20 February 2010


First, as my old Video Art professor would say, some housekeeping: tomorrow I leave for Albuquerque. As such, my Twitter page will be my only means of making updates. I'm going by train, and that's for three reasons:
1. The FAA is run by lemurs who take turns driving nails into each other's heads.
2. Said nails are apparently made of gold, hence the absurd ticket prices and fees.
3. It takes as long, and costs at least the same as driving (if not less on both counts).
In any case, I'll have a lot of free time. Thankfully, I've got my unabridged audiobooks of 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Fountainhead to pass the time, along with my PSP. I've got Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions, and I'm going to try my damnedest to get some enjoyment out of it this time.

After a little soul-searching, I decided to renew my pro account over at Flickr. At first, I was apprehensive for three reasons:
1. I'm not really making that many photographs right now.
2. I'm broke.
3. I was spending more and more time on DeviantART.

Now, however, I'm still going to be spending most of my free-time on DeviantART, but since I'm not going to renew my premium membership (unless substantiated third-party "permission issue" reports are given the same validity and treatment as DMCA reports), that resolve did give me a little financial leeway (enough for 24 months instead of 12). In short, I'm going to support Flickr because they know how to run their site and listen to their users.

Also, I found out that a non-pro account with Flickr is a little more restrictive than I'd thought; instead of just limiting the number of sets you can display and photos/videos you can upload within a month, they also limit your photostream to your 200 most recent photos. That was a real shocker to me; in fact, there was an honest moment of panic that over 400 of my pictures had been lost. Luckily, they are stored, and by pruning a few of my more recent images, the older ones take their place.

Flickr was sort of my first love before Becca-chan persuaded me to join DeviantART. My Nikon s50c came with 3 months of FlickrPRO, and I was hooked for the next two years. It's a good and strong community, if spread a little thin, and I really love how in touch the site's creators are with their users. I've harped about this before, I know, but I still consider the way they handled introducing video uploads to be an act of pure genius. It's just clear they put a lot of thought into it before going public, and were very receptive to feedback both before and after launch.

That's another reason I reinstated my FlickrPRO account; I want to help get the Video community more recognition. Although it's a nice video community, I feel like no one's really given it a chance and people are very slow to warm up to it. Most videos are lucky if they get more than 100 views, and I don't think I've ever seen a video with views counting over 1,000. So, I want to do what I can by uploading a few more videos (I posted my Pattern 158 animation there first before posting it and the rest of the trilogy here) to my photostream. I haven't decided what they'll be just yet. I'm just fascinated by the 90-second time limit; I take it as a challenge. It makes me think of how, in my video art classes at UNM, we'd have assignments with one, three, or five-minute time limits, and yet despite repeated emphases on length, someone would always have a ten or even thirty-minute "magnum opus" on the due date. Sure, we would still watch it and maybe even give a fair critique at the end, but it was obvious that, despite any praise or comment, what most of us really wanted to say was "Really? You couldn't keep THIS under 5 minutes? Are you THAT in love with yourself?" In our defense, it wasn't out of complete impatience; one of my really good friends always delivered these technical and artistic masterworks that were, by contrast, criminally short, like 10 or 15 seconds (including titles and credits). I swear, one time at least five of us simultaneously let out variations of "damn it" when one of his pieces ended. I can appreciate that a project can start as a small idea and then grow over time into something bigger, but when that happens, you're really supposed to put that project on the backburner or produce it in parallel to a new, but shorter, project.

Anyway, that's the news for now. I've got a few more journal entries waiting in the wings that I'll post once I get back around next Sunday.

06 February 2010

How I found a song against all odds today

About 4pm today, I got hungry and decided to make some pasta. Nothing special, mind you, just some orzo with sun-dried tomato cheese sauce mixed with vodka sauce. I got the pot full of water and turned the oven on when I realized that we were completely and utterly out of soda.
"This will not do," I thought, remembering Thomas Pynchon's college diet of Spaghetti and Soda and being hard-pressed to think of a better combination of flavors than cola and pasta. I turned the oven off, and ran out to Walgreens to remedy this situation.

