Wednesday August 1, 2012

What the hell have I done...

I have a couple of weeks break from learning Xcode for a few of different reasons. One I was getting sick of it, two I was actually sick in bed, three, a friend needed my help to do a project that used After Effects (fun when you are sick btw) and four, we had to represent our projects anyway. This small break made everything I had learned fall out of my brain and it all became rather opaque again. I don't know why Objective-C and Xcode is so difficult to pick up for me. Well, actually I can tell you exactly why - it's syntax is completely different for starters - but I don't know why that is causing me so much grief. People code in Objective-C all the time. Some of them didn't know how to code before that. Kids chewing chewing gum into their microphone do youTube tutorials (though I suspect some of them don't quite get what they are doing in any depth, but they can still successfully mimic code that works and make something that works). Anyway this is just me venting because progress has been slow... well, non-existent really, the last 2 weeks. It's not all because I can't do it though I've had a bunch of life obstacles this past week that have really gotten on my nerves. One of them kept me from sleeping at all last night so this afternoon as I try to take in someone's idea of how to do a login form (should be so simple), I can't actually concentrate. So I'll be needing a sleep before I do any more real work I think. Vent over.

    Sunday July 22, 2012


So far with Emerging practices I've only recorded a few small things. Today it rained and I was in the city. Unless I want to catch ambient noise of cars and rain (which I did for 2 minutes) I can't really record much. I recorded some meat sizzling in a frying pan. I'm a bit stuck as for what else to record. The thing that bugs me a lot is the sounds of the city and goddamn cars everywhere. This could be a theme but it's a bit clichéd. I guess at this point I could decide to record electric noise instead. Or both of course. Electric noise does appeal on some level as I like electronica and discovered that I like glitch a couple of years ago in Aural Terrains in year 1 (I didn't realise it was a genre which I guess is a bit naive really). Making it is something else, and circuit bending doesn't appeal much. I like some of the results of what I hear but it strikes me as rather laborious for a bunch of sounds that will probably sound like a bunch of other sounds from entirely different circuits. The uncalculated approach bothers me too. Many of the circuit benders I can image have no real idea what noise they will get because they don't know what they are actually doing aside from shorting a circuit. Which is why it's laborious of course. Sure, it's experimental, but it's also totally inefficient.  But I'll see what I can get. I have to give the zoom recorder back tomorrow which is a bit of a pain. I have recording equipment (a mac primarily, but I have a good USB soundcard and a studio mic) but none of it is portable.

What I have done is trawled through the reading list and written down the catalogue numbers of all the books and which libraries I can get them from. My plan is to read one book each week. I have taken one out and another one was in digital form. That is 2 books this week then.

    Sunday July 22, 2012

Digital Audio Production

I had my first Digital Audio Production class on last Friday. It's a very practical paper covering both recording and post production from an audio visual perspective. So it sounds rather like everything I had hoped for. I've already looked at the first assignment though we haven't been told about it, it was posted up online. I won't go into it just yet except to say that it looks like a lot of fun. We'll be using Pro Tools which isn't provided on my computer so I guess I'll have to do the assignment in the lab that we had our class in (it was decked out with Power Macs and Pro Tools with Mboxes) or use different software (probably not a good idea, plus I want to play with Pro Tools).

A lot of the first class covered stuff I kind of already know due to my interest in audio and a few interesting tidbits of both practical nature and interesting stories. One example was that a popular sports quiz show used canned laughter played from a keyboard. They had a 5-jokes-per-minute formula though the jokes weren't often funny, the canned laughter helped.

Another was that atmospherics are often recorded in stereo. The class went over time and aside from mucking around with some of the weblinks provided (one is an interactive tutorial on how sound works, I'll have a play though not much will be new) I won't have much to worry about for the rest of the week in regards to this paper.

    Sunday July 22, 2012

Project Ideas

This week before the next Smart Systems class we have to figure out a project to look into. I have 2 ideas, one is really kind of basic but kind of neat though not really useful in any way. It was a mechanical flower with a long stem that moved toward light. I had an idea of how it would move mechanically and it is pretty neat, it would wow people I think then it would just be a matter of programming it to sense the direction of light using an array of LDRs. It's all a bit basic though. Would impress people in year 2 but I think the standard (for me at least) should be a bit higher. I might still do it though, because as I said it's neat.

The other idea was something I came up with last year and wanted to use for the Dragons Den pitch that we had to do in year 2. The group I was in didn't seem too receptive to it, but a friend of mine reminded me about it when I told her of my location-aware project. It's a device that knows where a toddler is in relation to a driveway when a car is moving. There has been a spate of toddlers being run over in driveways over the years, enough to make one recognise it as a real problem in need of attention, and "good parenting" is clearly not the answer. Much the same way that "just eat less" is not the answer to obesity really.

