Category: Uncategorized

Too many YouTube ads on mobile and TV? “Bypass” them with SaveTube and Plex!

Adblock Plus does a great job of blocking ads on desktops and laptops, but on “app” devices like phones and TVs, ad blocking simply isn’t available. This isn’t a solution for blocking ads during casual browsing of YouTube on mobile and TV apps, but it’s a great way to get videos you know you’ll want to watch later and watch them on “app” devices with no more ad breaks ruining everything. You need two things: Sebaro’s SaveTube (and a browser extension like Greasemonkey to enable running user scripts if your browser doesn’t have native user script support) and a Plex Media Server setup. I can’t explain in this post how to install browser extensions like Greasemonkey or Tampermonkey and add SaveTube to it, nor can I explain how to install and set up Plex, but your favorite search engine and the Plex website can tell you everything you need to know.

  1. Install SaveTube.
  2. Have Plex installed, set up, and working. You’ll need Plex Media Server on your computer and the Plex app on your phone, tablet, TV, Chromecast, Roku, or whatever you happen to own.
  3. Create a new folder for your YouTube videos and add it to your Plex Media Server. Call it “YouTube videos” or whatever you like and classify the folder in Plex as “other videos.”
  4. Open a video you’d like to watch without ads. SaveTube should appear at the bottom right corner of the screen if you have it installed properly.
  5. Click “Get” in SaveTube to save a copy of the video to your computer. This defaults to the highest resolution MP4 that contains both audio and video in a single file. In general, you can’t download 1080p or 4K content already in this “muxed” file format, so it’s best not to mess with the default choice. SaveTube’s red-orange options are called “DASH streams” and contain ONLY audio or ONLY video, meaning you’ll have to remux the separate streams if you want the options that aren’t available in blue. As you can tell by now, it’s easiest to just hit “Get” and leave the other SaveTube options alone.
  6. Repeast steps 4 and 5 for every video you want.
  7. Move the YouTube video(s) you downloaded to the folder you made and added to Plex.
  8. Open the Plex Media Server web portal, click “…” to the right of your YouTube video library, and have it “scan library files.” This will refresh the list of available videos with your new additions.
  9. Open Plex on your device of choice and enjoy the videos you fetched 100% ad-free!

Legal disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, but for a layperson I have a fairly strong understanding of copyright law. It is my non-professional opinion that the actions taken here do not constitute copyright infringement or a violation of the non-circumvention provisions of the DMCA. YouTube’s page code has a block of text called “var ytplayer” that contains unencrypted URLencoded URLs to these video streams and there are no access controls on the server that restrict you from accessing videos through the links in that block of code. As long as you follow standard copyright law restrictions for the content (no redistribution, no public exhibition, etc.) this should be 100% legal. If you’re asking why this would be legal when “YouTube-to-MP3 sites” aren’t, it’s because those sites engage in redistribution of content which is an action protected by copyright. In fact, you can do the MP3 conversion yourself if you use SaveTube to download a “medium bitrate audio MP4” and use a free conversion tool like ffmpeg, Audacity, or Format Factory to convert the .m4a file to .mp3 format instead.

If you’re an attorney (a real attorney, not a person like me that simply thinks they’re smart and probably isn’t) and you believe that this procedure is not legal, please feel free to contact me and explain.

Windows batch file that converts all files in a directory to Apple ProRes

Windows batch file programming is terrible because the commands have poorly thought out syntax and peculiar requirements, such as double percent signs in batch files but not on the command line. I often make batch files that perform conversions with ffmpeg and when I decided to start trying out Final Cut Pro 7, I realized that I needed to mass convert MP4 video files to ProRes. My Windows machines are much more powerful than my Macs, so I wanted to be able to convert a whole directory to ProRes on Windows by dropping the directory onto a batch file. It took forever to hammer around cmd.exe’s stupid peculiarities but I finally got this together which works (note you’ll need to install ffmpeg somewhere in your PATH or specify an absolute path to it, and you must replace “C:\processed” with your desired output path):

for /F “tokens=*” %%D in (‘dir /b /a:-d %1’) do ffmpeg -y -i %1\%%D -c:v prores -profile:v 2 -vendor ap10 -pix_fmt yuv422p10le -c:a pcm_s16le -ar 48000 “C:\processed\%%~nD.mov”
pause

If you want different ProRes levels, change profile:v to 0 (Proxy), 1 (LT), or 3 (HQ); if you want ProRes 4444 you’ll have to change the encoder to prores_ks and set the level to 4444 and the pix_fmt to yuva444p10le.

