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Panasonic GH4 firmware v2.1 finally released

By site editor Dan Chung:

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After a few weeks delay, Panasonic have today made their latest v2.1 firmware for the GH4 available. It has a range of performance enhancements mainly geared towards better operation with the Atomos Shogun 4K external recorder. A start/stop signal can now be embedded into the HDMI output allowing for easier simultaneous recording to camera and recorder. In FHD mode you can output 30 and 25P signals via HDMI while recording internally at those frame rates.

As we were previously told, one thing missing from this release is the V-log gamma curve that was spotted recently by our technical editor Matt Allard at the InterBEE trade show in Japan. There is still no official confirmation of when, or if, this is going to be released.

You can download the new firmware here.

Here is the info from the Panasonic:

Time code can be embedded to the HDMI output signal.
– Selectable in Motion Picture menu : [Time Code]>[HDMI Time Code Output]
* Available when DMC-GH4 or DMW-YAGH are connected with the products of ATOMOS Global Pty. Ltd. or the products complying with the extended specifications of ATOMOS Global Pty. Ltd..
RSS (Recording Start/Stop) signal can be embedded to the HDMI output signal.
– Selectable in Motion Picture menu : [HDMI Rec Output]>[HDMI Recording Control]
* Available when DMC-GH4 or DMW-YAGH are connected with the products of ATOMOS Global Pty. Ltd. or the products complying with the extended specifications of ATOMOS Global Pty. Ltd..
FHD at 30p/25p native output via HDMI is available while recording video in FHD at 30p/25p.
– Selectable in Motion Picture menu : [HDMI Rec Output]>[1080/30p Set.] or [1080/25p Set.]
Playback performance of recorded 4K video is improved.
[Time Lapse Shot] Program is fixed to start recording at the designated time even when [summer time] is set.

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Posted on January 26th, 2015 by Dan Chung | Category: 4K, Panasonic GH4 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Viewfactor announce DLCM-1 digital servo motor – a smaller, lighter alternative for remote lens control

By site editor Dan Chung:

The DLCM-1 lens motor

The DLCM-1 lens motor

Once upon a time, focus servo motors were strictly limited to the high end of cinema shooting; they were prohibitively expensive and never seen on lower budget shoots. Each motor allows control of focus, iris or zoom via either a wired, or more commonly wireless, controller.

However, the arrival of lower cost large sensor cameras, brushless gimbals and innovative motion control devices has created a greater need to maintain precise focus when the camera is moving. The cost of wireless focus has also come down massively in the past few years. There are now several very cheap systems that use servo motors designed for radio controlled cars – but these are often noisy and don’t have the torque required to smoothly move stiffer lenses, especially cinema ones. Established manufacturers of professional systems have tried to tempt users into getting a ‘serious’ system by creating less expensive versions of their high end digital systems. C-motion, Heden, ARRI, Hocus Products, DVInside and RedrockMicro all sell wireless controllers, receivers and motors kits designed for mid level users.

Even so, these pro systems still cost thousands of dollars and a large part of that cost is the digital servo motor. With the higher end units you can usually use the motor of your choice with the popular Heden M26VE Digital Servo Motor, which costs around $2600 US. RedrockMicro have the reasonably priced microRemote Wireless Bundle starting at just under $2500. Chinese company Tilta have been working on a three motor remote system for some time that is supposed to be aggressively priced.

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Viewfactor are the latest company to enter this market with their DLCM-1 lens motor. Recognising the need for small and lighter motors for use on drones and stabilisers, they are developing a new motor that weighs a mere 159g. They claim it can be easily mounted on practically any camera rig. The DLCM-1 uses a “custom high-resolution 10-bit optical encoder as well as a high-torque worm gear reduction to ensure accurate and responsive positioning” and Viewfactor claim it will work with nearly all third party wireless controllers.

MOTOR_END

The best thing about the DLCM-1 motor is its price: at $1245 US it costs considerably less than some rivals. Of course you still need to add an expensive controller and cables to that cost to make a complete system – but for brushless gimbal and Steadicam professionals, a motor at this price which is so small and light could be just the ticket.

