Controlling the whole studio from my laptop

As you know, I’m a big fan of shooting tethered right into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (which by the way just came out with a 1.4.1 update) when I’m in the studio. Also as my buddy Scott Kelby mentioned during his Lighting Gear Week, that I recently switched to the Elinchrom strobes with the Skyport RX Wireless System. Well last night I took it up a notch with their USB RX module and EL Skyport app. When I first switched over to the Elinchrom strobes and Skyport wireless triggering system (in place of PocketWizards which are still cool and all), I thought it was extremely cool to be able to control the power output of each strobe directly from the unit on top of my camera (with this unit:).

I figured that would be enough (it’s never enough by the way is it?). Then while I was ordering a bunch of gear at Photoshop World, I decided to complete this setup by ordering their Skyport RX USB module.

The USB module and the FREE to download EL-Skyport app takes things to a whole new level. It gave me something I hadn’t considered before. It gives me not only the ability to control the power output of the lights remotely, but it also does it visually. Each strobe’s control panel shows up as a little floating window. So as you can see in my shot above, I was able to see and control each strobe (including the modeling lamp, sound, etc.) while looking at my shots in Lightroom as I took them.

 

I was in lighting heaven last night!

The Elinchrom system is NOT cheap. I never thought I’d be spending this much money on lighting for my "hobby". However, I was also tired of trial and error and I don’t want to have to keep buying lighting over and over again. So this was it! I wanted to buy a good set of studio lights ONCE and not have to think about it for a very long time (if ever again). I’m still learning about lighting and with each shoot I get better and feel more confident, but with this system it’s almost like cheating :-)

 

Here’s my Elinchrom setup:

2 Elinchrom 600RX heads – $978 EACH (it’s like a big ‘ole Band-Aid – just yank it)

1 Elinchrom 53" Octa softbox – $307.95

1 Elinchrom Strip Bank softbox – $197.95

1 Skyport RX Radio System (1 hotshoe transmitter, 2 receivers) – $259.95

1 Skyport USB RX Radio Slave Tranceiver for your computer – $104.95



Photoshop World ’08 – East – Wrap up!

photo by R.C. Concepcion

 

I had a blast at this year’s Photoshop World in Orlando! Being a Trekkie and having a Star Trek based theme was also a bonus. I wanted to take a moment here and THANK all the attendees that took time to come up to me and tell me that they appreciated the work that I was doing. I couldn’t believe how many readers of this very blog were at the show. It was great to hear all the feedback.

 

If you missed the show you’ll definitely want to check out my Creative Suite Podcast today for the special Photoshop World Keynote Episode. For those of you who were at the keynote, you’ll note that I had to leave out the funny spoof videos as they will be shown again at the Vegas show in the fall and I didn’t want to spoil the surprises. However, you will see Adobe’s SVP Johnny L. and Lightroom Product Manager Tom Hogarty show off the latest and greatest Adobe technologies including some sneak peeks at CS4 technologies.

 

Also whether you were at the show or not, you’ll want to check out the Photoshop World Blog which has several highlights and photos from the event. There are only two shows that I actually "enjoy" working/attending and those shows are Photoshop World and Macworld Expo. So I hope to see you in September at Photoshop World in Las Vegas. As you would expect, I bought some photography gear at the show and I’ll be reviewing it in the coming days. So stay tuned.



A really cool idea for the 3g iPhone

While I can’t take credit for the idea (wish I had thought of it), I have never heard anyone mention it before as it relates to the iPhone. I was reading a post on engadget.com about a new phone (I don’t even remember which one it was), but it had a feature that would be KILLER on the 3g version of the iPhone.

Here goes: Most of us that travel with iPhones also travel with laptops. One feature that we hope for on the 3g iPhone is to be able to use it as a wireless modem (tethering/DUN) via Bluetooth. However, what would even be sweeter is having the iPhone itself become a Wi-Fi access point. Having a 3g iPhone means that we’ll have the potential for significantly faster data access than what we now see over EDGE. Since the iPhone already has Wi-Fi built-in, why not just tap a button, set a password and have it broadcast a Wi-Fi access signal that you could tap into with your laptop and surf?

Of course there’s the whole battery life thing and I have no idea if the Wi-Fi radio uses more power than the Bluetooth radio, but it would be pretty sweet nonetheless. It would also allow multiple devices to share the 3g internet connection simultaneously whereas Bluetooth would not.

