About technique and more.

Tourbox NEO review

How often did you think.
“man I would love something that replaces my keyboard for shortcuts”
If that’s you, this might be of interest for you.

As you guys know I’m always 100% honest in my reviews. So let’s start by stating that this product was send to us for review, but that will not for even 1% influence my opinion. So let’s start.

What is it?
Tourbox is a small but very well build (and heavy) external device with buttons and dials that can be “freely” programmed to replace shortcuts. Now there are several solutions out there and some fall in the catagory “total junk” and “genius”. Let me start with stating that the tourbox is very close to the segment “Very usable to genius”. Let me explain.

These kind of devices are a mixed bag for me and a lot of people.
When we have a keyboard in front of us we can learn the shortcuts and for example order a small keyboard that you lay on your lap or next to you while working, or one can just chose to operate everything with a mouse/trackpad, and in all honesty for a lot of software this is still my prefered way of working, for example take lightroom, I’ve never found a product that actually speeds up the trackpad/mouse workflow, for the simple reason that Lightroom has a very clear structure and you can work from top to bottom setting everything up and seeing you also skip certain settings working with the mouse/trackpad is just very very easy also because when you use local adjustments you already need a mouse/trackpad/tablet.

So although it does work flawlessly in Lightroom I would probably never use it myself for this, no matter what others say 🙂
Now let’s look at Photoshop.

The more you work in Photoshop the more you are almost using shortcuts blindely, for the simple reason you use them all the time, and also Photoshop is a totally different program than Lightroom. For me Lightroom is really based on a mouse/trackpad workflow where Photoshop is really aimed at a tablet/pen control surface PLUS shortcuts on a keyboard, you actually hardly to never touch the mouse/trackpad, and in that case…. man this is genius.

We all have our favorite shortcuts.
For me it’s always the following I program.
Brush size, Rotate canvas, switch for/background (X), Curves, Levels, Saturation, zoom in and out, 100%, fill and of course the usual Space, CRTL, SHIFT etc.
And those can all be programmed in the Tourbox, and this makes it very usable for Photoshop and other software that is really based on shortcuts and non mouse/trackpad operation.

So let’s take a look at the software itself so you get an idea about what’s possible (and it’s a lot)

First of all, don’t worry that you have to do a lot of work before using the tourbox, there are several presets available in the software right after the installation. So when you use Photoshop and Lightroom you’re already covered. But what about if you want it differently (what I would do without a doubt). Well that’s very easy.

It’s very easy to create a new preset, and after that the fun really starts.
Of course you can emulate the normal keystrokes, but also combinations with SHIFT, CRTL etc.
But… and that’s actually very cool, you can also combine keys on the tourbox, for example the normal dial changes brushsize, but if you hold the side button you can use th same dial for screenzoom for example. And that makes the tourbox A LOT more usable, you are literally not limited to the keys you see (well actually you are, but you can also combine the keys making it a lot more usable).

Now this sounds awesome, but it also brings in a problem I experience almost everyday, “where the heck did I …..”, and with so many options it can indeed very quickly become very confusing. It also doesn’t really help the device is black including the keys (later more on that).

Now loads of people will program the Tourbox the way that they use it, and the nice thing is that you can download those from the TourBox website. Just search for the program you want to use and download the presets.

 

Luckily you can always call up the hub and see what’s programmed.
And if you don’t know all the shortcuts, don’t panic, the TourBox software helps you out by the build in functions menu. This makes programming literally a breeze.

 

Conclusion
Ok, so how does it work in reality.
Let me start with the positives.

First off all the device is build very nicely, it’s heavy enough to not drift around the table or your lap, but not too heavy you can’t travel with it. Also size wise it’s a very smart size, it’s not too small and certainly not to big, plus a BIG plus…. it uses USB-C, I still don’t understand why manufactores still release gear with other connections than USB-C.

Also there is so much flexibility that it’s almost impossible that there is a situation where you can’t use it.
So overall I’m very positive about the TourBox. But let’s also take a look at the negatives.

First of all one could argue that it should be wireless, and I start with this one because I agree and disagree. You do have to realize the price point of the TourBox, compared to some competitors the TourBox is A LOT cheaper and when you add wireless you will need a battery and of course BT or WiFi board which will drive the price up and also the stability, I’m actually mostly a fan of devices that also have the option to be used with a wired connection because I hate batteries that run out, or connections that are instable (and yes that happens a lot).

Ok so what can they improve
Now do realize that some of these options will add some costs or are not possible in this product.

