Ethereality News & Weblog

April 27, 2008

Career change–finally?

A long over due Kitty Cat Diary entry:
Kitty Cat Diary

And the Lisa session I mentioned before:
Lisa 2008

I uploaded a few new clips I composed for the Galactic Melee score. The game is currently on hold as the project ran out of funding. I have no idea if Kevin will ever put more money into it to get it out there. I certainly had fun composing the score for it, and in a way, it was the catalyst that made me start thinking seriously about a career change again (more on that later).

Here are the new clips:

Galactic Melee – In-game Combat 3 – For this combat cue, I used evolving pads and percussions to build up a sense of mystery and tension.

These in-game combat cues loop throughout the various levels in the game. Since the game is more about strategy and teamwork than about pure action, I wanted to go for a more hypnotic and introspective atmosphere for all the combat cues as opposed to the typical in-your-face aggressive approach that most shooter games use

Galactic Melee – In-game Combat 2 – For this combat cue, I established a persistent drum groove that drives the mood and propels the strategic action forward.

Galactic Melee – In-game Combat 1 – For this combat cue, I used a square wave tone for its main melody to convey the feeling of piloting a small spaceship in the vast open space.

Galactic Melee – Credits – Since Galactic Melee has no narrative premise and is really just a fun multiplayer experience, I wanted the credit music to be more uplifting and optimistic and not dark like the rest of the score. My intention was to end the game with a feeling of “Now that the fighting has ended and we’ve all had lots of fun shooting at each other, let’s just put our ships on autopilot and enjoy the beautiful view as we cruise the galaxy together.”

Our apartment currently looks like a warehouse, with most of our stuff already in boxes. Just thinking about shipping my music gears (roughly $40,000 worth) across the ocean makes me nervous. I would be very upset if any of it was damaged along the way, since there are some pieces that are no longer in production and will be very hard if not impossible to replace.

The fact that art isn’t my favorite among the things I’m passionate about is not a mystery among those that know me well. This isn’t to say I don’t love art, just that I’ve been working as a professional artist for so many years that I’m ready for a change. Throughout the years, I noticed that my love for music, film, writing, and even to some degree photography, has often eclipsed my love for art. The simplest way to describe why I feel the way I do, would simply be this:

Music, film, and literature can move me to tears and evoke feelings of such intensity that art cannot (although when art is paired with words like graphic novels, can, but I left the comic book industry behind many years ago). Photography as a medium communicates in a similar way to art, but what I like more about photography is that it’s just so much more fun than sitting there drawing and painting all day. Photography forces you to get up and interact with other human beings, animals, and nature in an active manner that is much more exciting than sitting at an easel, moving a Wacom tablet pen around, or pulling vertices in a 3D software. Although video games, animation, and film special effects can all be very exciting, they usually are only that exciting to me when I’m experiencing them as the audience–working on them don’t really give me the same enjoyment as I get when I’m composing/arranging/performing a piece of music, immersed in the story and characters I’m writing about, directing a scene and seeing magic happening right in front of my eyes and sharing that sense of excitement with the cast and crew, or being in “the zone” when a photo session is going very well and everyone’s just having a great time.

So, now that I’m leaving my current art directing job, I’m looking to my future with the intention of making a career change. I’ve tried to do this before and I couldn’t make it stick because it was just easier to find a job as an artist (many say it’s because my artwork is the most impressive of all the creative things I do. I don’t know if that’s really it). I’ve worked as a writer/director in animation and that was the only full-time job I’ve ever had that I really enjoyed. I’ve done professional work in music and photography as well, but neither could pay the rent full-time when I did them. Now, I’m going to try and see if I can make music stick this time around. While doing that, I’ll still be writing my screenplays and novels, and continue to shoot photography just for fun. Maybe I’ll continue drawing/painting too, depending on if any compelling projects come my way (that reminds me, I’m still a member of the Black Mesa MOD team. Maybe now I can contribute more concept art to that project).

Mini movie & TV reviews:

There Will Be Blood – I respect this film, but I found it hard to sympathize with a main character that was so absolutely ruthless and lacking empathy for others. The score for the film was very unique, and certainly one of few notable ones I’ve heard in recent memory.

Babel – It took me a long time to finally sit down and watch this film, and it wasn’t as bad as I had feared it would be. It certainly didn’t deserve all the buzz it received though, as I felt the attempt to link the characters and situations together had no meaningful purpose to me, and made no profound statement in the way that I feel it should have to have deserved such critical acclaim.

