Category Archives: Research

Converting AIPTEK 3D HD Camcorder i2 photos for 3DTV

Years ago, I posted some articles on the AIPTEK 3D i2 camera.

I *finally* got to hook this camera up to a 3D TV and see the videos and images in full color 3-D (instead of the red/blue anaglyph conversions I’ve been doing). It works amazingly well!

I will soon post some tips on converting these images to play off of a USB stick (they do not, directly)…

Stay tuned.

Fix a 1998 Furby that won’t wake up or start up (without disassembly)

  • 12/2014 Update: I keep planning to take some pics of the “screw thing” to post with this, but keep forgetting. Sorry about that.
  • 11/2015 Update: This is the most viewed article on my site. Who knew there were so many folks out there with bad Furbys!
  • 12/2016 Update: A year later, and folks are still finding this article. There were about 300 views of it on Christmas day. Retro presents, I guess?
  • 01/24/2017 Update: Commenter Samuel submitted a photo of the gear. It doesn’t look like the spiral gear I remember, so either there is another gear I missed, or there was a variation of the Furby

If your old Furby won’t wake up or won’t start up and appears dead, you may be able to fix it in a few seconds without having to take it apart.

I recently tried to get my original 1998 Furby to work, and found that it was dead. I spent some time doing unsuccessful web searches, with none of the tips (“try new batteries”, “press the reset button”) helping. A second Furby has the same issue, and it looked like it might be related to a jammed motor, per this tutorial:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Push-Start-a-Comatose-Furby/

This procedure involved all kinds of disassembly, sewing things back together and hot glue. A similar YouTube video shed more light on the problem off the stuck motor:

http://youtu.be/fNaNM4_fKTo

I suspected you could just get to the motor using a small screwdriver and going in around the eye or beak, and indeed, it works. I was able to use a tiny flathead screwdriver, inserted above the beak and in to the left to gently rotate the corkscrew spiral connected to the motor a few times and within seconds, the Furby was alive again. Both units were fixed this easy, with no disassembly required.

Update: Thanks to Samuel (http://twitter.com/samsearight), we now have a photo. On my Furby, there is a corkscrew spiral gear I moved, and not this normal gear. I don’t know if the gear is also in mine or if this is a different revision. It looks easier to work with than the gear I found in mine. Thanks, Samuel!

P

2012: The Year of 3-D

RAR (Random Apple Rumor, see 2007 post) of the day…

Apple will announce its 3-D imitative. “3-D is big in the movie industry right now, but it hasn’t made it successfully to the home. Other companies have been trying 3-D for years, but we think we can do it better.”

1. The Apple TV that is an actual TV will be a 3-D TV. Since 3-D TVs already carry a premium price, having one that also does Apple TV stuff won’t seem to have too much of an “Apple tax” associated with it. Killer industrial design AND “Apple Eye” glasses that will be better and cheaper than existing ones will be the feature that makes them better.
2. The iTunes 3-D Movie Store will provide content.
3. The new iPhone 3D and iPod Touch 3D will allow consumers an easy way to record their own 3-D movies.
4. iMovie 3-D will allow easy 3-D processing, including adding 3-D titles (user selectable depth).
5. Output to red/blue anaglyph (or direct uploading to YouTube, since they support 3-D) will be part of it.
6. 2012 will be the year of 3-D.

Based on nothing. (Well, except a supposed “next iPhone” case photo that shows a hole in each corner, spaced like they are spaced on the 3-D Aiptek/Viewsonic cameras… Sure, they said it was for a flash, but…)

AIPTEK 3D HD Camcorder i2 & Mac p2

Updates:

  • 2017-01-10: Reformatted for WordPress.

Here are some things I have learned so far:

See also: Part 1

My camera shipped with FW Ver 1504, Jul 23 2010. HWVer 10B1.

