iOS 13 Bluetooth Tracking

I’ve been enjoying the latest iOS 13 update for the past week (woot woot to dark mode!), but when I received a “Vudu Would lIke to Use Blooth” popup, I tilted my head and said, “why?” There are a number of legitimate reasons an app may request Bluetooth access. The first good reason that comes to mind is the ability to detect what device you’re connected to, to provide a unique experience. For example, if an application detects that I’m connected to my car stereo, it may automatically provide a unique driving mode (a few applications currently take advantage of this). Cool… but what are the not so good reasons? Well, applications like Vudo (Vudu is a subsidiary of Walmart) could, in theory, allow Walmart to track my location as I walk around a Walmart, building a unique profile based on my movements. If I hover around the green tea aisle of the store too long I shouldn’t be surprised if I received a targeted add for similar products. This can become increasingly concerning with an organization that has the ability to correlate different databases based on your email addresses or unique identifier.

The worst part is… the apps haven’t changed to add this notification. Only iOS has changed to notify the user when a specific app requests Bluetooth access. So, that Vudu app may have been using my Bluetooth signal for years without my knowledge. I give Apple credit for making this a mandatory feature in an attempt to provide better transparency and privacy.

How to Check Your Bluetooth Usage
Visit Settings -> Privacy -> Bluetooth on your iPhone and you’ll see a list of all of the applications that have requested Bluetooth access. The moral of the story is, you really want to trust the companies to whom you provide Bluetooth access.

iPhone 11 Announced with Improvements to Camera

Iphone 11 Pro Camera

They say the best camera is the one you have with you. With Apple’s upgrades to the camera in the recently announced iPhone 11 series, this adage may be more true than ever.

For most of our production on online courses, we mostly use a Sony Handycam for it’s versatility, and DSLR for interviews or other beauty shots. However, in the course of filming, I often find myself reaching for my iPhone 8 to supplement that footage. For a course on Nanotechnology, I used the slo-mo feature to capture how liquid nitrogen can make everyday objects more fragile. For some behind-the-scenes b-roll, I found the built-in stabilization allowed me to capture extended tracking shots with few hiccups.

The iPhone 11’s improved camera now makes a strong case for filming on a phone in many scenarios. The Verge has a great write-up of the specifics, but the highlights to me are:

  • Wide-Angle Lens on Base Model – I’ve often found myself in rather small settings where I simply couldn’t get back far enough with our traditional cameras to get everything I needed in one shot. Here, in lieu of investing a dedicated wide-angle lens for the DSLR, I could try subbing in my iPhone to get the one wide-shot I need.
  • Recording on Multiple Camera on 11 Pro – This is a great solution for when you need to shoot first and ask questions later. Though it will surely take up a lot of storage place, having more flexibility in post-production is always a good thing.
  • Audio Zoom on 11 Pro – I always recommend that videographers using an iPhone use an external mic to capture dialogue. If this feature can isolate audio coming from a central on-camera subject, that could make impromptu video interviews much more feasible.

MacOS Catalina: Sidecar

With the release of MacOS Catalina, a new feature called Sidecar has been added that enables an iPad to be used as an extended desktop for a Mac. Also, when paired with an Apple Pencil, it can be used to draw or write in Mac Apps that support the pencil. Since the Apple Pencil (1st Generation) is now supported with the iPad 6th generation, and an iPad Pro is not needed, its use with Sidecar has opened up many more capabilities at a lesser cost.

I’d previously reported on a 3rd party dongle that provided this functionality, which like many other 3rd party solutions that tried to fill this void, now is no longer needed. (https://sites.duke.edu/ddmc/2017/08/29/luna-display/)

 

 

Turn Your iPad into a Wireless Second Touch Display for your Mac

Luna Display is a rather inexpensive hardware dongle, USB-C or mini DisplayPort, that allows you to turn an iPad into a wireless second touch monitor for your Mac. Although there are apps on the market that provide similar functionality, those are primarily software based, which can introduce more lag and reduced image quality. They also usually require you to be tethered to your laptop via lightening cable, which also affects the Mac’s CPU and battery life. In comparison, Luna is much faster and more responsive with much better screen quality since it’s hardware based.

Possible Use Cases:

  • For those who travel, it can increase productivity by expanding your workspace.
  • For faculty and instructors, this can be extremely useful for demonstrating Mac applications while remaining mobile.
  • For anyone wanting a second monitor that’s touch.

 

https://lunadisplay.com/

What’s New in Final Cut Pro X 10.4

Apple has updated their flagship video editing software recently and it’s fairly substantive. There’s a variety of small tweaks but the biggest things to look at are: 360 video editing, color grading, and HDR.

