This is a big post. This week was mostly about PhotoPlus Expo, the annual photography conference and trade show in New York. But the week started with Monday and Tuesday in the studio, working on the next DxO video.
Shooting in studio
We shot the entirety of the video in the new studio, which worked out really well. The green screen on the wall, as you saw last week, isn’t right for everything (and I still have the reflection issues to deal with, but that’ll have to wait), but I came up with a really cool way to swap out the backgrounds relatively easily. 4×8 foot sheets of “door skins”, which are meant for covering doors to make them look like some other kind of wood, make great backdrops. I’ve used them before for false floors in shoots, but now I’m using them in a different way. I took one eight foot long 2×4 and cut it into two three-foot and two one-foot pieces, then mounted the two larger ones low on the wall as the base, and the two smaller ones up high as the top brace, and screwed in a few “straps” (small pieces of metal meant mostly for mending or holding things together) to keep the panels from falling off the wall. See the photo; it’ll make a lot more sense!
Now I have a variety of backdrops… a few types of wood, some of which I’ll stain, and a shiny white dry erase board, and another board that we’ll paint one side a matte white and the other a middle grey. Or black. Yeah, black would be cool!
I also installed new light panels. I tried to DIY the lights and go really cheap with a few clamp lamps and some high intensity LED bulbs, but the bulbs made an audible buzz. Even the guys at the hardware store were surprised, and we opened a bunch of other bulbs off the shelf to verify, but ultimately I returned all those and moved up a level (and a decimal point… damn) to put in two flat LED panels behind my DIY diffusion screens (for how to make those, you’ll have to wait for that lynda.com DIY course to be released!), and the whole thing came out great. I'll share a photo of the complete setup another time.
So Monday and Tuesday were spend shooting the live action video for DxO as well as capturing all the screen grabs, my editor/motion graphics designer started working on his side of things, and a rough cut went to the audio designer later in the week. As soon as we’re done and the final cut is approved I’ll share that here, which should be next week.
Wednesday morning bright and early I hopped a flight to New York for PhotoPlus Expo. New York is of course an amazing city, and one I love to visit. It’s funny, on the flight there, I got one of those Facebook “today xx years ago” alerts, and there was a photo of Alenka and I on a plane to NY together, living it up in First Class (I was flying a lot back then, so domestic upgrades were common), traveling to PhotoPlus, six years ago!
New York rocks but is stupid expensive. So one bit of passing advice for anyone going there… look into Airbnb (and this link will get you $20 off your first reservation). It’s been my favorite way to stay in cities for a while now, if I’m going to be there for more than a couple of nights. For less money than a crappy hotel room, I had an entire one bedroom apartment to myself, complete with kitchen, couch and full size table to work at. Not to mention it was only two blocks from the Javits center where PhotoPlus is held. (We even used Airbnb when we went to Tokyo for our family vacation this summer, and it was perfect.) Here's the view from the apartment's fire escape.
At PhotoPlus I presented for DxO Labs and also worked the Panasonic booth for my role as a LUMIX Luminary. This left little time to roam the show floor, but did get a few quick runarounds.
The Meural frame
One of the most interesting things I saw was a company called Meural which is making a digital picture frame for your wall. We’ve all seen those before, so what makes this interesting? Historically, these picture frames fall into one of two categories. Affordable yet unacceptably terrible (is that a face or a smudge?), or gorgeous and unacceptably expensive (who wants to spend $4,000 on a digital frame?!). Meural has sourced off-the-shelf components that work. You get what’s basically a 1080p 30” TV in a frame with their custom software and hardware behind it, but the LED panel they’ve sourced is gorgeous. It has a matte finish and an ambient light sensor so the end result is a picture that looks like a well-lit print. Honestly, when I first walked past it, I thought it was a print. It has motion sensors built into the frame so you can swipe through photos and access the menu system by waving your hand in front of it — no contact needed. It is 16×9, which is a little bit unfortunate, however that is what allows the cost to be so low. $495 will be the retail price, and pre-orders are $445. Shipping later this year. I’ll be talking to the company about using their frames as an art installation in a local gallery in my home town; at this cost, it’s only about double the price of a similar sized high quality mounted print. Put a few of these on the wall, a one-time investment, and then sell prints on-demand without having to pre-buy prints you hope you can sell. Imagine how a potential customer can view not just one photo but swipe/wave through many, swipe/wave up to read more (like a price for a print). Eventually I’d love to see an ApplePay reader built in so you can just hold up your phone to order a print. Anyway I’ll be looking into hanging an installation of these frames.
