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Evident Maniac

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The first post of the year... [27 Jan 2012|12:00am]
Anime Los Angeles 2012

...is the first post in more than a year!

I've been going crazy in the mean time.  Good crazy, but crazy nonetheless.

Probably the biggest change has been my new job.  (Not the most important change, though. That honor goes to my girlfriend, wabisuke!  ^^)  For the last year, I've been working as the audio director on a fighting game that should be released very soon.  Being a hardcore console game title, the team is working: hardcore!

My own work situation has me balancing this job with my teaching gig at USC.  If it's a day where I'm not lecturing, I'm usually spending about 4-6 hours at home doing sound and music before doing another 6-10 hours working in the game itself, whether it's further design, scripting or (oh please god no!) coding.  If it's a day where I'm teaching, well... things get out of hand.  Friday, for example, has me lecturing for 7 straight hours, from 10 AM to 5 PM.  Usually the best I can do is fit in 2-4 hours before or after that stretch... and then I get brain or ear fried. (I'm using headphones 95% of the time thanks to the open floor plan, so I'm getting some serious ear fatigue...)

Going to try to get back in the habit of posting stuff.  Who knows if it'll actually happen, though!  At the very least, I hope it's not another year before I do another post; hopefully the next one has a little more substance than this...

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Anime LA 2011 in Slow Motion [15 Jan 2011|10:45pm]
SMJ CosplayFanime 2010Usually?

(Reposted from http://otacracy.com/serious-stuff/111-anime-la-2011-in-slow-motion; also, those pics aren't all from ALA 2011, but the vids below are...)

Cosplay photography kinda bugs me.

Yeah, I've been doing it for a while, whether it be for friends at cons or (rarely) at private photoshoots.  I enjoy photography, and I appreciate cosplay, but I've always considered myself more a con photographer than a cosplay photographer.  A cosplayer facing the camera with a practiced pose never struck me as quite so interesting as the con itself: a huge writhing beast, barely in control by the executive decision makers at the top and the gofers at the bottom; always undulating, creeping forwards with the funk of con attendees and the cries of memes.

Con photographs, pictures showing the convention in action, comprise the vast majority of my personal favorites.

Fanime 2010A Haruhi in hand makes...Taking Orders

I usually took these pictures with a a digital SLR.  However, I didn't have one available by the time Anime Los Angeles rolled around this year.  Instead, I had a Casio pocket-sized point and shoot camera.  Honestly, I felt like I couldn't give the con or the cosplayers a proper service with just this cam, especially next to the guys rocking out things like $1000+ Canon L lenses and even more expensive Steadicam rigs.  Still, I had to do something; if I couldn't be better with the Casio, I could be unique.

One of the reasons I got the Casio was because of its slow-motion video recording.  The Casio EX-FH100 can record video at 640 x 480 resolution with 120 frames-per-second speed.  If I can't do comparable quality-wise, maybe I can do something unique...

Here are some videos of cosplayers which follow logically from typical cosplay pictures...





And here are some videos of the con being... well... a con...





This last one, I particularly like.  We see pictures of organized cosplay gatherings like this all the time, but few see it from the cosplayers' perspective, especially as they are being called to the front.

So... yeah.  Though I did do some typical picture stuff (see: my flickr set), I did a lot of slow motion video (see: my youtube account) and... I enjoyed doing something different.  Despite a different process, I think I did a decent first attempt of sticking with what I enjoy, which is: conveying the con itself while letting the other photographers focus on doing the usual cosplay photography.

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New Year's Resolutions...? [02 Jan 2011|12:32am]
Cosplay Observer (Picnik fodder)

(Mirrored from http://otacracy.com/randomness/3-personal-hijinks/110-new-years-resolutions)

Haven't updated this thing in months, I know.  Part of it is because of lack of time, and part of it is this general feeling that I haven't been feeling very otaku about anything.  (This shouldn't seem like a reason not to update my LJ, but my LJ blog mirror does happen to be called otacracy.com...)  Heck, I barely remember the last time I felt even mildy interested in any particular subject.

Hopefully this will change in the coming weeks.

I'm going to try some different things on for size.  Really exploring what my PSP can do.  Augmenting my penchant for still photography with some videography.  Creating some physical (rather than digital) games for anime and manga fans.  Writing more songs with vocals.

And then there's the really big one: COSPLAY.  Yes, I'm going to dress up.  Yes, this scares the crap out of me.  I'll probably spending some time talking my way through this and hopefully showing what I'm doing to make progress between now Fanime 2011...

