When Disney announced they would be releasing a new Star Wars trilogy, they also announced there would be three stand alone movies that would exist in the Star Wars universe but not an integral piece of the main story line. The first of these spin-off movies is the upcoming Rogue One feature which takes place just before the events of the original movie, Episode IV. There is a Han Solo movie in early pre-production and possibly a Boba Fett movie (although I’d love a Han Solo movie with Boba Fett as the villain.)
When I heard that Rogue One was confirmed for the first of these releases, I imagined a war movie set in the Star Wars movie. A heart pounding Kathryn Bigelow directed flick with a rag tag band of rebels battling storm troopers. With the release of the first teaser trailer, we have our first glance into the expanded cinematic Star Wars universe.
What struck me most was how different this trailer is from the first The Force Awakens teaser trailer. While the the initial The Force Awakens teaser trailer was full of nostalgia and emotion without revealing much plot, this Rogue One trailer feels like a standard trailer. The main character, Jyn Erso, is introduced and we learn a bit about her background, we get a brief idea of the plot, and some villains and secondary characters are introduced. There is more dialogue and character interaction in this teaser trailer than there were in all The Force Awakens trailers combined. We even have a cheesy joke with the “I rebel” line.
I quite like the simple single piano music which is reminiscent of the cold note opening of the final The Force Awakens trailer. I’m a sucker for any Star Wars action sequences and I’m excited about what we see here especially the AT-AT walkers trudging through beach terrain. I’m not so keen on the idea of an asian martial arts character which feels to me rooted from earthly reality. While I’m in favor of a diverse cast, why does the asian actor have to be the martial arts guy?
The full title of the movie is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a lengthy title but serves the purpose of letting audiences know this is not Episode VIII. The title Rogue One does conveniently lend itself to a sequel title, Rogue Two, but since these events take place directly before Episode IV, we’ll have to see how our characters are left at the end of Rogue One and if there is room for a sequel. While Disney has only confirmed the new trilogy (episodes VII, VIII and IX) and three spin-off movies, there’s no reason they would stop there.
Each of the three The Force Awakens trailers were excellent but the Rogue One trailer feels a bit by-the-numbers. So while it is not the emotionally driven trailer like The Force Awakens first teaser, is serves it’s purpose to introduce us to the larger Star Wars universe. December 16th, 2016 is the release date for Rogue One, and with Episode VIII scheduled for December 2017, be prepared for a Star Wars holiday season for the next several years. Here’s the Rogue One trailer followed by a music only version of the final The Force Awakens trailer.
When I look at a product I take a good look at it’s surface texture. Is it reflective or dull? Smooth or textured? Any transparency in the product? How does light reflect off the product? I look at it’s shape. Does it have defined edges or sleak curves? Are the colors bright or muted? Most products will have some combination of these characteristics.
It’s then important listen and ask the client what is important to them about the product. What features do they want to emphasize and highlight? Conversely, is there perhaps something they want to not emphasize about the product? Is there an important feature of the product that should be showcased? Also, how will the image be used? Is the purpose of the image to provide an pleasing informational image that aims to represent accurately what the product looks like, or is it to create a dramatic advertising image to capture a viewer’s attention?
I then assimilate all this information and device a plan. I determine the camera angle based on what we would like to see in the image. I typically start with the main light, the key light in photography terms, and place it in a spot that will give the lighting a nice direction. Other times, when I have a particularly challenging surface to work out, I will begin with a few lighting techniques to see what will look best.
Once I have the first light placed I will add a second light as needed. This light will fill in the opposite side of the main light. The intensity of this light will vary depending on how much contrast is desired in the photo. Depending on the purpose of image, it might be very dramatic or more natural appearing light. Additional lights are added to create interest, separation from background or to enhance an area of the product.
Considering again the surface of the product, all the lights have the option of either being a hard light that will emphasize texture and shape, or a broad light that will give a softer feel. If the surface is reflective, then a gradated light might be nice in which the light is brighter on one side of the reflective surface then falls off darker as it moves across. Reflective surfaces can vary between being mirror like to dullish metal. With a mirrored surface I avoid seeing a hard reflection of the light but that is not the case with dullish metal where a touch of hard reflection can give the surface some life. Also worth noting is the background may reflect into the product and should be chosen and lit accordingly.
Note that there are several consideration at play here, the camera angle, the quality and angle of the light, the shape of the product, the features of the product, and the purpose of the photo. It’s important to keep reviewing all decisions and revise as needed.
A good product photo is achieved through control and knowledge of lighting. A photographer must know what quality of light is best and the appropriate direction for the light..
