Nicolas Magand on the internet

Comments about tech, media, nature, &c.

My name is Nicolas Magand and I live in Paris, France. I work as a social media and engagement editor at the Global Editors Network, a non-profit aimed at promoting innovation and sustainability in the news industry. Here I blog mostly about tech and media, but many other topics can face my enthusiasm.

Night mode is à la mode

On Tuesday, it was Apple's turn to unveil a "night mode" for its iPhone, a few months after nearly all its competitors. During last year, Google's latest Pixel sort of introduced the world to the power of computational photography ; its own version of night mode, the well-named Night Sight, looked like a superpower. A few months later, Huawei showed the industry that it wants to be considered as the leader of mobile photography. The P30 Pro demoes were a good argument for the company's ambitions, and they did so especially with, you guessed it, an impressive night mode.

The tech scene was understandably very impressed and I was too. What would have looked like an obscure dark shape now looked like a brightly lit scene. Shots of cities at night looked so bright that it almost looked the pictures were Photoshopped.

Knowing this feature is just a mode, meaning you can decide not to use it for a regular night picture, I never really liked the results of it. Technically the pictures are impressive. Sure. But something felt a bit off about them.

This morning, I had a "yes, exactly how I feel" moment when I read John Gruber's take on the Apple keynote, and more precisely the part where he compares Apple's take on night mode (where it is not really a "mode") with Google's, where you have to select "Night Sight" for the night mode to kick in:

My guess has been that Google made Night Sight its own mode because Night Sight images, though often amazing, are also often quite unnatural. It’s so effective that it often makes nighttime scenes look like they were shot in daylight — like an old Hitchcock movie where they shot day-for-night.

Speaking of movies, the iPhone 11 Pro video samples played at the event featured a lot of night scenes and the results were absolutely stunning.

The perfect soundtrack for your workday

Last spring, I bought the game The Way for Nintendo Switch, and I absolutely loved it. It was produced as an hommage to 2D platform games like Flashback), and it has the same cinematic, futuristic vibe. As a game, for such a low price (I believe I paid one euro for it), I highly recommend it; but what I liked the most about it was its soundtrack.

Produced by Panu Talus, using all kind of old school Technics, Roland, and Akai machinery, the music of the game is clearly inspired by the 1982 movie Blade Runner. Less emotional than Vangelis' smooth melodies, this soundtrack has become my favourite work companion. You can stream the album for free and buy it here.

The video game industry appears to be mature enough to get the equivalent of the Academy Awards, or does it already exist? I believe Talus should have at least been nominated for best soundtrack.

“Media execs are good at aping, not at innovating”

Om Malik, about the state of the media industry, and how media execs historically never anticipated any of the changes brought by technology, namely the web, social media, mobile, etc.

Who is to blame? When posed to people in the industry, especially those on the business side, such questions often elicit a list of usual suspects dominated by technology companies. They may even include consumers on the list. Basically, anyone might be on there except the media companies themselves. And I, for one, am sick of this blame game.

Brilliant piece.

In the Mojave Desert, the dream city that was never built

Diana Budds, on Curbed, telling the story of California City, a small town which was originally planned to be the pinnacle of urbanism in the seventies, now a strange, arid, and hollow place:

Mendelsohn—a Czech emigre, a sociologist who studied the structure of towns and villages, and a Columbia University professor—was eager to get in on the postwar development boom. In 1958, he bought 82,000 acres of land—about 125 square miles—in the Mojave Desert and dreamed of transforming it into a thriving city composed of neighborhoods for medicine, commerce, industry, and academia.

And it was meant to be a place where families could thrive: A three-bedroom house, purchased on spec, started at $8,700 and Mendelsohn built amenities to sweeten the deal, like a golf course, a 20-acre lake, a swimming pool, and recreation fields. He also carved out a street grid and installed water and power infrastructure, readying the land for buildings that never came.

This article reads like the pitch for a new TV show, I just wish it featured a lot more pictures of the town.*

Like Budds writes, the city "speaks to an enduring and elusive ambition: the search for a perfect place."


* Beautiful photographs from Chang Kim, who has more on a dedicated website.↩︎