Monday, June 1, 2009

Day 2 Europe - Denmark
Today was an "adjust to the time" day (dinner tonight with a client) so Rich and I spent some time walking around and catching the local Danish sites. It was absolutely stunning weather today, I wish I had packed my shorts though !

Quiet Danish Street

Statue picture

Looking down the canal

I like rigging

Lot's of Green

I am Danish Goose-king

St. Alban's Church

The Little Mermaid !


Off to dinner ...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

On the traveling workbench - Denmark pt. 1

I'm traveling for work now and currently in Denmark. Since it's 3:42 AM local time (6:42 PM California time) I thought I might as well do something productive like update my blog :).

Here are some pictures from the trip so far. Picture of the flight status screen showing me going into London.

We flew into Heathrow from LAX and had a mostly uneventful flight. I watched "The Wrestler" movie with Mickey Rourke. Good movie, better than I thought. Also watched Master & Commander with Russell Crowe. OK movie, would have been better to see on something other than a washed out 5" LCD screen 37,000 feet up in the air :).

I started reading The Last Lecture. I was reading it so fast that I had to stop so that I wouldn't finish it on the plane ride over. What a great book. I highly recommend it for anyone as a reality check about remembering what's important in life. It's a good reference about keeping "balance" in life. Yes, I will be recommending this to everyone I know that they read this book.

We had a bit of a layover at Heathrow and then took a flight to Copenhagen. It was an awesome day to be flying, it was an great view out the window. We flew along the North Sea. Looking out the windows I could see the shores of the Netherlands and Germany:

I looked out the windows and saw the good old moon floating high in the sky and took a couple of pics for Clarissa (made me a bit homesick):

Once landed, we took a short train-ride into Copenhagen. I love train stations (always reminds me of Harry Potter for some reason).

Typical Copenhagen Building

The room I'm staying in is quite small:

Well that's it for now ....

Sunday, March 1, 2009

New Use for a Closet

Living with a 4.5 year old presents many challenges. One of these challenges is negotiating for television access for watching TV shows. Yes, we could force her off the TV, however our child would never leave us alone long enough to watch the show in peace (thank goodness for TiVo). We have one very old TV (as my co-workers remind me of on a seemingly daily basis). It's a Mitsubishi VS-5051; a vintage 50" rear-screen projection TV that is now 15 years old. There is a Picture-in-Picture capability. Our daughter typically watches TV "small" (in a small PIP window), while we watch a show on the, full size screen. It is a pain to setup, and we miss about an 1/8 of the show as the PIP takes up a sizable chunk of screen real-estate. It also "takes us out of the show," if, for example, an intense scene in Lost is being shown while an episode of Caillou is playing in the PIP window we often get distracted.

Another issue is that often times we want to have a computer close by while we are watching TV. We usually have one of the laptops on in the dining area while watching TV, however it is removed from the main TV viewing area.

My wife had a great idea a couple of months ago to address these 2 shortcomings of our current living configuration. In the main entry to our house, there is a small closet that has housed our audio/video equipment for many years. Because of changing configurations, nothing that was currently in the closet was really being used; it was basically just taking up space. My wife was at IKEA a month or so ago when she noticed a closet shelf, meant to be used as a valet for a wardrobe. We had this great idea that it would be a cool basis for a pull-out shelf which we could put the laptop on. We also thought that if we could put a TV in the closet it would help to end the TV-wars; our daughter could watch the small (HD mind you) TV while we watch the old 50" beast.

So to get started on the project, I first cleared out the closet. Here is what it looks like once all the old video/audio equipment was taken out. There were many cords coming up from under the house and for the time being I've let them stay on the floor.

I next mounted the pull out shelf.

I mounted the shelf, and then we realized that we should get a small chair that would easily fit in the closet when the door was closed. The weekend before we bought the chair, I had mounted the shelf. Naturally there was not enough space to put the chair in which forced me to move the sliding shelf back about 8 inches. Once this adjustment was made, I was able to keep on moving on the project

It's hard to see, but after the pullout shelf was mounted, I cut a piece of laminated MDF to fit between the pullout shelf and the back wall of the closet. This gave me a good base to store the TV on at the back of the closet. The TV has a built in DVD player and headphone jacks so that the child can watch TV without bothering us. Additionally there is an audio/video line running from the TiVos to the TV here in the closet so if our daughter wants to watch a recorded show, it's easy to switch by selecting a different input on the TV.

The laptop can be placed on the table surface and pulled out ...

Over time we're planning on adding an additional shelf or two and some other holders of some sort to store pens and other regularly used items. I've used the "media nook" a couple of times myself and it's worked out quite well.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Today I worked on a small garage project. The workbench area needed some task lighting; originally I had an old Luxo type of light, however the mount broke during the workbench replacement project. I found some very economical halogen lights, the Inreada model at IKEA a couple of weeks ago. These lights are meant to be used as bookcase/shelf lights. I spaced the 3 lights evenly across the workbench.

The lights were mounted through the wire shelves to small wood blocks with regular 1-5/8" drywall screws.

The three lights give a nice, even lighting across the entire work surface.

I like having 3 separate lights so that a project can be effectively lit from 3 separate angles. The lights pivot slightly to the left and right if I need to focus more light on a particular area. Overall the lights aren't super heavy duty; it will be interesting to see how they hold up over time.

