My video recording setup

After working with this setup for over a year, I wanted to share it with you, having gained full knowledge of its advantages and disadvantages. It is what works for me at this time, in my particular situation, but it may help you as well, if like me, you make your own videos and don’t have a team working behind the scenes.

This 3-4 camera setup is what I use to film my wife’s shows: Ligia’s Kitchen and De Vorbă cu Ligia. For my own videos I use a more basic 1-2 camera setup, since I have to be both in front and behind the camera.

Let me state the advantage and disadvantages first and then I’ll give you the exact list of equipment.

The advantages:

  • The big iPad displays allow for proper framing, focusing and exposure control. I always disliked those tiny screens on DSLRs and video cameras.
  • The iPads have big batteries (except for the iPod Touch) that allow for hours of filming.
  • The featherweight iPod Touch can be mounted  in all sorts of unusual spots (including overhead).
  • Live viewing and control of the video feeds (things such as focus, exposure, white balance), including instantaneous switching between the feeds, from a master iPad. One person can manage all of the cameras at once. This setup allows up to four angles at a time.
  • Lightweight, small and highly portable setup.
  • With the aid of dedicated apps, you can get very good control of the video quality and look, right in the camera, without having to resort to a lot of post-editing.

The disadvantages:

  • Video quality isn’t on par with what you can obtain from a good DSLR with a good lens or better yet, from a dedicated, professional video camera. The dynamic range isn’t there, the noise levels are fairly high, the focus isn’t crisp enough. What you’ll need to do to compensate is to make sure your lighting is as good as you can get it.
  • The battery life of the iPod Touch is terrible. Have an external power source (plug or power bank) readily available if you need to record more than 30-45 minutes of video.
  • Also, the iPod Touch has a much slower processor than the iPad, so don’t attempt to use it as a master controller or for video editing. Use it only as a slave camera and be prepared to wait for good, long times when it updates itself with new Apple software and apps.
  • The on-camera (iPad Air and iPod Touch) microphones don’t offer good sound. The iPad’s microphone is passable from a close distance when nothing else is available, but that of the iPod Touch sounds tinny, no matter the situation. Use shotgun, dedicated or lavalier microphones for better sound.
  • You’ll need good WiFi signal in the room where you’re recording video, if you’re going to want to manage the video feeds from each iPad camera on a master iPad.

The equipment list:

  • 4 iPad Air units: mine are 128 GB first-generation models, I got a great deal on them at B&H Photo about 1 ½ years ago, I think they were old stock and they were making room for the 2nd generation iPads. I went for the largest capacity available because I wanted to be able to record lots of video without needing to stop and download. It just so happened that they also had 4G LTE, which was a nice plus. It was the right decision.
  • 1 iPod Touch unit: I got this because it was small and I wanted to use it for overhead angles, where a heavy camera might fall on my head. I didn’t want to use my iPhone, just in case it ever fell from its rigging. (An iPod is cheaper to replace than an iPhone.) It was the right decision. The short battery life and slow performance were unexpected and disappointing, but it does its job when needed.
  • 5 iOgrapher cases for the iPads and iPod Touch: check out their website, they keep working on their cases and have developed new ones to fit the new gadgets from Apple. I love their cases because they work both handheld (they have two big handles on each side) or mounted on a tripod. And they have mounts for external microphones and lights, right on top where they’re needed.
  • 5-6 iOgrapher lenses: I use a mix of Telephoto and Wide Angle lenses made for the iOgrapher cases, they use a 37 mm mount. They’re not pro-level lenses and they have a bit of distortion and chromatic aberration around the edges, but they’ll do the job.
  • 2 Rode smartLav+ lavalier microphones. This is where our iPhones are useful. We put them on Airplane mode, plug these mics into them, start up the Voice Memos app and slide them in our pockets. We get to record great audio with little fuss.
  • The following iPad/iPod Touch/iPhone apps: the built-in Camera app that comes with iOS, RecoLive MultiCam and Filmic Pro.
  • 1 or more video lights. There are a ton of options here. We use this one. Its advantage is that it comes with interchangeable color filters that shift the temperature of the light.
  • 2 or more softboxes mounted on C-stands for each set.
  • 1 hair light such as this one. I mounted it on a C-stand that I extended to its maximum height and lateral length. You may need to use some sandbags to stabilize the stand.
  • We also use the room’s own lighting for effect and illumination. I tend to use cold temperatures for the studio lights (white CFLs and LEDs) and warm temperatures for the room lights. I know people say you shouldn’t mix light colors when you’re shooting video or photos, but I like it. When they’re mixed the right way, they give me a “live” white balance, an in-studio “look” for my video, which is better than doing it in post.

