July 22nd, 2010  0205

Recently I took delivery of an Xrite Color Checker Passport and I must confess, I own probably every such device ever hawked by the camera con men.. always searching for something that really helps not only get the proper on-site white balance, but the proper balance of colors as well.

Most people.. when you talk "correct White Balance" they focus on skin tones, and indeed correct skin tones are indeed the most obvious and easy way to tell if someone got the colors close.. assuming there's a person with skin in the composition.  However, it's entirely possible ane even most common, to get the skin tones close but still have your color balance totally off.  This is especially true in mixed light.

 

Unprocessed image (other than xrite color adjustment), straight from RAW to a jpeg conversion

 

There is nothing so "right" about an image then the proper balance of color throughout the entire exposure and tonal range.  We've all seen them, and they almost always occur under very unusual perfect light or by way of Photoshop and a real long time pro.  But what does the normal guy do when there's heavy cloud cover and you're taking a picture of your son in front of a colorful building?  Do you want it to look like its drab and dreary?  This usually means their skin tones are grayish and not natural looking at all, and the surrounding colors are flat and don't look right.

 

Unprocessed image (other than xrite color adjustment) straight from the camera RAW to Jpeg file

 

I've only used the Color Checker Passport a few times, but I plan on testing it much more in the coming week(s).  Regardless, it's easy to see this device is in a class by itself and not only does it help you obtain the most perfect on-site White Balance, but it also computer generates a custom DNG color profile for each lighting situation that can instantly and easily be applied to 1-hundreds of images at a time.  How long does it take to use it?  Just two shots, two exposures and you've got what you need for each lighting situation.  About 3-5 seconds depending on the technique required by the camera to set a custom WB.. and even the custom WB is optional.  You can still build the custom DNG profile with just one shot.. awesome technology!

I'm easily seeing 'more capability' in the realm of color and exposure from my cameras, and this includes my professional DSLR's, my new Sony NEX-5, and even my point and shoots, than any single feature or improvement I can think of other than proper exposure in the first place. 

I'll be incorporating this into my workshops immediately, both the field and software use.  I'm obviously impressed and I plan on mastering the small points of this device over the next few days.  And of course it only has a consistent and proper effect if used on a color managed system, so once again I'll be running some future pieces on properly color managing your monitors, your browsers, your applications, and how to tell if they're done right and which color versions each is compatible with.  

 

July 21st, 2010   1640

Don't forget JTG will take on all cultural questions in our Cultural Corner.  Do you have a question about language, how to take a Thai's photo, how to approach a girl to pose for you, any cultural question.. she's ready and willing to answer.  ASK THE PROFESSOR!!! What an opportunity!

 

July 21st, 2010   0500

We've been making very subtle changes to colors, fonts, and readibilty of the site.  We've removed the blocky frames, added more easy to read headings, dark grey backgrounds instead of black, small black borders to separate the different areas, and just generally cleaned things up.  A bit of house keeping is always a good thing.. ;o)  We still need to get to the Gallery area and add a few choice information blocks providing you the vital information about the site you want on the appropriate page(s)

If you have any feedback we'd love to hear it, so leave a post in the forums under "Site Matters" and let us know what you think.

An interesting discussion is going on in the forums under "Color Managment" which is a very important area.  What software and hardware devices are you using?  Do you know Firefox is V2 color aware and Explorer is more limited.. while Safari is V4 compatible and can render all the sRGB gamuts?  Are you interested in learning how to tell what your browser can 'see' in the way of colors and being linked to some great examples?  If I have time tomorrow I'll do that and I think you'll be very interested.

 

July 19th, 2010   0215

Almost forgot.  Are you using True ISP?  I'm using their 16mp service which is rarely 16mb.  Did you know you can often go in and request a faster service and end up paying less?  They won't tell you or adjust your bill automatically, but ask and you might receive.  Currently 16mb is the fastest available in my area. 

Depending where you are from the DSL relay you might get 20-30% less than the maximum advertised rates.  Currently I'm receiving some pretty good speeds:

 

 

You can check our your download and upload speed at Speedtest.net.  But don't be surprised if you get significantly less than advertised or if it varies during the day.

Alas, but speed isn't everything.  With an internet signal the integrity of your packets means much more than speed.  For this you'll need a Ping Test and my current results look like:

 

In this case you can see I'm getting a fabulous B grade.. which is really quite good.  Most of my neighors and people I know are getting D's and F's.  You can get your line ping tested here at PingTest.net.  What a D or F means is that your interent phne call quality will stink, sites will load much slowly since they're loading the same packets over and over again until they get them right, and most of your connectivity becomes low class.

Recently I've tried to get to the bottom of it.  True insisted I purchase and use one of their new "Billion" modems (900 baht) for best performance so I did.  I noticed my internet would drop quite often, almost on schedule, and at times make the internet unusuable. 

Using my old modem which they said couldn't handle the speeds, especially the 1mb upload, I flashed it with an "Opensource (read pirated)" version of firmware, and after a trip to Chinatown replaced a series of cheap Chinese power capaciitors with quality Japanese capacitors of the same type used on enthusiasts motherboards.  The improvements were dramatic.  My line no longer drops as it did before, perhaps only once per two days for less than 10 seconds, and the speed has risen from 11-12mbps and .4-.5mpbs uploads and a grade of D and F on the speed test (and lots of drops) to a respectable 16.09mpbs which exceeds their advertised speeds and a wonderful A or B ping test.  And my line never drops, or at most once per day for less than 10 seconds at a time.

I suspect there's a "business arrangement" resulting in True pushing all those "Billion" modems.  Do a search and see what the online community thinks of them. 

My True technician is obligated to keep returning and replacing the Billion modem until it works right and he's already picked up on the fact that my Hua Mak off-brand Taiwanese model is far out performing it.  He keeps looking in the BIOS setup for the answer.  I'm curious how long it will take him to look for the real issues?