Feb 132013

Caroline Wise wearing a knitted shawl she made.

Caroline has remained busy with her favorite hobby, if one could call it by the singular, it should be hobbies. My wife is an admitted fiber junkie, addicted to all things crafted with fiber. This shawl was crocheted over the course of a month for the purpose of being auctioned off for charity. She’s asked me to point out that the fiber is 80% wool and 20% possum from New Zealand. Weird that people still have hobbies that create things in the real world.

Aug 132011

SouSou shoes seen on Rei at the Phoenix Public Market in downtown Phoenix, Arizona

Caroline and I were at the downtown Phoenix Public Market yesterday when she noticed a girl walking by wearing what she thought were shoes by Sou.Sou. I walked over to the girl, whose name is Rei, and explained that my wife was curious if her shoes were from Sou.Sou. The look of astonishment on her face that someone here in Phoenix recognized her rather exotic and typically never seen in Arizona shoes had been identified. Turns out that she had bought them recently in San Francisco: after researching Sou.Sou in the Bay Area, Rei picked up her shoes at New People 1746 Post Street. This shopping ‘center’ is now on our list of places to visit, New People includes a 143-seat underground cinema, a cafe, an art gallery, the New People store for pop culture items, a fashion store area that includes Sou.Sou Black Peace Now, and Baby, The Stars Shine Bright – watch Kamikaze Girls! The designers of Sou.Sou are out of Kyoto, Japan and so far, their work hasn’t been picked up for cheap imitation by Wal Mart, keep your fingers crossed – now go to San Francisco and play.

 Posted by at 1:46 am  Tagged with:
Aug 082011

My typical writing environment while working on Stay In The Magic

My blog has been greatly neglected over the previous nine or so months, reason being, I have been writing a book. I thought I would have been done by now, but here on my third draft I start to wonder if I’ll ever finish. Well, I will, and it should now be sooner rather than later. After this reworking I will hand the manuscript over to one person and from her suggestions and corrections, I will take one more "final" pass and then it is out of my hands.

Today’s photo shows what I stared at the first seven months of 2011, papers spread out before me with passages yet to be written, or a page getting a rewrite. Now I am trying to bring closure so I can move on to new projects. When this process does come to an end, I will miss more than a few baristas from my local Starbucks. As an aside between crafting words, I would eavesdrop on customers. If only I was a fiction writer, these folks can break the worst case of writer’s block with their nutty characters and dramatic issues.

I don’t know if I’ll ever attempt to write a book for the general public again, this is time-consuming and often frustrating. On the other hand, it is with amazement that from time to time I come back upon a passage that delights me and I am in near disbelief that the words captured on the paper fell out of my head and into my hand.

 Posted by at 4:57 am  Tagged with:
Aug 062011

Audio tools for Magic Lantern

Today’s entry should feature much larger images. While they are as wide as I can fit in the frame, this is one entry in which visitors should click the images to see the larger captures.

The image on display above, one of eight, is the first screen one sees when starting up the menu system of the Magic Lantern software for a number of Canon HDSLR cameras. After the release of the first DSLR that was able to record HD 1080p video, there was a rush to see just what the camera was capable of. Trammell Hudson was the first to throw his programming skills at writing "enhancement" software on top of Canon’s firmware. The capabilities that were uncovered and offered to professionals and amateurs alike, were nothing less than astounding.

Back to the Audio screen above. We are no longer saddled with the limitations of the Canon software regarding audio. There are audio meters for monitoring what is being recorded in the camera. Many people have now started recording a secondary audio on something like the Zoom H1 microphone/recorder or they bypass the internal microphone entirely and instead are using the Rode VideoMic. Should one decide to record an external audio track, there is a piece of software called Plural Eyes that allows the audio to be synced to the internal audio track – great for shooting music video’s where lip syncing is required.

The Live View settings from Magic Lantern

Live View settings, these are the settings that affect the Live View monitor when a Canon HDSLR is in Movie record mode. Magic Lantern adds a Histogram or Waveform view of the video signal for measuring exposure values. Zebras are also a usefull tool for evaluating exposure, and a personal favorite. False Color is one more method for checking exposure.

