POTW: Document Camera for Cels

February 10, 2010 at 9:41 pm

POTW: Document Camera for Cels

While I was at Ohayocon last week I bought me a couple animation cels. I've been collecting them for a while and both of the cels I got matched two series I like and already have a few cels. Out of interest I decided instead of using a scanner for the cels (and because I still don't have it setup) I decided to try setting up a document camera. The premise is simple; suspend the camera directly above document and take a picture. It takes a little more work though. For example you can see below what a natural light shot would look like.

Ambient shot of animation cel

Reflections galore. Plus the light in this is a chandelier with incandescent lights on a dimmer. Even at full bright they're still warmer than a standard incandescent lightbulb. That's why even with the white balance set to incandescent it's still a little warmer than it should be. I could have tweaked it some but I'm just using this for an example.

Here is the final setup.

POTW #6 setup shot

If you click on the picture and go to the flickr page you can see the notes I made about what everything is. In short I have my Dolica tripod's center column inverted and tilted so I can aim the camera straight down. I could have skipped extending the one leg but I would have hit the chandelier. I then have two YN-460 flashes, one at each corner, at 1/32 power. (note: there are better models than this one, I'd go with one that has a rotary dial). They're triggered by some ebay wireless triggers. They have an optical slave but I didn't want any flash to come from the camera. I then switched the camera to manual, set iso to 100 to reduce noise, set shutter speed to 1/250s to remove any trace of ambient light, and adjusted aperture till I got the exposure right.

I'm not 100% happy with these pictures. The light isn't as uniform as I'd like. I probably should have flipped down the wide angle screens that are on the flashes to help distribute the light better. Also since the cel isn't completely flat you see some shadows on the side. The benefit of a setup like this is if you were someone that constantly took pictures of sketches, paintings, cels, etc. Once everything is setup you can take one picture after another. Setting everything up to only take a couple pictures isn't worth it and I'll eventually get my scanner setup to put these with the rest of my cel pictures.

Posted in Photography. |

POTW: Ohayocon 2010

February 3, 2010 at 7:15 pm

POTW: Ohayocon 2010

I went to Ohayocon over the weekend which means I had plenty of pictures for this week so it was hard to make a choice. The above picture was from my first 1 on 1 photo shoot I've ever done. I've been taking pictures of people for years but it's typically one or two pictures and then I move on. I wasn't used to having a single subject for an extended amount of time but was probably one of the most educational things I've ever done. Some general observations from the photo shoot:

  • I'm very comfortable with the equipment. I knew this going in but it just kinda affirmed that I know all the details about my camera and even the new demb flip-it I just received a couple days before the convention. I quite literally never thought about how to set the camera settings; I just set them.
  • First photo shoot at an anime convention was an excellent idea. Another thing I realized before hand but not how much of a benefit it was. I was extremely nervous at first but we're both at an anime convention, so obviously we have something in common to talk about while walking around to locations. Which has also instilled some nervousness for if/when I do a photo shoot outside of a convention setting. Although that could just be solved at the pre-meeting while determining the goal of the photo shoot and such.
  • I really need a faster lens. Faster lens is a term used to describe camera lens that have a larger aperture which means they let in more light which allows me to take better natural light photos indoors. Due to the higher iso I used there's some noise at 100% zoom. I've been having my eye on the Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L lens for quite a while now but not sure when I'll be able to afford it.
  • I rushed things. I expected it to be around a half hour and ended up being like 15 minutes, a lot of that walking around scouting locations. A lot of the negative observations really came to this.
  • I didn't "see" the images. For example the first area we did some photos was against a white wall. White wall plus white parasol don't go well together. This was immediately obvious when reviewing the pictures later but at the moment I just didn't think about it. At the above location first picture she didn't have the parasol behind her so it was dark brown hair against black which didn't look right. Could have solved that a couple ways but the parasol behind her just worked. Another thing that didn't jump out at me but I still found quickly was just the placement of things. For example there are a couple where the hair wasn't straight. Basically simple stuff I should have caught but didn't.
  • I completely didn't think about proper posing and such. Fortunately she was very natural behind the camera and was kinda in auto-pilot so I didn't have to do much direction aside from initial pose. I knew most of the "rules" I just completely didn't think about it during the shoot.

