TripIt goes Pro!

 One of my favorite travel management website is tripit.com. I discovered TripIt when I reviewed the iPhone App FlightTrack Pro.

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How does it work?

What makes TripIt so cool is that it doesn’t require you to manually enter the information about your trip. You simply forward your itinerary from your airline, hotel, rental car company, etc. to plans@tripit.com from the email address(es) that you registered from and TripIt.com will automatically add all of your travel information to your online itinerary. I was blown away that this even worked with the PDF itineraries that I get from my work travel agent.

Now what makes this even sweeter is that they have a Free iPhone App. The TripIt iPhone/iPod touch app allows you to see all the pertinent information about your upcoming trips.

TripIt also allows you to subscribe to an iCal/Outlook calendar of all your trips. 

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Detroit Winner of the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk

Well today is the big day! Today Scott Kelby will unveil the winning photo from his Worldwide Photo Walk that took place on Saturday, July 18th, 2009. While I have no idea who the winner is or who the runner ups were, I thought I would share my pick for the Detroit walk that I led and the other 9 runner ups. Now keep in mind there are no prizes for my picks. However, I thought the folks in my walk would appreciate knowing which pictures were my favorites and which ONE I submitted for the over all selection process.

 

Let’s start with runner ups:

Missing Stairway

Missing Stairway by Sten.sjoberg

 

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The Joy of Photography by David Birdsong

 

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Guardian Light by Thom Briggs

 

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Go by James Howe

 

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Water water everywhere by Michele

 

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A City of Fighters by XAOSQUEEN

 

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Space Available by Nick Edwin

 

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Spirt of Detroit by Abdul Aquil

 

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Hand by MDecker

 

My Top Choice and the Detroit Winner is…

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Sky by Bill Stevenson

 

Congratulations Bill and to the runner ups! It was a tough choice and I was only able to submit one photo. There were several awesome shots to choose from, but there was something about Bill’s shot that kept me coming back to it.

Like I said, I have no idea who won or who Scott will pick as the runner ups for the overall walk, but these are the winners from my walk hands down.

 

  

iPhone App of the Week – iWrecked

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This is one of those apps that you should have, but hope you never have to use. Having been in a few auto accidents in the past myself, I know how much of a daze you can be in even if you’re physically OK. If the police come, you’re all set as they’ll make a report. However, if it’s a minor fender bender, then you may be on your own to collect all the details for your insurance claim.

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That’s where iWrecked comes in

This app aims to be the data collection point for all the relative information regarding your accident. It prompts you to enter the information that you may not be thinking about at the moment. Since your iPhone is also a camera, you can even insert the pictures you take. Also don’t forget to take pictures of the road conditions and surrounding area. There is an Emergency Call area to call 911, towing in the area you’re in via Google Maps and for a Taxi.

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Once you complete the accident report you can preview it and then send it via email in PDF format.

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Westcott uLite 2 Light Green Screen Kit Review

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I’ve been wanting to experiment with Green Screen video and photography for a long time now. However, I just never felt comfortable buying a green screen system because I didn’t want to get the wrong thing. Also I didn’t want to invest hundreds if not thousands of dollars in getting the professional lighting that I figured you would need to get good results. Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would be able to get professional results (yes your opinion will vary) for only $199!

 

The Westcott uLite 2 Light Photo Kit

Although Westcott targets this kit at enthusiasts, I think they are selling themselves a little short. Sure the digital video pros would probably argue with me and well that’s OK, I’m used to it, but with what you get in this kit, you CAN produce some pretty decent quality projects.

The Westcott uLite kit includes:

  • 2 500W Photo Flood Lights
  • 2 Small 20" Softboxes
  • 2 Light Stands
  • 1 9’x10′ Green Screen
  • 1 instructional DVD to learn to setup the system and post production tips/techniques
  • 1 disc of royalty free backgrounds

 

I’m glad I watched the DVD first to get some pointers on light placement. Setup on took a few minutes and I was ready to shoot. I did run into one problem though. One of the bulbs in my kit may have been damaged in shipping. I screwed it in and fired up the light and it came on for about 10 seconds before going out. I confirmed that it was the bulb and not the light. While I’m sure the good folks at Westcott would gladly send me a new bulb, I wanted to proceed with my demo. So I used one of the bulbs from my TD5 Spiderlite. The only problem here is that the bulb I used was only 50W and no where near as bright as the other bulb. The purpose of having TWO lights is so that the subject is lit evenly on both sides and to eliminate shadows. I played around with light placement and did the best I could. However, you’ll notice that I’m brighter on the left side than I am on the right side.

