o · tac · ra · cy [oh-tok-ruh-see] 1. government by otaku; a form of government in which supreme power is vested in ardent enthusiasts of video games, music, anime, photography, food, cars, sports radio, printing, plush toys, judo, kites, and Roland AX-7 keytars. 2. the personal blog of Vincent Diamante.
For many years, one of my favorite websites to keep up with was Kazuhisa Nishikawa's Photogenic Weekend. Every week, the popular Japanese camera news site Digital Camera Watch (which I'd usually refer to by the beginning of its URL: dc.watch) would feature a new photo spread by Nishikawa, a working gravure idol photographer, created with a recently released camera. Starting in 2004, he just kept plugging away week after week, camera after camera trained on various models. It was a really excellent feature, and one I had mentioned on this blog before.
Then one week in March of 2011: there was no new feature. For a few months after, I would return to the site hoping to see an update... only to be met with disappointed.
Yesterday, however, while trawling the internet for news about the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, I discovered: PHOTOGENIC WEEKEND IS BACK!
After a hiatus of more than a year, the website has returned with a dedicated URL, http://photogenicweekend.net/, and a new feature. The new Olympus is taken out for a spin with model Hitomi Yasueda. Unlike previous Photogenic Weekend installments, the emphasis is on the camera's video capabilities, the article's two embedded youtube videos accompanied by a mere two photos of our model. Still, it's the first week, and most cameras are usually put through the wringer for a good month before moving on to the next body.
(See what I did there?)
Finding out the feature has resurrected itself into a new website was a really pleasant surprise. It's definitely cool to see some of these new cameras put to use almost immediately.
It would be a bit more cool if the models were a bit more attractive, I think. :)
I've been going crazy in the mean time. Good crazy, but crazy nonetheless.
Probably the biggest change has been my new job. (Not the most important change, though. That honor goes to my girlfriend, Valerie! ^^) For the last year, I've been working as the audio director on a fighting game that should be released very soon. Being a hardcore console game title, the team is working: hardcore!
My own work situation has me balancing this job with my teaching gig at USC. If it's a day where I'm not lecturing, I'm usually spending about 4-6 hours at home doing sound and music before doing another 6-10 hours working in the game itself, whether it's further design, scripting or (oh please god no!) coding. If it's a day where I'm teaching, well... things get out of hand. Friday, for example, has me lecturing for 7 straight hours, from 10 AM to 5 PM. Usually the best I can do is fit in 2-4 hours before or after that stretch... and then I get brain or ear fried. (I'm using headphones 95% of the time thanks to the open floor plan, so I'm getting some serious ear fatigue...)
Going to try to get back in the habit of posting stuff. Who knows if it'll actually happen, though! At the very least, I hope it's not another year before I do another post; hopefully the next one has a little more substance than this...
Yeah, I've been doing it for a while, whether it be for friends at cons or (rarely) at private photoshoots. I enjoy photography, and I appreciate cosplay, but I've always considered myself more a con photographer than a cosplay photographer. A cosplayer facing the camera with a practiced pose never struck me as quite so interesting as the con itself: a huge writhing beast, barely in control by the executive decision makers at the top and the gofers at the bottom; always undulating, creeping forwards with the funk of con attendees and the cries of memes.
Con photographs, pictures showing the convention in action, comprise the vast majority of my personal favorites.
I usually took these pictures with a a digital SLR. However, I didn't have one available by the time Anime Los Angeles rolled around this year. Instead, I had a Casio pocket-sized point and shoot camera. Honestly, I felt like I couldn't give the con or the cosplayers a proper service with just this cam, especially next to the guys rocking out things like $1000+ Canon L lenses and even more expensive Steadicam rigs. Still, I had to do something; if I couldn't be better with the Casio, I could be unique.
One of the reasons I got the Casio was because of its slow-motion video recording. The Casio EX-FH100 can record video at 640 x 480 resolution with 120 frames-per-second speed. If I can't do comparable quality-wise, maybe I can do something unique...
Here are some videos of cosplayers which follow logically from typical cosplay pictures...
And here are some videos of the con being... well... a con...
This last one, I particularly like. We see pictures of organized cosplay gatherings like this all the time, but few see it from the cosplayers' perspective, especially as they are being called to the front.
So... yeah. Though I did do some typical picture stuff (see: my flickr set), I did a lot of slow motion video (see: my youtube account) and... I enjoyed doing something different. Despite a different process, I think I did a decent first attempt of sticking with what I enjoy, which is: conveying the con itself while letting the other photographers focus on doing the usual cosplay photography.
Haven't updated this thing in months, I know. Part of it is because of lack of time, and part of it is this general feeling that I haven't been feeling very otaku about anything. Heck, I barely remember the last time I felt even mildy interested in any particular subject.
Hopefully this will change in the coming weeks.
I'm going to try some different things on for size. Really exploring what my PSP can do. Augmenting my penchant for still photography with some videography. Creating some physical (rather than digital) games for anime and manga fans. Writing more songs with vocals.
And then there's the really big one: COSPLAY. Yes, I'm going to dress up. Yes, this scares the crap out of me. I'll probably spending some time talking my way through this and hopefully showing what I'm doing to make progress between now Fanime 2011...
Things I like to think I'm good at include (in no particular order): teaching, writing game music, game design, photography, and talking extensively on topics I am knowledgeable on.
Things I'm not very good at include: writing about topics I am knowledgeable on and maintaining this blog.
