Gadgets & Gizmos

If you're creating online content, such as instructional videos or inspirational audio visuals, and you're recording your sound directly into your computer, you may be interested in RØDE's AI-1 USB Audio Interface.

The problem when plugging a microphone into a computer and then recording your voice and the screen (using a program like Camtasia) is that unless the audio content sounds great, your production won't be particularly successful.

To begin, you need a good quality microphone. Unfortunately, USB microphones aren't always the best option (certainly the cheaper ones are problematic), while the better quality microphones generally have audio connectors which your computer does not.

You need a gadget that sits between the good quality microphone and the computer – and this is where the RØDE AI-1 USB Audio Interface comes into play.

RØDE Microphones designs and manufactures high-quality microphones and related accessories for studio, live and location use. Its products are designed and primarily manufactured in Sydney and exported to over 113 countries globally.

The AI-1 USB Audio Interface adds studio-quality input and output capabilities to your computer, making home recording easier than it has ever been.

With its high quality Neutrik combo jack input and discrete Class-A preamp, you’ll be able to connect either a microphone, guitar or a line level instrument, such as a synthesiser. Available as part of The Complete Studio Kit, the AI-1 comes with RØDE’s peerless NT1 large diaphragm condenser microphone, SMR shock mount with popshield, 20 foot XLR and USB C/A cables. Everything you need is included in the box!

The AI-1 allows zero-latency playback by enabling the direct monitoring feature and playback via headphones/speakers with the high quality discrete headphone amplifier. To ensure the AI-1 is truly versatile it features 48V Phantom Power and is class compliant – so there is no need to install any drivers. RRP for the AI-1 is $499.

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As Adobe increases its monthly tribute for running Photoshop and Lightroom, some photographers are looking for an alternative. However, this isn't the main reason you should investigate Capture One. Much more important to consider is image quality and if you prefer the way Capture One works – many photographers do. And just as Lightroom can replace much of what Photoshop does, Capture One can replace Lightroom and so it can be the raw processing and image editing application of choice.

Late last year, Phase One released Capture One 11 with some incremental, but very important improvements.

For photographers reading this magazine, one of the most important aspects of post-production is the abililty to selectively edit the image. In Photoshop we use layers and masks, in Lightroom we use the adjustment brush – and similarly Capture One has its local adjustments. It is within local adjustments that many of the improvements lie, especially a much faster and more robust processing engine, which means the masking process is much quicker and your consequent edits flow better.

For photographers already using Capture One, why should you upgrade? More tools have been added to the local adjustments tool, now simply called the 'Layers' panel. These include the levels and colour balance, and you can also add a layer with a filled mask much more easily than before. You can also add presets to layers, one preset per layer, but of course you can have multiple layers. And for each layer, its opacity can be adjusted from a slider control sitting up the top of the layers panel. It's a great improvement for photographers looking for an alternative to Photoshop, but like Lightroom, it still doesn't replace Photoshop as tools like luminosity and channel masks are unavailable!

Other pro-level features include being able to annotate notes over the top of photos (for sending files off to your retoucher), exporting Capture One files with crops, overlays and watermarks preserved as separate layers in PSD files, and Lab mode readouts in addition to RGB. Catalog restoration functions have been beefed up and when importing files from partially full memory cards, a duplicate checking feature will save you time.

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Macphun has been producing photo editing apps for quite a few years, but until recently only for the Mac. Now it is available for both Mac and Windows - and for some photographers it might be an affordable option to Photoshop or Lightroom.

It's also likely to be of interest to photographers who are new to editing because it takes a slightly different approach to postproduction. Photoshop and Lightroom provide you with all the tools, but they don't make suggestions as to what tools you might like to use. Luminar is a little different in that its interface is designed around the application of filters and what they might look like, using preliminary thumbnails to guide your deliberations.

Now, a filter in Luminar terms is really any form of image adjustment, from standard curve dialogs to brightening and warming filters. The terminology is more general than photographic, perhaps making it more accessible for non-photographers.

However, once you have applied one or a series of filters, you are then able to adjust them yourself using (generally) slider controls. It's easy to preview the result on your screen (and our standard recommendation for having a good quality monitor remains).

In somes ways, Luminar lets you edit your photos a little like the Nik Software plug-ins did for Photoshop and Lightroom, but you don't need Photoshop or Lightroom to run Luminar. Interestingly, you can use Nik and other Photoshop plug-ins with Luminar!

However, there are a lot of advanced features in Luminar as well. If you want to work selectively, Luminar provides the equivalent of layers and masks. Each filter can be applied globally or locally and there are a number of different ways you can brush in the filter effect.

Luminar will open raw files and the new 2018 version is claimed to be much faster than the earlier version, with new and improved algorithms for many of the filters.

And the price? As we go to press, the online price for a download is AUS $99 – and you can download a free trial first.

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