William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

shuttle, Artifact, optical media, CPA night, don't make your papers too perfect

Okay, Christmas is over. Time to sit back with a glass of Rickard’s and take stock of things.

I wrote those two sentences in a coil-back notebook. Also, one of the Christmas gifts I received was a hardbound paper journal with a magnetic cover. But I just can’t bring myself to use either most of the time. When faced with the choice between chicken-scratching on the couch in the sunroom or typing in Word on Uncle Shane’s desktop computer, the computer usually wins. In Ukraine I wrote by hand a lot, but that was only because I didn’t have access to a computer very often; in most cases, I really only had time to type posts as opposed to composing them.

So here I am on the computer again.

I’m in Souris now, and staying with my aunt and uncle for two nights. Getting here on the shuttle was the usual torture – we had the crazy driver (but I’m used to him now, and he’s a friendly fellow), I kept nodding off and bumping into my seatmates every time we rounded a corner (he wasn’t particularly smooth going into and definitely not smooth coming out of turns), and the guy on my right had the zarking SMUflu and was sniffling the whole godda -shdarned trip. I don’t feel myself getting sick though, so maybe no harm was done. But the sound of his breathing through his nose drove me up the wall.

And to top it all off, we rush and tear and beat the band only to be dropped off earlier than our ongoing rides expect us to be, and so we wait in the cold in front of the Burger King for an extra twenty minutes or more.

The shuttle is also crowded, there’s little legroom, and forget about congenial space to work on anything, or even to take off your coat (I had mine on until Oxford!) And then there’s the whole dichotomy of public and private space; you’re riding in a van (a private sort of space) with total strangers (so it’s a public space). You’re sitting so close to people that it’s impossible not to acknowledge their presence (unlike the usual situation in a full-size transit or coachline bus), and yet you have to remain strangers – you can’t make small-talk (trust me, I’ve tried), and you have to ride out the hours in stony silence. God, it’s awkward.

So at least one thing is settled: when I make my fortune and come back here for the holidays in the future, I’m darn well renting a car for the month. But the shuttle isn’t all bad. The owners gave us a “Happy Holidays” note, chocolate, and a discount coupon. Well, it’s only valid for January, so I won’t be able to use it, but it’s the thought that counts. =)

* * *

I’m happy to tell you that Artifact has now been completed and is currently being distributed on DVD to cast members (the ones I could find at the CPA reunion – more on that in a moment), fans, and a few others who are connected with it. I made less than thirty copies, but I have the ISO, so I can always make more. Further to this, it’s easy to duplicate the discs already in circulation – I included no copy protection, and anyone with a DVD writer and a few gigs of hard disk space should be able to copy the movie bit for bit. I unofficially encourage this, since it’s a heck of a lot less work and trouble on my end. I only have a notebook DVD burner, and getting jewelcases for the discs is a pain in the butt.

Let’s take a moment to talk about DVD. DVD sucks. In this day and age when we can carry 2-4GB on a $25 wafer in our pockets, DVD isn't quite so magical anymore. Remember when CDs seemed limitlessly HUGE? Whatever happened to those days, and will something like that ever happen again?

That being said, Artifact on DVD is quite okay. Or at least the main feature is. I had to compress the crap out of the featurettes to get everything to fit. And don’t ask about how I discovered that you pretty much have to route the paths between your menu buttons manually, lest the user’s cursor wander into a no-man’s land (not an issue when you’re watching DVDs on your computer and have the mouse cursor, but a serious issue when you’re using a standalone player – you can quite literally get stuck and have to restart the player!).

Still, that can easily be fixed, and in my case, it was. But the larger issue remains: 4.7 gigs just ain't enough. (Dual-layer is prohibitively expensive and not really an option (and then there's the bloody layer pause); it would have been better to just publish on two discs, but I couldn't bring myself to the extra work that would have been.) Or, more accurately, it’s not enough for consumers such as myself. We don’t have access to the fancy high-end media encoders that the Hollywood studios use, nor the time to painstakingly manage the whole encoding process on even a scene-by-scene basis.

HD-DVD (17GB) and Blu-ray’s (25GB) extra capacity will be nice, but even they will still require the use of compression, although Artifact could fit onto a single-layer BD-ROM with only intraframe compression, so it would still be pretty darned pristine. But that’s just standard def! What we really need is a cheap format capable of carrying at least two hours of uncompressed 1080p video. It’s time to be talking in fractions of terabytes. Wake me when we get there.

