Categories
Anime Convention Projects

April 15th, A Most Interesting Day

This blog post is talking about my latest work. If you have not
seen it, go do so now or else the following will make little sense.

Another AB, another video submission. Ultimately this entry, along with the
other one I submitted (which I will speak of later), was not accepted into the
finals (sort of). This is the fourth time I have submitted to the contest.
Overall, I stand at two accepted to the finals out of six submissions.
Technically, this was shown at the finals, it was just under “Exhibition” and
not eligible for any awards so I will not count it. Usually, I do a bit of a
textual commentary on specific scenes in the final product, but I experimented
with doing that via the medium of video. This was a
fun diversion as I was joined by longtime friend of the show (and a man
familiar with the visual arts) Patrick
Skehill. We were able to cover a lot of ground and go into more detail than a
normal blog post would cover. I will however reiterate some of that content in
this post.

From a high level perspective I am satisfied with the end product. I had
this idea (along with my other submission) last year and I mentioned it in my
yearly review. At the time
I said the following:

“I have some ideas which are a bit out there as far as my next AMVs go. I am
not sure how that will help me win any more awards, but they should be
different from the usual fare if nothing else.”

That prediction turned out to be pretty spot on. From a production
standpoint, this was my most ambitious and labor intensive project yet. I took
the initial nebulous idea and made a
write-up
of all the live action shots I wanted on 7/27. Using this list we
did the live action filming on 8/25. We stuck mostly to the shot list, but we
had a couple diversions (mainly the meeting room scene). Thanks again to
Mr. Skehill for providing the filming equipment, working the camera, and his
acting skills. Following that
I spent the next month (September) getting the live action cut plus the music
in order and ready for me to put the anime in.

For editing, I switched to using Adobe Premiere from Sony Vegas (which I
have done all my other projects on), partly to experiment with other editing
tools and partly to be in the Adobe family for better integration with Adobe
After Effects. Ultimately, I like Vegas more, but Premiere has a number of
features that helped for this specific project. Editing was pretty
straightforward except every live action shot had to be color corrected. We
filmed “flat” so we could have flexibility to set the time of day by altering
the coloring. There are other reasons, but I forgot what they were as this is
not an area I know much about. That said, it was particularly useful for the
scenes that are supposed to be at
night
(which were all filmed during the day). Additionally, I ended up with
a lot of extra live action footage. It was a good problem to have as it gave me
flexibility in the edit, but It is a shame some cool stuff got dropped.

The anime cutting process started 8/14 (I know this because we put the first
anime clip, the Gundam in the
background
, in that night before watching the Patriots beat the Chiefs) and
ran right up until I submitted the final project on 2/21. Progress was slow and
remained slow for the entire five months. It turns out cutting clips of anime
out of a myriad of different sources is very time consuming, let alone the
endless time spent trying to find good clips (plus the time lost actually
watching anime when I was supposed to be looking for something to cut out). I
would estimate I spent about 10-15 hours a week on this, with only occasional
bouts of self doubt delaying me.

Using a good quality source with a clear distinction between the background
and the thing I was trying to cut out I could get a good clip (say 1/4 to 1/2 a
second of runtime) in under half an hour. If the clip needs to be longer, or
the quality of the source is poor, or the thing being cut is indistinct from
the background then it would take more time. The most time intensive clips
would be Priss in the garage from
Bubblegum Crisis
and Heintz
walking around the stand in Magnetic Rose
. Both took about six to eight
hours. Given there are 100+ unique anime cutouts, you can do the math. I used
the After Effects rotoscoping tool to accomplish this. This tool is helpful,
but it can have a bit of a mind of its own. In many ways I still do not quite
get this tool or its settings, but I can use it.

Ultimately this was not selected as a finalist. I did try to stay within the
rules, but I think what most likely fouled me up was this rule:

” 75% of the footage in an entry must be from anime or Japanese-origin video
games “

I do contend (and I have the
data
to prove it) that I have more total anime footage than live action,
but I do respect that this sort of entry was just too far outside the bounds of
the contest. I do however very much appreciate that it was shown as an
Exhibition piece. It is a consolation prize to be sure, but I suppose I should
care more about people seeing what I do then just the accumulation (or chance
thereof) of prizes.