On the "Reading Workbench" Part 2

#5 Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age
This book was recommended by Peter and I really enjoyed this from a history standpoint. Here is a book describing yet another unique collection of people and resources that produced technological advances that have formed the core of much of the computing technology we use each and every day. This book traces the establishment of PARC, through it's heyday, and ultimately the decline of this organization. This next set of books are a bit more technical, following along the lines of my interest in video/film production.

The Art and Technique of Digital Color Correction
Excellent book on techniques for color correcting video. Extensive practical examples and, as a supplement to the book on the enclosed DVD, a collection documents capturing sessions with professional colorists/graders who worked through how they would handle grading several of the examples in the book. Reading through these documents are, to me, better than taking a class on this topic, because one gains good insight, from a professional's point of view, as to how to address various "real world" grading issues.

#7 Producing Great Sound for Digital Video
Good book on the techniques for capturing and working with sound for typical video shoots. While the book feels a bit dated and is in need of a refresh with modern sound tools, the techniques and approaches for working with sound provide an excellent fundamental tutorial in how to work with production sound.

#8 The Art and Science of Digital Compositing, Second Edition: Techniques for Visual Effects, Animation and Motion Graphics (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Computer Graphics)
THE book for understanding Digital compositing. The basics of compositing (complete with it's historical roots) to specific techniques, and extensive real world case studies make up the book that is the definitive standard on compositing. The author, Ron Brinkmann, is one of the original designers for Shake, has numerous film credits, and is an avid photographer.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

On the "Reading Workbench" Part 1

I'm a fairly avid reader and thought the blog would be a good place to discuss some of the more interesting books that I've read recently. My interest in books covers technology, history, film making. I was originally thinking of making a list of books that I've read and just leaving it at that, but then I thought it would be worthwhile to give my impressions of them too while I was at it.

So here goes ...

1). Droidmaker: George Lucas and the Digital Revolution
Droidmaker tells, in immense detail, the story of the George Lucas and his quest to modernize the film making process to keep up with his vision for storytelling. Beginning in the late 60's the book begins describing the collaboration and friendship with Francis Ford Coppola. It documents the tedious, labor intensive and manual process for assembling a film. The story follows the creation of the the computer graphics group at Lucasfilm which had three purposes: to advance the state of film editing, compositing, and sound creation. The story follows this group, a portion of which eventually formed the core of what became Pixar. Along the way graphics luminaries such as Ed Catmull, and Alvy Ray Smith and other notable people are encountered. Overall an excellent read (so much that I've read it 3 times !). Michael Rubin, the author of the book, keeps a very interesting blog.

Side comment (and a couple of cool links):
Anyone who knows me knows that I am an avid, Star Wars, ILM, and George Lucas fan. However, what intrigues me most is what George Lucas had done to advance the state of film making. The DroidMaker book is the book I've been waiting for for years to come out as it provides a highly detailed look at the center of the film making revolution.
I remember as a child seeing the making of shows that showed the behind-the-scenes magic that went into the making of those images. Another major influence in my childhood (I guess like any kid growing up in the mid-late 70s) was that of computers. I recall seeing buried in an issue of Byte magazine a one page blurb about a completely computer generated "photograph" called the "Road to Point Reyes," rendered by the the Lucasfilm Computer Graphics Group. This book gives all the detail to this fascinating group of people and continues to show how key they were to modernizing/"digitalizing" the process of film making.

#2 The Pixar Story
A nice corollary the DroidMaker and gives a slightly different take on the same topic. This follows the "Computer Graphics" group of Lucasfilm, how Pixar was spun out and went from a hardware company, to producing shorts and commercials to finally feature films. The book wraps up discussing the purchase by Disney.

#3 The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap
THE book for the independent film maker. Stu Maschwitz is discusses how, by planning, and using basic tools (Adobe After Effects CS4), professional, high-quality stories can be made into film. There is no description that does this book adequate justice; if you want to make a film, this book is an absolute MUST to own.

#4 Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination
Excellent, detailed book highlighting the life of Walt Disney. The book gives a keen look into how hard Walt Disney struggled to get his studio established. Reading this book, you gain insight into how a focused vision and long, hard work and tenacity built the studio. Another insight I had was how Walt always wanted to be doing something new and innovative; how after he made a groundbreaking advance, he would be ready for new, different challenges. Snow White and Pinocchio were, as far as Walt was concerned, the pinnacle of animation. After this (except for Fantasia, where a new concept in animation was attempted) Walt was ready to move on to other things, most notably the theme parks. The book also describes the relationship he had with his brother and how the two personalities formed a good team. Walt, the creative visionary always held the craftsmanship of the final product as the main goal; Roy however had to keep the costs under control and provide financing for Walt's creative vision. Another highly recommended book.

More books to follow in the next post ...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Economical Fastener Storage

For a long time I've had one big plastic bin with a mish-mash of screws and bolts. I've been on the lookout for an inexpensive way of being able to store these fasteners. I've found the the Ziploc food storage containers fit the bill perfectly.

I labeled both the cover and the container so that I can easily see what is in each one. I can now put screws of the same type in a separate container and when I need, for example 1-1/4" drywall screws and 2" gold screws, I can easily grab the 2 labeled bins for the project at hand. The containers fit well in the existing niches above the workbench.

Simple and economical; and if one bin gets messed up, it is very easy to replace with a new one.