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    Camera Lust: the Pentax K-01 and the Fuji X-Pro1


    2012 - 02.04

    Pentax is blowing up the interwebs this week with news of their newest sweet photo machine, the K-01. New sweet photo machines are a dime-a-dozen, but what makes this one interesting is that it’s the first mirrorless interchangable lens camera (we’re going to stick with the acronym MILC here) that actually shares a lens mount with their normal SLRs, meaning you can attach any of your existing K-mount lenses right on to this baby. Now that’s progress! No need to repurchase thousands of dollars in precious glass to be totally outfitted.

    You’ll also notice it’s offered with a shockingly thin (read: skimpy?) 40 f/2.8 prime. That’s an odd novelty, but with glass that tiny, does it actually take decent images? Anyway, I don’t care much about that, back to the body–It’s cool to finally see someone make a mirrorless camera that doesn’t demand a whole new army of lenses. It’s about time!

    And still no MILC from Canon… I’m waiting fellas!

    Runner up for interesting new camera in the mirrorless world would be that Fujifilm X-Pro1. It’s predecessor, the X100, was featured on here a while back and remains on the short list of extreeeemely lust-worthy photo gear that I would totally buy if it were only a little more affordable. The X-Pro1 would probably get a whole post devoted solely to it as well, if it weren’t even further into the netherworld of unaffordability. At $1700 for the BODY ONLY, I wonder how many units of this thing Fuji is going to be pushing. For that price, you could get a rock solid Canon or Nikon DSLR AND a lot of great glass too. Unfortunate. But it does have enough unique features that I want to blab about it for a minute. Let’s start with some choice blurbs from the official press release:

    blurb #1:
    The new color filter array paves the way for an ideal sensor that does not need an optical low-pass filter. While the optical low-pass filter is indispensable for the reduction of moiré and false color generated by conventional sensors, it also degrades resolution. Fujifilm has developed a new color filter array that is inspired by the random arrangement of fine film grain, removing the need for an optical low-pass filter to solve moiré and false color issues. In the array, RGB pixels are arranged in 6×6 pixel sets with high aperiodicity (randomness). Increasing the degree of randomness eliminates the fundamental cause of moiré and false colors – a problem that occurs in conventional arrays when shooting stripes and other repeating patterns. The presence of an R, G and B pixel in every vertical and horizontal pixel series minimizes the generation of false colors and delivers higher color reproduction.
     
    blurb #2:
    Extending Fujifilm’s photo film legacy
    In film cameras, capturing multiple exposures is the unique photographic technique of superimposing one image on another by double exposing a single frame of film. Through advanced digital processing the X-Pro1 can simulate this technique by simply selecting the Multiple Exposure mode and taking the first shot. By viewing the image via the Hybrid Multi Viewfinder or on the LCD screen, you can see how the finished multiple exposure will look and then precisely frame the second shot.  
     
    Further enhancements have been made to the Film Simulation modes with the new Professional Color Negative Film Modes (Pro Neg. Std and Pro Neg. Hi) designed for X-Pro1 users working in the studio. The X-Pro1 also offers Film Simulation bracketing, along with AE, Dynamic and ISO bracketing; plus the ability to capture the colors and tonal qualities of popular FUJIFILM emulsions through the vibrant colors of Velvia, the softer skin tones of ASTIA and the natural look of PROVIA.

    That multiple exposure thing is pretty rad. Every camera should have that, using preview on the LCD. That’s science. The coolest thing about this camera is definitely the color filter array though. Okay kids, put on your nerd caps, cuz shiz is about to get hardcore up in here:

    Every digital camera uses an image sensor to collect the photons (light) that make up the picture. Since the sensor itself cannot discriminate colors, filters are used to split the light into RGB (red, blue, & green) components. By combining RGB in different combinations, you can then spell out any color imaginable. Old school photographic color film accomplished the same idea by having (at least) 3 seperate layers of silver halide salts which were dyed differently. Since film was a chemical/analog process, those salt crystals weren’t arranged in any sort of perfectly aligned matrix, they were just scattered all over, however they happened to fall. The characteristics of any given film (contrast, sensitivity, resolution) were determined by the crystal sizes and the amounts of the silver halide for each different color layer. Fancier films had up to 12 different layers used to reproduce colors! So it wasn’t just RGB, it was a whole lot of different colors being combined, and each “pixel” in the film was of variable size.  Click the image of those Kodak T-grain silver halide crystals to see more Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) images of different films.

