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the hidden singleton lurks behind everyone

posted to writings on aug 4th, 2007 with tags nerd, video, and web

i came across virb the other week which appears to be a myspace-type social network site done correctly. by that i mean its interface is pretty and properly designed and it has proper tools to allow a user to alter the layout of his or her page without having to resort to lame css hacks. this can be done by dragging modules around and choosing from a pre-defined theme, or by directly editing the page's css. it even has proper flickr integration to display one's flickr photos.

and perhaps the most useful function, each person's page includes a "remove customization" link at the top to allow visitors to dynamically remove all user css customization without resorting to greasemonkey hacks or other shenanigans.

but i'm not really into social networking websites so i didn't really take much interest in it until the other day when i had to put another track video online.

despite openbsd not having proper flash support to actually view sites like youtube, i'm a fan of flash video. it's a decent solution to the annoying problem of requiring users to install wonky video and/or audio codecs or full video playing applications just to view some moving pictures and sound, and eliminates the lengthy lead time required of most video codecs while they buffer a large enough chunk of video. that's assuming that the streaming video actually works, which it often doesn't, and then you have to make the user download the video, explicitly telling them to "right-click and save-as" and all that nonsense.

i wanted to post my video in a flash format to allow for easier viewing, so i uploaded my 171 megabyte video to youtube. since my videos are in a 16:9 widescreen format from my camera, youtube scaled it down to fit 4:3 and then compressed the hell out of the video and sound. my on-screen captions became unreadable, the sound became muddy, and all of the details were lost. screw that.

so i looked into the flash video format a bit and realized that it was just youtube ruining my video. flash video can be in any resolution and quality, which led me to find a free flash video applet and playing around with ffmpeg to re-encode my video to flv format. though no matter what settings i tried, i was still losing a lot of detail in my video when re-encoding it.


while checking out virb again, i noticed that they tout widescreen video as one of their features and they don't compress the video down like youtube and myspace. so i gave it a shot, uploaded my 171 megabyte video again, and was surprised to see that the result looked exactly like my h.264 quicktime video with full resolution and quality video and sound and began playing almost immediately. using the embedding code they provide on their site, i was able to easily display an inline flash version of my new track video on my exige page, in addition to a download link to the original quicktime version.

i'd still like to find the proper settings for ffmpeg to convert my video to flv without removing any definition but keeping the resulting file size to a minimum so i can convert and host my own flv files. for now though, i'm using virb to host my videos. if nothing else, it's free bandwidth.

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