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

Monday, March 2, 2020

Project Studio Monitor Speakers

All the big name gear manufacturers have stuff for your small project studio now.

Of course the reason for this is that the big Music Recording Studio Business is  much smaller than it was and very much replaced by small project studios. Many of these small studios are doing significant work the studios once did.

My own studio is more Hobby than anything else though. It may have contributed slightly to the early success of my own YouTube channel, but few have played anything other than the theme HEAVY METAL GARAGE

Would having much better studio monitors from Genelec make a difference?

In practical terms of more people hearing my music? No, not at all. You see people don't listen because the mix or mastering isn't as amazing as it could be. Same goes for my instruments.

When that is the case, I take a now unconventional path to replace or upgrading equipment. I will use a traditional style stereo amplifier and passive loudspeakers, rather than the current powered monitor arrangement.

Any mixing or mastering needs to be done by direct comparison to the standard(s) of the day and however that sounds on your speakers in your room.  I do have a mono Auratone like single speaker for mix decisions, but it is all done via referencing commercial tracks you want to sound similar too.

I originally used a Rotel Receiver for many years. I then moved to a LM3886 GainClone amp, and had a Chinese 2 x 50W CLASS D amp for back up. Coming to Japan again, means my LM3886 amp needs a new transformer that I haven't replaced yet, so it was easier to change the plug on the universal laptop 24VDC PSU powering the Class D amp.

I have 2 sets of bookshelf speakers. Two way 5" woofer with 1" tweeter and a three way 8" woofer, midrange tweeter set.  Things all sound different on these and a speaker switch box allows for switching between them to catch what that is.

I used to always find the sound in the car to be the most revealing though. Simulating that would be the break thru the studio world has been waiting for. What listening in the car mostly revealed was if the low end was too loud. Small speakers and small rooms make judging that very difficult, as the low end doesn't get reproduced accurately. The room standing waves add nulls or peaks to it so you cannot judge correctly. Not easy to fix with room treatment in a normal room either.

Knowing your speakers well is important, but that was easier when I was in my 20s when you had the time for that listening.

We can be contacted at Art & Technology

Making New Free To Listen to Music Tracks...

Just looking at my Megacurve on Sound Cloud tracks and see I have 29 there.

If your not aware of Soundcloud , it is a website musicians put their music for people to listen to for free.  Bandcamp is another similar site. I am there too.

They are both kind of like YouTube for music, but unlike YouTube, I think most people going there are people that put music there, rather than music consumers.

I get one or 2 people listening to one or 2 tracks a week there. Always the same tracks, so my stuff doesn't get much traffic. I have used my music  for my sound tracks on my YouTube channel, so it is all 100% my own material, so I have no Copyright violations.

But algorithm changes on YouTube has meant I get far fewer views in recent years compared to when I started it, so there isn't any incentive to keep making videos, and similarly new music tracks for videos.

Last week I looking at the YouTube channel JohnAudioTech and he was saying how he doesn't get the views any more either, and that will probably impact how often he does them moving forward. I see he had over 1,000,000 views on one of his videos,  which is considerably more than the 58,000 of my most popular video.
I think that just means I am even less inclined to make any new videos when my last has had 24 views in 5 months.  Have heard other YouTubers talk about this issue too, as they are loosing income for it.

I will be spending the time doing something else more productive now.

We came to the conclusion years ago that Twitter and Facebook were a complete waste of time for promotion of our works.  The engagement they force doesn't help at all. Your more likely to come up against a Troll or "Fandom Gate Keeper" , (not going to name them here) that are far more destructive than helpful, and the nature of Social Media encourages those types and their followers. 

Now making music is fun and engaging so we don't need to stop doing it, but putting tracks up isn't worth the trouble the way things are at the moment.  No upside to it.

So we are diving into other Projects, written Japanese is one of them, and new approaches now, and of course, continuing with the Freelance Illustration work. 

We can be contacted at Art & Technology.

THIS IS WHERE THE SMOKE COMES OUT is a free online webcomic of our journey through drawing, music, Hi-Tech and to and from Japan. Only 40 pages at this point in time, and been told it is interesting.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Business Of GUNDAM

GUNDAM has an interesting place in Japanese pop culture.

It has a message of war is terrible for teenage boys, but is also a massive advertisement for BANDAI and their model kits. What is now called GUNPLA. The idea of these huge mobile suits is ridiculous, but also cool. All characters in it are humans, and there aren't any good guys and bad guys. The look of the mecha has also become an influential style.

I read years ago of  an Australian Industrial Designer working for a Japanese car manufacturer and in his interview talked about what a force GUNDAM style design was in Japan. Not always in a good way.

There are many GUNDAM Animation Series and many hundreds of GUNPLA kits and variations, but the one I took notice of over 20 years ago was TURN A GUNDAM. Purely because they had SYD MEAD design the main machines. I have several SYD MEAD BOOKS, but also a Japanese one purely on the designing of the mecha in TURN A GUNDAM from rough sketches to finals.

What I have surprised myself with is that, all these years later, I have started watching the TURN A GUNDAM animation series in the last few weeks, thanks to my son having it.

This series is the last one in the GUNDAM timeline. 1000s of years after all the other series. I really like the premise and setting of this, and what all the previous conflicts resulted in.

There are 50 episodes and I have seen 32 at the time of writing this.  The quality of the writing in each episode varies quite a bit, as does the animation.  I think maybe 4 episodes have been great, with most just marking time or progressing the story or character development to some degree. Teenage Angst gets brought to the fore every so often for the target market.  Mecha battle scenes are not as common as you may expect.  Not saying it is bad though. Not at all.

I know nothing about the development struggles of the series, but guess there must have been.