Generally, I am happy with how this turned out and I am pleased a lot of
people saw it and liked it. It was strange to be recognized at the convention,
despite my best efforts, but fun. I do think my next project will be more
traditional though, if only to save my sanity.

Categories
Anime Projects

Girls’ Last Tour AMV (Fifth Overall)

You can watch it here.

This was my second entry to Connecticon 2018, but it was not accepted. A bit
of a different take compared to what I normally pursue, this one focused almost
exclusively on a single episode of Girls’ Last Tour, a fairly recent anime. The
episode I used (episode 6) was my favorite of the series and is a great
standalone episode even if you have not seen the series before. For the song I
used “Fly Away” by John Denver. I am not a country music fan, but I felt this
song matches a lot of the themes I was going for both literally (flying away
from some place) and metaphorically (escaping).

Scene Breakdown

00:00 – 00:41: I really like the non-musical opening. It sets the stage of
the world well (which may not be familiar to some of the audience) and quickly
conveys the journey the girls are on. In general I think silence/non-musical
scenes are underutilized in AMVs.

00:47: A bit too quick of a cut here, but there was no other way to get
around it since the characters start talking right after and I like to avoid
seeing that if I can.

01:08: Good sync up with the lyrics and plane image here.

01:12 – 01:13: It is hard to notice, but there is some lip movement here. I
tried to avoid it, but it would mess with the story progression too much if I
cut it. It is hard to notice so I felt it was ok to keep in.

02:10: More lips flaps here, but the scene was too critical so I kept
it.

02:19 – 02:29: I am not sure I was able to convey that the pilot wanted to
escape in these few scenes, but it was the best I could do with the limited
options available. On the last scene (02:29) I actually froze the clip as they
are talking during it.

03:04: I think the animation in the show is average, but I do like the faces
they make from time to time.

03:34: I like the sync between the picture and the song a lot here.

03:58: Continuity error here with the propeller starting in the scene
before, but being stationary here. I felt it was ok to leave in as most people
would not notice and its not really a big deal.

Summary

Overall, I am happy it turned out as well as it did and I very much like how
this piece is different in structure than what I normally do. That said, I am
pretty bummed it was not accepted as I felt it was a strong overall piece, but
I cannot say it was better than the actual finalists so I will just have to do
better next year.

Categories
Anime Projects

Bubblegum Crisis AMV (Fourth Overall)

You can watch it here.

This piece was my second entry to Anime Boston 2018 and my first entry
Connecticon 2018. It was accepted at neither convention. This AMV is pretty
normal given my past work and is indicative of my general style: poppy music,
oldish anime, ironic lyrics, boarderline extreme violence. I happen to really
like Bubblegum Crisis (the original OVAs, less so for anything after) and MC
Frontalot (who is featured in this song, Robot Party by Supercommuter) so it
was a natural fit to merge both.

Scene Breakdown

00:00 – 00:14: I like this intro a lot. Not a lot of musical cues and it
sets the scene well. Perhaps I could have used some background noise, but I
think the silence is cool and unusual.

00:37: There is a weird white flash here that probably works better in the
anime than it does in this AMV. I thought about removing it, but it seemed best
to leave it in so that scene would not become disjointed and look weird.

00:45 – 00:50: This is one of the first bits I put together and it inspired
the rest of the AMV.

00:55: I consider this AMV to be mostly about robots tearing up a city, but
it can also be seen as a stealth Knight Sabers AMV as they appear in the
background from time to time. Some of the Knight Sabers appear in this scene
for the first time in the AMV.

01:00: I thought the biker sliding during a spin out was a clever match to
the “rotating” lyric.

01:37 – 01:44: Probably the weakest part of the AMV. I wanted to match the
lyrics, but there is nothing available that quite did it so I was left with
this.

01:48 – 01:50: I had to slow this clip down a bit so it would fill out the
lyric, but it looks a bit weird because of it.

01:56: Another Knight Saber appearance.

02:18: I really like how “dance” and the guy flying line up here.

02:23: This is a Knight Saber “sword” here. Nothing else really matched.

02:45 – 02:52 : Pretty obvious Knight Saber scene here which fans of the
show should recognize.

03:45: I considered ending with a tv screen turning off, but it it never
worked well enough to use.

Summary

I spent a lot of time gestating this one and I like it a lot. I am surprised
no one else seems to like it, but that seems to be more an indictment of my
taste than others’. Overall I am happy how it turned out.