As if we are living in an alternative universe, one thing that does not exist in our world is an original unaltered high definition version of the original Star Wars trilogy. The special edition versions are available on Blu-Ray or via streamable purchase but if you prefer your Star Wars without the added and altered scenes then there is no commercially available product for you buy. George Lucas has even said the original versions “don’t exist anymore” suggesting the original negatives were cut during the specialization process. I don’t really mind that Lucas wanted to edit his movie but I do feel that us fans should be able to choose the original versions. When an artist releases their work out into the world and becomes a cultural experience, it becomes a part of history and should be preserved. When Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, this took Lucas out of the picture and a new hope was created that Disney would find it in their hearts, or in their financial interest, to release a modern high-def release of the original trilogy.
There has been no official word from Disney about this possibility, but in the meantime there are some hard-working fans who have personally recreated these sought after versions. A leader in this arena is Harmy who has most recently posted his 2.5 version of Episode IV. Harmy has created the high-def versions by using the 2004 DVD release, the current special edition Blu-Ray releases, as well as rare sources like recordings of a television broadcast and film print scans. The source materials also have their own issues, for example the 2004 DVD release was wrought with color correction issues, so Harmy has even had to fix the source material. In some cases, multiple sources were masked and combines to recreate parts of one scene. A tremendous effort by Harmy that is a service for all Star Wars fans.
Getting a copy of these versions takes some hoop jumping. This google doc will walk you through the process. You will have to download and install software on your computer for the file download as well as create an account on a suspicious but harmless website. Keep in mind that if your end goal is to watch these downloaded movie files on your television then you will need some means to get them from your computer to your TV. You'll either either burn the download onto a Blu-Ray disc or convert it to a movie file for playback. It may look daunting and technically challenging but I promise it’s worth it.
Fascinating video about how far this Super Mario 64 player has deconstructed the video game. For context, an A Press Challenge is playing through a level of Super Mario 64 with as few A presses as possible. What this player does here is way beyond the anticipated quick reflexes and precise movements. He's broken through the matrix and playing an entirely different game.
WordPress offers some very basic designs but most likely you will want to find a template that enhances your site’s look and functionality. There are a seemingly endless supply of templates from free to cheap to not so cheap and also subscription based offerings. With all this choice also comes wasted time weeding through junk. I would definitely skip any free options since the template provider has no obligation to you. If your site should not work then you have no place to turn. Look for a template provider that looks like it’s in the business for the long haul and can provide top customer support. Prophoto templates were well implemented and had good customer support.
Squarespace has a limited choice of templates but they are all nicely designed and are easily customizable. You can take the tour of their design on their site which are organized by type such as restaurants, photographers, musicians and so on. If you see something close to your liking then it’s likely you can tweak it enough to achieve your desired design. Even though there is less choice, at least you know every choice will work. You won’t waste time weeding through a load of junk.
With either Squarespace or WordPress you can always hire a web designer to help you build your site if you need something very custom. If your site requires very specific design and features then neither Squarespace or WordPress is the right choice.
Setting up your site
Getting your site up and running with Squarespace is very simple with a few caveats. Sqaurespace provides the hosting so you don’t need to find a separate hosting vendor. Squarespace will provide a custom domain name with the annual subscription but if you already have your domain name registered then you point your domain to your Squarespace site using domain mapping. Squarespace can provide a custom email through their integration with Google's G suite service. G suite is $5 per month per user including 30GB of Google Drive online storage. You can also migrate a current custom email address to G Suite if you desire. Alternately, your domain registrar might provide email or you can use a service such as Yahoo Business Email or Office 365. In short, Squarespace is easy to get started with if you are not already tied to a domain name and custom email address. If you already have a custom email address and domain name, you have a few options and technical hurdles to overcome.
Using WordPress and a custom template means you are likely dealing with three to four entities to manage your site. You will need your own hosting and custom domain name as well as your email address. This might be provided by one or three companies. WordPress is free and your hosting company will likely have simple instructions to install. Then you just need to install the custom template onto your WordPress site. This process isn’t terribly difficult but the problem becomes what to do when something is wrong and you’re not sure who is to blame. For example, if you site loads slow, is it your hosting, something wrong with your template, or possibly a rogue plugin?
Ease of use
This is where Squarespace and WordPress really part ways. I really can’t oversell how easy it is to design a site using Squarespace. In fact, ease of use is so obviously and clearly the main goal of Squarespace and it shows. Everything is clearly laid out and explained. Plus you can see the changes you make to your site as quickly as you make them. Squarespace help provides useful videos guiding you through the process.
