Tuesday, 29 December 2015

☴ Watchlist: HFR & ASMR

I've noticed an emerging trend amongst progressive filmmakers. Firstly they treat online as their primary global distribution platform (natch) but secondly I am seeing more and more content produced with HFR and ASMR.

HFR has largely been rejected by cinema going audiences, but I believe long-term it will become de-facto standard and 24fps will be regarded by my grandchildren as I regard the quirky looking 18fps footage of a hundred years ago incorrectly played back at 24fps.

Everyone can be a filmmaker using a single device.
It's ironic that as a young filmmaker stuck with 50Hz PAL video, I hated that horrible 'soap opera' look of 50i. I strived for that 'film look' just as some modern filmmakers strive for that 'VHS look'. Madness! I yearned for D1 720x576 but when it was finally affordable it was basically obsolete. I wish I'd discovered Laver's law in my twenties then it may have all made a lot more sense to me.

I remember reading, I forget where - other than in print in the early 90s - that when developing Star Tours the boffins got great reactions from audiences when subjected to HFR (60fps was trialled IIRC) - not interlaced like TV, but progressive, actual frames, like film. It wasn't to be though, probably due to reasons of expense and available bandwidth in existing technology. Wish I could remember what the article was and where I read it!

Reading that, it stuck with me to this day. So HFR came as no surprise to me. I believe more motion data is just as important as UHD and beyond. Kids growing up on console gaming just see a blur when they go to the cinema. In fact, so do I (and I don't even own a console).

Cinema may stick with 24fps (for that extra stop in low-light during acquisition), but it's doubtful if IMAX will. I firmly believe IMAX will supplant contemporary cinema as the 'narrative event experience' because home cinema is more comfortable (and a whole lot cheaper) than going out to the cinema. Audiences are split about 3D at the cinema but frankly that's a big fat red herring that gets rolled out every couple of decades. If you want 3D go see a stage play, they are awesome nowadays.

There's an argument that the dating scene will sustain modern cinema. I call bullshit on that, as Netflix & Chill has been marketed so successfully to the younger generation who have grown up with choice and abundance.

EXT. Star Tours.
No way home cinema will stick with 24fps, it will cater to the console kids who grew up gaming at 60fps and will demand their own normal when voting with their wallets (well, assuming the concept of a wallet survives ...)

HFR, especially at 60fps, solves a lot of problems for the progressive filmmaker.

ASMR hasn't made it into cinemas, mainly because 'true' ASMR required the listener to be wearing headphones. It's unlikely that traditional production technique will ever cater to ASMR. However, again, I believe my grandchildren may be more au fait with it than the general public of today. Whilst it may never be mainstream, I believe its benefits will ripple out just as Hi-Fi has done over the last 40 years or so.

There's no doubt that ASMR is pseudoscience, however I have definitely experienced emotional and 'tingly' responses to sound and ASMR is a good an explanation as any.

Essentially ASMR boils down to two things, of which in my experience only one needs to be present (but both is better).

POV often neglects audio completely.
Firstly, perhaps most importantly, ASMR is positional stereo. This usually means recorded binaurally POV. Not practical for most narratives (great for first-person-shooters that the kids play on their consoles - are you detecting a theme yet?). However, I believe a good stereo sound stage reproduction will suffice (more practical for production of traditional narrative).

Secondly, frequency response. Not necessarily flat, but it needs to be 'clean' rather than 'muddy'. This is because the ear cannot discern the direction of bass frequencies but higher frequencies can be highly positional. Higher frequencies tend to lend more air, and thus feed into those ASMR tingles.

It's totally possible for ASMR to be mono, but it is far more effective in stereo. Stereo allows the ear to pick out positional details due to time differences in the sound wave hitting each ear.

This is why it annoys me that Apple's iPhone cannot record stereo with its three (count 'em!) onboard mics. In every other way, the onboard audio always amazes me except for this glaring omission. Sure, external mics are available (and very decent M/S mics they are too - see video embedded below) but sometimes the onboard mics are all you have - typical during the frugalwave. Onboard stereo mics on an iPhone would no doubt be thought about and positioned correctly in relation to the camera lens (or the corrective/adaptive DSP would be spot on).

So Apple has 800 engineers working on the iPhone's camera that they buy from Sony - so what about the audio-visual?

UPDATE: Yes, I should have mentioned the digital bits that represent latitude and all that good 4:4:4 stuff but I think something akin to Moore's "law" in CCD / CMOS / NEXT TLA will see better and better low-light performance over time - it's going to happen anyway.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Sound Really Is 50% Of Your Movie

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God – it’s the big bang that started it all, not the big picture!

The sound wave, not the light wave.

Sooner or later you’ll hear someone say how important sound is – but rather than wave them on and uttering “we’ll fix it in post”, have you stopped to consider what it is that sound actually brings to your movie?

Here’s a quick test. Watch your favourite movie with the sound turned off.

Does it still engage you fully? Honestly? Would you sit so long through the end- credits (or opening title crawl) if it weren’t for the choice of music?

Does that really constitute 50% of the movie? Well, on a purely “count the senses” – vision and hearing – yes, yes it does. Arguably sound can improve the visual, and even make people see things that aren’t there.

Good sound can really help prop up a substandard visual but bad sound is, well, just bad sound. Our eyes provide vision as a dominant sense, our ears provide sound almost as a secondary sense – a sense waiting to alert us to events rather than continuously inform us in the foreground. Vision gives us actual information – “that bloke is closing a door” – sound gives us implication – “I heard the door shut, it must be shut”.

Seeing is believing; hearing is implication. Implication can exercise far more of the imagination than actual seeing (afraid of the dark? things that go bump in the night?) – yet so much sound today is used with direct correlation to the visual, giving little room for imagination amongst the (im)perfectly rendered CGI.

Imagination is possibly the most visual weapon in your arsenal as a moviemaker – and that can be driven by sound moreso than picture.

It’s not all about imagination though. Most directors agree that a performance recorded on-set will be better than any looping session (looping, or ADR, is the re-recording of dialogue in controlled studio booth conditions), although often certain environmental conditions will mean that the production sound recorded on-set or on-location is not useable.

Sound is also positional in a way that vision is not – the cinema screen is immersive, yet sound allows you to hear things off-screen (given at minimum a stereo soundstage to work with). Even with the latest 3D visual technology, you still need glasses and everything is still contained within that rectangle. Sound is reproduction of actual physical waves in the air, broken free and authentic in ways that photons are not (and, of course, vice versa – arguably – headphones are entirely optional!).

We could get into stereo miking techniques here, but I suspect that’s best saved for another post. Suffice to say I’ve been a convert to stereo recording for several years, yes, even for production audio. It gives so much more depth and spatial precision versus the cost of full sound design – cost usually being a major factor in the indie moviemaker’s world (whether that cost be in time spent or money spent).

