Goodbye Lightroom?

Adobe’s Lightroom is without a doubt one of , if not the most popular RAW photo processing software out there. The vast majority of professionals use it for their photo editing needs, and even if you don’t use it, you’ll have at least heard of it.

However in the past few versions, Lightroom has been acting up. Performance is painfully slow, rendering previews take forever and it guzzles up RAM like a monster. And it’s not just me, a quick internet search will turn up hundreds of unhappy users over the past several years, in various forums and websites bemoaning Lightroom’s performance. And while Adobe has very recently acknowledged the issues in Lightroom (Fitzgerald, 2017), it will still take some time for them to roll out fixes to the problems, if at all. And to top it all off, a subscription to Lightroom isn’t cheap, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that shelling out cash for a program that is simply too slow to use at times is simply not worth it.

So what is a photographer to do now?

Well, one option is to give up photo editing, but that probably not an option for most people. The second choice is to switch to another program. While none of these software have the popularity of Lightroom, they still provide a fairly solid alternative for editing photos. Two notable ones include DxO Mark’s DxO Optics Pro and Phase One’s Capture One Pro. Of the two the one I prefer is Capture One, and as such that’s what’s going to be the focus of this post.

By far the biggest problem with switching from Lightroom is the interface change. Capture One’s interface isn’t bad per se, but it will take a while to get used to, especially if you’re used to a Lightroom workflow. The black and orange layout may not be to everyone’s taste and unfortunately there’s no way to change it, although you can customize other aspects such as windows and toolbars.

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 2.14.18 PM.png

The performance though is a long way from Lightroom, it renders previews and applies changes much faster. It’s still not perfect though. It does occasionally lag and there are some stutters here and there. But it’s still a far cry from the almost unusable mess that is Lightroom. Adding to the benefits of Capture One you also get a minor image quality boost (Richardson, 2016). RAW images processed in Capture One simply have better color and sharpness. Another plus point to Capture One is tethering. For me, Lightroom has simply never worked when trying to tether my camera, so this feature is a nice added boon to have.

However the switching workflow hasn’t been easy, and I still have Lightroom installed – just in case. But for those of you wanting to give Capture One a try, I highly recommend watching this guide from Fstoppers to get aquatinted with the software (Woloszynowicz, 2014).

References

Fitzgerald, T. (2017, July). After years of complaints, Adobe acknowledges Lightroom performance issues. Retrieved from http://blog.thomasfitzgeraldphotography.com/blog/2017/7/after-years-of-complaints-adobe-acknowledges-lightroom-performance-issues

Richardson, M. (2016, June). Is it time to switch from Lightroom to Capture One Pro? Here’s why it might be. Retrieved from https://www.slrlounge.com/time-switch-lightroom-capture-one-pro-heres-might/

Woloszynowicz, M. (2014, July). The ultimate guide to getting started with Capture One Pro. Retrieved from https://fstoppers.com/originals/ultimate-guide-getting-started-capture-one-pro-27179

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Mirrorless vs DSLR

Recently I had the opportunity to briefly use a Sony A7s. The Sony A7s is a mirrorless camera. As the name implies, mirrorless cameras lack the mirror that typical DSLRs have. Due to this mirrorless cameras don’t have the optical viewfinder found in DSLRs. Apart from that one key difference though, for the most part they’re pretty similar. So why would you choose one over the other? Using the Sony A7s got me thinking – as a pretty avid DSLR user could I switch to using a mirrorless? Would I one day switch to a mirrorless?

The most obvious change when going from a full frame DSLR to a mirrorless is the size. The Sony is tiny. This is great because, there are way too many times I left my camera at home simply due to its sheer size. The Sony’s weight, or lack thereof, make it easier on the arms during long trips and photoshoots. However the downside is ergonomics. Now this may vary with different brands and models, but I found the A7s difficult to hold comfortably. It’s edges are sharp and there simply wasn’t much space to get a grip on. This problem was made worse when the lens mounted on it was a gargantuan 70-200mm f/2.8. I preferred my DSLR’s larger, softer grip and better balance with larger lenses. On a similar note, I didn’t like the buttons and the scroll wheel either. This could be seen as a minor quibble, but when you spend north of $2000 on a camera, little things matter. They matter all the more if you plan to make a living by spending hours a day using the camera.

