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HD Radio

By Mark Kalan

Last year the FCC mandated that television broadcasters upgrade to new digital technology. If you had an older television set and were not connected to a cable or satellite system then you needed a decoder box to get the signal. There were many news stories about the change and lots of talking heads whining about it on, where else, television.

Meanwhile many AM and FM radio stations have been quietly upgrading their transmitters to new HD standards. This upgrade was not mandated by the government, as was the upgrade to digital television.

Before I go on, lets talk about what HD radio isn’t; it isn’t HIGH DEFINITION Radio. HD originally stood for Hybrid-Digital but recently the company that oversees HD Radio, iBiquity Corporation, says that the HD doesn’t stand for anything. Also, HD Radio is not satellite radio. HD Radio is free over the air radio while satellite radio is available only through a subscription service. Finally HD Radio is not Internet Radio. There are many Internet Radio stations that stream programming and there are Internet enabled radios but they are not HD Radios. To make it more confusing; there are some stand-alone units that can be connected to the Internet and receive HD, Satellite and Internet Radio.

As with the change from vinyl discs to compact disc and videotape to DVD; digital technology offers improved quality of images and sounds.

HD Radio technology allows broadcasters to transmit a high-quality digital signal. For listeners who have an HD Radio receiver the benefits are FM radio with near CD-quality sound and AM radio that sounds as good as the FM radio plus multicasting, captioning and tagging.

The digital signal is less vulnerable to reception problems so no more static, hissing, or popping noise. Digital technology allows a radio station to transmit more information in the same radio wave. This means higher quality sound. FM transmissions will sound as good as CDs. Since AM radio uses smaller sections of bandwidth than FM there is not enough bandwidth for HD Radio to give AM stations the same CD-quality signal as FM stations however AM station clarity will be equivalent to current analog FM stereo radio.

Should you lose the digital signal for some reason (obstructing terrain, nearing the edge of the broadcast area, etc.), your HD Radio will default back to analog mode, similar to the way current radios switch from stereo to mono mode when receiving a weak signal.

Another benefit of digital radio is the radio station’s ability to transmit additional information along with the music signal. This can take the form of scrolling text on your receiver’s display, such as a song’s artist and title, or the station’s call letters. Stations can also include local and regional information, such as weather updates or traffic alerts.

In addition to duplicating their analog programming with an HD Radio broadcast, stations can subdivide the digital portion of their signal. This allows a station to “multicast” — that is, broadcast two or more programs simultaneously. Listeners might have a choice of, say, a sports game or music.

Being digital only, these additional channels can only be received on an HD Radio tuner. But just as cable TV allowed specialized networks to flourish, multicasting provides the potential for stations to offer specialized programming — ultimately giving the listener a greater variety of music and talk to choose from.

Multicasting is a big deal for radio stations and listeners alike. A radio station can now better serve its listeners. For instance, a public radio station can broadcast morning jazz music on one “channel” and morning talk programming on another “channel.” Same radio station, same frequency on the dial, but multiple options for the listener. A commercial radio station could branch out into multiple formats, having rock on the main channel, and country on its HD2 feed, for example.

Some stations are broadcasting a tag-enabled HD Radio signal, which let you select a song for purchasing at a later time simply by “tagging” it. To take advantage of this feature, you need three things: an iPod; an audio/video component that includes an HD Radio tuner, iPod dock and “Tag” button; and a local radio station that’s broadcasting an HD Radio signal that has enabled tagging.

As you’re listening, just press the “Tag” button when you hear a song you’d like to buy. The component saves the song information in its memory (but not the song itself). When you dock your iPod to the device, the information automatically transfers to your iPod. The next time you sync your iPod to your computer, a list of the songs you tagged will appear, giving you the option of purchasing them through the iTunes Store. The tagged songs you elect to purchase are then downloaded to your PC’s iTunes library, and copied to your iPod.

All in all some pretty cool technology!

For those truly technically-minded you can read the Wikipedia entry on HD Radio here.

for a guide to HD radio stations click here.

A truly informative report on HD Radio in Hyundai cars is here.

The link to the HD Radio industry trade group is here.

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How to Lose Your Camera But Save Your Photos!

By Mark Kalan

Loss is one of the most difficult emotions to deal with. According to the psychology of loss, the pain of losing $100 hurts a lot more than the pleasure of finding, earning, or winning $100.

The emotional pain of losing your photos hurts a lot more than losing a hundred bucks. Photos can’t be replaced. You can’t re-stage a wedding, you can’t repeat those wonderful moments on vacation and you certainly can’t dig up your deceased relatives for a photo op. (Well maybe you could…but you’re asking for trouble.)