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Here’s my first attempt at using the kit (editing was done in Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 and the keying was done in Adobe After Effects CS4 using Keylight via Dynamic Link):

 

 

The Bottom Line

If you’ve been wanting to experiment with Green Screen video or photography, this is a great starter kit! For the price you just can’t beat it! I was a little disappointed that there was no support system included for the green screen, however for $199 I think you’re getting a great value. While the screen can be hung easily from a wall, clothes line, etc. I still recommend a support stand. Although your bulbs will probably work right out of the box, I did notice that the bulbs are only rated for 60 hours. So I would recommend ordering some extra ones right off the bat.

B&H Photo sells the Westcott uLite 2 Light Kit for $199.95.

I would also recommend getting this free standing support system for it and a few extra bulbs.

If you’re a NAPP member, check out Dave Cross’ tutorial on automating the process of extracting still images from a green screen background. 

 

MagicJack Review

Last week I did a review/update on my continued success using Vonage for my phone service. However, like most things I write about there were some that suggested other products. One of the suggestions was MagicJack. The funny thing about MagicJack is that my 60 year old aunt (who is very non-technical) told me about it a couple of months back. She came up for a visit from Georgia and I received a couple of calls from her from a number that I didn't recognize. When I asked her about the number, she replied "oh that's our MagicJack number. We use it to make all of our long distance calls." Honestly, I kinda blew it off at the time until one of my blog readers mentioned it again. So I decided to check it out.

 

Unlimited outgoing/incoming calls in the US or Canada for only $40/year!

That's what MagicJack allows you to do. If you have a computer connected to the internet (guess that's how you're reading this now), then you can plug the MagicJack dongle into your computer (Mac or PC) and make unlimited calls for only $40/year. 

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The Creative Suite Podcast is now on TiVo!

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Although I knew that you could subscribe to your favorite video podcast right on your TiVo by inputing the RSS feed for the show, I didn’t realize that TiVo actually features shows. Yesterday, Rod Harlan pointed out to me that my Adobe Creative Suite Video Podcast is now featured on TiVo. Not sure how long it’s been there, but I was very pleased to see it right at the top of the list of technology shows. 

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Create an Animated Slideshow on the Web with Animoto

 The next time you want to show your pictures with a little pizzaz, you might want to create an animated slideshow complete with soundtrack over at Animoto.com. The process is very simple and requires zero knowledge of video editing or animation apps.

 

Upload your photos

After you create a free account, you can immediately get started on your first animated slideshow. Your show will be limited to 12-15 images if you go with the free option.

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The making of my last video

Yesterday, I did a video review of the HyperMac external battery and some of you have been asking me what software did I use to produce it? So I thought I would give you a quick run down on my workflow for that particular video. So here goes:

 

The Animated Intro

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The Animated Intro was done using Adobe After Effects CS4. While I’d like to take credit for all that creativity, I took the easy route and bought a template. The template was delivered as an After Effects CS4 project that I was able to modify (as I do actually know how to use After Effects) and craft to my liking. The template was already in HD format.

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HyperMac External MacBook Battery Review

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Now that Apple has increased the number of MacBook models where the user is not able to change the battery, external battery options are more important than ever. No matter how long the battery lasts inside your MacBook Pro, chances are you’re going to encounter a situation where it’s not long enough. This is where the HyperMac External Batteries come in.

I’m planning a trip later this month that will involve a 6 hour flight and I want the option of using my MacBook Pro as much as possible. I don’t have the most current model with the sealed battery, but even with two batteries, it won’t be enough for this trip. So I was intrigued by the HyperMac offerings.

Rather than trying to put this review into words, I recorded this video explaining how the product works along with the results of my "worse case scenario test":

 

 

The Bottom Line

The HyperMac solution is definitely worth it if you need to get longer than a few hours of portable use out of your MacBook. If you have one of the newer MacBook products with a sealed battery, then this solution can be even more of a must have for frequent or long haul travelers.

HyperMac Batteries are priced starting at $199.95 and go up to $499.95 for the largest capacity/longest life model. Learn more about the HyperMac batteries here

 

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