Ethereality News & Weblog

February 25, 2006

Quest for studio monitors

Filed under: Audio & Music,Latest Works — Rob Chang @ 2:39 pm

I have updated the painting Till Death Do Us Part, so the current version is now quite different from the one published in Imagine FX.

I totally forgot that some of you have asked that I talk about my quest for a new pair of studio monitors and 88-key midi controller keyboard after I get back from vacation. Well, better late than never, right?

While on vacation, I managed to hit three different Guitar Centers–one in Southern Cal and two in Northern Cal. I had brought my own compilation CD’s, and it was so much fun going through the tracks I have known and loved for many years on different studio monitors. The conclusion I came to at the end of the testing (all three sessions combined–adding up to more than four hours of listening time) is that the Mackie HR824 is still my favorite. I rejected all the sub-8 inchers in the first thirty minutes because their bass responses just lacked. I really liked the Event Precision 8’s, but the bass response just can’t match the capability of the Mackie HR824’s. The Yamaha HS80M‘s were quite amazing–essentially identical in sound to the Mackie HR824’s, except that in one particular moment I noticed the high mids got a bit shrill compared to the Mackies. Keep in mind though, that is only one moment in more than four hours of listening, and in every other aspect, the Yamaha’s were identical to the Mackie HR824’s, including the legendary “I can’t believe there is no woofer” bass response. As much as I liked the Dynaudio BM5A’s, the bass response just can’t match that of the Mackie HR824’s (although quite amazing for their size–better than all the other 5 inchers), and the sound isn’t as “open.” The worse pieces of crap I had the displeasure of listening to were the M-Audio BX8a’s–Omigod they were like punishment to my ears–shrill, annoying, and completely lacking any ounce of sonic elegance. The KRK’s were respectable, but kind of sterile–which is not the same as being accurate. I don’t know how else to describe it, but I think my definition of sterile is that they’re not “airy” enough–there’s no excitement, shimmer, or openess. I’m not talking about the highest frequencies being hyped or exaggerated stereo imaging–I’m talking about finesse and elegance in all the frequencies and stunning clarity in instrument seperation. Anyway, in the end, the Mackie HR824’s were still my favorites, and as soon as I’m done moving back to the States, I’ll be getting a pair.

My quest for the 88-key midi controller keyboard didn’t go very well–all the stores only had limited models on display. I don’t want to sound like I’m picking on M-Audio as a company, but I simply couldn’t believe how crappy their 88-key controller was–keys got stuck very easily. How many corners must you cut during the design, engineering, and production in order to end up with such a horrendous keyboard? The response of the keys were also very bad–slow and clumsy. The Fatar models were much better, but lacked the knobs and sliders I wanted. None had the CME UF series available–which was annoying because the UF8 was the one I wanted to test the most. None of the stores had Studiologic models either–another bummer.

I got to play on the Roland TD-20 kit for a bit, and it’s pretty nice, although I think I still prefer my Clavia Ddrum 4 system. I really enjoyed having tracks available to play along with–which is something the Ddrum 4 doesn’t have, but it’s really a minor thing. The response of the cymbal pads were kinda dissapointing–they weren’t very sensitive, especially when it comes to choking. The hi-hat was quite nice though–I didn’t notice significant audible steps between fully closed and fully open.

I really wanted to try out some of the recent Parker guitars, but for some reason Guitar Center as a chain no longer carry them at all in-store. Sometimes I really hate Guitar Center, as they typically only cater to the vanilla musician–the guys who don’t know any better and only buy the most advertised mainstream crap.

February 12, 2006

Not yet “arrived”

Filed under: Latest Works,My Life/Musings,News,Photography — Rob Chang @ 3:08 pm

The new magazine from UK’s Future Publishing I mentioned before has been published, and it’s called ImagineFX. I just received my copy and it’s very nice. Now that the magazine is out, I could show the piece I did the tutorial on (titled Till Death Do Us Part). It’s not exactly how I hoped it would turn out, but isn’t that how it usually is? Anyway, here it is:

It turned out that we’re moving back to the States afterall. After a talk with a lawyer, we learned that in order for Elena to get her American citizenship smoothly in three years, she needs to be living in the States for more than half of the time, and realistically, we just couldn’t keep new business ventures in China running if she has to be in the States half the time. So, the game plan has officially changed to us moving back to the States around mid-May this year. This means I’ll need to start sending out resumes for a new CG/game job around early May. We probably won’t consider states other than California, as my family and friends are all in Cali.

After dumping all the photos I took from the vacation onto the hard drive and going through them, I was hit with the realization that I might have finally managed to grasp the most important lessons in photography. This sounds funny because I’ve already been shooting pro gigs on and off for a couple of years, but the reason I say this is because an overwhelming percentage of the photos I took on this vacation had dead-on exposure, regardless of the environment (darkly lit restaurants, bright daylight, dusk, interior at night..etc), and the compositions just right with no need for cropping at all. In fact, out of the couple thousands of photos I took, I have yet to do any significant post processing–which is a refreshing change. I’m not sure what it was, but somehow, everything just snapped into focus on this vacation–the past lessons I’ve learned became second nature–and I stopped making the same mistakes I used to, and started doing things right. While looking at the photos and thinking back, I noticed the things that made a difference this time around were:

1) I stopped taking shots that didn’t have good lighting in the first place. Being pickier gave me a much higher percentage of good photos.

2) I stopped being stingy with the ISO setting. Getting the shot is a lot more important than getting a blurry mess.

3) I started stopping down more than I used to.

4) I gave thought to how the environment is lit and how to best use the flash exposure compensation in the most natural manner before taking a shot.

5) I took the time to anticipate the subject’s next move.

6) I kept in mind that just because something looks cool does not mean you’ll automatically get a great photo just by shooting it. A great photo and a great subject are two different things.

7) I started switching to different metering modes more often to accomodate various situations.

8) I paid more attention to possible blown highlights.

9) I stopped carrying too much stuff and gave a couple of lenses to my wife to carry instead. This significantly improved my mobility and placed less strain on my shoulders.

10) I stopped taking shots that are similar to stuff I’ve taken in the past.

All of these are really simple things that anyone who’s into photography would pick up along the way. However, we don’t always remember them in any given situation–especially when these little things add up and can eventually fill an entire book on photography. I guess when you start to be able to do them instinctively in any given situation is when you’ve “arrived” as a photographer. I still have a long way to go before I feel like I’ve truly “arrived.”

Kitty Cat Diaries updated:

February 10, 2006

Vacation’s Over

Filed under: My Life/Musings,Photography,Travel — Rob Chang @ 3:10 pm

Vacation’s over, and I’m back in front of my computer. I REALLY hate being without my computer for longer than a couple of days, and I think I’m ready to breakdown and buy a powerful laptop to take with me wherever I go from now on. Elena actually felt the pinch of not having a powerful computer with us at all times too during this vacation–which is surprising since she barely spends any time in front of a computer normally. Her reasons were that we could search for information while on vacation about the places we’re at, find directions/maps for driving, process the photos we took, check email…etc. God I love it when I corrupt her and turn her to the darkside.

We flew over Alaska on our way back from California, and saw some pretty amazing landscape from up high, made up of the snow, ice, mountains and the ocean:

The beautiful aerial view made Elena giddy like a little school girl:

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