Cropmarks are are another of my favorite additions to my camera. With them, I’m able to have an overlay on my video screen that identifies the title safe frame and the action safe frame. Stay within those boundaries and your video framing should capture all of the details you require. Ghost Image creates a transparent layer of a photo just taken, I believe this aids in creating panoramas but I could see it also being helpful in shooting stop-motion animation.

Magic Zoom is another tool I love from ML (Magic Lantern). Using the Magic Zoom when you are in manual zoom, preferred when shooting video, a center pop-up image is displayed on your Live View screen that magnifies an area of the video. This area can be moved to focus in on a particular item, say a face that you are recording, using the arrow keys. Split Screen and Focus Peak are tools that aid in focusing.

Movie preferences from the Magic Lantern software for Canon HDSLR's

The Movie preferences screen. The most amazing part of the capability represented here is the Bit Rate selection. Users are able to select a higher bit rate for recording video. The standard bit rate from Canon is about 45mbit per second. Setting the Constant Bit Rate to a factor as high as 2.0x (recently limited to this speed as it has proven the safest in pushing the bandwidth higher) and disabling audio while using a fast memory card, I have read of some users achieving an almost 50% improvement with recording bandwidth. This increase in bit rate affects the spatial quality of the image you are recording which, if the shot is a green screen clip destined for compositing in post-production, can give the filmmaker much greater quality in his or her workflow.

The only other function I utilize under this menu is the Movie REC Key. There is an option to use the shutter as the record trigger with a half-press. This is great if you have mounted your camera on a shoulder rig and your hand is holding the grip of the rig. Simply plug in Canon’s cheap wired remote, attach it within easy reach, give the shutter button a half press and you are recording.

One other thing, if you are using Zebras to verify exposure, it is nice to "Hide" the Zebras when recording so they don’t disturb your view while following the action.

The one menu specific to shooting regular old photographs with Magic Lantern enhancements

If you are serious about photography, there are a few things on the Shoot menu that are of super value. First is HDR Bracketing. The photographer is now able to choose to shoot between 2 and 9 shots using between 0.5 and 5 exposure values (EV).

Built-in Intervalometer, yeah, we can shoot timelapse. LCD Remote shot allows the camera to be setup and with a wave of the hand near the back of the camera, we can trigger the shutter. Audio RemoteShot allows for the triggering of the shutter using a loud sound, say a hand clap. Motion Detect, try using this on a stormy night while trying to shoot lightening! Bulb Timer is what every nightsky star photographer needs.

* Added August 24: There has been a recent update that allows timelapse photographers to shoot from day into night, with ML software calculating the change in light to adjust shutter speed and aperature – for those of you who understand this, it is AMAZING!

Exposure settings for the Magic Lantern software

Greater control of ISO settings, especially important with video where it has been shown that multiples of 160 ISO are the sweet spots for capturing video with less noise artifacts. Being able to use a shutter speed of 1/48 is also one of the techniques that give videos, that filmy look we people enjoy when watching movies. Recently Alex, one of the Magic Lantern programmers, added the ability to press the "Flash" button on the front of the camera while in Movie mode, that brings up an overlay on the Live View screen allowing for the easy changing of ISO and White Balance. It is a wow feature for convenience.

The Picture Style selection is not unique to ML, but it is still very important. My User Defined style is the Technicolor flat profile. This profile removes much contrast and deep saturated colors, for the average consumer, this ability might only be frustrating. But for the aspiring filmmaker, this allows for the recording of details that are lost in consumer color profiles. This also requires that the artist understand that they will have to learn a little something about color correction in their editing software or in their workflow while working in Adobe After Effects.

* Added August 24: Another fantastic update, there is a new menu item that has been added to the above screen. This new function allows you to shoot in one picture style, but while setting up your shot you can preview using a different style so you can best judge what final colors you will be color correcting to should you be shooting in a flat style, such as the Technicolor picture style.

The Focus menu screen from Magic Lantern

Much attention is paid to focus. How can one make a good movie if the shots are out of focus? With the HDSLR filmmaking environment taking off, there are accessories helping with focus such as attachable view finders that magnify your LCD and shade it for easier viewing. There are those who opt for external HDMI enabled monitors that are two or three times larger than the screen on the back of our cameras. But these are not necessary to getting right to work. Using the magnification tools already on the camera and the assistance of ML enhancements, I am able to find perfect focus using the screen just as it is.

