Location scout gadgets and toys
…most often electronic and performing task(s) involving photography, video, imaging, mapping, communications or other collaborative sharing of information related to location scouting.
About the image featured on this post:
Government image of the Trinity test “gadget” explosive being assembled. bit.ly/vdgceh
Image in the public domain / Image: U.S Government
Location Scout Resource: location scout using Your BlackBerry / IPhone / SmartPhone
Regarding the purchase of the BlackBerry itself, it’s not like I needed to throw more moolah at yet another gadget for my kit, but the offer was too good to refuse:
- As a long-time Verizon Wireless customer, I was due for a phone upgrade, consisting of a $100 credit (…and 2 year renewal of my contract…)
- There were also two separate $50 rebates available on this particular phone at the time
- The list price of the phone was $249 = minus $100 credit minus $100 in rebates = a $50 BlackBerry – how could I refuse?
What initially inspired me to consider going with a BlackBerry or other smartphone was an experience I had last winter location scouting with the producer I was working with at the time, we were driving around Brooklyn and Queens, visiting some location candidates we had both already researched in our offices but still needing other options; this particular producer was the proud owner of an Apple IPhone, so, as we drove, carefully concentrating on vehicular traffic as is reccommended in conditions likely to be encountered somewhere like New York City, she was able to use a combination of features included in her IPhone i.e. GPS, high-speed internet access / Google Search / Google Maps and of course, the phone itself to make appointment requests or other calls as needed.
As I drove, she would search on Google and Google Maps for the business category listings (we happenned to be looking for auto parts stores and flower shops at the time…) and local business listings which would typically include the business name / address / phone number; then, using that info and Google Maps we could drive directly there. If we got lost or turned around – GPS to the rescue! 🙂
I estimate location scouting this way saved us at least a day in research *not* driving around “aimlessly” as might have been required using “old-school” location research and location scouting methods. Yellow Pages? what are Yellow Pages? 😉
Oh, yeah – the IPhone also contained an IPod which we were able to play thru my truck’s stereo, which was nice – I have my own IPod but it was on the blink at the time – subsequently it was replaced by Apple (for free 🙂 as it turned out it was defective…
In any case, it was at that point I decided to start looking at acquiring a smartphone – the IPhone was really nice, with its large display screen, Apple ingenuity and features – but it also cost about $500 at the time plus + / – $100 for the service each month, so I would have been looking at the (arguably steep) *cost of the IPhone at that time and the additional cost of the additional service to my existing Verizon cellphone service of about the same amount (the IPhone service is only available thru AT&T Wireless or cancelling Verizon contract (which would include a stiff penalty of several hundred dollars…), so… I started looking at the BlackBerry – which has a splendid reputation of its own and in fact was “the” pioneer in smartphone technology.
*In case you have been living in a cave lately, Apple recently announced the IPhone G3 at a much reduced cost for the equipment. Reportedly, the service is more expensive, so over time you end up paying more? …but then again maybe that’s easier for people to whom it matters – spreading out the expense of maybe a little more each month but over a long period and without having had to plop down a lot to get onboard …and inconsequential for still others?
I am very pleased with my BlackBerry! There are LOTS of mobile applications available due to BlackBerry’s popularity, including many…
- Google applications for mobile, i.e. Gmail (including Mail / Google Apps), Google Maps (which includes ** My Location), Search, Calendar, GOOG-411 (voice-technology 411 service) and other useful FREE applications.
- Yahoo has its own mobile application that bundles a number of similar features and is in fact very elelgant, but I have had intermittent problems with it crashing my phone (requiring a soft reset fix by removing the phone battery and turning the phone back on…)
- Of course, there are many BlackBerry native applications included in the phone from the time you first turn the thing on…
- You can search for other BlackBerry Apps
- A while back I ditched my landline phone and ported the number to my Verizon Wireless service. The additional line costs me $9.99 per month as opposed to the $40-$50 / month I was paying for the landline – hey, the new line even included a free cel phone 🙂
Note: the possible down-sides to relying solely on cellular telephony are:
- limited 911 emergency service capabilities
- no landline for receiving faxes – but I use an electronic fax service – which costs $16.95 / month – working on eliminating this expense…
- no landline for processing credit card merchant transactions using a merchant terminal – I solved this by using PayPal’s online payment processing; fees are competitive with my old conventional merchant account and no additional equipment (i.e. terminal, printer) to own / clutter my desk / wear out…
- your mileage may vary depending on your business model / personal needs…
- The BlackBerry does SO many things well, it will be a while (if ever) that I upgrade my laptop computer – I basically don’t need the laptop for mobile internet / email anymore… The laptop is currently needed for tasks particular to location scouting and other business chores for applications such as PhotoShop / Word / Excel, etc and a large, fast hard drive for working with images and other data is needed, but the laptop I currently own should be good for all this for a while.