  1. There is a firmware update (build 160) available on the European site for AIPTEK, but not on the US site. It fixes a frame rate issue that reviews seem to complain about. Why this update is not available in the US (the archive comes with English and it appears to work fine) is unknown. You can find it here.
  2. My unit had a color issue, where the right side image (right eye/camera) had a reddish tint to it. I wrote tech support and they responded within 24 hours, and we had a few e-mails back and forth during the day. They provided me with another firmware update (180, Ver 1803 Oct 11 2010) but it did not resolve the problem. They suggested I return the unit to Amazon, so I did. I requested an exchange on Friday, and Amazon shipped out the replacement “next day” (via Amazon Prime of my original order I suppose) and I picked up the replacement and shipped back my original the following Monday. (Wow, Amazon!)
  3. To install updates, you copy two files to an SD card (the instructions say to use 4GB or smaller, but it worked fine on my 16GB card — to be safe, follow their instructions). One file is an .elf (probably the standard debugger file format) and the other is AipFwUpgrade.txt, an empty file that is probably a trigger file the camera will look for. The card is inserted back in to the camera, and when you power it up and the update will proceed. Once complete, you have to remove these files from the SD card via a computer else the update will happen every time you power up. I found that you can mount the camera and copy the files over to it, directly, then let it update, but you still need to put the SD card in a card reader on a computer to remove them.
  4. There is also an update to the Windows PC software that comes on the virtual “CDImage” you see when you plug in the camera to a computer. This update can be found here too. Just like the firmware update, you copy two files over to an SD card (a .iso CD image file, and AipUpdateISO.txt trigger file) and put it back in the camera then turn it on. When done, you have to delete these files (just like with the firmware updates). This is a very decent system for doing updates.
  5. The files uploaded to YouTube (videos) are split screen squished — meaning for a 1920×720 image, you are seeing two 640×720 images squished together. YouTube can handle 3-D video if you add special keyword tags — in this case, the tags added by the AIPTEK ArcSoft software are “yt3d:enable=true”, “yt3d:swap=true” and “yt3d:aspect=16:9”. These are added by the ArcSoft software on upload, which means the software is not really doing anything special. I confirmed this by trying to upload the same .MP4 file directly to YouTube via the website, and received a “duplicate file” warning.
  6. YouTube will display the split screen file as various forms of red/blue anaglyph, interlace or checkerboard formats. This is nice, meaning you can let them do all the translations for your friends to watch however they want (even side by side or cross eye formats for viewing without glasses). BUT, viewing these files outside of a web browser (iPhone, iPad, etc.) will display only the split screen squished video as, apparently, the 3-D stuff is not handled by mobile devices (yet?).
  7. There is no Mac software, but it is quite easy to convert the video inside of Final Cut Express by layering the video on two tracks, applying the Levels filter to the top track and setting Red output tolerance to 0, then applying two instances of Level filter to the bottom copy, and setting one to Blue tolerance 0 and the other to Green tolerance 0, then setting top track to a mix so it shows through. This requires rendering and is slow, but produces good red/blue anaglyph results. Details on how to do this I found on this DVINFO.net message board years ago. Their suggestion of using “Screen” composite mode did not produce good results for me, but using Overlay worked fine.
  8. Conversion of photos on a Mac is my next project. There are quite a few programs out now for dealing with the Fuji W3 3-D camera, but I have not checked any of them yet to see if they also handle the side-by-side split screen format.
  9. There is no adjustment (seemingly) for parallax on the Aiptek. Back when I was using the NuView 3-D camcorder lens adapter (see also: Stereocam), there was a knob you turned to adjust the distance of the image. You would basically line up the two ghost images of whatever you wanted to be on the surface of the TV — anything in front of that would jump out of the TV, and anything behind it would recess in to the TV. This meant you could record something five feed away and adjust it so 4 feet popped out, and 6 feet went in. Or if you recorded something 20 feet away, you could set that as the neutral “flat” part. The Aiptek has no such adjustment (the W3 apparently does). The default distance appears to be around 10 feet, so trying to record anything too close (like something within a few feet) causes very bad ghosting — so this is best used for wide shots, and not close ups.

I will post more updates when I have time. I have to charge up the replacement camera and see if it handles color any better.

AIPTEK 3D HD Camcorder i2 & Mac

Two days ago, a random Google search led me to discover a cheap ($199 list price!) 3-D camcorder now for sale. This AIPTEK 3D HD Camcorder i2 model was not a camcorder like I think of the term, but more like one of those Flip video memory card cameras. It shoots video and takes digital pictures in 2D and 3D. The camera has 25MB of internal memory for taking a few shots, but an SDHC card is required to do anything more substantial than test it.

I placed an order via Amazon Prime and had the camera the next day — thanks, Amazon! If you wish to buy one, the model I got was $183

The camera comes with an HDMI cable (there is a mini HDMI port on the camera), NP70 battery, a USB extension cable, a set of nice plastic red/blue 3-D anaglyph glasses, a wrist strap and carrying pouch. When the camera is plugged in to a computer, it mounts as a “CDImage” virtual CD with Windows software, and a flash drive with the standard DCIM folder structure on it.

The software is used to download video and photos from the device, and then upload them to Facebook or YouTube. YouTube has support for 3-D video files, and will display them dynamically as either side-by-side format or several types of red/blue anaglyph (color, greyscale, optimized).

The raw 3-D JPG files that come out of the camera are 2592×1944 and they are two images squished side-by-side. Videos are in MP4 format and 1280×720, left and right images side-by-side. The conversion software (ArcSoft TotalMedia HDCam for 3D) will split the two images out and process them as a red/blue anaglyph image (for viewing with the old style paper glasses).

