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  1. #1
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    Light trail with rider in focus - how is it done?

    Can anyone give any pointers on creating an image like this. I have experimented with light trails and they come out great but how can you get that light trail but also snap the rider nice and crisp. Any help appreciated.

    Light trail with rider in focus - how is it done?-slide3.jpg
    www.essexhertsmtb.co.uk - Mountain Biking near London in the UK

  2. #2
    offroader
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    Looks like its probably prefocused using manual focusing.

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  3. #3
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    Thanks for the tip. I guess the question im asking is more around shutter speed. To get a light trail like that id need a 10sec shutter maybe, but to capture the rider id need a 1/200 sec... how can you do that in the same shot? Or is it in fact 2 shots?
    www.essexhertsmtb.co.uk - Mountain Biking near London in the UK

  4. #4
    Kathleen in AZ
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    I suspect that is a composite image. Here was my best attempt to get a similar shot using a long exposure to get the light trails and a handheld flash mid-frame to grab the rider.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Karve View Post
    Thanks for the tip. I guess the question im asking is more around shutter speed. To get a light trail like that id need a 10sec shutter maybe, but to capture the rider id need a 1/200 sec... how can you do that in the same shot? Or is it in fact 2 shots?
    flash duration is only about 1/300th of a second. So it is a long shutter with flash (looks like two flashes off-camera).

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by epic View Post
    flash duration is only about 1/300th of a second. So it is a long shutter with flash (looks like two flashes off-camera).
    Yes, that's what I'm thinking also. Two off-camera strobes. One is to the right of the camera, about 90 degrees from the angle to the camera and the rider. It's lighting his arm and back, and the bike. The other is to the left of the camera, slightly behind the rider, mostly catching his face and the front of his right arm.

    It was likely shot with an open shutter, and the strobes were fired remotely with a Pocket Wizard (or something similar) when the rider was in position.

    Whoever shot it did a good job of balancing the light sources. The strobes likely required some kind of colored gel to get their light temperature to match the color of the bike's light. Otherwise, there would be some orange or green tint on either the rider or the trail/trees.
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  7. #7
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    btw - I mis-typed flash duration is more like 1/3000th not 1/300th.

  8. #8
    gearstomorrow
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    Here's a shot I did around this time last year.

    60 second exposure with a single handheld flash fired on the rock beside the rider. Trail was lit by a flashlight. It was done in near darkness to avoid any ambient light pollution on the rider.

    Click for large image.


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  10. #10
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    Yeah, long exposure, then manually-triggered flashes. Easy to do with strobes since they have a trigger button (or remote) and the rest are slaved off the first. Really cool technique. But what makes it a strong photo (to the OP) is not just the technique, but the composition. See how the light leads your eye through the trees? It's really well done.
    John

  11. #11
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    This image has been very retouched, we don't have the original, and we are seeing a small, pixelated version.

    Manual Focus; hyperfocal infinity to 11 ft. on a 28mm full-frame lens.
    5 sec @ f5.6.

    In this darkness a longer shutter speed is easily doable, with little or no effect on the image, allowing for flexibility at the start.

    Flash duration, given a 12-foot subject distance at ISO 100, could be 1/5000 sec at 1/8 power. Not something really critical as freezing this motion at this speed is probably doable at 1/500 sec duration. Keep in mind that we are talking peak output over time expressed in a bell-type curve, not a simple on/off.

    They didn't do this in one take.



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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    This image has been very retouched, we don't have the original
    Not sure you can say this with any definitiveness, since we don't have the original or any of the FXIF data.

    The strobing of the handlebar light is a curiosity.
    This one, I can answer. It's an LED light, so the open lens is capturing the on/off cycling that all LEDs use. Human eyes don't catch it, but a long exposure camera sensor will.

  13. #13
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    Oh no you din't.....