Trap Focus will snap a photo when an object in a scene comes into focus, say a tiger in the wild passing your camera while you have Motion Detect enabled!

Follow Focus uses the arrow keys to move the lens in and out of focus.

The big but still under development feature here is Rack Focus. Using a combination of selections including Follow Focus, Focus Speed, Focus Delay, Focus Direction, and Focus A Point, the filmmaker is able to shoot a scene with two objects or people, starting with a focus on the person in the foreground and then bring the focus on to the other person who is in the background, or the other way around. Rack Focus allows you to set the focal points and with the push of a button, the focus moves between the two points. Press it again, and you return to the starting focus point.

Hey you macro photographers, need to take a bunch of photos of an object but want a long depth of field with everything in focus? Try using Stack Focus. A series of photographs will be taken that you can stack into a single photograph – with everything in focus.

The Tweak menu for Magic Lantern

The Tweak menu. Not much to change here, it has been set up by the programmers to be the most functional right after install. Good idea to read the User Guide and learn about this stuff, especially before asking busy programmers who are donating their time for this project, about things probably answered in the User Guide.

The Debug menu in Magic Lantern

Not a lot here in the Debug menu for the casual user, but there are two new functions that are very helpful. The first is the Dim Display item. If it is not important for you to monitor what you are recording on the LCD monitor of your camera, this will allow the display to dim and thus saves your battery. You can also decide to turn the display clean off using the Turn Off Display function – selectable with times of 5 seconds to 15 minutes before the diplay turns off.

The second to last screen is the Config screen, which I’m obviously not including. With that minor screen with but a few selections, one controls the config files. We are offered up to four different configurations. You may decide to have a configuration with menu items that only pertain to filming using tools that help you when shooting on a tripod or dolly, while another config file is best suited to handheld shots. A third config can be created for night shots and a forth regular photography.

The final screen is the Information menu. Here you will find helpful hints, an FAQ, and other stuff. Another very useful recent addition to ML was the inclusion of onboard help files. When in the ML menus, if you press DISP while hovering over a function item, a help file will be displayed for those times you forgot how something works.

There is much more to this software than I have written about. I cannot truly convey the convenience and opportunity offered an aspiring or even professional filmmaker that ML is giving us. When you consider that 1920×1080 HD video is effectively 2k video that can easily be scaled for broadcast in a movie theater, you start to realize that amazing things are happening in the film and story telling industries.

Why use an HDSLR and Magic Lantern? Because a Canon T2i, also known as the 550d only costs about $700 without a lens. Combine this with the great depth-of-field that can be had with SLR lenses and you have a powerful tool that in many instances can compete with cameras costing more than $10,000.

If you find yourself intrigued and own a Canon T1i, T2i, T3i, 50D, 60D, 7D, or 5D, there is a good chance you will fall in love with the capability given to you for free to explore more of the art you are learning and practicing.

If you own a 5D, check this LINK to find Magic Lantern for your camera. If you own one of the other camera’s, check out this LINK to find a new Unified Branch of the Magic Lantern.

 Posted by at 10:37 am  Tagged with:
Jul 262011

Caroline Wise attending John Marshall's Katazome dyeing workshop at the Intermountain Weavers Conference in Durango, Colorado

Here she is, my fiber addicted wife Caroline Wise. Metamucil you ask, maybe oatmeal or whole wheat bread is her fiber of choice? Heck no, all that would be cheap compared to someone who has joined the flock of weavers, spinners, basket makers, dyers, knitters, and other assorted people who enjoy the hobby that takes over all of your space. Fiber artists don’t have anything like Knitters Anonymous, they have the exact opposite, Fiber Guilds.

Fiber workshop at IWC in Durango, Colorado

And what do guilds do? They organize workshops, retreats, and classes. They write books, magazine articles, and produce videos. Bands of merchants selling the hot wares follow this tribe around to encourage further consumption and great new projects yet to be spun, frogged, carded, and strewn about as dozens of UFO’s – Un-Finished Objects.

Mud dyed fabric at IWC in Durango, Colorado

Ever heard of dyeing fabric with mud? Forget your Dolce & Gabbana, we’re going stone age and wearing mud again, I’m not even sure then why we must first put it on fabric instead of just rolling around in the stuff. To be fair, this method of dyeing with mud is called Bogolanfini, a traditional African method – albeit one modified by one Judy Dominic. Judy particularly enjoys the inspiration of the designs used by the people of Mali.

