Tuesday, November 17, 2015

My Next Phone Will Be a… Sony?

UPDATE (1-14-16): Unlocked versions of the Z5 and Z5 Compact will go on sale in the us on Feb. 7 for $600 and $500, respectively. Now I just have to decide if I'm going to make due with my awful GS5 for now and keep waiting for the Z7, rumored to have a Snapdragon 820 chip instead of the 810 (the 810 has it's fair share of problems compared to the 820).

I am SOOOOOO sick of these GIANT phones they keep cramming down our throats.  If my HTC Droid Incredible had 4G/LTE I would be in heaven.  I would immediately switch back, old processor and almost no RAM be damned.  I long for the feel of that tiny and wonderful little powerhouse (at the time it came out) in my hand and pocket.  When I’ve been using my Samsung Galaxy 5 and then pick up my Droid Inc., it feels like I’m holding a matchbook.

I’m not quite ready to go “watch small” (plus, I wouldn’t be able to live without a really decent camera on me), but I can’t take these dinner-plates-as-phones any more!

Not only that, but I’ve been EXTREMELY unhappy with my GS5.  I’m not sure if it’s Samsung’s fault or Verizon’s, but the user experience on this powerhouse of a piece of hardware is just abysmal.  Never have I had a device butt-dial like the horrible GS5.  If someone texts, the phone wakes up… in your pocket.  I’ve actually had my phone dial Australia (among many, many, many other super-annoying things).  There is no way to disable this HUGE problem short of completely disabling ALL text message notifications.  If you want to know that your phone received a text, it will wake up in your pocket and dial your grandmother.  Period.

There are a bunch of other gripes about the phone that I won’t go into in this post, but what seemed on paper like it would be the best phone ever has just turned out to be a horrible, horrible user experience.  Not a day goes by that I don’t complain about how much I hate using the Samsung Galaxy S5 (even though I did use it to shoot an underwater film at 4k, which was a pretty crazy thing when the phone first came out).  I actually have a second GS5 that I rooted, and that’s better (though far from perfect), but it’s such a PITA to root and maintain a phone, especially once the GS5 upgraded to Lollipop, that I’m just ready for a new phone.

Wading through the possibilities, I find that the only phones available are these giant, god-awful eye sores that you can’t use with one hand (and I’ve got pretty big hands!).


If this Sony Xperia Micro concept phone designed by Dwight Looi were real, there is no question it would be my top choice for my next phone.  But since it’s just a concept, I’ll have to settle for the slightly larger Xperia Z5 compact.


What do I like about the Z5 compact (other than the fact that at 4.6” diagonal it’s the smallest “flagship level” smart phone you can get in the US right now?):

  • Snapdragon 810 Octacore 64bit processor
  • 23MP camera (5MP through the screen front camera with 1080p video)
  • 4K video
  • Fingerprint reader in the power button (that supposedly actually works well, unlike my Samsung)
  • Water resistant (without the awful usb and headphone port flappy-crappy cover that my Samsung requires, which makes it basically NOT water resistant)
  • It’s boxy! (rounded edges look like preschool toys; give me razor sharp edges any day!!!)
  • rapid charge
  • dedicated camera button
  • supposedly .03 second focus speed?! (we’ll see – this article says it takes 3 or 4 seconds to load the camera app, so a .03 snap time doesn’t really matter if the camera won’t open quickly)
  • Best battery life in class (and since the compact has a smaller screen, it gets even better battery time than the Z5 even though the battery has a slightly smaller capacity)
  • up to 200GB microSD card
  • Cat 6 download LTE speeds on model E5823 (some models only have Cat 4)

It’s still going to have Sony bloat software (some of which you can supposedly disable), and since I’m on Verizon I’m sure they’ll crap it out with a bunch of garbage, but at least Android is doing a decent job of letting you disable a lot of Verizon’s atrocities.

It sucks that only the larger model is available in metal, but at least the Compact is matte plastic (not the shiny, slimy, plastic that most manufacturers are opting for these days).

Yes, the Z5 cameras don’t have optical image stabilization (though it does have Sony’s “SteadyShot”), but that seems to be the only reason the camera loses to the GS6 and LG G4 in camera comparisons, and supposedly the Samsung GS7 will be adopting the current Z5’s sensor.  So while Sony is KILLING IT in the photo/cinema world right now (low light sensitivity in the mirrorless AR7II is mind boggling), for some reason they aren’t putting that same “HOLY SH*T!” oomph into the cameras on their phones… but I think they’re still pretty damn good.

Oh… by the way, the Z5 Premium will be released later this year with a 4K display… on a phone.  Who the f*ck cares about a 4K screen on a phone –especially if it makes the phone HUGE, which is the biggest problem with today’s phones in the first place?!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Why the New Hulu “Watchlist” Sucks

Hulu has recently implemented new functionality for how you access shows (and what is easily accessed).

If you follow Hulu’s constant recommendation to “update” to the new Watchlist, you lose all control of what content you watch.  In other words, the Watchlist is made so Hulu can force-feed you whatever programming they are trying to push.  They claim it is based on your viewing habits, but I believe that is b.s.  They are simply trying to control what you watch.

