CES 2016 Part 3 : Just Like A Film Festival – the Majors & Indies

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(photo album of CES 2016 here)

I like to think of CES as a film festival.
The majors come out with a lot of glitz & glamour, plus loud fanfare and pretty packaging dressing it all up. The press releases will tout only the best parts, just like what surrounds any large scale movie release.
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If the movie or product doesn’t make it, the company/studio, stays in business, and move on to more R&D, and market research.

On the flip side, are the folks/small manufacturers that mainly populate the Eureka Park venue, a little more out of the way in the Sands Hotel.
Like an indépendant filmmaker, these small manufacturers or designers that get a booth here, put it all on the line. Could be a fun, leisure item, or a life improvement product. The Indie filmmakers have a story to tell, whether it’s a doc, or comedy, that they needed to self or crowd fund.

The press isn’t massive and pervasive, the booths/theaters aren’t the big and glitzy mainstream affairs. The scrappy, start-ups have a dream, an idea, work their tails off, use life savings, and bring a product to market in the hope that it will take off.
They can’t afford to bring in the big stars to promote, but the idea/concept may be revolutionary. Or maybe just hit upon a common need or chord that has an audience.

If the innovation product/independent film doesn’t find it’s audience, all could be lost: the money borrowed, the man hours invested, and the lifeblood of attention will have a major effect on the creator.

With almost 90% of the start-ups not making it, the risk is huge, and everything on the line.
Like an independent film, exposure is what you need at a trade show or film festival, so you attract users/investors/distributors.
And the hope that once you go to market, there is success and yo find that audience..

The major brands can sustain a loss, the smaller inventors could face ruin. Pretty risky business.

On the more positive side, that risk can turn into huge rewards for the small innovator.

I’ll never forget being at a press preview for masses of new products, and 2 action cams were making their first public debut: The Contour Camera and the GoPro.
The Contour was sleek, cylindrical, sexy, beautiful packaged and innovation.
The GoPro was a simple little box. A guy was walking around with one on his chest, and one on a helmet. It was not the most elegant display.
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But it was an obviously a better designed product and the shape helped.
As we all know now.

And then there was the FitBit. These folks were in a press preview room, with the promise of the scale coming (took a few years) and their data tracker was more of a smooth small stone that was easy to use, easy to lose, and killed the Jawbone Up bracelet. And the success of this company is renown.

You never know what you may see.

Other categories to watch: As people have realized that shooting video on a small camera like a phone, results in crappy, shaky, video. So the rush is on for stabilization.
This small company, Vimble, had a simple booth, one person, and a demo unit pulled out of a shoulder bag. But the guy knew his product, it worked as promised, and I look forward to seeing it come to market.
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The was a company called Icaros, mentioned in an earlier post, playing on the VR craze, built a rig to hold a person, and let them experience the sensation of flying like Superman through the use of VR goggles and software.
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And then there are the items you want to use right now. Simple perhaps, but incredible useful.
Like Blink, an IOT (internet of things) battery operated security camera, that you can control and view video from your smartphone.
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I want to use this in my hotel room right now!

Or ThinOptics reading glasses. Yep, I need readers and these have an awesome. tiny, lightweight, design. Yes, this is not their 1st time at CES, but perhaps looking for more exposure or distribution.
And yes, they slip into a protective case on my iPhone. Genius!
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Next year, I would recommend spending a good day in this start-up area to see what could be coming down the road. Get a close up look at some hard work and perseverance.

I have to applaud these companies, as I am aware of what it took to get to where they were: the trade show floor of CES!

Now they just have to see if the marketplace wants what they are selling.
Always a gamble.
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Coming up this month is the Sundance Film Festival as well. I’m sure that a lot of the technology we have been seeing the past couple of years has enabled many small film makers to tell their stories and get it on the screen in Park City.

CES 2016 Part 2: I Can Hear You Now, Better Than Ever!

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(photo album of CES 2016 here)

One of the major trends at CES this year, was the advent of high quality audio and a throwback to old listening habits, as in vinyl. Yes, records, with all of the pops and surface noise you knew before. Unless you kept them pristine and had a solid needle and cartridge combo.

The word on the floor was that turntables were the most popular gift of the holiday 2015 season. Really? Did any of you get one? Or did you go to the garage and see if you still had your old one?
Anyway, the new units do have some features that your old ones didn’t have: The easy ability to connect to your computer either via USB or Bluetooth.
I listened to Adele 25 at the Audio Technica booth and the old snaps,crackles, and pops, were there, although not sure if I needed that.