    To obtain digital color images, almost all sensors use the standard 2×2 “bayer” color filter, named after a clever Kodak engineer who came up with the scheme during the 70s. (If you’re wondering, Bryce Bayer chose to use an extra green pixel to emulate the human eye’s sensitivity to green light, which is kinda neat!) So nearly every digital camera uses this method of light collection, and even those rare cameras which deviate from the standard color filter configuration still have some kind of repeating, contant pattern. Although it’s not completely clear from the Fuji PR-speak, if their color filters really are randomized across the whole sensor area, woah, that is a major difference in the way light is gathered… and a pretty ingenius mimicry of analog. As a giant in the tradition of film and therefore owner of masterful knowledge upon the characteristics of it, seeing Fuji bring the lessons learned over decades of experience in color reproduction using silver halide emulsions to bear in the new digital era is… way cool. If anyone can do it, it’s them (or Kodak?).

    The story of the transition between the analog epoch and the digital epoch is a tale chock full of “back to the future”-isms. In the sense that as digital technology gets better and better, the goal seems to be emulating the way analog things used to be. We see this is audio mastering (see TRacks-tube/tape emulation mastering software), audio reproduction (vacuum tube pre-amp stereos, and progressively higher sample rates to recreate a more ‘analog’ waveform), musical instruments (amps and effects pedals that strive to recreate the analog ‘warmth’, synthesizers that model their vintage predecessors), and even video games with roms and emulators built to resurrect the early days of gaming. To me, it makes perfect sense that photography, when the technology gets good enough, will undergo this same trend of digital modeling to recreate an analog era gone by.

    Right along those lines, Fuji’s film simulation modes are an ultra-sweet concept that I have seriously been wishing someone would do for many years now. I wonder how those work, exactly… searching for information doesn’t turn up any explanation; I’d be willing to bet that the only difference between the three film simulation modes are simple tweaks to contrast and saturation. The example images shown on this excellent webpage would seem to support that theory. Although it’s complex to compare film ‘resolution’ to an equivalent digital resolution, analog film has somewhere between 15-25 megapixels of ‘resolution’ depending on who you ask. My 18MP Canon t3i starts to inch into this territory. As sensor design pushes even further into the higher megapixels, it’d be really cool to see the characteristics of old school film emulsions replicated not just at the post-processing (software) stage, but at the light-acquisition (sensor/color-filter) stage. Software enhancements are never going to beat photoshop at its own game… but hardware that captures color in a new way? That would be an innovation.

    What would it take to truly create an honest digital carbon-copy of film emulsion? You’d need a variable color filter and as many megapixels as you could throw at it. As in, a color filter where you could actively switch which pixels recieve which color, and do it on the fly. We’d be aiming to mimic the salt crystals as you see in the SEM image, with variable sizes and variable locations for each individual exposure. You’d have some kind of randomization that would rearrange the configuration every time a new photo is taken, within a given set of parameters for each different film emulsion. To really nail it, you’d also want to not just use RGB in your color filter, but a larger variety of color shades to mimic the dyes from many-layered emulsions.

    I lazily mocked up the idea here with a grid over an SEM image of Kodak Portra 160VC  Professional portrait negative film. Average grain size: 1μm.  I only colored in some film grains because it would take forever to do the whole thing and I got tired of clicking.  I did RGB and CYM(K) with a lot of K, I guess.  But you could use many combinations of colors in your color filter, both echoing classic film emulsions, or even getting creative with more funky configurations.

