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CES Signals Optimism for Change in 2010

By on Jan 11, 2010 in Blog, Consulting, Internet, Print, Video |

The new year began well enough, with a trip to Las Vegas to work for both clients and our own technology interests at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). It was a nice change from recent shows, with lots of positive energy, not to mention a wealth of new and exciting technology. In a time when people are out of work, tempers are on edge, and people are distrustful of almost everything, it was really nice to speak to so many upbeat people, see so many fun, new products, and in general, to start the year off on a great note. From a techie perspective, there was a lot to like. Let’s touch on a few of the more memorable things. Sharp’s QuadPixel technology was really terrific to see. Bright and even perhaps overly colorful, there are a ton of possible applications. The LG OLED television was similar in terms of being both impressive and perhaps too colorful. Images tended to look like they were painted on the screen. Nobody every looked that bright in real life – but it looks cool! On the phone front, the appearance of the Android operating system (based on Linux) in phones from Motorola (like the Backflip) and others was really great to see. On the other side of the coin, I would say that Palm is dead, but perhaps still staggering along. It’s odd that so many former Apple execs are at Palm, and the company is to totally out of the mix moving forward. Oh, well! There were “tablet” computers everywhere, from HP, Lenova, ICD, Dell and others. Essentially, they’re all laptops without the folding case. With a touch screen and fast display refresh, some are interesting to see, but I think the thing that’s missing is that each of these new boxes seem to be focused on the hardware specs, rather than the user experience. It will be interesting to see what Apple comes up with later in the month, when they are expected to introduce a similar type of device. Lots of manufacturers were showing off 3D television. Panasonic had a 152-inch (yup!) plasma 3D television. It was a movie theater screen – but sharper. I don’t know how...

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Remembering The Christmas Truce

By on Dec 20, 2009 in Blog, Consulting, Internet, Print, Video |

As 2009 comes to a close, many of us are probably feeling some degree of relief. It has been, by all accounts, a challenging year. I know that our family, friends, and clients have spent considerable time dealing with the stress of economic, military, and other challenges. We all know someone out of work. We have all read about the conflicts that are continuing in multiple arenas. Emotions have been running high – and the challenges we all face, regardless of position or wealth, remain enormous. This holiday season, our team is focusing on looking forward to a better 2010 for our clients and personal relationships. It is our wish that all of us can collaborate on things that will help us see these challenging times through – and will ultimately lead to a better future for those we love and care for. Regardless of religion, ethnicity, employment or political affiliation, there is plenty of common ground on which we can stand together. Nearly 100 years ago, the world was at war. In 1914, the British and French were engaged in what would soon be outdated combat with the German army. The loss of life was beyond comprehension, and the most tragic battles were still to come. Yet, something remarkable happened at Christmas in 1914. In many places, beginning on Christmas Eve, enemies and combatants stopped fighting. It is now historically referred to as, “The Christmas Truce.” In the Ypres area of Belgium, Germans and British soldiers were hunkered down in trenches just hundreds of feet from one another. During the early evening, Germans began decorating their trenches. They put candles in trees and began singing Christmas carols. As their voices carried across the battlefield, the British were amazed to hear “Still Nacht” (Silent Night). The British responded with their own rendition of the much-loved song. Singing escalated into holiday greetings shouted across the “no man’s land” of the battlefield. And shortly thereafter, soldiers from both sides climbed out of their trenches, walked exposed and without shelter into the night and began to greet their “enemies” with handshakes and in fact, gifts. Whiskey, bread, jam, chocolate and cigars were traded, along with more song. The truce spread along the...

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Canon 7D is Good for Stills, Too

By on Dec 11, 2009 in Blog, Internet, Print, Video | 2 comments

It’s difficult to go anywhere these days without hearing about how the Canon 5dMKII and the 7D are changing the indie film world. And while that’s true, it’s also true that the 7D is a remarkably capable still camera as well. The Canon 7D represents part of a new arsenal of equipment for our team. We’ve spent the past year evaluating various bits of kit, and with the knowledge that we’d need to use the gear for a wide range of projects, the 7D became a leading contender. The remarkable reviews by noted DP Philip Bloom and some of his amazing 7D videos didn’t hurt either. Just this past week, on December 7th, while on location in Los Angeles, our LAFD radio crackled with a river rescue assignment. This was a wet week in the City of Angels, and the risk of being swept away was higher than normal (normal is no worries, as the LA River is man-made and is concrete and dry!). Even with rush hour traffic, we were able to safely get on scene within a few minutes. A homeless person, perhaps living in the vegetation in the center of the concrete channel was trapped – not in water, but unable to get off his “island.” Cameron took the trusty HD video camera and I grabbed the Canon 7D. We’d only taken possession of the camera a few weeks earlier, so this was going to be an interesting assignment. The sun was already down and it was twilight. How would the Canon hold up in extremely low light? Several things happened: The homeless person was rescued successfully, uninjured, and in need of only fresh clothes (regardless of the weather). And, the Canon 7D really came through. I mean – it was a joy. The viewfinder makes it easy to properly frame images quickly, and the information provided helps me, as a photographer, make decisions about each visual setting prior to exposing a frame (on a CF card, too!). And, finally, every other photog or videographer on scene had a comment to add: “Oh, is that the new Canon? Nice!” Even a river rescue firefighter stopped to say, “I love that camera! Have you seen the HD...

