Thursday, July 19, 2007

Today I had a great experience learning how to extract video from a handy cam with USB output.
I had captured a lot of stuff on my fathers panasonic camera over the past 2 years and was desperate to have them on the disk, did some cable purchases, USB, DV and yet had not made much progress. Until today.

Today I was sitting at home after a eventful evening a couple of days back and was trying to make some headway on the transcoding business.

connected the panasonic to the PS through USB. Most cameras, today come with USB and these can be connected to the PC on the USB bus. The moment the camera got connected ,windows automatically recognised the camera for its flash drive and additionally as a web camera as a web cam option within explorer. Windows recognises the camera [ atleast in my case the camera being panasonic there were no driver issues] and the camera was to be a web cam device. I tried playing from the web cam and it worked!! this one outcome gave me confidence that the camera video output was being received into the PC without much ado.

The next step was to identify a good software capture and store the analog video tape into multiple digital video like mpeg4 etc... . I already had VLC [video lan client] and being FOSS [ free and open source software] is a great player, that was already established. This was the right time to find out about its video capture capabilities.

I opened file < >> open device capture > and and tried a few options ... no luck... then it struck that there must be a better expert on thissoftware and i could think of my friend Pradeep BV, pradeep had worked extensively on video and multi media streaming solutions and had introduced me to VLC a few months back. A call to him and a few instructions through and I was receiving a storing video onto my PC, the steps were

  1. [open capture device]
  2. [refresh] list against video device name and select the USB video cam option [ as in my case as that was how windows identified the panasonic camera]
  3. check [stream/save] options and
  4. click settings
  5. in the menu that opens up, under outputs select [play locally] {so that u know what video is playing from the camera} and also select [file ], browse to select a file location that you are suitable with [ needs space , in my case min == 20 MB ]
  6. under transcoding options
  7. select video codec and drop down mp1v suitable bitrate [1024 kb]
  8. select audio codec mpga dropdown suitable bitrate [32 kb ]
  9. and save and close all windows, immediately vlc goes into capture play and save mode, this is if the camera is under play mode.
I started recording some sample videos and I still had problems. The video was not getting stored and only audio was getting stored. Some thinking and tinkering later i realised that some modification needed to be done to the above instruction, that was remove the video transcoding option and only maintain the audio transocding option. The thing worked smooth and i was able to record 40 minutes of the 2 hour of tape that was in the camera. Then the battery ran out. As usual my father had not given me the charger unit and that was the end of todays workshop.

So i was happy that some useful work had gotten done and some more to go, there were a few more useful pointers to remember

  1. always encapsulate the video play time with the vlc record time, that is, you start vlc record, then camera play out then once reocrding section is done, stop camera play out and then VLC record {VLC start {Cam Start ===Record === Cam Stop}VLC Stop}
  2. Video lan overwrites onto the same file, so if the tape is being recorded as pieces one needs to save each recording as a different relevant file name that the effort /recording is not lost

After this couple hours saga there I sat thinking about the happenings and realised that this needed to be blogged for posterity to encourage others into digitizing their records onto HDD / DVD / CD and enjoy captured videos without the fuss of the digital camera.

And then, in the future, all of these these would be obviated by camera designs that directly record into digital DVD.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Why is shanghai so much better of than bangalore?

Shanghai's population has topped 20 Mn while bangalore ( and many other indian cities ) is 10 Mn (unofficial estimate).

The other day i was watching the making of a futuristic hollywood movie where the setting has been chosen to be Shanghai. The director was all praise about Shanghai, with the best architecture and so it was visible in the background beautiful buildings spacious front ages clean wide roads..

Where does a city 2 times the size in population as Bangalore get that much space? That set me thinking on what could be the woes of bangalore and many other indian cities today?

Few thoughts came to my, Old bangalore is spacious and well planned, new bangalore is not! Most of old bangalore was planned by a central government authority, new bangalore is all about private layouts and private land delas, very little government participation.

Agriculture lands are ad hoc converted to urban land residential or commerical and work begins with no regard or clue on what is going ot come up on adjacent properties.

So much so that while I was on a house hunting trip ( i have given up on buying anyting in bangalore now thanks to the infrastructre and prices) in Marathahalli, I found thta there were some amazing private colonies but getting there was like going through hell. The same with a large L& T project in south Bangalore (JP Nagar X Phase ) where a huge complex has come up with no access to it from the outside world. WE will need Helipads and choppers soon to get ourselves in and out of our homes .

Why is it that Bangalore is chaos while Shanghai is spacious and well planned with all infrastructure? the thoughts that came to my mind shook me up.

Shanghai is i guess (no factual support here ) has been planned by a central authority while Bangalore grows adhoc with no planning or control how does this effect facilities space and cleanliness?

Lets look at some facts.

1. Most properties shown in Shanghai are large pieces of land (1 + Acres atleast ) most land in Bangalore are micro properties )
2. The development has been coordinated in the sense government takes up the whole tracts of land into its control before redistributing to publi use this also helps allocate facilities that normally do not compe up in a developers radar (especialy small ones ) like hospitals schools temples? sports facilities etc..
3. The whole city is one well planned unit unlike here which resembles garbage is a dump truck!

Now returing to the space problem I also saw through how well organized development leads to increased space for everything if we take a tract of land whihc is say 1000 acres, and then go about looking at both Shanghai and Bangalore

In shanghai there would probably be 200 large properties put in that amount land, in bangalore there would 50 layouts with 10000 houses totally. This would mean

1. In shanghai they would need fewer km (therefore SqM of road area to reach these properties) in bangalore a subtantial chunk is lost in road area whihc are narrow and of congestive nature

2. Fewer roads means ability to put larger roads (4 -8 Lane) proper drainage, wiring for services and sewage systems all of these multiple in the banalore model.

3. Larger properties of land results in more FSI and taller structures so a 10 acres property could become a mini-petronas while a 60*40 site can go max 3 floors without becoming a nusiance to the neighours. Also these large properties, through their tall nature allow a lot of ground space for other use, front age, coommon utilities shopping etc.. Parking can be managed undergournd while in india parking would on on site or on road worsening the conditions for locality people so a 440000 Sft land (10 acreas provides) ~ 4.5 Mn SFt of built up area where as in bangalore one could achieve a max of 0.8 Mn SFT

4. This also results in a lot of space available for sports complexes hospitals and other public buldings

5. S constructuion is being done by 1 large entity who can be governed and has the where withal these structuresw are architecturally and civic wise great, in 10000 sites one cant do that well!!

6. Finally as these 100 acres where synchronously planned the access exits basic facilities etc.. are well provided and can be well controlled. Not so in the bangalore style of development

This gives a strong aargument for planned and controlled development for our going forward. I would suggest the following approaches

1. Government takes control of a ring of land around the top 100 -150 cities. the ring depth can be based on the city size and could vary from 25 - 100 km ( debatable could be more too!)

2. The government then approaches the top 300 architects or groups to develop these lands with a set of policies like residential, commerical public govenrment inductrial allocation

3. The architects put in their plans for each of these rings and the best plan is developed as a single piece. The role of the architect here is to only do land development. Once this is done individual pieces of land are auctioned or given back to public based on allocation

4. Original land owners are compensated from the earnings that the government gets on the auctions

This could see a great improvment in urban development in this country. Until then we will continue to live the difficult challenging exciting lives we do on a dialy basis