David Klein's design-focused observations and opinions
Photo credit: Twelve South
For work I recently swapped my 2015 MacBook Pro for a 2019 Mac mini. As a result of transitioning into management I no longer need to worry about graphics cards and Sketch performance. The Mac mini is small and quiet (just like my new iPhone 12 mini).
Naturally I placed the Mac mini next to my LG5K monitor. However, I recently observed that my monitor is far too low. A computer user’s eyes should point at the center of a monitor. After attaching my digital camera for proper video conferencing, the monitor was pushed to its lowest height setting. Every time I push it up it slides right back down again. Time for a new desk accessory.
When I reminisce about my Dad I focus on this one story when he was Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Chief Administrative Officer at Lewis Galoob Toys Inc.
In 1990 Galoob announced a product called Game Genie and Nintendo wasn’t thrilled. The product allowed you to hack games with codes that dramatically altered the rules of the game. For example, in Super Mario Brothers you could enter a code that gave you the ability to fly instead of run. Or you could play the entire game with the Raccoon Suit.
Nintendo sued Galoob to try to prevent Game Genie from being released. My Dad represented Galoob in the lawsuit. He successfully argued that Game Genie’s changes were temporary, and did not create a new version of the game which would be copyright infringement.
Judge Smith has now ruled that Game Genie does not create a derivative work and that consumers would not be infringing Nintendo’s copyrights if they used it. And since the consumer is not infringing, Galoob is not contributing to infringement, Mr. Klein said. The judge also lifted the injunction against sales.
After the lawsuit my Dad came home with a box of Game Genies that I could take to school to pass out. I was a hero.
If you ever come to my house I’ll show you my mint Game Genie that is still in the original box. (It’s important to note that this is separate from my Apple museum.) My wife does not understand why I need the box. This might be the most contentious and entertaining part of our marriage.
Usually a v2 of an app or product comes with some new features and a surprise or two. The Halide team, however, created a 10-part newsletter to demonstrate how to use the app. I love when a team dedicates resources to education and fun. Most teams would settle for in-app screens or perhaps a video. A newsletter that finishes with a shareable artifact is clever and innovative.
I recommend reading the Halide team’s incredibly thorough blog post about Halide Mark II as well.
Before the event I was skeptical that I would be excited by the announcements. My iPhone 11 Pro is perfect. It’s just as fast as it was the day it arrived. The camera is amazing. The battery life doesn’t seem to be degrading. In the days of the iPhone 4 and 4S you saw significant speed jumps year over year. Those days are gone.
iPhone 12 mini right? Or Pro? No definitely mini. I think…
I was skeptical about 5G. It’s not rolling out nationwide yet (although one could’ve made the same arguments about LTE). Apple is usually late to these transitions too. The original iPhone didn’t have 3G when most phones did. Apple also waited an extra year to add LTE to the iPhone. I recall this being the right decision because coworkers’ LTE-capable Android phones were dead by 2pm.
I rarely leave the house these days. Who cares about 5G? We’ll be stuck at home for another year thanks to COVID. WiFi is what matters. That’s why I need to figure out which WiFi 6 router to purchase. Yes, Eero has one now, but I’d rather throw away all of my Eero products since Amazon owns them. Time to get on the Ubiquity train.
The big surprise for me was the iPhone 12 mini (it looks like it’s supposed to be a lowercase “m” based on Apple’s copy). I suppose it wasn’t a surprise but I don’t trust the rumors (I’m still waiting for that Apple pager rumored in 2001). I’ve wanted a smaller phone for years. I even picked up an iPod touch last year to run with. Typing on a smaller screen is certainly more difficult, but it’s so much lighter in your pocket. In the old days you could actually reach the upper left corner without maneuvering the phone through your hand. Hopefully those days have returned. The question is 12 Pro or 12 mini?
MagSafe, like the breathing sleep light and the hardware battery meter on the old PowerBooks, was a welcome innovation. I’m glad to see its return. However, in typical Cook era fashion, it’s not included! You must purchase a $39 cable in order to take advantage of this new charging feature. Fine. I’ll give in and also purchase the new Watch and Phone charging mat. I suppose this is what the AirPower team was able to come up with.
I’m also excited about the ecosystem of stick-on products that will result from MagSafe coming to the iPhone. I can imagine lots of wallets being retired.
