Archive for April, 2020
Sunday, April 26th, 2020
I’m reading The Worst Journey in the World, by this then-kid Apsley Cherry-Garrard who was on Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s journey to the South Pole that didn’t go so well. Early 1900’s stuff. Almost everyone died so it’s a miracle this book exists. The reason it does, aside from having a writerly survivor, isn’t cryptic:
It is one of the main objects of this book to hand on a complete a record as possible of the methods, equipment, food and weights used by Scott’s Last Expedition for the use of future explorers. ‘The first object of writing an account of a Polar voyage is the guidance of future voyages; the first duty of the writer is to his successor.’
120 years later:
Sunday, April 19th, 2020
I could see it going either way, can’t you? I could see Disney paying McDonald’s to put Frozen II toys in Happy Meals (along with a massive marketing campaign) to help promote the movie. I could also see McDonald’s paying Disney for the right to do that, to help sell a bunch of Happy Meals (or more like bring parents to McDonald’s).
Turns out its an “it depends” situation. In the case of Disney, which is of course a massive brand, McDonalds pays Disney:
And it’s a billion dollar deal.
For “weaker” brands, apparently there are no fees.
We were just at a McDonald’s the other day, and the Happy Meal had a “Pikmi Pop” in it, which I’d never heard of it. It’s not a movie or TV show or anything, it’s just some toy thing. Even if they are some toy phenomenon, I can’t imagine McDonald’s is paying for the right in this case, but it doesn’t sound like they are paid to do it either.
Thursday, April 9th, 2020
Andy Baio’s amazing thread from last year:
Ana Valens dug up some of the best replies.
Tom Falzani created a site showing examples of how to break the guidelines.
Monday, April 6th, 2020
I got me a setup!
I was on a Zoom call with Dan Mall a little while back. The first thing you’ll notice while being on a Zoom call with Dan Mall is how extremely organized and professional Dan is. He can really wrassle a meeting to get things done and keep everyone on track. The second thing you’ll notice is how damn good he looks on camera. I mean, Dan is an attractive guy, but I mean just literally the sharp video quality. I asked Dan about it, and of course, he’s got a whole fancy blog post about it.
We’re used to seeing people on webcam meetings like this with built-in laptop cameras like this:
But Dan’s setup has him looking like this:
My incentive to get this done was twofold:
- Look (and sound) good on video calls. I think super clear communication on video calls is so damn important (he writes while the entire world is working from home and communicating this way)
- Be able to record screencasting videos from my desk and get good camera video/audio as well.
Here’s the list before we dig into it any deeper:
- Canon T7i camera
- Has clean HDMI output. More on that later.
- Support a dummy battery. I did not want to be recharging and changing batteries. The dummy battery allows you to plug it into an outlet.
- Tamron 17-50mm lens. I don’t have a mega strong opinion here but it does look pretty damn good. What’s cool about having a DSLR here is that I can experiment with lenses if I like. I need to try my nifty 50 to see if it’s better.
- Elgato Cam Link
- This the magic thing that makes it all work!
- This takes HDMI from the camera and sends it to USB. Old USB, which is a bummer, but it works. I use the CalDigit TS3 Plus Dock for a USB hub, which I have a whole blog post on. This turned out to be extremely important. My old USB hub would cause the video to fail randomly and it’s a miracle it was even figured out.
- You’ll need a cable from the camera to this. I needed a Mini-HDMI cable, but note that you might need Micro-USB. They are different!
- Tripod. This is the closest I could find to the one I have. Point is, it’s short enough to use behind a monitor, but still useful as a standing-height tripod other times.
- Rode Podcaster. Just a good basic mic, the big advantage being it’s USB so you don’t need any extra equipment.
- Elgato Keylight. Don’t wanna waste the good quality video by having bad lighting. This one is cool because I can control it from a menu bar app over WiFi. And also because it mounts to a desk easily, just like the microphone swivel arm.
With all that stuff plugged in, I can test it out by opening Quicktime Player > New Movie Recording and selecting the right inputs.
Here’s a YouTube video I did with this setup:
I’m using ScreenFlow there, which records my screen, video, and audio all at once so I have zero syncing-up work to do.
The whole “Clean HDMI” thing
If you happen to have a camera that can output a video signal, and you manage to get it working as a webcam, that doesn’t 100% mean you’re in the clear. The problem with a lot of cameras is that they don’t output what the people call “Clean HDMI”.
Dirty HDMI is when the video output has things from the camera’s UI on it. I was so worried when I thought my camera has this problem:
And annoyed as well, because Elgato specifically lists the Canon T7i as verifiably having clean HDMI output. That’s why I bought it! Thanks for that handy page, Elgato. I had a Canon T3i before (which doesn’t have the right kind of output, but I otherwise liked it). I specifically upgraded bodies because I already have some Canon lenses and this new body has the video features I wanted.
Turns out the T7i actually does have clean HDMI output. You just have to tap the “info” button a few times, which thank god someone told me on Twitter as I would have never discovered it on my own.