Apart from the size, the next most obvious change is the viewfinder. Because they lack a mirror, mirrorless cameras have to rely on an electronic viewfinder. At first this takes some getting used to – the whole image just seems off. As electronic viewfinders go, it’s definitely not a bad one, but if I had the choice, I’d pick an optical one every time. At least until technology progresses and electronic viewfinders improve. Regarding image quality – there are absolutely no issues. Pictures are every bit as good as a DSLR. In some cases this is because both cameras use the same sensor!

So would I switch to a mirrorless or recommend a mirrorless to someone?

I wouldn’t switch to one, largely in part because switching between camera ecosystems is mind numbingly expensive, and I’m already invested into Nikon’s DSLRs. However for someone who hasn’t yet chosen a ecosystem, I might just recommend getting a mirrorless camera. While they may not replace DSLRs yet, mirrorless cameras are proving to be a pretty popular and viable alternative.

 

Cover image from Sony (2017)

Project Analysis – Conversation Animation II

This project analysis is a critical analysis done on a previous animation project that I’ve worked on. While my primary focus is on the photography and film field, I find it is still useful to learn from projects in slightly different mediums. Owing to it’s length this post is split into two parts.

This is the second part. The first part can be found here.

Contextual Research

Introduction

This chapter outlines the contextual research for the project discussed in this paper. The final output that was required for the project was video. Due to the content that is being presented, it was decided to make the project an animation.

Animation and Motion Graphics

Animation is essentially the “the act of creating the illusion of movement through still images” (Zeke, 2015). In a way then, animation can be traced back to  cave paintings and various ancient art works, for example, pottery from Shahr-e Sukhteh, Iran, around 3000 B.C., which depict a goat leaping (Miller, 2015). More recently, tools such as the Magic Lantern (an image projector which used  sheets of glass), the Phenakitoscope (a spinning disk with images on it), and the Kineograph (more commonly known as a flip-book) are also considered as part of animation history (“History of animation,” 2015). Eventually in the 1900s animation evolved into the cartoons that people today are familiar with. However the project isn’t a traditional animation, rather it is classified as motion graphics. Motion graphics can be defined as the “art of creatively moving graphic elements or texts, usually for commercial or promotional purposes” (“5 types of animation – a beginner’s guide,” n.d.). They are usually flat images or 3D objects that have the effect of motion. Primarily they are used for title scenes, animated logos, promotional videos, and etc.

Motion graphics has an advantage over still images, such as posters. One of the advantages, being the ability to have more content. Where a poster would be one frame, a video has multiple. The conversation stack, discussed earlier in the report, is linear, there is a certain order to it – it has a specific starting point and ending point. This translates well into a video, which is able to show the step by step process better.

Design Style

Design-wise, the project went with a simple, minimal look and feel. This was chosen after various experiments because it was kept the video simple, moving  focus to the content instead. Minimalism started in the 20th century, and continues to be a popular trend today (Mokhov, 2011). It has influenced almost all arts and technologies from the late 20th century (Ivanoff, 2014). Everything from artworks to  architecture to automobiles to UI/UX design, games,  products, films, and more. Notable uses of the design can be found everywhere. For example, in products such as the iPhone and MacBook, operating systems such as Android and iOS, as well as most modern apps and websites. According to  Mokhov (2011), minimalistic design was influenced by the De Stijl art movement, architects like Van Der Rohe, and traditional Japanese design. All of these styles focused on fewer elements with simple lines and form. As Van Der Rohe famously said, “Less is more.”

Future Development

Introduction

This chapter will discuss the future development of the project, and outline any possible changes or improvements that could be made to further enhance it.

Improvements

While the overall idea and design of the project is good, there are a few key areas that could be modified to make it better. For example, the overall video is generally static. As the steps progress, there are no major changes happening to the layout or elements in the project, and as such it looses visual interest for the audience. Adding new, more complex animations and transitions could help keep the video interesting. The minimal design, while clean and pleasing, could have extra visually appealing elements added to it as well. The last major change, would be the color scheme – tweaking the colors to make them more brighter and eye catching.