(And, yes, HD-DVD and Blu-ray are also dual-layer capable, but as with DVD you are dramatically increasing the cost of the media, significantly decreasing your recording speed, and you’re subject to the whims of how DVD/BD player manufacturers engineer their players to handle layer pause. No thanks.)

Artifact has also been converted to both high-bitrate / quality (for Google Video) and 100MB (for YouTube) WMV versions, and will be available on those services and willmatheson.com sometime in January. I’ve still got some web space issues to work out before it happens; I don’t want to upload to Google or YouTube before I have the new webpages and media (such as photographs) to support the release. A lot may also depend on when I get internet access in my Japanese apartment.

(Hey, wait a second. Why should YouTube be dictating how I chose to encode my movies? Who do they think they are, when other services like Google Video operate without any time or filesize limits? They’re just making me go through a whole heckuva lot of extra work because as anyone knows, 100MB is enough for an hour of watchable video (thanks to the magic of QuickTime for Macs and the suprising utility of WMV in Windows Movie Maker), but not an hour of clear, fullscreen video. I’ve spent hours and hours encoding and reencoding my videos, and those are hours I would have gladly spent doing other things. Man.)

Oh, and last night while I was clearing up my render files and other junk from Artifact (but I’ll keep the raw footage and edit decision files; I’m not crazy!), I started playing around with something, and let’s just say that there will be a little low-fi bonus surprise that I’ll release to YouTube, Facebook, and willmatheson.com the day before Artifact.

Anyway, if you’d like a copy of Artifact, call me sometime on the 28th – 31st, and you can come by and pick one up or (preferably for me) get one burned onto your blank disc. You can also come to my going away party, since I'll have a few copies there.

* * *

Here's food for thought: It turns out that DVD-R and DVD+R aren't equal. I had known that there were drives out there (like on older Macs) that could only write DVD-R, and as recently as a few days ago I encountered a DVD-ROM that could read -R discs but not +R discs. But I didn't know why.

DVD+R is technically superior to DVD-R, with superior error correction, speed compatibility, and read/write efficiency. But I burned Artifact on -R, and now I'm glad that I have, for the simple reason that -R has (wow) a five-year head start on +R, and is therefore playable on a wider range of devices.

So use -R for wide distribution, and +R for your personal archiving, such as your photos.

* * *

Oh, yeah, the CPA (high school mini-reunion / Christmas) party. It stunk. There were a few people I knew there, but none I could call more than the casualest of friends. (Don’t get me wrong; I was happy to see them. But it’s hard to spend a whole night drifting among casual acquaintances.) The crowd was also young. It would seem that our time has passed, and while I won’t say that I’ll never go again, I can safely say that I’ll never go out of my way to go again.

The part that I hated the most was waiting for the 6am bus to go back to Bedford. I went down to Saint Mary’s (it being Christmas Eve morning, I was the only one in the McNally East computer labs – I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before) with the intention of blogging about the night in order to kill time, but I wasn’t able to get my password correct on the first few tries, and so I got locked out of my network account. I could do nothing but lean over the table and doze, and hope that the security people wouldn’t throw me out. That wasn’t much fun.

But it wasn’t over yet. Once I made it to Bedford, I had to wait at the Tim Hortons for almost two hours for a ride (I would have walked, but it was pouring rain) because Mom felt that our street was too slick to drive on. And then she wanted to wait for the Sun to rise fully so that she could see better.

Ah, crap. That wasn’t much fun, either.

Why can’t we just have 24-hour bus service? I mean, really. While still at the Palace, I came very close to giving in and dumping the $40+ on a cab ride home. But it offends me that I have to pay so much for the “privilege” of sleeping in my own bed. Crap crap crap.

Man, I’m going to be so happy to be living within a real city, within walking distance of everything, OMG like REALLY.

And I have my passport and visa now, so everything will be above board. Then again, so were Heinrich Himmler’s papers – true, a person the world doesn’t miss, but mentioned here because it’s the most famous case I can recall of someone arousing suspicion because their papers were too perfect. There are no guarantees in life, not for students, nor for officers who had been in charge of concentration camps and death squads who are attempting to escape prosecution, and thank goodness for that.
Tags: artifact, christmas, cpa, dvd, films, high school, media formats, reunions

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