Louisiana Trip

Hezakiah's Hands - Lake Charles Trip

I’m back at my parents’ home after having spent the week with my dad doing volunteer work in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Dad is a member of a local organization called Hezakiah’s Hands (it’s associated with his church).  He’s done several projects with the group, so I figured, it being important to Dad, I’d volunteer.  It was a great experience.  The group of people traveling down country (there were 18 of us) was a blast during the long ride.  We had a great time. I was amazed by Lake Charles.  It’s been a few years now since the devisitation of Hurricane Ike, but the ramifications persist.  Of course, living in the places where I’ve lived, where hurricanes don’t really exist, I felt kinda ignorant having been surprised that yes, it does take a long time to rebuild a community.  We would drive along the main thoroughfairs and all looked fine.  Once we ventured off the main drag, though, we’d see empty lots, boarded houses, and houses that shouldn’t be inhabited.

The first day’s shock was seeing the conditions of some of these places.  The habit, in Louisiana, is to raise houses from the ground, sometimes on pylons, but most of the stuff we saw was raised in a few blocks.  One house was perched precariously over a veritable pool of grey water that had gathered beneath it.  Its blocks were cockeyed in every direction from the force of wind and water.  Some room’s floors dropped half a foot or more over the length of 12 feet.  The shock the next day was when it sank in that a contractor had caused the pool.  The homeowners had sunk their lifesavings into saving their home, part of that project was building earth under their house to keep out water.  The contractor, instead, heaped earth around the perimeter of the house making it appear to have been filled in.  The perimeter just created walls for the collecting pool.  The underside of the house was rot and mold that had permeated all the way to the laminate flooring of their living room.

 

The people we met were wonderful.  We were treated to homecooked meals (smothered quail? – I’ll show you the photos later).  As I left one site, the lady of the house hugged me.

 

During the course of the trip, I took a few hours of footage on my D300s.  I will get it uploaded sometime soon.  I need to get to my equipment in my apartment first.  Too much footage to hack on my laptop:)  Meanwhile, I’m posting a photo of the group.  We were working in cooperation with the Presbyterian Disaster Assitance (hence, the shirts).  As always, I try to avoid religion in any of my discussions.  My beliefs are very personal, but universal in nature, and I’ll just leave it at that.

NAB 2009

It’s 5 AM at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Friday, April 24th.  I’m en route to LA after spending the past week at the National Association of Broadcasters show.  NAB is the big show in the US where everyone involved in content creation (3D, cameras, mics, capture, etc), post (edit, composite, etc) and distribution (ie my employer: KenCast) get together to attend conferences, training, and of course, exhibit our latest and greatest on the show floor.  I try my best not to discuss my work on this website (if you want to read about KenCast, please visit our homepage), however I will say it was an excellent show for the company.  With the recent downturn in the economy, tradeshows have been taking a major hit, however, even though traffic quantity was down at NAB, we had some of the best quality traffic ever.  

Besides staffing the booth, I did peel myself away to visit other exhibitors, including two of my favorites : Adobe and Autodesk.  Adobe put on several presentations on the future of flash in content delivery to devices (I also attended presentations on the latest incarnation of their multitrack mixer : Audition).  I have been on Production Premium CS3, but at the show, a special 15% discount enticed me to make the jump to CS4:)  So, that should be waiting at my apartment when I get back to CT.  

Autodesk, whether at NAB in Vegas, or the sister show, IBC in Amsterdam, is always my favorite booth to visit.  Last year, the booth was constructed from unpainted plywood, perfect for recycling.  This year, the booth was actually constructed out of the cardboard tubes used to bring in the carpet used by the show.  It was gorgeous.  You can see a hint of it in the wide shot of the hall, below from my iphone, as well as the carvings done in the cardboard wall surrounding the demonstration theatre.  Autodesk always does the best job in demoing their postproduction products.  I’ve been to presentations where they have people from Weta showing color grading on King Kong, editing on trailers, etc.  Their demoreel stops people in their tracks.  I just love to sit their and watch.  Of course, the only Autodesk tool I’ve really touched is Maya, but someday I hope to get my hands on Flame and the other post tools.