**My Location is NOT GPS – its positioning technology relies on cell towers to determine your position – generally, for the purpose of getting “un-lost” I find it quite adequate – and it is FREE – GPS service thru Verizon is a separate, paid service ($9.99 / month I think…), but I have my own separate GPS unit I can use if I need to provide exact coordinates of a location.
Verizon’s unlimited personal Blackberry email / web data service that I subscribe to is $29.99 in addition to my regular voice plan, (its corporate plan, which is required if you work for a company that uses BlackBerry’s Enterprise Server is $44.99 / month. The extra $30 / month is a little stiff to a penny-pincher like me, but it is unlimited internet / email and several factors make it a wash. What follows are considerations you may want to make for yourself:
Location Scout Spotlight: Panodigg: Your daily Dose of Fresh VR Panoramas – Tribute to the Spaghetti Westerns :: www.360vista.es.
In Almeria, the most arid part of Spain, huddled in the south-east corner are two theme parks with a difference, one is Fort Bravo – Texas-Hollywood and the other Oasys-Mini Hollywood, these are the two most important cinema studios and mock western towns in the whole of Europe.
- …via Sam Rohn and Panoramic Photographers on Facebook
- …see also: Tribute to the Spaghetti Westerns :: www.360vista.es
- Spaghetti Westerns at Amazon
Rotating Location Scout Panoramic Website Header Images
If you haven’t already noticed, there are
48 a LOT of different rotating location scout panoramic photos on the website header area here on nyc.locationscout.us. More images will be added as time allows. The images are mostly crops of location scouting photos of locations in the New York City, NY greater metro area and tri-state area. Some have been used as header images before, but I have always only ever chosen favorite photographs to use as header images (they have to fit the long horizontal format too! 😉 so I don’t mind recycling the old photographs.
Panoramic photography is a technique of photography, using specialized equipment or software, that captures images with elongated fields of view. It is sometimes known as wide format photography. The term has also been applied to a photograph that is cropped to a relatively wide aspect ratio. While there is no formal division between “wide-angle” and “panoramic” photography, “wide-angle” normally refers to a type of lens, but using this lens type does not necessarily make an image a panorama. An image made with an ultra wide-angle fisheye lens covering the normal film frame of 1:1.33 is not automatically considered to be a panorama. An image showing a field of view approximating, or greater than, that of the human eye – about 160° by 75° – may be termed panoramic. This generally means it has an aspect ratio of 2:1 or larger, the image being at least twice as wide as it is high. The resulting images take the form of a wide strip. Some panoramic images have aspect ratios of 4:1 and sometimes 10:1, covering fields of view of up to 360 degrees. Both the aspect ratio and coverage of field are important factors in defining a true panoramic image.
Location Scout Hack: Hacking The Flip UltraHD Mini DV
The Flip UltraHD by Pure Digital (recently acquired by Cisco Systems) Cisco is shutting down its consumer video business 🙁 is really an innovation. With its palm-size physical dimensions (4.25″ x 2.19″ x 1.17″ (H x W x D), 1280 x 720 resolution, 16:9 HD aspect ratio, 8gb memory / 2 hours recording time, dead-simple file management / video editing software included in the camera and price tag under $200 US, one can hardly go wrong for creating personal videos or video location scout. (1280 x 720 x 72dpi jpg still images of passable quality for most location scout needs can be saved from video as well.)
There are, however, a few features that seem lacking in the UltraHD out-of-the-box, foremost for me as follows:
- The fixed-focus F2.4 lens is more or less a “normal” length lens and is too “tight” for many shooting situations nor does the lens ring have threads for adding a wide-angle adaptor lens
- The (original) UltraHD has no image stabilization, so hand held or moving shots tend to often result in a “shaky cam” effect
WARNINGS / CAVEATS:
- Modifying your Flip UltraHD will void your warranty. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED
- Be *very careful* with SuperGlue (cyanoacrylate) – if you get any on the lens it could be BIG trouble. The Flip’s lens is plastic! Also be very careful not to get the glue on any other parts of the camera – I personally am currently trying to figure out how I am going to get the battery cover off again – don’t ask 😉 Finally, in case you didn’t know, you can actually glue your fingers together pretty tightly with SuperGlue. Be careful with that stuff!
