Category Archives: Technology

Do not use Norton Anti-Virus

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We highly recommend against using Norton Anti-Virus. In an attempt to be smart, they proactively quarantine programs because “fewer than 50 users in the Norton community have them”. This means many of our plugins get quarantined when you try to install them.

Our installers pose no threat and you can safely install them.

Here’s what Norton puts up:

Do not use Norton Anti-virus as it's unreliable

1- It describes the risk as Heur.AdvML.C and labels it a ‘heuristic virus’ which sounds scary and looks like a virus name. It’s not. It’s a Norton code for their ‘artificial intelligence’. If this is how smart AI is, it’s going to be a long time before the bots take over the world.

2- Our major crimes against humanity seem to be that less than 50 users have installed this and it was uploaded over 4 months ago.

That’s it. So Norton’s ‘malware heuristics’ AI has decided were a High threat.

This is misleading and doing a disservice to us and our users. I assume most other plugins from small companies will fall under the same umbrella of stupidity.

As such we recommend you use a different anti-virus software.

Avoiding Prop Flicker when Shooting Drone Video Footage

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We released a new tutorial showing how to remove prop flicker, so if you have flicker problems on drone footage, check that out. (It’s also at the bottom of this post)

But what if you want to avoid prop flicker altogether? Here’s a few tips:

But first, let’s take a look at what it is. Here’s an example video:

1- Don’t shoot in such a way that the propellers are between the sun and the camera. The reason prop flicker happens is the props are casting shadows onto the lens. If the sun is above and in front of the lens, that’s where you’ll get the shadows and the flicker. (shooting sunrise or sunset is fine because the sun is below the props)

1b- Turning the camera just slightly from the angle generating the flicker will often get rid of the flicker. You can see this in the tutorial below on removing the flicker.

2- Keep the camera pointed down slightly. It’s more likely to catch the shadows if it’s pointing straight out from the drone at 90 degrees (parallel to the props). Tilt it down a bit, 10 or 20 degrees, and that helps a lot.

3- I’ve seen lens hoods for the cameras. Sounds like they help, but I haven’t personally tried one.

Unfortunately sometimes you have to shoot something in such a way that you can’t avoid the prop flicker. In which cases using a plugin like Flicker Free allows you to eliminate or reduce the flicker problem. You can see how to deflicker videos with prop flicker in the below tutorial.

Wacom Tablets and Repetitive Stress Injuries

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I’ve written about this before, but Thanksgiving came along this year and I left on a 5 day, two city trip without my Wacom tablet. Which reminded me exactly why I’m thankful for the tablet.

The downside to running Digital Anarchy is that I don’t really get many  days off. Usually I’m working in some capacity at least a couple hours a day even on vacations. For trips (like Thanksgiving) that involve plane flights and other downtime, it’s usually a lot more than two hours. (Not really complaining, just pointing out that it’s a thing. There’s plenty of awesome stuff about being Chief Executive Anarchist and coming up with cool video plugins for y’all)

I’ve used a Wacom tablet as a mouse replacement since around 2003. I used to run a user group called Bay Area Motion Graphics. Because I and one other DA employee had RSI problems, I got a variety of ‘ergonomic’ devices and had DA folks and members of BAMG try them out. BAMG was mostly video editors and motion graphic artists, to give you some idea of who was using them.

Wacom tablet used with Digital Anarchy Video PluginsExtra space on your keyboard drawer, yes. Clean desk, no.

We swapped around the weird looking keyboards, joystick mouse things, trackballs, tablets, and other oddments. We then got together and decided which devices seemed to offer relief to the most people.

One of the devices that stood out, especially for me, was the Wacom tablet. Once you get used to using it as a mouse replacement it’s really an awesome device. I have multiple tablets and use them constantly in the office and while traveling. It makes using the computer much less painful.

That’s in stark contrast to the last few days. No tablet, so I’ve been forced to use the track pad on the two computers I carry around. My wrists immediately started to ache and tingle. Not good. It’s amazing that for the most part I have no problems when using the tablets, but then after a couple days not using them, much of the pain comes back. Of course, RSI  is a whole body thing. Not only do your wrists hurt, but you’re in a less ergonomic position (f’ing hotel chairs) so my shoulders and back hurt as well.

Why are the Wacom tablets so effective for helping with RSI? I’m not sure to be honest. But I feel that 1) you’re holding the pen as you would a normal pen. This is a skill you’ve been working on since you were a small child and the muscle memory is very strong. 2) you’re not just using one body part over and over again (like your index finger on a mouse). You’re using your whole hand, wrist and arm. I feel like this distributes the stress over a greater area.

Whatever the case, for me, the tablets have been a godsend. It takes some time to get really familiar with them, but it’s been well worth it for me. Of course, it’s just one part of having an ergonomic workstation but it’s a big one (a great chair is another big one). Your health is critical. Take care of yourself.

Why VR Will Fail. (and AR too)

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First off, neither will fail completely. VR will succeed in games and AR will end up like the Segway… used by mall cops and tourists. And, yeah, there’ll be some industrial and entertainment (e.g. theme park rides) applications for both.

But widespread consumer use? No. Fail. Why? Because most people don’t care. At all.

Geeks LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this type of stuff because it’s extremely cool technology. And it’s true, the tech behind it is amazing. However, this does not matter to most people. For most people what matters is 1) does this make my experience better MOST of the time and 2) is it easy to use? Or, more simply: Does this make my experience so much better that it’s worth the effort required to learn and use it?

We ran into this problem with Web 3D when I worked for on Cult3D for Cycore, which was a browser plugin to let you view 3D objects on the web. Really cool tech. Cult3D, and 3D on the web pretty much completely failed. Why? Because a sneaker in 3D gets you no closer to trying it on than a bunch of photos.

And that 3D sneaker costs a LOT more to create than a few photos.

But VR and AR are different than Web3D! No, sorry, they’re not. It’s going to be the same problem. The content creation costs are going to be a killer and does it really add anything to the experience? Is it the order of magnitude better that it needs to be for most people to invest the time/effort/money in it? Especially since it requires glasses you wouldn’t otherwise need, particularly clunky, tech looking ones.

For example, the Magic Leap (VR/AR technology startup) website shows a bunch of schoolkids looking at a virtual seahorse. Ok, that’s going to be super awesome… until the novelty wears off. Then… is that virtual seahorse better than high resolution photos and videos showing the seahorse in it’s natural environment that can be shown on a smartboard or HD TV (tech that schools already have)? No, probably not.

And do you really think schools are going to outfit entire schools with VR/AR tech and the expensive content? Most schools can’t even buy one smartboard for each classroom… to say nothing of training teachers, many of whom are not very tech literate.

But wait, I’ll be able to see bus stops and find restaurants just by looking around! How often do you actually need to do this? You’re going to wear glasses you don’t need so that you can be visually bombarded with virtual signage and more information? Most of us are already in information overload. For the few times a day I need to check bus schedules, Yelp, or Lyft I don’t need AR. AR might  be marginally better than having to look at my phone, but it’s something I need to WEAR. And how do you control it? waving your hands around? A fanny pack controller attached to your belt?

One other issue is one that dogged 3D TV. People are social and want to connect, especially by looking in each other’s eyes. I don’t like talking to people that can’t stop looking at their phone. If I can’t see their eyes or if their eyes are constantly glazed over looking at the retina display… it’s a big problem.

And no, most people don’t want to live in virtual worlds. Yes, for gaming, great. Real life? Give me a f’ing break. Nobody wants to see your dragon avatar walking around the airport.

So between the high content creation costs, the difficulty/cost using it, social impediments and the fact that in most cases it’s not going to improve the experience by an order of magnitude, I don’t see it succeeding as a common, every day thing for personal use .

EL Capitan, Plugins and the Anarchist

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First off, the important bit: All the current versions of our plugins are updated for El Capitan and should be working, regardless of host application (After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Davinci Resolve, etc). So you can go to our demo page:

http://digitalanarchy.com/demos/main.html

And download the most recent version of your plugins.

If you haven’t upgraded to El Capitan, I’ll add to the chorus of people saying… Don’t. Overall we’re disappointed by Apple as continues its march towards making the Mac work like the iPhone. Making professional uses more and more obsolete. They’re trying way too hard to make the machines idiot proof and in the process dumbing down what can be done with it.

One of the latest examples is, of all things, Disk Utility. You can no longer make a RAID using it and have to use a terminal command. They’ve removed other functionality as well, but for many professional users RAIDs are essential as is Disk Utility. However, it’s now been crippled.

Of course, then there’s Final Cut Pro (which has gotten better but still doesn’t feel like a professional app to many people), Photos which replaced Apple’s pro app Aperture, and the Mac Pro trashcan. (kind of sad that when we need a ‘new’ Mac, usually we buy a 2010-12 12-core Mac Pro, they outperform our D500 trashcan)

Apple isn’t alone in this ‘dumbing down’ trend. Just look at latest releases of Acrobat (which I’ve heard referred to as the Fischer Price version) and Lightroom.

