August Moon

Today was the August Moon celebration at my Kung Fu school. The holiday is one of three biggest holidays on the Chinese calendar and from what I hear, August Moon is the second biggest holiday right behind Chinese New Year. I’m honestly not really sure what the third holiday is. Sorry. August Moon was the perfect time to have a party at the school and what kind of party does a Kung Fu school throw? A Kung Fu demonstration party! This was the first time I participated in a demonstration. For the first two years I practiced Kung Fu, I never came to the school on weekends and that is precisely when all of the holiday celebrations/demonstrations occurred. The school is in NYC and while it’s convenient for me to get there after work, this works against me on weekends since I live one hour away on Long Island.

Then something miraculous happened. I failed a promotion test this Spring. Horribly. I wasn’t where I was supposed to be and Sifu said “thou shalt not pass.” As a result, I made some personal sacrifices and began coming in on weekends in addition to actually making all of my weekly classes (instead of signing up for a full schedule and coming when I felt like it). Well, the difference is, as they say in Wrestling, hours on the mat. In my case it was a hardwood floor. Over the summer it was hot and I never sweated as much as I did this summer. Training for the demo was hard. I was going to class four to five times a week. There was always this looming threat of being cut from the demo team. All of my faults were highlighted… daily. All of my “previous background” in martial arts were dragging me down; I had years of bad habits that stuck with me. But then something funny happened. Hard work seemed to be paying off. I was making some progress. The true definition of Kung Fu is not “Chinese martial art” but “the skill attained over a long period of time with much effort,” or something like that.

All of the time I spend in the Mo Gwoon comes at a cost. One day when my mother was over my daughter told her, “Daddy’s is never home.” That’s heartbreaking. All I can say about that is when I am home, I’m home. And while it’s nice to be a dad who’s home all of the time and spending every second of my children’s lives watching them do everything, it’s also nice showing them what it takes to accomplish something in your life. So while I’m not there, I’m still showing them how to live their lives and pursue their dreams. I need to walk this road carefully and I’m mindful to remain absolutely relevant in the lives of my wife and my children. When I am home, I make a point to spend time with each of them. Even when I find some quiet time and I want to do some coding or some writing (I’m in the flow baby!), I always stop what I’m doing and attend to them if they come by to talk. Thanks Harry Chapin.

My family came to see me today which was awesome. My friend John and his son James came and that was double-awesome. I did two forms today, one open hand and one with a bo staff and me and the team I was on did well. I’m not amazing by any means, but I felt like I met the [temporary] bar set for this day. That was fulfilling.


Star Wars

Giovanni and I have been re-watching the Star Wars saga over the past week or two. We are watching the episodes in the “Preferred Order” which is: IV, V, III, VI. We’re skipping I and II since, while gorgeous films, are simply a chore to watch and don’t add much substance. Episodes I and II are something I may watch a while from now out of curiosity but not while G and I are focused on the actual story. The story being essentially Anakin Skywalker’s fall and eventual salvation.

When Giovanni was young, probably 6 or 7, I remember watching Empire with him and studying his face during the big reveal. I’ll never forget his incredulous look. This time around he was the wiser, but still hung on ever word. I was also able to explain a bit about the mythology of Star Wars that I’ve learned over the years. That link was courtesy John or Martin Szinger from like 10 years ago if I recall.

As an aside, I was also privy to studying Giovanni’s face the moment he figure out how to drive a swing by himself. That was another expression of wonder and excitement that I’ll never forget.

Anyway, the “old” episodes really do hold up. While the special effects can’t compare to what we have today, they have a definitive high-quality to them. Meaning, while the methods employed were primitive by today’s standards, a lot of care and expertise was put to the task and the results were revolutionary for the time. The characters and dialogue in the old episodes were so very familiar to me and hearing them again brought a smile to my face. Ewan McGregor definitely saved Episode III. I loved every moment he was in the film and mostly dreaded every moment he was out. That said, there was some fun to be had with the scenes involving Yoda. Me and Giovanni had a laugh as the Jedi were getting slaughtered and they came to the scene where Yoda was to be assassinated. LOL. Nice try.

Another note about the “new” episodes. It’s very interesting to note how our appetite for more sophisticated action sequences has raised over the years. For instance, the swordplay in the old episodes simply can’t compare to the newer episodes. This is a shame. Good choreography of swordplay was possible at the time, as demonstrated by hundreds of chinese kung-fu movies of the era, but the audience was mostly ignorant to this so it didn’t matter.

