• Fri, 03 Dec 2021 21:21:13 +0000

    Instagram Has Quietly Been Asking Users to Set Up Multiple Accounts

    Instagram icon being tapped

    Instagram reportedly quietly rolled out an in-app pop-up over the past year that has been encouraging users to “try a new account,” likely because it makes more money on new accounts than on older ones.

    As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Instagram’s pop-up has been appearing for single-account users when they long-press the profile icon in the bottom of their feeds or tap their profile username. Instagram has streamlined the multiple-account process and allows a new one to be created without logging out of the current one, a process likely familiar to photographers or YouTubers who manage multiple personal and business accounts.

    But Instagram’s prompt doesn’t seem based on encouraging a business account, but rather as a way to more directly target interests or smaller groups. The notice itself, according to the Journal, specifically encourages the action to “keep up with a smaller group of friends.”

    PetaPixel was able to recreate the pop-up, but it showed slightly different language.

    An Instagram representative wouldn’t say how long the feature had been in place or if it was a response to Instagram’s recent connection with the negative mental health of teens. The idea might be in place to make it easier to create a new feed that could be dominated by the content of strangers and would instead allow users to target their attention to very specific users. Since Instagram doesn’t run on a chronological-based feed and because its algorithm tends to push content that gets more engagement, it is very likely that photos and videos posted by family and friends would not surface as easily on older, more bloated accounts.

    “We know people come to Instagram to connect with those closest to them and to explore their many interests,” Christine Pai, a spokeswoman for Instagram’s parent, Meta tells the Journal.

    “By allowing the creation of multiple accounts, whether it be for professional or personal purposes, we hope to give people more ways to express themselves and have more control over the content they see and share.”

    Pai also added that the addition of the tool made the process more “seamless.”

    Objectively, this “solution” is a poor facsimile for actual change to Instagram’s core algorithm and functionality, and it might not even be a choice that was made for the reasons Pai states. The Journal asked Dan Ives, an analyst at an investment firm in Los Angeles, for his input, and he says the company might actually make more money from these new accounts than from older ones.

    “The app positions itself to get an advertising boost from users who engage more with content in a fresh account with fewer friends and interests than they might have in an older, bloated account,” he says.

    Instagram and Facebook as well as their parent company Meta continue to be at the center of the debate over the rules regarding social media. In November, a coalition of states led by a bipartisan group of attorneys general opened an investigation into the effects of Instagram on the mental health of young people, particularly with a focus on the techniques the company uses to maintain and increase engagement.

    Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.

  • Fri, 03 Dec 2021 20:43:50 +0000

    How Filmmakers Recreated and Parodied an Iconic ‘Matrix’ Scene

    With a new Matrix movie coming out this month, Unplug Productions and its creative director Isaac Alvarez decided to recreate the iconic “red pill, blue pill” scene with a fun twist, and share how they made it all come together.

    Founded in 2019 by Isaac Alvarez, Unplug Productions is a full-service creative production company that’s dedicated to creating impactful videos. Based in Los Angeles, California but with a global reach, the company has an array of creative capabilities as an advertising agency, video production company, and post-production house.

    “The blue pill, red pill scene from the Matrix is such an iconic scene in cinema,” Alvarez tells PetaPixel. “And so when Godox reached out to us to help promote their scene re-creation competition this past October, we knew almost instantly that we were going to try and tackle that scene!”

    A major part of recreating the scene was the setting, which Alvarez says they needed to match to look right.

    “Location was an important piece to creating this scene since the original scene takes place in a large New York Loft esque room,” he explains. “Though such a room wasn’t found for the re-creation, we were able to find a space that complimented the feel of the original.”

    Behind the scenes of the matrix scene parody

    Behind the scenes of the matrix scene parody

    Alvarez describes the lighting as heavily contrasted and moody, and he and his team mimicked the look of the original scene as well as they could.

