29 December 2008

The good, bad and ugly of wedding photography

*Phew!* It's been a long weekend, covering Geoffrey and Joyce's wedding as an official wedding videographer (Elaine did the videography for them while in Sibu). The good news (for me) is that they seem to like the videos which we put together just in time for their wedding dinner, which always feels nice.

For the wedding, Geoff actually bought a brand new Sony HDR-SR12 AVCHD camcorder - so i could use it to shoot his wedding and so he can take it along for his honeymoon after. It's actually a pretty good camcorder, though a little slow to start up and requiring a wide-angle conversion lens to make it useful for event videography.

The Sony HDR-SR12: Pretty good...


Anyway, I've learnt a few things from this experience:

THE GOOD:
1. It's actually FASTER to deal with AVCHD, hard disk-based camcorders than old-fashioned DV camcorders (provided you've got a powerful Mac and the correct software). With my own tape-based DV camcorder, i need to stream the entire tape onto my Mac before I can start editing. So if i've shot two hours of video, that's TWO hours of waiting for the video to transfer onto my Mac.

But on a hard disk-based AVCHD camcorder, i only need to select the clips i want and my Mac will transfer the files, transcoding them into an editable format - in this case, about an hour of video takes and hour to transcode, which sounds the same as a DV camcorder but the difference is that i transfer ONLY what i want.

2. Apple iMovie '08 isn't as bad as some people make it out to be. If you didn't know, Apple did the unthinkable in 2007 by throwing out its very popular iMovie HD video editing software, and replaced it with iMovie '08, which had a completely different user interface and removed a lot of core features.

Anyway, apart from the absence of special effects such as slow-motion or soft-focus filters, iMovie '08 is pretty good. For starters, it's bloody fast. All text titles, colour correction and transitions are applied in real time, which is great because you don't have to wait for it to render before you can view the results.

And if you're upset about the lack of a traditional video timeline, don't be - the new system is far quicker for scanning through hours of video and cutting things into the correct sequence. I've never cut together a video faster than this, and I certainly didn't expect HD video editing to be this quick.

The only other thing that bothers me is the loss of finer audio level controls and the hack-ish manner to get multiple titles appearing on the same video clip. Other than that, it's brilliant.

THE BAD
3. Videography is a lot more tiring than photography, simply because you have to hold the camera up for a lot longer, and you have to plan in advance whether you've got enough battery power left, whether you want the camera mounted on a tripod and whether you should be at spot A or spot B to get a better shot.

The difference to normal photography is that you can't run to a new spot, take a shot, and run back - you need to spend at least five seconds at a spot to have useable footage, anything shorter may be too abrupt or may not leave you enough room to edit fades, wipes or to fill in gaps in your video.

Also, you sometimes cannot afford to stop filming because you may miss something - which is a problem if you've mounted the camera on a tripod and suddenly have to move the camera while recording.

An obvious solution would be to simply employ another videographer, but that isn't always a good idea because video camcorders are very expensive (the Sony HDR-SR12 i was using costs about RM5000, not including spare batteries and wide-angle lens converters), and that you may end up with TWICE the amount of video to go through. And videos take up far more space on your computer than JPEG photos.

The other problem is that, with two videographers, you're already adding to the array of photographers during an event, which can be annoying to people attending the event, or even your subjects (especially at weddings). And you'll inevitably get in the way of one another, which nicely brings me to my next point:

THE UGLY
4. Digital photography seems to have spawned a new species of subhumans - the unofficial wedding photographer. While I definitely condone friends and family taking photos of the bridal couple during a wedding, 'just in case' the official photographers don't get a shot, anybody who is not an official photographer / videographer must abide by one golden rule:

Never, EVER, get in the way of the official photographers. Take this dude in the red shirt for example:

"Look at me! I'm hogging all the best spots"


This particular idiot was in may way most of the time. Now, I've taken photos at loads of events before (what, being a former journalist and all), and I usually ended up in situations where there are plenty of photographers from different publications, and only one good angle to take a shot. The common thing to do here would be to take a shot at that spot, and then vacate it immediately so that another photographer has a chance. It's common courtesy.

At Geoff's wedding, the two hired official photographers were very courteous to me (the lone videographer) and I'd like to think I got out of their way as much as I could. After all, it's not a competition - we're trying to get shots that Geoff and Joyce would like. I understood that if i didn't give room to the photographer, the wedding couple would not get a shot from that particular angle. And the official photographers understood that, if they didn't give me room, nobody else would get the video footage at that particular angle either. It's a give-and-take situation and we all try to help each other out.

