Google Latitude as GPS tracker for your images

Dur­ing my last hol­i­days I usu­al­ly used my Win­tec G-Rays GPS track­er to record my track. That allowed me to lat­er inject GPS data into my pho­tos tak­en with a reg­u­lar cam­era, thus giv­ing me addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion such as city, region and coun­try. I love hav­ing this stuff all auto­mat­ed and don’t want to have to care for it or man­u­al­ly adding it.

One stum­bling block I came across was the GPS tracker’s bat­tery. It has to be charged every night. Ok not that big a thing, but as that device is so small and eas­i­ly slid into any pock­et, I often for­got tak­ing it out in the evening and charg­ing it. Thus it didn’t work the oth­er day. That made me look out for some­thing else.

I researched many solu­tions that get attached direct­ly to your cam­era, like the Sol­meta Geo­t­ag­ger . Well, I don’t like those. They are bulky, need a sep­a­rate bat­tery, two and only on a Nikon can direct­ly inject the GPS data into the pho­tos inside the cam­era. Not my thing.

Then I came across LatiPics. It just uses the track­ing data you gen­er­ate be hav­ing Google Lat­i­tude run­ning on your smart­phone. I imme­di­ate­ly loved the idea! I always car­ry my smart­phone around and it sure­ly gets charged every night and I also had Google Lat­i­tude already run­ning on it. Long sto­ry short: It works like a charm!

As I’m using Adobe Light­room for all my pho­to relat­ed stuff, that solu­tion had one draw­back: The addi­tion­al step I had to take, to get that GPS data into Light­room. As of Ver­sion 4 Light­room fea­tures an inte­grat­ed GPS map­ping tool and can also ready GPS track data and tag pho­tos with that. Nice! You could just export your GPS tracks from Google Lat­i­tude (it’s called “loca­tion his­to­ry” there), import it into Light­room and have Light­room tag your pho­tos with it. Per­fect.

Well, far away from per­fect. Google Lat­i­tude exports your data as KML (Key­hole Map Data) files; Light­room only reads GPX files. You could eas­i­ly con­vert between those two for­mats using GPS Babel, but it seems like Google doesn’t write stan­dard KML files (if found dozens of ques­tions regard­ing that issue on the web), so GPS Babel only exports emp­ty tracks from those Lat­i­tude track logs.

After research­ing quite a while on that issue, I final­ly stum­bled upon a great free GPS track log con­ver­sion ser­vice: GPS Visu­al­iz­er. You can just upload you Lat­i­tude export­ed KML files there and get per­fect GPX files back. Those GPX files work per­fect­ly well in Light­room and allow you to tag your pho­tos and also dis­play as a track on the inte­grat­ed map. Nice!

Adobe has some nice infor­ma­tion and also a video avail­able on how to use GPS track logs in Light­room.

Any even bet­ter solu­tion would be a Light­room plu­g­in that con­nects direct­ly with Lat­i­tude via it’s API to fetch the GPS data from there with­out any export/import stuff. May be some time I find the time to do that…

When using this solu­tion please keep in mind, that Google Lat­i­tude uses com­bi­na­tions of Wifi, cell tow­er and GPS data to deter­mine your posi­tion. This method is gen­tle on your phone’s bat­tery, but also inac­cu­rate. You won’t get the same data as from a des­ig­nat­ed GPS track­er. On the oth­er hand, it’s that much more con­ve­nient. 🙂

Converting Videos for the AppleTV 2nd gen.

apple tv
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License by Bri­an E. Ford

You’ve got your shiny new AppleTV, played around with it. Found you can watch all those great TED videos via its Pod­cast menu. And final­ly you start stream­ing all those videos from your desk­top com­put­er. Well, for many of them it works well, but some just won’t play. Your AppleTV seems to start play­ing, but sud­den­ly stops while stat­ing “An error occurred load­ing this con­tent. Try again lat­er”.