I still need to read more on location awareness though.

    Sunday July 22, 2012

Semester 2

We've been back one week and had to discuss the direction of our projects with tutors. Like the majority of the class I was asked to re-frame it in some way and I managed to talk to 2 tutors to get some idea of what that meant. My impression is that I need to develop it any my questions further which is kind of what I intended to do anyway fortunately. Not just continue working on it but develop some of the ideas behind it, do more research on last semester's findings and somehow find a way to position it within the context of dating and social networking. I've just finished writing a presentation, I'm not really planning on presenting anything visually because the entire class has to present tomorrow. That's a lot of people. I've written an A4 page worth of presentation and it's helped me develop my ideas further.  Depending on how much time I have I might re-think this.

    Wednesday July 18, 2012

Smart Systems 4

I'm doing a 4th elective this semester because the Animation paper had some hand-in requirements that I wasn't aware of. I now have a very annoying blip on my academic record and am 15 points in deficit of my graduation requirements. I was going to argue the point but after some investigation it turns out I wasn't just diligent enough in this case. Oh well, shit happens.

That said, this paper looks like it will be rather interesting, especially given our two tutors credentials. We're going to be exploring location awareness and hopefully coming up with something interesting from it. We can interpret location awareness quite broadly too. I have a couple of ideas already but will do a bit of research before I divulge them.

    Wednesday July 18, 2012

Emerging Practices

Semester has started and my first class was Emerging Practices. This paper is difficult to define and it changes every time. It's seems to be normally something mildly performance oriented or just plain creative and conceptual. In some ways it's very much like Creative Technologies itself - hard to explain. I feel rather fortunate to have taken it this semester. We are going to be focusing on sound. The semester will be divided into 4 3-week blocks: recording a library of sounds, manipulating the sounds, creating some sort of composition from the sounds and finally mastering and polishing the composition. We'll be using among other things Ableton Live and Soundtrack Pro. I love playing with sound, but it's one of those things that I never find enough time for, much like my guitar that I once used to play. So to have a semesters worth of it will be great. It also sits well with another paper I'm doing at the same time, an external elective called Digital Audio Production. So I think I'll nicely zoned in with two harmonious papers.

I've borrowed a zoom recorder from the BCT loan centre and will be doing a lot of recording in the next few days. The aim is to get both a diverse collection of sound and also to consider what my theme or story will be for the final 5-minute composition. Whatever I do my own personal requirement is that it will be highly listenable. What's the point if listening to something just makes the listener think about getting to the end so they can go and do something else. Unless of course that is the point I suppose.

I have a few ideas already but they are subject to change once I begin recording.

    Saturday July 7, 2012

What it takes to make an iPhone app

I'm nearing the end of a 3 week break. One more week to go. But I haven't been totally relaxing, I've been learning (again) Objective-C and Cocoa. First I started storyboarding CoffeeDate, the application I'm building. I removed all of the custom graphics which were distracting so I could concentrate on it's functionality. I had used some code to create a table view that I had pulled off the net for the purpose of demonstration in my presentation, but the code had a small part that was specific to the storyboard setup in the example that it was demonstrating, and quite different to mine so running it resulted in a crash. I couldn't penetrate the code even with the explanation in the tutorial and once the presentation was over I decided to relax and step back a bit. I took the offending code out and started reading an online book on Objective-C. I then moved onto  the next book from the same website on iPhone application development, following along the tutorials. I got half-way through hand decided I should be able to muddle along a bit further with my app. I did, but quickly got stuck and wound up reading a lot of Apple's iOS documentation. I've found the syntax of Objective-C a bit of an obstacle in learning, being more familiar with C++ syntax which every other language I've learnt tends to be closer to. Also the higher level concepts are difficult to follow. I find that material on Objective-C either deals with concepts on too much of a high level for me with loads of opaque jargon, or it goes right the other way dumbing down explanations with awful analogies. Where is the middle ground? I am quite willing to get right into advanced stuff. Just start with the background first. I almost wonder if it would be advantageous to write a "book" of my own on Objective-C, so I could explain the concepts to myself. Then when it was done I'd also have a rather good book that I could sell.