Here are some reasons why "watchlist" sucks:

  1. You have NO control of what plays after the episode you are currently watching (this is a MAJOR problem).  If you don’t hit “play all” for a program, and the episode you are currently watching is finished, instead of playing the next unwatched episode, or even an episode from another show you have “favorited,” they will try and get you to watch some other “recommended” show (STOP TRYING TO FORCE ME TO WATCH “NEW GIRL.” Are you f*cking kidding me?!).  So once an episode is over, you have to spend a LONG time trying to navigate to the next effing show you want to watch.
  2. When you open up Hulu or finish watching a show, there is no direct link to your Watchlist.  Not from the main page.  Not from the main navigation choices at the top of the page.  NOWHERE.
  3. Sometimes if you've “favorited” a show but have already seen all the episodes, Hulu keeps trying to make you watch old episodes (even shows with new episodes you haven't seen force feed you episodes you’ve already watched from previous seasons!).
  4. Similar to #3, here is no way to change if an episode has been marked watched/unwatched, so Hulu will FOREVER try to keep feeding you “unwatched” episodes even if you have, in fact, already seen them. I don't know how many times they've tried to force me to watch Episode 3 of the "The Wrong Mans."  WHY?!?!?!  I watched that episode YEARS ago, and much as I liked it, I don’t want to watch it again!!!
  5. You cannot order your Watchlist, so the shows you watch most (or want to watch next or more often) are often at the end of a LONG list of garbage you've "bookmarked" but don't want to see every time I open Hulu.

I have more gripes, but I’ve already wasted enough of my day on this.

There doesn’t seem to any way to revert to the old Queue functionality, and while I love the new (more expensive and I’m totally willing to pay for it!) “watch without commercials” option, if I can’t revert to queue functionality, I will be ending my subscription.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

NOS Eighties Music Video from Story of the Running Wolf “Electric”

Nobody, and I mean nobody, is doing “new old stock” 80’s music like Story of the Running Wolf.

In their latest rehash/remake/re-love video from my favorite music era, SOTRW revisits Weird Science, with two adolescent kids creating a beautiful woman from synth parts and mannequin limbs.  I especially appreciate the effort they put into showcasing old tech (monochrome monitors, 5.25” floppies (they actually BEND!), et al).  It’s glorious.

The video was produced and directed by Bruce Driscoll and Marie Seyrat for Pyromantra Productions.  If those names sound familiar to you it may be because they are the band Freedom Fry (you should go getchaself summa that too)! http://www.freedomfrymusic.com/

If you EVER get a chance to see these guys live… DO. IT.  They are amazing --which is especially impressive for 80’s (mostly electronic) music.  Here’s a review I posted after I last caught them at the Sayers Club in LA: http://danbeahm.blogspot.com/2013/06/stratospheric-new-video-from-story-of.html

And if you didn’t see their last video for “Stratospheric” (a wonderful mashup of Labyrinth and Never Ending Story themes), check it out at: https://youtu.be/ZhrbEOPv5-k

Various credits and links for the “Electric” video:

Directed by Bruce Driscoll and Marie Seyrat for Pyromantra Productions.
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/ele...
Bandcamp: http://storyoftherunningwolf.bandcamp...
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/storyoftherunn...
Download the single "Electric" free on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/storyoftherunn...
Twitter/Instagram: @sotrw
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Storyoftheru...

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Converting a Natural Gas Cook Top Range to Propane (L.P.)

NOTICE: I am not responsible for YOUR actions.  This post is purely anecdotal. If you convert a cooktop to LP and blow yourself up, that’s totally on you.  I am providing information regarding where to get parts.  The whole “how you do it safely” thing is on YOU.

I spent the last two days having every nitwit in the plumbing and/or seasonal department of Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Ace Hardware tell me that hooking a 20# propane tank up to a regular gas range is the most bizarre and unheard of thing they’d ever encountered, and it would be impossible to do without consulting someone at a “very specialty” gas or propane type supplier.  Seriously.  Every single guy told me I’d have to go to a specialty supplier to make this work.


Before I say any more, let me tell you this: all you need is ONE, SINGLE 3/8” FL to 1/2” MIP ADAPTER, and here it is (and they ALL sell it!)…


As far as converting your range to propane, most cooktop ranges these days come with a little strip of metal fastened to the cooktop range regulator that contains tiny little brass orifices for converting the range from Natural Gas to L.P.  You simply unscrew the orifices that come pre-installed (the Natural Gas ones) and swap out the LP orifices (the one’s attached to the regulator) and then change the range’s regulator from Natural Gas to LP by either flipping a switch, or turning over a plastic insert.  The fact that everyone I spoke to was acting like this was the most bizarre and difficult thing they had ever heard was incredibly frustrating (and idiotic).