Kind of sucks, that. I know I have real info to share out there that people would appreciate. Things like: greater insight into the whats and whys of my music composition process. Or: a review of the only Wii game I own. Or even: talking about trends I've seen in six years of teaching video game design and production classes to students ranging from 14 to 40.
I'll deal with all that. Soon. Even with my squeamishness about writing in a space that has sites like School Girl Milky Crisis providing material written far more eloquently. I'll just have to get over that. Not right at this very moment, granted, but soon. This month, even!
Just give me a moment to get my new apartment in order, along with wrangling some decent internet service.
(One more thing to add to the list of things I'm good at: maintaining a healthy colon-to-period ratio.)
After nearly two years with the Olympus E-3, it's time to put this DSLR back out on the market and into the hands of some other photographer. Unlike the Pentax K20D that immediately preceded it, I'm letting this camera go with my respect for it and happiness with it at a high... and that's pretty darn high, considering I originally got this as a replacement for the Nikon D700 that disappointed me a while back. This is a really good, really underrated camera and, under different (financial) circumstances, I would have kept it around for much longer as I continued building up my collection of Olympus gear.
The Horipad EX2 Turbo is a good pad for Xbox 360 gamers needing a pad for fighting games. After all, it's got six face buttons and a responsive cross-style directional pad: everything a fighting game player who prefers pads to sticks needs, right?
Actually, let's go a bit further and say: The Horipad EX2 Turbo is the best fighting game pad for Xbox 360, but it can't be your general purpose pad, even if it sports the usual analog sticks and triggers. If you are worried that it shares a name with the poor EX2 stick Hori issued a while back, rest assured: it is a significantly higher quality product worth having as an option for players during your next fighting game party. It may even grow to be your primary controller for fighting games.
The Horipad EX2 Turbo features 13 buttons compared to the standard 360 pad's 11, the extra two being the result of the bumpers featuring on both the top and the face of the controller. From the pictures, you can see the extra charcoal color buttons featuring next to the colored ABXY cluster. Those two extra face buttons actually have a slightly different shape compared to the main four; in practice, however, one doesn't notice the difference in shape as bothersome. Similarly, it looks as though the buttons are situated a little too close to the right edge of the controller for comfort, but the buttons were always easy to access quickly, whether you play with a standard console grip (using primarily the right thumb) or an arcade style approach (using the fingers of the right hand, from index to ring finger).
The button configuration isn't totally perfect, however. It would be nice if there was a little more space between the buttons, in order to better accommodate a four button Neo Geo style layout. I tried playing Garou: Mark of the Wolves with thumb on A, index on X, middle on Y, and ring on LB; while I could maintain the security of having every finger in contact with buttons throughout for round after round, my right hand cramped up much faster than using the same style of play on a Sega Saturn pad (still the gold standard for fighting game joypad design) or ASCII FT pad (that sports an even better button layout than the Saturn pad, thanks to its even larger button spacing and consistent button shape). A few millimeters here and there could have elevated the buttons from very good to great.
The d-pad is in the classic cross style, and it is an excellent pad indeed. If you're familiar with the cross-pad Hori used for their classic fighting pad for the GameCube, then you'll be right at home with the EX2. It's not the exact same as that earlier iteration: the EX2 sports a slightly larger crosspad than on the GameCube version, and the points are slightly raised (thankfully not to the blister inducing level of the ASCII FT Dreamcast pad). If anything, it is slightly more responsive than that already excellent d-pad. More importantly, after a few months of intense play, the d-pad has maintained the same level of sensitivity as when it was new; no need to smash your left thumb to register directions. Whether it be Super Street Fighter IV, Samurai Shodown II, or Soul Calibur II, motions proved as easy to do with the EX2 pad as any other. It's easily on par with the circular pad of the Saturn and, in my mind, significantly ahead of the MadCatz Street Fighter pads when it came to performing everything from dragon punches to 720s to "how the heck do I do this!" ridiculous (read: weird SNK style) motions.
Besides the standard controller acoutrements, the EX2 features turbo button functionality and the ability to change your analog stick sensitivity. These features worked. I didn't give them a super rigorous test, but it might be worth noting that I've never had higher scores in Outrun Online Arcade than when using the EX2 with the lower sensitivity analog engaged. The extra functionality didn't really enhance my play of After Burner Climax, but using only the left analog stick, the controller felt comparable to the experience using a standard 360 pad.
If you need to dual-stick, whether in Call of Duty or Geometry Wars, the slight difference from the standard 360 pad made using the pad both frustrating and uncomfortable. The left analog stick is decently positioned, but the right stick simply felt too far away from the right hand grip, a consequence of the controller face gaining those extra buttons. While the difference is a matter of millimeters, the slight change in position combined with the slightly longer throw of the stick meant that aiming in shooters was a much less insignificant task, causing myself and other players who used the pad to underestimate motions, overcorrect shots, and cuss.
While I'd discourage you from using the EX2 as a substitute for the standard 360 pad for all of your game library, the fact that it has all those standard features on top of the fighting game specific features while maintaining a street price at or below the going price for the d-pad only MadCatz Street Fighter IV FightPad makes Hori's offering a no-brainer when it comes to value. The MadCatz pad has gained a decent following thanks to being the most marketed of fighting pads available for the current gen consoles. Neither the 360 nor the PS3 version have a space in my home, now. It used to be that I only played fighters on PS3 thanks to its ability to use Saturn USB pads. My Xbox fighting game library can finally be enjoyed with the Horipad EX2 Turbo.
Now if only I could continue to play Street Fighter III: Third Strike over Xbox Live...