Hey, Flip Video! Give us some THREADS on that lens!
The other problem with the Flip UltraHD, as mentioned at the beginning of this post, is image stability. An emphatically requested feature addition for future Flips for me would be for image stabilization!
Altho the inherent motion-reducing properties of the wide angle and fisheye lenses help, it’s *real tough* to generate a steady video stream using the UltraHD without putting it on a tripod and especially if you are moving / panning at all. An expensive professional electronic photo / video gyro stabilizer solution is hardly that in this case, considering the expense and additional hardware required. The very essence of the Flip is it’s diminutive footprint and low cost.
The solution I am currently trying is using the Manfrotto 585 ModoSteady 3-in-1 Camera/Camcorder Stabilizer and Support System
but at the same time, I have succeeded in undermining the beauty of the UltraHD by adding all this hardware.
I am currently researching a DIY gyro solution; some others with the same idea have discussed solutions using everything from spinning bicycle tires to old hard drives to toy gyros. The jury is still out on this one!
Location Scout Gadget: Cameras That Phone Home
Reuters: Lost cameras “phone home” to catch thieves By Franklin Paul
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Alison DeLauzon thought the snapshots and home videos of her infant son were gone for good when she lost her digital camera while on vacation in Florida.
Then a funny thing happened: her camera “phoned home.”
Location Scout Digital SLR Camera Geotagging Technologies
Over at the Geotagging Flickr group, Michael Kirk has posted a review of still another geotagging accessory for a digital SLR camera, Solmeta’s DP-GPS N1, which works with high-end Nikon and compatible digital SLRs (i.e., D200 and up, Fuji S5 — anything with the 10-pin data port), embedding geographical coordinates directly into the images’ EXIF data. (The similar DP-GPS C1 is compatible with more cameras and seems to be a traditional GPS data logger, adding the coordinates later via software.)
Honestly, as a location scout, I personally don’t use full-blown Digital SLR’s much for location scouting work – My Leica D-Lux 3 works great and it is *SO* much lighter and compact than a DSLR camera! It is important to be comfortable on those long days, jumping in and out of automobiles and going in and out of locations – a location scout has to be able to move around quickly and unencumbered. It will be interesting to see if this can work with the D-Lux3.
This could definitely have potential for use creating Q-spheres, tho…
Location Scout Resource: Wireless SD Card:
The Eye-Fi secure digital memory card adds Wi-Fi to any camera and supports automatic wireless uploading to your computer as well as tons of different web-based photo sites, from Flickr and Facebook to Picasa and the open source Gallery2.
This may be old news to early adapters (the LifeHacker article above is dated 11/1/2007) but it is news to me!
News of gadgets like this make location scouts (like moi 😉 salivate!
…or at least seriously consider if the product has practical uses and whether it is worth the $99 price tag (or the hassle to return it?) to find out?
Secure Digital (SD) is a flash (non-volatile) memory card format developed by Matsushita, SanDisk and Toshiba for use in portable devices, including digital cameras, handheld computers, PDAs, mobile phones and GPS units, as well as the Nintendo Wii video game console. SD card capacities range from 8 MB to 32 GB as of 2008, although sizes less than 128 megabytes are rarely sold in stores.
What is unique about the Eye-Fi Card is that in addition to the storage media, it contains a wi-fi transmitter!
Technical Specifications –
- Wi-Fi Security: Static WEP 40/104/128, WPA-PSK, WPA2-PSK
- Range: 90+ feet outdoors and 45+ feet indoors
- Storage Capacity: 2.0GB (1GB is defined as 10^9 Bytes)
- Power: advanced power management optimizes use of camera power
- Card Dimensions: SD standard 32mm x 24mm x 2.1mm
- Card Weight: 0.1oz.
