Do it yourself desktop stand for FaceTime calls

FaceTime Stand

I have really been enjoying using FaceTime to make FREE video calls back home while traveling abroad. Of course you need either an iPhone 4 or 4th generation iPod touch on either end and a Wi-Fi connection on both ends and you can talk and see as much as you want for FREE. It's been working extremely well! The one thing that I find to be a bit of a pain is actually holding the device. When just talking on the phone for long periods of time you can just lay it down and use speakerphone or a bluetooth headset as you roam around the room/multitask. However, with FaceTime you're going to not only want to hold the device, but you're also going to want to hold it up fairly high. Holding it down at a natural stomach level will probably yield some unflattering up the nose angles for your video. 

Then I got an idea

One evening while sitting and working at the desk in my hotel room I realized that not only was there a better way to do this, but I even had the necessary pieces with me to make it work. Ideally you want some sort of vertical stand for the iPhone 4 that lifts it up higher than the desk/table itself. I realized that I had both an iPhone 4 tripod holder AND a Gorillamobile in my computer bag. It took me all of 15 seconds to put the two together and I had an instant FaceTime stand that could be tilted and even attached to something higher if need be. It worked GREAT!

 

Here are the two pieces you need:

G-Design makes the iPhone 4 tripod holder. Unfortunately it's not designed for the iPod touch, but as long as you don't turn it upside down it should just hold it in place.

It fits the iPhone 4 very snuggly and you CAN turn it upside down or sideways if you need to.

The G-Design iPhone 4 Tripod holder is available here.

 

While the Tripod holder will go on just about any standard tripod, I find the Gorillamobile to be the smallest and most flexible in terms of standing it up or wrapping it around objects. It's so small in fact that I forgot that it was in my bag. So it's GREAT for travelers.

Get the Gorillamobile here.

 

Yes you can use FaceTime with a 4th Gen iPod touch too!

In case you missed it, you don't have to have an iPhone (and contract) to enjoy FaceTime. You can have this FREE video call goodness now with a 4th Generation iPod touch. It has the necessary front facing camera and can make the same FREE video calls over WiFi to other 4th gen iPod touch devices OR iPhone 4's. FaceTime on an iPod touch uses your registered email address to receive FaceTime calls as long as your on WiFi. You can make FaceTime calls to an iPhone 4 as long as you know their phone number or another 4th gen iPod touch as long as you have their "registered" email address.  Get the 32GB (don't waste your time with an 8GB model) iPod touch here.

Adobe Releases Photoshop Elements 9 and Premiere Elements 9 for Mac/Windows

Adobe just took the wraps of the NEW Photoshop Elements 9 and Premiere Elements 9. Aside from the usual great new features this is the first release of Premiere Elements on the Mac! Woohoo! Here are the highlights:

Photoshop Elements 9

Premiere Elements 9

  • Now for both Mac and Windows
  • Animation Style Presets (like cartoon)
  • Share videos easily on Facebook
  • Optimized HD Editing!
  • Native HD support from DSLR video, Flip cameras and more tapeless formats
  • Easily fix Audio Problems
  • See the new features in action here.

 

Order Photoshop Elements 9 here

Order Premiere Elements 9 here

Save money and order the Photoshop Elements 9 and Premiere Elements 9 BUNDLE here.

Parallels 6 is Fast!

Parallels 6 above running Windows 7 64bit Ultimate Edition and Windows XP on a Mac Pro/Mac OS X 10.6.4  running Photoshop CS5 Extended – click the image to enlarge

Most of my day to day work is done in the Mac OS. However, there are times when I need to run Windows app/utility here and there. I can remember the days when I used to carry two laptops for work. I had a PowerBook for doing demos to Mac customers and an IBM (now Lenovo) Thinkpad for doing demos to Windows based customers. Once the the MacBook Pro hit the scene I was quick to jump on board because I could now use this one laptop to run both Mac and Windows Apps. Apple allows you to enable a feature called "Boot Camp" right in the Mac OS itself. With Boot Camp you setup a partition (size of your choosing) and natively install a copy of Windows (not included) on it. Then you can choose to boot up the computer in either OS and Windows running under Boot Camp is just as fast as running Windows on any other similarly spec'd PC. While you do get to run Windows as fast as your Mac hardware can, you have the disadvantage in that you can only run one OS at a time. In other words while you're booted in Windows in Boot Camp, you don't have access to your Mac apps. This is where virtualization Apps come in. The two top contenders are Parallels and VMWare's Fusion. I've had experience with both Apps in their latest versions and given the choice I'd go with Parallels.

 

When you have two apps that basically do the same thing, you have to look at "how" they do it?

Both Apps are great and both apps have very similar feature sets. Although I get to use VMWare's Fusion at NO COST TO ME because my company has a site license and offers it to any employee that needs it, I prefer to use Parallels (and buy it out of my own pocket). Both Parallels and Fusion allow you to use Windows on top of the Mac OS. This means that you are running both OSs at the same time and can launch apps in either. Both are going to run a bit slower than running natively in Boot Camp if for no other reason, they are sharing resources with the Mac OS running at the same time. However, being able to run the occasional Windows app without rebooting is worth the small performance hit. Both apps allow you to either run Windows from a "file' on any hard drive (including an external drive) or even use your Boot Camp Windows installation. So if they both seem to do the same thing, what makes one better? SPEED!!! Parallels with version 6 continues to have the advantage over the competition with SPEED! No other way to say it other than it just runs Windows FASTER. According to Parallels, version 6 is up to 80% faster than version 5. It's 64 bit and boots Windows more than two times faster than Fusion 3.1. Parallels 6 scores more than 2 times better on 3D graphics than Fusion 3.1.