Either way, the next version of the iPhone should definitely have either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi internet sharing for your laptop! Steve would probably argue that the iPhone is so good that you shouldn’t need to connect to the internet from your laptop and maybe with all the new corporate support (MS Exchange support, VPN access, etc.) that’s coming in iPhone 2.0 he’s right. I can’t wait til June to find out!

You may remember that I have a running list of features that I would like to see come to the iPhone (some of which have either been addressed in recent updates or have been announced for the 2.0 software update due in June) and all of which could be implemented via software updates or 3rd parties. So while were on the subject of the 3g iPhone, here are my:

 

Top 10 iPhone 2.0.1 Feature Requests

  • Flash Player! – We can’t keep pretending that we don’t need this! With a faster iPhone, there’s no excuse
  • Video Recording – No reason not to have this either
  • MMS Messaging – Can we send some picts and video directly to our buddies without using email?
  • Cut/Copy/Paste – Duh!
  • Contact Search – I’m sure I’m not the only one with hundreds of contacts
  • Note Syncing – No reason not to have this
  • Audio Recording – Taking notes/Voice recorder would be a very popular feature
  • Email Anything – The ability to email anything that’s on the device, ie: contacts, voicemail messages, maps, etc.
  • Voice Dialing – Lesser phones have this basic feature
  • Consolidated Email Box (option) – I have 5 email accounts on my iPhone – my screen is starting to wear out in the spot that I have to keep hitting the Back button on.




Great turnout here at Photoshop World Orlando

Teaching Intro to InDesign CS3 at Photoshop World in Orlando – Photo by R.C.

 

I gotta say that I’m having some really good classes here in Orlando at Photoshop World. Yesterday, I had standing room only in the Adobe Theater on the show floor as I was showing the NEW Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.0 Public Beta and today I had about 300 people in my InDesign CS3 class.

There are about 2,700 people in attendance at this year’s east coast show. Everyone I have talked to is jazzed about the show and all the things that they are learning. I want to thank all of you who took the time to come up to me and let me know that you enjoy this blog and my Creative Suite Podcast.

Well back to work! I have one more class today and Midnight Madness tonight :-)




Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.0 Public Beta

After a wildly successful Lightroom 1.0 public beta and launch, Adobe is back with another one! Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.0 is now available in Public Beta (download it here)! That’s right, once again Adobe is looking for feedback from the Photographer community to build the next version of its digital photography workflow tool.

Now keep in mind that this is a BETA! That means that it’s not done yet, nor is it feature complete. You can install the public beta of LR 2 without interfering with your LR 1.x install. The idea is that you’ll keep working in the current version of LR and test 2.0 along side your current version without disruption to your workflow. As a matter of fact the LR 2.0 public beta will NOT open your LR 1.x catalogs. So there’s no chance of your accidentally upgrading your existing catalogs only for them not to work in the current version anymore. Download it, import some images into it, play with it, give us feedback and at the end of the day get back to work with LR 1.x.

 

New Features

In addition to being a 64bit app here are some of the new features to look forward to:

Library
-Streamlined Library Layout
-Smart Collections
-Powerful Filter Bar to search and refine images
-Suggested Keywords for simplified keywording
-10k pixel size limit raised to 30k pixels

Multiple Monitors:
-Four flexible modes for an alternate window: Grid, Loupe, Compare, Survey
(Check out the Live Loupe mode!)

Photoshop CS3 Integration:
-Open files in Photoshop as a Smart Object
-Select multiple images to merge as a Panorama
-Merge multiple exposures into a single Photoshop HDR image
-Load multiple files or virtual copies into Photoshop as separate layers in a single document.

Export Functionality:
-Auto-add exported images to the Lightroom catalog
-Auto Output Sharpening for images on export

Develop Module
-Non-Destructive Localized Correction for dodging and burning specific areas of an image
-Post Crop Vignette
-Basic Panel Keyboard Shortcuts
-Improved Auto Adjustment:  

Print Module
-Picture Package for multi-page layouts
-Print Module output directly to JPEG
-16 bit printing under Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard
-Enhanced Print Sharpening based on PhotoKit Sharpener algorithms

 

See it in action!

I recorded a special episode of my Adobe Creative Suite Podcast where I show many of the new features of LR 2.0. Also the good folks over at NAPP have put up a LR2 Learning Center with videos. Also check out what Adobe’s Photoshop Product Manager, John Nack has to say.

