Review of MIRO VIDEO DC30; OCN; NetMeeting; Internet Phone...
Review of miro VIDEO DC30;
by Ken Cotton
This is way overdue. If this TPC stuff were a job, I'd have been fired long ago. School, and I'd have flunked out.
Back in March, Program Director Mike Kato was planning the May TPC meeting. He was planning to put together a Powerpoint presentation on the Comdex Japan and Internet World shows held out at Makuhari in April. He had a digital camera for taking still photos, but no way of adding video.
He had been talking to Scott Decker, of miro Computer Products, about demonstrating one of their digital video products at a future meeting and thought that using a board ourselves to digitize and edit some video for the March meeting would be good to see how it might suit the TPC meeting audience.
Mike has told me that he likes to have the meetings show things that people may actually be doing themselves. Digital video is probably not something that most TPC members have had a chance to do, but thanks to dropping prices they may be trying it soon.
Scott agreed to loan us the miroVIDEO DC30, a professional studio-quality nonlinear digital video and audio editing system. It sounded like a great idea until I learned that Mike expected me to lug around my video camera and do the filming. And since he didn't have an available machine in which to install the DC30, I was given this job, too. I couldn't complain. I knew that Mike was doing more than his share of the work and I thought it would be fun to learn a little about editing video on a computer.
Then I was told that I would be expected to share my experiences installing and using the board in a future TPC newsletter. Seemed like a fair tradeoff at the time. Now it doesn't; Now it seems like work!
It's been a few months and I put off writing about it for so long that I can hardly remember much about the installation and use of it. I returned the DC30 weeks ago thinking that we would all get a chance to see it in action again at the upcoming meeting. But it turns out Scott plans to show the DV100, a board that is used with digital video cameras.
I've got to say something about it, but I'm not even going to pretend to know what I'm talking about, so some of this I'll get from other sources or just leave out. Mike can tell you later or you can find better reviews on the Web.
The DC30 card, which lists for $999 in the US, lets you digitize full-screen, full-motion video and audio to your hard drive so you can then edit and play it back to your VCR. Or in our case, place it in a Powerpoint presentation.
The hardware installation was as simple as plugging it into an open PCI slot, connecting my video camera and VCR to the back of the card with regular video cables with RCA jacks and then rebooting.
The software installation was pretty straightforward, but a little confusing. As is often the case when installing software, the setup program checked my hard drive for a few things like QuickTime, couldn't find them or found older versions, and asked if it was okay to install some things. Since I had nothing of any value on that machine I chose 'yes.' I log everything with CleanSweep to refer to if things stop working.
I didn't notice at the time, but later read that after the drivers are installed, the DC30 becomes the default audio playback device. To use your existing sound card, you must change the Multimedia settings in the Control Panel, and then change them back when you want to edit video.
It also asked if I wanted to let it analyze my two hard drives to see which was the best for doing video on. It was here that I learned the importance of hard disk drive speed when working with video on a PC. Faster is better. It turned out that one of my drives was a bit faster than the other so it recommend using that one. Made sense. Later I learned the importance of size. Bigger is better.
After the software was installed I wasn't sure what had come from the miro software and what went with the Adobe Premiere 4.2 LE that was bundled with it. Nor did I know what to run to actually get using the thing. I think that "LE" must mean light, but I'm not sure. I didn't mind so much that it was the light version as I might have never noticed the difference, never having seen the full version, or worked with a similar program. But what I did notice was there seemed to be no manual included, only a phone number to call to order one.
I think that what comes bundled with the DC30 depends on what country you buy it in. I found one magazine review that said that in the US the full version of Adobe Premiere 4.2 is included and since Premiere alone retails for $795 it becomes a real bargain if you were planning on getting it anyway. DOS/V Paradise in Akihabara carries the DC30 and I think that it might come bundled with the full version of Premiere.
Mike also loaned me MediaStudio Pro 2.5, which gets good reviews, to do the editing, but this ended up not being an issue since when it came to be a few days before the meeting and we were running out of time, my only goal was to get some clips from my VCR through the card, onto my HDD and into Mike's hands for him to work with.
And since at the meeting we weren't going to be playing it on a TV or even full screen on a PC, the quality wasn't that important. I'm sorry to report that I only got as far as using included VidCap 32 program to capture the video as either an AVI or QuickTime file.
These were all short clips taken at the show. All that I had to do was choose the compression ratio, frame capture rate and size of the video, push the play button on the video camera and then click on the record and stop buttons.
It's kind of a shame I didn't do more than that, because the first time I went to play a file that I had digitized, I looked up at my TV screen and was amazed at the quality of the video. I thought it was a TV program. I'm going to have to do this again someday. When I do, I'm going to be prepared.
If you're considering picking up one of these boards then you ought to think about doing your homework. Read the reviews, buy a book on digital video editing, and check out the miro home page (www.miro.com) for the hardware requirements, hard drive information, and latest driver info and of course attend the TPC meeting where miro presents. It will definitely payoff in the end with beautiful video whether it be for your VCR, home page RealVideo clipping or importing into a Powerpoint presentation.
Now onto some easier writing,
not like work.
At Internet World we had lunch with David Fiedler, the editor of Web Developer Magazine, and a speaker at the show. He told me about an incredibly cheap web hosting service in the states called pair.com; something like $5.95 a month for a virtual domain and 10MB of space. And they charge only $25 dollars to take care of the domain name registration. Later you are billed $100 by InterNIC for two years of using the name.
http://www.yournamehere.com for 600 Yen a month?! Wow. It was time to act. Company names, product names, and cool words were the first to go on the Internet. And I had read about a guy that bought 6,500 last names and was either going to try and sell them later or rent you an email box. He didn't get mine, Cotton, the US Cotton Exchange beat him to it. I did some quick checking and "kencotton.com" was still available. I checked some other firstname-lastname combinations of other people I know and a few were were taken by other people around the world.
