Josh (the blog)

Hey there. I’m Josh, a SydneyCanberra-based maker of Internets. I don’t update this very often.


PLAY! A video game symphony

Geeking tonight was awesome. Never seen so many nerds in the one place. Need to get out (to nerd gatherings) more! Conductor was Arnie Roth, who was vaguely annoying but possibly only on account of his American-ness and the fact that someone gave him a microphone, and we all know giving conductors mics is invariably a BadIdeaâ„¢. Akira Yamaoka had some crazy part to play with an electric guitar (they only used one mic on his amp, I was appalled!)… he was dressed quite interestingly. I suggested I adopt his fashion sense (because, invariably, mine is lacking!) and was promptly shut down by Claudia.

Video was annoyingly bad in the entire first half, because the vision switching was rubbish, the cameras were inappropriate for the task, and the camera ops had not the foggiest idea how to pull focus, adjust iris, or obey cues. Alternatively, the person calling the show was just really bad at letting people know when they were clear to start moving. I’d say somewhere between the two. Given there were only four live vision sources by my count (centre at audio desk, centre right (stage left), stage right, organ loft) it’s not exactly as though it should’ve been too complicated. The first two were house cameras and generally pretty okay. The third was an XL-1 or -2, whilst the camera at the organ was probably a XM or maybe a compact Panasonic camera. Both cameras 3 and 4 had serious aperture issues. The third was often too dark (failing to compensate for dim lighting in the room), whilst the fourth was waaay too far open. Apparently someone must have set it up when house lights were on and the organ was not: accordingly, it was absurdly bright against the other 3 cameras (zebra bars, anyone?).

Part of the issue also stemmed from having two different classes of projector in use in a configuration where the primary screen (called A) is ~18×9″ and two secondaries (collectively, B) are perhaps half the primary screen’s dimensions (that is, a quarter of its size). All three were rear-project and I’d imagine that projector A was vastly more powerful than projectors B. Accordingly, camera 4 appeared on B without losing details, while on A the sheet music was a vast white expanse. This is why it’s important for video nerds to look outside their little control booth sometimes — preview monitors lie.  Also, the larger screen was one of the dirtier fast-folds I’ve seen used, with clearly visible lines three-by-two across it becoming especially apparent in bright, high-motion segments.

Somehow video redeemed itself in the second half (maybe different cameramen, maybe the person calling shots got a clue in intermission, or maybe my hypercriticalness subsided somewhat), but I wasn’t left amazingly impressed.

Lighting, on the other hand… delightful. Eight 5kW fresnels with Colourset scrollers gave a nice wash to the stage above and beyond what the (more) intelligent fixtures could provide. I couldn’t pick the movers on the back bar, but I’d venture a guess at MAC600′s for the sides. Also four per side, as with the fresnels. Five along the back bar, though I’m quite sure they were a different kind of fixture. Lighting didn’t help out the cheap Canon video cameras, though the house cameras dealt with it admirably… there were a few really beautiful shots in there from those two.

Audio worked. The 6.1 (which I read about somewhere but now can’t find, and for which there were puncy little speakers about the size of SX100′s set up in their appropriate positions) was useful for drowning out the organ at one point and making percussion come from weird directions, but other than that I didn’t particularly notice it. Which is good. Either they weren’t using it, or the sound was just swallowed by the room. Quite a lot of mics and those sound partitiony things (they surely have a name, but I don’t know it), which would tend to indicate they were being quite ambitious about either recording the concert or mixing to surround and didn’t want audio leaking between microphones. Hence (in part) my frustration at the single mic on Yamaoka’s amp… redundancy is important where one instrument is that important, especially in a high-traffic area like that (conductor walks around more than anyone else on stage). There’s always the possibility to re-set mics in intermission, but if either Yamaoka or the conductor were to knock it on entering after the intermission? Stuffed. It was a decent sized amp, but it’d hardly carry throughout the building very well. Aside from that… well, I don’t really know what I’m talking about with audio, anyway. It sounded good.

I shocked myself by remembering large swathes of Zelda. This makes me think I must’ve had Butterfly-Effect-esque blackouts in my childhood, but oh well. I’ve also decided I want to buy a Dreamcast, difficult though that may prove, because I really wanted one when they first came out (on account of that whole Linux thing, Internet connectivity, the brand’s relative innocence — hey, maybe that’s why it’s gone now –, and a handful of delicious looking screenshots from games which got great reviews) and never got around to it before they stopped making them.

Konami are morons. Everyone else gives their game footage gratis, quite reasonably understanding that such coverage is only going to boost the value of their brand, yet Konami apparently insisted on a watermark on some footage provided. I’ve never been a fan of many of their games anyway, but that watermark pissed me off enough that I’m exceedingly glad they’re mostly stuck in arcades with aging picture tube consoles, anyway. About the same decade as their marketing saaviness.

As much as I will always whine about anything visual (I “enjoy” or “dislike” regular concerts without too much analysis, because I can’t), it was a good night. It made me miss productions enormously (live vision especially), which is funny because I think the desired effect was to make people miss video games instead. Claud had fun laughing at the geeks getting all dressed up. We both laughed as certain members of the audience were baffled by performance conventions! All in good fun.