Also if you’re at Photoshop World this week, I’ll be demoing it after the keynote in the Adobe booth. Come check it out and say hello!



Adobe and Apple have announced that they are merging

It’s the news you’ve been waiting for and speculating about for years now! That’s right Steve Jobs and Adobe’s CEO Shantanu Narayen have announced that they are merging the companies. Although they haven’t settled on a name for the combined company yet, the new acronnym for the combined company will simply be "A.A."

The question on everyone’s mind is what will the new product line up look like? In the press release today, they gave a list of their top products to be sold and there are a few surprises:

  • Acrobat MacBook Pro iCS3 Connect Pro Hosted Edition Public Beta
  • iPhone 2.5 Flash iCS3 Developer’s mini
  • iPhotoshop Express for .Mac take 3 – includes 11GB of space for $101/yr or Free with a new aMac
  • Big Mac mini Master Collection iCS3
  • iPod hi-fi take 2 with iPremiere Pro enabled visualizer
  • Final Cut Studio now with iPageMaker 7.5.6.take2 for laying out your Blu-ray DVD covers
  • MacPro now with Blu-ray support, however this will only play movies burned with A.A. Encore CS3

These products are available and shipping today! Also now no matter what you purchase, you will receive a FREE iPhone case.

It is uncertain as to the fate of the Windows versions of the existing products, however both CEO’s said that they remain customer focused and that Windows customers shouldn’t be concerned. Steve went on to say that the Mac is a great platform and that he would give the Windows versions serious consideration, "no, really I will". They also announced that since they’ve now created the world’s largest software/hardware monopoly outside of Microsoft that prices will be raised immediately across the board by 25%. Shantanu went on to say that "the decision to raise prices across the board was not taken lightly. However, it was necessary to cover the cost of all the new package designs and trademarks of the new company and to hire a top legal team to continue to fight the mounting lawsuits that both companies would now be facing."

All in all I’m happy that this merger has finally happened and I can’t wait to see what the combined company does in the future.

 

Steve jobs pictured with Adobe co-founders Chuck Geschke and John Warnock. Steve was quoted back then in saying "I think you will see our companies do more than ever together in 2008!" What a visionary. He was right!



Photoshop Layers Book

With each new version of Adobe Photoshop there are usually lots of new features. However, there is usually one feature that really stands out. Yes, believe it or not there was a time that Photoshop didn’t have Layers. I actually go back that far. I first started using Photoshop (and teaching it) at version 2.5. Photoshop life was pretty tough back then (think about your parents telling you how they had to walk up hill to school for 5 miles – both ways). That’s right, it wasn’t until Photoshop 3.0 was released that we got Layers. It wasn’t until Photoshop 4.0 until we got Adjustment Layers and yes, it wasn’t until Photoshop 5.0 that we got editable text. Photoshop has come a long way! We take Layers for granted now in our Adobe apps. Layers is one of the most powerful features and because we take them for granted, we may not be getting all that we can out them.

Matt Kloskowski’s New Book: Layers: The Complete Guide To Photoshop’s Most Powerful Feature promises to help you get the most out your use of Layers in Photoshop. I know what you’re thinking and yes I was thinking the same thing, "I already know how to use Layers. I use them all the time." I’ve actually had Matt’s book for a couple of weeks now and it wasn’t until this past weekend that I decided to take a look at it. After getting past the basics of Layers that I already knew, I found some really helpful tips and techniques that I hadn’t considered before. Actually that’s what makes Photoshop so dynamic. It’s not so much about learning the tools and the menu commands as much as it is the infinite possibilities and combinations of using the tools together. Matt gets into some clever tips and techniques on how to use Layers in ways you may not have thought about before.

If you’re a Photoshop user, whether you’re a newbie or a pro, you should give this 248 page book a read. It’s beautifully laid out in color with two steps per page with corresponding screen shots. Matt does a really good job of explaining his techniques in detail without going overboard (and getting all boring on ya).

Amazon has it for $26.39.



Adobe SHARE Public Beta

My 43MB Zip file that’s too big to email as an attachment is easily shared with SHARE.

 

Adobe is on a roll lately with this whole public beta/FREE thing. Here’s one that almost slipped through the cracks until I read about it on John Nack’s blog. While Adobe Photoshop Express got all the buzz recently (that’s so yesterday’s news), Adobe SHARE promises to make it easy for you share large files with friends, colleagues and family – for FREE!

