4 April 2013 South Africa’s Protea Hospitality Group has signed an agreement that will see it continue its west African expansion through the opening of a hotel in Takoradi in southwest Ghana. The agreement was signed in March, and brings the group’s tally to nine countries on the continent in which hotels are operating. It also brings the portfolio value of the company to over US$100-million. The Protea Hotel Select Takoradi is expected to open in the southwestern coastal city in early 2014. “West Africa is booming,” Protea Hospitality Group CEO, Arthur Gillis, said in a statement. “Ghana’s economic growth is predicted to be greater than 7% in 2013, which is nothing short of miraculous in the current global climate, and Nigeria isn’t far behind. “Working with our local partners, I know this hotel is just the first of many that we will be developing in Ghana, a country that welcomes companies bringing specialist African expertise and brand stability into its economy,” he said. The new 130-room hotel will become one of six hotels currently under construction in other African countries. There are two properties in Nigeria and one each in Zambia, Uganda and South Africa in addition to the Takoradi property. “Our aim is to ultimately grow with Ghana and Nigeria, to become stronger with these countries as we work alongside local hospitality investors to stimulate the economy and provide the best possible service to domestic and international business and leisure travellers,” Gillis said. East Africa is also presenting numerous hospitality opportunities, particularly Zambia and Uganda. “A number of countries in east Africa are also showing significant growth, despite troubled regions like Somalia and Sudan,” he said. “Uganda is one of those countries with a predicted growth rate of around 5% this year, and our hotel development there underpins our belief in its political stability and growing economy. The group’s 30-year history operating in Africa and network of partners will assist in achieving its expansion plans, according to Gillis. “Partnerships are key to making it work in Africa, as is growing a brand that is trusted to be by Africans for Africans.” SAinfo reporter
On the benefits of Passivhaus“We’ve been following PH for a few years, and are rather excited to see this post-LEED standard reach critical mass. Passivhaus is not only a proven route towards net zero, but a green building standard that routinely outperforms LEED where it counts: energy efficiency. And while having bike racks, ZEV parking, low/zero-VOC paints and recycled construction waste are good things – to us, that is really the starting point.” On rethinking our fixation on multiple bathrooms“The upper floor features 3 bedrooms and one bathroom shared by the entire household. I know my parents and half of the United States just collectively freaked out – but this is fairly common in Europe. It is one of the best ways to keep energy and water use (as well as construction costs) down. Yes, it does take better planning in the morning, but really, wouldn’t you rather have one incredible bathroom instead of 3 mediocre ones?” On the importance of high performance windows“We can’t reinforce this enough, Passivhaus windows should be energy positive, which can potentially reduce the amount of thermal insulation (and therefore carbon footprint) needed.” On discovering that buying European windows saves C02“This was shocking to us, as we expected the numbers to be significantly closer. Of course, the locally manufactured windows had the lowest transportation CO2 production – that only makes sense. However, the superior frames and glazing from Europe require significantly less insulation in the envelope.“This definitely seems backwards and goes against conventional wisdom, but in this instance, shipping windows from Europe saves CO2 – a whole lot of CO2. In fact, with an average of 14,634 lbs CO2 for the three North American options, the European windows can save six tons of CO2 emissions. That is not insignificant, and something to keep in mind if North American manufacturers don’t think that developing high performance glazing is a worthwhile venture.” One of the most appealing things about the web are the unplanned side trips you take on the way to somewhere else, which is how I found myself at Brute Force Collaborative, a blog with a special focus on Passivhaus projects.BFC is the work of two Passivhaus designers, Michael Eliason and Aaron Yankauskas, who went to school together at Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies, and then worked for a time in Germany. Both eventually settled in Seattle.