Thursday, October 28, 2010

Suffocating - Our New Music Video


The band I'm in, Exit Strategy, is made of of three other great friends and we're going on 14+ years at this point. We've come a long way since performing covers to only original material. Well, with sufficient arm twisting we might pop out a cover or two.

The last few years we've tried to goal ourselves with producing at least one music video each year. We're slightly behind but we're close to meeting that goal with our most recent video that was released today.

I recommend viewing on YouTube in HD

Our last two videos which are Don't Ask Me What I Want for Christmas and Shore, were shot using DV cameras against a green screen. All of the footage was brought together using some combination of Premiere Pro and After Effects. Green screen using DV cameras will cause you to pull your hair out (I'm exhibit A for the results of pulling your hair out).

This latest video was a new step for us in a number of ways. I refused to do another green screen video and we wanted shoot in high definition. To accomplish this I used a Nikon D90 to record shots of us performing Suffocating in a studio setting. The studio is our practice location and is in the home of our bass player. I've been photographing with a DLSR for a long time. Shooting video footage with a DLSR was a new experience for me. I love being able to use the wide range of lenses available with my D90. It really opens up options in lighting and creativity. The ability to capture video footage in low light situations as seen in parts of this video is just wonderful. You may notice some exposure flickering during the video and I've now learned how to keep that from happening over on the forum. That's the thing about creating music videos, you're always learning and there will always be at least one thing you wish you had done differently :-)

I found the editing process with HD footage to be a breeze. Today's 64-bit operating systems with fast processors and large amounts of memory make this as easy as editing SD footage 5 years ago. This experience was so much fun that I'm looking forward to the next video. Gaining some comfort with DLSR video techniques opens up even more options for creativity in the future. Alright guys, we need to get that next song nailed down...

More information about our band can be found here.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Google Voice In Gmail


I knew that Google had made and update recently that integrated Google Voice with Gmail but I had not experienced this feature until last night. What a useful and wonderful surprise that was...

I was working in my office at home and had left my Droid upstairs. I started hearing a "ringing" sound that was unfamiliar and realized it was coming from my computer. This ringing sound made me recall that Google Voice had been updated with a new capability so I flipped over to my browser tab that Gmail was running inside. What greeted me was the following (well this is a screen grab and the number does not match what I saw...)

Okay... didn't expect to see that! I'm not sure what Screen does so I clicked Answer. It was not clear to me what Answer would do either :-)  Well, it picked up the call, I could hear the caller on my PC speakers, and the caller could hear me through the microphone on my webcam. Clear as a bell, as if they were in the same room. I finished the call and then "hung" up.

Nice work, Google!!! Love the integration and the clarity of the call. I later asked the caller what the quality sounded like on their end and they said it was like I was in the same room. If you use Google Voice and Gmail then I highly recommend turning this feature on inside Gmail.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Squeak, Rattle, and Silence...


Ever since I removed the center console side pillars and other items to put in my Craven shift well, I've noticed an increase in rattles in the cabin. I'm okay with that since I know that a sporty suspension is not necessarily a smooth ride. MINIHERO is rougher than some because of the lowering springs currently installed.

I attempted to eliminate these rattles and I can report success in silencing them. The area I worked on is in the following photo.

I knew that there were gaps between components in the center stack as well as between the side pillars (those ride side items) and down at the console level. I wanted to find something that was pliable but firm enough that I could shove it into these gaps. Shove it might not be the best term but that is what I ended up doing...

I thought about some type of felt material but knew that would be too soft to get into those tight spaces. I happened to go into Howard Brother's Hardware store in Duluth, GA and just started to roam around to see what I could find. I ended up asking for assistance and was directed to a roll of gasket material. It looked to be a perfect fit. It was rigid enough to push into tight places but had some give which would dampen rattles.

It worked perfectly. It can easily be cut with scissors and folded into appropriate thicknesses. Some of the gaps were only wide enough for a single layer of gasket but some areas needed 3 or 4 layers. For thicker areas I just folded it up until I got what was needed. I put this material into any gap I could find.

My first test drive proved that this solved the problem and there is now an eerie silence in the front of the cabin, well, aside from that wonderful whine of the supercharger :)

So, if you are experiencing rattles then you might want to try this technique. I do expect some of this material will wiggle out over time but I'll just continue to "repair" those pieces as needed. That small roll should last me a lifetime.

Click this link for an example of the material I purchased. I'm sure you can find it at most any auto parts store.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Let Me Count The Waste - Burning Tax Dollars


Wow, how impressed I am that the US Census Bureau would take the time to send me a letter to alert me that I will be receiving a census form from them in the next week. I will be watching the mailbox for the next 7 days with great anticipation. This may indeed be the pinnacle of 2010. The census arrives!

Had they not sent me this letter, shown below. I'm sure I would have carelessly tossed the census. That could have resulted in disaster, my family and household would not have been counted, would not have had a voice in the important decisions made as a result of the census.

I'm so glad that a caring person at the census decided to spend our bountiful tax dollars to send this letter to every household in the United States. Just doing some rough calculations here.... there are approximately 106 million households and with the cost of the envelope, letter, printing, postage, oh and the probable hours spent drafting this letter we come to a cost of around $91,160,000.00. Yep, $91 million buckaroos. Money well spent?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lighting MINI Parts


I've had a recent photography project where I've been taking shots of parts. I thought it would be a fairly boring set of photos to take but I was wrong. First off, how do you make parts look good? Not too many options and for me, interesting lighting was the best approach. Below is an example of one shot.

The final image is show below and is a set of replacement side lamp covers for a MINI Cooper. These items are all "chrome" which can create a challenging shot.

I shot this using two Nikon strobes, a SB-600 and a very old SB-24. Each are manually set and I used inexpensive Cactus triggers. When the camera fires, it sends a signal to the remote triggers which fire the flash. The parts are sitting on white foamcore with a piece of plexiglass on top. This provides for a nice white surface and the plexi provides the reflection. The back is just another piece of foamcore. The main light is being shot through an umbrella to camera left. I have another strobe being bounced against another piece of foamcore to camera right.

For shots that have items that are not so reflective I use the umbrella and then a gridded flash to provide highlights. This does not work well with chrome since you get hot spots which is why I bounced into foamcore. This creates a much larger light source and reduces the possibility of hot spots.

My first shot had a problem where the smooth chrome on the left side ended up being totally black. It was reflecting from the room and because of the fast shutter speed the "reflection" was darkness. That made it look like the piece had a black spot there. See the photo below to see what I mean.

I ended up taking another piece of white foamcore and as I prepared to shoot with one hand, I used the other hand to position the foamcore so that it reflected back into that area of the part. That caused that "black" area to come out white as seen in the first photo. I've placed a photo to help with the setup.

Looking at this photo I positioned the camera between the umbrella and the other flash. I held the foamcore above and to the right of the camera to kill the black reflection.

I never really thought about the scenarios encountered photographing something simple like parts... I've learned a lot and found it to be more challenging than expected.