Every propane-fueled grill that Ace, Lowe’s, and Home Depot sells comes with a propane regulator and hose attached to the grill (to hook it up to a propane tank).  That same regulator/hose combo can be purchased separately, and will attach to your “regular” natural gas stove with the adapter pictured above.  Here’s what it looks like in action (twenty pound propane tank connected directly to cook top regulator)…


I am making no claims as to the safety or code/regulation requirements of this set up.  I’m simply stating that all it takes to get from your propane regulator hose (like what’s on your grill) to the cook top is the adapter pictured above (3/8” FL x 1/2” MIP).

I purchased a $1300 GE Profile Gas Cooktop from my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore for $75.  I then purchased a 6ft. stainless steel restaurant prep table off of Craiglist and will be cutting a hole in the top to drop the cooktop into.  Thus, I will have a five burner, propane-fueled cooktop and prep area on my patio, and will no longer be heating my house when cooking in the summer!

I plan on doing this conversion in our Airstream as well (buying a high end gas range at a thrift or salvage store and converting it to propane for the RV).  These cooktops are MADE to convert to propane.  Why was EVERYONE telling me it was such a crazy thing?!


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Largest Tires for CRD Jeep Liberty KJ Running Stock Set Up

I recently purchased a 1972 25' Airstream Trade Wind Land Yacht to refurbish (more on that later), and also needed new tires for my Jeep (they were pretty much bald).  I was planning on doing a 2 inch lift, and thus had been researching larger tires for the lift.  Now that the lift cash has gone into the Airstream purchase, I will be running stock set up on the Jeep a while longer.

There seems to be a lot of debate as to what the largest tire is that you can put on your Jeep KJ while running stock set up, so I am posting my real world experience here.

The "smallest" (there are of course a lot of different combos with width, wall height, rim size, etc.) Dueler A/T Revo 2 or Destination A/T (after researching price combined with customer reviews, this is where I landed) you can get in the “LT” version which is 10-ply instead of just 4-ply (a must for me with the trailer and off-roading) is LT245/75R16.  In order to get to the stock LT225/75R16 from Bridgestone/Firestone, I would have to purchase Transforce tires, and I don't like what I see from the reviews of those tires, especially in ice/snow and the amount of road noise they emit.

I chose Revos or Duelers because they seem to get good reviews for on and off road use without being too loud on pavement.  They also seem to get highest marks among similar tires (on/off road) for their handling of wet and icy pavement.  The Destination A/T’s were about $200 cheaper than the Revo 2’s, and from the reviews I’ve read and customer testimonials, it didn’t seem like the Revo’s were worth the extra cash (which I can now put into the Airstream).

Since there was some question if the 245’s would fit, the Firestone guys offered to mount the larger tires and let me drive around for a couple days before deciding, but just driving home this morning I'm sold.  The only rubbing I get is when I turn extreme left.  I can still do a u-turn in three lanes (I love my Jeep wheel base!) without rubbing, so you really have to cut to the max to rub.  In fact, just backing off a tiny bit stops the rubbing and really doesn't affect the radius of the turn but a few inches.

The hard right turn doesn't rub at all.

What is being rubbed is just the inner plastic lining of the wheel well, and when it does rub, the rub mark is only about an inch high (see photo with Chapstick for size reference).

I'm sure mileage will vary for specific vehicles as suspensions can vary a bit, but for my particular '06 CRD, while it's a bit tight, the LT246/75R16's definitely work!  You can see from the photo below of the front tire that it’s a bit tight, but like I mentioned, this is the smallest LT tire I can get in the Dueler/Revo, so I’m going with it!

Thanks to all who have posted on the Jeep forums in regard to this issue, as it has helped me with my tire purchase quite a bit.






Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Queuing Up Items to Watch Later in Plex Server

It is incredibly frustrating that there is no good way in Plex to click a button to add media to a “hopper” for watching later.  post-45536-0-49315800-1390566107I have a collection of hundreds and hundreds of movies.  Some I have watched part way through (and thus are automatically marked as either “read” or “unread” depending on whatever loony logic the Plex code uses).  Some have been added recently.  Some are favorites.  Some I simply want to remind myself I want to watch again without having to search through hundreds of titles to find them (or just remember I want to watch them again!).

None of these things really allow me to access these particular movies/shows quickly.

I have spent hours looking for a solution, and finally I have discovered the ONLY (seems crazy, huh?) way to do it, at least from the actual Plex Media Server (not one of their apps for a web browser or phone/tablet).

The short of it is this: you need to add the particular title to a COLLECTION.  Then, you can use a FILTER to find those particular titles.  You can’t add Collections to a Library, or your front page, or anything that would make SENSE, you can ONLY access a Collection via a filter.  It’s a pain in the *ss, but it’s the only way!

Here’s how accessing the collection works:

HOME > LIBRARY (click the library you want: movies, television, etc.) > OPTIONS (the three bars at the upper left will expand the side bar on the left) > COLLECTION (whichever collection listed under “FILTER” that you want shown).

You can add titles to a COLLECTION by either typing in the name of a Collection in the appropriate field of the title’s settings (where you view all the fields associated with a title), or you can go to the top-tier of the library (MOVIES, for instance), click SELECT ITEMS from the tool menu bar on the left (it’s the square with a check mark icon), then tick all the movies you’d like to add to a Collection.  Finally, click the icon of the folder and plus sign in the tool bar on the left, and select the COLLECTION to which you wish to add the titles (or create a new Collection).