Categories
Uncategorized

One Year at NetNumber

It has been one year of full employment at NetNumber, which means the
revival of the year
retrospectives!

What Did I Learn This Year?

1. Being more efficient programming in Java. Now that my job requires me to
care more about efficiency in the Java language I have picked up a couple new
tricks in this area. Chief amongst them is thread
locals
which are a bit verbose to use, but helpful. I also am getting
better at working with threads which still bend my mind on occasion.

2. I have an expensive gun fetish. It seems I realized this year I I could
buy guns and just like that I went on a bit of a buying spree with an eye
towards many more acquisitions. I think this newfound love is driven by two
factors. One, I have a thing for old rifles which (since they are not making
them anymore) means the stock is always being reduced and the price always
going up. Better to get them now before they get more expensive. Two, the legal
situation may make it so some pieces may be harder to find (e.g. AR-15s) which
again means I should get them while I have a chance. And of course with all
these nice pieces I need a place to use them which lead to me joining a local
shooting club. It is nice, but I wish the range went out farther than ~100
yards. I would like to try some long range shooting at some point. Furthermore,
it would be a shame to have my rights further restricted, so I have joined all
manner of gun advocacy groups (GOA, NRA, GOAL) to protect what I have now. It
remains to be seen how long this expensive affair will go on, but I am enjoying
it so far.

3. I can win AMV awards! This was a
pleasant surprise, especially for such a high profile convention, but I am a
bit baffled about the disconnect between the AMVs I like and the ones that
actually win awards. My tastes may be too eclectic for mainstream appeal. I am
not sure if AMV hipsters exist, but I am happy to pioneer a new subculture.
That said, I plan to keep experimenting and hopefully find a happy medium.
Expect more progress in this area this year.

4. I can work on cars. I have joined a Lemon’s team and we have been working
feverishly for almost a year to get our car ready to race. We should be ready
for our first race in August, but I will not feel comfortable about it until
our car is actually running. That said, I have learned quite a bit about cars
and with that knowledge I feel a lot more confident about conducting repairs.
Luckily for me aside from needing some maintenance and basic repairs my daily
drivers keeps on trucking. I do hate how dirty cars become though. I go through
a lot of gloves when I work.

What Am I Looking To Explore This Year?

1. Ammo reloading. This is mostly as a way to save money as some of the
pieces I shoot can be pretty expensive ($1.70 a round for 30-40 Krag for
example), but I also like the idea of being able to reload what I shoot from a
self sufficiency perspective. This also has some interesting offshoots like
forming your own bullets or brass. For now I have acquired a book and I will be
looking for some local classes so I have a good sense of what I am doing before
investing in some equipment.

2. Some oddball AMV ideas. I have some ideas which are a bit out there as
far as my next AMVs go. I am not sure how that will help me win any more
awards, but they should be different from the usual fare if nothing else.

3. Home improvements. I am looking to tear the carpet up from my lower floor
bathroom in order to make it a little less awful. I also need to do some work
on the shower in there too as the lining is cracked and peeling. The yard also
reminds a bit of a sore spot. I half want to make it very nice and half do not
care. We shall see how it goes this year.

4. Cooking. I have grown a bit tired of my usual recipes. I need to branch
out and find some new flavors. I hoping to solicit some simple recipes from
people I know.

5. Video game development. I keep thinking about video games I would like to
make myself, but I keep not doing anything about it. I hope this is the year I
carve out some time to do some experimenting. I am thinking using unity would
be a good start as it seems pretty feature rich and free.

What did I Fail at This Year?

1. Saving money. Despite my grand plans I am not saving as
much money as I thought. Between unexpected house costs, my gun hobby, and our
race car my savings rate has slowed. This is kind of concerning because I do
want to retire by 40 still, but I also want to invest in my hobbies. It seems
that the hobbies are winning for now, but I am disappointing a bit by my lack
of will to save. I shall think on this.

2. Civil War Reenacting. I keep wanting to do this, but I keep delaying
looking into it. I think this might be the year since it pairs nicely with my
gun habit and new found willingness to spend money on my hobbies.

3. Blog writing. Nuff said.

In summary, I had a really good year. I will work to make this year even
better.