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I would absolutely play this game! [27 Feb 2010|02:37pm]


Figure Skater II - bit.ly/8txzJO
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Undergoing the Otaku Transformation [20 Jan 2010|09:59pm]

Back in 2006, when (former?) game designer Will Wright was entertaining questions about how awesome Spore would be, he talked for a decent amount about: his inner otaku.

Oh yes, was he an otaku. He loved him some crazy Russian space ships and rocked books about astrobiology a little too hard. And we all loved him for that.

During both his Comic-Con and GDC talking stints that year, he encouraged people/game devs/creative types/aliens to "develop your inner otaku."

Me, well...! There's a whole lot of otaku in me. Or rather: otakus.

(Yes, I know you don't add an 's' to make Japanese nouns plural, but I needed it for the effect there, see...)

I've got the anime otaku and the game otaku, sure, but then there's: the music otaku; the camera otaku; the audio otaku (who is always at odds with the music otaku); the computer otaku; the food otaku; the sports otaku; the HCI otaku; the gun otaku; the dollar store otaku; the... the...

I'm sure there's more, but they're probably hiding in here, somewhere. Probably pretty close to the anime and food otaku, who seem to have shrunk as the months have passed.

Yeah, I'm just not the anime otaku I used to be. It's been years since I've downloaded a fansub. My most recent anime purchases were merely series I had watched long ago and felt the need to buy to show some modicum of support for the since imploded US anime industry.

Now, back in the day, I probably would have chalked it up to me deciding to be "mature" and forego the "otaku lifestyle" or some other nonsense that my younger self would have only a vague idea about. Honestly, I buy in to what Will Wright was saying back then. Even now, I can see him in some thousand dollar suit echoing shades of Gordon Gecko, proclaiming, "Otaku. Is. Good."

Ultimately, the problem lies in me: I'm just not that awesome enough to sustain continued development of all my inner otaku. Which is okay.

In 2010, I'm no longer the heatsink otaku I was back in 2001. Back then, I could get into a debate about cold-forged heatsinks (such as those from Japanese manufacturer Alpha... remember the 6035?!) being better than skived fins (was never the biggest Thermalright fan... and you could never have one big enough to deal the CFM those things needed for performance). Nowadays, I just use the heatsink that came with my Shuttle PC and I'm done.

Back in 1998, I fit way too many facts about anime and game seiyuu into my brain. I could rattle off all the voices for the Sotsugyou Saturn games... never mind that I didn't have the games, or even if I did, I wouldn't understand a lick of what they were saying. (Not that I can now, but that's another problem...)

Back in high school, I prided myself on reading almost entirely non-fiction. Now I've got Haruki Murakami's Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman sitting on top of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities and Max Brooks's World War Z.

Curses on my memory, that keeps me from realizing the path that I've taken to become this shell of VINCENT DIAMANTE that houses such different otaku within it today...

...and... oh.

Oh. I'm okay. I guess I'll hang around the way I am for now... until some other otaku decides to take up residence. Maybe I should redevelop that cosplay otaku that used to be in here... hadn't seen him in more than a decade. Or maybe I should find that Scriabinotaku that used to dominate my musical personality...

In the Richard Linklater film Waking Life, a woman in a cafe talks plainly about the earnest fiction of identity in the simplest, most comforting biological terms one could conjure with regard to the human condition: "Our cells are completely regenerating every seven years. We've already become completely different people several times over... and yet we always remain quintessentially ourselves."

Seven years, eh? Let's see if I can get it to the point where I can at least remain the same person from the beginning of writing a short blog post to the end...


Ah well. No can do!

Here's to a good 2010: one that finishes stronger than it starts.

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Whoa... Flower won Best Original Soundtrack...! [15 Dec 2009|04:35pm]
Totally didn't expect this. Especially in a year where someone like Hans Zimmer throws his hat into the game audio ring...!

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Why am I doing an anime op/ed meme? [02 Dec 2009|04:47pm]
Oh... right. I haven't updated this LJ in a while. That's why...


What are you favorite OP and EDs? and why?
Don't go past top 5, and say a few words why? :3

It's the Lodoss War TV OP! I remember seeing this back in high school and thinking: WOW, THIS SHOW IS GOING TO LOOK AWESOME! Of course, it didn't, which was: very disappointing. I suppose the poor quality of the show actually helps in highlighting the awesomeness of this op.

Here's the OP to Chou Kidou Densetsu DAINAGIGA. Amazing OP. Visually awesome. Catchy song. And the show to go along with it was: ABSOLUTE RUBBISH. (Korean subtitled version here as it was by far the best quality version on youtube...)

Mamotte Shugogetten wasn't a great show. If it wasn't the predictable plot and boring character gnawing it me, it was the various bits of evidence of too early adoption of digital animation. (At least it wasn't J-to-X quality). Man, the OP was good, though...