Note to Application Developers- Just because we’re doing a lot of things with our phones does not mean we want to do everything on them or have our desktop apps work like phone apps. There’s a difference between simplicity, making the user experience clear and intuitive but retaining features that make the apps powerful, and stupidity, i.e. making the apps idiot proof.

Anyways, end of rant… I spend a fair amount of time thinking about software usability, since we have to strike that balance between ease of use and power with our own video plugins, and using the host applications and OS professionally. So this ‘dumbing down’ concerns me both for my personal uses and having to help DA customers navigate new ‘features’ that affect our photo and video plugins.

Cheers,

Jim Tierney
Chief Executive Anarchist
Digital Anarchy

It’s a 4K World! … or not.

A survey released lately seem to indicate that, despite all the marketing, there’s little consumer interest in 4K… or UltraHD as it’s now called. It’s estimated that it’s going to take until 2017, at least, for 4K televisions to make up more than 5% of the market.

Having just got back from CES and seeing all the latest and great 4K stuff, it’s fairly obvious as to why. It’s not that much better. Manufacturers are touting all sorts of crazy things to justify 4K… you can have the picture spread across two screens! You can look at more of your surveillance cameras on one screen! All sorts of great ideas that try to get around the fact that the one thing you don’t want to do is buy a 4K TV just to WATCH it. The picture is a little better than standard HD, but on a screen of less than 90″, it’s just not that noticable. I can see the eyes of the quarterback just fine in HD. I don’t need to see his nose hairs.

Of course, showing all that skin detail is great for stuff like Beauty Box, so we’re looking forward to the 4K revolution. However, if you’re worried about producing 4K content, you can probably relax. It’s going to be a long while before anyone can watch it.

Creative Cloud from a Software Design Perspective

The Creative Cloud has gotten mixed reviews from users. Many users don’t like the idea of ‘renting’ software and feel Adobe is forcing them to pay more or gouging them. While this may or may not be true, there are other reasons for Adobe wanting to make this switch.

Software is traditionally done in big releases. You work for a year or more and deliver the final product with much fanfare. This is a feast or famine type of thing… users get all or nothing and the company bets the farm that the release is all that and a bag of potato chips. This really isn’t great for either users or the company.

Continue reading Creative Cloud from a Software Design Perspective

Patent Trolls

The other day I had a friend call and ask me if I could help him out with some info about visual effects. He’s not in the industry, so I wondered about this, but I gave him a call back ready to help him out if I could. As it turns out he was looking for information about Match Moving. It’s not something I know a ton about, but I know some people that I could refer him to. I asked him why he was looking for the info. He mentioned he was working for a company doing some research for a patent they own. I asked him if this company had a product related to match moving? No. Were they thinking about building a product? No. So basically they’re a patent troll? At which point he admitted he was working for a patent troll. It’s good money apparently.

IMHO, patent trolls are the terrorists of the tech industry. (note: I’m not saying they are terrorists, they aren’t killing people)

Continue reading Patent Trolls

What Does the Creative Cloud Mean to You?

Last month we asked folks to do a survey about the Creative Cloud and how they felt about it. I thought I’d share the results as some of you may also be curious what you’re fellow users are thinking about the Creative Cloud.

Creative Cloud

Keep in mind that the survey was done before Adobe announced the price drop on Photoshop & Lightroom to $10/mo. So the data is already somewhat out of date, but maybe sheds some light on why they dropped the price.

Continue reading What Does the Creative Cloud Mean to You?

Sorry Leap Motion, Like 3DTV, Nobody Wants You

Let’s get one thing straight… consumers don’t like 3D. Well, ok, they like 3D for about 5 seconds then ADD kicks in and they get over it. (Gamers are an exception of course) Tech geeks, and especially graphics geeks, LOVE 3D.

For everyone else it’s mostly… Meh.

Nobody wants 3D on the web (except for gamers), nobody wants 3DTVs, and nobody is going to want a controller that works in 3D space (except gamers). It’s cool technology, but it is definitely a solution desperately searching for a problem. The problem is, there is no problem.

But some people don’t get it. Just as Microsoft failed to grasp that desktop computers are not tablets, Leap Motion is failing to grasp that desktop computers are not game machines. They are occasionally used as game machines, but when you’re not playing a game, you don’t want your computer to act like a Wii. I don’t think they even understand games, as gaming on the desktop is not usually a group activity like the Wii.  This failure of understanding is leading to some things like this unintentionally funny video showing how to use Final Cut Pro X to edit video with a wave of your hand. I’ve always wanted to be Tom Cruise, but… er, well, actually I don’t want to be Tom Cruise. Nevermind. So much for the one redeeming thing about that.

I can see some very niche uses for the Leap Motion device. Where there are groups of people around a screen (like Minority Report) it has the potential to be useful. For everyday computing or things like video editing? It’s ridiculous. Yes, some early adopter folks will buy it. However, it will eventually end up in the box in the back of their closet marked: ‘Things I will put in the tech museum I’ll open in my garage in 25 years’

Speeding Up Beauty Box Video

We’ve come along way from Beauty Box Video 1.0, which was pretty slow. It’s now as fast as any other solution out there, and BB still offers the easiest and highest quality way of doing retouching for HD, 4K, and film. That said, it still requires a render and there are various things that can slow it down. It can really slow FCP X down if FCP isn’t configured correctly.

What should you expect speed-wise from Beauty Box?

A minute of HD video should take from 3-10 minutes to render out on a reasonably fast machine. So let’s discuss how to get those faster speeds. If you have a fast video card (say, the Nvidia 680 in an iMac) and are seeing really slow speeds, make sure you read to the end were we discuss the configuration file BB uses.

After Effects: Beauty Box will render faster in AE than any other host app. This is primarily because of how AE handles multiprocessing. It’s far better than any of the video editing apps. It requires a fair amount of RAM to really take advantage of, but it can run very fast. If it’s possible, we recommend doing the Beauty Box pass in AE, and then bring the intermediary file into your editing app to cut.

Final Cut Pro 7 & X: If you’re using FCP X, turn off background rendering. Background rendering works great with basic filters, but when you have something that’s render intensive like Beauty Box background rendering will bring FCP X to it’s knees. Also, turn off scrubbing. FCP will start caching frames and, again, start rendering multiple frames in the background which will really make FCP sluggish. Generally, we recommend either applying BB first, and then turning it off as you’re editing, OR applying it last. Applying it last is the preferred way. You can take your edit, create a compound clip, and then apply Beauty Box to the compound clip. In FCP 7, a compound clip is called ‘Nest’.

Premiere Pro: Similar in some respects to what happens in Final Cut Pro. It’s not a real-time effects, so it’ll prevent the Mercury engine from rendering in real-time. So, again, you want to apply Beauty Box either before you start editing (and turn it off while you edit) or apply it as the last step after editing and color correction (recommended).

Video Cards: Beauty Box is accelerated using OpenCL. This means it’ll get a massive speed boost from newer Nvidia and AMD video cards. In practice, this speed boost can vary quite a bit. We’ve run into more problems with AMD cards than Nvidia, so we recommend Nvidia cards if possible. Although, usually AMD cards are fine, so it’s not a huge deal. It does tend to be a bit more of a problem on the Mac where Apple creates the drivers. The AMD drivers tend to be more problematic than Nvidia’s. Regardless of which video card you have, we recommend getting the most recent Mac OS (and staying current with updates). Apple rolls driver fixes into the latest OS, so if you’re using an older OS, it’s potentially a problem. If you’re on Windows, you can just download the latest drivers, so it’s less of an issue.

What video card to get?

We still like the Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 as being the best price/performance option out there. For video applications, the Quadro cards don’t offer a lot of benefits. They tend to be slower and you’re paying for features that are more applicable to engineering/3D apps. If you do a lot of 3D work, the Quadro might be a better choice (I don’t do much 3D, so I can’t comment on that). The newer GeForce cards like the GTX 680 and GTX Titan are great, but don’t necessarily offer the speed boost to justify the extra cost. They are faster, so if you’re looking for the absolute fastest card then the Titan or GTX 690 is a great choice. Both cards require a ton of power, so make sure you’ve got a small nuclear power plant as your power supply.

OpenCL Configuration File

Beauty Box creates a special configuration file for the video cards in your system. This makes a file that you can send us that helps us troubleshoot any problems and it also keeps track of whether a given video card is crashing when used with BB. If the video card is always crashing this is a good thing. However, sometimes you’ll have a random one-off crash and BB will disable OpenCL. This will cause a dramatic slowdown in rendering. The solution is to delete the configuration file. BB will then recreate a default file next time it starts and rendering speeds will be back to normal. But you need to know where it is to delete it, so here are the locations:

Windows: Documents\Digital Anarchy\DA_OpenCL_Devices.txt

Mac: Users\Shared\Digital Anarchy\DA_OpenCL_Devices.txt

Happy rendering… :-)

Greenscreen Tips for Shooting Video

There was a question the other day on the After Effects List about tips for successfully shooting greenscreen. A couple good links were suggested (see below), but one that stood out was rotating the video camera vertically. If you’re shooting a person standing, and they’re going to be keyed anyways so you don’t need the extra space horizontally, use the wide part of the camera to capture more vertical resolution. It was also a reminder that shooting greenscreen is difficult even for pros.