Furthermore, once you do this, you should be able to access a “Collection” from your Roku, so you can relatively easily go to a list of your “queued” shows.  From the main Roku screen select the Plex channel > select a library from your Plex Library Sections > scroll down to “By Collection” > choose the Collection you want.  It’s a lot of hoops, but it’s the only way!

Unfortunately, since Movies and Television shows are stored in separate Libraries, you can’t access all queued items from one list (Collection).  You must view queued Movies and queued Television shows from their respective Libraries (totally ridiculous).  It’s also much harder to “bulk” add television shows since they are stored in sub-locations where the “select” option is not available (thus you have to add single shows to a Collection by typing the Collection name into the field under that particular show’s settings).

Turns out you can only add an ENTIRE SERIES to a collection.  You can’t add just a single episode, thus this method is worthless for adding single television episodes to your queue (again, REALLY Plex?  REALLY?!).

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Red Giant MisFire Setting Definitions

The problem with MisFire is that I have NO IDEA what the different settings of each thing do.  I end up having to look stuff up every time, and when I do, I usually end up at this page, so I’m reposting here (basically so it’s easier for me to find!).

Major props to whomever posted this information online at:


I can’t figure out what the aemoban site is (the top tier is in Chinese), so I’m reposting the information here (because who knows when that page will disappear).  No copyright infringement intended.  Just making the information available to the filmmaking community!


MisFire Plug-ins

MisFire adds a host of tools to your effects arsenal to simulate film damage. The main MisFire plug-in is a single complete tool that offers 13 different effects. Each category of effect can be turned off individually using the category switch. The effects are: Fading, Funk, Splotches, Dust, Flicker, Vignette, Displacement, Grain; and 3 different types of scratches, Microscratches, Basic Scratches and Deep Scratches.

The main MisFire plug-in is accompanied by individual plug-ins for each effect category. For example, if you only want to apply grain and basic scratches, you can apply these as individual effects called Misfire Grain and Misfire Basic Scratches.

MisFire plug-ins are not a perfect duplication of every type of film defect. Film defects are wide ranging in their appearance and include problems caused by dust, dirt, film wear, duplication problems, splicing, irregular exposure or improper storage of the film medium. These defects can show up in the frame or be caused by improper projection. MisFire attempts to artistically emulate a number of these defects.



MisFire Fading

Fading causes an overall lightening of your image that is exhibited as lower contrast.

Fade Amount: The default value is 100, lower values will lessen the effect.




MisFire Funk

Funk provides for tone variation across the frame. This simulates a film negative with lightness variation across the entire frame that may be caused by improper storage or in an environment where fungus or mildew could form. This is similar to the splotches but occurs throughout the frame and will persist from frame to frame.

Funk Opacity: The default is 15%. High values may look unnatural but feel free to adjust to taste.




MisFire Splotches

Splotches manifest as a local dirtiness or discoloration of the frame. This can happen on any frame and will usually only persist for a frame or two at a time.

Number: Controls the number of splotches on any given frame where the scale controls the size. The Scale value at 1.0 will cover about 40% of a standard DV-size frame or about 16% of a 2K film frame.

Transparency: Controls the darkness of the discolored areas. You may need to lower the value on very bright footage (to make the splotch less prominent) or raise the value for very dark footage to bring out the effect.

Frequency: Determines how often a splotch will appear in a sequence. The default value of 50 will cause a splotch to appear on half of the frames. Try lowering this value if you want the splotches to occur less frequently.




MisFire Dust

Dust essentially draws bits of black and white material onto the frame. This is effect is similar to the small particles that appear on film that has been run through a projector numerous times. The defaults are meant to generate a small amount of both black and white dust that is very noticeable.

NOTE: While a number of categories include a Frequency control, each category determines its frequency separately, so splotches won’t necessarily appear at the same frame as dust or any other category of effect.

Black Dust Amount, White Dust Amount: Control the maximum number of black or white dust particles appearing in any one frame. For large frame sizes, you may want to make this value much larger to increase the appearance of the dust.

Opacity: Specifies the transparency of the dust particles. The default is 100%, which makes the particles quite noticeable. If you want the dust to look smaller in the frame, try lowering this value to between 40 and 60%.

Frequency: Determines how often a dust particle will appear in a sequence. The default value of 50 will cause dust particles to appear on half of the frames. Try lowering this value if you want the dust to occur less frequently.




MisFire Flicker

Flicker causes the image brightness to change from frame to frame. This is similar to the uneven brightness caused by the degradation of an old print.

Frequency: Operates the same as in the Dust or Splotches categories, where the value specifies the percentage of frames in a sequence that will have change. The default value of 50 means that half of the frames in a sequence will change in brightness.

Flicker Amount: Controls the degree of brightness change. The default of 10 will cause only a small variation.




MisFire Vignette

Old film tends to exhibit a lot of darkening around the edge of the frames, which is often a result of the lens and camera that were used to shoot the film. Vignette will mimic this aberration. Unlike other MisFire effects, Vignette does not animate or change from frame to frame.

