Platograph App for iOS

Platographs are a style of photo that appear to have constantly moving parts. Inspired by cinemagraphs, which are created by taking a video and masking certain parts to remain static, Platagraphs use software to create the illusion of motion from a static photograph. I first heard about Platographs a few years back, but the subscription based service was over $300 a year without any trial versions. Recently, Platograph released an ios app for a much more reasonable price, so I thought I’d finally try it out.

The app is similar to many other photography apps, where you pick a photo and draw a mask on it, then you drop tiny arrows to indicate which direction you’d like parts of the photo to move. The masked area will remain static, while the rest of the image appears to move. Drawing these masks was the most frustrating part of the process. The mask shows up as a grey, which is often hard to see on images of skies or fog. It’s also really hard to really get in tight with your mask because the image doesn’t zoom in enough. I was hoping this app would allow you draw near an object, then the software would autodetect edges to speed up the process, hopefully this will come later. There is also no way to soften the edges of your mask, so there are often very clear areas where the static image hits the moving sets. For skies, trees, or fog, it sure would be fun to have those animations blend into the static parts of an image.

After you preview your image, there are several options for exporting your video to Twitter, Instagram, or whatever. Unfortunately, there are no gif export options. So I exported each of these as the “platograph” setting, which is the shortest video export, then emailed them to my laptop. I saved them to my desktop, converted them in Gif Brewery 3, then compressed them in Compressor.io. That’s a ton of work, but a 1.5mg video quickly becomes a 8mg gif, which can often get trimmed back down to 2mgs with a good compressor. I sure wish that whole process was a little more streamlined.

After seeing a bunch of Platographs online this past year, I already had a pretty good idea for what kind of photos would work best with the effect. Waves, fog, skylines, and clouds are all good candidates, but you still want to avoid images that might be hard to mask out. There were quite a few photos I expected to love, that never really looked right with the effect. There are a few photos, however, that really came alive with Platograph. As far as my own style goes, I really enjoyed using the app in subtle ways, like on a small wisp of clouds through the eye of an ice cave. The effect isn’t always organic, so the more subtle the better.

Enough talking, here’s a bunch of beautiful gifs, all shot on an iPhone then processed with the Platograph app. Which ones are your favorites?






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An impromptu interview with John Law high atop the Oakland Tribune Tower

John Law is an interesting dude with one of the most interesting office spaces in the Bay Area. Though known mainly for his work with The Cacophony Society, Burning Man, and SantaCon, John has had a long career as a neon sign technician. His sign work includes regular clients like the Ferry Building, Hill Bros Coffee, and The Tribune Tower.

I visited John’s office high atop the Tribune Tower and shot a short interview with him about his love of the Tribune Tower and how his neon sign work led to him getting an unusual office at the very top of the building.

 

Benny Gold’s Cracked iPhone Wallpaper

Benny Bent Phone

When Christine cracked her Android screen last year, I took some shots and turned them into a fantastic wallpaper (which you can download here free). So when my buddy Benny Gold showed me his cracked iPhone screen, I snapped some quick shots to do it all again. You can download the large version of this wallpaper here, and it should be usable for most mobile devices.

If there are any specific requests, leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to hook you up. Bonus points if you research the dimensions in advance, so I don’t have to. ie “iPhone 7+ (1080pxl x 1920pxl)

Benny's broken phone

 

What Apple Could Learn From Nintendo’s Headphone Mistake

ninendo-sp-small
Nintendo removed the headphone jack on the GBA SP 13 years ago and I still haven’t forgiven them for it. Compared to the Game Boy Advance (or GBA), the SP had rechargeable batteries, a bigger and brighter screen, and felt great in your hands. It should have been the greatest handheld gaming unit of it’s time, but it lacked one key thing… a headphone jack.

There have been rumors that Apple would repeat this mistake when launching the newest iPhone, so many of us were prepared for yesterday’s news, but the big difference between these two consumer technology giants is that if Apple’s new bet turns out to be a big mistake, they are unlikely to come back and fix it in future models.

What Apple Could Learn

As a chiptune musician, I still collect and use old handheld gaming systems and not a year goes by that I don’t curse the executive who removed the headphone jack from the GBA SP. If it wasn’t for the missing headphone jack, the SP would be my favorite device for GBA games and making music. Instead of using the ubiquitous headphone jack, Nintendo required gamers to use an extra dongle that plugged into the SP’s rechargeable power port. These dongles were cheap, but limiting in three major ways.

  1. You can’t charge and use the headphone jack at the same time- Because the SP only had one port, you had to choose between charging your device or listening to it. This might not be so bad when you are on the go, but if you are the sort of person who likes to listen to podcasts while you are at work or play Pokemon while charging your phone, only using one port for audio and charging means you’ll have to choose between power or audio.
  2. Power ports are not as sturdy as 3.5mm headphone jack- The headphone jack was designed for constant on the go usage. They work great when on a jog or when walking around with a device in your pocket. Power cables were designed around a whole other use case. When charging your device, you probably aren’t moving around or storing it in your pocket, so the ports are designed to be a little less sturdy. When using a dongle for the GBA SP, audio would constantly cut in and out. That’s why I can never use an SP when I’m performing on stage. No matter how good your dongle is, it still has to rely on a good audio connection from your device. I doubt the lightning port on an iPhone is going to hold up to normal wear and tear without constantly dislodging itself.
  3. One more thing to lose- The requirement of an extra dongle means one more piece you’ll probably leave at home or work… then you are stuck with a pair of headphones that you can’t use. As you switch between different devices, you’ll probably be taking the dongle on and off frequently. Leaving it on your desk, or in your gym bag, or wherever. I bet iPhone users are going to start amazing extra dongles just to leave around everywhere in case they left their dongle at home.

Never Bluetooth

I’ve whined about dongles so much that you might be saying “But Doc, just get a pair of bluetooth headphones.” I’ve tried throughout the years to jump over to BT headphones, but it’s always such a shitty experience that I doubt this tech will ever truly catch on in the same way as normal headphones have.

  • Bluetooth audio tech is still terrible- The connection is not reliable and the audio quality is low tech. Bluetooth isn’t just wirelessly transmitting high quality audio, it’s using it’s on proprietary compression. That’s on top of the audio compression that you are using (MP3, M4A, WAV, etc). Bluetooth audio works okay¬†for phone calls or listening to podcasts, but really loses it’s charm when listening to music.
  • Switching between devices sucks- After your morning walk or bus ride, you probably switch over to your laptop for a few hours, then switch back to your mobile device on your way back. This daily task was the single worst part of using bluetooth headphones. Constantly pairing my device drove me nuts. That’s not even mentioning all the times a friend or co-worker might hand you their device and say “listen to this”, but you can’t because you’d have to pair your headphones to their bluetooth just to watch a 30 second video.
  • Twice as many things to charge- Charging a portable device is annoying enough, now imagine needing to charge your headphones too. Ugh.

Apple Does What Nintendon’t

Nintendo claimed that removing the headphone jack was necessary at the time. There’s just no way they could have fit such a cumbersome extra piece into this state of the art tech. After consumer backlash though, Nintendo never made this mistake again. Proprietary controllers or chargers, sure, but consumers didn’t want an extra dongle just to use their favorite headphones.

Apple probably won’t back down. In fact they’ll probably remove headphone jacks from every laptop and device they make in the future. Which means that folks like me, who still carry around their DS Lite or some fun pocket synthesizers or an older iPad, will have to keep an extra bag of dongles on them just to be prepared.