Great tips from Jonas Hummelstrand:

http://generalspecialist.com/greenscreen-and-bluescreen-checklist/

and from the After Effects Help section!

http://adobe.ly/RNe3pz

More vertical resolution, anyone?

Vertical resolution is good for greenscreen video

NAB Trends

What’s Trending at NAB

Around this time of the year, you start seeing a lot of talk about what’s going to be released at NAB. It’s always interesting to look at some of the larger trends that are out there. Of course, what’s trending for Digital Anarchy is Beauty Box 3.0. The photo version just got released (see below) and the video version is not far behind. But beyond that…

NAB Plugins Software After Effects Final Cut Pro

There are some of the obvious ones:

Continue reading NAB Trends

The MacPro and Does Anyone Really Need It?

Apple has confirmed several times that a new MacPro is coming, so I believe them. There have been some good blog posts recently about this, notably Larry Jordan’s. The spat Apple has with the EU that has resulted in them not selling MacPros in Europe is mostly irrevelent. (Not completely, as you’ll see in a moment…)

So I’ll jump into the fray. Yes, I’m playing armchair psychologist here. I have no inside info and am making all this up based simply on having watched Apple intently (and been subjected to their whims) for 25 years as a customer and developer. Take it for what it’s worth.

So why the about face when it looked like the MacPro was done for just a year or so ago? I think the main fact is that Steve Jobs is no longer with the company.

Continue reading The MacPro and Does Anyone Really Need It?

The CES Hangover

You wake up from a dream of dancing pink elephants being chased on a rollercoaster by planet sized mosquitoes… and discover that waking is even weirder. Welcome to CES.

Ok, maybe not quite weirder, but my god, does the world need 1001 makers of iPhone cases and headphones? That’s innovation? I know those kids in those iPod commercials looked cool and all, but really? 1001 companies? And why did the Postal Service have a booth with Elvis and Marilyn Monroe impersonators? Not to mention the man sized Qbert looking things standing around a table sized Surface device playing a kids game. And then there was the keynote. Fear and Loathing in Vegas indeed. No acid needed.

When they say ‘consumer electronics’, they mean it. It’s not just TVs, it’s every last little doodad that can be plugged into a wall. And in fact, there were many innovative items floating around, but my main interest was video related stuff, so I’ll chat about that. Although, the Audi booth was a photographers dream. Basically you were inside a giant softbox with a bunch of great cars. Very cool if you wanted to work on your car photography.

I still don’t think the TV manufacturers get it. Panasonic and Samsung sort of did. LG and Sharp not so much, and Toshiba didn’t even have someone that spoke english. The Panasonic and Samsung second screen and internet TV offerings were pretty well thought out as a way to control the TV and content. However, you get the feeling that Apple is going to roll into this space and change the way we think about what a TV will do, in the same way they changed what we thought a phone could do. The current offerings just seem lackluster, with the internet tacked on. Not actually rethinking what you can do with a big internet connected screen.

3D was mostly dead. Only LG had a 3D showing… a giant 30 ft wide/12 ft high screen showing headache inducing 3D graphics. Like 3D TV overall, it was a Fail. Good riddance.

UltraHD (4K) is officially here. From the content I saw I have a hard time believing it will get the response HD did. SD compared to HD was night and day. UltraHD is better, but not so much better that it’s a nobrain upgrade. I guess we’ll see. The manufacturers have given up on 3D, so UltraHD is the new 3D.

A few camera vendors announced cameras that could use apps. Samsung will use Android and Sony, of course, will use their own operating system. Sony _could_ do what Amazon does and tweak their own version of Android and create their own store. But, no, they’re going to roll their own and have 6 people develop apps for it. And yes, they’ll be releasing training videos for this new Sony OS on Betamax. Didn’t Sony lose like a trillion dollars last year? No idea why.

And really, the keynote was f’ing bizarre.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 in a Macintosh

All the speed tests we’ve done with Beauty Box on Windows show the Nvidia GeForce video cards to outpace their much more expensive cousins, the Quadros, significantly. A GTX 570 (~$270) is about 25-30% faster than a Quadro 4000 ($800).

Since Beauty Box can involve some render time, we’ve wished that Apple would authorize one of the newer GeForce cards for the Mac. No such luck. So we’re tired of waiting. We took a stock PNY GeForce 570 and put it into our MacPro. And lo! It works!

So… what’d we do and what are the caveats? This was not a 570 with ‘flashed’ ROM. This was just a straight up 570 which we use in one of our PC machines. Nothing fancy. We did need to download a few things:

– Latest Nvidia driver for the Mac, which can be found here: http://www.nvidia.com/object/macosx-304.00.05f02-driver.html

– Latest CUDA drivers for the Mac, which can be found here: http://www.nvidia.com/object/mac-driver-archive.html (as of this writing, v5.0.37 was the latest)

– If you’re using Premiere you need to update the cuda_supported_cards.txt file to add the name of the video card. In this case it would be: ‘GeForce GTX 570’  To do this, you need to go to the Premiere.app file, right+click on it and select ‘Show Package Contents’. Once you do that, this is what you’ll see:

CUDA nvidia opencl adobe premiere macintoshOnce that’s done, you are good to go!

Now that caveats…

Continue reading Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 in a Macintosh

Why Don’t TV Manufacturers Get It? Stop Making TVs!

It’s been a couple years since I wrote about no one wanting 3D and people wanting Internet enabled TVs. TV manufacturers still don’t seem to get what people want. We either want TVs to be the same passive viewing experience they’ve always been or we want them to be internet devices (or probably both at the same time).

If Apple comes out with a TV, I don’t think it’s hard to guess what it’ll be. It will not be a TV. It will be built from the ground up as an internet device with a big ass screen whose primary use is displaying content.

internet TV, google, apple, apps

There was a survey recently released that said less than 15% of Smart TV owners are using the smart features. This isn’t particularly surprising because most ‘smart’ TVs aren’t very smart, don’t have well thought out apps that take advantage of it, and still want you to use a remote. Why? Because TV manufacturers still think they’re selling TVs.

Let’s go back to what Apple would release… and if they do, all the other manufacturers will go ‘ooohh… that’s how you do it. (And I’ll point out that I’m not an Apple fanboi… but they do have a habit of releasing game changing devices, so I’m using them as an example.)

Anyways…  features of an Apple branded big screen internet device:

Continue reading Why Don’t TV Manufacturers Get It? Stop Making TVs!

48fps Sucks

Maybe the title of the post is overly blunt, but it’s true. I saw the Hobbit in 48fps, in 3D. Please don’t make the same mistake.

48fps, hobbit, peter jackson48fps. Looks great!

I have no idea if the Hobbit is a good film. The ‘soap opera’ look of 48fps combined with 3D was distracting and outright ruined many scenes by making them look like a low budget Saturday morning cartoon. The climatic scene actually works out pretty well, but for the first 2+ hours it’s an awful movie experience. Peter Jackson has gone on record as saying that 48fps makes 3D more enjoyable. Whatever he is smoking, please send some of it to San Francisco. 3D tends to brighten the image up to begin with and you add 48fps to that mix and the result is so bad it’s comical.

I was hoping the initial reports of the look of 48fps were exaggerated and due to viewing unfinished shots. I think it’s clear that in both cases it’s not. It looks like 3D humans suffering from the ‘uncanny valley’ effects. It doesn’t look like film, but it doesn’t look real either. It just looks like bad TV. With Hobbits. Maybe they can resurrect the Ewok Christmas special and shoot that in 48fps, 3D.

I realize there’s a lot of new technology out there and you have to test it out on something. But to test it out on a major motion picture? Honestly, I wish folks would just try to make better movies instead of screwing around with all this stuff (48fps, 3d) which doesn’t make the films look better and rarely adds anything to the story. In the case of the Hobbit, it really affected the story poorly.

I do think there’s some technology which will change movies for the better. The super high resolution cameras produce great looking imagery. Internet connected TVs will change the way we watch movies and how they get distributed. But 48fps is just crap. So thank you to Peter Jackson for proving that.

Using Plugins on Multiple Computers

Plug-ins with multiple=So you’ve got two (or 20) computers and you want to use Beauty Box (or whatever) on all of them.

This is always a tricky thing for software developers. On one hand we realize many folks have multiple machines and since they’re only one person, they can only use one machine at a time. We would like to allow them the flexibility of having it on a couple machines. On the other hand, if you’re a studio with multiple machines and multiple people we think that if our software is good enough to be installed and used on all those machines we should be paid for it. Making sure that happens sometimes gets in the way of how a single user is using our plugins.

Companies

When you buy a license of our software, you’re buying it for one user. If you’re a company with multiple machines and multiple artists/editors using those machines, then there’s not much gray area and you need a license for each computer being used. We offer pretty good volume discounts and site licenses for this type of situation, you can contact sales@nulldigitalanarchy.com for pricing.