John Marshall demonstrating dyeing Kotozume style in indigo at IWC in Durango, CO

Try pronouncing Katazome or Shibori. Katazome is a paste resist dyeing method using rice paste, soy milk, various pigments, and a lot of indigo. It was this class given by John Marshall here in Durango, Colorado at the campus of Fort Lewis that brought us to the Intermountain Weavers Conference. Every other year, IWC hosts a fiber hoedown that attracts members and non-members alike to spend three days trying new fiber drugs. Trust me, it is not uncommon to hear someone asking to borrow a needle.

Fabric coming out of the indigo dye bath still green - IWC in Durango, CO

John Marshall teaches his students this old Japanese art of Katazome that is quickly disappearing as modern manufacturing processes and the desire for inexpensive clothing makes this a dieing craft. After the students applied pigments and paste resist materials and probably some other processes in an order I have no clue about, they would dip their work into a vat of indigo. As the cloth is pulled from the indigo, it is still green, as were the leaves that went into the vat that makes indigo.

As the fabric oxidizes with indigo dye, it slowly turns blue. IWC in Durango, CO

The magic of indigo happens as the materials are exposed to the air; they begin to oxidize. This oxidation process is what turns the fabric that familiar blue we are all aware of. Depending on what is being dyed, the fabric can turn deep shades of blue, as do fingers, and even the hair of one of the ladies in Caroline’s class. Hey Nancy, not sure what I think of blue bangs on white hair, though it wasn’t bad. Maybe this will inspire this grandmother-aged sweet-lady to now consider a tattoo of an alpaca with crossed shears. Argh.

Shibori style dyed fabric presented by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada at IWC in Durango, CO

The other word I introduced you to was Shibori. Shibori is an ancient Japanese fiber art similar to the Rajashtahni and Gujarati craft of Bandhani. These two styles of dyeing can involve an incredible amount of handwork. Small or even larger segments of cloth are wrapped, stitched, folded, twisted, and bound with string, at times hundreds even thousands of the wrapped bundles are applied to a piece of cloth. This slows down and can stop the dye from reaching all of the cloth as it is dipped in dye to produce beautiful patterns. Now think of where you may have seen or heard of a cloth that is a descendent of this process. It sounds a bit like Bandhani, how about the good old Bandana? Bet you didn’t know that it wasn’t the hippies of the 1960’s who invented Tie Dye.

Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada at IWC in Durango, CO

After much work and a ton of international coordination, the board members of IWC were able to convince the renowned Scholar, Curator, and Artist Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada to lead a workshop teaching this art form known as Shibori. Ms. Wada not only taught an overflowing class of enthusiastic students, she was also the Keynote Speaker of the conference. With nothing else going on that night, I stuck around to listen, good thing I did. While fiber arts may not be my specialty, I can certainly appreciate the craft and skill that goes into this work. During the presentation we learned of the work of a number of artists working in Japan that elicited the oohs and aahs of the overheated theater that reached its seating capacity. Some of the artists who truly made an impression on me were Jurgen Lehl, Christina Kim and the guys behind Sou.Sou; Tsuyoshi Wakabayashi, Katsuji Wakisaka, and Hisanobu Tsujimura.

Sign directing attendees to the 2011 Intermountain Weavers Conference in Durango, CO

The grounds of Fort Lewis are spread out, although it may have only felt that way because Durango sits at 6,512 feet above sea level (1984m). On one end of the campus was the Student Union building where check-in, the cafeteria, and merchants were located. In a nearby building, five or six classes were being held, next door to that was the theater. On the way north across campus was another building where a few classes were taking place, followed by the Arts building where Caroline’s class and five others were going on. At the far north, a juried fiber exhibit was taking place.

Knitted trophy dear head by Syndi Roberts at IWC in Durango, CO

Vegetarian trophy heads. I didn’t see this one coming. For those who enjoy a little stuffed head taxidermy of a trophy kill but would like to be animal cruelty free while admiring the beast mounted on the wall, try knitting your own. That’s just what this young 22-year old woman Syndi Roberts did. I wonder if I found a dead bear someday out on the trail that died of natural causes and I shorn that old bear to bring the fiber home to Caroline. Could she spin my bear fur into yarn and knit me up bear head, I’d imagine that I would be the envy of all my tree-hugging buddies.

