-.-

2.02.11

How To: Record Live Video from VDMX with BoinxTV and Syphon

This is the super secret sauce to Record a live video performance with VDMX including audio that is in sync - using only one computer to play and record - have better frame rate on your output then without recording (yeah no shit).

What you need:
Syphon Plugins for Quartz Composer installed
you find them here http://syphon.v002.info/
Helpfull is also the simple server/client to check if you get stuff out of VDMX.


You need of course VDMX in its very newest incarnation (beta) I used 8.0.0.8 successfully - newer versions should not have any problem. Its important that your version VDMX has Syphon support build in.
You can get VDMX over at vidvox.net
still the best VJ instrument out there.


You also need BoinxTV - its a program designed to make and record "live" TV shows. While it can´t stream the stuff (yet - I am promised to have streaming capabilities by summer) it can record in about any format you would want to.
I am using the "Big" edition of BoinxTV but I am told by the people behind BoinxTV that the "home" edition is sufficient for this purpose. Its 39.99 Euros in the App Store:

BoinxTV Home Edition

(I am not affiliated with the nice people at Boinx - they just have been extremely helpful in helping me make it work)


So once you have all this installed and running:

1. Activate Syphon Output in VDMX
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As you can see I made a group of my VDMX layers that I use for the Syphon source rather then using the normal "Output".
The reason I do this is that I found the output from BoinxTV for the second monitor works way faster then the one from VDMX - yeah no kidding - in the end everything works much smoother recording then when I am using VDMX alone - which is mightily weird but maybe - just maybe - the code for the second monitor output is more optimized in BoinxTV then it is in VDMX.
So go ahead and completely disable the output in VDMX.


Now open BoinxTV. Load up this project file: BoinxSyphonQuartzLayer.tvshow.zip. If all goes well you should see your vdmx output right in BoinxTV. Now you can change your recording option to the movie file type you like and hit the record button and it should record your output instantly - it will also record the audio from the choosen source (for me that is internal mic or Line-In but if you have a fancy audio device attached it should also record that).

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Now the last thing you need to do is to enable the second monitor output in BoinxTV and you are ready to go.

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(Its the top right hand button that you see in the screenshot)


As for speed - if you use two or more harddrives (one dedicated for just recording while from the others you load & play your loops movies whatever) it awesome. I get full 25fps when recording 640x480 visuals - I have not tried more - but this is on my modest 2008 MacBookPro - you might even get away with HD on the newer machines - definitely on a MacPro (which I still have to to test). I am recording with Apple Intermediate Codec for the moment as this is the least heavy on the processor and has very good quality and the files don´t become unmanageble - you could of course directly record to H264 and with a USB compression helper that might be very fast as well - also with a big harddrive and an SATA connection (on a MacPro) you Apple ProRes is a possibility - that would give you uncompressed recording - totally awesome if you want to reuse your stuff for later editing - or if you use VDMX for Effects generation - the possibilities all of the sudden become endless :)

Lots and lots of thanks go out to Leon von Tippelskirch for helping me along in the process and made some quartz magic to have it all work inside BoinxTV and the great people who programmed the amazing video tapping technology Syphon.


If you have any further question feel free to ask.
This info the project file and everything else can be and should be distributed as widely as possible. I hope you have fun with it and we see a sudden influx of great VJ recordings on the web :)

23.10.10

The How and What and Why of 3D Conversion

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I have recently worked for a very large cooperation on a very large scale project that involves magicians and sorcerers and a fantasy world. This film was suppose to go to the big screen - like the really really big screen - in 3D - now it will only be in 2D. Sorry for the mangled description I am still under a somewhat restricting Non Disclosure Agreement.

Let me be assured that this particular movie franchise is so big that any misstep is costing the production company likely a couple million bucks. The decision to not release the movie in 3D was made not very long before its release after a lot of very good work has gone into the conversion already. Yes conversion. I am not here to spill the beans on how this all happened on the management side - I also can not talk to detailed about how their particular approach to conversion was done. I just want to answer a couple of more general questions on 2D to 3D conversions. I feel that this is public knowledge and can be talked about (looks over his shoulder to see if an army of lawyers is on his back).

The first question I get asked over and over again is why a movie that big has not been shot in 3D in the first place - as most conversions that have been done looked horrible where eye hurting and generally not good for the general experience (Alice In Wonderland for example).
I have asked this question myself in the team over and over again. There is one simple answer I got back: its not easier for an visual fx heavy film to get produced entirely in 3D then it is for the film to be converted to 3D. Some even said - its more expensive and more difficult to have a complete 3D pipeline from shoot to delivery then a conversion.
Why is that? For one shooting 3D is not perfect. There are pretty much 3 different ways to shoot 3D and all have a number of problems. You have parallel - having two cameras (or lenses like the new panasonic camera) side by side total parallel. Now for wide shots with no near foreground this works ok - but forget any and all closeup action - you will get out of the movie theater cross eyed. You can mimic what happens here by holding a finger very close to your eyes in the middle of the head.
That can be enhance by actually angling the camera a bit toward each other (making them crosseyed) converging on the point of interest. Since this is all just tricking our eyes believing we see a 3D picture when in fact we only see a 2D picture on the screen this opens a can of worms. What happens with far distance background, how can one quickly and precisly enough change the angles of both camera bodies to adjust for a character coming from far back to the front. Another thing to consider for both techniques is that the further you spread the cameras apart the deeper the image will become - its really interesting how just half a millimeter can totally make the picture unbelievable and break the 3D illusion or just make things look comical.
The third option is the mirror rig. You have two cameras at an angle of 90 degrees to each other (A 3D Rig overview) the image is split between left and right eye by a polarizing mirror. While this approach is more precise as the angulation of both cameras can be set more finely and is mostly used for closeups it has one big drawback - if you polarize you loose reflections, meaning that one eye will not have reflection in it that then later in post have to be painstakingly manually added again (or have the viewer get a headache cause both eyes aint matching the same picture).
Preciseness is the key to all of these approaches - its crazy how our brain actually works in 3D and its not easely fooled or if it is and its not perfectly correct you will have an audience that walks out and takes 10 aspirins and likely never come back to a 3D movie in their lifetime.
Now couple this with no lens on this planet beeing the exact same, every camera can have a billion settings that makes the pictures different, skew of the camera sensors, filters, dust, windgusts, water (like rain) etc etc etc. and you start getting an idea of what can actually go wrong in shooting. On top of all that there is not soooo extremely much you can do with the picture ones its shot. There is a $8000 dollar plugin that lets you adjust some stuff (and help you a tiny bit with the VFX in the next paragraph) but its not magic and it surely is not a cure all.

On top of these problems comes the next. Doing visual effects for 2D is hard enough - especially if you are working on films that are finalized in 4k (4096×3072 pixels or the like depending on widescreen format used). You trick you way around to make cables invisible, paint back hairs where the green screen didn´t work, manually draw masks 24 frames for every second of film to make a robot stand behind a person not in front, adjust colors to perfection so things look right and fit together. Now in 3D you have two pictures that pretty much are the same but aren´t. If you think its just a "copy over" one side to the other and then thats it forget about it. Talking to a fellow compositor who has worked on a 3D movie the full scope came to light - he said (and I might add he is pure genius young compositor - way better then me) - he needs TEN times as much time to finish a shot then he would in 2D - ugh.
Summing that up - the reason why a lot of films are still rather converted from 2D to 3D have to do with no real good shooting options on set, highly difficult compositing and not much leverage to adjust depth after it was shot. Making it more expensive (and not necessarily better) to shoot then to convert.

So how does a conversion work. Well. I think I can say that much its A LOT of manual labour. You basically build the scene that you want to convert roughly in 3D cut out the objects in your scene based on depth then project those objects onto their respective 3d object then render the whole thing from a camera that is of to the side. That leaves you with an occlusion edge that then has to be mostly manually filled in and corrected. Thats mostly a job of making up what would be behind objects. Crazy stuff really do one pixel mistake in this and it all stops working, giving your headaches or looking just outright laughable - mostly its headache so. Bad conversions have hair of characters sticking not on their head but to the back wall, see through object looking like cardboard, weird depth changes when one object switches with another through depth (like two people dancing and swiveling around).

Pros of a conversion: Its cheaper with FX heavy stuff - the director and his team (of stereographers) can adjust depth on the fly in the editing room - a HUGE plus to make the movie coherent (like so your eyes don´t have to constantly adjust to different depth in every scene) and just adjust individual scenes to make them look perfect or to isolate one character or object in 3D space. (this is the thing where 3D shines from a filmmaker perspective)

Do I like 3D? I watched avatar and I didn´t think it has merit. Really thought that its a neat gimmick but nothing more. Having worked on it and stared at a single scene for quite some time and made small adjustments here and there and looked at other scenes I do
think yes as a filmmakers tool it has its place across all genres of film. I actually think that "talking heads" movies can benefit from it almost more then action movies with fast edits. While the latter will have the or other "shock" moment it will break your head with all these fast edits that change depth and your eyes trying to adjust (but having nothing to adjust because they are looking at a 2d image after all) every half second. With talking heads movies you can isolate characters (in a very minimal way but its beautiful actually) far big landscapes will evoke more emotions then ever before and you will be more immersed in the feeling of the film in general. (now I still like the gimmick at points but its really not where 3D really shines).

Oh and don´t judge the 3D conversion thing on movies like Alice in Wonderland or Saw 3D cause that have been bad conversions - it can look much much better - I have seen it and I think next year there will be some very good conversions coming. Even the biggest FX houses still struggling to put up a pipeline for 3D that works - its all tough and eats up money for breakfast like no other new technology and eats manpower for lunch and directors for dinner.

