Breaking Eggs And Making Omelettes

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Android Multimedia SDK

November 12th, 2007 by Multimedia Mike

Google has unveiled their mighty Android platform SDK today. It apparently based uses that phone-based flavor of Java. An ergonomic Eclipse-based development environment and a software emulator are both provided for your experimentation.


Android logo

That’s nice. But let’s cut to what really matters — multimedia. The SDK specifies the Media API along with its MediaPlayer and MediaRecorder APIs. According to the AudioEncoder class, audio can be encoded to AMR-NB. The VideoEncoder class specifies H.263, H.264, and MPEG-4 SP. All pretty standard for a mobile application, I suppose.

Who handles the multimedia heavy lifting? Vitor noticed this press release and associated fluffy overview from PacketVideo

It’s Java, though, and that means obfuscated Java bytecode programs. Time for a renaissance for my Java de-obfuscator?

Posted in Java, Multimedia PressWatch | 6 Comments »

Android Multimedia

November 6th, 2007 by Multimedia Mike

I honestly do not understand much about Google’s new Android platform. But if I gather correctly from the surrounding hype and press releases, it’s the answer to all of my prayers and will make every single one of my dreams come true.

If you’re like me (and, let’s face it, if you read this blog then you probably are), you are interested in the multimedia features of this proposed platform.


Android phone logo image

The literature that I have perused thus far has not made any remarkable claims with respect to multimedia capabilities amidst all the other wish-granting facets of the phone framework. The above picture, which seems to be the mascot image, specifically sports that ubiquitous symbol of multimedia playback — the rightward-facing arrow in a circle.

Since “open source” is a key selling point of this platform, what are they going to use for a general multimedia backend? I can hardly imagine.

Posted in Multimedia PressWatch | 1 Comment »

Silverlight Codecs

September 5th, 2007 by Multimedia Mike

Today, Microsoft released some framework for delivering rich internet applications called Silverlight. One of its larger selling points is the ability to stream HD-quality multimedia over the internet. Naturally, I wonder what codecs the system uses. Various press releases play up the VC-1 codec, which of course only pertains to video. I can only assume that WMA3 would be a standard audio codec, and likely WMA2.


Microsoft Silverlight logo

But is that all? I started asking this question after I wondered how or if someone could possibly create a Silverlight YouTube clone. The secret to YouTube’s success is, of course, free software. The site runs FFmpeg and MEncoder (see my previous post on this matter) on top of free operating systems and web servers (and I read a forum post somewhere that alleges that Python scripts schedule the multimedia conversion jobs). Sure, you could build the same kind of site with purely Microsoft OSes and multimedia conversion software, but it would cost lots of money in software licenses. This is money that doesn’t need to be spent in, e.g., YouTube’s case and can go towards expanding the hardware infrastructure or lining executive pockets.

Maybe it will be possible to build a Silverlight-based YouTube after all. Here’s a post in a Silverlight forum that describes what codecs Silverlight is alleged to support: On the video side, there is WMV1, WMV2, WMV3, WMVA, and something called WMVC1 (not a proper FourCC): Windows Media Video Advanced Profile. For audio, the post lists WMA 1, 2, and 3, and MP3. Free software encoding support for MP3 is quite abundant. FFmpeg also has support for encoding WMA2. Out of that list of video codecs, FFmpeg can encode WMV7 and 8 (no XIntra8-type frames, of course, but the encoded streams are still compliant).

As is my custom, I have started a MultimediaWiki page tracking what is known about the multimedia formats supported in Microsoft Silverlight. It would be nice to put together a simple Silverlight platform to empirically test the capabilities. I just can’t get past thinking that Silverlight should also support raw PCM, though that’s not as sexy as MP3 for mentioning in a press release. Fairness dictates I should do the same for Adobe’s Flash Player (Silverlight’s obvious competitor), so I have started an appropriate MultimediaWiki page on that topic.


Mono Project logo

Meanwhile, there’s that Moonlight project offshoot from the Mono Project that is supposed to provide Linux support for the new hotness that is Silverlight. For some reason, the meme going around today is that MS Silverlight is officially out, and Linux has 100% perfect support (or is right around the corner). My cursory investigation leads me to believe that this is not the case. I have read stuff about the Silverlight install for Linux being a one-click affair. I have some direct experience with that type of goal so I am a tad dubious. My guess is that the one-click thing is supposed to be reliable for SuSE Linux (Microsoft partner Novell’s distribution) and hopefully adaptable, with modifications, to other distros. But based on the official status page, it’s not quite there.

But thinking about my primary obsession, multimedia codecs– how will Moonlight cope with decoding the aforementioned formats? The project status page recommends developers and early adopters download and install a particular SVN revision of FFmpeg. That can’t be relied upon to decode all the formats called for above. I have read some rumblings about how Microsoft will release binary codecs that will only be allowed to run with browser plugins. So there’s something to look forward in the binary-supporting components of the free Linux multimedia players.

I should probably mention that I help develop a program that operates in a similar space as Silverlight.

Posted in Multimedia PressWatch | 11 Comments »

BBC iPlayer

June 29th, 2007 by Multimedia Mike

This article in IMDb’s Studio Briefing was the first exposure I have had to the British Broadcasting Corporation’s initiative called iPlayer: BBC Chief Says New Software Moves TV Into a New Age. This is the official page (iPlayer is formerly known as IMP), and here’s Wikipedia’s treatment.

BBC’s player client allows users to download recent BBC shows and view them locally for a limited period of time. Any multimedia hacker who hears ‘BBC’ likely thinks of the Dirac video codec. There is no sign of the codec in any of the literature. Indeed, the container, codec, transport, and DRM capabilities all appear to be based on Windows Media technologies. Further, the client distributes content via a P2P protocol. I suppose this is a natural outgrowth of such a community-owned entity as the BBC.

The official iPlayer homepage links to a message board for the program beta. The board is closed now but the latest activity was from… February… May… even July? Oh wait, these messages are from 2006. The BBC is not known to be the most efficient or competitive enterprise in the broadcast market. So it is not a big surprise to see how gradually this project has progressed.

Presumably, subjects under the BBC’s jurisdiction will express the most interest in this media client. I wonder if foreigners will be able to use it as well? There was much consternation on the message board regarding the limitations of the service, e.g., not being able to sync the downloaded content to such portable devices as the Apple iPod and Sony PSP.

Does the BBC publish any content that would even make any hacking endeavors worthwhile? (Not in my viewing experience…)

Posted in Multimedia PressWatch | Comments Off on BBC iPlayer

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