Monthly Archives: March 2019

Wireless for sound

There’s nothing wrong with pimping out your smartphone when the aftermarket looks and sounds this good.
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Logitech’s UE Mobile Bluetooth Boombox speakers mark the dawn of a new age of wireless speakers – no cords and wires to trip over, no hunting down a power point to plug into, and no back injuries lugging hefty stereo speakers into the backyard for an alfresco soiree.

Weighing a tiny 298 grams, the portable Boombox packs a punch for sound, despite its tiny build, putting out almost 80 crisp decibels.

How loud is that? Well, a vacuum cleaner, lawn mower, electric shaver and city traffic rank at about 80 decibels, so that’s a reasonably banging level from a speaker only 11 centimetres wide and six centimetres deep.

Its transportable size and sub-$100 price make the neon noise maker a terrific device to pair with your smartphone or tablet; a mouthpiece for your digital tunes, if you don’t fancy investing in an expensive micro hi-fi system (with a phone dock that will be obsolete as soon as Apple decides to run with a new connector size – oh, wait, that’s already happened).

It’s light enough to carry in a handbag or carry-on, and lets you control your music from up to 15 metres away.

There’s also a built-in microphone for hands-free calls and the ability to connect to two Bluetooth devices at the same time, which would make it easy to rotate people’s playlists at a party as opposed to yelling at the designated DJ to play your favourite track.

Beyond the impressive tech specs, the Boombox has got some real styling swagger, sporting a retro metallic grille in five pop-art colour schemes and a curved rubber casing.

The battery life of the Boombox is impressive, too. We went three days of on-and-off use around the house, probably more than eight hours of listening, before needing to recharge. Booyah, the little loudspeaker goes the distance.

Verdict Big sound for a little price, where and when you want it.

RRP $99.95, from leading retailers.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net. Continue reading

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Podcasters take aim, hit targets

Loose format: Richard Haridy (left) and Luke Buckmaster record in Buckmaster’s lounge room. Photo: Jason SouthPodcasting is a great format for talking about your passions, whether they are politics, music, sport or whatever sparks you up. Creating a podcast is like creating your own global radio show.
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Podcasts have been around for a while but have not taken off in the way of blogs, Facebook or Twitter. This is a shame, because there are so many free, original and interesting podcasts around.

The word ”podcast” is a combination of iPod and broadcast. In 2005, The New Oxford American Dictionary selected ”podcast” as its word of the year. Since then, high-speed broadband and simpler ways of producing podcasts means it is easier than ever to get your voice online without much technical knowledge.

Put a podcast on your blog, website, iTunes, or pitch to other websites that host podcasts, such as radio station 3RRR, or topic-specific websites such as squirrelcomedy上海夜网m for Australian comics.

Film reviewers Luke Buckmaster and Richard Haridy record The Parallax Podcast in Buckmaster’s lounge room. They have been podcasting for about a year, and their fortnightly half-hour podcasts are available on Crikey and iTunes.

”We love podcasting because it’s fun,” Buckmaster says.

They estimate they have about 500 listeners, based on Crikey page hit statistics, but this can spike up to 1000 when, for example, they have guests such as John Safran. ”That episode still gets traffic,” Buckmaster says.

They encourage listeners to tweet feedback and, sometimes, as part of a competition. ”It’s important to foster a relationship with your audience,” Buckmaster says. ”We keep the format loose, informal and light. We joke around. We have a drink while we’re doing it. We don’t write intros; it’s off-the-cuff. People can hear the difference between reading a script and talking naturally.”

The pair have learnt how to operate as a team, knowing when to speak and when to let the other person speak. ”It’s important to be in the same room. The most important thing is the chemistry between hosts.”

Haridy adds: ”Making podcasts gives us the freedom to talk about whatever we want to. We are not beholden to any formula in a radio environment – recently, Luke spoke to a taxi driver about films. We’ve learnt to make the show tighter, as well as more casual … We are creating the type of show we want. We ended up discovering our own formula.”

Haridy’s favourite podcasts include Hell Is for Hyphenates, a local film podcast; Doug Loves Movies; and This American Life.

They record using a Zoom H2N portable recorder. ”We put it on a table between us. This allows us to be more casual and not be worried about holding mics a certain distance away,” Haridy says. ”We record in chunks. We record the intro and outro separately. We review a film and then stop. I then take all the little bits and make it into a show. I edit it with Pro Tools, adding in soundtracks from movies.”