- Eye-Fi Card requires Internet connection to set-up and WiFi network for wireless transfers
- Eye-Fi Card works with virtually all digital cameras accepting SD memory cards
- Eye-Fi Card works with 802.11g, 802.11b and backwards-compatible 802.11n wireless networks
- Eye-Fi software runs on Windows XP, Windows Vista, Mac OS X (10.3, 10.4 and 10.5)
- Eye-Fi software works with Internet Explorer 6 and 7 (Windows only), Firefox 2.0 (Windows and OS X) and Safari 3 ( OS X 10.4 -10.5)
- Secunia 3/4/2008 Eye-Fi Multiple Security Vulnerabilities
Location Scout Tech: Joe McNally: Better Handheld Camera Technique
– Location scouts are required to shoot in low lighting conditions on a regular basis. The techniques described in this video may help you deliver sharper photos!
About Joe McNally
Joe McNally is an internationally acclaimed American photographer and long-time photojournalist. From 1994 until 1998, he was LIFE magazine’s staff photographer, the first one in 23 years. His most well known series is the “Faces of Ground Zero — Portraits of the Heroes of September 11th”, a collection of 246 giant Polaroid portraits shot in the Moby C Studio near Ground Zero in a three-week period shortly after 9/11. A large group of these historic, compelling life-size (9′ x 4′) photos were exhibited in seven cities in 2002, seen by almost a million people. The exhibit and the book, printed by LIFE, helped raise approximately $2 million for the 9/11-relief effort. This collection is considered by many museum and art professionals to be the most significant artistic endeavor to evolve to date from the 9/11 tragedy.
Location Scout Tech: MEMS Gyro | Gyroscope | Motion Plus | Processing – InvenSense
MEMS Gyroscope Applications Overview
Targeting applications in game controllers, mobile handsets, digital still and video cameras, 3D remote controls/mice, and portable navigation devices, InvenSense is leading the revolution from simple 3-axis accelerometer-based motion sensing to the “must-have” functionality of 6-axis motion processing, providing a true 1:1 interactive motion experience for consumers.
Desperately seeking existing affordable standalone solutions or ideas for creating same on DIY level!
A Location Scout wants / needs image stabilization! We often have to shoot in dark places where it is impractical to use a tripod but we need to provide sharp, crisp images so every bit of help counts!
My Flip Video UltraHD camcorder delivers great images, but leaves something to be desired in the image stabilization department, so I am trying to Frankenstein something together that will help alleviate some of the camera shake I have been experiencing, but without incurring such cost that it would be more efficient to simply purchase a different camera.
Programmable Web – Techy Stuff for Location Scouts
While I am on this techy binge (I really probably oughta be doing something more immediately useful like maybe catching up tax paperwork or something else a little more directly business-related like maybe catching up on the organizing and uploading my never ending backlog of film and photo location submissions… or even location scouting 😉
ProgrammableWeb is where you can keep-up with what’s new and interesting with mashups, Web 2.0 APIs, and the new Web as Platform.
Location Scout Resource: MetaCafe | $1 Camera Stabilizer For Any Camera
Don’t be a slave to your tripod. Build this stabilizer and see how much better you photos and video can be. Get professional results. This instructional video shows you how to build your own stabilizer in 5 minutes for less than $1. It is super light weight and folds up small enough to fit in your pocket. With this stabilizer, you can hand-hold your camera with shutter speeds at least 3 stops slower than without. It works just as well with video cameras.
Metacafe is one of the world’s largest video sites, attracting more than 25 million unique viewers each month (comScore Media Metrix). We specialize in short-form original content – from new, emerging talents and established Hollywood heavyweights alike. We’re committed to delivering an exceptional entertainment experience, and we do so by engaging and empowering our audience every step of the way.
Location Scout Resource: $14 Steadicam …via Coudal Partners
$14 Steadicam “The Poorman’s Steadicam” | By Johnny Chung Lee
Why build a cheap steadycam? Steadycams (or camera stabilizers) are attachments used to capture smooth looking video even when the camera and camera operator are in motion.
There’s a new camera category in town. It’s EVIL, and it’s going to kick your DSLR’s ass. EVIL stands for Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens, and is our favorite acronym for cameras like the Olympus Pen, the Lumix GF1 and the Samsung NX10. These small, mirrorless, finderless cameras can fit in a pocket and outperform bulky DSLRs. Here’s why your next camera will probably be EVIL
Location Scout Wordle
Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.
Create your own.
Location Scout Trade Show: Photo Plus Expo
starts Today in NYC.
PDN PhotoPlus continues to be on the cutting edge of what’s happening in photography and imaging. Since 1983 we’ve been put on the leading show in the industry – attracting all the exhibitors you want to see and the industry names you want to connect with.
