Monday, August 19, 2013

Voting in Australia and "having a reasonable fear for your safety"

Monday 19th August 2013

For the first time in my voting history I have chosen to do a postal vote. I'll be travelling on Saturday 7th September to event a number of hours away and we'll be looking to leave at about 6am making it difficult to vote in my local electorate. I found it very easy to fill out and submit the form online but was a taken aback by one of the reasons you can give for not voting in person, that is "have reasonable fear for your safety".

I wonder what the circumstances that have led for this to be provided as a reason? Maybe it is a way to better understand voter behaviour within certain seats. I hope we don't move towards the scenes of violence that other countries experience.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Whale Watching In Port Stephens

Wednesday 24th July 2013

In July 2012 I was spending a week up in Port Stephens on holidays. This is an area I know quite well given the family has spent many holidays there over the years and now my parents have a home up there as well. But for all the years that I had made the journey up the coast, I hadn't bothered to do any whale watching. I decided to right a wrong and spend a couple of hours out there and was fortunate to see two whales making their way up the coast on their annual migration north to warmer waters. I captured some video here ...

Last week I was back up in Port Stephens and thought that I should find the time to take another trip out onto the water. Once again I had picked an absolutely stunning day for whale watching, skies were clear and the seas relatively calm. I chose to do the whale watching with the Tamboi Queen Cruises They have been around for over 40 years and are family operated. Staff are very knowledgeable, friendly and helpful and the ship was not over crowded allowing people to move around easily.

The boat that we went out on was the same vessel as last year, the MV Spirit of Port Stephens. Not the biggest boat in Port Stephens but this to me is where it has a distinct advantage. More maneuvrable than the larger craft in the bay it is able to get into areas the others can't.

Before boarding I took some travel sickness tablets just in case and they seemed to work quite well given the seas were rolling up and down quite a bit. The journey out past Little Beach and Shoal Bay gives a different perspective to the area and reinforces the fact that it is a beautiful place to visit. We had calm waters out past the Tomaree Heads and picked up some dolphins swimming along side the boat. We stopped for a quick look at a cut in the southern headland and the smaller vessel was able to maneuver in allowing people to take some photos.

After spending a minute or two there it was now time to make for open water and to find some whales. There was one other whale watching boat out and they had located a whale and we headed straight for them. After about 15 minutes of motoring we had made it there and the single humpback whale was in a playful mood. Over the 45 minutes we watched multiple full body breaches by the whale. I had my 100-400mm Canon EOS lens along with the Canon 7D. The camera and lens performed flawlessly but would have liked a few more shots at the higher shutter speed to capture the entire sequence of breaching through to splash down. In the pitching seas however I was not able to zoom to the full 400mm but was taking most of my shots in the 100mm-150mm range. This is where having a 70-200mm Canon EOS lens would have been more preferable.

We then left the whale and headed back towards one of the islands near the inlet to Port Stephens, called Cabbage Tree Island. The captain located six Australian fur seals having a bit of a snooze on the rocks and I was able to get in nice and close with the lens. They were very placid and didn't appeared phased by the boat being relatively close to them. I suspect the fact the ship visiting multiple times a day would make them used to our presence. We then headed back into Port Stephens passing a pod of dolphins feeding in the white water just off Tomaree Heads. They were able to get much closer to the rocks then what we could so we decide to move back into the the bay. We searched for some more dolphins but weren't able to find any but the cruise was enjoyable.

On the way back to the marina we passed a small group of fairy penguins. They were a bit flighty so didn't get too close to them plus they were quite quick and nimble with their swimming. Pulled back into the marina and was certain money well spent. $60 for 3 hours of entertainment is excellent value these days. Saw more than what I had expected and on such a beautiful day, couldn't have asked for anything more.

I've included some pictures below for you to take a look at. Click on the image to view the larger image size.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Oculus Rift Development Kit ordered

Sunday 2nd June 2013

Over the past week or so I've been watching a huge number of YouTube videos around the Oculus Rift. It appears to be the first consumer focused virtual reality headset targeted at a reasonable price point and complimented by a awesome array of features such as large field of view, head tracking etc and decent screen resolution.

I had originally read about the Rift on Kickstarter but as they were targeted for developers I didn't really think much about it. But as the developer kits were delivered and people started to post their reactions it became apparent that not everyone who bought the kits were themselves developers. I guess like most people who have an interest in VR they want to get it as quickly as possible and didn't want to wait for the consumer version to arrive.

What peaked my interest was the reaction people were having to the immersion. This was not just gamers but their parents, grand parents, friends and other family members. I decided to check the OculusVR webpage and the development kits are still being offered for $300USD. Now to me that is fantastic value and that would be the average pricethat I've paid for monitors. One of my favourite games is Armed Assult and I knew that it supported EyeFinity and ended up getting 3 new 27" monitors. That has served me well for about 2 years but always wanted more monitor space. A video of my setup is included below.

