poppy field



Having spent the best part of 40 years looking through a viewfinder of some sort, sitting in front of a computer editing photos or videos, producing websites and managing social media accounts, it’s a very strange feeling to now say when asked, “I’m retired".

Despite no longer taking on commercial paid work, it’s virtually impossible to suddenly stop what you’ve been doing for the best part of your working life so, for the past 24 months I’ve been taking on work on a ‘pro-bono’ basis for church, charity or voluntary organisations. I hope that my experience, skills and equipment can now be put to good use to those who perhaps, don’t have the budget or funding to produce what they want or need for their media requirements.

The following 'blog' items are a mixture, some from when I was working commercially and now, some new items that might be of interest.

Customer satisfaction!

Following a recent poor experience with a business (now sorted) it’s very refreshing to find a business who know how to treat a customer.

A good friend recently took a great photo that was used on his Facebook page, he commented it looked similar in composition to some of the Old Master type paintings, and I produced a few printed copies for him.

In a few quiet moments I thought I’d use Photoshop to produce a painting type effect for him but I couldn’t get it to look just right, so it was off to Google for a Mac painting App.

I found a trial version of PhotoArtista - Oil from JixiPix, after trying it out, it was an instant buy at a very reasonable price (£13.01UKP), I printed out my result on matte paper and gave it to my friend.

The very next day a marketing email arrived from JixiPix offering a ’Summer Sale’ with 35% discount off all their products!

An email explaining I’d bought a product from them less than 24 hours earlier was sent......to my surprise the very next morning there was a refund email for £4.30 from JixiPix...........now that’s how to treat a customer!
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Who Knew?

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One of the websites I built and maintain hosts a foreign language booklet in PDF format for children that can be read online or downloaded. The booklet usually runs to around 60 or so pages and around 8 - 10 megabytes in size, making it easy to download for anyone on a reasonable connection.

Back in June 2021, I was sent the latest copy, however it was over 100 megabytes! I tried several ways to compress it and reduce the size but. the best I could get it down to was 96 megabytes. Since then I’ve gone back to it several times and tried various methods to find out why it was so big and to reduce it to a manageable download for those on a slower internet connection but I failed miserably!

Just browsing Facebook groups today, I saw an item mentioning Affinity Photo from Serif could open PDF files, my old copy of Photoshop could open PDF files and I had tried it on this booklet previously, so I gave it a go in Affinity.

It opened (slowly due to the size!) and the open dialog gave me some options to change, I selected export file and there were some further options that looked as if it might help with the size, checking the file size after export gave me a 56 megabyte file!

So I opened that 56 meg file and applied the same settings again along with a few further options and exported the file - I got an 8 meg file that showed an acceptable quality loss from the original 100 meg file!

So after messing with this file for nearly a year, I found a program I’ve had on my Mac for several years could solve the problem for me........ Who knew?
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Unethical business practices?

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A year ago I saw a FaceBook ad for Picfair, they were a photo agency offering 2 levels of ‘membership’ to sell my stock photographs, a free option where they took a percentage or an annual paid option with no commission, there was a ‘free’ trial and I signed up for the annual package with a new user discount.

One year on and checking my bank account, they have taken another annual payment without any email notification beforehand. I only have a hundred or so photos with them, and I had made a conscious decision that with just one sale (£6) within 12 months I would continue my subscription when it came up for renewal (their Facebook page has one subscriber with 18,000 views and not one sale!).

Well, one year on and not one sale! I’ve been a professional ‘tog for over 40 years, I’ve had thousands of photo’s published in various national, regional and local newspapers, monthly magazines, house magazines, advertising campaigns....the list goes on, so I’d decided not to renew my annual subscription and revert to a commission subscription which was mentioned when I signed up.

Now, virtually every company I’ve ever dealt with either professionally or personally with a subscription service, either monthly or annually, send me a courtesy email in advance before taking money from my account reminding me, and offering to cancel my subscription if I wanted - BUT NOT PICFAIR! They do however manage to send out marketing tips and other helpful suggestion emails!

Checking the Picfair website, there is a 7 day money back guarantee for new subscribers and a clause saying it does not apply to renewals - definitely not very ethical business practice in my opinion.

I’ve asked for a refund, we’ll see what happens and I’ll post back here with the result!

UPDATE:

After several emails, a full refund has been approved, Thank you Picfair.