First of all, when this hap­pens to you, go to Pref­er­ences and set “Dig­i­tal Audio” to “ON” (default is AUTO). That will enable pass-through of Dol­by Dig­i­tal (AC3) encod­ed sound to your TV or receiv­er. AppleTV often can’t detect if your attached device is capa­ble of decod­ing AC3. It then defaults to off and rejects any con­tent (video) that only includes AC3 sound and no oth­er tracks encod­ed as AAC or MP3. Obvi­ous­ly, this only works if your TV or receiv­er is able to han­dle Dol­by Dig­i­tal encod­ed sound.

Now for the encod­ing part of it. Say you have some nice video made with a cam­corder or some stuff ripped from a DVD or Blu-Ray and want to encode it to a for­mat com­pat­i­ble to AppleTV. Just fol­low these sim­ple steps (tak­en from Hand­brake forums):

  1. Get Hand­brake Down­load the lat­est night­ly build.

  2. Open your video in Hand­brake (use the Source but­ton)

  3. Select the iPad pre­set (open pre­sets draw­er with Toogle Pre­sets but­ton)

  4. Adjust Video set­tings
    Accord­ing to your raw mate­r­i­al you might want to adjust the Rate Fac­tor (RF) in the video tab. The rate fac­tor adjusts your encod­ed video for qual­i­ty vs size. Handbrake’s devel­op­ers rec­om­mend rate fac­tors between 19 and 22 for SD sources (Stan­dard Def­i­n­i­tion; i.e. DVD orig­i­nat­ed) and 21 to 25 for HD sources (High Def­i­n­i­tion; i.e. Blu-Ray orig­i­nat­ed). if you don’t care for iPad com­pat­i­bil­i­ty you can also set Fram­er­ate (FPS) to “Same as source”. That will allow fram­er­ates beyond stan­dard NTSC 29.97. It’s very uncom­mon though. If you’re unsure, leave it alone.

  5. Pic­ture Set­tings

    Open “Pic­ture Set­tings” (but­ton on top) and set “Decomb” and “Det­elecine” to “Default”.

  6. Audio Tracks

    On the Audio tab select the audio tracks you want to have in your encod­ed video. AppleTV can pass Dol­by Dig­i­tal (AC3) to a con­nect­ed TV or receiv­er that is capa­ble of decod­ing it. If you do have Dol­by Dig­i­tal enable equip­ment, it’s a good idea to add audio tracks as “AC3 Passthru”, that means Hand­brake will just take the orig­i­nal audio track from your source and pass it to the encod­ed video. That will give you great sound. If you don’t have Dol­by Dig­i­tal enabled equip­ment or you want the encod­ed video to be playable on an iPad, you have to add audio tracks as AAC (On a Mac use “AAC (Core­Au­dio)” set­ting.). That will cre­ate an AAC (Advanced Audio Codec) encod­ed mix­down of your audio track to Dol­by Sur­round. Dol­by Sur­round is in fact a Stereo audio track with a clev­er­ly embed­ded rear chan­nel that is playable on any device. It’s not as great as Dol­by Dig­i­tal, but works well on less capa­ble equip­ment. If you have any DTS audio tracks, you’ll have to recode them to AC3 or AAC respec­tiv­ley by set­ting “Codec” respec­tive­ly. You can also add a mix of AC3 and AAC encod­ed audio tracks, mak­ing your encod­ed video playable on more devices with great sound.

  7. Don’t touch Sub­ti­tles and Advanced tabs!

  8. Cre­ate Chap­ter mark­ers
    Check the “Cre­ate chap­ter mark­ers” box on the “Chap­ters” tab. That will cre­ate chap­ters mark­ers for any exist­ing chap­ters in your raw mate­r­i­al. If you like to, you can also name those chap­ters.

  9. Encode it
    Now just hit the “Add to Queue” but­ton to add your video to the encod­ing queue. Then hit start. Hand­brake will now start to encode your video. And as you added it to the encod­ing queue, you can just start over and con­fig­ure and add anoth­er video to the queue.

  10. Have fun!