Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sanyo HD1000

Have been playing with the Sanyo XACTI HD1000 camera. It's a full 16x9, 1080i camera that fits in your pocket. It's rugged and simple, with excellent battery life and easy to use controls.

Later this week I will send the picture to a 50 inch flat screen--via the HD1000 docking station's HDMI output. It will be interesting to see how the picture compares to HDV.

The only downside i can see so far is the camera's smallness. HD is very sensitive to jiggle-cam. Although the HD1000 has excellent optical image stabilization (OIS), it's still a tiny cam and difficult to hold steady.

Overall the cam looks pretty impressive. It's H.264 compressed video records to an inexpensive standard SD chip. Plug the chip into a Windows machine, and you can edit the video easily.

Journalists and interviewers have been using the cam for research interviews.

This weekend I bought a cheap Sony lavaliere (lav) mike and a mini to micro-mini plug adapter so I can use the lav mike on the HD1000.

After playing with the cam for a while, I recommended it to a doc filmmaker as a second cam to use on the floor of the Democratic National Convention. The HD1000 may be a good way to get candid 'on the spot' interviews in HD.


Blurbs, those little quotes you see on DVDs and book covers, "Wonderful book, great insight..." are the fuel for a good deal of book marketing.

Three months ago I didn't know a blurb from a blog. Now I'm seeking blurbs for my first book.

The past week I've been contacting prominent people to ask them to "blurb" book #1. (Blurb is a noun as well as a verb.) I've contacted people whose work I respect greatly, and have read for years.

When I rent DVDs I am influenced by blurbs. "Two thumbs up" by Ebert and partner, means that I rent the movie. A blurb by Joel Siegel means Do Not Rent This Movie.

When I buy books, I am influenced by reviews rather than blurbs. In fact, I can't remember ever buying a book based on a blurb.

My publisher says book blurbs are very important. I respect his knowledge of this business and until I learn differently, must assume he is right.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

D40 camera

Bought a Nikon D40 camera with an 18-55 mm lens (as recommended by photographer Ken Rockwell on his excellent photography website).

Shot all the illustrations for the camera book with it. Astonishing camera. It has rekindled my love for still photography.

The 18-55 mm Nikon lens that comes with the D40 is amazing.

book endorsements

Urgent request from the international distributor for additional book endorsements for Book #1.

Tomorrow I send emails, make phone calls, and otherwise attempt to contact prominent filmmakers to ask for endorsements.

When I was first asked to contact celebrities, I was overcome with fear. Now, perhaps because of the urgency, I just don't give a damn. It's another job that has to be done.

What's the worst that can happen? They ignore me? They're doing that already.

Huge lesson here for future books. Get. Endorsements. Early.

Yoga injury

I've become a cliche. The office worker with a yoga injury.

Somehow, during yoga practice i managed to sprain my foot. (I didn't even know a foot could be sprained.)

The next morning, my right ankle and foot were so painful I couldn't walk, or put any weight on it whatsoever. My wife had to bring me crutches so I could make it to the bathroom. The doctor said that nothing is broken. He suspects that I stretched and injured a tendon or muscle.

I emailed my yoga teacher and she said ice it, ice it, ice it. (Doctor said, that's exactly right.) After a day of ice, compression and elevation most of the swelling and pain is gone. Two days after the injury, I tried to go back to yoga.

No luck. No strength in the foot, and no balance. Looks like I will be out of commission for another two or three days at the least.

I did not know I'd injured the foot during practice. As best I can figure, it happened during fixed firm pose. My right foot was cramping (common problem) and I think I put pressure on the foot instead of working the cramp out, or sitting out the posture.

My yoga teacher once practiced with a broken ankle. I have no idea how she did it. The ankle is essential to all of the standing postures, and about half of the floor postures we are doing.

Camera book to publisher

Two books finished!

The second book (the camera book) went to the publisher last week.