    Behind the scenes of the matrix scene parody

    Behind the scenes of the matrix scene parody

    Behind the scenes of the matrix scene parody

    “A maximum of three lights was used throughout the entire shoot; a large dome placed in the center to act as the key, and two RGB stick lights behind each actor as the hair light,” he says.

    Aside from minor adjustments depending on the angle of the shot, Alvarez describes the following as the setup used for the majority of scenes in the short video:

    • The scene was filmed on a Sony A7sIII with four different focal lengths:
    • A Rokinon 14mm was used for Neo’s reflection in Morpheus glasses
    • A Tamron 35mm was used for the wide establishing shot
    • A Sony 50mm was used for the medium close-ups
    • A Sony 85mm was used for the close-ups
    • A Canon 100mm Macro was used for the extreme close up on Morpheus

    “The main purpose of the 14mm and the 100mm Macro was to create the reflections within Morpheus’ glasses in post,” Alvarez explains. “The 14mm was aimed to cause some distortion, which you’d normally see when looking into someone’s glasses.

    Red pill blue pill reflection shot, raw

    Red pill blue pill reflection shot, raw

    Red pill blue pill reflection shot, composite

    “In order to have the flexibility in post, four different shots were filmed and later composited together in Adobe After Effects.”

    The below video is a full VFX breakdown of the post-production techniques used:

    “The entire project was fully filmed and edited within 24 hours,” Alvarez says.

    Behind the scenes of the matrix scene parody

    Behind the scenes of the matrix scene parody

    “We think that re-creating this scene, or any scene for that matter, is an incredible learning experience in all aspects of production. We urge any and all creatives that if they are looking to improve themselves as filmmakers and storytellers, to look into some of their favorite movie scenes and re-create them for themselves!”

    More from Alvarez and Unplug Productions can be found on Instagram and YouTube.

  • Fri, 03 Dec 2021 20:11:11 +0000

    Apple Sues the Company That Let Governments Steal Journalists’ Photos

    Apple has filed a lawsuit against NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance company, that developed and distributed spyware called Pegasus. It was used by some governments to access the iPhones of journalists and activists and steal their photos.

    In July, it became known that more than 50,000 phone numbers that were mostly owned by journalists, activists, politicians, and business executives were targetted and hacked by several authoritarian governments using spyware known as Pegasus. Developed by NSO Group, it was able to infect a user’s phone and fully access its contents, including photos, while also being able to secretly activate the cameras and record audio and video.

    In August, a group of women journalists and activists showed how and why governments did this by hacking into their phones, stealing their private photos, and posting them to social media in an attempt to intimidate and silence them.

    Pegasus was able to infect a device from an SMS text, iMessage, through WhatsApp, or even through a range of other vulnerabilities that were yet to be identified. Because it was able to infect iPhones and Android devices through methods that were not known, it was extremely difficult or impossible to prevent infection. As PetaPixel reported, Pegasus can be delivered to a device through what is known as a “zero-click” exploit, which does not require the host to actually click the link to allow it to infect their device as it takes advantage of what was described at the time as a yet undiscovered vulnerability in Apple’s iOS.

    Apple is now looking to hold NSO Group accountable for the surveillance and targetting of Apple users through Pegasus, according to the New York Times. Apple alleges that NSO Group has been abusing its products and that it plans to donate the proceeds from the damages it looks to collect as part of the lawsuit to organizations that expose spyware.

    Apple also wants to permanently prevent NSO from using any Apple software, services, or devices. If granted, it could render Pegasus software useless and destroy a large portion of the company’s core business.

    “This is Apple saying: If you do this, if you weaponize our software against innocent users, researchers, dissidents, activists or journalists, Apple will give you no quarter,” says Apple’s head of security engineering and architecture, Ivan Krstic.

    “State-sponsored actors like the NSO Group spend millions of dollars on sophisticated surveillance technologies without effective accountability. That needs to change,” says Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering.

    “Apple devices are the most secure consumer hardware on the market — but private companies developing state-sponsored spyware have become even more dangerous. While these cybersecurity threats only impact a very small number of our customers, we take any attack on our users very seriously, and we’re constantly working to strengthen the security and privacy protections in iOS to keep all our users safe.”