Ah... Himikoden. Hooray for crazy Japanese media mix franchises that never quite hit in America. The Playstation game wasn't awful. The anime was, however...

Okay... let's do something from a significantly less awful anime. This is the 2nd ED to Clamp Campus Detectives, and it's one of my favorite Sakamoto Maaya songs (probably my favorite on her Hotchpotch singles collection, with Active Heart just underneath...)

I guess that's my five! But before the end, I've gotta leave you guys with a game opening that doesn't get enough love: the OP to Genso Suikogaiden 1 for PSX...

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I Got A Seven (7!) Patty Whopper [25 Oct 2009|03:48pm]

The Seven Patty WhopperGuys in Japan celebrated the launch of Windows 7 with a 7 patty Whopper. Hacker types this side of the pond used their own open source methods to hack their own 7 patty burgers.

Me, I just went to the local Burger King and ordered one.

Yeah, the cashier looked at me incredulously as I ordered it, but the order went through swiftly enough. On top of the regular Whopper, you just order six extra patties at $1.39 each.

Final price after tax: $12.54.

I ended up sharing the burger with three friends. Check out more pics on my flickr...

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A little off-camera flash goes a long way... [20 Oct 2009|12:48am]
(Cross-posted from http://otacracy.com/serious-stuff/102-a-little-off-camera-flash-goes-a-long-way)

Yep... It's been a while. I've been busy. Teaching classes, writing music, and trying my best not to go crazy. Mostly succeeding at it. But that's not what this post is about.

This post is all about some pictures I've taken using off-camera wired and wireless flash. Because man do I like flash. Rhymes with smash. And panache.

When I was a kid, my first autofocus SLR was a Minolta Maxxum 3xi. This was a pretty mediocre camera for photographers. Couldn't manually set the film speed. No spot meter. No shutter speed and aperture viewable in the viewfinder.

But it did have one of my favorite features ever: wireless camera flash.

So there I was, this snot-nosed elementary school kid wielding an SLR in the right hand and holding a flash in the left, taking "artsy" looking pictures (read: abstract with lots of dutch angles) of his classmates courtesy of some strong handheld sidelighting.

It's not all that much different nowadays.


Anonymous at Scientology in Los Angeles

By far my most well known picture is one I took last year of some of the participants in the Los Angeles Anonymous protest of Scientology. Thanks to a Creative Commons license, the photo has been seen by way too many people on sites from CNN to Fox News. It's a pretty good shot, and it was incredibly easy to do. All I did was walk down the street, see those three guys standing together, asked the fourth to come join them, and then I take a picture of them the same way I took pictures back in 6th grade: camera in the right hand, flash in the left.

Back in the day, the Minolta film flash auto exposure system was arguably the best in the world. The Sony digital flash system that succeeded it is perhaps not quite so awesome (more to do with the physical properties of digital sensors vs. film than inability on Sony's part), but it still did an amazing job at lighting up the extremely close foreground and maintaining the background. The combo of bright sun backlighting the scene, a single sidelighting flash, and Sony's Dynamic Range Optimizer locally raising shadows in the scene maximized the final image impact of the subject, shot ultra wide at super close range to accentuate the subjects' eye-lines.

Lately, I've been noticing cosplay photographers talking about using large-aperture normal to telephoto lenses to get their subjects to really pop in the image. Me, I also like having the subject of the image pop. I just tend to think first of doing it with my portable lighting setup than with a wide aperture lens capable of delivering super smooth bokeh. I've gone through three digital interchangeable lens camera systems in the last decade (Minolta/Sony, Pentax, and Olympus), and with all of them I've made extensive use of off-camera flash, both in automatic and manual settings.

Here are a couple of examples:

Read more...Collapse )



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Not one, but two (2!) more Los Angeles Restaurant Weeks... [28 Sep 2009|05:15pm]

I'm so getting fat this October.  Possibly poorer.

But mostly fat.

Also, I really need to replace that userpic of me with one without hair...
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What I Learned From Cardcaptor Sakura: The Movie [27 Aug 2009|06:07pm]

(Cross-posted from http://otacracy.com/serious-stuff/99-what-i-learned-from-cardcaptor-sakura-the-movie)

The other night, I watched Cardcaptor Sakura: The Movie (劇場版 カードキャプターさくら) for the umpteenth time since purchasing the Japanese DVD way back in 2001 (my very first Japanese media acquisition).

Then I watched the dubbed Cardcaptors movie, courtesy of Geneon's US DVD release.