 

It's running so fast as a matter of fact that I may never use Boot Camp again

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Review Video Projects with Clients/Colleagues using CS Review

Now you can review Video Projects online with your customers and colleagues even if they don't have any video editing tools or knowhow. Adobe CS Review has now been integrated into Adobe Premiere CS5 allowing you to do review and commenting online of your various video projects. So now in addition to reviewing your Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign projects your clients can review and provide feedback on your videos too. Check out my demo here:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61hEwIAH6R0

Find out more about CS Review here.

New Nikon D7000. Now we’re talking!

Yesterday Nikon answered my wishes for a replacement to my Nikon D5000 (and D300 before that) travel camera. My wish was for a small rugged body that offers DSLR video at 1080p, stereo mic input and continuous autofocus while shooting video ain't bad either. I looked at the D3100 was tempted, but once my buddy Jeff Revell pointed out that it lacked bracketed shooting (which makes HDR much much easer), and that was pretty much a deal breaker. It also lacks a mic input. However, the D7000 has everything I want. It's actually more of a replacement to the D90 than the D5000. Although the D5000 was newer, the D90 had a more rugged water resistant body. The D7000 brings Nikons latest technologies to bear.

 

It offers:

  • a 16.2MP DX-format CMOS chip
  • HD Video up to 1080p 24fps (20 minute clip limit – up from 5 minutes)
  • Full-time Auto Focus while shooting video <- if this works well it will be HUGE!
  • a respectable 6fps continuous shooting mode
  • ISO range from 100 to 6400 (expandable to 25, 600 in HI2 mode)
  • Twin SD (SDHC, SDXC) card slots – great for copying, shooting video to one stills to the other or RAW to one and JPGs to the other.
  • Optional MD11 external battery grip 
  • Built-in HDMI out and stereo mic in
  • GPS support (external module required as before)
  • Full specs here.

 

Yep, this is the one I've been waiting for since last year. 

The Nikon D7000 lists for $1,195 and you can place your pre-order here.

 

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iPhone’s One Button HDR: Another wakeup call to camera manufacturers

Yep, I'm back on my "point and shoot cameras are dying" rant again. You might remember this post where I talked about camera phones being the "new point and shoot cameras" and I gave my reasons as to why I felt this way then. As I stated in the earlier post, when it's important I shoot it with my DSLR. However, when it's just about capturing the moment and for fun I'm going to pull out my smartphone and take the shot. Before you argue with me, let me state the obvious: yes point and shoot cameras offer better optics and higher megapixels. They also offer a wider range of features for controlling the shot as well as the higher end models even offering RAW capabilities. Yep, I get it! They are technically better "cameras". No question. However, whenever there's an exciting moment unfolding at a public event I see 10 times more camera phones go up in the air than I do dedicated point and shoot cameras. The reasons for this are numerous. The most common ones are: people don't want to carry multiple devices and probably the biggest reason is that the camera phone shot is "good enough" for the average person. Beyond those reasons I think a bigger reason is that the camera phone and especially the smartphone offer instant sharing of those pics AND in device image editing!

 

iOS 4.1 Brings One Button HDR (high dynamic range) shooting to the iPhone 4

When I saw this feature come out in the latest update to the iPhone's operating system (iOS 4.1), I had an immediate "Duh" moment! Apple once again took something that is so obvious and added a "one button" interface to it. Professional Photographers have been shooting HDR images for years now. It has actually become a "creative" effect in photography. However, pros have to do this in a multiple step fashion that involves setting their camera up a certain way (bracketed exposures) and combining the multiple shots in post using software like Photoshop CS5 (Merge to HDR Pro). in its simplest form HDR is ability to combine multiple exposures into one high dynamic range image that achieves the best exposure for highlights, shadows and midtones. This is where the amateur photographer often fails. The shots that come from these low end cameras and camera phones often over expose one area or under expose another. Since there aren't very many if any manual controls on these devices you're usually stuck with what the device thinks you should have. So Apple took HDR and brought it to the masses in a seamless way. Just turn it on before you take the shot! With an iPhone 4 running iOS 4.1 you have the option to turn on HDR. Once it's on you aim at your subject and press the onscreen shutter button. The iPhone 4 then captures 3 images in rapid succession instantly with no lag, one under exposed, one over exposed and one in the middle and combines them together AUTOMATICALLY as an HDR shot. There is no user interaction required. Of course pros will want control. They'll want to tweak things an get the image just right and I applaud you for that. However, this feature isn't aimed at pros! This is aimed at everyone else so that right out the camera they can get better exposures.

 

For example…

The iOS 4.1 update gives you the option of keeping both shots. So here's the original shot BEFORE HDR.

 

Here's the HDR version (again, all automatic and with no adjustments on my part)

Is it perfect? No! I'd still like to see a little more light in the shadows of the barn. Is it better than what we were getting from these low end cameras? ABSOLUTELY!

 

Get HDR on the iPhone 3GS too

If your iPhone model doesn't support the iOS 4.1 HDR feature, you can still have HDR because there's an App for that. Before iPhone 4 and iOS 4.1 supported this feature natively, I was using the Pro  HDR App to do the same thing. Of course it takes more steps, but it get's the job done. You can get Pro HDR for the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 for $1.99 here from the Pro

 

Camera Manufacturers: Step Your Game Up!

There is absolutely NO REASON that this kind of feature shouldn't be on every point and shoot camera sold today. Yes, I applaud Canon for adding an HDR mode to the NEW G12 – way to go!

The lack of it (one button HDR), built-in wifi, built-in GPS/geotagging, etc. on the vast majority of P&S cameras continues to further my argument that point and shoot cameras are dead! Hell I'd like to see some of these features make it on to DSLRs too. Now I know I'm dreaming….

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