Archive for September, 2011

Shure wireless for Hairspray in Sydney

September 16th, 2011 master No comments

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Jands Production Services supplied the Shure audio equipment for Hairspray

Australia – Currently playing at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre, the musical Hairspray has been delighting audiences for several months with its bright, cheery sets and music. the show’s audio was designed by Michael Waters for Jands Production Services who also supplied the audio equipment including 26 Shure UHF-R Micro Bodypack Transmitters (UR1M) and Shure UHF UR4D Dual Receivers.

Looking after the Shure gear is James Kohler, deputy head of sound, who says: “I’ve been using the Shure Micro Bodypacks for the past 18 months and they have been rock-solid. In fact they’ve been really good. Packs that I have used in the past have been too sensitive to heat problems and obviously with the packs strapped to the dancer’s bodies, heat can become a bit of an issue. I haven’t experienced that once with the Shure Micro Bodypacks.”

He adds: “They sound really good and there’s a very low noise floor on them with no background noise on them. they do what they do and they’re true to how the microphone sounds itself. I’ve also found that the RF radio reception has been amazingly good. some of the best I’ve ever used.”

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Shure wireless for Hairspray in Sydney

Sennheiser CXC 700

September 16th, 2011 master No comments

Sennheiser takes its consumer line of audio products just as seriously as it does the recording-studio-standard microphones and headphones it manufactures. It is, therefore, no surprise that the Sennheiser CXC 700 ($319.95 list) noise-canceling earphones offer superb audio quality and laudable noise cancellation. Being an in-canal earphone pair, the CXC 700 already benefits from a bit of passive noise cancellation when it seals off the ear canals. the active cancellation, powered (unfortunately) by a triple-A battery, adds another effective layer of noise reduction. the earphones offer excellent audio performance, with rich, articulate bass and crystal-clear highs. that the CXC 700 outputs audio in passive mode (without the noise cancellation activated), unlike Bose QuietComfort headphones, is a huge advantage. Regardless, all of this may not be enough for those who don’t want a bulky battery compartment dangling from their ears.

DesignSennheiser has rarely been a manufacturer of awe-inspiring visuals. the CXC 700 is all black, save for some shiny metallic flourishes on the earpieces. the Sennheiser logo graces each earpiece, and the ears’ separate cables join into one about halfway down the chest. farther down the cable is the battery compartment, which can be worn using the attached shirt clip or stuffed into a pocket. For the substantial real estate the compartment occupies, it surprisingly lacks any iPhone controls—a common feature on earphones these days. Instead, the only controls are a switch that activates the noise cancellation, and a volume slider located in the middle of that switch. one of the compartment’s side panels houses a “Mode” button (more on that in a bit) and a “Talk Through” button that mutes music and disables the noise cancellation to make conversation easier without your needing to remove the earphones. the other side panel is emblazoned with the Sennheiser name and logo.

The CXC 700 ships with three differently sized pairs of black silicon earpieces (not that many compared with, say, the Shure SE215, which has six pairs), one triple-A battery, a quarter-inch headphone jack adapter, an airplane audio jack adapter, and a zip-up protective pouch.

The inherent design issue for nearly all in-ear noise-canceling options has always been where to put the battery. Sennheiser has yet to figure this out. Headphones like the Bose QuietComfort 3 ($349, 4 stars) have ample room to hide a rechargeable battery. Earphones like the Sennheiser CXC 700? Not so much, and thus the company inevitably powers the earphones off of a single disposable triple-A battery instead, and places the battery compartment somewhere along the cable. Not only is this bad for the environment, it’s also annoying design. There’s no way around the fact that the battery compartment feels bulky and awkward. the built-in shirt clip won’t work for every person’s outfit, every day—and some people have no desire to wear a shirt-clipped battery compartment around regardless of their outfit. (I am one of those people.) But the clip is a must: the compartment is too heavy otherwise and the earphones will yank out of your ears. the only other options are to stash the compartment in a pocket, hold it, or set it in your lap.

PerformanceFrom an audio standpoint, the CXC 700 sounds fantastic. the earphones don’t seem to get quite as loud as other pairs typically do, but the small range of volume that’s missing is the one that does the most hearing damage over time, so it’s a positive constraint. the CXC 700 can still get plenty loud, but at moderate and high volumes alike it offers excellent bass response and clear, precise high frequency response.

On a song with extremely deep bass, like the Knife’s “Silent Shout,” there was no distortion at all, even at maximum volume. Less bass-heavy tracks, like John Adams’ modern classical piece, “the Chairman Dances,” were also a joy to listen to with the CXC 700; percussion was snappy, with a nice, rich low end on the deeper drums and stringed instruments. bill Callahan’s vocals on his recent album, Apocalypse, played with a crisp edge, but the lower accents of his baritone voice were never exaggerated or muddy. This is an audiophile’s noise-cancellation earphone pair.

