Saturday, February 28, 2015

The West End Well – Music Show Fantastico

The West End Well is a coop on Wellington Avenue in Ottawa. They have a nice little eating / bar area and what looks like a great kitchen. And there is a small grocery store up front … the perfect mix for a neighbourhood gathering place.

And they have a space for musicians to play on Friday nights. Nick and Dylan were given an opportunity to be the entertainment on Friday, 20 February 2015 and they did a great job. I brought some of my recording equipment and a couple of stills cameras just in case and in fact I was able to tap the headphone jack with one Tascam DR05 and attach the other to the mic stand to hear the audience.

I put the Panasonic G6 with the Sigma 30mm 2.8 on the table I was sitting at, which was front row center in relation to the microphone and I put the Panasonic GM1 with its little 12-32 kit lens on a small ledge that runs down the side of that area right in front of the huge California window to the kitchen. I brought an extra battery and was able to record the whole show on the G6, with the GM1 crapping out toward the end of Dylan’s opening set. I don’t really know why that happened, but luckily the G6 is the better of the two angles anyway so not a huge loss.

I also shot many stills during the show and published a selection of them to Facebook here:

I should mention that the stills were shot with the Nikon D90 and Tamron 28-75 and with the Olympus E-PM2 and 45 1.8. Both cameras performed magnificently.

Dylan led with 8 original songs …

Here’s his first song “Mary and Daniel” mastered in Adobe Audition CC and Adobe Premiere Pro CC (I used a trial version of them to evaluate whether I wanted to switch from Sony Movie Studio.)

Nick followed with a 13 song set, mostly originals …

Here is song number 19 from the show, one of Nick’s originals called “Time and I” … this one mastered in Sony Movie Studio Platinum Suite 13. I did reuse the Adobe Audition CC soundtrack, but Sound Forge would have pretty much equaled it.

This is a great place to gather and listen to music. I was really impressed. Check it out …

A note on mastering these videos … I have written a few articles lately about looking for something better than Sony Movie Studio and after an intensive learning curve with Adobe Premiere Pro and Audition CC and then for Cyberlink PowerDirector, AudioDirector and ColorDirector, I can safely say that Sony is the best bet for me. And frankly, anyone doing amateur video work on a very tight budget should have this on their radar …

I have been, and always shall be, your friend …

R.I.P. Mr. Spock

First round of tests … PowerDirector 13 and AudioDirector 3 versus Premiere Pro CC and Audition CC versus Sony Movie Studio Platinum Suite 13

Folks, I’ll give you the short answer right now … Adobe kicked Cyberlink up and down the field all day long … it was not even a contest in the end.

I had high hopes for Adobe CC, as I really like the suite of apps in general. Very powerful, a near infinite growth curve with plugins, very fast work flow and only moderately slow rendering. Certainly way faster than the Sony Movie Studio speeds. And CC supports multicam quite well.

Enter Cyberlink … their suite of apps is a pretty close match for Premiere CC et al. A separate audio app and a separate grading app that communicates back to the video editor make for a theoretically excellent work flow. It took me forever to figure it out of course … the videos are as much marketing as they are instructional and nothing of depth is covered well. There are far fewer users out there posting info, and mot of it is for older versions. Basically, this is like working with Gimp …. good luck.

But … I eventually got it to work and built up a decent looking file. One strength they have is multicam alignment by audio … it aligned perfectly, which is slightly better than Premiere pro was able to accomplish. That one needed a nudge on one channel. And … PowerDirector can handle an array of clips that line up all over the place. It takes a while but it got them all right. Premiere Pro gives up on the same set of clips, so this would be the major strength of Cyberlink’s suite.

On the other hand, were I a pro, I would just get Plural Eyes and stop screwing around with toys Smile

So work flow goes to Cyberlink for multicam alignment and Adobe for everything else. Adobe’s integration is far more discoverable. Everything works in the obvious way, unlike Cyberlink’s suite, which requires many wasted hours before you start all over having won some real knowledge the hard way.

And then there is rendering speed. Sony really annoyed me by taking 10 hours to render a 1:26 minute video at 1080p. That’s about 7x real time and I find it unacceptable.

Plus, Sony’s multicam workflow is really weak. As in, there isn’t one. Every cut is done manually and so is alignment of all tracks. I can do it, but why should I have to?

My first few renders with Premiere Pro were amazing. 2x real time. I’m not sure what I did after that because it jumped to 4x real time. That annoyed me, despite still being a lot faster than Sony (who always finishes last in every test of rendering speed.)

So once I realized how powerful and cheap the Power Director Suite is, I installed the trial and worked on a song of Nick’s (Time and I.) After the already document learning curve, I finally had a really nice 3:47 video that should have rendered in about 7 minutes, according to their constant advertising of their outrageously fast renderer.