Not really photo shoot specific but just a general observation; convention centers are horrible for color correction. I set the white balance to florescent and gelled the flash with a green filter to color correct the flash to florescent as well. Problem is I typically set the power level of the flash low so there's just a little fill light. The end result was the flash gave a greenish cast to people. I dumped the gel after the first day but it took a while to get the images from the first day usable. Also taking at least 2 pictures of each group worked out really well. Lets me choose when one may have someone walking in the background or something else that detracts from the subject. By far I spent the most time post processing this images than I ever had before. On one image the color balance was really off took quite a while to get good enough. Moments after posting it on the forums though I saw a comment complimenting me about the picture, that made it worth it to me.

I set out with a goal of having over 100 pictures and handing out all 100 of the business cards I had made. In reality I had around 30 images and handed out maybe 15 cards. A lot of the times I saw someone I wanted to take a picture but I didn't want to hold back foot traffic for it. I did do the first of what I hope to be many more photo shoots and still had a good weekend. Not sure of the next convention I'm going to. Possibly anime punch but can't say for certain.

Rest of pictures can be found in photo gallery

Posted in Photography. |

POTW: Cleveland Coast Guard

January 28, 2010 at 10:01 pm

POTW: Cleveland Coast Guard

It's winter so it was another dreary week for taking pictures. Originally went out to take pictures at nearby Edgewater Park when I figured I'd see if I can get to the coast guard station. Much to my surprise it's open to the public right up to the building. Took a lot more work to get inside and it was pretty run down. Had a nice view from the top although I'm sure it would have been better if it wasn't winter.

This coming weekend I'm going to Ohayocon and I plan on taking a ton of pictures and even try a couple photo sessions for the first time so I'll have something other than grey outdoor shots next week.

Rest of pictures can be found in photo gallery.

Posted in Photography. |

POTW: Does That Include Ice Fishing?

January 20, 2010 at 11:37 pm
POTW: Does that include ice fishing?

I got a half day off from work and with lake erie being frozen over I'd try and get some pictures of the frozen lake. Ran into a couple issues. First I turned up the exposure compensation to +1 to make the snow white. While it looked ok on the histogram when I went over them on the computer a lot of them were too bright. Had to manually tone down a lot of them. Another thing I completely forgot about was the highlight tone priority option my camera has. It's pretty much designed for situations just like this to bring out the detail in white areas. So if I could do it again I'd enable that highlight tone priority and not go overboard on the exposure compensation.

Rest of pictures can be found in photo gallery

Posted in Photography. |

POTW: Mice Always Outsmart the Cat

January 12, 2010 at 9:03 pm

POTW: Mice Always Outsmart the Cat

Only week 2 and I already have a picture of my cat. Thought of this one when I had to get my cable box replaced and I put him in his carrier so he wouldn't bolt for the door. He was in there giving me pretty much the same look as he is in picture.

I had several ideas for lighting this. Wanted to somehow light the inside of the carrier. Unfortunately my subject wouldn't let me constantly readjust things so I just turned on the halogen lamp I have in the corner of room and went with that.

Posted in Photography. |

POTW: Cleveland Cold Storage

January 7, 2010 at 10:43 pm

POTW: Cleveland Cold Storage

This first week was a short one. Fortunately I finally had a chance to go through the cleveland cold storage building. The goal of going there was to get a good picture of cleveland skyline and weather just wasn't permitting. Plus it was about 20° before you factored in the wind chill. This was one of my favorite images even if it's a common picture from abandoned buildings since there are allways a lot of hallways and they're allways messy.

