Back at my Desk

Just had a wonderful few days over in Iceland where I tried to polish my photography skills. I was also fortunate to see the Northern Lights and was able to work out how to set long exposures on the Panasonic GH4.

Here’s just a single image from a set of about 20 I took.

This is untouched, straight from the camera. Here’s a link to a larger version of the image on Google+

I was blown away at how the images turned out, although I have to say, the images are more spectacular than can be seen by the naked eye. The long exposure gathers more accumulated light, so the camera images are more colourful and vibrant. When viewing with the naked eye, the lights are more muted but still very impressive.

Once I get this weeks shows sorted, I’ll spend some time tweaking the rest and publish to Flickr.

I’ll also be able to experiment with some decent 4K video footage using Final Cut Pro (not the Northern Lights, but some other spectacular Icelandic scenery).

One of the things I wanted to test out was sorting out my workflow when using the  iPhone, my iPad, my Panasonic GH4 and the new iCloud Photo Library. I wanted to use the iPad to view the photos and videos I took with the Panasonic GH4, but didn’t want everything to be sent into iCloud Photo Library. I think I came up with a sensible solution, but will leave that for another blog post!




Alternative Retina Display for Mac Pro?

As I previously mentioned, the iMac with 5K Retina Display is going back to Apple. Not because there is anything wrong with it, it’s a beautiful machine, but mainly because I wanted to keep my Mac Pro and I couldn’t justify (to myself anyway), the extra expense of a second powerful machine, just for the display.

However, once you’ve experienced a Retina display, it’s really hard to forget about it!

So in looking for possible alternatives, my eye was taken by the LG Flatron 31MU97 31″ True 4K 60Hz Professional WideScreen LED Monitor.

This is a true Cinema 4K display, with a native resolution of 4096 x 2160. The iMac 5K Retina Display is 5120 x 2880. These figures are significant.

Firstly, some words first about using these humongous resolutions in real life.

Yes, you can run these monitors at these incredible resolutions. It’s quite a buzz to play a 4K Ultra HD resolution at full size – and it looks awesome too.

However, in real life, you’re really not going to stick to these maximum resolutions, the on screen elements – menus, dialogue boxes, etc, are just too small.

The true power of these monitors is that it allows you to run in HiDPi mode, or in Apple’s parlance in Retina Mode.

In HiDPi, all the pixels available are used, but they “scale” the resolution to something more reasonable.

With a normal iMac or Apple Cinema Display, the optimum resolution for the 27” screen is 2560 x 1440. At this resolution, all the on screen elements are perfectly readable and correctly sized for the display.

With the iMac with Retina Display having exactly 4 times as many pixels as the 2560 x 1440 display, when in HiDPi mode, each point at a resolution of 2560 x 1440 is made up of exactly 4 pixels. As such, the crispness of the display needs to be seen to be believed. You can scale up the resolution and it still looks great, but the sweet spot is 2560 x 1440 HiDPi. The added benefit is that if you play 4K media it will be displayed in its true resolution.

So as the iMac was going back, I decided to throw caution to the wind and ordered the new LG Flatron 31MU97.

It arrived a couple of days ago and as the iMac isn’t going back until tomorrow, I was able to do some comparisons.

I discovered that at a certain optimal resolution, the LG Flatron 31MU97 is as eye popping as the iMac Retina.

The only problem is that the optimal resolution is 2048 x 1080 not 2560 x 1440

At 2048 x 1080, the LG also is able to use exactly 4 pixels per point making the display super crisp and gorgeous, just like the iMac display.

So what’s the problem?

2048 x 1080 HiDPi on a 31” monitor makes everything pretty damn large!

It’s usable, but realistically, you’d want a bit more screen real estate on such a large monitor.

But all is not lost, if you scale the display up to 2560 x 1350 HiDPi (same as the iMac but just slightly wider as it’s a 21:7 ratio display), it still looks pretty good.

Very good in fact.

If you’d never seen an iMac with 5K Retina Display, you’d be blown away by the quality of the LG 31MU97 at 2560 x 1350 HiDPi.

But it’s not as good as the iMac, very close, but not quite. Presumably due to the fact the scaling is not using an exact number of pixels for each point at this resolution.

Even so, I’d recommend it to anyone with a Mac Pro who wants to go with a Retina Display.  It’s still a Retina display in my eyes as you still can’t discern any visible pixels.

The LG 31MU97 is able to be driven at the full 4096 x 2160 resolution using DisplayPort rather than Thunderbolt, and it is VESA mountable. Not forgetting the fact that it’s half the price of an entry level iMac with Retina Display.

There is one issue in that the monitor is so new, the Mac Pro doesn’t appear to support the full resolution out of the box. However, due to some fantastic work by Stéphane Madru, the developer of the awesome SwitchResX, the full resolution is available by the addition of a small config file on the Mac Pro. You don’t need to purchase SwitchResX, it’s a simple text file that Stéphane has created.  This is documented over on the MacRumours forum.

So I’m a happy bunny again.

I can get my refund on the iMac and have a full blown 4K Retina display on my Mac Pro.

At least, until the next new thing comes along.




Why I’m returning my iMac with Retina 5K Display

It’s now been a week or two since I received the iMac with Retina 5K display.

As everyone says, it’s a gorgeous machine.

The screen is sublime and it’s really quite nifty in the performance department too.

I wanted to try out the machine to determine if the screen was enough to make me want to trade in my Mac Pro or even to keep both.

I originally made a mistake in ordering the iMac in that I didn’t realise that the iMac was not VESA mountable. You needed to order a special VESA version of the iMac. My initial impressions of the iMac were so positive, I’d decided to return the original iMac and order the VESA version.

However, after a few more days with the iMac with Retina 5K display, I’ve decided to return it and cancel the order for the VESA version.