First off all I think the TourBox is genius for Photoshop but also when recording and editing video and music, and especially for music it’s awesome to be able to start recording/punch ins with just a quick tap on a button instead of reaching out to the keyboard or using the mouse/keyboard, and while editing zooming is just plain awesome…. “Hey Frank this is positive, not negative buddy…” yeah I know, now when I record music or edit photos/videos I’m a bit of “batman” I’m editing in a dark area and in most cases there is just not enough light to see the pure black TourBox, this is also the reason I’m using keyboards with backlit keys. I would love for them to add a light behind the keys, just to see where the keys are and not having to trust my fingers in the dark. Now not everyone will be editing in a “batcave” but if you do this is really a negative thing about the TourBox, I love black gear, but man it’s hard to see in the dark.

Now adding backlights would be pretty easy I guess, just place a ledstrip in the housing and it will show through the side of the keys, it doesn’t have to be disco ball but just outlining the keys would help a lot. The next step would be a small display that shows what you programmed under the keys, I don’t see a lot of products that use this but in all honestly it would make it worth double the price for me personally, because especially when you use the TourBox in 4-5 apps it can be VERY confusing where what is. In all fairness on my XP-Pen tablets after hours and hours of use I know most of the buttons, but still…. I’m using console tape next to the keys with the functions because the most used keys I know where they are but keys you don’t use a lot can still be confusing, and these kind of devices are build for speed and easy workflow, the fact that most keys are shaped differently does help a lot, I’ve tested several solutions that use the same buttons (just a lot of them) and I never really used them for the simple reason I just lost track and eventually interest. By using different shapes it makes it 10x easier to remember.

The thing that I would LOVE to see, and I really think it should be added is support for iOS.
Now bare with me for this one.
I know most of you still edit on desktops or laptops, but you can’t deny that the iPads are making huge waves at the moment and for me the iPad pro 12.9″ M1 actually fully replaced my laptop and for 90% my desktop, and indeed that means I use the iPad for everything from photography to video editing and media consumption.

Now on a desktop and laptop you already have a keyboard an a mouse/trackpad connected but not on an iPad, the only reason I have a keyboard connected when editing is for certain shortcuts which I find easier than using the touch interface, and for that I would not connect a keyboard but would literally LOVE a solution like the TourBox, in fact I would use it almost daily seeing more and more app makers are adding loads of shortcuts, and editing with a keyboard next to me is possible but I would love the TourBox (or another solution) connected to the iPad.

When talking to manufactorers I often hear they don’t look at the iPad pro as a serious device and I strongly feel they were right 2-3 years ago, however when we now look at what Adobe is doing with Lightroom and Photoshop, but also apps like LumaFusion, Cubasis, Beatmaker3, affinity photo etc. I really feel they are very wrong to not take the iPad pro serious, and luckily soon Capture One will be released on the iPad pro M1 which I think will break open the way for more software makers. And let’s be honest with the new M1 it should be pretty simple for TourBox to port their software to the iPad.

So should you run out and buy a TourBox?
Well if you compare it to the price of a normal keyboard… no absolutely not.
BUT…. that’s not fair, it’s a totally different product and well worth it’s price especially when compared to other solutions.

So when you find yourself looking for shortcuts in software and would wish there was a way to have this all easy accessable the TourBox might be the perfect solution for you. I’ll keep using it behind the desktop we record music on and do the editing when I’m home, and this has nothing to do with the quality but the simple fact in the studio we use XP-Pen tablets that already have more than enough shortcut keys. But if you are using a tablet that doesn’t have enough hardkeys (most don’t have enough) combining your tablet with the TourBox I can HIGHLY recommend and I mean HIGHLY, it will make your life a lot easier. But do make sure you have a little but of light in your workarea. Or wait for TourBox to release a special Doorhof white version with backlighting (just kidding).

If you also want a TourBox, get them (or anything else :D) via this link and also support our work.
https://amzn.to/3wTPihQ

An awesome filter to spice up your flares

I love photography, but most of all I love to play with lights.
For me, the challenge and the cool thing about light is that you don’t just light your subject with it, but you can also create the total mood, add a color and you can even set that mood even more.

When you’re feeling blue, add some blue, when you feel in love ad some red.
Yeah, I know pretty cheesy.

However besides light use as in contrast and color, there is something else that REALLY enhances the mood of your setup, and it’s actually something that a lot of people don’t realize, lensflare.

In simple terms, lensflare is something you don’t want in your images, it washes out the blacks, creates weird reflections if you don’t pay attention and it’s just overall a very nasty effect that you shouldn’t want in your images, this is also why most lens manufacturers try their best to prevent this from happening by using special coatings on their elements/lenses to bring it back to as low as possible (totally eliminating lensflare in all situations is near impossible).