How do I increase the level of immersion with a monitor setup? Do I get bigger monitors? Do I create a Simpit in my garage to satisfy my demands? I've even seen novel ways of hooking up 3 projectors and having them overlap to give large field of view but nothing quite achieves the screen size as that of what the Oculus Rift aims to offer.

The potential for gaming is enormous. FPS shoot em ups are made for this but also flight/space and driving simulators. But there should also be lots of other opportunities for pre-visualisation of architecture and even for travelling to places you would never get to in person. 

How the Oculus team is staging the availability of the Rift makes perfect sense. No point bringing out a product if no one has any content for it. Get it out there for the developers first to understand their requirements and to allow them to create the tweaks to existing games.

My order # itself is over 56000 so if this aligns with the true number of developer kits sold that is a significant number and shows the potential that this has. Can't wait to receive the developer kit and looks like I'll have at least a 2-3 month wait.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Thoughts on bulk scanning with a Nikon Coolscan 5000

Wednesday 29th May 2013

Back in September 2008 I purchased a Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 scanner. My intention was to get through all my old negatives within the space of a year or two. But close to five years on I'm still slugging it out. So I've set myself a target of scanning one page of negatives a day with minimum adjustments using the default scanning software. Over time that will get the number of outstanding to a reasonable level. I've also flagged with my parents to get all the negatives that they have out as well. Not sure of the quantity involved but having them centralised and in proper folders will make me feel better.

One thing that does suprise me is the fact that there doesn't appear to be an easy way to perform a bulk scan. What I mean by that is to put a how lot of negatives into a holder and the scanner slowly goes through one by one. They do have a automated feeders for slides and an adaptor that will scan a whole uncut roll? 

Maybe some can get a KickStarter project happening to design, manufacture and sell? If reasonably priced I would definitely buy one.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Why 2015 will be the worst time to attend ANZAC Day at Gallipoli

Sunday 19th May 2013

On the 25th April 2015 many nations will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the landings on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. Undoubtedly there will be a huge interest and demand to attend the ceremony with the Australian Government recently announcing details of numbers allowed along with the process of applying (you can read more about them here ... Gallipoli 2015 commemorations).

With numbers being restricted tour companies are finding other ways of getting people close to the ceremony including cruise ships being positioned off ANZAC Cove. Whilst for the passengers on board the ship it will be a spectacular scene looking back to the shoreline I believe that those people watching from land it will be a visual deterrent seeing a large cruise ship spoiling the view in front of them.

Once of the main things that I noticed on when attending ANZAC day ceremony at Gallipoli was the peacefulness one experienced as first light started to appear. Looking out over the calm, peaceful water it gave a stark contrast to what it would have been like that fateful morning back in 1915. Security will also be very tight for and if the troubles in Syria are still going on at that point it may also deter from the whole experience.

My advice is to give it a miss in 2015 and look to attend at another time.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

My thoughts on Vine

Sunday 17th March 2013

Yesterday I decide to download the Vine application for my new iPhone 5. Vine is mobile application released by Twitter that allows users to create small videos with audio of 6 seconds in length. This appears to keep it in line with the 140 character limit of tweets ensuring the message is short and to the point.

After downloading I was intrigued on how you would use the application and what flexibility there was. On completing the setup where I allowed it access to my Twitter account I was up and running. It didn't take me long to make a quick video just after I finished mowing the lawn.
I then scoured other videos that people had created to see get some ideas. Given the short amount of time to work with, I decide that I would make a short film about my coffee machine that I got as a birthday present (thanks Mum and Dad!) back in January.
I must admit I quite like the possibilities and opportunities. Being the first release the functionality is very limited. There are a few features I would like added such as :
  • Being able to start creating a video, save it off and come back to it later. On the iPhone you can navigate to another application and then come back but you need to complete that video first before moving on. 
  • Ability to use the front facing camera so if you need to film yourself you have some idea as to where the camera is pointing
  • Edit clips together
  • A dedicated iPad app 
  • Create videos on PC/Macs etc
  • Option to update the text/tags on videos  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tropfest Australia 2013 - Review of Finalists

Tuesday 26th February 2013

Okay I've sat down and captured my thoughts around the Australia Tropfest 2013 finalists. Here is what I thought of each film.

Great Day - well the story behind this film certainly made it look like a good day for the main actor. I didn't mind the story on the second viewing. Was hoping for a little bit better production around the slow motion effect. Looked like it was shot in someones garage.