 

With Share you can:

  • Send documents without email attachments.
  • Access your documents from anywhere.
  • View all the documents you have shared or received in one place.
  • Post a link to your document on a wiki or blog.
  • Embed a Flash® preview of your document on any website.
  • Limit access to a document to a list of recipients.

You get one gigabyte of space and you even get 5 FREE PDF conversions from your Office documents. SHARE is free so there are restrictions. For example, the Share preview is currently limited to documents, and the contents of your files may be restricted by the Share Beta Agreement. You cannot upload and share any music or video files at this time, e.g. mp3, aac, wmv, mov etc.

 

So if you’ve been looking for a slick, FREE web based service to share your larger files, head over to Adobe Labs and set up your account.



Photoshop Online? Photoshop Express Beta – Now Online!

You’ve heard of Photoshop right? C’mon, it’s now a verb! "I Photoshoped that picture." As popular as Adobe Photoshop is, believe it or not there are people out there (from what I hear) that have never used it and probably never will – gasp, I know! However, it’s true. There could be a lot of reasons for this, such as people that just don’t buy editing tools. Teens for example, usually don’t have an extra $600-$900 lying around to pop for Photoshop CS3 or Photoshop CS3 Extended. Sure there are cheaper versions such as the industry leading Adobe Photoshop Elements, but hey – these guys won’t even pay $90 for software. How do they get their MySpace images edited? Well they either Don’t edit them at all (I’ve seen more than enough photos with red-eye out there to know this to be true) or they rely on FREE tools. "Free" you say?

 

That’s exactly where Adobe Photoshop Express is aimed! It’s a FREE service that allows you to polish, sort, store and show off your picts. It’s also completely web based! You might remember last week when I turned you on to another FREE Adobe Service code named BRIO. So this is not really the first time that Adobe has given users a FREE way to do things. That’s right, think of some most frequently used features of Adobe Photoshop available for use on the web anytime for FREE. Completely platform independent because it works in your web browser as long as you have the Flash 9 Player, which is also FREE. Now before my Pros get all up in a tissy, don’t worry. This is not going to replace the Photoshop you’ve come to know and love. As a matter of fact if you’re making your living doing that Photoshop thang, then you can just keep right on working the way you always did. There are no Layers here, No CMYK, No pro level filters and the list goes on. However, if you’re that guy or gal that just wants to up your online cred (formally street cred) and get your MySpace and FaceBook images poppin’ then you’ll want to check out this free public beta!

 

What do I get for FREE?

Well for starters you get 2GB of storage space for your images. Once you set up your account, you’ll get your URL like mine: http://terrywhite.photoshop.com (pretty cool huh?). You’ll be able to access your images from any computer on the net that has a browser and Flash Player 9. You’ll be able to upload, tweak/enhance your photos, put together your own Flash based web galleries and share them with your friends. You can also access your Facebook, Photobucket, and Picasa accounts directly. Once you’ve edited your photo you can either share it with someone or download it back to your computer for printing.

 

 

 

OK, I want to give it a spin. How do I get started?

Simply head over to the Photoshop Express page and sign up.

 


Also check out the FREE Photoshop Express Learning Center put together by our buddy Matt Kloskowski from KelbyTraining.com.


Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 1080 UB HD Projector Review

In October of 2004 I decided to convert a storage/server room in my home into a home theater. This room used to be the catch all for empty boxes, discarded computer equipment, my web and file servers as well as the place that old papers and software seemed to go to die. At one point it was almost impossible to walk from one end of the room to the other, because of the amount of crap that was in the way.

 

So I decided it was time to turn this:

into this:

 

At the time I spec’d out the latest and greatest sound and video gear. I settled on the Sony Cineza VPL-HS20 1080i HD Projector. My friends were telling me this one was the one to get and the good folks over at projectorcentral.com had this GREAT REVIEW. So it was a done deal and I’ve enjoyed that projector for the past 3+ years. However, my cravings for "higher Def" lead me to want to experience Blu-ray at its best which meant that it was time to upgrade from 1080i (interlace) to a true 1080p (progressive) projector. I started asking around and my colleagues at Adobe (Kevan O’Brien and Dave Helmly) were both quite impressed with the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 1080 UB projector. I’ve always been a fan of Epson projectors for data/business presentations, so it didn’t take much convincing to look into Epson to replace my Sony.

