Evernote Stylus

I’m a sucker for this kind of thing. (Link is to a stylus for iPads that works well with the Evernote-owned app, Penultimate — which I bought years ago but I haven’t tried it with Evernote, now that I think about it. Anyway, the stylus is $75, which is too rich for me.)

Timbuk2 Cycling Wallet

Timbuk2 is a favorite company of mine. (Okay, I subsidize them.) Their new cycling wallet reminds me of the BookBook case for the iPhone, except turned inside out:

Here’s the BookBook case:

Both shrink the wallet and, effectively, wrap its functionality around the telephone. Note that both give you the chance to carry about three or four cards. Cash is close to optional. Hmmmm.

Broadcast Television Now Filmed with Canon 5D

It’s a bit staggering to think about it, but the season finale of House was shot entirely using a Canon 5D camera. The director loved the experience. The details of the shoot, as pulled from his tweets are:

  • The episode was shot at 24fps.
  • They used a collection of stock Canon prime lenses (all the L stuff) as well as the 24-70 and 70-200 zoom lenses. (Hey, those are the lenses I have, but, oh yeah, mine are EFS, not L.) These lenses provided some focusing problems, but apparently “cine-style” lenses are already in the pipeline.
  • They used plain old CF cards. 18GB cards gave them 22 minutes of footage.

Amazing. For years, the gap between amateur and pro quality gear was considerable. It has closed in recent years, but there was still a gap. The Canon 5D is not exactly something you’re going to find at Walmart — the body is currently priced at $2500 on Amazon — but it’s not beyond comprehension. Why, only a few years ago the folklore concentration at the University of Louisiana invested in a prosumer Canon video camera that was $3500. The 5D is clearly now professional grade, and it’s less. (But in saying that I really am lying, because I am completely leaving out the cost of lenses.)

For those who don’t want to wait for the House episode, you can check out a short film shot with the 5D. (Not the best film, but the cinematography is nice.)

Oh, did I mention the 5D shoots in HD?

iPhone Geotagging Applications

One of the reasons why I picked up an iPhone 3GS was for its GPS functionality.1 I had been thinking about getting a separate GPS unit, and in fact had asked for one Christmas 2008, but it turns out the delay worked to my benefit. At this point in time, I don’t want turn-by-turn directions, all I want is to be able to note my location coordinates and then tag my notes and my photographs with that information so that future researchers will have that information available to them.

However, getting those coordinates from somewhere on my phone to all those images is not as easy as it should be. This may have something to do, from what I can tell, with the iPhone’s SDK, which up until now has made it hard for apps to save data in a place or in a form that could be used elsewhere. This may all change with the iPad, which obviously needs to make something like a file system available to apps for storage of information. (Again, I could be talking out of my hat here — it’s a lovely IU baseball cap, and so I look quite good talking out of it.)

I have downloaded a few GPS apps, but none of them have done what I want. “Geo logging” wasn’t quite the right search. I should have been using “geotagging.” (It’s often one word these days.) And so I have turned up a number of applications that promise to make this pretty effortless:

  • GeoTag for iPhone is inexpensive at $1.99 and offers to track your location for you. You then use a desktop application to tag your photos.
  • GeoLogTag is more expensive at $4.99 but it doesn’t require that you install any software on your Mac. Instead, you connect your phone to your wireless network and then tell GeoLogTag to tag your photos. (How exactly this works isn’t clear.)

Frustratingly neither of these apps, and a few others at which I looked, mentions specific use cases with Lightroom. They mention iPhoto, Aperture, and Flickr, but not Lightroom.

All these apps also discuss tagging your photos within a given time window — five minutes or such. Since I tend to be at a given location to document something, I would prefer to capture that data, manually even, and then be able to drag and drop it onto a given set of images — rather like one tags with keywords in both iPhoto and Lightroom. Both of these apps, and others, assume a kind of automation which is very nice but doesn’t exactly fit with my own workflow.


  1. That makes for a total of 3 radios in the iPhone: cellular, wireless ethernet, and GPS. 

A New Notebook

As most people know, I have used and depended upon the large Moleskine notebooks for the past five years. I take them to work — into committee meetings, into the classroom, into my office — and I take them home. I have taken them out into the field, and I have taken them on both business trips and pleasure trips. Everything goes into them. And when you depend upon such a one thing, like a good pen, you don’t lose it.

Laudun-2010-0759

A collection of Moleskine notebooks on a shelf in my study.

What's In My Gear Bag 3

A photograph taken for my recent post on field gearthat emphasizes the place of a notebook in the category of “necessary gear.”

At this point in collection of habits and practices, I have just about stopped thinking about what notebook I use. It’s going to be a Moleskine with graph paper. (I am not so good at drawing that I work that well without the aid of lines, and lots of them.)

Still, a lot of lines can crowd the page, and so when I came across someone crowing the benefits of using a new line of notebooks from Sweden called Whitelines, I was suspicious that it was yet another Lifehacker or 43folders fan spending more time fussing with the tools of the trade than in the actual practice of trading — whatever that trade may be.1

Whitelines Notebook Comparison

Whitelines Comparison

Color me surprised — excuse the pun. Not only are the pages more readable but the notebooks themselves are cheaper than Moleskines and they come in the standard European sizes2 and the company is committed to having a zero carbon footprint.