“Real” sounds obviously work best at “real” locations and not those recorded in the fakery of the staple studio system. In the late sixties, “Easy Rider” and “Midnight Cowboy” promised to liberate the moviemaker from the shackles of over-engineering. Then Star Wars happened and moviemaking was never quite the same again.

What do you think? Is sound under utilised in modern movies? Can indies get one up on contemporary Hollywood by tapping into imagination drawn from intelligent sound rather than absolute CGI that uses sound as a crutch only?

Since originally writing this article in 2012 for OTTfilm (now defunct), it's interesting to see the rise of popular ASMR related content on YouTube vs the cinemas push for 3D glasses and a general overall industry push to 4K imaging, IMAX, and resolutions beyond.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

☴ Review of X Saves The World - (How Generation X Got The Shaft But Can Still Keep Everything From Sucking) - by Jeff Gordinier

This book, published in 2008, has an obvious axe to grind with the demographics known as boomers and millennials (aka Generation Y) which is evidenced by the subtitle alone. However don't be fooled by the author's sharp tongue and self-entitled sense or irony. Falling into the Generation X demo myself there's a lot I related to, and this book really is a call to action to put the culture back into pop culture.

The basic premise is that being sandwiched between the boomers (currently 'in control') and the millennials (will be in control in future) that X is the 'lost' generation, akin to Prince Charles - his situation is likely to see the throne bypass him and go straight to his children. The book hypothesises that the boomers, living longer, continue to have great influence on the media and knowingly or otherwise are curating monocultural mass media (American Idol was singled out a lot). The net result being a docile millennial generation who would rather download a pop song in protest than take to the streets in peaceful marches.

To conclude the book suggests that in order to stop the world sucking, X-ers must "dare". In a way, that is something I took onboard a long time ago - consciously step outside of your comfort zone, speak your mind (or broadcast it), action over inaction - do something to change something even if you may look foolish.
Don't you forget about me.

Personally I did find the book an entertaining read for the most part, although being from the UK it does make me wince that, yes, the book does not acknowledge much of a world outside of the USA (even though the author recounts stories of global travel) - it may even be a thinly disguised advert for the author's involvement in the 'Poetry Bus' which has a chapter dedicated to it. Perhaps that's just the post-modern irony again. I also know from other research I've done that the kind of 'problem' discussed in the book is not new: for example the Romans had the exact same concerns 2000 years ago. So from that perspective the book takes a very narrow view - well, to appeal to the X demographic I suppose!

Quotes from the book:

"Somebody seems to have forgotten to put together the cover stories about Generation X turning forty."

"Douglas Coupland himself had announced the expiration of the generation [X] all the way back in 1995"

"The media refers to anyone aged thirteen to thirty-nine as X-ers. Which is only further proof that marketers and journalists never understood that X is a term that defines not a chronological age but a way of looking at the world." - Douglas Coupland, 1995

"Nothing is more powerful than ice cream."

"The author and editor Thomas Frank has written extensively about the 'commodification of dissent'."

"Sometimes the best way to make people care about money is to give them some."

"The dot-com boom reached out a gloved hand and said: Luke, I am your father."

"Vast numbers of Generation X-ers learned all their moral lessons from a single source: the 1971 film version of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory."

"Like any good virus, Gen X also produces mutations." - Douglas Coupland, 2002

"This is something I learned from India: When you build something that is beautiful, the community maintains it. People will have pride in where they're living. If you give someone crap, they're going to treat it like crap." - Architecture for Humanity (Kate Stohr or Cameron Sinclair - attribution unclear).

Monday, 21 December 2015

Pompeywood We Have a Problem

This critique (screenshot above) from multiple international award winning filmmaker Riyadh Haque (who is oft resident in Pompey aka Portsmouth UK) had me slightly concerned that he may be advocating class discrimination within the historically naval city.

I read 'filmmaking class' as members of the filmmaking class, a group of people who would hypothetically set standards by their own decree - essentially an elitist exclusive clique - a monoculture of Hollywood wannabes.

Well, turns out I was incorrect (shocking, I know!)

Twitter misunderstandings, miscommunications aside, the crux of Haque being hacked off with Pompeywood output is class within the context of 'high quality, integrity, status, or style'.

Shit just got serious.
Agreeing the definition in context.

I guess he is being professionally sensitive in not revealing the trailer he was watching, to save us from also being sad about it.

It's also unclear what his benchmark for 'high quality' is, what he considers to have 'integrity', the specific 'status' being described or indeed the 'style' improvements needed.

The current problem, as I see it, is that class in this clarified context is not at all specific - it does not define the problem.

Sure, admission of a problem is the first step - but without a definition purposeful unpresumptuous action isn't particularly possible.

As I write this we are organising a face-to-face meeting at a Pompey venue to discuss further. I want to understand why Haque is so disappointed with Portsmouth's filmmaking class, and perhaps we can thrash out a plan to do something about it.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Taking Stock

No, not some euphemism for my Little Shop work on Hayling Island, this is more to remind me what the Deer Studios production slate is at this moment.

Whilst the world must wait for the Provincial's chilling horror short Dark Is A Long Way (coming 2016 ... we hope!), the Airninja movie method has been persistently seeing acquisition and edits through to final production.

1. After successfully collaborating with Mark Handley for Pompey Princess, we are now discussing potential for a video for his Christmas single. If it happens it will happen fast and within a couple of weeks.

2. On the theme of Christmas, I shot the interview with Graham Stansfield (famous keyboardist of Rare Bird fame amongst other fascinating things) to support the upcoming release of his new Christmas album release.

3. Earlier this month we had the first production meeting for another Mark Handley video, this one called Bella Ballerina - expected to shoot Jan/Feb 2016. We have great talent and crew lined up, technically elevating the production away from pure airninja-ry but remaining true to the spirit!

4. The next short film by award winning director Chris Jupp. Currently in pre-prod/development. I expect to be recording production sound and edit producing on this show. Likely shooting Q1 2016.

5. A dementia related project, or two. I have one ambitious project in development and another more practical, smaller, project slated to shoot over-night some time this winter. The one may lead to the other.

6. Longer term, the making of a feature length documentary on the work of prolific low-budget film director Michael J. Murphy. I have gathered several new interviews to augment the FilmRaker interview with the late director. This is an ambitious project in terms of cataloguing the material and assembling it into a coherent, comprehensive narrative without alienating Murphy's fanbase - but also allowing it to be accessible to anyone else.

Below is a small tribute video assembled from this last ever recorded interview with Murphy, and screened at his funeral earlier in 2015:

7. Recently completed edit of found-footage for the video to Owen Troman's single Winter Child (presumably another Christmas release). I worked on Owen's previous single in a similar fashion - finding footage and mashing it up into something symbolic for the track.

