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Aberthau Performance

July 30th, 2014 No comments
The hedge that I will use as a screen for the projection.

The hedge that I will use as a screen for the projection.

 

I will be showing a work in progress called “Share A Tweet” at Aberthau Community Centre in the Point Grey neighbourhood of Vancouver. More information here.

Share a Tweet: A gesture controlled sound and visual installation.

This installation investigates a variety of bird songs accompanied by music and an array of lighting effects. Participants can control bird shapes flying through the branches of the hedge and active birdsong. By controlling the “lights”, bird shaped projections will “tweet”. Victoria has been a stalwart volunteer for LMA during the Queen Elizabeth show last year and has been invited to present work in natural settings.

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Photo Hosting Sites Comparison

May 23rd, 2012 No comments

My work in video and photography is mainly in post-production as a graphic designer, digital artist and general technology assistant. I was helping a photographer to set up a professional photo site to sell his images, so here is a comparison.

All of these photo sites have the following features:

  • encourage social media sharing and give tools to help users and fans to share photos.
  • gallery and collection options.
  • a certain level of photo security from casual theft and re-use.
  • site customization
  • no infringement on your copyright
  • digital download pricing and print pricing
  • community of photographers and clients

Photoshelter

I have a free account on Photoshelter, vix.photoshelter.com but I think they have stopped providing free long-term accounts. When I signed up, I was able to store a small amount of images without paying, but now, after a short trial period, you must select a hosting plan. This is the largest and most established professional photo hosting and sales site.

The prices for hosting are quite reasonable because they protect your photos with the best anti-theft technology – a transparent layer over each photo. This means that anyone attempting to copy the image will only copy the cover layer. In addition, they provide the option of watermarking the images so a screen capture will be ruined.

One thing I found a bit bothersome, is that a commission is charged on all sales through the site. The commission rate changes depending on the level of hosting and more expensive plans pay less sales fees. This would not be an issue if this was posted on the sign-up page, but I only found out about these charges when I was preparing to price the photos. The photographer I was working for was aware of this practice, but for me it was a surprise.

Adorama, the industry standard in photo printing located in NYC fulfills all print orders directly from the site, or you can arrange to have the prints made yourself.

Smugmug

SmugMug also provides watermarking, and they use Amazon storage, known as one of the most secure clouds in the industry. They offer a “vault” membership option if you only want to use the cloud storage instead of displaying your images.

Three photo printing company options, four paper/print combinations and an expanded selection of merchandise to decorate with photos can be ordered. Once photos are in the shopping cart print quotes from each company can be compared before the order is placed.

I was not able to discover if they charge a commission on sales. A free trial period can be activated, but then, a hosting account must be purchased. They do prominently post their great return policy and full refund if prints or products are unsatisfactory.

500px

The most generous of the top three hosting sites, 500px offers a permanent free account to photographers. However, the pricing structure of photos sold in the market set by the company. All the photos sold in the 500px market are the same price, unlike the other two sites, which allow photographers to set their own prices and sell independently. Click here for a copy of the 500 px pricing guide. If the pricing structure works for you, then this could be a good thing.

Instagram

This Smart Phone app deserves a mention as it is one of the fastest growing photo sharing sites today. If you have an iPhone and are not interested in prints, the price is right – Free.

All of these sites are a great place to look at really excellent photos.

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Flash Video on Mac Power PC Chip

January 14th, 2012 No comments

Adobe Flash player no longer supports computers built with the Power PC chip although there are many of these machines in use, still serving their owners reliably. This morning I received a call from a G4 Power book Mac owner running Leopard OSX 5.8, he called because of an error message that insisted he upgrade his flash player. When he tried to upgrade, he found the new version did not support his chip or operating system.

One of the reasons I started writing this blog is that I act as a help desk for many of my friends, so I searched for a solution and found Elmedia Player, a free download on Cnet. Elmedia Player, from Eltima Software, is more than a player, it also helps you organize media files using an iTunes type of interface.  The Pro version also allows you to download and copy internet hosted media files, but there is a cost for this functionality.

Please note — anything after this content is an ad and I do not endorse the product or even know what it is.