ON THE OTHER HAND, the idiot in the red shirt was HOGGING the good spots. He'd stand there, get a shot and then REVIEW HIS PHOTOS while taking up that precious spot, instead of getting out of the way. There were already TWO official photographers covering the action, the wedding couple certainly didn't need another photographer shooting photos that the professionals would have gotten anyway.

What's worse was that he was taking up precious space when the bridal couple was exchanging vows, rings and lifting the veil. I already had my camcorder mounted on a tripod, so I could stretch it over the two official photographers and film the couple without getting in their way (sort of like a robotic arm).

And because the red-shirted idiot was in my way, i couldn't lower my camcorder to the intended height to shoot the video. This was the result:

This is what happens when overly helpful photographer friends get in the way of a videographer


Well, this wouldn't be a problem if there was another videographer at the wedding... BUT WAIT, I WAS the only videographer at the wedding. So what does it mean? Well, Geoffrey and Joyce have about 5 extra photos of him lifting her veil, but no VIDEO of it. Thanks a lot, you red-shirted idiot - i'm sure the wedding couple would love to thank you for that.

And here's another example of his stupidity...

Take note of the three photographers in front of the bridal couple - only the one on the far right is an official photographer


Look, there is only one angle to shoot a bridal recessional, and that's from the front of the couple as they are walking out. The red-shirted fool decided to stand next to the official photographer and shoot the same shot from the same angle. WHY THE HELL FOR??? It's not like his photos are going to be any better than the official ones - they're from the same bloody angle!!!

Why the hell hog more space? As a result, I had to move BEHIND them (which isn't so bad), and the official photographer could not get a photo from the middle of the aisle either, since he was pushed to the right by that idiot.

I'll tell you why the red-shirted idiot did that. If he's anything like most gear-heads these days (me included), it because he just bought himself a DSLR and wants to "try out" wedding photography since it's the trendy thing to do these days and since digital photography itself is a cool new hobby.

"I know... I'll EXPERIMENT during Geoffrey and Joyce's wedding!!! That way, I'll get to hone my wedding photography skills! And then, I'll get to post up all the photos on Facebook and people will be rushing to tell me what a great photographer i am," thought the red-shirted idiot.

Selfish bastard...

22 December 2008

4 more months...

Boy, this is one long overdue update...

*ahem!*

Roughly five months ago, I came home from work and was greeted by a smiling Elaine. I asked what's up but all she did was gesture towards the bathroom. Once there, I wondered why I had been gestured into a bathroom. Elaine then gestured towards the floor.

I then looked down and saw a little blue dish, which contained what looked, and smelt, like pee. And in the what-looked-and-smelt-like-pee, lay a white paper strip with two little blue lines.

The blue dish


I looked up at Elaine.

Elaine looked back.

I looked down at the blue lines again.

The blue lines looked back.

I looked up at Elaine again.

“Erm... what does this mean?” I asked.

“Well, one line means I'm not pregnant,” she replied.

And at that exact moment, I probably ran through an entire laundry list of emotions simultaneously, which is normally a very hard thing for me to do – considering how bad I am at multi-tasking. Happiness, anxiety, excitement, concern, shock, dread, anticipation and probably more but we'll stop there for now.

The happiness is because I love kids. I've always gotten along with my younger cousins and my little sisters and I've always loved teaching younger people stuff – at the risk of sounding like a cranky old man, giving unsolicited advice.

The anxiety is because I'm a worry wart. We had just celebrated Elaine's birthday a couple of days before and had finished off a bottle of wine, which is supposed to be bad for featuses. Have we taken enough precautions for pregnancy? Vitamins? Supplements? Will the baby be healthy? Will it be a trouble-free pregnancy? Is she really pregnant or is the pregnancy test kit inaccurate?

The excitement, of course, is because Elaine and I are going to be parents! We'll have a child and he / she is ours – a sign of our love. We'll raise him / her, watch him / her grow. We'll be a family.

The concern was because I had no idea what Elaine was thinking at that point in time. At that point in time, we had been married for only 3 months. So yes, we are stereotypical Catholics, then. Was she happy too? Or did she think it was too soon for us to get a kid? Was she ready to have kids?

