Instagram has sometimes not been particularly forthright when it comes to decisions of account or content moderation, but that seems to be changing, as the company has announced that they will begin warning users whose accounts are in imminent danger of being banned because of violations.
|The Wirecutter was the first to report that retailers such as Amazon have been slowly running out of Parrot’s Mambo (pictured above) and Swing drones.|
French drone manufacturer Parrot is retiring its Mambo and Swing models, effectively exiting the toy drone market. The news was first reported by The Wirecutter. ‘Parrot has stopped the production and development of any drone but the Anafi and its variations,’ a spokesperson confirmed on Friday. Though the company will still offer the Anafi on the consumer end, it has been iterating on the compact, foldable drone and shifting its focus toward commercial and enterprise businesses with the Anafi Thermal.
Parrot has been steadily scaling back on consumer drone manufacturing for over two years. 290 employees, or roughly one third of the staff at the time from the UAV division, were laid off in the beginning of 2017 after a lackluster Holiday season. Consumer interest in drones is growing but the market is dominated by DJI, which is based in Shenzhen, China, and dominates globally with a 75% share.
The Federal Aviation Administration recently released an annual Aerospace Forecast Report. The latest findings predict the commercial drone market could triple in size by 2023. It makes sense that Parrot, who also announced they would no longer compete with DJI in the consumer market back in a 2017 financial filing, continues to focus on developing B2B enterprise solutions. While revenue from its commercial sector increased by 5% in 2018, total revenues were down by 28% from 2017.
This past May, Parrot was one of six companies selected to develop unmanned aircraft for the U.S. Military’s Department of Defense program. The month before, it introduced the Anafi Thermal containing a FLIR radiometric thermal-imaging unit with a standard 4K camera. This repurposing of a consumer drone for commercial purposes is a clear indicator of their future direction. The numbers speak volumes. In the first quarter of 2019, the company’s consumer drone sales accounted for 38% of its overall revenue, down 20% from the same period in 2018.
With camera technology as good as it is nowadays, it can be easy to forget just how quickly things have advanced in the span of just a few short decades. As a case in point, this fun video reviews the Sega Digio SJ-1, a nifty point and shoot camera from 1996.
In the first quarter of 2019, on-location filming in Greater Los Angeles has declined with a simultaneous slowdown in Feature, Television and Commercial production. Recently reported by FilmLA, only one project brought to Los Angeles by the California Film & Television Tax Credit Program was filmed on-location from January through April, after the other projects […]
My evaluation of the ≈US$75 USB-VOX studio microphone from Plugable involved several happy surprises, beyond its high quality sound for voice. Before its arrival, I knew that it’s a condenser type mic with a cardioid pickup pattern, and that it’s USB-only (which is great for some situations, not for all); that it came with its own table stand, and is also compatible with professional boom arms like my Heil PL2T. However, I had no idea that it would excel in several other aspects, despite one missing feature for some users.
Published specs, with my comments
The manufacturer (Plugable) really understates the ≈US$75 USB-VOX microphone (Amazon link), by publishing that it only offers 44.1 kHz audio sampling frequency. In reality, the USB-VOX microphone is much better than that, since I discovered it also offers 48 kHz audio sampling too, as shown in the above screen shot. For those who haven’t yet read my recent article 48 kHz: How to set it in Android, iOS, macOS and Windows, the Audio MIDI Setup in macOS is the place to discover a device’s capabilities and change among them on a Mac. (That article also covers how to do it with other platforms.) That setting in the Audio MIDI Setup commands the A-to-D (analog-to-digital) converter in the external USB microphone or interface to change to 48 kHz mode. The Audio MIDI Setup would not show the option of the 48 kHz option if the connected hardware didn’t offer it.
48 kHz audio sampling is essential to be used in the video world, and based upon my recommendations in the 48 kHz Alliance, in the audio world too, for reasons that go beyond the quality difference. That’s why I am so glad I agreed to review the USB-VOX, despite the incomplete information on the Plugable website about this microphone (at least at publication time of this article).
Above, the published pickup pattern.
