October 20, 2018

Five steps to better aviation with Hologram’s Infinite Jets Pedal.

This amazing granular “resynthesizer” doesn’t get all the love it deserves. I think much of that is the result of players not setting the pedal up for best performance and not completely understanding how it works. Follow these five steps for happier skies with Infinite Jets:

  1. Know what it’s not. It’s not a traditional guitar pedal. Infinite Jets is a synthesizer. It has oscillators (Voice knob) going into a voltage-controller amplifier (Env knobs) through voltage-controlled filters and a delay (Dimension knob). Think of it as three basic synth modules and it’s easier to understand and control. It’s not instantaneous. Like all granular synthesis, Infinite Jets samples your instrument live. So there’s always a lag between sampling and playback. It’s the nature of the beast. It’s not like anything you’ve heard. You may be able to get organ, flute, violin and cliche synth sounds out of IJ, but it’s not designed to imitate anything: The resynthesis process is unique, so it’s designed to create sounds of an unexplored realm.
  2. Do a factory reset. It’s possible between being built and arriving in your hands, your Infinite Jets had the internal parameters tweaked. Doing a factory reset means you’re starting from square one for the best possible behavior. To reset: hold down Footswitch A and B while plugging in the power. The LEDs will do a circle for about a minute and stop when reset.
  3. Use good levels. As with any volume-trigger-based pedal, Infinite Jets is expecting a reasonable level going in: not too hot, not too quiet. For best results in triggering, Infinite Jets should come after compressors and before modulation in your chain.
  4. Calibrate. If you don’t set the sensitivity, your Infinite Jets may not trigger with each note or chord. To calibrate: hold the Bypass and B footswitches for two seconds. After the flash dance, release. Then play the quietest notes you normally play. IJ will do another flash dance when it knows enough about your playing dynamics and you’re set to go.
  5. Read the manual. If your 55-page isn’t worn ragged, you’re not getting the most this pedal has to offer. Each Voice mode is unique in its resynthesis, effects and controls, so each Voice requires a deep dive to get the most out of it. This is probably the most complex pedal you’ll own (and likely most expensive too) so taking the time to learn it will make it more than worth your investment.

There a gazillion other pointers, but I think these are what’s needed to get a good start to proper piloting of your Infinite Jets.

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October 20, 2018

Infinite Jets how-to: Sample-and-hold filter.

In the two Synth modes of the Hologram Infinite Jets Resynthesizer pedal you can craft a classic sample-and-hold filter similar to the original Maestro Sample Hold (created about 1976). This randomly steps the high-Qed low-pass filter, revealing individual overtones. Likely the first use of this effect on record was the Who’s Relay from 1972. Pete Townsend created it originally on an ARP 2600 synthesizer. For this effect, set the following controls:

  • Voice knob to Synth A or Synth B
  • LFO Shape (Footswitch A + Env Shape) to Infinity
  • LFO Freq (Footswitch A + Env Time) to Noon
  • LFO Depth (Footswitch A + Dimension) to 5p
  • Env Shape to Square
  • Env Time to Infinity
  • Trigger to Mono
  • Dimension to 5p
  • Dry to your preference

The LFO Freq controls the speed and length of the hold. Sounds best on sustained chords.

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October 7, 2018

Crap-Free Guide to iPhone Photography v4.0 is here.

I just finished revising the Crap-Free Guide to iPhone Photography. I do this each year when the new iPhones and new iOS are released, adding the new features and updating advice to make sure the book it’s applicable to the new models. This version incorporates the new Xs, Xs Max and Xr cameras, as well as iOS 12.

There weren’t any notable revisions in the Camera app this time around . The Photos app can now control the focus of your Portrtait mode images shot with the iSight Duo lenses in the Xs and Xs Max. The biggest change is in the new camera: It works incredibly well in low light. As a result of the 32% bigger sensor in the 2mm-wider Wide lens, the optical stabilizer and image processor, I didn’t see much need to cover accessories like tripods or lights anymore. (If you do want the most comprehensive guide to iPhone photography accessories, including lens attachments, check out that post.)

I’ve always felt that know-how is the most valuable accessory you can carry with you. So in this revision I’ve focused on handheld techniques that make the best use of your iPhone camera’s native abilities. You’ll find suggestions on low shooting angles that make the Wide lens seem grander, practical use of digital zoom and hand-held stabilization techniques. It’s a little knowledge that lets you take your camera out of your pocket and just shoot, without worrying about the technicalities. And that’s always been the goal of the iPhone camera, so I’ve tried to make these changes reflect that.

Happy shooting.

If you need to get the book, it’s in the iBook Store Updates are free forever.

June 13, 2018

The perfect cup of Turkish Coffee?

After 20 years or trial and error I’ve finessed it down to a pretty good cup of Turkish. Not sure I’ve had one better, but I’m open if one comes along. Here’s my method:

The bean.

