Fitz and the Tantrums Video: “Out of my league”, crazy lo-fi 3D with Kinect and RGBDToolkit

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Fitz and the Tantrums – Out of My League from Jordan Bahat on Vimeo.

My friend Jordan directed this music video for the band Fitz and the Tantrums (released on 4/22 on VH-1 and on the band’s web page and on vimeo in better quality), and I got to help plan and execute a technically unorthodox portion of the shoot. It’s a little odd for me to be involved on the production end of a project and to not work all the way through post-production (on films, post often lasts for more than a year) –but it was fun to shoot a bunch of stuff, hand it to the producer, and then see the final result weeks later. Now I know a little better how production folk must feel. Kudos to Jordan and producer Taylor for seeing the project through to the end.

A preview of the depth map as it was being recorded to a laptop during the shoot.
A preview of the depth map as it was being recorded to a laptop during the shoot. The different colors represent the depth at each point. Black spots represent holes in the data –areas in which no depth was recorded.

At around 30 seconds in, you’ll start to see the lo-fi 3D imagery I helped capture and visualize –point clouds and wire-mesh renditions of members of the band, rendered from various virtual camera positions.

The data was shot head-on from a fixed camera position1, using a Canon 5DmkIII DSLR to capture video and a Microsoft Kinect sensor connected to a laptop to capture a video depth map. The DSLR and the Kinect were locked to one another with a 3D-printed mount. Jay Trautman2 (thanks!) operated the laptop while I manned the DSLR.

The depth information for each pixel (or ‘D’) captured on the Kinect was recorded and later paired with the video info for that pixel (RGB) using a piece of free software3 called RGBDToolkit. It’s fun to play with. If you’ve got a Kinect and a video camera, you might give it a try.

There were some even-more-ambitious 3D data capture techniques at play during the shoot, involving an array of kinects and cameras (thanks Cedric!), which I’ll talk about another time. The non-3D shots were also captured on a Red Epic camera by D.P. Andrew Wheeler and his team.

My cousin Jenny did some great storyboards for the video, if they make it into her portfolio I’ll link to ’em. A ton of other people worked on the video. I’ll link to the full credits soon if I can find them.

  1. i.e. the camera was locked into position using a tripod []
  2. I worked with him previously on The Man with the Iron Fists []
  3. free as in beer and as in “MIT license” []

“La La La” video, song by Snoop Lion, video directed by Eli Roth

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Snoop Lion (née Dogg) recorded the song, Eli Roth directed the video, and I helped with some of the VFX and did the color grading.

In case you were wondering about the proximity of kids to smoking fruit or brightly-colored animals, fear not, it’s all an illusion –the animations and smoke were added in post. Granted, smoking has fallen out of favor in the modern age, but pineapples don’t even have lungs, so they don’t face the same risks as humans.

Turkish cover Super Mario Bros theme wins the internet

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

This video makes me so happy:

Neato music video starring Jenny Fine and other people

Monday, September 5th, 2011

My cousin Jenny is an internet superstar now due to the existence of this very entertaining music video.

I think Nathan J. Barnatt directed, edited, dances, and flips about in the video as well. Martin Starr tunes it in at the beginning.

Word on the street is that no green screens were used, it’s all implemented using early 20th century filmmaking methods –except for the digital music, camera, editing software, etc.

I like, +1, etc.

The motorized mixing control surface of the future, on iPad

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

When doing sound mixes, film/video editors often make use of hardware control surfaces like the Mackie Control Universal Pro. Such mixers connect to the editing system via MIDI.

Euphonix Mc Mix
Euphonix’s "MC Mix" hardware control surface. A nice piece of kit, costs $999. It’s a little smaller than the Mackie Universal Controller, a plus in my opinion.

The editor slides the faders on these fancy control surfaces to adjust the volume for each of the edit’s audio tracks during playback. When the editor is not moving the faders, motors built into the control surface move them to match the edit’s pre-existing settings. The automatic movement of the faders can seem a little like something from Poltergeist.

Unfortunately, the motorized movement of these faders can also be noisy, especially the clacking sounds emitted as many faders pop into position at once. This can be distracting when trying to mix a quiet, emotional scene. These controllers are also pretty expensive, starting at about $1000.

Enter the iPad and Saitara Software’s “AC-7 Pro Control Surface”:

(problems with the embedded video above? try this direct link)

The control surface in the video looks very cool to me. It’s silent, can be seen in a dark editing room, appears to function as well as I’d need, and the cost of the app is only $9.99. I’ve played with a friend’s iPad, and know the touch-sensitivity of that screen is accurate and responsive enough that I’d have no problem adjusting several tracks at once with this interface. For those addicted to the feel of hardware faders this might not cut it1, but for me it’d be a big improvement over moving the faders in Final Cut Pro’s “Audio Mixer” window with a mouse. I can’t justify spending $1200 on a set of faders I’d barely touch except a bit towards the end of a project, but $102 ? Hmm.

Ac-7 Pro

Yet another reason to consider an iPad. I wonder how long I’ll hold out? Sigh.

