Monday, May 21, 2007

Fujitsu's H.264 chip encodes/decodes in Full HD -- a world's first

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Fujitsu just announced a world's first H.264 chip capable of encoding/decoding 1920 x 1080 (60i/50i) video in real time. The chip features 256MB of onboard FCRAM and ultra low 750mW power draw when encoding video. That means lickity quick, MPEG-2 quality processing with only a third, or half the required storage. The ¥30,000 ($247) MB86H51 chip is available to OEMs starting July 1st after which you'll find it bunged into the latest up-scale, consumer-class video recorders.


How to turn your photo into movie-like effect using Photoshop?

(source: ebin 21 03 2007)

tut2-original.jpg tut2-result.jpg tut2-result2.jpg

What you need to have: Adobe Photoshop What you will learn: colour mood adjustments + depth of field effect + film effect PS: ⌘ key for Mac users / CTRL key for Windows users

Colour mood adjustments

1. Adjust the Hue/Saturation: ⌘U/CTRL-U



2. Adjust the brightness and contrast: Menu > Image > Adjustments > Exposure…



Depth of field effect

3. Duplicate current active layer by dragging it to the ‘create a new layer’ button located at the bottom of Layer window.



4. Apply lens blur on the new layer on top: Menu > Filter > Blur > Lens Blur… Adjust according to your own preference.



5. Click on the ‘add layer mask’ button at the bottom of Layer window. Then click and select the ‘Layer mask thumbnail’ (the white rectangle).


6. Select brush tool(b), set the master diameter to 400px. Then choose the focus point in the photo and click on it.




Film effect

7. Create a new layer by clicking the ‘create a new layer’ button located at the bottom of Layer window.


8. Fill the new layer with black colour: reset colour to default black & white (d), switch black colour to background (x), fill the layer (⌘-del/CTRL-backspace)

9. Set the opacity of the black layer to 70% by pressing ‘7′


10. Use erase tool(e), set the master diameter to 400px. Then start erase the center of the photo.



11. Flatten the image: Menu > Layer > Flatten Image and add noise: Menu > Filter > Noise > Add Noise…



Cinemascope (optional)

12. Add black bars on top and bottom of photo and it’s done! Use Rectangular Marquee Tool(m) to select (drag) upper part of photo, hold the shift key and select the bottom part, fill with black colour (⌘-del/CTRL-backspace)


tut2-result2.jpg You can also add an extra step to twist the colour into this mood by using ‘Color Balance’(⌘B/CTRL-B). Drag the slider towards cyan and blue for Shadows, Midtones & Highlights.


Virtual World Population: 50 million by 2011

When technology analyst group Gartner recently asserted that “80 percent of active Internet users (and Fortune 500 companies) will have a ‘second life’, but not necessarily in Second Life” by 2011, a lot of people jumped the gun and assumed 8 out of 10 of all Net users would be in a virtual world in four short years. Not exactly, Gartner Chief of Research Steve Prentice tells us. “Firstly,” says Prentice, “this statement refers to ‘active’ Internet users– a subtlety missed in much of the subsequent reporting.”

Their actual estimate, as it turns out, is decidedly less expansive, but about as impressive, and that’s by conscious choice. The statement was meant, says Prentice, as “a wake-up call to the CIO and CEOS out there that this is not a game, just sort of messing around. It’s interesting [and] we think it’s going to big.” By “active”, Gartner is referring to “people who are heavyweight Net users.” And by their definition, all of them are broadband users. “They’re my kids, to be honest, back from school, right onto MySpace.” That in mind, the estimate is actually that 50-60 million Net users will participate in a virtual world by 2011. “Doesn’t seem totally outrageous to me,” says Prentice.

Considering the largest existing worlds, including South Korea’s Cyworld, and its 20 million uniques, World of Warcraft with its 8 million subscribers, and Europe’s Habbo Hotel with its own 7 million regular users, that guess is actually on the conservative side. (While researching another story, Lisa Cosmas Hanson of Chinese game market analyst Niko Partners told me she estimates 26 million online world users by 2011 in China alone.)