    That kind of light capturing would offer something you could never do in photoshop, due to the fact that it would change the way the actual sensor is classifying colors of photons which make an image *as they come in*. I have no idea how one could create a variable or “active” color-filter, but man, if you could do that, it would open up incredible possibilities in the way light is captured. Think ultraviolet and infrared too. It’s all conjecture, but I find this stuff awesome to daydream about.

    </nerdery>

    Angering The Fan Gods?


    2012 - 01.31

    Every once and a while some older post will suddenly get a lot of clicks for no apparent reason. Once and I while I can trace this to search terms or referrers, which I find interesting just for the sake of learning how and/or why people walk through the door around here. Today I noticed that the top viewed post for the last 7 days is this one, talking about obsessive-compulsive fan collecting from last spring. I checked out the referrers list and found out that someone on a fan-collecting forum had linked to the post and brought a lot of their friends through the door. To that I say:

    Welcome, esteemed connoisseurs of fine blades and stylized means of airflow generation!

    I am down with the fan collectors.

    What’s definitely making me laugh though, is the fact that the guy who posted the link is mocking me, saying essentially that I’m an idiot for thinking that plastic fans are cool, and that metal fans are where it’s at. Oh the embarrassment! I had no idea that real fan collectors have to make the jump up to metal! This whole time I’ve been nothing but a poser!  Gasp!! I guess you ain’t hardcore unless you rock the METAL.

    \nn/ \nn/   WEEEEWWWW!!!!! (that’s me doing air guitar)

    Okay, any of you metal fan fiends, I wanna see some example pictures in the comments, because I’m just not convinced that it’s all about the metal. What if you dig like 60’s or 70’s design, are there sweet metal fans like that? You come to my website for ‘ignorance at its finest’ and the cup overfloweth.

    Actually, I think it’s pretty awesome that someone is getting bent out of shape over what I thought looked cool. I mean, that’s part of the nature of design–what looks hip to one person will inevitably seem passé to another. I’m imagning this guy in his secret lair of glimmering display cases filled with ALL METAL fans, at the moment that his google searching brought him to my blog and erupting in a righteous fury of indignance “Oh my god dude, oh my god. You totally have no clue what you’re talking about here, oh my god. Good fans are METAL fans?! Hello? Everyone knows that, I mean, oh my god, everyone knows that!! Duh duh duh duh duhduhhh! Oh my god, clear my afternoon I need to rant about this right. now.”

    Oh my god.

    I guess this solidifies my cred as a wannabe, armchair fan collector, never to join the ranks of the hip’n’with-it Collectors with a capital C. I think I can live with that. Speaking of air guitar, I recently watched a very over-the-top documentary about the World Air Guitar Championships (yes, this is really a thing) which sort of reinforced the idea that with esoteric, niche hobbies there’s a fine line between kickass and laughably ridiculous. I’m content to sit on the sidelines and watch other people walk that tightrope.

    I’m also content to continue basking in my ignorance (okay that deserves it’s own tag on the blog from now on) when it comes to plastic versus metal. There was a salient comment on the original post when it comes to ‘hoarders with more money than brains’ in the hobby of fan collecting… oh man that comment applies SO DAMN HARD when it comes to model trains as well. Probably applies to telescopes and amateur astronomy too. Sweaty-keyboard-elitists aside (every hobby’s got em!) the model railroaders I have met, and the amateur astronomers I have met, have been by and large a swell group of people whom I greatly enjoyed chatting with. I’m sure fan collectors are swell people too.

    Do they have like meet ups for this kind of thing? Or conventions? Is this the first step on my way to an eventual 12-step recovery program for metal fan addiction? Tune in next time to find out! This is JB on the fans tag, signing out for now.

    The Perfect Camera is the One You Have With You


    2012 - 01.15

    For a long time now, smartphone cameras have been eating up the camera market for pocketable cameras. It’s easy to see why; smartphone cameras are ‘good enough’ for most people, and why carry around a possibly redundant second thing in your pocket? This week in gadget nerd news, I see that Polaroid will soon be introducing an android-powered camera. This is flirting with a dream object of mine: the awesome compact camera that so happens to have a phone built into it.