Here are the rest of the official specs:
- Element: Polarized Condenser
- Polar Pattern: Cardioid
- Chipset: C-Media CM6400
- Frequency Response: 20 – 16000 Hz
- Bit Depth: 16 bit (confirmed by me)
- Sample Rate: 44.1 kHz (and 48 kHz, added by me)
- Power Requirement: USB (5V DC)
- Weight: 258 Grams
- Overall Body Dimensions: 140 mm long | 52.0 mm body diameter
- Connector Type: USB…
I’ll add the USB details: The microphone has an onboard USB-B connector (the type often found on printers), and includes a long 305 cm cable that goes from USB-B to USB-A, the most common one on most computers on the market. Th USB-A end can be adapted with an inexpensive adaptor to USB-C if required (which foreshadows other good news in the next section).
Compatibile platforms: another happy surprise
The manufacturer, Plugable, states that the USB-VOX works with Linux, macOS (where I did my published test recording) and Windows. To that list, I will add that I successfully used the USB-VOX with my current Android phone, which is a Google Pixel XL running the beta version of Android Q (aka Android 10), using the free Auphonic app for Android (my review here), and it worked perfectly well with 48 kHz audio sampling. (My latest iOS Auphonic review for iOS is here.) All I needed to connect it was the USB cable that came with the USB-VOX and the USB-C to USB-A female adapter that came with the Google Pixel XL phone. Your results may vary depending upon your particular phone/tablet model and operating system.
- USB-B to USB-A cable, 305 cm (described earlier)
- Mount with standard 5/8″ thread
- Adapter to reduce the 5/8” thread to 3/8” (which I have never needed to use so far, but is useful for some cases)
Sound test and more happy surprises
All below files uncompressed mono WAV file at 48 kHz/16-bit. Please listen with unmetered data. All were recorded and trimmed in mono 48 kHz to Hindenburg Journalist Pro, and normalized to -16 LUFS.
Above, USB-VOX unprocessed, other than normalization to -16 LUFS.
Above, after mild noise reduction from Hindenburg Journalist Pro.
Above, after mild noise reduction and dynamic compression (not file compression) from Hindenburg Journalist Pro.
I am extremely impressed at how good the recordings sound for about US$75, even the unprocessed one.
I am also impressed since I was able to use it without any plosives (popping) issue, without the need of any pop filter or windscreen. This is very unusual when using most cardioid mics up close, even when addressing them at a 45-degree angle. I am also impressed how low self-noise the Plugable USB-VOX (Amazon link) has (even before processing) and how well it rejected background rumble, especially considering that it’s a condenser microphone. It might sound crazy, but the isolation of this Plugable USB-VOX reminded me of the RØDE Broadcaster (which costs US$419, reviewed here, Amazon — B&H) and the Audio Technica AT875R (which costs US$169, reviewed here, Amazon — B&H), since they have been among the very few condenser type mics I have ever tested that isolate background rumble so well, when all of them are addressed very closely. In that sense, these exceptional microphones have the extra frequency response, clarity and high output level of a condenser type mic, while having the isolation advantage of a dynamic mic. This does not mean that the USB-VOX sounds the same as the others, but it does mean that it isolates as well (when used in equal proximity) and it does sound very good for its price.
However, sound quality and isolation are not the only issue when selecting a microphone. There are other factors, as you’ll see ahead.
Advantages & disadvantages of a USB microphone
As I have clarified in other articles, USB microphones are really analog microphones with a built-in A-to-D or analog to digital converter. The advantage is simplicity to connect to a computer (or sometimes to a tablet or smartphone), especially when there is going to be a single microphone and the purchaser doesn’t already own a high-end interface (preamp + A-to-D converter), so no extra equipment must be purchased in order to connect it.
Multiple USB mics to a single computer?
Despite popular myths, it is indeed possible to connect multiple USB microphones to a single computer, using software that specifically allows for that, like Hindenburg Journalist Pro (see my many articles here), Sound Siphon (covered in these recent articles) or Audio Hijack. Some of these programs even allow recording multitrack from each USB mic, where each microphone is recorded on an independent track for maximum control in post production.