While 360 has yet to fully take-off as a widespread platform, the new built-in tools for editing should go a long way into making the technology more accessible. Until this point, editing 360 video was technically possible in FCPX, but if you wanted to make any significant edits you had to use to a plug-in like this one from Dashwood. 10.4 largely just puts the tools directly into the software which make them both faster and easier to use.

The standout tool is a new viewing window which allows you to preview the headset view of the 360 image (where you can drag on the screen to look around). This works in real time during video playback and is seamless. Other tools allow you to reorient the sphere of the 360 video, patch elements of the video to remove tripods and the like, and add some simple blur/sharpen effects. The main addition I haven’t seen before is 2D text effects. Before this update, adding a basic text graphic to a 360 video in FCPX meant it was warped to match the curvature of the video. This update allows you to create text graphics that lie flat within the sphere, which looks much cleaner.

The software supports both monoscopic and stereoscopic 360 video, as well as the option to view your project within a connected headset like the HTC Vive. Though we haven’t been able to test that yet, look for an update in the coming months hopefully.

For those that don’t work with 360 video, the new color correction options are the main highlight in 10.4. The tools have been given more prominence in the inspector window by gaining their own dedicated tab. In addition to the old color board, 10.4 features color wheels, color curves and hue/saturation curves. Many of these tools are new ways of doing the same adjustments in a new interface albeit with some finer control. A couple new options that stood out to me were the ability to isolate a specific hue and adjust it’s saturation, exposure, etc. It’s great for making some colors pop without affecting the rest of the image. To the same degree, another tool in the hue/saturation curves targets orange hues, presumably for bring out some color in flesh tones. It works great with the few samples I’ve tested, but I still want to see how well it works with people of all colors.

While the 4K revolution has been going strong for a while now, the other buzzword in new televisions finally has support in Final Cut. HDR (high dynamic range) offers a wider color gamut which can produce some incredibly vibrant images in TVs that support it. Of course, this means you’ll need a proper HDR reference monitor to take advantage of this part of the update. Like 360 video, HDR support in this update goes a long way into making the technology more accessible to everyone.

Some smaller updates of note include importing iOS iMovie projects, and support for HEVC and HEIF (high efficient video coding and high efficient image format, respectively). For professional editors who work with amateur video producers, importing iMovie projects from a phone is a nice option. A faculty member could film something abroad on their iPhone, do some basic edits in iMovie, and send it along to their editor who could then do some more advanced editing in Final Cut.

 

Garmin VIRB 360

Duke OIT in conjunction with the Duke Digital Initiative (DDI) continues its search for innovative 360 cameras with our recent DDI-funded purchase of the  Garmin VIRB® 360. At $799.00, the VIRB was a chunk of change, but so far has proved to be worth it. This solid prosumer camera takes a big step forward in combining high quality (4k+) video together with the ease of use that has proved elusive for many of the previous contenders. Garmin has a huge investment in the sports and fitness sector, and as such has taken steps to integrate activity data with camera footage that athletes and outdoor enthusiasts will welcome. To break it in, I had a lot of fun taking the unit on a hike down to the local creek where I promptly plunked it under two feet of water (it’s rated for 10m). It didn’t disappoint–the quality of the footage was much better than any of the five or so 360 cameras I’ve tested so far, and the local fish were intrigued.

Garmin VIRB 360The setup and pairing process for the camera via the GarminVIRB® iOS app was intuitive and worked without a lot of fussing, which was a relief after my struggles with other cameras like the Nikon KeyMission 360. I had it out of the box and running in just a few minutes. The iOS app can control the camera and function as its viewfinder. There is a little bit of lag, which I didn’t find too distracting. I immediately liked the big red button on the side of the camera that kicks off a recording even if the unit is powered down. If you need to act fast, you won’t have to worry about hitting the right buttons or seeing the correct combination of flashing lights to let you know you’re recording.

We are lucky that our boss happens to be a semi-professional race car driver and enjoys helping us test our toys. We didn’t miss the opportunity to try the unit out at the track. One nice thing about the VIRB 360 is that it uses standard GoPro mounts, and he used this one to attach the camera to the top of the car. There are some surfaces, like brushed aluminum that it won’t grip, but it will lock like the jaws of death onto glass or painted steel, even at 120+mph. Below is some footage he shot and exported using Garmin’s editing software. He’s added a few data overlays, including speed, G’s, and a course map with real time location tracking. There are many more types of data that you can integrate with this camera and include with exported footage. We didn’t have an opportunity to grab an external mic to pair with the camera, so pardon the wind noise. Next time, we’ll try for audio from inside the cab.

