Touring the BoothsBy MIKE PASINI
The Imaging Resource Digital Photography Newsletter
SAN FRANCISCO -- Our second day at Macworld Expo took us to some intriguing booths. We spent most of our time talking to people, so there's no gallery to accompany this story, just the pictures you see here.
Our first stop was the xTrain booth (http://www.xtrain.com) where we chatted with Jeremy Vest who has rapidly put together an impressive stable of photographers to explain the ins and outs of digital imaging with the aid of a very polished crew at Splash Media (http://www.splashmedia.com) in Dallas.
There are a lot of video training aids out there but they all have the same flaw: rudimentary editing. You'll see a talking head for a moment as some technique is introduced, then a screen shot of the technique. Then back to the talking head. If you're lucky. Some just record the screen with a voice over.
But xTrain's products are professionally edited, jumping from a close-up of a camera control to the on-location setup to the final image and back to the photographer explaining how it all came together. It's not only more entertaining, but it's more informative as well.
Jeremy told us the company has created 117 titles or classes so far and expects to create another 200 this year. And these classes are not taught by just anybody (like a lot of digital photography books, we might add). Jeremy cajoled the best and the brightest to come down to Dallas for a weekend and record a class or two. You'll find Ben Willmore, Rick Sammon, Ron Sheppard and Russell Brown among your teachers at xTrain.
New classes this year will extend the photography curriculum by about 40 titles. We can hardly wait.
Casio was showing its $999 EXILIM Pro EX-F1, "the next generation digital camera," according to the company. That claims is based on its ultra-high speed burst shooting capability which captures 60 still images per second and records high speed movies at 300 fps.
You don't even have to press the Shutter button. Continuously recording at up to 60 images per second, a maximum of 60 images can be saved in the camera's own buffer memory even before the shutter button is depressed.
Even the flash is fast, allowing you to take 20 continuous shots at a speed up to seven frames a second. And Movie mode can record at 300, 600 or 1,200 fps. Movies can even be recorded in 1920x1080 HD quality.
The EX-F1 has a 6-Mp sensor, 12x optical zoom and a bright 2.8-inch LCD.
The O'Reilly booth is always worth wandering by. You just might overhear one of the presentations and inadvertently learn something.
We didn't get up early enough to catch Derrick Story at the O'Reilly booth, but we did see Mikkel Aaland talking about his new book on Raw processing, Steven Johnson discussing digital imaging in general and David Pogue hawking his Missing Manuals. Quite a star-studded venue.
Evan Hamilton showed us Flock (http://www.flock.com), a "social browser" designed to make it easy to contact your friends and even see where they are surfing at the moment. It runs on Linux and Windows as well as the Mac.
But what caught our attention was its handling of video and still images that makes it easy to collect and share them. Rather than download a video or image to your desktop and then attach it to an email, Flock grabs the link and builds a thumbnail on the fly that you can drag into an email. It can also build a filmstrip of a Flickr account across the top of its window in which the small thumbnails can be enlarged just by hovering over them.
We can't wait to give that a try for ourselves.
Adobe had announced the impending availability of Photoshop Elements 6 for the Mac just before the show. It won't ship until early March, we were told, but we saw it demoed in the Adobe booth where CS3 and Lightroom were also on display.
Terry White's 45-minute video podcast (http://www.creativesuitepodcast.com/index.php?post_id=295820) offers a first look at Elements 6, highlighting the new interface and tools.
At the Vertus booth (http://www.vertustech.com), James Carr-Jones gave us a quick overview of Fluid Mask 3, one of the more sophisticated masking tools available. But the company is justly proud of its educational resources to help customers master the art of edge detection and masking.
James said most products handle about 50 to 60 percent of the job, while Fluid Mask 3 can get about 80 percent of it done. It provides two kinds of blending, feathering and smart decontamination of foreground and background to make it easier to finish the five percent of the job that takes 95 percent of your time.
Recently the company has applied its edge detection expertise to Bling! It an application that can lift an amateur product shot out of its everyday background and, with some clip art and backgrounds, jazz it up.
We were impressed by how sophisticated the product is while, at the same time, it remains very simple to use. No jargon, no dialog boxes, just some large clear graphics and handles to play with.
The result is a more attractive product shot for eBay, say. The company reports users are seeing a 20 percent increase in the value of their merchandise, more hits and watches, and are moving dead stock out of the garage just by using Bling! It to fix up their photos.
A Mac version has just been released, joining the original Windows version.
Bastian Wolfle gave us a brief tour of the new beta version of FotoMagico (http://www.boinx.com/fotomagico), our favorite slide show program. It's not only fast and powerful, but even after a few years of regular use we still find it fun.
The new feature is the metamorphosis of the obscure Export function into a Share command that displays all the possible output options as icons (Apple TV, iPod, DVD, etc.) with a quality meter below them so you know what sort of degradation will occur. There's also a preview if you have to change aspect ratio (to fit an iPod, say). Very slick.
After all that walking, we had to cool our heels and found just the place to do it.
AKG (http://www.akg.com) passed out a roomful of its K 920 AFC wireless headphones. We powered them on and then hit the auto tune button before cranking up the volume.
Rockers Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw were as entertained as the crowd, amused to be performing without towering speakers on either side of them. "I can't feel my leg!" Blades joked. "Mamma! Mamma!"
Then they settled down to some serious music.
That wraps up our Macworld coverage this year. There's always a little more innovation than we expect and a lot to think about as we start packing for PMA at the end of the month. See you then!