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The DLCM-1 is still in the production phase and Viewfactor is taking the opportunity to give prospective owners an insight into how the product is brought to life, keeping them regularly updated on progress via their blog. Delivery is expected in around 7 to 9 weeks.

Here are the official specs:

1- DLCM-1 Motor
1- 15mm Mounting Bracket
1- 0.8 pitch gear
1- Case
Maximum Peak Torque 0.5 Nm (4.4 in-lb)
Maximum Speed 3.3 rev/second (180 rpm)
Encoder Resolution 10-bit (0.35 degrees)
Output Resolution 0.006 degrees
Output Gear 0.8 Mod
Weight (Includes Motor, Output Gear, and 15mm Bracket) 159 g
Power Consumption 3.4 Watts
Voltage 24 Volts Max
Operating Temperature 0°C to + 40°C (-32°F to 104°F)

Posted on January 26th, 2015 by Dan Chung | Category: Brushless gimbals, Follow Focus, Lenses | Permalink | Comments (3)

Samsung NX1 gets significant firmware update

By site editor Dan Chung:

The Samsung NX1

The Samsung NX1

We haven’t been paying much attention to the Samsung NX1 on Newsshooter in recent months. That might be about to change. The 4K capable compact system camera from the Korean electronics giant has just received a significant firmware upgrade that gives it some of the pro video features that it had been previously missing.

23.98 and 24 frame rates have been added in both 4K and 1080P video modes and new gamma curves have been added that are designed specifically for video. Master black level adjustment has been added along with the ability to select luminance levels that are full-range 0-255, 16-235 or 16-255. Time code can now be output over HDMI for use with external recorders like the Atomos Shogun.

Audio levels and ISO can now be adjusted on the fly while shooting video and autofocus can now be toggled on or off in movie mode – these features being potentially useful to documentary shooters. The 1080 HD mode on the camera is said to be improved too.

With all these new features the NX1 now looks much more attractive on paper and makes it the cheapest APS-C sensor camera to offer 4K internal recording. The sensor in the NX1 gives it a very similar sensor size to 35mm movie cameras – half way between its two main competitors, the full frame Sony a7S and the micro four thirds Panasonic GH4. The downside is that to get 4K recording internally you have to shoot in the newer H.265 HEVC codec which is not widely supported and in most cases needs to be converted before editing.

Samsung's 50-150mm f2.8 NX lens

Samsung’s 50-150mm f2.8 NX lens

Lenses are also a potential issue thanks to the camera’s use of NX mount. Samsung’s own lens range of AF glass is nice but very limited. There are adapters to get many lenses from the likes of Nikon or Zeiss working on the NX1 – you can even fit PL cine glass. But unlike the M4/3 and Sony E-mounts there is currently no option for a Metabones type electronic EF adapter so Canon EOS lens owners would be a bit stuck.

Another potential issue is the strong rolling shutter effect. Our friends at Cinema5D did some testing and they were less than impressed.

Stills performance from the camera is said to be very good and multimedia shooters might be wise to pay closer attention to the NX1, especially if they want 4K and need to keep the costs down.

I’m going to try and get more hands on experience with the NX1 in the near future to see just how good it really is.

You can download the new firmware from the Samsung website.

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Posted on January 24th, 2015 by Dan Chung | Category: 4K, Samsung NX1 | Permalink | Comments (1)

DJI Inspire 1 – A professional drone operator’s perspective from Hexcam’s Elliott Corke

Guest post by Elliott Corke of Hexcam:

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Last week I received one of the first DJI Inspire 1 quadcopters in the UK. Like any machine I had to put it through its paces properly before supplying it to any of our clients. I run HexCam, a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approved remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) operator based in the UK. We have been operating for three years in different sectors but have now begun to develop a specialism in supplying equipment and training new pilots. In the UK, commercial operators have to hold a CAA permission for aerial work and now need further permissions to operate machines over 7Kg in congested areas, which basically means most areas of towns and cities. Thanks to the pragmatic approach taken by the UK CAA, the industry is growing rapidly with 442 active legal operators as I write this article.