As previously mentioned, the CXC 700 is helped tremendously by its in-ear-canal design, letting it act as a pair of earplugs before you activate any noise-canceling circuitry. once it is activated, however, the CXC 700 does a fine job of blocking out the ambient noises (such as the whir of a fan, the rumble of a jet engine, or the loud drone of a subway train) that can often cause listening fatigue and challenge your concentration. What noise cancellation can’t do yet is block out people’s voices, or intermittent sounds like hand claps or car horns. Noise cancellation only works on constant ambient noises, which it can analyze to produce sound waves that are the exact opposites and thus cancel out some of the din.

The CXC 700 tries to go one better by adding Modes, which are controlled by the Mode button on the battery compartment. Mode one focuses on the lower frequencies, from approximately 100-400Hz (think trains and busses), Mode two hones in on midrange frequencies (400Hz-3kHz, where most air conditioning noise lives), and Mode 3 covers the range from 100Hz-3kHz. There’s no LED indicator to tell you which mode you’re in—but when you press the Mode button, it beeps once for Mode one, twice for two, and so on. as you might gather, the quietest mode always seemed to be the one that focused on the full range, Mode Three.

If you’re primarily concerned with noise cancellation, Bose makes two of the industry standards and arguably still owns the best noise-canceling circuitry. the Bose QuietComfort 3 and the Bose QuietComfort 15 ($299.95, 4 stars) are headphones rather than earphones, the former on-ear (supra-aural) and the latter around-the-ear (circumaural).  There aren’t too many in-ear options that offer effective noise cancellation and excellent audio, partially because in-ear options tend to block out so much sound that additional noise-canceling circuitry could be viewed as superfluous. when it comes to the most recent crop of noise-canceling earphones and headphones, the leaders of the pack remain the same: Sennheiser and Bose. Between the two manufacturers, the difference can be boiled down pretty simply: If it’s the best noise cancellation you seek, go with the Bose QuietComfort 15, our Editors’ Choice. There are also options like Monster Beats by Dr. Dre ($349.95, 4 stars), which focus on booming low-end audio performance for modern music and offer reasonably good noise cancellation. But if you want high-quality noise cancellation and superb audio performance, the Sennheiser CXC 700 offers brilliant audio performance that is slightly beyond Bose’s reach.

More Headphone Reviews:•   Bowers & Wilkins C5 In-Ear Headphones•   Sennheiser PMX 90•   Sennheiser MM 80i Travel•   JVC HA-M5X•   Skullcandy Roc Nation Aviator•  more

Sennheiser CXC 700

Any suggestions of professional microphones to record vocals?

September 16th, 2011 master No comments

What is the best microphone of professional vocal performances under 400$, that transmits sound through USB or firewire and NOT through an interface….

Thanks for your help! :)

Any suggestions of professional microphones to record vocals?

Robots and New Technologies: Programmed to Understand and Interact–Keep It Future-Friendly!

September 15th, 2011 master No comments

They learn to speak, write, and do arithmetic. they have a phenomenal memory. If one read them the Encyclopedia Britannica they could repeat everything back in order, but they never think up anything original. They’d make fine university professors.

R.U.R. (1920), Karel Čapek

My first experience with robots was through popular culture and literature when I was a little girl. I was fascinated with the first computers, space and robots:  Star wars and R2D2 (first indication of my geekiness), watching many times and dreaming of Blade runner, reading short stories by I.Asimov. Later on, during college, courses on information systems, cybernetics caught my attention, from the cybernetic communication models to cybernetic organisms being described as cyborgs and the larger networks of communication. I was interested in techno-science and feminist-cyborg studies of Donna Haraway and S.Turkle’s cyber-analysis of the robots sociability, her studies on intimate bonds we form with our artifacts (robots and computers),  and how they shape who we are. Finally, with the Internet expansion my interests switched to Information and communication technologies and Computer-Mediated Communication, networked  and learning systems.

Then, last December at TED Women I’ve reached a  “robotic moment” watching a roboticist from MIT, Cynthia Breazeal, who talked about robots in communication technologies: mobile, expressive, performing collaborative tasks, and socially engaging, something that interconnected with my internet studies and research on communication in different contexts.

People interact with robots identically as with their computers. they trust in them and they are emotionally engaged. to find out more about the possibilities of robots and their proliferation in society (in learning, medicine, space, everyday life) as well as the European robotic scene, I was talking with researchers in Cognitive Robotics Sasa Bodoroza and his colleague Guido Schillaci from the Cognitive Robotics Department at the University of Humboldt in Berlin.

DR: Welcome to the Scientific American blog. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself?  what is your  scientific background?