A few further thoughts on this...

As previously mentioned, I’m grateful to Picfair for the full refund, however, following the refund email, a few thoughts occurred to me.

After the initial shock of suddenly finding out nearly £70 had been taken from my bank account I had not been made aware of beforehand (OK they mentioned a year ago it was a rolling subscription, but that was a 12 months ago!), I thought a simple email explaining I didn’t want a renewal would put a refund in place.

As a retired person, money is tight and I keep a very watchful (daily!) check on my account, even more so these days with inflation currently at 9%, to suddenly find £70 disappear brings on minor panic.

A policy of a rolling subscription WITHOUT notification beforehand seems very poor business practice to me, my SIM card supplier sends me an email notification 1 week prior to renewal for an account that’s just £5 per month.

When questioned and a refund requested along with a cancellation of the account, to then be quoted T&C’s on the website seems very poor judgement in public relations. In this day and age of social media - a single complaint post can go viral in seconds and ruin a companies reputation that could take months, or years to recover from.

One quote mentioned to me many years ago when I was in business, still rings true today - a satisfied customer (client) will tell a few people, an unsatisfied customer (client) will tell EVERYONE!
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KIMAFUN 2.4G wireless microphone system

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I’ve used Sennheiser wireless mic’s for over 25 years, recently it let me down with an intermittent crackly mic cable which I failed to notice at the time, I do have a spare tie-clip microphone which solved the problem afterwards, but I realised I’d be stuck if it let me down or failed again so, off to Amazon to browse for a ‘standby’ system.
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Recce becomes a shoot

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A member of our Chapel recently expressed an interest in doing some ‘Mini Messages’ for the Chapel YouTube page. He asked about using ‘cue cards’ and I explained I had a Datavideo TP-300 autocue unit, he’d not seen one in use so suggested I visit his location to do a demo.

He sent me his script which I loaded to iCue on full size iPad, when I arrived and showed him how easy it was to read his script while looking at the camera, he asked if I could shoot the piece there and then.
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Some you win, some you lose!

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I remember when we got our first NLE system in 1994 called Media100, it came with 2 17” CRT monitors, it made editing easier to be able to have so much screen space, as time went by and we upgraded computers, monitors and edit systems, I ended up using FCPX on 2 24” LCD monitors.

When I had problems with my ageing MacPro desktop, I was able to buy a 2020 iMac to run my new edit system DaVinci Resolve, my MacPro was consigned to a GP role, emails, web browsing etc. Eventually after tracing the fault to one of 4 sticks of RAM, I wanted to use it as a second ‘edit’ machine with FCPX for simple Facebook and website videos and looked to replace a faulty 27” monitor I now had on the system.

Browsing Facebook Marketplace (as you do!) I spotted an IIyama GB2888UHSU 28” 4K gaming monitor (3840x2160) for £160 which interested me, a young lad had gone to Uni and was raising funds by selling the monitor. A few weeks later it was still on Marketplace and the price had dropped to £120, I made a cheeky offer of £100 and they accepted!

Back home and hooked up it was a delight to use and edit with and looked good beside my 27” iMac, as I’m now retired with little or no income, this monitor would see me out....or so I thought!

Barely 5 months after I bought it, I was editing some photos for Facebook and it suddenly died - it was like a fuse blowing, OK the first thing to do was check and replace the mains lead, still nothing, I had found this monitor liked having an input to work so I changed the HDMI cable, then tried a DP cable - still nothing. Assuming it might be a heat related shutdown I left the monitor for around 3 hours and tried again - Still nothing, it was totally dead.

The annoying thing for me is I still have monitors in the garage that are 15 years old or more that still work fine, I even have an original first generation working 14” LCD that I use as a tele-prompt screen.

To replace the IIyama is going to cost over £350, well outside the cost I can afford these days, so I only have the memory of using such a high quality monitor for a short period of time and now it’s back to using a 1920x1080 HDMI TV monitor!


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Air Display - It works!

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After all the problems last week getting Air Display to work on one particular MacPro desktop, I got the chance to use it last Sunday. Connecting everything to the WiFi and using my new Mac Mini, I bought up the Keynote I’d prepared, I opened Air Display on the iPad (an old v2), the Air Display host on the Mac Mini asked to connect to the iPad and within a second or two, my ‘second screen’ was showing on the iPad.