The Pro vs. mini debate requires a hard look at the camera. Yes, the mini’s wide (read: normal) camera lens has a larger aperture, but you lose the telephoto lens which I use often. I suppose I’ll just need to zoom with my feet.
The mini also misses out on Apple’s no ProRAW functionality. I’ll need to wait and see what this means for Halide which I use whenever I want to take a serious photo.
It’s great to see the Pro’s screen slightly increase in size. The 11 Pro has a 5.8″ inch screen while the 12 Pro has a 6.1″ screen. I honestly can’t imagine going back to a Max. It’s a behemoth now at 6.7“. Transitioning from an 11 Pro to a 12 mini will see a drop from 5.8” to 5.4” in addition to being thinner and lighter.
I’m a bit disappointed to not see 120hz come to the iPhone yet considering its been available on the iPad Pro for a few years now. Next year?
YES. Hard edges. We’re back to the iPhone 4/5 era also known as the “ice cream sandwich” shape. The curved edges are just a bit too slippery. If you read enough books about Apple you’ll learn that the iPhone 4 shape was the goal when the iPhone was first being developed. It just took a few years to get there. As a product designer it’s important to learn that v1 may not be your dream interface. It may take a couple years to get to the vision. Learn to live with this reality.
In the box
Good on Apple for removing the wall plug. Bad on Apple for not including a USB-C plug one time to help the world with the transition to USB-C.
At this point I’m leaning towards a 12 mini with 256gb of storage. If the camera really is comparable to the 11 Pro I should be fine. Right?
With a few products you can create a professional, lifelike appearance by connecting your fancy digital camera to your Mac and using it as a webcam.
My WFH setup. It might be time to retire the LG UltraFine 5K Display.
Due to COVID-19 we are all working from home this year, and, in the future, we will probably rely more and more on video calls to be safe and healthy. I’ve seen many articles with quick ways to improve your video quality: mount a tiny selfie light, connect a tiny external webcam, etc. This is like slapping a spoiler on your trunk and expecting to drive faster.
Recently I began exploring how to construct a setup similar to what executives use at home. The goal is to achieve a crisp image with an elegant bokeh effect behind my head. To achieve this you need a real camera, and a substantial light source if your room does not smother you with daylight.
Below is the list of products I used to build my setup. Do not fret upon looking at it. The goal for this post is for you to understand why each item is necessary.
Wide angle lens
Micro HDMI to HDMI cable
Camera AC power adapter
Neewer Metal 360 Degree Rotating Panoramic Ball Head
CAMVATE Upgraded 11″ Magic Articulating Arm
CAMVATE Super Clamp
Elgato Cam Link 4K
Elgato Key Light Air
Optional: Blue Yeti Microphone
Put it all together and you can look like me (stunning).
First, you need a digital camera and a wide angle lens to capture that gorgeous punim. I’m not going into detail about which camera to purchase because buying a camera is such a holy decision. Canon, Sony, Nikon, Fujifilm… there are many options and it’s something one should carefully consider. I’ve read a few articles that recommend the affordable Sony Alpha a6000, but hopefully you have a camera already so we can skip this part.
I use the Fujifilm X-T2 (latest model is the X-T4) with a 23mm lens (35mm equivalent with crop factor). You want a somewhat wide angle lens to ensure that the camera captures more than just your eyes and mouth. A wider lens will capture your surroundings similar to your computer’s built-in camera.
To avoid charging and swapping batteries every day, many cameras can use a trick battery that connects to a power outlet. One side looks like a battery, and the other side plugs in to the wall.
Double check your camera manufacturer’s website to see if your model can output video over an HDMI connection. Otherwise it may be time to purchase a new camera (again, not getting involved, but I’m very excited for you if that’s the case).
Take a breath. This is where things get mechanical.
You’re holding your camera now and thinking, “Dave, how can I get this thing to sit still and point at me?” My goal when I began this project was to mount my camera above and behind my LG UltraFine 5K display. Sure, you can use a tripod and place your camera next to your monitor. The problem is your teammates will see the side of your face instead of looking your eyes.
There are 3 components to this setup: a clamp, an articulating arm, and a ball head. The clamp grabs on to your big monitor, the articulating arm allows you to raise and lower the camera, and the ball head can help you angle your camera so it’s pointing precisely where you want.
Fortunately, you can mix and match products from various companies because the method for connecting cameras to accessories is standardized. I went with a combination of Neewer and Camvate.
