Canon 5D MKII capturing the NYC 4th show by Mike Kobal (24-70mm at 2.8 at ISO 2000). Once again, the MKII delivers amazing video quality. Still waiting for Nikon’s answer before I take the plunge though. There are some more 5D MKII video examples over at Kobal’s Blog.
By the way, did anybody else happen to catch the San Francisco fireworks “show”? This puts it to shame and then some. I’ve seen better displays at Dolores Park (before they started parking that mobile command station RV out there and ruining it for everyone).
I’ve always loved official stamps and seals; as a kid I used my dad’s Civil Engineer’s certification stamp to make official looking paperwork and IDs for fun. I was looking for a way to add something like that to the upcoming Giclee line I’ve been working on but I rulled out rubber stamps as I wanted something a bit more subtle. So I recently started looking in to getting a paper embosser made with my signature logo. I was pretty surprised by how easy it was and how great the results are. The pictures don’t really do it justice, but you get the idea. The stamp can be embossed or debossed and it really adds a nice crafted touch to a project. It’s so fun I’ve started just embossing everything around the house; just cool to see the thing work.
The main cost is the press which runs about $200 (seems steep for what looks like a glorified stapler). The dies themselves — the circular part that hold the custom design — are included in this initial cost and are interchangeable. The only issue I’ve run into is with creasing at the edges. Depending on how you stamp it there will be moderate (first photo) to severe (second photo) creasing toward the edges. I am working with the vendor to fix this and depending on the technique I am able to minimize the effect. This may just be an artifact of this particular stamp as most are circular seal designs that fill the entire die, but I’m waiting until I can get it to be almost invisible. To be fair though, the flash is really exaggerating the effect in both shots, the creases really aren’t that noticeable in normal light.
Another fun — and far cheaper — alternative is rubber stamps (see third pic). I had a couple made by the same people and it’s been fun blasting those all over everything. But I was thinking the embosser in particular would be a really good buy for design students wanting to add a little extra something to their projects and also to mark their text books. It really has that old school real-world graphic design feel.
The unit pictured above is a heavy duty desk press from Made to Order Stamp and Seal out of New Mexico. We tried some local vendors initially, but the customer service of Made to Order was much better. They really work with you to determine the best option for your needs, and can turn around a custom job within a week. Highly recommended.
So I picked up some Nikon flashes last week and have been having a lot of fun with them. I got the SB-900 and its little brother, the SB-600. I’ve been running the 900 attached to the camera (D80) and have the 600 as a remote slave using Nikon CLS. Using the multiple flash setup has yielded some really great results (see this post for some examples) but even with just one flash attached directly to the camera I’ve found it’s pretty easy to get great shots.
Just thought I’d post some random shots I got playing around to illustrate how easy it is to get decent stuff using a good flash. I didn’t do all the post-processing stuff I usually do so you could see the raw output (save for the first one which I color filtered inside the camera). These were all shot with NEF RAW in adverse lighting conditions, most in very low incandescent light. As you can see, just the single flash was enough to fully light the scene and balance the color. If memory serves correct they were all taken with the SB-600 attached the camera. Also check out Alex’s post on the SB-600 for some other examples. As I work with the flashes more this week I will post more examples and info.
I’m looking for someone with detailed knowledge of overclocking Intel systems to help tweak a production system in the studio. It’s running an Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 CPU (liquid cooled) on an Asus Maximus Formula Mobo with Patriot 8GB DDR2 PC8500 1066MHz memory (detailed specs here). If you or anyone you know can help overclock this machine please contact talk [@] iso50 [dot] com with the word “overclock” in the subject. Location is not an issue, we can handle it over the phone or video if need be. Please include a cost estimate in your email.
I’ve had the machine overclocked in the past, but it was never as stable as I needed and I wasn’t able to get the memory running as fast as I wanted so I’m hoping someone can step up and sort it all out.