All these changes would be to help make the video more memorable to the viewer, which is the point of the project – helping one to visualize the steps in a way that he or she can remember them and actually make use of them.

Conclusion

In summary, this report provides the development process of the project. The goal of the project was to help one to start conversations with strangers with the help of the conversation stack – a tool that uses visualization to help remember questions to start conversing. The design and development chapter gave a more detailed description of the stack. The contextual research chapter briefly talked about animation, its history, and motion graphics, in addition to the design style used. The final project was outputted as motion graphics with a very minimalistic design. Finally, the future development section talked about ways to better the project by making the animation more visually appealing and memorable.

References

The 5 types of animation – a beginner’s guide. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.bloopanimation.com/types-of-animation/

Carnegie, D., & MacMillan, A. (1998). How to win friends & influence people. New York, NY: Pocket Books.

Dale Carnegie Oregon. (2015, November 2). Dale Carnegie Oregon conversation stack [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zlb4joIZGn4

Google. (n.d.). Material design guidelines. Retrieved from https://material.io/guidelines/

History of animation. (2015, August 7). Retrieved from http://history-of-animation.webflow.io/

Ivanoff, A. (2014, June 6). Design minimalism: what, why & how. Retrieved from https://www.sitepoint.com/what-is-minimalism/

Lomax, T. (2012). Getting acquainted stack. Retrieved from https://mochagirlspitstop.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/gettingacqstack.jpg

Miller, M. (2015, January 19). Scholars rethink the beginnings of civilizations following discoveries in Burnt City of Iran. Retrieved from http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-evolution-human-origins/scholars-rethink-beginnings-civilizations-iran-020173

Mokhov, O. (2011, May 9). Minimalist design: a brief history and practical tips. Retrieved from http://spyrestudios.com/minimalist-design-a-brief-history-and-practical-tips/

Zeke. (2015, February 26). A quick history of animation. Retrieved from https://www.nyfa.edu/student-resources/quick-history-animation/

THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY CREATED AS AN EXERCISE AS PART OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT IN DIGITAL MEDIA.

Inside My Camera Bag

I’m a photographer. I love looking at pictures. I love taking pictures.

So for this blog post I thought that I’ll take a look at what inside my bag. It’s not a lot, and there are loads of gear that I would love to acquire at a later time, and I’ll mention a few of those in here as well, but for now this is what’s inside my camera bag.

Camera

I got my first DSLR around 8 years ago. It was a Nikon D50 – it first released in 2005, as a starter/midrange camera. It sported a 6 megapixel CCD sensor which could go up to a blistering ISO 1600. Not that I’d ever recommend using ISO 1600 on it – images on that setting were pretty much unusable. I eventually figured out to stick to around ISO 400 or 800 at most. Compared to today’s cameras, image quality and resolution are almost laughable, but under ideal conditions it can still take pretty amazing shots. I used that sturdy little camera until 2015 – the workhorse had seen the better part of 10 years by that time. I still have it and it still works, but it’s mostly confined to the top shelf of a lonely cupboard nowadays.nikon_1543b_d750_dslr_camera_body_1237482

That leads me to the reason for my old camera’s sad fate – the Nikon D750. I upgraded to this one in 2015, after much contemplation and research. Originally I thought I’d jump ship to Canon (gasp) and their 7D Mk II, but eventually due to my Nikon lenses I stayed with the yellow and black. Originally I was planning on getting the D7200 – Nikon’s best DX camera at the time (the D500 was still being a dream at that time) – but through a turn of events I ended up going full frame. And I’m glad I did. The D750 is a marvelous piece of gear. It has 4 times the resolution of the old D50 so image detail and clarity was amazing. And the ISO comfortably goes to a usable 12,800. ISO 51,200 exists although, that’s definitely not something you’d want to use. I could go on about the camera – the autofocus, dynamic range, etc – but this isn’t a review, so I’ll digress.

And so, moving on to the lenses.

