What My Unborn Daughter Taught Me Today

I’ve never been a video guy. I tried out a camcorder, but the video I took was jerky, upset-stomach-inducing stuff.

I suppose this will change when I become a parent next year, but for now, my unborn daughter is giving me a crash course in video and copyright.

We had a 4D ultrasound done recently, and the clinic sent us home with a DVD of the video, complete with an uplifting score.

Naturally, I wanted to store a digital copy on my Mac, with all the other ultrasound stills, and upload it somewhere for family viewing and sharing.

This is where I hit the format and encoding hurdle. The DVD had the video in .vob format, but none of the applications on my Mac can open that file type, not iMovie, not Quicktime.

I should mention that I have VLC, which did open the file. I’m sure VLC could also handle the conversion, file my taxes and wash my car at the same time, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it. I’m a video n00b.

Granted, I didn’t spend very long trying, but VLC is one of those applications that’s too powerful for its own good.

Anyway, I did some digging and found an open source format converter,  Open Shiiva, to convert .vob to .mp4. Searching took most of an hour.

Open Shiiva worked like a charm; hooray for open source.

I failed to include the audio the first time, so I ended up with two versions, scored and silent.

I went first to Dropbox to share the video, which was a snap. Dropbox provided a viewer for the file, but it took a while to load, being a large file and all.

Unfortunately, the people who I want to share this video with won’t have the patience, knowledge or pipe to wait on this viewer to load a 100 MB file.

I went next to Google Docs, which now supports file uploads of any type, but again, no viewer.

Then it dawned on me to try YouTube.

I happily uploaded the file and went on my merry way until the post-processing informed me that the clip was too long, i.e. more than 15 minutes.

Grr. Now I had to trim, upload again, and send a note to everyone pointing them to a different link, which won’t end well.

This time post-processing succeeded, but sent me an ominous note about copyrighted content. I remembered Gary’s (@syd_oracle) comment pointing to Jeff Atwood’s post about the YouTube copyright algorithm, an interesting read.

Oh right, the clinic laid down some funky Enya beats behind my squirming daughter.

Now, YouTube was informing me that WMG owned the rights to that content and might change them at any point. If I hadn’t read about this and didn’t have a basic understanding of copyright (and fair use), it would be pretty scary.

Google took the protection of copyrights on YouTube very seriously, and the result is a scary marvel of code.

Incidentally, I wonder how that will fit into its plans for Google TV and Google Music.

Anyway, now my unborn daughter is hawking Enya’s music on YouTube. You can easily click to buy Enya’s “Wild Child” from Amazon or iTunes while watching her wiggle around inside her mother’s womb.

This feels icky, like the future where everything is for sale, and we don’t care.

Anyway, lots of lessons to learn here about video, encoding, sharing, copyrights, etc.

Busy day for me.





  1. Handbrake makes it really easy to re-encode video. They dropped DIVX/AVI a while ago but the MP4 and h.264 encoding is stupid simple. Plus it’s open source and free.

  2. Awesome tip, thanks. Open Shiiva worked as described, but it looks like a dormant project, no updates since 2004. I’m afraid to ask when open source is not also free 🙂

  3. Thank you. We’re ecstatic. Her name won’t be Enya, although I agree that’s a nice one. I was referring to the musician, whose music my daughter is now hawking on YouTube.

  4. Perhaps a lawyer will suggest that you sue Enya on behalf of your unborn child because your child’s wiggling has increased the value of Enya’s music, and you have not been adequately compensated.

    I don’t know if we are able to comprehend the impact of digitization on our lives. Back in the 1980s, Disney went after a day care center that painted Disney characters on its walls; all of this took place in the physical world, and it was very easy to locate and track down the copyright violation.

    If an older brother of a kid in a day care center were to combine video of the day care kids (taken from a local news broadcast) and combine it with audio from a Hannah Montana song and additional video from a family trip to Disney’s California Adventure – video which includes the audio from a Beach Boys song – the legal issues are much more complicated.

  5. Copyright and fair use need reform for digital media. I’ve heard tons of stories of copyright holders (like Disney) squashing essentially well-meaning small businesses for using copyrighted content IRL.

    The one possible yardstick for using copyrighted material is rap music. The handling of samples foreshadowed reusing content online, and in many cases (like YouTube videos), the same tactics could be applied.

    I don’t see change coming anytime soon though. Interestingly, YouTube offers some alternate tracks I could layer on the video, presumably without licensing.

    I will likely take a company like Google or Apple (although they don’t have any business reason to do so) to create the changes necessary with the content owners.

  6. Wow. Things change fast in baby scanning like everywhere else! When we had the scans for our 3 daughters (aged 11, 9 and 7), we got a little print out of the scan. We scanned the pictures and sent the pics via email. My wife loves the imac for doing movies and photos of the kids though – I guess you might too. Happy holidays Jake – this time next year, god willing, you’ll have another addition to share it with!

  7. Yeah, it’s crazy what I hear from people who’ve only been through ultrasounds a few years ago. The technology is moving leaping ahead, big money in that I suppose. Of course all that equipment and software is proprietary.

    Thanks Jim for the wishes and happy holidays to you and yours.

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