Categories
Anime Projects

Space AMV (Third Overall)

You can watch it here.

Another Anime Boston, another AMV submission. Building off my last accepted work. This time I decided my
best bet at acceptance into the finals was to be on theme. Given the theme was
space I used a lot of modern/sci-fi anime for my first multiple source AMV.
Specifically I used: – Planetes – Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Moonlight
Mile – Space Battleship Yamato 2199 – Royal Space Force: The Wings of
Honnêamise РFreedom Project РBodacious Space Pirates РMagnetic Rose

For the song I used Melody Sheep’s
Beyond the Horizon
which I edited somewhat to remove a section in the middle that was not fit for
my purposes. I would recommend giving him/her/it a subscription as they produce
a lot of interesting musical content.

I submitted this to Anime Boston 2018 and it was accepted as a finalist in
the “Other”category.
It won “Best Concept”
, my first award ever!

Scene Breakdown

00:00 – 00:04: It just cannot be an AMV without a little Legend of the
Galactic Heroes love.

00:05: This scene is unremarkable except that I had major difficulty with it
in Sony Vegas. Specifically I had issues with Vegas trying to changes its frame
rate. It was very frustrating and it would often render in a stuttering manner
until I sorted it out.

00:017: I spent a long time trying to find the right clip for this scene.
This was the best I could do.

00:18-00:19: I love this shot. It was one of the first clips I used.

00:39-00:40: Not a fan of this shot, but it had to do.

00:55-00:57: These clips are from Royal Space Force and they look gorgeous.
This movie never seemed to got the acclaim it deserves both story wise and
animation wise. A big miss with modern CG is organic looking shots like
these.

01:04-01:23: I went back and forth a lot on this section between trying to
actually find clips of Neptune and just showing planets. I think what I have
works, but it lacking. I wish I did have some Neptune shots. I also am not so
sure that section in the middle that flashes a bunch of planets (01:13-01:16)
works. It just seems choppy.

01:32-01:34: This scene is from Freedom Project and it is one of my favorite
shots in the series. The framing of the ship flying over the moon to the earth
is this AMV in a nutshell.

01:41-01:42: They say you should avoid flappy lips in AMVs, which I agree
with, but I made an exception because if it is just the button press it does
not make a whole lot of sense.

02:06-02:08: Kind of a boring shot, but I did not have anything else to
use.

02:09: This is where I cut about 30 seconds from the song. Have a listen to
those seconds here. Its the
only part of the song that would be hard to work with since its a very sudden
tonal shift and their is some straight unautotuned voice over. I am pretty
happy with my cut as it is unnoticeable to me.

02:27: It is really nice how the Yamato blinks out with the beat. That was a
happy little coincidence.

02:34-02:36: This little jump of the spaceship with the beat is about the
most clever thing I have ever done. I have a long way to go.

02:43: I went back and forth a lot if I was going to stick to just modern
ships or show some futuristic designs like this one from Bodacious Space
Pirates. In the end I wanted to show both the past and the future so I ran with
it starting with this clip. It is also hard to find anime about the space
program or even modern spaceflight. Related to that, I so wanted to include
some Nadesico somewhere, but it is in 4:3 and would look weird with all the
other widescreen clips. I think Nadesico will be my next project.

02:46: I may have overused the main characters from the Freedom Project.

03:35: The close out with the baby going for the star is great in my opinion
and I get more Legend of the Galactic Heroes in.

Summary

Overall, the final product is acceptable. Given my previous work (like my
Saikano AMV and Ran FMV) this piece lacks a fun
juxtaposition of violence and upbeat tunes that I think characterizes my work
(and my other, in this author’s opinion, better second submission which I will
write about latter). That said it is good to have an optimistic video every now
and then and I cannot say I am unhappy about taking home an award. It is just
weird that I won for a video I was probably the least enthused about.

Categories
Anime Projects

An Unfortunate Misfire

As faithful blog readers will know I have been creating a number of video projects as of late. During all
the copious free time I had while I was unemployed, I spent some of
it on this Gundam AMV. I found out I
like Gundam a lot and I like the song I used (Mecha Mechanics by Whoremoans) a
lot. But this AMV just does not work out. I am not totally sure why, but I have
a theory. This video represents the ultimate “literal interpretation” theory of
AMV creation. AMVs subscribing to this school of thought try to match the
lyrics being spoken as close as possible to clips from the series. That school
of thought worked out well for me with the Homeworld and Saikano videos, but I feel I was too
slavish to lining clips up and consequently the video lacks a coherent theme. I
also just had a hard time finding clips for everything. I spent a lot more time
than I have on other videos trying to find things that would work.