We still have to watch Return of the Jedi but we haven’t had the time yet to sit down together and get it done. G and I are pretty excited about what Disney is going to do with Episode VII.

Long Island Broncos Yearbook

I just finished the final draft of what was one of the largest projects I’ve ever worked on outside of business. The project was the annual yearbook for the pee-week tackle football league Antonio and Marco have been in for four years, The Long Island Broncos, aka The Seaford Broncos.

Why was the project large?

  • photo collection of 1300+ photos
  • 132 pages of layout
  • 70+ child appreciation pages
  • 40+ financial backers/sponsors
  • 20+ team pages with detailed rosters and coach letters

And I did the whole thing myself. At least the layout, photo organization, etc. I had some great help from the Broncos Board of directors, they did a lot of proofreading, related requirements from previous years, and helped me with soliciting photos, coach letters, etc.

This is the first time I did something like this. Not just a big layout project, but a project for the community. It was very rewarding and I got a lot of exposure to the players, parents, and coaches for all of the age groups.


My methodology mainly involved two main activities:

  • Soliciting photos, sponsor logos and contact  info, child appreciation dedications from the parents, etc.
  • Physically laying out the book, based on the format of previous yearbooks

The first activity all happened by Dec 30 and the latter until a few days ago.

To solicit photos, I created a web page that had instructions on how to submit photos and CAPS and had a collection of thumbnails for all photos submitted so far. I got the majority of photos via e-mail and  few from pictures that  I scanned.

The system I used to lay out the book was provided by, a company dedicated to the creation of yearbooks. Coming from a Pro/Adobe-based background, the flash-based web interface initially frightened me. I thought it would be buggy and have a dearth of features that I needed. I was pleasantly surprised that none of this was true. While the system lacked some basic things I would expect from a page layout tool, such as grouping and alignment functions, it excelled in other areas.

First, the site was very responsive and stable. I never had a strange bug or error. The site worked as advertised and that was honestly the best feature! Stability, who would think?

Second, they had very solid photo manipulation features. In terms of sizing an cropping photos, the interface was dead-simple and productive. I got around the alignment tools by making sure align-to-grid was turned on. So, without much effort, everything got aligned and spacing objects wasn’t a big deal. They also had a solid model for how your content reacted to the edges of the page. There were good snap functions to make sure you didn’t place a photo where it wouldn’t look like you may think it would look. They seem to allow full-bleed layout of photos, too, but I won’t know how good that works until I get the book.

Third, they had really good photo management and search functions. They made it easy to see which photos were used and which had yet to be used. That’s great when you’re trying to get every kid in a photo.

Fourth, they had a nice PDF export facility. I needed this since I wold typically generate a PDF of a page and send it to the parent to make sure they liked the way their Child Appreciation Page (CAP) looked. This whole thing made me nervous because on the forms the parents submitted to me, they wrote notes like, “Please don’t spell my kids wrong again this year.” Jeepers!

In the end, the project took me 4 weeks of light work as I gathered content and 5 or so weeks of pretty intense layout work where I was doing 2-3 hours a night, 5 nights a week.

Here is a sample full-bleed photo layout:

Yearbook Full-bleed

And here is an example of a CAP page:


What’s Next?

Well, the book hasn’t been submitted yet as I have minor corrections to make based on feedback from the board, but I should be able to submit the final draft this weekend.

Next year, I have two ideas to make creation of the yearbook better. In years past, the yearbook has been done by an individual who did the whole thing himself like I did this year. After experiencing the amount of work involved, I can admit that it’s not sustainable to work like that indefinitely. The two ideas to make this a sustainable project even after I am gone are to a) recruit some of the broncos and cheerleaders to help with the book  and have them sign on not only next year but also for the following year so they can mentor new volunteers. Or b) create an adult yearbook committee. And don’t forget c) which is both a and b!

I was thinking of contacting our public library to see if I could get access to their computers for 1 hour a week from October until January so I could host a meeting with broncos and cheerleaders who wanted to learn how to tackle a project like this.

Also, there are a lot of activities that would be best done earlier in the season. Electronic submission for everything would also be ideal. It’s error-prone and slow for me to manually type-in handwritten dedicates made my parents.

So, my goal next year is to create a process and collective mind-share around the  yearbook that can be persisted easily even without my direct involvement.