    The rear wheel recedes even though it is not that much further away from the front, seen in wide lenses. Further there is keystoning in the trees off to the right, fairly pronounced even at a distance, as the photographer has slightly tilted his camera down. That gives another clue. If you copy the image from the center where the tree is vertical all the way to the right edge of the image, flop it and paste it on the left, the keystoning in the other direction makes sense with a wide angle. Also, it reveals that the rider bulges out at you. Again, wide angle.

    This tactic reveals something else: there is more image to the left which has been cropped out. That technique makes his appear "normal" but it is a trick. Judging by the wide angel effect from the main subject to the background with only modest distortion, it is a 28-35mm. A Normal 50 doesn't receded in the background as quickly and anything longer, an 85 is the next size, flattens the image. Anything wider recedes much more dramatically.

    I estimate the distance from experience and the view of a bike sized object. The image holds focus from the bike to infinity. That is how I get the hyperfocal, and infinity to 12 ft setting which can be easily be in focus at f5.6with a 28 or 24 but not possible with a 50. anything wider gets distorted. Even a rectilinear lens which can correct for its distortion gets wild as soon as you tilt it.

    Using a Nikon Speedlight SB-910, the dial says I can hold a 5.6 at 1/8 power at ISO 100. Such low power settings have pretty short strobe times, these are shown on an info table at B&H PHoto. The right light is at the riders shoulder height, probably on the shoulder of the trail, the left on the uphill side of the trail about nose height. I doubt they are anything more than straight battery strobes; small boxes at best, fairly close judging by the drop-off from the calf to the helmet.

    If I knew the strobe rate of the LED I could count the bar effect and find the exact speed: rate of strobing/x divided by number of strobe bars/distance. I'm guessing the speed of the rider at 12-15mph, based upon mtb experience and the fact that the position of the highlight from the back wheel behind him and his position indicate a bit of banking in a smooth turn, which is around 20 ft per second. That gives me a yardstick for the distance traveled as described by the light which puts the time at about 5 sec. Even if he was traveling slower I have time; its dark. As I said, in this darkness it could be longer without a problem.

    I'm a professional photographer. One of the exercises we do for grins is to deconstruct photos, figuring out how they were done. This goes way back to pre-FXIF days when you had to figure this stuff out. Definite? Perhaps not. I'm betting that I can show up with 2 910s on stands, a radio remote, and a 28mm and get pretty dam close right off the bat.

    The real strength of the shot is the idea. Good execution, from the technique to the art direction, is a given.

    BTW, skiahh; I did not see your analysis....and you won't find 90% of the info I just gave you in a FXIF file, definitely.
    Last edited by Berkeley Mike; 10-19-2013 at 10:27 PM.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    I'm a professional photographer. One of the exercises we do for grins is to deconstruct photos, figuring out how they were done. This goes way back to pre-FXIF days when you had to figure this stuff out. Definite? Perhaps not. I'm betting that I can show up with 2 910s on stands, a radio remote, and a 28mm and get pretty dam close right off the bat.

    The real strength of the shot is the idea. Good execution, from the technique to the art direction, is a given.

    BTW, skiahh; I did not see your analysis....and you won't find 90% of the info I just gave you in a FXIF file, definitely.
    I'm not saying you're wrong or that I understand most of what you said. But it's still just an educated guess and not definitive. You have a single picture and said, definitively, that it was "very retouched." (And, it probably is.)

    Another professional photographer might also have ideas of how this could be an unretouched image, too.

    Your analysis from the image on here is like me saying I can analyze an aircraft crash from news footage on TV because I have a couple of thousand hours flying and flew professionally for ~15 years. Sure I can... and many times, I'd be pretty darn close. But without all the info, it's still speculation. Educated speculation, sure, but it doesn't rise the the level of making those definitive statements.

    In all likelihood, you're right about the retouching and even the specifics of how it was done and no, I "din't".

  15. #15
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    That was fun.

    EDIT: I was referring to the deconstruction process......

