Archive for the ‘Tips and Tricks’ Category

Best VPN Recommendation

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Best VPN is VyprVPN

My favorite VPN service hands down is Goldenfrog’s Vypr VPN. I’ve used it for years and it just gets better and better. Because these guys have so many servers all over the globe, I use it to test GEO-targeted banners and landing pages. Scroll to the bottom of the page to see all global Vypr VPN servers you can connect to right now. For example, if I want to make sure a German-specific ad or join page works properly, I simply connect to Read the rest of this entry »

Is The Beta Mindset Killing Business?

Comments Off on Is The Beta Mindset Killing Business?

Beta is fine. I love stuff that’s almost done but may still have some minor kinks to work out, as long as I get to test drive it free and can be sure us beta testers can provide feedback that actually gets acted upon. Windows 7’s beta was pretty fab.

This Beta Mindset has become an ugly trend

It’s one thing for Mozilla to release a free Firefox beta to play around with. But releasing some half baked crap that *should* be called beta but instead selling it at full price to the masses while pretending everything is a-ok, is just bad business. Beta used to be for the nerds, the ones that are cool with messing around with stuff that’s not ready. But now it seems everything is released in beta. But whether you actually call it beta or not doesn’t matter though.Things need to work, or it’s in beta.

This goes for electronics, phones, operating systems, software, web sites, content...Everything.

Often times “beta” really just means half-assed.

When a electronics manufacturer, or software firm, or a services firm, or a web site hypes and sells something they damn well know is not ready for prime time, that’s a form of the Beta Mindset.

Apple does well in part because it does not have a Beta Mindset. When they release hardware or software, it works. If there’s a limitation (Flash, anyone?), Apple doesn’t hide that fact. When you buy an Apple product you normally know very well what you’re getting in to.

And this coming from someone who isn’t exactly an Apple fanboy. But considering the utter junk many firms are pushing out these days, I’m starting to become one.

CONTINUE READING :::

Comments Off on Move Page Elements Around Without Coding

Web devs and designers, here’s something that’ll come in handy: Alex Schreyer came up with a nifty way to re-arrange elements on any web page in a browser. This is great if you want to play around with different looks and layouts on your site (or any site, for that matter) but don’t feel like spending hours coding and recoding everything. Fluid Page is a bookmarklet – drag the link on Alex’ page to your bookmarks bar, then visit the site you want to play around with, and Fluid Page will do its jQuery magic. Note that once you refresh the page all your changes revert back but that’s where the screenshot function on your ‘puter comes in handy.

Click here to follow Alex on Twitter.

Comments Off on Google Public DNS, Open DNS – Should You Switch?

So you read about Google’s new Public DNS service, or maybe you’ve heard of Open DNS and you know DNS has something to do with your internet connection. So should you “switch your DNS”? What does that even mean?

DNS – What Is It?

The quick and dirty explanation is: Domain Name System aka DNS makes it possible for you to type in a domain name into your address bar, instead of an IP address. DNS translates the domain name back into its IP-address equivalent. There’s more to what DNS does but for our purposes here, this is what matters.

Why a third party DNS?

One reason for using a service like Open DNS is because it lets you do some things like filter out certain sites at the DNS level (popular with schools and corporations), among other control-y things.

What’s the fastest DNS then?

Sometimes an ISP’s DNS service happens to be slower than another one. Sometimes your ISP is just fine. If sites are coming up slower than usual, or not at all, a variety of reasons could be to blame, one of them a problem with the DNS service. By the way, a neat way to see if a site is having problems, or just you, check out http://downforeveryoneorjustme.com/ . It does exactly what the name says.

Switch? Yes? No?

So if your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is already doing this then why would you want to switch to another DNS service? You probably don’t need to.

But how do you know if your DNS is the fastest one? What about Google’s new Public DNS. Or Open DNS? Those are not necessarily faster for you and in order to find out you can download a free program/app that runs a test to see which DNS service is faster for you. It’s called Namebench.

Find the fastest DNS

Namebench is free (Windows/Mac/Linux) and runs for a few minutes before showing you a detailed page with the fastest DNS service, and slower ones in ascending order below that. For example, running Namebench on one of my machines I found out that my ISP already offers me the fastest DNS service, far faster than Google’s Public DNS or Open DNS.

Namebench DNS results

Check out the screenshot above: in my case here, you’ll see Primary Server which is actually my gateway’s (router) IP address, under “Recommended configuration”. Below that it lists my ISP and the IP address it has assigned to me at this time. I blurred that out because I don’t trust none of you motorscooters. :)

In the Tested DNS Servers section you will again see your IP address, as well as all the other DNS servers tested for you. Look in the “Avg (ms)” column. The lower the number the faster the connection. In my example, my ISP-provided DNS connection is already faster than any of the other servers tested. Good news for me!