My friend reports the free version is working on his notebook for Flash (flv) playback. The website claims El Media Player supports playback of FLV, SWF, XAP (Silverlight), RM and RV (Real), AVI, MOV, MP4, and many other formats.

These older computers are still functional and the push to constantly upgrade by Adobe and other companies can be resisted. Keep your faithful computer out of the landfill as long as possible. I am keeping older computer hardware functional using a combination of these types of helper programs and/or converting to the Ubuntu operating system.

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Voltaic Software for HD USB Video Cam

January 17th, 2010 No comments

At the end of 2008, I purchased a Blu-Ray Hitachi video camera with a built in mini DVD burner. I thought this was a wonderful technology because, not only did it have the 30 GB hard drive, but if you ran out of space or wanted to create a back-up file, the rewritable DVD was at your service. The image was taken from the Hitachi site and my camera is the shiny silver one on the right.

I immediately ran into problems because the compression system used on the camera creates m2ts files, a file type that could only be opened and edited with the very basic software from Pixela that came with the camera.

This software had few conversion options, no titling and basic edit functions with no transitions. The editing features in the camera were just as as good. Even home movies should look better than this!

When I went to Banff, I used the music dept’s Sony and Pauline and Ione’s Canon HD cameras because they store information in mts format. The mts format is readable by Final Cut Pro and can be converted into useable 1080p HD video with no loss of quality.

Despite the best efforts of the video experts at Banff, my camera was useless because the files could not be converted into an editable format such as AVI or Quicktime mov.

In September of 2009, almost a year later, I decided to try to use my video camera again. I wondered if some kind of conversion software had been developed. There had been some advances in that Windows movie player would now play the uncompressed m2ts files, but it would not convert them to wmv. VLC media player would convert in Ubuntu, but only to SD. There were several other conversion software brands available on the internet, but they all either converted to SD, produced artifacts or other visual problems or had no sound.

Enter Shedworx Voltaic conversion software!

This software works to convert my m2ts files to editable formats with a number of options of output. I just upgraded to version 2 and there are even more conversion options that re-compress for iPhone and other video applications as well as for editing in professional software.  It also includes an editor and will automatically upload edited movies to your You Tube account.

I have not tried all the new features, but the conversion is rock solid and I have been producing Blu-Ray quality films on the Apple Macintosh version. I understand the newest version of Final Cut will convert m2ts files now, but for those of us on a budget, the $39.99 USD price tag for Voltaic is a lot more economical than an upgrade of FCP for $299 USD.

Another problem with upgrading is the new FCP will only run on the intel chip and requires a newer operating system. Voltaic is working great on the Power PC quad core G5 with 10.4.11 Tiger.  It is really expensive to keep up with the latest and greatest Apple offerings, so Shedworx gives the indie film maker a chance to produce in Blu-Ray without having to recycle a wonderful, working computer.

Thank you Shedworx, for providing me with a free upgrade to 2.0 because I bought my copy of the software late in 2009! This is a very generous program for a software company and I am happily using my new update today.

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Photography Made Clearer

March 3rd, 2009 No comments

Using the CanonS2 is very different from the CanonA80 as the greater number of pixels and better zoom lens mean I have a better chance of taking a good photo. The feel of the camera is another factor and the fact that I look through the viewfinder instead of the flip out screen. I know my daughter, who takes really good photos, would argue about the screen, but for me steadiness is an issue and it helps if I have the camera closer to me. I am researching tripods, so the situation will change when I am not holding the camera, then it will help to avoid touching the camera by using a timer or remote. I also learned this from my daughter, who confided in me that she took my favourite photo of herself by putting the camera on a handy rock and using the timer.

I know that most of these ideas will seem obvious to most people who have knowledge of photography, but for a person who has spent their life in music and tapping on computers, this is an interesting new study.

My tripod research revealed the true enemy of clear, sharp photos is camera movement, even small vibrations can blur the capture. This can be compare to a pervasive hum or quick chair creak in the recording studio. Stillness of the motionless camera is the recording studio silence of photography.