“But wait a minute Frank, in the title I thought you liked it?”
Yep, ignore everything you just read, although it is the way they want it for a lot of people.
For me, lensflare is one of the tools I use to create a special look in my images, and in my personal opinion it’s a very powerful tool that is very hard to realistically recreate in post-processing, it can be done (like everything) but… well it just looks different.

Now as mentioned before modern lenses are almost always coated against lens flare. So to have those nice creamy lens flares you have a view options which all have some drawbacks.


First off, old lenses.
Buy a converter to mount old M42 lenses on your camera and you can have awesome effects, and not just lensflares, man I just can’t express how much I love shooting with old lenses on my modern camera. It immediately gives you not only a different feeling but also a different look, it really gives me a healthy and creative kick so to say. Luckily with most modern cameras, you can get converter rings that make it possible to use almost every lens ever made on your camera, take a look for example at the spectrum that F&K Concept delivers, I’ve been using their converters for years and was never disappointed. I also use them on my TechArt and FotoDiox AF converters (which makes it possible to shoot autofocus with manual lenses on Sony cameras, yeah it’s awesome). And those old lenses really do the trick.

Second, Lensbaby
Also here it’s a matter of I can’t express how much I love this company. My first experience with them was very negative, weird lenses with magnetic discs that never really did what I wanted, but times change and at the moment Lensbaby offers a wide variety of awesome lenses that vary from razor-sharp tilt lenses to super creative reflection-based systems and super smooth focus lenses. It’s a company you really should have high on your list when you’re more creative with your photography or video. The disadvantage is that their lenses are manual focus only (at the moment).

So what is third…..
Well, it seems I might have found the perfect all-round solution, and I couldn’t be more enthusiastic.
One of my friends online (Paul Monaghan, make sure to check out his work too) pointed me towards a filter by F&K Concept, now I have to immediately say that I’m not a filter guy, I do own several like a polarizer and ND filters but in all honesty, I hardly use them, unless I really need them, but it’s more like a tool than something I use creatively, and let’s be honest I’m also not so happy with my screwdriver that I post a review about it, they do what they have to do and…. Well, that’s it. If you need them, get them and use them.

But this is different, and I mean totally different.
I’m talking about the Black Mist Filter.
So what is it?

The Black Mist filter is a filter you screw in front of your favorite lens (see where I’m going with this?) and now when you use it normally there is nothing you see, the images are sharp as you’re used to, and when you zoom in you can see a very nice sort of glow over your highlights, but nothing that will jump out like “oh wow look at that” if you don’t know it, you won’t really notice it.

But that all changes when you start adding some light in the mix aimed at the lens (filter), now the image totally transforms from standard to, let me choose my words carefully, pure art and excitement (well at least for me).

For years one of my on-and-off stage tricks that always have people first laughing out loud and then realizing it’s pretty cool is to have one of the attendees “breath on my lens” this creates a layer of water droplets op the lens and this can create (if you’re lucky) very nice effects, (now that I type this I realize how the world has changed since COVID, I would not do that anytime soon with people I don’t know).

But you don’t need to do that anymore, the Black Mist Filter does something very similar.
The filter is scattered with small black dots, you hardly see them with the naked eye, but man they work.
It’s an effect that’s very hard to describe without 50% of the people quitting the review with a remark like “yeah sure”, so let’s just show you what it does.

Because we don’t shoot a lot of models at the moment due to the COVID rules I’ve decided to use the filter during a session I did for Tethertools and see what I could do with it in a studio setup and show you exactly the difference. So here we go.


This image is without the filter.



And here I added the filter.
Lighting setup is 100% the same, NOTHING has changed, as you can see this is a HUGE difference, and in all honesty, it is an effect that I think is just perfect for spicing up fashion shots and especially street and travel photography (can’t wait to test that out soon).

Now I did use the filter on two digital classroom streams before but I didn’t show a before and after during those live streams, but just to show you how it works in a setup like that here are two images from those streams.

Conclusion
It’s not often that there is an accessory that really triggers my creativity like the Black Mist Filter, the main attraction I think is that you can use it on all your favorite lenses, and by choosing your angles in the field or the studio you can go from a normal-looking image with some cool highlights to let me put it mildly “pieces of art”. Yeah, I’m really that convinced about it.

Now this is not a filter for people that just place it in front of their lenses and think they now have Instagram on their lens, you do have to know a little bit about how light behaves and how to get lensflares in the first place, but let’s be honest, just look through the viewfinder and you immediately see the result, so compose through the viewfinder till you see what you like (lensflares vary immensely by just slightly changing the angle) and press the shutter, and… smile. (not the model but you).

