CES 2020 – Look Ma, No Wires!

This year at CES we saw so many earpods, headphones, and wireless chargers, the market is so crowded, and you have to figure out what to get. And you know that in a year there will be better, faster, smaller. So what do you go for now?

Let’s start with the wireless charger category. Does this scene look familiar, when you travel, or even at home?

When I land at a hotel, I unload my Peak Design tech pack, and get the multi hub block set up, then attach all of the charging cables for my devices. 2 phones, watch, extra battery charger, headphones (not shown). A real mess.

Enter the wireless chargers!

Mophie Wireless Charge Pad

You know how they work: a coil is set inside a platform, and the phones. or devices that can, get recharged, just by being placed on the platform. No cables.

Here is a basic rundown: there are the simple circles for a single device, then the multi chargers that currently handle 3 devices. OK, yes, saw one at CES that handled 6 devices, but it was not something you travelled with. Twas heavy and expensive, about $250. And not available yet.

In the single circle versions for one phone or AirPods, the brands you love have a version: Mophie, MyCharge lead the pack. One thing to remember is that due to current technology, the device has to be in direct contact with the circle to charge.

Not a big deal, unless you use some sort of pop-socket, or a rig to help you hold onto your phone. It the raises the phone off of the charging base, which means no direct contact, and no charge.

Pop-Socket, who has a massive following, introduced a wireless charger with a circular opening well, to fit the pop-socket while on the case, allowing your phone to have direct contact with the charger! If you are a pop socket person, you need to get this charger. It has some weight, so maybe just for home/office, but they heard the fans, and created the right product.

Winner! No more having to take off your case to enjoy wireless charging! Whew! BTW, just had a look and the charger is sold out, so get on that list of you are a pop socket fan!

And that mess of wire at the top of the post? How do you take care of that?

Satechi has currently won the war for this multi device, perfect travel charger. Lightweight, small footprint, and critical point here: retracting Apple Watch charger! And about $110 after the on-site discount code.

There are a few companies that showed products that were not ready for market.

Ampere shared a folding charging unit (above) with some cool new designs coming. This unit is available now. Like so many things about this design, but the weight and bulk kinda stuck with me. Since this is designed (I think) to be a travel unit, that became part of the assessment. As a home unit, just fine.

Eggtronic had a multi unit with retracting watch charger, than will charge faster. coming soon.

Mophie has a perfect 3- device solution, which is great for the home, but the watch charger doesn’t retract, so a tough call for travel. I’ve been using this one on my nightstand.

So for my money, the Satechi is the current travel champ, and will be coming with me on the road .

After all, who needs that rat’s nest of wires on you bathroom counter??

NB: all of the current tech call for a 2-3 mm max height diff for contact between device/charger. Coming tech will be a 12mm clearance allowing more grips on the back of phone cases to be used.

Silly stuff? Maybe, but when you get hooked on the wireless charge, you want it to work in all facets of your life. And it will keep evolving: design wise, power delivery, and then that whole ” no need to be in direct contact” tech.

Why 2 Phones, Not 2 Phone Numbers

I thought it was a crazy idea: who needs 2 phones? One is working just fine.

Then I realized how it could make sense. Social media for one part. I know, I maybe so late to the party. Years ago at CES, I saw people with 5 phones, and used each to post for specific sponsors and clients. Looked like a nutty proposition. The early days of influencers.

After years of covering CES and other events with DSLRs and full up video cameras, then moving to mirrorless and smaller vid cameras, this year I decided to go with only shooting video on mobile for trade show coverage, and a mirrorless for, well, I had to have that format in my hands. Old habits. And I love the Fuji X-T3!

Here is the rig: Beastgrip, Rode VideoMic NTG, Samsung Note 10+.

This is why, after looking at many options, is the working set-up.

Of course the main component is the mobile device.