First thing's first: the dub is bad. It's pretty easy to find that much on the internet. Mania.com (formerly AnimeOnDVD.com) begs us: "For all that's holy, do not listen to the dub of this movie. Dubs like these are the ones that keep Japanese language fans from giving credit when due that there are good dubs out there." Like the many user reviews dotting the internet, I share the frustration at the dub's poor quality. However, I'm equally frustrated at why it's considered so bad.

Mania.com's review, like others on the internet, focuses on things like the mispronunciation of Sakura's name and changing the subject of report card talk from math class to music class. I can't help but think it's classic missing the forest for the trees, considering: the story is totally different between the dub and sub.

Cardcaptor Sakura: The Movie is a story of unspoken love transcending time to manifest itself among the heroes of the series, eventually recognized and placated through Sakura's near-superhuman ability to empathize with her adversary.

Cardcaptors: The Movie is the story of an evil magic student's vengeful spirit, seeking retribution against the "twisted" teacher who imprisoned her in a book to keep her from taking over the world.

Just a bit different, right?

I suppose I could go on about stuff like how American cartoons require the clarity of explicitly evil antagonists and simple relationships, but I also wanted to touch on the second part of this dub/sub discussion: the music. Besides the easy gimme stuff like switching music styles from the original's jazz fusion to pop-rock with peppy vocals (jazz fusion wins, of course...), there's the issue of how and when the music is used. Take the following scene taken towards the end of the movie. First in English:



And now in Japanese:


As you can probably see and hear, there are some interesting differences between the two clips.

First: the instruments. After the more ambient music ends, the English adaptation has some basic rock drums for the beat with middle of the road synth horns and strings on top: a fairly small virtual instrument ensemble. The types of instruments are the exact same in the Japanese version: drums, strings, and horns. However, the sound is drastically different. Everything is much lighter, with the low-end de-emphasized and the high end active. There's actually plenty of timpani and snare in the original, but they don't dominate the same way the rock kit does in the adaptation.

Second: the composition. The adaptation features a relatively simple composition, with the beat in the foreground and the melodic instruments not executing much approaching melody. Harmonically, it can be a considered a big ole V-i chord progression from beginning to end. The original soundtrack is much more active both melodically and harmonically. Despite the fairly short amount of time it had, the music established a rhythmic motif in the comping strings (one significant enough to warrant repeating toward the end of the piece) and a rather memorable melody in the high strings.

Third: the timing. (This is actually the thing that made me want to write this post.) In the English adaptation, there's a fairly long piece of ambient music that precedes the piece featured in the clip. That piece of music ends and the new piece of music begins once Sakura's wand strikes the card. In the Japanese, the music begins as Sakura throws out the card to be unleashed.

The following is kind of nebulous, but please bear with me. I find it interesting the differences in how the event of Sakura saving herself from her watery predicament are scored. However, I find it even more interesting how the event is cordoned off by the score. In the English, the event is delineated solely by the physical consequence of Sakura's action of activating the card. In the original, however, both Sakura's intent and its consequences were scored by the music. This got me thinking about meaningful actions: actions that have sufficient intent and consequence, especially within a game context. I've always found it interesting how Japanese game design enjoys playing with the concept of intent. Compare the explicit obfuscation in the world of Japanese fighting games to the context sensitive face buttons in Gears of War. The input into a BlazBlue arcade stick might seem crazy (it often is, from an abstract sequence perspective), but many can't help but look at the visual/narrative output as rather clear and considered. Then you've got strategy games like StarCraft, where the consequences formed by layer upon layer of intentions can be absolutely bewildering... compared to Sega's Valkyria Chronicles, where the consequences are utterly predictable.

Okay, maybe it's not all that much, but I just wrote this post to say: Thanks, Cardcaptor Sakura. I think you taught me something, even if I am stretching for it, and it's not totally clear what exactly it is.

(Also: I had no idea Kaitani Naomi (singer of the movie's ED theme, Tooi Kono Machi De) released a new album this year, and a remastered version of the movie came out in 2007... ARGH!)

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Random Bursts of Otacracy, Cosplay, and Photography [15 Jul 2009|12:14am]

SMJ Cosplay(Cross-posted from http://otacracy.com/serious-stuff/96-random-bursts-of-otacracy-cosplay-and-photography)

Despite the name of the site, I'm just not THAT much of an otaku. At least, not in the sense assumed by most internet denizens.

Nowadays I'm writing random music and working on lectures rather than watching the latest and (not necessarily the) greatest anime out there. My overall video game playing skill has dropped precariously in the last year as I've focused more on things like: studying Choroscript and: washing dishes.

But then I do random and not so random things like take pictures of Magic Knight Rayearth cosplayers in a national forest and drive 2 hours to get to an arcade and play IGS beat'em ups and Puzzle Bobble 3 (since the Puyo Puyo Fever machine was out of commission).