However, despite those possibilities, there are challenges —and solutions, as I covered in Monitoring challenges when using multiple digital USB mics simultaneously (illustrated above).
What can’t you do with a USB (only) microphone?
You can’t connect a USB (only) microphone to a conventional camcorder, HDSLR or mirrorless camera. You also can’t connect it to a conventional audio recorder, or audio/video recorder. But there are indeed situations where a USB microphone is best for the application, especially when there is a single microphone to connect to a computer (or phone or tablet).
Lack of onboard monitoring
Most radio announcers and voice talent I have met (but not all) prefer to monitor themselves “live” as they record or broadcast, to perform instant evaluation and quality control. For those who want that function, it should be direct and virtually latency free, since hearing ourselves with a slight delay and can be both distracting and fatiguing. One of the closest recommended USB mics in this price range that indeed includes onboard latency-free monitoring is the Samson Q2U (reviewed here, Amazon — B&H). The Q2U is different both because it’s a dynamic (not condenser type) and because it’s hybrid, with XLR in addition to USB. However, since the Q2U is so sensitive to plosives, I only recommend the Q2U together with the A81WS presidential windscreen, and that total price (≈US$93) goes higher than of that the ≈US$75 USB-VOX (Amazon link).
Of course, depending upon the project, you can record yourself and then immediately verify the playback. However, even if you don’t want to hear yourself live, you will still want to wear either isolating headphones or earbuds/IFB when dealing with other people remotely, to avoid feedback. That is feasible when using the USB-VOX microphone with conventional computers, although the 3.5 mm jack is gradually disappearing from many of the latest models of smartphones and tablets, so I hope Plugable will add latency-free monitoring to its next USB microphone model.
I’’ll discuss this more in the Recommended uses and Conclusions section, ahead.
Lack of 24-bit resolution
Although it is great to have 24-bit resolution audio (see my Understanding 24-bit vs 16-bit audio production & distribution), it is not a must and not really expected in a USB microphone at the ≈US$75 price point. It just means that it’s more important to set the ideal volume level as precisely as possible at the beginning, before starting the broadcast or recording.
Some of the images in this article are courtesy of Plugable.
Recommended uses & Conclusions
The Plugable USB-VOX has a lot going for it for only ≈US$75 (Amazon link) when used quite closely, at a 45-degree angle: high voice quality, great background rumble isolation, pop resistance and 48 kHz sampling frequency. Its only critical missing feature (onboard latency-free monitoring) will be a dealbreaker for the portion of potential purchasers who demand it. As a result, my recommended uses for the USB-VOX are for those who don’t like hearing themselves “live” in these applications:
- Audiobook production
- Remote co-hosts and interviewees on online radio shows (including podcasts)
- Webinar co-panelists
For most of those, they should use either isolating headphones or earbuds (plugged into the computer/smartphone/tablet that has a 3.5 mm output) to hear the other participants remotely, without feedback. The host or audio engineer can do the quality control for them and advise them, when required.
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No manufacturer is specifically paying Allan Tépper or TecnoTur LLC to write this article or the mentioned books. Some of the other manufacturers listed above have contracted Tépper and/or TecnoTur LLC to carry out consulting and/or translations/localizations/transcreations. Many of the manufacturers listed above have sent Allan Tépper review units, including Audio-Technica, Plugable , RØDE and Samson. So far, none of the manufacturers listed above is/are sponsors of the TecnoTur , BeyondPodcasting CapicúaFM or TuRadioGlobal programs, although they are welcome to do so, and some are, may be (or may have been) sponsors of ProVideo Coalition magazine. Some links to third parties listed in this article and/or on this web page may indirectly benefit TecnoTur LLC via affiliate programs. Allan Tépper’s opinions are his own. Allan Tépper is not liable for misuse or misunderstanding of information he shares.
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Color is the word this week, from the pioneering, contemporary, and successful work of Paul Outerbrdige through to applying the Orton Effect to color landscape images… or indeed, any images.