Until next time.

Kung Fu

I have been taking Kung Fu for a little over a year and a half. Before that, I did Tae Kwon Do for seventeen. I really love the way the Kung Fu school is run. They run it like a college. You sign up for weekly classes and the classes are stable and consistent for an entire semester which lasts around 3 months. Sifu gives each student a recommended curriculum and you basically sign up for the recommended schedule (or as close to it as you can manage) and away you go. When I was doing TKD, I went to 1-2 classes a week, about 1 hour each class. At the Kung Fu school, I go to 1-3 nights and each night is 3 hours of classes.

Don’t misunderstand, my TKD school was really great. They still are. They consistent turn out champion competitors at the national level.  Sport TKD is their specialty. In fact, one of Giovanni’s close friends came in 3rd place for Junior Olympic trials a few weeks ago. That’s pretty amazing considering there are tens of thousands of competitors nationally at his age/weight in TKD. But for whatever reason, things weren’t sticking for me so I moved on. Part of me wants to go back one day and re-learn what I knew and attain master level. I learned many valuable lessons under my 사범, Korean for Master. Internets, don’t let me down. That said, I’ve found a real home studying under Sifu.

One of the main things I like about my Kung Fu school is the consistency. The “Basic Workout” class is tough and very focused on the basics. If you are reading his and have mastery in anything from computer programming to knitting, you know the basics are by far the first and last thing you need to get down before you can gain any kind of mastery. All students take these classes where master-level students take them side-by-side with beginner students. We go over stances, basic punching and kicking, and strength drills. We do this over and over. Every night, every week. For all eternity. It’s all on a hardwood floor too, which is great until you have to do knuckle push-ups in every class. While my knuckles aren’t bothered by this anymore, the 30 slow push-ups and the 60-second hold are still a bit of a challenge for me! As for the other classes, they are very focused on repetition and doing the correct form. Whether it be any of the weaponless or weapon forms, you do the same thing for the entire hour. Every mistake is corrected, constantly. You do one thing for the full hour. There is no moving from one thing to another in that hour, you focus on doing one thing well. This is a tremendous way to learn, but it takes a huge amount of effort, concentration, and discipline. The key to doing any of the movements properly is to understand what the movement is accomplishing. You need to understand what your opponent doing and what you are doing in response. Once you can visualize this, things start getting better.

One of the other students made a post on our private group about how the training helped him survive four days of shoveling in our recent snowstorms. That definitely resonates with me. I might not be an amazing a martial artist, but I remain flexible and relatively strong and don’t feel much different than I did 10 years ago. Shoveling snow for 4 hours doesn’t bother me in the least and I have no back or knee issues. I’m sure the same is true for anyone my age who keeps up with any kind of  exercise regiment. If that’s all I get from my training then I’m pretty happy.

My wife is awesome for letting me go 2-3 nights a week, returning home typically around 10:45pm. The kids don’t see me much during the week. Giovanni being the notable exception since he goes to bed really late every night. But I only see Sera maybe once or twice during the week since she’s in bed by 7. So, my weekends are all about the kids and I try and spend every minute with them.

Free Bird

This coming Sunday, Giovanni and his band Infinity² will be performing at K.J. Farrells in Bellmore again. They performed last year as part of Music Emporium’s band program. Last year, Giovanni had been playing for about a year. He’s now two years into guitar and he’s really starting to become comfortable with the instrument. I hear him play and I’m pretty amazed. As a parent, it’s great to see your child love learning a skill like guitar. Hey, I mean I’d be fine if my child wasn’t really accomplishing anything but was able to maintain good friendships and was essentially a happy child. It’s a bonus when you see them learning skills and basically growing. In any case, the last song on their setlist is Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird. Giovanni has some crazy solo work to do in the second half of the song but I’ve seen him practice it many times and as far as my layman ear’s can tell, he has it totally nailed. I can’t wait to see him perform with the rest of his band.

Giovanni is doing well at Chaminade. One of the highlights of my night is when Giovanni comes up and asks me or Lisa to test him on material he’s studying for an upcoming test. We hold his notes and ask him questions and he just goes and gives us a lecture, describing what he knows. He does it like he’s telling us a story, a story he enjoys. Awesome.