I have to say, I was like a excited kid in a candy store as I opened the Inspire 1 case, and I wasn’t disappointed. The Inspire 1 is a slick looking machine, all carbon fibre, CNC metal and ice-white plastic. A Phantom this is not. It has a satisfying, solid, well engineered feel to it. The box has everything you need except an Android device (note the lack of Apple device… I’ll get to that later). After transforming the device from transport mode into flight mode it is really simple to attach the camera module. It really feels that there should be some kind of mini stormtrooper piloting this thing, it would not look out of place in a Star Wars film.

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The DJI Pilot app has been well thought through, with a variety of sub-menus to control almost every aspect of the aircraft’s flight systems as well as the gimbal and camera. It took me twenty minutes or so to perform a required firmware update and unshackle my aircraft from the various beginner modes and limited flight modes before I took it out for its first flight. I have to say the first flight in GPS assisted mode was fairly disappointing. The machine felt almost too ‘locked in’, jolting to a stop when the controls were released. This seemed to improve with altitude so it feels like the new Vision Positioning technology may be making the Inspire’s position lock just a little too harsh. However, once in atti mode the machine was able to fly with much more fluidity and it did begin to feel like the machine I had been hoping it would be.

The below video is just a short test flight where the body of the machine was deliberately left in shot at times to show stability. Video was set on full auto.

We have had limited time for flying recently thanks to the Great British January weather, so most of my flights were carried out in 10-15mph winds. It has been sunny, although it has been a harsh winter sunlight that makes getting good shots very difficult. The Inspire 1 camera ships with a ND filter so I put that on most of the time. As I was predominantly testing the flight characteristics rather than the camera, I left the camera in full auto most of the time alternating between 4K and 1080 video resolutions to allow me to compare them when I have a moment. I sent a sample of 4K footage to Tom at Fast Forward Media who does most of our video editing and has machines that can deal with the footage in all its 4K glory. Here is what he had to say:

“I’ve taken a look, and overall it looks promising. The gimbal stabilisation itself is very impressive. There’s a good amount of detail present, though it seems that if anything its a bit over-sharpened, with some noise present in high detail areas. Some tweaks to the picture profile to lessen the sharpening being applied in camera will likely fix that. Its also quite a constrasty image, so again, would be good to get a flatter image for post work if possible. It also appears to be filming at a slightly letterboxed aspect ratio; seems like about 1.85:1, might be something to do with full auto, but worth mentioning. The dynamic range seems pretty good, looking at the second clip with the sky. There’s a fair amount of compression noise, especially in the darker areas. Also had some juddery playback when you’re spinning around in the second video, which is odd given my machine deals with 4K very easily usually.”

Removing the sharpening that Tom mentioned is certainly possible in custom mode, as is using a flat colour profile. I believe the letterboxing may have been due to me choosing the wrong 4K aspect ratio from the options. When I play back my footage from the Inspire 1 it doesn’t really come close to the quality from my GH4 – but it is worth bearing in mind that the Inspire 1 completely ready to go costs about a third of my GH4 rig, comes in a smidge under 3Kg and can give me a clean HD feed to the ground that is probably good enough for live streaming.

Hexcam fly larger and smaller multirotors

Hexcam fly larger and smaller multirotors

I shoot most of my stills on a 24MP Sony NEX7, so it was clear that the 12.4MP stills from the Inspire 1 weren’t going to match my normal standard. However I was pleased with the fact that the fisheye effect that we see on the GoPro/Phantom combo isn’t there. It is easy to switch between stills and video in flight and I was even able to review video in flight if I wanted to. The stills quality will probably please someone upgrading from a GoPro rig.

When working as a single operator I normally use yaw follow mode, where the camera tracks the aircraft so the camera is turned by turning the aircraft. Using the DJI Pilot app I was able to switch to “free” mode and move the camera independently of the aircraft by holding and dragging on the screen of my android device. This has great potential for still shoots and 3D panoramas as often turning the machine causes it to lose position slightly. The camera is able to be returned to centre with a touch of a button on the app, or one of the programmable buttons on the back of the remote.