Let me say straight off, that this is not due to any failing of the iMac. It is a truly stunning machine and if your needs are for a fast, beautiful desktop Mac then more than likely, I’d recommend the iMac with Retina 5K display over the Mac Pro. It’s a steal at the price.

So why return and cancel…

I already have a maxed out Mac Pro that I don’t want to give up on, and I don’t need a second desktop machine to  complicate matters, even if the screen is to die for.

There are some other reasons too…

I’ve been using the Mac Pro with the LG 34UM UltraWide monitor – it’s a beast of a monitor with a great 21:9 aspect ratio. I’ve really become used to the ultra wide ratio and it’s just perfect for any editing with a linear timeline.

If you put the 34″ LG next to the Retina iMac, you’ll see the difference in image qualityimmediately. But is it £2000 worth of difference? Actually, I’d upgraded the iMac so it was more like £2700.

Probably not.

It is possible to drive the 34″ LG off the Retina iMac and it works just fine. But in all honesty, once you go above a certain size, it really doesn’t make sense to use duplicate monitors. The ergonomics just don’t work, at least for me. I’ve now become accustomed to using a single large monitor directly in front of me, unless I’m recording a screencast.

When recording a screencast, I really need do a machine with two screens. One to display the desktop I’m recording, and one to have my editing software running on.

Prior to the iMac, I’d use my Retina MacBook Pro as my recording machine, and temporarily hook up the 34″ LG screen (and all my required peripherals) just by attaching a single Thunderbolt cable from a Thunderbolt hub I have setup. The small 15″ monitor and the large 34″ monitor worked a treat. Just switch back to the Mac Pro when required by swapping out the cable.

With the iMac and 34″ LG, the two monitors were just too large together. I’d also noticed a small amount of fan noise when pushing the iMac say during video encoding – not overly noisy but noticible. The Mac Pro has remained completely silent not matter what I throw at it.

So, with a heavy heart, I’ve just switched back to the Mac Pro and the 34″ LG and you know what, within a few minutes, my eyes have become used to the lower resolution – if you can call 3440×1440 a low resolution! Plus the delights of just a single machine and a single monitor work for me. I have to admit to feeling slightly relieved also, I think I was really wanting the iMac to work out for me to justify the purchase, although I knew that in reality, the Mac Pro is the best machine for my needs.

However, I did enjoy the clarity of the 5K display and would love to have one for my Mac Pro.

Based on the current technology, 5K isn’t going to happen on the current Mac Pros for the foreseeable future – the iMac has some custom hardware to make it all happen.

So after saving myself £2600 by returning the iMac, I think I’m going to take a punt at the new LG Flatron 31MU97 31″ True 4K 60Hz Professional WideScreen LED Monitor.

This is slightly larger than the 27″ iMac at 31″ and has a 17:9 aspect ratio. It’s not 5K but runs at a resolution of Digital Cinema 4K or 4096 x 2160 @ 60Hz over Displayport.

In theory, this should allow me to edit consumer 4K (UltraHD) without cropping or scaling and still have some room for some user interface elements. It also is able to be VESA mounted as standard. You may not be able to class it as a Retina display (or can you), but OS X Yosemite should be able to do some scaling making the text clearer. I’ve no doubt it won’t match the pixel density of the Retina iMac.

But, at least I’ll still be able to have a single monitor solution, use my Mac Pro to it’s fullest and have £1600 change from the iMac.

Just to reiterate, the iMac with Retina 5K display is a fabulous, fabulous machine and I would recommend it to anyone, it just wasn’t enough to make me give up my Mac Pro.

Inquisitive Podcast #9 – Making Podcasts

inquisitive artworkWas delighted to have a chat with my mate Myke Hurley last night on the Inquisitive podcast.

This week Myke is joined by Don McAllister. They talk about how Don has grown ScreenCastsOnline over the years, the amount of work that goes in to creating the screencasts and some of the ways he has gone about creating a sustainable business.


Always good to talk to Myke and we’ve conversed on many a podcast for the past few years. Recently, he’s taken the bold move of packing in his day job to follow his passion and run Relay FM as his full time business. I wish him the best of luck in his new venture.

Check out the podcast from last night here, as or any of the other fine Relay FM podcasts here.

Thanks Myke!

Macworld Expo is No More

Saddened to hear that Macworld Expo is in hiatus.

I suppose that really means it is finished for good, at least in its most recent format.

I’ve been a regular attendee and speaker at Macworld Expo since 2007, the year the iPhone was launched.

Yes, I was there at the famous iPhone launch, except I wasn’t.

As it was my first Macworld Expo, I was unfamiliar with the arrangements and bought a show floor pass. Little did I realise that this did not give me access to the keynote. Even worse, I discovered on arrival that the keynote was not even broadcast to all attendees.

So my first Macworld Expo keynote, the blooming iPhone unveil no less, was followed just as I would at home, via multiple live blogs on my laptop. The only difference was the venue was less than 100 yards away as I ended up in the Starbucks right next to the Moscone centre.

The famous live call Steve made on stage to order coffee for the audience was allegedly made to the same Starbucks I was actually sitting in, although I have to say, I never heard a phone ring. At least I did get to see the iPhone in its domed glass enclosures when the show floor opened.

I was fortunate to attend every Macworld Expo since and once knowing the ropes, I even got to see all the keynotes. I even didn’t have to queue up at some ungodly hour some years due to speakers privileges!

I’d be the first to admit that it was a body blow when Apple pulled out and Macworld did lose some of its sparkle. But despite all adversity, it bounced back with a vengeance and morphed into a different kind of event.

My main take away from Macworld has always been the people.

I’ve met my heroes, made lifelong friends and generally had a blast.

So long Macworld Expo and thanks for all the fish.