NOTE: Magic Bullet Looks includes an integrated Vignette tool that you can use as a replacement for MisFire Vignette. The two produce similar results but Looks' Vignette can be integrated into a Look rather than applied separately.

Size: Controls the overall width of the darkening where a value of 0 will darken all the way to the center and value of 100 will not darken the frame at all.

Intensity: Simply changes the amount of darkening.




MisFire Displacement

Often old or mishandled film prints can exhibit a warping of the image caused by a physical bend in the film frame itself. Displacement offers a very simple control for warping the image.

Amount: Specifies the level of warping in the image. With this control, a little goes a long way. This category of effect does not auto-animate so you may want to keyframe the Amount value.




MisFire MicroScratches

MisFire offers 3 different styles of scratches. MicroScratches are very thin, faint black lines across the entire image. Film is often scraped as it run through a projector, creating faint black lines on the frame, and this damage is what is replicated.

Number: Does not correspond to the number of scratches, but instead is a measure of the density of the scratches—higher numbers yield a denser field of black lines.

Opacity: Changes the transparency of the lines. The Number and Opacity controls should be adjusted in tandem. If you raise the Number control, you may want to lower the Opacity, or vice versa.




MisFire Basic Scratches

Basic Scratches generates thin bright or dark lines that wiggle or move from frame to frame. Unlike the MicroScratches or Deep Scratches effect, Basic Scratches will not cover the entire frame but will gently fade toward the top or bottom of the frame.

Number of Scratches: The specified number of scratches that will be drawn on the image.

Maximum Duration: Controls the maximum length that any one scratch will appear on the image. The duration is determined randomly for each scratch and can be between 1 frame and the maximum specified number of frames.

Invert: Lets you specify either dark lines (when it is on) or light lines when it is off.




MisFire Deep Scratches

Deep Scratches generates a colored scratch that appears to have depth, and to wiggle or move from frame to frame. This colored scratch mimics a physical scratch on the film that has removed some of the film resist, letting light through that is pure in color. The scratches can shift left or right by a random amount that varies from 0 to 5-7 pixels, depending on the size of your image.

Number of Scratches: The specified number of scratches that will be drawn on the image.

Maximum Duration: Controls the maximum length that any one scratch will appear on the image. The duration is determined randomly for each scratch and can be between 1 frame and the maximum specified number of frames.

Tint Color: Specifies the color of the scratches. The default color is close to pure green, which is the color of real scratched film.




MisFire Grain

When most people think of film, they think of grain. While some film stocks do exhibit noticeable grain, this type of effect is best used sparingly. The Grain category generates more than just random noise. If all you want is random noise, a simply noise filter applied on top would work fine. The Grain controls go beyond this by letting you create the multi-colored clumps associated with true film grain. Grain offers ten different controls for specifying the amount of grain and where it appears on your image.

NOTE: Magic Bullet Looks includes an integrated Film Grain tool that you can use as a replacement for MisFire Grain. The two produce similar results but Looks' Film Grain can be integrated into a Look rather than applied separately and its speed is generally 3-4 times faster.

Color Noise: Lets you simply specify whether the grain is the same on all the color channels Red, Green and Blue. This control is on by default. If you turn it off, you will notice that the colored grain disappears and is replaced by a tinted noise, based on the Red, Green and Blue percentages.

Amount: Gives you control over the density.

Red, Green, Blue: These three controls specify how much grain appears and how soft it is. The Red, Green, and Blue controls are specified as a percentage and these bias the Amount setting. For example, the Red control defaults to 28.22%. This means that only 28.22% of the Amount value is used in the Red channel of your image. If these values are all the same, then the grain will have the same amount applied to each channel. They are interrelated and related to the Softness controls.

Softness Red, Softness Green, Softness Blue: These three controls let you soften the grain on each color channel. Smaller values mean harder edges, larger values add a more diffuse look. It is best to stick with small values in these controls. They are interrelated and related to the Color controls.

Suppression Black, Suppression White: These two controls determine whether the grain is drawn in purely white or black areas . The percentages specify the percentage of brightness or darkness in the frame where the grain will NOT appear. For example, 10% Suppression White means that the grain will not draw in the very brightest pixels in the image and will only appear fully in areas that are 10% or less of fully white pixels.




MisFire Gate Weave

When a film frame passes through a projector, sprockets outside the image area control the vertical motion of the frames through the projector. Over time, a film can be become warped or the sprockets can wear, causing the frame to appear to move side to side. This kind of motion is called Gate Weave and this effect mimics it.

Weave Frequency: Controls the speed of the left-right motion of the frame. Small values cause the frame to move slowly. High values will cause the frame to move quickly from side to side.

Amplitude: Measured in pixels. The default of 5 pixels will cause the frame to move left or right 5 pixels then return to center.

Noise Frequency: Varies the motion by the percentage you choose. Small values will cause a slight variation of the motion, while large values will cause the frame to appear to jitter.




MisFire Post Contrast

Film often appears with higher contrast than video. Over time the darkening or contrast change can be quite pronounced. The Post Contrast control lets you quickly add this effect.