I really can’t recommend this filter enough, if you want to really spice up your images and create some cool art without breaking the bank and using different lenses than you’re used to… get the Black Mist Filter, you’ll thank me later.

This is a 100% honest review, but we also have to continue our work and help with this.
Order your filter via the link below (or any other product via that link) and you support our work via the affiliate codes on Amazon. https://amzn.to/3xeahwA

 

If your size is sold out, use this link

 

For more about K&F check https://www.kentfaith.com/

New ipad pro… Wow

So the new ipad pro has the m1 chip which is not a real surprise, but it is….

I expected apple to rename the m1 to an A version to prevent people from thinking/expecting the iPad pro to run full macos apps.

But now they kept the m1 banner I’m really excited to think about the possibilities. Yes the iPad pro is touch. But… When you connect a keyboard and mouse….

So why not run full photoshop with a tablet and keyboard. And when you’re mobile default to the touch version.

Same for logic and final cut pro x
Also for the creators of plugins having the same infrastructure would open up HUGE possibilities for the iPad pro

IF apple doesn’t close it off with something unnecessary (which they probably will)

This is in all honesty the one thing I really don’t like about the iPad series. There is so much potential but the heart of the workflow is file management and that is insanely bad in the iPad ecosystem.

Files are corrupted during copying to external drives and let’s be honest it’s insane you cant just use the file manager from every app. I’ve tried several video players for example before I found one that can play from a drive.

Same with for example beatmaker3. It’s like apple thinks its normal that people copy all their content first on the internal memory before even being able to audition it. With the new ios I really hoped apple would deliver a good file system instead of a so-so solution.

In my opinion this is one of the main issues with the whole ipad integration and the one I struggled with the most during my switch to a mobile workflow.

With the m1 banner I really hope apple will open it up a bit more and make it possible to run full versions off their software if you connect a keyboard and mouse .

What’s your take on the new ipad pro ?
I can’t wait to get one.

The year 2020, a year so bad they named it twice

Yeah sorry had to put that one in the title, I thought it really summed up 2020 best.
So as every year you can read what someone did that year in the yearly overview, but this year I decided to break that semi tradition, for the simple reason like most of you guys (who did follow the rules) we have been in almost complete lockdown this year. Yes we did work of course (what was possible) but for the workshops it’s been the worst year you can imagine, where I normally teach twice a week, do events, seminars etc. we ended up this year with less the 10 workshops and 1 event, it’s been bad, really bad. But compared to probably most others we are incredibly blessed and lucky, so no complaints from our side, we are still here mostly healthy and our business didn’t take a huge hit thanks to Annewiek who actually could work most of the year with Tethertools and help me with the online parts.

So what do you do in a year like this?
In decided to not look at it from the negative side (pfff) but from a more positive side, finally we have some time to do things we normally don’t have time for, the only problem….. and I don’t know if you experienced the same thing…. I just couldn’t move myself to be super creative, it always feels like there is some sort of barrier, so I decided to focus on different things.

A monster tutorial
The first thing I did was record a 7 and a half hour instructional video on Photoshop and lightroom. Something you guys have been asking for for years and seeing the amount of work I always pushed it forward, and not for nothing, it took me a month of recording and editing (in parts of course) to complete this “monster” but I’m happy I did, the responses have been awesome and I’m very happy with the result. (you can download the video here)

 

A new book
2020 also saw the release of my new Dutch book about working with speedlights.
I already wrote a book about this a few years ago but decided to completely rewrite it instead of doing a “new version”, which often means you buy the same book but updated, and to be honest… I don’t like that idea.

When the book was released we got a lot of people asking for an English version, so we decided (well actually Annewiek) to translate the book ourselves for the English reading market and we are going to release the book ourselves, so not via a publisher, this way we have total control. We are being assisted by two American friends of us with the translation and at the moment we are half way through, so we expect a 2021 release, it will be a digital release.

 

Another tutorial
Yeah somehow you guys love these 😉
One of the most visited workshops is without a doubt “Glamour : the light of the classical masters”
Everywhere where I teach this subject the people are super enthusiastic and kept asking for a full length tutorial about this subject. And let’s be honest it does contain a lot of unique topics like working with flags and total light control.