If you scroll down further, Namebench gives you a bunch of graphs that give you more detail about the test results than you need. Point is, pick the fastest DNS service if you are unhappy with your current DNS’ performance. If you do want to switch from your ISP’s DNS to another one do a quick Google search on how to do that. It’s much easier than it sounds, but unless you are constantly experiencing problems, or wish to explore some of the more advanced options a DNS service like Open DNS offers, you probably won’t need to.

Comments Off on Flip4Mac and Quicktime X Error on Snow Leopard – Solution

If you’re on Mac OS X Snow Leopard and have Quicktime X as well as the regular free edition of Flip4Mac you might get the error “QuickTime Player Must Be Installed to run this application“.

If so, download and install the free beta version of Flip4Mac for Snow Leopard. That should fix the issue.

Download the Flip4Mac beta for Snow Leopard here: http://dynamic.telestream.net/downloads/download-flip4macwmv-beta.asp

NOTE: I’ve decided: I seriously dislike Telestream and its Flip4Mac, and Episode Encoder applications. The latter simply wouldn’t even install properly and just threw up user authentication errors when I tried to make it work on Leopard a few months ago. Their “service” was non-existent. Costly piece of junk. And Flip4Mac Pro HD created horribly choppy, out of sync WMVs, while cheaper solutions such as DV Kitchen worked perfectly using the same source files and settings. I actually tried it on two different Macs, just to make sure I’m not crazy. For $179 you’d expect software (sorry…”app”) to at least work. And now Telestream can’t even get a fully working version of Flip4Mac out to Snow Leopard users. It’s the only way to play WMVs on a Mac so it’s a pretty important piece of software. You’d think making it work with Snow Leopard would have priority, and the free version (the one EVERYONE downloads) would have been fixed by launch date. No, you have to figure this shit out for yourself. Like Snow Leopard’s release just snuck up on Telestream. Incompetent and overpriced. I’m done with ’em.

Comments Off on New Wacom Intuos 4 Tablet has Cool Features

Corey Barker and RC from Layers TV ( of Layers Magazine, which rocks by the way) are talking about the new Wacom Intuos 4 professional pen tablet.

Usually I don’t get too excited about tablets because I don’t use them a lot on a day to day basis. And when I do it’s not very fun for me as a lefty because all the pro tablets used to be made for right-handed folks – buttons and cables get in the way all the time. But Wacom created the new Intuos 4 with lefties in mind. Check out the video for the deets, including lots of other really cool stuff you can do with the Intuos 4.

After Corey’s feature demo of the tablet, RC follows with a short and sweet Photoshop layout tip. Both are worth your time. (If the video below doesn’t play, check it out here)

By the way, you’ll want to check out the Photoshop tutorials on Layers Magazine, especially Corey Barker’s amazing tricks.

Comments Off on Camshake Auto Smoothing; Shooting Tips

Adobe and the University of Wisconsin are working on a potentially very useful tool that turns shaky handheld footage into more professional looking, smooth, steady looking stuff people will actually want to watch.

While not expected to be complete until about 2 years from now, I think this could be quite useful, and not just for amateur videographers. Even in pro and semi pro shooting scenarios, without a physical stabilization device such as a SteadiCam or similar, sometimes even the most steady hand produces less than smooth video footage.

Here is the full article about this software.

Camcorder Shakiness

In particular those small consumer camcorders are difficult to keep steady. The smaller and lighter a camcorder, the more shake will be translated to the end footage. Even stabilization systems can only do so and so much.

While shake can add to the realism, a lot of times footage just looks better when the viewer’s eyes and brain doesn’t have to compensate for jerky movement.

Also, and this is something that’s often forgotten when one discusses the pros and cons of image stabilization, video encoders will usually provide a better result with smooth and steady footage than with shaky footage. This is why encoding a talking head filmed with a tripod can be encoded with a much lower bitrate setting than, for example, a scene with trees and leaves that are moved by the wind, shot with a handheld camcorder.

(Of course another, even more important factor for this is the amount of “information” in the image: the more detail in the frame, the more bitrate you need. On set I get rid of anything that has a lot of fine lines or lots of detail, like bed sheets with stripes, or pillows with intricate flower patterns.)

Comments Off on Don’t Be Stupid – 15 Tips for Shooting Better Porn

Shooting Tip: don't cut to the male talent's face during the pop shotToday in my Don’t Be Stupid! series I’ll list 10 annoying and something downright stupid things we see done over and over again in porn productions. I’ve done almost all of these things myself but over the years I’ve learned (and am still learning) things that work and things that do not. Remembering and following this list will make you a better content shooter and/or editor, and provide your viewers with a much more satisfying experience.