And yet … a 3:47 clip took just over 1:36 minutes. That’s 28x rendering speed. Um … WTF?

Looking at the rather sparse info on Google, I know that the previous version had a serious rendering speed issue with NVidia cards. I use a pair of GTX570 cards that should be blazing fast. Yet rendering is a dog, and so is the preview. At first it worked well … but it degenerated over the two days I’ve used it to where I could not render anything in real time, even at the lowest settings.

So … 8 cores and two fairly high end CUDA cards and even Sony slaughters it.

I’m sure that there is a bug in there somewhere. And I don’t care.

But wait … it’s not done getting slaughtered. What about the quality of the rendered video? Well …

With Premiere Pro, the inbuilt grading is so good that I did not need to go to the external grading app. But the inbuilt support in PowerDirector falls way short of the mark. I just could not get a good look in the GM1 clips, as there was shadow that it could not handle. So I went through incredible pain trying to figure out the interface between Power and Audio Directors and finally got it when I watched their videos. They should put it up in a dialog on install – save yourself tons of time because our user interface is horrid … WATCH ALL THE VIDEOS YOU CAN FIND.

Meanwhile, after waiting an eternity for the render, the final result was just plain awful. The shadows were pure mush and there are terrible motion artifacts in the 24p output. Everything is jerky in the final video, while both Movie Studio and Premiere Pro render silky smooth video. As you expect!

The verdict

This is not actually a contest. There is a reason why Adobe can charge what they charge. It all just works. PowerDirector Suite was the front runner by a mile. Before the horse broke a leg, was stomped by stampeding elephants, and then blasted into ash by friendly fire.

I.e. it self destructed …

So … stay with Sony and buy Pro Edit? Or spend a lot more money on the Adobe Suite? I don’t really need CS CC since I own LR5 and CS5 outright, along with OnOne Perfect Suite and Nik Suite. I don’t really need Premiere Pro CC since I already own Movie Studio Platinum Suite. And I don’t really need DreamWeaver since I can just use Weebly, which is far easier to work with and creates beautiful web sites.

Hmmm … I may just have talked myself out of upgrading. So it’s back to the salt mines with Movie Studio I suppose …. sigh.

UPDATE – HOld the phone!


A 3.5 minute clip rendered in Sony Movie Studio in 1 hour and 1 minute.

That is 28x, to match PowerDirector …. so it looks like I need to diagnose what is going on with my computer before laying blame.

It probably won’t change the final choice though, because I found it really easy to master the latest song with Sony and frankly, Sony’s UI and clip adjustment interface take Cyberlink’s out behind the barn with a baseball bat. ;-)

So I might as well ride it out and see where Adobe goes with the next few increments of CC. They aren’t going anywhere after all :-)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Weight management – am I back in the saddle again?


So it has been 3 years since I began to really take weight management / lifestyle (semi?) seriously. It has had many ups and downs, some of which are shown on the very much compressed graph above, although only the largest swings are shown there. But they are real doozies. As you can see, 2014 was anything but a banner year.

So a quick summary of history as I know it: I lost about 73 pounds in the first 6 months up to July 2012. This is typical after a long time off of watching you calorie balance. My father passed away at the beginning of August, which really wrecks your brain for a long time. You can see the resulting weight bump that peaks at the end of the year. There were many factors, though. It is never one thing. You can also see that I got back in the saddle and ended up even lower in mid-2013.

You can do this kind of weight loss with surgery’s help or by imparting the same disciplines as surgery patients are required to follow without the malabsorption benefits / negatives they have. All in all, it is a personal choice how you accomplish it, but in the end it is always about the calorie intake / output balance.

So back to the story … 2014 started out with my mother’s illness and continued with her passing in March. The effect of that is a subtle thing and acts on everyone differently, but I think most people would agree that you are out of sorts for a long time.

So of course I re-upped on all my bad old habits. And I am very good at those behaviors, unfortunately. Still, it was a break I did enjoy in some ways, except perhaps for the shopping for larger clothes which is always a total bummer.

I tried in November to click back into eating more carefully and was quite successful for about a month, but Christmas was too close and there were cookies to be eaten so in a fit of stupidity, I tossed in the towel again and climbed right back up that ladder. You can actually see the two high point bumps that bracket the last attempt at the end of the graph.

And the reason I am writing this today is that I have reached once again the point at which I threw in the towel last November. In fact, I am officially 1/10 pounds lighter :-) … all of which is to say that I have no interest in stopping this time. You can see that the slope of the loss is the same as the initial 2012 slope and the 2013 slope. This one is the result of about 12.2 pounds lost in a bit over 3 weeks. This is very fast, but then that’s what happens at the very beginning as your body flushes the water and salt. And what happens next will determine the overall success of my plan.

