London

London 1927

A few years ago I posted some old colour videos of Mexico City in the 1940s and 1950s. They were fascinating glimpses into the past of the city, and the colour reproduction just made them so much more…je ne sais pas quoi. But you probably know what I mean. I haven’t ever posted any videos of London. Partly because there isn’t an awful lot available in colour. Partly because there something of a proliferation of London videos. Partly because London, when colour film became more common, was a bombed out war zone.

A few days ago a friend emailed me a link to an old London video that’s somewhat unique. It’s old. Real old. As the title of the post suggests, it’s 1927 old. But it is colour film. All of the most famous sites are covered. It’s an awesome video. Fancy a trip back to 1927? Here we go then. Check out just how filthy all those monuments and buildings are though!

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Photography

Fuji X-S1 Video Sample

The next piece of my Fuji X-S1 review is to show what sort of video the camera can shoot. It’s nice and easy to shoot video – as with most cameras these days there is a dedicated video button on the back of the device to get recording straight away. The camera also has the option to record at a couple of hundred frames a second for decent slow-mo shooting, although I have yet to put this to the test.

The result below is a little unfair on the camera. Once I had compressed the footage and uploaded it to YouTube, the output was noticeably degraded when compared to the original video files on my laptop. But still. The result is good enough, in my opinion. For what I would need to do with it. I’m sure that with a little tripod use and more time spent with the post processing, the results would be be better still. The footage is shot from around Budapest, during my recent holiday there. It was a fantastic week away, and I will have photos and a post or two to come.

A quick note on YouTube – they have finally enabled long time users like me to change from the pre-Google ownership usernames, to my proper Google user name. Important? Well, I signed up to YouTube on a whim originally, and as an anonymous viewer, not as a producer. So choosing the username ‘Chunderbuttocks’ didn’t matter much. Nowadays though….well, Chunderbuttocks isn’t really what I want to be known as. It’s been a minor annoyance to have that moniker attached to my YouTube account all these years. But no more. Adios Chunderbuttocks.

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Capital In Movement

Following on from the vintage video of Mexico City that I posted a few weeks back, here’s a more modern take on the city. I absolutely love the videography. I reckon, from a purely technical viewpoint, this is the sort of video anyone could make with a modern DSLR. In theory, if one had access to some of the viewpoints and a helicopter. But the planning, imagination and sheer patience making something like this entails makes it a hugely impressive production.

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Olympus Pen E-PL1 Art Filters

No camera these days hits the shop shelves without packing some gimmicky extra features. Otherwise known as pointless crap that looks good on the television ad, but has no practical use when you’re actually out and about shooting. So I had a little skepticism when I read about the Art Filters built into the Olympus Pens, although I had actually read good things about them.

But I had to try them out. And they are pretty good! It has to be said, certain filters suit certain subjects and types of shot, and my samples haven’t been taken with that i mind. I’ve just been pointing my camera at anything that moves and everything that doesn’t. But still, what I have produced gives you a good idea of what they can do.

The camera can also use these filters in movie mode which is cool, although I had mixed results. Diorama (tilt shift) worked well with stills and video. Grainy too. The sepia is a bit strong for my taste. Pinhole is one of my favourite still photo options, although something went a little wrong when shooting the video methinks. I’ll have to try again and see if it’s me or the camera.

Soft Focus and Pop Art are definitely modes that will suit some subjects wonderfully, but look ghastly on other occasions. My efforts so far fit into the latter category I’m afraid. Click here to see the whole set of photos and videos on Flickr.

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Mexican Vintage Video

I found the video below on a blog, the author of which found it on another blog. It’s a great video from early 1940’s Mexico. In full technicolor glory! The sort of video I’ve been searching for for ages. I’ve seen lots of videos from my own country from the early 40’s, but few of them in colour. And the contrast between the two nations during that period cannot be overstated.

