Is this Possible?

have become obsessed with the idea of connecting a small digital video
camera directly to our ipod. This is not just because posting on the
topic allows us a chance to use these quasi-pornographic photos (if
not for their redeeming

In a previous
we outlined the basic problem;
the main drawback to using a digital video camera to record interesting
portions of your life is where to put the large digital files which result.
Digital Audio Tape requires time-consuming transfer, winding and rewinding
we thought we had left behind with audio cassettes. Flash memory is limited
to about 15 minutes of video per card, and recordable mini-DVD’s are
limited in availability, capacity and compatibility.

A new alternative places a tiny hard drive on a Compact
Flash size card. Each MicoCard costs $200 and holds 4 gigabytes, enough
for an hour of high quality video.

We were almost convinced. What a cool solution; a tiny
hard drive you could hold in the palm of your hand.  Then we realized
– Hey, we already have a tiny hard-drive we carry with us everywhere
we go! And it holds 40 gigabytes! Why can’t we record from our digital
camera directly onto our iPod?

We posed the question here on
the Dowbrigade, and despite a couple of comments, nobody had any idea
if it could be done, or how. We can’t find anything about the topic on
the web.  So we asked John and Jon, the tech twins who live in the
server closet at work.

They consulted and concurred that IF the camera manufacturer
adhered STRICTLY to the IEEE-1394 standards and protocols, it was theoretically
possible, but they doubted it would work in real life.

Thirsting for more expert advice, we visited the Apple
Store in the Galleria Mall, swamped with desperate Christmas shoppers.
The iPods were flying off the shelves so fast they didn’t even keep them
on the shelves; they were piled on a wheeled cart directly behind the
register, where they were periodically restocked as the mountain diminished.

After a respectable wait I was able to ask a cheese-faced
13-year-old clerk if it was possible to record directly from a digital
camera onto an iPod. He informed me categorically that it wouldn’t work
because the hard drive on the iPod isn’t fast enough to write video in
real time.

When we had a chance to think about this, it didn’t
really make sense. It occurred to us that our OTHER external firewire
hard drive can record an entire DVD-quality feature length motion picture
(for review purposes only) in about 3 minutes, could our iPod really
be that much slower? Sure, the movie has been compressed and
codexed, but isn’t there a way to do that on the fly?

Our next stop was Microcenter, the biggest and best
all-around computer store in the Boston area.  The sales guy in
the digital imaging section actually thought about our inquiry for a
moment and pronounced it an excellent idea.  However, he noted,
it would depend on the camera manufacturer formatting their output into
a data stream the iPod could recognize and record, and they really had
no incentive to do so. He further suggested that the most likely appearance
of this technology would be if Apple came out with a proprietary video
camera designed to record directly to their iPods.

Does anyone know how much of this is pure bullshit and
how much has a grain of truth.  If this is theoretically possible
but presently unimplemented, how hard would it be to do? In our imagination
it opens up a host of new possibilities.

We had always thought that the Warholian ideal of being
able to record and annotate every step of your waking life (why stop
there, remember Sleep?)
was decades away.  Even videoblogging ala Steve
lugging a ton of equipment and transferring and processing before posting.

But now we are imagining a palm-sized video camera attached
to a palm-sized iPod and a tiny omni directional microphone, all controlled
from a handy remote. The camera could be incorporated inconspicuously
hat or
helmet, so that at the touch of a single button you could record whatever
your eyes were pointed at and your ears could hear. Other people, even
right next to you, need not even know you are a walking documentary.

So once again, let me ask the blogosphere: Is it possible
to record live video onto an iPod? Are we nuts or is this the coolest
idea since podcasting itself? One significant difference; while podcasting deals with content diffusion and consumption, this enters the relm of content creation and media manager, using the iPod as an audio/video recorder, repository, mixer and master control device.

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21 Responses to Is this Possible?

  1. Pito Salas says:

    Enough of all that 🙂

    What I want to know is, where did you get that picture?

  2. Anon says:

    I think you confuse digital raw video with encoded (MPEG) video. The raw digital files stored on your typical DV camera onto tape are not compressed and indexed at all. If you hook up said camera to a PC/Mac and import the video (say into iMovie) you’ll see it takes quite a bit of cpu power to convert that footage to a compressed file. That CPU is not available in the iPod.