Over at 3RRR, human rights lawyer Ben Schokman has been producing a fortnightly podcast, Right Now Radio, for more than four years. His guests range from barrister and human rights activist Julian Burnside to people who work in the community.

”Podcasts are a way of getting the human rights message to reach new and different audiences than we normally would as human rights lawyers,” Schokman says. ”Podcasting is also a good experience for us to be better communicators – to deliver messages other than writing detailed legal documents.”

The two co-hosts record in the 3RRR studio, and individual reporters use a mix of hand-held recorders away from the studio. The podcast is edited using Audacity (audacity.sourceforge上海夜网).

Endlessly talking sport in the pub with mates in 2005 led soccer fanatic Chris Knowles to make the podcast A Game of Two Halves.

”We record our conversations on Skype, as all of us are never in the same room,” Knowles says.

He also runs Melbourne Podcast Meetup, supporting podcasters since 2011.

”We used to meet in a pub and talk, but now we make it more practical and get people in to speak to us,” he says.

Past speakers include a radio documentary producer, a sound engineer, and a solo sailor who spoke about how he managed to publish a podcast while sailing across the ocean.

”People also come to the meet-ups for help on the technical side,” Knowles says. ”Understanding the equipment is one of the myths of podcasting. It’s actually easy to do. The content is the key, not the equipment. If the content is dull, it doesn’t matter how good the quality of your podcast is.”

Knowles is disappointed that there is no YouTube-type equivalent for podcasts. ”There is no slick, free tool for podcast distribution.”

Podcast tips

1. Before recording, listen to a few podcasts to get an idea of the good, the bad and the ugly. Look at some podcast reviews and rankings, for example: 52podcasts上海夜网m; podfeed上海夜网/feedburner_rankings.asp; podcastpickle上海夜网m.

2. Have something interesting to say. Prepare an outline and some dot points, and then pretend that you are talking to your friends.

3. Prepare interview questions. Remember not to hog the limelight when interviewing.

4. Edit out the ums and ahs, as well as the boring bits. Add some music and sound.

5. Have a web page, Facebook or Twitter account so your listeners can interact between podcasts, and you can post updates.

LINKS

■ meetup上海夜网m/Melbourne-Podcast-Meetup-Group

■ libsyn上海夜网m

■ podcastingnews上海夜网m/topics/Podcasting_Software.html

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Monsters excite TV sellers

Big televisions measuring 140 centimetres and more have become the bright spot of a struggling industry. Nobody in the supply chain makes much money on tellies but the margins are best at the big end.
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Buyers like big televisions too. According to industry research company GfK, in the last quarter of 2012 it’s what 15 per cent of buyers chose. This is one reason we’re seeing the emergence of monsters as big as four 106-centimetre screens stacked two-by-two. They’re almost as big as projection systems but a brighter and sharper. And they’re certainly more flexible and less finicky to operate.

But they cost a lot. One can’t help thinking that their prices reflect the manufacturers’ desperation to make televisions profitable again.

One retailer we visited was giving just $1 change out of $20,000 on Sharp’s 229-centimetre Aquos. Compare that with the 178-centimetre Aquos, by no means a small screen, that he’d priced at $3488.

The most breathtaking of these monsters are the ultra-high-definition (UHD) models from Sony and LG. In any comparison they trounce the full high-definition models around them. Both 213 centimetres, the LG is $15,999 and the Sony $24,999. We can’t see the extra $9000 in the Sony.

Before embracing UHD, pause and consider: First, it looks best playing UHD software through a UHD source unit. UHD software hardly exists, UHD broadcasts don’t exist; at least not here yet. But they’ll bump your current viewing up a notch or two. While impressive, this still doesn’t work the screen to full capacity.

Second, UHD is presented with giant screens because with anything less than 140 to 150 centimetres, you won’t notice much difference anyway.

Third, if you want a monster screen, you’ll need a monster room. Installers suggest the ideal viewing distance for such screens is at least four metres. Most people sit about three metres from their screen. Salespeople impress customers by pointing out that UHD screen definition is brilliant even close-up, whereas at that distance from a conventional screen, you can pick the pixels. True enough, but get back from the conventional TV to where you’d sit and this screen-door effect disappears anyway.

LG 84LM9600213-centimetre ultra-high-definitionSpotted for $15,990It’s not just large, it has the works — passive 3D, two-player gaming, BigPond Movies, a gesture-control remote, you name it. The picture resolution is nothing short of jaw-dropping; it comprehensively outperforms other televisions and projection systems of similar cost. It’s also good-looking, with slim cabinet borders and a chromed stand. At 70 kilograms, wall mounting is probably best. 192 x 112 x 4 centimetres (WxHxD).