The VFX are made by:
Important Looking Pirates
Hybride (VFX Supervisor: François Lambert)
Raynault VFX (VFX Supervisor: Mathieu Raynault)
Rodeo FX (VFX Supervisor: Thomas Montminy Brodeur)
Cinesite (VFX Supervisor: Gunnar Hansen)
Future Associate (VFX Supervisor: Lindsay Adams)
Outpost VFX (VFX Supervisor: Nicholas Hurst)
MARZ (VFX Supervisor: Nathaniel Larouche)
SSVFX (VFX Supervisor: Ed Bruce)
Rogue One VFX (VFX Supervisor: Lance Ranzer)
Mackevision (VFX Supervisor: Emanuel Fuchs)
Pixomondo (VFX Supervisor: Adam Figielski)
One of Us (VFX Supervisor: Jo Amery)
Jellyfish Pictures (VFX Supervisors: Dave Cook and Jonathan Cheetham)
The Production VFX Supervisor is Erik Henry.
Creator: Damon Lindelof
Release Date: October 2019 (HBO)
© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2019
Mirrorless cameras like the Sony A7 don’t use a traditional phase detect autofocus. While this enables popular features like eye tracking autofocus, it brings a number of tradeoffs, which could be a deal-breaker for certain applications.
As you can probably tell by my work I am a huge fan of composite photography. I chose the path of the composite warrior for a couple of reasons in the beginning.
When I moved to Singapore in 2010, I picked up both scuba diving and underwater photography. As many divers do, I began traveling with my local dive club. It was a great group of Singaporeans and expats and I loved each and every adventure.
A surgeon at a meat market. It’s an absolutely simple yet ridiculous idea, so it had to be done for real! China has been harvesting organs from detainees, so maybe this absurd project of mine isn’t so far from the truth!
I am very lucky to have so many great friends with massive storage units of strange stuff that they are willing to lend me. I remembered that one of my friends had a stretcher, so I only needed a meat counter with innards and a couple of models.
As I was talking about this project to another friend of mine, he then came up with how to get models, a meat counter, and innards all at once. One call and all was set — there would be a photoshoot the following week. What a great feeling to have these kinds of contacts!
As always, I first did a very raw sketch drawing using Photoshop. This way I know what we need for the scene and whether the idea comes through in the image.
Next, we figured out the costumes for the models. The surgeon costume we bought from a local costume shop, the butcher only needed an apron (and luckily one of the models had one), so the last thing we needed was the patient’s item, which we got from a very friendly vet.
The photoshoot took place in a large garage. And as usual, big garages have lots of things in them, so we didn’t have too much space to play around. Well, too much free space is waste of space, so we figured out that if we moved the counter so that it was angled towards the wall, I could frame my camera so that all the unnecessary items wouldn’t be in the photo.
As the set was built, I began to make the lighting setup.
I used one Godox AD360 with a Godox P90L parabolic softbox on front angled 45 degrees down, two 50 x 70 gridded softboxes on both side of the scene with Godox AD360 and Godox V1, one snoot with Nikon SB24 to light butchers face, and one Selens 60×90 softbox with Nikon SB-24 on the left front side to open shadows.
In post-processing, I added text to the old ads we placed on the scene and also a broken window on the wall.
Here’s a behind-the-scenes video:
Here’s a closer look at portions of the photo:
And here’s the finished photo:
About the author: Juhamatti Vahdersalo is a commercial photographer. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Vahdersalo’s work on his website.
During a 3-year span, from 2015-2017, Wild West Days had an amazing photographer for the event. Along the main stretch of the 1880s-style Boomtown, his photography studio was just like walking into a late 1800’s studio. He dressed the part. He had tintypes, daguerreotypes, and ambrotypes on display, along with a stereoscope. Lastly, he had a large fully-functional 8×10 box camera and was doing portraits (see Iteration 0 below), later mailed out as B&W prints and cabinet cards. He was awesome and the end result looked great!
However, he promised to do three years, and 2017 was his third year. He loved doing Wild West Days but respectfully wanted to pursue other things. I stepped exactly into his shoes to continue the excellent service he was providing.