    This is where the speed of the hard drive comes in. In order to store the raw video onto the hard drive of an iPod, the device must be able to keep up with the incoming (high bandwidth uncompressed) video stream. Tape has that bandwidth, the hard drive in your iPod may not be able to write the stream fast enough – keep in mind that even in regular Macs, it’s been necessary sometimes to use the latest “faster” hard drives in order to support direct (realtime) video encoding to disk.

    Note I am not a video professional, probably better explanations (and more accurate) are available.

  3. Steve Garfield says:

    Firestore FS-4 will do it capture directly to disk, but it’s their own FS-4 disk and not an iPod.

  4. Reason says:

    You are gleefully illustrating one of the failings of our digital age–any shit-for-brains can post whatever she/he likes without an editor. And I’m sure one of your own primary failings is the inability to actually describe your question. You described a very hectic scene at the Galleria which demanded actual customers to wait in line. Then you take up their valuable holiday time with inane, theoretical, poorly-worded questions. You want to know if you can recorded video to an iPod in real-time. Are you speaking of DV stream video, or some sort of compressed video. If you made it sound like you wanted to plug a standard Sony DV camera into an iPod and record your daily life as a perma-virgin (nice pic), then I would assume their short answer would be “no” and would hope the next “customer” wouldn’t waste the kind of resources you did (floor space, time, oxygen, etc).

    Now, as we continue on your obtuse adventures it may be worth noting that besides the fact you were surprised an Apple employee gave you a simple, short answer during a holiday rush and a Microcenter sales person needed to really think it out your inquiry; you also try to equate the iPod to other portable firewire devices. IEEE-1394 is capable of facilitating the type of sustained data rates necessary for uncompressed DV video, but do you not realize the iPod uses a much smaller hard drive–and we aren’t speaking capacity here, genius. You can’t expect the rotation speeds of 3.5″, 2.5″, and 2″ disk drives to be equivalent. Especially when the intended use is to play back, at best uncompressed audio which is usually in the neighborhood of only 10MB/minute. Furthermore, if you expect to be more reasonable and accept the limitations of your destination-device’s HD and try to think along the lines of recording compressed video to the iPod, then what is doing the compression? The iPod’s processor sure isn’t going to do it–not if you want acceptable-quality realtime video. You would have to have an intermediary device actually compressing the video on the fly, and then transferring the data to the iPod at a reasonable rate. Additionally, do you realize that the iPod, in its normal use does not actually spin its HD constantly to play music? It is intended to only spin up once every 20-25-minutes (while playing compressed audio around 128kbps). If you use it as a constantly reading/writing, constantly jostling-to-your-every-body-movement-device, how long do you expect that mechanical component to last?

    I am not saying your thoughts of a personal video recorder capable of high quality video isn’t a great idea. But the tale of your quest makes you seem borderline retarded.

  5. Michael Feldman says:

    We confess to being more than borderline retarded when it comes to tech topics; for more retarded details check out Confessions of a Digital Idiot.

    Be that as it may, if the problem is the “size” of the hard drive (not the capacity, genius) how come the even SMALLER MicroDrives we mentioned earlier seem to be able to do it no prob? Huh?

  6. Steve Garfield says:

    These giys had the same idea Make an iPod in a Camcorder

    Davif Pogue had the same idea in a recent NY Times article.

    I use my Canon S400 to take short videos and then copy the AVI directly to my Mac for editing too.

  7. Someone somewhere says:

    “cheese-faced 13-year-old clerk” What does cheese-faced mean, exactly? I can’t assume calling someone that is a *compliment.* I mean to not know the answer to something, then when you get the correct answer to your question quickly and competently, then to go off and write insulting stuff about that person in your blog, isn’t that kinda dick-faced? Categorically?

    BTW, the problem you guys are having getting this through your heads is that of format. Your typical DV camera records at a very high, uncompressed quality. The reason that you record to digital tape in those is the sheer high cost of having a disk fast enough and physically-small enough, and capacious enough right now would roughly be equal the cost of a medium-to-high end mini-DV (that’s tape) camera. Not exactly something that would sell. You claim to record DVDs on to a hard disk, well surprise! DVDs are compressed! A lot! And compression = processing power needed, a lot! Also, not something that would run very long off of today’s camera batteries! Can you record even DV in real time to a hard disk? Absolutely. But certainly not one you’d find in an iPod. Totally different creature.

