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
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
(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
, 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
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.

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
, 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

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

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

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

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

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
here with multiple ships moving at multiple distances from the

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

Convention Projects

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

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

+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

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

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 theme. I hope you like it. I will try
again next year and see if I can get an award this time around.


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

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.

Convention Musings

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

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.

Convention Philosophy

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

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.