Vibration must be controlled in music and audio recording too. From a physics perspective all instruments, including the voice, create sound using resonance caused by controlled vibration. As a recording engineer who works with the modern technique of sitting in the studio room instead of being isolated in a control booth, I have learned to control every sound I make. When recording, I breathe noiselessly and do not move unless absolutely required. Yoga has helped me control involuntary sounds made by digestion and to slow my heartbeat. Studio microphones will pick up a heartbeat if you are excited and allow your heart to pound, so even if you love the music, you must remain calm. Read more…

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Categories: Video and Photography

Hitachi Blu-Ray Camcorder — Frustration

January 23rd, 2009 No comments

Still no video to post to the site, sorry.

I have been getting to know the lovely folks at Hitachi customer support really well. Usually meeting new people can be a rewarding experience, but I am really getting worn down by this continued effort to resolve my problem.

The very helpful customer support at Hitachi gave me the part numbers for the missing items after I bought an open box camcorder DZ-BD7HA from Future Shop. I dutifully ordered the correct parts from The Parts Store.com and they were shipped to Point Roberts where I picked them up.

All the parts work wonderfully except one. The essential proprietary USB cable to extract the video from the hard-drive to my computer. The part number is correct and there is a USB 6 pin on one end, but the other end will not fit into the camera. A quick comparison between the analog out conversion cable, that came with the camera, and the USB cable shows that the proprietary end is not correct.

It is really frustrating because Hitachi claims that is the correct part number and the number is clearly labeled on the package — but it is the wrong part. I now have to send the wrong cables back to The PartsStore.com and order new ones from someone else. I hope that the mix-up was with the Parts Store and not some deep problem with Hitachi or another source will send me the same wrong cables. I will still have to pay the shipping and then send it back if it is wrong. One more call to Hitachi tomorrow to try to get the cable directly from them or get some assurance that the problem is fixed.

I really like the camera and the display resolution makes the video look very good. I really am very frustrated with the fact I can’t extract the video on to my computer. Let this be a warning to me not to try to save money with open box unless I am very sure I can make it work. I had no idea that a video camera would use a proprietary USB as all the music gear I have ever owned use the regular connectors.

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Update on proprietary cable

The excellent customer support at Hitachi has agreed to send me the correct cable at no charge!
Unfortunately, it is a back ordered part and the estimated time of arrival is the middle of March. I am waiting with hopes that this will indeed be the correct cable and I will be able to start using the camera.

As soon as I can download there will be video on the site!

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Categories: Video and Photography

Time Investment

January 12th, 2009 No comments

A new year and I have been thinking about one of the great topics of my life — time.

These ideas may be totally obvious to everyone else, but I like to analyze and explain my perceptions. This is off topic for this blog, but indulge me this once, please.

Perception of Time Passage

It seems to me that time is going faster the older I get and I have spoken to other people my age who feel the same kind of speeding up effect. My theory about this is that a given amount of time is experienced in comparison with the amount of time you have previously been aware of. For example; to a child aged 2, one additional year is one third of their life span but to an adult aged 29, one year is only a thirtieth of their life span and an older adult of 59 perceives a year as one sixtieth. For me to experience another year is approximately one fiftieth of my lifespan, so the effect of time is compressed compared to the perception of the length of childhood days.  Please comment on this theory.

Photography and Time

Recently, I have started to raise the quality of my photography. In order to accomplish this goal, I studied photographs and also compared the result that I achieved with the result I expected. I have come to some conclusions that may be surprising.

As a competent audio engineer I am used to capturing audio from source and achieving excellent results, because I am familiar with the behaviour of sound waves. Sound waves are quite slow moving and long, especially at lower frequencies (perceived as pitch). Both audio and visual capture are actually the process of recording the past because of the latency between the event and the capture device. The event of striking a string or hitting a key initiates a vibration that travels into the air and is picked up by some type of microphone and because sound waves are so slow, the audio engineer can initiate the recording process when the musician starts to move and still capture the entire sound wave.

It is well known that many people have traveled faster than sound in airplanes, but light is another story. Light moves so quickly that the photographer must actually move to take the photo before the moment that is captured occurs. No one can move faster than light and most photos are not taken from a great distance so the light reaches the camera almost instantaneously. A great photographer must plan to take a picture of the immediate future when the capture is initiated because if the moment has been seen, then it has already passed and can no longer be captured.

