Bookmarklet: Horizontally invert HTML5 videos

My demands for “reverse” glasses have gone unserved, but I made a bookmarklet that provides the same effect: “flopping” a video horizontally.

  1. Install the SwitchStance bookmarklet, for which you’ll need a modern browser that supports CSS transforms on video elements.
  2. Opt-in to YouTube’s HTML5 trial
  3. Load up any video without ads (here’s one of Matt Hensley skating)
  4. While the video plays, click the bookmarklet.

The video will mirror and you’ll see Hensley, a regular-footed skater, now skating goofy foot (in “switch stance“). Or you can get Paul McCartney to play guitar right-handed.

EA Skate started as a text game

EA’s Scott Blackwood talks about prototyping the flick-it controls for EA skate.

But we really liked it on paper. We worked with our lead programmer at the time, and really, in about two or three days, he built a prototype, and it was great. We actually were up and playing the game — no rendering, no game, and no animations. But what we did was that we were reading the stick, and we could start to dial in different gestures and motions.

We could put in any different gesture and say, “We’re going to call that a kickflip. That’s going to be starting in the middle, going down to six o’clock, and then up to one of the sides.” And it would spit that out and say, “You did a kickflip.” It would measure it based on how accurate you were, and we would rate that from one to five.

So one was like, “Okay, you weren’t really accurate, but you sort of did the kickflip.” Five was, “You did it perfect.” The other one would give you a rating based on the speed with which you did it. So one was like, “You were kind of slow,” and five was, “You were fast.” So if you could be five and five, you did it fast, and you did it perfectly accurate.

It was funny, it was just a little text-based game with flick-it controls, that turned into us grabbing the controller from each other going, “Oh, I can do better than that.” And we dialed in… how we imagined flips, ollies, and inward heels and all that. We were playing the game a year before we ever had to care about graphics. And we learned a lot, too. With prototyping, it’s amazing the things you learn.

And the physics engine:

Actually, at that time, RenderWare had a really cool physics package that one guy developed, and they were called Drives. Essentially what Drives were, was a hinge. It’s a neat way to make an intensive thing like a saloon door.

Our guys took these Drives and turned them into all the joints in your body. So now with Drives, we can create a full, physically accurate replica of the human body and all the joints, and you can even… say, take your right knee, and we can weaken it by 50 percent, and your guy would walk differently, based on that. So we use Drives as the foundation for everything that we do in physics, even your skateboard. Your trucks are Drives, and your wheels and hinges. Everything’s Drives.

In fact, the way you’re popping your board off the ground, it’s not animation-driven. It’s actually real forces on that board popping off the ground. We’d never have been able to get the same feel without our team [taking the] foundation of Drives and [building] a lot on top of it. We did mocap, and we have all that animation in the game, but animation is a target.

Content Delivery and Format Fail

screenshot from Ney Year's DaeThe pic on the right is from The Berrics’ “New Year’s Dae” video. The skating is amazing—well worth a dollar—and the site’s registration and checkout was painless, but the rest has been a disappointment:

  • There’s no way to download this “downloadable part,” as it’s advertised. You must install an Adobe Air application, which downloads the video.
  • There was nothing in the checkout process to let me know I needed to install Air first. The only link to “download instructions” (who would think they need to read this?) was on the “add to cart” page. Once most people have checked out they’ll have to run to Google what an .air file is.
  • The app isn’t digitally signed, so the publisher reads “unknown” and it asks for “unrestricted” access to my system. Does not inspire trust.
  • You can only watch the video via the app! So no fancy controls you might want while, say, watching a skateboarding part.
  • Considering I downloaded 150MB for a 5 minute video, the quality is astoundingly bad. See the horizontal lines in the screenshot? They’re a constant distraction and it all looks even worse at full screen. Every video on the The Berrics site looks better than this. Like most Rodney and Daewon parts, the filming is just not exciting, but it’s forgivable.
  • Since I downloaded it on my wife’s PC last night, the download link in my account is already “expired”, so I can’t install it on mine.

The pic is actually from a copy I found immediately on Vimeo, highlighting the absurdity of this level of copy control. Lesson: Only paying customers have to deal with DRM nonsense.

Update: 5 days later, the video no longer plays.

Skate 3 Could Use a Light

Skate 1 was and remains awesome. EA delivered an amazing city in Skate 2, but tinkered with the mechanics, breaking a perfect thing in my opinion. I eventually re-bought S2 and it’s OK, but returning to S1 always feels like switching to a pair of well-worn in skate shoes—skating is easier when you can feel the board and not slip around it. S2 brought better filming options (downloadable content $$$!), but turning now looks terrible, as do no-complies and most of the other junk they added.

Dan Drehobl with cigarette in Skate 3

For S3 it looks like the Black Box team have broken new ground to bring you…skating with cigarette.

Dan Drehobl’s a great skater—who in interviews wishes he could quit smoking—but after playing the S3 demo, I wish whatever time was spent modeling his cigarette would’ve been squeezed into bringing back the feel of S1. Was Skate really missing darkslides, underflips, and an “easy” mode? The Skate world continues to look less like the real world and more skate park.

And what’s with killing the Skate Reel upload servers for a game only 3 years old? Can I get more bitter and nostalgic?

Reverse Glasses and Map Flopping

Update June 2013: These exist!