  16. #16
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    Read the OP's initial post. You have made yourself irrelevant to the topic and contributed nothing useful. This is not a plane crash; it is far simpler.

    On the other hand I would appreciate the input of another skilled image maker who disagreed with me. We would both learn.
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  17. #17
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    Berkeley's post was way too long for me to consider reading. I'll try to make a simple approach:

    - Have the Aperture at about f12, focused to infinity.
    - ISO probably, 2000.
    - Expose the shutter for 15 seconds or however long the action is, it won't matter too much.
    -For the biker to stand out in just that one spot, you'll need to trigger an external flash from the side of him, which can be done with a wireless trigger.

    This should be all done in 1 photo. Photoshop would not be necessary.

  18. #18
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    Anyway, back to the topic at hand....
    .... if not shopped then surely a third strobe, no?

  19. #19
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    What would that do?
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  20. #20
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    I don't know....

    How is the trail being lit?

  21. #21
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    Upon closer inspection....

  22. #22
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    I originally thought the rider was lit by 2 strobes because his face is lit as well as his camel hump.

    However, I'd forgotten the wide angle effect, so probably one strobe on the rider's left and one to light the trail?

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by I like bicycles. View Post
    Berkeley's post was way too long for me to consider reading. I'll try to make a simple approach:

    - Have the Aperture at about f12, focused to infinity.
    - ISO probably, 2000.
    - Expose the shutter for 15 seconds or however long the action is, it won't matter too much.
    -For the biker to stand out in just that one spot, you'll need to trigger an external flash from the side of him, which can be done with a wireless trigger.

    This should be all done in 1 photo. Photoshop would not be necessary.
    This is at least method with a grasp of principles, skaihh.

    My first contribution was concise. The second was to try and show how one can get there with a fair bit of accuracy. If a client comes to me with this picture in his hand and wants me to duplicate it this is what a pro does. I won't be off by much.

    What the FAA might ask you to do because you fly a plane is not relevant.
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dugly View Post
    I originally thought the rider was lit by 2 strobes because his face is lit as well as his camel hump.

    However, I'd forgotten the wide angle effect, so probably one strobe on the rider's left and one to light the trail?
    I think you're right in guessing the two strobes on opposite sides. I usually do that approach myself for proof portraits. The other side can't be the continuous bike light, because it would not produce a light bright enough to freeze the subject.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dugly View Post
    I originally thought the rider was lit by 2 strobes because his face is lit as well as his camel hump.

    However, I'd forgotten the wide angle effect, so probably one strobe on the rider's left and one to light the trail?
    The trail is lit by the LED on the bars. The subject is lit by a strobe on the photographer's right, just off camera, and one to the left on the other side of the trail. These will freeze him.

    Note the difference in color balance between the strobe and the LED. They light different things so you don't notice that the LED goes yellow-green and the subject has "normal" color rendition. Highlights produced by the LED "look" white (neutral.) That is because highlights are either directly from the light source or spectral highlights, that is, off the glistening dampness of the trail (like off chrome or a mirror), so nearly as bright as the source. That is an over-exposure and any color over-exposed looks white. It is a basic principle of black-body radiation.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Light trail with rider in focus - how is it done?-screen1.jpg  

    Light trail with rider in focus - how is it done?-black-body-radiation.jpg  

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  26. #26
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    Cool stuff. Very informative explanations and well presented.

    Kudos also to all of the other shots posted up thread.

  27. #27
    ganginwood
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    I'll agree with Mike to a point. Heavily PP. I'm putting my money on a composite. The camera was definitely on a tripod. The trails are obviously long exposures. I wasn't there so I have no idea on length. Once the he got the light trails another shot was taken without the tripod being moved as the rider went through. The 2 images were stacked in PS and the rider was masked out. The mask is a 2 sec job in PS .
    I'd say a third image was placed over the mask to get the light streak over the rider...and again masked out.

    I'd also say that the exposure for the rider was rather quick. You can get ghosting if any ambient comes into the scene.