There was this song playing on the overhead speakers. While normally I tune this stuff out, this one particular song caught my attention as I really just wasn't quite sure of what I was hearing. It was entirely instrumental, and sounded bizarrely electronic. If I had to guess an era, I'd say circa 1970 given that the synthesizer being used sounded like a cross between a Stylophone and a reed organ. It reminded me of an old video game, like something that plays over the end credits when you beat the final boss. I just pictured this little starfighter flying over an ocean while credits rolled over it, all in beautiful 16-bit graphics.

I had to know what this song was.

Asking around would be pointless; I mean, it's not anyone's job to know what plays over the speakers in a convenience store, and I know I'd have hated to be asked that if I'd worked there (no way to know and even less of a way to find out). I pulled out my cell phone and started up the voice recorder function. It was notably inferior to my other dedicated voice recorders, but I didn't have any of them with me, so I'd have to make do. Luckily, the song had only just begun when I remembered that there was a surefire way to find out what the song was as long as I had a recording of it. I got a full minute before the next song started. When I got back home, I moved the file onto my computer. Strangely, instead of a .wma or even maybe a .wav file, it was something called .amr, which I could play back just fine in RealPlayer, but I wasn't able to convert it to anything else. Anyway, I went to Yahoo! Answers, a place known for the "What's this song?" question. I uploaded the .amr file to my website and put the file's link in the question. I pressed 'publish' and went about my normal browsing business while my question gathered answers. About four hours later, I checked back on my question, very surprised to find four answers in so little time.

Sadly, it seemed .amr is a file type that cannot be stored. All four answers said the link was bad. I clicked on it and instead of getting a "Download now" prompt or something, I got an error message that .amr is a file type that is not supported by Freeservers. I thought, "What does that matter? It's just data. I'm not trying to play it in the webpage, I'm just trying to download it." I deleted the question and sulked. It was really disappointing because I'd have this little sound file on my phone that I could only share with people I met in person. One thought that occurred to me was playing the sound back on my phone and recording it with one of my voice recorders. The problem is, because the cell phone's voice memo function was barely an afterthought to its construction, the song was way too faint to be heard, and thus re-recorded properly. Playing back to human ears was manageable, but to another microphone would be impossible.

So, in desperation, I went to wikipedia and just looked up "instrumental." At first, I wasn't expecting anything beyond a simple description, "songs without vocals" or something pedestrian like that. Instead, what I got was a list of instrumentals that made Billboard's Top 100. The thought occurred: "if an instrumental was popular enough to be on the overhead speakers of a Walgreens, it must be popular enough to have been on the Billboard Top 100." There were only about 20, and after the first one proved to not be the one, I skimmed the list and came across:

Telstar, by the Tornados.

"Just sounds right, somehow," I thought. I clicked on the link to the article and within two paragraphs, my certainty rose: "This novelty record was intended to evoke the dawn of the space age, complete with sound effects that were meant to sound 'space-like'." Again, more enthusiasm of being completely on the money rose, and that's when I saw the sample button.

It was the song.

So, what did I do? I hopped right over to Amazon, dropped a Lincoln shy of a Washington and within seconds, I had the song that I'd heard over the PA system of a Walgreens four hours ago, a song with no distinct or recognizable lyrics, and an indescribable instrumentation.

It's funny how things work out like that.

05 February 2010

Rampart in 3 Parts Has Gone Live

If there's a single positive thing I would ever have to say about YouTube, it's that I actually really like the annotation and interactivity features. Some people use them to append factual updates to their v-logs, which is very useful given the time it can take to edit and upload a video, not to mention what can transpire after it goes live. One of my favorite YouTube videos is an interactive game that uses stop-motion animation of Street Fighter action figures. It's simplistic, but it's beautiful for it. I'm using the middle-of-the-road feature of annotations where I simply put links to the subsequent and previous entries in the series at the beginnings and endings of the videos. That said, I'd really love to do more stuff that takes advantage of the interactivity features. What gets me is, despite the influence of YouTube, no other video-sharing site has anything close to this. DeviantART has a feature for their videos where you can pause the video and leave a comment at that particular point in the timeline, but that's the closest thing I can find. I would have thought blip.tv would try to trump YouTube, but they don't seem interested.

I really don't know what to think. It's like I said in one of my Twitter posts: Could YouTube be growing on me? O_o

04 February 2010

Honest Theft

You know what really gets under my skin?
The notion that to admit to a wrongdoing is to be absolved from its consequences.

