Miro Internet TV Blog - Archive for August, 2008

Ruling Protects Fair Use & Remix Culture

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Recently, a federal judge ruled that content owners are liable for DMCA takedown requests made against videos that are fair use. In other words, copyright holders can be sued if they issue wrongful takedown requests against videos that are considered fair use (for example, Go Army: Bad Guys).

Ever since YouTube started automatically scanning for copyrighted material, I’ve been worried about the implications for fair use and remix video. Here’s how it works: Copyright holders register audio and video signatures of their copyrighted material. YouTube scans their library and sends automatic notifications whenever they find a match, with the option to file a takedown, to copyright holders. This system makes it very easy for copyright holders to serve takedown notices for lots of videos at once, even when some may clearly be protected by fair use.

This new ruling makes it more dangerous for companies to wantonly take videos down without first verifying that they are actually infringing copyrights (which fair use doesn’t). This protects a wide range of remix, criticism, and parody videos that may incorporate pieces of copyrighted materials. If you’re interested in fair use and its limits, check out the wikipedia entry AND American U’s Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video.

Note/Update: This ruling was a motion to dismiss which was handed down by a lower federal court. While it does set a great precedent, it’s not a ruling that must be enforced by other courts.

5,000 Channels!

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Yesterday marked 5,000 channels in the Miro Guide. It’s growing faster than ever (just a few months ago we hit the 4k mark), and is about to get better than ever.

Soon, we’re going to be rolling out a fresh version of the channel guide. It’s already looking amazing and more importantly I think it’ll help people find more channels they like. Additionally, we’re going to improve the guide for use in any browser. In fact, the experience is already getting better — click into a channel and then click on an episode thumbnail to begin streaming the video.

Lastly, I want to encourage more people to test out the Miro channel recommendations (a la netflix). Just make an account in the Miro Guide, log in, and start rating channels that you like/dislike.

Once you’ve rated 15 or 20 channels, click on the “Channels You’ll ♥” link in the navigation bar. The system is a bit rough around the edges, but I think the recommendations are getting more accurate and useful all the time. Eventually, you’ll be able to do all this stuff directly from Miro, while you’re watching videos.

Thanks to: Robb E, Parker H, Chris M, Sumanah H, and Paul S for staying on top of the guide!

Make Your Video Less Ugly: Deinterlace

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

If you’re shooting video with a small camera (still digital camera, cell phone, or flip-camera), you can safely ignore this post. However, if you use a camcorder that is primarily designed for video, you should listen up!

What is Interlacing?

Interlacing is a clever hack, developed in the 1930′s, to avoid flicker on television sets. Many modern camcorders still record interlaced video, which is fine for television sets, but is ugly when viewed on a higher resolution monitor. Interlacing looks like a bunch of little sawtooth lines and is most noticeable wherever there’s motion in a video image.

How Can I Thwart this Menace?

You just need to deinterlace your video. You’ll probably want to deinterlace directly from your editing program, but there are also programs that will deinterlace individual video files. Most professional editing programs allow you to deinterlace as you’re exporting and/or compressing. Deinterlace settings are usually labeled as such, but they may also be grouped with “Field Options” and/or “Flicker Removal.” Below are links to specific instructions for the popular video editing suites.

As I understand it, iMovie and Windows Movie Maker sometimes deinterlace automatically, depending on the export settings. These programs aren’t too well documented, so I’m not sure about the details, but according to PapaJohn, “[Windows] Movie Maker ‘preserves the interlacing of DV-AVI files’ as it captures from a digital camcorder to a DV-AVI file, but ‘de-interlaces’ if you capture the same footage into a WMV file.”

Alternatively, one can deinterlace the source digital video (.dv) files, with an external application, before importing them into an editing program. Just make sure you don’t compress/resize the video before you deinterlace it.

Deinterlacing Tutorials/Guidelines (some have rough edges):

Editing Suites:
Final Cut (Mac ~ $$$)
Adobe Premiere (Windows, Mac ~ $$$)
Sony Vegas (Windows ~ $$$)
iMovie (see above ~ free)
Windows Movie Maker (see above ~ free)

Video Processing Application Guides/Tutorials/Manuals:
VirtualDub (Windows ~ free open source)
MPEG Streamclip (Windows, Mac ~ free)
mencoder (Linux ~ free open source)
FFmpeg (Linux ~ free open source)
VLC (Windows, Mac, Linux ~ free open source)

(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Note: If you know of better tutorials, or think I’m missing a good application, please leave a comment and I’ll try to add it.

Democracy Now! is Sharper on Miro

Monday, August 18th, 2008

If you aren’t familiar with Democracy Now!, it’s a great progressive news program that is syndicated daily across hundreds of outlets: NPR radio, public access TV channels, PBS, DISH (Free Speech TV), satellite (LinkTV), and more.

Democracy Now! distributes their show over Miro, but until today, the video image was a bit muddled. Last Friday, I went down to the Democracy Now! headquarters in Chinatown and helped troubleshoot. We got things fixed up and Miro is now indisputably the simplest, crispest, highest-resolution way to get Democracy Now! on the internet:

I recommend everyone check out and subscribe to the improved Democracy Now! channel.

The video was suffering from a condition known as interlace, which causes motion in the image to reveal a bunch of tiny sawtooth lines. Interlacing was a way that television manufacturers in the 1940′s could fake a high frame rate and avoid a visible flickering of the image. On high resolution displays (like computer monitors), the interlaced scan lines become visible and must be processed out (deinterlaced). The image below (courtesy of Wikipedia) shows how scan lines and interlacing work.


Deinterlacing the video was the matter of a few extra parameters in the automatic scripts that prepare the Democracy Now! for internet distribution. I plan to write a more in-depth article on interlacing and deinterlacing, because scan lines in an otherwise pristine high-resolution video are a super distressing site to me.

Update: More in-depth article on how to deinterlace is up.

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