Lenses

  • Nikon 50mm f/1.8
  • Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8
  • Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6

So first of all the 50mm. A 50mm if pretty much a must in every photographer’s kit – that’s just the way it is. Almost every photographer you ask will explain the merits of the lens and why you must have it. It is without a doubt the sharpest lens I have and the large aperture makes it a boon in low light situations. However, I don’t like 50mm. That’s probably just me, but I find it too tight for wide angle shots, and not tight enough for the portraits I take. This is just personal preference, but I’m more inclined to a longer or wider focal length. If I were to replace this lens I’d probably get a 85mm f/1.4 – it has a more useful (for me) focal length and an ever so slightly faster aperture.

Which leads me to the next lens, the Sigma 28-70mm. For some reason there isn’t a lot of detail about this one online that I could find – no reviews, nothing for sale. It’s like it almost doesn’t exist. It’s a general purpose lens, but it’s probably the one I use least. This is due to my shooting style, I don’t often shoot wide angles, it’s reserved for rare occasions or places where space is at a minimum. Quality wise, at f/2.8 it’s not ideal. Images aren’t sharp and there’s significant chromatic aberrations in photos. Stop it down it f/4 and things are significantly better. The main reason I use this lens is for its wide angle of view, so if I were to upgrade it, I’d simply go with a wide angle prime such as the Sigma 20mm f/1.4.

The last lens on this list is the Sigma 70-300mm. According to the Sigma website this is the cheapest lens that they currently sell. However that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It has great quality and sharpness, and I prefer longer focal length compared to my other lenses. This is without a doubt the one lens I carry around with me the most. Although due to the aperture and the lack of any image stabilization means, it’s less than ideal in low light – that’s where a 70-200mm f/2.8 would really shine.

Conclusion

And that’s it for what’s in my camera bag! There aren’t any accessories such as tripods, stabilizers, flashes, etc. because due to some reason or other I currently don’t have any – any that work at least. So for now I’m slightly limited by what I currently possess. But that doesn’t create an excuse for bad photos – after all it’s not the camera, but the person behind it that matters.

Transmedia & Convergence

What is transmedia storytelling & how does it take advantage of convergence in order to create an expansive story world?

Transmedia storytelling is simply, as the name implies, is conveying a story across various forms of media. According to Henry Jenkins (2007), each medium would ideally add its own, unique contribution to the main storyline. Convergence, refers to the flow of content across mediums, the cooperation between the media industry and the media audiences who would go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they wanted (Jenkins, 2006).

One example of transmedia storytelling is Marvel. Originally restricted to comics, today the Marvel Universe consists of movies, tv series, games, websites and more. While most of the content on the platforms are cohesive, and are part of the same storyline, known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), due to the sheer size and span of time in which they were created, there are some content which form their own story totally unrelated to the MCU.

Another example of transmedia is the Lord of The Rings series. Written by Tolkien over the course of several years, it was originally conceived as a series of books. Later in the 2000s they were adapted into films by director Peter Jackson, and received with amazing, positive response. Eventually three more movies based on the Hobbit books by Tolkien as well as several games followed. However in addition to official content, the community also added to the storyline. Fans teamed up and have created virtual maps to explore Middle Earth, as well as extensive resources on the languages used in the story such as, Elvish, Dwarfish and even created movies, stories and apps. The Lord of the Rings series showcases what is possible with technology today and the way transmedia storytelling and media convergence is enabling us to create more content, on more platforms, with more people.

This was originally written as an exercise as part of Research and Development in Digital Media.

Project Analysis – 360 Video

Introduction

This is a short analysis on the selected digital media project. This was originally written as an exercise in analysis before creating a project of my own.

Project Outline

The chosen project is an experimental 360 degree video (Devinsupertramp, 2017). It was created by Youtuber Devin Graham and his team, as a challenge to test out the capabilities of the new GoPro Odyssey, a 360 degree video capable camera.

Project Rationale

Several GoPro Odysseys were given to various companies as a “limited access” pilot program. This project was one of a few experimental videos done by devinsupertramp to test out the technical and creative capabilities of 360 degree storytelling. Most 360 degree videos, while immersive and fascinating to explore, don’t tell a story. Which is why this one is different. This video was conceived with a narrative in mind, where the viewer (the camera) isn’t just a fly on the wall, but rather participates – in a way at least – in the story. The story takes place in a large room, where there is an ongoing party. Gradually though strange things begin to happen and the party turns into a terrifying murder scene when a mysterious figure appears.