If you have any other question I can try to answer or ask people more in the know then me - just leave a comment.

9.09.10

FiG the Protofloor Crew Mix

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Not so long ago the prototypen crew banded together with the #tassebier crew (which is overlapping strongly anyways) to make a small little music floor on a small little open air event called "Feldherrschafft in Grünz" (and if your are englisch speaking don´t even try to pronounce it - it means something like king of the field or such :) One of the things I never fully understood is why DJs don´t play together in large groups more often especially when they hang out in a beautiful place where there is little to loose crowd wise - just throwing favorite tunes at each other and see what comes out. Well since I am not a DJ but wanted to play some tunes I suggested a little mix together at said event and what came out of it I think is more then presentable its a very fine selection of music. It might not always be mixed to perfection but the resulting recording is showing the diversity of our dubby steppy techy jazzy breaking crew. The session went on for a good 2-3 hours - sadly the recording computer stopped recording the thing at 49 minutes - but you get a glimpse into what kind of music we all like to listen to on a bloody saturday sunny afternoon with nobody to care for other then ourself. And yes we had fun :)

So here the mix with @saetchmo @mogreens @karlakakarl @marinelli & @fALk_g (somehow I think I missed somebody but it was a hazy afternoon ;)

direkt link for download

28.05.10

Visual Berlin Festival - The Night Program

I have found over the years that the best events are those that are born out of chaos. Coming from that conclusion I think that this years Visual Berlin Festival (formerly known as AViT2010) will be phenomenal. After a chaotic first phase of delays and planning it is now shaping up to be the VJ top event of the year. All put together by love without a budget the girls and guys over at Visual Berlin have outdone themselves to invite and promote and organize and plan a festival par excellence. From almost total breakup just two weeks ago when a big partner parted ways there is now a festival that makes sense and it got me and many others very excited.
Personally I am particularely excited about the location where it will all happen - the famous Tresor club - that is in its new home since some years but will open its full potential for the first time with a room for installations that has to be seen to be believed (and I think this is the most stunning location this town has ever seen - forget the berghain even the old ewerk). But I am getting sidetracked. Today was the day when the Night Time Schedule was finalized and made public. Since the prototypen are organizing the Basement Vault Tresor Floor for the "Breaking the Vault" party I am naturally very excited about this progress. (it took some sweat to get there let me tell you). Have a look at the fantastic audio visual lineup not only on that floor but throughout the event - its going to be very very whicked - if you are a visuals lover, a party goer, a dubstep fanatic, hanging onto 8bit tunes - there is something for everyone and its gonna be fun and massive.
I will post more things when they become available - for now have a look at the nighttime schedule:

http://festival.visualberlin.org/night-program/

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18.04.10

The Flin Flon Adventures: Day 15-20 NewDenver/Nelson

Jam Session with Jeremy and some musician friends to figure out if video can lead audio and how both can feed of each other. While it wasn´t perfect for the whole jam there were parts that were extremely tight and working beautifully - very nice.

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Now some uncommented impressions from the valley, lake and drive to Nelson BC. The valley is btw the biggest source for a certain forbidden green crop. It makes the area very rich. Most people have this "second income". Some of the houses are just totally stunning.

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Nelson BC - a very nice town again with a very very hippy vibe to it. I don´t know why I took so little pictures there - sometimes you just don´t feel it I guess. Here is a side alleyway.

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The best (vegetarian organic) burrito ever. You put it together yourself. Choice of 6 organic selfmade sauces - that was ridiculously yummy.

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Brian on Nelson Mainstreet.

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Nelson Mainstreet - the photo doesn´t do the town justice - just for documentary purposes here.

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On the way back in the middle of nowhere on a fallen down barn building on the side of the road this pretty stunning streetart - certain forbidden plants is all I am saying.

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To call New Denver a town would be an insult to other towns - but they had great aspirations in former times, just silver price falling of a cliff some 80 years ago didn´t help the expansion much.

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A(nother) walk along the lake shore third try to find some old mines (I like holes in the ground). Still totally stunning this lake. Mesmerizing. If you ever need a place to find total inner peace this is the most likely one.

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Spring coming - things come alive. How they will survive there between the rocks is another matter I guess.

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Balance.

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I did mention that the water is as clear as it can get - for a lake this size unbelievable clear.

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Ah there it is - a mine. We found many. and they are just that - holes in the ground. I would have loved to climb in but we didn´t have any rope or light with us - damn. One of the mines went in extremely deep. They are just left there open with a very old very rusty fence on top to stop people from intruding.

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Forest.

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On the walk back we came by an electrical switching station. This is the warning sign :)

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Still have no idea what a Block Parents Community is, but the design could be from east germany.

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New Denver has a bicycle hospital with emergency vehicle and all - just in case your bike ever gets sick.

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uhm somebody forgot his toy - then went on to take the bigger toy apart.

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Oh I would have so liked to ride with the cool bus - who wouldn´t.

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Just a nice garden in New Denver. All gardens where nice in New Denver - people have a lot of time around these parts to tend their gardens.

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just because its a nice framing.

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I have a bathtub for growing in the garden as well - it makes a really good flower/vegi pot. I am missing out on the hanging bear :)

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Thats right this way pointer was there at our final destination the top one says "Berlin 10280 km" yes thats how far I was a away from home.

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New Denver Mainstreet - movie set.

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Back at the house the forest just beaming with light -pretty pretty.

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16.04.10

The Flin Flon Adventures: Day 15-20 Silverton/NewDenver/Sandon

Sorry for the lack of updates recently. Bit of city life got into the way and fatigue of selecting and post processing photos and I want to have fun doing it so I hope you still there looking cause there are is some crazy stuff coming up :) Three more entries to go hopefully in less then a week it should finish it all up.

So just to recap we just left Revelstoke and went on the ferry to that island towards New Denver/Silverton where we arrived at our final destination - a house from a guy called bryce that I haven´t meet yet but the house is totally beautiful inside out here is one view of it :)

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Brian introduced me to Jeremy a phenomenal artist - audio and paintings - we had a jam session with him and went on some walks and stuff. On the first walk on the shore of the lake on an old railroad track we tried to find the old mines that are scattered everywhere around this region. Didn´t quite make it to the mines but lots of stuff in the forest telling stories of the past when this area was alive and buzzing with people digging up silver. Like this steelpress thing - no way to move that from where it is ever ;)

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Chains.

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Not so pleasant but realtiy - clear cuts. Why can´t humans leave the bit of untouched nature alone.

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Jeremy and his daughter on the lake. Truly amazing alive nice people.

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The forest up.

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Green getting greener by the day :) Lush dreamy forest.

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Forest. Yes lots of trees everywhere.

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Panoramic lake. This lake is just stunning meditative clear nice relaxing - you gonna see more of it here sorry.

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Then we went to a place called Sandon. Sandon is a ghost town. Formerly housing 15.000 people now there are maybe 30 people living there. Look at this video to see Sandon in its former glory. The silver mine that made that place big is back up and working. The town used to have a walkway on top of the creek. One day a flood came and destroyed half the town who depended on that walkway the rest burned down in two successive fires. Not much left now but you can see a bit of its former glory. Still spooky place - we didn´t see any people while we were there.

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Trying to finally see a mine we made a small walk but the amount of snow made us turn back soon. It did snow the night before you can see the snowfall line in the trees.

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Back in Sandon there was a steam locomotive - there is no traintrack going into this town and that adds to the mystery why that vehicle is there.

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The few houses (10 maybe max) that are there are great looking.

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Oh and I didn´t see a sidewalk but don´t spit on it alright!

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No this is not a mistake. Explaination further down.

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The only shop in town - but there were two museums (closed for the season).

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You seen the detail above. There are about 25 electric busses in town coming from winnipeg. Like with the steam locomotive its a bit of a mystery why they are there (nice too look at but strange in that place). The story goes that there is a guy in town who has two woman and acts like he is the mayor of the town (but not official) and he brings in these old vehicles. Why and what he is going to do with them and stuff nobody knows.

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The reopened Silver mine - run by one guy. It produces silver and goes almost 40km into the mountain :O

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Going back to New Denver you come across these lodge houses - adorable.

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New Denver mainstreet - buzzing with life.

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The lake again - no ripples totally smooth.

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And back to the house.

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3.04.10

The Flin Flon Adventures: Day 9-10 Revelstoke

Revelstoke by far the nicest of the skitowns we have visited and the ski resort just plainly rocks - while still pretty young there is so much backcountry to ski down ones you are up with the lift its crazy. Next time a bit more fresh powder and its heaven on snowboard earth. Anyway let me take you on a early evening stroll through the town.

Lovely houses again. The photos don´t do them full justice but you get the idea.

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And powerlines :)

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The highschool building - straight out of a western movie. Massive entrance.

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A lot of attention to detail everywhere - the beautiful streetsigns.

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Masterfull signage everywhere.

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that chinese restaurant and its signage had some intense magic to it.

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Mainstreet (not very long). Lots of organic bakeries and foodplaces - all in very lovely western styles - again movie set like but totally real.

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The presentation center - former bankbuilding? Greek Columns FTW! ;)

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Well…
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Lower mainstreet.
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A driving tired brian that was worn out on the mountain in Golden earlier in the day.

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uhm. Pinging home.

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Not high noon yet…

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For my home possy a little inside joke.

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An epic long train came along these lamps made beautiful sounds and we have this video of this girl on a really cool bicycle waiting to pass.