In just under 48 hours I'm going to hop on a plane and hit Otakon... and quite honestly I have: no idea what I'm going to do there.

All right. That's not true. I'm pretty certain I'll do my fair share of people watching and hanging out with friends I've made over the years. And I'm really looking forward to our pre-Otakon dinner plans at Obelisk. But what of the stuff provided by Otakon? What panels, concerts, events am I REALLY interested in?

At the moment the answer would have to be: none. But that's mostly me being in teacher mode and splitting time between writing this quick update and writing a mid-term exam for my students.

So this makes now a good time to talk about this photo here.

This photo was taken just over 10 years ago and remains my favorite among all the photos of cosplay I've taken. The cosplayers in the picture above are portraying characters from the Saber Marionette anime series as they walk the halls of Otakon 1999. And they look absolutely fantastic. Nevermind the fact that you really can't see that much detail in their costumes (the combination of a slightly crappy photographer dealing with a slightly crappy lens and relatively slow film)... but forget about that. These girls are: having fun. People around them are seeing these girls: having fun.

(And then there's the artistic aspects of the photo. Lines and eyelines. But I don't care about that at the moment...)

Otakon 1999 was a hugely fun experience for me, and this picture, more than any other picture I took, represented how much fun it was to be there.

I'd really like to take more pictures of cosplayers: having fun. Allow me to go ahead and push that a bit to: I'd really like to take more pictures of cosplayers being people in costume, people having fun, rather than simply models struggling to reach the iconic ideals presented on dead trees and LCDs.

If only they'd allow me to do that! Because: heaven forbid I catch them cracking an out-of-character smile or chatting with their friends who aren't similarly dressed. If I had to choose between taking pictures of interesting people doing interesting things and the most utterly beautiful drop-dead gorgeous stylishly accurate cosplay ever made... I'd choose the pictures of people.

And please don't think that this means I disrespect cosplay; in fact, I love cosplay and would love nothing better than to show cosplay, the entire process of cosplay, in a really positive light to fans and non-fans alike.

Okay... I guess that's one thing I'm still incredibly otaku about. I thoroughly enjoy taking pictures of people pre-con/at con/post-con, doing the con thing (aka having fun), and I look forward to seeing all the people that will be hanging out, rocking out, making out, passing out, and anything else you can think of at Otakon.

If you see a guy with a black photovest stuffed with camera equipment shooting pictures at Otakon, you've probably found me. Feel free to say hi. If you rock at Asuka 120% Limited or Garouden: Fist or Twist, even better. I'm looking forward to hitting that game room as well...

(This was originally going to be a post about 2 cosplayers who screamed at me for a minute for taking their picture, but thinking about it just depresses and frustrates the hell out of me, so I'd rather not write about that.)

And how about we end this LJ post on a positive note? GOD BLESS AMERICA!

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A Rayearth Photoshoot [28 Jun 2009|04:39pm]

Magic Knight Rayearth(Crossposted from http://otacracy.com/serious-stuff/93-a-rayearth-photoshoot)

Magic Knight Rayearth is: one of my favorite series ever. When Alice asked if I'd be interested in being part of a Rayearth cosplay photoshoot, I broke into a big grin and said: "Sure!"

(Inside, my mind was thinking: "OMG AWESOME SO COOL RAYEARTH I LOVE RAYEARTH!!!@!@1!@11111!!!!")

Thing is, as the photoshoot date inched closer, I started to feel more and more nervous. Performance anxiety, a relic from my serious pianist past which had started to crop up again in my video game career as well as my teaching career, was now rearing its ugly head with this relatively trivial pursuit of cosplay photography. I suppose it was only natural; I would be the newbie in a group of experienced photographers shooting a trio of experienced cosplayers. It didn't help that fashion photography and modeling was never what I concentrated on (always considered myself a documentarian since I started shooting back in the early 90s), and giving direction was far from my strong suit. I must have imagined a Hollywood movie worth of embarrassment in the weeks prior to the photoshoot.

Thankfully, none of the horrible predicaments I was imagining for myself actually took place.

After picking up Alice and arriving at Shiya's place in Fontana at around 10 AM, I spent most of the morning watching the two finish up their costumes and thinking: Man, I really want to cosplay again...! (That's probably a post for another time!) Then the others slowly trickled in. The other photographers were faces I was somewhat familiar with from years in the California con scene, but I didn't really know them very well. That changed a bit as we hung out and talked about random stuff (Michael Jackson! Crazy camera equipment! Cosplay drama!) for the next 4 (four!) hours. Yeah, best laid plans, etc.