SB: My name is Sasa Bodiroza and I am a PhD student in the Cognitive Robotics Group at the Institute of Informatics, Humboldt University of Berlin. I work together with my colleague Guido Schillaci, under supervision of Prof. Verena Hafner.

I finished my BSc and MSc studies in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the School of Electrical Engineering, University of Belgrade. My bachelor and master theses were in the area of fuzzy logic: developing a system for student learning.

GS: hello, my name is Guido Schillaci and I’m from Palermo, Italy. I’m a Ph.D. student at the Humboldt University Berlin where I’m a member, with Sasa Bodiroza, of the Cognitive Robotics Group supervised by Prof. Verena Hafner. We’re involved in the International Research Network INTRO (INTeractive RObotics) funded by EU.

I have a Bachelor Degree in Computer Engineering and a Master Degree in Computer Engineering for Intelligent Systems, both from the University of Palermo. I studied for one year at the School of Computer Engineering (ETSIIT) of Granada, Spain. My thesis dealt with machine learning techniques for robotics.

DR: What’s your PhD research about?

My research is a part of an international research network INTRO (INTeractive Robotics), a project in the EU 7th Framework Program (FP7). the network consists of four university partners: Umea University, Humboldt University of Berlin, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Bristol Robotics Laboratory, and two industry partners: Robosoft and Space Application Services.

I am interested in the use of gestures in human-robot interaction. I focus on dynamic gesture analysis, which includes recognition, learning and synthesis of gestures. Another important aspect are methods for determination of human gesture vocabularies, as well as sets of gestures fit to the particular robot morphology.

The goal of my research is to develop a system for the robot which will be able to understand certain gestures and learn new. the robot will be able to perform gestures which fit to its morphology. I hope this will help in achieving natural and intuitive interaction between robots and people.

I am also interested in attention manipulation and the development of attentional models for robots.

GS: Human-Robot Interaction. In particular Behaviour and Intention Recognition for Human-Robot  Learning. My efforts are focused on applying cognitive sciences, neuroscience and developmental sciences theories in the development of cognitive skills for robots for increasing the intuitiveness and efficacy of their interaction with humans.

DR: there are over one million household robots, and 1.1 million industrial robots, operating worldwide. Do you see the further development and the implementation of the robotic systems who understand and perform certain gestures in everyday life application, such as in learning processes, child or health care? Or maybe some other applications in Human-Robot Interaction?

SB: Certainly. Current computer and robotic systems require a person to go through user manuals and learn how to use them. Developing a robot, which could recognize and perform gestures will at least partially resolve this problem, enabling more natural and intuitive interaction.

However, gesture recognition and synthesis in robots has a broader application. a PhD student in our group, Siham Al-Rikabi is doing research in natural language processing. She is looking at the use of sign language symbols by robots and performing translation between spoken or written and sign language.

There are other applications – gesture recognition and synthesis will make a daily interaction between humans and robots easier, more intuitive and more natural. In example, we could have a robot waiter at a bar serving us drinks (by the way, check out the Roboexotica – a meeting in cocktail robotics, held annually in Vienna), a service robot at home, an entertainment and nursing robot in elderly homes and with children. We shouldn’t use how to operate new systems – in this case robots – but we should adapt them to the way which is the most intuitive for us.

GS: Gestures are important non-verbal communicative tools. the ability of understanding and performing gestures would definitively improve the quality and the complexity of the interaction. At that level, a robot could be present in everyday life and useful for several applications: health care, as you said, collaboration tasks, service applications, etc.

DR: You’ve mentioned the neuroscience and developmental sciences theories being implemented in your project. how much your research area and cognitive robotics in general collide with other scientific areas, e.g. social sciences, cybernetics, AI, psychology and others?

SB: Cognitive robotics is a highly interdisciplinary area. unlike in traditional robotics, researchers come from different areas: computer science and artificial intelligence, computer engineering, robotics, but also experts in usability, psychology, and other fields.

GS: Cognitive robotics is becoming more and more an interdisciplinary field. I constantly try to justify and base my research on cognitive sciences and neuroscience studies.

DR: what are you currently working on? What are your current plans and projects?

SB: Recently we have been working on an implementation of an attentional mechanism in a humanoid robot Aldebaran Nao, as a prerequirement for the joint attention. the mechanism enables Nao to have a simple interaction with people, by detecting them, showing interest in some objects by pointing to them and also losing interest after a while. For interested readers, they can find our paper on this in the Proceedings of the Humanoids ’11 (to appear around October ’11). Next planned addition is a gesture recognition and learning system. I will be going to Israel soon, were I will stay for one semester, working with Prof. Yael Edan.

GS: I’m working with Sasa and Verena on a system for providing a robot with visual attention and attention manipulation skills, two important prerequisite for joint attention. the ability to share the focus of our attention with other individuals is a fundamental social tool which let us communicate and share mental states, a characteristic that differentiate human beings from other animal species.