PDN PhotoPlus International Conference + Expo (“PhotoPlus”) is an annual event held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. Designed for professional and advanced amateur photographers, PhotoPlus displays recent advances in photography through a variety of exhibitions as well as photography and digital design seminars.
Location Scout Trade Show – Photo Plus Expo – 2007
Photo Plus Expo was this week in New York City.
It’s always an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and business associates and see if there is anything new and interesting in the way of photo gear.
Speaking of which, one of my latest pieces of gear is the Leica D-Lux 3 digital camera, which I bought (in addition to Leica’s reputation for fine craftsmanship and innovative engineering and design) on the merits of its ability to shoot 16:9 format.
Why is 16:9 aspect ratio important to me, you might ask?
I produce a significant number of panoramic photographs in the course of my work as a location scout, many of which, in the past, have required a considerable amount of time and work in post to assemble using multiple frames of traditionally formatted photographs. For many purposes, the single frame 16:9 photographs from the new Leica will serve to provide sufficient area coverage as to eliminate assembly after-the-fact. Yippee!
Photograph made at the 2007 New York City PhotoPlus Expo using the Leica D-Lux3 Camera, 16:9 Aspect Ratio
Location Scout Gadget: Motorola Droid (Verizon Android Smartphone)
– It is pretty easy to see how any location scout, location manager or any other production person could really benefit from any mobile access to email, internet, maps, GPS, 5MP digital camera and HD camcorder, so that is why, a little while back when I was due for an upgrade (read: “discounted prices”) from my mobile carrier, Verizon Wireless I acquired a Droid smartphone. The Verizon Droid is a Motorola A855.
Other than the fact that the onboard GPS eats considerable battery power when it is activated, (…solution is to leave it off when not in use) I am overall pleased with the Droid so far; it is a big step up from my first smartphone, the Blackberry Pearl. The Droid’s Android 2 OS allows for use of lots of Google Mobile Services and Android being a popular and robust operating system, many applications, (many free) are actively being developed and are available at a few touches of the finger in The Android Market.
- Location Scout (Jeff Gilfelt)
- 3D Level (Igor Fisher)
- Weather Bug
- DroidLight LED Flashlight (Motorola)
- Seesmic for Twitter
- NYC Bus & Subway Maps (episode6)
- I also picked up a Body Glove Snap-On Cover I really like; it is really well made in as far as it protects the phone body, but leaves the (very durable) touchscreen exposed and still allows the Droid keypad to be opened horizontally.
- I haven’t tried it (yet ;)), but this diy fisheye lens idea for the Droid camera / camcorder looks fun and interesting :). There are several wide angle / fisheye lenses sold here; while (as of this writing) I don’t see the Droid specifically mentioned, these smartphone auxilliary lenses are pretty reasonably priced so it might be worth checking out if you are really into using the Droid’s camera / camcorder.
- As the weather gets warmer I will be getting out on my bicycle and I will use my bicycle handlebar mount for Motorola Droid.
- Altho I normally use a Magellan automobile GPS for street navigation the Droid *does* fit in my MP3 Player Bicycle and Car Mount for iPod/iPhone (please use common sense and operate your automobile safely. This would not include performing most mobile phone tasks while driving.)
- My Droid did not include a car charger, but I found a very reasonably priced car charger on Amazon.
Location Scout is an Android application that helps you discover filming locations for thousands of movies via information compiled by the Internet Movie Database.
I downloaded Location Scout to my Droid and in seconds it had pulled up a half dozen or so movies filmed with a few miles of my office in New Jersey. The Location Scout application works as described, mashing up geographic data and data from the Internet Movie Database (IMDB). I actually had it installed on my old Droid (original Droid Motorola A855) and it was a bit poky but it runs like lightning on my current Droid 3.
This is a good application for a location scout doing research or just about any movie buff.
I recall that a former version of this application that I used on my old Droid (the original A855…)had an add-on (for the life of me I can’t remember what its exact purpose was, perhaps to find photos in the area which you had searched?; this was a noble cause but unfortunately, it tended to lock up my Droid (may have been stressing the performance / resources?) in any case it appears the add-on has been removed; I just downloaded Location Scout for my Toshiba Android Tablet (Scribe / AT100) and it runs smooth as silk. It also runs smoothly on my Droid3.
Location Scout is also available for iPhone.
Location Scout App for Google Android
Know Your Mobile | Location Scout review | Damien McFerran
We review Location Scout, an application that helps you find famous movie hotspots on your Google Android phone