Gateway Dragon Boat Festival – From the Air

I mentioned a while back on the podcast that I bought a drone. I’ve had it for about 7 months now, but haven’t had as many opportunities to use it as I’d like.

I was pretty skittish about it at first. I started looking up drone regulations in the United States. Between reading about those and worrying about flying an expensive piece of equipment that could very possibly crash or fly away, I got to feeling like I’d made a mistake buying it to begin with.

Since then I’ve gotten much more comfortable with flying. It’s not the controls so much. Those came kind of naturally from years of video games and a history with flight sims. What I worry about is the connotation of flying a drone around. I worry other people will freak out or call the cops or something even though I’m extremely cautious and never do anything creepy or dangerous to others. Now, I’m feeling like I can actually fly without somebody coming over and yelling at me. I’m not saying they would. It’s my own insecurity more than anything. I don’t want to be the center of attention in public, really.

I really, really enjoy flying and the footage from these things is incredible all things considered. I’ve got a DJI Phantom 4 which is a nice drone, but still reasonably affordable for people who are into this sort of thing (and I found a good deal too). The features including object detection, tracking, and 4K video capture are remarkable. Just a few years ago this was unobtainable technology for the average person, but now you can capture footage that used to require helicopters and planes.

So this is my first drone video I’m putting out in public. It’s the first thing I’ve shot that can kind of stand on its own as something interesting to watch. Oh yeah, and it’s in 4K so take advantage of that if you’ve got a 4K display.

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Debug Mode: Top 10 Games of 2016

It’s been a while since I made a Debug Mode video. In fact, I got all the way through 2016 without producing one even though I intended to do so.

I still have a bunch of ideas kicking around for topics. I want to move away from “reviews” like I’ve done in the past and talk more about concepts or specific aspects of games I find interesting.

2016 had so many great games. I wanted to comment on my favorites. So this is still more review-ish than I will probably do in the future, but I’m fairly happy with the way it turned out.

And it’s a list, of course. People like lists. I like lists. Lists are fun. Psychology, eh?

Debug Mode: Cities Skylines review

Well it took much longer to get this out than I wanted. It would have been released sooner if not for a few personal and professional matters that delayed things. And also that fight with the printer. Yeah, that story was about me trying to print the script for this video.

I have a lot of ideas for future Debug Mode videos: games I want to talk about and topical videos too. I’m even contemplating covering some movies or TV shows. I’ve got a lot of partially written scripts. A lot of footage captured.

I was working on a completely different subject but then Cities: Skylines came along and I knew I had to cover it. As a longtime SimCity fan, I was super disappointed by the 2013 entry in that series and Cities: Skylines is this amazing game because it fixes nearly everything that the other game got wrong.

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My not-so-new show: Debug Mode

Back in November I had the softest of launches for an occasional web show about video games (or whatever else I want to talk about – it’s my show) called Debug Mode. The first episode was about Call of Juarez: Gunslinger for no particular reason other than I thought it had an interesting narrative structure and it wasn’t already talked about to death.

I’ve done a few videos about games before and I’ve wanted to do something more structured and regular for a long time. Now that everyone and their little brother (especially their little brother) is making video content about games, I thought it would be the perfect time to saunter into a crowded medium with opinions of my own! It doesn’t help that I don’t have a particular “angle” or easily distillable style. In fact I haven’t really found my style yet and I suspect that will take some time. Then again, most of the games commentators I really like don’t fit into short, easy descriptions either.

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SimCity Beta Impressions (video)

And now for something a little different! I got into the closed SimCity Beta toward the end of last month and I told myself I was going to make a video review of it. So I did. Behold!

I’d like to do more of this kind of thing. Not just for games (although it’s easier to get game footage than some other things) but for many topics. Plus I want to get back into creative productions. Unfortunately most of the creative ideas I’ve had in the last year do not fit well with my set of talents and skills.

Go figure.

