if a friend sent it to you, the flaws largely fade into the background. I’m eager to test Cinematic mode for myself, and I don’t mean to suggest that it’s necessarily fine as it is, but I also expect that it will be a net positive in a lot of circumstances.

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Hands-On with the Apple Store’s Insta360 ONE X2 Camera Bundle

Source: Insta360.

Source: Insta360.

Starting today, Insta360 is offering an exclusive bundle of the Insta360 ONE X2 camera and an assortment of accessories through Apple’s online store for $479.99.

I’ve been intrigued by Insta360’s action cameras since coming across them during CES in 2020. I bought a DJI Osmo Pocket when it launched at the end of 2018, which sold me on the notion of a tiny, versatile camera that integrates with the iPhone. So, when Insta360 offered to send me the Apple Store bundle to try, I was curious to see what it can do and what a 360-degree perspective would add to the mix. I’ve only had the ONE X2 for a few days during a brutal Chicago cold snap, so my use of the camera has been limited. Still, the excellent app integration has made getting started a breeze, so I wanted to share my first impressions.

The Insta360 ONE X2 bundle being sold by Apple is a great starter package that includes the ONE X2 camera, an Invisible Selfie Stick, an extra battery and case to carry it, a 32 GB MicroSD card and SD card adapter, two charging cables (USB-A to USB-C and USB-C to Lightning), a carrying case, and a soft pouch. Separately, the camera retails for $429.99, and with the accessories, the entire package would cost around $511 based on the prices listed on Insta360’s website. However, through Apple’s online store, you can purchase the kit for $479.99, saving some money and getting everything you’ll need to get started.

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Apple Releases Updates to Final Cut Pro X, Motion, and Compressor with Workflow and Other Enhancements

In a press release today, Apple announced that it has updated its video editing app Final Cut Pro X to version 10.4.9 as well as Motion and Compressor.

The update to Final Cut adds several features designed to improve the editing process including:

  • New tools for cropping video to fit with popular social media formats such as square and vertical video
  • Improvements to proxy workflows with support for ProRes Proxy and H.264 formats which Apple says can be as small as 12.5% of their original size
  • Linking to proxies generated by apps like Frame.io via XML
  • Exposure of ProRes RAW camera settings in Final Cut Pro’s inspector
  • Metal-based plug-ins for RED RAW and Canon Cinema RAW Light, which improve performance
  • Improvements to 360-degree video workflows

With Motion, third-party 3D models are now available when creating effects and graphics. The app also adds a new customizable Stroke Filter that can automatically outline an object or text using its alpha channel. Compressor has been updated too with custom LUT effects and the ability to convert log-encoded video to SDR or HDR footage using Camera LUTs.

I’m a fairly light user of Final Cut Pro X, but one of the things that I found most frustrating about it in the past was the app’s lack of support for popular social media formats, so I’m glad to see that creating square and vertical video will be easier now. I expect that many video creators will be equally happy with the improvements to proxy workflows and integration with cloud-based apps like Frame.io, which has become very popular.

The updates are free for existing users. New users can purchase Final Cut Pro X for $299.99 and Motion and Compressor for $49.99 each on the Mac App Store. The three apps are also available as a bundle to education users for $199.99. More information about the updates is available on Apple’s Final Cut Pro X webpage.


Eve Cam: An Excellent Addition to a HomeKit Secure Video Setup

Last week I added a new camera to my HomeKit Secure Video setup: the Eve Cam. Announced at CES this year, what drew me to the camera was its slim profile and HomeKit Secure Video support. I’ve used other Eve home automation products in the past and had high hopes that the Eve Cam would be just as easy to install, and as reliable as the electrical outlets and door sensors I’ve tried. So far, I haven’t been disappointed.

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Apple Highlights Hardware and Apps in ‘The Whole Work-From-Home Thing’

In April 2019, Apple published a video called The Underdogs that followed the story of a team of co-workers designing a round pizza box. Today, the quartet is back in a sequel of sorts called The Whole Work-From-Home Thing.

The new video follows the same group of colleagues as they attempt to design an all-new box while working from home. The story follows the quartet as they work around the clock on a tight deadline while juggling personal obligations and coping with working remotely.

The pace is frenetic. Over the course of the multi-day ordeal, the group turns to their Macs, iPads, and iPhones to come up with ideas and design the box. They also rely on a wide array of apps, including third-party apps like MindNode and Adobe InDesign.

Like its predecessor, ‘The Whole Work-From-Home Thing’ is funny but succeeds at demonstrating ways that Apple hardware and apps can solve some of the problems facing many people these days. This video may hit a little too close to home and stress some people out a bit, but I enjoyed the lighthearted fun poked at working from home and think it’s well worth watching.

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Darkroom 4.6 Adds Video to Its Excellent Photo Editing Workflow

Darkroom is a terrific photo editor for the iPhone and iPad that leverages iCloud Photos with a robust set of editing tools and filters. With the release of version 4.6 today, Darkroom adds video to the mix. What’s impressive about the update is that it manages to apply the same set of tools and filters available for photos to video in real-time, which results in a fast, efficient editing workflow.

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