    Here's a picture I took (not biking) but the same idea. On a tripod, 230 images taken with 30 sec exposures. One of the images required my friend to step in. I lit him with a flash. I should have set the shutter to max sync rather than the same 30 seconds. It would have produced a sharper subject without the ghosting
    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Aswell
    the 5th poster, ganginwoods, is correct

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    The light streak is a maximum highlight exposure which moves right to left before the rider gets there. All other tones are darker and cannot be read by the chip after that is done.

    The ambient light is very low judging by the lack of detail, outside of areas illuminated by the strobe or LED, even with the shutter open for 5-10 secs. The short burst from the strobe makes the rider crisp.

    Something to think about; the dark area on the arm facing the camera is.....nothing.
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  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by ganginwood View Post
    I'll agree with Mike to a point. Heavily PP. I'm putting my money on a composite. The camera was definitely on a tripod. The trails are obviously long exposures. I wasn't there so I have no idea on length. Once the he got the light trails another shot was taken without the tripod being moved as the rider went through. The 2 images were stacked in PS and the rider was masked out. The mask is a 2 sec job in PS .
    I'd say a third image was placed over the mask to get the light streak over the rider...and again masked out.

    I'd also say that the exposure for the rider was rather quick. You can get ghosting if any ambient comes into the scene.

    Here's a picture I took (not biking) but the same idea. On a tripod, 230 images taken with 30 sec exposures. One of the images required my friend to step in. I lit him with a flash. I should have set the shutter to max sync rather than the same 30 seconds. It would have produced a sharper subject without the ghosting
    Fun idea. Why so many exposures?
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    I'm thinking I'm NOT looking at a masked or composite image here. Zoom in on the rider's body, specifically the shadowy portion of the image below his left elbow. You can see the image of the tree behind him appearing through his body. That's the portion of the tree that was exposed by the light on the bike. When the strobes popped, they didn't expose any part of the rider's body in that area, so the tree image still shows through. A layered, masked, composite image likely wouldn't have that problem, but a single exposure would.

    I have done a number of these long exposure night shots. It's fairly standard "Strobist" style work. This would be easy to do with a long exposure to catch the background and the light trail, and a manually triggered set of strobes to freeze the rider. (see my first response above)

    The tricky part about doing it all in-camera is finding the correct combination of camera aperture (for the particular ISO) and strobe power setting. You'll need a camera aperture that is open enough to expose the trail and trees from the LED on the bike. When you find that, you'll adjust the strobe power setting so it doesn't blow out the rider. The shutter speed needs to be long enough to capture the length of time it takes to ride through the frame. Balancing the light temperatures can be done with colored gels on the strobes, if necessary.
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  31. #31
    ganginwood
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    Fun idea. Why so many exposures?
    It was to minimize the space in between trails.

    Back to the OP. I forgot to ask one key question for this equation. Is the rider the only one on the trail or was this during a race where others were coming through? I assumed there were others, hence my response. If he was solo its a completely different bag of beans.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Aswell
    the 5th poster, ganginwoods, is correct

  32. #32
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    FYI: The original image, along with more examples, appears on this site:


    Magicshine UK | Magicshineuk.co.uk
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  33. #33
    ganginwood
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    I don't think it would be that hard to pull this off if its only one shot and one rider in the woods. It was not done in one take. If it were I.....

    1. Have the rider stand at the marked spot.
    2. Set up your lights and take a few test shots.
    3. Once your metered out, put a flashlight on him and pre focus to that distance.

    If we are talking deep woods and at night the shutter isn't going to matter much at all. It just needs to be long enough to grab the rider biking through the frame. The rest of the settings we just established when he was standing there and you are pre focused so when he crosses the line, push click.


    Perhaps the next thread should be a challenge to recreate this?
    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Aswell
    the 5th poster, ganginwoods, is correct

  34. #34
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    I do think the original photo has some PP (not that that is a bad thing) because the light trails are continuous and don't match up with the rider. For example, when the flash is fired his bars are facing away from the camera so you should not be able to see the lights at that point.