 

 

Silent Hill: Homecoming

I’ve been well overdue in writing this.

For Christmas, my family gave me a copy of “Silent Hill: Homecoming“.  This was the major reason I wanted a PS3.  Silent Hill has long been my favorite video game franchise since the original title’s release.  Of course, if you read my previous entry about Silent Hill Origins, you’ll know that I was a bit let down and hoping this game would redeem the bloodline.  It did so in spades and had me so hooked, after 3 evening / early morning jags, I had completed the game.

Silent Hill: Homecoming, in my mind, is what the franchise was always meant to be.  Silent Hill 2, by many accounts, was the pinnacle of the series, and I think in this latest installment, Homecoming meets the mark set by that early title.  There are many detractors who have described Homecoming as drawing out what should’ve been a graceful end to the series.  Of course, I was going into this game skeptical as this was the first console game designed entirely by an American studio, and many critics said the American aesthetic had detracted from the Japanese style horror.  However, Silent Hill: Homecoming has all the elements that made the series excel : story, environments, music, and that unique combination of scares that only Silent Hill can pull off.  Moreover, this particular title brought in a whole new set of elements which stand it apart as being the new flagship in the series.

1) Graphics – The game is just plain gorgeous.  There’s no getting around it.   Unlike the previous games, the player has complete freedom to view the environment from any perspective to really soak in the masterfully crafted world.  This just wasn’t possible in the previous platforms and on the PS3, the environments just envelope you.  Moreover, the monsters become much scarier when you actually have to look to see them.  It’s quite a rush to be in a dark hotel hallway and suddenly hear the steps of some monster directly behind you.

The monsters have real visual depth.  The prime example are the nurses which have been in the games since the original title.  In Homecoming, you can actual feel, with your eyes, the textures of their skin, clothing, weapons, it’s just so much more real and frightening.  The physics guiding those movements are believable and the rules of combat are much better defined than in previous titles (especially Origins).

2)  Music  – Of course, Akira Yamaoka, who has been the series composer since the beginning, came back for this title, but what struck me as interesting in this incarnation was the way music would come and go as part of the environment.  Unlike other titles where music was a separate layer on top of the game, in Homecoming, music actually fades in and out as the player runs through the world.  This use of music as a component of the environment spatially really enhances the world’s depth.

3) Gameplay – Homecoming has a whole new level of complexity in the game controls.  It takes some serious getting used to, however, once you’ve started up the game, you’ll be so engrossed learning the controls will come fairly quickly and progress as the game progresses in difficulty.  The combat is certainly more prevalent in this game, but this is not a first person shooter by any means, you still need to use your brains to run when it’s appropriate and fight when it’s necessary.  Again, though, the very act of having to control the perspective of the player, and the aim of the attack adds this new layer of tension to the experience and an increasing feeling of “being in the game”.

Overall, Homecoming is a piece of art.  The developers deserves praise for maintaining and reinvigorating a tradition through some powerful inventions.  I sincerely hope this becomes the new standard for the series.

If Computers Can Read Brains, Plug Me In!

My friend, Danielle, pointed me to an article on neatorama discussing initial reports that a lab in Japan has managed to roughly display images from the human brain onto a digital screen.  There is also a brief yahoo article here.  All I can say is, if computers can read brains and put it onto a screen, plug me in!  Of course, we got into the discussion of less-than-ethical applications this technology could have (big brother not being the least), but, of course, what I’m excited about it turning my imagination and dreams into another device to capture raw material from for video edit!  Could you believe?!  What if you could edit your daydreams into a movie?!  wooooo…

This is all still sci-fi for the immediate future.  I am a believer that the digital networking of the human mind, akin to Ghost in the Shell, is an eventuality in our evolution, however, we’re still a long way off.  Meanwhile, I suppose pen, paper, wacom tablets, and laptops will have to suffice to bring dreams to reality.

 

 

Reach out and make a friend