4 in February 2016

4 in February 2016

I haven’t been playing very many video games lately. Sure, I got sucked into Fallout 4 for about 40 hours, but then a whole lot of nothing. It’s time to break out of that. It’s time to actually play a few of the (very) many games that are lying untouched in my library.

4 in February is a yearly event, started by (the now defunct) Joystiq, challenging people to complete four unplayed video games during the month of February. The idea isn’t to go buy four new games, but to make it through four that you already have, but haven’t gotten around to.

With that in mind, it’s time to tackle a little of my backlog. Here’s my 4 in February.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Conveniently, Rise of the Tomb Raider makes its way onto PC on January 28th, just a few days before the start of February. Given just how much I love the Tomb Raider reboot (I’ve played through it twice), it’s no surprise that I want this one on my list to beat in February.

It’ll be very nice to look at as well – this Christmas I upgraded my PC with a new GTX 970, and that’s the card for the recommended spec!

Mission Accomplished!

That wasn’t quite as long as I expected. It only took about 12 hours to complete, and I powered through it in just 3 days. I streamed the whole thing – check out the recordings to the left!

Just Cause 2

Just Cause 3 just came out, but I think I’m going to wait for that to go on a better sale. In the meantime, Just Cause 2 is languishing in my Steam library, not even 2 hours played. I don’t remember much from the brief time I’ve already spent with the game, just that I think it was fun, and that it sure looks like it’ll be a lot more fun when I dedicate a proper amount of time to it.

Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People

Remember that great website HomestarRunner.com? The one that’s showing signs of coming back to life? Well, back in 2008 they partnered with Telltale Games to make a series of point-and-click adventures! This was back before Telltale’s games were basically just dialog trees and tough moral choices – they were legit point-and-clicks. I did play most of the first episode at one point, but there’s no way I remember how to do it at this point. It’s broken into 5 episodes, so I think I’ll just play one all the way through each night till I finish it.

Time Gentlemen, Please!

Time Gentlemen, Please! screenshot depicting a couple of characters in a forest with a bird saying %22Bwark!%22 sitting on a tree.

This is actually a sequel to the studio’s previous game Ben There, Dan That, but I won’t play that one first unless I’m making really good time on the others during the month. It’s an absurd comedy point-and-click adventure game, but most importantly it’s kinda short. It’s only about 6 hours long according to user submissions at How Long to Beat. With two big AAA games in my lineup this month, I’ll need a shorter one to serve as a palate cleanser.

So there it is. The four games I’ll be trying to tackle in February. I think I have a good mix, even though two of them are point-and-click adventures. I’ve got a little snack-sized game, an episodic game with easy stopping points, a sandbox mayhem generator, and an epic action adventure. I’ll probably be streaming my time with these games when I can on my Twitch channel (or maybe YouTube instead). We’ll see how I did on March 1st!

Quality Time Premiere Tonight!

This is it!

The premiere of my short film Quality Time is tonight! Watch the trailer below, and below that is the when and where!

Michael can’t stand his roommate, though the issue is almost entirely in Michael’s head. One morning, a chemical emergency happens, trapping them both in one room for about six hours, and trapping Michael in what he sees as his own personal hell. During their hours together, he must (try to) learn to put up with John. In the end, he learns nothing, because it’s more funny that way.

 Premiere

See Quality Time and 19 other short films produced in the last several months!

Fat Cats Rexburg

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

6:30-8:30pm

Lighting Shopping List

I’m making a little trip to Home Depot this weekend. I need some lighting. Sure,  I could borrow some from the school, and I still might, but I’d like to have a few on hand for myself. So I’ve been doing some research on what I’ll need to buy. Here are some of the resources I found:

This video is the basic idea I want. It also reminded me of some important things I would probably have forgotten (like extension cords).

This video is a response to the previous one. It’s a little different and gave me a couple other ideas.

I’m undecided about whether I’m going to buy some stands online (depends on the price and whatnot), or if I’ll make one DIY style. I almost want to do the DIY method just because it’s fun to build things!

I’ll be posting about my shopping trip toward the start of next week and sharing everything I picked up!

Building My (Almost) Dream Editing Machine

Long story short, I’m impatient. I don’t like it when I have to wait a long time for my computer to do things. That’s why I set out to build a computer this past December. In this post, I’ll share:

  • What my goals in building this computer were.
  • How I selected the parts I used.
  • What parts I actually ended up using.
  • A few snags I ran into during the actual building process.

The Goals

I had three goals in mind while building this computer:

  1. To be able to edit (and export) video pretty quickly using Adobe Premiere Pro CS6
  2. Be able to play current video games at high graphics settings in 1080p
  3. To not have to buy Adobe CS6 again.