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Sony premiered their latest entry, the PS-HX500, and the crowd went wild!
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There is vinyl out there, and these new turntables could reverse the MP3 trend. Or probably just a niche for the 30 year old market.
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The other audio trend seemed to be high end headphones and amplifiers. Yes, amplifiers that go between your headphones and the media player. Something you need? Have a read here and get some background on the category.
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Sony showed off a system that with a cost of over $2600 including player/headphones/amplifier, will give the listener and unparalleled music experience. Of course you do need to have the content that is perhaps lossless, or FLAC file.

General MP3’s don’t have near the depth you need to take advantage of what the artist intended.
And that is what one of the driving forces is in this space: the artists want to differentiate themselves, and have their fans hear all of what they put into the recordings.
Back in the day, companies like Sheffield Labs produced master recording vinyl that were the audiophiles dream. And they still do. I’ll never forget buying a Harry James disc, not because I was such a massive fan, but the recording quality made his trumpet sound incredible and was miles any other recording format I had heard.

Remember, not every piece of music out there is available in the Hi-Res Audio formatting, or FLAC or Lossless. Many of the most current singers have produced content where you can tell the difference, like Lorde, or Adele, or the latest David Bowie.
A personal favorite is Miles Davis, Kinda Blue Now THIS is HI-Res Audio!

Companies like Shure, Audio-Technica, and Sony were showing off their headphone amplifiers, which could set you back up to $1000.!
these are not really new to their product catalogs, but the renewed interest begged them to show them off for the crowds
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New companies like MQA, spoke about their new algorithm that folds music files into manageable sizes that fully unfold when played through their units, starting at only $300. You do have to follow the trail on the music that they have worked with.
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It’s not the cheap seats to be sure. The experience of high quality audio though, will bring you an appreciation of the artistry of your favorite musicians as you may never have had before.

There is also a company called Phaz, that puts the amplifier right into the headphones!
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Smart idea and the sound is awesome! Plus you can charge your phone while playing tunes using the built in battery. New Bluetooth versions coming in March.

Speaking of Bluetooth, a term that seems like a throwback, was all over the place in the headphone world. What we’re really talking about is no more wires. It does mean that you also have to be charged, to use that feature. Manufacturers have been smart and actually adding the option of a plug in cable, incase you lose power.
By the way, bluetooth technology with headphones has a latency factor which simply means that there is a delay or lag from what is playing to when it hits your ears. Remember that Bluetooth has a limited range: currently about 100 ft on tracking devices like a Tile or Trackr, and is now being touted as up to 328 ft, making it a more viable system

With general music listening, it’s not a big deal, but if you think you can use the same headphones in your video shooting, like I wish I could, you’ll need to add the cable back in for real time monitoring.Most of the Bluetooth versions have that option.

Another very cool product was the BoomStick. This simple, perfect sized, unit, goes between your headset and the player (smartphone, or whatever).
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This is an audio processor, that can add more bass for when you need to drop the beat, or my favorite part, it will bring out and define instrumentation in tracks that you think you already know.
I tried this on my iPhone Music app, and the difference was dramatic as I heard chimes that had been lost in the sauce on tracks in previous listening, in the middle of a mobbed trade show press event. this one pre-order now, for about $100. Love it.

Yes, there were bluetooth portable speakers, and some affordable bluetooth headsets. Wires are looking like a bygone era in 2016.
There seemed to be a move towards high end audio however, and it remains to be seen if there is a large enough market to support it.

Getting the high end music is the key. Players like the Pono player, which house an iRiver player, can store and play the music, and offer you an online store for you to purchase the high res content. Sites like HD-Track is also a great place to start.

You’ve seen the Hi-Res Audio sticker on some of the photos above. What it really means it that the company is part of a global collective that wants to make a line in the sand about large essentially lossless music files. So don’t confuse it with something like a Dolby sticker. It’s an indication, not a specific claim.

CES 2016 Part 1: VR & The Need To Track Our Sleep, Lives, Workouts

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(photo album of CES 2016 here)

What a time in Vegas, and CES this week. Actually, the organization behind CES, Consumer Electronics Show, is changing it’s name to CTA, Consumer Technology Association from CEA, consumer electronics association. A much broader name as it encompasses a much bigger business base.
And Consumer is the key word, as this show is a trade show at it’s essence.
Business doing business. Major brands previewing what they are selling and what is to come. The goal is to write huge orders with the likes of Best Buy, WalMart, etc..