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This was back at the Motel - I was told that these are very famous chairs that where every Motel back in the 70s - stylish.

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Next morning sunrise. We are leaving to our final destination.

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The trashcans all had funny shapes across the nation so I finally asked Brian if there is anything behind it - short answer: "Its against bears" - so they don´t like the shape? Anyway bears are a real problem in communities as they dig through trash destroy the trashcans in the process - yes there are lots of bears around - no sadly I have not seen one - they are coming out more in autumn.

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Before reaching our destination one more obstacle to pass. A ferry would get us onto a peninsula behind one of the deepest lake in northern america. The lake was chrystal clear and it never freezes - the ferry is part of the road system and massive and free of charge. So we off into just after sunset - dreamlike landscape and just a hint of how nice it would become.

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Off into the darkness for another 45 minutes and we will have reached Silverton, BC where the house we would stay is - the middle of a very dense very dark forest. up a very icy road behind a couple of bends - but thats for another entry :)

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2.04.10

The Flin Flon Adventures: Day 6-8 Mountains!

Leaving Wildwood the next day first next town we encountered was Edson. Unremarkable town in itself but a few things stuck out. First they seemed to have hired a very capable Corporate Identity Designer who made a logo for the town that actually stuck with me (one can debate if its nice or not - not too bad at least). The logo was put onto every lamppost - if you want to promote your town and your town is mostly a drive through town this is very very effective (if done nicely).

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And Edson had a skatepark too - covered in snow still but quite massive. They have a mayor that understands a few things it seems.

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The graffiti is not the most sophisticated in the world but humorous and playing on wild west themes and I like the stencil of the flower in the middle ;)

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Just a tad out of Edson something appeared on the horizon that I was soooo looking forward too. The Rockies in all their glory and as with any other mountain range they changed my mood they made me a little kid wanting to play in the dirt and climb them board them hug them - just the mountain goat that I am accused of being coming through.

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We drove into the mountains and came to Jasper - a touristy town with almost no native people to be found. Most people in the town where from the philipines. We stayed at the Atha-B - cheap but very nice hotel in town - boarded a bit next day under prestince conditions (and no photos from on the mountains - its my off time from pixels don´t want cameras around ;) slept another night in Jasper and then rocked on north to south inside the Rockies. Beautiful drive here some impressions.

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Totem poles at last after I heard that they actually tell a story and I have never seen one in person I wanted to see one so badly. Really cool story telling tool they had if you ask me. So its a bit hard to see the story but let your imagination run wild and there are lots of stories in them.

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Oh I forgot - in Jasper we left the camera in the hotelroom for a evening stroll - what a stupid mistake - we missed a picture of a lifetime with a caribou standing on the railway line while a lokomotive heading straight toward it making loud noise and all but the caribou (a huge deer like animal) wasn´t moving at all - just shortly before impact it very calmly and slowly marched off the track. The caribou had balls. Could still hate myself for not having the cam with me. The caribous we saw next day chilling out in middle of town - they are just not afraid of anything it seems. This is the closest I can give you for a picture of a caribou - a sign warning us that they are in the area - yes they are.

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The "famous" icefields - a formerly huge glacier that the road went through and just as in the alps - the glacier is gone - receded so far that you had to guess where it is - just the gravel left behind gave you a glimpse of its former glory - but yeah global warming is surely a myth.

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Avalanches are a bigger danger here then in the alps I would say - no matter where we looked a avalanche had come down - they are smaller then in the alps but surely not less deadly.

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I call this mountain alien Mt Rushmore - I hope you can see why ;)

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The frozen waterfalls where everywhere. A feature I have not seen like this in the alps either.

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Yes thats champaign powder up there. :)

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The deers are elegant around here.

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Somewhere here we arrived in Banff - contrary to Jasper it was filled with australien people - and was bigger and even more touristy - didn´t like it at all - but the Banff University is quite a nice place. We stayed two nights boarded at Sunshine and drove to Golden and then onto Revelstoke - mostly boarding and little concentration for nice pictures.

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Our Motel in Revelstoke and that was actually a real town - a town to like with a really nice spirit to it. So there are lots a pictures from this cute place in the next entry.

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1.04.10

The Flin Flon Adventures: Day 5 Part 3 WildWood

So after a long long drive from Flin Flon through Edmonton we were tired enough not to push our way to the mountains but instead eyeing the best next motel. Just that there where none. One on the other side of the road we kinda missed because there was not an easy turnaround and generally turning around wasn´t really our style anyway so we drove and drove and then a town sign for "Wildwood" came up with the tiny icon representing an opportunity to sleep with a roof over our head - we took the exit and found ourselfs in front of this place - well it was weirdly inviting and as it was our only option anyway we went for it. What came up was probably the most surreal night we had on the whole trip - in a very good way. The Silver Spur Hotel and Salloon was like a cross mix between a classic oldschool western bar with a bit of studio 54 a modern disco and a casino mixed in. Really a film could not have build a more fun crazy set then this. There where only three people in the bar. The barkeeper whos name we forgot (and we appologize here), Chrystal the waitress and Justin the woodsplitter. I get ahead of myself.


The bar had this still live with two real stuffed bears and a stuffed owl in one corner.

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The really dry and funny barkeeper.

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Chrystal the waitress.

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Justin the woodsplitter.

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Who ordered us a B52 which the barkeeper mixed to perfection (after fact checking the recipe in a book ;) - with a loose tongue we came to a very interesting and open talk that blew me away. Forget stereotypes fALk really they don´t exist. The young chaps were happy where they lived. They don´t like cities - they like to have no concrete under their feet, they want to get energy independent, they grow their own food. They totally know that they are percieved as rednecks (that word was brought up by them) and to a degree
like that monicker as it gives them an identity but they are not the Sarah Palin kind of rednecks they just like to have fun in their own unique ways - like sitting on an old car hood thats tied to a car and running down a frozen river at 100km/h :) Chrystal is planning on getting solar panels they manage some forest etc etc. all that while they have oil pumps on their fields. And yes they all have internet - I think the main reason for their awareness.
(If any of you three are reading this - you rock! There is hope in the world :)

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Me trying to hide as per usual especially after the B52 ;)

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The Sivler Spur Saloon event schedule. Its usually more busy but there was a brithday party in the next town so most people went there.

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Crazy idea worth having for the club - towel material in pink wrapped tablecloth. It would only work in pink and it needs to be washed after every night but it surely had style.

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The hotel room was a timecapsule.

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This is the Silver Spur Hotel and Saloon from the outside. There was also a chinese restaurant inside - contrast people is where its at :D

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And two more (not so minor) inhabitants of this small village. Again - it was an experience of its own. The village is bleeding inhabitants as the main highway was moved about 300 meter away from the village so people do not stop anymore here. I don´t think this will be bad for them in the long run with such lovely people and a working community.

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If you are ever near make sure you stop by there and have a drink its really an experience to be had.

31.03.10

The Flin Flon Adventures: Day 5 Part 2 Alberta

So fluently we went from Saskatchewan to Alberta - no fancy sign or anything alerting us of the change but something strange happened on the fields all of the sudden.

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Upon closer inspection it became clear what was happening - oil and gasfield exploration in the midst of agriculture. land cattle and fossil fuels would be the slogan for Alberta province.

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Still straight roads it gets a bit more hilly billy.

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And modern oilpumps come in different flavors but all of them are painted in bright colors. To make them more friendly looking?

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The classic oil pump.

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And yeah just fields I like fields.

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more fields with more gastanks they have serious natural gas reserves in Alberta. Makes it a wealthy province - even so - as we later found out - the famers get only a tiny compensation for having something like this on their fields - if they refuse then the companies go to the neighbor farmer and just drill vertically to access the same gas/oil bubble. Not nice practice if you ask me - leaving the farmers poor and the oilcompanies rich.

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Huge all over the place along our journey sticking out like monuments of human technological feats - so we could not figure out what they actually transmitted because it was neither cellphone nor radio most of the time.

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More jumpin moose.

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Don´t ask. I don´t know.

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And we found the road that leads to heaven - if you believe in such things - I don´t so it just too us further west instead of into the sky.

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Two of my favorite field pictures of the whole trip :)

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Me the Sunset Sucker. I mentioned already that this was the longest sunset I ever witnessed because we where driving right into it without any interruption for hours and therefore we think that must have made it longer.

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With the sun just set we arrive in Edmonton. The oil refinery glittering in the distance like a scene out of star wars. It didn´t make us feel like we wanted to stay so we went on looking for a better place - that was a a real good decision - see it in part 3 of day 5.

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28.03.10

The Flin Flon Adventures: Day 5 Part 1 Saskatchewan

So from Flin Flon we set out into the sunrise and into Sasketchewan province. Like Manitoba a mostly prairie province except for the road we took it seems - because that presented us with more forest tunnels for almost six hours. Not much to take pictures you would think but some things need documenting.

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For example this monster of a snowmobile - small tank might be a better description. I surely would want to try to ride that one day just to see how it feels.

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The most shocking thing was the amount of dead trees on the way. You had these patches running for miles with just dead trees on them. Brian was insisting it was logging but it didn´t made sense as the trees stumps where still there. Looking at the warning signs that made you aware not to transport firewood around the country it was clear the pine beetle has struck this part of canada extremely heavily.

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Yes it seems we are on the right route.

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Brian recreating in the wind on a frozen lake on a little detour we took to have a break from the tree tunnels.

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There was a truck on a deserted parking lot and it had these charming number plates.

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Yes told you more dead trees - the only distraction on the forest tunnels - a sad sad sight - its quite hard to see the scope of the destruction on the photos - its massive and everywhere.

