Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Helios Chronicles: Revisited - Desktop SF Production as Manga

Decades ago , with the early Desktop Video and Animation tools I wrote a fair few magazine articles on the use of the tools, and the making of the props and puppets for THE HELIOS CHRONICLES.  Published in the UK's SF&FM and Australia's SFM magazines.

Models and stop frame animation all in the time when 320x240 pixels was as big a frame as we could practically have, then could only let anyone see the result by sending an optical disc. This was before zip or DVD drives even. Adobe Premier 2.0 and 3.0 had all the features for doing stop frame animation (onion skinning) and moving and warping images and rendering them in a fast to use interface. 

Early Photoshop also had a film strip format that helped in rotoscoping.

Was also in a Japanese TV show called Super Modeller in a Chapter called "Make The Fake" in 1995. 
Issue N.317 of Hobby Japan has that show documented.

These days I'm more interested in illustration, making comics and cartooning as being a more practical "one man band" approach to achieving the same story telling. Or maybe just make a point, or tell a joke.

So the above single page joke is part of what that could be .

Have been doing vector illustrations for the last 18 years or so and multi-panel comics for the last 4 or so.  It turned out the vector tools are how you do the balloons, panels and text of comics, so those skills kind of merge to do this stuff .

What the layout looks like in outline mode.

The following is an image of some of the props we still have from the 1995 project. The space is black felt over 1m square I airbrush painted . It does need ironing. The planet is a case from a gumball toy machine brush painted with Liquitex Acrylics.

We have other miniatures and props as well. Puppets, sets and furniture as well. 

Sets and props for establishing shots and the like:

It gives a different look to comics and allows the different types of panel use that implies, even if I didn't do any of that here.

This is also fast to do for webcomic resolution, a huge plus for me. I can't ever imagine publishing anything on paper any more, even if my original pages are all 300dpi resolution. The magazine industry is pretty much dead and a ebook wouldn't sell enough to be worthwhile, as I tried that in 2012 and know my numbers. 😀

Interestingly to me, is there are now 2 Volumes of the GUNDAM MOBILE SUITE THUNDERBOLT SUPPLEMENTARY STORY that uses Photoshoped models for the mobile suits , guns and craft. Unusually for manga, this is also full color.

We can be contacted at Art & Technology.  

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Just Thinking, Comic Strip. Random stuff living in Japan in 2020

Had a need to do a short form comic strip. Just had random ideas when studying and doing commissions and putting them into these things was a release.

Have been living in Kyoto Japan since end of November 2019 , but had lived here 1987 till 2001 previously, and have various thoughts about all kinds of random things and news items.

Like my This Is Where The Smoke Comes Out,  I have used grey scale photos and simple vector cartoons. I have a collection of characters so putting together a strip is a fast process. It is more about what it wants to say, or express.

I originally posted these on Twitter, but they vanish into the stream doing that, so have made this a single place to store them. Don't know how many I will do at all. I started doing these when I stopped doing the short Twitter OBS videos...

next 2 go together

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Trying OBS for vblogging and video tutorials

Learnt about OBS a month or so ago from Twitter and have been trying it in the last couple of days.

It allows you to make videos capturing application activity, webcams and other elements. Was developed for streaming, but also produces videos that can be further edited.

Above is the first attempt at a vblog thing talking about using Japanese Environmental Sounds in a composition in Reaper. Pretty rough!

Have done little with YouTube in the last few years as their changes meant that nobody watched anything I made. I didn't have anyway of capturing what I did in CorelDraw or Illustrator before, but as that has now changed with OBS I may do a few vector illustration tutorials.

I was once asked by a signmaker if I could do classes on what I do.  A few tutorials would probably help, as I don't use many features of any of these programs, and that was their assumption that I did.

So my approach to making vector illustrations may be forth coming.

This Corona Pandemic escalated pretty quickly, so expect to have plenty of time to do these moving forward.

Made another and found cannot increase the volume of the video clip player. Maybe you can, but it only showed me video filters.  Of course me trying to find the words isn't so great either.. but it is what it is..

There isn't any point in making such a short video as far as YouTube is concerned though. It will not be referred to anyone now anyway. YouTube's only care is for minutes watched. The reason I see 40 minute videos with 2 minutes of information and lots of padding. What a low quality world they are encouraging.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Home Theater Or Hi-Fi System in a Home?

Another wandering article covering several areas, including Home Theater Sound 😀

I used to have a surround sound set up and a large Plasma TV in the living room.  The kitchen and dinning table were in a separate room, but the living room also had a computer and desk in the corner so it wasn't a Home Theater room, but a shared space.