Contrast: Applies a darkened high contrast effect. The default value is fine in most cases. Values beyond 50 will likely look unrealistic. Negative values can cause the image to appear to wash out.




Saturday, May 16, 2015

What to Do if Your VW Overheats and You Don’t Have Access to G12 Antifreeze/Coolant

DISCLAIMER: I am by no means a mechanic.  This post is composed of information I have gathered by listening to people who know more about cars than I do.  If something you read here causes you to break your car, it’s not my fault (my lawyer cousin taught me that it’s better to be safe than sorry when trying to help people).

There are many “proprietary” things about VW/Audi that make them a pain in the a** (don’t get me wrong, I love my VW).  One of them is the kind of antifreeze they require.

G12 Antifreeze for Volkswagon
G12 Antifreeze is orange like this.
My 2004 Passat Wagon takes G12.  It is orange, and its chemical makeup is entirely different than the regular “green stuff” found in most cars.

When you’re on the road and your coolant leaks (most often a slow leak from a loose hose connected to your reservoir) to the point of triggering your car’s warning lights, you might feel stranded and helpless.

Sure, you could put the “regular antifreeze” they stock at gas stations in your car, but it’s a bad idea for many reasons.  A few years back this happened to us and we put regular antifreeze in the car to get us home.  However, immediately upon arriving I had the coolant system flushed and the fluid restored to pure G12 (well, G12 diluted with water).

Had I known then what I know now, I could have saved us the time and expense of having the coolant system flushed and refilled (which you should actually do every couple years anyway).

This is how low the coolant was when our Passat screamed “Danger!”
If your coolant is low, and you are on the road in the middle of nowhere, all you need to find is distilled water.  Tap water can work (better than green antifreeze), but it contains minerals and impurities that will cause scaling and other problems.

When the dealer or your mechanic puts G12 in your coolant system, they are adding a G12 concentrate.  They actually mix the G12 with water (usually 50/50).  This means adding distilled water (especially in the small quantity that you likely need to get your reservoir back up to the “max” line) is no big deal at all!

In fact, the G12 actually keeps your coolant from freezing.  Water is 4x better at cooling your engine than G12, so the water part is what’s actually doing the cooling anyway!

So… if you’re stranded somewhere with no auto parts store, just add distilled water!

This is your coolant reservoir.  Notice it states “G12” clearly on top.  This is where you pour the distilled water/G12 coolant.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Transfering Data in the Field with Android (Media Card to Hard Drive)

I wasted pretty much a whole day figuring out how to transfer data from a CF card to a USB stick and/or hard drive using only Android.  I say “wasted” because I was trying all these things that in the end I found out I *DIDN’T NEED TO MESS WITH!*

All the research I had been doing regarding “dumping cards in the field using Android” (simply transferring data from a CF or SD card to a hard drive for back up and card reuse) led me to believe this was a very involved process requiring special cables, apps, altering the functionality of your device, etc., etc.

Almost none of that is true, or at least, it’s not ANYWHERE near as big a deal as people would have you to believe.

Lunitek Y-3123ong story short, if you plug a powered hub with a CF reader and USB ports (I’m using the Unitek USB3.0+Card Reader :: Y-3123) into your device via an OTG cable, it will probably work right off the bat (wish I’d have just tried that first!).

So why did this take me all day?

I thought I was being all clever rooting a Galaxy S5, installing CyanogenMod 12.1, and then downloading various apps that in combination would allow the transfer happen.  I thought I needed [root]StickMount. I even purchased the Pro version.  But at this point, I really have no idea what StickMount is even for.  Your device will likely read a USB stick as is.  There is no need for this app (or rooting your device for that matter).

In the end, the stock Samsung TouchWiz Lollipop OS worked great.  The stock OS on my LG Gpad (Kit Kat) also worked great.  In fact, with the Lollipop on the S5 (from Verizon), there is a really nice little area in “My Files” that allows me to easily pick between USB Storage A (the CF card) and USB Storage B (a USB drive)… though “My Files” doesn’t allow me to see my 750GB NTFS drive (see below for that bonus action).

This set up also works like a champ with my stock LG Gpad 8.3 (Verizon Kit Kat).

This means BOTH my devices, as stock (Lollipop and/or Kit Kat), are able to transfer data from a card to a thumb drive (either FAT32 or exFAT) via a hub (you may need a powered hub, depending on how much power your device puts out and how much power your card and USB stick require).

Here’s the bonus: if I use the Paragon Technologies GmbH plugin for Total Commander, my Galaxy S5 and LG Gpad 8.3 WILL allow me to read/write to/from the 750GB NTFS drive and it doesn’t even require root access to the device (very cool)!  I have found that I actually need to install two plug-ins for Total Commander to make an NTFS hard drive, a card, and a USB stick all work together.  You need USB Stick Plugin-TC by Ferenc Hechler to use both NTFS and FAT32/exFAT.  For some reason, if you install the NTFS plug-in, Total Commander treats everything plugged into the hub as NTFS, thus non-NTFS drives (CF card and USB drive) are not recognized.  Installing the Stick Plug-in restores Total Commander’s ability to see the card and USB stick with the NTFS drive.