If you follow the blog you’ll know that I’ve touched on the subject of SSDs before. A quick primer for the uninitiated: an SSD (solid state drive) is a storage device that uses solid state memory (As in no moving parts, other examples include RAM and flash memory) and so it can access data much faster than the mechanical head/platter drives most people use now and with no moving parts, data loss due to mechanical failure is a thing of the past. The promise of SSD is huge and as they become commonplace they will no doubt revolutionize the way we work (think Photoshop swap disks that read and write @ 1400MB/s or computers that boot in 5 seconds). Because I work with such large raster files, swap disk performance in particular is a very big issue for me so I keep a close eye on the SSD market, waiting for the moment when the price to performance ratio hits the sweet spot. Right now most SSD technology is still on the pricey side and there are a few technical issues that are still being sorted out (write endurance supposedly being one of them) so I haven’t jumped in just yet. But as things change I will continue to post updates on the SSD situation.
For the first installment I thought I’d post on the very interesting OCZ Z-Drive. It’s insanely expensive right now, but as we all know, those prices drop pretty fast as the tech matures (remember $800 DVD writers?). The Z-Drive is basically 4 SSD drives in a RAID 0 array on a PCI-Express card. This is a novel concept; by using the PCI-Express bus OCZ has sidestepped the bottleneck of the SATA controllers allowing huge throughput in both directions. Boasting 700MB/s write speeds, the Z-Drive is certainly no slouch, but considering the price (they start at $1500!!) I’m holding out for more. I think the magic number for me would be 1000MB/s for around $500. This would make a perfect solution for Photoshop swap disks and other applications that require massive read/write throughput (video render disks etc.) and while it doesn’t make sense for me right now, it’s great to see this emerging technology headed in the right direction.
If you follow this blog you’ll know that the past year of my life has seen me running a veritable gauntlet of operating systems on my new-ish PC. I’ve run XP32, XP64, OS X, Vista32, Vista64, Server 2008×64, and now, finally, I am running the superb Windows 7 64-bit. Yes, superb, I didn’t expect it either. Although I did notice marked improvements in Vista/Server 2008 over XP, I always felt there was a compromise somewhere and it never felt quite as stable as I’d like. So it was with great anticipation last week that I followed my friend Dusty’s advice and installed the Windows 7 beta. It’s only been a week since the upgrade but I have really worked this thing hard and I am happy to report that it’s been the most stable and responsive OS experience I’ve had yet and outshines all of the examples mentioned above.
Although the beta program is “officially” closed, there’s no shortage of Windows 7 torrents to be had. Even Microsoft has tacitly endorsed the torrent acquisition method, honoring these versions with legitimate serials upon registration (although these serials are only valid until the final product is released). The install was a snap, it was very similar — but seemlingly even more streamlined — than with Vista and it’s right up there with the speed and ease of an OS X install routine. Once installed, it boots up very quickly and everything about the experience is very much “straight to the point”. Gone are the nags, pop-ups, and wizards (I hate wizards) of Vista/XP past, now virtually everything is disabled by default, letting the user choose what features they want. I usually spend the first hour of a new XP/Vista install going through and optimizing the settings, disabling services and generally clearing out the bloat and cutting the fat. With Windows 7 that process took literally 2 minutes, I only had to disable a few notifications and one of the more annoying features of the Aero theme (the slowly animated minimize/maximize of the windows).
Speaking of the Aero theme, Microsoft have “borrowed” liberally from the OS X “Aqua” interface on many fronts. From Windows 7′s new dock functionality to it’s feeble attempt at some sort of expose-esque functionality, they’re obviously taking cues from the success of their Mac brethren. While I think the new dock is very successful, I think the Windows expose falls flat. In fact the one big thing I still miss about OS X when working in Win7 is the show-all-windows / show-desktop hot corner functionality of the Mac; it’s just so damned useful. Unfortunately, the Windows 7 knock-off is not quite there.
Anyways, back to the install. I had all my fonts and the full CS4 suite loaded within 15 minutes and was tearing through 3GB PSB’s (Photoshop Large Document Format) shortly thereafter. In my experience Photoshop stability (and stability in general for that matter) is greatly improved in the new Windows. I also found noticeable (but not incredible) processing performance increases. Where I think Windows 7 really shines though is file handling and disk read/write functions. Saving and opening very large PSD’s has dramatically improved over Vista. Vista’s much maligned file handling was sluggish and inexplicably slow across the board. I’ve heard they had some sort of base-level DRM checking built into the core of the OS. That could be BS, but whatever it was it was a real problem and they’ve fixed it in Windows 7.
