Hello! I’m Samantha Stocks.

I’m a writer based in Bristol, UK.

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Category Archive: Print Magazines

  1. Secrets of the pros

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    Images from my feature in Digital Camera magazine on tips and advice from famous photographers will be available to view here soon!

  2. Fakir

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    When European design collective Underware created the blackletter Fakir, they may not have anticipated that the process of bringing this typeface to fruition would have been so arduous a journey. Given the enormous amount of time, effort, patience and perseverance taken to create the typeface, it seemed only fitting to feature this design in more than simply a display catalogue. What was required was something that would be worthy of all the hard work and suffering taken to create Fakir. Arriving at an appropriate solution took more time: another year, in fact. But a solution was finally concluded and the decision was made to create a publication focusing on the subject of voluntary suffering, which seemed entirely appropriate for all the time and effort that went into its creation. For a Gothic typeface such as Fakir, the theme was certainly fitting: harking back to medieval times when the Gothic style of type first originated in the days suffering was a daily theme.

    In order to find suitable material for this subject, Underware’s attention soon came to Ruud Linssen; the Catholic Dutch author, poet and journalist. “If there’s anyone who really knows what suffering truly means, it’s him,” says Sami Kortemski of Underware.

    Ruud immediately took to the idea, and the decision was soon agreed for him to write a short story on voluntary suffering, and a deadline of completion in approximately two to three months was agreed. However, six months later, no story had materialised. Ruud had in fact become heavily involved in writing an extensive book on the subject, and instead of two months, The Book of War, Mortification, and Love took two years to complete. The author ascertained that he had rewritten every sentence of the book at least five times, and that the book had ‘changed his life’, giving him an entirely new perspective on the subject owing to his extensive thought and research on the matter. “Suffering,” he described, “has already been a major theme in my life for many years. But not voluntary suffering. The creation of the book therefore became an example of voluntary suffering in itself.” One could say that it is the essence of Linssen’s voluntary suffering. In light of this, and in true Gothic style, the decision was made to print the book with the blood of the author.

    The simple (and somewhat macabre) idea soon turned into a complicated issue of how printing an entire book in human blood could turn into a practical solution. This was no easy feat, and a number of trial and error situations ensued before a solution was found, but the team saw the positive side of it: “Let’s see it this way; production failures are appropriate for a project about voluntary suffering,” said Sami. After tapping Ruud’s blood, the next stage of the process at first appeared to be nearly impossible: to turn blood, which is water-based, into offset ink, which is oil based. After talking to dozens of ink experts, chemists and physicians, the best solution seemed to be to freeze-dry the blood; this was found to be the best way to remove all water from the human blood. The substance left after the lyophilising process is a powder of pure blood. Once the powder was created, it was then relatively easy to turn the powder into an oil-based offset ink.

    Fakir is the namesake of the Hindu religious mendicant: one who performs feats of endurance. The vision behind the creation of this blackletter was to design one more suited to modern times: for readers not used to the traditional, elaborately decorative blackletters. “We didn’t go to the library to study old blackletters; instead we started with a clean slate,” described Sami, “To have something powerful, simple, and readable was more important than following the style or construction of historical blackletters.” Prior to any initial sketches, the decision was made to design the typeface to be strong and black with nail-sharp forms without a strict grid. It was vaguely constructed on broad nib textura, with broken, edgy, interrupted strokes: “Try to sit on a nail bed and you’ll know why fakirs like to read just these kind of fonts!” describes Sami.

    A fundamental concept for Underware was to have a number of blackletter fonts that work very well together and could be used to set all levels of type in a magazine, proving that a blackletter family can be practical and versatile. Fakir’s family of eleven text and display fonts is just that, covering a range of identities from the fragile and poetic Fakir Italic, to the aggressive graffiti style of Fakir Display Black Small Caps. Sami explains: “Our Fakir fonts are very graphical; they form very compact and strong word images, but they also have an ability to stay readable and legible. We think that’s a rare ability for a blackletter face.”

    The journey from Fakir’s initial conception, to printing an entire book in blood to showcase the typeface, tested the patience and tenacity of the team, and was by no means an easy feat; but therein lies a poetic beauty that ties in completely with the subject of the book: voluntary suffering.

  3. Blackmagic Design Rated Best in Class by Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology

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    One of Europe’s leading technical universities has integrated a wide range of Blackmagic Design products including new optical fiber solutions into its varied project workflows.