Filming this one was a challenge seeing we couldn’t use any models.
So Annewiek and I filmed everything ourselves during the lockdown and left everything open where we needed a model. In the summer this was possible and we filmed the remaining parts with two of our most fitting models. And in all honesty I think it’s one of my best tutorials ever, it’s full with creative solutions for that old fashioned look like Harcourt, film-noir etc. But it also contains a lot of theory about shadow fall off and edge transfers (trust me it’s awesome).
(you can download the video here)

 

iPad pro and being more mobile
If you remember correctly I started an experiment last year just before our trip to South Africa with using the iPad pro as a replacement for my laptop. This worked out pretty well but there were a lot of problems, which were semi solved with the release of iOS13 which made it possible to use external harddrives. But to completely replace my laptop I needed a lot more, so I decided to use 2020 to see what I can do if I really pushed it, so lets continue this blog post about my favorite ways to use the iPad pro.

In 2020 we got a wakeup call, loads of things have changed, and we were forced by an unknown invisible enemy to distance ourselves from our work, from each other and our whole way of thinking. For me it meant going from being a full time educator and fashion/model/celebrity photographer to…. absolutely nothing. Of course I can still teach online (which I do) but it’s not like shooting a real session/workshop with a model.

Now of course I have more interests than just photography.
So I started out with doing some more product shots.
Very soon I started to see this as a fun experiment and decided to really limit myself (or not).
Most remarks I get during seminars and workshops is “I don’t have that…..” and just fill in whatever you want, there is always an excuse to NOT do something, while I’m more the kind of guy that finds solutions. So the idea rose to start doing some shoots with just two led tubes from Nanlite and my mobile phone and only using mobile devices to edit on.

 

Photography apps and workflows
Without any doubt the best app I ever used and use daily is Lightroom.
Adobe really hit the nail on the head with this one.
I’ve been very critical about the mobile app in the past because you really needed a super fast internet connection, the link to the desktop was FAR from perfect and the options were very limited. Fast forward to today and we have a “perfect” solution. The retouch options in Lightroom has grown to a point where you can even do some really nice skin retouching inside of Lightroom, the presets are now finally easily updated and shared via the cloud, the speed has increased, you can work without internet, sharing with the desktop (Lightroom Classic) has been perfect for me etc. etc.

During 2020 I did a lot of Mountain biking.
Now don’t think I started in 2020, I’ve been riding bikes my entire life (like most Dutch people) and been riding MTBs for over 10 years, but mostly on road and I loved to always get faster and faster, mostly due to time restrictions I was able to bike maybe an hour every day and that’s it. This year I decided to forget about that whole racing and go more off road, into the woods and stay there for a few hours, and man…. can I HIGHLY recommend this to anyone. I’ve spend countless hours in the woods riding trails and experiencing total relaxation while getting my heartbeat up, it’s awesome, plus you come home with some great shots which you can take with your phone and edit on your iPad (or Phone) without doing anything extra.

I’ve set Lightroom up so that it imports all RAW files on my phone automatically, this means you take the shot and when you’re home they are nice and comfy on the cloud as backup and on all your devices ready to be edited and shared, and if you want your GRAPHICS logo in there…. since the latest update that’s now also possible.

So for me on Number 1 without any doubt Lightroom

Now if you want to edit your images even more there are several apps I can highly recommend.
Snapseed and Pixelmator always give me great options for some special effects, but in all fairness you have to be careful if you want to end up with some good quality, most apps (including snapseed) pretty much butcher your images in resolution and quality, so when I use snapseed it’s always last in line and I know that it’s limited in resolution (depending per device). So make sure you check this before you end up with instagram sized images.

Now of course you might wonder what about when you really have to do some work on photos?

On the iPad pro I run both Affinity Photo and Photoshop.
And how much I really want to like Affinity I just… can’t… sorry.
I’m constantly battling the program with behaviors that just don’t make sense, and I don’t do a lot of difficult stuff but I do use a lot of layer masks and this is where Photoshop is just stable and it does what you expect and with Affinity… It must be me but the layer masks keep giving me issues. But in all fairness Affinity on the iPad pro is something I would love to see Photoshop going, it’s very complete and it works pretty well.

At the moment I would say that the iPad pro can replace my desktop for about 90% of what I do with retouching, and 100% when I just look at street/travel photography.

The one thing that I really miss on the iPad pro for photography is shooting tethered via a cable.
There is an app out there called CasCable it promises a lot and also supports tethering via cable but it’s incredibly vague on their website on what is really supported, you can test it out by getting a pro subscription for a week but I honestly think this is ridiculous, why pay money to test if my camera works, just make a list online and mentioned the cameras that are supported, I tried to contact the company a few times but never got a response back (in fact I did get a response a few months ago but nothing after that).

