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Apple

Four years ago, Apple applied for a patent that is relevant to animating parameters of clips and other content in a timeline. They were awarded patent 8,458,593 today.

I’m not reproducing this to start a debate on whether this sort of thing should be patentable. This patent shows how future Apple applications might show timelines of animatable values, and how more than one value can be changed at a time as well as controlling the shape of the graph joining two keyframes.

09

You can see from this drawing of an imaginary application interface, this patent applies to a media editing application that users can use to set keyframe values for clip parameters such as scale and position with editable graphs.

The example application shown in the patent looks like a version of Final Cut Pro that uses some elements from Motion, but not so many that editors are turned off. The editing temperament is somewhat different from that of motion graphic designers.

However bear in mind that this patent represents Apple’s thinking back in May 2009, in the intervening years, they may have moved on from these ideas.

The rest of this post is made up of most of the text and images from the new Apple patent

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In a recent market survey, Canalys claimed that Apple was number 1 when it comes to worldwide shipments of personal computers in the fourth quarter of 2012 with a share of of 20%. This figure includes shipments of iPads – a device many people don’t count as a personal computer.

Let’s turn the ‘is the iPad a personal computer’ question around and ask ‘If tablets are our personal computers, what are Macs for?’ If there’s a useful new definition of Macs and OS X, Apple will continue to improve both in the coming years.

At the moment people use Macs to organise and to create. Organisation in this case covers the personal, family and work aspects of our lives. iPads, iOS and iCloud are designed to support these sort of tasks.

It seems that the organisational aspects of our lives will soon be better supported using iOS and Android devices (and perhaps the mobile aspects of Windows 8). This leaves Macs and OS X as tools to support creative endeavours only: music composition, graphic design, illustration, photo manipulation, software development and media production and post production. A definition similar to the markets that supported Apple in the 90s.

As I mentioned in my post on how has Apple defined itself over the last 18 years, they might very well change the part of their definition that describes the Mac. Currently they say:

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software.

Perhaps they’ll break up that sentence by function:

Apple helps people organise using iLife, iWork and iCloud. Apple makes Macs, OS X and professional software: the best content creation tools in the world.

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On the latest episode of the Critical Path podcast Horace Dediu and Moisés Chiullan talked about the future of TV. Horace said that he thinks that the future of TV is in applying software engineering tools to story and interactivity development. Apple have some tools that could achieve some of this.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple have decided to change their PR policy to counteract recent bad press: they’re ‘subtly increasing’ their activity.

There does seem to be a correlation between Apple’s success and the number of press releases issued per month:

PR-per-month-graph-Apple

When Steve Jobs was appointed as iCEO in September 1997, there seems to have been a change in policy. The only month since March 1998 that had over 20 releases was June 2008, which was filled with iPhone partnership announcements.

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Looking back, it’s interesting to see how the way Apple has described itself has changed over the years. Luckily for us, press releases usually include a definition of the company issuing them. I’ve been back through Apple’s site and used The Wayback Machine at Archive.org to research the evolution of the way Apple sees itself.

April 1995 – A standard mid-nineties computer company

The only distinction being a mention of ‘personal digital assistants’:

Apple Computer, Inc., a recognized pioneer and innovator in the information industry, creates powerful solutions based on easy to use personal computers, servers peripherals, software, online services and personal digital assistants. Headquartered in Cupertino, California, Apple Computer, Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) develops, manufactures, licenses, and markets products, technologies, and services for the business, education, consumer, scientific & engineering and government markets in over 140 countries.

press-release-1995

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On the same day as the iPhone 5 announcement, Apple also launched new iPods. I found the pricing of the new iPod Touch interesting. If Apple is launching new smaller iPads next month, the pricing for the new iPods will have taken iPad pricing into account.

Here’s the current pricing line up for the iPod and iPad range as of September 12, 2012:

There are a two obvious price points left unoccupied.

The new smaller iPad is expected to be popular with younger people for use at home and at school, a similar market definition to the iPod touch.

So, where will the new iPads fit in? Will they have a 64GB variant? As the new iPhone 5 has enough space for a LTE radio, will there be a cellular version of the new iPad?

Although there isn’t a 16GB 5th generation iPod touch model, it is likely that Apple will want a gateway 16GB iPad ‘light’ model.

Although everyone is expecting the low-end iPad ‘light’ to cost as little as $250, that doesn’t seem to fit with the pricing of the iPod touches announced a couple of weeks ago.

Given that, here’s my guess as to where the new iPads might fit:

Although $500 seems high for a 32GB iPad light with LTE, it is unlikely that Apple will want to sell it for much less than a 16GB Wi-Fi New iPad.