Let It Rain - I think most guys can relate to this film. Adult in body, child in mind. Loved the ending and I think that is what makes a great Tropfest film, keep the audience guessing to the last minute then let them visualise why you imply.

Time - This was my favourite film. Beautifully shot and the acting by the young cast was fantastic. Couldn't really fault it. Was glad that the young boy won the male acting award of the night. I see a successful career for him in the future.

Scene 16 - Professionally shot with some great acting. This film reinforced the fact that I should never date an actor.

Monobrow - I think most people can at least associate with this film is some way. The film leads the audience down one path and then takes you a completely different direction. Nice use of a song to assist with the story as well.

Inside - Thought this was creative film and great use of visuals to get it's point across. Again, some well known Australian actors assisting to create a worthy finalist.

The Pledge For Mr Bunny - Really struggled with this film. Just didn't get it. Appears that it was crowd funded as there was a stack of people noted on the credits. That's all I can really say. Cross referencing Facebook firends with the film makers and that of staff at Tropfest really makes me wonder how this made the final 16.

Cash Cow - Certainly had a few chuckles with this flick. But how can your average film maker compete with bringing in such well known TV personalities into your film. Well shot and complimented with some good acting.

Cargo - I have been watching a lot of The Walking Dead lately so didn't mind this zombie movie. With minimal dialogue we are taken on a journey that goes from bad to worse. A very nice "carrot and stick" analogy which allowed the film to progress through to the end.

Taser - This film reminded me of Momento, one of Christopher Nolan's first films. The earlier scenes of the story are played back more and more and you start putting together the pieces until you have the full story. Professionally shot with the main actor appearing in one of the recent Underbelly mini series, this film has highlights some issues around policing in NSW and the use of Tasers. Some very powerful scenes in there.

Punctured - What a simple little film, but loved it. With not a spoken word in sight it took us along for a fantastic ride. Loved the animation and the soundtrack. Well within my top 3 so glad it made it.

Better than Sinatra - As I've worked in Sydney for 15 years I have seen this guy, Raymond Borzelli, do his thing in a number of locations. We used to refer to him as "Dancing Man" and have vivid memories of him dancing at the food court at the back of Australia Square. I see him all the time when I go for a walk through Hyde Park. This is a very honest documentary. A very worthy recipient of the 2nd place.

Remote - Rather disappointed with this film. Whilst nicely shot in a rather exotic location I was left a little deflated once I realised the film was over. And coming from a previous finalist I was expecting a little bit more.

The Hustle - I enjoyed watching this film. Clever use of misdirection where the main protagonist leads you in one direction and then in the final moments the other side to the story is played out. The first in a couple of out of work "Sea Patrol" actors to appear in Tropfest this year.

A Man Walks Into A Bar - this to me is a film that is ideal for Tropfest. Small amount of actors and the film is based purely around a situation and good use of dialogue. Enjoyed it watching the second time through and picked up on a few things that I had missed on the first viewing. Was probably made on a small budget which if is the case another win for the short film maker.

We Have All Been There - thought that the film was well shot and had some well known actors. I certainly like Laura Wheelwright in this along with her previous role in the movie Animal Kingdom. Some of the other actors were familiar faces in Australian film and TV. Certainly shows how competitive Tropfest has become in use of professional actors. Disappointed though in hearing this film was based on other work. Surely for a 7 minute short film people can come up with something original.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tropfest Australia 2013 - The Finalists and other thoughts

Sunday 17th February 2013

For a number of years I have wanted to submit a film to Tropfest. And for Tropfest Australia 2013 I finally did. I had great enjoyment in realising the dream. Though I didn't get shortlisted or become a finalist I can still be immensely proud of what I had achieved. Tonight the 16 finalists will have their films shown with one of them taking the ultimate prize.

Now looking at the finalists what sort of people was I up against? A quick analysis of the directors involved; 3 have been Tropfest finalists before, 13 are trained in the industry and 11 work in the industry. That I would say is pretty tough competition. I have absolutely no formal training, nor do I work in the film/TV industry. What I do have is passion of films and a belief.

Whilst the winner is announced tonight it won't be until late March when full rights to my film, "Last Flight of The Madhu", is returned to me. It's at that point I will have great joy in letting the rest of the world watch it.

I feel quite lucky that we live in a time when anyone can post a video for the whole world to see. Sites like YouTube and Vimeo offer your average Joe the ability to post your material. I look forward to looking at the viewing statistics. Where people are from, how they found the video etc.

So how will I get people to watch the film? I think an easy way is to post it on the usual social sites such as Facebook and Twitter and have friends of friends watch it. I will also rely on people who participated in the film and their circle of friends. What sort of numbers of viewings should I target? Do I be realistic or aim for lofty hieghts? 

Time will tell.