It’s Never Easy

mobilerig

Trevor and his team will be introducing some of the material from the recently completed New World project at an event in Guelph this week-end. I was asked to do a remote recording of the event. At first glance, it should be pretty easy. Take a feed from somewhere, track it in something and then mix it.

Feed It

The first challenge was getting signals to the multi-track recorder. I will be tracking 16 inputs for this event. The console takes a split feed from the stage. My preference is to use high quality preamps and bypass the console itself. The board is a Yamaha M7 — an okay desk but not configured with the analog output cards, only the omni outputs. But really, best to avoid those board preamps if I can. We will use the signals from the splitter.

Except that those feeds are going to be used for an Internet simulcast.

After a lot of discussion, we are renting another splitter and we will split the inputs at the console and I can feed the preamps. Good. That part should be easy. And I will find out on Saturday if it works.

Track It

I do not have a remote rig. I have a fixed install Pro Tools HD rig. And the last thing I want to do is take it all apart for a remote recording session. Fine. I will simply download Pro Tools HD to my MacBook Pro and use my iLok to run Pro Tools on the laptop.

Except that I run Mavericks on the MacBook Pro and Pro Tools 10 won’t run on Mavericks.

Okay. Fortunately there is a free 30-day trial for Pro Tools 11 HD and Pro Tools 11 will run on Mavericks. Spent two hours just getting this part done. Downloaded a massive file, installed Pro Tools 11 HD, updated the iLok account, activated the trial, connected the Thunderbolt HD Native interface and… nothing. The MacBook Pro doesn’t see the interface. No input or output from the HD IO audio interface.

After several hours, I finally went back to basics. Was I missing a driver perhaps? And that turned out to be the problem. I had to do a separate install of the HD interface driver to make things work. Downloaded that file, installed the driver and brought up Pro Tools 11 HD on the MacBook Pro.

Finally, after six or seven hours, I can see the input/outputs on the HD IO unit through the Thunderbolt HD Native interface.

I had to do a series of performance tests to make sure that everything would work without taking the studio apart. I re-routed a bunch of connections and no issues. With 16 high resolution tracks in record along with 32 high resolution tracks in playback and the system usage was under 2 percent. Lots of horsepower from this little laptop.

I then spent another few hours getting the portable rig prepared.

If you look at the photo above, you can see the basic rack. It will hold two units of Millenia with 16 preamps total (I only have one in there right now). Those preamps will be connected to the Avid HD IO — a 16-channel audio interface driven by the laptop through the Thunderbolt HD Native interface. I will have an external Thunderbolt hard drive to capture the event data.

Removing the preamps and the HD unit from the studio racks was a two person task. Those units are heavy and getting them untangled and out of the racks wasn’t easy. Plus, I had to make sure that I could reconnect everything as the cable plant in the studio racks is a pretty busy place. Once racked, I had to get the cable plant arranged. Although a small portable rig, there are 16 lines from the splitter, 16 lines from the preamps and 16 lines for the audio interface. 48 connections not including the IO to the Thunderbolt HD Native interface and the IO from the computer to the external drive and not including power.

Tomorrow night I will have to independently test the portable rig to make sure that everything will work. With this remote event, I only get one chance to capture things. I have to make sure that the equipment will work.

I also won’t have much time to get to the venue and get connected and calibrate signals. As long as I know the portable rack is operating then I only need to worry about interconnecting with the splitter feed. I’ll need a few hours to prepare the environment and then the actual event itself.

Mix It

It won’t be as long a mix process as a studio recording.  It will take time for me to rebuild and repatch the components that I removed from the studio. I will need to transfer the audio files into the studio Pro Tools environment. Then I will need to review the audio material, edit as required, mix tracks and send them out for review.

All in, I will be spend about 20-40 hours tracking and mixing this event.

Really looking forward to the event. It should be awesome.

Great to be at this point in the project.

I Get Mail

Tips : GPS vehicle tracker with 3G compatible /Attn: purchase manager

Dear Sir

This is Anna,the sales manager of GPS in China.

VT600 is an advanced GPS vehicle tracker, with 3G UMTS 900/2100Mhz or 850/1900Mhz compatible. What is more, VT600 can compatible with accelerator meter to detect harsh start and stop, can compatible with RFID to identify driver, can compatible with camera to take photo. Rich I/O features are available also.

I would appreciate if you forward this letter to Technical Manager or to other expert responsible for technical integration of new products in your company, or provide me with his contact for we could discuss all the details of our future cooperation.

Your early reply is highly appreciated.

Best Regards

Anna

Dear Anna,

Thank you for your note and thanks for dropping by the blog.

Alas I do not have a technical manager or any other experts responsible for technical integration of advanced GPS vehicle trackers into new products for my blog. I regretfully cannot discuss any details for our future cooperation.

I hope we can remain friends.

Rockin’ Rick

Camera Types Revealed

I was reflecting on how different cameras perform particularly for travel photography. And my conclusion? That from high resolution full frame cameras to APS-C and micro four thirds cameras, the differences are pretty nominal. Each platform is capable of producing excellent images. Other factors might come into play: weight for one. And the basics of what you have in terms of lighting and composition. You can click on any of the photos for a larger image.

This image was shot with a full-frame Nikon D3s — ISO 200, 66mm, f/11 at 1/160 sec:

Animal Kingdom 2010

Light was so-so. Sky is a bit washed out even though I shot this image at around 5:30pm. Dynamic range of sensors back in 2010 wasn’t that great although the D3s had exceptional low light performance. The rig was so very heavy. Carrying this camera all day with a 24-70 zoom was literally a strength training event. It held on to its resale value and after five years I was able to sell it for a new Nikon D800 and my cost to switch was only $300.

