Monthly Archives: February 2008


In the process of researching interactive timelines, digital asset delivery methods, visualization, etc., I came across an intriguing new tool from the Center for History and New Media (the folks responsible for Zotero). It’s called Omeka. Although designed primarily for museums and archival collections, I think it has some interesting potential. Omeka focuses on pedagogy and narrative rather than mere presentation of digital data. It’s also extremely easy to use – it seems to be modeled heavily after WordPress – so even relatively inexperienced users can construct a learning object in very little time. I haven’t tested all its features yet, but in the future it might even be able to serve as an alternative to Portfolio. There’s a video tutorial/promo of sorts available at THATPodcast.

For an example of a recent site constructed using Omeka, check out The Object of History. It’s not the most eloquent interface I’ve ever encountered, but I think it shows potential. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be that well suited for creating and incorporating advanced java widgets like Simile Timeline. Oh well. Maybe with a little tinkering….

TWTT – Social Bookmarking

Emily Horning gave an introduction to social bookmarking. Demonstrating, she pointed out misspellings and tag inconsistency. She showed and demonstrated PennTags, but didn’t explain what distinguishes it from other social bookmarking sites.

Jen Pollock from the Yale Center for British Art then showed a project she’s working on while auditing Tim Barringer’s History of Art class HSAR305 – London: Capital of the 19th Century. The students jump to through a link in Classes*v2. The students in the class all login using the same account to add their bookmarks and the tagging structure is evolving. Ms. Pollock prefers showing the tags as a tag cloud because of the way it visually represents popular tags.

Prof. Barringer expressed how interesting the process has been approaching the technology as a novice. He likened his students to a Star Trek Borg collective fanning out across the Internet finding resources. His hunch is that the students’ time spent studying the online artwork (accessible through the bookmarks) has resulted in students spending more time with the actual physical collections here at Yale. Barringer theorized that the  familiarity students gain with exposure to works of art online motivates them more to the real thing. Pollock reiterated that saying that she’s found that it whets students’ appetite to get into the study rooms at the YCBA.

Barringer went on to suggest that the focused pooling of resources in has extended the canon of 19th Century art for his students to encompass more works by British artists. He quipped that if Gardner’s “Art Through the Ages” were your only source, you’d think the only art to come out of the 19th Century was French. The abundant links to sources focusing on 19th Century British art that has been contributed by students has helped to redress that bias.

YouTube Capture

buckley.movPam was brainstorming last week about the best way to capture a movie that a professor might want off of YouTube. She had done some time and effort-intensive captures, but the suggestion came up (not from me) that it might be a good deal easier to simply use Snapz Pro to do a straight screen capture with a Mac Audio track when doing such videos. So, that being said, I spent some of today experimenting with said technique, and the good news is that it works! Very well! I will embed an example of the best capture I had. Some general steps for doing so first though:

1. Open Snapz Pro, and click on “Movie.”
2. When the menu for “Movie settings comes up, at the top, be sure that “Normal” is selected from the “Selection Style” menu, this will allow you to resize the capture window so that only the YouTube video show up in the end result. Also be sure that the box next to “Mac Audio Track” is checked – this will capture whatever sound is going on internally, as opposed to the microphone, which will capture you talking to yourself and breathing.
3. Resize the capture window so that only the video square is within it, leave the control panel out, so that you can click play without seeing a little mouse arrow come into the end result.
4. Double-click on the selected square and you’ll hear a male voice saying “action,” now play the movie. When you are finished, click on the Snapz Pro icon on the dock and save your movie.

A few general comments, obviously, the quality of your movie will depend on the quality of the YouTube video, and Snapz Pro degrades it just a bit more, so if you have a crappy YouTube video, it might come through Snapz too poorly to actually be usable. Also, remember to keep the mouse arrow out of the capture square, or you’ll have an arrow going through your end movie. Further, there is as of yet few ways to edit such captures without have a fuzzy video, so if you want fade ins and outs, there might be a way to add them with Quicktime Pro. Finally, when capturing, be sure to try and mute alerts or other incidental sounds that might come up during a capture, as with the “internal Mac audio” option all of these sounds will be in your end result.

For more help on Snapz Pro stuff, check out Anthony’s tutorial packet.