Functionality

According to team member and director, Zane O’Gwin (2017), the video was a challenge to produce, due to it’s experimental nature. Before creating the storyline, Zane came up with a list of criteria that the video should meet, to help streamline the video creation process.

The camera shouldn’t cut and change positions.

While this is common and necessary in typical movies, due to the 360 degree nature, cuts and changing positions would look unnatural and jarring.

The actors shouldn’t have to memorize and perform the entire video in a single take.

This is due to technical constraints. Shooting the entire video consumes considerable power and memory, if someone messed up once, it would require re-shooting the entire video, so instead the video was created in different cuts.

There should be an actor who is entertaining enough to carry the viewer through the entire story.

This is partially due to the story, where a primary character was needed. Christian Busath was cast as the main actor.

The viewer should be engaged the entire time.

This is vital to the video, and proposed one of the largest challenges. Zane decided to set the camera up as a character. This lets the viewer be engrossed into the video, while according to Zane, “makes you feel vulnerable and threatened as opposed to just watching it happen to other people.”

Technology

The entire video is a showcase for the GoPro Odyssey, which is an array of sixteen GoPro Hero4 Black cameras. It’s a limited experimental concept created by GoPro to enable 360 degree video capture.

It costs $15,000 and is capable of capturing 8K spherical video at 30 frames per second.  However unlike traditional 360 degree cameras, the footage from the Odyssey has to be uploaded to Google’s servers and using Google’s Jump video assembler, it stitches the sixteen different angles into a single video. This video is later downloaded and edited as needed.

Analysis

The video is an interesting concept, created using fairly new technology. It explores the creative aspects of 360 degree video, with a fairly compelling and engrossing  narrative. Due to the nature of 360 degree videos, it is difficult if not impossible, to shoot it as a standard movie. Firstly, camera (in this particular case) is stationary. This  means there are no cuts or transitions to different scenes. This poses an interesting creative challenge as it makes it problematic to direct the viewers eye to anyone particular scene. The way the team gets around this problem is by making it as realistic as possible by having “multiple scenes”. There are different characters all interacting in different ways at the same time – just like it would be if you were standing in the middle of a real party happening in real life.

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Behind the scenes. (Graham, 2017)

An interesting idea used by the team to engage the viewer is the position and set up of the camera. The camera is configured to be a female character. This gives the audience a sense of being in the action. This is further helped by the having the main character fall in love with the camera’s character and constantly interacting with it – adding a fun element of humor into an otherwise creepy and slightly horrifying storyline. According to Zane it, “makes you feel nervous when you are left a lone in the room with the killer”.

One of the technical challenges involved in the video are lighting – unlike a standard movie, it isn’t possible to place lights anywhere you need it. The entire scene has to look natural and realistic – in this particular case, that meant that the light could only come from the ceiling. To help reflect some light onto the characters face, the camera’s tripod was covered in a white sheet. While this still isn’t an ideal solution it does aid in creating some fill light.

Another technically challenging situation is the way the Odyssey works. It captures sixteen different video streams from sixteen different cameras, which have to be sent onto Google’s servers to be transcoded and stitched into a single video file. This is a time, network , and storage consuming task. However as this is fairly new technology this could potentially become more streamline and easier in future.

Relevance

While it may not be reasonable to use the Odyssey to film in my project, the idea to use 360 degree videos to be able to convey a story is an interesting one, and might be possible. And not just 360 degree video, it would be possible to try different methods and technologies in a way that they’re not being currently utilized. Maybe to use drones to film an entire movie? Or possibly to shoot and record the entire movie using an iPhone? The focus shouldn’t be on the technologies, although they are important, rather it should be on the creativity and the ideas. Like Devin’s motto goes “to get the shot that no one else will.”

References

Devinsupertramp. (2017, February). Terrifying masquerade party in 3D 360!! [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/mb_J_bMor1g

Graham, D. (2017, February). 16 GoPro cameras strapped together – murder mystery! [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/-l6bsWl5xnc