Eager beavers (at the waiting area in SJMC)


The shock was because we didn't think it would've been so easy to conceive. Just remember, if anybody tells you that it's hard to get pregnant, that you can “do it” a few times without protection and it'll be ok. Before you jump to conclusions, Elaine and I WERE trying for a kid, but we were told by our doctor that, due to a surgery that Elaine recently had and because of some other medical condition, it might be hard for us to get a child. We were expecting to be trying for at least six months or a year before we'd succeed.

The dread, of course, is because Elaine and I are going to be parents... We'll have a child and he / she is ours – which means that we'll have to take care of him / her – 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the first few years. That means no more holidays or carefree afternoons. Everything we do will have some sort of impact on his / her life so we'll have to be good examples.

Boy, I sure wish we already knew what gender our child is so I wouldn't have to keep typing “him / her”.

Elaine getting a checkup


The anticipation is in wondering what our kid will look like. Will he/she have mommy's intense eyes? Will he/she have daddy's potato-shaped head? His giant nostrils? The anticipation is also in wondering what he/she will be like. Will he/she be athletic or a geek? Or both? Will he/she be rebelious or obedient? The do-er or the one who watches from the sidelines.

Ok, so I didn't think about all of these things in that two-or-three-second moment before I blurted to Elaine, asking her if she was happy, whether this was what we wanted before I broke into a smile. A happy, anxious, excited, concerned, shocked, drearful and anticipation-filled smile. But a smile, nonetheless.

My spawn... (at 14 weeks)



Fast forward to the present and Elaine's now 5 months pregnant and still puking her guts out everyday, throughout the day. Whoever called it 'morning' sickness had quite a sense of humour. And before you go “Oh, but it's supposed to end after the first trimester”, TRUST US, it can carry on well after.

And in other news, the little bump in her abdomen is just large enough to suggest that something the size of a grapefruit has taken up residence in her uterus. We're slightly past the halfway mark, now and are already stocking up on various paraphenelia (a big thank you to all who have contributed tons of hand-me-downs).

Now if we only knew what gender he/she is so we could start painting rooms and buying color-coded clothes. Or we could dress him/her up in old potato sacks.

27 September 2008

The face of evil...



Facebook is evil. EVIL!!!

My birthday passed by recently, which is nothing out of the ordinary except for the fact that I had spent the whole day wondering why I didn't get any calls or SMSes from friends, or even emails. But since I'm not that much of a party animal, I was still pleasantly, erm... pleased by the few SMSes I got.

"I guess everyone's busy with life..." I thought.

And then, the next day, I got a call from Warren, who wished me and starting chatting. Then, I told him that I had a nice quiet birthday (Elaine brought me to dinner at Euro Deli - my first time there!) and mentioned that I was nice of him to call since nobody else did.

He then pointed out that I had quite a lot of birthday wishes on my Facebook wall.

OH!

SHIT!

So I quickly logged onto Facebook when I got home that night (I can't access Facebook from my office PC. In fact, I can't access the Internet. For security, you see...). Lo and behold - lots of well wishes completely surrounded by about 13 million other messages.

Ok, I decided I'd reply and say thanks - but since it's all written on a wall, I have to go to each entry and type a reply. But I'd end up having to type essentially the same messages back to everyone - and the new facebook interface is soooo slow that it takes ages to do anything.

And so, I got lazy and just sat there, looking at the 20 or 30 friend requests (half of which are from people I either don't know or whom I'd rather not get reacquainted with). Then, I inspected the 500 or so requests I had received for joining new groups or playing new games, etc... My wall was also completely plastered with updates of what my other friends had been doing or what-not.

And then, I suddenly remembered why I stopped using Friendster, and why I'm very sparingly using Facebook nowadays (whenever I do log on): because it's TIME CONSUMING.

There are just way too many notifications and updates to read or groups to join that I get tired just looking at my damn Facebook home page. And because I'm one of those people who feel bad when I don't reply emails, phonecalls or SMSes, it's particularly stressful because of the sheer number of requests, invitations and wall messages that I end up not responding to.

And even as a means of keeping in touch, Facebook is seriously impersonal.

Sigh.

And the amount of spam is ridiculous. Although it is initially fun to receive funny videos from friends, it's worse when you get the same video sent to you by seven different people. It's even worse when your friends spam you with stuff that doesn't even interest you. For crying out loud, I've even been approached by people trying to RECRUIT me to work in another company.