There is one big exception to this… if you’re using After Effects’ network rendering. You do not need extra licenses for After Effects render nodes. You can install Beauty Box on as many render nodes as you want for free.

People (and, no, companies are not people. I don’t care what the Dread Pirate Roberts says)

If you’re just one person with multiple machines then there’s some gray areas. The software can be installed on a couple machines, but we use the internet to determine if the plugin is being used on multiple computers at the same time. So if you have a desktop and a laptop and you’re using one or the other depending on whether you’re at home or at the office, no problem. You’re good to go.

However, if you’re in your studio/office and trying to use both machines for rendering/editing at the same time, you may run into problems. If so, here’s what you can do:

1)      You can purchase a second license. We do offer discounts for second licenses. Contact sales@nulldigitalanarchy.com.

2)      Use the second machine as an After Effects render node. As mentioned above, you can use Beauty Box on as many render nodes as you want for free. So if the machine is just being used to process frames sent to it from another machine you shouldn’t have any problems.

3)      Our licensing is set up so that you can install on two machines, they just can’t be in use simultaneously.  The way we check this is via the internet. So if you disable the internet connection on one machine, then we can’t check it. This is a hack and technically violates the license. However, since the spirit of the license is for one user, as long as it’s the same person using the machines we’re ok with it.

4)      Render out the Beauty Box clip on one machine while working on another part of your project on the second machine. BB just gets watermarked on the second machine, so it’s still usable.

Like most of you, we’re running a small company. We try to be as flexible as possible, but if you’re making money using our software we would like you to buy the correct number of licenses. Please support the companies that make the tools you use and that help you be successful.

Don’t be a Grumpy, Old Photographer

I recently was chatting with a photographer who pretty much blamed all the ills of the industry on Moms in hot pants. Yep, that’s why he no longer goes to WPPI and why the photo business isn’t what it used to be. Moms in hot pants with their toy DSLRs undercutting real photographers. What IS the world coming to?

(ok, so this is from the Sony advert that’s very funny. See post from last week.)

I think mostly what he’s upset about is a new generation of photographers. I suspect when he got out of school there were a bunch of old photographers bitching about all these kids with their Canon AE-1s running around in bell bottoms pretending to be photographers and working for peanuts.

But change happens. A new generation comes along, new ways of marketing appear, and new cameras are released. Just because you think Twitter is the dumbest thing since the Pet Rock, doesn’t mean you don’t have to use it. (At least Twitter doesn’t limit who’s sees your posts like Facebook does now) Marketing has always been critical in photography and it’s even more so now. It’s just the way of doing it has changed somewhat. It requires a little more consistent engagement… like this blog. Which you’ll note I’m not writing on Facebook. I’ll post the link on FB, but because FB limits who sees it, it much more effective to do the writing here and link to it from the various interwebs.

If a few Moms with Canon Rebels are on the verge of sending you out of business, I don’t think the issue is the Moms. Hell, hire one of them. If you can get in with the Mom Mafia you’re golden!

And besides, given the amount of tradeshows I go to that are nothing but geeky guys, I’m having a hard time seeing what the complaint is about a little gender diversity (hot pants or no). But it’s no secret why you’re seeing a lot of women in photography… they tend to communicate better than men, have more emotional intelligence, and are excellent shooters. I mean, who do you think a bride is going to want to shoot her wedding? The energetic gal in hot pants or the grumpy, old guy? It’s all about being a good communicator these days, whether it’s on social media or during a shoot. Don’t be the grumpy, old guy.

Great New Tutorial on Shooting Greenscreen/Chromakey Photos

We’ve wanted to do a training video for awhile that touched on all aspects of Greenscreen photography. From the photo shoot to the file management and, of course, the keying. We recently had the opportunity to work with with Mike Price of Fairfield Photography to do just that. Mike has been shooting youth sports for years and uses greenscreens and Primatte.

Shooting Chromakey photograph on a greenscreen and keying greenscreen photos in Photoshop

In this 30 minute video, Mike touches on all aspects of Greenscreen photography: Shooting and light setup, managing photos, setting up actions, and doing the keying. If you’re new to chromakey photography, regardless of whether you’re using greenscreen or bluescreen, this is a great video. Even if you’re an old hand, it’s always great to see how other folks are doing it. So check it out!

http://vimeo.com/53470129

I Feel the Need for Rendering Speed (or Why I Love My GPU)

We’re about to release a free update to Beauty Box Video (2.0.4… look for it next week) and figured it was time to talk about GPUs again. We’re seeing 500-800% speed increase using the GPU on newer graphics cards, especially Nvidia boards which seem to be more stable than AMD or Intel.

(You can get more info on Beauty Box and a free trial version HERE)

GPU accelerated plugin for after effects, Premiere, and Final Cut Pro

So where are we getting these numbers and how do YOU get them?

Continue reading I Feel the Need for Rendering Speed (or Why I Love My GPU)

Makin’ the World an Ugly Place (with Free Plugins)

In case you missed it, last week on Halloween we released a free filter called Ugly Box! The blog post is a little late for Halloween (although they are celebrating it in New Jersey today), but if you’re tired of all the election nonesense, there’s still plenty of time to use it to make Glenn Beck more interesting.

Ugly Box: a free plugin for After Effects, Final Cut Pro, and Premiere to make videos look worse!

You can download it here:

http://www.digitalanarchy.com/demos/ugly.html

I think one of the biggest surprises we had when we released Beauty Box 1.0 was that people kept asking us if it could make people look worse. Considering how much detail you can see on HD and how bad some people looked on HD, I didn’t really think there’d be a need for a filter to do that. But… we give our customers what they want though…

With Beauty Box 2.0, you could set Skin Detail Smoothing to a negative number resulting in, yep, Ugliness! It takes the skin texture, amplifies it and sharpens it making your talent either look a bit older or flat out hideous depending on their skin and the settings. Ugly Box, the fitler we’re releasing for free, let’s you use that aspect of Beauty Box. It’s a bit of a one trick pony, you don’t have all the control you do with Beauty Box, but it can definitely make the folks in your videos look a lot worse.

Anyways, all the details are below, so download it for free and have fun with it! I figured it’d be a great Halloween treat for all you visual effects artists and editors doing last minute scary videos (or election videos…). ;-)

Color Calibration

After some time off, I’m creating prints of my photos. At first, I thought this was a good opportunity to try Costco, which has been showing up at some of the photography tradeshows touting their services to pro photographers. Using Costco as a print lab seems like a strange idea, but I figured if they’re promoting themselves to pros… but, no, the quality is what you would expect. Pretty awful prints. Nevermind.

So let’s try Bay Photo. Good reputation as a lab… so I ordered a matted print from them. Good print, but this is what the corners of the mat looked like:

Bay photo matting

Seriously? Why even offer matting if you have zero quality control?

Looks like I’m doing this myself. Which meant calibrating the monitor and printer. I’ve got the ColorMunki for this purpose, but hadn’t used it for awhile. I’d sort of forgotten how easy it is use and set up. I have to say I love this thing. The Cinema Display and my Epson R2000 Printer are amazingly in sync. It’s not perfect… you sometimes have to calibrate the monitor a few times to get it right and I’ve heard it doesn’t work well with older monitors, but for me it works great.

One thing I discovered is that you should calibrate the printer with full ink tanks. Changing the ink can require recalibration. The Cyan was low when I did the initial calibration. I got 3 prints out of it before it ran out. Replacing it resulted in a color shift and recalibration.

Printing yourself is still a bit of a pain in the ass, it’s not the cheapest option, especially when you factor in your time. So I may end up printing with a lab anyways. But I’m always impressed when technology works the way it’s supposed to. The folks over at X-rite have done a nice job with the Munki hardware and software.

<shameless plug> If you’d like to see some of the prints, it’s Open Studios in San Francisco this month! I’ll have a few prints at SMAart Gallery on Sutter St. exhibited with Lily Yao’s ceramics. SMAart is open the first two weekends of Open Studios: Oct. 13/14 and Oct. 20/21, so if you’re in the Bay Area come on over. More info can be found here:

http://smaartgallery.com/

Cloud Services – The Ugly

So I don’t get it when people freak out about cloud services going down. It’s the internet. Outages happen. Actually, they happen to any electronics.

Should they happen frequently? No, of course not. But Google Talk going down for half a day, Twitter, Salesforce, and Amazon all having recent outages have made it clear that you can’t trust the cloud 100%. Which is only to say that you should have backup plans in the event the cloud service you’re using or your internet connection go down temporarily (hello? Comcast? Anyone home?).

Furthermore, you should make sure all the data on your cloud service is backed up locally in the event the cloud service you’re using goes down permanently. This is a real risk if you’re using any cloud service that isn’t Amazon or Google. And even then, I’ve heard of Google deleting accounts by mistake in such a way they were unrecoverable. I back up all my Google docs once a week and download a copy of important documents as soon as I finish them.

While I have photos stored online, the originals are safely on a RAID 1 hard drive. I’ve written about the failure of Digital Railroad before, which was a photo storage site that went bellyup and gave users about 12 hours to download their photos before shutting off the servers. When startups go down, they go down hard since they usually try to hold on until the last dollar runs out. When the money runs out, you can’t pay for bandwidth fees, and then darkness comes (and the ice weasels. Beware the ice weasels).