    For a long time now we’ve seen thousands of high-quality smartphones… that happen to have a decent camera on them. But there still does not yet exist a high-quality camera… that also happens to have a decent smartphone in it! It’s so obvious. Why has no one does this? For serious guys. It’s a photo nuts dream machine. Slam. Dunk.

    There’s even companies who already make excellent smartphones AND excellent cameras, like Samsung or Sony. Man. How hard can it be to combine these things? Apparently, impossible.

    There have been a few halfhearted attempts, like the Samsung sch-w880 (Asia only, and not Android), or the Panasonic Lumix Phone 101P (shown above) which is Japan only, but it IS Android. That lumix comes the closest to what I’m wishing for. You could probably import one, for like a thousand dollars. That’s so sad. This new Polaroid SC1630 is actually nothing more than a rebrand of a phone that’s been on the market in Asia for a long time now, called the Altek Leo. I was kind of excited by the Polaroid phone until I figured that out.

    While all these phones are interesting, I would still posit that none of them are doing it RIGHT. All of them are still trying to compete with phones on slimness and not offering the features that would make the photo geeks salivate. By that I mean no product exists that offers a serious high quality lens with a phone… in a fat body which barely fits in a tight jeans pocket, one that is brazenly and unapologetically a still a camera first and foremost.

    And so, just for fun, I’ve decided to make a fake advertisement for cameraphone of my dreams that would cater to the hardcore photo niche. If you know what “Av” stands for, and have level 10 Photoshop skillz, this is for you. Since Kodak has been in the news lately for their almost-bankruptcy, I’m imagining it as a comeback product for them: a sexy vintage rangefinder that could steal people away from the Fuji x100 AND the ‘Droid-of-the-week in one fell swoop!  And one that relied heavily on advanced knowledge of what made film so beautiful.  (If this website is slow, the same file is also hosted at Flickr here)

    Maybe I’ll clarify a couple things: I envision the camera and the Android section as essentially independent entities. They both use the same SD card, and they both use the same Android set of buttons, but with different functions depending on the position of the camera/android switch. Also observe that there is an AUTO setting on the ISO dial… this means you could set it to Av, pick your aperture, and have the camera autoselect your shutter speed AND your ISO. That would be super duper nice, to help avoid camera shake. When distracted, I get caught by slow shutter speeds in Av mode all the time, it happens easily.

    A few final thoughts: the body isn’t exactly what I wish it could be, as I was limited by my ability to find a rangefinder camera that had high resolution photos taken of it from the front, top, and back. Given the boring backsides of many film cameras, finding the back image was surprisingly tough. It would definitely be two-tone though. No question there. Another limitation was my own Photoshop ability and how much time I wanted to invest getting an idea across. If I were sketching this thing from scratch, I would’ve probably laid out the controls slightly different, but this conveys all the features I wanted, maybe just not in the exact right positions. I thought a edited photo would be a lot more enticing than a sketch though, so I went that route.

    For anyone who’s curious, what’s here is a touched up version of a Zorki-4, an old Soviet rangefinder. I also used the spun dials from my old Marantz amp, a photo of the screen on my Droid X, and the camera/play switch from my old Canon A60 (that switch always felt so sure and right under my finger, with a satisfying click into each position). There’s a few things that did get left out; I would’ve liked to add a neat looking lens cap that tethered to the body with a small cord to stop it from getting lost. Also I would’ve liked to mock up pictures of the accessories, but it would’ve taken a lot of time. It’s hard to translate something in your mind to something visual.

    Last thing I’ll add is that it’s sort of wild that Kodak is even in the position it is… I learned on Wikipedia that in 1976 Kodak had a 90% market share of photographic film sales in the United States.  That’s a lot.  Maybe they should draw on that colossal expertise and build a camera like this one, instead of inkjet printers and digital picture frames.  It’d be cool to see them turn it around and make incredible gear.