To arrive at that figure, Prentice considered numerous variables, chief among them these five:

  • Upward growth rates of existing worlds and social networks like MySpace.
  • Usage patterns of current online world users (“Especially in the teen and young adult area…”)
  • General computer game usage (Gartner cites a recent Entertainment Software Association report indicating that 69% of US head of households already play computer games.)
  • Penetration and growth of Internet-enabled notebooks in this generation and spread of easily accessible wireless Internet.
  • Involvement by major firms like IBM in virtual worlds, coupled to metaverse consulting groups to serve them there. (“[T]his reflects both a growing interest from their client base, and will result in growing pressures (and competencies) to accelerate the move by corporate users into the virtual worlds space.”)

Surprising to me at least, Prentice believes most virtual worlds of 2011 will not be console-based, and that they’ll primarily remain a PC-centric platform. But he thinks it’s possible we’ll see metaverses accessible through phones and PDAs by then. (”Never say never: people said they’d never watch movies on a phone, and they do.”)

Another surprise is that Prentice thinks none of the existing virtual worlds will dominate four years from now– hence the “‘second life’, but not necessarily in Second Life” qualification. At this point, he says, “Linden is [like] the AOL of the early Internet. The biggest ones don’t even exist yet.”


SharedReviews Paid Opinions

sharedreviews_logo.pngMost product review sites fall into one of two categories: professional or community driven. Sites like CNET Reviews and blogs like CrunchGear pay their staff to review the latest gadgets and give you an authoritative, and hopefully unbiased, opinion on what tech toys make the grade. Community driven sites like Epinions and Amazon rely on the kindness of strangers to post reviews, which are presumably honest and useful when taken in aggregate. There is a whole other class of startup that is trying to aggregate user reviews from a number of sites. See our roundup here.

sharedreviewsmini.pngThe latest spin on product reviews has been to combine the two systems. In a talent search less glamorous than American Idol, review sites are turning the their community members to find the best reviewers in exchange for a little more cash.

SharedReviews is soon to launch review site in this category. The site will be a community of reviewers each with their own profile consisting of their reviews (video, written), their experience related to the products they review, and a rating of their skill as a reviewer. Reviewers will be able to post reviews to the site directly and through widgets using their API. There’s a sneak peek of the site to the right.

From there it’s just a matter of separating the wheat from the chaff and rewarding reviewers. By taking a look at the flow chart below, you can see what SharedReviews has in mind. They want to create reviews, sell advertising, and then share the wealth with the community and reviewers. Shared reviews will take 50% of the ad revenue, and then split the remainder with the reviewers ranked by proficiency along with the community that voted them there.

They’re looking for private beta testers with plans to launch this fall. If you’re interested, you can sign up here.

Readers interested in earning cash for reviews should also check out expoTV and Shopwiki.


Music Licensing Online: YouLicense

youlicense.pngYouLicense aims to gain traction in the growing market for direct music licensing deals.

An online music licensing marketplace, YouLicense enables artists and those seeking musical content to conduct business directly without the need to deal with music companies.

Content is indexed and easily searchable. YouLicense provides standardized contracts so that both buyer and seller immediately know the legalities of a deal, allowing for a quick and easy transaction.

The obvious competitors to this site are the variety of Podcast focused free and paid music marketplaces. Whilst music licensed by YouLicense can be used for podcasts and other forms of web created content, the site aims at the full spectrum of music uses: Film & Television, Advertising Campaigns, Music on Hold, Mobile Phone Content and Audio Projects. Items offered are also not limited by format. Ringtones, sheet music and beats can be listed along with the traditional pre-recorded music.

The goal of YouLicense is to make music licensing and copyright trade a simpler and more direct process. Whilst the service is still in private beta testing, I gained access to the marketplace and it certainly looks like it’s going to deliver on its goals.youlicense1.png