Switching Keynote into Present mode, the projector display showed up on the iPad and the speaker could see the slides as I advanced them in time to his script which he’d sent to me earlier. There was virtually no lag and the display quality was very high, even video clips played on the iPad again with virtually no lag, overall for £12.99 I was very impressed.....if it had only worked on the older MacPro desktop, but the plus side is I‘ve now got a (fairly) new Mac mini (just don’t tell the missus!)
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I killed my Mac! (Part 2)

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I was determined to find the problem with my Mac, to be honest, after all we’d been through over 12 years I owed it that much!

DosDude to the rescue again, I downloaded the High Sierra patch, installed it on a USB drive, and used the patch to download High Sierra. I booted from the USB, opened Disk Utilities and re-formatted the HD, then installed High Sierra.

With HS installed, I swapped the 1Gb GFX back to the 3Gb Metal GFX card to prove it was either faulty or working - it was working! So, leave the 3Gb card in, download DosDudes Mojave Patch and Mojave Installer, then disk Utilities, Format and then install Mojave.
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I killed my Mac! (Part 1)

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Just lost a very dear friend I’ve had since 2010. I remember finding it on eBay and driving over 100 miles to collect it. It ran my Final Cut Pro version 6 and 7 till 2015 when I bought a later model and upgraded it. Eventually, it found it’s way to becoming a ‘reserve’ Mac and over time, until late 2021, it went through various upgrades and configurations (including a processor upgrade) and it never let me down. It had started as a Mac 4.1, I upgraded it’s firmware to a 5.1, bought a 3Gb Metal GFX card and used DosDudes patch to install Mojave on it.
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PhotosRevive

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I’m still more of a ‘desktop’ computer guy than an iPhone or tablet and I regularly get email offers of Mac software, one in particular is Bundlehunt, you unlock the bundle for a few dollars then pick the software you want from the bundle at very reduced prices from normal.

A recent offer from BundleHunt included PhotosRevive, it can colorise (colorize) B&W photos, I’d used a similar software program some years ago but it was more of a manual approach and a little hit or miss with results.
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Online Auction win!

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I recently found an online auction site I’d not seen before - jobalots.com, it receives customer returns from some of the large online retailers, they are then offered as an auction item at considerably lower prices, many starting at £0.20.

I’d browsed the site a few times without spotting anything of interest, a few days ago I spotted an autocue bluetooth remote, it had a start price of £1.00, the normal Amazon retail was £23.38 so I thought it was worth a bid.
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DAM!

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DAM! - no I’m not swearing, I’m referring to Digital Asset Management. Since the digital revolution I’ve collected thousands of video clips, still images, audio files and graphics on a hard drive very much in those categories to use in edits. I’ve bought assets from video and photo libraries, special offer packages, Royalty Free music as digital downloads and CD’s which I’ve digitised, it’s a case of you never know when you might need to use them, the problem arises trying to keep track of them all and have fast access when trying to find something for an edit.
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First 10 days with Resolve

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‘Forget everything you’ve ever learned using tracks in Final Cut Pro’, that was the advice when Final Cut Pro X was launched in June 2011. I remember that day along with many thousands of others, awaiting the launch of FCPX, I’d been using non-linear editing since early 1994, originally with Media100 from Data Translation which was marketed as the the first ‘broadcast quality’ non-linear editor. In 2001 I switched to Final Cut Pro v2.1 which then, cost around £1600 if I remember. When Apple switched from Motorola to Intel chips, FCP 6 Studio2 was launched and I bought the new version for around £800, then later again the v7 upgrade, luckily I found a genuine boxed version on eBay for £150.
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A Band shoot...

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Over the past 20 years or so we’ve been asked to shoot a few artist / band songs, these usually involved shooting several takes in different locations and using a CD boom box to play the song out for lip syncing, then in the edit, use the CD as the main audio track to sync to the video using the recorded audio, then drop the camera recorded audio for the final video output.
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I bought an iMac!

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If you’ve been reading any of the previous posts you’ll have seen the problems with my 2010 MacPro Quad and it’s overheating on load. A new 4Gb GFX card failed to fix it, a software fan control program worked for a while but then the problem started again! Time on Google suggested the thermal paste used on the processor may be failing, after a stressful edit that needed to be mastered to a deadline, I realised it was probably time to look for a replacement machine……
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