If you have any questions or if I’ve forgotten to mention anything, let me know in the comments. I hope this helps you!

Solid advice on back pain

I recently finished reading a book called “Ending back pain: 5 powerful steps to diagnose, understand and treat your ailing back“, written by Dr. Jack Stern, a back surgeon. Here’s the English cover:

ending-back-pain-cover

And for those of you who are in Romania, here’s the Romanian cover:

elimina-durerea-de-spate-coperta

Some of you may remember that I dealt with a bout of debilitating back pain in 2015-2016. As a matter of fact, as I write this short book review, I get to celebrate a year of living a fairly normal life again — as opposed to crawling on all fours and unable to walk, hopped up on pain killers and yet still in excruciating pain.

So it is with the authority given to me by first-hand experience that I recommend this book to you. Back pain has become an epidemic nowadays, because of the way most of us live and think, and there’s a very good chance that if you’re reading this and are over the age of 30, you’ve had some back pain. I know 25-year olds who are struggling with back pain. This was unheard of just a few decades ago. Back pain used to be a thing old people complained about. Not anymore.

This book truly does what it promises to do in its title. It walks you through its five steps that help you self-diagnose your back pain, guides you in the process of selecting a specialist to assist with your recovery and gives you solid advice about how to stop the pain from reoccurring.

What I liked about it (and there are many things to like) was its holistic approach. The author doesn’t stress surgery, even though he’s a successful and experienced surgeon. Like me, he thinks surgery is the absolute last resort. Even more so, he talks a great deal about natural ways to treat the back pain. He’s not entrenched in the allopathic approach which, let’s be honest, has failed quite miserably in the treatment of back in recent decades.

What you’ll take away from the book depends on your particular situation, but what I want you to understand going in, is that back pain is a complicated beast that can have many causes: physical, psychological, genetic, postural, mechanical, food, lack of exercise and so on. Your particular back pain, even though it may have the same symptoms as that of someone else, may have entirely different causes. That’s where this book shines: it talks about those causes and helps you to identify what’s really ailing you, what’s at the root of your back pain.

I’ve gained valuable insights through the reading of this book. It confirmed things I intuited when I was sinking deeper and deeper into a spiral of pain and despair and revealed new things to me about the nature of my particular back pain. It’ll do the same for you if you read it in earnest, studiously and with the intent of getting to the bottom of things.

Good luck and good health!

A suggestion for this new year

Since this is my first post of 2017, I’d like to wish you a Happy New Year!

Now I’d like to suggest that you do something. I know you’d like me to post here on my blog more often. And that’s one of the things I’d like to do this year. But there is one place you can go where I post a lot these days: my Facebook page.

I’m not kidding. You’re missing out on a lot of good stuff if you aren’t following my page. As you know, the main subject of my website is how to make one’s life better. The things I talk about, the photos I publish, the videos I make, are by and large geared toward that purpose. My Facebook page deals with the same subject, except I can post a whole lot of stuff there that doesn’t necessarily belong on a website, like a quick video or a link to an article, or a photo that I didn’t take, or an inspirational quote, etc. So go to my Facebook page and follow me if you’re interested in this kind of stuff.