Let me put this another way, 3 weeks of hard dieting erased 3 months of sloth. That’s always a trade worth making. SO what I am hoping now is that the next 5 or 6 months will erase the rest of the sloth and get me back to mid-2012 … or even better, mid-2013.

My plan is simple: continue to eat small meals at regular intervals and continue to use structured meals (in my case, Atkins Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough meal bars) to get over those moments when it is too easy to just say f&&& it! and eat whatever. Instead, I grab a bar and a coffee or a diet Dr Pepper(substitute your low or zero calorie beverage of choice) and I am safe once more.

It sounds easy because it is easy … but the instinct to throw in the towel lurks always, always, always.

One last thought, and this is an old adage because it is true – “You cannot outrun your stomach.” I.e. don’t assume that buying a gym membership (even if you actually use it, lol) is a free pass. It absolutely is not. Control your input for your weight, go to the gym for your fitness and overall health. They work together and neither can replace the other.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sony Movie Studio 13 – Might be time to look elsewhere …

I have a really complex video I am rendering right now … and have been for 9 hours and 23 minutes …


Wow … the movie is slightly under 90 minutes long, so 10 hours of rendering means that rendering times are 6.7x real time, which is frankly abysmal. Note that I have a fairly fast 8 core machine (AMD 8150) and a pair of GTX570 CUDA cards, so this machine is set up for rendering. I did that intentionally. Yet it renders like a VW Beetle at the Indy 500.

I have staunchly supported Sony Movie Studio for years because it is so incredibly powerful … but I have come to realize that it sucks time while editing and while rendering. In fact, there are many articles out there that compare rendering times with consumer NLEs (non-linear editors) and Movie Studio always comes in last … and by some distance.

And it does not help that Sony are spinning off some of their non-core businesses, thus throwing the future of Vegas and Movie Studio into doubt, at least in my mind.

So … the hunt begins. Adobe? Cyberlink? We shall see …


After an intense week of learning Premiere CC and PowerDirector, I think Sony Movie Studio still represents the best value in video editing that exists. While PowerDirector has incredible multicam support and Premiere Pro has incredible built in tools, Movie Studio has a much nicer clip editing interface in my opinion. So if your needs are at the hobby level, then Sony Movie Studio Platinum Suite should be on your radar. The deal of the century in my opinion .

But … for professionals, Adobe CC looks to be the best choice by a mile … (with a nod to FCP for Apple users.)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Weak Words – Gotta Stop That

I have a problem. I really like words like really and very, which are members of the “5 weak words to avoid” list documented here:

Really is #1 on the list because it is a vague intensifier. Really vague Smile

Very is #5 on the list because it adds nothing and is unnecessary. Very unnecessary Smile

So let’s all agree to stop using such weasel words as filler. Instead, let’s agree to write confidently and allow our opinions (and frankly our unheralded brilliance) to stand alone – without weakening them.

I wrote this piece because my son (graduated English Literature with distinction) lambasted me over using very the other day. And then today I watched a video and heard this pair of sentences that caused a cringe.

In order for companies to really serve consumers really well, here's what they're going to have to do. They're going to have to really really understand the customer.

Note that removal of the weak intensifiers exposes the message as meaningless and potentially insulting, since companies have presumably worked at understanding their customers before today.

It is time to banish these words from your writing and your speaking!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

An Open Letter to Those Who Spout Anti-Vaccination Rhetoric

Warning: I am angry about this issue. If you are delicate and easily offended by language then maybe you will want to give the rest of this a pass ….

To the selfish and the stupid anti-vaccination culture – please do some reading outside the context of your hive-mind. The information is out there and all you have to do is look. I am providing some of it down below, so keep reading.

The herd immunity that beat measles in the first place is systematically being destroyed by these legions of the selfish and the stupid, and you all had better believe that those of cogent mind will not stand for this forever. Get it together now, before we start to lose good people because of the uninformed decisions of people like yourselves.

Case in point: Do you know why Polio is gone, and will not be coming back? Well, here is the answer – people like my parents did their civic duty and had the overwhelming majority of children in North America vaccinated against Poliomyelitis.

P1010941_DMC-GM1_24 mm_ISO 200_1-125 sec at f - 5.0(thanks go to to my sister Terry for forwarding this to me from my mother’s effects)

So start doing your goddamned civic duty and get your kids and yourselves immunized!

Addendum: Some light reading about why the human brain is wired to link two events that happened to occur around the same time or one after another. This is for those of you who believe everything spouting from the mouths of celebrities.

Note that thinking people get over their misconceptions when the overwhelming scientific evidence says that they are full of shit. And the legions of selfish and stupid proponents of anti-vaccination rhetoric need to get down to some actual thinking, because they are completely full of shit.