I’d love to be able to step back to 40’s and 50’s Mexico and spend a few years seeing the sights as they were, when the Zocalo was a green plaza without half a town’s worth of plastic tents filled with protesters on hunger strike. Check out the lives of Diego, Frida and Leon Trotsky as they made modern Mexican history. Visit Coyoacan when it was still a town in it’s own rights, separated from DF by green fields and canals.

I went hunting through the links on the video’s YouTube page to see what other bits of film I could dig up. TravelTalks had a second short Mexico film about motoring through the country which is worth watching. There’s also this 1941 US made film about Mexico in general. And another, but from a little later in 1947. In Spanish, there is the first ever Telecast in Mexico from 1950.

Here’s the rather crooked looking President Diaz Ordaz opening the Mexico City metro system, and a video of the first line being built. For sports fans here’s a propoer widescreen video covering the opening of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, and this brief video showing the opening of the World Cup in Mexico two years later.

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The Cantina

Less than a week to go. Next Friday I will be settled in my seat nice and early in a cantina somewhere near the centre of the city, ready to watch the opening ceremony and then the first game of the tournament – Mexico versus South Africa. A key game for both teams. If one loses they’ll probably need to beat France, not just take a point off them.

I’ve noticed more and more signs going up over the last week outside restaurants, coffee shops and cantinas, assuring their customers that they’ll be open good and early for the kick off. It’s just a matter of choosing which establishment I bless with my custom. I rather like the look of the cantina below to be honest. Just need to find out which street it’s on…

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New York Destroyed

I love a cool piece of digital video, and it gets no cooler than this. Although I normally reserve my blog for my own work, this is the exception to prove the rule. Like New York? Like Space Invaders? Pacman? Tetris? You’ll love this video.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
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Hands And Knees

I shot a little video while I was at the Basilica de Guadalupe. Complete with the truly devout crawling to the building on their knees. Some people crawl for huge distances, especially on December 12th, which is the annual bash for the Virgin de Guadalupe. If the video plays in stops and starts, you can switch to SD mode, or simply press pause and wait for it to finish loading before resuming.

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FZ35 Video

My first video with the FZ35. Just a few clips as I walked to the market today to buy some chicken, bean sprouts and lemons to make dinner with. My first impression – not blown away. The stills have met my expectations, but the video, has not. The footage is a little wishy washy, although it does improve when I extend the lens. Panning isn’t brilliant either, although it never is with a compact camera.

What does work well though, is the auto focus. It might not be perfect, but its as close to perfect as I’d hope for from a compact. The lens moves smoothly too. Two caveats though. Firstly, I’ve shot the video straight from the box without altering settings – having seen other videos shot with the FZ35, I know the image can be massively improved. Particularly when watching it full screen. Secondly, viewed as is on this blog, it looks a lot better than up large in full 720p HD. The reality is I make my videos for the blog, to be viewed at the size you see. Not blown away. But not really disappointed either. Just in need of some practice time.

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Vimeo, YouTube or Blip.tv

I’ve experimented with a few different hosts for my videos over the last couple of years, but have always gone back to YouTube for one reason or another. I’m currently at another crossroads, prompted by an email from YouTube. They offered to put adverts on one of my videos (my most popular video with 127,000 views and counting – that’s what happens when you put ‘Naked’ in the title) and share the revenue it generates with me through Google Adsense. In the image below, you can see a screenshot of this video with the ad in place.

Monetizing my videos? Sounds interesting. And it had me re-evaluating my video hosting solution again. There are three different hosts that I like, all for different reasons. YouTube is one of them, along with Vimeo and Blip.tv. They all have pros and cons, things that I like and things that I don’t like. How did my evaluation of them go, and which one will I be using?

Vimeo has a very neat player, with controls that are built into the video screen and disappear when the cursor is removed from the video. The community is pretty neat too and the whole web page design is simplification perfected, but remains colourful and classy. It wins on features too, with widgets and stats. But, the free version is limited. The hosting limitations are no problem for me, with more than enough space per week for my current needs. But that could change. However the current bugbear is that a free account can’t embed HD videos on blogs. Which is exactly what I want to do. There is a way round this, using VodPod. But that is extra work. Another way round this is to pay the $60 fee for full membership. No thanks.