It’s for me pretty weird that now that iOS supports external gear it’s still not possible to shoot tethered via USB, for me it’s vital to really replace my laptop with the iPad pro for the simple reason that WiFi tethering (although rock solid in 90%) is not always working, especially during tradeshows. More frustrating is the fact that I can do it on my Android phone and tablet. Even in RAW. So which iOS app maker takes up the challenge 🙂

 

Music
Oh my…..
This is where we are going to flip the coin completely.
Most of you guys that follow me know that I have a deep passion for guitars and recording music. Although this year has been a disaster for me creatively I do study a lot and I try to complete my workflow on the iPad pro.

Now when I bought the first iPad pro there were a lot of promises and that ended in me selling my blownup iPhone a year later with a huge disappointment, it never ever delivered and although the Apple pencil is awesome to draw with it never really got to a point where I could use it. When I bought a new iPad pro 11″ in 2019 things did change a lot, to a point where I got the 12.9″ in 2020 to really start working.

Where with Photography I still think the desktop beats the iPad pro silly, yes really (especially when you want to dive deeper into retouching), but it does a great job for 90% of the work I do with music it’s the other way around.

In the lockdown I build a complete home studio, I love analogue vintage gear so getting stuff cheap is often not a problem (hey I’m still Dutch) and of course I started with connecting everything to my laptop. Software wise I opted for Reaper (it’s free to try and the license is very cheap) because it promises to be a complete DAW competing with the big guys but you don’t have to spend a small fortune for the unlimited version (which somehow I always think I need). Long story short… awesome. But you need external gear like a keyboard, some drum pads etc. And of course a place to work that has room for this, and power.

Enter the iPad pro.
And this literally blew my mind.
I started with Garageband, which immediately I would highly recommend for everyone.
I can play most instruments but add to this the smartplay options within garageband and now I’m a “pro” keyboard player, I can do some nice string sections, oh… and I can be a pretty groovy drummer too, and the fun thing… even if you can’t play one note or don’t even know what notes are let alone keys and scales…. you can be just as good as anyone.

However I’m a bit more advanced.
So when I record I mostly use loops and samples for drums, these can come from an app or friends who send me their drum recordings, keys are all midi so so far so good. However when I start recording my guitars I love to use mics in front of an vintage Marshall cab (with blackbacks) and some tube amps for the nice and creamy tones. So one guitar part is 2 mics and one direct signal, and this multiplies during recording. So garageband on the iPad is a bit too limiting.

A few weeks ago I got more frustrated by this and decided to spend some money on an app that I would like to give the number 1 position for music creation on the iPad pro…

Cubasis 3.2
What do you expect from a mobile app.
Ask me this 2 years ago and I would say.
“maybe remotely control the real app”
“a very much simplified version of the desktop app”

And yes both are still true, however what do you need, and what makes your workflow easier.
Let’s put some things into perspective.

I don’t know what I like.
I love to record some Blues, or maybe some Metal…. mmm how about making some beats.
In other words I love to play, and this…. is EXACTLY where the iPad pro shines.

Let’s first just look at the basics.
Cubasis 3.2 is a full fletched DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) meaning you can record audio on multiple tracks, you can edit and record midi, you can master and mix and of course export. And believe me, the plugins you can use on the iPad pro are absolutely mature, with the latest release they even now support Autotune inside of Cubasis via WAVE (a high-end brand for audioplugins). Now of course the workability falls or stands with what you can connect.

Well lets not spend too much time on this, I use a Behringer 18/20 interface connected to a Yamaha 01V96v2 console and believe it or not Cubasis supports all inputs and outputs and so far I tried recording three tracks at once and it didn’t even raise my CPU, I’ve read people online recording a complete band on Cubasis on an iPad and it all worked like a charm. So this is one part where the iPad pro and Cubasis really shows you the mobile workflow can be done on an iPad.

Now let’s skip a bit.
For creativity I love to play around with loops, which people also sometimes call “making beats”, I don’t really call them that because most “beats” I make are the basis for a song I will record with other instruments or use the beat as a base. Without the iPad this means you need a program that supports an external device for input. You can use a keyboard for keys (duh) and drums, but mostly people that create beats use a midi controler. This can really add to the total cost and bulk and making the “mobile” setup not so mobile.

 

A midicontroler

Enter the iPad pro.
Because the screen is touch sensitive in all directions you can literally (like a brush in Photoshop) press harder or softer but also move around and change pressure when you move, this is for example awesome for stringed instruments. On the iPad this means you can get a pretty solid piano effect, but in all honesty I don’t like to play keys on the iPads screen, for me it just doesn’t feel right, so I do use a small midikeyboard (but I can do without), however for the buttons in for example Beatmaker3 the iPad works perfectly for me, it’s more hitting the right square than hitting the right keys (huge difference)

This brings me to the part where I’m super enthusiastic about the iPad pro.
Let me explain.

