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The Photo Finish Camera

February 12th, 2007 at 11:40am

In my school years, especially the last four, I had a habit of producing very polished assignments…in other words, I always paid careful attention to the presentation of them. One big reason for this was that, whilst presentation had its own marking category and was worth a few points, it also seemed to affect the teacher’s impression of the work, and therefore the rest of the marks. I also don’t like handing in messy work!

Anyway, on some assignments I would go right out of my way and do something special…something well and truly beyond the requirements of the assignment. Usually that did not pose a problem, but sometimes it required a bit of negotiating with the teacher. One such example was an assignment for my electronics class in year 10 (2003).

The assignment was to make a three to five minute speech about something electronic. Easy enough, just about everything is electronic these days it seems. At the time the Spring Racing Carnival in Melbourne was well and truly under way, and the topic I chose was the photo finish camera…the device used to decide the outcome of races, for both horses and humans.

I quickly realised that a lot of the topic would be much easier to explain with animations and video, and decided that I would make a video myself. It didn’t take long to convince the teacher that this was a good idea, on the condition that I appeared on camera, and my voice could be heard for most of the film.

Here is the video.

Click here to download the original video (MPEG 1 format, 47.3MB)

Actually, it’s not the original video, but it’s as close as I can find. The original video, unfortunately, was not backed up prior to an urgent Windows reinstallation in 2004. I thought it was in one folder, but it wasn’t, and it is now gone forever. The “original” file above is the video from the Video CD I created for the assignment. I didn’t have a DVD burner at the time, so VCD was the best option. The VCD was subsequently copied to VHS tape as the school’s only DVD player was on a different floor and was already booked on that day.

A few interesting facts about the video.
The segments where I appear on screen were recorded in Campbell High School Library’s video viewing room during lunch time. It was recorded on three separate floppy disks using the school’s digital camera. One of my friends, Mirnes Huseinovic, was kind enough to donate some of his lunch time to be the cameraman.

The example of a photo finish being created was supposed to only run through twice at a much slower speed. It was doing so in the preview window, but Windows Movie Maker didn’t render it correctly!

I didn’t spot the “should have been blurred” bit of one of the Ancient Olympics photos until after creating the video.

The Ancient Olympics voting information was one of the few things I learnt in year three when the Atlanta Olympics were taking place.

SBS Sport were very very helpful. They remembered that a race had recently been run in the US with a very close finish and were able to point me to a website with video footage.

I got an “A” grade for this assignment.

As you may be able to tell, I’ve done a bit of work to refine the flash video encoder settings. I came to the conclusion that the flash video does not need to be the highest quality copy of the video in existence, as I have an original copy for that purpose. The embedded flash video needs to be small enough to play on most internet connections, but large enough to have acceptable picture quality. As such, videos with a 4:3 frame and 25 frames per second are being rendered at a frame size of 320:240 and a video bitrate of 336kbps (kilobits per second). The audio is being rendered in mono, at a sampling frequency of 22050 Hz and 48kbps.

The Flash Video format has further file compression associated with it, and as such the resulting videos have a combined bitrate of approximately 360kbps. Still too big for streaming on dial-up, but workable for most other connections.


Entry Filed under: Samuel's Tapes

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  • 1. John B1_B5  |  February 12th, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    That’s well done Samuel. Certainly deserved an ‘A’ grade.

    Who gave you the ‘basin’ haircut ?

  • 2. Samuel  |  February 12th, 2007 at 10:24 pm

    From memory it was Dad.

  • 3. John B1_B5  |  February 13th, 2007 at 9:39 am

    That’s ok. The important point is you didn’t pay for it.

  • 4. Bearded Clam  |  February 13th, 2007 at 11:28 am

    Didnt pay for it monetarily, anyway. Im sure you paid dearly in other ways.

  • 5. Samuel  |  February 14th, 2007 at 3:12 am

    By year 10, people had gotten used to me. Years 7 and 8 on the other hand…

    And I liked my hair as it was.

  • 6. John B1_B5  |  February 14th, 2007 at 9:09 am

    No criticism intended of course. Just interested in whether it was a barber shop job.

    Anyway, congratulations on the video. It was your OWN work
    and not some ridiculous ‘You Tube’ rubbish.

    I’m going to call John Stanley during the ‘what drives you nuts’ segment, and tell him that what REALLY drives me nuts is the
    sudden appearance of all these You Tube “videos” that are
    showing up on blogs all over the internet.
    Not only is the quality poor, but the content is pretty crummy
    It’s getting to be a farce to see all these idiotic ‘boxes’ with a
    Play Button’ in the middle !
    Oh well, I guess it’s a cheap ‘cop-out’ for those who are
    creatively ‘impaired’.

  • 7. Samuel  |  February 14th, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    Yes, well I would prefer to host the video myself than have it at the mercy of some third party service…not to mention the fact that YouTube and Google Video’s data transfer rates seem to be getting slower and slower and slower.

    I do have to wonder how much longer the services can be financially viable without “premium” subscriptions and advertising at the start and end of each video.

    I better add to my list of projects the task of moving the few videos I have uploaded to those services over to this website.

    Incidentally, I have something to submit to “What drives you nuts” this week as well.

  • 8. John B1_B5  |  February 15th, 2007 at 9:30 am

    I think the reason You Tube ‘videos’ (and I use the term loosely) are getting gradually slower is because every Blogger and his
    (or her) dog are posting You Tube rubbish, which puts a huge
    load on the servers, and the tradeoff is a reduction in speed.

    The quality of the ‘video’ is bad enough to start with, but when
    it slows down to the extent that the picture seizes up, things
    are getting REALLY bad.

    The creators of You Tube and the new owners (Google) must be laughing all the way to the bank !


February 2007

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