There are many other side-projects I am involved with but I am on the periphery or only providing services on-demand. Two most notable are both for Trash Arts, schedules TBA.

A busy season!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Eating Humble Pie - Apple, Pie

So you may remember I was very disappointed with the direction Apple is taking lately, with its subscription model and general smugness. So I switched to a Sony Xperia Z3+ via a refurb Z2 (still a good value phone I reckon).

It's not that Android is bad. Indeed, I am completely won over by Google services once more and thanks to Google Music I am actively listening and rediscovering my music library once more.

Google Inbox has matured to a point where it just seems normal to me, I've always used my email as a to-do list, so it's perfect(ing). I've been centralising my schedule with (Microsoft's) Sunrise Calendar and not looked back. And Google Keep has since been released for iOS.

So the software that sits on Android is not bad.

It's the ...


Those that know me know that I have virtually zero tolerance for a product flake out in critical working situation.

You guessed it.

The Xperia video camera let me down. More than once.

I can workaround the native camera not recording 1080P video for more than 30 minutes, but some things I can't comes to term with:

1. Camera lag. From activation delay to a delay after pressing record, it is not acceptable to me when one of my primary uses for bothering with a smartphone is to have a reliable and robust video camera on me at all times. The Xperia hardware may be robust and reliable but the software has proven to me over the last couple of months that it is neither robust nor reliable.

2. Fixing the exposure. I mean, c'mon. I want to set an exposure and keep it there, please. I didn't realise how important that feature had become to me on iPhone.

3. Third party camera apps that are a bit flakey. Likely because of that F word.

I just don't have time for this shit. I need something that "just works", shit here I am on my knees begging for iPhone to take me back because in my experience it "just works".

So I guess I've learned a lesson here. I love recording live stereo sound, I really love it. However, moreso I love a reliable and robust video camera that records mono. And there always the Shure MV88 and my credit rating before I bankrupt myself with another round of Apple gear and Lightning cables.

Like I say though, Google services have won me over. Android hardware flakiness is to Apple network services flakiness in my experience - frustrating and somewhat second-rate; mediocre.

My next iteration airninja mojo core kit looks like being a previous generation Apple phone running current generation Google services. Win win, right?

Monday, 2 November 2015

Preternatural - Fresh Dip

I'm sitting here with a Fortean taste in my mouth wondering about the nature of reality. About fuses
and bombs. Turkeys and blockbusters- video. Data about data. A recursive tunnel of life until, ultimately, the black veil of death snuffs the individual.

Nothing lasts forever.

I've just watched Preternatural by Gav C. Steel and Dixon Barker. Or have I? Did I just watch it or was I an unwitting participant?

It's a sharp self-aware pastiche on the found-footage genre with an added twist of lemon - no doubt making it too sharp, too close to the bone, for some.

From breaking the fourth wall as a dramatic device to accenting dialogue with sloppy camera angles reminiscent of lomography, the production values are an un-apologetic punk song.

But this is no musical.

What appears to be wear and magnetic damage on the originating VHS tape runs throughout the film as we follow the exploits of amateur filmmakers Gav and Dixon. Hilarity does not ensue.

The sound design and some graphically striking compositions elevate this well performed tale of malevolence above the average splatterfest. In fact, there is no splatter. Just plenty of chills. Plenty of nested meta.

Why am I writing about a fantasy horror movie on a blog primarily about compact capability? Well it struck me that this movie likely would not have happened so fluidly, or at all, with a union crew of 30 and a video-village in tow.

Similar to Steel's previous feature The Shadow Of Death, this film was shot PSC (that's Portable Single Camera, kids) in a variety of locations that would have hampered large productions with accessibility problems and Winnebagos getting stuck in the mud. Well, except one location - the indie production had to give way at one point to Nick Frost and Chris Hemsworth riding on horseback for Universal Studios filming The Huntsman.

In an odd way, and perhaps this makes me biased, Preternatural reminds me of a cross between my own Crooked Features and the all-improv Halloween spectacular, G.A.I.N. - however, to mere mortals I have no doubt that Preternatural will be a fresh dip into the genre-bender genre.

Recommended for cerebral stimulation in a silent, dark, place.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Never Mind (Here's Boba Fett)

As part of the British Underground Feature Initiative and their educational Motion Picture Arts Academy (not be be confused with that MPAA or this Academy!) this short documentary on Boba Fett was created to take people back to the era of the Original Trilogy.

Some of the most fascinating footage is the "home video" shot in George Lucas' back garden, and the film of an early Boba Fett prototype walking around to promote the upcoming movie The Empire Strikes Back - which was not guaranteed to be a hit at that time.

What really takes me back is the shots of the toyshop (the Cowplain Model Shop was local) and the racks-and-racks of carded action figures for sale (although they were never that well stocked in Cowplain Models!).

As a child I often wondered what the Palitoy factory looked like, and there is also a brief peek inside the UK plant at Coalville, Leicester.

It could be anywhere between 1978 - 1982 once more.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Writers: The Protagonist Is YOU.

It's said that when writing fiction that, consciously or not, the main protagonist is the writer.

I know of a couple of original pop-culture film franchises where that is definitely true, and just think about the genesis of the Marvel superheroes - Stan Lee near starvation wishing he was a superhero.

Star Wars Episodes I - VI are all about phases in George Lucas's life. He is Luke Skywalker in the original trilogy and he is Anakin Skywalker in the prequel trilogy. Whether he knows it or not. The stories the character goes through are a reflection of his stages in life.

Aspirational, analogous, Luke Skywalker became a Jedi just as Lucas became a movie mogul.

Anakin's fall to the dark side parallels Lucas' own journey to becoming the most powerful independent movie producer in the world, and the politics therein. The rebel joined the gentleman's club when he was supposed to be the chosen one.

In an interview with JK Rowling she said that the whole series of books was to provide Harry with a family. This is at a time when her own family was being split apart. By the end of the books and movies, Harry has a family of trusted friends around him.

Philip K Dick wrote about what he knew, from his perspective. He used to hang around with sales guys and obviously sales are full of bullshit and fake authenticity - astroturfing. What was real and what was fake? Who was real and who was fake? Was the author himself being real or fake? Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?

Of course this theorem could be so much bullshit itself, I wrote the story below in 1991 and I struggle to identify with the protagonist. What do you think?