Disaster experts suggest that you keep your photos in one box that you can grab in an emergency. But what do you do if you’re just as dumb as I was and leave your camera somewhere and walk away?

My wife and I were leaving Las Vegas after a week of fun for her and work for me. I was there to cover a convention and she was tagging along on my frequent flier miles.

As we loaded our luggage into the taxi I kept the bag with my still cameras, video gear and exposed MiniDV tapes next to me since it was the most valuable piece of luggage I had.

The cab driver was a great guy and the three of us enjoyed animated conversation. My wife and I learned that he was an Iranian expatriate who came to the United States for a better life. He was profoundly saddened by the changes in his country and admitted that he rarely told his passengers that he was from Iran. At the airport I tipped him adequately and he gave me a blank receipt.

Curbside I did a quick count of my bags. One was missing. A recount verified it. I asked my wife to count again. Of course, the camera bag with the videotapes from the shoot and my most expensive camera gear was missing. And the taxi was nowhere in sight. I fought my instinct to panic.

My wife checked our remaining luggage while I went to the taxi dispatcher. I couldn’t identify the cab because he was an independent. And the receipt he gave me was generic. No one in authority at the airport could offer help or suggestions. I cursed myself for losing the bag. I envisioned the cabbie selling my photo gear. I worried about how would I explain it to my client? My heart was beating faster. I started to panic.

The truth is that despite expecting the worst from our fellow humans most people will try to return a lost item of value to its rightful owner. But in order for it to be returned the finder needs to know whom it belongs.

I read a story in a London newspaper on just that topic. Some British scientists did a study of lost wallets. They left wallets around London to see how many would be returned and an interesting statistic arose. Wallets that had baby photos in them were returned at a higher rate than those without.

What does this have to do with losing your camera?

Its difficult to write your name and address on your camera and hang tags can be lost easily but the truth is that you’re probably ready to chalk the camera up as a loss but you’d sure like to get your photos back.

This is what you do. Take a piece of poster board and a marker. Make a sign with your email address on it and maybe your other contact information. On the first frame of every memory card take a photo of your children (or as I did, someone else’s children) holding that card. After you download your memory card and erase the images you can shoot another photo or if you use a card reader just upload the same picture to your card.

Some cameras allow you to choose the image to use on the start up screen. Choose the image with your information.

Whoever finds your camera will undoubtedly look through your photos and hopefully contact you.

What happened to the lost bag from my Vegas trip? As I nervously paced the loading zone at the airport I saw my bag coming toward me in the distance, above everyone’s head. It was the Iranian car driver running toward me holding my bag high in the air.

He told me that we were his last ride of the day and when he got home he noticed my bag tucked between the seat and the sliding door of his minivan cab so he immediately drove back to the airport to find me.

As I said, most people will try to return a lost item of value to its rightful owner.

For a humorous take on this same topic you might want to visit photographer Andrew McDonalds blog.

If you’ve already lost your camera you might want to look at the Found Cameras and Orphan Pictures site.

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So readers, do you have a story about something you’ve lost that was returned to you? Lets hear about it!

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Live From New York…

By Mark Kalan

The line that distinguishes still from video cameras is  blurring.

Since the digital age subverted film, the real difference between a video camera and a still camera was merely the external shape of the camera. Now even that has changed, or been rendered moot.

Internally digital still and video cameras accomplish the same mission. Light travels through a lens and hits a sensor, which converts the information into electrons, and then a computer processes that information and records it onto a memory device.

Most point and shoot digital still cameras have afforded the option of making short video clips for many years but the ability to make serious hi-definition video with sound has eluded the manufactures. That is, until now.

The advent of high-speed large capacity memory cards and multi-megapixel sensors has opened the door for camera designers to create still cameras that can record video with phenomenal quality.

This was proven recently as the new season of NBC’s Saturday Night Live debuted not only with an a new cast, but with a new look for the opening title sequence shot using Canon EOS 5D Mark II and the new Canon EOS 7D digital SLR cameras.

(above) The New Canon 7D

According to the Canon press release: The creative concept behind the opening sequence was “portraiture”. The director and crew looked to capture “living” portraits of the City, illuminating the cast and the unique characters that make up the New York City nightlife.

SNL Crew shooting outdoors at night.

The crew wanted to capture the city nightlife in as natural a look and setting as possible. This meant minimal additional lighting, and making those on-camera feel comfortable to act naturally. Their solution was to use the video capabilities of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Canon EOS 7D Digital SLR cameras.

