Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dynamic range compression at the sensor level...

Just blogging out loud about the one artifact in digital photography that sucks - blown highlights. Well, actually less the blown highlights themselves, rather the region between the fully blown and non-blown regions that always give me a "eww, crappy digital" kind of feel that you will never get with film. Maybe the big boys and their "full frame" cameras don't suffer as much. But anyways, as I do my own audio mixing, this makes me question something....

In audio, we have limiters used in several parts of the audio chain. For example, powered speakers may have a limiter built in so as to not blow the speakers when a suddenly overpowering input signal appears, and it manages this by clipping it before passing it into the analog components. A blown highlight is similarly that, a signal that's waaay to strong and the sensor just saturates.

Again, just thinking out loud, if each individual photosite has a limiter, or perhaps even a compressor applied to the incoming signal... would it alleviate this issue? It is the same thing isn't it, trying to capture a high dynamic range signal with a limited bandwidth medium, that's what was needed back in the day.

Then suddenly, you'd think about colour balancing, and the bayer filtering, and how the individual channels will combine with compression. Mmm..... not sure. For now, till some genius invents some uber high dynamic range capture or some new technique can be used to alleviate these exposure issues, it's best to follow the old adage of exposing for the highlights, and raising the shadow regions in post.

London MCM Expo 2012 Photos

A few of my favourites from my jaunt to the London MCM Expo yesterday. Wish I had a 17-55/2.8 :3

The full photo dump here: London MCM Expo October 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012


Today was cold! Brrr.... I think I need to bring out the gloves tomorrow. So far I'm only wearing a light sweater and a regular jacket, but the wind is killer >.> Probably another week or so will defo have to bring out the proper heavy duty winter stuff.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cosplay :D

So the office is having the yearly xmas party, with the theme being Japanese. What better time to get into cosplay again? Last I was cosplaying back home I stopped due to having a bad taste in the mouth - like being laughed at by the more serious cosplayers helped alot in leaving that fandom.

But it's over a decade, maybe time to try again? Not sure what to work towards; half of me thinks it's going to be fun - the other half thinks it is a waste of both time and resources. Can I meet both ends?

First idea was to go as Kurama in his demon fox form, but I don't think I'm exactly the slim and lithe kind :P Plus, what exactly would I do with a toga like thing after that? And what would I do with a fox tail? Seriously.

Other ideas like Vincent Valentine: Waay to costly and time consuming to get it right. Will think about it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Rest your eyes!

Been feeling extremely tired the last few weeks, and I finally figured out what it was - overstressed eyes. I thought it was lack of sleep - I've been sleeping earlier and earlier to no avail. Just not doing stuff like programming or score study in the evening is helping, so I'll be taking it easy this week.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Recabled Grados - wow...

One thing I noticed is that I can now go for much longer listening periods before I tire of the detail the SR80s provide. Usually I need to rest my ears after about an hour or so, and I'm not talking about ear splitting volumes here - comfortable volumes and music with wide dynamic range.

I think I went for about 4, 5 hours  - not all at a go of course, one needs to answer the call of nature ever so often - before I had to take it off as it was getting to me. I'd even switched over to music that usually fatigued my ears and those went through fine. So what? No idea. Not only that, I found the bass very punchy and strong, not sure if it's improved by the recable, or my ears too used to the lack of bass on the SE215s (or, the cable rolling off the highs; hence enhancing the bass). In any case, very pleased to have my SR80s back as my constant companion.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Recabling my Grados SR80

The recable excercise was inspired by CyberSpyder at Head-Fi. Go there if you are into high-end listening :3

Long story, I had my grados recabled by the local dealer here awhile back, and they started to disintegrate. Again. I have this feeling that the materials used are not suitable for use in the UK, as my grados have lasted probably 5, 7 years with no issues, and only started to have the rubber fall apart when I came to the UK for work.

I decided to do it myself, as I don't see the point in getting the dealer to recable it again, if it will just fall apart as it did. Hunted around for people to recable it for me, but they're very expensive, and really more for the serious audiophile type, which I am not. Hence, DIY!

The cables I used were the same type as CyberSpider above, Mogami 2983. The local dealer was sadly out of stock and took about 6 weeks for me to get my cables. The 2983s had 4 cores with a copper shield. Two of the cables were for ground, and the other two for the left and right channel. The copper shield was unused, though probably it may help get rid of some efi. I guess :P

The stereo plug I used is the Canare F-12, also from Japan. I really wanted to use a right angled Neutrik - because I like the brand (my mic uses a custom built cable, neutriks on both ends) and they look soooo cool, but the inner diameter was too small for my needs.

There is some strain relief cables inside that I braided together, and covered the entire thing with heat shrink sleeving.
Tada! Covered with the heatshrink above.

 I should have taken more photos of this part, but after the heat shrink, all of the cable was covered with expandable nylon sleeving. Tricky thing, not only does it fray at the end (melt the ends with the hot air gun!), due to it expanding it shrinks in length. I was quite surprised at how much more sleeving was needed, and I am very thankful that I bought the nylon sleeving separately on ebay, and it came with a 3m length as minimum.

Here's some details of the ends further shrink wrapped. Cable ties were used for strain relief, just like the originals.