WordPress is a Frankenstein nightmare. When you install a template with WordPress you will see the template and all it’s options. The problem now is that some of your content will be managed by the basic WordPress options and some by the template. For example, since I was using a photographers portfolio template I had the option to load a gallery of images via the templates gallery feature. However, images that went into blog post were added via the WordPress images library. All blog post are added via the basic WordPress editor but the look and style of the blog page is edited via the template. WordPress also has something called widgets which mostly add content to the sides of your design. Widgets are a part of the basic WordPress install but may be utilized by the template. I was always looking through all the editing options trying to find where to edit some part of my site before I remembered it was a widget. Fonts are not edited globally through your site so you will have to copy and paste styles from one area to the next. For example you can not easily set your headers and menu to the same color without a series of steps.
Plugins are another option in WordPress. Most seemed to geared toward improving your site’s SEO but their are also social network plugins, analytics, and really anything you can imagine. They of course come with yet more options.
I could go on but I’ll stop there as I think I’ve made my point. I suppose you could argue that WordPress is giving you the most options to build your site and get exactly what you want. In practice, I found this was not true because there are too many pieces of the puzzle to make it all fit. I wasted so much time trying to find a good template, then constantly trying to find where certain parts of the site were edited, and installing and deleting plugins. It’s just not worth it. Sure you could bump up against the limits of the Squarespace editor and it doesn’t offer any third party plugins but the loss of options can be freeing.
I have no idea the security of Squarespace. I googled around and couldn’t find anything about Squrespace sites having malware, viruses, or any other security vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, I am intimately aware of WordPress security as my site was hacked and infected when it was on WordPress. To summarize, I was infected, lost Google traffic, then paid a service to have my site cleaned and monitored. I then deleted all my plugins. This is my experience and yet another reason I left WordPress.
For the most part, once you get your site designed you will just have to add content as needed. There are however web standards that change like we’ve seen from mobile and high resolution displays and it’s important to keep up with these changes. I found that WordPress was very slow to provide solutions to changes on the web. For example, responsive design (a site will automatically change it’s layout to fit the screen) is becoming more popular as people are accessing the web on a growing number of screen sizes. Some WordPress templates have this feature but some do not. My template provider offered an outdated mobile design that I chose not to use. This forced me to use a font size that was too large for desktop displays so that it could be readable on mobile displays. Squarespace sites are all responsive designs and automatically vary the font size for the display. WordPress/custom templates were also slow to offer support for high density displays such as those found on current MacBook Pros. Squarespace had high density display support more than a year before my template service offered it as a paid upgrade. I’d recommend Squarespace over WordPress if you want to stay current with web technologies.
I confess the main reason I picked WordPress over any other website platform was that I understood it to have the best SEO, or search engine optimization. In short, this is howto optimize your site in order to have high Google rankings. Good SEO means more people will find your site. Now, I actually can’t tell you if WordPress actually does have the best SEO. I could compare my traffic before and after I switched to Squarespace but there are too many variables to make a fair comparison. In the end I switched to Squarespace because I felt I could spend more time improving my SEO by updating my site with more images and writing more instead of troubleshooting a WordPress site.
In short, I prefer Squarespace over Wordpress because it is far easier to use and design a site.
Video tribute to my all time favorite cinematographer, Gordon Willis, who past away in June 2014.
Occasionally, I have a client request to shoot with a super high resolution medium format digital back. In these cases, the client needs the ultimate in detail and resolution either to show the super fine detail of a product and to have the greatest printing resolution for making large high quality prints. In the past, I’ve used the Hasselblad H3D or the Phase One Mamiya body with a IQ180 digital back. More recently, I shot with a Leaf Credo 80 on a Mamiya body. Regardless of which camera gear, I’m always amazed at the quality and detail these camera will output.
This image is captured with an 80 megapixel sensor which outputs a 240 megabyte tiff file measuring 10328x7760 pixels.
First, the full view of the image, a cross section of metal pipe.
Cropped to 100% view.
Again the full size image showing the zoomed area.
The full area you see is about 3.5 by 2.5 inches. The 100% crop is showing an area about 1/4 inch across, the typical length of a red ant. The camera is mounted with a Mamiya 120mm macro lens to achieve such close focus and incredible detail.
These cameras are pricey. A basic kit starts at $35,000 plus a few thousand for each additional lens. Luckily, professional rental houses will rent these camera kits for about $800-$900 per day, provided you have the proper insurance. There are less expensive kits to purchase for as low as $10,000 but those sensors have much lower megapixels.
Please get in touch if you are in the market for high-resolution photography.
Just testing the iPhone app here. Here's my little guy who looks just like me.