I ended up not submitting this to any contests.

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

00:13: Not sure how I feel about this 9/11 reference.

00:19: I really like this short clip and how it times up well with the
music.

00:21-00:22: This is what I talked about above. These are clips of Gundams,
but it is not the models mentioned in the lyrics.

00:33-00:34: I love this joke

01:31-01:33: These clips do not work that great. I ran the first one in
reverse to look like it was going back into the water, but it looks
awkward.

01:35: I think the next couple clips with the blue Zaku are the best
executed in the AMV.

02:01: I was not sure what to put here and this is the best I could come up
with.

Overall, it is a bit disappointing spending a lot of time to produce
something that is not that great, but I learned a bit so it was not all a
loss.

Categories
Musings

Thoughts on being unemployed

I am a few months back to being employed and I have some thoughts on the two
or so months I spent unemployed.

1. I am not ready to retire yet. The one nice thing about being unemployed
is all the free time you have. While this was nice originally, I mostly did the
same thing I always do with my free hours: watch TV, play video games, and read
books. It was awesome for a while, but after a month or so of gorging it begins
to become unstimulating. While it is true I did work on some side projects,
like an AMV or two and a Chex Quest
cosplay
, I mostly have little to show for my long break. This does not bode
well for my early retirement
plans
. Consuming media is fun, but not rest of your life fun.

2. Job Hunting is hard. Even for a field in-demand like software
engineering, job hunting was not an easy task. I applied to 50 places, had 10
phone screens, and three in person interviews. Part of the problem was
geography, since a lot of work is in and around the city of Boston and I did
not want to work there, but I feel the main issue was a disconnect between me
and the applications I was viewing. While it is true not all the jobs I applied
to were perfect fits for my experience and skillset, I felt most of the
applications I submitted were good matches. Given the 20% contact rate the
employers disagreed. This leads me to think their job postings were not
accurate to what they wanted.

3. Youtube is awesome I started really using Youtube and subscribing to
channels and there is quite a lot of good content to be found there. Some of my
new favorites are: 1. Forgotten
Weapons
2. LGR 3. Tank Museam 4.
The Examined
Life (of Gaming)
5. Spacedock

4. Baldur’s Gate is awesome I had beat Baldur’s Gate 1 (along with Tales of
the Sword Coast) before I was “budget actioned”, but all this new free time
begged for long, involving RPGs. Thus began epic quest to rid the world of evil
in Baldur’s Gate Siege of Dragonspear, Baldur’s Gate 2, and Baldur’s Gate 2
Throne of Bhaal. Ultimately that is 100+ hours of classic D&D gaming.
Overall I would say it was time well spent. The isometric graphics hold up
well, the voice acting is solid (Irenicus portrayed by David Warner being the
highlight), and the story being pretty compelling. I will say, I am still
rubbish at the combat.

5. Gundam is awesome Surprising no one I started watching Gundam and it is
as good as everyone always told me it was. I do get to cheat a little and watch
just the good series though. That turned out to be Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War
in the Pocket, Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team, Mobile Suit Gundam: The
Origin, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans (just the first two cours),
and Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt. I would recommend those series if you are
in the market for a mecha anime.

6. Unemployment Services are a pain I got my first taste of the MA safety
net when I started to collect unemployment. What I did not know was I had to
prove to the state that I was looking for work every week I wanted benefits.
That was not a huge issue, even if the site for reporting what you did that
week was slow and poorly formatted, but it does highlight an unfortunate gap.
Specifically, if you have signed an offer, but have not started work yet you
still have to be looking for work to get benefits. That seems rather
disingenuous so I did not do that, but I missed out on two weeks worth of
benefits. I also had to go to a unemployment class which was a huge waste of my
time. I did not need a class to tell me MA offers a site to do job searches
on.

7. Being unemployed hurts the ego Its pretty deflating to be unemployed. I
very much enjoyed being a software engineer and having that title. Lacking it,
is was a big bummer. It is strange, because I was still the same person, but it
was harder to prove I was who I said I was without some sort of outside
validation (like being employed).

