I Would like to Announce the Death of Stills Photography :-)

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 16.29.45You saw it here first. I would like to announce the death of stills photography. I know you have heard it all before, but it’s true this time. When is is going to happen? Well sometime in 2018.

“Panasonic will spend around 10 billion yen ($80.8 million) to develop next-generation image sensors, with plans to release them in fiscal 2018.” “The Japanese company aims to develop sensors that support 8K technology, which provides 16 times the resolution of conventional high-definition video, and feature fast image-processing speeds. Eliminating the boundary between videos and photos.”

So they will be producing images at 25/50 frames per second at a resolution of 8K (7680×4320 pixels). The decisive moment will be where ever you want it to be. Panasonic already have a focus stacking ability in 4K. At 25 frames per second it takes a stepped focus image, allowing you to choose after the event where you want your focal plane to be.

Anyone want to buy some Canon gear?

Using the iRig Pre to Power and Connect an XLR Mic to a DSLR Camera

iRig Pre

On the left an unmodified IK Multimedia iRig Pre. On the right the hacked version. Use a 3.5mm/3.5mm stereo jack in the headphone socket to connect it to your DSLR (click on all of the pictures to enlarge).

In todays post we look at a simple low cost hack, that will allow you to use XLR mics with your DSLR camera. Giving you great quality and control, without the need to buy an expensive preamp or sound recorder.

For my smartphone journalism work I really like using the Røde Lavalier mic, so I thought I would try it out with my DSLRs. Unfortunately the mic requires phantom power, which is a feature that my simple DS214 Juiced link preamp doesn’t offer. No problem I thought, I also have a the more sophisticated Tascam D70, but unfortunately this doesn’t work with my Panasonic GH2, because it only accepts mic level inputs! Not wanting to have to invest in another expensive preamp, I did some research on the net. Continue reading

Is Serif Affinity Photo a Credible Alternative to Photoshop?

Serif Affinity Photo in the Photo Persona (normal edit workspace).

Serif Affinity Photo in the Photo Persona (normal edit workspace).

I was intrigued recently to see the announcement from ‘Serif’ of the launch of their new product Affinity Photo. It is being marketed as direct competition to Adobe Photoshop, which is a pretty bold claim! I did look at one of the beta releases about six months ago, which looked interesting, but like all beta releases it was a bit buggy. I have used Adobe products for the last twelve years, but as a lecturer was dismayed when they adopted the subscription model. Whilst I can afford it, it is an extra cost for students, who face ever increasing financial burdens.

The introductory price for Affinity Photo is £29.99 – 20% off until 23rd July (normally £39.99). That is a one off flat fee, with free upgrades. This compares to the student deal on Photoshop and Lightroom, which is £8.99 a month. So over the course of their studies (3 years) an undergraduate student will pay £323.64. So if the program is any good, it will be a substantial saving! Continue reading

#mojo Battery Power/Charger Options

From left to right: 3. EC Technology / 2. Maxell / 1. Ankar with a pound coin for scale.

From left to right: 3. EC Technology / 2. Maxell / 1. Ankar

It is often said that ‘the best camera you have, is the one that you have with you’. This has been one of the philosophies behind the #mojo Mobile Journalism movement and the growth of using Smartphones for news gathering. The problem is phones now have multiple uses; web surfing, photography, videography and even making phone calls 🙂 so they use a lot of power. All too often the camera you have with you, is sitting in your pocket with a flashing battery warning! With most phone makers electing not to have removable batteries, the answer is to carry a portable charging device. Here are three I use, there are many more options available.

1. Anker 2nd Generation Astro mini 3350mAh Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger External Battery Power Bank. At £9.99 this is cheap as chips and with its small size (87gm) it easily slips into the pocket. It is made of aluminium so feels solid and robust. When I was using an iPhone 5, it would give me one complete charge. It also, easily attaches to my tripod with a velcro strap, so I can use it whilst videoing.

2. Maxell 790404 5200mAh Power Bank Battery. This is a slightly larger unit, weighing 152 gm. It cost £25.16 and with my iPhone 5 gives me just over two full charges. With its aluminium housing, it feels very robust. Again it is small enough to velcro to a tripod so can be used whilst videoing.

3. EC Technology® 2nd Gen Deluxe 22400mAh Ultra High Capacity 3 USB Output External Battery (£28.99). This is a monster weighing in at 476 gm, you could build walls out of these! I bought this for prolonged trips where I do not have access to mains power. I charged my iPhone 5 with it and the battery indicator didn’t move. It will in theory charge an iPhone 4S 13 times!  It has three outputs and has a plastic case, presumably to keep the weight down. This is definitely one for the camera bag and not your pockets! It even has a built in torch!

I have recently bought an iPhone 6 Plus which has much better battery capacity than my iPhone 5, I will post charging figures for both phones when I have more data. Hope that helps! If you have any solutions you would recommend, please let me know.