The Death Of Professor Bob by Mike.R 28/11/91

The atmosphere in the classroom was a little slow and thick. After professor Bob had slapped his briefcase to make it belch out the hand-outs, he continued. `As I`m sure you all know, the current trend in organics is the pursuit of the perfection of a biorg or biobot that is capable of abstract thought.` He glanced around the room at the disinterested faces and gave a mental sigh that betrayed his iron expression. `Bax,` he said, `would you care to explain the term biorg to the rest of the class?` Bax, a shaven headed teenager, fumbled to lose his dumb expression and frantically started scanning the textscreen hand-out. Slowly, he read aloud. `Duh, a biorg is an organism constructed entirely from engineered biological materials. The more advanced, thinking types, are capable of logical and rational thought, but have a lifespan of around a year. A biorg given physical human characteristics, usually called a bioid, is indistinguishable from a normal person. Only its linear thought capabilities and lack of sex organs (required by law) give it away. However, even those traits...`
`That will do, thanks.` interrupted Bob. `Ome, what is a biobot?` He rubbed his eye. `And please, make it brief.` Ome, a mature, few hundred year-old student with artificial eyes, gave her answer in a crumbly, modulated voice without hesitation. `A biological robot, sometimes, and mistakenly, called an android. Its technology mixes that of contempory organics with archaic cybernetics.` She slapped her chapped lips with her tongue in contentment. Bob nodded approval. `Thank you Ome.` He turned to focus his attention on a clean-cut square-jawed young man. `Jux, what is the major operational advantage of a biobot over a biorg?` Jux fingered his lip, dribbling a little. `A biobot does not need sleep.` he said finally.
`So why does industry choose to employ a majority of bioids that are susceptible to fatigue?`
`Well, obviously, a bioid is cheaper to produce. What with the mineral shortages and all.`
`Anything else?` asked Bob, casually bringing his sleeve across his nostrils. Deep concentration came across Jux`s face as he stared hard down at his desk. He began to rock then returned to normality as he proudly blurted the answer. `Because they`re self-sufficient. A bioid can look after itself. Cook. Make its own bed. Pull the chain. And sure, they sleep, but it has a self contained digestion system which biobots don`t have. And the living parts of a biobot need to be refreshed. So they have a mobility problem: they either have to keep visiting the refresher or be permanently hooked up. And the mineral parts need maintenance which requires a specialised crew who usually belong to a union and demand to be paid by the hour. A company has none of these problems with a bioid as long as it can rest every few days. And if something goes wrong, or breaks, a bioid can see a doctor to get fixed up, the costs of which can be claimed back in expense rebates from Central.` Jux finished and the momentary silence was rudely broken as he slurped in saliva with his excited breath. Bob jerked himself from his personal boredom retreat. `Excellent. Well done.` he said. An overhead loudspeaker suddenly announced the end of the school day. Bob watched as his class enthusiastically filed out. He slouched in his comfy chair. Privately, he questioned the wisdom of Central Government including organics lectures in the syllabus. Closing his briefcase he stood with a resigned sigh and pulled it across his desk as he went for the door. `Hey, watch it will you?!` it moaned.
`Oh shut up.` moaned Bob, glaring down to his side at the briefcase. The briefcase looked sheepy. Bob`s face softened. `Sorry,` he apologised, `I`m a little on edge today.`
`You aint kiddin`. As the door politely opened Bob returned his classroom`s goodbye. The corridor escalated him to the exit where the caretaker was comforting a distraught chair with a broken leg. `Night Tim.` Bob yawned. The caretaker glanced up as Bob passed on the ripple of floor and nodded a knowing farewell. Bob gave a feeble wave as the exit gracefully swung open and he stepped out into the street. Rush hour traffic buzzed past from all directions. He glanced at his wrist. `Time?` he asked.
`Perhaps if you were to ask nicely.` came the reply. Bob looked to the heavens. Behind him the school was lumbering home so he had no choice but to wait for a transport. Perhaps even strike up a pleasant conversation with his wrist. `Do you have the time please?`
`It`s now. The public transport will be along soon.` Not long to wait then, thought Bob. If his wrist was telling the truth.
He stood, watching the traffic pass, his eyes following one vehicle to the next.
A panda bounded by. A scuttling beetle followed with its foot long antenna dangerously close to the rear bumper of the panda. `That`s unsafe driving.` noted the briefcase, somewhat loudly. Bob smiled with all his teeth and rattled it violently as the beetle driver glared over with a face full of malicious intent. `Time please?` requested Bob politely. His wrist seemed to pause for thought. `It should be here about now.`
`Good. I hate long waits.` Over the sound of the traffic a loud distorted honk caught Bob`s attention. Above his head he saw the familiar registration collar around the neck of his wife`s mosquito. It landed beside him on the pavement and a door in the side slid open. He stepped in, slinging his briefcase on the back seats as he greeted his wife with a kiss. She pulled back on the stick and the craft became airborne once more. `Am I glad to see you, Pet. I thought I was going to be waiting for the transport all evening.` His wife smiled sweetly. `I was just on my way back from filling up this bucket of blood when the wing mirror spotted you.`
`Good thing, too. I can`t wait for the garage to finish working on that damned lemon of mine. Typical colonial rubbish. I wish I`d never grown it.`
`It`s your own fault. You`ve got to remember that driving conditions are different for the colony. For a start, there`s less traffic, so the fruit lasts longer. Here, we need things to be more...` She waved her hand around indicating her vehicle. `More robust.` she finished.
`Yeah. I guess you`re right. Do you think you could talk that salesperson friend of yours into a trade in for something that would last a little longer?`
`Who? You mean Jim? I could try I suppose. But don`t get your hopes up too high. Fruit just isn`t fashionable anymore.` Bob sighed and slouched as he peered down at the ever diminishing city below. He`d be glad when his intoxicating stint as spirit lecturer was over. He just couldn`t handle it. It made his head spin. All that esoteric stuff about the spirit, the soul, the mind. And death. Just why had he picked this as his profession? Surely his underlying soul should have known better. But then, life is a test, as they say.

When he awoke the next morning, Bob hastily scribbled down his dream for later analysis. He laid back and stared at the swirls of the artexed ceiling. The sleeping form of his wife stirred a little. He pecked her on the cheek then sat, pulled on his slippers and matching bathrobe and lumbered to the bathroom. He turned on the tap and ran cold water over his hands as he gazed at his unshaven face in the mirror. His thoughts went back to his dream. It had seemed so real. The room, the people. The appliances. He would have to investigate. Perhaps see if he had been sleeping under the point of the roof of his house, since doing so was supposed to intensify dream images. His thoughts were rudely interrupted by the sink unit kindly informing him that it thought he was wasting water. `Sorry.` he said absent mindedly and shut off the tap.
It was one of the strangest dreams he had ever had, he thought as he stood under the cool waters of the shower. It had seemed so real. Perhaps even more real than now. He considered what he saw, what he had experienced. The dream had only been a short one, as far as he could remember. He had been laid out on a bed, sensors attached to his body, and someone in a white coat had been standing over him holding an appliance he didn`t recognise. Strange that such a simple image should trouble him so deeply. He relaxed and cleared his mind as the soap and sponge danced over his body. The shampoo massaged and lathered itself on his scalp and the cutthroat razorblade glided across his neck, nicking. Bob lurched back from the razor, his eyes full of panic, clutching at his neck. He shook shampoo from his face and frowned at the razor. `Hey, take it easy will you?`
`Sorry about that sir.` piped the razorblade sincerely. The procedure continued until Bob was totally refreshed and ready for the towels to dry him. As he stepped from the shower tray he slipped, and fell headlong. All the bathroom appliances and peripherals realised what was happening and tried to cushion the blow. The sink unit even tried to sway aside. It was no good. He cracked his head against the basin and fell to the sweet smelling floral lino. All went black to Bob. All sensations numbed.