The afternoon of the 15th, with 1 hour to go, my HP 1300 printer died. Fortunately, was able to find someone to print the manuscript. Got the package--CD's, image placement sheets, manuscript--to the post office 21 minutes before the last mail truck.

When I look at the manuscript, i'm stuck by the fact that the book is as much about creativity as anything else. There isn't anything quite like it out there.

I suspect that this book will either sell truckloads or else nothing at all. No middle ground.

Now it's time to clean house, organize files, prepare for next project.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Next book

Already thinking of next book.

Subjects in my idea file are all over the map.
- yoga
- MacArthur Foundation
- aging and fitness
- hot air ballooning
- architecture of low cost housing
- sustainable communities
- filmmaking
- Canada

The only thing I know is that next book will probably be nonfiction, because I've spent the last 4 years learning the craft, and would like to solidify the skills.

I have much to learn. I read things like and I'm awed by the level of nonfiction writing out there, the competition.

Daily yoga

About a year ago I realized that the only way to survive a sedentary job like writing was to make exercise a part of the work day.

I now begin each day with a strenuous 90 minute session of Bikram yoga.

The results have been pretty good: lost 50 pounds, sleep better, get more work done, anxiety and worry largely a thing of the past, more cheerful.

I'm better able to withstand mental and physical stress of writing. (After a day of writing I'm exhausted and dripping with sweat.)

Wish I'd fully understood the necessity for daily vigorous exercise as a prophylactic for sedentary work 30 or 40 years ago. Maybe I could have avoided some of the health issues I've had to wrestle with over the past few years.

Camera book--last two weeks

I'm in the last two weeks of preparing the camera book for the publisher.

- Solved office situation by clearing out a room at home, and putting a sign on the door "Office. Work Hours 9 AM-5 PM." Sounds dumb, but I'm so visually oriented that it seems to work. (Rental deal for small studio downtown fell through.)

- Am revising the text, again. Each time it comes a little more into focus.

- Have photo shoot tentatively scheduled for next week. Found 3 attractive models locally, and have ordered props from B&H. (The props are actually tools that I have been meaning to buy anyway--like a Rycote Softie windscreen, and a DSC Labs Warm'nWhite test card.)

- Got final cover layout this morning. Cover looks great.

- Sent 20 pages to publisher for initial page layout.


Nikon D40

Just bought a Nikon D40 with an 18-55mm lens.

One word. Amazing.

The images are sharp and brilliant. Focusing is effortless. The weight and "feel" of the camera is perfect. Exposure is exactly right, every time.

The 6 mega pixel sensor is small by current camera standards, but I can make an 8x10 300 dpi photograph from one of these files.

Since the largest print I need for my current book is about 5x7 inches, the resolution of the D40 is perfect.

The difference between the D40 and my first film SLR, a Minolta SR1 is probably greater than the difference between the SR1 and the view camera that Matthew Brady used in the Civil War.

I have to learn still photography all over again.

HDTV -- 1080p or 720p?

From David Pogue's column in the New York Times.
In this interview, he is questioning an HDTV salesman:

D.P. Question: OK, how about this one: 720p or 1080p?

A: These are measurements of how many fine lines make up the picture.

You’d think that 1080p is obviously better than 720p. Trouble is, you won’t get a 1080p image unless you feed it a 1080p signal — and that’s hard to come by. There’s no such thing as a 1080p TV broadcast (cable, satellite, anything), and won’t be for years. Even most games, like Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, generally send out 720p (or less).

So the *only* way to get a 1080p picture on a 1080p set is to buy a high-def DVD player (Blu-ray or HD DVD). That’s the only way.

[D.P. adds: Even then, you won’t see any difference between 720p and 1080p unless you sit closer than 10 feet from the TV and it’s bigger than 55 inches or so.

And even then, you’re not getting any additional sharpness or detail. Instead, as CNET notes, you’re just gaining the ability to move closer without seeing individual pixels: “In other words, you can sit closer to a 1080p television and not notice any pixel structure, such as stair-stepping along diagonal lines, or the screen door effect (where you can actually see the space between the pixels).”]