Paul Geromini

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Monday 10 July 2017

My Second FMV

I have finally gotten around to releasing my second FMV (Fan Music Video). You can watch it here. It was a first for me in that the source material is a video game. Specifically, Homeworld: Remastered (a remaster of the 1999 classic) and briefly Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak (A 2016 prequel).

Homeworld has always been very special to me. It is an excellently constructed game, with unique gameplay mechanics (full 3d unit movement), excellent graphics, strong art direction (see Peter Elson, the Terran Trade Authority Books, and this fan site). I have played it and its sequels many times and I have always wanted to pay tribute to it in some form

Here is what the finished project looks like:

This FMV was a huge technical challenge for me. I would have to capture almost all the video clips I needed (minus some cinematics) and work with three different styles (Homeworld Remastered, its black and white cinematics, and Deserts of Kharak). I did a lot of research and testing on various capture solutions, eventually settling on the excellent and open source OBS ( While testing this tool, I found only recording at the highest quality (lossless) captures the vibrant color of the ships and backgrounds of Homeworld which is critical to the end product. This resulted in huge video files, about 100MB for every 5 seconds compared to 61GBs compared to my average size ~5GBs. Thankfully, Sony Vegas had no problems handling these large files. Painful as it was to work with all these large clips, it did allow me full freedom in selecting the shots I wanted as all I had to do was move the camera and record. This was made easy since both Homeworld games have a cinematic mode which hides the UI except for the pointer which can be hidden by holding the right mouse button down. All this freedom can be a challenge however as you get to decide what you want, instead of working from a set palette of clips. More freedom, but more indecision. It was a new experience in that regard as I had to have more of a director's eye rather than being given everything to start with. This does help cut down on all the time trawling though episodes to find what you need, but It is replaced by lots of recording and lots of thinking you are recording only to realize you forgot. For the story, I wanted to present the full journey through the first game so I took highlights from most missions, skipping missions that did not contribute to the main story. It was tough to get a few shots given a game is going on, but judicious saving made it easy to get most of the clips I wanted. Finally of note, the end product is letterboxed a bit. I did this because the cinematics from the first game are letterboxed and it was distracting to see the bars appear and disappear as the video went on.

I submitted this FMV to Connecticon 2017, but it was not accepted as a finalist. I was a bit bummed by that as I thought it was pretty good (biased though I am). I will take it as a challenge to submit a better one next year.

Scene Breakdown I have a couple comments on various parts of the FMV. You can think of this as a textual director's commentary.

0:00-0:03: I love using voices from the source material and having a cold (music-less) open. This clip is actually frozen until the hyperspace window appears at 0:04. It was too hard to capture the mothership (the banana ship) and Kharak (the planet behind the mothership) standing still and then hyperspacing in one shot. You can see a tiny bit of the hyperspace window, but it is hard to spot (IMHO).

0:29: This shot comes from Deserts of Kharak. It actually has a bit more of a letterbox than the clips from Remastered, but it is not that noticeable (IMHO).

0:44: The next few clips are from an in game captured log of the attack on Kharak so it intentionally has static and a timer in the upper right. There is nothing I can do about it so I left it as is.

0:55-0:56: I love the explosion of the space station blending into the cinematic explosion. It works really well.

1:04-1:13: One of the weaker parts of the video if I am being critical. I had to introduce this ship (as it is very important latter), but it is not very interesting otherwise.

1:16: This clip is stretched a tiny bit since some of the UI actually crept in on the edge and I had to hide it. At long distances in Homeworld: Remastered ships get a border that cannot be hidden.

1:24: This is a cool shot of a lot of ships, but I have no idea how that ion frigate got so out of formation at the bottom.

1:35-1:36: I think the abrupt song transition from fast paced to slow is very well complimented by the shot selection here.

1:44: These are cryostasis pods which might not be apparent if you have not played the game.

1:54: This shot of the hyperspace inhibitor is actually not from the cinematic montage of enemy structures used in the previous clip. It will become important latter on so I wanted to set it up here.

1:58: We can start to see some of the great color usage in the game as it goes from a black background to a vibrant red here to orange and yellow as we go on. You can really see this gradual color change in the project picture.

2:13-2:17: Really cool shot of some bombers making a run on the Kadeshi needle. I setup to record just the bombers and got lucky one was destroyed during the filming.

2:17-2:20: This ship is an important story piece so I set it up by including it here.

2:23-2:29: Again, I got lucky here as the camera automatically zooms out to prevent clipping into a ship. It gave this great shot that goes from being tight on the fighters to wide as they break off showing all the capital ships in play.