My future work will focus on providing robots with skills for understanding behaviours and intentions of interacting partners.

DR: can you tell our readers more about the robot Aldebaran Nao? does he serve human purposes, is he a humanoid?

SB: The Nao robot is a humanoid robot, around 60 cm tall. it is a research platform and it is used by research groups around the world. perhaps its most prominent appearance is at the RoboCup, a competition in robot football, where it is used in the standard platform league. Nao can also be used to teach students to fundamentals of robotics.

It is equipped with various input devices and sensors (cameras, microphones, ultrasonic rangers, inertial measurement units, pressure sensors on feet) and actuators in joints. it is also able to reproduce sound and synthesize speech and turn on and off LEDs in the eyes, ears and on the chest and feet. it is able to reproduce gestures using arms. However, it cannot reproduce hand gestures, given that it only has grippers with three fingers in the academic version.

DR: what do you think about the cognitive robotic research and development scene today? how do you see its development in the next ten years? will the robots assist humans in many areas? Go to space as NASA’s space Robonaut R2?

SB: Cognitive robotics is a relatively young area, which began to develop in the early ’90s. Since then a lot of research groups in cognitive robotics formed. it has come a long way to go until we reach the point of fully autonomous, interactive and social robot, who are capable of joint attention. I think that the research will follow the same directions, focusing on embodiment of the robot, and not just on the control systems, followed by development of new areas, such as the neural control for robots, which is currently done by few groups in the world.

As we learn more about robots and make them more safe for direct interaction with humans the number of use-cases and places where a robot can assist us will definitely increase. Exactly as you mentioned Robonaut 2, which is currently being tested in space.

GS: We’re still far from having robots which can interact naturally and intuitively with people in a real environment. However, a lot of efforts from the scientific community is focused on that: several prerequisites and possible paths towards that have been already identified and progress in some robotics fields is going pretty fast.

It’s difficult to predict where robotics will be in the next 10 years. some opinions can appear visionary (e.g. the ultimate goal of the RoboCup Foundation is to have by 2050 an autonomous robot soccer team which will win a soccer game against the winner of the most recent World Cup) but, why not, that’s the right mood for approaching the problem!

DR: I know that beside your department there is also the Cognitive Robotics Lab at Technical University in Munich. how is the European cognitive robotics network developed?  Do you collaborate with the European Robotics Research Network (EURON)?

SB: there is an active robotics scene in Europe. beside EURON, there is also EUCogII, a large network which connects researchers in artificial cognitive systems and robotics.

Also, at the last HRI 2011 conference in Lausanne, the amount of published papers was roughly equally divided between Europe, Japan and the USA, which shows that research in this field is very present in Europe.

In our INTRO project, we are collaborating with research groups at three universities and with two industry partners, as it was mentioned before.

GS: the European scientific community on Cognitive Robotics is big and very good. there are lots of research networks promoted by the EU. the project we’re involved in is one of them, which includes four universities and two industrial partners, as we mentioned before.

DR: Are you familiar what your peers in the United States do, e.g. at MIT and other specific departments? Do you follow their work and is there something that you are interested in particular from what they are doing?

SB: I follow their research. I am particularly interested in the work of Prof. Cynthia Breazeal from MIT, director of Personal Robots Group, such as her work on how can we interact with the robots.

GS: yes. In particular I’m interested on the work of some researchers on social robots, e.g. B. Scassellati from Yale University and C. Breazeal from MIT.

DR: Recently, the first humanoid astronaut robot – Robonaut R2 started tweeting in space implying that the power of Social Web is limitless in a way. Since I am a Social Media researcher I’m curious about your usage of Social Web. how does social media, blogging, social networks figure in your work?

SB: I think that social web provides some good tools for researchers. I use it to follow the research of other people ( and to find recent posts and news (e.g. using Sparks on Google+) about new developments in the area. Services like Twitter, Google+ and Facebook can also make the communication between researchers easier.

I started relying on the cloud for storage and I actively use DropBox and Ubuntu one. I also find interesting news using Google+ Sparks, which is so far an amazing service. there are also some robotics blogs, like IEEE Spectrum’s Automaton, which I read regularly.

GS: Social media are powerful tools for information and ideas exchange. some of them (like or LinkedIn) could be very useful for being updated about the latest researches or publications of other scientists; however, most of the researchers tend to update more often their personal/lab websites, so I always end up with checking them or scientific digital libraries, instead of their social network profiles.

Robots and New Technologies: Programmed to Understand and Interact–Keep It Future-Friendly!