8. The MA healthcare bureaucracy is vast I almost had to switch to MA
healthcare and it was a huge pain. They wanted forms faxed (no online upload or
emailing) and it took forever to hear back from them. One day I got two letters
in the mail. One saying I had been denied health care and the other saying I
had been accepted into the plan. It was all very confusing and I am glad to not
have to deal with it now that I am back to work.

And that is my unemployment nutshell. I hung around the house for a bit,
played some games, watched some anime, and then went back to work.

Categories
Convention Projects

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
(https://obsproject.com/). 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.

Categories
Anime Projects

My Second AMV

After much effort I have completed a second AMV which can be seen here. I am very happy with
how it turned out as it was accepted as a finalist at Anime Boston
2017
in the other category. This is the most success any of my video projects have had. Just like those
two other projects I want to give a brief overview of why I used the anime and
music I did along with a couple comments on particular scenes.

Music and Anime I found the music first. During
the time between Christmas and New Years I worked from home for a week and I
was listening to a bunch of music. I started listening to The DoubleClicks as I had head them at
Pax East 2016. When I heard the song I ended up using: Can’t You See
the World is Ending
, I knew right away this was going to work with an
actiony anime. At first I thought I might make another Legend of the Galactic
Heroes (LOGH) AMV like I did with my first one. Reinhard would be the focus and
there would be a lot more action. I scrapped that idea because this song has
more of a high school/young adult vibe and as much as I want LOGH to become
more popular, I am not sure I alone can carry that torch. Then I thought of
using Nadesico since
that has more of a lighter vibe benefiting this song and I want more people to
watch this show too. I was not sold on the idea though and I did a brief search
to see if another anime fit the bill better. Then I remembered Saikano and it just fit right away.
It was just a nice bonus that the show is not in vogue anymore.

Editing Before I started editing I had a lot of
difficulty getting quality source material. Saikano has never had a blu-ray
release and the actual animation quality is just ok. That did not stop me from
spending a lot of time with conversion tools (mostly handbrake) trying to get the best I could. The end
result is functional, but certainly not as good as I would like. A big take
away for me in the future is to secure better source material before becoming
married to an idea.

For the editing process I used Sony Vegas. Here is what the finished project
looks like:

When I start I lay the music track down first, then I put notes (those
orange flags) around lyrics I want to get specific clips for. For example when
the song reaches “try to stop the bombs” I want to put a clip of bombs falling.
It is pretty basic, but it helps me keep things organized. Then I have a couple
video tracks. 1. The main “AMV” track which will be the final video 2. A track
above that for “Clips” so I can easily swap clips in and out that I want to
try. You can think of this as alternative cuts. 3. A number of “Effect” tracks
which holds things like text I want to overlay. I had a lot of more of these
effects than any video I have done before. I am sure there is a more clever of
way instead of using multiple tracks, but this is easy to do and what I was
doing was not super complicated so I ran with it.

Once that is all setup I just trolled through the episodes to find clips I
wanted to use. I would bring the whole episode into Vegas and I would scan it
quickly (say 2x-3x speed). I had a good sense of what I wanted to see, so when
I saw a clip I liked I would cut it from the episode and place it roughly where
I wanted. I did this with all 13 episodes (ignoring the OVAs). After I went
through all the episodes I had a lot of clips in rough position. I refined
things from there, going back to get more clips when I needed. After that I
added a few effects with some text and I was finished.

To render I create a new template with the technical specifications Anime
Boston wants and I make an RC or release candidate. From there I send the video
out to a select review group for comments (Mr. Skehill of the inimitable
Quixotic United and my sister). I get
comments from them and make various RCs until I am happy. That final RC becomes
a release and I submit that video. This is a rough imitation of the software release
life cycle
.

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

00:00-00:08: This is the part of the AMV I am least happy about. I was never
sure what to put here and this just ends up feeling like wasted space.
Originally I had put a bunch of establishing shots of buildings and
countryside, but that was pretty boring. At least opening with a bunch of
crying shots gets your attention.

00:17-00:00:20: These are flashbacks in the anime so they have a hazy
border. It has the effect of making the animation quality look even worse, but
I really wanted to use these scenes so I figured it was worth it.

00:26: It took me forever to find a clip that worked here.