One thing was made clear throughout the show: With all of this tech available, what does it really mean to your life? Is it just a gimmick, or does it really help make you life better?

The press is there to give an insight into overall trends and give you a preview of what is around the corner, or in some case, online ready to buy. In a few posts, I’ll try to give an overall impression of what’s coming, both in the general tech space, and of course, the photo world.
It’s a massive event spreading all over Las Vegas, and everyone from the big players in the tech world, plus the major photo brands like Sony and Nikon and Canon, to the start-ups who take tech innovation to heart and hope to either carve out a niche for themselves, or get gobbled up by one of the big players who will use their product designs under their brand name.
I always find it interesting that the event always happens right after New Years, as everyone has just opened their new tech gifts an are learning how to use them. You THOUGHT you had the latest and greatest, but now find out what you’ll want next!

For the photo market, the biggest news of course came from Nikon, and the announcement
of 3 new cameras: D5 flagship FX, D500 DX, and the EyeMission 360º, a first foray into the action cam world. More to come on all of that, and you can read the initial news here.

And what about the rest of the news/trends?

One thing that was an expected huge category was 360º video, and the coming VR trend.
I have to say that for the consumer, the 360º cameras I saw looked cool, but overall, the true quality of the resulting videos was sub-par.
Yes, the cameras are somewhat easy to use for capture, and yes, some have VR type goggles to view it.
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But it gets a hard stop there.
Once you create a 360º video, to truly look good, as good as images you currently view flat on TV or your computer, the file size would be enormous, and the processing power needs to be the same.
It may say, HD or even 4K, but that is a misnomer as the files, one viewed in the intended format, is actually pretty small.
Raggedy,tearing, low res images seemed to be where the category is now. In addition, the question I asked all of the companies was “how is audio incorporated?”
Dodgy at best. Some had built mics, which didn’t make great sense, as you could be far away from your subject.
Or some like Movi, offered up a live streaming solution using your smartphone, and wires and adaptors to record audio. Messy.
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The main question here is how do you share with your friends to show them how cool the footage is?
We mainly communicate visually on Facebook, Instagram, and twitter (sorry Vine) These cameras use proprietary url’s to showcase your work. That’s the main deal. Sharing easily is not currently and option.

So……Unless you are an early adopter, are willing to share only on 3rd party sites, and your audio needs are more GoPro-esque (mic on camera close to action or music track without “live track”) you may want to wait for another gen.
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Honestly, the one I thought would be a good consumer unit last CES from Giroptic, is STILL not to market Over a year later.
Between products that are not in production, and the quality of the images in question, hold tight on this category.

VR (virtual reality) is the buzzword, and the question is who will create the right experience.
Between the goggle wars, with early entrants to the field, Oculus Rift, finally announcing a price and ship date, another category still too early in the game.
That said, I would still recommend getting a set of goggles to start downloading and viewing content via your smartphone, so you are at the very least, understanding the experience. The content will probably driven by immersive games, pairing VR goggles with control devices, to bring you into the work of the game instead of simply looking at a flat screen and interacting.
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Even if you use a headset to draw you further in, the dog barking or other elements in your home still will distract from your gaming experience.
Once again, very early stages.
Talented directors like, Robert Stromberg of RSA and VRC, who directed Maleficent, are looking at VR as a storytelling medium and that will surly move the needle.. Check out his latest work VR work based on the movie, The Martian.

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Here are the ION VR goggle prototype interiors, that were used for this project:
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and as one of the owners is interviewed:
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Heck, even stalwart companies like ViewMaster see the potential, and have jumped in, with an entry price point of about $25.

Or will porn, that has driven so much tech adoption in the past, do the same with VR?

As I mentioned, the recco here is to get some goggles and see for yourself. It is a pretty mind boggling experience, but there is a rub: how long you can keep the goggles on: nauseum has been a factor as your physical eye is so close to lenses that are showing a screen that has images much further away. Some minds have issue reconciling this effect and make the viewing experience a very short one at about 2.5 in max. before you may get queasy. Not everyone, but some.

Audio cues can help put you in a place, giving you a spatial reference. To that end, new audio products are being developed as well as audio editing software to help in this.