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The main northern highway turns into a dirt road at one point. The dirt road is better then a lot of paved road in this world - I have no idea how they make it but its smooth as butter.

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And this is how a clear cut looks like.

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Ah the trusty professor (the car) and brian. Yes this car took us on the 10.000km journey with only one small hickup (alternator carbon sticks worn down). Very comfortable to sit in for all these long hours.

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Then we came out of the tree tunnels all of the sudden and back into the prairies.

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The roads get straighter and straighter and longer.

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And also the territory more untrusting - pre pay for your gas or you aint get none - not that you have any chance to escape here - they could see you for miles down the road if you try.

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also dead trees in the prairies.

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and funky golf course signs.

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Town of Willness - Land and Cattle - thats the best description for what lays ahead.

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And the Moose are flying in Sasketchewan.

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Now this picture might seem unpostworthy but but - the next 3 towns all looked exactly the same with the exact same towers in the middle - you will see.

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Dusty roads and land and cattle.

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And yes still the Moose are flying around here. Fun fact of the day moose charge cars. So instead of like deer who just stare at bright lights and stand still the mighty moose come after you. Nobody could tell me how to actually react when one does. Seeing one on the way back in the night I think I really don´t want to find out - they are freaking massive animals.

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Land. Pretty Land.

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Glaslyn - town two look alike (town three will be in the next entry as that was already in Alberta province).

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Long Roads that seemed to never end.

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Deserted houses left and right.

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Very very very long roads.

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Dusty long roads and the start of the longest sunset I have seen in my life.

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Rythmic pretty clouds.

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Town three in the row - its not really good visible but these structures were the most prominent buildings and there are just a dozen or so houses scattered around them so that made three towns in a row look so much of the same that it was like a déjà vu.

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And an eye forming in the sky - I am sorry to bore you with this but please understand we just had been through five hours of tree tunnels so everything seemed to be enormously exiting.

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24.03.10

The Flin Flon Adventures: Day 4 (mostly) Flin Flon

On Day 4 we took off from The Pas (and yes I liked that town) and went to Flin Flon - not very far away. First stop was the trainyard in The Pas - you have to understand the trains here are long - really really really really really long. Mostly just dragged by two of these super locomotives - how they do this is a mystery to me. Anyway the trainyards are unsupervised and unfenced - so anybody wants to "have fun" with a 3 km long train may go to The Pas.

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About half way to Flin Flon we came to a place where I don´t quite remember the name but it came to existence because it was a portage - the Cannery Portage to be precise (the town probably was named similar). A portage is where there is a watershed - meaning there are two rives/creeks flowing in different direction not far away from each other - so you take your canoe and carry it from one river to the next so you can enjoy more free riding down the water. When first entering the town we where almost ready to swap the volvo to the bombardier snowmobile sitting around. Brian took a test drive but since snow levels where not high enough we stayed with the volvo for the time being.

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Just wanting a bit lunch at the lake we met this photofriendly husky who barked at us very loudly but stopped and posed ones the camera was directed to him. So he gets his wish of a published photo I guess.

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Oh and people living in this house sure ain´t getting wet feet anymore.

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This is the memorial for the Cranberry Portage - a very important point - you can go to the Hudson Bay from here all down river and very far inland on the other side. Was used by the First Nations and then later by the hunters and settlers.

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Leaving this place Flin Flon was (finally) coming up. This is kinda the first impression.

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The mine and its smokestack rules the city everywhere

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Yes real people living here who also seem to wear clothes.

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As every city out west the obligatory watertower and 9000V on the multitude of powerlines

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And they have culture too!
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But the industrial side of town rules the impression

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With a huge open pit mine in the middle.

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Cute houses.
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Old empty houses.

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More cute houses.

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Oh and did you know that in Flin Flon you can find the home of Rock'n'Roll? Well I didn´t either but it went bankrupt and was empty - seems that Rock'n'Roll is dead (or homeless).

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The youth in Flin Flon (and The Pas) uses the rocks that line the streets for their graffitty playground - not sophisticated and strictly forbidden but to be seen everywhere.

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The decorating commitee (oh yes that became a running joke with all these oversized statures in all these small towns) likes santa claus.

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Tourism is apparently a bit slow in Flin Flon. The guy looking over the sign is actually Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin. The guy who gave the name to the town - purely fictional character - I direct you to the wikipedia entry for more information about this - its a funny.

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Smokestack peaks out everywhere I mentioned that already.

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The media and the church caters to the big industrial complex.

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We were blessed with another super nice sunset - like pretty much every day on our journey so far. Here is the main red mine building.

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Some textures we liked.

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There is something about raised structures that I find appealing.

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Powerline yeah :D

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Flin Flon looked like the moon - there was only forest all around it but the city itself is enormously bare rocky. The trees must have been logged for the mining business.

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This smokestack was captivating sorry to bore you with more.

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And ähm more powerlines :)

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A memorial I just liked the light on it don´t ask me what the brave men and woman of Flin Flon actually did.

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Typical typical street in nice light.

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I am a romantic sunset sucker.

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And old buildings with lots of texture.

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But yeah more sunset.

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Just the perfect CD cover for some death metal or too hard to listen to dubstep :P

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We went to see the Flin Flon Bombers ice-hockey match. They won handely in some league that I can´t remember. Was my first live ice-hockey match I have seen - couldn´t have lost my ice hockey virginity at a more authentic place. And yes the guys are rough.

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The queen reigns them all.

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Flin Flon wasn´t the best stop on our trip sadly - we didn´t find many locals and couldn´t figure out where the afterparty to the icehockey match was so we went on the next day. Still a surreal town for sure.

22.03.10

Live Cinema Book - Open For Questions

I am currently writing a book on Live Cinema fusing all that I have learned by VJing over the last 11 years enhancing my three year old theory and trying to actually define a new media and art form. I am looking specifically to theories of storytelling, engaging audiences, keeping them interested all the while enhancing the general atmosphere and not loosing the spontaneity that VJing brings with it and tell a message.

At this point it is a very personal look at how I think Live Cinema would work. In an efford to make it easy to grasp and make the appeal broader I want to get a sense of what is actually needed to understand the medium. If enough questions that have not been answered in the main part of the book arrive I will add a Q&A section to specifically answer them.

Questions can range from the mundane to the specific - it can come from a musicians perspective or a vjs perspective or the audience perspective or an actors perspective - whatever your background please don´t hesitate to ask - the more questions the better.

You can either leave a comment here or send a mail to falk(at)prototypen.com

So if you have any kind of thoughts about the artform in your head that have not yet been answered please fire away - I would be very happy to incorporate and answer them.

The Flin Flon Adventures: Day 3

Sorry for the long pause. It was all a bit too eventful to keep up with the blog - the landscape just too stunning to stare at the computer, snowboarding in between and all, but we try to catch up a bit. So here is Day 3 the day we entered Manitoba. Driving from Kenoa to Winnipeg then up road 6 through the interlake all the way to The Pas. We thought it would be a beautiful drive along lakes but as you can see there was road and woods - straight roads through woods not much going on other then road and woods for hours and hours.

We enter Manitoba in the late morning.

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This is how Manitoba presented itself 20 minutes drive in.

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The great plains. Agriculture. More Agriculture.

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And electricity crisscrossing.

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Yes everything in this country looks like a movie set or a pretty postcard.

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More electricity poles - why the obsession? well first of all they give depth second of all they have a visual rythm and after all we are on an educational trip and rhythm is a big part of it.

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Yes thats how the street looked like for at least 5 hours and all of next day and the day after as we where to find out.

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Deer crossing. I found out too late that the signs for animals change drastically from region to region - so this is the start of a series on signs - the charging moose will be photographed on the way back

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I called it Barcode Road.

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The only part of the lakes we got to see midway through the upper part of what is called the interlake (a dried up lake between two big lakes as we later found out) a little resting place and the start of the sunset. Since 4 hours we saw nothing but trees and road with maybe 5 cars/trucks in total. So I craved some detail.

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The small lake we where allowed to see. The big lakes all behind thick tree lines.

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Endless straight wide big huge I tell ya.

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Long sunset on a straight road with trees by its side. Yes same road - we came through 1 town and passed two crossing otherwise road and trees but now at least some action in the sky.

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No not shopped and no - no idea where he came from or walked to next intersection was 30 minutes drive away last intersection 3 hours and no you can not walk through the forst either - a mystery.

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Finally the end of the 6 - that was a very very very very very long straight stretch of road - it wouldn´t be the last.

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The 60 led us straight out west right into the sunshine

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Yes thats exactly where the sun is - no sign really needed - but before you overlook eh. I mean there are so many trees its easy to miss the sun.

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And there ends the day with a glorious sky.

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Shortly later we ended up in The Pas where we stayed the night. had a nice chatter with the bar girl of "The Good Thymes" - that bar reminded me so much of the Affenclub at home in a way - very spooky. The whole vibe and people where so similar in a way. Very friendly folks out there living their own life - sweet. Sadly no camera and no audio recording here - we had to warm up to that.

17.03.10

VisualBerlin Festival
AViT 2010

June 10th-12th 2010

Licht An!

Berlin’s original Videokunst Club, VisualBerlin reflects the richness of the city itself. With members from nine countries we are a diverse family bound together by a shared commitment to the progression of audiovisual art forms, performance and technology. Our artists have rocked festivals and parties across the globe and in 2010 it’s our turn to return the favor. From June 10-12 we will host the VisualBerlin Festival, a community driven event focusing on live performance, VJing and experimental media. The festival is an excellent opportunity to connect with an engaged audience of public and peers. Share with us your passion, your creativity, your experiments and your fun. Wir freuen uns!