The Mitakon lens
The other big win at the show was a Chinese lens company called Zhong Yi Optics, who make a handful of lenses for various manufacturers, including a micro four thirds mount for the Panasonic LUMIX cameras. The prize lens is the Mitakon 25mm f/0.95 (50mm equivalent) lens. Yes you read that right… an aperture of 0.95. Pretty cool. The build quality feels more like a Leica than anything else I’ve seen out of China, and while I have’t done any extensive testing, the quality seems very very good. It’s a stepless (also called de-clicked) aperture, which means you can smoothly choose any aperture you like without it popping from f/2 to f/2.8 to f/4, for example. This is critical in video work so you can smoothly change exposure over time, but it’s also cool for stills works to really get the depth of field exactly as you want it.
Partner in crime Giulio Sciorio was the first to buy it and introduce the rest of us to it; a few of us descended on the booth the following day to get one. They are also making (and had a working prototype on the floor) a 135mm (270mm equivalent) f/1.4 lens. That thing is a beast but wow, what a chunk of glass. Here’s a few shots from the 25/0.95 lens. Yes, all B&W… New York brings out the B&W in me.
LUMIX at PhotoPlus Expo
On the Panasonic booth, we had a totally new booth design which includes a center stage to do something cool. This time we had a trick shot pool player Ewa Laurance doing her thing (and challenging anyone who would accept to a game of nine ball), all so visitors had something to shoot while they tried out the cameras. One of the big features we’re promoting right now is called “4K Photo Mode”, which basically means you shoot 30 fps 4K video with the intention of pulling 8 MP still frames out of it. For anything fast moving or unpredictable, it’s awesome.
We also showed shooting 4K anamorphic with a LUMIX GH4 connected to the new Atomos Ninja Assassin, which is the new $1300 4K viewing screen that captures 10-bit ProRes HQ straight to an SSD card. The original model is over $2,000 and includes SDI and XLR inputs, which a lot of people don’t need. HDMI-in is what you want from the GH4, and line-level audio for sync, and that’s it. Removing those extra components allowed Atomos to lower the cost dramatically. This is an incredible add-on to a GH4 for 4K video setup. Brave new world.
PDN / LUMIX photowalk
On Friday evening, fellow Luminary Michael Grecco led a photowalk along the High Line in NY. If you’ve never been there, it’s an old raised train track that has been converted to a nearly 1.5 mile linear park. It’s beautiful and offers fantastic views of the city. I tagged along to help answer any LUMIX questions, and of course to get some shots myself.
DxO Labs at PhotoPlus Expo
Presentations on the DxO Labs booth for the DxO ONE software was tons of fun. Three 30-minute shows a day, running the audience through DxO Connect, Optics Pro, Film Pack, ViewPoint, and then through Lightroom. A very fast paced tour and lots of fun. This is something I used to do at Apple, and just love it. It felt good to do these kinds of presentations again! Very incredibly awesome photographer John Stanmeyer, founding member of VII Photo Agency was kind enough to post a photo on Instagram of me doing my thing.
Final re-edit on Beauty After Breast Cancer photos
I spent one of my evenings in New York editing photos for the Beauty After Breast Cancer book. As I mentioned last week we got a test book, and of course some images needed to be readjusted for print. So those are all done now, and a round of test pages will get printed up next week.
Week to come
And that was the week! Busy one for sure. Next week we’ll be finishing up the new DxO video, and focusing on getting the broadcast side of the new video studio up and running. That will be very exciting to have live finally, as it will be a huge part of how PhotoApps.Expert will be developing going forward.