As Art Director and Photographer for Citroën, Laurent Nivalle certainly knows a thing or two about shooting cars. Just over a month ago, the French photographer was lucky enough to attend the Le Mans Classic, now entering its 10th year.
Le Mans Classic is born in 2002 from what can be considered an adventurous idea! Retracing, over a weekend, half a century of the 24 Hours of Le Mans history, life-size, such as a gigantic living fresco, was quite a challenge! Not many believed in the feasibility of such an enormous project...
But when one fulfils the dreams of millions of enthusiasts, that of going back in time to relive the legend, rediscover emblematic figures and their legendary cars; and if the initiators are the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, founder and organiser of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Peter Auto founder and promoter of many classic events; the initiative seems less hazardous...
Nivalle was among the 100,000+ auto enthusiasts who braved the downpour to witness some 450 vintage racecars on the track, as well as 8,000 classics in the public exhibition.
You'll never find an industrial designer complaining about using CAD versus a T-square and drafting pencil, but you'll still find photographers who swear by film and eschew digital. There is a visual quality to film, not to mention the attachment-forming ritual of processing it, that contains a humanity far surpassing pixels and the act of plugging an SD card into a slot.
California-based Michael Shindler has gone even further back than film to develop, pun intended, his photography. To produce the stunning images you see here, Shindler spent six years learning a photographic technology that's over 150 years old:
The Wet-Plate Collodion process, first introduced in 1851, involves coating an enameled metal or glass plate with a collodion mixture, which is then sensitized, exposed and processed all within a few minutes and while the plate is still wet.
The resulting image (while technically a negative) is made up of extremely fine silver particles that are creamy-white in color, which allows the image to be viewed as a positive when seen against a black background. For example, a wet-plate collodion image made on glass (traditionally referred to as an Ambrotype) would appear as a negative when viewed on a light table, but if the plate were held over black velvet (or the back of the plate was painted black) it would appear to be a bright and lustrous positive image.
So, the same process can be used to produce both glass-plate negatives and one-of a-kind, direct-positive images on black metal or glass. Either way, wet-plate collodion plates are capable of rendering exceptional detail and extraordinary subtlety in tone. Positive plates have beautiful, milky-metallic quality not unlike a daguerreotype and must be seen firsthand to be truly appreciated.
After finally mastering the process last year Shindler set up Photobooth, "The world's only Tintype and Polaroid portrait studio," in San Francisco. Those lucky enough to live in the Bay Area can have themselves immortalized in metal here.
Well folks, as images from the Mars Curiosity Rover continue to come in, they're as disappointingly anticlimactic as the landing procedure was thrilling. With the amazing technological prowess demonstrated by pulling off the landing procedure, many will wonder: Why do the photos suck so much? A measly 2-megapixel camera with 8 gigs of memory, are you kidding me? Why don't they just cover the Curiosity with an array of $300 GoPro cameras?
The answer of the limitations is twofold (and the second part might be familiar to any ID'ers who've worked on projects with horrendously long development times). First off, NASA's sole option for getting images sent from Mars to Earth is to use a UHF, or ultra-high frequency, transmitter. That's basically radio waves, it's not like they've got a really long fiber-optic cable lying around somewhere. The Rover beams the signal to two relay spacecraft orbiting Mars, and they bounce the signal all the way back to Earth. And there's not a lot of bandwidth in there, particularly since the other non-camera instruments need to send data back too.
The second part is a bit more disappointing, and it has to do with the Curiosity's long lead time. "These designs were proposed in 2004, and you don't get to propose one specification and then go off and develop something else," Malin Space Science Systems' Mike Ravine, who helped develop the cameras, told camera-reviewing website DPreview. "2MP with 8GB of flash [memory] didn't sound too bad in 2004."
We've oversimplified the answer a bit here. Camera and technology geeks interested in all the gory details can read a more in-depth explanation here.
We love seeing meaningful projects reach their Kickstarter funding goals, and we really love it when those projects involve innovative, high performance technology—like Radian, a motion time-lapse device and smartphone app aimed at bringing pricey photography equipment to a wider audience. Normally a remote timer alone costs around $130, but Radian is set to sell for just $125. As a completely self-contained product you don't even need a tripod, let alone the cabling. That's partially because Radian's inventors have streamlined the manufacturing process, but also because if you use an iPhone or Android you already own the remote timer, no tethering required.