Through the thick black custard that impaired his vision and clogged his ears Bob heard distant panicked voices. `I think we`ve got him.` said one. `All systems now back to normal.` said another. A bearded face fought its way through the custard, forming from swirling oranges, browns and reds and then snapping into real colour. A smiling bearded face that Bob recognised but could not place. It muttered something in a soothing tone. `We had to do it, Bob. We had to. You were becoming too absorbed. Sorry.`
`What?` asked Bob groggily, his tired eyes fighting to remain open.
`The experiment. It almost killed you. You became too absorbed.`
`Wh-What?` repeated Bob blankly, his eyelids feeling stronger. Another figure, Bob noticed, in a white coat beavered with some switches on overbearing machinery. Wires ran from it to nodes on Bob`s body. `No don`t do that.` said the bearded man as Bob tried to pull on the wires. The man restrained him, squinting into Bob`s eyes and squeezing his hands. The machine clicked and hummed as a bank of lights flashed. The technician looked to the bearded man. `It seems he suffered substantial amnesia. There`s been a total reshuffle of impulse paths.`
`Then we shall have to restore it. Fetch the professor`s memory cubes. File 963W.`
`Yes, doctor Lin.` The technician scampered off. `Memory cubes?` asked Bob, his inquisitive mind coming to life.
`The failsafe, professor. They represent a total map of your brain before the experiment took place. You insisted upon it.` Bob was now sure that this was another vivid and real dream. As such, and since he had realised, he knew that he should be able to start to control it. He gestured with the wires. `These have something to do with the experiment, right? And that machine?`
`Yes, yes. It`s the recorder.`
`Recorder of what?`
`Of the experiment. Do you really have no memory? This is...`
`So what was the experiment?` Bob cut in.
`The experiment? To create a new reality within the theoretically infinite space of the human mind. And to record results. Results from your mind, professor. But you became too absorbed. Your body almost died. We had to bring you back.` This was almost becoming too much for Bob. He looked at the antiquated looking machine still churning out data in the form of sugar cubes. `It`s not true!` spat Bob. `Please! Try and control your temper until my technician returns with your original memory.` said Dr Lin sympathetically. Bob wished his body felt stronger so that he could show Dr Lin what he thought. But he was too weak. So he remained there. At the mercy of his environment. The mercy of his dream. He began to cry as he thought of his wife. `I want to see her!` he called.
`See who?`
`My wife. My Pet.` blurted Bob. Dr Lin was taken aback. `Excuse me?` he asked.
`My wife, Pet. I want to see her doc. I want to see her.` Bob sobbed. Dr  Lin straightened himself. `I don`t know what you`re talking about, but I`m sure this woman exists only in your mind.` The technician returned, memory cubes in hand. Bob squinted at them. `What is that?` he asked.
`Your three memory cubes. We`re about to return you to reality.`
`No! I refuse! I don`t belong here and you know it! Why can`t you just wake me up?`
`Come now. What happened to the rational man I once knew?` There was a pause. The technician and Dr Lin looked at each other. `Would you like a coffee to wake you up?` asked Dr Lin softly. At last. Bob finally had control of his dream. For the moment anyhow. `Coffee? Yeah, sure. I feel confused.` said Bob dazedly. `Fetch two coffees, please.` Dr Lin asked the technician. As the technician left, silence fell upon the room. Bob lost himself in spuriously confused thoughts as Dr Lin toyed with the cubes. Soon, the coffees arrived. Dr Lin took them and passed one to Bob. Dr Lin watched intently as Bob brought the cup to his lips. `This is good coffee,` he remarked, `if a little sweet.`

Pet awoke to the bickering of the bathrobe and slippers. The slippers stomped worriedly on the bed as the bathrobe explained the accident. She streaked across the room immediately. Sprawled on the floor, choked on blood, lay Bob`s glistening body. Shocked at the horrific yet at the same time pathetic scene she turned her head, wincing and paying no attention to the pointless apologies of the bathroom and contents.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

From #2wkfilm To AirNinja Movie Method

Talking with co-conspirator Evil C about our next January film production, I was reminded about how AirNinja germinated from the tactics used filming and completing "The Original Soundtrack" over a two week period in 2009.

The project was a success, here's a brief trailer:

One other output from that project was an essay entitled "Giving My Movies Away For Free" (reproduced below) which was first published in 2009 by the Royal Baronial Theatre.

I thought I'd dust it off, and see if any insights still stood today. I've reprinted my essay below, but do check out the others that were part of the same project.

The full length version of "The Original Soundtrack" can be viewed for free on YouTube.

--Begin Essay--

A Short Essay: “Giving my movies away for free”.

We live in interesting times. Avatar reportedly is the most expensive film in history and is the culmination of 10 years work. It’s projected to make $1 billion globally. Cameron is advocating 48fps and stereoscopic acquisition. The film is almost three hours long.

How on earth do you get to make films on such a scale?

Let’s start by paraphrasing a piece of Cameron’s advice to filmmakers yet to have made a movie: “Start by making a film. Complete it. From then on you are negotiating budget for your next one”.

But that quote’s probably two decades old or more. From a by-gone era - it’s from the era of scarcity when not everyone had access to the means of making a decent movie. We now live in an era of abundance where punters will accept anything from shakycam smartphone footage to 4K RED, or anything inbetween. Shooting at 1920 x 1080 (the same resolution the Star Wars prequels were acquired at) only requires a modest investment with the huge advantage that you can also go tapeless.

In the era of abundance you need to be able to stand out from the clutter. Cameron largely does this on reputation (“From the director of Titanic, Terminator, Piranha II”, etc). How can you hope to match that reputation? Do you even need to? Zen Buddhism has a good piece of advice, “begin by beginning”, in other words get out there and do it, make a fool of yourself until you’re comfortable with the process. With the technology abundant (therefore affordable), it doesn’t make sense to hold back if all you want to be doing is running around out there making movies. If you want to raise finance and stay warm and dry, study accountancy, wear a suit, go to meetings and act conservative. 