Antonio is full-on into PC gaming and he has a group of friends he’s on Skype with nightly. A few of them are from out of state, Utah and elsewhere. I screened his calls to make sure they were kids, of course. He makes videos and posts them up to YouTube. He’s active on twitter, promoting his videos, and he’s getting pretty good at Photoshop and Premiere. He watches Adobe tutorials and I’m pretty impressed with the skill set he’s learning. I suppose I shouldn’t be thrilled he’s constantly playing games with his friends, but again he’s happy and he talks to me so it’s all good. And I love how he’s getting really good at those professional-grade tools. I have a feeling those skills will come in very handy in the years ahead.

Marco and Antonio are at the tail end of their regular basketball seasons, but we signed them up for more advanced post-season basketball. We’re hoping they get picked up by one of the travel teams, but I think they need more work. The place we have them at has excellent instructors and I expect them to get a lot better since they never really had this kind of advanced instruction. They love  the sport and put a lot of effort into it. They’re also both heavily into Nike sneakers, too. Many of the kids are, even the ones that don’t play Basketball. It amazes me how Nike created such powerful brands around their footwear. These sneakers are as stylish as they are expensive. They cost $200 or more. It’s a shame they cost so much but make no mistake, they perform. They are made really well and provide superior grip to anything else we’ve tried. I’ve seen it before my very eyes… kids slipping on sub-par floors and the kids with the good shoes have a firm grip on the ground, allowing them to break, turn, and accelerate as fast as their limbs will take them.

Serafina is playing a lot of basketball too. I didn’t sign her up at the more advanced sports center, even though they have programs for 2nd graders. I mean, there is only so much financial burden we can take. However, she’s in C.Y.O. and P.A.L. and ;earning a lot. We will probably sign her up at the sports center this coming summer, though. It will be an excellent thing for her to do. They have camps, too, which is something we may look at.

Serafina is also starting to draw every day. She has her little spot on our kitchen island and she watches Netflix TV shows with her headphones and draws for hours. I started teaching her formally how to draw and she’s loving the time with me. I’m not a great artist, but my mom and Grandfather were and I spent my childhood struggling to become really good. I got so-so, but gave it up for programming computers. I can’t wait to see how Sera develops with her drawing.

Oh, interesting factoid. None of my kids watch TV. I mean the kind with commercials. They are the Netflix generation. Also, none of my kids have any interest in Facebook. Interesting, no?

Lots of basketball

Antonio has been playing a lot of basketball. His coach entered their C.Y.O. team into a few tournaments and they did really well. They made it to the championship game in the Bayhawk Christmas Classic hosted by St. Dominic but fell to Sacred Heart, a stacked team from North Merrick that didn’t seem to belong in our division. Antonio has been heavy into PC gaming since he built his own computer this summer. He’s getting better and better with Adobe Photoshop, Premiere, and After Effects. I am still hoping he’ll wake up and start monetizing his growing skills. Lots of his peers could benefit from his ability to create intros to their youtube channel videos and Antonio is fully acclimated to the whole process.

As an aside… it’s interesting to see how Antonio and Giovanni differ in their view of technology. For Christmas, they both wanted upgraded video cards. Antonio wanted a GeForce 770 a hefty upgrade from his 660. Giovanni wanted nothing other than the 780, a card that came with a $200 premium over the 770. Antonio looked at the benchmarks and immediately saw only moderate performance gains over the 770. He knew Santa has a “budget” and opted for the 770 + some sleek new Air Jordan 11 Gamma Blue’s. In the end, Giovanni did get slightly better frames, but Antonio didn’t care and is loving his new basketball shoes.

Marco is even more intensely into basketball shoes than his older brother Antonio. He’s on 2 basketball teams and is online looking at shoes almost daily. Now, you may think these shoes are overrated. Overprice sure, that’s true. However, compared to a “cheap shoe” they definitely perform much better. When you watch Marco run across the court and stop on a dime, you know the shoe is doing it’s work. A lot of the kids in an “average” shoe are slipping and sliding all over the place. Of course, Marco uses baby wipes to clean the bottom of his shoes before and after every game so clearing the   dirt and dust from the rubber bottoms also helps. Who said obsession was a bad thing?

Sera is also in 2 basketball programs: C.Y.O. (Catholic Youth Organization) and P.A.L  (Police Activity League… I think). She loves it so far and now that I’ve been through things twice before with Antonio and Marco, I’m pretty well prepared to give her the opportunities the other boys didn’t have. That is… if you want to get good at a sport, you need to do it as much as you can, all year long. Hey, if they love it then I support them.