The device itself is a traditional tripod mount (though it also works alone on a tabletop), but the real genius here is in the app. The easy-to-use interface allows you to program tilt direction and speed; The app will even automatically change the exposure so you can shoot seamlessly from sunrise to sunset. And not only can you exit the app during the time-lapse, you can even turn your phone off without interrupting the process.
"To make things even simpler, our app makes valuable real time calculations - giving you a good feel for what the resulting time-lapse would be based on your settings. This allows you to quickly and easily adjust your settings to get your desired output while simultaneously saving you multiple trips to the calculator app.We have integrated bramping (bulb-ramping for smooth night-day-night transitions, currently only for Canon cameras), speed ramping, and a range of time-delay settings. Our app combined with Radian allows you to take on previously difficult feats, such as day-to-night and sunrise-to-sunset time-lapses."
I've become an expert at this sort of awkward, clutching grip I use when shooting with my iPhone:
And most of you probably look like this when you shoot with yours:
A company called RHP Media reckons there's a better, more ergonomic way to shoot. Their MirrorCase (and attendant app) for iPhone allows you to hold the camera lower and shoot from the top of it, rather like pointing a remote control at the TV. A physical mirror inside the case directs the image towards the camera lens, and the MirrorCase app's software flips the image into the proper orientation.
It's no GoPro, and it's badly in need of stability control, but earlier this week Pivothead released some new footage shot by their Durango video recording eyewear. Have a look:
The tiny right-between-the-eyes sensor can capture stills at 8MP and shoot 1080p HD video, with options for both 30 and 60 frames per second. Files are transferred to your computer wirelessly, obviating the need for cables, and there's even an onboard microphone tucked into the side.
I don't think that GoPro, as the incumbent wearable camera company, has anything to worry about; Pivothead's test video above started to make me seasick almost instantly. But competition is always good for product design, and it will be nice if GoPro counters with their own sleeker form factor. If these two companies keep at it, in the future photographers and cinematographers will be able to walk around with all of their gear perched on the front of their faces.
Like Hannes Harms, Mimi Zou just completed her MA/MSc at RCA's Innovation Design Engineering program. Her project, "IRIS," is "a biometrics enabled camera controlled by your eye [that] understands who you are by looking at your iris signature, and lets you capture exactly what you see by tracking your eye." Thus, it has far more in common with, say, the "Nest" learning thermostat—to which it bears a curious resemblance— than IKEA's atavistic novelty point-and-shoot: Zou writes that "with this project, I hoped to bring about a refreshing new product experience, and challenge the existing interaction, typology and capabilities of cameras."
On one hand, the project can be construed as an exercise in biometrics, or "the sets of unique characteristics and traits possessed by every human being," which "could be utilized to positively identify individuals, and reflect their degrees of wellbeing over time. "
This project explores the immense impact of biometrics, as it becomes instilled as capability in consumer electronic products. By creating more intuitive user experiences, powerful profile management networks and next-generation content-sharing possibilities, biometric technologies create significant advantages for their enabled products. Together they create a future where everything—except identity—can be shared.
Alternately, it's a new approach to photography, an investigation into the very premise of photography (short of theory-laden discourse on subject/object dualism, authorship, etc.):
Iris derived from a personal interest in photography, and the observation that photo-taking is a ritual that celebrates the photographer's unique point of view. By recognizing who we are, Iris is able to characterize itself to fit the user. And by having experienced multiple users, it is able to learn about behavior and make intelligent functional decisions over time. I've designed this camera to pick up on the sophisticated cues given naturally by our bodies in the process of "seeing," with the hopes of creating an intuitive and delightful user experience that is at the same time uncompromising in performance.
If you're an industrial designer, you're generally emboldened to take a broken object, piece of furniture, or appliance apart in an effort to fix whatever's wrong with it inside. Because since you know how plastic, wood and metal pieces can be joined, you can generally figure out how to separate them. There's always that fear, as you slide a flathead down a parting line, that you're going to hear that dreaded SNAP of a plastic tab, but you get over it.
However, we all have our own personal spectrums ranging from "I'd totally take that thing apart" to "I wouldn't touch that thing in a million years." It's safe to say I've found my complexity threshold by looking at these photos of the magnesium skeletons of Nikon SLRs floating around the interwebs. If I had one of these and it broke, I'd reach for my phone, not the toolbox.
Props to whatever design team had to CAD these bad boys up.