There is no Macintosh software, and thus this post.

Without the software, you are stuck with a cheesy 2-D camera of questionable resolution. It should be very easy in Final Cut Express to convert the MP4 video files, but I am not sure what software exists for handling the still photos.

I will add a new post when I get it figured out. I just wanted this here so Google could find it and maybe someone out there could help on this project.

5.1 surround sound in iMovie

From a series of messages I posted to the Apple Discussions forum

Original Problem:

I have tons of video shot on Sony HDR-CX7 and HDR-CX12 camcorders (AVCHD) in 5.1 stereo. iMovie ’09 and Final Cut Express import the audio as two channel stereo, which is normally fine for a consumer app.

I use a Sony wireless microphone to record interviews, and I normally set the camera to record only the monophonic microphone audio. But, there is also a setting to let the camera record 5.1 stereo from it’s built-in microphone, and use the wireless mic as the center channel audio.

I have footage recorded this way, and I find that when I play it back in stereo, I get a slight delay/echo caused by the wireless mic recording voices, and the camera recording voices (slightly offset). I cannot use the audio this way.

I want to extract the center channel audio from the AVCHD .mts files. I can then line that audio up with the video in Final Cut Express (or even overlay it in iMovie ’09).

Does anyone know of a free utility that can strip out audio from AVCHD files?

It looked like Handbrake might work, but it errors out when it tries to convert more than two channel audio.

I believe the AVCHD audio is AC3 format, so if I can strip that out, Quicktime is able to mute the other surround channels.

Any tips?

First Research:

Some updated research:

1) Sony suggests their Vegas Pro editing software ($$$). The demo will indeed access the center channel, but I have not had time to figure out what to do with it (running via Parallels and Windows XP).

2) eac3to – Windows Command-Line program (free) that can read a .mts file and export an .ac3. It shows up in QuickTime with 6 channels of audio, but the “center” channel is not center — it contains a mix of other channels.

3) VideoPier – $85 program that seems to work. It can output/convert the .mts file to a .mov, and if you open in QuickTime, you get 6 audio channels all set to “mono” — that seems to be a bug. Mute all but the center (second channel, I think) and that IS the isolated center channel.

4) VisualHub – tries to convert, but no go.

5) VLC – can export to a file, and there is a multi-step sequence using this and ffmpeg that supposedly will work, but too much work and too many steps for me to try.

6) VoltaicHD – $35 program that looks promising, but it creates a .mov with 6 audio channels and they have the same issue the eac3to program has. The “center” channel is not center.

So far, VideoPier is close, and the Sony product works (but both too pricey for such a simple task).

The quest continues…

Final Solution:

Here is my current status, and a work-around method to accomplish this.

First, using “ffmpeg” it is possible to extract just the .AC3 audio stream from a .MTS AVCHD camcorder file. I have tried to do this with the Mac OS X GUI version, ffmpegX, but it errors out. It looks like it is sending the wrong parameter to ffmpeg internally (or perhaps it is using a different ffmpeg command I have on my machine). Anyway, the command looks like this:

ffmpeg -i 00000.MTS -acodec copy audio.ac3

That will extract just the audio stream from within the MTS file (which is an AC3 file). By default, you cannot play .AC3 files in QuickTime. It turns out, I had “Perian” installed, which is an extension for QuickTime that allows it to play a bunch of other files. One of the settings was a Stereo mode, which was causing anything I tried to play mix down to stereo. Aha! So, I could toggle that off and actually get to the audio track I wanted.

BUT, since native Mac OS X does not read .ac3, my workaround is to again use ffmpeg to convert the .ac3 file to a .aac:

ffmpeg -i audio.ac3 -acodec ac3 -ab 512k audio.aac

Since the source AC3 file was 448kb/s, I just manually chose 512k as the conversion rate, so it shouldn’t lose too much quality. That value can be changed to decrease file size.

The end result, “audio.aac”, is now a 6 channel 5.1 audio file. You can open it in QuickTime, and go to Window->Show Movie Properties then select the “Sound Track” track, and the “Audio Settings” tab of that track, and you will see tracks 1-6 (Left, Center, Right, etc.). You can toggle the tracks off to get to the one you want (in my case, just Center).

From there you could export this out to a file with just the track you selected, or drag the .aac file in to Final Cut Express.

If you drag in to Final Cut Express, you will see it takes up five audio tracks. I drug this under the original imported video track, and was able to mute the ones I did not need. I also found I could unlock the audio from the video, and then delete the ones I didn’t want, just to clean up the edit window a bit.

The end result is now I can import the AVCHD file in to Final Cut Express, and bring in this converted AAC under the video to access just the center audio I wanted.

When I have time to streamline this process a bit more, I will update this topic.

Hope this helps someone else…