    Here is a photo I took last week. Notice that when the rider is going away from the rider you can't see the helmet light. This was shot with one camera slaved via CLS and the other (master) being held overhead on a cable to light the foreground.

  35. #35
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    One of the production differences between old-school film and digital imaging with the incumbent manipulation tools is that old school does this stuff in-camera. It makes the initial quality demands much higher and wants a sense of craft. If you learned photography that way then you can deconstruct such images.

    The black area in the sleeve is the giveaway. Authalic wins. Nice to see some photo talent here.
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    I wonder if the flash is triggered at the front curtain and the light trails are from a rider following him. I'm not sure how else you can explain the dim light trail coming from his rear tire (reflecting light from the following rider) and the main light trails not seeming to meet his handlebars.

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    It's a good photo, probably not hard to do in one shot, but might be multiple shots and of course there's post processing. No good shot goes without it. Who cares? I think the basic method has been covered. I say someone here should venture out and give it a go. Old school snap shooters do this in camera and the results still suck. Old school pros who are still shooting successfully do this in photoshop with plenty of editing.
    John

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    Do you guys really want to learn about photography?

    Terminology:

    One shot equals one try or one take.

    In-camera equals exposure on the media, not post-processing.

    Multiple takes equals multiple trys/multiple takes.

    Multiple exposures equals more than one exposure on one piece of film or one shutter opening on a chip. On film I could open a shutter to expose and then open the shutter later for another on the same piece of film. On digital media I...uh... never done that as I would use Photoshop to achieve the layering I would have done on film with multiple exposure.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    Fun idea. Why so many exposures?
    I've done star trails before and on most DSLRs, you can get a hot sensor and cause unnecessary grain on the photo if taken on one 2 hour exposure rather than 230 30-second photos, plus the sky can and will eventually overexposed and look light day light if given enough time (not quite a problem on film). With those 230 photos, you can superimpose them into photoshop where they all lay on top of one another and the lighter pixels override the darker pixels.

    Which explains the patterns of the stars over the course of two hours.

  40. #40
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    YOU, are an artist!

    Quote Originally Posted by singlespeedtoday View Post
    Here's a shot I did around this time last year.

    60 second exposure with a single handheld flash fired on the rock beside the rider. Trail was lit by a flashlight. It was done in near darkness to avoid any ambient light pollution on the rider.

    Click for large image.


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    IMG_1207intervale-lights2 by mbeganyi, on Flickr

    just a quick test last year. have to be sure to set the flash to fire on the second shutter curtain. self shot with a wireless release. getting the timing down solo was trial and error (these aren't that great, but i was experimenting....)


    IMG_1204intervale-lights2 by mbeganyi, on Flickr


    IMG_1216intervale-lights2 by mbeganyi, on Flickr

    planning to get back this winter with some snow on the ground and shoot some on the pugsley, with a bit more setup and patience.



    compact camera kit by mbeganyi, on Flickr

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    So trail lit by bars lights, maybe by the rider in front of this rider. Rear curtain snyc, the flash fires at the end of exposure. Shutter speed does not matter in total darkness, flash duration and power are what matters.

  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Karve View Post
    Can anyone give any pointers on creating an image like this. I have experimented with light trails and they come out great but how can you get that light trail but also snap the rider nice and crisp. Any help appreciated.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	slide3.jpg 
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    These are quite easy to do without anything beyond the flash in your camera. Go into flash settings and select " Second Curtain Sync" . Use ISO 800 or maybe 1600 and shutter speed of 1.5 - 2 sec depending on speed of rider, the scene, and how long a light trail you want. It can be done using First Curtain Sync but then the light trail will be out in front of the rider, making it look as if the rider is going backwards.
    Here's a few I have done...




    https://picasaweb.google.com/113125576961447749127

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