2:31: Those are actually captured enemy destroyers in the background (there is an ingame capture mechanic). It would be confusing for someone not familiar with the game to see them up close, but it is far enough away and well obscured so I thought it was ok to cheat just this once. This was some of the first footage I recorded and I had forgot about that mechanic. Gamewise, capturing everything is always the correct strategy which is why it was heavily nerfed in the sequels.

3:43: I probably overdid it with carrier explosions as here is a second one.

3:47: This is captain Elson in his black destroyer. He is very important to the game, but hard to explain without words. I do not think I succeed in conveying that to people who are not fans of the game.

3:59: I love the strange angle the multigun corvette is taking as it comes into the shot in the lower left.

4:03: A great shot, but for this mission the head on approach is very costly. Two cloak generators in the middle of a tight ship formation is far more effective.

4:04: You can see the turrets on this heavy cruiser moving, but not firing. I am not sure if that was a bug, but I let it be.

4:10-4:12 Probably the hardest shot to get. I had to get both the homeworld and the mothership in frame. It took a number of reloads to get it just right.

4:13: This attack in Remastered is actually very different from the original as it is far more aggressive and reckless. Thus the Remastered version has a big difficulty spike here.

4:23-4:25: A very Michael Bay-esque shot here with multiple ships moving at multiple distances from the camera.

4:29-4:30: I got lucky with this shot as the missile strike destroys the fighter right on a music beat.

4:41: I think I should have held this end shot a bit longer. The song ends pretty quickly, but we need some time to decompress.

Conclusion Overall, I really like how this came out. I think it struggles a bit with some boring shots that do not make sense if you are not a fan or familiar with the game, but it was fun to make and a interesting technical challenge. Look for something more familiar for my next project.

Sunday 24 July 2016

Another Video Project

Just like last year I have created another video for Connecticon. This time, instead of an AMV, I made an FMV (fan music video). This translates to using a live action video source instead of an anime one. Go on and give it a gander. It may not have won any awards, but I like it.

I approached this piece differently than my last one. At first I was planning on making a far more simple video than before. The last one was very drama/story focused and I wanted something a little less involved and easier to grok. Something more actiony and less reliant on knowing the story of a particular series. I already knew I wanted to use the song I went with after remembering its use in Metropolis. As far as the video source, I was not quite sure. I knew I needed something with a lot of action, but I did not want to do something very well known (e.g. Attack on Titan or Black Lagoon). I want my videos to not only be entertaining, but also to highlight less known works. That is when I remembered Ran. This is not the most obscure film, but it is not super well known or talked about either. Based on the Shakespeare play, King Lear, it is about a Japanese warlord who divides his kingdom amongst his three sons. Two of the sons betray the father who goes mad, only to be rescued by his third son. It is an engaging film, with vibrant colors, devastating battle scenes, and masterful direction by one of Japan's great filmmakers: Akira Kurosawa.

Initially, I was thinking that just setting the battle scenes to music would make a pretty good action entry. In preparation for making FMV, I printed out a copy of the lyrics and rewatched the film, taking notes and marking time stamps of scenes I wanted to use. As I started to string clips together I naturally progressed to a more story focused video, like my last one. The actions scenes did work well set to the music, but If I had used just those scenes for the whole thing, I would be stretched thin clip-wise. Kurosawa is a skilled director which means he is not one to linger for too long, so there is not a whole lot to work with. That is when I started going for more of a storytelling piece.

+Comments on Particular Scenes+

The cold opening (0:00-0:0:15): I really like the opening. Most AMVs/FMVs do not do that. They just go straight into the music and video. I toyed with making this part SUPER long because I like the idea of people sitting there wondering what is going on, but I did not want people getting too bored. It is a real fantastic scene from the movie and I just had to put it somewhere.

Start of the music (0:16) The dichotomy of the violent murder of the King's entourage and the feel good lyrics of the song is a really dissonant in a good way, IMHO. It sets the tone early on that this is going to be a weird piece of work, with the song and images constantly at odds.

Flashbacks(0:29-0:0:38) I wanted to put more in here, but there is very little time in the song to allow for that. This does an acceptable job of providing some back story, but it was a concern of mine that this would not be enough. It is hard to judge how understandable the story is since the audience is probably unfamiliar with the film, but I am intimately familiar.

King's guard bleeding out(0:55) Again, the song and pictures should be at war with each other. This is a scene I really like which highlights the dichotomy at plan.

King picks flowers(2:41) I love this cut. The King is really happy (in a mad way) in this scene, but it is totally at odds with the scene that came before.