This has led me to take note of the amount of planning and forethought required to create interesting photos. My new idea is to recognize that a moment is about to occur (or plan a moment) and be ready to initiate the capture process to freeze the next moment in time. I have been trying to take a photo of what I am seeing, but that is impossible — I can only take a photo of what is about to happen.

In audio sampling, I have had to develop an accurate idea of very short time frames. I own the very first EMU SP-12 in Canada, the first drum computer to have built-in sampling. Due to the 5 second memory limitation, I had to learn to truncate (cut parts off) samples to make them take as little memory as possible. So I learned what .008 seconds sounds like.  Now I will try to translate that awareness into visual technology. I must develop the rhythm of shooting photos so that I will know how long it will take to initiate the process. This idea is interesting and I hope my photos will improve.

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Motivation and Project Management

December 21st, 2008 2 comments

In the depths of an snow fall that is very unusual for Vancouver, I am continuing to work on the Live More Lightly Project.  The blog is more than a year old now and significant progress has been made on developing the project.

The Live More Lightly Workshop has been presented in an elementary school and a demo video has been produced. Unfortunately, due to completely justifiable concerns about putting images of children on the internet, I cannot post the demo. However, I do have a supportive testimonial from the teachers here.

The book project has been refined into three versions:

  1. The Live More Lightly Songbook and Workshop Guide
  2. The Live More Lightly Book of Choral Arrangements
  3. Study Guide for the Live More Lightly Workshop

The Study Guide is a requirement for ArtStarts in Schools Touring Artists and I have used the video (with permission) in my application to  become part of their booking program. I will have to produce Book #3 (Study Guide) first because there is a need for it to accompany workshops that I am involved in presenting. Book #1 is intended for use by groups who want to do a workshop without me and Book #2 (the choral guide) contains arrangements for organized choral groups who have some musical training and a conductor.

The book has been taking a substantial amount of work, but even more work has gone into the image capture and documentary part of the project. I have ordered the additional parts I need for the Blu-ray video camera and they should be delivered soon. My two Canon still cameras are functioning, but I really feel I need an upgrade so I can take better quality photos.  Shooting in RAW is a requirement and I have found a Ubuntu Linux program that claims to handle RAW formats. I have been studying photography by asking a lot of questions and experimenting with different techniques. Now I am about to begin with video again, not just editing, but shooting. As soon as I get the parts for the video camera I will start recording video from my propane powered van and start to coordinate the streaming concept.

It all keeps me very busy. My next post will contain photos of my Yamaha FJ in storage with the new Renntec crash bars and carry rack installed. Simon worked on my bike before it was parked and it rides like a new machine. Still working on the luggage problem, but now the carry rack should help with the planning.  A future post on the MPEG4 always-on low resolution camera system will be next because several new products have been recently introduced. I will not make a decision until spring as I expect that the latest technology will be the best choice.

A summer tour seems so far away on this solstice afternoon, but I know that there is a massive amount of work to do so that I can be ready for the journey. Sometimes it is hard for me to be strongly motivated to continue to work, but evaluating the progress thus far helps me re-group and continue onwards.

All the best of the holiday season to everyone. Drive carefully and Live More Lightly.

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Categories: Video and Photography

Blu-ray Camcorder Purchased

December 9th, 2008 4 comments

After all of my painstaking research I went and bought the new kid on the block, the new Hitachi Blu-ray DZ-BD7H high definition video camera. Hitachi does have a commitment to the environment in Japan, but is not as dedicated to recycling globally as Sony. They do have The Hitachi-zaidan Foundation, founded to advance environmental causes and they make environmentally friendly rapid transit and other industrial machines. They also support global initiatives and education. If their environmental record had been poor, I would not have bought the camera.

See my previous research on environmental initiatives by electronics companies.

I have not received any funding and I have been spending so much time on this and other music projects that I have not been making as much money as I should. So I tried to be frugal and bought this camcorder “open box” at Future Shop. It was missing some parts, the proprietary USB cable and the charging and A/C cables and transformer. This has made it difficult to use because I can’t download any video from the 30 gigabyte HD without the cable. The customer support at Hitachi, particularly Tina and Lorne have been very helpful in giving me part numbers and assisting with my problems. I have now ordered the parts and when they arrive there will be a lot more video on this site.