The “pause” at the end is just in case you have problems and need to scroll up.

Windows 2000’s user interface was way better than Windows 10

This is part of a comment I left on a video about Windows 10. It seems like it should be here as well. It’s been modified for better presentation.


The Windows 2000 user interface was better than all that followed. Some improvements were made in each successive version but Windows 7 was the last one where the few bad UI change decisions could be easily worked around and adjusted to by users. Everything UI went straight to hell after Windows 7. The Charm bar is dead in 10 because it was an extremely poor UI decision from the get-go.

  • “Tablet Mode” on 10 is worse ON TABLETS than “normal” mode.
  • The “flat” design scheme with monochromatic ambiguous icons is more difficult for the human eye to scan and recognize.
  • A lack of borders, shadows, 3D edges, etc. makes UI elements mush together. Low contrast between UI elements greatly exacerbates the flat design issues.
  • Retracting Modern scrollbars are extremely annoying to use and greatly slow down anyone trying to use such scroll bars.
  • Removing the 3D appearance and dark borders from normal scrollbars and reducing the contrast between scrollbar buttons and the bar itself have made normal scrollbars much slower to use for experts and nearly impossible for novices.
  • The schizophrenic Control Panel/Settings dichotomy can only be described as a disaster, with every build of Windows 10 changing the names of categories, adding new ones, making Control Panel items kick over to Settings panels instead of doing what they’re supposed to do, moving settings around with no educational hints as to where the settings have moved to, etc.
  • There are no hints to educate users about how to use the system, what changes have been made, what features are available.
  • There is no longer any form of offline help available to learn about the system.
  • Things that can be clicked often don’t look clickable and vice-versa.
  • Things that can be dragged now have zero visual indication that they can be dragged; there are no drag handles on the Start menu edges and no border frames on scalable Modern program windows, for example.

Windows 10 is objectively a terrible user interface. People succeed in spite of it, not because of it.

How is downloading an illegally distributed work considered copyright infringement under the law?

I’m explicitly looking for more information on this. On a plain reading of the statute that governs copyright, U.S. Code Title 17, I don’t see how downloading (or buying a bootleg, or in any other way acquiring an illegally distributed work) constitutes copyright infringement.

17 USC 501(a) says that copyright infringement occurs when someone violates the “exclusive rights” of the copyright owner.

17 USC 106 lays out what constitutes exclusive rights: reproduction (making copies,) creating derivative works, distributing copies, and performing or displaying the work “publicly.” Nowhere is the act of obtaining, acquiring, purchasing, receiving, possessing, etc. mentioned.

I suppose one could see the “making copies” part and argue that downloading is making an illegal copy, but the problem with this reasoning is that the person downloading didn’t make the copy that they’re receiving, they simply received a copy that was made by the uploader. I liken this to getting on eBay and buying a bootleg DVD of something: the bootlegger made and distributed the copy, not the purchaser. The U.S. Copyright Office has a statement that treats uploading and downloading copyrighted material as the same act and claims that they’re illegal, but there is no statutory or case law reference.

Please, if you know what the “glue” is that allows the jump from the copyright statutes that don’t mention acquisition to “downloading music is copyright infringement,” chime in and drop some references to the applicable statutes or case law, for the edification of all of us.

AMD’s FX-9590 is still the top CPU value four years later

Back in 2014 when Jesus rode dinosaurs and Nazca aviators ruled the skies, I wrote an article about the AMD FX-9590 and how it beat all of the modern Intel chips of the day in a price-to-performance comparison I performed. It was a better value than every Intel Haswell and Broadwell chip available in 2014. Of course, benchmarks of newer systems against the aging FX-9590 show that gaming performance is clearly way better on newer platforms, largely due to PCI Express 3.0 support (FX-9590 boards max out at PCI Express 2.0 x16) and, more recently, the rise of consumer DDR4 memory and NVMe solid-state drives. As I was poking around various system benchmarks for newer platforms, I got curious about the FX-9590’s price-to-performance ratio today, four years and several processor generations later. You’d expect a chip that’s several generations long in the tooth to fall behind in value due to improvements in newer platforms, especially with AMD’s new Ryzen architecture fighting Intel’s 8th-generation i7 offerings.