I'm currently zipping through a real book on Objective-C for beginners, trying to glean basic info that I may have missed. One utterly confusing thing was when it tried to explain the concept of Polymorphism and took an entirely different approach to the more standard explanations. I'm not sure how the different explanations marry up. This brings me to something else, I suspect that some of the names, terms and concepts sound really big but aren't quite that important to actually have their own name in practice. If they are, perhaps explain why it's so significant. Some history please. Lets use the example of Polymorphism which as I currently understand it is simply the ability for different classes to each contain a method that has exactly the same name. It's almost a Whoopy-doo in some ways. I mean, why the hell wouldn't you allow 2 or more entirely different classes to re-use a name? So for (real-life I did this once) example, if you were making Pong and you had a class called "Bat" and a class called "Ball" and a class called "Score" they could both have methods called update and update could work completely differently in each. Update in Bat and Ball might update the movement while update in Score will check the score and update accordingly. Well the explanation in this beginners book I think is basically saying that... well I don't know what it's saying. It literally says " the ability of an object of once class to appear and be used as an object of another class". Whaa? The example doesn't shed much light but thanks, I thought I knew what polymorphism was until I read that.

I just looked it up on Wikipedia and it appears that there are a few different definitions of Polymorphism but only one in the context of object-oriented programming. And it is essentially the same method name in different classes. Though now I'm not sure if it relates the the fact that the method could be from superclass. Ugh. Though that wouldn't make sense with my original explanation which I really think is the most accurate so far. So you can see why I'm confused. Most computer types just seem to like big words, perhaps over compensating in some way.

So why would Polymorphism be isolated as this grand feature when you'd kind of expect things to be that way anyway? Well I can think of 2 possible reasons: One reason is that being aware of this concept  means you'll use it in an advantageous way when designing code. If 2 methods in 2 different classes essentially do the same thing (though not entirely in their implementation) you will actually be inclined to name them appropriately. The other reason is that you couldn't always do this, so when you could, it became a feature.

So, a real programmer (or me one day in the future) may read this and cringe at the above.

Anyway, as you can see, learning iOS development is a bit of a struggle. Yet lots of people do it so I'll keep going.

    Sunday June 24, 2012


Well this semester's blog got neglected. I didn't have much new to post anyway. I had concepts that I wanted to develop. I wish I had actually done so a little earlier too. I can't say that though, Digital Cinema Studies sucked too much time and that is the way it was. Out of my hands somewhat. Screw group work in electives, it's always a formula for sucking more time than you have, and sucking it away from stuff that is worth more. Like Studio.

I wanted to get back into iPhone application development but wasn't sure how, I'm building a website after all. Somewhere along the line, I had an idea for a location-aware dating service on the iPhone. I fleshed out the idea in my head and mentioned it to a class-mate and former team member of one of my good-group experiences in BCT, Lidy. She quite liked the idea and equated it to a sort of speed dating. The idea was basically an app that knew your location and allowed you to meet up with other registered users over a coffee break. I discussed it - over coffee - with Lidy and Anneke a couple of days later. I love bouncing ideas off them. The idea then sat around in my head for a while as I had to fight fires with Digital Cinema Studies and hand in an animation assignment in a complex program I'd never used before called Maya....

As semester end drew near I realised it might be more prudent to spend my remaining time collating all the dating website research I had done into meaningful thoughts and writing. I then built a presentation, a contextual statement (which then made me change my presentation) and then try to build the application. Of course time was running out and building a whole application from scratch when I haven't used XCode / Objective-C for 2 years (and XCode has changed significantly in that time it turns out) was a bit ambitious. I built a basic storyboard for it and a couple of iterations of designs but they really need more work and then I had to create other hand-in material. I really want to make an exhibition of quality, but this semester wasn't going to be it. I had neither time nor money nor a working application. I settled for a poster. I think my idea was strong and there was a lot of of background to it. But I can do an order of magnitude better. Though for that to happen there need to be certain conditions met which weren't... Next semester I'm going to blow everyone away.

It will be interesting to see the results of this semester though.

Oh yeah, the application is called (currently) CoffeeDate.

    Sunday June 24, 2012

Three's a Crowd

So that's the movie title. I regarded it as a draft title but we never changed it. A lot of interesting shit happened after the last post I made and it might have been good to document it as it happened but too much was happening and I didn't have time.

Let see now. This will look like I'm ripping into one person here. But I'm actually withholding a bit. There is no nice way to say some things some times.

We set up a shoot one Friday evening for one scene, the actors came but it started getting cold and dark rather quickly. We were shooting scene 3 or 4, whatever... which took place in a commercial garden. The location was Parnell gardens. I had produced a storyboard, slightly scribbly but had shot planned out. But we didn't use it. Apparently the script called for the two characters to be sitting while my storyboard had them walking down a garden path. But hang on... didn't I write the script? Later I asked Jackie and Roslyn if they thought that if the characters were walking or sitting. Walking. Okay...