A wireless microphone system works in a different way in

September 15th, 2011 master No comments

A wireless microphone system works in a different way in comparison to other systems. As per the name a wireless microphone system works without the aid of wires and the confusion of cables and can be of great use when it comes to situations where cables and wires may cause disruptions for the operation. usually, a wireless microphone system works with the aid of four components. These four components come together to create a wireless microphone system that will pick up sound and direct it to a PA system.

The main advantage of a wireless microphone system is the fact that it can be used just about anywhere without the need of being connected to a grounded electrical supply. therefore, the first component of a typical wireless microphone system is the battery. The battery is the element that supplies power to the microphone system and thus can be positioned at just about any location without many restrictions. Whether it is an outdoor party, a concert at a park or even a beach wedding, a wireless microphone system can be easily set up with the aid of a good battery. The batter needs to be a 9 Volt type as this is the kind of batteries that are in use for most systems.

The next and probably most important component of a wireless microphone system is the sound pickup and transmission components. This is where the microphone comes in. usually the microphone and the transmitter come attached together. This means that most microphones in use for these systems are wired to a transmitter. however, in some cases, it is possible to use wireless components as well. While the microphone picks up sound, the transmitter takes on the task of sending the collected sound signals tot eh receiver via electromagnetic, radio, UHF or VHF frequencies. Needless to be told, the receiver has to be compatible with the signal type to pick up the transmitted sound signals successfully. Wireless microphones are the ideal choice for these systems as there is a lot less fuss involved as it offers a great deal of freedom for the speaker to move about as pleased. however, it is advisable to acknowledge them to stay within range of the wireless receiver to ensure uninterrupted sound pick up.

The last component is the device that links the wireless microphone to the PA system. This is the device that receives the sound signals that is being transmitted by the transmitter and microphone. This is the final link of the wireless microphone system chain and it directly sends the collected sound data in to a PA system to be broadcasted. The process is instant and appears as the speaker is speaking with an amplified voice.

A wireless microphone system works in a different way in

Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR

September 15th, 2011 master No comments

The 16-megapixel, 15X-optical-zoom Fujifilm FinePix F550 EXR ($350 as of 9/7/2011) is the latest model in Fujifilm’s higher-end F series, and it’s appropriately packed with features. In addition to manual, semimanual, and automatic shooting modes, the F550 is one of the latest crew of cameras with GPS capabilities and a long-zoom lens. the F550 fits neatly into the pocket megazoom category of cameras, offering some far-reaching in-camera goodies that will interest snapshooters, photo enthusiasts, and vacationers alike.

The F550’s arsenal includes full HD video with stereo sound and autofocus, slow-motion video, multiple bracketing modes, film-simulation options, user-selectable dynamic range, and other appealing features. a trio of EXR modes are geared toward improving image quality in different conditions, and the camera can also capture 360-degree panoramas in one fell swoop.

The geotagging-friendly F550 stands apart from its twin, the F500, with one of the best GPS implementations of any camera on the market today. the F550 adds GPS to the F500’s feature set for an additional $20 or so, and it’s well worth the extra cost, even for a once- or twice-a-year vacation. the F550 also offers RAW and RAW + JPEG; the F500 does not.

While the F550 has the in-camera features to go toe-to-toe with most long-zoom pocket cameras, image quality may not be on a par with the competition. however, for many users, the F550 has more than enough strengths to compensate for its photo- and video-quality shortcomings.

The Fujifilm FinePix F550 EXR is built around a new EXR-branded backside-illuminated CMOS sensor. like past Fujifilm EXR cameras, the in-camera menus let you select between three special EXR modes that tweak the sensor’s settings to improve image resolution, low-light performance, and dynamic range.

Equipped with a stabilized 15X-optical-zoom lens, the F550’s focal range starts at a highly useful 24mm and extends to a long-reaching 360mm. With this kind of lens versatility, the F550 is capable of handling everything from broad vistas to distant subjects. the F550’s multiple image stabilization feature is a combination of sensor-shift (mechanical), high ISO (electronic), and an “Advanced Anti-Blur” that shoots and merges four shots to help eliminate blur and image noise (essentially a bracketing mode). like practically every pocket megazoom we’ve reviewed, the lens isn’t particularly fast: Maximum aperture settings range from F3.5 wide-angle to F5.3 telephoto.

Available in black or glossy red, the F550 is sleek looking and solidly built. the body measures 4.1 inches wide, 2.5 inches tall, and 1.3 inches deep. it won’t slide into tight jeans’ pockets, but it’s compact enough to fit comfortably into more generously cut clothing. it weighs about 7.6 ounces fully loaded.

The tiny grip and rubberized pad should provide a relatively comfortable handhold for most shooters, but if your hands resemble catcher’s mitts, try the camera on for size before you buy it. Controls and dials are relatively small, but they’re generally well-positioned for easy access.