This image was shot with an APS-C Fuji X-Pro 1 mirrorless camera — ISO 200, 35mm (or 53mm equivalent), f/11 at 1/160 sec (very similar settings to the Nikon shot above):

Animal Kingdom 2012

Well, it was a shot. I don’t care for the decidedly bluish colourcast and the midmorning light certainly didn’t help much either. This was shot at 11am on a cloudy day. And I had elected to shoot the Fuji using JPEG as RAW wasn’t well supported at the time. That also limited my post processing. Aside from a less than stellar exposure, the image detail is actually quite good on the camera. But not my favourite. I liked the form factor and weight but I was always fighting with this camera. I don’t use it anymore.

This next image was shot with a full-frame Nikon D800 — ISO 100, 60mm, f/8 at 1/100 sec:

Animal Kingdom 2013

A sunny day. The shot was taken at 2:40pm so not really the best light of the day. However, the image is bright and vibrant and certainly lots of detail coming from that amazing 36MP sensor. When I am doing really serious photography, I rely on the D800. It requires good shooting technique and good glass as the high resolution sensor does reveal pretty much everything. I love the camera but it is also big and heavy especially when paired with the 24-70. This camera, as well as the Nikon D3s, attracts way too much attention when travelling.

And, finally, this next image was shot with a micro four thirds Olympus OM-D E-M1 — ISO 200, 40mm (or 80mm equivalent), f/11 at 1/125 sec:

Animal Kingdom 2014

A late afternoon shot at around 4pm. Cloud cover but really good dynamic range and a really good image. Comparing this image to the Nikon D3s and the Nikon D800 and I don’t find that I am losing anything from an image quality perspective. Obviously, light and time of day would have more of an impact. The Olympus is a very lightweight, robust and highly customizable little camera. It is discreet and very easy to transport. I thoroughly enjoyed using this camera and I will likely favour it for most of my travel photography.

We live during an incredible time of technology advancement. Although always interesting to use different cameras, the reality is that most cameras are rarely a limiting factor to the photographer. I need to remind myself of that fact when the next round of new cameras are announced.

One Scene, Four Cameras

The following photographs were all taken at roughly the same location in the Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Four different cameras ranging from what was once the flagship camera of the Nikon line, the D3s to the high resolution Nikon D800 and two mirrorless cameras: the Fuji X-Pro 1 and the Olympus OM-D E-M1.

You can click on an image for a larger photo. I can tell the differences between the cameras when pixel peeping but in terms of travel shots, well, there isn’t a real discernible difference in image quality. There are obvious differences in dynamic range as well as the variances in lighting and composition.

I’ll post the camera types for each image tomorrow.

Animal Kingdom 2010

Animal Kingdom 2012

Animal Kingdom 2013

Animal Kingdom 2014

Size Matters Not

olympus

Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship. — Yoda

I’ve posted a lot of shots without referencing what camera they came from. People weren’t saying “oh, that must have been from one of those small cameras you’ve been using” or “that must be from your high-end DSLR.” In the end, cameras are just tools. You learn how to optimize your use of the tool and you go out and create. — Thom Hogan

I have shot Walt Disney World with a number of cameras including: a Nikon D3s, a Nikon D800, a Fuji X-Pro 1 and, most recently, an Olympus OM-D E-M1.

Last night, I started a collection in Lightroom with a set of similar shots taken with these different cameras. And candidly, outside of the expected variations in lighting and composition, there was nothing obvious in any of the images that would suggest the high-end Nikons significantly outperformed the mirrorless cameras.

I will post a few of the images tomorrow. There are certainly situations where I would prefer one camera over another — high-speed sports photography for example — but for most applications, there is very little noticeable compromise in image quality.

I thoroughly enjoyed using the Olympus camera in my travel photography. A lightweight and robust little camera. I think it captured some great images.

Substance Over Status

0 and 1 sign

I am attending a conference and Peter Thiel was one of the featured speakers. Peter is one of the top global 100 investors. He co-founded PayPal and he was one of the early investors of Facebook.

He offered a few zingers. When asked about technology trends like cloud and big data, he responded this way:

My bet is always on things that are fact specific, not on buzzwords… as an investor, I am always skeptical of anything that can be described as a trend… I am super skeptical of cloud and Big Data.

He dismissed companies like IBM saying that IBM is a bet that we will keep buying the same kludgy technology from the 70s.

Thiel looks for companies and technologies that deliver an order of magnitude improvement in their market. And he is drawn to companies that hold the promise of establishing a new monopoly.

We live in a financial and capitalist age. We do not live in a science and technology age. We live in an age when people generally dislike science and technology.

He urged people to choose substance over status. And to live today as if you were going to live forever.

I received a copy of his book Zero to One. It is a fairly quick read and definitely thought provoking.

Most people believe competition is a healthy spur to productivity, but I think it’s mostly dangerous and distracting. In college I spent about half my time reading books; the other half I spent training to make Stanford’s varsity basketball team. Ultimately, I didn’t make it. I think I was probably good enough—but that’s precisely the point: I was unthinkingly competing with better players just so I could get better and compete with them at a higher level. I was never going to be as good as the top guys, and my time would have been better invested elsewhere, but the competitive dynamics acted as blinders.

Something like this is true in business today: on the margin, people pay too much attention to what direct competitors are doing instead of focusing on unique and ambitious plans.

The End Is Near

gartner

I am at the Gartner Symposium this week. Sold out. Somewhere north of 8,000 attendees. It is a big event.

Lots of predictions about technology. They even quoted Jack Welch this morning:

If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.

The end is near.

I worry when I hear technologists talk about the world ending.