Background

Founded in 2005, VisualBerlin is a non-profit community platform, providing support and a social structure for participating artists. Our interests and expertise covers everything from underground party visuals to hardware-hacking, programmatic arts, experimental performance and media philosophy. Community is at the forefront of everything we do. Since 2003 members of our group have hosted events in collaboration with AViT, the international support network for VJ arts and practitioners. In 2006 the newly-formed VisualBerlin celebrated it’s first official AViT network event and in 2010 we are pleased to continue the tradition of AViT in Berlin with the VisualBerlin Festival. The common ideals of VisualBerlin and AViT ensures that the participating artists and surrounding community is the most important aspect of each of our events.

Location

In 2010 the Festival once again takes place in conjunction with Berlin’s international design festival DMY. Over three days, guest VJs, performers and developers will have the opportunity to present their work in Berlin’s most unique locations. These headquarters will act as a hub and meeting point for all artists with free wifi, event information, technical support and a daily breakfast club for participants.
The night program takes place in external clubs, transformed by the VisualBerlin team to offer you the best setting for your performance.

Program

The festival will be a mix of curated programming and open-exchange. Innovative projects and developments will be presented daily across a schedule of workshops, performances and discussions. Additional jam sessions will take place in the lounge area giving you the opportunity to test out new collaborations, experiment and exchange ideas on the big screen.

The night program is split into three events:

  • Night 1, Dubstep party
  • Night 2, Chiptunes + AudioVisual Performances
  • Night 3, Classic VJ/ Closing Party.
The night slots will be curated but we welcome last-minute collaborations between artists, and look forward to closing each night with you in an open jam session

How To Participate

We will be collecting submissions for the following:

  • Workshops/Seminars
  • VJ sets
  • AudioVisual Performances
We are also planning facade mappings, so please let us know if your work is appropriate for these and you would like to stay informed.

The application form is available at http://visualberlin.org/festival

Please take care with your application and make sure you have supplied us with all the requested information. The application deadline is April the 30th, 2010.

13.03.10

The Flin Flon Adventures: Day 2

We made it to Flin Flon yesterday. Watched the local Ice Hockey Team win. Interesting surreal mining town. But I still have to catch up with the "old" photos so here goes a rather uneventfull day two that ended in Kenora.


Sunrise on Lake Superior

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Ice Crysals
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Icy Shore Sunrise
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Still Lake Superior (yes its a freaking huge lake).

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Long empty roads - a reoccuring theme pretty much through all our journey to this point

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Empty roads becoming more straight as we get closer to the great plains.

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Not much going on would be nice if these radio towers would transmit internet but they are just for radio it seems - not even basic cellphone coverage most of this part of the journey. Still they are somehow pretty.

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Granit rock everywhere in all shapes and colors.

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Small Lake giving us a pretty sunset.
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12.03.10

The Flin Flon Adventures: Day 1 Part 2

Little Update - we are in The Pas (spoken The Paw and thanks to Rachel for the heads up tricky town name) we are now on the way to Flin Flon - to not completetly loose track of the photos here is the next batch - still from Day 1 - I never gonna catch up again at this rate ;)

Left Restaurant in some small town

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We are on the lookout for movement - the windmill was the first (and last) movement for a very long time

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Empty old houses - haunting

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But with modern ornamentals

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and a Brian in front

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who is still happy driving - super triple mirror inside

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And scrap yards full of gorgeous old cars and other mobiles

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Canadian Shield has granite mountains
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Driving along Lake Superior - the last of the Big Lakes - People are Ice Fishing - even so the ice started melting

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The little stone man figures are everywhere we go like little ghosts watching over us

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Lake Superior is really big and it has nice nice nice sandy beaches that except for the pine trees (and the ice) they could also be in the Caribbean

O_D1_LakeSuperiorBeach.jpg

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And always the devestation to nature comes into view - mountain top mining.

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9.03.10

The Flin Flon Adventures: Day 1 Part 1

Originally planned as a snowboarding trip with a study element the weather on the ground and general things that needed to get done morphed this idea into a fully blown road round trip from Toronto to the Rockies and back - probably close to 9000km in total. While planning the trip roughly we have decided on just a very few waypoints to leave us enough room for decision making. One of those targets is Flin Flon the town where the most northern road that goes west starts. Oh and we have power and 1 Gigabyte of 23Mbit internet on board while the coverage won´t be available everywhere a lot of our route is covered so I try to keep up to date as much as possible.

Driving out of Toronto just before sunrise we have now entered the venerable canadian shield - territory of the Mohawk tibe. Harsch rock formations and beautiful meditative lakes lining the street. Our destination for the day will be Wawa on Lake Superior said to be the most beautiful road in Ontario - so we try to make it til sunset and then also get the other half on sunrise.

Internet has been extremely rare - had no cellphone coverage for 1200km so I am running behind with report and photos. We slept last night in a Motel 200km after Wawa. Today we drove along the last bit of Lake Suprerior - stunning road. Then went west direction Winnipeg to stay over in Kenory - the last town in Ontario. We are offered a stay at Brian Cousin, computer geek with fast network so I am able to finish at least the photoset of the first half of the first day. More on next internet connection.


gasstation - half price of germany at least.

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Last time to see so many cars on one place our start in Toronto

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Canadas Wonderland just outside of Toronto

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Brian having fun driving

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Sunrises in the snowbelt. Breathtaking start of the trip.

SunriseSnowbelt.jpg

sunrise.jpg

FirstSun.jpg

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SunriseAgain.jpg


The canadian shield - still with us after 2000km - hard granit holding beautiful meditative lakes. At this time of the year all lakes should have icecovers - its much too warm everywhere. Coldsnap and snow expected next week - perfect timing for snowboarding if it happens.


The land of the First Nation of the Mohawk 2.5 hours north of Toronto


First Nation of the Wikwemikong

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Lots of not so pleasant views, the blue sky was brown over the smokestack

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Prime property on southside view

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A horsefarm on the road

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We are going west - far west

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6.03.10

Toronto Visual Dub

Brian T. Moore created this installation piece from footage he shot in Toronto mixed over audio that was composed by my dub hero Saetchmo from sound snippets recorded also in Toronto all with a little bit of help from me. Enjoy. Official home for the video here.

3.02.10

Guestblogging @kraftfuttermischwerk

From tomorrow until sunday I have the honor to do a guestblogging session at the great german language blog Das Kraftfuttermischwerk. There will be something very cool happening which I am not very inclined to disclose just yet - only that it will be visual so even the english speaking crowd can head over. I will update this post with links to the articles. Thanks ronny for the opertunity.

The fellow guest bloggers crew on Twitter:
murdelta
bjoerngrau
misterhonk
mururoar
withoutfield

and yours truly

the twitter hashtag for whole guestblogging session will be: #kfmwnv


Here are the links - its on ongoing list so check here until sunday:

Die DDR Keller-Sammel-Serie: Intro
Die DDR Keller-Sammel-Serie: Möbel Informationsblätter
Die DDR Keller-Sammel-Serie: Heimat – Das GRW
Die DDR Keller-Sammel-Serie: Die Fernsehturm Brochure
Die DDR Keller-Sammel-Serie: Final Destination MOW

25.01.10

HTML5 Video - Introduction and Commentary on Video Codecs

There is a raging discussion out there on the web about the upcoming HTML5 standard and the inclusion of the video tag. Not about the tag itself but about the codec used by videos played inside that tag.
There is a firestorm by free software advocates that want the only codec to be used inside this tag to be the -largely- patent free open source Theora Codec - the other side wants the ubiquitously used high quality H264 video codec. I think I can weigh into that debate. If you don´t want to or know already about codecs, containers and its history jump below to "my take on the codec war".

I am a content producer have been following video on the web since the very very beginning, have advised firms how to handle video on the web, have struggled countless of hours trying to find the best solution to put video on the web and have so far refused to use flash to display video on the web. I always believed that the web should be fundamentally free of technology that is owned by one company that then can take the whole web hostage to their world domination plans. I have hoped that the video tag would be introduced much earlier in the game and have looked with horror to youtube & co. how they made adobe - a company who has basically stopped innovating 10 years ago - a ruler of the web when it comes to moving pixels.
Now this is finally about to change - or at least that is the intention by google, apple, mozilla and others who are pretty fed up with flash for very obvious reasons (its slow, development sucks, its proprietary, the source code of the creations is always closed, its slow, its slow as fuck, it eats energy from the processors like nothing else). It never really made any sense to put a container inside a container inside a container to display a video - the second most powerhungry thing you as a consumer can do on your computer (the first would be 3d/gaming).
Yet a video is not a video. A video to fit through the net needs to be compressed - heavely. Compression technology is nothing new but it evolves over years and years. Its always a tradeoff between size, quality and processing power. The "Video" codec by apple - probably the first "commercial" codec available to a wider audience looks rubbish but is insanely fast (it utilizes almost no processor on a modern machine) and the file size is pretty alright. It was capable to run video on an 8 Mhz processor mind you.
Over the years lots and lots of codecs have sprung up - some geared toward postproduction and some towards media delivery - there is a fine line - for the postproduction codecs you need full quality and try to save a bit of storage. Its videos that still need work and you want to work with a mostly uncompressed or losslessly compressed video. Processing power for decrompression is an issue because you need to scrub through the video - also compression porcessing power (to make the video) you don´t want to take ages because you like to work in realtime and not wait for your computer to re-encode a video just because you clicked on a pixel.