He sold the 8×10 box camera to me for a fair price, knowing I would continue what he started. This camera was an 1865-inspired recreation that he built with his own skill, calling it the “1865 Brady”. He kept the “lens” (painted PVC tube) he was using but sold me an authentic 1863 lens I could use for the very reasonable price he originally paid for it. I quickly fell in love with this lens.
He didn’t know it, but the lens was 4×5, about 115mm. This doesn’t work on an 8×10 camera. But I had a plan!
As a side-note, I laser-cut some Waterhouse stops for the lens so I could demonstrate how they work.
This is how he originally shot portraits, using a simple point-and-shoot camera out the hollow barrel of a lens (which isn’t the one pictured here). While posing for the picture, this simply didn’t look 1880’s.
My goal for the project: Maintain the 1880’s-era operation of the camera, as seen from the outside, to keep the whole photography studio looking and operating in an authentic way. However, instead of glass negatives, keep a digital workflow for the end product. (The customers do not see the digital part since it’s processed and printed after the event.)
Ready for the 2018 season, I had the camera working and digitized.
Using the authentic 1863 lens, I focus it onto a plexiglass “ground glass” 4×5 focus plane.
When ready, I switch it to a white matte board. I turn on the pre-focused and calibrated Nikon D750 digital camera.
After my fumbling around under the black cloth (as seen by the subjects and spectators), I put the glass-negative holder in place on the back of the camera and pull the dark-slide while covering the lens, like you’d to in the 1880s.
I ask the subject(s) to hold still and “watch the birdie” while I uncover the lens.
The Nikon D750, triggered remotely from a hidden spot below the camera, takes a picture of the white matte board via the angled mirror. The picture looks something like this:
Note: This was taken on my wooden calibration target, not the white matte board. The lines are 4×5, portrait and landscape.
I fix the perspective and process the digital photo normally, resulting in a B&W or sepia version of this:
Similar to before, I was offering 4×5 prints and small cabinet cards to customers, mailed out after processing.
I purposefully kept the prints small. Why? The lens, similar to those like it in the 1860s, has a soft focus wide-open and gets blurrier and darker towards the edges. I was shooting in a fairly dark studio, taking a picture of a shadow reflected off of white matte board. On the Nikon, due to the angle of the mirror, I had to stop down the aperture to f/8 to get most of the 4×5 image in focus, driving the ISO to 128,000, and a shutter speed at an authentic 1/2 to 1 second.
These example photos from The Wild West Days 2018 look good small but are very noisy upon closer inspection. (The one in the middle is my lovely wife, madam of the saloon girls, on the cabinet card design.)
Photographers in the 1880s were capturing better-quality photos than I was. I wanted to upgrade!
Since I was better at laser-cutting, I redesigned the camera guts in CAD and laser-cut the new design for Wild West Days 2019.
There are several notable upgrades:
- A solid plate with the white matte on it.
- A solid plate with an improved “ground glass” (From a broken LCD monitor — there is one layer in there that works absolutely perfectly, I’d say even better than ground glass.)
- A shelf to make switching plates easier and faster.
- Three positions for the plate, for some very close portraits with “amazing bokeh”.
- Mirror is in a fixed position and won’t move.
- Nikon is in a fixed position and won’t move, and is mounted as close as possible for the biggest-sized picture I can get.
- Lens upgraded to a tilted version, so I can tilt to match the mirror’s angle. (Without spending $1,000 on a tilt-shift lens.) This allows me to shoot at f/2, which is 2 EV stops better than before.
So why not photograph the focus screen directly (like other photographers have done)? It has its own artifacts like ground glass grain and much heavier vignetting than it should. Mostly, however, is the space. The box camera isn’t deep enough to allow this method, while still having the authentic-looking glass plate holder on the back. If it were an extra foot longer, perhaps this would be the way to go.
Here’s what the new version looks like. It still has some issues due to the tilt, but over-all it’s better than before. The first image is wide-open. The second image has the f/16 Waterhouse stop inserted to show the tilt issues better. (The tilted lens is wide-open f/2 for both.) The subject is 5ft away with the backdrop 10ft away.