The F550’s shutter/zoom-control combo sits along the top edge, as does the tiny on/off button. the GPS antenna is nicely integrated into the design–it’s fairly low-profile. to the left of the GPS unit is the pop-up flash, which automatically goes up when the camera powers on; it’s easy to press back into a closed position when not in use.

A small mode dial is angled between the top surface and the rear panel, in perfect position to thumb through the various modes. unfortunately, our review unit’s mode dial was extremely stiff, and it took more effort than usual to move from one mode to another. Other controls include a dedicated movie button, playback, display, and “F” function buttons. the latter displays a quick menu to change common settings such as ISO and image size, while a four-way keypad doubles as one-touch access to the macro, exposure compensation, flash settings and self-timer. a small command dial surrounds the four-way controller and has just enough tension to keep it from moving too freely. a center menu button calls up the main menu for access to the remainder of the F550’s options.

The 3-inch LCD works well under most conditions, even though its 460,000-dot resolution is only average these days. It’s certainly bright enough to easily read menus and review images during playback.

A single media card slot accommodates SD/SDHC/SDXC cards. it has 39MB of internal memory as well, but that doesn’t make much of a difference since it holds maybe five high-res images. If you want to view your images and video on an HDTV, a mini-HDMI port is under a door on the side of the camera.

The F550’s core shooting modes include Auto, Program, shutter priority, aperture priority, and full manual mode. As expected, there are a number of scene modes, including the standard portrait, landscape, sport, night, sunset, beach, and the like. a special underwater mode is available for shooting with the camera’s separately sold underwater housing (the camera also has an underwater white balance option). In a unique Pets mode, used in conjunction with the auto-release self-timer option, the camera automatically takes a shot when it detects a pet. like most cameras’ face-detection modes, though, the pet has to be facing the camera–which is sometimes easier said than done.

The final two options on the mode dial–Advanced Mode and EXR–are reason enough to reference the user guide. Advanced Mode offers three options: Motion Panorama 360, Pro Focus, and Pro Low Light. Motion Panorama 360 is easy to use once you get the hang of how to pace sweeping the camera across a scene, and it works quite well.

Another useful feature is the “Pro Focus” mode, which captures multiple shots, producing a soft background while keeping the main subject in focus. the amount of focus is user-adjustable and works best for portraits and macro shots. In “Pro Low Light” mode, the camera captures four exposures and merges them into a single photo to help prevent blur and image noise. this is probably the weakest of the three advanced modes, as its success depends greatly on the shooting conditions.

The EXR modes start off with Auto EXR, in which the camera analyzes the conditions and selects the most appropriate scene mode. Other choices include Resolution Priority (for the cleanest, sharpest images), High ISO/Low Noise, and Dynamic Range (which can be adjusted). the latter two cut the resolution to 8 megapixels, but that might be worthwhile, as both modes work well.

Continuous shooting is peppy: 8 frames per second at full resolution, and the buffer tops out at 8 photos. Higher speed capture of 11 fps up to 16 frames is possible at 8 megapixels; at a 4-megapixel resolution, the F550 can capture up to 32 frames at 11 fps. Shot-to-shot time was nice and quick for JPEGs, but you may have to wait up to 4-5 seconds for the beefier images to save when shooting RAW.

Video options range from 1080p full HD at 30 fps to silent movies shot at 320 fps at 320-by-112 resolution. There are also a number of video settings in between. From 1080p to 640-by-480 VGA at 30 fps, the camera records stereo sound. the slow-motion movies are fun but, as with similar slow-motion options, the footage is tiny and best viewed on a computer screen. Center or continuous autofocus are both available in movie mode; the zoom is also operational, albeit with slower zooming to cut down on noise.

The F550 offers a number of other attractive options including a search function, which can locate images by parameters such as the scene mode used and the location in which you shot them. overall, the camera is fairly easy to operate, but some of its options are best understood by reading the user guide.

The GPS capabilities are one of the major highlights of the F550, as they’re more extensive and useful than your average “add geolocation data to EXIF” feature. Reading the user guide is especially helpful here, as there are a number of geotagging options.

The GPS can be set up to show just latitude and longitude, but also has an option to use an embedded database to apply real-world location names within the camera. when you’re playing back images, the camera can also calculate how far you are from the place the image was taken. on the desktop side of the equation, you can use the included, Windows-only MyFinePix Studio in conjunction with Google Maps to see the route you traveled.

All in all, the F550′s in-camera GPS options run circles around those we’ve seen in most models, except for one: the Casio Exilim EX-H20G, which has in-camera mapping and some similar location-name and distance-calculating features. the F550 is the closest we’ve seen to matching it, however.

Of course, if the GPS is left on all the time–even when the camera is turned off–it will drain the battery. the better option is to have the camera search for a satellite signal each time you power it on; it can take a minute or two, but the battery will last longer.

