How do you get video on Kindle? Turn it into a comic

Written on:July 8, 2011
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Friznit's so-called 'iPlayer for Kindle'Rumors have been flying around the industry for some time that Amazon is working on next generation versions of its Kindle that can do things like run video. Perhaps it will be a color version of the existing Kindle, with some extra bells and whistles. Perhaps it will be a tablet, produced in conjunction with Samsung. Perhaps it will be both.

However, until the release date of such a magical device is actually announced, the whole idea is little more than pie in the sky. So what do you do in the meantime if you want to kick back and watch some video on your Kindle?

Turns out it’s not impossible.

One developer at the BBC, Mark Longstaff-Tyrrell, came up with an ingenious solution to this pressing dilemma. By combining the broadcaster’s popular iPlayer video streaming service, a few bits of software and the magic of closed captioning, he has built what he calls (with tongue in cheek) “iPlayer for Kindle”.

Here’s how it works. The program plays with closed captions running. Each time there is a line of dialogue, a snapshot of the screen is taken. Over the course of an on-screen conversation or a series of scenes, these snapshots are compiled. Once that’s done, they can be put together to form a fairly accurate representation of the program — sort of like a stop-motion version of TV.

In addition, Longstaff-Tyrrell came up with a workaround for the moments when this closed caption system isn’t helpful — for example, when a dramatic moment happens on screen, but there is no subtitling because nobody is talking. At those moments the system takes a series of grabs at regular points through a scene.

Once all these pieces are in place, those captioned scenes and silent scenes are compiled into a file which you could save and flick through on your e-reader — looking something like a comic book that you can flip through to see the action. Here’s an example.

Obviously, this doesn’t turn your Kindle into a video player. It’s basically a long and carefully constructed joke. Longstaff-Tyrrell says, for example, that you can always print out your episodes onto paper, a format which “also allows distribution via the postal service” and that since a typical episode will be “weighing in at only 20MB and with offline viewing, this format has a clear advantage over existing mobile iPlayer services”. Still, who knows how it could be useful — it’s certainly a different way to catch up with your favorite programs.

So, yeah, it’s a rough and ready hack — but, like all the best ones, it has a sort of crazy elegance about it. Count me as a fan.

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