Sharp LC90LE740X229-centimetre full high-definitionSpotted for $19,999This is the biggest LCD screen on the market and it’s a ripper, and feature packed with 3D, Skype and lots else. It’s as big as many projection systems but far brighter and sharper — which it should be, for the price, especially up against the LG UHD. Yet side by side and showing the same non-UHD content, there isn’t a lot between these two, especially at a comfortable viewing distance. 205 x 121 x 12 centimetres (WxHxD), 64 kilograms.

Samsung ES9000191-centimetre full high-definitionSpotted for $8999We saw this at two stores: one had it playing a Samsung demonstration disc that did the picture quality no favours, while the other (priced at $9499) had it on an animated movie that looked great — but animations look good on any screen. This is the bargain of the monster screens and it’s also the best-looking, but the picture doesn’t stack up. It is fully featured, however, including 3D, Skype, and inbuilt wireless. 168 x 98 x 3.6 centimetres (WxHxD), 44 kilograms.

VerdictFor sheer picture quality, the LG is sensational. For size, the Sharp stands alone. And the picture’s very good. The Samsung? If you’re into saving money, why not get a 178-centimetre Sharp? It may be smaller, but you’ll save more than $5000 and the picture is better. But no matter what you buy, to do it justice you’ll need a good external speaker system.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net. Continue reading

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Click into TV stardom

Next level: Online, self-produced shows such as Leo Dale’s Swampy’s World challenge exisiting TV broadcast models.A s the great Bob Dylan warbles, ”the times, they are a-changin”’, though perhaps not in the way the singing social commentator supposed in 1964.
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Technology, spread by the torrents of zeroes and ones surging through the web of fibre-optic cables wrapping our planet, is changing our lives at light speed. Old rules have been hurled aside in retail trading, music delivery, newspapers, radio, education and more. And it’s only just starting. Innovation, inspiration and change are making dents in and sometimes exploding whole industries. But despite the upheaval, their genesis is often small. The technology is here, the cost modest, even free. All you need is inspiration and intellectual perspiration.

Leo Dale, who lives in Footscray, says he has seen the future and it is full of promise. Dale is a jazz musician, a videographer, music curator and yogi. He is also an artistic photographic chronicler of his time (see an example here).

He is of the rising trend that says network TV is the next big industry to be challenged by the internet and entrepreneurs large and, like him, small. It’s happening in a massive way through YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other engines.

Apple technology opened the door for Dale, helped by a grant from Maribyrnong council. With his MacBook Pro, a Canon 5D Mark II camera, some good lenses and audio equipment and Apple’s Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro software, he has set about establishing, on the internet, what amounts to the Footscray television station. But, because it streams on the internet, Footscray is open to the world.

The biggest problem now is bandwidth, Dale says. ”The NBN is due to reach my house this year. That’s going to revolutionise things,” he says.

Dale started with a website called Digital Pill, part instructional, part showcase for local musicians. Now he is making his first episodic ”internet TV” show, Swampy’s World, which shows that a homeless man, because he is homeless with nothing to lose, has total freedom to say what he likes about the world. Melbourne actor-writer Ross Daniels wrote the script and plays Old Swampy. Dale shot and edited the footage and wrote the music. Phil Greenwood helped with the camera, Nichaud Fitzgibbon sang the songs and Dave Evans played accordion.

The point to note here is that, while Dale now uses several thousand dollars’ worth of equipment, the outlay is peanuts compared with a network’s costs. The internet allows bids for a place in this tsunami of opportunity with what these days counts as amateur or, at most, ”prosumer”, gear.

But video must be HD. To save money you could use iMovie instead of Final Cut and WavePad (from Australian software house NCH) rather than Logic. Everything’s there; anyone can go for it. YouTube is now the vast repository of videos ranging from magical to damnable. Dale’s productions from the beginning were broader and different – more soul, one thinks.

Swampy’s World and other productions to come go well beyond YouTube. But they all speak for and of talented people out there in the suburbs, in this case Melbourne but it could be anywhere, offered by people who strive and truly care.

Swampy’s World launched on February 28 at swampy.tv. Dale also runs well-established music site digitalpill.tv. More of his work and philosophy is at leodale上海夜网m.

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