The other codecs are the "end of line" codecs - delivery codecs - made to compress the crap out of the video while "visually" loosing the least amount of quality and having the smallest possible file sizes. Here it doesn´t matter how long the compression side takes as long as the decompression is fast enough to work on low end computers to reach the largest available audience.

While production codecs are fairly fluid - people change as soon as a better becomes available - takes less then 5 month to have a new codec established (recently apple released the ProRes4444 codec - most postproduction companies are already using it (those that don´t use single pictures - but that a whole different story) - the delivery codecs are here to stay for a very very long time because in the time of the web people just don´t reencode their stuff and reupload it - if its there its there.

Now before I go into the format war and my take on it there is one more concept I need to explain shortly - containers. Flash is a container for a video with a certain codec displayed in it. So is quicktime, so is windows media so is Real Media. It gets confusing because MP4 can be a container and a codec at the same time. A container just hold the video and adds some metadata to the video itself - but the raw video could be ripped out of the container and put into another without re-encoding. This is what apple is doing with youtube on the iPhone. Adobes last "great" innovation (or best market move ever) was to enable the Flash container to play h264 (a codec) encoded videos. Since Apple (among everybody else who isn´t a flashy designer) thinks that flash sucks they pull out the video from inside the flash container and put it into the (now equally bad) quicktime container and so you can enjoy flash free youtube on your iPhone.
Now with the technicalities out of the way whats all the fuss about?
HTML5 promises - ones it becomes a standard - to advance the web into a media rich one without bolted on add ons and plugins that differ from platform to platform and browser to browser - its a pretty awesome development or most people ever developing anything on the web. Part of the process to make this the new standard is to involve everybody who has something to say and is a shaker and mover on the web to give the direction this standard is going. Its a tough rough ride - everybody and their mother wants to put in their tech their knowledge their thinking - I really would not want to be the decision maker in this process if you gave me a trillion.
The biggest and most awesome change in HTML5 - and the one the most abvious to the end user - will be the inclusion of media content without a freaking container that needs a plugin to display that content that only half or less of the internet population have. To make this happen at least all the big browser makers need to approve what can be played inside the new tags (video & audio).
This is where the debate heats up. I really don´t understand why audio doesn´t spurn the same debate publicly as does video - but its probably because google is involved with the video debate and can change the direction completely on their merit with whatever they choose to support on youtube.
The two competing codecs are Ogg Theora and H264. Now I am less familiar with the Ogg codec (but have tried it) but first a small history of H264. Back around 2000-2001 a company called Sorenson developed the first video codec that was actually usable on the web - there where different ones before but they all sucked balls in one of the departments for a great delivery codec. Sorenson made a lot of video people who wanted to present their work on the web very happy. Apple bought in and shipped quicktime with the Sorenson codec and the ability to encode (make) the video with this codec - albeit with a catch. To really get the full quality of Sorenson you had to buy a pro version - which costs a lot of money - the version that Apple included could play Sorenson (pro or non pro) just fine but the encoder was crippled to one pass encoding only. The real beauty and innovation was with two pass encoding - basically the computer looks at the video first and decides where it can get away with more compression and where with less.
Apple and the users where not really happy with this situation at all. So for a long time (in web terms) there was no real alternative to that codec. The situation was even worse because to play Sorenson you had to have Quicktime installed - before the advent of the iPod a loosing prospect - I think they had 15% installed user base on the web. It was the days of the video format wars - Microsoft hit with Winows Media (which sucked balls quality wise but had a huge installed user base) and on top Real Media (which was the only real viable solution for streaming video back then).
In the meantime another phenomenom happened on the audio side - mp3 became the defacto standard - a high quality one at that (back then) in the audio field. We the video people looked over with envy. When producing audio you could just encode it in mp3 pretty much for free on shareware apps and upload it to the web and everybody could listen to it. There was nothing even close happening on the video side. The irony is of course that its MPG1 layer3 (mp3) - part of a video codec - but the video codec side of MPG1 sucked really really really really bad. Quality shit, Size not really small only processor use was alrightish but not great.

Jumping forward a couple of years (and jumping over the creation of MPG2 - the codec used for media delivery on DVDs - totally unsuitable for web delivery) the Motion Picture Expert Group - a consortium of industry Companies and experts that developed (and bought in) MPEG1 and MPEG2 decided to do something for cross platform standard video delivery and created the MPEG4 standard (overjumping MPEG3 for various reasons - mostly because of the confusion with MP3 (MPEG1 layer 3). MPEG4 is a container format - mostly - but it had a possibility for reference codecs and the first one of these was H263 - this already was quality wise on par with Sorenson yet in a container that was playable by Quicktime and Windows Media - the two last standing titans of media playback (by this time Real Media mostly had already lost any format war). Great you think - well not quite - Microsoft wasn´t enourmously happy and created its own standard (as they do) based on MPG4 H263 called VC1 (I am not really familiar with this side of the story so I leave you to wikipedia to look that up yourself if you are so inclined). Web-video delivery was still not cross platform sadly and the format war became a codec war but there was now a standard underlying all of this and the quality - oh my the quality was getting good. Then the MPEGroup enhanced the h263 codec and called it h264 and oh my this codec with a pure godsend in the media delivery world - it was great looking scaled up to huge resolution could be used online, streaming and on HighDefDVDs and in the beginning it all was pretty much for free.
It looked like an Apple comeback in the webvideo delivery because Quicktime was for a while the only container that could play H264 without problems. Around that time flash started to include a function in its webplugin to play video - interestingly enough they choosed to include sorenson video as the only supported codec - word on the street was that Sorenson was very unhappy with Apples decision to ditch them as codec of choice and instead pushed H263/H264. Now the story could have ended with Apple winning the format war right there and all computers would have quicktime installed by default but it didn´t because out of nowhere Youtube emerged and Youtube used flash and Youtube scaled big time and made it - for the first time ever - really easy for Joe the Plumber and anybody else to upload a video to the web and share it with the rest of the world family. It changed the landscape in less then 6 month (I watched it it was crazy). Now you had a really good codec finally as a content producer to upload video in very good quality but the world choosed the worse quality inside a player that sucked up 90% processing power with the codec of choise needing another 90% and all that came out was shit looking video that everybody was happy to be over - but the user experience of hitting an upload button and have everybody watch your video was just unbeatable. Eventually just when people realised how bad these videos looked compared to some Hollywood trailers that still used quicktime and H264 Adobe included H264 into flash and prolonged their death by doing so again (without innovating at all it must be said).
Now fast forward to now - again a group of clever people, big companies and such have sat down to bring us HTML5 and the video tag. That tag as said is going to rid us from any plugins and containers and instead just plays pure video as fast as possible right inside the browser that supports HTML5. Now the problem is that people can not agree on the codec to be used. Why you ask if H264 is so great? Because H264 was developed by a for profit group of people and they want to make money and they have freaking patents on it - not that this has hampered web video to this day in any way - but for the future standard it seems lots of people have taking offense to that. There is in fact a whole ecosystem of alternative codecs (audio and video) in the open source world and the most prominent is Ogg and its video incarnation Theora. They are mostly patent free because the company who originally developed these codecs gave the patents to the open source community (yet its still not clear if that covers the whole codec). Now what happens when patents enter the WorldWideWeb could be seen with GIFs. The GIF graphics (moving or non moving) where once a cornerstone of the web - a more popular choice for graphics then anything else (small could be read by anything blahblah) then a company found out that they had the patents on that (luckily just shortly before they run out) and sued a lot of big websites for patent infringement and wanted to have royalties of $5000 from every website that used GIFs - they would have killed the web with that move (and they where in the right - law wise) if the big companies they sued first would have dragged out the court case until the patents run out - now the GIF file format is in public domain.
Now its understandable that this lesson should be learned BUT and here is

my take on the codec war:

Flash is a MUCH bigger threat then patents on the codecs used. Because not only does it use the patent infringed codec inside its container but the container is totally owned by one company and a company that has shown often (PDF) that it will do everything to take control of anybody using their technology - even if it is the whole world.
Now 95% of all web videos are delivered by flash these days and to change that a lot of things need to happen. First google needs to drop it on youtube - they just announced a beta which does just that - but even with googles might its just not enough - content producers need to hop on board as well. And here is where the chain breaks for the "free and open codecs of OGG". See from the history above H264 has been the industry standard on a wide range of devices including the web for years now. The whole backend has settled on this and there are really good workflows to create H264 video. With the video tag - Youtube is less relevant then it was at its beginning because all of the sudden its easy to incorporate video into your webpage. Now if google where to say "we use Theora only" high quality content producers would just say "fuck you" and post their videos on their own sites in a much better quality without the hassle to find any workflow to produce theora videos (for the non terminal using people there just isn´t an easy way to do that still that can be used in a professional non frickly environment - we like to create not code for a delivery sorry).
But thats not enough - almost ALL consumer cameras released over the last 2 years including the hot shit DSLRs with video functionality produce H264 that can be "just" uploaded to the web without reencoding - thats saves Youtube and vimeo a lot of processing capabilities - and with their lossy revenues they sure don´t want to add another server farm just to reencode every and all video they have to a codec that has worse quality. You know 90% of all videos on the web are already encoded in H264 as of now (and Theora maybe has 0.2% of the other 10% that are left over). Its uneconomical and not sensible to re-encode all of that any way you look at it - especially since the quality is not surpassed by any other codec out there - patent free or not.
I would say go H264 now and have a new consortioum of browser developers and other companies develop a new codec (or build upon theora) from scratch that is patent free AND high quality AND has a good workflow (means is supported by hardware vendors and OS vendors across the board). That can then take over H264 (just like PNG took over GIF in less then 2 years following the patent threat). Leave the codec question open for now and let the web sort it out for itself (for the moment) - like in the img tag - doesn´t matter if you put PNGs, GIFs or JPGs in it (or any of the other plethora of IMG formats) as long as the browsers support it its watchable and so far has shaken out a good road to take (see the switch to PNG with transparencies that also helped a lot to bring down IE5 in my opinion which didn´t fully support that - so the market sorted it out quickly (as in 5 years quickly)).
BTW the only browser that just does not want to go down that route (and rather wants to cripple itself with Flash in the meantime) is the oh so open minded Firefox. Sorry I fail to see your point dear Mozilla developers - you are not gonna make a lot of friends that way outside of the very very small open source community (and even here your approach is not liked universally by those who can not install a flash plugin for example because flash is not supported on their platform (ppc linux f.e.).