The full line of notebooks is available on Amazon. I use the A5 sized hardbound notebook.


  1. Okay, true confession, I will almost always take the time it requires to waste to try using any kind of paper with Sey├Ęs Ruling

  2. May I just take a moment to ask why hasn’t North America moved to such international standards as, say, the metric system and the sensible paper standards like A3, A4, A5 et cetera

What’s In My Gear Bag

I may have started out life as an English (and philosophy — dual!) major, which should reveal a real preference for books over people, but what I love is fieldwork. In any given week, what gets me through other days is the knowledge that by the end of the week I will have spent a day, perhaps two, doing fieldwork. Sometimes that fieldwork might be nothing more than “windshield surveying” as Fred Kniffen once termed it. Other days I might get invited to spend some time in a rice bin. It doesn’t matter. I’m out in the world, getting my boots muddy, as Ray Cashman likes to call it.

I am regularly approached by students and faculty at UL-Lafayette who are interested in doing some sort of qualitative work, and, because technology seems like magic, they always start with what kind of gear I carry. I’ll start there, but over the course of the next few posts, I want to explain a little how I approach fieldwork and thus why I use the equipment I do and why I use it the way I do. As you will learn in a moment, my equipment is not the best there is, but the way I use it regularly produces pretty solid results, and that’s what we’re after isn’t it? A solid documentary record for people who otherwise potentially exist only as abstractions.

Here’s the gear I carry on a regular basis:

The DSLR body I use is the Canon EOS 450D (also known as the Rebel XSi). I was using a 350D before, but moved up to the 450D because I wanted to standardize around SD cards for my equipment and the 450D makes it easier to change things like the ISO and it has a bigger LCD on the back to double-check your shot.

My Basic Camera Setup

My main lens is a Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS (see figure above). It doesn’t open up quite as wide as the Sigma 24-70mm EX DG I had been using, but it gives me a bit more zoom on both ends of the spectrum and it has a faster, quieter focus as well as image stabilization.

I have two alternate lenses that I carry with me: one is Canon’s “plastic fantastic” 50mm f1.8 lens which lets me shoot inside dark metal shops at ISO 800 and still get remarkably clear shots. If a main door is open, sometimes I can shoot at 400 or, with a steady hand, stop the camera down enough to get a workable depth of field.

Laudun-2010-0727

I have also just picked up, as a Christmas present, a Canon EF-S 55-250mm f.4-5.6 IS lens (see figure above) for shooting my daughter’s various events and that I have begun to try using to photograph farmer’s at work in the field and to do some nature photography — see below. The 50mm lens is always in the bag, but sometimes the zoom stays at home.

A Killdeer Lands in a Rice Field

Always in the bag is a Moleskine notebook with grid pages — I am in no way a steady hand when drawing a line or drawing to scale and so I need all the guidance I can get. The Moleskines are really a good size for fieldwork and they have proven themselves able to withstand the kind of abuse I dish out.

Laudun-2010-0728

Also always in the bag are ear plugs — I work in metal shops, cough drops — because nothing is worse than listening to your own cough when trying to transcribe a recording, spare pencils, lens cleaning materials, and a tape measure.

When I know I am going to be interviewing somone, I drop an Edirol R-09 in the bag with me. Like the Canon, it records everything to an SD card — and, an added bonus, it uses AA batteries. (My backup camera is a point and shoot, a Canon A590, which also records to an SD card and uses AA batteries.)

My thanks to Henry Glassie for showing me the poor man’s version of the disappearing photographic background.

File Names as Buckets of Metadata

Until someone comes up with a digital asset management application for audio that works like Lightroom, I may be stuck with doing things the old-fashioned way. Dustin Cow over at CreativeCow.net offered up the following:

Filenames will be in this format.

Game-S[season number]E[episode number]-[Game name]-[Type of footage]-[Shot Number]-[description]
Filenames should always use leading zeros. eg (EP01 NOT EP1)

For example:

Game-S02E04-Rock Band-Gameplay-05-Drum Tutorial (Say it ain’t so)
Game-S02E09-MGS4-Interview-08-Matt Jones talks about engine
Game-S02E14-Halo4-B roll-13-Master Chief mascot at E3

TYPES OF FOOTAGE

Essentially the types of footage depend on the nature of the segment.

For Reviews the types of footage are

  1. Gameplay
  2. Music
  3. SFX
  4. Commentary (only for sports games)
  5. VO

For Interviews, they are

  1. B roll
  2. Interview
  3. VO

SHOT NUMBER

The numbers before the description eg(05-Drum Tutorial in the above example) are not as important for interviews captured from tape as I can refer to timecode on the tape to see the sequence of events.

The reason I need it for gameplay or any footage we capture wild without timecode/device control is so I know the sequence of gameplay rather than trying to guess if COD5-snow stage is before or after COD5-Helicopter stage.

If the files are

Game-S02E15-COD5-06-Snow Stage
Game-S02E15-COD5-12-Helicopter Stage

I don’t need to guess.

MULTIPLE SEGMENTS WITH SAME GAME

If we are doing multiple segments on the same game over an episode, we will give the individual segments names and label it into the Game name.

Game-S02E21-Halo4 History-Gameplay-04-Halo3 FMV
Game-S02E21-Halo4 Technology-Interview-Jonty Barnes on new co-op features