00:32-00:34: I like the dichotomy of these two clips a lot and that vibe is
what I try to hit throughout the AMV. The main drive of the song is everyone is
acting normal in an abnormal situation so I wanted to highlight that wherever I
could. The one drawback here is it spoils a bit of the surprise later on when
we see her with the Gatling gun (0:53).

0:53-0:55: I think this scene works particularly well. It lines up with the
song, it is pretty snappy with all the cuts, and the contrast between the
destruction in the background and her being the hero is just right.

0:55-0:56: There is actually not a lot of action scenes in this series, with
most of them coming from episode 1. Lucky there are enough clips for this AMV,
but most of the actiony shots come from this episode and episode 13.

1:00: I went back and forth on actually showing people eating food when the
song mentions it. I did not have anything better to use, but I wish I did.
Mostly it just seems lazy to show food when the song mentions it.

1:06. This is the first effect I used. It is just text, but I had to cover
up what is actually shown on the pager with a block of color. It is basic, but
it gets the message across. Looking at it now, I think the text should be more
digital.

1:15-1:16: Best part of the AMV in my opinion. Happy trumpets with a sad
violent clip.

1:29-1:30: This is a subtle effect. Chise (the standing character) actually
talks in this scene, but it was distracting to see. I effectively froze part of
this clip so we could see the animation around the exclamation points, but not
her talking.

1:42-1:43: Those familiar with the series will see Chise shopping here which
is not congruent with the song. In the song Chise is effectively the singer so
she would not be shopping, but her friends would be. That said it goes by quick
so I do not think it would upset many people. There was also no other shopping
clip to use.

1:56: I do not know what the Japanese says here.

2:01-2:02: The most complicated part of the AMV. Basically I repeated the
effect from 1:06, but I had to animate both the text and the color block to
move with the pager. It took a long time, but I think it syncs up quite well. I
also like the humor of mentioning the AMV title here. Interestingly, I came up
with this hashtag first and then I liked it so much I used it as the title.

2:25- 2:26: Ok, this might be more complicated than before. Effectively, I
had to cut out part of the clip with the TV, and then overlay the hamster dance
video where the cut out is. The tricky part is a character is moving right next
to the TV so with each movement I had to change the part I cut out (the mask)
so it would look consistent. On close inspection it does not look amazing, but
perfect is the enemy of good so I moved on.

2:33: This is the second part of the scene from 1:15.

2:49-2:50: I actually uploaded the clip I wanted to show here to youtube and then screen recorded it to get
the youtube controls. I then inserted that clip on top of a TV from the anime.
The effect is nice and it is a bit of an inside joke if you can see the title
and are familiar with the anime. On reflection I think I should have filled the
screen with the youtube clip and not bothered putting it on a TV.

3:00-3:04: Originally I had a clip where Shuji (the guy at 0:09) was crushed
by a giant wave, but I got feedback that a scene like this would work better
and I agreed.

Conclusion Overall, I like how things turned
out, but there are a few scenes I would tweak. Big picture, I think this AMV
was hobbled by the source quality. I should be a bit more sure about what I
have available to work with before I get too involved. Interestingly, the next
project I am working on I have just about absolute control over. Look for that
around July when Connecticon happens.

Categories
Confessions Musings Work

Four Years Later

It generally takes three times for the normal mind to understand something.
The first sign I got was seeing my senior coworker having part of his cube in
boxes, the second sign was having another coworker come by and shake my hand
saying, “it had been great to work together”, and the third sign was my new,
one on one meeting at 10:15. This is what it is liked to be laid off (although
I prefer the more humorous “budget actioned”). That was March 7, 2016 for me.
It was the end of a (just about) four year period of employment, my first
post-school job. I want to take the time, now a week or so later, to describe
what I actually did for four years. I want to give the highlights, the
lowlights, what I thought we did wrong and what I thought we did right. I will
preface this all by saying I harbor no ill will towards anyone I worked with or
Oracle itself. Oracle always treated me fairly, I am just sad it never worked
out for them.