If none of the experts will heed my warnings and we're going to continue messing around with robotics, I want guys like Arthur Wait designing them. Engineer and amateur chef Wait recently won Grand Prize at Microsoft's Robotics @ Home Competition with his SmartTripod design, which provides a handy way to record demos, tutorials and Instructable-type videos without a cameraman.
I'm a fan of Wait's robot because it's designed to be subservient, and unlike those maniacs at the Ishikawa Oku Lab he has not chosen to give it lightning-fast reflexes to make it athletically superior to humans. Also, it seems like it would be pretty easy to knock over in case it went rogue. And it's clearly useful. Have a look:
I wish every aspiring roboticist would follow Wait's example. The tenets are easy to memorize: 1) The robot must be useful, and 2) We must be able to easily defeat the robot in hand-to-hand combat.
In a reminder that not every Kickstarter project is a blowout, last week the Arqball Spin project we've been keeping tabs on squeaked over the finish line, barely reaching its $40,000 target with mere hours to spare.
While I dig the technology, plan on using it and will pay whatever the service ends up costing, I wasn't sure the Arqball guys would hit their target. The $60 buy-in seemed kind of steep for the small turntable you'd get in return, particularly when the web is awash in DIY motorized turntable tutorials.
For example, here's one from a guy who kind of looks and sounds like Casey Affleck. He whipped his up for $25 and apparently did it while drinking a Sierra Nevada:
While I'd like to use Arqball's technology, the reason I didn't pledge for one of their turntables is because the objects I need to create Spins of—vintage sewing machines—weigh in excess of 30 pounds, and the Arqball turntable's cut-off is five pounds. If you're an ID student wanting to Spin something as heavy as a car clay model, you're in the same boat. So for those needing to DIY a turntable that can spin heavier stuff, here's a guy who whipped one up for about $40 using a rotisserie motor, a lazy Susan and some woodworking skills:
We've all seen countless photos of solar eclipses, and readers in California, Japan or Australia may have gotten a look at Sunday's in person; but did you ever wonder what the results of an eclipse look like from space?
The Large Picture Blog has images of earlier eclipses and their effect on the Earth, as shot by the International Space Station and the Mir, before it was decommissioned:
Kind of looks like a burn mark, like God left Earth in the oven too long.
While photographer Cory Poole couldn't be bothered to make it into outer space (lazy), he did take the time to shoot 700 shots of Sunday's eclipse through a telescope, and was good enough to post the resultant time-lapse video on YouTube:
Nearly 2,000 canoes and kayaks floating on Fourth Lake in the Adirondacks, with all of the individual boaters holding hands in an effort to break the World's Largest Raft record - Nancie Battaglia, Sports Illustrated/Getty Images (image rotated 90 degrees to fit here)
National Geographic has posted this year's "Visions of Earth" photo series, a sort of best-of-the-best of what our planet has to offer in terms of visual beauty, both natural and man-made. For some reason I find the top-down photographs the most compelling, as they literally broaden—or is that heighten—your perspective, showing you things you'd recognize from the ground but would have no opportunity to see from above. (Or in the case of the moth scales, at such magnification.)
While there's nothing specifically industrial-design-related here, anyone interested in the visual arts is bound to find dozens of inspiring images; NatGeo has made not only this year's pick available for free viewing, but has also posted their archives stretching back to 2006.
The Space Shuttle being "delivered" from California to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida - Carla Thomas, NASA/Reuters
View from the Burj Khalifa - Samar Jodha
A crop circle, origin unknown, located in Switzerland - Sandro Campardo, EPA/Corbis
Photographer Kevin Bauman's "100 Abandoned Houses" project showed the empty domiciles of Detroit, but French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre have gone further: Their photo book The Ruins of Detroit is far more chilling because it displays the disintegration of livelihood at every level. It's one thing to see empty houses, but Marchand and Meffre's shots show abandoned banks, train stations, dentist's offices, police stations, ballrooms, hotels, schools, churches and more.
Over the past generation Detroit has suffered economically worse than any other of the major American cities and its rampant urban decay is now glaringly apparent during this current recession. Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre documented this disintegration, showcasing structures that were formerly a source of civic pride, and which now stand as monuments to the city's fall from grace.
Our friends at Cool Hunting and PSFK have already let the camera out of the bag, so to speak (it literally came at the bottom of a tote), but, as the saying goes, "looks cool, but what does it actually do?" We decided to put IKEA's Knäppa camera—swag from this year's IKEA PS exhibition in Milan—to the test with an impromptu photo shoot... of the two other cameras I had on hand, a DSLR and an iPhone 4S.