Infinity² – Giovanni and his band rock K.J. Farrells in Bellmore

Giovanni has been taking guitar lessons since January 2012 so he’s been playing for a little over a year now. He has also been in a band class since November. For this additional hour a week, he and a few other kids his age practice playing songs together. The band who call themselves Infinity² played their first gig at K.J. Farrells in Bellmore on February 10. The Music Emporium did a great job poutting together the event. K.J. Farrells is a great place for local live music. The Sunday afternoon was a perfect time, too, and we just barely missed canceling the event since we had that big snow storm the day before. They had Blonde Ambition on tap, a great beer from the Great South bay brewery. So that was like the cherry on top of a very tasty sundae.


The members are as follows:

  • Brendan Tominey – Guitar
  • Giovanni Codignotto – Guitar <—- that’s my kid!
  • Max DeGeorge – Bass
  • Samantha Coppola – Vocals
  • Vincent Tenaglia – Drums

Brendan is Giovanni’s friend from school. They are led by a veteran musician Artie Blaurock. Arty has been playing in bands and teaching music for decades. If you google him you’ll see he’s got a lot of experience under his belt. In fact, he was Giovanni’s music teacher at his pre-school.


There were a lot of bands playing that day and Infinity² were the closers. They rocked the house. Here is a shot of a bunch of Giovanni and Brendan’s friends from school, with Serafina as a bonus:



Here is a picture of the band after one of their practices:


Here are youtube links to each song. I got them all on video. At the end I have a link to Giovanni’s awesome solos.

Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey

Wanted Dead or Alive – Bon Jovi

Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin

Before He Cheats – Carrie Underwood

Unfortunately, the audio was cut off on this one. I guess it was good enough to trigger the DMCA hornets? However, I uploaded a copy of it to my website: It’s best to download this link, streaming is not optimized.

Beat It – Michael Jackson

And here is a special video I made that has all of Giovanni’s solos:

The band is working on their next gig. I think the experience is awesome and I’m so very proud of all the kids who played in the band. They are all so very talented. For Giovanni, I’m especially proud of his effort over the past year and how he pulled off some of those difficult solos.

Science Fair

This past weekend, we finished up Giovanni and Antonio’s science fair projects. We wound up doing two projects dealing with electricity. We had changed plans a few weeks ago as our original idea was to grow plants. I don’t know what the kids were thinking when they picked those projects. Electricity is so much cooler than growing plants in different soils and seeing  how they grew. I mean, if we were growing carnivorous plants, that might be pretty cool. But I digress.

Antonio’s project was called “Is this connected to  that” and it was about an electrical circuit and conductive materials. Antonio build a tester himself from instructions on the intertubes. We got a little buzzer, some alligator clips, some wire, a battery holder and a few batteries. Here is a diagram of what he made:

Circuit tester components

Antonio generated a chart of materials that conducted electricity. We also tried a few light bulbs and saw if we could make them glow. We couldn’t make the household ones glow cause those require a lot more voltage. We had a few small 3V tiny light bulbs that lit up fine. When it came time for an Ikea 12V bulb, we had to use 8 batteries in series. Here is a picture of that bulb all glowy:

Lighting a 12W bulb

That’s our unit with 8 batteries, here is the finished 3V tester with buzzer:

Finished curcuit tester

We also experimented with a lamp, seeing that the switch broke the circuit and removing the light bulb also broke the circuit. The cool thing was that all of this was new to Antonio so he learned a ton. I also learned that 8 batteries put together in series can create quite the sparkle show if you don’t pay attention.

Giovanni’s project saw the construction of the world’s simplest motor. Here are  the components:

Materials for the simple motor

This was a pretty fun project. We used neodymium magnets, which are always a lot of fun. They are also a pain in the ass cause they draw things from quite a distance and it’s not uncommon to get pinched in a sudden and painful manner. The laser tachometer was very cool. It’s rated at measuring speeds up to 100k rpm. We were able to get this motor spinning at 4900 rpm, which is pretty damn fast. We spent a lot of time eliminating friction and making sure the motor was balanced. WD-40 was our friend. Giovanni and I had a little contest to see who could get the thing spinning the fastest. We did a bunch of trials with different number of batteries.