    NSO Group says it sells spyware to Governments only for lawful use, and argues that “thousands of lives were saved around the world thanks to NSO Group’s technologies.”

    In addition to Apple’s lawsuit and a similar one from Facebook in 2019 for how the company targetted WhatsApp users (and a California court recently decided to reject NSO’s motion to dismiss Facebook’s lawsuit), NSO Group has additionally been blacklisted by the Biden administration, which prevents any United States-based company from working with NSO. The compounding issues have led to NSO at risk of defaulting on its nearly $500 million in debt, and the company reportedly has severe cash flow issues.

    The New York Times says that NSO claims it would investigate any accusations of abuse of its spyware, but the Times shows the company has not stopped governments from continuing to misuse its spyware even if it was made aware of it.

    Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.

  • Fri, 03 Dec 2021 18:47:29 +0000

    Which Fujifilm Film Simulation is Best (And Worst) in Low Light?

    We all know and love the Fujifilm film simulations. With the touch of a button, you can apply some wonderful looks to your photos. But which Fujifilm film simulation performs best in low light with high ISO values? Which ones perform the worst?

    For fun, I informally tested all the film sims on an X-T4. The results surprised me.

    fujiflm film simulations test in low light and high iso

    For those of you new to Fujifilm or to photography in general, whenever you increase the camera’s ISO value, you are amplifying the electrical charge from light photons that hit your camera’s sensor. If you are taking photos in low light conditions, increasing the ISO is one of three exposure triangle settings you can make that allows you to capture more light in your image.

    For this test, I used only the straight out of camera JPEGs. The reason is that the image quality on the RAW files is heavily dependant on whatever post-production RAW software you are using (e.g., Lightroom, Capture One, etc).

    Fujifilm X-T4 ISO dial

    I shot with an X-T4, using the 35mm f/2 lens with identical lighting conditions and settings for each shot. I also zeroed out the additional in-camera image quality settings such as sharpness, clarity, and so forth. I wanted to see results based on the default camera settings. Obviously, if I had set Noise Reduction to +2 or Sharpness to -3 that would have affected the noise. Again, I just wanted to try the test with a zero value for all the menu IQ settings.

    I tested each of the 12 main film simulations at the following ISO values: 1600, 3200, 6400, and 12800. Those are all native ISO values for the camera. In addition, I tested two additional ISO values of 25,600 and 51,200. Those are called ‘extended’ or ‘simulated’ ISO values. And they are applied digitally to your already shot image just before your camera saves the file to the SD card.

    My Results

    For a more in-depth look at the images, process, etc. be sure to see the entire video above. Below are some screenshots and some data that briefly summarizes what I was able to find.

    Fujifilm film simulations low light test example

    Fujifilm film simulations low light test example

    Fujifilm film simulations low light test example

    Below 1600

    • All film sims are identical. ACROS purposely has additional grain applied as part of the ‘look’.

    ISO 1600

    • All film sims mostly identical. You have to pixel peep at 300% to see much difference.
    • Lowest noise: PROVIA, Pro Negative Standard, and Monochrome.
    • Highest noise: ACROS and Bleach Bypass

    ISO 3200

    • You can see differences zoomed in at 200%.
    • Lowest noise: PROVIA, Pro Negative Standard, and Monochrome.
    • Highest noise: Classic Negative, ACROS, and Bleach Bypass

    ISO 6400

    • You can now see differences at 100%.
    • Lowest noise: Pro Negative Standard and Monochrome.
    • Highest noise: ACROS and Bleach Bypass
    • NOTE: At this level, I also started to see that PROVIA held more noise than Pro Negative Standard

    ISO 25,600 and 51,200

    • Lowest noise: Pro Negative Standard and Monochrome.
    • Highest noise: ACROS and Bleach Bypass