“We’re initiating this blog to provide an outlet for opening up green dialog beyond LEED and associated greenwashing,” they write. “It is our goal to advance the green discussion beyond ‘sustainable’ carpets and bike racks – and moving it towards sensible, intelligent green design. This will manifest itself through the documentation of green architects, projects and building techniques that hopefully some of you may find useful.”Both designers have a “major soft spot for small, green and well-detailed projects,” and, it seems, for Passivhaus, the ultra-low energy building standard that originated in Germany and is now making headway in the U.S. In addition to projects around the Pacific Northwest you also can read about ongoing work on the other side of the Atlantic, and that gives BFC unusual breadth.One section of their blog is Passivhaus-only. Here you’ll find a good description of what the building standard is all about, and also a number of links to Passivhaus projects that are currently underway. Included are links to explanations of common terms, such as “thermal bridging” or “heat-recovery ventilator,” that will be useful to those just starting their forays into green building. (Full disclosure: GreenBuildingAdvisor is among the sources they cite.)There are other sections as well, such as “elevating the discourse,” “greener architects,” and “sustainable practices.” In all, you’ll find plenty to read and some excellent leads to a variety of other blogs, designers and web sites.And the unusual name for the blog?“We were in a studio that designed and built a rammed earth house,” Eliason explained in an e-mail. “We were the guys who were always on site — rain or shine — digging trenches, moving dirt, trying to keep things moving along. Often quickly, albeit without much grace. Eventually, our professors dubbed us ‘brute’ and ‘force.’ We prefer to work collaboratively on a lot of things and are able to bounce ideas off each other rather well, and so ‘brute force collaborative’ just seemed to fit.” On discovering new building materials“As a young architecture praktikant in Germany, I quickly realized everything I knew about wooden construction was outdated, inefficient and irrelevant. My first experience with modern European timber practices was a polycarbonate-wrapped house that utilized brettstapel (mfr: Bresta).“Brettstapel is, effectively, 2x boards mounted on dowels that are fabricated off-site and erected as panels. Quick, easy, effing brilliant. Brettstapel can be utilized for walls, floors and roofs. The products are available in various dimensions for acoustic and visual preferences.“From here, my spidey-intern senses went nuts, and I realized that there was something very desirable, very sexy about these panels. It comes pre-finished, installs quickly, incorporates low-grade rapid-growth lumber effectively, sequesters carbon and can be optimized for thermal storage (a topic for the next post). Amazingly, building with CLT is like building study models with chipboard – you place a window wherever you want.” Mike Eliason has written a guest blog for GBA: A Passivhaus Rebuttal. On getting away from petroleum-based products“We’re not big fans of the ‘thermos’ analogy for Passivhaus (probably stemming from my insulation-free days in Freiburg), and are highly motivated and interested in developing strategies to build Passivhaus buildings without layers of petroleum-based insulation above, below and outside of the home.”
Hope these tips help. If you’re hungry for more lazy DIY tricks and hacks, check out these additional resources!7 Quick Production Tips for Film and Video Professionals5 DIY Tutorials and Gear Hacks for Filmmakers5 DIY Filmmaking Gear TutorialsWhat are your lazy filmmaking tricks? Let us know in the comments below. The old adage of “work smart, not hard” is the key to efficient filmmaking. Here are eight tips to maximize your videos by minimizing your effort.Cover image via ShutterstockOkay, so maybe lazy isn’t the right word. Is Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid lazy for having young Daniel-san wash his car and do his chores? NO! He’s imparting his ancient wisdom to teach his young pupil valuable lessons about life and karate.Lazy simply implies a certain lack of effort, which — when you’re shooting a tough project on a hard deadline with your professional career at stake — can mean saving time, working efficiently, and making smart, practical decisions to meet your client’s expectations and get projects done.That being said, every video professional will undoubtedly develop their own go-to shortcuts and tricks for filmmaking efficiency. I’d like to share a few tricks of the trade which I’ve picked up myself or been taught by those wiser than I. Hopefully you’ll be encouraged to develop and share a few of your own.1. Use the Lighting Available to YouImage via Lewis McGregorIf you’re willing to look hard enough and make sacrifices on color temperature (and unless you’re set up on a sound stage or a bottomless pit), there will be some sort of light source available to you at your location that can be utilized much quicker and easier than putting together a whole 3-point set-up.Whether it’s a window, a lamp, or a bank of florescent bulbs, if your setup is mobile enough, you can position your subject in a spot that maximizes what’s available to you. A quick screen or bounce board can sometimes be all you need to cheat a professional setup.Here are few quick tips and tricks to add to your arsenal.Set Hack: Hollywood