I also turned to ProjectorCentral.com once again to see what they had to say. They had not only reviewed the pro version of this projector, but they gave it their highest honor of Editor’s Choice! That’s all I needed to hear. My mind was made up! I figured I’d get it in the next few weeks when my schedule settled down a bit. However, I noticed that B&H Photo and Video had it and also alerted me to the current $200 rebate that is in effect until 3/31/08. So that pushed me to order it now instead of waiting. After all, $200 is $200 right?

I ordered it so that it would arrive in time for the weekend. That way I’d have time to set it up and enjoy it before going back to work and back on the road. Setup was quite easy. I used the same universal mounting bracket that I had used with my Sony projector and I ran a new HDMI cable to replace the DVI and Component cables I was using with the Sony. Although they (Epson) offer a ton of different configurations for getting just the right color and picture, the defaults produced STUNNING image! Yes, I might go back and play with the settings to compare, but out of the box I was blown away by the picture quality. It wasn’t like I looked at it and said, "well it’s a little too green or it’s a little to contrasty." It was dead on right out of the box. I can’t imagine it being better!

 

Comparing the old to the new

The Sony VPL-HS20 has a power zoom and focus. The Epson relies on a manual focus and zoom ring. So I sat right under it and just reached up and adjusted it until I was happy. There is also a "Pattern" button on the remote that allows you to throw up a pattern on the screen to make sure you have it aligned properly. The lens will shift up/down and left/right so that even if your mounting location is not dead on, you have some wiggle room (which worked out great for me!) This way I didn’t have to move the mounting bracket since the Sony’s lens is centered and the Epson lens is off to one side. It would have been a major pain in the butt if I would have had to relocate the mounting hardware in the ceiling. Luckily I didn’t have to.

The Epson is better in just about every way over my almost 4 year old Sony. It powers on and starts to display your image almost instantly. It powers off quickly too. There are a few little things I like about it: for example, there is a separate on and off button on the remote instead of just one power button. This makes it nice for programming universal remotes and macro sequences. In other words with a single power button, if the projector were already on and someone accidentally hit the power on macro, it would power the old projector OFF! Then we’d have to wait for it power all the way down before being able to bring it back up again. Although I’m only using a single HDMI cable to it, I like the fact that the Epson remote has buttons for each source. With the Sony I had to cycle through several sources to get to the one I wanted. Epson also allows you to diable the projector’s control panel so that kids or other people don’t mess with your settings. There is even a "Child Lock" that prevents small children from accidently turning the projector on.

I will have to hand the overall styling to Sony though! The Epson projector doesn’t win any awards in my book for design of their cases. The Home version is white and the Pro version is black. The latest Sony projectors look like something right out of War of the Worlds. Their home theater projector designs set themselves apart from standard business projectors. Epson could learn a thing or too here.

A scene from War of the Worlds where the alien probe has a look around. This bears a striking resemblance to the Sony Bravia VPL-VW40.

 

Back to the Epson…

Epson also does the right thing by standing behind their products if something does go wrong. Rather than making you take it into a service center, they will advance ship you a replacement! You just send the defective one back when the new one arrives. However, in my over 10 years of using Epson projectors, I’ve yet to have one break down!

I did find it funny that in the literature when they were bragging about their service, that they used the example of if your projector goes down before the "big game", they’d send you a replacement. I had a simple question and I thought I’d give them a call only to find out the service is open Monday through Friday only. So if the big game is on the weekend, you might be hosed :-)

 

What about Blu-ray playback?

Now it was time to try out the one thing that I upgraded for. I wanted to see a Blu-ray movie in true 1080p high def. So I fired up the Playstation 3 and loaded up a movie. Believe it or not, Rocky Balboa was the closest so that’s what went in. I’m glad that it was, because that particular Blu-ray disc starts off with an opening ad for Blu-ray movies with clips and scenes from several blockbuster movies. I had seen this ad before, so it was a great comparison. My mouth hit the floor. I had never seen that ad with such clarity and depth. I was stunned by how much better the quality was. I also set my Apple TV to 1080p output and the photo slideshows are even more spectacular!

 

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a true 1080p Projector Experience, you can’t go wrong with the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 1080 UB. If you’re not technically inclined and want someone to set it up for you and calibrate it, then you’d want to go with the Pro Cinema 1080 UB version which is only sold through Home Theater companies. Now I know what you’re thinking: "what are you going to do with your Sony VPL-HS20 HD projector?" Well, if you hurry, you can get a great deal on it here :-)






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