Son comes to king's aid(2:59) It is a bit on the nose, since "Blue" in the context of the song is really about the singer's emotional state and less about the color, but as Bob Ross would say, it is a "happy little accident" that this scene lines up.

Son's death(4:07) This is a tough one since it is not immediately obvious what happened. In the movie all you hear is a gunshot from the distance, context which is lost given all you hear is the music. I left it in since it sets up the next two scenes, but I am not a huge fan of it. This is the real struggle of making these videos: trying to convey meaning with the scenes you have.

King's death(4:10-4:12) A big peccadillo of mine is flapping lips or any speech you cannot hear during an AMV or FMV. Unfortunately there is just no way to cut this scene to avoid that. Yet, if I leave this scene out the funeral procession next scene makes no sense.

That is it. It took about ~10 hours to do with minimal changes after I made a first draft. This was a lot quicker than the last one, but I had a lot less footage to work with and a much stronger them. I hope you like it. I will try again next year and see if I can get an award this time around.

Sunday 5 October 2014

Oracle OpenWorld and JavaOne 2014

OpenWorld is Oracle's giant yearly business expo in San Francisco. It is a week of Oracle trashing the competition and talking up its own product line. Oracle DB will save you money, double performance, cure cancer, fix your marriage, etc. The conference was flashy and large and not interesting to me. What was interesting was JavaOne. A hold over developer centric conference from when Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems (the creator of Java). Being an Oracle employee I got permission to go which is why I was awake at 5AM last Sunday.

The deal here is, Oracle will try very hard to keep its own developers from actually going because they make bank on the registration fees from other companies. A single JavaOne pass costs $2,050, which is pretty absurd. But, if you actually do get permission to go, Oracle will bankroll the whole trip. Which is why they paid for a car to come pick me up at that borderline absurd a hour. I am used to always taking the train into Boston (then presumably a bus), but the trains do not run that early, so sweet Oracle car it was. I was in full business garb: army jacket, t-shirt, and jeans. It was pretty exciting to have someone open a car do for me, made me feel like a real hot shot. The ride was very pleasant too, classical musical and everything. Pulling up to the airport, seeing everyone else in their taxis and minivans, I really was a business man. The illusion suffered when I checked in and was told Chicago was having trouble. I might have made it a bit further, but then I had to do the security dance so whatever respect for myself I had left I lost to the TSA agents. Still Oracle paid flight, Oracle paid hotel, cannot be too bad. Wait why am I flying to Oakland? Must be for the fancy accommodations and sweet view since I will be right near the bay.

Ok, maybe not. Turns out hotels in the city are for the real big shots and/or people who register early. Which means, I became very familiar with Bay Area Rapid Transit. The subway system here is pretty unique. Not only do you get charged when you get off (hope you have enough money), but the trains are the loudest I have ever been on. Frighteningly banshee-esque screams every time it takes a turn. So loud, I am sure the driver has to wear ear protection for fear of an OSHA sound violation. The best part of commuting out by train was watching all these suited business types waiting for the hotel shuttle in this incredibly awful Oakland neighborhood which the hotel driver described to us as "not great".

None of that is actually important though because the actual conference was awesome.

Being the dirty, unwashed, Oracle employee, I could not actually register for sessions to attend, so I had to hope they did not fill up before I could get in (five minutes before it started). Generally this was not a problem and I got into some real cool sessions. Some of the stuff in JDK 8 is going to be very helpful. Lambdas and Streams in particular are going to help out a lot. Some of the stuff scheduled for JDK 9 like value types and primitives in collections are going to be real useful too. There was also a number of sessions that deepened my knowledge of the JVM such as how the volatile keyword is implemented on the byte code level and the different types of garbage collection strategies available to Java. A couple dud sessions in there too, but what can you do. Of course no convention is complete without an expo hall (both at Java One and OpenWorld), but it was mostly a waste of time. I am in no position to actually buy any of the products they were selling, but it was fun to watch how quickly the sale rep tried to disengage once they found that out. Apparently the product I work on was demoed somewhere on the floor so hopefully something good came out that.

All this work did lead to long days. I got up, went to the convention, sat in as many sessions as I could, then rode the subway home to sleep. Some of the sessions ran pretty late for a 9-5 guy with the latest being 9PM on some days. In between I got the chance to enjoy some San Francisco food. Weirdly regular convention goers get served lunch, but not Oracle employees. Presumably Oracle would prefer I expense a meal that cost more than what they are serving? The best was, oddly enough, the Korean barbeque I had near the mall at the Moscone Center. I got way too much rice though.