    The KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, have embraced optical fiber as core component of their numerous workflows for their varied and innovative projects. Multiple Blackmagic Design products are used by students on the Media Technology programme. These include 20 Multibridge Pro, along with Multibridge Eclipse, Mini Converter Optical Fiber, HDLink Pro and HDLink Optical Fiber products.

    “We decided to use Blackmagic Design’s products as they have always offered the most advanced technological solutions and are very cost effective, replacing our more expensive prototype solutions,” says Mats Erixon of the University’s Media Technology department.

    KTH have recently integrated Blackmagic Design Optical Fiber products as part of a successful ‘i-coaching’ project, a new initiative involving opera school students that links live lectures between University College of Opera in Stockholm and the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. The scheme features a Multibridge Pro to convert component video from the camera into HD-SDI and embed the audio. The signal is then converted to Optical Fiber SDI via the Mini Converter Optical Fiber, using the original SFP transceiver to connect to a CWDM device at a staggering distance of 120km. The return signal is fed back through the Mini Converter Optical Fiber and then to a Multibridge Pro for conversion back to component whilst de-embedding the audio.

    A further exciting project that KTH University have recently undertaken was the ‘ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest World Championship 2009’, an annual multi-tiered computer programming competition among universities worldwide involving 100 teams from over 200 regional sites. The competition was broadcast over Swedish national television station Axess and also over the Internet during a seven-hour long transmission.

    As part of the live contest a feed from each participant’s workstation was monitored over the network. A DVI output was then converted to HD-SDI, using a DVI to HDMI adapter to the Multibridge Pro’s HDMI input. This signal was then routed through a Blackmagic Design Videohub to four machines each featuring a DeckLink HD Extreme, which were used to overlay graphics onto the video to create a graphical ‘scoreboard’ in both HD-SDI and SD-SDI. The HD-SDI signal was converted to Optical Fiber SDI using Blackmagic Design’s Mini Converter Optical Fiber and transmitted to the audience hall where the progress of the contestants could be followed. The SD-SDI signal was converted via another Mini Converter Optical Fiber for broadcast across national television!

    With so many Blackmagic Design products in use by the university’s course programmes and varied and technologically advanced projects, Erixon explains, ‘It is very difficult to decide which Blackmagic Design product is my favourite. I really like the Multibridge Pro and the Videohub. But if I really had to choose I would have to say that the HDLink Optical Fiber wins the prize. Overnight it cut the price of the optical fiber function ten fold and at the same time it gave the extremely practical benefit of the exchangeable SFP transceiver and bi-directionality at a very low cost.’

    Simon Westland, Sales Manager Blackmagic Design EMEA comments, “KTH are a wonderful example of a customer pushing the boundaries of video technology! Their successes demonstrate a high level of technical understanding and their ability to create innovative workflow schemes that break conventional thinking.”

  4. Local Mobile TV Station TyTélé, Drives Forward The Technological Revolution In The Broadcast Industry

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    TyTélé is a unique television station run entirely from an OB van using affordable, simple to use and high quality equipment, including a full range of products from Blackmagic Design.

    TV station TV Rennes 35, local TV station TyTélé and systems integrator PAD are at the forefront of a technological revolution. Starting with a creative concept, they have developed a fully mobile TV station in the form of an OB van using professional, yet affordable and simple to use equipment. “This is a new concept,” describes Jean-Luc Nelle, General Manager of TV Rennes 35. “The entire TV station is run from within the van.”

    Nelle’s vision was for a fully local, fully mobile TV station. “I originally had the idea for the mobile TV station in 1984,” he explains, “but at the time people did not believe that this was possible. Because of the products that are now available, it was not difficult to make this idea a reality.”

    System integrator PAD was approached in 2007 by TV Rennes 35 to design the technical setup for TyTélé. Phillipe Baudet of PAD and Nelle shared the same philosophy of finding creative means to develop technical solutions. Nelle believes: “When you can be creative, you can create your own freedom to achieve what you have imagined.”

    In order to create the mobile television station, PAD chose products from Blackmagic Design as the basis for the workflow. This includes Blackmagic Design’s Studio Videohub for routing, DeckLink HD Extreme cards for capture and playback, Mini Converters, OpenGear Converters, and the new Blackmagic UltraScope for test equipment.

    The station currently has around 300,000 potential viewers across France and is run by a team of twelve people, including nine in production. TyTélé is an entirely ‘local’ station made possible by the mobile TV station. The van is used outside at different locations in different conditions every day to broadcast a variety of events including musical events, sports events, and local news.

    Baudet’s prerogative was for the van to be as flexible and as simple to use as possible. All equipment within the van was chosen specifically for its ease of use, flexibility, affordability, compatibility with other equipment and professional high quality output. Baudet describes: “The van required products that would be easy to integrate with equipment from other companies, such as video rental companies and sound and lighting equipment.”

