Wow…Been a While!!

Sometimes we have the very best intentions and then it goes terribly wrong…. I’m not sure what happened I just one day stopped blogging and forget it was even here until I got my renewal notice. That was just sad on my part. I know I don’t have many followers if any but still I should at least try to keep this current. I mean you never know when the Zombie Apocalypse will happen and there should be some history of what life was like. That being said I’m not sure my history will do much beside cure insomnia.

Ok, this being a technology blog lets think about what is next. I am toying with the idea of working on 3D video. After all I just upgraded to a new 3D TV so I should have some video to go with. I am currently looking at the Go Pro 3D and this off brand camera. If I do the Go Pro I have other uses as I currently have ½ of what I need. But this system doesn’t shoot in real 3D it is the red and green. I’m still checking to see if Adobe Premier or Finalcut Pro could use it to do real 3D. Getting mixed answers. The other camera shoots in the real 3D format. The drawback is I could only use it for 3D. Decisions, Decisions… So stay tune for my decision, samples and reviews.

Nikon Coolpix AW100

A while back I wrote about the GoPro camera.  I have used my GoPro for many things and intended to use it for some underwater shots while on vacation.  After reading reviews I found it was limited on quality underwater.  Further research lead me to the Nikon Coolpix AW100.  Water proof up to 33ft and shock proof up to 5 feet.  This camera was made for mild sports action yet still remains stylish.

The camera looks like a simple point and shoot. Many of the features you would find on most with a couple differences. First the button for the shutter and video are separate. Each has a unique texture so you can feel what is what. Next the batter and memory card door had a rubber seal but also uses a double lock to be more secure from accidental opening. Next the camera has a built in GPS allowing you to GEO tag your images or use it as a functional ground GPS. Finally you will find a underwater setting in the presets for diving.

Dolphin Flight – Discovery Cove, Orlando FL

Going through the presets and doing some tests I found the “simple” mode to be annoying.  I switch it over to “auto” for playing.  During vacation I used several presets like “underwater”, “Beach” and “Night Portrait”.  These are easy to change using the scene mode button on the back of the camera.  All in all I found the scenes to be quite adequate for most of my images.  Remember this is a point and shoot.  The zoom range work well for most situations.  The one drawback was the speed between shots.  The manual boasts 2.5 frames per second but even with my extreme 30MB/s SD card I could not get shots that quickly.

The image quality during daylight was above average to outstanding in the point and shoot category.  I think the color and contrast in the daylight images were spot on.  I also could not see any real issues with noise in these images.  I was a little disappointed in the night images.  They seemed to have a lot of noise and took time to fix in photoshop.  I would say a 5X7 would be the largest you could get a usable print from using night settings.   Overall for a point and shoot the camera performance was above average.  ** note I tested the zoom lens but did not use the digital zoom feature.

Video was also handled very well with this little camera.  It takes 1080p HD video with great color and contrast.  I also took several night videos and amazingly the quality of night video was much better than the photos.  I was able to snorkel taking video and stills again with great results.  The camera was easy to manage underwater.  I did notice one difference here that should be noted.  Using the underwater mode the still images look nice, corrected color but to me look a bit dull.  The video looks great, especially compared to the GoPro but the color looks off a bit.  I have included a video shot entirely using the AW100. (stills and video use the Coolpix AW100, Edited in Final Cut X Pro)

My overall opinion of the Nikon AW100:  If you need a camera that can take some light abuse and for all weather situations I would recommend you check this camera out.  The image and video quality are excellent in most situations.  The controls are simple to use and it has safety locks keeping the camera weather tight.  The drawbacks are minimal unless you plan to do lots of low-light images.  For under $300 (USD) this camera is well worth a look.

Thanks for reading!

IT Customer Support & Relations

Customer service is becoming a thing of the past.  In today’s market many companies claim to provide great customer service but the cold hard fact is money is more important to them than the consumer.  We buy a technology product and the first time we have issues we are on the phone with the help desk in India.  You try to explain and all they do is say “sorry”, offer no real solution or resolution.  If you manage to talk to someone who does understand and can assist you then you have more than likely spent hours on the phone repeating the same thing over and over.  To me this is happening at more and more companies.  I have to say ANY company that subjects their customers to these call centers just doesn’t care or value that customer.

Help desks and call centers are not the only places I take issue with.  The other day at a popular electronics store I witnesses one of the “Nerds” who should be an expert having to get a supervisor because she didn’t know how fast PC3200 memory was.  I thought really, it says it right on the back of the package 400MHz.  I guess I will really think twice about EVER buying one of the store warranties or allowing them to work on my PC/MAC.  In fact I was buying my iMAC at the time and they wanted to load Norton AV.  I declined to allow it.  I said “just give me the key I can do it”.  I know I’m just a lowly MCP but I will manage over your “Qualified” people, um “Nerds”.  I ended up buying my firewire drive and memory from another reseller because the techs were much more knowledgeable.  I paid more but the service was worth it.

The corporate world is no different.  Customer service managers are now called “Service Managers”.  No room for customer in that title.  They are all about fix what is under contract and not making it right for the customer.  You might hear “we can’t load that document reader even thought you paid for it because it is not covered in your contract”.   Followed by “we can’t give you rights to load software again because that is not in your contract”.  It is this foolishness and lack of respect for the customer that drives me crazy.  I have been in the IT field for over 15 years and it gets worse and worse when companies outsource support.  Outsourcing companies have no respect for the customer and make the customer wait on them sometimes for hours just because the “contract” allows them too. To them it all about money not about the customer.