Entourage – I have been hearing about Entourage for a long time now, but never got around to watching it. Now that I have, I can see what all the fuss is about–it is a very entertaining show, especially if you have an interest in the entertainment business. It has the ability to let you live vicariously through the lives of the characters, and it feels like watching something real unfold as opposed to knowing that you are watching fiction.

April 13, 2008

Do not lose your rights to your own work!

If you do anything creative at all, you should care about the Orphaned Works bill that will decide whether or not you own the rights to your own work. The past rights you have to your work will be lost–even if you can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’re the original creator. Read up on it and take action!

Article detailing what’s at stake for you.

Podcast discussing the bill and its ramifications, with links for taking action to preserve your rights.

(EDIT: I just got an email from Mikeal ( telling me that the Orphan Bill is some kind of a misunderstanding and that there is no such thing. He sent me this link to read up on.)

Life’s been hectic as we’ve begun packing for our move back to China. I can’t believe we’re moving back after just two years in the States, but this time it’s all business so we go where our fortunes could be made. Obviously we much prefer to live in the States, but you’re only young once, and if you don’t grab every opportunity that comes your way, you might just miss out on a better life later. I’ll try to keep my bitching about China to a minimum this time, since the last time I was more or less forced to stay there, and this time it’s of my own choice.

Have you ever wondered how much ink is really left in your printer’s ink cartridge when it tells you you’ve run out? This is how much is actually left (I used a pair of pliers to squeeze the remaining ink out):

And if you swirl that around around with your finger:

That’s still good for a lot of pages. Not the most efficient design I must say. I understand the current design requires that the ink doesn’t run completely dry, otherwise the printer could be damaged, but there must be some other way of doing it? I suppose you have to think of it as you’re not actually paying for the wasted ink–you’re only paying for the usable portion.


Jeremy Lipking finally released his DVD and art book. I’ve been waiting for years for them and it’s about time. The book was more sparse than I expected, concentrating on mostly the more recent figure paintings. I wish it was a more comprehensive collection of all his works to date, but I have a feeling he’s saving that for later.

I’ve been on the hunt for good tracking headphones, since the headphones I have are not quite appropriate for that purpose–they’re either open-sealed (will bleed into the mic), ear-pad styled (uncomfortable for prolonged sessions), or IEM (In-Ear-Monitors) that’s a hassle to insert/remove quickly. So what does Rob do when he’s on the prowl? He spends hours at pro audio shops testing out gears. I did a 3-hour listening test of headphones at a local pro audio shop, and here’s a mini review of the ones I tested:

ATH-M50 – By far the best of the bunch. Sounds very similar to my sennheiser HD555. In fact, if it was open-back, it would probably sound just like the HD555. Nice and warm, lush, no harshness at all. No boosted or scooped frequencies, except the highest highs are just tiny bit rolled off for the warm sound (this is essential for me, as most headphones tend to be too harsh).

Equation RP21 – Very good for the price. Slightly harsh at the high end, but everything else was great. The ear-cups don’t fit as comfortably or securely as other headphone with full-sized ear-cups.

Beyerdynamics DT770 / DT880 – Sounded similar to each other, with the DT880 a bit more accurate. Both have that slight harshness in the highs that I don’t like. These are very comfy though–I wish the M50 and the RP21 had velour ear-cups like these.

Sony MDR-7509 / MDR-V600 – I have always disliked the Sony headphones due to the shrillness of the high end, and it’s still the same this time. Absolutely couldn’t stand it. Talk about listening fatigue!

Sennheiser HD280 Pro – It’s OK. Nothing to write home about. The bass is a bit anemic, and the overall sound is a bit limp and lifeless. At the same price, the RP21 sounds significantly better (although the HD280 doesn’t have that slight harshness in the high end).

Sennheiser HD202 – for such a cheap price, it’s quite good. Bass is hyped, and lower-mids are recessed. Tiny ear-cups the just surround your ears are a bit weird–like someone’s hugging your ears.

M-Audio Q40 – Second best of the bunch by far. Almost like a middle ground between the M50 and the RP21–the harshness in the high end is almost gone–just a tiny hint that’s barely there. The rest sounds remarkably similar to the M50. The ear-cups are a more secure fit than others, but some might prefer the looser feel of the M50 and the RP21.

Some Samson headphone (can’t remember which model) – CRAP. Don’t bother.

So, my final decision was:
RP21 – for the singer to wear during tracking.

M50 – for me to wear during tracking.

I could have swapped out the RP21 for the Q40, but since someone was selling the RP21 and no one was selling the Q40 used, I jumped on the RP21. I like the Q40 better, but I also like the fact that the RP21 will give me a different perspective as an alternate take on my mix, whereas the Q40 is so similar to the M50 and HD555 that I really don’t need 3 very similar sounding headphones. Besides, I love that vermillion color on the RP21–a bit of that retro cool vibe.