Eventually we got on the road (cosplayers in a well air conditioned minivan, me with three others in a five door without freon) and made our way to Lytle Creek, where we would spend the next four hours shooting, posing, lighting, arranging, fixing, swimming (kind of!), and all those other verbs that one would imagine occur when doing a photoshoot by a creek in a National Forest.

What to do, what to do...Something that I wasn't expecting to happen was the slow start. Sure, I was expecting that from myself; being paralyzed by options is one of those things that I do best(?) when performance anxiety strikes. However, it was a bit comforting when we got to the site and there was this random milling around happening on the part of everybody there. Eventually we pushed ourselves into a few shots and everyone had something to do.

I probably should have had a plan of attack laid out for the day, some sort of stylistic point or technique I wanted to use. I doubt I was conscious of it happening, but it eventually emerged that I was using flash for everything. Not much on-camera TTL stuff, but I seemed to use the Oly system I had every other way I could. Most of the time I was using manual flash power plus manual metering, sometimes with flash mounted on my camera, sometimes held in my left hand courtesy of a hot shoe cable, and sometimes lying on the ground triggered by the RC system (similar to Nikon's CLS, a line of sight infrared remote triggering system). Worked out great for the most part. There were a few times where I really wish I could throttle the flash even lower than 1/128 power because of my propensity for shooting subjects close with wide-angle. Best way to throttle in this case was to switch to high speed mode and up the shutter speed to get the effective flash power output down or pop my otherwise useless diffuser on there.

Zoomed out a bit...I brought two strobes and they worked out pretty well. Another photographer, however, brought stands with umbrella diffusers for his Canon strobes remote triggered with Elinchroms. I haven't seen his stuff yet, but I'm guessing he did some great stuff with them, providing lots of soft light for group shots. He was nice enough to allow me use of his system for a bit while he was taking a break. What I learned from this experimentation? Lots of off-camera soft light is indeed: quite awesome. To Mike: Thanks for letting me play around with it, and apologies for scaring you by threatening some of those flashes and receivers with a potential underwater disaster!

After the photoshoot, the cosplayers decided that some dinner combined with some casual cosplay gallivanting would make a nice cap to the day. This time around, I was the only guy willing to bring out the camera while searching for food in the nearby Victoria Gardens outdoor mall. Ended up with a decent group of casual cosplay pictures, and I again decided that my BlackRapid RS-4 camera strap is my favorite camera strap ever. Great for a guy like me who wants his camera availible at a moment's notice in a wide variety of situations and values the candid above all else.

Casual Rayearth CosplayWith a bit of food in our stomachs and twelve hours removed from when I started my cosplay photographer day, all of us gave our thanks and called it a night. Except I didn't call it a night and spent until 5 AM uploading photos to flickr. Smart move me. Here's hoping my sleep schedule will get back to normal before I teach summer school in a week. It will certainly be a struggle, thank you AX.

Final tally: 460 photos taken, 57 pictures uploaded to Flickr (including documentary and casual, with 8 photos added/changed since Sunday), and 7 (seven!) colons.
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Printing Takes Time, Money [18 Jun 2009|08:59am]
Various printing problems...(Crossposted from http://otacracy.com/randomness/3-personal-hijinks/90-printing-takes-time-money)

So right now I'm printing stuff.

I've got two fairly nice Epson Stylus Photo 1280 printers. When they work, they create wonderful, wonderful output. On really beautiful paper (like my preferred Ilford Premium Pearl Photo) the prints turn out drop-dead gorgeous.

Unfortunately, they don't work 100% of the time. In fact, they don't work even 40% of the time.

On this particular job I'm stressing over, I'm being commissioned to make 20 full bleed art prints. Unfortunately for me, I can't just put 20 sheets of paper into the feed and hit a button. Doesn't work that way.

First off, the feed mechanism on both of these printers sucks. You look at the printer wrong and suddenly it's sucking in two or three sheets of paper at a time. When the media costs $0.50 to $1.00 a sheet, you don't want that to happen, so that means I print one sheet at a time. Every 20+ minute I have to load another sheet of paper. Fun.

Then there's the print heads. These things get clogged every 5 sheets or so. One clogged nozzle means nasty streaking. That means I'm doing nozzle checks before every single print I make.

Then there's the fact that full bleed printing is non-trivial on these printers. You can't simply say you want borderless prints. (Well, you can, but only if you like a couple millimeters being cut off on every border. That means I have to guesstimate the dimensions in my print settings. Right now, I'm telling Photoshop to print the picture as 12.8" x 18.707" in order for the printer driver to properly fill the 13" x 19" page.)