All the pictures can be found in my photo gallery

Posted in Photography. |

My Photography Project for the Year

January 4, 2010 at 11:44 pm

I decided in early December I wanted to do some kind of photography project. There's several different types. For example a picture a day (called 365 projects), 50 pictures using a 50mm lens), 1 picture a week (called 52 weeks)projects), etc. Subject matter can be set as well. There are 365 projects where it's specifically a self portrait. Some where you take some little charm and take a picture that includes it. The possibilities are pretty much up to the photographer to set.

I went with a fairly open project. At least one picture a week (could be up to 3 if I did a lot of things). The weeks are from Monday to Sunday. The picture taken the previous week will be posted sometime in the following week. For example since the new year started on Friday I have a picture from this weekend ready. There's no other restrictions as far as subject matter. Reason I chose this over a picture a day is because I know if I took a picture a day it would be really uninteresting for people. 50% would be of my cat, 25% would be of some random place in my house, 20% would be of some random place at work, and 5% would actually be worthwhile. With a picture a week I hope to just focus on the good 5%. I need to figure out where I'm going to post it. I'm currently thinking of posting it on flickr although I'm not a big fan of them. A lot of people will just assume it's free for them to use even if the picture is "© all rights reserved". The advantage to flickr is the community and possibility of getting feedback. Heck, all the links above point to flickr groups. I'll definitely host it in my photo gallery as well. Also with only a picture a week I may post it to this blog as well. I'll work on getting a photography only feed going so if you just want to follow my photography stuff you can.

Check back soon for more information and the first picture. Even better just subscribe to the feed using your favorite rss reader (I use google reader) and then it will check for you.

Posted in Photography. |

Aion and why I like it (and you should too)

September 13, 2009 at 11:01 pm

Ever since I first heard of MMORPG's I always thought that the pricing plan was crazy from a consumer point of view. You pay $50 for a game and then pay another $15 a month to play it. Obviously it's good for the game maker, that's why a lot of places are trying to be "the next warcraft". Originally I said I wouldn't pay for a game and then pay again to play it. Later on, mainly once I got a good paying job, I changed my mind that I would get a game if I found one that was worth it.

I've played a few RPGs, all free. First notable one was called PlaneShift (fun fact: took me a good 30-45 minutes of searching to find it). Probably early 2000's. I never really got into it though and played it off and on for a couple years. The one I really got into was rappelz. This is a korean MMO. There are a bunch of these. A common thing with these is something called grinding. Basically you have no real quests to do and just kill monsters to get a higher level. That is another common thing with korean RPGs, extremely high levels that takes forever to achieve. Rappelz is "free to play, pay to win." Meaning while you could play for free if you wanted to get anywhere fast you'd need to pay. You would buy various items, usually they were timed so you have to keep buying them. This helped you level faster, which was really the only motivation in the game. Also the in game economy was highly inflated. A common way to make in-game money was to buy an item from the cash shop and then sell in-game at ridiculous prices. Even then there were luls in the game where the only thing you could do was attack monsters, grinding. In short, it got boring.

I then finally tried World of Warcraft. I really wasn't that impressed with it. It was like how I'd imagine a paid MMO would be. Obviously money wasn't as big an issue since you already paid to play the game you're not really gauged on in game items. I didn't find it all that interesting. Quests didn't seem to have a plot to it. You were just a random person that helped out random people and no real cohesion. I only played on a one week trial but I didn't really feel it was worth the price.

I've heard of Aion for a while now, mainly from people in rappelz who were annoyed with the money gauging in this "free" MMO. Initially I was drawn to it mainly because it looked pretty--what can I say, I'm a sucker for aesthetics. Also the flight mechanic and PvPvE aspect. PvPvE stands for player vs player vs enemy. Without getting too far into the story, there's 2 player controlled factions, Elyos and Asmodian. They are sworn enemies and are unable to talk to each other, similar to warcraft. There is then a third faction called Balaur that is entirely computer controlled. In between each of the player-controlled factions is an area cheerfully called the abyss. In this area both player-controlled factions and the computer controlled one battle each other in a king-of-the-hill type match. There are several structures in the abyss that all three factions are trying to conquer. Whoever controls the most structures gains benefits by taxing the other factions and several other things that can start getting complicated. In short, your faction wants to control as many of these towers as possible. During these battles it could just be the two player controlled factions. Other times the computer controlled one could swoop in. Some interesting scenarios. Let's say you are part of the Elyos faction. You are trying to take an area controlled by the Asmodians. You start attacking when the Balaur come in and start attacking the Asmodians as well. You could help the Balaur in attacking the Asmodians and then attack the Balaur afterwords. You can help the Asmodians attack the Balaur and then attack the Asmodians.