Addendum 2:

Addendum 3: A little education for those who so desperately need it …

Addendum 4: History of anti-vaccination movements …

Note in there that there have been no links found in major national studies. It always seems to start with a celebrity abusing their notoriety or a group of insipid thinkers creating a wasteful shit-storm of protest with mob-think being about the only common thread (and to be clear – mob-thinking is not thinking.) This led at one point to successive waves of whooping cough outbreaks in the United Kingdom. That’s a lot of unnecessary misery …

Monday, February 16, 2015

My New Nikon D90 – OMG! What happened to my Panasonic Mirrorless Cameras?

Nothing happened to them. I still have the G6, GM1, GX1 and GF3 along with the E-PM2 from Olympus. I do plan on paring down the list once again, but that was always the plan. The Nikon came about as the result of two separate forces – nostalgia and necessity.

The nostalgia is simple … I still have a wonderful Sigma 105 2.8 1:1 Macro lens that shoots stunning portraits as well. And I miss using it in AF mode, so I have been thinking about grabbing a cheap body like the D70s or D80 for a low price and then just having fun with that combo.

The necessity comes from the studio work I have been trying out. I use a pair of speedlights so far with a softbox and numerous umbrellas and have found that the lack of modeling lights can make it excruciatingly difficult to lock focus.

And then I saw an ad on Kijiji for a D90 and 18-105VR for 200 bucks. Whaaaaaaaaat? That’s more than 300 below the going rate for that pair used. So what’s the catch? Well, the ad said that the left button on the 4way controller did not work. That can be gotten around for most of your shooting so I went and looked at it. It was so nice that I bought it on the spot. Note that it also came with an extra battery and the Nikon grip. So wow … what a deal.

And the camera works pretty great. I have the settings where I want them and I can do most of what I want. I did find out that the bottom button also does not work and the middle button requires a hard press, so at some point I will send it in for a cleanup and repair. Still well worth it.

Here is is sitting beside the G6, which runs circles around the Nikon with video and manual focus of adapted lenses. But the two are very close in image quality. The GM1, which shot the photos in this article, is actually above the Nikon in raw image quality, but of course gets stomped in a heartbeat when there is action around.

So why such an old body? The simple answer is that I shot many bodies up to the D700 and D7000 and don’t really want to spend a ton of money right now on this. These were new to me and the D90 is a legitimate classic. Plus, I mostly want this for studio work with the smaller kit there for travel.

But … who knows?

Fuji Releases new Macro and Compact Lenses and a Teleconverter – Includes X Mount lens Road Map

Yes, I am a day late and a dollar short on this announcement. Fuji sent it to me in plenty of time but I got a bit lazy … my apologies.

This note was included:

FUJIFILM North America Corporation will announce a new FUJIFILM XF Lens Road Map Update on February 10, 2015.

The new lenses that have been added to the FUJIFILM X-Mount Lens Road Map are:

• NEW XF120mmF2.8 R Macro 1:1 Macro, telephoto lens

• NEW XF35mmF2 R compact and lightweight standard focal length lens

• NEW 1.4x Teleconverter for XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR, XF120mmF2.8 R Macro, XF100-400mm

•      The "Super Telephoto Zoom" lens that was announced on the previous roadmap update will have a focal range equivalent to 150-600mm (35mm format equivalent).

Interesting choices. Nice to have a long macro lens as this improves both working distance and the quality of backgrounds (they blow out more easily to creamy smoothness.) The 35 f/2 sounds all right as a 52mm standard lens. These have never excited me, but one presumes that this one will be cheap since f/2 is usually purposed that way.

A teleconverter is also always nice for those who want to occasionally go birding. On the 100-400 it should really help those trying to shoot the wee Chickadees and such.

Click to open the road map on a separate tab … and you might have to click again to expand it to full size (which is really big.)

Ottawa is Coldest Capital on the Planet this Weekend

Wow … extreme cold warning … feels like –28C right now at 1pm. That sucks …

I have been wondering this winter why my hands get so cold … the old single layer neoprene gloves no doubt have something to do with it, but in fact we’re going through an extremely cold winter.

Here’s what that looks like right now …

Nikon d90 + 18-105VR @38mm  200ISO  f/4.5  1/4000s

Notice anything different? Yes, I again own a Nikon … the D90 and the 18-105VR are Nikons that I have never owned before. I have thought about it for a long time and when this one came up on Kijiji with the Nikon battery grip and all for 200 bucks, I jumped at it. There is a flaw with the 4way controller in that left and bottom do not work and OK is spotty, but I am working around that with no problems so far. I plan to send it in at some point for a tune up. I got it for the studio work (AF in the dark is so much better than mirrorless) but in fact I’m loving the quick response and OVF again … oh oh …

It’s not all that deep, but it is enough to deal with and the cold is just painful.