And then there's the stuff that you just can't account for. Just an hour ago, one of the two printers developed a clog that just will not go away, even after an hour worth of cleaning cycles. Earlier today, the Windows print manager decided that every job was done after about 8 inches of the 19 inch long document was printed. Before that, the printer decided it would be a good thing to mar otherwise perfect prints with a smear of black ink on the bottom edge. Yesterday, a fly got into the printer and... well, you can see the results here.

So! All in all: printing sucks.

Lately I've been considering my options. I only use these printers to print jobs for other people, so considering all the time and money I funnel into them, I should probably just get rid of them. Considering my nature, it's far more likely that I'll replace them and continue offering services...
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More Music From Way Back When... [27 May 2009|06:28pm]
IMD Senior Thesis Show 2009 (Crossposted from http://otacracy.com/serious-stuff/87-more-music-from-way-back-when)

So earlier I had shown off some old music. There were some other ones that I just found that I figured I'd put in a separate post. Well, here's that post:

ray7.it (MP3 file) was a reaction to Working Designs's reveal of their English opening to the Magic Knight Rayearth Saturn game. Besides showing off the actual OP song, Vic Ireland also showed a joke version that had the singer rocking out. Me, I LIKED the joke version, and felt just a little bit of adjusment would push the people on rec.games.video.sega.saturn (any of you guys remember newsgroups?) to understand my position. I did some EQ on the music, sliced it up a bit, placed it into Impulse Tracker, then added some steel guitar and extra drums to punch up the song.

md-1-1.s3m (MP3 file) was another song from 1998 that made me realize how much I enjoyed writing loops more than songs with beginnings and endings. It actually has a pretty good sound and groove, and the flute sounds pretty natural. In the MP3 version, you can hear it with the song looping a bit in standard Japanese game OST style. Like last time, note how I can't come up with a good song name for the life of me.

1_.it and 2_.it (1_.mp3 and 2_.mp3) had me trying to write music for the game that was in my head. Of course that game was an RPG, me being infatuated with things like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy 3 (6 for you hardcore folk), and as I've established before, I really enjoy loops. Loops, orchestral, RPG, can't think of names, etc.

Now I personally don't remember ever making tm1.it (MP3 file). Obviously unfinished and pretty rough sounding, but after finding it, laughed out loud (yes, this is different from LOL) because of just how generic it sounds. Yeah, I definitely didn't always write winners. (Not to say that I always write winners now...)

I'll do another music update later on. Maybe you'll think it's better than this stuff, maybe not... but at the very least, I can promise that it's not more than 10 years old...

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Music from Back Then [29 Apr 2009|11:03am]

My video card is borking...(Crossposted from http://otacracy.com/serious-stuff/84-music-from-back-then)

I've been having some really horrible problems with my computers lately. As soon as I got my sound card responding properly courtesy of a software upgrade, my video card starts glitching out. Once I've got my hard drive situation squared away, Windows starts borking at me and refusing to search. It's pretty fun stuff, as you can imagine.

So, while my current music output has dropped far more than acceptable, it has been pretty interesting going through my old music output as I make my way through the burgeoning archive of: stuff. Here's a couple of interesting things.

SKL-SATI.IT (MP3 version) is an Impulse Tracker file from 1998. Yeah, I was in that crew of guys trying to make more performed acoustic-sounding music from MOD files. I was decidedly less successful than others, but hey, we all got to start somewhere, right? (And yeah, I'm not going to show you the stuff from before this. That stuff was just sad...)

MD-6.IT (MP3 version) was another mod I did a bit earlier, probably around 1997. I can't find the original file, but as you can hear it's pretty simple. If it says anything about me it's: I learned early on to love extremely short loops and I was definitely big on emulating the Sakimoto orchestra sound back in the day.

From 1999 on to about 2002-2003, I didn't really do any music writing. I was focused more on school work, piano, and basic undergrad survival. I did have some audio equipment around, as I was doing this snail-like transition from MOD music to MIDI music, but quite honestly, I didn't do anything really cool there. (I did write some piano solo pieces around this time, but those have been lost, sadly. Sometimes before writing those pieces, I'd sketch the piece out in Impulse Tracker... yeah, wacky, I know...)

melon.mp3 is a doodle I did sometime around 2003. By this time, I had given up on Cubase 5 and did a competitive upgrade to Sonar 2. It's pretty rough around the edges (for me, the uneven velocities that I never cleaned up really scream at me), but it's not bad.

Some other things I did around this time include: herotheme4.mp3, 20041014_chase_a.mp3, clarinet.mp3, and deliberation.mp3. The first two pieces were standard random crap while the latter two were among the first things I did for short films and TV. Besides the fact that they're still not that great, you can see some hints at what may be my most defining characteristic: horrible song naming.