One new feature the DJI Inspire 1 brings to the party is Vision Positioning technology. This uses a combination of camera and sonar to maintain a position without a GPS signal – something that has traditionally been a problem when flying quadcopters like the Phantom indoors. When working over a textured or patterned surface, I found that the hold was, if anything, better than GPS hold. However the results were less impressive while working in a white-floored film studio – the Inspire reverted to atti mode.

The Inspire 1 flight simulator

The Inspire 1 flight simulator

Another useful feature is the simulator that is built into the app. It flies in a very similar way to the real aircraft and simulates all functions offered in the DJI Pilot app. The one downside is that you can’t run the simulator without the Inspire turned on and connected – which seems a bit silly given that the simulator would be great to use practise without having to get the Inspire out.

I also tried taking the propellers off and using the Inspire itself as a basic handheld gimbal. Handholding is actually quite comfortable thanks to the position of the arm struts. The camera direction could easily be controlled by a second person using the transmitter and app or the Inspire can simply be used in follow mode.

So where’s the catch? There have been a few teething issues. Within 48 hours of release reports began to appear of seemingly random crashes and the video below began to do the rounds on the forums.

My machine seemed fine but then DJI did something that even 6 months ago might have seemed unthinkable… they admitted there was a bug in the firmware and rapidly released an updated firmware to solve the bug. That, combined with their new 24/7 online support, really shows that DJI have begun to cotton on to the importance of customer service and support. I used the online chat earlier this week to resolve a small technical issue (actually it was more of a “read the manual more carefully” issue) and they had me sorted within 30 minutes. Once I had installed the upgraded firmware the Inspire did seem better to fly. It still has a certain twitchiness in the air but that may be to do with the slightly inward angled props and the unique design of the airframe. A few people have reported issues with a degree of looseness in the motor arms causing vibrations but I didn’t find that affected me.

In a very unusual move, DJI have also advised that customers not to fly the DJI Inspire 1 until the release of propeller locks to solve a problem that some customers have had where the self tightening props spin themselves off (click here to read the posting from DJI on their forum site). Please see the video below.

Over the last few days the iOS version of the DJI Pilot app has also been removed from the app store. It is apparently because DJI may have released the app under the wrong kind of certificate (click here for the link to the posting). As a result only Android devices can currently be used to run the DJI Pilot app. I find this a real shame as the video downlink definitely seemed less laggy on iOS (and this is speaking as a hardened Android user).

Even with these three fairly major issues in the first week of release I don’t think it will put me off the Inspire 1 in the long term. I am sure they’ll all be resolved soon and the Inspire 1 is certainly going to find its way into my tool bag.

I don’t feel that the DJI Inspire 1 is a replacement for the Phantom 2. The Phantom’s small size and optional propeller guards make it an ideal machine for interior use. But the Inspire 1 does form a bridge between the Phantom and the larger aircraft that can carry the likes of the Panasonic GH4. For the technology that is packed into the Inspire 1 the price point is genuinely excellent. The Inspire has the equivalent of a top of the range DJI A2 flight controller and Lightbridge HD downlink which six months ago cost the price of the Inspire on their own.

I think it is likely DJI will begin to produce more cameras to fit the new mounting system and I genuinely hope they will release the interface specs to other manufacturers so they can provide better cameras for some of our high-end applications.

Although DJI have built in huge amount of assistance for new pilots, I do feel that people need to appreciate that this is a serious machine and I would strongly recommend that inexperienced pilots ask their supplier where they can obtain training in their local area. The Inspire 1 has 13 inch props that are more than capable of doing damage to people – please enjoy yourself but fly safe and make sure you adhere to any local regulations regarding the use of remote controlled aircraft for recreation or commercial use.

To find out more about Hexcam head over to their website for more information.

Editor: This is just one of several reviews we will be posting by differnt Inspire 1 owners over the next few weeks.