DV capture

Anthony basically dared me to write a snarky post about some issues we had with capturing DV tapes down at FSC. So here goes…

When capturing DV tapes at FSC, there is a nice incorporated-looking DV deck right in the rack, and the switcher allows one to select it for output to the Thelma Mac. However, as I and later, Anthony found, for whatever reason, the DV deck, when put through the switcher and converter (possibly because the converter is analog to DV and DV is already DV?) makes for a black and white image. I thought that the tapes were in black and white, and proceeded to export 120 minutes of interviews to .flv (with its own set of problems) in black and white. As the professor was looking for nice, full-color, and not art-movie interviews, this necessitated a fix – which came in the form of running a Dv out –> firewire cable directly from the deck to the Thelma Mac. This fixed the issue, and thus, we keep a cable handy at FSC. One other issue seems to be that, when a person using a DV camera neglects to give the editor or capturer enough time prior to the beginning of the clip, said editor will often begin the import before hitting play on the DV deck so as not to miss any of the interview. What I found was that this resulted in clips with no sound. So, you must begin playing the tape prior to hitting import, unless the professor is looking for a silent film.

ELI 08 quick Take Homes

eBay was the first Web 2.0 site (Bob Young) <i.e. websites where the users are creating the value>

SL avatar is a form of rhetoric (Intellagirl)

BY – Smart kids, by the time they graduate, think they know everything because they’ve always been reinforced; so, they are not motivated to continue learning. I was always the “dumb” kid, so when I graduated, I had to keep learning

BY – All the smart kids got picked as Librarians in my school. So I was surprised when I was asked to become a Librarian. I asked why, and they said “because you read the most books of anyone in the school, and they can’t keep up with reshelving. Now, you can reshelve your own books”

Revised Self-Service Station Documentation

I’ve been meaning to get this done, but faculty projects keep popping up and delaying me. I think this is basically a final draft, though. I tried to revise the documentation based on the questions people have asked me most frequently, which range from “Where do I put the DVD?” to “Why can’t I export a QuickTime clip directly to my Pantheon?” A summary of the changes I made:

1. I added a section on how people can plug their own Macs into the VMC-1. I figure this will alleviate some of the hard drive space concerns we have, and also allow people to take their projects home more easily. Also, to be very honest, new Macbooks are basically as fast as the iMacs we have here.
2. I tried to clear up some of the issues people were facing with the various views — timeline and clip viewer.
3. I added a warning about the little symbol that pops up on VCRs and DVD players when you press “Play.”

Some things I think we could still use:
1. A short help sheet on making a simple iDVD project.
2. Some explanation of QuickTime codecs and how to get the best quality.
3. Documentation on the more detailed aspects of editing with iMovie.

I think we have most of these things lying around somewhere, it’s just a matter of putting them somewhere people can get them.

Word version
PDF version

AppleTV Roundup

This post is long overdue, but I think it’s finally time to evaluate where we stand on this project. Beginning last term, I ran a series of mods on the AppleTV in the ITG main office, some of them relatively simple, others significantly more complex. The most important breakthrough was learning how to program a USB memory stick to serve as a “patchstick” for the AppleTV’s internal interface. This did not require installing a new, full version of Mac OSX, but simply modifying the kernel parameters of the existing OS. Once this was accomplished, I was able to install a series of specialized plug-ins allowing me to activate a bunch of stuff, from mplayer to SSH and VNC. The coding and installation instructions for all of this, as well as links to the relevant plug-ins, are available on the AwkwardTV Wiki. Some more mucking about in the system OS allowed me to plug in an external keyboard and mouse. Thanks to Yanni’s expert XML skills, I was able to install and run Firefox as well. But most other programs, such as Mac Powerpoint, refuse to launch.

So, all of this begs the question: what can we actually do with an AppleTV? Firstly, the internal Frontrow software has an excellent slideshow feature that incorporates background music and advanced transitions and montage effects. Installing mplayer allows me to run pretty much any media file in any conceiveable file wrapper or codec. It also has a nice playlist feature, with a randomizer, that allows me to cue up a bunch of movies from a remote drive (a big advantage over the built-in Quicktime Player). SSH and VNC make it possible to login remotely and perform a number of important activities. Finally, Firefox allows for a range of possibilities, including fullscreen flash animations.

I see three possibilities for digital signage. 1.) Write a flash application to display the movies and text we require and run it fullscreen in Firefox. 2.) Stick with the existing software options and run either a sildeshow of still captures or a looping, randomized playlist of digitized clips. 3.) Compile a presentation in Powerpoint, including stills, text, and (possibly) movies and export it to a QT movie that could then be played on the AppleTV. None of these are particularly satisfactory. Option three might be the most feasible. Option one is definitely the most flexible and potentially the best-looking. But my flash programming skills are only very basic, so this would have to be something for Yanni to tackle.

NB: Apple is about to release a major new update to its existing AppleTV software, allowing users to rent HD movies, and if history is any guide, it will inevitably break all of my mods and send me back to square one. So, we should keep this in mind. Nobody update the AppleTV unless absolutely necessary!!