Let's end this post with some of the first music I did for interactive. In my first year of grad school, I did some stuff for an interactive fiction with The Labyrinth Project and Lynn Hershman. To this day, I have no idea actually what happened with that project (as soon as they stopped asking me for stuff, I immediately focused my attention on RFID-Flash integration and arcade cabinets as interactive sculpture, no joke) but I made a bunch of music and sound effects for it.

lynn1_c.mp3 and lynn2_c.mp3 aren't bad. I'm not sure if they really sound Lynn Hershman, but they're definitely more naturally me than any other stuff I had done to this point. I've toyed around with the idea of returning to lynn1 and giving it a score and not just a sequence rendered courtesy of an Akai CD of Miroslav Mini. (Oh man, did that Miroslav Mini CD influence the way I write. To this day, those old school Miroslav sounds are the center of my virtual orchestra...)

So that's basically my music pre-video games in a nutshell. My computer is still being horrible (installing Windows Vista as we speak) so there might be more coming this way. I'm hopeful the next time I put some music on here, it will be new stuff!

(Edit: Oh crap... I just discovered Schism Tracker and now I'm rediscovering all these old MODs and S3Ms I did... man, some of these really weren't bad!  yeah, that's definitely for the next update...)

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Hey Kotaku: How about some Credit? [11 Apr 2009|01:52am]
P3258228(Crossposted from http://otacracy.com/randomness/3-personal-hijinks/82-hey-kotaku-how-about-some-credit)

Pictured here is Tim Schafer hosting the 2009 Game Developers Choice Awards. Not a brilliant picture, but not bad either, so I decided to pop it onto my flickr. I'm slightly annoyed that Kotaku is currently using it for their most recent post on the awards show. There are two problems I have with this situation. One: the photo is licensed for noncommercial use. Two: there's no attribution.

On the first, that's easily gotten around with a quick e-mail to me. Commercial magazines and websites ask me to use a CC-non-commercial photo, I say something along the lines of "send me a copy of the mag and a-ok," and everyone's happy. Easy as pie. On the second, well, that's just sad. For us artists, having our name there is really important, and it takes minimal effort. It's not just the terms of the license; it's respectful. Come on, Kotaku. Even Fox News was able to manage that.

Edit: Thanks to Michael and Kotaku for adding the link back to the source.  Really appreciated.

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Video Games: You Don't Need Drugs, Dammit [03 Apr 2009|09:25pm]
blurb_noby_boy_200901211[1](crossposted from: http://otacracy.com/serious-stuff/81-video-games-you-dont-need-drugs-dammit)

Whenever there's discussion of games like Noby Noby Boy, Katamari Damacy, Flower, or even more conventional games like Rez or Space Giraffe, I see people saying things like:

You know someone was high when they made this game...


You have to be high to enjoy this game...

That really annoys me. One: I'm not big on the whole chemical alteration thing (I like remaining in control, as much as I understand that to mean) and Two: Games are all about these different relationships. Sometimes those things being related are more absurd than others, but it's all about those relationships. X = Y. What's so special about some relationships that it would have required some mind altering substance to conjure up? Or to enjoy?

In Flower, the player flies through the air by pushing a button on the controller. A pretty simple connection, right? Nearly as simple is Noby Noby Boy: one stick controls the head while another the tail of this snake like creature. These aren't particularly crazy relationships; in fact, they sound rather trite and gamey. However, these relationships require a little bit of chemical augmentation to understand compared to Gears of War, where hitting the overloaded A button (overloaded does not mean I think it's a bad thing, folks) can result in one of many things happening. Right?

Or maybe you need a little bit of Mary Jane to actually enjoy something so simple. Well, if that's the case, how come no one ever brought the stuff up when it comes to dead simple games like Pong, Gorf, and Missile Command?

Or maybe it's just a commentary on the narrative of the piece. In which case: come on guys. Surely gamers can enjoy some surrealist or magical realist game literature on top of our well established base of competitive sports, science fiction, and realistic power fantasy without the addition of recreational drugs.

If you don't enjoy or understand a game, please just say that. That's perfectly okay. No need to bring recreational drugs into the equation.
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Right Now I'm Wondering... [22 Mar 2009|03:49pm]

...why are all the really nice quotes on Flower's music in languages other than English?

GDC time for me!
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Anime Songs for Busy People [11 Mar 2009|11:20am]

I've been meaning to post this, but now I've finally gotten around to it:

Anime songs for busy people. Thanks to all the nico nico guys who've taken the time to reassemble anime music to fit our hectic lifestyles...

These are pretty smooth ones. The majority of stuff out there is focused on even more extreme recombination of the words even at the expense of the smoothness of the mix. Some of you guys might not like it. Some of you will be in histerics. Check out more over on nicovideo...
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