Maybe the Wi-Fi iPad light will cost $300, but $250 seems unlikely. If it was $250, the 16GB iPad 2 will be priced at $50 more than a 32GB iPad light, and the 16GB New iPad will be $50 more than the 64GB iPad light.

It’s not as easy as it first seems to fit the new smaller iPads into Apple’s price list.

What do you think?

If you’ve updated your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to iOS 6, you’ll find the Maps app uses new data. It is likely that if you have local knowledge, you find errors and missing information. The new data is much less comprehensive than the Google Maps data the app used until now.

Eventually errors will be fixed and many more points of interest will be added. To speed the process, Apple have included ways for us to submit information and corrections.

Points of interest shown at incorrect location

If you see that a business, park, station, hospital or other point of interest is shown at an incorrect location, you can send Apple the correct location.

Tap the blue right-facing arrow to see point of interest details.

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Following on from a patent for media collaboration for professionals, Apple have recently applied for a couple of video editing patents. Note that I’m not interested in whether such software features should be patentable, I’m interested in what these ideas could mean for future software.

Smart transitions

The first patent is about applications automatically selecting a transition between clips based on content, metadata or ‘sideband data’.

…based on the analysis and/or comparison of adjoining video clips, or adjoining portions of video clips, a transition type may be selected. The transition type may be selected based on rules defined for particular content characteristics, such as motion characteristics, temporal characteristics, or color characteristics, or a combination of content characteristics

The patent includes some examples showing the choice between a hard cut and a crossfade:

For example, if it is determined that the content of adjoining video clips is temporally proximate (i.e., was captured on the same day), a hard-cut transition may be selected for transitioning between the adjoining video clips. If it is determined that the content of the video clips is temporally distant (i.e., was captured on different days), a crossfade transition may be selected for transitioning between the adjoining video clips. If it is determined that the content of the adjoining video clips contains a high amount of motion, a hard-cut may be selected for transitioning between the adjoining video clips. If it is determined that the content of the adjoining video clips contains a low amount of motion, a crossfade transition may be selected. Moreover, if it determined that the color characteristics of two adjoining video clips are similar, a hard-cut transition may be selected; if the color characteristics are different, a crossfade transition may be selected.

The patent mentions that the rules of which transitions to apply to which video clip combinations can be set using application preferences.

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Many editors don’t understand why Apple have abandoned the track-based editing metaphor.

Tracks have been in Mac applications since Macromind VideoWorks in 1985:

videoworks

 Image source: Jamie Fenton

VideoWorks (which evolved into Macromedia Director in the 90s) was an animation application that imported graphic images (into a ‘cast’ window), these images are then placed on a stage in layers. The ‘Score’ showed these numbered layers listed vertically, with animation frames shown horizontally. In the example above, there is nothing shown in layer 3 until frame 8. The current frame is 13, with the graphic in layer 2 selected.

When Avid and Adobe Premiere came along, they had timelines that represented video clips overlaying each other in layers, and this metaphor survives to this day. Here’s an example of how tracks are used in editing today:

The modern rule is that the lowest numbered track is in the background, and video clips in higher numbered layers obscure the layers below. In the example if all the clips were full screen, the final edit would start with the wide shot, followed by Actor A, then B, A, the wide, B, A and back to the wide.

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FCP.co has reported in detail on Apple’s new Methods, systems, and apparatus for collaborative media editing patent:

Methods, systems, and apparatus for collaborative media editing. In one aspect, a method includes presenting, to an originator, an originator interface including multiple media panes; establishing a connection with a collaborator; receiving from the originator a selection indicating an item of media content associated with at least one of the multiple media panes; transmitting to the collaborator the selected item of media content; and enabling inter-user communication relating to the selected item of media content in the originator interface with the collaborator. Further, a connection can be established with a second collaborator, the item of media content can be transmitted to the second collaborator, and communication can occur in the originator interface with the second collaborator.

The ‘method’ (patent parlance) they use as a example in the abstract is shows an editor sending media clips to collaborator A and having a window-based chat session about prospective changes. Collaborator A then goes on to share the task with a new collaborator, B, who gets the footage and who can appear in the chat window of the original editor.

Here’s the picture FCP.co used to illustrate the news:

They pointed out a possible code name for a collaborative media application is included in Apple’s mockup: ‘Light Table.’ In this case the role of the user on the project is ‘Assistant Director,’ the tasks listed are Storyboarding, Acquisition, Organising, Placing Media, Effects, Collaboration and Delivery.

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