Saturday, July 30, 2011

Pst. You know that chick?

Yeah this is supposed to be a photography blog? So where's the photographs? Not putting up the majority of my stuff lately as I'm prepping a new website. Or should I say, was prepping a new site. With the projects I'm working on at home and learning sax, doing photography. I'm pooped.
This was snapped with my dear Lumix LX5 on the way to a funk gig. As an attendee :)

Wore through my R-Strap!

Ok so I've been using the Blackrapid R-Strap for several years now, and I love it. I used to use it quite heavily during weekends - but not much after picking up the saxophone - and finally today after an afternoon of shooting, I wore through part of the connecting lugs so that the clip is bent out.

This is not a crit on Blackrapid's part - but just that I do take a heavy toll on my equipment (you need to see how badly worn out my 16-85VR is - rubber has fallen off, paint is mostly gone, hood cracked in at least 3 places....

Will definitely get the updated version as I think the r-strap system is simply the best camera strap for travel, wildlife or event photography. Yes, I use to average 20+, sometimes almost 40 hours worth of wildlife/travel photography in the weekends. I blame the lack of photography nowadays on the saxophone. :P

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Macbook dropped!

Omg! I've turned into a mac fanboi.



Ok so I'm hoping to be producing backing tracks for my saxophone down the line, and linux is just not cutting it for me - mainly just setting it up takes *forever* to find the dependencies et al for music production. I got it working in the end, but seriously, spending 3 nights just to set it up, vs me walking into the apple store and laying down a piano track under 5 minutes (this is no joke) in garage band is a no brainer: I want a mac to work on my music. No windows machines please, thanks.

Linux will be for my main machine, houdini, raw processing etc, and I'll get a low end macbook of sorts to run my "music production".

Given that the white macbook has been around for awhile, I was hoping to see apple release a new model, sadly it seems the new macbook air has supplemented it.

The air only has a SSD for storage, and I'm just not sure if that's a good thing for audio. I'm probably going to go for a used mac off ebay, something enough to run garageband and logic, or perhaps maybe just bite the bullet and save up for a low spec macbook pro.

Will need a good think about. Not relishing the thought of running osx again though - I ran ubuntu on my last mbp ;-) Best linux experience ever. Seriously.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Zoom H1 - battery drain >.>

Exhibit 1 above is my Zoom H1 portable recorder. Issue: Major battery drain even when switched off.

This is a known issue with some H1 recorders, and actually, mine (got it in February) has been perfectly fine, till the last month or so when it started eating up batteries at an alarming rate (drains a new energizer battery in about 5 days).

Hopefully, I can get it repaired. At the same time, I'm also looking at a new recorder released by Tascam, the DR-05. Not only do reviews indicate it's much better built than the H1, it seems to have a better spl rating (125 vs 120), built in tuner and just looks cooler to me :) If Zoom's UK distributor does not get their act together, I'll probably pop this on the devil's junkyard and use what I can get from the H1 to contribute to the DR-05.

EDIT: Yay! They finally got back to me for an exhange. Sweet.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Life Drawing, Sketching, thoughts.

I've been doing life drawing since April 2010, and only started learning how to sketch a few months before that (see my drawing blog). Last week, I'd used up my A3 sketchpad that I use for my life drawing sessions, and this afternoon I popped into Cowling and Wilcox to get more paper. Inside, I was agonizing which to buy - a £10 pad, or the £6 pad.

I then realized, that I actually took more than a year to finish up a pad, so just bought the £10 pad (It was a heavier grade of paper, plus very nice covers). In essence, this is a very enjoyable, yet affordable hobby.

Basically, I spend £30 quid for 6 drawing sessions - this lasts me a month and a half - or £5 per session. Add on a bit for transport. Pencil lead is not exactly cheap, as I use lead holders - however out of my entire box, I've only used.... 2 pieces so far.

That's for cost of attending life session, on a day to day basis I spend from 15 minutes, to sometimes hours if I visit a museum or zoo over the weekend.

Sketching for me serves many purposes, but my key reason to actually learn how to sketch was to conquer my fear of drawing.

Or rather, how much I hated sketching in general.

Rewind to a much younger age, I was never strong in the arts - usually the lowest grade in the class. Does not help self esteem there, I assure you.

Even during my uni days, I've tried learning on my own, and attending life drawing sessions, but seriously, telling a complete beginner to draw a crunched up ball of paper without instructions... doesn't really help. needless to say that did not last long.