May 28 2013 My first day of work. The week immediately
after Anime Boston. It was going to be the 27th, but that was a holiday
(Memorial Day). I was horribly late, the latest I ever was in my four years
there. I left early, but spent ages in bumper to bumper traffic. I called in to
let them know I was going to be late, but I was still majorly embarrassed.
After getting in late I was rapidly given a bunch of documents and a cube. As I
was getting setup in my cube, I remember opening the bottom drawer of my filing
cabinet and finding three liquor bottles in it. It was nice liquor too. I told
my coworker and he secreted it away never to be seen again. The rest of the day
I sat in a HR conference call. I would be the last legacy TEKELEC hire before
the company was completely Oraclized.

July 2013 My first real assignment. Before then I had been
familiarizing myself with the code, trying things out, going to meetings to
learn our process. Now I had my first real piece of work to do: S9. You can
read more about S9
here
. I was responsible for everything: GUI and backend. I would work on
this for the next few months. It would never ship as the customer who wanted it
never actually wanted it. Company wise, everyone was stoked that Oracle was
going to keep our office in Marlborough and not have us commute to
Burlington.

November 2013 I am a bit hazy about this point, but at some
point I finished S9 and moved to building the “Subscriber Activity Log”. A
feature that allowed a customer to track a subscriber as the subscriber’s calls
flowed through the system. You can read about this in the 11.5 release notes
as it actually shipped.

December 2013 My first company Christmas party. We go and
watch: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug at the IMAX in Jordan’s furniture.
It was good, but my boss was mad it ended on a cliffhanger, so we went back
next year to see the final film. I remember spending a long time in traffic
trying to leave that area.

January 2014 Again, I am bit unsure when this happened, but
at some point I finished up “Subscriber Activity Log” and was moved to a new
project: MPG. The Mobile Policy Gateway (MPG) was a project to develop a device
that would deploy policies to a customers phone. One of the big use cases was a
provider could offload certain customers onto wifi if the load in an area was
too great. I would work on this for nine months, but it would never ship and it
would ultimately be cancelled. Company wise, things are going great. We are
making good money and selling a lot of product.

September 2014 NGCMP, our replacement for our current
configuration management platform (CMP) begins. I am project lead and I start
investigating new technologies. My first challenge is to pick between OJET and
LUX, two competing JS GUI libraries. I end up picking OJET, which
you can use today if you want. Weekly Wednesday calls with the offsite groups
(Bangalore and Nanjing) start. I went to JavaOne at the end of the month and
got this great photo:

I wrote more about that trip here.

November 2014 My first raise and bonus! I live the good
life. The NGCMP is starting to grow as other people finish up the projects they
are working on and get assigned to it. NGCMP starts driving major reforms
around how we do work. Code reviews are formalized, code quality tools like
SonarQube start to come into play, and we get serious about unit and robot
testing.

December 2014 Second company holiday party! We see the last
Hobbit film in IMAX. It is ok, but not worth sticking through the traffic in
that area.

February 2015 I miss most of the super bowl (I hear about
the Patriots winning during the flight) as I travel to India to meet the team
in Bangalore. I stay for a few days. I
wrote about this trip back then
.

March 2015-May 2016 Nothing of real note happens during
this period. I do get a raise, and we continued to make a lot of progress on
NGCMP. Customer demos are being planned at this point. NGCMP itself is in an ok
place. It has a lot of functionality, but a number of bugs. I produce the
greatest Star Trek TNG parody video during this time. It was a demo
highlight.

June 2016 Things are not going well for our business unit.
We have our first layoff. Management talks about pivoting to a cloud based
deployment. NGCMP gets “paused”. We no longer want to build a product that does
exactly what our legacy product did, we want to build something for a cloud
based customer. TREC is born and we pivot to new use cases.

October 14 2016 I close on my first house as more people get laid off
the same day. This would start a gradual local attrition of talent.

March 7 2016 Judgement day. I along with 90% of the office
get budget actioned. Layoffs are around 200 for my business unit. The Bangalore
team gets assigned to different projects and the Nanjing team gets reassigned
back to the legacy CMP product. TREC presumably dies as there is no one
assigned to work on it. The show ends.

That is the whole story. I really think things started to go wrong when
Oracle panicked and moved us to the “cloud”. It never made sense how we were
going to make money in that area and we certainly could not produce a viable
product for another year at least. In the end, I think Oracle could not take
the losses it was taking so it bailed. Ultimately it was a pretty good ride. I
had a lot of fun, made money, and learned a lot. It is just a shame it never
worked out.