#362 Dexter, Vowel Movement, Flashback, Depth of Field

Dexter set tour with Producer Robert Lloyd Lewis and a video interview with him about his iOS Game Vowel Movement. in Chit Chat Across the Pond Bart gives us an overview of the update Apple pushed out support.apple.com/kb/HT5244 that not only patches Java to protect us from Flashback but that will also remove the malware if you’ve got it. He also highlights a critical Windows update that affects all versions of Windows. In Dumb Question Corner Bart explains to Dorothy how she could have the Java Preference file and yet not have Java installed, and explains how to check to see if you have Java installed. In the fun part of Chit Chat Across the Pond Bart teaches us about Depth of Field in photography. We reference : Mark Pouley’s HyperFocal Distance shot on Flickr and DOFMaster in iTunes.


Hi this is Allison Sheridan of the NosillaCast Mac Podcast, hosted at Podfeet.com, a technology geek podcast with an EVER so slight Macintosh bias. Today is Sunday April 15th, 2012 and this is show number 362.

Last week I got an email from Robert Lloyd Lewis, introducing himself as the producer of the TV show Dexter. He told me that he’d written an iOS game and wanted to know if I’d do a review on it. My first reaction was that this must be a scam. Dexter is one of our favorite shows – Kyle turned us onto it and we love it. This is too good to be true, right? So I wrote back and said pretty much that – why WOULDN’T I want to do this? I downloaded his app Vowel Movement (more about it later) and continued to correspond with Robert. As we chatted, he said, “if you’re in LA, would you like to go on a set tour?” WOULD WE?

We drove up to UCLA to pick up Kyle on Monday and drove to the Sunset Gower Studios. When we got there, we were “greeted” by a guard who I swear would have arrested us if he’d had the ability. Eventually we convinced him that we weren’t armed terrorists and he pointed us to VIP parking. We went inside and were taken care of by Diana, who immediately asked us how mean the guard was to us. She explained that for some reason studios are crazy about security – she said that one of them actually has the guards put mirrors under your car to make sure you’ve not got kind of artillery underneath your car.

Before we went to the studios, we asked if we could bring a camera, and the answer was, “it’s a closed set, we don’t allow visitors, yes you can bing a camera.” That was confusing but when we finally got to meet Robert, he explained. He said we could take photos, but we couldn’t share them online! While this seemed very cruel at the time, it was actually ok.

I have to say that the best part of the whole trip was meeting Robert himself. His excitement about his job was fantastic – he referred to as a “pinch me” job. A job he can’t believe he’s allowed to do every day. I asked him if it’s because Dexter is such a fun show and he feels that way about everything he gets to produce. He did say it’s way more fun to introduce yourself to someone as a producer and have them actually know about your show of course but they’re all fun.

He showed us Dexter’s “kill shirts” – which if you haven’t seen the show are basically dark green khaki shirts, but if you HAVE seen the the show it gives you a chill to see them there like normal shirts! Dexter hides his blood samples of his kills inside his air conditioner…we would have shown you a picture of THE air conditioner! Robert showed us how they have a trap door on the back of the freezer so they could film looking out towards Dexter as he found something frightening in his fridge.

One of the coolest things Robert showed us was a 90 foot vinyl print of the Miami skyline. It’s hung outside Dexter’s apartment and it’s what you see when he’s inside. The detail on this giant image is excellent, but as Robert pointed out slightly defocused because that’s how It should look from a distance. He explained how the print allowed them to light it from behind and the light would shine through where it was white, giving it the illusion of lights in the windows at night. He showed how the put little LEDs on the tops of buildings so they could light them up at night. He showed little wisps of cellophane they taped to the water in the image so with a little air blowing across it, it gave the illusion of the waves moving. When we got back home and watched the show afterwards, we could NOT tell any different, the illusion wasn’t in any way compromised. I think he was making all that up, I swear it’s REAL.

I really enjoyed seeing how they create what he said they call “swing sets”. These are sets where they can swing one wall out of the way to create a totally different room. He told us the phrase was coined during the filming of Cheers, that the bar had a wall that would swing away to reveal Sam’s office. That was really cool. Well I don’t want to spend the whole time telling you about Dexter, I’d like to play the interview with Robert we did after the tour.

When we got done with the tour we went back to Robert’s office and I did an interview with him about his iOS game, called Vowel Movement. It really is a cool game – you’ll get to hear Robert describe it in the interview so I’ll come back afterwards and tell you what I think. Enough introduction, it’s time to play the interview. I’ll play it here in audio but you can also see the interview embedded on podfeet.com if you like.