Get rid of Flash first then get rid of H264 later when you have something equally good on all accounts. Going backward with technology is just never the way forward - open source or not.

16.01.10

PTEX&OpenCL - or How Steve Jobs Companies Are Changing 3D

Something amazing came through my ticker today something that is a game changer and together with another technology will change the way I work and make much more enjoyable.

First some basics to understand what I am talking about for those that have no clue about it all. There are basically the following six steps to get to a final 3d picture.

1. Modelling: Multiple Approaches get you to a mesh model that consists of - in the end mostly - polygons. You can scan you can push little points in 3d space you can use mathematical formulas to create substract or add simple forms or other formulas to make edges round revolve lines or extrude other lines. The end product is mostly always a polygon mesh with x amount of polygons - the more the higher the resolution of the model the closer you can look at it. About ten years ago a really nice way to model high resolution meshes came into existence called SubDivision Surfaces which lets you model a corse resolution model which is much easier to understand and alter and then generate a highres model out of it - that was the first real game changer in the 3d industry and the reason why character modelling became so "easy" and so many people doing so many great models.

2. UV Preperation: Now a model out of triangels looks less then realistic of course so you need to tell the programm what kind of material is on the model - here a lot of option are available - but especially for film work and characters you want something that is realistic and you do that by getting something realistic - like a photo - and alter it in such a way that it fits on your model - or you paint from scratch - now that such a picture can be put onto the model you need to flatten out the model into a two dimensional surface. You can imagine this like taking a dead animal and skinning it then make the skin of the animal flat. Like so:
hide.jpg
(there is actually a programm that stretches the "hides" pretty similar to this very analog process). Its a very dull process to do this on a complex model - mostly you have to take your nice model apart and do all kinds of voodoo to get it artifact free. No fun and certainly not really creative.

3. Texturing: Ones you have your nice model with a more or less nice UV map you start to apply your texture - photo or programatic or a mixture of that. Here is a lot of "fun" to be had as you add little bumps, tell the software how shiny the model will be how reflective how refractive and lots of other things I don´t really want to go into - but its a nice step in general. +

4. Light & Camera: Without light there wouldn´t be anything visible. So you set up some virtual lights which act and react just like different kind of light sources you find in reality + some more other tricks that aren´t in reality but can add to a realistic picture. You also set up a camera or your virtual eye - which again acts just like a photographic camera in real life (almost). Both a creative and fun process.

5. Animation: Then you animate your model - push objects around, apply physics, deform your model. You can either do that by hand or get some animation data from MotionCaputure - like you might have seen these people with a black suit and pingpong balls attaced to them - or faces with dots all over them for example. This step is both fun and frustrating - with hand made or captured data. The human eye is so susceptible to small problems in movement that to get it realistically convincing not even a certain 500 Mio. Dollar production can fully perfect this step.

6. Render: Then comes the process that is mostly free of human intervention but not free of hassles and frustration. The rendering. Can take up to 50 hours per frame in Avatar on a stock normal computer. 24-25 frames per seconds (or in case of 3d double that) and you get an idea how much processing power is needed. And if you do a mistake - render it all over again. Also rendering is a complex mathematical problem and there are bound to be errors in software so prepare for the worst here.

Now why I am telling you all this? Well one step it seems has just been eliminated. Progress in the field of visual effects is very eratic - you have 2-4 years no progress at all and then all of the sudden a floodgate opens and something dramatically changes or multiple things. I would say we had a quit period the last 2-4 years - mostly because the development of the real cool stuff was "inhouse" meaning - that really smart programmer people where hired by the big VFX companies to program them certain things for certain needs and problems - a lot of problems in the above pipeline are already solved I think but have never seen the light of the broader world and instead stayed and sometimes even died within certain companies. Its really frustrating as the software companies struggled with the most basic problems (plagued by slow sales and a bad economy) and then you see Pirates of the Caribbean for example and they completely figure out how to motion capture live actors (record their movement) on set with no real special equipment - that technology is still only available behind the looked doors of Industrial Light & Magic. For me as an artist that is a valuable tool that has been created and I could do cool stuff with it but I can´t get my hands on because of corporate policies.
So its REALLY amazing to see that Disney - the intellectual property hoarding company for whom the copyright law has been rewritten at least ones - is releasing a software/API/Filestandard as open source as of today. Code that no less promises to completely eliminate step two of my list above. In their own words they have already produced one short animation and are in the process of one full feature animation completely without doing any UV mapping. I can only try to explain to you the joy that this brings to me. UV mapping has been my biggest hurdle to date - I never really mastered it - I hated it. Its such a painstaking long tedious process. I normally used every workaround that I could find to avoid doing UV mapping. Its crazy to think they finally have figured out a way to get there without it and I think this will drop like a bomb into every 3d app and supporting 3d app there is on the market within a year (a wishfull thinking here) - at least I can hope it does and I hope that Blender, Autodesk, sideFX are listening very closely.
Combine that with the recent advancement of render technology by using OpenCL (developed and released as part of SnowLeopard by Apple and made an Open Standard with ports for Linux and Windows now available) and render partially on the graphic card (GPU) - which speeds up rendering up to 50 times. That means that a frame from avatar takes only one hour to render instead of 50 - or in a more realistic case - current rendertime for an HD shot takes here 2-5 minutes an average to render - thats cut down to 10sec - 1min and would actually make rendering a fun part of the process.
Now we all know who is behind both companies releasing and opening that up: The mighty Steve Jobs. You could almost say there is an agenda behind it to make 3d a way more pleasurable creative work then it currently is - maybe Mr. Jobs wants us all to model and render amazing virtual worlds to inhabit where he can play god ;)
Good times indeed.

Whats left? Well animation is still not worked out completely but with muscle simulation and easy face and bone setups it has become easier over the past years - still hidousely tidious process to make it look right - don´t know if there ever is a solution for it that is as revolutionary as PTEX. Motion sensors might help a bit in the short future also some techniques that make the models physically acurate so that things can´t get into each other and gravity is automatically apllied. High quality texture maps that hold up to very very close scrunity are still memory hogs and burn down the most powerfull workstations. The rest will get better with faster bigger better computers as always (like all the nice lighting models that are almost unusable in production to date because they render too long). Generally we are so much further with UV mapping and rendering problems out of the picture I might get back into 3d much much more.

ptex.us - the official website
The PTEX white paper
PTEX sample objects and a demo movie

Disclaimer: I have been doing 3d since 1992 when I rendered a 320x240 scene of two lamps on an Amiga 2000 with raytracing - it took 2 days to render. My first animation in 1993 took a month to render. Then I switched to Macintosh (exclusively) in 1995 and did 3d on them for a while. It was so frustrating that I did not make a serious efford to get really good at it ever - now I am still doing it alongside Compositing / VFX Supervision but rather as add on & for previz then main work.

27.12.09

26c3 - Here be Dragons!

HereBeDragons.pngThe congress for the crazy ones the wild ones the good ones the ones defending freedom and digital liberties keep the information flowing unhindered without borders the last of their kind - the real dragons. Those who share and know will meet and talk and copy and paste and for so much knowledge brought to a boil the outcome is unknown.

There be Dragons! Dragons Everywhere. I will be one and so should you.

26c3 Official Website

And on the 28th around 23:00 in the smokers lounge the dragons will undertake a special journey through time:
Indian Timetravels - an audiovisual performance by Das Kraftfuttermischwerk & protobeamaz:fALK (hey thats me ;)

15.12.09

Heute: Radio Prototypen Live (german)

Kleine Mitteilung in eigener Sache:

Heute senden wir unsere erste Live Radio Show aus unserem dreiteiligen Weihnachtsdubstepspezial. Nach längerer Pause die sowohl durch technische Schwierigkeiten als auch durch Zeitmangel bedingt war eröffnen wir damit eine neue Radio Prototypen Saison. Wir sind sehr glücklich das die Jungs und Mädels von Xenim.de ihr verteiltes Streamingnetzwerk zur Verfügung stellen.
Wir haben heute auch einen Studiogast - Saetchmo (myspace) wird uns über die Feinheiten des Dub und Dubstep aufklären und uns dann mit einem Creative Commons Dubset beglücken.

Ihr könnt die RadioShow ab 20 Uhr live hören unter:
http://streams.xenim.de/live/

Der Link wird dort veröffentlicht sobald verfügbar - einfach downloaden und mit eurem lieblingsplayer wie z.B. iTunes uns live anhören.

Die Sendung gibt es natürlich auch wieder als normalen download an einem der kommenden Tage und radio.prototypen.com.