It wasn’t really until April 2009 that I’d realised how things had progressed with the technology - and how affordable moviemaking had become to outlaws such as myself. Having just signed up to Twitter I was invited to take part in the first #2wkfilm aka two week film challenge - shoot, edit, finish a feature length movie in a two week window before the end of May ’09. Up to that point I’d basically been spinning in neutral since the completion of my mockudrama ‘Crooked Features’ which was shot standard definition on miniDV tape with the Canon XL1 and a Sennheiser K6/ME66.

Seeing #2wkfilm as a way to get the fire started once more I started looking around for a means of acquisition. I already owned a Panasonic Lumix TZ which could record 848 x 480 and a bunch of professional boom mics with a Sound Devices 702T. All I needed was a script. And crew. And actors. And locations. Etc. I only had about two weeks to sort all this out if I was to meet the deadline of the end of May ’09. Oh, in that time I also upgraded my Lumix to a TZ 3 which shoots 720p (1280 x 720).

Well, we did it. The result was ‘The Original Soundtrack’ which screened on home turf alongside the other completed #2wkfilm entries at the Portobello Film Festival. The intent was never to make money from this particular venture. It was to make connections with local moviemakers, test a cheap SDHC card tapeless workflow, and chalk another one up in the IMDb. Secondary objective was to promote the local musicians without whose work the ‘Soundtrack’ part would not have been possible.

In aggregate the two versions of ‘The Original Soundtrack’ (700MB and 2.5GB version) on mininova have been downloaded 5,500 times. Somewhat predictably, DVD sales have been anemic (though to be fair it’s not like I’ve given the product any marketing push whatsoever). It was never meant to make me a profit though (the DVD is sold at cost), but it has added considerably to my wealth of connections and experiences.

In comparison I’ve had short film work on Archive.org for several years (always the progressive, me) and the most downloaded there is  ‘Adult Contacts’ at 60,000 times. It’s been there so long I can’t remember when I uploaded it. It’s also my directorial debut (well, with real live actors anyway) if you’re interested in my take on “two people talking in a room” from 1995. The final cut is just under seven minutes but funnily enough I remember the original cut was almost 15 minutes long. Yet, now, I can’t remember what I cut out. I do remember cutting between a Video8 deck and a NICAM VHS deck and some crappy Sony LANC protocol which was not frame accurate; being really jealous of my mate who was editing on Media100 NLE. Anyway, I digress.

Part of my “problem” is that I am a part-time moviemaker. Like many outlaw filmmakers I have a day job, a family, and a life. I just don’t have the energy for self-promotion and I don’t have the bravado to go full-time freelance. I like to eat, and so do my kids. Taking part in the first #2wkfilm has enabled me to re-engage locally and led to my enrollment onto the second #2wkfilm. That, however has turned out to be an entirely different kettle of fish.

‘The Fix’ is my second #2wkfilm effort although currently I disqualified it: although we shot the rushes over just five days, the remaining time was not enough to complete the movie to fine cut (though I did get it to a very rough cut and survive a bout of the ‘flu). The big difference here was bringing a production designer on-board and having access to Rennie Pilgrem’s back catalogue as well as a commitment for some scoring. The production locations were also more ambitious, everywhere from an autumn forest to a small studio space at Ealing. I also shot using a Xacti at 720p and recorded sound single-system (poorly but mostly adequately, the horror) with my recently acquired used Neumann RSM-191 M-S mic. Lesson: my next movie really must be shot double-system and that pretty much precludes it from being a #2wkfilm. It’s expected that ‘The Fix’ will be completed by June ’10 (some way off from the #2wkfilm target of October ’09) but that’s the great thing about being an outlaw - no rules, no deadlines, all my own terms.

To conclude, Hollywood finds itself at a juncture, similar to that when the printing press arrived in Europe in the 15th century. The printing press was a revolution for many reasons, and it put many scribes out of work. The advantages of the printing press were obvious to almost everyone and production costs were 700% less than employing scribes. I guess the scribes weren’t too happy about that.

In the 21st century is it a necessity to spend $300 million to tell a story on celluloid? Will outlaws become organised and create a parallel industry leaving Hollywood to wither on it’s own sick vine. Or perhaps efforts like Paramount’s to keep a slate of $100,000 movies will appease the masses and put the outlaws out of a job. One thing’s for sure. No one can predict the future. Everyone can sidestep the little bits of history repeating. Me? I really enjoy home cinema.

--End Essay--

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Imagination and Rejection Letters

A friend of mine recently got his stock rejection letter from a certain very well known b-list British film festival, which addressed him by his surname (weird, rude, amateur hour clerical error?) - as my friend read the text to me over the phone it all sounded eerily familiar - in fact exactly the same as the body of my rejection letter I had received 10 years earlier from the same festival for my flick Crooked Features - which went on to win awards and developed into a stage play.

Think about that.

Ten years of business and the stock rejection letter hasn't changed a bit. It made me realise (again) that festivals are (still) run by change-averse bureaucrats and curators - and that does not infer they have one iota of imagination - imagination to spot your raw talent.

Revolution will not be encouraged from the festival circuit. Jumping the curve is tantamount to being utterly mis-understood by the establishment.

So why continue on the festival treadmill?

Well - you have to keep going too.

A personal example:
Any potential career as an author was cut dead by two handwritten but similar-ish rejections from Interzone over 20 years ago - from that point on, young naive me decided the time and emotional investment wasn't worth the agony and would just stick with ideas, concepts, and screenplays - the barebones of modern storytelling in the age of motion pictures.

'Thank you for submitting your story to Interzone. It
is not for us, I'm afraid. It is neither a good story
nor a bad story but says too little that is new
and needs (to my mind, at least) a resolution.
What was its point? (Why use insects, for example,
rather than human beings?)'
'Thank you for submitting your story to Interzone.
It is not for us, I'm afraid. Some nice ideas
though somewhat crudely strung together. The piece
says too little that is new and ends in the
middle of nowhere. Sorry.'

Friday, 11 September 2015

Golden Ticket to LIVE FilmRaker ChatLab

After the success of FilmRaker's London Pop-Up, the next live conference is happening on the south coast of England in the seaside town of Southsea.

Numbers are limited at the venue so the event sessions will also be broadcast live via periscope. Keep an eye on FilmRaker's twitter feed on the 22nd from 6pm-BST for the live broadcast links.

eBay Sellers: Avoid iPhone iCloud Lock Extortion Scam from Buyers

Yes you may think the sellers are the scammers but I now have first hand experience of buyers using
the same scam to extort sellers!

Read on to find out how you can definitively avoid being extorted. Or if tl;dr scroll down to the end for the bits of proof you'll need and other guidelines.