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I saw this:

AMD FX-9590 best value on PassMark
AMD FX-9590 is still the best performance value on PassMark

Modern CPUs in the picture are boxed in orange. Notably, the price of an FX-9590 is way down from the $250-$300 range where it hovered for a long time. Amazon prices really are close to the stated $99.99 price tag. Four years after the power-sucking 220W 8-core beast was released, it continues to dominate in provided performance per dollar. I’m still using the FX-9590 system I built four years ago for heavy-duty computing work and video editing. I have other computers that are actually from the current year, but none of them is as fast as the FX-9590 box.

Long live the AMD FX-9590. You’re my favorite space heater and I hope you keep humming under my desk and making me uncomfortably hot for a long time to come.

Flamethrower FX-9590Affectionately known as “Flamethrower.”

[SOLVED] Premiere Pro: “The importer returned a generic error” when loading media

(Fellow video dudes: while you’re here for help with Premiere Pro’s bad behavior, maybe you’d also be interested in my article about why you shouldn’t be shooting with flat, log, or “cinema” picture profiles. It’s the second most popular article on the site.)

I recently had a Premiere Pro project I’d been working on for a couple of weeks that refused to import some clips. When I attempted to link the media again, I’d get a box that said “the importer returned a generic error.” What’s especially annoying is that the failing clips were from the same camera as several successful clips; there seemed to be no reason for these three or four clips to simply not work and I could play them in a media player just fine. The failure didn’t even happen after an update because I’d been working in the project using the latest updated version.

I checked file permissions on the network server and everything was good.

I deleted all of the Adobe caches and manually killed all Adobe processes in Task Manager.

I restarted the computer and even tried opening an auto-save of the project, yet all of these failed to resolve the problem.

Adobe suggests that these generic errors on import can be caused by activation issues, so I signed out of my Creative Cloud account and signed back in. Didn’t work.

In the end, what I had to do was open Creative Cloud, uninstall Premiere Pro (keeping preferences), and reinstall Premiere Pro. No reboot needed! I still don’t know why this worked, but it did. Maybe my experience and solution will save you some valuable time troubleshooting this odd error.

Did you open your Kodak EasyShare camera and now it says “high camera temperature?”

I recently got my hands on a Kodak EasyShare Z730. It’s actually a really neat little point-and-shoot from 2005.

I originally bought this cute little camera for $25 with the intention of converting it to full-spectrum (infrared) but it didn’t focus at all with the hot mirror removed. Unfortunately, I “broke” the camera while reassembling it the first few times because I didn’t push a flat ribbon cable all the way in. The camera would power on, then report “high camera temperature” and shut down. As it turns out, the flat cable that goes to the top board in the camera has two levels of contact pins and is pretty hard to get all the way in. I had actually failed to reconnect it properly and as a result the camera thought it was overheating. Once I realized that the end of this cable had multiple levels of pins and it obviously wasn’t in the socket far enough I was able to fix it. Obviously the camera’s temperature was never the real issue.

This camera is 13 years old as of this post, but I hope that anyone else who tears into a Kodak camera and gets this error message will be helped by it. Please leave a comment if this helped you!

The Old Man’s Pendant III (TOMP3) Video Log #1

I’ve decided to document the process of making The Old Man’s Pendant III and this is the first installment. In this debut entry I discuss the challenges of the first two films and the thought process that defines the third one which I’m currently working on.

A new reason to really HATE that stupid Asus keyboard power button

Instead of a highly useful “end” key, Asus has been putting the power button in the top-right corner of their high-end laptops.

Asus laptop power button
That should be an END key. I hate Asus so much for this.

Aside from the fact that the “end” key is something I use constantly when typing out things like the post you are reading right now and I have to disable number lock to work around the missing editing key, lately I have been waking up and walking over to the laptop in the morning only to discover that the computer has somehow died overnight! I thought it was some sort of extremely hard to reproduce hardware problem until I also found some white stuff on the keyboard one morning. On closer examination, it was kitty litter.

The cat has been lying on my laptop at night and the stupid Asus power button on the keyboard lets the cat hold the power button to force my laptop off.

Picture of a cat
The cat is a lot cuter when not turning off my laptop

Needless to say, this has seriously pissed me off. I already had a major problem with the missing “end” key and with the risk of accidentally tapping the power button, but to have the cat killing my computer in the middle of the night is absolutely ridiculous.

Asus, you need to install a proper power button on your high-end laptops. This power button on keyboard thing is really stupid and I’m very unhappy about it.