2.12.09

Dubstep Love

A long personal journey through the evolution of music

I can barely contain myself - for the first time since 15 years I am excited like a little kid again. The reason is music - music for the clubs but also music for the home - a kind of music that fits strangely into any mood and continues to make me smile almost every day. To give you the right mood first a soundtrack to the journey I am taking you on:

DUBSTEP CALLING:  by  djumb

When I was reading Gibsons Neuromancer some long years back I stumbled over the scene of the space Rastafari listening to dub in the lower cramped confines of a space station. Up to that point I loved the story and was totally immersed - I am having really vivid head films when I read so as long as the story seems believable I am in a different universe actually seeing it all in detail. Yet this scene somehow didn´t stick - it ripped me right out. It just didn´t fully fit into a space station - even so it was a funny idea of the author. It was the dirty analog feeling and the beach images and the old rastafaris making dub. My mind just wouldn´t believe they would roll their spliffs to that lowtech music on a hightech space ship - no matter how run down it would have been.

I have always listened to any kind of music you can imagine and didn´t really develop a taste for music that you can call taste until pretty late in my life. MC Hammer, Depeche Mode, ACDC, Kraftwerk, Genesis (yes Phil Collins - please beat me to death) where my early "favorites". With the fall of the wall things took an unexpected turn.

The reunited Berlin - it was like a new huge playground that waited to be explored and exploited. For me it mainly offered one thing - an absolute uncontrolled club scene that I was attending and getting involved with at a very young age. Of course that influenced my music taste quite a bit - I was going fully electronic for a long while - it didn´t really matter what but of course it being Berlin it was mostly that specific powerful housy style in the beginning that really got me. Some parties where so insanely energetic its hard to describe it in words.

Over the years then I got introduced to drum and bass and really fell in love with the slower more dreamy songs that genre implied. Somehow at that time magically Dub appeared in my life - I thought really hard where it actually came from - I don´t know - probably a song heard somewhere then getting into it more. Lee Perry, Mad Professor, Burning Spear - I bought tons of CDs with about any kind of Dub you can imagine and I loved it - but somehow it was dead music it was at a standstill there wasn´t anything really excitingly new coming out. Eventually I got bored and moved on - still playing it now and then.

11 years ago I started VJing. Playing visuals in clubs puts you in a very unique - if not always comfortable position. Standing there behind your laptop like a geek you have to listen and coldly analyze the music all night long - you listen to the breaks but also for the mood and the energy of the tunes. You also try to sense the energy of the room and either go with it against it amplify it calm it - whatever you think is appropriate. I have played by my last count 270+ gigs. Most of them all nighter - meaning 10+ hours for 270 nights same style of music. The styles changed - lots of electronic house music but also Jazz, Reggie, Rock, HipHop & some Punk - but mostly electronic in any form. After all its what I grew up with learned to love and where I had the most amazing experiences. Yet slowly but surely things started to get boring - I attributed it to me being in the clubs all the time and having to work. Then about three years ago I stopped the weekly gig sessions concentrated on other things and just went out for the fun of it (mostly). It sucked. I know people who came with me disagreed with me back then but really the spirit was out of the rooms. I debated with myself and friends what the reason for this could be. The music hadn´t changed much their where still fresh clubs in warehouses popping up - regardless it just wasn´t the same anymore. Some parties had on the surface a good vibe until you figured out that 100% of the people where totally and utterly wasted. You always had the drugs in the clubs of course but it was only adding to an athmosphere that was already nice and powerful - its totally different if people just take the drugs to get going at all and this is what I witnessed more and more.
After a while I got it - it must have been the music - I was utterly bored of it and subconsciously I think most of the people in the clubs are. Yes "minimal" is still heralded as the end of all music in the cooler clubs of Berlin - but its always the same same same and same in different shades of same. Its predictable boring without surprises and if the suspense in that music would be reenacted in a movie you would fall asleep after only 2 minutes.
Now its not sooo much different then what was on 15 years ago - what has changed then? Times have changed. As I have written in my VJ theory already I can repeat that here too - time has speed up, things have become more complex and to invoke any feelings you have to add a whole 'nother level of energy to it. A simpler example for anybody to see what I mean - look at an average horror movie from 1970, 1990, 1995, 2000 and now. It says all - the gore is multiplying 100 fold over each time period just to invoke any kind of reaction in people. While in 1970 you have maybe 3 cuts per minute you sometimes have 3 edits per second nowadays. Why would it be any different for music?
Bored with the house music I sidetracked myself with going back in time (not to phil collins ;) and generally just opening up to any kind of music again - as wide range as possible.

Through the local DJ around here (Jóse and mogreens) I was introduced to Brokn Beatz and electronic Jazz. I hated it at first. I still can´t totally say that I ever liked it. The nice thing about this kind of music was that it was not boring. It has always been a total challange to vj to that music - trying to see the breaks coming up and reading the ever changing mood is very hard. For the normal listener who doesn´t want to get deeply involved with the music its very hard to draw energy out of that music - while in the boring department its far beyond any other style listed so far - I just never couldn´t fully get into it and I really tried.
Just recently I found some temporary shelter with some local Punk bands. Why did it drive me to punk? Energy - raw freaking energy - energy that was still powerful enough to move people. God there is something about screaming singers and guitarr riffs that is unbeatable in the energy department.

The story could end here and I would still be looking for my hail mary pass to music heaven. Why? The problem with Punk as with pretty much any handmade music I have ever listened to is that after 10-20 minutes I get bored - it seems the same. Yes the music lovers can tell me there are nuances in there and I just have to listen closely and then it won´t be boring. I am there to get my energy pushed inside a group that gets the same energy pushed. Its the ritual why you go in the first place - a convection of energy in the room can lift your spirit for days on end and give you an evening worth remembering - whats the fun in taking the music apart - so you can be cool and talk about it? Unless you are doing music yourself I don´t see the point. So Punk - nice distraction and I still like to go - but still there must be something advancing coming up please no?

It did - less then a year ago I started to stumble over something that I first took for an advancement of Drum and Bass - it sounded different then drum and bass - but on some level familiar to me. It wasn´t really revolutionary yet here was a whole force of new music called freaking Dubstep. I was skeptical. I had been listening to more dub recently again as there seemed to be some movement in root dub to get electronic but its wasn´t the Dubstep thingy by far. The early Dubstep that I listened too was just so close to some jungle tracks in the early 90s. I almost thought ok thats it with music from now on we are going in circles back to the past and forward again - it seemed all music styles had been mixed with each other and advanced to a point where just the music nerds could figure out that it was new. Its really been about five years since I really could discern a certain radically new style - since then - silencio. Yet here was this really heavy drum n bass coming around the corner that somehow grooved slowly. I listened hundreds of hours of dubstep internet radio channels. It was good - very powerfull - yet stil there was something missing - it was too dark to heavy to monotonous still. While it gave me 2 hour bursts of energy I had to turn it off after a while it just didn´t stick - I was again getting a bit sad about it - as they used dub - my old time favorite in the name and if that didn´t evolve that was probably dubs last chance or so I thought.
Then something happened that changed it all. It got diverse it morphed with the electronic dub we had been playing in our podcasts. There it was dubs soul together with raw energy and speed of drum n bass mastered as if it was an electro song and even inside one song more diverse then a whole night of minimal techno. It wasn´t to be the only song in that direction. More and more I heard here and there and then I had my first Dubstep party with this "new" kind of dubstep - the dub step with more dub in it - in a Punk bar in Potsdam. There is something about "special" parties that is hard to describe - its the vibe the connection with the other people in there. This party - even so extremely small - was like that - no chemicals - but a lofty vibe with smily persons who just can´t stop to groove.

In the last two month since then its exploding - Dubstep has gotten so diverse that its eating up about any and all music styles in its path - dub was always playful with samples but what is happening at the moment is on a whole new level and not only that its rarely really cheesy its mostly really fun and uplifting and powerfull - heck it can even be played live and still invoke all its positive things as I was allowed to witness last weekend. Its music girls enjoy and even people who normally hate ANYthing electronic like it and dance to it. And even after 10 hours constant listening it just doesn´t get boring (good DJ or mix is still essential of course).

There was once long ago a party in the Berlin Pfefferberg where 9teen and gregoa played under the name "chill at will" - it was in retrospect one of the top 10 parties I have ever been too - even so it was the chill out room. The concept of the duo was to mix very chilled music with danceble and energetic music - people freaked out. Dubstep - like I have experienced it lately - is exactly "copying" that concept but its much smoother as its all based on the same rythmic concept and flows together like water. Going slow then ultra fast (think gabba fast) in less then 2 minutes with basses that push your stomach inward and it all feels natural. I am totally obsessed - in my view its a new beginning for music. The boundaries have not been reached - its very exiting. The last time I witnessed something like that was in 1993 - the early days of Techno. And with it goes an early scene without pretentious people just like the early days. People scream again tick out just to then talk to each other on a slower bit of music - raw feelings in the room no hiding no "checking out". Ultra lovely.

So to vindicate Mr Gibson - he was maybe right when he said the Rastafaris of the future listen to dub in the space station - he just forgot to add "step" to it. If I would read the book again that scene would not get me out of my film anymore. Needless to say I am very very happy and feel really lucky that I see this much exciting music development in my lifetime - to all you dubstep producers out there pushing the boundaries - YOU ROCK.

Some links:
dubstep-berlin.de Dubstep Forum for Berlin
Badda Boom Sound Reaggy Ragga Dancehall Dub and Dubstep from Potsdam
soundcloud/dub-zone Wide variety of different dub tracks
braintheft.org Whicked live played dubstep from Berlin
Spoke DJane playing and producing wonderfull dubstep

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