In PCWorld Labs’ subjective tests for image quality, the FinePix F550EXR fared well, but its overall imaging score trailed competing pocket megazooms such as the Nikon Coolpix S9100 and Canon PowerShot SX230 HS. Lack of image distortion was a notably strong suit given its 15X zoom lens, as the F550 earned a score of very good in that category–the best among competitors. Image sharpness was also rated as good, besting the Coolpix S9100 in our tests. however, it lagged a bit behind the competition in color accuracy and exposure quality, although it did earn scores of good in those categories.

In my hands-on tests, I also found image quality to be hit-or-miss. JPEG images straight out of the camera looked a little soft, and image noise was visible in shadows even at low ISOs. on the other hand, some night-time test shots at higher ISOs looked surprisingly good. Colors are generally rendered naturally, and exposure is accurate more often than not. kept at reasonable sizes (8 by 10 and below), prints from the camera look quite good.

The camera is also fairly responsive. Given enough light and contrast, autofocus is fast and accurate. the zoom moves smoothly through its 15X range, and the sensor-shift image stabilization works well. however, in low light, it’s best to use a tripod for telephoto shots.

You can view the full-size images used for PCWorld Labs’ testing by clicking on the thumbnail images at left.

With video, the FinePix F550 wasn’t as competitive. the camera earned a video quality score of good in PCWorld Labs’ subjective tests, but its aggregate video score was noticeably lower than that of the Coolpix and PowerShot cameras mentioned above, and was little more than half the score of the video-friendly Sony Cyber-shot HX9V. the FinePix F550’s video quality is noticeably inferior in low-light situations, with a bluish tint and murky contrast in our test footage. In our low-light test, you couldn’t see much of anything. Audio pickup is decent–if a bit tinny sounding–out of the camera’s stereo microphones, and its audio capture earned a score of good.

You can view the test clips used for our subjective video tests below. Select 1080p from the drop-down menu in each player for the highest-quality footage.

Battery life is just about average, with a rating of 300 shots per charge of the camera’s lithium ion battery–and that’s with the GPS turned off. that translates to a battery-life score of good in the best-case scenario.

The Fujifilm FinePix’s F550 feature set varies from the pocket megazoom norm, and that’s largely a good thing. You don’t have to understand how some of the special features, such as the EXR modes, work; you only have to figure out how and when to use them. the F550’s GPS features are also among the best we’ve seen in a camera yet, as they take GPS further than just longitudinal and latitudinal EXIF data.

With so many features, the F550 is priced right for snapshooters and enthusiasts. You may have to compromise a bit on image and video quality compared to long-zoom compact cameras such as the Nikon Coolpix P9100, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V, and the Canon PowerShot SX230 HS, but the Fujifilm FinePix F550’s feature set gives them a run for the money.

Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR

A buying guide for Sennheiser wireless microphones

September 15th, 2011 master No comments

Those who have decided to buy a Sennheiser wireless microphone will never regret their decision because it produces excellent results that you will always love. however, it must be kept in mind that not all microphones are identical and you must select the right model for your need, usage, and budget. only if you have the right wireless microphone with you, will you be able to undertake proper recordings. Choosing the wrong model may lead to a poor outcome, even if the quality of the device is good.

On the whole it is very important to know what sort of Sennheiser wireless microphone you would need. The most important thing is the budget. many people tend to ignore this area and waste a lot of time looking at those models, which they cannot afford. it is always better to make budget as realistic as possible because there is no need to overspend on a microphone. different styles of wireless microphones have different purposes. For instance, a narrator can use lavaliere but a single lavaliere will not be sufficient for conducting an interview. For this purpose, a handheld Sennheiser wireless microphone will be more appropriate.

In case you are not sure which one you need, there is always a possibility of purchasing collective microphones. however, this is only feasible if it is within your budget. you can then learn the use of each model and use it accordingly. this makes the chances of getting a pleasing result very high. If you have a tight budget, it is important to ask around and seek advice from the shopkeeper. they will be able to guide you as well. you can also search online by mentioning your use and see what sort of results you get.

Accessories of microphones are equally important. For example, clips are needed for lavaliere and some back batteries are always required.

this entry was posted on Friday, December 10th, 2010 at 3:22 am and is filed under Uncategorized. you can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. you can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

A buying guide for Sennheiser wireless microphones

Farmers Insurance celebrates two new buildings on campus south of Grand Rapids

September 15th, 2011 master No comments

Cory Morse | the Grand Rapids PressAn entry way to a new facility at Farmers Insurance in Caledonia Tuesday.

No more sharing desks.

No more parking on the grass.

No more employees tucked into temporary basement quarters.

That’s one upshot of the $84.4 million buildings completed by Farmers Insurance earlier this year at its 600-acre campus in Caledonia.

