Another grab bag of out-loud thinking.

Health

I think the global pandemic has shown us two things. First, our health officials are, for the most part, very knowledgeable individuals and, in team with an equally capable government, able to handle such an event very well.

Second, I think our District Health Boards (DHBs) are probably not the right construct to execute our health system. I’m wearying of the number of news reports that quote “DHB management” in disagreement with front line staff. I get that front line staff are unlikely to have the full picture, but when a nurse or doctor says “we don’t have enough,” then management simply saying “yes you do” is just not cutting it.

Those who daily run the health system must be expert and accountable and, most of all, transparent in their operations. The Director General of Health should not be making statements that turn out to be off the mark simply because “management” are pig in the middle trying to please both sides.

Photo Processing

I used to use Adobe Lightroom to manage and process my photos. When Apple reduced the price on Aperture, I switched to that because it was “more Apple-like” and integrated better with the Mac. Then Apple sounded the death knell for Aperture so I switched back to Lightroom.

Then Lightroom went subscription-only and after a while I tired of that, so I caved in to my brother’s nagging to check out Skylum’s Luminar 2018. I liked it as a photo processor but it had no Digital Asset Manager (DAM). However, one was promised. When it was delivered, late, it was barely functional. I hung on for a while until they announced Luminar 4 with fancy AI features and having done nothing at all to improve the DAM, despite having promised it.

Looking around, I stumbled on DxO PhotoLab 3. It also has some DAM issues, but I fell in love with the photo processing. PhotoLab’s party trick lies in the camera and lens “modules” which are based on real world testing and measurement of actual cameras and lenses and result in incredibly sharp results. The DAM issues are quite acute with PhotoLab so I was engaging with the community on what I thought needed to be done, when someone mentioned something rather startling.

You can use parts of Adobe Lightroom for free. Using my existing Adobe account, I was able to download Lightroom and load up all my photos, keyword them using the best keywording engine on the planet, and generally keep them all in ship shape. The Develop module does not work, but that’s not a problem for me.

What I have been doing is this: I wrangle all my photos first with Lightroom — import them onto my photo drive in date-based folders, and add keywords, which I then write back into the DNG files themselves. Then I open PhotoLab where I can search and select and corral them for processing using those magical modules and some pretty decent standard tools (noise reduction is also very, very good in PhotoLab).

Recently I saw there was a sale on the ON1 2020 product. Call me crazy but I took advantage of it straight away (it was a very steep discount) purely on the basis of a chap I converse with online who is quite fond of it. I tried out the RAW processing and it can’t hold a candle to PhotoLab’s results. But… could it handle the keywording well enough?

No other product has come close to Lightroom’s capability for keywording. ON1 got very close. There are a couple of bugs when adding new keywords which make a significant dent in productivity when they occur, but most importantly, although the keywords can be written back into the DNG files on demand, there is no way to locate which photos need this done. It is important they be written back to the files because I need to be able to see them in PhotoLab.

So for now, I will mostly stick with Lightroom as the DAM and PhotoLab as the processor. But… PhotoLab does have one Achilles heel as a processor. It has some performance issues. Mostly these can be tolerated, but when trying to remove spots and hairs from a large TIFF scan of a negative, it gets so bad it has crashed my Mac more than once. To solve this problem, I’ve set up a workflow to send the processed image out to Affinity Photo which handles “healing” the large number of spots on the very large (100 MB+!) TIFF files easily.

And that leads me to think about the future. Serif have stated that an Affinity-branded DAM will appear at some time, but no more than that has been said. Given Serif’s track record on the Affinity products so far, I have no doubt it will be a fantastic product. If they go “full Lightroom” on it, they will only be missing one thing to beat all others — DxO’s modules. I’m going to write to Serif and humbly suggest they buy the DxO technology. (Affinity Photo already has decent RAW processing, but it cannot replicate the sharpness of PhotoLab.)

There are two things we can learn from my journey. First, it’s not an easy task to create the perfect tool for photographers — each product has its strengths and weaknesses. Second… I buy far too much software.

Subtitles

I have previously mentioned how I’ve been enjoying non-UK, European TV shows recently and that I’ve grown used to shows in non-English languages with English subtitles. We recently started watching a show set in Iceland, called The Valhalla Murders. It’s a pretty decent show but suffers from one important flaw. It is clearly performed in Icelandic, but it does not have subtitles — it has been dubbed into English. Maybe dubbing can be done well, but this show is not an example of that. We are several episodes in and we still find it really hard to deal with.

First, many of the characters’ voices sound very similar. In one scene I had been looking down at my phone and while still listening to the dialog I had real trouble picking who was saying what as the two women in the room sounded so alike. There are other characters that also sound very similar to one another. Perhaps part of this sameness comes from the fact that the dubbing actors sound like they’re in a sound booth and not in the room, or out in the snow. Occasionally, there is some treatment added like room echo, but it all sounds so false.

Finally, the dubbing actors seem to be unaware of the tension in many scenes as their delivery seems so plain and not in keeping with the characters on screen. It took me a little while to get used to subtitles, but before long they fit in seamlessly. If this is what dubbing is always going to be like, I think it will be a black mark against any future shows we may consider watching.


That concludes this edition of Echoes. The comments are open, but will be moderated for civility. Alternatively you can hit me up on Twitter, where I go by @zkarj.

Categories: Echoes

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