Neewer Metal 360 Degree Rotating Panoramic Ball Head with 1/4″ Quick Shoe Plate
It’s important to put this little metal concoction together before worrying about your camera or display. Connect the ball head to the articulating arm. I’m aware that I awkwardly put this together.
Connect the arm to the clamp. Again, I am not smooth with this.
Twist all the levers to get an understanding of what they adjust. Loosening the arm’s lever allows the arm to expand and contract. Loosening the ball head’s lever allows you to spin the ball where the camera will eventually attach. Am I a hand model now?
Once all 3 pieces are screwed together, attach the clamp to the back of your display. Make sure it’s tight to ensure it doesn’t lean over when your camera is attached. Next, we’ll connect your camera to your computer.
The Fujifilm X-T2, like many other digital cameras, has a micro HDMI port. Use the micro HDMI to HDMI cable to connect your camera to the Elgato Cam Link 4K. Then, connect the Elgato Cam Link 4K to your computer. I’m using a 2015 MacBook Pro which has USB-A ports. If you have a newer MacBook you will need a USB-C to USB-A adapter to connect the Cam Link to your computer.
Light is what truly sets you apart from your coworkers. Even with great daylight, a strong, standalone light close to your face is crucial to improve video quality. Due to a desire to somewhat control the budget of this project, I went with the Elgato Key Light Air over the larger and brighter Key Light.
The one significant downside to the Key Light Air is its stand. Your desk must be larger enough to fit the light. The more expensive Key Light uses a clamp to connect to the back of your desk which is more convenient.
The Key Light Air also has a great little menu bar app for turning on and off, controlling brightness, and controlling temperature (a warm yellow glow vs. a cool blue glow).
When setting up your light, you want it to face you at a 45 degree angle and a bit higher than your head for a cinematic look. To accomplish this place the light at the corner of your desk or next to your monitor. To go deep on lightning I recommend watching a thorough YouTube video: Cinematic Lighting Techniques.
The Key Light Air requires AC power. There is no USB power option.
Surprisingly, configuring all of this only requires a couple clicks. There are two applications needed from Elgato’s website:
You’ll need to experiment with the Cam Link Air’s brightness and temperature settings to see what works in your environment. The example below demonstrates the light leaning a bit towards the cool side and full brightness.
Moments before I join a meeting I click the power icon next to the words “Key Light Air.” When the meeting ends I turn the light off since it’s a bit distracting while trying to think.
Elgato Game Capture HD
Game Center provides access to a few settings for the Cam Link. First, ensure the Cam Link is connected to your computer and then launch the app. Click on the small hammer/wrench icon in the Device area.
In the resulting popup menu, change the Profile dropdown from HD 720 to HD 1080. Click OK. You’re done. Quit Game Center. Forget it exists.
To change the camera source in Google Meet after joining a meeting:
Click on the ⋮ button in the lower right corner of the window.
Click on Settings.
Click on the Video tab.
Click on the current camera in the Camera area. For me the current camera was “LG UltraFine Display Camera” since I normally use its camera.
Click on “Cam Link 4K” in the menu.
It’s OK if don’t see image in the preview area. You probably forgot to turn on your camera. I do this often.
Click Done and say “hi!” to everyone.
To change the camera source in Zoom after joining a meeting:
Click on the little triangle inside the Start/Stop Video button.
Select “Cam Link 4K” in the menu.
Click on the little triangle again to close the menu.
Done. Now lead that meeting! Don’t be afraid to stick your neck out.
There are a few settings I changed on the Fujifilm X-T2 to make this work. I also had to experiment a bit because one tutorial I read included incorrect information. I recommend searching for your camera plus the word “webcam” to see what settings you need to adjust.
Set the camera to video mode as if you were going to record a video.
Set aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to Auto.
Menu › Connection Setting. Depending on your camera’s firmware you will either see PC Connection Mode, Connection Mode, or PC Shoot Mode. On the next screen select either USB Tether Shooting Auto or USB Auto.
Menu › AF/MF Setting › Pre-AF set to On
Menu › AF/MF Setting › Face/Eye Detection Setting › Face Detection On
Menu › Connection Setting › USB Power Supply Setting set to On if available.
Focus mode set to AF-S.
I definitely did not have all of this memorized. I had to search for my camera’s manual and look up a bunch of these options.