There are a few things I like about Aion. First is the concept of storyline quests. Instead of just helping farmer joe kill some monster that's messing with crops, you are doing things that help progress your own plot through the game. Even in warcraft I never really got that feeling of being anything more than a single person doing the dirty work of people without any real plot to it. Next is the PvP aspect. I usually stayed away from PvP in games but it was mainly because it sucked. Various classes were simply more powerful and matches were done and over pretty quick. The couple times I did duals in Aion there were enjoyable and I felt like things were more even. If you search on youtube for aion you'll see plenty of duals and in one you'll see one class dominates another while in another video, even with the same person, they can be demolished. It comes more to the skill of the player and not just mash attack keys.

The open beta of Aion ends Today with the full game starting next week. I'm excited about it and if I seem to fall off the grid next week you'll know where I am. Now how I'm going to juggle this with all my other hobbies like photography, gaming on ps3, watching tv and movies, working on this website and other internet things, and trying to keep my house clean still remains to seen.

Once I get into the game I'll add what my main server/character name is below.

Posted in Gaming. |

Privacy concerns with foxmarks / xmarks

April 13, 2009 at 1:30 pm

The foxmarks plugin is a very popular plugin for firefox that lets you sync bookmarks between computers.  I've used it ever since google bookmarks was cancelled and has worked great for me.

Recently they announced changing their name to xmarks as well as adding some new "features."  A lot of them revolve around bookmark discovery.  xmarks scans your bookmarks anonymously to see what pages have been bookmarked a lot.  It can then show a special icon next to something that has been bookmarked by other people.  Now they really reinforce that the data is anonymous but it's still a concern for me.  Bookmarks I really want to share I bookmark at delicious.  If I'm not saving it on there, I generally don't want to share the bookmark.  It could be private administration pages, for example.

Good news is you can opt out.  Login to your account and choose change your bookmark options (that link should take you straight to that page after login). remove the checkmark and save changes.  Alternatively it's pretty simple to delete your account entirely if you're really concerned.

Only other alternative I can think of is weave by mozilla.  It encrypts the data before sending it to the server so there's no way they can access it.  It's also possible to store the bookmarks on your own server.  To be fair xmarks offers this as well.  You also may want to go into xmarks preferences and disable all the suggestion links.  Although there's the privacy concerns but I disabled it only because that's extra network requests that are made and can slow down page views slightly.  May not be too significant but with all the other plugins I have the fewer extra requests I'm making, the better.

I'm still going to stay with xmarks.  Currently they support firefox, internet explorer, and safari.  I'm hoping they add support for a couple other browsers I'm interested in; Opera and Chrome.  Weave is still in alpha/beta.  As of writing they're at version 0.3.  I've used it before and worked more or less fine, had some minor stability issues that may have been fixed by now.

Posted in Security and Privacy. |

Now Using Kohana

February 28, 2009 at 12:06 am

After a couple weeks I've finally moved the site over to Kohana Framework. It's a fork of CodeIgniter but designed to take advantage of PHP 5.2+. It also uses a "cascading file system" which allows for several nice things, like making me a section to admin the site with. Can finally stop entering these blog posts in phpMyAdmin.

You shouldn't notice any difference with the site itself. It may be a little slower since Kohana doesn't have the all-or-nothing page cache that CodeIgniter had. But it's more powerful so I can cache just certain parts of pages. Once I implement a page cache again this site will feel just as zippy as before

Posted in Website. |