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One company, Icarus, wants you to experience the feeling of flight, ala Superman, with their apparatus that couples with VR programming. Takes a bit of real estate, but everyone seemed to have a good time.

The previous sense of a singular experience with VR, was explored by Samsung as they created a theater where everyone shared in common program.

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As you need a smartphone for the most portable VR experience, that brings up one of my main questions for so much of the app based controls for so much new tech.
Whether it’s that new drone, your fitness tracking, sleep tracking, home security, you will be using your smartphone.
Now the battery life on those phones has been an issue forever. Now that you are using it as a remote control for your life, the power needs are massive. So find the battery that is portable, has the power capacity that will get you through a day, and add that weight to your daily kit.
The apps are easy to deal with as it’s primarily a power usage question.
On controlling cameras or any other video imaging device, like let’s say drones, you have now put your main life line, the smartphone into a different service. What happens when a call comes in, or you need to respond to txts?
Will the drone go down? Your sweet 4K camera is in flight, and an emergency call comes in: do you take the call and maybe trash the drone? Or do you keep flying til it’s safe to land and then deal with life.
All I’m saying is that you should be using another (yes, another) screen to control those devices. Leave your iPhone as your iPhone. A note for your hobby time investment.

My day job producing commercials has brought some of the high end drones, using RED cameras into the gear order.
Honestly, I would always have a drone set-up in any exterior location shoot I produce (check this link to see some of my work for IBM and Caterpillar here) We use iPads for control and monitors.
One last note on that fro all of the drone video folks: Use it appropriately and sparingly in your content. Like any special effect, you only want to wear out it’s welcome.
A great tool when used right.

At CES, Gary Shapiro, the CEO, spoke about the drone category and spoke more to delivery systems that would use drones as in getting needed medical supplies and such, to areas that are difficult and expensive to get to.
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We’ll see. Amazon has been very vocal in this arena, and maybe they have the answer.

One category that has been burgeoning is sleep tracking. Yep, activity tracking devices are common and the winners may have been sorted. But sleep, that thing you probably need more of, apparently now needs to be tracked so you can possibly adjust your life to get you more, and a deeper, restful sleep.
I think it speaks to anxiety in our society, and the fact that everyone wants to know how they are sleeping is proven by he quantity of products. It’s a new massive market, but what can it tell you? how often you move? Unless it’s a thorough electrode sleep observation, trust me I’ve done that, motion doesn’t tell you a whole ton.
Or you can go with one of the products that help you sleep with music and scents, like this,
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and just get to bed at a reasonable hour.

And as FitBit, which has now been owning the somewhat new fitness tracking software space, their new product, Blaze, failed to impress Wall Street and their stoke has taken a hit.
One of the newer companies, Misfit, showed of a new line of sleep and fitness trackers with an improved look:
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Whenever there is success, the imitators will follow. The fitness tracking category has spawned so many new products that it’s tough to discern the best, but the most popular is easy.
Although will smart watches just gobble up the space, as we all have just so much room on our wrists?
This will be a shakeout year, for sure.

Nikon D5 has an ISO of 3,280,000 Yep, Millions!

This morning @CES, Nikon announced some crazy, new, incredible products.
First up a new flagship, the Nikon D5.
That’s the one with the insane ISO, and the speed you need for sports. Plus a new processor for the rest of us, but so much more. Touch screen, 20+mg sensor, 153 focus points, 12FPS, up to 200 at a burst in RAW!
How about 4K video? Yep, it has that.
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Before we get into the hands on vid we just shot, here is an overview:

Coming in March for about $6500.
Interesting notes that it will be available in XQD and CF formats. They are still sticking with the extreme speed of that XQD. At least they were prudent enough to offer both.
Oh, and a touch screen.

Then for the DX’ers is the new D500 (yep, skipped D400) so much of the power of the D5, plus an articulated touch screen.Once again you have a choice of XQD, and CF in case the D5’ers want to use it as a backup.
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And a look in motion:

That should be here in March for just under $2000.
But they weren’t finished.
In an all new move into the action camera field they went to the 360º world with the EyeMission 360º
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They introduced a shooter who has been working with the unit, Cory Rich
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Images looked fine when projected and it may be the quality 360º the consumer is looking for.
No specs yet though( battery life, file size, battery life, price, avails)

In addition, the Nikon sharing gateway SnapBridge, a bluetooth based app, they claim to have the easiest way to share.