Anyway we shot stuff, I wont go into it further, then we went home. Saturday no shooting, Joyce has some thing on Saturdays. Sunday, our lead male, Daniel canceled on us saying he was sick. wtf. We decided to continue shooting as much as we could without him, shot a park scene and then back to Joyces house for the interior shots. We didn't really follow a storyboard either, Joyce just shot stuff. It started to become disorganised. Our actress suggested a replacement if we needed a more reliable actor and we discussed it and Joyce suggested we talk about it on Facebook that night.

However before any of us were home, Joyce fired Daniel. We were going to have a meeting on the Tuesday and it was a struggle to get the footage off Joyce before then but myself and Jackie managed to on the Monday night. I reviewed it and was pretty annoyed. It was all terrible. There was 2 shots that looked okay in the park scene. Everything else was badly framed and had wide depth of field. There was crew in some shots marked as good.

I went in on the Tuesday morning with a rough edit of once scene and said how hard it was to get it working because of the continuity. Said that we needed to basically reshoot everything and this time be organised and use the storyboard. Joyce's response was to become slightly withdrawn an not give input. When questioned she said she needed to prove a point. We mucked around for about an hour and a half while Joyce was snarky then she went home. Jackie said she agreed with me and didn't care for Joyce's response much. Anyway what followed was the most productive day we'd ever had. Roslyn was more active and the three of us devised a schedule for the following weekend and drew up a storyboard that we all had input on. The difference was huge and that kind of cemented a few feelings on the subject of where Joyce had lead us amongst the group.

The next day I intended to create a detailed shot list and with that plan timings of the schedule in more detail and then hopefully work on Studio for once. But instead the day got stressful. Jackie was quite upset because she was having real problems getting all the actors to be able to come on the same day, then Joyce sent a text message to Jackie withdrawing her equipment that we needed. We couldn't get AUT equipment for the following weekend, it was all booked out. At this point I said there is no way Joyce is to remain director. Jackie organised a small meeting with our tutor and we told him of our dramas. He said to writer her a formal letter relieving her of her position, sign it the group, cc him in and get the filming done. So I wrote a letter, Jackie approved it and sent it. We got a predicable barrage back, but Joyce didn't want to come to the new shoot. We had organised a new location at Jackie's house (which was a far better location anyway). and organised the actors. We had somehow managed to get 2 good cameras and I created a very detailed shot list and shooting schedule. Joyce had decided on the Friday that she wanted to come to the Saturday shoot. We'd actually reached a point where we didn't her around screwing things up but couldn't say that. Oh yeah I was director now. I met one of our actors in town and accompanied her to Jackie's home and once everyone was there we started shooting. I pushed things along so we didn't run behind time. This was hard. And we did run behind time. We were driven to the local botanical gardens to shoot the the park and garden scenes. We had to delete the beach scene. We got back to Jackie's house to shoot the final home scenes and it was starting to get a little dark and we were losing light. It was getting stressful as things started to become undone near the end with so little light (it was actually still day but I discovered just how sensitive to light cameras are). We wrapped up shooting and everyone went home. The next day I went back to Jackie's house and we filmed an establishing shot in the park that we had managed to miss doing and the opening scene that her and I had planned from the start. We made a Dolly up for the scene and photographs for the backdrop. Joyce now had a role as editor but I made an edit too just in case.

The following Tuesday we had to meet with the tutor to show what we had. I wasn't terribly impressed with the edit either and Jackie bought up my edit (she knew about it) and so we viewed that and tried to plan the best bits of each version. The following Thursday Joyce decided she didn't want to edit anymore because she "had done so much" and myself and Jackie probably needed to do more. WTF.

So what followed was myself, Jackie and Roslyn coming in on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to edit the thing. I also colour corrected, a job that Joyce said she'd do but we neither trusted that she could or would. So I did that too. Much of her editing didn't make it in either. She was now to do the sound which was my job originally. We had to screen this film on the Tuesday. Long story short it was completed at about 4am Tuesday morning and we screened it. While other groups said how much fun they had aside from technical difficulties, Jackie pipped up and said "we didn't really have any technical difficulties, we had group difficulties". After the screening, people from digital design came up to us and said they knew what the problem was. Why didn't they warn us at the beginning? We had to write peer assessments. Jackie got an excellent from me, Roslyn a very good and Joyce a poor. Her comments section was a mini essay detailing almost every way that she derailed the our work.

How did the film look? It wound up comparing quite well against the others. Yet we could have done it much better. Myself, Jackie and Roslyn made a really good team...

This goes to full HD if you fullscreen it.