I apologise in advance for potty-mouth.

Okay, I suppose I should begin at the beginning. As regular readers know I have switched to Android phones for various reasons so put my iPhones up for auction on eBay.

One iPhone sold without friction, just the buyer asking for proof of the extended AppleCare+ which I duly provided. Everything went well, the buyer paid promptly, I gave them positive feedback on eBay. Some days later the buyer gave me positive feedback on eBay. All good. Possibly lulling me into a false sense of eBay feedback nirvana.

Anyway. The other iPhone was a totally different story.

As an aside, the first listing for this other iPhone ended with an international user with zero eBay feedback winning the item. As regular sellers will know this has all the hallmarks of a throw-away eBay account used to inflate the price of your auction out of the market. And surprise, this buyer never paid and never responded to my messages. Naturally I did not ship the iPhone, it just sat boxed and ready to ship, all iCloud unlocked and everything.

You know when your iPhone is iCloud unlocked because Apple send an email to you via your Apple ID details telling you exactly that. Remember this!

Anyway. I re-list the iPhone that didn't sell, but keep the auction within national boundaries to keep it simpler. A few days later the winning bidder pays promptly. Great. All is well and good in eBay land so far.

I explain to the buyer that the warranty status can be confirmed by entering the device serial number at Apple's website. I also suggest they can record it on their Apple support profile once they have it set up with their Apple ID. I also double-check I have removed it from my own support profile (of course I had, ages ago!)

So far so good. Package the iPhone and send it off via Royal Mail Special Delivery, insured up to £600. I am careful to keep proof of posting, natch.

The buyer seems quite excited to receive the iPhone, I am quite happy for them, they've messaged me a couple of times to ask about warranty blah blah blah, nothing out of the ordinary.

The buyer messages me to confirm receipt of the iPhone.

My first mistake: because things seem to be going so well, I give the buyer positive feedback. After all, they seem happy, they've paid, what could possibly go wrong?


Later I get a message from the buyer saying that the iPhone is iCloud activation locked, displaying "This iPhone is currently linked to an Apple ID (e**@address.com). Sign in with the Apple ID that was used to set up this iPhone."

Oh dear. Did I really forget to deactivate my iCloud account on the iPhone? After all, the buyer says it's reporting a Yahoo email address and I do have a Yahoo account that I use for Flickr. Could I possibly have screwed up so badly and not used the same Apple ID I've been using for over 10 years when I was previous owner of this iPhone?

I smelled something fishy. The pungent aroma of an eBay asshole.

Sure that I had shipped the iPhone iCloud unlocked, I double-checked my iCloud account Find My iPhone and my Apple Support profile - nada. It aint there, so surely it must be unlocked and this person is just being a cock.

In case my Flickr Yahoo ID has somehow become associated with an Apple ID, I use iForgot to
attempt to reset the password - however Apple systems report no record. Phew.

That asshole buyer got smellier.

I googled to see if there was a way to check iCloud activation status - after all, if I could prove the iPhone was currently iCloud unlocked, this eBay asshole could get fucked.

I typed the iPhone serial number in at Apple's Activation Lock check website. Guess what? The iPhone is iCloud Activation Locked. FUUUUUUUUUUUU - how did that even


The buyer offers their mobile number. You know, for a quick chat to smooth things over - all I'd need to do is give over my Apple ID username and password so they can unlock the iPhone. WAIT WHAT.

So not only is the iCloud account the iPhone is locked to not match my actual Apple ID, the buyer assures me a quick old-fashioned chat over the phone will solve everything.

This now stinks to me. It is obvious that the iPhone has been tampered with but I stop short of any accusations. I guess Royal Mail must've done it, right?

The buyer thinks there's no way Royal Mail tampered with the device (and I tend to agree). They are pointing the finger at themselves as far as I'm concerned. (I say 'they' because there are three different names associated with this particular transactions' accounts at their end).

I remain polite.

They accuse me of being an iPhone dealer, a scammer, untrustworthy - the implication being the iPhone is stolen and I am not the previous owner - booga booga. They say I know damned well that an iCloud locked iPhone can be had on eBay for hundreds of pounds less than what the buyer paid hint hint.

They assure me they are a 100% genuine eBayer. And their account does have double the amount of positive feedback than mine.

I'm not budging. I know I sent the iPhone with iCloud deactivated and as I mentioned the account it was locked to their end was not my account. The only explanation is that the iPhone has been tampered with after dispatch. Unfortunately I can't definitively prove this and the asshole knows it.

I check out eBay policy on name-calling accusations. I report the asshole for being an asshole, being sure to mention that he was asking for my Apple ID username and password outside of the eBay messaging system.

The next morning I get a much cooler, polite, message from the buyer. Let's sort this out amicably shall we?

Well as far as I'm concerned there's nothing to sort out, they've locked the iPhone themselves and are trying to guide me into offering a refund. I can prove I am the previous owner of the iPhone and I can prove ownership has transferred to them.

I remain polite. Send proofs of purchase and warranty. They give me a sob story about an interrupted social life and then taking half a day off work to visit an Apple store to get the iPhone unlocked. Diddums.

They tell me the iPhone is now iCloud unlocked (I double check, and it is) and that because it was sold in the iCloud locked state (it wasn't and I have emails from Apple to prove it) and because they had the inconvenience of visiting an Apple store (I only have the assholes word for this, no proof) that I should agree to a partial refund to ensure positive feedback from them. WAIT WHAT.

Now of course there's a small chance this buyer is not an asshole, but demanding a partial refund or else they will give me negative feedback? Well fuck 'em, I'll suck down the negative feedback and I'll further report the asshole to eBay for attempted extortion.

And that dear reader is why I must offer you this advice when using eBay to sell your iPhone: you must keep a record proving that the iPhone is iCloud unlocked whilst in transit to the buyer, that way you will have zero self-doubt. You can do this by sending it Royal Mail Special Delivery (other courier services are available) and keep the proof of posting - this includes the tracking number and the date/time you dropped it off with the Post Office. Now go to Apple's iCloud Activation Lock checker website and enter the iPhone serial number, take a screenshot. Even if some asshole accuses you of doctoring the screenshot, at least you will be sure of yourself and know 100% you are dealing with an asshole buyer.


When selling iPhones on eBay adhere to these guidelines to avoid being extorted by an asshole buyer:

1. Only communicate within the eBay messaging system. This makes typing email addresses a pain and attachments are woefully low resolution but it means if it goes to eBay arbitration the entire thread is there.

2. Keep proof of dispatch and proof of iCloud Activation status whilst the iPhone is in transit to the buyer. Whilst a real total asshole might also accuse you of doctoring the image, you could counter with a statement along the lines of "proof is the burden of the prosecution" (in English law).