    1. Monochrome is much less noisy than ACROS at all higher ISO ranges. In going through my testing, it seems pretty conclusive that Fujifilm adds some additional grain and/or noise to ACROS to help give it that unique look. The problem is, at much higher ISO values, it can start to fall apart at bit. If you are planning on shooting with ACROS, I would not go above 3200 ISO. Also, I’d definitely make sure the grain setting on your camera is turned off.
    2. PROVIA, VELVIA, ASTIA, ETERNA, Pro Negative High and Sepia all performed well and had roughly the same good performance at higher ISO values. Of this group, PROVIA was the overall winner when you start pixel peeping at 300% or above.
    3. If you are shooting at ISO 3200 and above, I would avoid Bleach Bypass, ACROS, and Classic Negative. Once you go above ISO 6400, I would not use any of those three film sims if I wanted to keep my noise to a minimum.
    4. Most interesting of all were the winners. And they were Pro Negative Standard and ETERNA. If you are planning on shooting in low light at very high ISO values, you may want to give them a try. Both Pro Negative Standard and ETERNA gave me the overall best and consistent results.

    Remember that everything I mentioned above has to do with the straight-out-of-camera JPEG images, which have the film simulations already “baked” into the file. Obviously, if you are shooting in RAW, you will have much more flexibility and your results are more dependant on your demosaicing post-production software.

    This was a fun test to try and video to put together. It’s very interesting to look at how Fuji film simulations handle higher ISO ranges. That being said, remember that ISO does not actually create noise, it merely amplifies the noise that’s already in your image. If you want to reduce noise in your images, don’t necessarily always default to raising the ISO. Rather, increase the exposure whenever you possibly can by adding more light or altering your shutter speed and/or aperture.

    Happy shooting!

    About the author: Chris Lee is a photographer, technical trainer, and video editor located in the Atlanta area who manages the pal2tech YouTube channel. He recently woke up one morning and realized that he loves teaching photography even more than actually taking photos. We know… he still finds that hard to believe also.

  • Fri, 03 Dec 2021 18:09:08 +0000

    MotionCam App is the First to Enable RAW Video on Android Devices

    Advanced Mobile Video Recording (AMVR) has shared the first RAW video footage taken on a smartphone using an open-source camera app.

    AMVR has taken mobile video recording to the next level, at least for Android users. The latest update to the open-source camera app, MotionCam, lets users shoot 10-Bit CinemaDNG RAW video using an Android device. AMVR notes that the app is still in development and only a few devices perform correctly, but those that do are showing significant jumps in video quality thanks to RAW capture.

    In the video above, AMVR recorded RAW10 format footage on modded LG V35 Signature Edition and LG V40 smartphones. It should be noted that in order to record such high-quality video, users need an Android device that is capable of keeping up performance-wise and has plenty of memory to store the footage because unlike standard video that record clips as a single file, RAW video instead records a sequence of images at a fast frame rate that are combined into a single clip either by software or in editing.

    Raw smartphone video footage with Motion Cam

    The jump in video quality is easily noticeable because every frame holds the whole RGB data, the full-color information, and dynamic range, delivering cinematic footage. The video can then be edited in apps that support CinemaDNG RAW files.

    Mobile filmmaker Patrick Levar also tested out the app, as reported by DIY Photography. He used Motion Cam on a Samsung Note 8 and says he was impressed by the resulting quality of the footage.

    While smartphone camera quality has been steadily improving, it still usually comes up short from what can be made using dedicated cameras with larger sensors and higher-quality optics. That said, with the recent addition of RAW photo capability on a range of devices as well as the addition of ProRes HQ on Apple iPhones, the level of detail and quality of footage continues to rise.

    Finally, though, Android is seeing an update that goes beyond what is possible on an iPhone. RAW video is considered to be what allows filmmakers to capture as much detail in a scene as possible and will fully maximize a sensor’s dynamic range. The quality shown from shooting in RAW on the AMVR app is leaps and bounds better than what is normally expected from a smartphone, especially considering the original examples are captured on older LG smartphones, which are older and not generally seen as having particularly great cameras.

    The app’s latest version is available on GitHub with an older version also available on Google Play.

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