    Project Chronos begins, and my slider shooting from Bear Creek 2011.


    2011 - 12.31

    This post is going to be a wild mashup of things, all of which I’m pretty excited over.

    The fangled contraption below is something film geeks will recognize as a “slider.” Not a slider in the White Castle sense, but a smooth rail that moves a video camera from one point to another.

    As it is shown above, the slider is equipped for video use. I’ve built a set of legs attached to ball-head tripod mounts which allow it to be positioned in a wide variety of configurations. There is also a shoulder mount, and an extra grip for one-handed wrangling. This is essentially a customized version of the DIY slider described at ZaZaSlider.com, meant to be an improved version of the Glidetrack Shooter slider. Any filmmakers who feel inspired by these shots, you can create the same thing yourself by reading up at the ZaZa website and ponying up maybe $250-350.

    For anyone who’s curious, I’d comment that this thing is somewhat impractical for shoulder-mounted use. Yes, it works; the hand grips are comfy and the shoulder padding keeps it from getting fatiguing. Yet… it’s just heavy and big. Even made of lightweight aluminum, a one meter slider is a lot of bulk to double as a shoulder rig, and on the flip side of that coin, anything smaller than a meter is getting into the territory where it’s not enough length to get a decent looking slide. So can you have it both ways, a slider AND a shoulder rig? Eh, sort of.

    Shoulder rig ho-humming aside, the slider does work great. The following video shows it in action at Bear Creek, which was the first time I put it to considerable use. The video also shows a good amount of Steadicam footage, shot on a Steadicam Merlin which I rented for the fest. It was a terrific amount of (photo-dweeb) fun to use these both!

    These shots are a compilation of cool videography from the festival grounds and miscellaneous shots that wouldn’t logically fit into any of the New Mastersounds or Lettuce videos I posted before. I still have more stuff to sort through… I haven’t even posted the Soulive yet!

    I learned quite a bit in doing these videos. Number one lesson was slide SLOW. It’s best to push the slider from its base, and keep hands off the camera itself. Wind can also jostle the camera around. A tougher ball head on the carriage itself may address that issue. Right now I have a pistol-grip Sunpack head on it, which certainly isn’t the paragon of build quality. As for the Steadicam, I was surprised to find that the Merlin was not nearly as well constructed as I expected it ought to be. For $800, I assumed it would be a piece of finely-crafted, impeccably-machined precision. It was not. Given, I was using a rental unit, which probably had been subjected to rough ‘n’ tumble treatment, but still, the joints had wiggle, the bottom counterweight could be bumped or moved in and out, easily throwing off the balance, and worst of all, the quick release plate only loosely held onto the steadicam itself. In the wrong situation, I could see a camera getting dropped by that quick release. Yikes.

    I also learned that 30fps is NOT fast enough for quick pans or fast steadicam moves. I defintitely regret not shooting in 720p/60fps, as some shots were blurry messes at 1080p/30fps. I believe it is due not to the framerate itself, but more to the fact that each frame of your movie is actually an exposure of 1/30th of a second when you have low/medium light and video autoexposure is enabled (you could shoot manual but that’s a lot of monitoring and adjusting, when you could be thinking about framing instead). 1/30th of a second is not really fast enough to prevent camera blur, even at wide angle. If you had very bright light, you could might get away with 30fps modes as the autoexposure would be forced into a faster shutter. This is something I need to remember, moving forward as a videographer.

    It was super fun to use the Merlin, and it did pop out some mondo-sweet footage. When it works, it SINGS. But after seeing this thing up close and in action, I don’t think there’s any way I’d pay more than the price of my SLR for one. Maybe in 2012 there might be a DIY Steadicam build. But that’s looking far ahead. I digress. Back to the slider:

    In addition to duty as a hand-powered video slider, I’m also planning something very ambitious for it. There’s a section on OpenMoCo.org (short for open source motion control systems) called “Project Chronos”. It adds a stepper motor’s super slow motion capability to the slider so that you can do timelapse while your camera moves, like they do in all those super sexy timelapse videos–only for a fraction of the price compared to commercial systems that do the same thing! When I saw this existed, I knew I HAD to build it. This is going to require a lot of soldering, troubleshooting, emailing, and above all, patience. I’ll do some periodic updates on the progress as I go along.