Posted on January 23rd, 2015 by Matthew Allard | Category: Drones | Permalink | Comments (0)

Blackmagic Camera 2.0 Firmware Released – URSA gets 4K and HD 444 ProRes Recording

By technical editor Matt Allard:

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Blackmagic today released Camera Firmware 2.0 that adds new features for the URSA. The Studio Camera 4K, Studio Camera, BMPCC and BMCC all get minor improvements or bug fixes.

For owners of the URSA Blackmagic have added Apple ProRes 444 recording in 4K and HD. As far as I’m aware the URSA and the AJA Cion are the only 4K sensor cameras currently capable of recording 444 ProRes internally.

What’s new in Blackmagic Camera Utility 2.0:

Blackmagic URSA
Adds support for Apple ProRes 444 recording in 4K and HD
Blackmagic Studio Camera 4K
Performance improvements for optical fiber output
Blackmagic Studio Camera
Fixes an issue where the overlays settings are not remembered after turning off camera
Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera
Fixes an issue where dropped frames are occurring during ProRes LT and Proxy recording
Blackmagic Cinema Camera
Performance enhancements and improvements
Blackmagic Production Camera 4K
No changes

You can download the new firmware here.

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Posted on January 23rd, 2015 by Matthew Allard | Category: 4K, Blackmagic design | Permalink | Comments (0)

Latest Go Creative show talks tech with Matt Allard and Monster makeup

By site editor Dan Chung:

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This week on the Go Creative Show our own technical editor Matt Allard talks about some of the latest gear with show host Ben Consoli. (Matt’s segment starts about 45 minutes into the show).

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The main part of this week’s podcast is taken up talking “monster makeup” with special effects makeup artist Frank Ippolito – the subject is something that most news and documentary shooters probably will never use for their day jobs. Even though this episode is a fascinating listen and its great to get an insight into a completely different part of the industry.

Click below to listen in:

Posted on January 22nd, 2015 by Dan Chung | Category: Go Creative show | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tascam DR-10X micro audio recorder with XLR connection

By technical editor Matt Allard:

The Tascam DR-10X

The Tascam DR-10X

Recently I’ve been looking at small audio recording devices to remotely capture broadcast quality sound. There are several small recorders like the Zoom H1, or alternatively iPhone or iPod based solutions such as Rode’s smartLav+ coupled with their Rode Record app. Finding a small device with a professional XLR audio connection has been near impossible until now. Enter the Tascam DR-10X – a tiny device with some very professional features.

The the DR-10X compact PCM recorder is designed to capture audio during interviews, press conferences and meetings. It attaches directly to any dynamic or battery-powered condenser microphone with a XLR output. The captive XLR connector attaches firmly to the microphone and essentially turns it into a single hand holdable unit. It can capture audio at Broadcast standard 48kHz/24-bit in WAV format. Offloading recordings is a simple matter of connecting through the microUSB connection or by removing the microSD card and placing it in a reader.

The DR-10X has both manual and automatic gain settings, with a low cut filter and limiter to prevent overloads. There is however no way of fine tuning the volume manually, you have to either set the gain to low/mid/high, or leave it on automatic. Recording can begin instantly when turning the device on – you hold the record side switch during startup.

The record lever

The record lever

The recording switch uses a sliding mechanism instead of a designated recording button. There is a hold function that can prevent recording from being stopped by accidental button presses.

Duel recording option

Duel recording option

The DR-10X has a headphone socket for monitoring, but in many cases the locations where you put this recorder will prohibit the use of headphones. You aren’t going to be able to trail a headphone cable half way across a room to the front of a news conference from your camera position.

If you can’t easily monitor setting the record level correctly can become problematic. The DR-10X has several functions to prevent issues related to recording level settings, These include a dual recording function that allows you to set one recording level while simultaneously recording a backup track at a lower level. If the primary track overloads and clips then you can simply use the one recorded at the lower level. This is a really nice feature and I would use this all the time as there is no downside in doing it. In addition the unit has an automatic gain control function that can adjust the input level. In common with most other professional recorders it also has a limiter function.