Years ago I had an idea for “reverse” glasses. All they would do is invert horizontally–or flop–the image your retinas receive as if you were viewing through a mirror. I suspect after a brief period of adjustment you’d be able to function fairly normally wearing them, but your common surroundings would appear oddly different, like the first day waking up in a house with a reversed floor plan.

Asymmetrical skateboarding spots limit your trick options because, as a skater–even if you’re great at skating switchstance–you’re either regular or goofy foot. If there’s only one obvious direction to hit something from, you kind of lose half the available tricks to try on it. Flopped glasses couldn’t switch your natural skating stance, but they would let you see every spot as having a flopped equivalent, which is where the game developers come in.

Every 2 or 3-dimensional game should have a “flop map” option, which would flop the player’s map (but not the controls). This would be fairly trivial for the developer, but would give players double the (perceived) number of unique maps to play on. Obviously this is only interesting on asymmetrical maps like a city or a famous golf course–flopping most sport courts/fields wouldn’t have any real effect.

Another feature of the glasses: They would “correct” what you see in mirrors to be exactly what the world sees–parted hair/crooked teeth/wristwatch on the opposite side. Weird and awesome.

Skateboarding and the (Fake) Broken Windows Theory

Nike’s latest glossy skate video “Debacle” is stitched around several highly-realistic, faked acts of vandalism and assault, but none shocking if you’ve watched a lot of skate videos; I just assumed they were real until the disclaimer appeared at the end. I’ve seen pros show off how they cut chains to break into schools; accidentally break real windows and flee; verbally assault owners and security guards; scream obscenities and throw things in fits of rage; accidentally hit bystanders (hard) with 8 lb. boards or their bodies; and generally behave like drunken delinquents.

Along with fearlessness (healthy to a point), disregard for authority and the care for other peoples’ property is baked into the pop culture, and, although probably a very small percentage of skaters make any trouble, those that do make a real problem for cops trying to keep areas free of gangs of boys who want to emulate the pros in acts and attitude. Any criminologist will tell you the perfect recipe for crime is an unsupervised group of young males predisposed to rule-breaking.

So, unfortunately, incidents like this are common. On camera a cop threatens to brake the arm of a generally compliant but obviously tired kid. This is, of course, after the kid calmly calls the LEO a “fuckin’ dick” (twice) and several minutes after the group filming had apparently damaged city property (“It’s against the law to pry those up — you’re not a city worker”) and ticked off folks enough to call the police.

I love skateboarding and it’s a real shame it’s now apparently criminal in San Francisco (a classic collection of skate spots), but I understand why cops and property owners support these bans. It’s hard to vilify officers who’re asked to bust up active skate spots. The business owner that allows her property to become a regular spot is just waiting for damage, graffiti, reduced foot traffic from weary pedestrians, and potential litigation from parents/bystanders.

MTV star Rob Dyrdek has worked quite a bit to design and promote public skate parks, which are great for the vast majority of respectful skaters, but previews of his upcoming movie Street Dreams look like it will try to convince the public that skaters who insult business owners to their faces, make trouble in motels, and sand skate stoppers off school handrails are unfairly oppressed and just need their own parks. It will only “tell the story” of a minority of skaters and it won’t do the rest any favors.

Skate 2 First Impressions

The Bad

They tampered with the most important element of the game: the controls. The Flick It moves of Skate 1 all work identically, but the feel is definitely different. I spent countless hours perfecting a realistic style in S1, and even after 3 hours or so of S2 I still feel like I’m starting over.

The replay editor seems tremendously more complex and requires more buttons to get anything done. When you’re trying to film a line in S1 it’s nice to be able to jump in and review different angles immediately; the S2 editor requires you to enter a clip editor and go through another menu to select, adjust, and confirm every angle. Getting back to skating requires at least one or two more button presses than in S1.

The new default camera angle blocks your view less, but looks jerky and much less handheld. And why the “extreme” visual and sound effects whenever you make a big drop, get a ton of speed, or fall? This all makes the game look more cartoonish like the later THPS games, and gets tiring quick when you’re trying a line over and over.

This is a minor gripe, but the movable objects are squeeky clean and almost glowing, ruining an otherwise beautifully grimy environment. I don’t know why they have to stand out because there seems to be only a half-dozen different objects. Having to guess what isn’t bolted down would be a lot more fun.

The Good

It may be just the novelty, but new San Van seems enormous and like a real city that grew over many decades without city planning. Knowing the city in S1 pretty well, skating around is almost an eerie experience, like 50 years have passed and entire city blocks have been replaced. Sometimes you can see the seams where new and old coexist. Major streets dead end in new buildings, other areas have been left in blight with graffiti and handrails bent from skating. The sound of the city is nearly inescapable. If new San Van were the only new thing in S2 it would be worth it.

Returning to a session marker is usually instantaneous, and when there is a wait it’s never as long as in S1. Quick access to the trick guide is handy, as is being able to walk up steps (even if it is pretty glitchy). The graphics seem a little more detailed, but I’m playing on a 10″ SD set; I don’t really care. I like the songs so far.

Verdict @ 3 Hours

As I suspected, I should’ve waited for the price drop. S1 is so good that I’m still not anywhere close to tired of it, and its more minimal replay editor lets me quickly stockpile footage on the PC with minimal tinkering. I feared even a slight tampering of the controls would ruin S2 for me, and it kinda did, but I have a feeling the new replay editor will be even more of a drag over time.