Using a Screen Reader? click here

vowel movement in iTunesNow that you know that I was wowed by a tour of the Dexter set, and enchanted by Robert himself, I wonder if you’ll find my views on Vowel Movement unbiased? Not if you have a brain in your head! I’m going to tell you what I think anyway. I think Vowel Movement is very clever and different from all other word games I’ve played. it’s very easy to get up to speed on it because they have these informative tips that pop up on screen telling you what you might want to do next. I’ve never played a game before where you can actually can change your score as you play the game. Each time you play a hand you can move any of the vowels around that you already played and the game shows you your score changing as you do it. I thought it was a lot of fun, even though I’m not much of a gamer. If you like word games I think you’ll really like Vowel Movement – and it’s only a dollar! I AM biased but I did like it even before I met Robert.

Bluemango Learning

I can’t believe how often I reach for ScreenSteps. This week the chat function at justin.tv where the live show is hosted was completely borked, so mid-day on Sunday we had to make some emergency changes. I realized we could use the chat servers from ustream.tv but still broadcast on justin.tv. We used to use Ustream ages ago but the ads got too annoying so we moved to Justin. I realized that I had documented how to get set up for the IRC chatroom (which can be kind of arcane), so I jumped into my ScreenSteps tutorials folder and found it instantly and I was back in business in the old chat room. If you have a normal memory (or worse) you really should invest in a copy of ScreenSteps Desktop from BlueMangoLearning.com, it’s only $39.95 for the Mac or Windows version. I’ve saved thousands of hours for myself and others using ScreenSteps and their other great product Clarify. Heck, just last week about 50 people followed my instructions on how to configure ClamXav anti-virus on their macs (it was a very popular hit last week). Anyway, at least download the free trial and give it a shot and then be sure to mention the NosillaCast when you inevitably DO buy it!

Chit Chat Across the Pond

Security Light

Flashback Follow-up:

  • Apple release third Java update – this update changes Java’s behaviour in Safari, disabling it by default and making users click to enable it when they need it. Once enabled it will remain enabled for a while, but it will time out and disable itself again. The update also includes a Flashback removal tool which executes automatically when the update is installed. If you had Flashback you will be notified, if not, you won’t – support.apple.com/kb/HT5244
  • Apple later released a stand-alone version of the Flashback removal tool (allowing people without Java installed to remove Flashback should they have picked it up some other way, probably by falling for one of it’s social engineering tricks) – http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1517

Dumb Question:

From listener Dorothy –

“Allison and Bart,

I just listened you guys discussing the Flashback virus on last Sunday’s podcast. Bart said that, if you had the Java Preferences app in your App directory, then you had Java installed and needed to be sure you were updated.

So, of course, I went to check right away. I was thinking I did NOT have Java since I don’t remember installing it since my upgrade to Lion. But, there the Java Preferences app was. Guess my memory wasn’t so good. Then I went to run the Preferences and got [an error message]

Which I take to mean I really don’t have Java. That is I have the preferences app, but not the runtime engine. And so I should have been safe all along and I did remember correctly.

So did I mis-hear? Or are things a bit more complicated than that? Do I have Java or not? Am I safe (from Flashback anyway)?

I tried “java -version” from the Terminal and got “file not found” equivalent. So I’m thinking I don’t.

Can you clarify?



The simple answer is that I was wrong. For some reason, Apple ship you the Java Preferences app even if you don’t have Java! The popup you got does indeed indicate that Java is not installed. I was hoping to avoid sending people to the terminal, but that still seems to be the best way to know for sure whether or not you have Java, and if you do, to be sure it is current.

Open a Terminal (Applications → Utilities → Terminal) and type “java -version”. If you have Java installed you’ll get a result that looks something like this:

bart-imac:~ bart$ java -version

java version “1.6.0_31”

Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.6.0_31-b04-415-11M3635)

Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM (build 20.6-b01-415, mixed mode)

bart-imac:~ bart

If you don’t have Java you’ll get an error of some form, and OS X may offer to install Java for you. If you do have Java installed, you should see the version information shown above.

Main Topic – Understanding Depth of Field (DOF)

If you read through comments on Flickr you often see people refers to the “DOF” of a photo, this is the “Depth of Field” and refers to the distance between the nearest thing that is in focus in the shot and the furthest thing that is in focus in the shot. DOF is generally described as being “deep” (almost everything is in focus), or “shallow” (very little is in focus).