Protip: filmmakers, STOP “shooting flat” or using cinema color profiles on your camera

I plan to do a much deeper video on this subject later, but for now I’ve found a perfect example of the sort of “you should shoot flat [for that coveted film look of course]” bad advice I see online all the time. If your camera does not output files that have 10-bit (or higher) color channels, you should NEVER SHOOT FLAT, LOG, or CINEMA COLOR PROFILES, EVER. (Hint: if you don’t already know whether your camera produces 8-bit color or 10-bit color, it produces 8-bit color.) I’ll point you to this article  “Shound I Shoot Flat and Underexposed?” with a Technicolor CineStyle example image so you can read their advice and then I’ll show you with THEIR OWN IMAGE why shooting flat on your DSLR is a really bad idea, then I’ll explain what’s really going on.

Here’s their original image which was shot with Technicolor CineStyle, a “flat” picture profile that supposedly helps you get more dynamic range and therefore better looking video:

Technicolor CineStyle example image
Technicolor CineStyle example image from The Association Blog

And here’s what it looks like after I pull it into an image editor, boosting contrast, saturation, brightness (a little) and gamma (a little) to make it look “normal” again:

CineStyle image after color correction
Color-corrected image. Note the blocky artifacts and unnatural colors.

Let’s take a closer look at the face side-by-side, before and after.

Original CineStyle, vs Corrected
Original CineStyle, vs Corrected, double size to show detail more clearly

Keep in mind that this is a small JPEG image from their website, not a lossless shot of the original frame; there are JPEG artifacts visible in both images, but those artifacts help us get a better picture of why “shooting flat” on cameras without 10-bit color is a bad idea: notice how the JPEG artifacts in the corrected image are WAY more obvious and the quality loss after my simple color correction drastically lowers the apparent “production value” of the image? That’s a big part of the problem, but the other part is the colors. The reduced saturation requires heavy saturation boosting to look normal again but the damage caused by discarding a lot of the color DIFFERENCE information cannot be undone; the face has color banding issues that make it look more “plastic.” The flatter you shoot, the nastier this color banding gets. No amount of correction or magical LUT will ever make it look normal again.

When you shoot flat, the 1/2-stop of dynamic range you gain comes at the cost of effectively ruining your color and increasing blocky compression artifacts and noise. That’s why you can’t color grade properly. That’s why it looks like garbage when you push it in post. It’s not your fault; you were given advice intended for $10,000 cameras and you’re holding a $500-$1000 camera. This applies to any flat, LOG, or “cinema” picture style. Technicolor CineStyle, Panasonic Cinelike-D and V, V-LOG, Canon S-LOG, all of them will permanently damage your 8-bit footage and possibly make it useless. You can’t outsmart the basic math: 8 bits of space can’t hold more than 8 bits of data.

Normal vs. Flat Profile
Stretching flat or log picture profiles back to normal curves results in banding artifacts. Once visual information is lost by shooting flat, it’s gone for good!

Use a standard picture color profile with all tweaks set to zero or their default values (turn noise reduction all the way down though, especially on Panasonic mirrorless cameras), take test shots, push the footage in your editor to see how far it goes before falling apart, tune your settings, and repeat until you get the best results possible straight out of your camera.

As I mentioned before, if you happen to have a camera that can output 10-bit color (to the files on your memory card, 10-bit HDMI without an external 10-bit or RAW-capable recorder doesn’t count) then you have 4x or more added color detail that will be lost in the 8-bit final product after editing anyway, but the only DSLR or camcorder I am aware of that is affordable to consumers and has 10-bit color is the Panasonic GH5. Even Canon’s expensive new 5D Mark IV DSLR only outputs 8-bit color! In the camcorder world, 10-bit color is available on the Panasonic DVX200 which is about 40% more expensive than a Canon 5D Mark IV.

If you want to read more, this excellent article does a great job of explaining further, including images that illustrate the problem of “breaking up the histogram” brought about by shooting “flat.” I will post a  video about this eventually, so subscribe to my YouTube channel if this topic interests you.

One final note: picture profiles only apply to compressed video formats. If you’re shooting in a RAW video format like many very high-end cameras can produce, you’re getting 100% of the sensor information already, so picture profiles simply don’t apply in the first place and you don’t have to care about any of this stuff for that camera. Of course, if you’re shooting on a $50,000 camera rig, you probably aren’t reading this post, either…