I’ll list my gripes in a Do’s and Don’ts type list. As usual, I’m not beating around the bush and use frank language.

1 ) Do not cut to the male talent’s face when he’s cumming (see screen shot), or, really, anytime unless you absolutely must do so as a cutaway. When your viewer is jerking off the last thing he wants to see is the dude’s mug. For some reason this is especially common in European productions. Well, stop it!  It’s all about the girl. Always.

2 ) Do not show the guy beating off on the girls’ face for five minutes before he can pop. Spend some time browsing forums or anywhere else, adult consumers exchange their likes and dislikes and this is one of the top things people hate.  It’s anti-climatic and just not hot, unless your viewer is into guys. Go straight from sex/bj/whatever to the cumshot. No self-stroking. Ideally have the girl finish off the guy. If your stunt cock needs to stroke himself before he can perform the pop shot, don’t include that in your final edit. Or at the very least have the girl suck his balls at the same time – just have her be involved somehow.

3 ) Do plan your shoot before you start recording. If you have to use a bunch of transitions because you didn’t plan your blocking, or forgot to direct the talent prior to hitting the record button, do yourself and your viewers a favor and practice being a pro before you waste everyone’s time on set or the edit suite.

4 ) Editors: mind the overall rhythm and continuity when you’re editing. If you do multi angle shoots and switch from, say, a wide angle shot to a closeup, cut so that it flows seamlessly. Always using cross dissolves for angle changes is for lazy editors, amateurs, and those who are guilty of #3 on this list.

5 ) Learn to white balance. This should really be number one on this list. This seriously can make the difference between a mediocre and a great looking picture. Don’t just learn basic “balance to white”, learn what other things you can do with this important function. It’s amazing.

Hint 1: expose / light / white balance for the girl’s skin, not the male talent or (god forbid!) the furniture.

Hint 2: light blue-ish source. You can thank me later for this one.

6 ) Do control your set. Don’t permit anyone (make up artists, drivers, whoever) to walk around or make noise while you are shooting. If at all possible, control the light sources on set. Bring mobile drapes or window covers if you have to. Turn off fans and air conditioners if at all possible. Disconnect phones, shut off cell phones. CONTROL. YOUR. SET.

7 ) Do focus on the female performer (if you’re shooting straight footage), not the stunt cock, not the furniture, not how clever you are, not what’s for lunch, not how bored you are, not when House is on next. Professionals realize that the girl and her performance are what make or break the shoot. The male talent might be a funny wisecrack but nobody gives a damn about that when they’re jerking off. (Really, it’s the male talent who’s “objectified” in our industry, but that’s for another time). This is porn, not a buddy bash and not a time to be absent minded. FOCUS.

8 ) Do learn to handle your camera properly. If you can’t hold the damn thing steady while you’re moving or getting down to your knees, either practice or get a Steadycam-type device. If all else fails, see if you can fix extensive shakes in post. Excessive shakiness is for amateurs and drunks. You’re (hopefully) neither.

9 ) Do turn off auto white balance. See #5

10 ) Don’t shoot for your ego. If your only goal is to be the next John Stagliano, Jules Jordan, or Raul Cristian, instead of focusing on making the most enticing, sexiest…SELLABLE footage possible for your viewers, this biz might not be for you. Most everybody wants to be a superstar, including directors and shooters. But put your ego on a shelf while you’re shooting, it’ll help you get footage that’s a lot more “in the moment”.

11 ) Do shoot additional footage you can include in trailers, teasers, or promo clips. Be creative here.

12 ) Do learn to use natural light, but also learn proper traditional lighting. And not just how to properly light your subject. Among other things, learn to not cast shadows on your talent while you’re shooting. Learn to have the penetration shots properly lit instead of losing them in shadows. Learn how to move around on set without casting shadows or hiding or revealing light sources. There is no shame in standing way back and zooming in in order to not disturb the set.

13 ) Do practice before going on location. It’s okay – no, essential – to learn your gear and your craft before you set foot on set. Think of musicians – they don’t practice on stage, do they? They do that before the concert. Once the lights are on it’s showtime. Showtime is not practice time.

14 ) Don’t think amateur porn isn’t a “threat” to you. There has never been as much amateur porn as today and the numbers are growing. Worse yet, amateurs are getting better and better, and video and photo gear is improving while price points are dropping. Some amateur stuff is downright great. And often it’s available for free, be it because its stolen and posted on tube sites, or because the creators just don’t care about the money and just want to be “pornstars” for a while.