    For the boldest and most tenacious of readers who may be interested in attempting their own Project Chronos, mastermind Chris Field has pictures, videos, circuit diagrams, Arduino code, and finished product samples all online for your consideration. I have also began a build thread of my progress over at Timescapes.org for anyone who wants to read the gory details. At the moment I have built two PCBs as pictured below. The blue one is actually a kit with very comprehensive assembly instructions online which made its construction relatively simple. The green PCB is the Chrono-specific circuitry and still a work in progress. More posts on this as it develops.

    Also, soldering shit in my free time makes me feel like a badass. Maybe it’s the smoke, or maybe it’s the hardcore nature of building your own circuits. Busting out my resistor collection and putting it back to use felt really good. I said to my girl; oh yeah, these resistors aren’t just going to sit inside a box forever, these have got a cooler destiny… ultra-sweet timelapse!

    Bring on 2012!

    ProTips: Flip Your Web Colours


    2011 - 12.20

    As you can see on this website, I prefer to read white text on a black background. It’s just less fatiguing, at least to me personally. I found myself getting irritated/eyestrain from long webpages full of useful information that I wanted to read but rendered with black text on a bright white background. I don’t know why this is the standard. Maybe the precedent set by newsprint? In any event, there is a solution. Create yourself a new bookmark, and instead of a web address, paste in this javascript:

    javascript: (function(){ var newSS, styles=’* { background: black ! important; color: white !important } :link, :link * { color: #CCFF33 !important } :visited, :visited * { color: #551A8B !important }’; if(document.createStyleSheet) { document.createStyleSheet(“javascript:'”+styles+”‘”); } else { newSS=document.createElement(‘link’); newSS.rel=’stylesheet’; newSS.href=’data:text/css,’+escape(styles); document.getElementsByTagName(“head”)[0].appendChild(newSS); } } )();

    Then whenever you click that bookmark, boom, white text on black background! It doesn’t work perfectly on every single webpage, but on the whole it works well. I generally click it when I find an interesting page that I know I’ll be reading for a while. It’s made an excellent tweak to my web-browsing. Try it out!

    Also, this happened yesterday


    2011 - 11.27

    The latest and greatest Mars rover, Curiosity,  lifted off successfully for the red planet.  I’m guessing all my fellow space geeks were abundantly aware of this already, and knew that this puppy has a footprint the size of a humvee, carries 10 times the scientific payload of any previous rover, and has more sophisticated analysis tools than any previous mission to mars.  This baby is the biggest, baddest, and sexiest rover ever to depart for another world.  It’ll be landing in August of next year.  That’s pretty friggin exciting.

     

    If killing Courier was the right thing to do, then why are we all still talking about a non-existent device one year after the project was cancelled?


    2011 - 11.03

    This week CNET published a fascinating two part article on the death of the infamous Microsoft Courier project, which I had rapped about on here previously. It was a maddening walk down memory lane to read; the story of how a categorically innovative product was sacrificed on the altar of “platform synergy” or whatever corporate doublespeak you want to call it.

    The intriguing insider tale of exactly how it all went down reads a little bit like the Empire Strikes Back, with an ending that sees the team you rooted for in defeat and their forces scattered to the wind with their home base destroyed. Peppered around CNET’s analysis and echoed by Ars Technica (among many places I’m sure) are references to the device being “consumer-focused”. I have a beef with this term; it should be “creator-focused”.