If your device is rooted, there is actually a patch that someone on the XDA Developers forums has come up with that will allow Android to read/write NTFS, but the installation is a little more involved (dropping files and modules into particular directories on your device), so going the Total Commander route is just a little easier in my opinion.

All said and done, the actual data transfer takes a while, but by transferring directly from card to hard drive (or USB stick) you eliminate the extra step that a lot of people are going through when they transfer from a CF reader to their device’s SD Card and then back out to a Portable Hard Drive (though if your device’s SD card is big enough, leaving a copy of the files on the SD card offers additional back up).

On my LG Gpad 8.3 tablet I dumped 9GB from a 16GB SanDisk Extreme (160MB/s) CF card containing RAW files and .MOV files (from a Canon 7D) to a USB 3.0 (not that it matters –the connection is USB 2, thus that’s the speed limit) 16GB Transcend USB stick in roughly 23 minutes (not awesome, but probably fast enough to transfer while you’re shooting another couple of cards).  Later that day, I transferred a full 16GB CF card (600x Transcend) to a 5400RPM 2.5” portable HD formatted exFAT, and it actually took less than 23 minutes.

To reiterate: I am confirming that with both the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the LG Gpad 8.3 I can use a powered hub to plug in a 16 GB CF card (FAT32), a 32GB USB drive (exFat), and a 750GB external NTFS hard drive… all at the same time… and transfer data between all three devices (not to mention the device they are all plugged into).

Furthermore (and obviously the easiest way to go), if you format an external hard drive using exFAT or FAT32, your Android device will almost certainly allow you to dump data from a media card to the hard drive without making ANY modifications and by simply using the stock file explorer on your device!

I will also state (though I have no good reason for this), the transfer seems to work most consistently, without glitches, without having to try several times, on Kit Kat (with my Gpad).


While we’re on the topic, let’s explore this magical “OTG cable.”  It’s a cable that has a male micro USB B to go into your device, and the other end has a female type A USB.  That’s it.  The only thing special about this “OTG” cable is that pins 4 and 5 are jumpered.  In fact, as shown in this Makezine article, if you’ve got a micro USB cable and a USB 2.0 cable lying around, you can splice them together to make your own OTG, just be sure to jumper pins 4 and 5 (because: “When the sense pin is connected to ground, the USB OTG device attached to the cable enters host mode. If the sense pin is left in its usual disconnected state, the USB OTG device will remain in slave mode”).

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Clearing the Android Clipboard on Samsung GS5 Running Lollipop

clear clipboard

Clear clipboard… get it? HA!

Since I started using crazy long, unmemorable passwords for just about everything, I started using KeePass on my Galaxy S5.  The problem is, when you copy a password to the clipboard to fill in a password field, Android holds that password in the clipboard. Even worse, the clipboard actually holds multiple items!  This means simply hitting “paste” will populate any field with the password you are trying to keep secret.  It also means those copied passwords (multiple passwords) are being stored on your Android clipboard.

http://keepass.info/images/icons/keepass_256x256.pngKeePass has a setting that allows you to set the time that Android should keep the password on the clipboard (settings: “Clipboard Timeout” with options 30 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes, and never), but the setting doesn’t seem to do anything (it simply doesn’t work).  My GS5 running Lollipop will keep a password on the clipboard indefinitely, even though I have “1 minute” selected in the KeePass settings (and have tried all the other options as well).

Supposedly Lollipop has implemented new API functionality that allows programs to copy/paste a password without using the clipboard.  I learned this from a post about 1Password which stated:

In Lollipop, 1Password can fill your information directly, without using the clipboard. Therefore, it isn’t possible for a third party to obtain your passwords by snooping on what 1Password’s doing.

The problem is, KeePass doesn’t seem to have implemented this “cool feature” yet, and my password is left hanging on the clipboard (to be accessed by malware, a user, or a clipboard manager).

In researching this issue, most posts on the topic say that you can simply long press in a text field to access the options “paste” and “clipboard” (or something similar), but on my device, this is not the case.  When I long press in a text field, I only get the “paste” option (thus, no option to clear my clipboard).

Other posts state that you can access the clipboard via an icon on your keyboard, however, the Google Keyboard has no such icon or accessibility (there is no button that gets you from the Google Keyboard to the clipboard).

If I switch to the Samsung Keyboard (which I hate), I can long press the second button to the left of the space bar (which can be assigned several different options), and one of the options is an icon of a clipboard.  Pressing this button does in fact gain me access to the clipboard (and quite a long and disturbing list of things stored there, including 10 or so passwords!).  WTF?!

So… I guess the problem is that the Google Keyboard ignores clipboard access functionality.  In order to access (and clear) your clipboard, you need to use a NON-Google keyboard, or a clipboard management app.