See Bandai now has it's own YouTube channel with free to watch YouTube only anime. This makes sense when you understand their purpose is to sell the kits and collectibles, so they may as well give away the Anime itself. Sure the statics they can collect are very useful.

Gundam is pretty big business.

I also read that the GUNDAM THUNDERBOLT Manga was really good and have bought the first 8 volumes. I have the Japanese language one, so getting through that will take me some time, but the language study is part of the reason for getting it.

There is also THUNDERBOLT Gaiten (Supplement). An additional story that has all color artwork, and the mecha panels use Photoshoped GUNPLA models. The appendix has a section on the kits used. It looks rather well done. An Interesting idea. It takes the selling Gandum kits to the Manga market in a very direct way too.

We can be contacted at Art & Technology

Monday, January 13, 2020

Solving NHK G Not Received on TV after move in Kyoto

Something that may be useful.

My sister-in-laws Panasonic TV stopped receiving NHK G channel.

Now there is much more to it than that. The TV was originally set up in a house with an outdoor antenna. One side on the street is in Kyoto, the other is in Osaka in a place midway between both cities.

We knocked down and rebuilt that house, so for 6+ months the TV was in a rented small apartment in Kyoto, also with an out-door antenna. A 5 minute car drive away.

The TV was then moved back to the rebuilt new house. This time the house doesn't have an outdoor antenna, but the TV signal is provided by the company also providing the internet service.
Japanese TVs have 2 Antenna inputs, one for the existing digital TV service and another for the BS (Broadcast Satellite ) input  and the new house needs an antenna splinter box to produce those signals from the one coax TV signal in the wall plate.

So we bought one of those (EDION for around ~1,500 yen) and then found we couldn't get NHK G on her TV. All the other channels were fine, and should could now see the BS channels she never had access to before. So she could still watch TV, except had to use the living room TV to watch the morning NHK G 15 minute drama at 8:00AM. Currently a series named SCARLET.

Now I expected it was a TV setting problem, but wasn't familiar enough with the channels to know, and couldn't find the Channel Scan menu item.

In Sydney Australia you had to rescan your Digital TV Channels as they were being added and changed all the time. Did it every few months otherwise that series you were watching in SD was now on a different HD channel.

Now we had 2 other TVs in the house that picked up NHK G just fine, and when I finally looked at the features on a cheap nobrand TV that could get NHK, I found that it was receiving NHK G Kyoto.
I could do the Channel Scan and Antenna Level options and all channels still worked. These menu items were in KATAKANA.

The TV that couldn't get NHK G, had that channel set to NHK G Osaka. Doing the Antenna Level setting showed that channel had 0 signal level.
So after spending more time with her TV, eventually found the Channel Scan option 3 menu items down, and only indirectly called "Channel Scan", and it wasn't in KATAKANA.  Doing that then added NHK G Kyoto to the list that had NHK G Osaka.

Assigning the remote controller 1 button to NHK G Kyoto instead of NHK Osaka fixed her problem, and the Antenna Level settings for all received channels was now all good.

So the internet providers selection of TV channels didn't match the original selection of channels for the area, and this stuff isn't the same as if you had an analogue antenna on the roof.  The provider may have this info on line. I haven't looked.

Now NHK E on her TV was always set to Osaka and that still works.

Being more familiar now with the Kanji used in her Panasonic TV menus helped me work out what wasn't set correctly.  I was involved in developing digital products with menu systems myself in the past, and you just cannot win what ever you do to try and make things really simple.  Panasonic hadn't considered someone like me with uneven Japanese reading skills as the technical person problem solving their TV.  I expect the TV manual would have helped a lot, but we don't have that any more.

The TV service provider could have provided both NHK G Osaka and NHK G Kyoto, and some simple info too on what the channels were, but their strategy was to charge you a reasonable fee, includes the antenna splitter,  to set up one TV in the house only. Then way more for the second and other TVs.  We currently have 3 and the one they set up wasn't my sisters. Guessing most people would have just payed the installers to set up all TVs.

Apparently NHK G in the different cities have slightly different localised news, with everything else being the same.  Makes sense.

We can be contacted at Art & Technology.

Monday, January 6, 2020

New Manga Project - Miyazaki Inspiration

Miyazaki's manga and movies are wonderful. Wonderfully Fantastical Machines , Creatures and Settings.
Tottoro is perfect in every way, but not something I would do. But Nausicaa however...

We shall see. Above are some comics for my inspiration.

Comic Illustrations and Sound and Visual Effects

This week I did a 5th anniversary design for stickers/ shirts for a mining equipment maintenance company and I originally put a sound effect in the background. The BA BA BA BA in the right image fragment here.

They wanted that removed, so the final design doesn't have it. The design also had the visual shake effect lines, and they were happy enough with that. 

I just wonder why.

It just confuses the design?

Maybe they should have just been in white outline text and not so visible?


To me the Sound Effects go hand in hand with Visual effects, like the above double spread from Five Star Stories Volume 1.  Those big machines and the storm are making lots of noise, and the sound effects are very big in the panel. has fonts specifically for sound effects and comics really do need them. I have a few of them, and hand draw them without using a font too.

So I will try and use comic conventions when I think they are appropriate, but don't have any problem removing them if the client doesn't what them in the illustrations I do.  I probably wouldn't have been so obliging 20 years ago, but I have changed. Matured even. 

I have started to use emoji's in some designs too. If it seems appropriate. Such as this panel from a comic I put on webtoons.

It really works for me and is universally understood.  That can be an advantage depending on what your trying to express.

We are now in Kyoto Japan, but our website and email is as at has been for the last 10 years, Australian based, and will probably stay that way.

We can be contacted at Art & Technology.