I start with a touch more than 2 tablespoons of medium-roast, whole-bean Arabica coffee. After much fussing, I’ve settled on pedestrian, whole-bean 8 O’Clock Coffee in the standard red bag or the whole-bean Illy Medium Roast, if you want a slightly bolder cup. Note that the pot you use an cooking time will greatly affect flavor, so you, try various beans to see what gives you a blood, smooth cup.

If you feel the need for a fresher bean, the caution is that most roasters don’t understand what Turkish Coffee is. That overroasted “Turkish grind” (that they likely can’t grind fine enough) from your local place can be a real disappointment, even when it’s roasted today and fresh ground.

Arabica beans are superior to the Robusta beans and roasting plays a big role in the flavor. Medium roast has a fuller coffee flavor, compared to both a light and dark roast and also retains more caffeine than dark does.

The grind.

I grind the beans into a fine powder in a burr grinder. A good, hand-crank, burr grinder rips the beans apart as opposed to cutting them. I use a Zassenhaus Havanna. It’s a brass workhorse that will give you years of service and has a 25-year guarantee on the hardened-steel burrs.

Some speculate that ripping releases more flavor than cutting. For sure, the powdery consistency (fine as cocoa) of a burr grind for Turkish Coffee exposes more bean surface area to the water so you get more flavor. Also, the heat created by electric-blade grinders can rob coffee of its taste. Grinding fresh is a necessity and its best to grind just enough for each pot you make.

The secret ingredients of Turkish Coffee.

Brewing Turkish Coffee with sugar thickens it and helps mute any bitterness. I use 2 tablespoons of Sugar In The Raw per pot. The large grains take longer to dissolve at the bottom of the pot and start to caramelize better than refined sugar. This enriches the flavor of the coffee.

I also use a healthy dash of ground, green cardamon, which is traditional to add to Turkish Coffee in many countries. In addition to a flavor that blends flawlessly with coffee, cardamom soothes bitterness. Deep brand from India is excellent. Tip: Fresher ground cardamon seeds will smell more sweet and peppery than piney.

The pot.

I add these all ingredients to a thick, tapered Turkish pot called a Jezve or Ibrik. The narrowed top of the pot helps to create foam that holds in the flavor. Traditional tin-lined copper or brass were once preferred for their even heating, but the more-modern clad stainless steel work just as well. You can use a butter warmer, provided it tapers at the top. The method here is for a 12 oz. pot. Having the pot near full creates better foam, retains the flavor and settles the grounds better. As mentioned above the pot has a big effect, so once you’ve selected a pot, you’ll need to find the bean that tastes best.

The water.

I add a little cold spring water and stir the ingredients until pasty to make sure the grounds, cardamom and sugar get properly wet. (You want the ingredients blended so there’s no dry coffee floating on top.) Then I add more until I have 10 oz. of water well-stirred in the pot.

The heat.

I put this on a medium heat on an electric stove. (You’ll want to use low heat if using a gas stove.) You want the coffee to cook slowly to caramelize the sugar, and get the full flavor from the beans, but not boil through the foam. The edges of the foam on top will start to swell when done. This should take 10-20 minutes. If the heat is too high you can burn the fine-grind of the beans, which can make the coffee bitter and taste like cigarette ashes.

How to stir.

The traditional method for Turkish Coffree is to cook the coffee almost to a boil three times. Instead I stir twice during cooking, at four minutes into the brewing (to help remove any grounds from the foam), and about two minutes before it’s done (to keep the heat more uniform throughout the pot and runs less risk of burning the coffee). Once done, remove from heat and don’t stir any more.

In many cultures, the foam is scooped into the cups, with the guest of honor getting the most. Let the pot sit for three minutes before pouring. This helps settle the grounds. Tip: A few drops of cold water or a sliver of ice will settle the grounds quickly.

How to serve.

2 oz. ceramic Turkish cups are best for serving, but espresso cups work fine. Pour slowly into the cup and more grounds will stay at the bottom of the pot in the pot. This method makes four, 2 oz. cups.

Turkish Coffee is often served with baklava, a cookie or Turkish delight and accompanied by a glass of water. The water cleanses the palate and makes the next sip more flavorful. Once the cup is empty, then comes the fortune-telling from your grounds. (Maybe a topic for another time.)

I didn’t talk about the hundreds of variations I’ve tried that led me here. Many of my methods above break with the tradition of how someone’s dear, sweet Jadda used to make it. But I urge you to try the above and see if you don’t agree this gives you a smoother, more-flavorful cup.

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April 28, 2018

Infinite Jets how-to: Repeater.

Works like a delay on the Hologram Infinite Jets Resynthesizer, but rhythmically repeats the sample instead of echoing it. For this effect, set the following:

  • Voice to Glitch A
  • Env Shape to square
  • Env Time to infinity
  • Dimension to 5p
  • Trigger to Mono
  • Dry to @2p

Dimension speeds up the repeat. Choke your strums and the repeats sound like a piano.

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