I either need to acquire new skills and fake the talent or fake/force/steal ideas for the medium in which I supposedly work. Stuff like this is pretty simple to do so it’s probably a good place to start.

la possession du requin tigre

I have some oddly titled films, don’t I?

Here’s another one. Yes. It’s really got a French title. Please don’t ask me to pronounce it as I would butcher the language.

This is an older film I’ve just finished. It was shot in the summer of 2011 and conceived a year or two before that. Having shot the entire thing, I decided the best course of action was to sit on the footage and not do anything with it for over a year.

No. Not really.

Several things held this up. Probably the biggest was a lack of urgency. Then I decided to do some effects work on it. That proved time consuming and soul-crushingly monotonous.

In the interest of building intrigue, I am not going to say much more about the film at this time. I will have a follow-up post soon which will give a more in depth explanation of its creation, original intent, and how I think it turned out by contrast.

If you happen to know the individuals in this film you will probably find it humorous. If, like most people on Earth, you do not, then you will probably be bored and I can’t really blame you. At least it’s pretty, I hope. (And weird. It’s really weird.)

If you do find the imagery beautiful to any degree, don’t credit me. God is the best lighting technician and set dresser.

Slap Me with a Wet Fish!

Yes, that’s right. The title of this post is, in fact, “Slap Me with a Wet Fish.” That is also the name of a film I made last semester with two classmates. It was our first project in the excellent class Cinematography and Lighting and my only experience shooting on actual film.

My major was “Digital Cinema Arts” which is basically a pseudo-film degree. I say “pseudo” because we didn’t actually use old-fashioned physical film and because most people think you have to go to California to get a film degree.

Having never shot on real film before, this project was quite an interesting little challenge. There was no LCD viewfinder. No deleting or ignoring bad takes. No instant playback of our footage. And no helpful displays of any kind. It was just a plain old box with film inside and a lens on the front.

We had a single 100 foot reel of 16mm film which equated to approximately 3 minutes of footage at the standard 24 frames per second. We had no ability to edit our footage so each shot had to be done in one take and in sequential order. There was no sound recording either which is a shame because I feel like it could really do with some old-timey music.

The footage looks kind of like it was recorded from an old VCR (that’s what we used before DVDs players and DVRs, kids) for two reasons. For one, this was shot on an old Russian camera which is the source of the flashes and the jittering. Secondly, it has undergone transference from film to digital which is never a good thing for quality.

In the words of Tom Ostertag who graciously took it upon himself to convert the footage of everyone in class, “The color, resolution, and dynamic range suck compared to the real thing” so keep that in mind when watching. Even though the transfer is less-than-ideal, these wouldn’t see the light of day at all without his hard work. Thanks, Tom!

Like all projects I did in school, this one began with a great idea. Oh, no wait. I mean it began with the complete and utter absence of ideas.

Actually, that’s less true of this project than most. My original idea was to shoot a chase sequence of some kind but given our limitations I think it’s probably good we didn’t attempt that although one could say we sort of ended up with a slow, creepy chase scene of sorts.

My other idea was the “crosshair” shot. Ever since I saw the banisters in the theater building at Lindenwood I wanted to shoot something like that. They always looked like crosshairs to me but that’s probably because I’ve played too many shooter games. Since we were in the theater building for this project and it fit the story we were doing, I suggested we try the shot. I wasn’t sure it would work but I think it did fairly well.

I’m also quite fond of the first shot where we see the stalker’s face. It’s good old-fashioned monster lighting. Reminds me of Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein monster.

We came up with the title by using some sort of random dialog generator online. The generator, of course, spit out total nonsense. The phrase “Slap me with a wet fish” stuck out to us. Marie, the female lead, couldn’t stop laughing about it the whole time. I think it’s wet part that does it. Imploring someone to slap you with a dry fish just wouldn’t be as funny.

We used Tom’s Macbook to shoot intertitles. We basically wrote the dialog at random as we came to it. We didn’t really know why Tom was displeased or why he was stalking Marie until we shot the end.