That third one was what created the biggest problem: I owned CS6 for Mac. That meant one thing: I needed to build a Hackintosh.

Goals 1 and 2 work pretty well together: the venn diagram of things that make a good video editing machine and a good gaming rig has a pretty good cross section. That meant the starting point was to start with the hardest part (Hackintosh), and then get the others to work within the restraints presented by Hackintoshing.

One more thing: my goal was to stay right around the $1000 mark. The good news: I was buying the parts in November, which has some of the steepest discounts on computer parts all year.

Selecting the Parts

Knowing that I’d have to work within the constraints of building a Hackintosh, I set out to find parts that work best with that. One of the most trusted and comprehensive sources of information on Hackintoshing is TonyMacX86. The best part is that they publish guides to the most compatible parts every month. The great thing is that Hackintoshing has come a long way and there’s a wide variety of parts you can use. That would be enough, except that those same parts are the best ones for video editing!

Long story short, I just selected the best parts within my budget limitations from the Tonymac list.

The Actual Parts

I used PC Part Picker to price out and plan the parts.

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-4770K 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z87X-D3H ATX LGA1150 Motherboard
  • Memory: Crucial Ballistix Sport 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory
  • Storage: Kingston HyperX 3K 120GB 2.5″ Solid State Disk
  • Storage: Kingston HyperX 3K 120GB 2.5″ Solid State Disk
  • Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5″ 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive
  • Video Card: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 660 2GB Video Card
  • Wireless Network Adapter: TP-Link TL-WDN4800 802.11a/b/g/n PCI-Express x1 Wi-Fi Adapter
  • Case: Corsair 500R Black ATX Mid Tower Case
  • Power Supply: Thermaltake Tough Power 750W 80+ Gold Certified ATX Power Supply
  • OSes: OS X Mavericks & Windows 8.1

The Snags

This was my first time building a computer, and it was a little scary. I was going very slowly when building it because I was so afraid of messing up. The number one thing I’d recommend to people building a computer for the first time is to prepare. Watch tutorials online. Read the manuals (seriously, they are necessary). Preparation is going to make your life much, much easier.

Underestimating

One of the problems I’ve always had is underestimating. I underestimate how long it will take me to do an assignment. I underestimate what I’ll need to have for a project I’m working on. And I certainly underestimated how much stuff I need to do when working on my short film.
I’ve been working on a pre-production plan for the short film I’ll be shooting next month. Once again, I underestimated just how much planning goes into it. I have scenes pictured out in my head, but when I actually sit down and break down the scene, I realize that I’m going to need X number of actors; this, that, and the other prop; a lot of lighting to make sure people aren’t just shadows. The list goes on and on.
The worst part is knowing that no matter how much pre-production planning I do, I’ll have forgotten something. I always do. Every time I travel between home and school I always leave something behind. I know the same is going to happen with this production. But that’s a part of life. Things will be forgotten, but rolling with the punches is an important part of any creative effort.

A Collection of Dark Premises

Image from Ready.gov

Image from Ready.gov

It’s time for an update on the short film I’m working on. I figure it’s time to share the premise.

“A student who hates his roommates must spend 6 hours trapped in a room with them during an emergency.”

I’ll elaborate a little.

Tim’s a college student who just wants to be left alone. He doesn’t really have a good reason to hate his roommates; he just really hates living with them. He’d rather be on his own. He doesn’t want to talk to them. I imagine in the kitchen he probably has a cabinet that the others aren’t even allowed to open up.

This post isn’t about that though. This is about the inspiration for the other part of that.

When I was 12, my family moved to Southeast Washington. Part of the TV market in that area was Umatilla, OR. Once in a while, there would be a little PSA on the local channels about what they should do in case of emergency. You see, Umatilla was home to one of the US’s stockpiles of chemical agents. There was a plan to incinerate them, but until that was completed just a few years ago, there was some serious danger.

If there was an incident, they would have had to shelter in place (quickly, I might add) and seal off the outside air coming in. So that was the inspiration for the premise. In fact, the characters largely follow the instructions given on Ready.gov for sheltering in place (though in reality they probably would have evacuated; sheltering in place like that is only good for a couple of hours).

Now I’m at college in Rexburg, Idaho. And wouldn’t you know it, I’m close to another place. Idaho National Laboratory in nearby Idaho Falls doesn’t pose the same kinds of danger (they mainly focus on energy research), but they’ve had incidents too. In fact, they were the site of a fatal nuclear accident in 1961 (the ones killed were personnel working on the reactor).