So don’t get me wrong, I think the cloud is great. But as with anything, it’s good to know the limitations and be able to work around them.

E3: Game Look vs. Film Look

I was hanging around E3 on Tuesday, indulging my gamer geek side (games are a sister industry to the film industry so I get in on an industry pass, but I have no real legit business reason to go. It’s just fun.).

One of the things I’ve noticed about games is that the ‘look’ is still very much the same as it ever was. Yes, the polygon counts are higher and everything is in HD, but the look is the same. No depth of field and harsh lighting (usually either on or off). I was looking at a couple up and coming games and they just reminded me of Half-Life and every other game I’ve played. They look better, but they don’t look like film.

This is interesting, because films are starting to look like games and I don’t think it’s a good direction. I want games to start looking like films, not the other way around.

Where is this ‘Game Look’ for films coming from? I think it starts with 3D.

One of the smaller booths (You should’ve seen the xbox, ps3, wii booths) at E3 this year.

Continue reading E3: Game Look vs. Film Look

How To Not Be A Starving Artist

In the previous post I mention an article from NPR: Silicon Valley vs. Hollywood. In that article they quote filmmaker Tim Chey as saying: “We do it for the art, we do it because we want to tell our stories, express our stories. I, as a filmmaker, am not in it for the money.”

Awesome! Then why are you complaining about piracy? You want people to hear your stories. You’re not in it for the money. Pirates are just enabling more people to see your movie that otherwise would play at two arthouse theaters on each coast and then be forgotten. What exactly is the problem?

However, somehow I feel he’s not being completely honest about not being in it for the money.

The biggest problem that most artists run into is that if they want to be even remotely successful, they need to look at themselves as a business. This kind of sucks. Most artists became artists because they didn’t want to think about marketing, business plans, how to accept credit cards, who they have to pay off to get in a gallery, etc. Sadly, that’s the hard, cold reality of it. Either you learn how to market yourself, you give up a good chunk of your earnings to someone that will market for you (like a gallery), or you starve. (or I suppose you can subsist in a coffee shop making pretty patterns in the latte foam of hipsters who go ‘Wow, that’s cool. You should be an artist!’)

Continue reading How To Not Be A Starving Artist

Carpal Tunnel Injuries

What is referred to as Carpal Tunnel injuries is usually a collection of different injuries that are better known as repetitive stress injuries (RSI). They are serious problems that I’ve struggled with to vary degrees for the last 10 years or so. One of the other anarchists has had it longer and had to work through a severe version of it.

And I am pretty much the poster child for what happens if you ignore the possibility of RSI. Back when I first started working in software, I worked with a programmer who had to have someone hired to do his typing. The company had people come in and speak about ergonomics and how to avoid RSI. I ignored all of it. Clearly these people were just weak, and I, being invincible, would never suffer such things . Not so much.  Age and too many 16 hour days hunched over a keyboard/mouse tend to take their toll. The whole growing older thing is really a pain in the neck (literally).

People usually associate RSI with wrists, but in fact it can affect your arms, shoulders, neck, and back. If you’re on a computer a lot (and if you’re reading this most likely you make your living using a computer) it’s critically important that you pay attention to it. It’ll seriously affect your ability to use a computer and, if you’re a photographer, your ability to hold a camera for long periods.

Continue reading Carpal Tunnel Injuries

Using Adobe’s DNG Raw File Format

Just saw Tom Hogarty speak at the San Francisco Photoshop User Group. Mostly he was talking about Lightroom (he is the LR product manager), but he also discussed the benefits of converting your RAW files to Adobe’s DNG File Format. He made a pretty compelling argument. If not a somewhat boring one. File formats are just not sexy and exciting no matter how you spin it. :-)

The main benefit of DNG is that it’s an open format in the sense that the specification is publicly available. So even if Adobe were to fail, it’d still be possible for other software developers to read the format. With so many RAW file formats out there (every camera has a slightly different file format), the possibility that the RAW files won’t be accessible sometime in the future is very possible. Still, such a problem is a ways off. So what are the immediate benefits?

The big immediate benefit is that the thumbnail and metadata is built into the format. No more sidecar files that are easy to lose or not copy over when moving your photos around. This benefit alone was enough to convert me to DNG. While I don’t care about the thumbnail files, I’ve definitely had to redo my RAW settings due to not copying over an .xmp file. Stupid mistake, sure, but something that should be avoidable in the first place by a well thought out file format.

The DNG files are also smaller by about 25-33%. So that makes them easier to backup and transport around. The reason for this, as explained by Tom, is that when you’re shooting the camera is just concerned about getting the images on your card. So the compression is fast, but not as robust as it could be. When you’re creating the DNG file on your regular computer, time isn’t such an issue so a better but slightly slower compression algorithm can be used. All the data is the same.

So I’m a fan and I recommend you take a look at it. It really does seem to solve some very real problems.

Clouds

I’ve ranted about clouds before… but this is actually in defense of them. There’s been a lot of todo about Amazon’s Elastic Cloud service going down for a couple days. The truth is, no solution is perfect.

If you’re going to use the cloud, it doesn’t matter if you’re FourSquare or just an editor storing some old video… you need to have a backup plan. Technology just isn’t perfect and never will be. For all those people dismissing the cloud because of the Amazon failure, I’ll remind you of the RackSpace failure a couple years ago. Click here for more info on that… but hosting companies, even high-end, We-promise-you-10000%-uptime-and-you’re-going-to-pay-for-it, hosting companies like RackSpace suffer data center wide outages. So the cloud isn’t perfect. Neither is anything else. Sometimes it’s good to remember that as we decide what to do with our critical data.

Rules for Interns

This is a repost from the Final Cut Pro List. While I can’t take credit for it, it definitely has similar sentiments to some of the things I’ve posted about education. I think internships are a huge part of anyone’s education, regardless of whether you’re going to a $1500/year community college or spending $25,000/yr on a fancy art school. But obviously you need to make the most of those internships. Here are some rules for making that happen.

Originally posted by Mark Raudonis.  Mark  is a former intern now working in Hollywood.

1. You are here for a short time… make every minute count.
2. If you find yourself stuck doing Xeroxing, it’s your own fault. Be proactive about
your time, your schedule, and what you want to learn.
3. Nobody is going to “hand you” an experience, you create it yourself.
4. You’re onstage here. You may be watching us, but we’re watching you. Make a good impression.
5. Watching someone edit is like watching paint dry. It’s boring! Ask questions. Engage in the creative process. “Outthink” the editor to the next shot.
6. You’re future career DEPENDS on your colleagues. Get to know them. They will be your best source of information for your next job.
7. There are plenty of editors here. Learn something different for each of them.
8. We’re in the communication business. Start by learning to communicate with the team.
Know, understand, and practice communication… and I don’t mean texting!
9. Technology is NOT your enemy. Learn enough about what we use to become confident in using the tools of our trade.
10. Organization is the key to creativity. If you can’t find something, you can’t even begin to be creative. Learn how we organize our projects, our SAN, our servers.

Finally, have fun! I was an intern once. It was one of the best experiences of my career.

Stupid Photographer Tricks

If you’re going to hang over the side of a boat to do underwater photography, it helps to have a leash/lanyard attached to the housing/camera. One might ask, with good reason, why you would hang over the side of the boat in the first place. If you’re trying to photograph Humpback whales in Hawaii, you’re not allowed to get in the water with them. Hawaii is a national sanctuary for the whales and as they’re endangered species there can be some pretty hefty fines for getting in the water with them. So you go out on Zodiac/raft boats, let the whales swim up to the boat, and put the camera in the water. Hopefully, you are holding onto the camera while you are doing this. (If you are, you can get some nice shots like the one below)

However, if you are like me and get excited when you see a Humpback whale 10 feet away from the boat, you might let your camera slip out of your hand. At which point you will watch your Canon T2i and Ikelite housing start slowly sinking. It’s like watching a big bag of money go down to Davey Jones locker. Not good. For a split second I considered the fact that we were in a whale sanctuary and I might be fined if I dove in after the camera and underwater housing. After the .25 of a second was up, I dove in and grabbed the camera. Luckily, I don’t think anyone other than Mr. Humpback Whale (and 18 other passengers) saw anything and their were no repercussions. I immediately got back on the boat anyways, so it’s not like I was hanging out having a photo session with the whale.

The moral of the story: Sometimes a $10 lanyard can save you a lot of camera equipment!  (Feel free to post your own stupid photographer tricks in the comment section)

Can you trust the cloud with your photos?

The answer, in a nutshell, is no.

I’ve written about this before… when Digital Railroad failed a couple years ago and gave photographers 24 hours to download their photos, it should have been a big wake up call for photographers that these services can’t be trusted as archives (at least, not without offline backups as well). Now, maybe they can’t even be trusted as temporary storage. With tech companies it’s all good… until it’s not. Then the CEO announces everyone is laid off and the servers are shut down. I’ve been part of startups where this has happened. As Jason Perlow points out in an excellent blog post ‘Flickr: Too big to fail?’, Flickr is not too big to fail.

