All hail HDMI! Photo (CC-BY-ND) Sam Catchesides.

We’ve been waiting for this a long time: handheld visualism is finally here. Whereas once digital VJing and live visuals were the exclusive domain of laptops with video out, today various pocket-able devices come with video out. In fact, it appears we’re close to getting live visuals as standard feature. Just expect some bumps along the way.

Why does this excite us, aside from having more video sources to use live? One big reason: expect HD-quality, analog and digital video mixing, cheap enough to be accessible to mere mortals. (See last week’s preview of a DVI-ready video mixer.)

The big surprise with Apple’s iPhone 4 is that it features the same video output functionality as the iPad. Joshue Ott tested VGA output and successfully played video with the device. I hope we see an iPod touch refresh with similar functionality. All you need is the US$29 Apple iPad Dock Connector to VGA Adapter for either the iPhone or iPad; the Apple Component AV Cable works, too. Updated: Josh notes that so far, he’s gotten only 1024×768 output resolution, as on the iPad – not true 720p output. Still, not too shabby.

Previously, information on the APIs for video output on iOS:
Mobile Motion: iPad VGA Output Explained, Live in an App

On the Android side, the HTC Evo 4G and new Motorola Droid X each include HDMI output. Apple clearly has the running start; what’s missing right now on Android is information. It’s already possible to output video content via HDMI, but it isn’t yet clear what’s available to developers. Ideally, you’d want to be able to draw to the video output, and control video buffers being sent to the device. I haven’t had a chance yet to dig through the just-released source for Android’s 2.2 SDK yet, but I fully expect more information and greater flexibility soon. Android as a platform does tend to err on the side of developer control in their APIs, for better and for worse. So I’m hopeful that these will be useful for live visual apps, too, especially since Android is an OS that could be added to cheap tablets and DIY hardware (like the BeagleBoard), not just devices that come with pricey mobile phone service contracts.

And, of course, video output will by necessity be a major feature of Android by the time early Google TV SDKs roll around in 2011:
Your TV Screen, Finally a Frontier for Immersive Art, Visualization? Google, Linux Could Make it So

Those devices could, in turn, see rivals using MeeGo Linux or even JavaFX.

I still have yet to get my grubby hands on Android devices with video out (I’m attending a press event with Samsung next week and hope to talk to Motorola about the features). I’ll check in once I know more. In the meantime, some detailed posts from elsewhere:

Hands-on with the HTC Evo 4G’s HDMI-out

Motorola HDMI “multimedia station” accessory for Droid X

DROID X HDMI Multimedia Cradle + DLNA Controller Demo [actual hands-on]

Of course, part of what makes mobile output creatively stimulating is that mobile input is getting more powerful. Case in point: early video samples show real promise from iPhone 4 and other current-generation mobile devices. (As I said, if only we could start to see more of these without phone contracts!)

Here’s a sample of video shot and edited on the new iPhone (ignore the discussions by the writer of whether the iPhone is using OpenCL for the task; think he just doesn’t understand what OpenCL is):

iPhone 4 and iMovie. HD Video footage edited on the iPhone from James Burland on Vimeo.

More video footage – here’s Xeni Jardin out on Venice Beach. Aw… no fair. Too much sunlight. Anyone in Washington State or Scotland want to do a video test? (Washington I hear has a ready supply of vampires who could do the low light test.)

Now, anyone seen good video tests for the HTC Evo or Droid X? (I’ll see if I can talk to Samsung next week about borrowing their phone for footage testing.) And is it just me, or is anyone else jonesing for a music player – without a phone contract – capable of grabbing video footage?