Next thing you know, I'll be getting advice on how I can increase the size of my manhood.

Facebook's new user interface is also a completely convoluted mess - and it's mostly because it tries to be everything. It tries to be a chat program. It tries to be a messaging program. It tries to be a photo viewing program.

And the best part is that, when viewed as individual components, each of Facebook's features are slow and poorly implemented. There's a good reason why people don't use Facebook for really important, time-sensitive announcements or for work-related stuff. Because it's a mess.

Which is the exact opposite of Gmail, Google Docs, Blogger and the whole family of minimalistic but highly intuitive Google applications.

Yes, Google may be the next big evil corporation, but Facebook is the face of evil.

25 August 2008

Burmese hand signals: dodgy...

Went to a petrol station last night to get a can of Coke from the shop but got there about 10pm - right when the attendants locked the doors for the night. However, he'd just let someone in about 10 seconds earlier so I thought he'd let me in as well.

And so I gestured at the attendant inside the shop (whom I assume to be Burmese) that I wanted to buy a drink - using the universal hand signal for "drink" (i.e. holding an imaginary cup up to my mouth and tipping it).

Unfortunately this gesture probably meant something else in Burmese - the guy didn't get it and kept directing me to the payment window where you'd pay for petrol.

I kept gesturing, and he kept pointing. So I went to the window, and gestured again only to draw blank stares from the group of Burmese attendants, all of whom were beginning to look rather nervous.

This has led me to two possible conclusions, either:

1. The universal hand signal for "drink" means "I want to pump petrol" or (according to Elaine) "I've planted a landmine in your front yard so you better lock your front door" in Burma.

OR

2. The Burmese are just shit at hand signals...

"Wait! WAIT! I meant trim my sideburns some more... *URK!*"


Of course, it's all probably yet another case of me getting poor service in situations where it's normally impossible to get poor service :)

20 August 2008

Better late than never, I guess...

My baby sister turned 18 a couple of months ago, which means that she's reached the legal age for drinking. Which also means that I'm getting old because when I finished secondary school, Kat was just entering PRIMARY school...

*Life flashes before eyes*

Anyway, here are some shots of the celebrations:

"YAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaa..."


Guinness puts hair on your chest. Yes.


"Why the hell am I drinking a salad? With vodka in it?"


Kat drinking a big, girly drink...


"Come Kat, down down down DOWN!!!"


"What? Me? Dance? Hahahaha! Oh, you're serious..."


"Mmmmm.... *hic!* Nice, warm and comfy here..."


"I love you, big sis... NYAN!!!"
"Umm... k"


*mumble* *mumble* dunaskmeididn'tbringhershejustfollowedme... *mumble*

01 August 2008

Be a man! BUY MY T-SHIRT (part 2)

Ello everyone...

So far, my attempts at selling T-shirts have bagged me exactly USD 0.00

The good news, though, is that I've got nowhere to go but up. To commemorate my first non-sale, I've come up with another T-shirt. Buy a thousand of these and I'll have enough to buy a new laptop!!! Buy! Buy! Do it naaaaauogh! (click here to buy)

For sprinklers...

31 July 2008

Super camcorder?

Today, my colleagues were watching the following YouTube video about some sort of missile defense system:



And after that, one of them ran to me and had the following conversation with me:


    Keith: "Hey, Chris... do you know if there are any video cameras on the market that are designed to track mortar in the air"

    Me: "Huh? You mean the mortar that you drop into that barrel and then goes *kapow!* and shoots into the air?"

    Keith: "Yeah."

    Me: "Consumer video cameras?"

    Keith: "Yeah."

    Me: "..."

    Keith: "...?"

    Me: "You're asking me if a consumer video camera has a special mode settings like "daylight", "sports", "landscape", "snow" and then "MORTAR-TRACKING"?

    Keith: "Umm... yeah?"

    Me: "..."



I highly doubt that Canon has a camcorder in the market that fulfills such a niche. However, if they did have such a setting, it would probably look like this on the mode dial:


NO no no no... You're in APERTURE-PRIORITY mode, silly!


Of course, what I found funny was that my colleagues were more interested in how the hell they caught live artillery / mortar / rocket rounds on video, rather than the laser technology itself :)

19 July 2008

More wedding photos up!

Ello ello!

Finally, I've got an Internet connection at home so I can finally upload all of the photos sitting in my Mac.

