Sunday, May 23, 2010


Today I had my first cosplay-shoot. But that is another story! This is the story of my homemade softbox which I decided to start making the night before the shoot-day, since I'm unable to properly schedule anything.

It all started with a big cardboard box I had from when I had ordered some music stuff (mic-stand etc.); I took that and cut it up into triangle-shaped pieces. Then I covered one side of the pieces with white A4 paper, in the same way I did the dish, except for putting them on a flat plane.

Then I used the cable ties I had left over from the camera bag mod to connect the large cardboard pieces to each other. As front diffuser I used some white see-through sheet thing I had gotten at a fleamarket for 1€.

As for the end result: huge. Behold, The Monster!

For those keeping score, it's about 80x80cm at the front.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Kipinä Spring Exhibition

Today was culmination of the dance school Kipinä's spring term, with a big exhibition with performances from the various dance groups. This turned out to be quite a long day as I had asked if I could go there and snap some pictures of the dress rehearsal since I desparately wanted some experience in photographing low-light stage areas.

I tried with the kit lens first since that would give me the most variation in focals length, but even at the widest aperture (3.5) it wasn't enough. Good thing I had brought with me my 50mm 1.8 prime. I would have wanted to shoot at about 2.8 for best depth of field, but even that didn't really give satisfying results, so I had to it set at 2.5 for the most part. (That high-ISO on the 550D would really have come in handy.)

First of all, some pictures.

The last one is my personal favourite.

So what have I learned other than that I have a thing for flinging hair? First of all, I need to stop using the focus-lock so much; I had to delete far too many out-of-focus pictures where I hadn't bother to refocus. Second, a stage, especially one where the lighting isn't even and people are constantly moving in and out of the spotlight, is a bitch to shoot; imagine the last shot with a bit more light on the girl in center.

Besides that, some practical issues: get a spare 4GB card and check that your battery is charged. I had to start deleting a couple of sets of old images as I was shooting when I noticed I was running low on space, and I was actually stopped just 60 images from a full card by the battery running out.

And finally some trivia: I had been at a housewarming party the night before and had barely slept off the effects of the drink as I got up at 9 in the morning. Went to the place where I shot about 3 hours straight, then home to get a bit to eat and back to the scene again for my group's dress rehearsal. So I had been up for almost 10 hours already after a night of little sleep as I performed our routine. I don't know if that worked against me or for me, but it went quite ok.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Apple messed up

This is old news for most people, but Apple really messed up with iMovie version 7 (aka. iLife '08). I was trying to put together a simple video with a long stretched sped up and then a 'Ken Burns' image at the end, and no matter where I looked in iMovie I couldn't find the option to speed up the video. Turns out it wasn't even included in that version. Going back to the previous version, iMovie 6 HD, I did find a "speed up" effect, but it was so limited as to be useless to me.

Good thing I know of the old "add and scale" trick in Quicktime. I still needed to edit the video to have the image at the end and some transitions, so I thought I'd do the transitions in iMovie then export to a new file, then fix the speed in Quicktime, then import that back again into iMovie to add the image and music. If this sounds overly complicated, it's because it really was. It wasn't even a workable solution as when I sped up the movie I just had exported from iMovie it ended up dropping so many frames it was unbearable.

So as I was exporting the clip again for the second time in hopes of getting it fixed, I thought I'd try the known route: doing it all in Quicktime. I wouldn't have any fancy effects, but with the estimated time for the export of the new file being about one hour I had time to kill. Quickly opened the files, Motion-JPEG being easy on the processor, trimmed out what I didn't need, pasted together and fixed the speed; then did the Ken Burns image quickly in iMovie, limited to 10 seconds, but ok. Export that while the first was still going, quickly pasted it all together onto the audio track I had prepared.

End result: iMovie taking the better part of two evenings and nothing to show for it but big temporary files; Quicktime Pro got it done in about half an hour. I know it's a matter of what tools you know best, but Apple seriously messed up with iMovie, at least for what I want.

Oh, and the video.