The Samsung Note 10+, has a key feature that keeps getting used – the stylus! They call it the S-Pen, and it is not just a stylus. It has some cool tech inside that allows you to control the phone by BT. 12mg of RAM makes sure you have fast working vids. The size of the screen, the high quality of the image, and the ability to have a removable 1TB micro SD card, all led me to this device. After years of using an iPhone forever, this Note 10+ provided the specific features I needed. (hot tip-since you can add a microSD, no need to but the heavy internal storage model.

A fast backtrack first: After shooting a concert in NYC, I was on a plane to Asia, and needed to do some initial editing. As it’s first test, I backed up the files to the Micro SD card and put that card into the Note 10+.

With the advantage of the Adobe Lightroom app loaded, the edit and adjustment process became a breeze, due to the large, beautiful screen, and the all important stylus. Battery life was great, and of course, always carry an extra batt pack to keep working. Once done, the images could be immediately uploaded to my social channels. All from a mobile device.

OK, that was why the initial selection of the Samsung Note 10+. One other small note – I do not use a SIM card, as I depend on wireless. Works like a champ, and yes, I have a second phone.

So this becomes a great editing device, but there is more.

As you can see on the video rig, The large screen is helpful, and the BeastGrip has cold shoes to add things like mics, and lights if you desire. A LumeCube is a great addition, and keeps the footprint small. Honestly, the zoom-mic feature of the Samung Note 10+ is pretty sweet if you don’t want to add an external mic. Video quality is outstanding, and the ability to adjust the resolution up to 4K is helpful.

It’s the dang stylus that was the huge sell for me. and Samsung announced a new more affordable version of that device coming soon w/stylus. Apple seems to have missed the boat on that, unfortunately.

Here is a sample vid: No extra titles have been added yet, nor the #s. Pretty much straight out of the smartphone, and went right to Instagram. The RAW stuff. Click to view. Down rezzed for posting here.

Why BeastGrip and not a gimbal? Trust me, I thought the gimbal would be the winner, and had put a special cold shoe ring on the DJI Osmo 3 to make that happen. The issue was the mic wires impeded a smooth, unfettered, gimbal move, defeating the purpose of the gimbal to begin with! So gimbal best with phone alone, but not what I was looking for.

The build on BeastGrip is just right, and is customizable. I would like an additional grip part on the left side, but with all of the 1/4-20’s (tripod sockets) on this, I’m good for now.

For external audio, there are so many choices. With a mobile device, you have to be a bit more clever in the setup. For CES2020, the newly released Rode VideoMic NTG, was the call. The feature set is crazy good, as a shotgun, with the ability to monitor as you record, and a built in clipping light, all worked out. Another good choice is the Rode Wireless-Go for the lavalier mic choice.

I do reserve the higher end Sanken mics for the bigger video rigs, with Sennheiser AVX wireless system in play.

So back to the initial thought: Having one mobile device dedicated to the video, allows you to go live, capture for later, shoot vertical easily, post with no problem, and ALWAYS BE IN TOUCH ON THE ACTIVE MOBILE DEVICE! And seriously, since a lot of this coverage is social or online, the high quality of the Samsung Note10+ works perfectly.

Yes, we are now seeing more feature, story telling content being shot with mobile devices. A master cinematographer using those tools can create magic. This post is only about event coverage. (or is it?)

Separation of uses, with one phone for calls, and the other device for a full working creation tool.

And with no SIM card, there is no need for additional line charges. Bonus!

Another tool I bring with me now is the LaCie Boss,

This a Swiss Army type of SSD storage, that allows me to transfer, and save files, between multiple devices on the fly. With a built in SD slot and all the cables you may need for transferring materials to and from any device, winner right here. Plus if you have a card reader, your can transfer any card you like! I have the 1TB model and it holds all the video, too!

And yes, it’s true that if you make a purchase using the links above, it does help support this site. Thank you in advance!

Best Travel Accessory!

So you just got those amazing BT earbuds/ headset, and you not only sound good, but you look good, too!

Now you are starting some travel, maybe for business, maybe for vacation, and it would sure be cool to use those sweet wireless headphones on your flight.