Here was some of our raw data:

Magnets Top Observed Speed in rounds per minute (rpm) Notes
2 200 Could not really get it going
3 2400 Super-well balanced
3 2800 Super-well balanced
3 1200 Slight wobble
4 1900 Well balanced, low friction
4 1200 Well balanced, low friction
4 900 Wobbled
4 4400 Super smooth
5 1200 Well balanced, low friction
5 4900 Super smooth
5 1520 Well balanced, low friction
11 4400 Super-well balanced

We massaged the data and were able to see these trends:




We would have ran a lot more trials to get a better statistical distribution, but getting the thing up to speed was not easy. Sometimes we could not get friction eliminated. Sometimes we expecte the batteries were getting drained. It really wasn’t easy. If I were more handy, I would have tried to build some kind of rigging that would keep things more stable, but I’m not that handy.

Until next year!

Using iPhoto “ratings” to manage retained media

Starting in 2013, I created a new iPhoto album that contains all of my RAW images in Adobe’s Digital Negative (DNG) format. My camera is set to shoot in RAW + JPEG. The RAW get converted from Sony’s proprietary RAW to Adobe’s RAW via Adobe’s Digital RAW Converter app. Photos from my iPhone are also in there, but since I have my NEX-6 with me on most occasions  I don’t wind up taking pictures with my phone very often. The JPEG images that my camera saves side-by-side with the RAW are necessary since that’s the only way to get full-resolution images into my iPhone via Sony’s PlayMemories WiFi app.

These RAW images take up a lot of space, a lot more than a standard JPEG. Images are from 10MB – 20-MB for my 16Mp camera. So, getting rid of crappy shots, the sad majority for me, is crucial to making sure I don’t chew up valuable hard drive space on sub-par photos.

I use iPhotos star ratings to manage this. All photos that are targeted for long-term savings are rated. Unrated photos are collected in a Smart Album with a simple rule, “Show all unrated photos”. I quickly go through this smart album and use the Apple keys Command-N, where N is 1 through 5. Typically, for a large number of photos, I’ll either mark photos as 2 or 3 stars in this pass. 2 basically means, “probably delete” and 3 means “probably keep.” Since I’m in a smart album, it begins to empty as I rate photos. When I’m done, the album is empty,

In a second pass, I’ll go through the most recent events and create a smart album with all photos with 3 stars and pick the photos I actually like. I’ll rate these with 4 or 5 stars.

I also try and delete bracketed or mulit-shot photos which are simply redundant. That can take more time.

Phone and iPad Synchronization

I have a few standard “Smart Albums”  that are used for synchronizing with my phone. These are albums for 4+ star photos, 5-star photos and for last 90 days. I also exported “best” photos from 2010, 2011, and 2012 and include just those photos in my 2013 album. These are synchronized on my phone too. This way, my phone has photos I thought were best from 2010 to now in addition to any photo I haven’t deleted in the past 90 days.

Deleting Photos

When it comes time to delete photos, iPhoto gets a little  finicky. I can’t move photos from the 1-2 star smart album directly to the trash. For  some reason, iPhoto thinks that’s not a valid thing to do. I can’t flag all of these photos and delete them from the Flagged folder, either. I can go through each photo individually, reveal it in the event, and delete them one by one this way. That would take too much time.

The only way I found to do this is to search for all photos and sort this view by rating. I can then select all of the 1-2 star photos from the search results view and move them to the trash.

Media Obsession

I have a bit of media obsession going on. Lots of parents remark about it when I go to school events and sports events. I’m kind of self-conscious about it. Yet I don’t do anything to curb my obsessive compulsive disorder to record every event I can. I’m that guy with the camera and the tripod. I’m the one who sends out the e-mail to the team with the YouTube video link to today‘s game. I’m that guy.


I recently got a Sony α NEX-6 and this camera has only made things worse. It’s a small compact mirrorless camera that has a reasonably-sized APS-C sensor.




That’s short of a full-frame 35mm sensor and it lacks the fast-focus you get from a good DSLR, but mirrorless cameras are one of those disruptive technologies that I feel are likely to displace cameras that contain a mirror mechanism for exposure and focus. The camera also takes HD video, like your iPhone. But unlike your iPhone, it takes progressive 1080p video at 60 frames per second, at a decent bitrate and with low noise. The bitrate is pretty good, 28Mbps… but videophiles say  the bitrate should be a bit higher, say 35Mbps or more. From what I can see, the bitrate is fine for my needs as I don’t notice any low-bitrate artifacts. But then again, I’m not an expert. It must suck to be one of those experts cause they are always criticizing products. They seem like a really unhappy bunch.