The SNL Crew shooting in a NYC bar.

Both machines offer amazing low-light performance, small form factor, extensive choice of lenses, some providing superb depth-of-field. A combination that enabled the crew to shoot in predominantly ambient light thus avoiding big lighting gear and the additional manpower needed to operate and power it. Another added benefit; the crew also found it easy to covertly shoot around the city without drawing a crowd.

Filming at night, the new stars of the hit TV show were shot in various New York City hotspots by a small crew discretely capturing the cast as they participated in select New York happenings. The entire segment was captured and edited in a week’s time, incorporating 30p footage from Canon’s 5D Mark II as well as 60p footage used for slow-motion segments shot with Canon’s EOS 7D Digital SLR camera.

The SNL crew viewing a take.

The end result was that the cast and crew were able to shoot in any location – from the Brooklyn Bridge, which has limited ambient light, to a dimly lit street corner, to a more controlled bar interior – using only an on-camera Litepanels MiniPlus for most of the exterior shots and two Kino Flo lights for an interior shot that required some illumination enhancement.

Yuichi Ishizuka, senior vice president and general manager, Consumer Imaging Group, Canon U.S.A. stated, “We have seen a shift in HD video capture toward a simpler and easier HDSLR workflow, and now with the EOS 7D shooting in standard NTSC and PAL frame rates, customers are realizing an even easier HD video workflow, using some of the largest HD video image sensors on the market at a fraction of the cost of competitive equipment,”

The Canon EOS 7D and EOS 5D Mark II empower cinematographers with a high-quality HD video solution featuring full manual exposure control and more than 50 Canon EF lenses to chose from, shooting on two of the industry’s largest HD video sensors. The EOS 7D also features selectable cinematic frame rates. The EOS 7D features Dual DIGIC 4 Imaging Processors and a large APS-C-sized CMOS sensor, while the EOS 5D Mark II features a single DIGIC 4 Imaging Processor and larger Full Frame CMOS sensor, helping to render stunning color reproduction, amazing depth of field and fine high-definition detail.

The Canon EOS 7D records video in one of three modes – Full HD and HD in a 16:9 aspect ratio and Standard Definition (SD) in a 4:3 aspect ratio, all at selectable frame rates: Full HD at 1920 x 1080 pixels in selectable frame rates of 24p (23.976), 25p, or 30p (29.97); 720p HD recording at 50p or 60p (59.94) and SD video at frame rates of 50p or 60p (59.94). The EOS 5D Mark II features 16:9 Full HD video capture at 1920 x 1080 pixels and 30 fps as well as 4:3 standard TV quality(SD) video capture at 640 x 480 pixels and 30 fps. The EOS 5D Mark II features 16:9 Full HD video capture at 1920 x 1080 pixels and 30 fps as well as 4:3 standard TV quality (SD) video capture at 640 x 480 pixels and 30 fps.

Both cameras record video up to 4GB clip length, depending on the level of detail in the scene, a 4GB clip can record approximately 12 minutes of video at full HD resolution or approximately 24 minutes in standard definition. For both the Canon EOS 7D and EOS 5D Mark II, sound is recorded either through an external stereo microphone or a built-in monaural microphone.

Since Saturday Night Live has taken the leap I’m sure other filmmakers will follow suit. And as this is only the first generation of these hybrid machines one can only imagine what we’re in store for in the future.

***

I’d like to add that while it is news that SNL has chosen Canon to shoot their new intro, the first person to produce a short film with the Canon EOS 5D was photojournalist Vince Laforet.

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And a bonus for our blog readers: From January 4 to January 11 ONLY!

$100 OFF on the Canon EOS 5D MARK II BODY ONLY, EOS 5D MARK II W/ 24-105 or EOS 7D W/ 28-135.

You must use the Promotion Code Canon100 We will also include a FREE Sandisk 16GB Extreme Compact Flash Card (60 mb/s) $199.95 Value, on these 3 cameras. No promotion code needed!

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Do you remember your parents filming you as a child? What kind of camera and light was it? 8mm with those large floodlights, Super 8, VHS, Betamax? Tell us about it.

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The NY Times Agrees

By Mark Kalan

In a previous post I called the Samsung DualView on of the innovations of the year. It seems that I’m not alone. the venerable David Pogue, New York Times tech guru and author of The Missing Manuals is of the same opinion. You can read it here on NYTimes.com. While I disagree with him on his assertion that the picture quality is lacking, its still nice to have my opinions affirmed.

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