The camera captures video in High definition Blu-ray that can be burnt on to special disks (over $20 each) or downloaded to a computer. It also acts as a still camera saving on to a compact SD card flash memory. High definition and Blu-ray are new territory for me and I am sure I will have some difficulty as I don’t have a player or DVD in my computer that is compatible. It seems I always have to get more stuff, no matter how much I already have!

It will be fun to work with the video and to be able to document my progress on this and other projects. Now I need a wide angle lens, lights, tripod and protective case — at least I can start with the camera and get some video on the site.

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Categories: Video and Photography

Bringing the World Together

November 16th, 2008 No comments

I attended a workshop on grant writing yesterday and I realized I have to be able to convey the idea behind my whole project more clearly. So I am going to post some other projects that I have been paying attention to that have had some impact on the world.

Where the Hell is Matt?”

When my daughter told me about Matt, I didn’t get it. She invited me to come down to the beach and dance with this young man who was traveling all over the world dancing with people. No, he is not a great dancer. I didn’t get it — I didn’t go. That’s my daughter in the red skirt, front left, on the beach in Vancouver.

Where the Hell is Matt 2008

Matt brought the world together with his little dance. There is such joy in the act of Matt doing his dance from the heart that it refreshes my belief in humanity. I believe that behind the power struggles and the greed — we are all one people. When I saw the video — I got the message.

Playing for Change

Here is another group that is doing video of pop songs, like “Stand By Me” (Ben E. King) and “One Love” (Bob Marley) performed by musicians all over the world playing together through the wonders of technology. They all appear in their own country playing their instrument on the same song playing with the musicians that have already been recorded.

They have a great site and the passion to show that music can cross borders that have been created by the power structure to connect us.

Live More Lightly

The completed Live More Lightly song 6 minute video will show me singing, joined by one person, then by another, then by all the workshop participants that want to be in the video. As each workshop will be different, it probably won’t be as smooth in transition as the Playing for Change videos, but if I get some funding I can make better video. The first one will be a do-it -yourself demo, but I hope to have it ready for the start of the tour in 2009.

The documentary movie will be about the journey across the continent in 2009 to bring the diverse age groups, cultures, ethnic backgrounds and others (basically everybody I can get) together to Live More Lightly on the land one small action at a time. I want to show lots of great environmental footage of natural scenes so everyone will know why we should save the planet. I anticipate that 90 minutes of singing, workshop events, beautiful scenery and on-bike motorcycle riding should be about right.

The motorcycle tour is a small portion of this project, but it has been taking a lot to coordinate. I could just go in my van to do the workshops, but the motorcycle is much more environmentally friendly.

I also hope to be able to be the first person to stream live video from a moving motorcycle to a satellite without a truck. The Grand Prix racers have on-bike cameras that stream to a nearby truck that carries a satellite dish, like the one pictured below. This huge dish with signal amplification allows them to send a broadcast quality signal to the satellite. From the satellite the signal can be received at the television station for editing or routed into the broadcast signal as live coverage. A higher quality signal (broadcast television) takes more power, so a larger amplifier and more microwaves, than a low quality signal (webcam).

Closed satellite dish on top of truck

Due to microwave radiation from this type of dish, it is against Canadian law to mount it lower than 4ft off the ground. This dish, when fully extended is well above the heads of any concert goers and is considered safe. I don’t even like to carry my cell phone in my pocket, but for the sale of art, I plan to innundate myself with microwaves from a portable modem. Basic outline of streaming requirements here.

Many motorcyclists have mounted cameras on their bike and there are a lot of videos on the internet of intense riding. Depending on your area of interest there are many to choose from. One other Vancouver rider, Jeff has captured a lot of scenic footage from his Harley on VRide TV. I love the smoothness of his ride as it makes for great video as I already described here. I am on a more limited budget with my old Yamaha FJ1200, but I hope to be able to get some great nature footage for the documetary. Still working on the streaming aspect. I will keep you posted.

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