So put my college experience and the chemical accident premise together and you get this story!

Starting is the Hardest Part

blank-page

That image above is a good summary of the hardest part of making a short film (which is just one of the things I’m doing in the next few months). Seeing a blinking cursor on screen is just so intimidating. Even though my ideas are always brewing in my head for a while before I actually start typing things out, that doesn’t make it much easier.

The weird thing is that once I start, things open up. The words just start flowing out of my fingertips when I actually start typing. But it takes a massive amount of effort to just get those first words onto the page. I’ve started though. I’ve got the draft of my short film’s script written, though there’s some stuff I’m not happy with yet about it.

Until I get it refined a little more, I’ll just leave the logline here:

A student who hates his roommates must spend 6 hours trapped in a room with them during an emergency.

Building and Fixing: Working on PCs

Some people build computers. Other people fix them. We all use them.

I recently built my first computer and was inspired to share my experience and also see what it’s like to fix a laptop. I visited with Michael of The PC Penguin and watched as he fixed a broken power port on a laptop, and we talked about what it takes to keep up with the changing computer repair industry. In this short documentary, I also share a brief overview of what I went through to build my first computer. Looking back, I make it sound a little scarier than it was, but it’s really not that hard. If you’re interested, you should give it a shot sometime!

My original idea for this documentary fell through, so I only had about a week and a half to put this one together. I had just finished building my first computer a day or two before and it was such a great experience that I decided to make that the subject of this documentary! I emailed Michael and he was perfectly willing to participate and it was really interesting watching him work. I wish I had known I would be doing this before I built my computer so I could have recorded myself as I put it together. Instead, I had to go back after the fact and recreate a couple of shots. Also, since the inside of my case is painted black, it’s really hard to get good shots in there, but I did my best.

Michael Fixing a Laptop's Power Port

Title Screen

Chinese in Rigby: Short Documentary

[Trailer coming after it finishes uploading. Check back in the morning. This message brought to you by awful internet, which is what I have. Seriously, this apartment complex could use a major upgrade.]

Why would a little elementary school in a small town in the middle of Southeast Idaho be teaching their students Chinese? How would that even work? Well, they are and it does. At South Fork Elementary in Rigby, Idaho (population of the entire county: about 25,000) some of the Kindergartners and First Graders are not just learning their ABCs: their learning an entirely different language.

The long-term goal of the immersion program in the Jefferson (County) School District is to have the students learn the language all the way through high school, achieving a high fluency level by the time they graduate from high school. South Fork Elementary in particular chose the Chinese language to give the students an advantage in the business world in 15-20 years when they graduate from college.

In this short documentary, I tried to capture a little slice of what the classroom environment is like, while providing a little basic information on the program. I cannot say enough nice things about the staff at South Fork. They have been nothing but helpful and kind in their assistance making this film. The teachers are wonderful, the administration has been so cooperative, and, most importantly, the program is great. While it’s clear the students don’t understand everything the teachers are saying, it’s amazing to watch them pick up on and understand the contextual clues surrounding these new words they’re learning. They can already count at least up to twenty in Chinese. They generally have a good idea what the teachers are asking them to do. They’re little information sponges, which makes them the perfect candidates to learn a new language, even while they’re still trying to get a grasp on their native language.

Special thanks go out to Mr. Howard, the Principal of South Fork for keeping in good contact (even if I didn’t always do a good job at that), the school secretaries for helping me out (and saving me hours of work digitizing all the legal release forms), Yu Jin and Li Li for putting up with me distracting the students (though I tried not to, the kids will always be distracted by a camera), and anyone else I might have forgotten. I’ve had a lot of great support, and I’m very appreciative of that.

A Chinese immersion program in Rigby, Idaho?

It seems odd that there would be a Chinese language immersion program for kindergarten and first grade at an elementary school in tiny Rigby, Idaho. Why would they need to, or even want to, learn Chinese in a town surrounded by fields and farms?

It’s true though. I’m currently creating a short documentary about this program. South Fork Elementary started it this fall with two teachers: one for kindergarten and one for first grade. The majority of the class is taught in Chinese, including and encompassing every other subject the students would learn. They speak Chinese all through the school day, every school day.
In my documentary I’ll be showing a typical day in the classroom, with interviews with the teachers, school administrators, and parents discussing the merits and challenges of the program.
I would have some stills and a trailer, but I actually haven’t filmed it yet! The biggest challenge with this documentary has been getting the legal and privacy aspects taken care of. You have to be extra careful when you’re dealing with an elementary school! Those are all worked out now, and I’ll be going to the school on Tuesday and filming all day!