    Someone like me, who curates a website, likes to photograph, and is perpetually jotting down ideas, would truly stand to benefit, perhaps dramatically, from the use of a “digital moleskin” like the Courier intended to be. Ars Technica could not be more wrong when they said that killing the Courier was the right move made for the wrong reasons; it was the wrong move made for Microsoft’s own “right” reasons–maybe preserving a product lineup that operates in lockstep with MS Enterprise 2015 is the right decision to keep your users corralled into your tiny little pen, but squashing this hardware that creative types could use for a whole new digital workflow: that’s a defeat for the everyman, no two ways about it.

    It’s not about the device; it’s about what people will do with it. Apple didn’t create Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, nor did they create Filtatron, the Moog synthesizer app; two of the coolest things to do on the iPad. They set up a platform for people to do neat things, and then creative types figured out how to use it, and turned it into the awesomeness that it is now (and wasn’t on day one). In a smiliar way, you can’t foresee the fresh ideas that would have been inevitably spawned on the Courier. If iPad is meant for consumption and Courier was meant for creation, these devices would have been complimentary… everyone loses in its absence. I would probably be using a Courier to collect, organize, and publish content on this blog right now if it existed. That’s just one narrow, specific example.

    The sad part is that only a company like Microsoft, with huge amounts of resources in software and hardware design, could actually manufacture a compact device that combined slick interface design, multi-touch/gesture input, pressure-sensitive stylus input, handwriting recognition, integration with cloud content hosting, seamless web publishing and so forth. I don’t see anyone else making something that offers up the “whole package” like that. Maybe it’ll be another 10 years before someone manages to work up to that level. Maybe one company will never do it, but it will only be possible with a hodgepodge of various services and some DIY know-how.

    In any event, Courier was a tantalizing glimpse into the future by some very forward-thinking people. A vision too far ahead of it’s time–a byproduct of a company with the creative brainpower to shatter the boundaries of what portable electronics could do, but too straightjacketed by legacy products and enterprise strategery to see the real-world potential of what Courier was.

    But whatever. I’ll step off the soapbox. Microsoft will be Microsoft I guess. It’s unrealistic to expect something miraculous from them.

    Makin’ Mixtapes!


    2011 - 08.16

    So since I got this cassette deck, I picked up a box of high-bias blank cassettes and I’ve been taping some hot jams direct from the turntable. Interesting thing about cassettes; since your recording time is limited, there is maybe a bit more pressure to make sure that every song which goes onto tape is a badass track, worthy of ferromagnetic imprinting.

    I had forgotten how making cassettes track-by-track is fairly labor intensive–you can’t really walk away from the deck for more than a couple minutes at most. There is something rewarding about finishing a tape though–one where you think to yourself, damn, every song on there is tops, and I’m pretty sure I nailed the order too. This tape’s got FLOW, baby!

    I just completed one that’s a combination of two double LP Orgone releases. If I don’t say so myself, the track listing is AWESOME.

    Side A: Cali Fever
    1. Cali Fever
    2. Time Tonight
    3. Lookout
    4. The Cleaner

    Side B: Killion Vaults
    1. Cruel Intentions
    2. Wanting Wondering
    3. Shopping Spree
    4. K. Irin
    5. Counting On You
    6. Done Deal
    7. Dark Falls

    Total playtime: only 40 minutes.  Make it count!

    Since these cassettes didn’t come with stick-on labels, I used metal-ink pens to label them, then put transparent tape over the writing so it can’t get scratched off. I’m pretty sure that should keep the labeling in mint condition for the life of the tape.

    And–AND–I’ve got three little mini-mixes that I whipped up for these tapes. After the goods have all been delivered, they’ll be posted on here. Stay tuned for that in the latter half of August.

    600 shots and counting!


    2011 - 08.11

    Tuesday was the first day since I’ve gotten my new T3i that I didn’t take a picture on it.  This is probably because I fell asleep early by accident!

    Something that occurred to me is that using this new timelapse remote is going to completely blow up the count of shutter actuations on the camera.  The outgoing champ, my Canon XTi, has about 6,400 pictures on the counter.  So far with the T3i I’m already up over 600… in less than a week!  Whoa.