Other People’s Journeys
- Dan’s post that started it all for me. Dan uses the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II, with no dummy battery so he’s gotta manually swap out batteries. For lighting, the Lume Cube AIR is far more compact that the giant keylight.
- Jesse Gardner has a similar post. He’s gone with the Sony Alpha a6000. I like the desk lamps too.
- Matt Stauffer has a really robust blog post on all this with lots of options. Matt’s also rocking the a6000 with dual keylights. I agree heavily with Matt that the Blue Yeti is a bad option for a microphone for most setups.
- Justin Ruckman mounts an iPad under the camera for better eye contact.
- I have no particular allegiance to the Canon Rebel Tx line. There are obviously way fancier bodies, like the Mark II or whatever. I’d call that overkill for this, but I’m sure many would call what I’m already doing overkill. What confuses me more are models like the 77D or the M50 which are basically the same price as the T7i. I have no idea what the difference is. I don’t even really care about brand, it’s just that sticking with one DSLR brand means being able to slowly build a collection of lenses and other accessories.
- This Pengo Video Game Capture Device looks nice in that it’s USB-C instead of old USB style. The reviews look OK and one even compares it directly to the Elgato Cam Link saying it’s better. Nowhere has it in stock right now, but I think it lists cheaper.
- If you happen to have a DSLR camera that doesn’t support clean HDMI output, I’ve heard people have had luck with Magic Lantern (on-camera software). That’s pretty far outside of my comfort zone though.
Thursday, April 2nd, 2020
This is a $250 dock:
I can’t remember how it came up in conversation, but Shaw and I got started talked about docks like this the other day and I ended up buying this thing mid-conversation. I surprised myself a little as I think that price tag feels a bit steep for what is basically a hub that I’m used to paying tens-of-dollars for. But I get it now, this thing is beefy and has a lot of high-power ports and now that I have it I’m certainly happy with it.
That picture above makes it look a little ugly I think, but the physical device is pretty decent looking. It’s really the other side that matters:
I didn’t really think I needed a “dock” like this. I have a MacBook Pro, and two LG UltraFine 5k monitors. The monitors are Thunderbolt, and I connect them both to the laptop. The monitors themselves are USB-C hubs, so some of my peripheral stuff goes straight into them. I also have a USB-A (or 3.2 or whatever) Hub (that goes into one of the monitors) for stuff that’s still old-USB.
But I also use hard-wired Ethernet, and so I have a Ethernet-to-USB-C dongle and that goes into the laptop too. In total I had three things to plug into my laptop every day getting to work (the two monitors and the Ethernet dongle).
In retrospect, I probably should have piped the Ethernet through one of the monitors to reduce one of the things I had to plug in. But that’s related to where I’m going with this. Would that have been just as fast, going through the monitor hub first? I’m not sure. I’m not sure because I just don’t know very much about all this stuff, and also because something else I was trying to do was failing, it turns out, because it was just going through too many slow connections (I think).
I’ll blog about this setup separately as it is interesting in its own way, but part of the magic that makes it work is the Elgato Cam Link, which is essentially a fancy expensive HDMI-to-USB dongle that makes your computer recognize the input as a webcam.
The Cam Link is Old-USB, which makes me think maybe other options would have been cleaner, but I digress.
The chain for the camera setup went like this:
→ Mini HDMI cable
→ Cam Link
→ USB-A hub
→ MacBook Pro
I had all sorts of struggles getting it set up to work at all, and when I finally did, the video from the camera would work for a minute or two, then just die. Freeze. No input coming through. It would confuse the heck out of any app dealing with the video, sometimes to the point of freezing the app itself.
I was kinda bummed out after putting all that money and effort into getting it to work. That’s why I was trigger-happy on buying this CalDigit dock when the idea came up that it’s essentially a way faster hub. Now the chain from the camera is shorter:
→ Mini HDMI cable
→ Cam Link
→ CalDigit Dock
→ MacBook Pro
Not only shorter, but avoiding the USB-A hub, which was my best guess as the weak link and the cause of the video failure.
So this dock setup entirely solved this camera issue, and that’s a huge win right there. But I also got to entirely ditch my Old-USB hub, because this dock has 5 of those ports, which was enough for me (keyboard, mouse charger, mouse dongle, and Cam Link). It also has an Ethernet port, so I no longer need the separate dongle just for that.
Because of my monitors, I’m not exactly at a shortage of USB-C ports, but this has a couple of those two which are likely to come in handy as the world moves that direction. I’ll probably use that card reader too, as that DSLR uses those.
One tiny bummer though. This dock only has two Thunderbolt ports, and you need one of them to connect it to the computer. Meaning only one of my Thunderbolt monitors can go into it. So rather than the glory of just one Thunderbolt connector into my laptop, I have to plug in the dock and one of the monitors.
The UltraFine 5k monitors can’t be daisy-chained. The USB-C port on the dock won’t cut it, nor will the DisplayPort port with a Thunderbolt dongle. So I don’t think there is anything that will get me down to a single laptop plug. The OWC dock looks nice too, but it has essentially the same ports and same problem.