Here's what I'm on about:
My roommate tells me she found this really cool piece of World of Warcraft machinima on Youtube. I watched it, and admittedly, it was pretty damn good, very nicely crafted with the sole blemish being its horrendous soundtrack (I honestly paused the video just to make sure it was really the video's sound and not just Windows Media Player running in the background). Normally, the only machinima I've really liked is Red Vs. Blue, otherwise I consider machinima a pretty low art form, especially when it just uses existing game graphics instead of modified or otherwise re-skinned ones. That's not what bothers me: what bothers me is the person who posted it. Not only were they not the video's original creator, but they actually provided links to the original author's YouTube channel (which is here).

Think about that:
Someone created and uploaded a video to their channel.
Someone else downloaded or captured the video and repost it to their own channel.
They then post a link in the info box to the original video in the original author's channel.

Now I know what some of you might be thinking: "But they're giving credit, at least. They're not claiming it as their own." Okay, granted, they're admitting to what they're doing, but consider this:
1) Why re-upload it when it's still available and live on its original creator's channel?
2) They may not be profiting, or getting any real undue attention, from the video, but those view-counters are going up and up. Each and every one of those views really belongs on the original author's page.

If you want to spread word about the video, there are dozens of better ways to do it besides downloading it and re-uploading it in your channel. Grant a favorite to the video; it'll appear in your channel. Put the video in a playlist. Write a journal entry about it. E-Mail the link to your friends.

That's what irks me. People take something that's not theirs, copy it, present it, then shout from the rooftops that it's not theirs, as if they're doing the original creator a favor.

"I don't own this." Then why do you have it?
"I didn't make this." Then let the person who did decide where it goes.
"I own nothing." Could have fooled me.
"Give him creds." While you take his page views?

Page views may not have a real monetary value, but they are meant to be EARNED, nonetheless.

01 February 2010

Just glasses and utensils now

This has not been a good day, and it's only been morning for about four hours.

I'll leave out the goings-on with my roommate's irritability due to a mishap at her doctor's office resulting in a lapse in receiving her medication. That's been going on a few days and it's mostly tolerable.

This morning I received some equipment I ordered to help with recording my videos, including a Behringer USB mic. I've officially had it installed for about 40 minutes and I'm already thinking about sending it back.

Here's the problem: when I use my webcam to record one of my v-logs or newer reviews, I use Windows Media Encoder as capture software. The main reason for this is that it lets me configure audio and video separately; I can use one device for video, and one for audio (That way, I'm not at the mercy of the webcam's awful built-in mic). Everything seems fine, I set the audio settings to the USB mic, and the video settings to the Ipevo, and set the recording format. Once I hit start, however, I get an error message:

no specified device driver is present 0xC00D0072

This is just impossible as I've installed all necessary drivers and, prior to starting the recording session, the program acknowledged the device's presence and allowed it to be configured. I went to Behringer's site to verify that I did indeed have the most recent driver. I found little to no support articles about the C-1U and ended up having to send an e-mail detailing the issue with WME. I've gotten the obligatory auto-response that it's been received, but a full reply is going to take about one business day. So, that's up in the air.

Then there's the mic itself. It may not work with WME, but it does work with Sound Recorder and Photo Story 3 (though the latter gives me error messages to the contrary despite recordings). I figured that while I'm waiting on a response from Behringer, I'll see how the mic sounds and get a feel for its sensitivity. Ideally, I'd like to have it sitting on my desk next to my webcam so it's not visible in the frame. As a sort of control for the experiment, I just put held it like a Karaoke mic and recorded that way. It sounded brilliant; one of the best microphones I've had. However, when I tried recording again with it on the desk and next to the webcam, it's a whole new story. I should have guessed this might be the case given that putting it on the desk makes a distance of about 2 or 3 feet between me and the mic. That said, it's still really disheartening that I basically have to lean into the mic in order to get the best sound. I'd have to hold it almost directly in front of my mouth while I'm recording, which also means I won't have a free hand if I have to do a review. Me holding a microphone while recording with a webcam would just look horrendous, and it's just not what I got this mic for at all.

So, after days of waiting, and on top of everything else, I finally get my equipment to find that, even if I can get it to interface with my software and recording system, it's completely useless and impractical.

At least I got some of the dishes done before the UPS guy showed up, so the day hasn't started off to a fully-rotten start.