We also got a chance to visit mother Oracle at nearby Redwood Shores and see the sweet Oracle boat.

Turns out there are some perks to having a slightly eccentric CEO. At the convention I got to see him speak for the first time at the key note and I was greatly impressed. He was funny and engaging. Calling out the competition, poking fun at himself, he really has a flair for speech and clearly loves being the big shot. The gift shop at HQ was pretty disappointing though so he is not perfect. After that it was two quick flights back, and a midnight car ride to Franklin. Business managed.

The big takeaway from all this is two fold. One, this convention is not for Oracle employees. Two, find all the Oracle employees you can so they can tell you who to talk to in the company to actually get stuff done.

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Thoughts on BFIG

Boston Festival of Indie Games was last weekend. This was my third time going to the festival which has been operating for the same period of time.

There is a very curious dynamic at play at this festival. Generally I am a very reserved individual. If you were in a charitable mood you could use the word taciturn. The point is I rarely talk to people at these things. I am more inclined to see and listen and take in what I can. Except at this convention. I talked to way more people than usual, far in excess of what is normal for me to do. I talked to just about every indie developer there. This is no joke, I went to every table and saw every game in the digital section. I even played most of them. Best of all I got to play this cooperative survival board game (After the Crash):

with this nice fellow:

the game creator. Go check out his site and buy the game when it is available it is awesome. I also played an in development real time restaurant management game. Each player played a role (I was busboy aka plate and glass washer) and helped work customers through an assembly like system. There were many sand timers and much yelling. I can see it being a great party game as it is real quick to learn, but pretty stressful to actually play well. Those two board games stood out the most. In regards to the digital section there were a lot of familiar games, either from past festivals or ones new to the festival that I had heard about prior. Some ones that stood out:

  • Anchorage Adrift: a cooperative space ship game, similar to Artemis, players are tasked with running a particular role on a space ship. A little rough technically and usability wise, but showed great promise.
  • Soda Drinker Pro and Vivian Clark: the first game is a first person soda drinking game which is hilarious. The second game is hidden within Soda Drinker and is weird and strange and has to be played. It is akin to dreaming or hallucinating. You play a rain drop that changes to whatever it touches. Also the developer is a real funny upbeat guy so that is cool too.
  • Adrift: a real polished looking arcade space shooter and tower defense hybrid. It is slick, fun, and a good coop experience. Why it still is not greenlight yet is curious.
  • Talon: a fast quake style spaceship multiplayer shooter. It reminded me of playing Unreal Tournament or other arena shooters.

Best part of all though was I got to throw my business card in one of those raffle bowls. The phone number is wrong on it though so hopefully they just send an email.

Thursday 17 July 2014

The Best Endings Are Sad

Went to Connecticon last weekend and took this picture: ConnecticonFromStairs

I very rarely take photos, but I got a new camera so here was a good place to test it out. Turns out this is a pretty good spot to sit and watch. You can see the almost the entire floor from these stairs and during the middle of the day the place is packed with people. I really like watching people these days, especially at conventions. Not sure when this became a fancy of mine. I like compiling data and learning about things I do not know nor understand. In that sense observing people is just an extension of my desire to learn. Consider it my attempt to gain insight on how people other than myself interact. It is a bit more than that though, it is a little glimpse into the lives of others. It is watching how a person waves to someone they know, how they carry a backpack or purse, what they do with their hands. All these little micro-movements, these tiny gestures tell a lot about a person. Maybe they favor a particular leg or they add a little regal flourish when they go in for a handshake. It is the story of their life demonstrated through their physical actions. How a person acts tells so much about them and we constantly ignore it. The way a person moves is a story, a play, and from my perch on those stairs I can see so many stories in motion below me.

And yet, upon seeing so much I am saddened. Because this flicker of motion is all I will ever get to experience with most of the people here. I could spend all day meeting each person, or better yet, I could have a booth and a line for every congoer to go through (a congo line if you will). Even with all that I still could not meet everyone, not even a tenth. It is that realization that spreads like the night on a summer eve every convention Sunday. You are going to leave, waiting for your train, badge hidden away in a pocket somewhere when you remember what just happened. I had a chance to meet so many people and I met so few. So many people with shared interests and common ground. So many possible friends I failed to see to fruition. It is sad to think of what could have been. Yet consider the alternative. Consider leaving and not being sad. Not being sad because there was no one to meet, because there was no one worth it.

I consider myself an old hat with conventions at this point having been to so many. Each time I leave sad, but that is ok. The time I leave a convention not feeling sad, is the time I stop going to conventions.