But if you are getting on a plane, you either need to hard wire your over-ear headphones, or not watch an airplane movie with ear pods.

OK, found a great solution that I had to use a few times before recommending: AirFly by Twelve South, a blue tooth transmitter!

It’s a simple deal: pair your head set or AirPods, plug the Air Fly into the headphone 3.5mm jack on the plane, push a button, and Voila! you are wireless! Good for about 20 hours with the pro.

Thankfully, Delta has a USB port at your seat, so I could charge my phone while flying.

The true story is that I was on my way to a much needed vacation, and was struggling with my Air Pods, and a video on my phone. Yep, it was not a great combo. As people in my row started to get up, the AirPods got loose and flew around the plane. I resorted to the crappy airline wired earbuds, and had to keep unplugging them as my row-mates got back to their seats.

I was determined to find a solution, and still be wireless.

Enter the Air Fly and some sweet over ear headphones. All charged up, I plugged in, pressed the button and the rest of the cross country flight was sorted from an audio perspective!

For you audiophiles, you may ask about latency. For the rest of us, that means a delay between the sound from the source to the headphones. With movies, no issue. Once I used DirectTv which is a kind of live feed for news, it was a bit more apparent. Truth is after a few minutes, even that minor deal went away. maybe the brain just adjusts.

If you fly, this is one heck of a great item to pack. I keep it in my headphone case to make sure I have it. And if you are looking for a cool gift, this works.

Even the Apple store sells it, so it had to pass their test as well.

I have not had a extremely long flight, like NY to Asia this year, yet, but I will have it with me on that when i do.

You can also get a version that allows 2 people to use the same audio feed.

Need to charge?

Uses the new standard of USB C cable.

I did make sure my headset and air pods were paired before I took the trip. Did a test on the laptop. Then once airborne just pressed the button on the AirFly and it was good to go.

There is a big CES wrap-up, with insights and some gadgetry coming, but waiting on some samples to add in.

Lot’s of wireless chargers, ear pods, headphones, security, phone cases, some cool lighting, and the biggest news is that the previously talked about developed tech, is coming into AI play and into your life.

Holiday Gift Guide 2019 – Part 3 – Photo Books to Give and Get!

Still getting last minute discounted prices on sooo many things. Just about every camera store has deals coming almost daily.

In other categories, let’s look at a gift that never gets a software update: Photo Books!

This also seems to be the year of great reprints, so keep an eye out for those Maybe a commentary on new photography, maybe the book market is finding it’s level.

I’ll go through the previous faves here. As I mentioned, some things don’t  need updating, but do go out of print so have a watch put on those. Not everything gets a reprint!

One of my new fave companion books to Photographers Playbook, is PhotoWork: 40 Photographers On Process and Practice.

The good folks at Aperture have developed an easy to digest format, of asking 40 fine art photographers the same questions, such as “ How do you know when a body of work is finished?” This is a book of exploration, and no photographs are presented. A thought starter. Everyone can use some inspiration. about $18.

In the reprint arena one of the great choices is, Subway by Bruce Davidson

 A portrait of the lifeblood of NYC, told in a brooding color love letter, that captured a time, and a culture that makes the melting pot, an overused phrase, a visual reality.

One of the most iconic music photos was taken by Art Kane in 1958.

This year, a book chronicling that shoot was published, and I still go back to it for the stories, and the set up. For the music lover, story lover, and the curious. There is a limited edition copy with a print, but I understand it’s not a print of the final image. Book only about $60

Douglas Kirkland is not only one of the most prolific celebrity photographers, an amazing talent, teacher, and perhaps the nicest man in the business, he has a body of work that is unparalleled.

A gift that you can share across a broad spectrum of people in your sphere, A Life in Pictures, a Douglas Kirkland Monograph, should be in your library.

There is a great series from Aperture in their educational series.

With insights and revelations from major artists like Mary Ellen Mark, Larry Fink, Todd Hido, Alex Webb, and Dawoud Bey, these are affordable softcover books to help inspire. On the site it says a lot are sold out but I’ve found them on Amazon easily. You should click the link to see their other offerings

I won’t go into the more esoteric, and small run books, as it would it be a shame if I recco and you can’t find.