Either be better than them or join their ranks. There is no shame in the latter, regardless of what stigma “amateur porn” might have in your mind right now. But if you want to be a pro or glam shooter then you’ll want to hone your skills. Research what consumers will actually pay for. Calling yourself a pro and doing what any college kid with a consumer camcorder can do is pathetic, and a sure way for you to be treated as such. If you’re too lazy to learn new skills or shoot what would earn you a living, or you simply find that making and selling amateur porn is more profitable to you than going for the whole “pro” thing, it’s okay to shoot and sell amateur porn. Just don’t expect to be hired by Playboy or start the next FTV Girls.

15 ) Don’t think you can’t learn new skills. Don’t think you’re too dumb or too old or too busy to learn a new NLE, or Photoshop, or lighting skills. If you can breathe on your own and can read this, you’re just fine.

Now go and conquer. And don’t be stupid.

Comments Off on Optimizing Windows 7 for Content Creation

Win 7 optimizationAs I keep installing Windows 7 RC on several systems I remember that I wanted to quickly point out a few things you should do if you plan on using Windows 7 on your editing / content production systems.

1) After installing Windows 7 go ahead and disable automatic defragmentation, automatic download and installation of updates, search indexing, and tone down some of the visual stuff like fading in and out of boxes, animated windows and all that. By default scheduled defragmentation is on and you do not want this stuff to start up right when you’re in the middle of editing or exporting your movies.

Don’t animate / rotate your wallpapers. Choose one and stick to it.

Disable any services you don’t need. I usually get rid of any printing and spooling services, touchscreen features, games, and XPS services. Windows 7 makes this very easy: Control Panel > Programs and Features > Turn Windows Features On or Off

Automatic updates sometimes force an automatic reboot – you don’t want that either. Search indexing can slow things down. And removing some of the visual stuff will help with performance as well.

2) Right after installing Windows 7, run Windows Update and install any drivers and updates that are suggested to you. Restart when you’re prompted to, then keep coming back to Windows Update until there’s nothing more you need to install (language packs and other non-essentials can be skipped). AFTER you’ve installed all important updates and drivers disable the automatic downloading and installing of any updates (see above as to why).

3) Before you install any of your programs (Premiere, Avid, Photoshop, whatever) download and install any and all drivers you might need. Windows 7 is very good at detecting and, if necessary, offering you to get the latest drivers for your graphics cards, monitors and so forth but it could miss it. Also download drivers for your audio cards, and any other peripherals you might have attached.

4) This is one hard pill to swallow for many of you but do not install any anti-virus software on your production system. That stuff just causes more problems than they’re worth. I have not used any anti-virus software in four years on my editing systems and never had a problem. I do scan every few weeks, just to be safe. Never once did I get hit with a virus or spyware. Just don’t go online unless you really have to, and only go to reputable sites. Not having anti-virus junk hog your computer’s resources will make a huge difference.

5) Do not install iTunes, Roxio, Nero, or any other application you don’t absolutely need. No email programs either. A surprisingly large number of programs hog resources and run unneeded stuff in the background. The more junk runs in the background the more problems you will have.

I’ll write a more in-depth guide on optimizing Windows 7 for Content Creation soon.

Comments Off on Palm Pre Launch Email Goes Nowhere – Be Prepared

What Not To Do In Marketing

So I get an email from Sprint just after midnight 06/06/2009 – As expected, the Palm Pre is now officially available.
After the hype Palm and Sprint have been building you’d expect those guys to put some extra care into the launch.

All pages should be up and running, all links working, all graphics carefully selected and positioned, purchasing information and opportunities should be aplenty, and everything should just be ready for the consumer.

This is always important and particularly so during any major product launch or site change. To get the email you had to have filled out a form at Sprint.com to be notified of the Pre’s availability, making those consumers who received this launch email prime customers – exactly the kind  Sprint and Palm need to stay alive during these times.

But when I clicked the link in the email, instead of wowing me with some sexy presentation and an opportunity to buy this highly anticipated gadget right then and there on Sprint’s site I get an almost blank page that just says “We’re Updating…”

If an important launch like that is so unorganized and unreliable, what else is?

How this Relates to You the Webmaster / Marketer

Just because sending emails doesn’t cost money doesn’t mean it should be used without care.
Are you making sure all your links work in every piece of communication you send out or publish? Did you make sure that every page your visitors go to is entirely free of broken links, outdated information, and other stuff that can cost you sales?

Double and triple check your stuff. Pretend you’re the person you are marketing to – would you take action, (would you buy, would you sign up, would you leave your email, would you…)? Are you even able to?

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