  1. I don’t think this is just a matter of purely subjective preference –one can feel where a hardware fader’s control is in space, and there’s probably a bit of resistance built in so the user can feel when the level has been set at unity without having to look. []
  2. $510 if factoring in the cost of an iPad, which can also be used to access the iPoo social network. []

Let the album art downloads commence

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

I bit the bullet and bought a license for the application “TuneUp”, which is now in the process of going through my entire iTunes Library to fix my track and album names and info as well as download album art for the tracks. It seems to work very well, and a working 20%-off coupon code can be found at the TuneUp developer blog.

How to use an iPod. A demonstration by Ari and Mirra.

Friday, April 2nd, 2010
I don’t hear anything. Is this thing on?
Ahhhhh. I hear something. Prog rock?


iTunes sharing over the internet using Back to my Mac and ssh port forwarding

Monday, February 8th, 2010

I was at work the other week, doing a repetitive task of the sort that provides an opportunity to listen to music. I’d recently purchased an album and had stored it in the iTunes library on my home computer, but had not yet loaded the new songs onto my iPhone. There had to be a way to make iTunes at home share its music to my work computer so that I could listen to the new music. A few internet searches turned up some interesting information as well as a solution.

The crippled feature to be healed and exploited

Apple’s iTunes software has the ability to share selected playlists or entire libraries of music to other computers on a local network running iTunes. This means that if you have a large collection of music on your desktop computer, you can browse and listen to music from its library from a different room, streamed to your laptop. Or if you work in an office, and your coworkers have iTunes running on their machines and set to share, their shared libraries will automatically appear in the left column of iTunes running on your machine and you can play from them. It all works very seamlessly, on a local network. Possibly due to agreements made between apple and the recording industry, the sharing feature only works between computers on a local network, not between computers on the internet at large.

How iTunes sharing works

When a user tells iTunes to enable sharing in that application’s preferences, iTunes advertises that service on port 3689 of the local network using “Bonjour“, the name for Apple’s implementation of the Zeroconf standard. Bonjour is used by iTunes, iPhoto, and other applications to advertise and to find servers on a local network, such as within a home or office.

If a copy of iTunes is running on any other computers that are on the local network, those instances of iTunes will notice the advertisement of an iTunes share on the network, and will display the name of that iTunes share in the left column of the window. The user can then click that shared Library and play songs from it on their computer. The playlists and songs stream over the network from the sharer to the sharee. Unfortunately in my case, iTunes running on my laptop at work couldn’t see the iTunes share served from my computer at home, because my home computer is miles away and not connected to the same local network as my laptop.

Bringing the remote network closer

The following link pointed the way to a solution:1


I recognized a familiar Unix trick in their tip: Port forwarding over a secure shell connection. Of course! If one could make a secure shell connection (abbreviated in the command “ssh”) to a remote computer, one could then do what’s called “port forwarding”, and forward all communications on a port on the remote machine to a port on the local machine. This would transport both the advertisement of the iTunes share and the actual sharing itself from the remote network to the local network. I’d never actually executed port forwarding over ssh before, but I’d heard of it, and between their example and the man page for the ‘ssh’ command, it all became clear. The tip first requires that one knows the IP address of the remote computer, and then shows the command to connect to the remote machine, grab any communications on port 3689 (the port used by iTunes sharing), transport it encrypted to the local machine, and repeat it on port 36890 of the local machine. The command looks like this (hover your mouse over any portion of the command to see an explanation of that portion):

$ ssh -fNL *:36890: USER@REMOTE-HOST

After that command successfully concludes, the iTunes share on the remote computer will be accessible to computers on the local network, except they won’t be able to see that it’s there. The second command in their document uses OS X’s built-in “dns-sd” command to advertise that there is an iTunes share on port 36890 of the local computer. It is this advertisement that will make the iTunes share appear in the sidebars of any copy of iTunes running on the network:

$ dns-sd -R "Remote iTunes" _daap._tcp local 36890 &

I was confident that this would all work, but for one snag. Like most people, my home computer only has an address on its local network, it doesn’t have its own internet address. The computer is connected to a router. The router has an IP address on the internet and an IP address on the local network and uses what’s called “Network Address Translation” to distribute connections from the outside internet to all the computers on the local network. If I tried to connect to the IP address of my home connection, I’d be connecting to the router, not my home computer with its trove of music. Luckily a solution was within reach.

Locating the remote computer using Back to My Mac

I recently purchased a “MobileMe” subscription, which includes a service called “Back to my Mac“. I’ll let Apple’s marketing folk, who’ve obviously seen Buckaroo Banzai, explain “Back to My Mac” for me:

Wherever you go, there’s your Mac.

Back to My Mac puts any Mac OS X Leopard- or Snow Leopard-based Mac you use within easy reach. MobileMe finds your remote Mac computers over the Internet and displays them in the Finder on the Mac you’re using. So you can connect from anywhere with just a click. Edit and save documents, open applications, and move folders. With Back to My Mac Screen Sharing, you can control your remote Mac as though you’re sitting in front of it.

