Power point play

My nephew’s laptop is so old, he can’t play fifa.
Instead, he animates soccer games in Powerpoint.

Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (MPEG-DASH) for everyone

I had a simple dream. A dream of embedding videos in a web page without using third party services such as youtube or vimeo. For a while it seemed that I found the solution: using ffmpeg to convert the source videos to highly optimized h264 mp4 files. I wrote about my process before. The drawback is, that you only get one quality setting. Use a high bitrate and the video will load slowly or stutter on slow connections. Use a low bitrate and it will load smoothly but never looked quite as beautiful as it should. You can never win.

Luckily, there is a solution: Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (MPEG-DASH). The concept is quite simple: you generate a few versions of your video with different bitrates, a manifest file that links to those versions, and let the browser decide - according to the current bandwidth - which version to load.

But see for yourself:
A single page with three autoplaying videos, using the standard html5 video.
And the same page, but with MPEG DASH.

Every modern browser supports MPEG-DASH through the use of media source extensions. Well, except iOS Safari and Opera Mini. For those, an additional HLS stream - or a fallback to a normal mp4 file - can be used.
Media source extension support in the browsers means that you still have to use an additional js player such as dash.js or shaka player to play your MPEG DASH streams.

So, lets convert our videos with some command line magic. You will need ffmpeg for the conversion and MP4box to create the manifest file. On a mac, the easiest way to get those is through Homebrew.

Convert the source file called input.mov into an audio file and two video files:

    ffmpeg -y -i "input.mov" -c:a aac -b:a 192k -vn "output_audio.m4a"

    ffmpeg -y -i "input.mov" -preset slow -tune film -vsync passthrough -write_tmcd 0 -an -c:v libx264 -x264opts 'keyint=25:min-keyint=25:no-scenecut' -crf 22  -maxrate 5000k -bufsize 10000k -pix_fmt yuv420p -f mp4 "output_5000.mp4"

    ffmpeg -y -i "input.mov" -preset slow -tune film -vsync passthrough -write_tmcd 0 -an -c:v libx264 -x264opts 'keyint=25:min-keyint=25:no-scenecut' -crf 23  -maxrate 2000k -bufsize 4000k -pix_fmt yuv420p -f mp4 "output_2000.mp4"

V.I Lenin died and left the stumps behind

What do we see here?
On the left is a papier-mâché box, with a Palekh style miniature on it. It is dated 1961. The style developed after icon painters from the city of Palekh had to find new jobs following the revolution of 1917.
The painting on the box depicts the tree stumps on which Vladimir Ilich Lenin used to rest and work. In the distance a foreign delegation looks on.

On the right, Fidel Castro is laying flowers to the tree stumps, on which Lenin used to sit and work.
I repeat, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is laying dying flowers to the dead tree stumps on which the deceased Vladimir Ilich Lenin used to rest and work.

The thing with the stumps is quite amazing in itself. How else could you stage the absence of a person if not by the stumps that signify the absence of trees that stood there once, tall and proud. The person is long gone and only the absence of the trees is left.


Christoph, teaching guinean kids the pronounciation of shandwish.

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My name is Cow

In a reddit thread on health inspection violations someone offered a story about a run away cow licking bread in a recreation of a 18th century french bakery.
A commenter wrote a poem about the incident:

my name is Cow,
and wen its nite,
or wen the moon
is shiyning brite,
and all the men
haf gon to bed -
i stay up late.

i lik the bred.

It is unclear why it caught on so quickly, but the poem inspired countless imitations, telling more stories from the perspective of Cat, Cow or even Dog.
I would guess it is the plain form and the formidable self-confidence of Cow that makes this poem an essential response to our troubled times. Cow does not ponder on its identity or its actions. Cow knows what it is and what it does. Naturally. It liks the bred.

I wish for all my friends to be more like Cow. Believe in what you do. Do it. And find something to lik.

Ivana reading

The Balloon

There is something magical in such videos - since you are basically making something from nothing. The technique is borrowed from impro theater: you write the screenplay together as a group, with every participant saying one simple sentence on his or her turn. One by one a story is built. Then just film it using the simplest means, and you have a non-trivial movie in a day.

I used this technique in workshops with USANII-Lab in Nairobi, resulting in two short films in two days, the beautifully absurd My ambition for survival is the only way to eat my food and the more polished To painfully swallow the pain of being unnoticed.
As for the video above, that was just reviving this excercise for Ivana and me.