Lighting With Simple Household ItemsHow Practicals Can Make Your Cinematography Come to LifeTips for Shooting Without Lights 3. Whip out Your iPhone for Slow-MoImage via Dan HumeWhat’s more likely to make your client happy? You rent a RED for its high fps 4k recording to get a few shots of beer pouring in slow motion and pass along the $2,500 per day rental fee to them — or you shoot some slow motion shots on your iPhone which you throw in under some lens flares for a few seconds for free?Yes, there are other options in between, but if you’re on a minimal budget and working for beer, you’d be surprised by how well an iPhone pick-up shot can impress your audiences for a few quick seconds.4. Make the Most of Warp StabilizerYou don’t need a top-of-the-line tripod or steadicam if you learn to embrace the warp. While it doesn’t fix everything 100% of the time, it can be a great way to smooth out all types of motion and speeds. A good example would be if you’re doing a long pan on a less-than-reliable tripod where you can struggle with speed and a few bumps — warp stabilize can not only remove the ups and downs, it will also smooth out the speed to keep it consistent throughout.Here are some warp stabilizer best practices and resources:3 Ways to Stabilize Motion in After EffectsRemove Warp From Warp Stabilizer Using After EffectsWhen Warp Stabilizer Fails, Create a Project in After Effects 6. Shoot in Neutral Picture ProfilesImage via Plan B EntertainmentShooting in a neutral picture profile, for most videographers, is already standard practice for several reasons. One, it gives you more latitude and leeway to pull out colors and add contrasts in post-production. It also can keep you from losing information in dark or bright areas when changing lighting in a shot. However, if you shoot in neutral and are too pressed for time on an edit to do a full color grade, consider simply leaving your footage in its neutral state as an “artistic choice.”I’m not suggesting every film, TV show, or web video that embraces neutrality is making a lazy decision — there are plenty of good reasons to desaturate for style — but if you’re confident in your compositions, and your videos are not necessarily intended to portray full, pure colors, leaving your footage in neutral can save huge amounts of time and just may impress.7. Don’t Have a Two-Camera Setup? Shoot it Twice!If you’re as passionate about being lazy and finding practical workarounds as I am, you may take great pride in tricking your audience into thinking you were much more prepared than you actually are. If you watch the video below, you’ll notice what appears to be your standard A-cam/B-cam shoot, however, in reality, it was just one camera.This trick basically works best for demonstration-type setups like cooking or wood whittling — but if you’re in a pinch and only have one camera, you can shoot a stationary wide main shot and have your subject go through their entire routine. Then, reshoot from a side angle where you can zoom in on specifics to make it appear as if you had two cameras and two able-bodied cameramen involved in your production.8. Learn to Love After Effects Templates and Light LeaksImage via Sketchpad (via RocketStock)I can’t overstate enough how much using a simple After Effects template and tossing in some light leaks and lens flares can turn any highlight or sizzle film from mundane to flashy. Don’t ever let it take away from actually doing your job and providing quality shots, good storytelling, and editing – but added on top of a well put-together video, it can turn good to gold. Here’s a simple example of an event video shot and edited on site.You can browse AE templates and light leaks on the excellent post-production website RocketStock or simply follow the links below.After Effects Templates (Full Catalog)Light Leak PackLens Flare Pack 5. Easily Turn Your Slider into a JibLet’s be realistic — while there are certain projects where a full jib move is required for a shot, the majority of online videos only really need a few seconds of up-or-down movement at most (here’s an example — see if you catch the “jib” movement).For those looking to add a little more variety to their pans, tilts and slides, using even the shortest of sliders at the right angle can create the cinematic equivalent of renting and using an expensive (and often cumbersome) jib.Here’s a video tutorial on how to turn your slider into a jib. 2. Have Faith and Set Your Zoom H1 on AutoImage via YouTubeDon’t knock the Zoom H1. It’s small, plastic, and unassuming, but it’s a great piece of equipment that – for an everyday web video – can be just as powerful and even more resourceful than its H4 counterpart.Get yourself a cheap battery-powered lapel mic from Best Buy, plug it into your H1, put that bad boy on auto, lock it, then stuff it in your subject’s back pocket and boom — your mark is now miked and auto-monitored for you to focus on filming.You can also “hack” your H1 to include XLR inputs (with its auto level abilities) by following the steps in this article or from the video below.