The focus of this post is clearly video, but high quality audio can also make a difference during conference calls. Please do not overreact. I will not lead you into a cave of audiophilia. The Wirecutter recommends a Blue Yeti microphone, and, coincidentally, that is the microphone I have owned for years to record a podcast that I have yet to record. However, if I were to purchase a microphone today, I would look to the Yeti Nano since the Blue Yeti is a bit large. Perhaps avoid the AmazonBasics Microphone.
One can experiment with microphones, stands, and articulating arms similar to what is discussed above. I will save you time and just recommend a USB microphone to avoid relying on your computer’s built-in microphone. An external microphone is not only more sensitive, but it can be placed closer to your mouth.
After purchasing and connecting your microphone, select it using the Google Meet and Zoom instructions above. The difference obviously is to select audio options instead of video options.
I recommend reviewing your microphones manual to ensure it is configured to focus on sources that are directly in front of the microphone. For the Blue Yeti this is named “Cardioid” mode, and the knob’s icon looks like a heart.
How to Watch a Movie and Listen to a Podcast Simultaneously
If you are a particularly nerdy individuals who enjoys watching movies while listening to director and cast commentary, you will love this. There are now podcasts that do the same! They start off with a few minutes of chit chat and you inevitably hear “OK here we go 3…2…1… play.” You click play on the movie at the same time and you’re good to go.
Blank Check: Special Features is one of these podcasts (also on my faves list). For $5 per month you can watch a movie and learn a bunch of random facts while being thoroughly entertained. The problem is I want to watch the movie on my iPad and listen to the podcast on my Mac. This requires software. Don’t worry; I did the research and figured out a setup for you. Three applications made by Rogue Amoeba are required:
Airfoil is an amazing tool for sending and receiving audio between devices. It is not actively used in this setup, but its license unlocks the companion app. Airfoil Satellite allows you to receive audio from another device using AirPlay. SoundSource gives you granular controls over audio output on your Mac.
Again, I enjoy watching movies on my iPad, and listening to podcasts on my Mac. The goal is to hear both the movie and podcast audio in one set of headphones. First, launch Airfoil Satellite on your Mac. Then hop over to your iPad.
Start playing a movie.
Tap the AirPlay button to launch its menu, and, if Airfoil Satellite is open on your Mac, you will see your Mac in the “Speakers & TVs” list.
Tap on your Mac’s name. Mine is “DKMBP.”
Now the movie’s audio on your iPad should be playing through your Mac.
Neat, right? You can stop here, but the extra bit of control over each source’s volume significantly improves the experience.
Open SoundSource on your Mac. SoundSource appears as an icon in the menu bar that unfortunately looks virtually identical to the macOS Sound menu bar item. Click on the SoundSource icon to open its panel and view a list of applications that are currently producing sound. I use Flotato to create a dedicated Overcast app for playing podcasts. If Overcast and Airfoil Satellite both used the same volume control, it is difficult to clearly hear both the podcast and movie. I need to slightly adjust the volume of one source to ensure I hear everything. Trust me: the commentary is worth it.
Play with the various volumes until you achieve a balance that works for you. Maybe you want to barely hear the movie and focus on the podcast. With SoundSource that is possible.
Let me know if you have any questions. Yes, I really do this.
Tim Pelan makes a delightful connection between this legendary movie and a TV show you may have heard of.
As far back as I can remember, director Martin Scorsese has been synonymous with wiseguys, mooks, goombahs, and spin-on-a-dime funny-how guys delivering a gut punch to the senses, all choreographed to a wowser wall of sound. Young pretenders like Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright certainly learnt how to make up a killer score not, conversely, on the streets, but at the church of St Martin. The rest is bullshit (but that’s another film). We’re here to talk about Goodfellas (1990), surely his most guilty thrill ride until The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), the white-collar larcenous flip side to the saga of Henry Hill, an initial outsider like the young, asthmatic Scorsese in Little Italy, who finds an in to the neighbourhood mobster way of life. Scorsese indulges in the seductive surface appeal of these dodgy foot soldiers, gradually peeling away the layers like finely chopped garlic to reveal the lousy, grifting, desperate and moral hollow at the centre. Critic David Thomson in The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies and What They Did to Us says, “Scorsese looks at clothes, decor and male gesture like a cobra scrutinizing a charmer. You feel he is realizing his own desires, or bringing them to life: he hungers for his own imagery as a fantasy made vivid.” The director himself reflected later to Richard Schickel that he saw the film a little differently. “I wanted to seduce everybody into the movie and into the style. And then just take them apart with it. I guess I wanted a kind of angry gesture.” A kind of magic carpet ride rug-pull too, the Seinfeld of gangster films, with “no hugging, no learning.” The only regret is in getting pinched.