Company officials, local politicians and a slew of Farmers employees gathered outside the most recently completed building Tuesday to hold an official grand opening, including the ceremonial ribbon cutting.

It also provided hometown boy and outgoing CEO Bob Woudstra an opportunity to reflect on the company’s recent accomplishments, which include a commitment to hire 1,600 people locally in the four or five years. more than 500 already have been hired.

“the workforce has been phenomenal,” said Woudstra, who retires at the end of the year. “They’re thankful to be a part of this organization and what it can mean to them and their families.”

Referencing the sparkling new facilities behind him, Woudstra said the company wants to provide a nice working atmosphere for its employees.

“this is an outstanding facility. I’m really proud of what we accomplished,” he said. “But it is about the people, not the buildings.”

Cory Morse | the Grand Rapids PressWorkforce management employees, Nick Stalec, left, and Ryan Farrell, work inside a new office facility at Farmers Insurance.

William Walruth, state executive director for Farmers, noted that the local economy not only is benefiting from the promised jobs, but also from the construction phase. more than 500 workers helped build the new facilities, he said.

“Ninety-five percent of the labor force that built the building was from West Michigan,” he said. “Living, working and spending here locally, doing everything that we wanted for this great state of Michigan.

The new additions consist of a 265,000-square-foot office complex with a four-story atrium housing customer service centers, operations, billing, human resources and the University of Farmers training program. That is connected to a 100,000-square-foot Print & Distribution Center, one of two in the country for the company.

Employees moved into the office space this summer, while the Print & Distribution Center was completed in February.

Julie Huyser, a personal lines operations manager who was giving tours of the center, said part of the print and distribution team was housed at a site on 33rd Street SE, while the rest was split between two existing buildings on the Caledonia campus.

“we took our whole department from three buildings to one,” she said.

Parts of the office complex are still vacant, awaiting the rest of the 1,600 employees the company promised to hire in order to secure tax breaks from the Michigan Economic Growth Authority and Caledonia Township.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s chief of staff Dennis Muchmore joined Woudstra on stage along with State Sen. mark Jansen and State Rep. Ken Yonker. Woudstra used his time at the microphone and afterward to talk about the role of government in the job market.


More than 27 companies were involved in the Farmers Insurance project and 95 percent of the sub contractors were from West Michigan. here were the big players:

–Wolverine Building Group–Rees Masilionis Turley architects (Kansas City)–D9 Systems Inc.–Dan Vos Construction co.–Kent Companies–Kerkstra Precast

Government does not create jobs, he said. instead, it should create an atmosphere in which jobs can be created.

“We’re asking to help put some wind into the sails, and don’t put anchors on the boats,” he said.

Woudstra will be succeeded by Farmers President and COO Jeff Dailey, a Detroit native who spent much of his youth in the Midwest. He said Michigan is a challenging place for the insurance industry.

“It’s starting to change, as Bob mentioned,” Dailey said. “Even the prior (Granholm) administration, they helped open some doors and get some conversations started.”

Woudstra, who lives in the Los Angeles area where Farmers is based, plans to retire back to Michigan next year, spending time with his two children and five grandchildren, all of whom live in the area.

E-mail Cami Reister: and follow her on Twitter at

Farmers Insurance celebrates two new buildings on campus south of Grand Rapids

Is there any way to connect a wireless microphone to a PC?

September 15th, 2011 master No comments

I have a Shure SM87C Microphone and a Beta-87 Wireless System. Does anyone know a way that I can get that microphone to connect to my PC or do I have to buy a microphone that can connect to my PC wired-ly. I really like singing and I want to do some covers of songs. So thanks for all of those who helps.

If it is a Bluetooth microphone and your computer has Bluetooth accessibility, you can connect it up rigt away, other than that you would prob. need a wired one.

Is there any way to connect a wireless microphone to a PC?

Marc Anthony takes NYC tourists for a ride

September 15th, 2011 master No comments

Gray Line New York, honored singer-songwriter, actor, producer and New York icon, Marc Anthony as the newest “Ride of Fame” dedicatee at Pier 78 today.  The event was a ribbon-cutting ceremony where Anthony unveiled his own Gray Line New York bus with his likeness on the front of the vehicle. mark addressed the crowd with words of gratitude and sentiment, prior to revealing the front of the bus for all to see.

“A lot of my dreams came true on these streets. Today, to see this kind of recognition in a city that means so much to me is absolutely overwhelming and to receive it in a landscape that means so much to me and that I understand is an honor beyond belief,” Anthony stated. He then proceeded to act as a tour guide to his fans on top of the bus, and said into the microphone, “This is a great way to the see the city, right?”

Are you going to go riding on a Marc Anthony tour bus?

Marc Anthony takes NYC tourists for a ride