3. Don't give the buyer feedback until a couple of weeks later. This means you are on equal footing until the transaction is long forgotten. Any asshole buyer is unlikely to attempt eBay extortion after that length of time.

4. Stay cool, calm, collected, polite. The customer is always right but assholes will be assholes.

5. Don't be afraid to report the buyer to eBay if you have a legitimate reason to do so. I suspect a lot of assholes get away with extortion because more genuine sellers don't complain to eBay about the asshole buyer.

6. Some buyers are assholes because they always want to get a deal. You are not obligated to satisfy their addiction for 'winning'.

This all helps avoid the situation where you ship an iCloud unlocked iPhone to the buyer but the buyer then iCloud locks it themselves and accuses you of shipping stolen goods.

I hope you have found this anecdote informative, if not entertaining.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

The Switch From iPhone 6 Plus to Sony Xperia Z3+ (iOS to Android)

The airninja switch is complete. As I'm sure you know I am platform agnostic, being primarily interested in the best tools for a given job.

For the last five years I've been an iPhone user, upgrading most years with unlocked devices and running on Three UK PAYG (great unlimited data plans).

Each year I've been waiting for Apple to release an iPhone that is capable of recording stereo sound using its onboard mics when taking video (modern iPhone has three mics). Whilst iPhone mono recordings do sound good, I've always preferred the 'reality' of a stereo sound-stage - and I don't always carry a stereo microphone with me because extra gear is not the way of the airninja.

For various reasons (job redundancy being a huge one) I have been re-evaluating the "things" in my life and when Apple came under the microscope it just didn't hold up. The competition promised to deliver far more value into my life (including the stereo audio video recording).

I bought a refurbished Sony Xperia Z2 for a shade over £200 to see how I'd get on. This phone model is about a year old, records 4K video, has 3GB RAM, expandable storage to 128GB and is made by the company and culture that Steve Jobs himself had great admiration for.
An Apple designer, Shin Nishibori, was asked to create “Sony-like” concepts of phones that carried the name “SONY” and “JONY”. The pictures were created around a year before the iPhone first appeared.

Based on my success with the Z2 (and the release of the Z5) I upgraded to the Z3+ which has an improved camera over the Z2 and a reduced price due to the release of the Z5. They all record stereo audio video and have 4K capability.

I did wonder if Apple's iPhone 6S might offer stereo audio recoding with video, but as far as I know it does not (the iPhone 6 which I owned definitely did not). So, for my airninja purposes, it looks like I made a good choice with the Z3+

Now if you google anything about the Z3+ you'll probably come across reports of how this phone runs hot and overheats. In my experience this is not accurate on the current firmware. Although when taking video it does run warmer than the iPhone ever did. I think it's fair to say that whatever problems may have existed with the Z3+ original firmware has been addressed by Sony in recent updates. HOWEVER a mild annoyance remains with the Z3+ in that the native camera app will report "overheating" and shutdown to cool off. It only does this on looong takes (30 minutes or more continuous) which most normal people rarely do. The workaround is to use an alternative app, such as Google's own camera app (also shoots video).

BTW, I have no compelling reason to ditch OS X or FCPX so I remain an Apple customer.

Competition between vendors is a good thing in general, and who knows I may return to a future iPhone iteration. Yesterday's Apple keynote only confirmed my thoughts on the direction Apple is now taking, and it's not a direction I want to travel when Sony already provides the sufficient destination today.

Friday, 7 August 2015

How To Use Apple iCloud Easily On Google Android (Part 3: Contacts)

For as long as I remember I've used my Mac to hold my master address book (ok since late 2002 when I switched to OS X). Over the years it's been synced ad-hoc to Google Contacts (remember Address Book used to offer an easy sync when Apple and Google were in bed together) but the google side has always been a bit messy.

Part 3: Contacts

Since I want to maintain iCloud as my master address book for now, it's handy that Apple implement their service as CardDAV.

Fortunately Android Play Store has a plethora of CardDAV sync apps, and I chose to use one called CardDAV-sync and it seems to work fine so far (after giving it a few minutes to pull down all the details from iCloud).

The app offers two-way sync by default which should mean any new contacts entered on my phone find their way into my address book.

When configuring the app all you need to know is your personal iCloud credentials and Apple's contact server - sensibly enough named 'contacts.icloud.com'

Type all that into CardDAV account setup and you should be good.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

How To Use Apple iCloud Easily On Google Android (Part 2: Email)

I'm using a refurbished Sony Xperia Z2 with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. I'm also firmly entrenched in Apple's iCloud eco-system and am a multi-platform user (Android, iOS, OS X).

Part 2: Email

If you don't use any iCloud aliases then just use the stock email app on the Android device. Stop reading now. It's that simple.

I use an iCloud alias to shield my true Apple ID. Whilst not particularly any more safe or secure, it helps me feel clever.

However most Android email clients do not give you the option of using iCloud email aliases. There are ways and means though (and over time I expect more and more Android email clients to support iCloud aliases).

This was actually particularly easy for me. I've been using Gmail as my back-end email for almost 10 years (Google remembers so I don't have to - I just have to be good with search keywords, which I am).

With Gmail I'd already setup my default sender address as one of my iCloud aliases. So on Android I can just use Gmail and my outgoing reply-to address defaults to that alias.

More recently though I believe Gmail have made it more convoluted to add additional email addresses (aliases with differing domains) to your Gmail account. So I don't particularly recommend it unless you want to use Gmail as your backend.

A simpler method for people who keep their email on iCloud and don't forward it anywhere is an app Aqua Mail.

The free version doesn't support iCloud aliases (identities) but reportedly the paid version does (I say reportedly since reviewers say it does, I have not tried it myself - go and read the reviews for yourself).

Sunday, 2 August 2015

How To Use Apple iCloud Easily On Google Android (Part 1: Calendar)

After committing to my new/old/refurb Sony Xperia Z2 by putting in my day-to-day SIM the question of how to access my iCloud services crops up quickly.

Part 1: Calendar

I've done the hard work for you - just install Sunrise Calendar from the Play Store then configure it for iCloud. Easy!

Slightly longer explanation:

Install Sunrise Calendar and launch it.

In Sunrise:
Connect with Google.
Add your iCloud account.
Disconnect your Google account (unless you have Google calendars you want to use too).*

Told you, Easy!

Now you can add stuff on your Android phone and it will push to your Mac desktop iCal app, and vice versa.

And this is all thanks to the new good guy Microsoft (can't believe I just typed that but there you go - once bitten twice shy and all that).

*EDIT: after disconnecting from Google, Sunrise gave me an authentication error. So you need to Sunrise to remain authenticated with either Google or Facebook (second time around I chose Facebook since it has event calendars I actually refer to occasionally).