#GE2015 Infographic Produced on the iPhone

#GE2015 from Martin Shakeshaft on Vimeo.

Philip Bromwell from RTÉ recently posted an infographic that he had created on the #mojo Facebook page. He had set himself the task to create a piece on his iPhone about the UK Election. I really liked the idea, so decided to try the challenge for myself. I used four apps:
Procam – stills photography
Gravie – graphics
iMovie – editing
LEGO Movie – timelapse

and three tubes of Smarties! I don’t know if it was an omen, but one had no blue smarties in it!

#MOJO Demystifying Microphone/Headphone Interfaces

As soon as you start working on mobile journalism pieces, two things become apparent. Bad audio can completely wreck a video and to be confident you need to monitor the sound you are recording, using headphones (see my article here).

Whilst the on-board mics in your phone are fine for ambient sound, to isolate people you need to use some form of external microphone. A popular choice for #mojo reporters is the Lavaliere (lapel/tie clip) mic, which can be discreetly placed on your subject. For reporters working to camera, some may prefer a stick mic (some models are specifically designed with longer bodies, to facilitate a good working distance)

XLR Connectors Microphone/iRig/Rode Lav

XLR Connectors Microphone/iRig/Rode Lav

No matter what you choose, most professional microphones use XLR connectors (see note below) and some require a power source to work (referred to as Phantom Power). So your first consideration is to find a way to plug these into your phone, some kind of interface box.

There are a few options currently available and a few new models about to be released. The most popular options for #mojo reporters at the moment, are the iRig Pre and iRig Pro. These are made by IK Multimedia, a company that produce recording interfaces for musicians using tablets and phones. Both of these models are essentially high quality preamps. They boost the microphone output so that the gain in the phone can be kept low, to avoid introducing noise. Continue reading

Monopod Solutions

I was recently asked ‘ give us one tip to really make your video capture look professional’. This is a pretty easy one, ‘If you can, use a tripod’. This really does make the difference between professional or amateur footage.

The problem is, using a tripod is not always possible. If you are working in public spaces or covering demonstrations, the chance of people tripping over you is a real danger. Manfrotto and Benro have introduced monopods with small floor stands to try to combat this, but in some conditions they can still be a liability. Another solution is to use a shoulder rig, but the problem here, is that what started out as a compact solution, is quickly expanding into the size of a full ENG camera!

One cost effective, solution that works for me, is to use a monopod into a waist pouch (See the right hand picture). The camera/iPhone is mounted via a Shoulderpod S1, onto a simple Manfrotto 234 monopod tilt head. This in turn is connected to a monopod, that is supported by a  Manfrotto 080 belt pouch. For added stability, you can also add a cheap shoulder brace Manfrotto 361 (middle left). The scenes shot at the nighttime rallies in this video were all shot using this solution

Greek Elections 2012 from Martin Shakeshaft on Vimeo.

Tip: to assess how well a steadying solution works, look at a point in the corner of the video to see how much it moves.

Free Download of My Exhibition Images

serverReally excited by a new project. As some of you may know I have recently released some of my images with Creative Commons Licences. This allows people to share them for personal use. With some of my political work I want to get the images seen by as wide an audience as possible. Next month I have three exhibitions celebrating the end of the 1984 Miners Strike. I am going to experiment with a way of letting people download the images onto their phones, as they view them….. the beauty is that it doesn’t even use an Internet connection. You can use it anywhere, even in the middle of a field and costs less than £30 to set up. The exhibitions are in Leek at the Foxlowe Arts Centre, in Arras in northern France and at the Upton Community Protection Anti Fracking Camp. I will be posting technical details, so other artists can do the same. Watch this space!

PicPlayPost for MultiMedia Collages

Sometimes one picture is not enough to tell a story. I recently discovered PicPlayPost, an app that allows you to create and post multimedia collages. These can then be embedded in your own website or posted to popular social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It is available for both the Android and iOS platforms. It is free to use, but posts with a small watermark, which can be removed with an in-app purchase of (£1.49) UK.

Example: A MultiMedia collage from the 2010 Greek General Election.

It is incredibly easy to use. There are 48 preset grids and you simply choose images and video from your camera roll. You can also pick a music track from your music collection, but be very careful with copyright issues!

You can either save the video as a finished piece or upload it to a social media site of your choice. It can also be streamed from the PicPlayPost server. To avoid their page layout and requests to download the app, simply right click on the video and embed the direct link (as above). If you use the hashtag #picplaypost in your work, it may even be featured via the app. Most of the examples they shown are from selfy, gym types, which detracts from how useful this platform could be for journalistic use. Don’t let that put you off!

Media organisations such as CNN are using the platform to illustrate stories on their website and on Instagram. It is very easy to use, free and looks very professional. Whats not to like, give it a go!. Download here Android and iOS. Here is another example of my work.