The icing on the cake came when I started working with Adobe Bridge CS4. In both XP and Vista I had horrible issues with Bridge, so bad that I had to quit using it. Every session would result in a crash, without fail, across the board. Every OS I have used until this point just didn’t play well with Bridge. But it seems to like Windows 7; I can churn out previews of PSB files in excess of 4GB in size with no problem. Thousands of NEF RAW files in one folder render to thumbs without a hitch now. Either of those would have choked Bridge half the time in the older OS’s on the same hardware. One glitch I’ve found is that the GPU acceleration in Photoshop is not working (see image below). It doesn’t recognize my video card as openGL capable even though I have the Win7 beta drivers installed, which was working fine under Vista. I suspect this is something that will be fixed sooner than later though through a driver update. Although now that the GPU acceleration is disabled and everything is running so smoothly, it makes me wonder if it was contributing to any instabilities I was experiencing under Vista. I guess that remains to be seen though.
A quick side note about the image below: Notice where it says “Available RAM: 7216″, that might be the number one reason I ditched the OS X install I had on this very same machine. PS is still 32-bit on OS X and therefore cannot utilize even half of that amount of RAM.
To be fair I haven’t put Win7 through it’s paces for audio yet, all of my testing has been with graphics apps only (Photoshop, Illustrator, Bridge, etc.) Next week I will be loading up Sonar and all the VST’s and giving that a spin. But Dusty, who uses Windows 7 solely for audio, has assured me that — with Ableton Live at least — it’s performing far better than Vista or XP on the very same machine. As a lifelong PC user (I do have a Macbook Pro, which I absolutely love for everything other than work) this is such a relief. Yes, Vista was a dog out of the gate, but anyone who has used it lately can’t help but recognize that Microsoft has gone a long was to fix the problems that plagued it and with Windows 7, I think they’ve finally gone the distance and realized the operating system that Vista was meant to be. I also think a lot of budget-minded creatives can now breathe a collective sigh of relief that the OS of choice for people who don’t have $4000 to spend on a computer is back.
I got an Epson R1800 a few years back and was always happy with it; the output was incredible and it was rather inexpensive considering. Sadly, it has clogged heads now. I fed it third party ink and then hit the road for a few months. When I returned almost all the colors were jammed up and despite numerous attempts at cleaning with various methods, it’s still not working. Fortuneately, Alex has one and has been printing off my proofs in the meantime while I try to decide on a new printer.
I’ve always kicked myself for not having gone for a larger format printer when I bought the R1800; the 13″ width was very limiting and it just wasn’t economical with those tiny, expensive ink tanks. So this time around I am looking to move up to the large format models, either 26″ or 44″. I have had to outsource a lot of my large format stuff in the past and by now, I probably could have bought the printer with what I’ve spent paying the print shop for jobs. So I think I’ve narrowed the search down to the two new Epson models, the 7900 (24″) and the 9900 (44″). They both have all the same features, they only differ in maximum paper width and price. I posed the question of which one to go with on Twitter today and got some good responses. The one that stuck with me though was from @jheftman: “Buy it nice or buy it twice.” Indeed, I’ve been through that already with the R1800. But I am glad I learned my lessons with the R1800, they could have been much more expensive with one of the large models.
As for the alternatives, I did talk to my friend Erik Natzke about his setup. He’s running an HP 44″ and had nothing but good things to say about it. I have heard a lot of opinions on both platforms and it’s a tough call. In the end I might go with Epson just because that’s what I know and it was a pretty steep learning curve with a lot of trial and error to get predictable color output from the R1800, I wouldn’t want to go through that again with another brand.
So I thought I’d pose the same questions to you: What have your experiences been with large format printers? Any reason that Epson is superior at the point to HP, or vice versa? Sound off in the comments, any info you might have either way would be greatly appreciated.
You’re looking at the Xerox Star which “represented the most complete implementation of the ‘Desktop Metaphor’ of any system until the advent of mature Desktop graphical interfaces later on the Mac and PC/Unix/Linux in the 1990s” [source:digibarn] Digibarn has posted up several Polaroids from 1981 depicting the various facets of the Star 8010′s interface (a few of which are shown below). I don’t know what’s more amazing: how ahead of it’s time this GUI was, or how little the OS interface has changed in the past 28 years. This was nearly three decades ago and we’re still clicking folder icons and using archaic pointing devices. Where’s my Minority Report interface!? My wrist hurts.
Check out all the rest of the hi-res Polaroids here.