Betty Gaudy showing off her handmade 1920's era swimsuit at the IWC fashion show in Durango, CO

From furry heads, to hot bodies. What kind of fibery workshop / festival event would be complete without a fashion show? A bad one, the Intermountain Weavers didn’t disappoint. This 80 something year old babe stole the show with her soon to be trendy again swim suit that dragged out the wolf whistles. Betty relished the attention strutting her figure while notching up the temperature in the theater another few degrees. She pranced left, sashayed right and flaunted every bit of sexy she could muster.

Questionable as to what exactly is going on here at IWC in Durango, CO

From the bodacious to the lascivious. This show had it all including this kinky master/slave display featuring elements of domination and bestiality from two bad-ass grannies who knew how to get the kink on. Sure, they wrapped it in some innocuous Mary Had A Little Lamb skit, but I knew the sub-context, nothing is lost on me, or my vivid imagination.

Caroline Wise about to dye her cloth artwork in indigo at IWC in Durango, CO

The next day, things went back to normal and the attendees got back to serious craft. Caroline was now ready to start dyeing her designs on hemp cloth. With her rubber gloves and apron there would be no turning her skin, or hair blue. John Marshall was pushing his students to complete half a dozen projects teaching them this art of Katazome.

Working a new weaving on a Tapestry Loom at IWC in Durango, Colorado

During my relatively short stay on campus, I took some time to visit all of the classrooms to see what else was on offer. In this class, maybe a dozen people were working on improving their tapestry loom skills. It was also possible this was the first time on such a loom, I didn’t want to disturb the instructors, so I simply stuck my head in, snapped a few photos and left.

Visiting one of the weaving workshops at IWC in Durango, Colorado

This weaving workshop was specializing at creating stripes. The patterns and techniques that have been developed over the previous 20,000 years by the hands of countless human beings across all geographical regions of our planet is as diverse as there are sunrises in ones life. If we are fortunate, these women who are keeping these arts alive will inspire a new generation to pick up the craft and with any luck, some of the history, skills, and methods will find their way on to video to be shared with future generations. You see, I have this hope that at some point in our evolution, we humans will become enlightened and through the work of the many minds who are creating ever greater efficiencies, humans will learn to enjoy their time where learning and crafts lead the day as opposed to rushing around responding to non-sensical information and the demands of work.

Cutting patterns in the sewing workshop at IWC in Durango, Colorado

Advancing ones skills or learning new ones, this is goal of these workshops. Here these two women are working to expand their knowledge of sewing. Maybe, this is also an opportunity to rub shoulders with like minded individuals and get away from spouses who may not be exactly supportive of these hobby crafts. The most striking aspect of my short  visits to these events, is the camaraderie exhibited between attendies. There is no hesitation to share tips and tricks, there is no bragging about statistics that put one person in a bragging position where their expertise creates celebrity – most of the time!

A hand woven shawl on display at IWC in Durango, Colorado

This is an example of the final outcome. Spend years perfecting the techniques that broaden the ability to discern the beauty in patterns and then deploy those skills to inspire your fellow artists.This handwoven shawl was on display in the non-juried Intermountain Spirit exhibit that attending members are encouraged to submit their best work to.

A handwoven basket on display at the non-juried Intermountain Spirit Exhibit, part of the IWC held in Durango, Colorado

My vote for best of show would have been this handwoven basket. The irregular shape and southwest mountain colors with a fine band of green glass beads really worked for me. And people think basket weaving is a boring chore for retirees with nothing better to do, as though staring at a small screen tapping out messages in 140 characters or less is a statement of the pinnacle of sophistication people have attained. Do I sound bitter about the neglect of our skills, intellect, and respect for those who learn? Well, I guess I am – oh how I wish humanity would find its next renaissance.

Caroline Wise's finished pieces of Katazome style fabric dyeing at IWC in Durango, Colorado

The culmination of Caroline’s efforts at the Intermountain Weavers Conference 2011 event in Durango, Colorado. Next year, she will likely attend Fibers Through Time 2012 to be held in Phoenix, Arizona. If we are still living in the southwest the following year, I wouldn’t imagine it as being too far a stretch that she will once again find herself in Durango attending IWC 2013.