    Baudet finds Blackmagic Design’s Mini Converters particularly useful for this in terms of flexibility and compatibility. “I consider them to be a ‘must have’ for any OB van,” described Baudet. TyTélé’s van is equipped with three SDI to Analog, two Analog to SDI, three SDI to HDMI and three HDMI to SDI Blackmagic Design Mini Converters, which ensure connectivity and compatibility with external equipment and venues.

    The set up of the van is fully HD and comprises of Apple Mac Pros using Blackmagic Design DeckLink cards to ingest and playout content using Softron software. It also uses Blackmagic Design OpenGear Optical Fiber Converters, which are used in combination with a single high-grade fiber optic cable to connect to the stage or shooting area to carry all HD video signal and data and 48 channels of audio.

    Blackmagic Design’s Studio Videohub is used to route all equipment in the van and is integral to the station’s workflow: “Routing all equipment through the Studio Videohub makes everything a lot more simple as this completely eliminates manual patching,” explains Baudet.

    The mixer used in the van is a Panasonic AV – HS400A and – as with all other equipment in the van – has been chosen for simplicity of use. The studio uses a Blackmagic UltraScope for waveform monitoring, which runs on a Mac Pro using Windows XP and is connected to a Roland M-400 Soundesk and to the mixer to control all manual shading. The van is equipped with Telemetrics robotic camera system, including four Sony EX full HD cameras, three of which are mounted on robotic arms and are operated by a touch screen control panel.

    Using this simple set up, TyTélé are able to do all programming within the van, so it is a completely self-sufficient TV station that can be manned by two people, or one person if necessary. Nelle likens this to a DJ running a radio station.

    Thanks to the technical set up in the van that they supplied, PAD were asked to work on a regional broadcasting and archiving project located at TV Rennes 35. The station was established 22 years ago in the town of Rennes in the northwest of France. At the time its viewers amounted to 150,000. Since then this figure has increased to around 1.3 million potential viewers.

    For this project, PAD installed an SAN, coupled with a backup and archive capacity, with a simple to use final control room based on pro-video equipment rather than traditional equipment that can often be expensive and complicated to install, maintain and operate. For simplicity and flexibility, everything is distributed on an HD/SD-SDI signal with embedded audio. For this, two Studio Videohubs are used with a number of SDI to Analog and Analog to SDI Mini Converters to convert analog VTRs, and SDI to HDMI Mini Converters for big screen monitoring. PAD also used many SDI to Audio and Audio to SDI Mini Converters to build a self-developed final switcher, adding audio follow functionality to the Panasonic AV-HS400 Videomixer.

    Nelle ascertains that these types of projects have recently become easier to set up and develop: “The price of these products a few years ago meant that only an expert or large, well established companies were able to use the equipment that was available at the time. Now, more people are able to use this equipment as it is more affordable, which marks a turning point in the technological revolution for the broadcast industry.”

    Baudet and Nelle have recognised that new methods, such as those developed by PAD and utilised by TyTélé, may be seen as a threat by many professionals who have traditionally opted to buy more expensive equipment as technically, these can match very professional standards, which makes the industry more competitive.

    Many industry professionals have traditionally opted to buy more expensive equipment as they see a certain security in this. Nelle maintains that it is important to break away from this idea: “The technology is not late, but rather it has taken time for people to evolve and change their frame of mind. These are the people who are a part of the technological revolution. We have chosen to use products from Blackmagic Design as they enable us to achieve the highest quality results at a very affordable price. This is a significant factor helping us to progress in this technological revolution.”

    About TV Rennes 

    Born in March 1987, TV Rennes was the first local TV station created in France. Inaugurated by the President of the Republique, it was originally broadcast around the city of Rennes. Early in 2007, the TV station was renamed TV Rennes 35 and now broadcasts to around 1.2 million viewers offering 15 hours per week of viewing in full HD.

    Today TV Rennes 35 is the leading channel for co-production and is professionally recognised.

    About PAD

    After 18 years working as chief cameraman, editor and then director for several national TV stations in Europe, Philippe Baudet founded PAD in 2002 to help professionals to integrate new technologies such as virtual editing. PAD provides analysis, advice, training and support to many video professionals throughout Europe.

    Before focusing on the local TV market in France, PAD helped as a technical subcontractor to LUXE.TV to build the first international full HD network, with four initial European channels as well as sister channels in the Europe, Russia, the Middle East and Asia.