Here's it all assembled up. I actually didn't hot glue the cups together, as I don't have a hot glue gun. I'll see how it holds up :P

Audio wise, I can't say it is better or worse than the stock grado cabling; there is no way to do a 1:1 comparison. What I can say, is that I'm very happy to get my grados back. During the wait for the cables, I have been using Shure SE215s for listening (paired with my Cowon D2+), and I am not a fan of them - they sound very flat to my ears, and the bass is uninspiring. I primarily bought them to replace my lost Sennheiser CX330s, and for the price, I can't say they are a good match for me.

What the SE215s are really good for though, is critical listening for music production - I'm thinking that because of they are IEMs and having a good seal allows me to pick up artifacts (like noise) in samples that I can't with my headphones. A more likely fact is that I have crap ears.

The other pair of headphones (in my videos) I use regularly, are the AKG240s MK2s. They have a very different signature from the Grados. I feel that they are able to pull out more details than the grados, but are not as upfront as the grados. The 240s are relegated to mixing and piano playing.

Hope I don't have to go through this recabling thing too soon, it took about 4 hours from start to finish, not as much fun as I thought :P

In any case, I am very glad the recabling went with no major issues. Some aspects could be improved, e.g. I only bought 2 metres worth of cable, I would probably have liked to have it longer. Very glad to have my old companion back in action with me.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Teensy 2.0

Heeee my Teensy 2.0 has finally arrived! And it is much smaller than I thought... the usb connection is actually mini usb, and the whole thing is smaller than my thumb.... man, the power of smt components.

Not tried it yet, bit tired from work and having had a few nights of insomnia so I'm going to take a nap now.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Blast from the past: OpenTyrian

Discovered OpenTyrian yesterday through a remixer at ocremix. I thought the name Tyrian was familiar, and after a quick google, I was like "damn! It's Tyrian!" I'd played this as a kid of course, but only had the shareware version so never knews what the whole story was.

Given that I play (play? More like religiously practice) a few bullet hell shooters, I thought Tyrian would be cake. And it was.... for the first episode. Come the next few episodes (there are 4 in total).... things weren't so easy.

For a start, the game mechanics are quite different from your typical shooter. The weapon loadouts are customizable between stages, with unique weaponry available depending upon where you are (I love the lasers :D). Two side "slots" are available for various options (with Lifeforce/salamander style Option ships available), as well as opportunities to upgrade the shields, hull, generator etc - pseudo rpg elements, almost. Some side slots have variants that use ammo. I haven't used those much.

In game, we are present with a very nimble fighter that I think is not really suited for pixel-fine bullet dodging. Apart from its extremely light response to the controls, a tiny bit of inertia is built into the motion. This baby easily circles the entire screen in seconds, unlike say, JamesTown where the craft is slower and suited to navigating through fine bullet streams.

That said, the fighter in Tyrian is designed for what it is, to be able to MOVE fast to dodge not only bullets, but physical obstacles at speed. Some of which are intent on ramming into you.

As mentioned, the craft is shielded, with shield strength slowly replenished by your power generator. This generator also powers your guns, so at times it makes tactical sense to not shoot, and dodge bullets whilst the shields get recharged. Apart from shields, there is another component on amour on your ship. At low levels of armour, the whole screens goes whoop whoop whoop and a special vessel will show up. Blow it up, and it replenishes some of your armour.

The later episodes are somewhat challenging (side note: I was playing in medium difficulty), combining navigating your way through narrow passages, or threading your ship in between massive battleships whilst avoiding energy blasts that take up a third of your screen. Probably not meant for you but a larger target behind you, but hey, you are in the way. Oh yes, regular enemies abound too.

The game bosses are not particularly challenging imo, I did die several times thanks to them forcibly squishing me to death, but apart from that once I was equipped with the almighty laser and figured out their movement patterns, bosses went down, in seconds. And a fair few of them did so, literally. (Pro tip: If you want a bigger challenge, don't equip lasers.)

The pacing of the game is quite intense - whilst there are sometimes small gaps for your to catch a breather and recharge the shields, enemies come from all directions - unlike modern games - and shoot at you after they've gone past you - unlike modern games - making it a race to figure out where you need to be without bullets coming in at you in a near 360 arc.

In game, you collect so called "Data Blocks" that give you some idea of what is going on with the game to progress the story, ranging from humourous descriptions of the travel opportunities and food recommendations to storyline pieces, as well as "interactions" you have with other NPCs in the game that move the story on.

Given the vintage of this game, I don't think it is fair to compare it to more modern shooters like say Blazing Star, where the graphics are more detailed with multiple background layers giving a better sense of depth. With that in mind, I'd say the graphics are what they are, from the mid 90s, retro styled, blocky pixel art. Pixel art does not detract - look at Cave Story or Super Meatboy. Fact, with JamesTown, I relish the fact there is no antialiasing. Blocky pixels baby!

Apart from the main game, there is arcade mode (not keen), and multiple mini games (not me). Hard mode I was looking forward to, but it features fog of war (what?!), with a clear view the shape of a cone extending ahead of your ship. Everything not in that cone is rendered very dimly in greyscale. BORING. Give me more bullets to dodge, sure, I don't fancy attempting to shoot stuff I can't see very well. And in my advance old age, not something I relish.

So, Tyrian, an age old classic turned opensource (thank you epic megagames/world tree productions!)

Perhaps one day we can see another epic megagames opensource release like Jazz Jackrabit? I only had the shareware version of that IIRC. Or maybe even Dune 2 :3