I’m sitting on the coach (or plane or whatever) and I can play a bit in Beatmaker 3 with loops and chord ideas, my sketch is imported as stems (separate tracks) into Cubasis, in Cubasis I can make a proper mix of them, change some instruments, add some midi via other apps (you can run them inside of cubasis as “plugins” or just export) and when I’m done I just pickup the iPad and walk to the console. Now I have 18/20 inputs/outputs and I can start recording my bass lines via direct in. When it’s time for the guitars I get 2 mics into Cubasis and 1 direct in, and that’s it….

I’m going back to the coach (or plane or whatever) and with some proper headphones (don’t use regular headphones but headphones that are designed for mastering) I can start mixing everything and when I’m done I can opt to go back to the console and run everything through external effects gear or to tape (and back) or… … …. whatever you want.

This gives you so much freedom and ease of work that I find myself working at least 10x as much on my music, It’s really highly underestimated how much being able to work in EVERY situation makes your creativity flow, and this is actually the idea of this whole experiment and blogpost. Realizing that being able to work everywhere without the need to add anything externally (only if you wish) is a huge thing, especially when the quality of the outcome is the same.

So Cubasis 3.2 for me is the number one app to get, but there are more.
Remember the DI tracks?
For my guitars and bass I use an app called BiasFX2 and BiasAMP.
These apps make it possible to connect your bass/guitar/etc. to your iPad and run it through virtual amp setups, including building your own amps (even replacing tubes and power supplies), moving around mics, chancing speaker cabs etc. etc. The sounds are more than ok (although I prefer the real deal, but that also means using a lot more gear and building a hushbox for your cab, because a tube amp crancked… makes a lot of noise) and can be used as plugin within for example Cubasis, this means I can record a guitar direct into the iPad without any effects and later on decide if I want it to be a Jimmy Hendrix setup or a Metallica sound, or maybe… a John Mayer or Brian May like sound… it’s all possible. You can even re-amp the whole thing (meaning you run a line out straight into a real amp and re-record that sound).

Do you already feel dizzy?
I know I do, but that’s more that dizzy feeling of being overly happy 😀

One day I hope to add the desktop version of Cubase 11 to my software, but for now it’s a bit out of my budget for the unlimited track version, but if you do a lot of recording this makes Cubasis fall into the same category of Rush and Lightroom/Photoshop in which you can seamless connect everything together.

Adobe Rush

Video
A large part of my work is video and editing video.
Man I love it and I hate it. It’s cool to sit down for hours and edit video, but… it’s also boring and you’re pretty much stuck in the location where your PC/Mac is.. right? because let’s be honest if my i9 Dell XPS with 32GB already has problems with my drone H265 footage, the iPad….nah…

Well brace yourself.
My iPad pro is actually a LOT smoother with editing video than my laptop (yeah that also stunned me). And when you get over the first hurdle of “where the hell is my keyboard” you realize that working with your fingers or the pencil is actually a LOT faster and more easy (and you can always use a keyboard later, shortcuts are added to more and more apps including trackpad support)

Editing works like a charm and rendering is real time (meaning 10 minutes of video renders in about 10 minutes).
My favorite software ?

On a shared number one position since the last upgrade.
Lumafusion and Adobe Rush.
Now this needs a little bit of explanation.
Lumafusion is still king I think.
However Rush is getting better with each release, and it’s going pretty fast, plus the main advantage of Rush is the connection to the desktop versions and Premiere which in all fairness is a big thing if you also use your desktop for adding multicam or more elaborate things like after effects, Rush makes this combination a breeze.

If you want to edit and finish on the iPad I would advise LumaFusion at the moment, but if you are a casual editor, Rush is free with your subscription 😀

 

Lumafusion

Media consumption
Let’s be realistic, Netflix, Disney+, AppleTV+, Prime etc. media consumption on the 12.9″ is a dream. Same goes for reading comics and books. But I guess we all know this so I just wanted to mention it.

 

Conclusion
2020 is a bad year.
2020 is also a year where we are forced to look at ourselves.
In a world where polarization and fear for the virus but most of all for other peoples behavior rules it’s I think very wise to take a step back and look deep inside ourselves what makes us happy and how we can achieve this and keep it in 2021-2022.

For me the wakeup call was without a doubt that I REALLY love my work.
The first month I saw as a well needed brake (we both worked way too hard the months before) but after that I started to realize I miss my work, teaching photography to people and photographing is a passion that can not be put on hold. But I didn’t want to spend a lot of time in an empty studio realizing I’m missing my work. So more than before I started to realize that devices like an iPad pro gives you so much joy and makes it possible to continue working literally everywhere and without too many limitations.