Obviously the best solution would be if KeePass just started using the Lollipop API that allowed for “non-clipboard” copied password storage… not to mention actually clearing the copied password after a certain amount of time like it’s supposed to.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

ACL Settings in Thecus NAS Prevent Connections

Yesterday I set up protections on shared folders in my Thecus N5550 NAS using the ACL settings (you can set permissions for specific users created in your NAS GUI).  Today I tried to access these folders on my NAS, and Windows 7 wouldn’t let me!  There was no option to enter the login credentials I created for the folders yesterday, and no way to make the NAS recognize my Windows credentials.

I searched for a while and found this (mysterious and not very solid) answer on the Thecus Forums:

1. Opened Network and Sharing Center
2. Opened Change Advanced Sharing....
3. Changed the last setting to "Use user accounts and passwords..."
4. Closed that and changed my active network type from "home" to "work"

Not sure exactly why it worked, but it did. Now I can enter my username (no need to add @thecus.com after the username) and pw to browse my ACL protected folder.

Thanks to user jonathan.morris for posting!  I too am not sure why this works, as I have not set up the ACL on the folders with my Windows credentials, nor did I enter the NAS user credentials I set up yesterday, but suddenly there is no issue accessing the NAS Share Folders directly via Explorer (which has me wondering how effective the ACL setting could be since I’m accessing the folders without entering any user/pass).

Windows advises that you should let it monitor and control your home network, but if I can’t USE my home network to access my NAS, Windows certainly isn’t doing its job correctly.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Cheap LED Kino Type Lighting

As a filmmaker builds his/her kit, one usually starts with whatever is available (cheap) and then moves up to “real” equipment over time.  As such, I have a lighting kit that consists largely of things cobbled together from what I could buy at Lowe’s and Harbor Freight and on eBay and Craigslist.

500wHalogenHalogen work lights are the easiest way to get a lot of light, but they consume a lot of energy (500 watts per light for the regular sized ones and 250 or 150 watts per light for the smaller ones), so you’re really drawing a lot of electricity from each circuit at your location.  You’ll also be white balancing for tungsten, which I often actually prefer (shooting warm) because it’s easier to incorporate practicals (lights already present on “set”).  The higher wattage of halogen work lights also means you’ll need more dimmers, or more expensive dimmers that can handle higher wattage.  The highest “cheap” dimmer from the local home store goes for around $10 and handles 600 watts (so only one big light).  HFrouterspeedcontrollerYou can use a router speed control unit from Harbor Freight ($25 but often on sale for $20) as a higher wattage light dimmer (15 amp x 120v so just shy of 2k at around 1,800 watts), but the output control isn’t as precise as an actual lighting dimmer.

I have started using more Chinese manufactured four socket CFL bulb lights with soft boxes.  While they are cheap, cast a nice, soft light, and consume far less energy, they take a while to warm up for full light output.  Not only that, but when shooting at high shutter speeds (like 240fps) you run the risk of getting a lot of flicker.  Also, with fluorescents, dimming is best with just on/off (number of bulbs on), because dimmable CFL’s are quite expensive… and they cause even more flicker when dimmed.

Recently I ran across “LED Shop Lights” from Feit on sale at Costco.  They are basically a four foot shop light replacement intended for garages and work shops.  As LED, there is “no flicker” (like a cold fluorescent) and no warm up delay, period.  They are normally $39, but on sale they are $33.  The same light goes for around $60 on Amazon, so this is nearly HALF the cost (and I don’t see anything else listed that’s even close).  Even at full price ($39) they seem like a decent deal.

Each “bulb” has 60 LEDs, so each light has 120 LED’s and are rated at 3700 lumens and 4100K temperature (“cool white,” though not daylight, which is 5600K).

Direct comparisons to other kinds of lights are kind of difficult.  It seems like LED light drops off a lot faster than incandescent and fluorescent (the light gets dimmer more quickly the farther you get from the source).  Thus, when a light is rated 3700 lumens, I think it depends a LOT on how far from the light you are taking the measurement (and less so with halogens, for instance).  So even though the packing says these lights put our 3700 lumens, you have to keep the lights MUCH closer to your subject than you would with fluorescent or halogen/incandescent.

I’m also having a hard time putting together a cost comparison of these lights and the strip-on-a-roll kits you can purchase from eBay and Amazon.  With those, you would have to figure out how to mount and diffuse, which is not hard, but ads to the cost.  You also have to purchase plugs/converters, etc., whereas this shop light just plugs into the wall.  The strip-on-a-roll would seem to be cheaper at first glance, but I have a feeling that once all is said and done, this shop light is a pretty close price point when purchased for $33.

The housing for the shop light is metal with plastic over the electronics.  The LEDs are actually mounted to a metal strip, not a flexible plastic strip, and that metal strip slides extremely securely into the plastic diffuser tube, which is opaque on the back half and translucent on the front.

Most LED strip kits I’ve seen require giant transformers (like you’d use with a laptop), so the fact that this shoplight has very small electrical components (easily hidden) is great.  You could definitely reduce the size of the ends (where the electronics are housed) if you wanted to.


I tried hooking these up to my incandescent dimmers (which work fine with my LED PAR38 bulbs) and the LED’s in these shop lights definitely freaked out; I’m not sure how they’d work with LED specific dimmers (hopefully I’ll get a chance to test that soon).