This is a must-read on Cinephila & Beyond if you’re curious about how Scorsese filmed specific scenes and his motivations. It’s also fun to reflect on Larry David’s credo for Seinfeld: “No hugging, No learning.” Think about it for a moment. Do characters ever hug on Seinfeld? Do they ever learn from their mistakes?
I have been designing for a number of years (since 2007?!), and, after recently being promoted to Principal Product Designer at Salesforce, an opportunity to transition into management arose. As a result, I began reading to learn about the subject. The first book I read is The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhou. She describes four possible ways one begins managing, and one rang true.
The successor transition is like the apprentice’s but with a twist: because your manager is leaving, you’re taking on supporting the entire team yourself, not just a portion of it. Though most successors have prior management experience, it’s still a significant increase in responsibility and you may feel you have big shoes to fill. While the advantages of this transition are similar to those of the apprentice (you have a sense of what works and what doesn’t, and you’re able to ramp up quickly because you come in with context, as described earlier), the differences are also striking.
I’m both anxious and excited by this opportunity. It feels like a natural transition because of my desire to teach what I have learned from my variety of experiences. Watching teammates improve their craft and presentation skills is incredibly rewarding.
In 2003 I took a course at Cornell University in the Music department named Advanced Digital Music: Film Scoring taught by David Borden. We used a plethora of applications like Digital Performer and Reason to compose music for short film clips. This course was challenging because as a composer you want the audience to not feel overwhelmed by your score. Music should accompany the scene; not dominate it. One must match the tone while allowing subtle noises like a door closing to pierce through.
Also in 2003 a professor in the Computer Science department began an unofficial course in game design. There were five teams building games and five students in the music course. Someone had the brilliant idea of assigning a music student to a game design team.
Dragon breeding is a difficult business. You must breed, nurture, feed, and train your dragons in a growing dragon economy. Keep a good journal, as dragon species popularity changes yearly. (Java project)
Yes, it’s still available to download (if you have Windows). I worked with the game design students to learn the purpose of their game and where music was needed. I then retreated to the studio and began writing.
Before the player clicks “Start” they hear a jovial melody to welcome them.
While the player is traversing the world they hear a majestic tune to encourage exploration.
When the player fights to breed their dragons they hear a battle theme that evokes a showdown.
Next time you’re watching a movie or playing a game, try to focus on the background music for a few bars. Think about the instruments and melodies. You’ll notice how the accompanying music was designed to enhance the moment by evoking certain emotions. You can also search on YouTube for your favorite movie or game plus the word “score.”
Kenya Hara, one of my favorite authors, writes about Japanese hotels in a beautiful newsletter named High Resolution Tour. The latest edition features Tokyo’s Muji Hotel in Ginza.
MUJIHOTELGINZA opened in April, 2019 on the top five floors of a ten-story building on Namiki-dori Street. The new flagship store, on floors B1-five, replaced the former one, near Yurakucho Station. MUJI, founded in the values of anti-gorgeous and anti-cheap, is determined to provide simplicity and concision, pursuing a unique style of coziness and comfort. Visitors and guests at MUJIHOTELGINZA can savor this concept as a context for living.
Sometimes restraint is more comfortable than extravagance. Here one finds a highly precise minimalism that can be implemented here because Japan prides itself on its high quality space design and construction. MUJI’s approach is reflected in every part of the space. Careful selection, refinement and constant improvements have been made to floors, walls, ceilings, their borders and corners, materials, furniture and fixtures. While the rooms are not especially spacious, there is pleasure to be had in staying in a new hotel in the very heart of the Ginza playground.
You can also keep up with Hara’s tours on Instagram. Staying at the Muji hotel would be a difficult sell for my spouse considering she organizes and manages all of our travel plans. Hopefully I can convince her to plan a stay at one of Hara’s featured hotels during our next trip.
If you are unfamiliar with Hara, I strongly urge you to read Designing Design in which he writes extensively about Muji’s purpose and brand. The way Hara illustrates craft, simplicity, and authenticity is inspiring.