 There is one book I love to gift and just got 10 more copies in to hand out, and that’s Family Of Man.

It’s the most well attending photo exhibit ever, and tells the tale of the human condition, by 256 photographers from around the world. Sure, the show opened in 1955, and the world has gotten a ton smaller, but there are truths there that still hold. A classic gift. Truth is, I found this book in our family bookshelf when I was 8, and it changed my life, and brought me to a life of photography.

Amazon just told me that I’ve made 18 purchases of this book, with multiples in each order.

There will be one more gift guide, as this year, Christmas and Hanukkah intersect so there is time to get more gifts! Next up will be some bits and bobs that you may have missed.

Holiday Gift Guide 2019 – Part 2 – Can You Hear Me Now?

I’ve said it before: Audio is 50% of your video. Unless it’s bad, then it’s 80%!

It’s true that people can consume marginal video if the  sound is good. If sound is bad they are gone. Solid gone.

This part of the gift guide has some options you should consider to increase the peace on your video’s sound.

Rode has become quite the player in the easy to manage mic choices.

This year they introduced the Rode Wireless GO mic system which makes a wireless recording so easy, you can’t ever leave home without it.

With a 2 small footprint modular system, you only need to simply pair once to get a wireless lav system in production.

Designed like 2 squares about an 1 inch each, they easily attach to the subject, which could be you narrating, and the mic input on your camera. Or with some adaptors, your smartphone.

No question, this has become the go-to solid consideration for your vlogging needs.

If you don’t want the wireless option, yet still require the lavalier, the RODE SmartLav (with adaptors not included-keep all of it in a small bag), works great on smartphones, and hard wired into you camera.

Below is an older vid, check the connectivity, but still gives you a good idea on the how to use the mic. A great option, even with a DJI Osmo 3 Gimbal as you cover events.

And this mic, the Rode VideoMicro is always in my bag, as it plugs fast into my camera and give a higher quality directional mic-ing, and gets that nasty on camera noise out of the picture. A great compact solution.

You can use it with the above system, and honesty get a more discreet mic-ing option.

For monitoring all of your video need there is no need to break the bank as the Sony professional over ear headset is only about $100. The choice of pros, these deliver a flat sound, not colored by bass or high end to give you the best, honest, depiction of the sound you are gathering.

When you do start to go higher end on your audio capture, one of the best new mixers out there is from CEntrance. Whether you are podcasting, want cleaner audio on your DSL or Mirrorless, this unit is super clean and the design is minimal, so the rig you build is manageable.  The Mixerface R4 has a microSD slot so you can get the insurance of another copy of the record. I always want the insurance. You get 2 XLR inputs, and super easy connection to a smartphone

For microphones, I prefer the Sanken COS 11D for a lavalier, and an Audio Technica for the shotgun. You should listen for yourselves at a brick and mortar to ensure you are getting the sound you like. And if you order the Sanken, make sure the plug is right for your wireless system, and you can handle phantom power with your rig.

Then you have another higher end wireless options for more professional work. After years of rocking the Sennheiser G2 system, I moved to the Sennheiser AVX system and it integrates perfectly with the CEntrance mixer. I have purchased addition batteries, as depending on the event length, you may burn through them, Always have extras! Yes, it comes with a lav in the kit, so maybe you now have a spare. I’m still in the Sanken camp.

The next step is the mounting to a camera.
I would suggest researching which fits your camera system, and you mic system of choice. I found a half circle solution, but your choice may vary.

Once you have recorded the flat “raw” sound, perhaps a gift of tutorials on basic sound mixing will make your productions gain that extra quality to send it over the top.

 Heck, we go to Dolby movies for a reason, right?

OK, maybe went off on an expensive tangent here, but sound is very important to all of us.

The next Gift Guide will go a little simpler.

And the deals are still coming into my email, so there is still time.

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