The only time I used it as a home theater was when my wife was out, as it was too loud to use for family living, and she usually wasn't interested in watching most of the movies I did. To have it loud enough to hear the speaking, anything big in the movie was very loud.
For most TV viewing I didn't turn on the surround system and just used the speakers in the TV that didn't create that volume problem.

We sold that house and downsized to a 2 bedroom apartment in 2019. This had a combined, kitchen, dinning and lounge area.  This is a great arrangement where doing kitchen chores doesn't isolate anyone from the sitting and eating area.  It did mean I didn't hook up the Yamaha Surround Receiver and Speakers at all. Was just not appropriate. The TV was also too large and felt like sitting in the front row of seats in a cinema, which isn't to my liking at all.

I watched most of the DVDs I borrowed from the local library on headphones for the 6 months we were there before moving to our new house in Japan.  During that time sold most electrical things, and for the last month only used a small 24" HD TV that was fine in that environment. It had been the Kitchen TV in the old house.

Our new place here in Kyoto Japan has a very similar combined lounge, dinning and kitchen space as the 2 bedroom apartment. Almost the same size, but we have our own rooms too.  So at the moment, we have a high end Sanyo 22" TV in the lounge room with a connected VHS/DVD player and a separate WD Live Media Player.  Can watch the TV from the dinning table while eating and it doesn't dominate everything. This TV has a larger soundbar style speaker subsystem under it and can simulate Surround sound. For a Smallish TV it has amazing sound.

I have been watching many of PS Audio's Ask Paul videos on YouTube and find myself kind of like him here:

Where he doesn't have a High End Audio System at home at all, but does have a home theater.  In another video  he shows you his home office and the standalone downstairs home theater at his house.  Mine was never that over the top, but good enough for me. He also mentioned he has a small audio system in his office but cannot work and listen to music at the same time.

At the present point in time, most of the music in the kitchen lounge area is coming from my wife's iPad. And that is only sometimes.

Now Paul above isn't a musician, so doesn't have a home studio like I do.  So even though my Studio is mostly a Laptop, small desktop Yamaha speakers and a Roland 2 Channel  audio interface, it is more Hi-Fi than what he has. My studio is also in "my room" in the house and not the living area.  Actually my studio is a small (1.7m x 1.5m) alcove off  "my room".

The Laptop can Bluetooth to some larger DIATONE 8" 3 way Bookshelf Speakers for music or streaming playback as I wrote about in the previous Blog.  Radio Stations  Alpha Station Kyoto  or  2MMM Sydney also get a listen.

I also have in "my room" a 24" HD Hisense TV with HDD recording that is connected to my old 32bit Win10 desktop PC running KODI media player.  The Kode Remote Android App for my Phone makes this system incredibly usable.  This is where I have watched most YouTube.  The sound of the TV speakers is fine, but it does have a headphone out and an Optical Sound Out, that plugs in fine to this little Surround Decoder:

I haven't yet decided if it is worth rearranging the furniture in "my room" to have a Stereo / Surround Audio System connected to the TV yet. At the moment I have two small bookshelf speakers and the 50w/Channel Class D Amp I used to have "in the studio" forming a "sound bar" (the speakers are on their sides with the bases touching, so the woofers are side by side)  under the TV.  The TV headphone out is set so that it doesn't disconnect the TV speakers sound when they are plugged in.

I haven't found turning on this Hi-Fi stereo Soundbar adds much to the TV watching experience.

If I did want surround sound, it would be a small system, but the dynamic range of movies is really too great for me.  I hear it all much better if I just wear headphones.  Like many, I now can have difficulty understanding what people are say in a noisy environment, that has nothing to do with the language they are speaking.

To approach the surround or not from a different POV,  Steven Wilson: Remixing Classic Albums has also done award winning 5.1 versions that I haven't heard. 

Surround music mixes is something I have had an interest in for many years, and have a Reaper setup that allows me to make surround mixes of my own tracks.  I also did an analogue decoder a few years ago.

Of course not everyone thinks Surround for music is a good idea:

The big difference between movies and music, is that music on purpose doesn't have the dynamic range of movie sound and is easy to manage volume. Especially in an environment like "my room".

So if I wander back to my title question. I don't a Home Theater system for family reasons. The Sound is too disruptive due to movie sound dynamic range. Stereo music is much more important to us, but most of the time, Hi-Fi is NOT required.
I only need Hi-Fi sound when mixing and mastering my own music, which really, isn't very often.
And to refer back to Paul'ss video above,  the only work I can do and have music playing is drawing or making something.