AND even if it doesn’t fail, that doesn’t mean your account won’t be accidentally deleted and since Flickr doesn’t have backups of your data, there goes all your photos. Which means all the links on your blog or web site that point to Flickr (or Vimeo or…) get broken requiring a lot of time and aggravation fixing your site. Assuming you have all those photos backup in a single place and you don’t have to go rooting around for the particular photos/videos you uploaded… which would involve even more time.

I’ll point out that I think these sites are great usually. I use them, particularly vimeo. However, it’s important to know what will happen if things go wrong and to know what you’re in for.

Anyways, give Jason’s blog a read… it brings up some good questions and concerns.

DSLRs vs. Consumer HD Camcorders

I recently finished up shooting a side project DVD on Humpback Whale Photography… watching them and photographing them (facebook: Exploring Maui). A little different from my usual gig of wrangling Photoshop plugins! ;-) For the most part it was shot with a Canon 5D Mark II. The 5D is great when it’s locked down on a tripod and you’re shooting interviews or talking about a topic.

The DVD has a lot of amazing photos of the Humpbacks, but very little actual video. This is due to the fact that the 5D doesn’t work well for wildlife videography. Now, some of you might have expected that, knowing about rolling shutter, aliasing, and some of the other issues that DSLRs have. However, when I started the project, I was blissfully unaware of most of those issues. Even though we shot with the 5D on a Stedicam Merlin most of the footage was unusable. Between the motion of the boat, the rolling shutter, and fast moving wildlife the 5D proved not to be the camera we hoped it was. (it was everything we expected for the tripod shots, so that came out well. But when we were actually on the boat… not so much.) There are some Final Cut Pro plugins to help out with these problems, but when dealing with a boat and wildlife it was just too much for the camera.

So the DVD was made with a little video footage of the whales and a lot of great photos. It came out fine, but looking to the future we want to shoot videos of the whales. What to do?

Continue reading DSLRs vs. Consumer HD Camcorders

Beauty Box Video Wins Videomaker’s Plugin of the Year

I got some fantastic news last Thursday… Videomaker magazine named Beauty Box Video the Video Plugin of the Year! The full write up is in the latest issue with ‘Best Products of the Year’ on the cover.

We’ve been developing plugins for After Effects and Final Cut Pro for a long time and we’ve never received the response to a plugin that we have with Beauty Box Video. The Videomaker award goes next to our award from TV Technology magazine for one of the top 10 products at NAB 2010.

It’s really nice to get some recognition for putting out good After Effects and FCP plugins that really solve problems that people are having. It was definitely an early Anarchismas present! ;-) We’ve got some big plans for Beauty Box in 2011, so there’ll be no resting on our laurels. Expect to see some really cool stuff in the first quarter of next year.

TV and the Interweb

I went to the NewTeeVee conference on Wednesday. There was much ado about how the internet will work on the largest screen. With so much video on the web now (YouTube gets 50,000 hours of content uploaded every DAY)  folks are looking for ways to get it on their 52″ screens. Will it be Google TV, Apple TV, or just plugging an Ethernet cable into your flat screen? Will people want to use their TV as just another computer screen? Will they use apps or use it as a social networking device? Big things in store for that big screen.

I read a report earlier this year that pointed out that TV is still a very social screen.

Continue reading TV and the Interweb

Piracy

I recently ran into a friend who mentioned she’d just bought a $1000 lens for her relatively new DSLR. She then proceeded to ask me if I could get her a copy of Photoshop CS5. I said, no, but that upgrading from CS2 wasn’t that expensive. She replied “Oh, I don’t want to pay for it.”. Maybe she was unclear on the concept that I develop software. For photographers.

Now, I realize that going into a camera store and stealing a $1000 lens is difficult and stealing a $500 software program is relatively easy. But just because it’s easy to steal software doesn’t make it any less wrong. If you can afford to buy a $1000 lens, you can afford to help support the people that make the software you use to organize, enhance, manipulate, and print your photos. We’re all real folks trying to make a living and, even though piracy is given with software, sometimes it hurts when it’s thrown in your face as my friend did (unintentionally, sure, but here’s someone that’s relatively well paid just casually throwing out she wants to steal Photoshop.).

I usually don’t lose much sleep over piracy. Much of it is done by people that would never buy the program. They  download the software, use it once or twice, and then don’t use it again. But for artists that use something like Photoshop every day, it does dismay me a little about how common piracy is. Some photographers and artists that would be up in arms if their work was copied and used for an ad without being paid, think nothing of copying software from a friend. Yet, it’s the same principle.

I don’t care if you download a pirated copy of our plugins to try out. But if you find it useful, please… support those of us that work our asses off to bring you cool, useful software.

Yes, there are real people behind all this software… Jim, Garrick, Debbie, and Maggie (see above). And we all greatly appreciate all of you who do find our software useful and help us continue to do something we love… allowing us to create cool software that hopefully makes your jobs easier!

Evil Geeks vs. Evil Marketers

I’ve always said that I’d prefer to have an Evil Geek (Bill Gates) rule the world instead of an Evil Marketing Guy (Steve Jobs). Sort of like the difference between having the nerds or the cool kids run your high school. And sure enough, now that Steve has a dominent platform, he’s running it like the cool kids would.

I mean seriously. Geek evil is sort of like ‘pinky and the brain’ evil. Yeah, they might take over the world, but that’s what they plan every night. And even if they succeed, all they’ll end up doing is having chair jumping contests and all night Star Trek marathons (how else do you explain much of Microsoft’s software?)

Marketers, like Steve, are different.

Continue reading Evil Geeks vs. Evil Marketers

Privacy Law Does Not Protect You Online

There has been a great deal of commotion over a web site called Spokeo. Spokeo aggregates personal info about people. So all the info that’s in public records is combined with all the info you’ve put on the web about yourself, which is then viewable by other people.

Many people I know are freaked out about this. One person was shocked that her photos and blog posts were found. Seriously. There’s a lot of folks out there who are unclear on how all these cookies, logging, networking, and whatever else works.

Privacy Law Needs To Be Updated. Support dotrights.org

Notwithstanding obvious things like blogs, that we put up so other people can see, our privacy is being eroded fast.

Continue reading Privacy Law Does Not Protect You Online

Keeping A DSLR Steady For A Video Shoot?

Ever since they started shooting motion pictures one of the biggest questions have been… How do you keep the damn camera steady? And what do you do about it if it’s not? If you’re a photographer just getting into shooting video with your DSLR, you’re likely to have the same questions. I’ll give you some answers to the first question and a few tips on dealing with the second.

While a shaky camera can be used, on rare occasion, to good effect… it’s usually something to be avoided. More often than not, it just means your watching a B horror flick and the owner of said shaky camera is about to be bitten in half. Hopefully we can get you shooting stable video so as to insure you are not similarly attacked by creatures that are aggravated by shaky video.

So… how do you avoid such a fate?

Continue reading Keeping A DSLR Steady For A Video Shoot?

What Material To Use For Greenscreen?

When we first launched Primatte, we tested a variety of ‘greenscreen’ backgrounds to determine what to recommend. Paper backgrounds turned out to be worst and we had the best luck with a velcro/foam material.

Well… apparently not all paper backgrounds are made equal!

I don’t remember who made the paper background we initially tested. But it was awful. Very reflective and prone to hot spots. We figured all paper would have the same problems. After listening to a talk by another company that does greenscreen software, I decided to revisit this and give Savage Paper’s ‘tech green #46’ a try.

So how’d it fare vs. the foam materail we’ve been recommending since day 1?

Continue reading What Material To Use For Greenscreen?

Are DSLRs The New Point-And-Shoots?

It’s no secret that digital cameras have been big business this, er… last decade.

However the Financial Times reports a new wrinkle. DSLR sales have slowed significantly less than point-and-shoot sales, meaning the DSLRs are making up a larger share of the digital camera market. Over 8 million DSLRs will be sold in 2009.

What does this mean? How does it affect photographers?

Continue reading Are DSLRs The New Point-And-Shoots?

Why 3D TV Is A Gimmick

pigs_in_space

Potential 3D content?

I sat next to the manager of the CBS station on a recent flight. Among other things we chatted about 3D TV and it’s purpose (if any) and whether it was just a fad. Particularly since everyone has just upgraded to HD.

HD is the type of technology that lots of people can understand and get behind. It’s ‘un-intrusive’, meaning it just makes everything look better. You don’t notice the technology after viewing it a few times (or until you see an SD show). People watching just see a better picture, so they’re happy, and producers don’t have to dramatically change how they shoot and tell stories, so they’re happy (except for the make-up artists who now really need to cover up those unsightly blemishes and removed tattoos… or they can use Beauty Box :-). Everyone has to buy some new equipment, but otherwise the changes are minimal.

