02 May 2008

Spoil the whole damn bunch

I'm having one of those "I hate Apple" days again. I'm going to be playing at a friend's wedding in July, and came up with the idea of running a live video stream of the revellers through a VJ program and projecting it onto a screen behind me as I play. I mentally compiled a checklist of necessary equipment (Video Camera, check; Computer, check; VJ software, check; projector, check) and thought I would test this out to see how it all works, even though I shouldn't need to because, as you all know, with Apple things just work(tm).

Nothing works.

I have a Sony Hard Disk camcorder, and Sony and Apple do not play well together. The HDD records in MPEG-2, so before you can even transfer files from the HDD to your Apple you need to buy a Quicktime extension ($20 in the US, or €20 in Ireland, roughly $11 more for the same download from the same place because you live in Ireland!) for your Mac to recognise MPEG-2s. Once it has recognised them you can transfer them across, but can't play them with any sound unless you have iMovie 08, which of course Apple does not mention anywhere on their support site. After reading around external forums and finding out about Streamclip, freeware that lets you play the MPEGs with sound, you are all set to go. Unless of course you want to try and stream live video to your Mac.

Intel Macs with built-in iSight cameras will not recognise external streaming cameras. It might recognise a video camera from within iMovie 08 (which of course I don't have) but only if it is connected via firewire. Although Sony was an early adopter of firewire, it decided that as most PCs don't use it, and PCs still account for over 90% of the market, USB 2 was a better bet for fast connectivity, and so dropped firewire like a hot potato. Sony, of course, has it's own proprietary live streaming technology built into most of its new cameras that allow you to use them as webcams, or for video conferencing. Naturally this specifically does not work with Macs.

I thought about using a cheap external web camera instead, but of course Apple have decided that since their laptops and iMacs now all come with built-in webcams, no Apple user would ever buy an external one, and so most webcams simply won't work with Macs. The notable exception being, of course, Apple's proprietary external iSight, which was discontinued at the end of 2006 and now goes for up to €200 on ebay. Using Macam (more freeware) you can get most USB webcams to work with Macs, but not, of course, Argos' Mikomi cameras, specifically listed in their catalogue as being 'Mac Compatible' when I went against my natural "never buy anything at Argos because it will always break your heart with its extreme crappiness" rule yesterday. To be fair, Quicktime recognises the camera, but no other application does, so they will work as a webcam, but not for any program outside of iChat or Quicktime such as Arkaos, the main VJ software I was planning to use.

I've spent the last 24 hours trying to get this all to work, I'm going to put it all away now and come back to it in a week or so when I've calmed down. In reality the only things about Apple that always 'just work' are it's marketing campaigns.

MPEG Streamclip


At 10:14 pm, Blogger 2BiT said...

D'know i went thru the EXACT same mikomi/streaming thing last year trying to get the computer vision aspect of me water interface thingy to work....bag of shite.


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