I do a lot of drawing, but if I have quiet background music playing, I am not able to hear my wife call from another part of the house if she needs something. So I mostly don't play much music while working either.

Ah, the modern home...

We can be contacted at ArtAndTechnology

Monday, March 16, 2020

Hi-Fi, Speaker Philosophy, BOSE, Apple and Andrew Jones

Been watching different things on YouTube in the last weeks. Something of a Rabbit Hole, of the videos offered to you after searching for something.

Rick Beato, in one of his videos is asked would he release his stuff in WAV format, and he said no,  as mp3 320kps is indistinguishable from uncompressed, and then presented a test with a young lady that proved that.  He also then went on about all these old guys in their late 50s and 60s who are world famous mixers, who cannot hear above 12~14 kHz and that wasn't relevant to what makes music sound good. In there somewhere the small Yamaha NS-10s is mentioned as a boring speaker, even though it was the speaker of choice for mixing with. 
Basically, some ideal of hi-fi has nothing to do with what makes music sound good.

Dr BOSE, and his philosophy of doing things differently, made BOSE a very successful company, even though Hi-Fi people hate them. BOSE is always overpriced for what it is, like Apple, and you can get much better products for less. But the way BOSE was sold meant you didn't get to see the competition, and the marketing scheme was very well executed.
Now the original BOSE 901 was a very interesting speaker and did get some large percentage of the market at the time. They have an exaggerated bass, as do all BOSE audio products.

Apple took note of that and their Dr.dre have exaggerated bass too, as does the HomePod, so these products also aren't "Hi-Fi".

Now Andrew Jones is an English man who is now a famous speaker designer, that originally worked at KEF inventing speaker measuring systems. Went on to design stuff at Pioneer, and recently at ELAC.
In a TESTED interview, he admits that measuring is more important then listening, and that designing the drivers is very important.  The original idea of Hi-Fi was to reproduce what the original concert was, but now, with everything from EDM and multi-tracked, multi-mic'ed electric guitars, there is no original "natural" source being reproduced.  You have to make that sound good. And "good" is the personnel taste of the speaker designer, and it seems that many agree with him. He doesn't like a bright top end, and that may seem to help.
His ELAC UB5 are apparently not expensive and very good. BUT also Hi-Fi.

Steve Guttenberg Audiophiliac also has some interesting things to say. It isn't about absolute accuracy, but does it sound good. And you can get a system that sounds good for under $150.
Massive amplifies can make a system sound more effortless, than a small amplifier, but that isn't the same as better. But bigger speakers are usually nicer than small ones.

Audio is an interesting area and my own DIATONE 8" 3 way bookshelf speakers are currently powered by a tiny Nobsound NS-01G Pro Bluetooth Class D Amplifier in our new room. They are in a bookshelf, and angled into the room and listening position.

With the provided 12V PSU, it is probably about 12W RMS a channel. I have some polyfuse devices in series with the speakers, just in case.  Haven't found cheap Chinese made stuff to last very long.

An interesting video on using REW (Room EQ Wizard) and Equalizer APO, to correct for some room effects talks about  a "home curve".  This one:

This being the Harman desired response of the speakers in a room. Now a speaker that measures flat in an anechoic chamber doesn't measure that way in a real room. It has a falling output with increasing frequency, and that is what this "home-curve" is.

The red trace in a plot above shows the unfiltered response of our bookshelf speakers driven by the small Nobsound amp. The big dips are room nulls. This response is actually fine and shows a to be expected fall with increasing frequency.

To actually improve this, the first step is to acoustically treat the room, rather than use EQ of any kind. EQ doesn't get rid of slap back echo, reflections, standing waves or other effects. Treat the room with absorption at the first reflection points (this improves imaging) and  bass traps to reduce the bass area nulls.  The tech in REW and Equaliser APO is cool, but not really the first step to take to correct a room.

Here is the way to fix a room, this using RealTraps products, even if this is a VERY extreme approach, and not practical for a normal house you actually live in.

But after all that, the biggest difference is the source material. The quality of recordings, mixing and mastering is enormous. Even a great system will sound poor with badly recorded, mixed and mastered material.   There are "mixed for vinyl" albums (like Rainbow) that have no bass on them at all. Any "HITS OF '71" vinyl is terrible, as the music was mastered to take up little space on the each side of the disc.
The original DEEP PURPLE- BLACK NIGHT 7" single is thin and weak without dynamics compared to Rodger Glovers' remastered version from a few years ago.

After some listening in my new room, I think I can go back and improve my own musics mixing and mastering. My new room has given me a new perspective on my recordings.

We can be contacted at ArtAndTechnology