3D is very intrusive. And does anyone really want it? Continue reading Why 3D TV Is A Gimmick

I hate HDR

Ok, well I only hate one common use of it. That surreal, oversaturated look that seems to be the first thing everyone does when they try the technique. You don’t even need to use HDR, there’s a photoshop plugin for it and you can use Camera Raw to pull it off. Here’s an example of the style:

HDR gone bad

HDR Gone Bad

It’s a novelty look and I’m over it. It was cool for a very short time, then everyone decided they wanted to have surreal images. It’s not that hard of a look to achieve, so it’s not that impressive. Get over it.  :-) I much prefer to use HDR for what it was meant for… which is giving a slightly wider dynamic range to create a shot that has similar contrast and color range to what your eye actually sees. No one has seen colors like the photo above has. Alright, well, yeah I’ve taken mushrooms too, so maybe then… but not normally.

The better use for HDR…

Continue reading I hate HDR

White House has a Flickr stream, and so do we

Our Digital Anarchy Flickr site is pretty new. The president’s Flickr stream has been around since April. What does this say about a government institution having better web 2.0 outreach than a young software company? I hope it’s just a commentary on the Obama admin being better staffed rather than more precocious than us.

See if you can figure which link is ours.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalanarchy/sets/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse/sets/

 

On the White House Flickr stream, the photos that I am digging are decidedly non-presidential. They show Obama as a eprson, not a politician, which I would guess is the point of having a stream. Hopefully, you can enjoy seeing a photo of the US president playing hoops, and playing pretty well, no matter what your politics are.

On the Digital Anarchy Flickr stream, I am digging being able to add in photos that don’t have a proper home on our DigitalAnarchy.com website. There is more flexibility in posting a string of fun, related photos on Flickr then adding similar (= repetative)  images to the website.

Wired magazine did an interesting piece on the president’s Flickr stream a few months ago. It covers a bit of the history of photo documenting the less rigid side of presidency. Wired hasn’t covered Digital Anarchy’s stream yet but there’s still time…

Do you share?

No… not your wife/husband, sheesh… the dirty minds of you people.

Your info. Your techniques. Tips and tricks. I had an interesting tech support call yesterday with one of our users. He’s a photographer that’s been using Primatte for some time. He related an encounter he had with a fellow photographer in his area. She asked him what he was using to create his greenscreen shots, and he told her to go buy one of our competitor’s products! His logic was that he wasn’t going to share info with someone in the same market. He was quite pleased that she was unable to get the same results and was frustrated by the whole thing.

So my question to you is… do you share?

Continue reading Do you share?

iPhone Gets Flash, Sort Of

According to Adobe, developers can now use Flash to build iPhone apps. Click here for the whole story.

This does not mean the Flash player is available on the iPhone. Only that the Flash development environment can now build iPhone apps.

Apple of course does not want the Flash player on the iPhone. Why? If you can build iPhone apps that are usable through a browser, who’s going to buy them through the Apple App Store? We’ll see how badly Apple cripples support of HTML 5 in Safari since HTML 5, in some cases, will allow you to build rich internet apps and theoretically get around the App store as well.

adobe-iphone1

5 Stars and a Hot Pick From Photoshop User

3D Invigorator, our Photoshop plugin for creating 3D logos and objects, just got 5 stars and a Hot Pick from Photoshop User. Dave Huss loved the plugin, but took exception with the name, which he thought sounded like a back massager. We’re not entirely clear what kind of back massagers he’s used to using, but, then again, there’s many things we wonder about those NAPP authors.

Anyways, pick up the latest issue of Photoshop User to read the full review. In honor of the review, we’ve recreated their Hot Pick logo in 3D.

hotpick

The Real Masters of Light

The Nobel Prize for physics went, in part, to William Boyle and George Smith who invented the Charged Coupled Device. The CCD is what allows all of your digital cameras to capture photos. So as your running around with your cameraphone, DSLR, HD video camera, or whatever give a nod to the physicists who allow you to capture light.

Click here for the full story

George E. Smith Nobel Physics

A tech side note… I saw this photo in a newspaper and started searching around online for it. Google Images completely failed. Microsoft’s Bing found it on the second try. At least for image searching, it would appear Google has some competition.

Future of Photo, part II

In part 1 I discussed some of the habits that may or may not develop. Now I’m going to talk technology. While at the Digital Imaging conference a few technology things kept coming up… Cameraphones, the cloud, and social networks. Not exactly unexpected.

The interesting thing about cameraphones is 1) how they will evolve and affect point and shoot cameras and 2) how are users storing and managing their photos.

samsung Instinct HDThis little piece of work from Samsung not only has a 5mp camera, but shoots decent HD video as well.

Continue reading Future of Photo, part II

Future of Photography Part I

Just got back from the InfoTrends Digital Imaging conference. There seems to be alot of speculation around the future of photography, including the 6Sight conference which is dedicated to the question. So, let’s talk about prints, clouds, camera phones, and some of the other stuff that came up at the conference.

One of the interesting observations at the conference was the way our picture taking habits are changing. We (as a society) are taking a LOT more pictures. However, these pictures tend to have a lower value on average, with a shorter shelf life so to speak. In the past, pictures were somewhat difficult to take and get printed so there was some value to them, even the crappy ones. Now we snap pictures everywhere, immediately send them around to our network of friends. We can immediately see our friends pictures who are doing the same thing. But a lot of these photos are ‘of the moment’. Pictures from very recent events that are not great photos, but are interesting because of their immediacy. Most are not pictures you’ll be looking at five years from now. There are a few things that can change the value of a picture immediately, for example, if someone passes away any pictures you have of them become more valuable.

Another interesting point was that the value of some pictures have a ‘V’ shaped curve over time. They are very valuable when first taken, but that value diminishes over time. However at some point along the timeline, because of the age of the photo, a death, or something else, the value of the photo starts to increase.

Value of a Photo

Ok, but why does this matter?

Continue reading Future of Photography Part I

PC vs. Mac, and PC wins a round

So according to a story in todays Wall Street Journal, Apple is feeling stung by the recent Microsoft ads that show regular folks shopping for laptops and trying to buy one under $1000. Here’s one of the Laptop Hunter ads:

Clever commercials, not quite as clever as the Mac vs. PC ads, but obviously effective. Apple apparently had lawyers call Microsoft and request they stop running the ads.

Only Apple would have the balls to call a competitor and ask them to stop running ads that make them look bad. “Those ads are true! How dare you run them!” Poor Apple.  It’s kind of hilarious.

Here’s a link to the Journal article if you want to read it for yourself.

btw… It is true that the same laptop will usually be cheaper on the Windows side, especially if you time your purchase with a Dell 30% off sale, which are frequent these days. The fact that Apple’s machines never go on sale makes them more pricey than similar Windows machines which are constantly on sale. The laptops in the Laptop Hunter ads are usually a bit less powerful than the higher priced Apple, but the reality of computers is that many people don’t need the extra power.

fwiw… I’m platform agnostic. I use both Macs and PCs and have a love/hate relationship with both. If I get to a point where I’m thinking about the operating system, it means that said computer has done something that makes me want to drop kick it through a window. I haven’t found either platform to be more or less problematic. Yes, Vista 1.0 sucked… but then, OS X 10.2 was fraught with problems as well. It happens.

Technology gets smaller.

While writing a post about how my little iThing takes great digital photos, I did some news surfing about the shrinking size of technology. The two articles listed below caught my eye. Their topics are different but the underlying theme is similar.

First, on Computerworld.com, an article called ‘Future shock: The PC of 2019‘ talks how personal computers will look in a decade: Small.

070809_thylacine-500

Just yesterday, I took this photo of a charming chalk stamp on the pavement. Seems to fit the topic of this post because ‘Thylacine’ is a generally extinct, but still sighted and possibly mythological creature. Just like technology can be. See this Bizzare & Extinct site for images.

Continue reading Technology gets smaller.

Silverlight & other streams.

Another thought about NAB, on the subject of streaming video across the web and other platforms. Companies were talking a lot about tying in with Microsoft Silverlight. This is a web browser plugin that plays video and other media content through the web browsers without requiring other plugins. Does that make sense? Basically, Silverlight is supposed to get around browser and file format related issues to make it easier for all of us to view content.

At least, I think that’s what Silverlight does. Have to laugh because when I went to Microsoft.com’s Silverlight section, the website couldn’t show me its content because I didn’t have Silverlight installed. Wouldn’t it be better if Microsoft showed me why I should WANT to install Silverlight before they require me to install Silverlight in order to read about it?

050209_silverlightc

Continue reading Silverlight & other streams.

Gamma & other tough, chewy terms

Every time I write a manual for our company, I inevitably stumble upon the need to explain some basic terms. ‘Basic’ isn’t really the correct descriptor because it often implies that something is easy to understand.

For instance, this past week I was writing about a parameter in our ToonIt! Photo plugin. The control is called Lighter Type and the way to describe its Lighter1 option is to say that Lighter1 alters the ‘gamma’ of the source image. Well, I know that ‘gamma’ refers to colors but whew, I get completely lost after that.

A different kind of gamma.