So, I have this camera that can take decent stills and good video. I shoot in RAW, which yields rather large proprietary files. All good cameras shoot in RAW, which is just the camera’s native data for an image with no JPEG compression. I wind up converting these  RAW files into Adobe Digital Negative (DNG), which offers some lossless compression and halves the size of the files. DNG’s also work well in Photoshop, which is my primary tool for messing with the images. The video taken by the NEX-6 is in AVCHD format, which the Mac doesn’t like too much. It’s a good format in terms of file size to quality. It seems to be natively understood by the Blue-Ray spec, so you can basically copy AVCHD files onto a DVD-ROM and play them like a Blu-Ray disk. I haven’t tried it yet.

The problem with dealing with these files is there are so many of them. Particularly when you’re so obsessive like I am. The import tools are pretty primitive. I wind up copying the files by hand with little assistance by software. Unfortunately, the filesystem time differs from the shoot time. This is not a big deal until you start to get tens of thousands of files. iPhoto does a good job  on import and it organizes files by the shoot time contained in the EXIF tags. I never used iPhoto for RAW files (or DNG’s) but I tested it this weekend and it seems to work reasonably well. I may start using it. Here is how one of my DNG files appears in iPhoto:

Screen Shot 2013-01-14 at 12.35.54 AM

There is no analogous media manager for AVCHD files, which are not supported by iPhoto. I would not really want the files in iPhoto anyway. iPhoto hides the photos in a special package file. The package file looks like an ordinary file, but it’s actually an elaborate directory structure where the original media exists, thumbnails exist, modified copies exist, etc. In case you didn’t know, all OS X Apps are package files. They have tons of files hidden within. The Finder abstracts this from you and presents .app files as a unique  icon that looks like a single file. I guess most of you knew this already.

Getting back to iMovie, iMovie sees all moves in an iPhoto libray as a single “event” called “iPhoto Movies”. If you have years of video clippage, clicking on that folder in iMovie means you want 10 minutes for the thumbnails to load. Ick. No, I need the video files separate in the file system. In fact, editing programs that I currently use like Adobe Premier, write a lot of extra files to the directory where the video clips reside. Imports in Premiere link to files, rather than make a copy. I am not sure how iPhoto would react to these extra files.


But remember I basically copy my AVCHD files onto my computer manually. To make matters worse, my camera starts movie filenames back at 00000.MTS each time I clear the directory. This is unlike the photo files, which maintain an increasing image count. I believe the reason for this is the directory structure maintained by the camera fits some insane spec for AVCHD/Blu-Ray file structures. It seems if you have 5 video files in this dir structure, the first one must be 00000.MTS. That’s my theory.

So I find I’m perplexed as to how I can effectively manage the video imports. I started to just manually create directories but that was so arbitrary and prone to typos. I was not happy about that. I was sent into fits of depression. I didn’t talk to anyone. I really had a hard time residing to the fact that I’d need to manually create folders like 2013/January/Massapequa Wrestling Match. To make matters worse, the file datatime stamps were wrong. They reflected the time I imported the video and not when the video was taken.


So I hacked some bash, dawg, and created a little tool called exiforg. You can find the source code on the GitHubs. This script reads the EXIF tags from the file, figures out the date the media was recorded and does two things:

  • Touch the media files with the datetime stamp of recording
  • Optionally moves the file into a date directory, e.g.  2013.01.14

This yields a nice structure like so:

├── 2012.11.29
├── 2012.12.02
├── 2012.12.07
├── 2012.12.11
├── 2012.12.13
├── 2012.12.14
├── 2012.12.20
├── 2012.12.21
├── 2012.12.22
├── 2012.12.23
├── 2012.12.24
├── 2012.12.25
├── 2012.12.29
├── 2012.12.30
├── 2012.12.31
├── 2013.01.01
├── 2013.01.05
├── 2013.01.06
├── 2013.01.09
├── 2013.01.12
└── 2013.01.13

In each directory, I have AVCHD files. If I used those files in an Adobe Premiere project, then I also have a lot of temp files. One recent addition I made was to introduce files, in markdown format, which allow me to journal the story behind the  videos in that directory.


That is all I have to say about this.