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Canon EOS 7D a Great Production Tool

By on Nov 9, 2009 in Blog, Print, Video | 1 comment

We’ve added a Canon EOS 7D to our production equipment inventory. Already, I’ve found multiple occasions to use it during the first week we’ve had it. It is a fabulous production tool. It also represents a major breakthrough in some respects, but it is not, as some would tell you, a fix-all for video production. First of all, a few initial comments for anyone not familiar with the Canon EOS 7D, or why we’d write about it. This is a digital SLR (D-SLR) still camera that also happens to record lovely 1080p video images. It is one notch below the Canon 5D MKII, and is competitive with a number of other DSLRs on the market. As a still camera, it offers a new 18 megapixel sensor, a fantastic three inch viewfinder that displays 100% of the frame (many cameras show 90 or 95% of the frame). It includes a flexible AF system with a dedicated processor for focusing – so it’s fast. The shutter system is also new, permitting an impressive 8 frames per second (in still mode). As with other Canon products, it features the EF / EF-S lens mount system. Sensitivity is also terrific, with Auto ISO (100 – 3200) or manual ISO from 100 – 6400 in 0.3 or 0.5 EV increments. It offers nearly all of the professional features you could imagine for a camera of this type, and a great place to see a review of its still capabilities is at dpreview. As a video camera, it’s also pretty amazing. It has standard video outputs in both NTSC and PAL, plus HDMI output for HD video. It includes a built-in microphone and has an input for an external mic as well (mini plug). The camera will shoot 1920×1080 at 29.97, 25, or 23fps. It will shoot 1280×720 at 59.94, 50fps or even (but why?) 6340×480 at 59.94, 50fps. It records using H.264 in a QuickTime .Mov wrapper. Note however, that the QuickTime wrapper does not mean any NLE will recognize the footage. More on video reviews in a bit. There are three ways to use this camera: As a still camera. As a video camera. As a film-style camera. When using this as a...

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Photographing the Station Fire

By on Sep 4, 2009 in Blog, Print, Video | 2 comments

During the past week, the northern end of Los Angeles County has been burning. The Station Fire, which to-date is the biggest wildfire in the history of LA County, has swept from the hillside communities above Pasadena and Duarte into the Angeles National Forest. Unburned for more than 60 years, the thick, deep brush provided ample fuel for a monster fire. In addition to spending time at base camp working on several assignments, Cameron Barrett shot quite a bit of HD video, and the images will be remarkable. I took a few photographs of aftermath, and even those (you can see a few here) images are striking. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this was not the drama of billowing smoke and fire, but the stark emptiness of the “morning after,” so to speak. Hillsides and canyons looked like they had been sculpted by a model railroader, then painted black and some flour dusted here and there to represent ash. And the same image goes on and on – we drove up several canyon roads for mile after mile and the only thing we saw besides burned out hills were smoldering tree stumps, and wisps of smoke drifting up from the rubble that wildfire can create. And, several miles up Big Tujunga Canyon, we came across several burned out cottages. As the sun set, the only things left standing were chimneys and black tree trunks. Destroyed cars remained parked in driveways, never to wheel along a highway again. At one home, we found nearly a dozen dead cats – and an angry group of people (ourselves and several network photographers) who couldn’t believe these animals were just left behind. Still, Cameron, who is an animal advocate, captured the scene, all in High-Def. Another interesting aspect of the aftermath is the sound. It’s really quiet. There are no leaves to rustle in the breeze. No squirrels to scamper through the underbrush. Just dead sound. At least until you hear the rumble of a fire engine, or the thump, thump, thump of a helicopter overhead. And the fires continue to burn as I type this. Although nearly 50% contained, there is ongoing risk and danger. And thankfully, most residents took the...

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When Design is Everything

By on Aug 27, 2009 in Blog, Internet, Print |

Our people are often asked, “What’s your design style?” We have many pat answers, including, “your style is our style,” and, “whatever you want it to be,” and my favorite, “crayons.” But the key point we try to make is: design is totally subjective, so the bottom line is that it had better work. There’s no point to any design if it doesn’t accelerate an idea, a product, a service, or a person. There are plenty of designs that are drop-dead gorgeous, but ten minutes later, you can’t remember what the purpose of the design was – or what it was about. This is especially true for the Internet, as many print designers have stepped sideways into the World Wide Interweb (apologies) and their ideas are as 2-D (read flat) as a sheet of 110lb matte stock. We design for results. That means we are concerned that our client’s requirements be met not only in the boardroom, where satisfaction has no relationship to market success, but in practice, too. If our client’s don’t see a spike in sales, or an increase in website visits, we haven’t done our job. Many people think design is all about looks. It really isn’t. Design involves how things fit together. How things work. How easily they are understood. I’ve seen people take other people’s designs and stamp their own logo on top, giggling at how they were able to leverage someone else’s work product. While that’s certainly both lazy and unethical (without permission), it does speak to the potential effectiveness of the design. Design should either be timeless or totally time-based. When was the Coca Cola logo invented? Who cares? It’s timeless. What about Google’s logo? It’s freakin’ ugly, but it’s also effective – and it speaks to a specific time – and it will likely evolve over time as well. The timer on your grandparent’s VCR? Bad design. The iPod. Great design. No matter what the product, service, or purpose, good design isn’t good at all unless people react to it. We’re very sensitive to that issue – and it’s one reason we enjoy every new challenge we’re presented with. Have a design idea? Let us mull it over and give you...

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