An iPad pro doesn’t get hot, it doesn’t run out of battery and the screen is bright enough for outside use, the screen is large enough for proper retouching and editing music and with the new connectivity options you can connect almost everything. Add to this the seamless workflow with backups via Adobe and it also takes away the stress that I lose work because I’m now working in so many different locations and on different devices.

This is why my end of the year blogpost is more about this than about the world.
And let’s be realistic, at the moment it seems like everyone is polarized to the max, whatever room there always was for discussion it now seems like you agree with me or you don’t and if you don’t you suck, I for one don’t want to be a part of this. We have to do this together and take care of each other, not make the gap bigger, the virus will leave it’s scars but most scars are not from the virus but from people themselves, this is more clear for me than ever before.

 

Hardware changes
Although 2020 was a relativy quiet year for my workshops we did change some things around that will have a major impact on my own personal workflow. If you want I can make a separate blog post about these, but just do them quickly now.

First off we changed from Wacom to XP-pen
Everyone that have seen me work know I’m a big supporter of using tablets to retouch and preferably with a screen (if you ever worked on one you know what I mean), the reason I switched has nothing to do with problems with Wacom but more with the fact that in my personal opinion the XP-pen series deliver an amazing quality for a small part of the budget you need for the Wacom. And seeing I mostly teach I wanted to work on a brand that is affordable for everyone, and XP-pen was the only one that I think is a 99% replacement for Wacom.

Another huge change was the switch from my beloved Huawei p30 Pro to the Sony Xperia1 MKII.
The Huawei is an awesome phone and camera, but because I use my phone a LOT during this year during MTB trips and in home for my fun projects I got more and more frustated by the video performace and the quality of images/Auto Focus in not perfect light or when working with colored tubes. The Sony Xperia is designed for photographers and video creators and this really shows. It’s a 100% complete mystery to me why Sony is not number 1 in smartphones for this market. Maybe they should be a bit more aggressive with these phones, as a Sony ambassador since the beta of the A99 it took me till 2020 to try a Sony phone, and now they won’t get it back probably 🙂

Also we got REALLY close into me switching back to Mac, and trust me it will happen….
The M1 is awesome, let me rephrase FRICKING awesome.
We ordered one but had to send it back because several of our older software (that we really need) doesn’t work, but as soon as there is a proper working Windows emulation (that would be a workaround seeing the software runs on both OS-es) we will order one again and see what happens.

 

The real number 1 app of the year
Last but not least the real number 1 app of the year.
Losing work is the most devastating thing that can happen.
As photographers/videographers we freeze unique moments in time that never come back again, if we lose this it’s gone forever. Sometimes it’s just a picture of a windmill that is awesome but sometimes it’s that final image you took of someone or that cool little video of someone you love. You can’t think about losing that right?

And no this is not about making backups. If you don’t have a proper backup strategy and you lose stuff… hope you learned something. This is more about losing stuff without you having any fault, without you even knowing it.

Enter Apples biggest mistake.
Not testing the files app, and even after numerous complaints from me and many others it still happens and you probably never noticed it. PLEASE check all your material that you copied via the files app to an external device, and please sit down when you do and be prepared for some tears. Especially copying a lot of files or large files will end up in a LOT of corrupt files. This has been an issue since the beta of iOS13 up until today more than a year later. For me this makes the iPad pro 100% unusable with a professional or ANY workflow where you want your files to stay in tact.

But luckily there is an app for that.
Surf DIRECTLY to the app store and find the app FileBrowser.
There is a free version but go for the business version, not because the free version doesn’t work but to support those guys.

If you copy via Filebrowser to an external drive everything is not only a LOT faster but you also see what’s being copied and the files don’t get corrupted. Also it’s a company that is open for suggestions, I really missed a batch rename option in the files app and within a week after asking I got a first beta version with batch renaming. This means a lot to me personally, I don’t really trust app builders that don’t respond to serious questions, but I really appreciate builders that not only respond but also add features. That alone (and the fact that my files are now safe) makes this app without a doubt the number 1 app download on your iPad.

Look for this icon if you care for your files

 

I wish you all a better 2021.
Personally we thing life will return to semi normal in 2022 but we hope to pickup a semi normal life with workshops again half 2021.
2020 has been tough and we are incredibly blessed so far, still from the bottom of our hearts we hope you guys are all ok and just know we love you all.

What was your major realization in 2020, and let’s keep it nice and about fun things please.