Continue reading Gamma & other tough, chewy terms

Obama’s poster uses stolen photo

One of the recurring topics that I’ve seen in recent years is that of copyright and what internet technologies mean to photographers. The challenges that photographers face are neatly illustrated in an article the Wall Street Journal published today.

Essentially the Obama Hope poster that was widely used, was created based on a photograph by Mannie Garcia that Sheppard Fairey found on the internet, used without permission, didn’t give credit to the photographer, and even refused to acknowledge the photograph when asked about it.

Here’s what we’re talking about:

obama_3up Continue reading Obama’s poster uses stolen photo

PMA is dead.

Just spent two days hanging out at the PMA tradeshow.  There were plenty of exhibitors (so the tradeshow may not be dead and gone yet), but there certainly weren’t any attendees. Occasionally I’d look around for tumbleweeds.

I guess I should have suspected this would be the case when I received no less than 6 emails from PMA over the last two weeks and one phone call begging me to sign up for a free exhibits badge. I can’t recall a tradeshow more earnestly trying to get someone, anyone to show up at their show.

I was just at WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers) which had great attendance. So what’s wrong with PMA? Would love to hear from you all as to why you did or did not go. It’s definitely looking like a show we will no longer do. Judging from the exhibitors we talked to, it may be the last year for many of them as well.

But… was there anything interesting?

Continue reading PMA is dead.

Good standards for good design.

I have recently read articles about how two well-known software companies conduct their design and development processes. A mixed bag of ideas — just like product design itself — but the overall message is that the companies are innovative and open-minded in their approach to development, while still keeping a tight control over quality and standards. We’re talking about Apple and Google. Continue reading Good standards for good design.

Fake or Not Fake?

A picture can not lie. We all know the untruth of that these days. But what do you do when a picture isn’t lying, yet looks ‘obviously’ fake?

The below photo illustrates this to some degree:

photography sometimes captures real life in an unrealistic way
photography sometimes captures real life in an unrealistic way

This is a photo of a friend’s whale watching boat (Ultimate Whale Watch in Maui). Obviously, I shot this from a different boat while a whale swam up to and under the boat. I’m using a 70-200mm f2.8 lens, so I’ve got really narrow depth of field. As a consequence, the boat is razor sharp and everything else is pretty blurred.

If you saw the above image in a marketing brochure would you believe it?

Continue reading Fake or Not Fake?

My favorite photography ‘gear’ site

There are a lot of review sites out there. http://www.dpreview.com is a good one… however, my favorite is http://www.slrgear.com.

In truth, they really only do lenses, but it’s an incredible site. The most in depth reviews of lenses you can imagine, including an interactive 3D graph showing you the focus profiles at any given aperture/focal length. It’s hugely entertaining to play around with the 3D graph and see where the sweet spot is for the lens and where it starts to really break down… as far as sharpness and vignetting goes.

For example, I’ve got the Canon 50mm 1.4 lens. You can see looking at the SLRgear graph that at 1.4, the lens really isn’t that great. But once you get to 2.0 and especially 2.8, it’s a great lens. It’s a good thing to check if you want to get the most out of your lenses.

Here’s a screenshot:

Screenshot of slrgear.com's 3D Blur index for camera lenses (Tamron 70-200mm in this case)
Screenshot of slrgear.com's 3D Blur index for camera lenses (Tamron 70-200mm in this case)

Camera sensors

So an article discussing 2K vs. 4K images popped up on my radar today. It’s named ‘The Truth About 2K and 4K’ and is an interview with John Galt of panavision. It’s partially a marketing piece for Panavision, so take a grain of salt to some of the ‘truth’. On one hand he disparages the RED camera (panavision competitor) for not having a true 4K sensor (this is apprently true) and then later in the article he disparages IMAX (panavision competitor) for being 4K but that it doesn’t really matter because our eyes can normally only see 2K worth of detail.  Uh… so that means RED actually got it right?

The jist of it is that RED, like Canon/Nikon DSLRs, uses a sensor with a Bayer mosaic pattern. Each spot (viewsite) on the sensor only receives one color (R, G, or B). 4 (Green gets counted twice) of those are added up to produce one pixel in your camera. Because of this, technically the image RED produces (and Canon and Nikon and…) is interpolated. The alternative is to have each spot on the sensor record all three colors at once. There is a GREAT comparison of the Canon 5D with the Sigma SD14 (which does use a sensor that captures all three colors on the same spot) and explains the difference between sensors very well:

http://www.ddisoftware.com/sd14-5d/

Between both articles it brings up some interesting questions for RED users and for digital photographers.

Continue reading Camera sensors

Making 3D look real

So I just got a calendar from Maxon (makers of Cinema 4D). Some really nice examples of 3D art using their software. As I looked at the images, I was struck by how some were really difficult to tell from photographs and some were obviously 3D. The difference, I think, is depth of field.

Depth of field was really noticable. On too many 3D images the DOF is infinite. Meaning that buildings 300 yards away are in razor sharp focus and you can see every detail on the bricks that make up the building. While the artist may want you to appreciate all the hard work he put in adding fine details… I don’t want to see them. I want them blurred out.

Continue reading Making 3D look real

The Demise of Digital Railroad

It was very quick, and Digital Railroad is very dead.

It’s brings up one of the main concerns with ‘cloud’ computing… mainly, what happens when the cloud goes dark.

Cloud computing is sort of the generic term used for using someone else’s storage/processing power over the internet. Hotmail, Google Docs are a couple examples. All your information is stored on their server.

Now it’s a fairly safe bet that Google or Hotmail (microsoft) aren’t going out of business. However, it’s a much different story with smaller companies. Digital Railroad went dark and basically gave their users all of 10 hours notice to download their files. That’s not a whole lot of time. If you didn’t have the originals of the photos you were storing at DR, you were in trouble. They later added a couple days to the deadline, but still… not much time to download critical files (assuming you heard about it, weren’t out of the country, could even connect to their servers, etc., etc.).

Personally I think this is abominable way to treat customers. The guys running it should’ve sent notices out to customers months in advance that this was a possibility. To not do so is almost criminal. It was an entirely preventable situation and Charles Mauzy and co. completely failed the trust of the customers that supported them. It gives a bad name to the entire industry, but provides a look at how some companies are going to be run (going down to the last dollar and then just turning off the lights) and provides an example of worst practices.

Granted, you should never put all your eggs (or photos) in one basket, and always keep the originals tucked away somewhere. But some customers are always going to believe the hype (after all, companies spend a lot of money promoting the hype) and buy into the thought that the ‘cloud’ is a safe, infallible way of storing files. So the industry needs to be much better about notifying customers when, for whatever reason, their data is at risk and remind them in no uncertain terms that they should have copies of their data in multiple places.

For photographers, this means always making sure you have originals. If the hard drive dies that had those originals, it’s your responsibility to download from the backup site and create a new set of originals. Sites that offer these services, like Photo Shelter, can facilitate this by making it easy to download images with tags, catagories, and whatever else you might have done to the photos in the online environment.

This applies to other data as well. You should always personally have copies of such things as your web site, emails you wish to keep, and any other data that is stored online. Even large companies like Google can experience catastrophic problems that would result in you losing data or you could have a malicious employee/co-worker that has access to your online storage.

Cloud computing does offer a great many benefits and the behavior of one company shouldn’t (and won’t) mean that we toss the whole idea. It does make many things easier… backups, remote access, collaboration, and much more. But it’s important to understand the risks involved with any new technology and not just believe the hype.

cheers, Jim

Comment @ your comments.

Sadly, the one major casualty of moving our blog over to WordPress — and the server maelstrom that followed — has been losing all of the wonderful comments that people made. In particular, I remember seeing someone post a photo of himself wearing a Digital Anarchy t-shirt shortly before the blog went down, and I am very sad to have lost that photograph.

We still do want to hear your thoughts and see you in our Digital Anarchy tshirts. Enjoy our blog’s new look and let me know what you think.

regards -Debbie

fxPHD

The folks at fxPHD.com have started a new term. If you’re looking for visual effects training, they have some of the best out there, especially for the higher end stuff.

They are an excellent example of the new type of training available that I think either enhances traditional education or completely replaces it. For computer based artists, I really don’t know that the $25,000/yr schools give you your money’s worth.

cheers, Jim

Software As A Service

There was some talk at NAB of software as a service… moving all the apps online. While this is an interesting notion for word processors and spreadsheets, I really don’t think it works so well for design applications. Particularly video apps. The issue is that the amount of data we’re dealing with is increasing a lot faster than the bandwidth we have available to upload the stuff. How are you going to edit HD online? Or 4K? (or 5K! jeez…) Same applies to photos… sure, basic iPhoto type stuff _may_ be ripe for online… but even then I’m not sure. Most of the consumer cameras out there are 7-8 megapixels, and while one photo isn’t that big, it’s still pretty easy to generate a GB of shots. If you’re shooting 16mp, RAW files it’s pretty easy to generate 4gb of photos.

Not that it’s impossible to get all this uploaded, but it’s unwieldy. I think moving to online apps is an interesting idea, but for graphics I just don’t see it as being practical. At least, not until bandwidth is increasing as fast as the file sizes.

cheers, Jim