So that's why IKEA only bid $999 million for Instagram...
Well, I can't say I was expecting much more than that: as with the Swedish company's furniture, the Knäppa is more or less designed to be disposable, though it barely even qualifies as an ad hoc solution for a first-time photographer—not least because the cameraphones are getting better by the day.
As my colleague astutely pointed out, "it's like one of those early cellphone cameras," which is probably true... although I don't remember it taking 6–8 seconds to take a picture on my old LG or Samsung. Forget about focus, aperture or shutter speed (even composition is tricky when the viewfinder isn't aligned with the lens): the Knäppa really just requires steady hands; inanimate subject matter is a given.
Girl Scout cookies not included
Here's the promo video, courtesy of designers Teenage Engineering, which is at once overambitious and tongue-in-cheek.
But I'm sure you really just want to see the camera itself, as shot by the trusty ol' office Canon (the leading image is iPhone 4S)—you can't deny that it's photogenic:
At the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) show, postproduction technology company Blackmagic Design made a surprising move into the camera space, releasing the sub-$3,000 Cinema Camera seen here.
We're most impressed with the Teutonic, Rams-like industrial design. The body is constructed from a block of machined aluminum, capped front and back with rubber for grip. Standard cable jacks are located on the left side, while the right consists of a door that opens to reveal the SSD slot. Blackmagic wisely stayed out of the proprietary lens game and designed the Cinema Camera to take Canon or Zeiss glass.
Your typical adjustable camera or gear bag uses padded, removeable sections that you affix to a matrix by means of velcro. It sounds great in theory, but is horrible to use in practice; the velcro has a tendency to stick when you're trying to adjust or remove it, quickly turning your reconfiguration into a laborious chore.
A Denver-based startup called TrekPak has designed a better system of user-configurable gear protection. TrekPak's velcro-free padded sections use simple U-shaped pins and exposed sidewalls as connection points:
As the system is designed to be dropped into an existing bag, it brings to mind the purse organizers we wrote about earlier, with the added benefit of user-determined layout.
This is version 1.0 of a technology that's a bit clunky now, but has the potential to be awesome at the 2.0 or 3.0 level. The Ubi-Camera is a working concept devised at Japan's Institute of Advanced Media Arts and Sciences which allows you to take photos the way a pretentious art-house movie director frames shots: By framing them with your fingers.
We say it's clunky because the current prototype requires you stick your fingers into that little box, but it's not difficult to imagine where this could go:
1.) Picture the lens being something tiny that attaches to the fingernail of your pointer finger.
2.) Form the frame with your fingers and the camera turns on.
3.) The shutter could be activated by using a finger not involved in the framing—say, your ring finger—to touch your palm.
As a shutter-triggering alternative to step 3, it would be cool if you just made the "Ch-KSHH" noise with your mouth, and an audio sensor in the camera then snapped the photo.
Josh Guyot, co-creator of the Gorillapod line of flexible mini-tripods, has devised yet another brilliant way to support an iDevice for video: The Galileo. The attractive, cylindrical base—which doubles as a charging point—can actually be controlled by the viewer, allowing them to pan and tilt. If at first the benefits don't seem obvious, check out the video:
Guyot's Galileo has already been successfully Kickstarted, pulling in 150% of its target and still with 24 days to go. The projected retail price will be $130, but you've still got a little under a month to score one for an $85 pledge.
Cats like moving objects, but only for a while. I once bought a radio-controlled mouse that zipped around the living room, and my cat couldn't help but follow it around and try pouncing on it. And then, eventually, she got tired, and she took a nap right next to it.
Brothers Will and Matt Burrard-Lucas certainly learned their lesson from much bigger cats—lions—which destroyed a remote control camera they dubbed the BeetleCam. And so they created the lion-proof BeetleCam, armed and prepared for the legendary king of beasts. Here's thetir recen report from Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve:
The pride had four cubs and it wasn't long before they were all circling BeetleCam suspiciously. They grew bolder and more inquisitive by the second and soon they were approaching to within inches of buggy as they probed for weaknesses.
They intuitively recognised the front of BeetleCam and would try to circle around to attack it from behind. They also grew bolder whenever BeetleCam retreated, swiping at it with their oversized paws. We were just getting the hang of this new game when disaster struck; BeetleCam's front left wheel hadn't been tightened properly and it worked its way off! The cubs instantly seemed to recognise that the buggy was in distress and they closed in.
A male lion graciously helps test out the new BeetleCam...