Fast forward to London, I decided that I would learn again, and see where it takes me. This was also a time of personal pain for me, and I really needed things to distract myself. It worked out far better than I thought.

First, I think the main thing I learnt, is how impossible it is to achieve perfection. I am only human. Attempting to reach perfection is one thing, but stressing out because something is not perfect is not the way to go. I think I have been stressing out on that at work, at photography, at lots in my life.

Just learning on my own, day to day, taught me about how to get better - simply by practice. I used to believe that I would never ever draw. I now believe I can achieve whatever I care to set my heart upon.

Other beneficial side effects (pun intended) include meeting new people. Drawing at museums often see the stranger wander up to exchange a few words, and almost always, they are friendly and positive. I remember I had an Italian sculptor wander up to me once. He was on hols, and told me to visit Genoa, as there were a multitude of amazing sculptures there. I still need to take him up on it.

Weekly drawing sessions also helped me conquer my fear of speaking with people. Maybe it does not show, since I have little fear of teaching classes or giving talks - but one on one with someone? Engage the escape hatch please. Over this time here, I've come to appreciate how the people in my life drawing sessions are still friendly, even though I am a living icon on taciturn-iness (hey I invented a word!)

Of course, I have a long way to go, being introverted and focusing on myself and a narrow range of subjects do not help.

Going slightly off topic, once again playing the saxophone was yet another distraction - again, personal issues - and once again, it is a blessing in disguise. Not only have I found a music instrument I really like (flute, piano, NAF, keyboard etc did not last too long over the years), a fair few amount of people I've met here in the UK play musical instruments, and it makes for an easier time to connect. Down the road, I too hope to be able to join in local bands or just get good enough to jam at.

I think this is due to drawing, it showed myself that I can improve, abeit slowly. And these two seem to form some sort of positive reaction loop, confidence or improvements in one area gets me going in another.

Should I even be putting this down?

Hell yeah, one thing I learnt from all of the above. Live. Live now. Carpe Diem.

Framestore's work on Deathly Hallows Part 2

Had this article pointed at me this morning :) Yay! Watery goodness. I was assigned 4 shots where I was involved in the main simulations, one of which is in the article - the one with Ron and Hermoine looking up, walls of water on either side of them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

[ Houdini Cookoff ] 01

Project time! More or less recovered from my last project (Deathly Hallows Part 2), so I thought I'd tackle this little project that SideFX has got running.

The competition's supposed to be about creating a food related project in Houdini - I know tea is not strictly food. I'm not in it for the prizes, more like a challenge for myself. Plus, I've always wanted to do it :P

So, the video above shows what I hope to achieve with Houdini, brown tea getting lightened up with a fair bit of milk.

Currently, I only got the reference above, and still plotting how deep I want to take this. For one thing, I do not plan to spend my waking non-work hours on this, so I need to keep it down to quick sims and tricks. What I definitely will need includes a backplate, with an empty cup. The plate will be basically a hand stirring the spoon, which means I'll need to track a cg spoon into place.

Thankfully, the spoon only shows the top tip of it, so I do not need to like be uber correct. One thing I noticed with the spoon is how the meniscus reacts to it when laid down to rest; I will probably have myself remove the spoon after stirring in the plates; one less thing to worry about.

The milk bottle I have two minds about it - half of me is thinking go full CG, get a HDRI env map, let PBR handle the rendering. The other half says, use practical, and get someone to track in the milk carton/bottle. That's still up in the air, and I need to get it locked down before I shoot the plates.

I'll still want a HDRI map of the scene for the top surface of the water. I also need to keep this short, as the machine I work on at home has very little hdd space left, and only 4gb of ram :P

Simulation wise, I think I will be looking hard at combining both the ripple solver and fluid solver *and* smoke solver. My gut feel (and experience) from running the fluid solver tells me that it will be all splashy when the poured liquid hits - not like the ref in which the surface stays pretty calm.

So I'm thinking using voxel fluids to get the shape, then merge the SDF volumes to create a single geo surface.

Smoke I'm thinking would be used below the surface, and we can trace into it. Or, pre-render, then project onto the water mesh. 6 weeks to go, got to get the camera track and even animation done in the next week and a half, then I can focus on simulations, the last 2 weeks would probably be final renders and comp.

Note to self: the cup moves when being stirred; recommend blu-tack to keep it locked down. I do not want have sims inside moving geo :D