The Chongs

They are all on my Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrischong, and they're all nicely sorted into various albums - including specific albums for group photos.

These photos are largely the same collection as the ones uploaded earlier by Elaine (click here), though there are a few more photos here and they're all in higher resolution - about 2-megapixels each, which makes them sharp enough for 4R and 6R prints.

Max also took a whole bunch of excellent photos, which can be viewed on his Flickr site too (click here).

The gang (plus extensions)

Once again, thanks a bunch to all of you who attended the wedding, especially all of you who came from really far away. And for those of you who couldn't make it, thanks for all your well wishes!

16 June 2008

I'm a married man!

Allo allo,

Seems a bit funny to mention this so much later since the only people who read this blog are my friends (who probably attended the wedding and / or have seen the ton of photos uploaded on Elaine's Facebook) but...

I'm married!

Hee hee... :)

And I'm also moving into a new home, and haven't got an internet connection yet so it's been a pain finding time to blog, upload photos and etc... Doesn't help that I'm running at full steam every day at the office. It's bags of fun, of course, but doesn't leave you much time to muck about the internet.

In the mean time, my newly wedded wife has been tirelessly uploading photos on Facebook and Flickr. So if you want to see some photos, head on to Firechick's photo stream.

Enjoy!

08 March 2008

Car pix!

I've just updated my Flickr album with more photos! Yay! This time, it's a bunch of car photos I've taken. Hope you like it.



I've got a ton of other photos but I've yet to sort them out. Hopefully, I'll find time to upload them as well. Click here to see the album.

27 February 2008

Be a man! BUY MY T-SHIRT

Dear friends,

My laptop is starting to act funny - resetting itself randomly (or whenever I happen to be doing something important on it). Because of this (and the fact that it weighs 2 tons, has a battery life of 45 mins and is really starting to get on a bit), I am now in need of a new one.

Which is why I proudly bring you the "Be a man! BUY MY T-SHIRT" campaign (a.k.a. the "Help Chris to buy a new laptop" charity fund). All proceed will go into a shiny new Apple Macbook, which currently goes for about RM3,999)

We'll start with this T-shirt design, called "The Stephen Oxley":



Click here to go directly to the product page.

Be a man; do the right thing!!!

25 February 2008

Under the coconut shell

Bladee hell! Didn't know that there's a new version of the 50 Ringgit note since Jan 30!!!

Looked bewildered when Elaine whipped it out of her wallet to pay for something.


Goes to show how often I've been reading the newspapers these days... -_-


"Eh? What's this, then...?"

04 February 2008

The origins of kobe beef...

Yay! Another month, another blog entry.

Part of the reason for the lack of updates is the total absence of an Internet connection at my new office. Security and confidentiality, apparently.

So it's been almost a month since I've become a videogames programmer and things are looking good. Surprisingly, I've not had to write a single line of code yet, due to the point-and-click nature of today's modern script-based game engines.

But enough about work, it's time to talk about the origins of kobe beef.

Apparently, it's got something to do with a drunk Japanese farmer and his cow Daisy (according to my future sister-in-law's husband). It goes something like this:



    Farmer: Hey, Daisy... *hic!* Only you can understand me. Come have a beer with me.

    Daisy: Moo...

    Farmer: Here, let me pour some of it on your back as well. You like it don't you? *hic!*

    Daisy: Moo...

    Farmer: That's it, Daisy. Drink it allll up. *hic!* Only you can understand me, girl. Only you.

    Daisy: Moo... *hic!*

    ---- The next morning ----

    Farmer: F***ing hell! Daisy, you DRANK all my beer!!! DIE, BITCH!!!

    (Swings glass bottle at cow)

    Daisy: MOOOOOOOOOO!!!! *Urk!*

    Farmer: OhmyGod! OhmyGod! OhmyGod! Daisy's dead! DAISY'S DEAD! I guess I better cook her, then. Mmmm! Actually, this tastes kinda good!



-------------

So, there you go.

Have a happy Chinese New Year

10 January 2008

More than just hair wax...

Happy new year!

I'd like to begin 2008 with a really nice entry. About my predictions for the year, my new-years resolutions and maybe some display of incredible foresight.

Unfortunately, I'm not any good at writing that sort of thing so I'll leave you with a short video I shot and edited for some online contest:



No, this has nothing to do with it being a new year. Enjoy :)