Here is a summary of some of the pluses that stand out to us:

  • High quality–5.7k/30fps
  • Simple pairing
  • Simple start/stop using the big side button
  • Voice activated commands (start, stop, take photo)
  • Overlay data such as speed, elevation, g-force, and heart rate, and export them as 360-degree augmented reality using bundled editing software
  • Use it with standard GoPro mounts
  • Waterproof to 10m
  • Shock resistant body
  • 4 built in microphones capture spatial audio

Some areas for improvement:

  • Built in stitching needs improvement–makes a bit of a mess in areas between the lenses that is most noticeable at the zenith and nadir of the shot. Hopefully a future firmware update will help with this. On-device stitching only up to 4K/30fps
  • Battery life was very short. You’ll definitely need to have more than one battery. On the plus side, the camera will work with no battery installed if attached to to a USB port. However, we found that you can’t charge the battery and use the camera simultaneously with the camera connected to USB.
  • We had problems with bugginess of the editing software and numerous crashes, and some features are still in beta

 

New Interactive Walking & Bike Tours App

This past year interest in a pilot service called MyTours has been growing as users across campus discover it and learn about its many benefits. Through MyTours, you can easily create walking or bicycle tours by uploading images, videos, audio, and text through a web browser, and geo-locate each stop on a map so users can navigate from point to point. When finished, these tours can be published in the iTunes and Google Play Stores for easy access by anyone around the globe through two apps called Duke Explore (for public content) and Duke Location Learning (for course-based content or content with a narrower audience).

A few examples of how this tour is currently being used include:

  • A tour for new employees in the Duke University Health System
  • A sculpture tour of the Duke Campus
  • A bilingual walking tour of Montreal created by students in the Duke in Montreal French immersion program
  • A tour mapping out “Hidden Durham,” showcasing landmarks and special places of historical significance in Durham

We are opening up the use of MyTours more widely throughout the Duke Community and would love to help you brainstorm ideas for tours that would help enhance the work you and your customers do. If you are interested in learning more about this service, contact oit-mt-info@duke.edu and someone will contact you to set up a time to discuss your project and show you how to use the tool.

Those of you who are already using MyTours should note that with a recent upgrade we added the ability to embed the following elements into your tours:

  • 360-degree photos
  • 3D models
  • Panorama photos

An important future direction we are exploring is the ability to leverage cutting edge indoor positioning technology. MyTours already lets you upload custom maps for indoor tours, but down the road we want to create more nuanced location-based awareness for indoor applications.

 

Say Hello to Solaborate’s Hello

Oh Kickstarter… how you love to torment us.ddmc_hello_2

 

Most AV technicians know that the world of software based video conferencing is rapidly expanding. Every tech company seems to have some form of home-grown video conferencing. Google has Hangouts and Duo, Microsoft (now) has Skype and Lync… I mean Skype for Business, Facebook has Messenger with video calling, Adobe has Connect, Cisco has WebEx, Apple has Facetime, and that’s the short list of conferencing connections we are asked to support.

Enter Solaborate
Solaborate has launched an interesting Kickstarter project called Hello. Basically, Hello acts as an endpoint for their Solaborate service, providing:

  • Video conferencing
  • Wireless screen sharing
  • Live broadcasting
  • Security surveillance with motion detection and more.

What caught my attention is that Solaborate plans to add Skype, Messenger, Hangouts, and WebEx support if they reach their $300,000 stretch goal. Considering they currently have $225,905 pledged on their original goal of $30,000, with 16 days to go, they may just make it. It’s important to note that this is a Kickstarter project… so take some or most of this with a grain of salt. But, if Hello lives up to the hype, it could be a very interesting device for small meeting spaces.

Follow Solaborate’s Hello Kickstarter at: https://goo.gl/3QwB55

Screen Record AND Present From Your iOS Device

I just purchased the new iOS Mini Synth app from Electro-Harmonix (because that’s what I do at 7AM on Saturday Mornings) and I wanted a way to share my brilliance with the world.

I realized I’ve never really found a way to record audio and video from my iPhone. Did some Googling and came up with this article that kinda blew my mind.

http://ioshacker.com/how-to/use-quicktime-record-screen-iphone-ipad-ipod-touch-running-ios-8

Apparently with iOS 8 and Yosemite, you can connect you can connect your iOS device to your Mac via a lightning cable and then record audio and video of your screen with the already resident QuickTime X application. It is super easy and free.

Then it dawned on me, that if you are in a classroom without an Apple TV and you want to share your iOS device, you can just connect your Mac to the projector, connect your iOS device to your Mac, get QuickTime X ready to record, but then just don’t hit record, use it to present. This would be a way for you to record your iOS device to Panopto!