I have been using the Back to My Mac service to copy files to and from my remote computer from work, and to occasionally take control of my home computer’s screen from work. The service must be punching through the router using port-forwarding and registering a temporary domain name for my home computer which can be accessed from the outside internet. I figured that if I could find out this domain name, it would be worth a try to use it to connect from work to the home computer and set up ssh port forwarding of the iTunes share. A search turned up this article:

10.5: How to use ssh using ‘Back to My Mac’

The writer of that article explains exactly how to determine the Back to My Mac domain name at which one can find their remote computer. When I tried the first method described, it did not work. As it turns out, that method works for short computer names, but my home computer’s name is long, and Back to My Mac truncates it and adds a few random (?) numbers when assigning the domain name. The second method they mention does work. I can easily determine the name assigned to my remote machine by choosing “Shell > New Remote Connection…” in the Terminal application’s menubar. In the “New Remote Connection” window that appears, I choose ‘ssh’ in the service column and my remote computer’s name in the ‘Server’ column. There, in the field at the bottom of the New Remote Connection window will appear the command for making a ssh connection to my home computer. It’s not the same ssh connection command that will be used to do port forwarding, but the last portion of it does show me the exact domain name that will resolve to my home computer.


Whenever I feel the mood, I can now run the following two commands and then sit at work listening to streaming music stored on my home computer:

$ ssh -fNL :36890:

$ dns-sd -R "Zach's Remote iTunes FTW" _daap._tcp local 36890 &

Thanks Y’all

Thank yous are due to the writers of:

  1. All the solutions written below involve the use of the Terminal application and the command-line. If you’ve never played with such, give it a shot. Stop kvetching and open /Applications/Utilities/Terminal. You paid for a Unix operating system when you bought your Mac, you might as well try exploring some of its inner awesomeness. []

An unexpected musical treat: Letters vs. Numbers

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009
Img 0955

The other day I unexpectedly received a CD in the mail, from a sender whose name I didn’t recognize. The band: “Letters vs. Numbers”, album: “Bone Tired”. The back of the sleeve was a handwritten list of other recipients along with a printed request that the recipient rip the album to their computer, add their name and location to the list, and send it to someone else.

Always one to obediently follow directions, I ripped, signed, and sent. I also listened, and damned if it isn’t a great little album. Here’s the first track, “Forget Everything”, for your streaming or downloading pleasure1 :

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

download mp3

I’d highly recommend that you receive this album by mail from a friend or an anonymous source. Failing that, the mysterious band2 has a website, a myspace page3, and the album is available at both the iTunes music store and the Amazon MP3 store.

  1. Hit the triangle button to play the track in your browser, or the download link to download the mp3 file []
  2. Their myspace page doesn’t list the names of band members, their number, or even a location. []
  3. The album can be listened to on the page in that icky myspace music player widget. []

Nice Deal: Shure i2c in-ear monitors (earbuds)

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

“Shure I2C-MP Stereo Earphones / Headset (iPhone Compatible)” $39.69 at

I previously owned a pair of Shure e2c earphones, which were very nice. When used with the foam earpieces, they isolate from ambient noise and produce a very detailed sound with a decent amount of bass. I ended up listening through them at a much lower volume than I would have with less isolating headphones.

Shure makes a set of earbuds called the i2c, which are simply their e2c earbuds with the addition of thicker cables, an inline microphone, and an iPod connector (looks like a standard 3.5″ stereo jack except it has one extra conductor for the mic). As an iPhone headset, the i2c has faced some criticism due to the fact that it lacks an inline answer/hangup button. Perhaps because of this minor inconvenience, has recently dropped the price of the i2c headsets from $119 to about $39.

I don’t care about the button, or the mic, since I don’t have an iPhone. For a nice pair of earbuds, that price happens to be a great deal. I placed my order last week thinking that if the iphone plug wasn’t compatible with my ipods that I’d cut it off and solder a standard miniplug in its place (ignoring the mic wire). It turns out that the iPhone connector works fine in both my 1st-gen iPod Nano and 1st-gen iPod Touch. Right and left channels nicely separate, and the sound is good. The mic connector on the plug doesn’t seem to short or otherwise interfere with the contacts for the audio outputs –your mileage may vary. It’s working for me (I suspect the connector was designed to work in both iPhone and standard mini-stereo jacks, but don’t quote me on that).

If you buy a pair of i2c‘s (or any in-ear monitors really) I’d recommend tossing the silicone sleeves they ship with (with extreme prejudice) and instead using compressible foam tips so that the earbuds really make a nice seal in your ear. The sound quality will be much improved, and the bass presence and detail will increase. Shure sells orange foams that works well, many on the net tout Shure’s tapered black “olive” foam sleeves for greater comfort and cleanability, and I’ve heard good things about the Comply viscoelastic polyurethane memory foam tips.

I ‘m happy to now have a nice pair of earbuds to use for running (My Future Sonics FS1’s finally died, and I don’t want to subject my FS Atrios to the same abuse). Yay. If you’ve been thinking of replacing your iPod earbuds with something better, this here’s a very good deal (on something much much better).