I have been in customer relations and service for over 30 years.  I consider being in IT support the same as customer service.  I don’t understand why companies think customer service doesn’t matter.  If you take care of your customers they will come back.  Do you need a quick lesson?  First, have a call center in the country that the product is sold.  If the hold times are too long then provide a call back system using outside resources to “log calls only”.  Next train your “Nerds” and make sure they have at a minimum basic “industry” certifications.  In store product training is for sales people not professional  technicians.  Only certified tech’s with customer service training and experience should be allowed to work with customers directly.  It is just that simple!

Finally take care of the customer.  The customer support person should be fluent in the language of the customer and understand the culture.  Customers you are NOT always right but it is the job of the customer service and support person to resolve the issue in a calm manner.  Customers you should not take out your frustration on customer service person but calmly ask for a manager and start by saying “your customer server person tried very hard to resolve my issue but I felt I needed someone with more authority”.  No point in taking poor company policy out on the service person, especially if they tried to help you.  If the company, be it retail, support or corporate doesn’t respect you and take the time to understand what you want or need then go to a company that does.  If you are a business reading this take note that you better have trained people.  As a customer you have many options so use them.  Post on social media be experiences.  That tells 100’s of friends not just 10.  File a complaint with the better business bureau because companies have to follow on these or loose ratings.  If we don’t stand up and expect, no demand better customer service it will become a thing of the past.

Thanks for reading.

The Art of Stop Motion – MAC fun with iStopMotion

The Fly Empire - Bug Wars

This is a follow up to a previous blog post on iStopMotion. I thought I would look into what it takes to produce a short video. So let’s start with the basics. First you will need some sort of concept. Just because these are not live actors doesn’t mean you don’t need to create a script and plan out the movie before shooting. The concept for this short is “Bug Wars”. We will be using some plastic bugs and creating a battle. The concept is simple enough. There isn’t a script but we will need to plan this out so we know what to shoot and what to do. This can be done by making a shot list or creating a storyboard so that everything in organized.
Step 2 would be to assemble the characters for the movie. In this case I have picked up several packages of fake bugs. Looking at the storyboard I will need to cut a few of them up so I can have some parts for the splatter scenes. I also need some additional items for props. I got some chunks of paper, plastic, wrappers and an old plastic cup. These will make great objects for my bugs to crawl over and add to the overall look and feel of the film. Now that most of this has been collected I need to build a location. Using dome old cardboard boxes I constructed a crude set for this fun film.

Clone Roaches - Bug Wars

It is time for the fun and hard work to begin. I had to make sure my lighting was even. I chose to use overhead lighting for this. It does make the image a little flat looking abut it is also easier to film. I have also used key lighting (main light to one side) but this will work best for this adventure. Setting up is important as well.

 

Look at the stage and the props through the camera. Get them all in place and make sure everything is how you want it. Once it is set you need to lock the camera down. You need to make sure that the camera and object don’t get moved until filming is complete. If you plan to have different camera angles the I suggest shooting everything you want at each angle then assemble it all in post production.
Don’t expect to be a fast process at 12 frames or more per second you will be taking a bunch of images. I also would stress that your finished size will be 1920X1080 max (in most cases) if not smaller so don’t think you need to set your camera on “full” or “raw” size images. You should get great results on smaller jpegs.

The set of Bug Wars

This is also important so you don’t fill your memory card and risk moving the camera to change it. Another item to point out is to keep in mind your depth of field. You can do some amazing effects like shooting a close-up at f2.8 to put the background out of focus. Just remember when you pull back to change the f-stop to f5.6 – f11 if you want more of the objects in view.

 

As I created this movie I used the onion skin so I could make sure I didn’t move items too much. I think this is a feature that really makes a difference. The only drawback is you have to accept the image and if you forget to do that you loose the frame. I also setup the grid to 16 squares. This is something you don’t really need to do but it helps direct the motion the way you want. In closing just remember this is a long process and the results vary but it is fun creating this type of animation. Next time I’ll talk about how I import iStop Motion into iMove and complete the post production work.
Thanks For Reading!!


Create & Be a Cartoon Character with ToonCamera app for iPhone!

If you have seen those TV commercials that have cartoon like people and wondered how they created those realistic looking toons then this is your lucky day! There’s an app for that! The ToonCamera app for your iPhone does a good job creating cartoon like images or video without the need for expensive editing programs. There are several modes from color to line (pen & ink) style. This app is easy to use then import into your iMovie for editing. This fun little app has many possibilities and turns the everyday into a bit more fun and exciting. This app has simple controls and does have its limits but for less than $1 (USD) you really can’t go wrong. Go ahead you know you want to be a cartoon character!!
Thanks for reading!

The following movie was shot using ToonCamera and iMovie both on the iPhone 4S


8mm Filming for the iPhone – Vintage Film Look

I found a fun little iPhone app and wanted to share. This app lets you take video and make it vintage. You can import or film straight from the app. It allows you to choose different types of vintage film. You can change the lighting to include center light, outer boarder, lens flare and others. The controls are simple to use just swipe to change. I think it has many fun uses. I took it to the zoo for a fun walk around safari. The only real issue I had was the control for shutter/flare is easy to touch and change while filming if you are not careful. But if you want to have some fun this is an app I really like and had a lot of fun making the video part of this post. Hope you enjoy my zoo safari!!

Thanks for reading!!

8mm Test Video