Blip.tv has the classiest looking player of them all, but the web site and Showplayer are a bit plain and boring. They do kick ass for features though, beating YouTube and Vimeo into the ground, and include the ability to have adverts on your videos. You can choose prerolls, which basically play a short advert before your movie begins. A good idea, but there is a huge flaw. These ads can last from 7 seconds to 30 seconds. I would be ok with a 7 to 10 second ad, but a 30 second ad? No thanks. And I can’t choose the maximum length of these ads, so I have to turn them off. Monetization opportunity lost.

You can have your own domain name associated with your account and in theory can post direct to WordPress.com blogs using shortcode. But I haven’t figured out if there is a way to change the size of the player to suit my blog, which is crucial. Blip.tv also fails to accept the .mts2 format that I produce videos in, which means converting them. Extra work.

So YouTube, the perennial favourite of video uploaders. I feel YouTube has never been developed properly by Google and taken onto the heights it should be achieving. But it does have plus points. If the number of views your vids receive is important, then YouTube is king. Embedding and distributing YouTube vids is also a piece of cake. But it’s such a shame they haven’t updated the look of the site. Like most Google products, including Blogger and Gmail, you get flexibility and massive space allowances and all for free, wrapped up in a blocky, plasticky site that looks so late 90’s. I’d love to have the ability to customize the look of my page well beyond what is currently available, and have my own domain name. I’d even pay a reasonable sum for it. Perhaps not the $60 Vimeo asks for though.

I’m going to be sticking with YouTube for now though. It comes down to the extra work Blip.tv and Vimeo produce. It also comes down to peace of mind. My video collection is growing and I want to know that the host I choose will still be about in 10 years. You? I’ve put a poll on the right hand side of the blog. Which host do you prefer?

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iPod Nano 5g Video

I bought a new iPod Nano 5th generation media player yesterday. A silver 16gb model. One of my primary reasons for the investment was for the video camera built into the device. Tomorrow I’m running in the Mexico City half marathon and have been wanting a pocket video camera for a while, to take along and record my run. And there are plenty of occasions where it would be nice to have something to hand to record a moment in time.

I haven’t bought it for pure video quality. That would be dumb. A Flip Mino or similar device will ultimately produce better quality footage. But nothing comes in a package this small, let alone with the additional feature list, which I won’t go into seeing as this is a photo blog. For convenience, this is tops.

But how’s it working out for me as a video camera? Well a lot of people have complained about the positioning of the lens. It is in an awkward place. But you can live with it. I dare say you even get used to it. The quality isn’t ultra sharp, but it does a better job that you’d expect, having looked at the teeny weeny lens it’s fitted with. The microphone also outperformed my expectations.

The proof is in the pudding. So below is a very short video of my Friday morning. Apples own promo videos are displayed in small sizes, and all is bright, colourful, sharp. And filmed in situations I’m unlikely to encounter when I want to use it. With a tripod device as well, no doubt! I used it in the worst circumstances. Hand held, walking, night time, overcast early morning….all the worst enemies of a camcorder in general. How do I rate it? If you want to compare it to a Flip Mino….poor. But as I’ve mentioned, that’s not a fair comparison. Compared to my expectations? It bettered them, just. I’m satisfied.

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Torre With A View

And an unusual view at that. We went up to the restaurant a couple of months ago, and so pleasant was it, that we took Paola’s visiting mum up there last night. I’ve done a video – like many of these places I’m visiting lately, I’ve already pretty extensively photographed them. I have one photo in this this video that might look a bit strange. It’s of the gents urinal. Yes, it is just a metal tray beneath a sheet of clear glass. Yes, behind the clear glass is a window looking straight out on the street.

To be honest it would take one hell of a dedicated Peeping Tom and a pretty powerful telescope to take advantage of this very exhibitionist friendly loo, but still…the paranoid might feel a little creeped out, relieving oneself and gazing at passing traffic at the same time. The accompanying soundtrack is Niccolò Paganini – Cantabile in D major, Op. 17.

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