SnapBridge via Bluetooth low energy enables the continuous and immediate transfer of images from the camera to a smart device as they are captured in real time, transforming photography into a social, connected experience. This is achieved automatically without the need to activate image transfer from the camera, while also keeping power consumption low for both devices. Users can also continue to enjoy mobile internet connectivity during image transfer, allowing them to check their e-mail or access social media while syncing their photographs.
The pairing of Nikon cameras and smart devices begins with the SnapBridge application, available for iOS and Android TM on Apple AppStoreSM and GooglePlayTM*.

There’s one more thing….. Continue Reading »

Happy New Year, and Thanks to Some Special Photo Folks

It always seems to come up so fast, and here we are at the end of another year.
First of all, thank you for your support this year on the site, the FB page and twitter, Hope you found some of the shares interesting, or useful for you.

I do want to call out some of the folks that made this year,and many others,special for us in the photo community.

First of all, thank you Hossein Farmani, the creator of the Lucie Awards.
For 13 years, the Lucie Awards has honored the greatest achievements in photography. There is not another award show that brings the spotlight onto the very best in the photo earls across all disciplines: Commercial, Fine Art, Documentary, Fashion, Photojournalism, books magazine and new artists, as well a honoring the masters with lifetime achievement award. Along with his partner, Susan Baraz, he has created this show to celebrate our best.
Hoessein’s passion is in his DNA and his love for the photographic arts has spread out into the world with multiple shows, set around the globe.

Then you have someone like Andy Adams, who with his company FlakPhoto brings the spotlight to the community, with an accessible platform for everyone to share, compare, discuss, and spread the love for the medium. A social media star, he brings your photo world to your devices in the most democratic way.

Elizabeth Avedon has a photographic conscience, and shares her thoughts with us on the photo world at large, with a sharp look at the world of fine art. Her insights are consistently on point.

Thank you, PetaPixel for scouring the web and bringing us salient, funny, informative, useful, interesting, news in the world of photography. A well designed site that does bring me to the actual URL for the rest of the story. Yes, sometimes it’s a bit click-baity, but what isn’t? This is a subject I care about so I’ll click more often than not.

In the photographic world, the Getty Foundation continues to make the championing of photographic fine art one of the constant missions. With high end exhibits, that show deep and thoughtful, explorations and revelations of our visual history, they have constantly brought the public a cornucopia of the best, presented in the most beautiful setting imaginable.

And thank you to MOMA, my happiest place on earth. I’ve been going there since I was 5, and the permanent photographic collection, plus the changing shows, inspire and challenge on a regular basis. The Family Of Man full exhibit happened there way before my time, but changed my photographic life.

I encourage you all to click the links, and visit either virtually, or with the Getty and MOMA, in person.

Of course there are plenty more to be thankful for this past year. Who are you thankful for?

Happy New Year!

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Upcoming Events

  • Photo-London
  • May 19th-22nd, 2016
  • Somerset House
  • London, England

Is there an event we should know about?
Let us know on twitter.

Current Exhibitions

  • Getty Center
  • Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium
  • March 15–July 31, 2016
  • 1200 Getty Center Drive
  • Los Angeles, CA. 90049
  • Tel: 310-440-7300
  • Yossi Milo Gallery
  • John Chiara-West Side at Tioronda
  • April 14–May 21, 2016
  • 245 Tenth Avenue
  • New York,NY 10001
  • Tel: 212-414-0370
  • Howard Greenberg Gallery
  • ATTITUDE: PORTRAITS BY MARY ELLEN MARK, 1964–2015
  • MAY 5 – JUNE 18, 2016
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  • Tel: 212-334-0100
  • KlompChing Gallery
  • Jim Naughten – Animal Kingdom
  • April 21st-May 28th, 2016
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  • Phone:212.796.2070
  • Peter Fetterman Gallery
  • Sebastião Salgado – A Retrospective
  • Through June 4th, 2016
  • 2525 Michigan Avenue Gallery A1
  • Santa Monica, CA
  • 90404
  • Phone: 310.453.6463
  • Brooklyn Museum
  • This Place
  • Through June 5th, 2016
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  • Phone: 718.638.5000
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Crime Stories: Photography and Foul Play
  • Through July 31st, 2016
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  • New York, NY 10028
  • Phone: 212-535-7710

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