Category Archives: Blog

ACE – one of the best & the cheapest ways to learn world of modular synths

Here is the synth I’ve taken to calling “my beloved ACE”

There’s so much to learn about synthesis & there’s so much cost involved in hardware modular synths that it felt completely inaccessible to me.

However, Urs Heckman & the folks at make a really cool & affordable synth called ACE or Any Cable Everywhere that allows you to explore a set of what sort of looks like Doepfer hardware modules in the software world without the bottomless options for spending money like VCV or Softtube’s Modular synth ecosystems.

It’s a semi-modular synth – which means you can get notes out of it in it’s normal state, but they you can drag virtual cables to change the way it works.  AND you can load multiple instances in your DAW & it’s Polyphonic so the value compared to the hardware is off the charts.

It’s very very deep & versatile and can create nearly any kind of sound generation including, subtractive styles, analog cross modulation, FM, AM, & Phase modulation. But doesn’t really do additive, wavetable, or granular synthesis, & doesn’t have an internal wavefolder for Buchla type timbre changes.  It also needs a note fed to it to make sound, so it’s not really a free-running bleep blooper like some other synths.  But overall it’s fun & inexpensive way to explore nearly all types of synthesis.

Learn more about it here.  & the amazing youtube tutorials by Dan Worrell that teach you so much about ACE in particular & synthesis in general.

Profile photo editing walkthrough


I made a neat profile photo.  And when i put it on facebook some folks asked me how I did it.

Here’s way more detail about how that happened than anybody asked for: I was on the couch thinking about this post on fstoppers about double exposures and how they were made in-camera on some new digital cameras.  I knew my iPhone couldn’t do that stuff in-camera (with the stock camera app, that is).  But I figured i could do something rad like them with the app that I did own – image blender.


So I took a photo of the awesome painting my good friend Mike Hyder made and gave me back in ’96 or so: Isn’t it the raddest? so then i needed to take a photo of me to turn the painting into “me”. I figured that I needed to take a photos of me on a white background and make it black and white for this to work.  I thought i knew this from just working with photoshop and knowing that lots and lots of times you’re working with black and white images to let things “through” to other images…it’s a whole thing called “masking”.


So i turned on the front-facing camera and snapped this: Thrilling, yes! (no)

I just wanted a neutral face and some side-eye…and that’s what i got.  I thought, “that’ll work” and started the next step.


The next step was to turn the image black and white using Afterlight: and then swiped the contrast slider to the right a couple of times. Ah! Now.  That’s looking better.  Now, i just need to get rid of the stuff i don’t want by cropping it away.


Ok…so now it’s just me….(you can see where i tried to clone some things using photogene2, but that didn’t really go anywhere.  So instead, i decided to just paint white where i wasn’t.  and then I had this:


I hoped this was good enough to get going with the actual masking/blending.


so now it was time to fire up Image blender           After some experimentation i found out that the blend mode of “Color Dodge” had the right effect i was going for.

You can see how the other modes in the screen shot don’t do the thing i was after.


Then i found out I had to put the background on the left, and the foreground on the right. Lessons learned :

  • I was too excited about the effect as it was.  Had i moved that slider over to the middle i would a have gotten a little more detail and contour shown in my cheek that make the effect pretty cool.  Too much in the middle though, and the background made me look like i has whiskers like a cat around my nose.
  • Also – i did no experimentation with placement – It was a happy happy accident that the blue started right at my upper lip and moved down my throat.  I saw that and was like “BOOOOM” and stopped working and published the photo.
  • I was worried that the low resolution of the front-facing camera was going to be problem, but it wasn’t at ALL.  word.  ( i was going for a kind of crudded look anyway)
  • I think this technique could be used with all sorts of background images….



Syncing A Canon 580EXii In Stand-Alone Commander Mode With Any Camera


The Context

I was given my Grandad’s Canon AE-1.  I’ve let it sit in a closet for 18 years. But I fixed it & It’s back in business now.  I want to use it & sync multiple flashes to do some … flash stuff.  So i’ve been learning to really use a flash meter & work stuff out.

What I’ve Learned

The 580EXii can act as a commander in manual mode for 3 groups NOT connected to a TTL camera.  You can just power it up and program in your power levels for the 3 groups A:B:C…DOPE!  OR you can do the whole ETTL-style thing with power ratios…but i’m going to not pay attention to that ‘cause I can work out the ratios in my head, & I feel safer & more “grounded” if i’m working with 1/8th power, 1/4th power, etc…

You can even fire your grunt flashes by setting your power levels (on the commander, mind you, this is the key to the neat-ness) & hitting the pilot button, & they will all fire correctly, for old school manual realness. 

A 580EXii can be fired/triggered from the camera either by a PC sync cord, or the hotshoe via a long cable.  

(but callisonic…why don’t you just use pocketwizards?…

cause i spent a year using pocketwizards and getting black frames when the shitting things wouldn’t communicate with each other…i switched over to a hybrid long hotshoe-corded / McNally method of line of sight, and saw my flashes all start to work in a rock solid fashion EVEN OUTDOORS.  seriously 33% of all my shots were missed cause the pocket wizards couldn’t hang.)

Turns out:  

The 580EXii *doesn’t* transmit commander info when synced/fired by the PC cord method. dang!

The 580EXii *does* transmit commander info to grunt flashes if triggered by the hotshoe cable.  EVEN if that hotshoe cable is a “dumb” hotshoe cable…not a modern ETTL hotshoe on the camera…even the Canon AE-1 (&presumably any camera with a hotshoe connection) will trigger the flash which will send out the commander pulses to the grunt flashes.  DOPE!

They don’t tell you this in the manual so hopefully i just saved you 15 dollars on a pc cord purchase that’s unnecessary.

Can’t wait to make multi-flash photos with my grandad’s 35mm film camera.  yeah.

Sidenote:  I’m going to try and refrain from using MALE/FEMALE & MASTER/SLAVE language when I talk about this stuff from now on.  That’s gonna be hard to do as an A/V nerd.  but that language needs to be deprecated, stat.

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