So I went for it. Took about 30 minutes of reading and entering information, but everything seemed to work. Soon after, I received a confirmation via email saying that I could upload to the site, but it would take a few days for DNS servers around the world to point to it. The only thing I have put there is a pointer to my GOL account, but eventually I'll get some use out of it. I doubt I'll regret. Hey, I can always turn around and sell it to some other "Ken Cotton."
NTT'S OCN: 24-hour 128K!
The next thing that occupied my time for a while around here was OCN, which is Open Computing Network by NTT. It's a 128k 24-hour connection to the Internet for 38,000 Yen a month. Since the phone bills to my provider alone had averaged over 20,000 Yen a month, I thought that this wasn't a bad deal. I could connect as many machines as I wanted at the same time and never worry about hanging up. You are given some IP addresses and can even have a Japanese domain name (xxx.co.jp) pointing to one of them.
I'd stopped in the Ikebukuro NTT office quite a few times trying to find out more, but couldn't find anyone that knew much more than I did. I think that the service wasn't scheduled to start in my neighborhood until May 1st. Finally I just asked for an application and someone to help me fill it out. It's 32 pages long and the person that was supposed to be helping me had never done one. He even said something about me being the second person to apply in Toshima-ku. After some phone calls to NTT we were able to get it finished and turned in. It must have been "good enough" as it wasn't sent back as I've heard is often the case.
I had hoped to use my Elmic ISDN card to connect to the OCN line, but it didn't support OCN. So I had to either buy a terminal adapter or a router. I bought a Yamaha router.
Once I got everything set up, with 2-3 machines connected to the Net at once, I decided it was time to check out the things that require a lot of bandwidth. No! Not the porn sites, but the audio, video and Internet telephony software.
I started with the newest version of RealAudio and RealVideo, called RealPlayer. It's freeware, but since it was given 5 stars at Stroud's, I decided not to mess around trying the free version and later possibly upgrading and just bought the commercial version, called RealPlayer Plus, for $29.99. I wasn't disappointed.
I had two machines playing audio/video streams at 55 Kbps each, with no lost packets. Although it isn't as pretty as TV or what the miroVIDEO DC30 gave me, it's good enough for watching most news programs.
And I had no idea just how many live radio stations there were on the Net. Once a day, I click on "Daily Briefing" and RealPlayer plays my favorite recorded news programs. If I'm bored, I can let it scan a bunch of live stations and play 10 seconds before going on to another channel. Amazing. All in English!
NetMeeting 2.0 and SpeakFreely
Next I tried a few of the Internet telephone & conferencing programs with former TPC member Todd Boyle. Todd moved back to the states last December and he recently got an ISDN line installed. He's staying in touch with other club members via the BBS conferences, which are available on the Internet as newsgroups or via a mailing list. I'm sure you'll be hearing even more about these later.
Todd and I had mixed results with NetMeeting 2.0 and SpeakFreely. You have to spend a little time to figure them out, especially how to set it so people don't try calling you every 10 seconds. I'm excited about the whiteboarding and application sharing in NetMeeting. These will be great for teaching. One reason I got the OCN line is that I want to hook up with my dad at least once a week and give him a tour of the Web and help him do some things for his business. Not having to worry about paying NTT 10 Yen for 3 minutes or waiting for terehodai time and paying a provider up to double for a 128k connection are good reasons. Plus the static IP address makes it easier for my dad to find me.
Vocaltec's Internet Phone
I tried Vocaltec's Internet Phone one day by myself, just talking to strangers, and it was great, but before I knew it 3 hours had gone by and I felt like I'd done nothing. I talked to people all over the world, including Kyushu and Shinjuku, but there was quite a delay as I'm sure our voices went to the states before being sent back. Talked to a girl from China studying in Pennsylvania and a girl in Taiwan for 20 minutes each before remembering that I had a girlfriend.
These programs are great if you have arranged to meet up to talk with someone at a certain time and place on the Internet or you like to talk to strangers. I want to figure out how to get a more direct connection.
But by far the most exciting application I've found is Net2Phone, which allows you to call from your PC to a regular phone by connecting through one of their server/gateways. You buy a prepaid 'card' for 25 dollars and call any country you want. The rates vary from country to country, but calls to the United States are 10-15 cents per minute, which beats any callback service I've seen so far.
The quality is really good enough. I talk to my Dad two to three times a week and haven't used my callback service for over 3 weeks. I'm going to hang on to it for quick calls and times when I need a really good connection.
The greatest thing about this company and their software is that 800 or tollfree numbers are FREE! I use it for doing mail order over the phone and even to call Northwest Airlines reservations line when the Tokyo office is closed. I don't even mind when they put me on hold. This is great stuff. It hasn't taken me long to get used to at all.
When I asked at a Ringo meeting a few months back which providers were offering 128k and how much more they were charging, people looked at me like I was crazy. I guess that they think that 64k or 28.8 should be enough. I don't know about that. And as Todd Boyle put it the other day, 28.8 might be good enough for a lot of these audio, video and telephony applications by themselves, but you run up against problems when you go to do something else at the same time. You won't want to be downloading files or doing some heavy browsing while you are talking to someone or listening to Real Audio, or things might get a bit choppy. I just think that it's going to take a while for people to get used to the new tools available. It won't be very long now.
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