Headphone monitoring

Headphone monitoring

Even though this unit is very compact it can still play back recorded files via the headphones. You can check the battery level on the easy-to-read display. Even if the battery should run out the unit will automatically close the current audio file to prevent the loss of already recorded data before it shuts down. While the display is handy I did find it a little too small for my eyes.

Attached to the Rode Reporter Mic

Attached to the Rode Reporter Mic

I tried the DR-10X with a multitude of different microphones and was very pleased with the results. The locking mechanism at the base of the XLR connector enables you to use a large microphone such at the Rode Reporter Mic and keep a solid connection that doesn’t wobble around. You can also use a normal lapel style mic as long as it is powered, then use the DR-10X as a bodypack. It is a very cost effective alternative to a wireless mic as long as you are prepared to sync up the audio and video tracks in post production. Even if you have expensive wireless solutions there are times when you can’t use a radio mic because of restrictions or transmission break up – in these cases the DR-10X could be a life saver. I have used it to record a third channel of audio when I have had to mic up three people and have only had two radio mics.

You can't record stereo tracks from a microphone such as the Rode Stereo VideoMic X

You can’t record stereo tracks from a microphone such as the Rode Stereo VideoMic X

The only negative aspect about the DR-10X is that it only records a single (mono) channel of audio. If you wanted to use it with something like the Rode Stereo Video Mic X to record great ambient location sound somewhere you wouldn’t get stereo recording. In the future it would be good to see Tascam release a stereo version of the DR-10X. The other thing that puzzled me was when I initially put a MicroSD card into the device is that it would not work. I was using a 4GB card and only after looking carefully at the specifications did I find out that it would only work with a microSD card between 64MB to 2GB. Be careful too if you choose to use microSDHC cards – these you can only use between 4GB to 32GB. I would of also liked to see full manual control for setting the record level included.

Overall the DR-10X is easy to use, light weight and versatile. There are other solutions that can record multiple channels of audio and include more features but they lack the compact size and low cost of the DR-10X. To have a small recorder that you can carry in your kit at all times can be very handy in a lot of situations.

Here are some audio samples recording to the DR-10X.

DR-10X SPECIFICATIONS

Recording media microSD card(64MB to 2GB), microSDHC card(4GB to 32GB)

Media discharging Push-Push type (Guard cover mounted)

Recording format WAV(BWF)

Sampling frequency 48kHz

Quantization bit rate 24bit

Number of channels 1-channel (Mono)

Analog audio iInputs

Connector XLR-3-31

Input Impedance 10k ohm or more

MIC input gain LOW / MID / HIGH

PHONES Connector 3.5mm(1/8″) stereo mini jack (DUAL MONO)

USB Connector Micro-B type 4pin

Power 1 AAA batteries (Alkaline or NiMH), USB bus power

Battery Operation Time Alkaline batteries (EVOLTA) About 10 hours

Battery (RTC) Lithium × 1(built in with soldering)

Dimensions 52(W) × 94.4(H) × 28(D) mm

Weight 68.3g (including batteries) / 56.3g (without batteries)

Accessories USB cable, Owner’s Manual (including warranty)

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Posted on January 22nd, 2015 by Matthew Allard | Category: Audio | Permalink | Comments (1)

Pond5 public domain project – ‘World’s greatest’ collection of copyright-free content now available

By technical editor Matt Allard:

Having to purchase stock footage, images, sound clips and other forms of media can be very costly. Your only other option is to find copyright-free content to use for your projects, but that can often be a very difficult task. You can waste a lot of time digging through remote archives and clumsy websites, or spend valuable money to access media which supposedly exists for free in the public domain.

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Pond5 has come up with a great solution. Called the Public Domain Project, it gives anyone the ability to access an ever-expanding collection of copyright-free multimedia content that’s accessible for free search, free download and free use.

Pond5′s aim is to assemble the world’s greatest collection of free public domain content tailored specifically for editors, designers, musicians, and other media makers. Pond5 have searched government and public archives around the globe, pulling together some of the best examples of copyright-free footage, photography, sound recordings, 3D models and more.

Posted on January 22nd, 2015 by Matthew Allard | Category: Uncategorized | Permalink | Comments (0)

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