I bet you’ll also be interested in the photo albums I’ve posted there. For me, they’re sources of inspiration when it comes to making my life better and I hope they inspire you as well. Here’s the list, feel free to browse through them:

I believe some of you will have a couple of concerns as you start going through the photos, so let me address them here:

  1. Most of the photos aren’t my own. I wanted to post them anyway, because they are truly inspirational, whether they are scenes from nature or photographs of beautiful things. Where I knew the photographer, I gladly gave credit. Where I didn’t, I didn’t. If you do, let me know and I’ll quickly add a caption giving credit where it’s due. Also notice I said most of them aren’t my own. That means that interspersed between all those photographs you’ll find mine as well, and I didn’t credit myself either.
  2. It might seem like I’m overly concerned with things, with possessions. It’s not that. It’s about drawing inspiration from beauty and looking to re-create beauty of that sort in my own life. All of us have this innate need for beauty in our surroundings, for quality in the things we use, and yet most of you (I excluded myself from that group long ago, sorry) are content with the average or the sub-par. Sure, you’ll bring up money as an excuse but just like with anything in life, there’s no excuse for anything you really want to accomplish. I myself would rather go buy a top-notch coat from the thrift store than pay double or triple that price for an average coat at the store. Money isn’t a concern. You can always find a way to make your life more beautiful, more interesting, more worth living.

Anyway, the point of this long-overdue post is not to berrate you but to inspire you. If you want to be inspired and to learn good things, you need to folllow my Facebook page. And this website, naturally.

Thanks!

The story of a pair of shoes

rpop-2016-11-6042

I’ve owned these monk-strap shoes for over 10 years. I photographed them this morning for the purposes of this post. These are one of the pairs of shoes I use around the house for all kinds of work: home office, going to the cellar to fetch firewood, going into the dusty attic to put or get various things, renovation work, etc.

I used them last night as we mounted this restored door frame back in place, as I used a miter saw in the cellar, carried the various parts up to the house, used a nail gun to secure them in place and assemble the frame.

rpop-2016-11-6044

You can see these same shoes in this video.

I also used them when I built our garden shed in Florida.

In spite of all the wear and tear I’ve put them through over the years, a little elbow grease always gets them looking great, and that’s a testament to the craftmanship of the shoemaker. The brand (Mario Calugi) isn’t as important here as the lesson to be learned from the experience.

Lots of people make a big stink about how wearing leather contributes to animal cruelty but the truth of the matter is, using every little bit of an animal that’s going to get sacrificed for its meat anyway, is the right thing to do.

Furthermore, taking proper care of your belongings, especially the ones made from other beings (because animals are beings, not things) is crucial and it is part of showing respect for the sacrifice of that animal, for the protection its skin profers you and for the hard work that went into making the finished good you now have in your possession.

Good leather lasts a lifetime if you take care of it. Great shoes also last a lifetime if you take care of them. Yes, it means changing the soles when they wear out, it means treating the leather and polishing it, but it’s the right thing to do. It’s part of being a good, responsible human being to take care of your stuff. Please do it.

Poze de la Raw Generation Expo Cluj, Ediția II

Here are over 500 photos from the latest edition of our Raw Generation Expo. It’s one of our worthwhile projects, an event through which we promote healthy foods and a balanced life. This one took place in Cluj-Napoca and it was the second regional edition we held there. We’re coming up on twelve national editions and this one makes six regional editions. Here’s to a good life for everyone!

Ligia Pop

Raw Generation Expo Cluj a fost un eveniment extraordinar de bine primit, care a incununat cu succes seria expozitiilor de anul acesta. Am avut parte peste 40 de expozanti (mai multi ca la prima editie) si in ambele zile foarte multi vizitatori fericiti. Mai jos puteti vedea o parte din pozele de la eveniment. Multumim Cluj-Napoca pentru primirea frumoasa si ne revedem in toamna lui 2017!

View original post

The importance of trust and common ground in relationships

One of the things I know to be true, because it’s proven itself to me time and time again, is the value of my relationship with Ligia (my wife). I knew it to be true as soon as I met her. My heart told me so, in pretty clear terms, that if I didn’t connect with her, if I didn’t make it work with her long-term, it would be something I would regret for the rest of my life. The heart will do that — talk to you at crucial times — but you have to listen. You have to be in a state of mind where you’re looking for guidance. Both my wife and I were in that state of raised awareness, so to speak, when we met, and we both felt that we were made for each other, even if we hadn’t yet gotten to know each other.