What's always killed me about working in offices, even ones filled with exciting design projects, is the crushing sameness of the environment. Day-in, day-out the walls never move, the lighting never changes. I'm certain my ancestors belonged to a nomadic tribe and that I've inherited their need for regular changes of scenery in order to feel productive.
This occurred to me while viewing Lisbon-based photographer Tito Mouraz' "Open Space Office" project, a photo essay shot at a Portugese rock quarry. It took two years to complete, and the workers who toiled there got to see their "office" change regularly as they transformed the organic into the rectilinear and descended ever deeper into the earth.
The series presented here was shot in Portugal over a 2-year period and represents a transformed landscape that portrays the existence of Man as a constructive, reconstructive and contemplative being. The landscape appears completely and irreversibly transformed and it was this transformation that caught my eye and fueled my interest in conducting this project, basing it on this very landscape.
You don't often come across a photographer who's also a Ph.D student in sociology, but it makes sense when you look at David Schalliol's work, especially his images of Detroit's dilapidated housing and Chicago's struggle to rebuild its housing projects, a series made in conjunction with the Chicago Housing Authority's ongoing "Plan for Transformation." The plan has been in effect since 2000 and Schalliol has been documenting the unending cycle of demolition, construction and reoccupation since 2003. Instead of reusing existing public housing projects, Chicago has been tearing everything down and starting fresh, which sounds good until you consider how wasteful and environmentally irresponsible that tear down/build up method of construction really is. You can see a selection of those images on his site or, for a more up-to-date steam, check out his Flckr, where you can also see photos from his other series.
Some of his best work is of Detroit, a city Schalliol calls "the poster child for a recession."
Dan Provost and Tom Gerhardt, the guys behind Studio Neat, improved our iDevice experiences in the traditional ID way: By designing physical products, like the Glif and the Cosmonaut. In search of more cool things you can do with an iDevice, they're now branching out into software.
Their just-released Frames app makes it easy to create time-lapse and stop motion videos, without having to export and string individual shots together on your computer:
Frames gives you lockable control over the shutter, exposure and focus, provides the option of a grid overlay, and even lets you adjust the frames per second. Here's how it works:
Sign of the times: A multi-tool is a handy thing to have on a camping trip, particularly with tools for opening cans, removing bottlecaps, and cutting or manipulating materials. Manufacturer Gerber has also recognized that a crucial part of the experience, at least among today's younger set, will be recording the weekend goings-on for Monday morning upload to Facebook.
In an effort to distinguish their micro 4/3rds or "mirrorless" camera from the competition, Pentax turned to Marc Newson. The aesthetic look of his design for the K-01 has been drawing some fire in photography circles; for unobtrusive street shooting, for instance, the white or yellow body colors are probably not a wise choice, though we should point out that those are two of three options (with basic black rounding out the choices).
In the video below, Newson himself explains what he was going for:
If you've ever agonized over getting the lighting and reflections just right in your 3ds Max vehicle rendering, just imagine doing all of that in real life. Tabletop product photography is challenging enough, but car photography—where you're dealing with an enormous and ultra-reflective object whose surfaces seem to bend in every direction—takes it to a whole ’nother level.
"One of the biggest problems shooting pictures of cars is controlling the light," says Lance Kouchi of the So Cal Viper Club, an auto enthusiast group. "Sunlight always puts hot spots on the car or there is incredible glare." In the photo below, you can see the massive overhead softbox rigged up in photographer Lyle Okihara's studio, where Lance's Dodge Viper ACR was the shooting subject. Softboxes like these are used to diffuse the light, softening and spreading it over as wide an area as possible.
A less expensive alternative to ginormous softboxes—which can reportedly run upwards of US $300,000, depending on the size—is to use standard studio lighting and bounce light off of an enormous overhead reflector, as seen in this shoot by the UK's Pure Creative Marketing.
Depending on what kinds of reflections you need, these overhead "bounces" can get absurdly large, as seen below in Belgium's Izmo Studio.
This egg-shaped device is the Tamaggo, a "360-imager" (basically a digital camera with a wraparound lens) due to hit store shelves later this year. The Montreal-based company of the same name is betting that the simplicity of "Tammagraphy"—users can capture navigable panoramas with just one click—will adequately trump the current method of shoot, spin and software-stitch so that consumers will want to shell out the roughly $200 to own one. I'm not sold on the bulky form factor, but I also underestimated, pre-Facebook, how badly people want to share photos with each other.