    As for the crappy little movies a digicam (still camera) makes, you’re comparing molehills to mountains… they’re not even in the same ballpark as the quality and sheer processing-power required, let alone size of output. And for the JVC camera you mention on your other post, that has compressed output, from low res input, resulting in much lower quality that current DV standard cameras, nothing you’d want to throw in a video editing program, mainly because video editors can’t work on compressed video. So if you’re going to spend that kinda money on a camera that has crappy quality, knock yourself out. That’s why they can use slow, physically small microdrives. Garbage in, garbage saved to tiny disk. You could write that type of video to an iPod-style, physically larger disk, but you wouldn’t want to.

    Even after all that, I seriously doubt anyone is going to create anything that works on *current* iPods that will allow you to record video, of any quality, period. That’s your short answer, digital (village?) idiot.

  8. Michael Feldman says:

    The Dowbrigade admits to having been a cheese-faced 13-year-old himself, as well as a dick-head, at various times in the past, and remains damn proud of it.

  9. Lisa Williams says:

    I suspect Reason works in retail. I encounter him, and people like him, all the time — the hostile, dismissive chap, who despite his genius is working as a clerk at MicroCenter. It’s not like that chap doesn’t know what he is doing is wrong, either, because his badge is always turned around so you can’t read their name and rat them out to the manager…or they comment anonymously. He’s basically the digital version of the Comic Store Guy on the Simpsons.

    Sometimes this Comic Store Guy persona rises to great heights — but they’re usually still miserable, and miserable to be around. Think of Comic Store Guy as CEO of DC Comics, still convinced that nothing is good enough and that everyone is an idiot for not sharing his tastes. As far as cheese-faced goes, it’s a mystery. People with this personality, for reasons that remain unexplored by science, very frequently have poor grooming habits.

    Michael, you might not get a direct answer to your question here, but there are a lot of people who are interested in “life recording” involved with the MIT Wearable Computing project. These folks build a lot of stuff from scratch, but someday, what they’re doing will be available off the rack. They have regular open-to-the-public meetings. I’ve been to a few, and they’re populated by the cheerful sort of technically oriented person (the one who enjoys making stuff to feeling superior). Google MIT Wearables and you’ll find plenty of stuff.

  10. Rafael Cerveza says:

    The source of all knowledge 🙂

    I had no idea that this blog was frequented by so many video maniacs. Passioned bunch, aren’t we?

  11. Rafael Cerveza says:

    Okey after some searching I found this:,1759,1706756,00.asp

    So yoour prayers have been answered!

  12. John Deneen says:

    110 Mbps@10m QOS video will be available through Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology after Christmas 2004 and eventually embedded into Flash Storage•5 MB, 32 MB (next gen smart-phone w/camera), 512 MB (MPEG-4 Movie).


    August 10, 2004 – The Freescale [UWB] radio is certified under FCC rules Part 15F for operation over frequencies brands ranging from 3147.6 to 5163.6 MHz.


    * Freescale’s UWB Digital Consumer Applications – noted: retrieving PDF from FCC server is slow.
    (Notice some OEMs like USI, Gemtek, and GlobalSun will be shipping miniPCI and IEEE-1394 modules 1Q 2005)

    o Beyond VoIP: Freescale drives emerging video, voice and multimedia over IP.

    Freescale examples of UWB applications include:
    + Multiple simultaneous wireless digital standard- and high-definition video streams
    + Wireless Fast Ethernet, USB 2.0 and IEEE1394/FireWire

  13. Ron McKinney says:

    After checking out the juxtaposed photo, I assumed that this was all a play on words.
    Hard drives, streaming video, a few moans and groans followed by relaxation and a smoke. Then I read the comments above and realized that my first impression was a mistake. It does titillate the mind, if not the hard drive.

  14. Ron McKinney says:

    The Boeing, TRW and Mit consortium have this all figured out, but it takes a rucksack filled with batteries to power it. I hear they’re working on video cameras mounted in eyeglass frames in order to get stereo visualization. The problem is that it is mounted on a donkey. Their first two test donkeys died of heat prostration due to the weight of their body armor. So it goes.

  15. Hans Millard says:

    sehr gut Saite. Was machen Sie mein Freund?
    keep it up !

  16. mp3player says:

    I just realized how old this post was. 🙂 lol… It’s great to see how technology has advanced in the last 4 years!

  17. Brian Vander Vlies says:

    wat up, dude?

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