All-in-all, this project has been fantastic! I’ve hacked an old camera in ways no other photographer (that I know of) has. The camera works pretty well and appears totally authentic from the outside, and retains the characteristics of the original 1863 lens and 4×5 image size. Everyone who walks into my shop feels like they’re getting a portrait done in the late 1800s while also learning a bit about photographic history.
About the author: Doug Hickok is a photographer based in Wisconsin who offers his services through A. Hickok Country Photography. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can also connect with the studio on Facebook. This article was also published here.
Landscape photography can be a tricky genre full of nuance and requiring excellent technique, and it is easy to fall prey to some common mistakes. This excellent video details five common mistakes landscape photographers make and how to fix them.
I have read so many magazine articles, social media posts, and had discussions in which ‘established’ photographers don’t think new and aspiring photographers should be allowed to chart the same course that they once did (and perhaps still do). I’m referring to the general idea of starting with little or no fee to gain experience and establish themselves.
With destination weddings and elopements, this is a particularly hot topic because photographers may be willing to work in exchange for their travel costs being covered.
Those that speak out against this are just doing so out of fear. They’re scared of you and what you represent. They’re scared you’ll take what they feel entitled to. They seem to conveniently forget that once upon a time they did the same thing in some way or another, albeit a little different in the current (and temporary) Insta landscape.
Granted, having photographers offering their services for very little does put a strain on things, especially for those set in their ways, but I don’t think that’s remotely close to being the real cause for their struggles.
What I see today is not an industry being destroyed by newcomers. Rather, I see a more narrow spectrum of ‘good’ to ‘bad’ photography than ever before. By that I mean, for example, a photographer just starting out now might actually do a pretty darn good job creating a product comparable to an established photographer who expects and feels entitled to a lot of money for what they do.
New photographers today are good! Way better than I was when I started. That’s to be celebrated, not feared.
The answer? It’s simple. Be better. Raise the bar. Price is dictated by the relative value in the current market, not what it was in years past.
When I started, I saved up, bought some gear, and got myself to as many weddings I could. Initially, I assisted for free and second shot for free. When I started shooting weddings of my own, I did so for very little pay. On one occasion, I shot a wedding for nothing because I saw opportunity. I was right, and as a result, virtually overnight I had a successful business in Melbourne. I got lucky, but as they say, you earn your luck.
Later, I had my first opportunity to take on the world with a destination wedding. We negotiated that the couple would pay for my flights and accommodation. Again, I saw opportunity and again, I was right.
These and many other calculated investments I made in myself over the years have paid dividends a million times over. Today, my photography that I have put so much blood, sweat, and tears into justifies a higher fee than when I began, and I’m grateful and humbled by that. I also acknowledge that may not always be the case. That justification needs to be continuously earned.
If you’re starting out, I want you to know that it’s perfectly okay to follow this same equivalent path. Forget all the crap going around. Furthermore, in a general sense, every single photographer (and artist!) that you look up to and admire started out that very same way — at the bottom, working for peanuts. Your favorite rock band probably started out playing for beers.
That can be your path too, and if it is, I sincerely wish you the very best of luck. If you are passionate you will succeed without question. Godspeed.
About the author: Eric Ronald is a wedding photographer based in Melbourne, Australia. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Ronald’s work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram.
A good location portrait is the successful combination of a number of factors — lighting, wardrobe choices, props, location choice, and more. This excellent video goes behind the scenes of just such a set of portraits to discuss how all these factors come together to make successful, compelling images.
Aurora Aperture introduced a new filter system which you can preorder on Kickstarter (Click here). Press Text: Aurora Aperture introduces a revolutionary filter system: adapter mount format filters for mirrorless mount adapters Irvine, California, July 15th, 2019 – Aurora Aperture…
The Sigma 45mm F2.8 is neither the fastest nor the sharpest of the three full-frame mirrorless lenses recently launched for Sony E-mount and Sigma/Panasonic/Leica L-mount. But what it is is a compact, lightweight piece of glass perfect for walking around. And we did just that with it, have a look.