Many of the more dramatic changes we have seen in India in the last 35 years came after the liberalising reforms of the early 1990s, which affected everything from the TV we watch to the shoes we buy. But the changes are far from being wholesale ones or even entirely predictable.,Many of the more dramatic changes we have seen in India in the last 35 years came after the liberalising reforms of the early 1990s, which affected everything from the TV we watch to the shoes we buy. But the changes are far from being wholesale ones or even entirely predictable. Instead, they offer up more arenas in which to debate who we are, what we want and the kind of society we want to live in.We build malls and sometimes visit themFor a time, the Citi Centre mall was just a 15-minute walk from my flat in Mylapore, Chennai. On my way, I would pass old temples, a huge garbage dump and an open-air fish market. I would drink coconut water on the way, saving myself from an expensive carbonated drink once inside. The mall itself-an ugly, faux renaissance construction-towered above this varied landscape and sported a gigantic metal generator to one side. Most people came to the mall in cars or on motorbikes and the roads around it were always jammed. I’m one of those who don’t like malls. But I did like the air-conditioning from April to July and going from one shop to the next without being sideswiped by a motorcycle or lashed by the sun.The rise of the consumer citizenGone are the days of relatives bringing mixies, jeans and lipsticks from abroad. Everything is available here now and there are thousands of billboards to remind you of just what you should aspire to have. On one hand, there is a greater openness to the outside world and more awareness of that world by the common woman and man. On the other, the divides between the “haves” and “have-nots” look more severe and callous. We are told the good life will trickle down, yet, looking around even so-called middle class areas, while professional salaries and purchasing power have risen, the lifestyles continue to be subsidised by the low-wage labour of the service class.advertisementThe way we move aroundCheaper domestic flights have intensified social and business networks as north, south, east, and west are within a few hours of each other. On the road, we are moving faster and in bigger vehicles. But we’re doing so on the same narrow, pot-holed roads as before. So we topple over each other, get stuck in smoke-filled jams, and in our haste, crush into one another, making Indian roads the deadliest in the world. Meanwhile, on the Delhi Metro, one mid-20s commuter told me that now she takes the Metro to work instead of the bus, cutting her commute time to half. Coining a new phrase and sensibility, she called her new way of getting around, “Delhi up-down”.We are being watchedOn the same Metro platform, CCTV cameras watch commuters’ every move, or so they say. At airports, movie theatres, central markets and elsewhere, we are searched. The management of these new technologies has created new industries of surveillance and is directed by a new techno-managerial class. Individuals in this class who are corruption-free are held up as beacons of hope, yet corrupt practices are still the rule rather than the exception.We are on the world stage of literatureLate JNU English professor Meenakshi Mukherjee was ambivalent about the success and hype of Indian English fiction. With a hint of lament, she would speak of her students who all wanted to be the next Arundhati Roy. Novels have become a way to judge a nation’s cultural worth, and hence they are political and cultural emblems, which is why we debate every shortlist, prize and prize refusal, though only when an Indian author is involved.There is more English that is less EnglishLast year while teaching at IIT-Madras, two things became clear to me. One, all of my students were very smart and second, each had a different command over the English language. One of them explained it this way: In school, English was taught to them as a “subject” but never as a “language”. As English has gone from being a colonial language to a global one, more Indians speak it; lower-class and lower-caste Indians rightly demand it, but the question of how and if it will be meaningfully incorporated into the education of Indians remains unclear.We walk and talk and message and blogEnglish has enabled some Indians to gain jobs in it and at call centres, but much more significantly, cellphones and the Internet have enabled Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Malayalam and many more languages to flourish in new ways and move across borders like never before. In an average day, we speak at least three languages to different people for different things, often picking words from different languages to produce a melange that says it just right. The genius of Indian life surely resides in the multilingual reality of the day-to-day.advertisementWhat we eat has changed, and so have weFor 30 years, a great-uncle of mine owned two restaurants near his house in Nainital and took great pride in the fact that he never ate at either of them. We are known for being particular about our food. Yet, many have relaxed these restrictions and mark status in other ways. We eat and drink more kinds of things more quickly in more places than ever. But are we satisfied? Now, the middle classes are succumbing to lifestyle diseases like diabetes and obesity, while the rural and urban poor are stuck with an extremely high rate of childhood malnutrition and stunted growth.We like to think we have replaced caste with classIt’s true that we look (and in some ways are) more alike as we sit side-by-side, from north to south, in salwar-kameez or pair of jeans, yet the vast majority of our marriage arrangements are still airtight, and who sits in an office and who in a slum still has everything to do with your father’s name. The post-Mandal Commission era didn’t bring back caste divisions; it just showed they never went away.How we say, “I love you”When it had been decided, in 1961, that my parents would marry, they went on a few outings to Connaught Place. Soon anonymous notes were slipped under the door of my father’s relative’s house, saying their behaviour was not setting a good example. Many years later, on a cool February evening, I was walking near the Delhi University campus with a female friend when three boys on a motorcycle stopped to grab at us. When we complained to a guard standing at a nearby college gate, he explained, “But madam, it is Valentine’s Day.” Earlier in the day, Hindutva activists had overturned chairs at the local Nirula’s to scare away couples and made a mess of an Archie’s card shop in Kamla Nagar market. The style of love is changing, but it still poses a problem.Rashmi Sadana is the writer’s book English Heart, Hindi Heartland: the Political Life of Literature in India is forthcoming from the University of California Press