I told you that in order to set the scene. Fast forward 14 years and my wife and I are happily married. More than that, we know we can trust each other implicitly. We can rely on each other implicitly. We think alike. We share common goals and visions for our life together. We share everything with each other: what we’re thinking, feeling, planning on doing, finances, expenses, etc. We work together. We form the perfect team and it’s this concerted effort, this uniting of two beings, that multiplies the effect of our united actions, so that it’s not just x2, it’s more like x3 or x4. I guess one word for it would be synergy. A year or so ago, we were told by a Russian shaman that we were true soulmates, which is apparently something quite rare in the world. We didn’t seek this piece of knowledge, it came out serendipitously as we were inquiring about something else.

I believe our relationship grew to be so for two reasons: (1) we both wanted it to be this way and we made concerted, persistent efforts over time to get it to this point (we’re aware that this is an ongoing project) and (2) we shared a lot of common ground from the start. You know the old saying, “opposites attract”… well, long-term that’s not really true. You need a lot of common ground so that you stay together over time, otherwise the relationship and the bond between you will get pulled in different directions. Instead of naturally pulling together, you’ll waste a lot of effort and time just trying to stay together and you won’t be able to accomplish the goals you want to achieve as a couple, or even the goals you want to achieve as a person.

Now don’t take my words as golden rules. I’m not trying to pose as an expert here. I’m talking strictly from my own experience and as I stated here, my experience with women is limited and before I met my wife, it was mostly painful. This is what works for my relationship with Ligia. Your experience may vary. With that in mind, here’s a video I made on this very subject. I spoke from my heart and I hope it helps you.

First snowfall of 2016

One of the first things I feel in the morning is my daughter kissing me on the face and whispering “Daddy…”, usually followed by a request for food or cartoons or playtime. She’s our alarm clock, whether we like it or not, though I have to say, no matter how tired I am, waking up to a little angel giving me a kiss and calling me daddy is a pretty good way to start the day.

Yesterday morning, even though I’d worked till 2 am and she was waking me up at 7 am, I got up and took her in my arms and started walking together toward her playroom. I looked casually out the kitchen window and (this happens every year) let out a “Yoo-hoo!” because the first snowfall of the winter had already covered our yard. Sophie did the same — after all, she wants to be like her daddy — and we both giggled as we looked out the windows at the pure, little ice crystals coming down in a hurry.

Still, I needed my sleep, so I got a fire going in her playroom, got her some food and shuffled back to bed. By the time I got up again, the snow was still falling, albeit in less of a hurry, and blustery winter winds had begun to blow. You know the kind, the chill goes right to your bones and makes you shiver no matter how many clothes you have on you.

After breakfast, I had to grab a camera and go out to photograph the snowfall. It had started coming down a little heavier again and this was a chance not to be missed, in spite of the cold weather.

I did just that. The streets were mostly deserted, which is just the way I like it, although the tracks of hurried morning traffic were visible in the snow. It was odd weather. The warmer ground had turned the freshly fallen snow to slush and yet high winds were blowing down, carrying more snow from up above and spreading it everywhere. It was not a good time to walk around with a camera in hand. My fingers began to slowly freeze and become unresponsive. I’d forgotten how this felt. A warm summer will do that to you. My nose and ears seemed to be in a parallel plane where the sensations consisted mostly of prickly pins being shot at them. The cold started creeping up my legs and in spite of the old saying that goes something like “I’m freezing my a** out here…” it wasn’t my derriere that was suffering, it was my kidneys. Weird stuff…

Anyway, I persisted, walked throughout the historic district and photographed what caught my eye. I hope you’ll enjoy these photos. It was a fun and partially frozen experience…

By the way, high wind advisories are still in effect throughout Romania. Meteorologists are saying that some regions are expected to have winds up to 60-70 km/h. Should be interesting!