    In a way it’s kinda scary how quick these will add up, but really it’s a good thing–I’m gonna USE this puppy.  And I should.  It’s got the great ISO range I’ve been wishing for, and pretty much all the movie-making goodness a camera-nerd could wish for.  Ahhhhh

    I have been doing some trial runs of timelapse, some of which I’ll begin posting on here soon.  I thought some of you might like to see my setup for doing these, so below is a picture.  We’ve got the Canon T3i with Meike Powergrip (intended for 550D/T2i, but it still works 100%), a simple Studiohut intervalometer, and the Tamron 10-24mm superwide zoom for some large sky coverage:

    It took me a while to figure out how to set up the tripod for a full view of the sky with no trees or house in the frame.  At first I tried putting the quick release on backward, which let me tilt in a more favorable direction (as shown above), but that still wasn’t quite what I needed.  The real trick is to put the quick release on sideways (90 degrees off, instead of 180), so that instead of left/right tilt, the mount itself moves up and down.  THAT’s how it’s done!  I’ll post a picture of that method sometime later…

    Bwahnt, bwahnt, bwaaaaaa (that’s a sad trombone sound, for a screwed up camera)


    2011 - 08.02

    So it turns out that the camera I got off eBay had a little issue.  Kind of crazy, but an issue that I only noticed when I tried doing time lapse astrophotography.  In the resultant movie, there were dots hanging in the sky which didn’t move as the rest of the stars did.  I tried cleaning the sensor both automatically and (carefully!) manually.  One or two spots went away, most did not.  I found this hidden function buried in the canon menu called “dust delete data” which I thought might help.  Nope.  Finally I got clever and took a 20 second exposure with the lens cap on.  I thought Ah-ha!  I can use this as a reference of the noise, and use a difference layer in photoshop to remove it.  Hmm, that almost worked, but some of the dots aren’t quite lined up for some reason… Okay, how about if I repeat this process five times with an action file.  Okay, now the spots are gone but the ISO noise is out of control.  Alright… know what, forget this.  Time for a BRAND NEW camera.

    Pffft.

    I’m a big believer in buying pre-owned stuff.  I like to get a good deal, I like to see things get used to the maximum and fully worn out before they get discarded, I like the idea that the things around me have some other secret story of their own before they arrived here that I’ll never really know.  But man, a DSLR camera body is a large, long term investment.  This thing has got to be ready for all the kinds of action I want to use it for.  And in this case, astrophotography would be tedious to fix, over and over and over in the years I’ll be using it.

    So yeah.  eBay camera got sent back to New Jersey and there’s a brand new T3i in the mail set to arrive on Thursday from B&H in NYC.

    A few wacky things worth mentioning:

    • the spots were red, blue, and white, meaning potentially sensor flaws and not just dust which should be dark spots
    • these spots only showed up in multi-second long exposures.  At any normal shutter speeds, they didn’t appear at all.  I took a series of test shots and knew exactly where to look.  They were definitely not there.  They didn’t show up in video either (makes sense, short shutter speeds).  Only long exposures.  Hmph.
    • it’s weird–there’s no way I would have caught this unless I was doing astrophotography.  And if I took single shots only, I probably still would not have noticed it.  But since I did time lapse astrophotography, where the stars moved, only then did I catch this.  Since this is an activity I want to get into, I can’t be havin’ those spots.  My night sky time lapse ought to be crystal clear, for the cash that these camera cost.
    • before I bought the T2i I sort of scoffed at the articulating screen, thinking it was not really necessary and just added to the price.  Having played with the T2i and made a few videos, I figured out how the articulating screen does have value.  It’d be useful for filming yourself.  And for low shots where the camera is almost on the ground.  And, ironically, for astrophotography, where the camera is pointed straight up at the sky.  The only way to see the T2i screen was to awkwardly get underneath the tripod.  So, having almost a week with the T2i, I was sold on the utility of an articulating screen.  T3i to the rescue.
    And the waiting game is well underway, AGAIN!