Control over DOF is a very important skill for a photographer. Artistically, what you allow in and out of focus makes a huge impact on how a viewer sees your photo. It helps to draw the eye of the viewer where you want it, and to emphasise and de-emphasise different elements in the scene.

Initially everyone’s impulse is to aim for the extremes, to get either everything in focus, or more usually, as little as possible. For some reason we are all attracted to the most paper-thin DOF we can possibly get. However, the real art is not in shooting for the extremes, but in the fine control needed to get exactly everything you want in focus in focus, and nothing else.

Think of shooting a flower or a butterfly, you could easily get the DOF so thin that only a tiny part of the flower or butterfly are sharp, but really, that’s not what you want, you want to isolate the subject, you want to get the entire flower or butterfly in focus, but the entire background out of focus.

In order to be able to control something you need to understand what affects it. There is no “DOF” dial on your camera, it’s not something you get to set explicitly, instead it’s the result of the combination of many things which you can control. Many people are aware that the aperture they shoot at will affect DOF, but it’s much more complicated than that.

What Affects the DOF of a shot?

  • The size of the sensor on your camera -The smaller the sensor, the deeper the DOF, the bigger the sensor, the more shallow. Have a look at the EXIF data of iPhone photos, you will be shocked at how low the focal ratio is (f number), and yet how deep the DOF is. Conversely, the reason pros love full-frame sensors is that it’s easy to get a shallow DOF with them, even at higher focal ratios.
  • The focal length of your lens – the wider the lens, the deeper the DOF, the longer your lens (in terms of focal length), the shallower your DOF. In other words, a wide angle lens will stretch your DOF, a telephoto lens will compress it.
  • The distance your subject is from your lens – the closer to the lens you are focusing, the shallower the DOF, the further away you are focusing, the deeper the DOF

The settings you need to control your DOF can be surprising and counterintuitive.

E.g. when I photograph butterflies, the problem I have is not getting that nice shallow DOF, but getting the DOF wide enough to fit the whole butterfly. I shoot with a 200mm lens, so the DOF is compressed, I shoot close to the subject, about a yard away, so again, the DOF is compressed, so in order to get a good result I actually have to use a very narrow aperture (high f number) to get a pleasing shoot, ideally f/11, but I often have to settle for f/8 because there is not enough light.

Calculating your DOF

If you really want to, you can do the math yourself to work out the depth of field for a given lens used with a given sensor at a given distance and a given focal ratio, but when you’re out in the field, that’s not practical, so, I’d suggest getting an iPhone app to do that work for you. I use DOFMaster in iTunes

HyperFocal Distance

If you’re shooting landscapes, a very effective look can be to get down low to the ground, and shoot a view looking along the ground into the scene with everything, from the blade of grass in the foreground to the distant clouds in focus. This can be hard to achieve, but the key is to know the hyper focal distance for your setup. This is the distance into the scene where you should focus the camera to get everything from infinity back to as close to the lens as your setup will allow into focus. The bigger your focal ratio, the closer you’ll be able to get. But, even if you can’t get to high focal ratios because there is not enough light or your lens performs poorly at that distance, you can use the hyper focal distance to get the best possible result from your setup. You could calculate it yourself, but again, best to use an app, and DOFMaster will do this calculation for you too!

Mark Pouley’s HyperFocal Distance shot on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/switchermark/6906378182/

E.G. on a Nikon DX body (like the D40 and the D5100), using an 18mm lens at f/8, the hyper focal distance is 2.04m, if you focus your camera on something 2.04m away from you at f/8 with that lens, you’ll get everything between 1.02m and infinity into focus. So, if you keep everything closer than that out of your composition, the whole scene will be in focus. If you have enough light to go to f/11, the distance you should focus to moves to 1.45m, but you will now get everything from 72cm to infinity in focus, and at f/22 the hyperfocal distance moves back to just 73cm, and you will get everything from 37cm to infinity into focus.

That’s going to wind this up for this week, many thanks to our sponsor for helping to pay the bills, Blue Mango Learning at bluemangolearning.com makers of ScreenSteps and Clarify. Don’t forget to send in your Dumb Questions, comments and suggestions by emailing me at allison@podfeet.com, follow me on twitter at @podfeet. I contribute a fair amount over on Google Plus nowadays so just search for me by name if you want to circle me up. If you want to join in the fun of the live show, head on over to podfeet.com/live on Sunday nights at 5pm Pacific Time and join the friendly and enthusiastic NosillaCastaways. Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.

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