Headphone amps are something I’ve been wondering about but never took the plunge, because in the back of my mind I keep thinking that they won’t add much benefit. My critical listening is done on my near-field monitors, and I only use headphones when tracking or if it’s really late at night. I’ve read people’s buyer’s remorse from getting headphone amps stating that the only thing it did was make things louder, instead of the flowery ravings of better clarity, tighter and more defined bass, better stereo imaging…etc. I don’t want to end up like one of those guys and then turn around to sell mine off on ebay.

Preamps are a hot topic in the pro audio community, and I’ve been researching on what preamp I’d like to get to round out my studio. The ones I’m seriously considering are:

Great River ME-1NV
Summit Audio 2BA-221
Grace Design Model 101
True Systems P-Solo

I’m leaning towards the DAV at this point, but I’ll have to research a bit more to reach a decision.

I’ve also been looking into maybe getting a premium AD/DA converter, since I’m monitoring on a pair of monitors that cost close to $7,000, and it doesn’t make sense that the rest of my signal path are not of the same premium quality. Maybe I’ll go for products from Benchmark, or maybe something a bit more modest in price like the products from RME or Apogee. These high quality AD/DA converters are certainly not cheap–no matter what you’ll be spending about a couple thousand of dollars.

Mini movie reviews:

Stranger Than Fiction – As much as I liked the concept and most of the movie, the ending was disappointing to me. I didn’t feel that the novel being written in the film by the author was anywhere near what anyone would call a masterpiece, and for the characters to refer to it as a masterpiece that would prompt the main character to give up his life, just felt a bit like telling instead of showing. How was Harold’s death meaningful and poetic? Why is some random child’s life worth more than Harold’s, especially after he’s discovered the meaning to his life and was going to live it to the fullest? What could possibly have been so profound in this novel that would make Harold gladly give up his life? But we never find out, and that felt like a cop out–like a misdirection created for the sake of convenience.

Cloverfield – Although the style is the main thing anyone would notice about this film, and I’m the type who typically does not like it when style becomes more important than substance, I enjoyed this film due to the realistic depiction of what would really happen in a crisis. During some scenes it became hard to believe anyone would try that hard to hold on to a video camera let alone keep on shooting while trying to stay alive.

Atonement – Enjoyed it, but it wasn’t quite as moving as I had hoped. Knightly is a breathtaking beauty in certain angles, that’s for sure.

Superbad – Good fun, for people who like raunchy humor involving unpopular high school kids.

Harold and Kumar Goes to White Castle – My brother Dennis kept telling me I had to see this, and he was right. Also good raunchy fun, with an Indian and a Korean guy as the two main leads, which is something of a novelty for an American comedy film. Can’t wait for the sequel–Harold and Kumar 2 Escape from Guantanamo Bay, which will be out April 25th.

Alien VS. Predator: Extinction – I wanted to like this because the two brothers that directed it are members at, where I’m a Forum Leader, but it just wasn’t a good film in both screenplay or direction. I just watched it a couple of weeks ago and I already can’t remember much about it–that’s how forgettable and disposable it was.

The Golden Compass – I was disappointed. I found the film neither emotionally moving nor viscerally thrilling–not even interesting enough to appeal to my inner child, which is not that hard to please when it comes to fantastic premises. A colleague (Linda Bergkvist) worked on the film as a concept artist, and I’m guessing the witches were her handiwork, but I couldn’t tell if anything else were obviously her designs.

30 Days of Night – One of the better vampire films I’ve seen in a long time. Atmospheric premise and some excellent camera work. Also really liked the way the vampires were depicted–just human enough but not nearly enough to be bad poetry reading tortured types.

Stardust – I had read the book years ago and the film’s visuals were similar to what I saw in my head when I read the book. I tend to think of Clare Danes as an actress who’s very limited, and she’s sometimes cast in roles that require her to be more physically beautiful than she actually is. There are actresses who can pull that off (Cate Blanchett comes to mind), but Clare Danes is not elegant or graceful enough to play roles that are more attractive than she really is. I am a big fan of her first role as Angela Chase in My So-Called Life though.

Shrek the Third – I turned it off before I finished. A complete waste of time. These sequels are nothing more than attempts at money-milking a franchise. Pixar they are not.

The Mist – One of the best horror films I’ve seen in a long time. Focusing on the characters was a great choice, but the religious fanaticism aspect of the story was way overboard. I would think a lot more people would’ve resisted the crazy woman, and that as soon as she started demanding blood, some of those who followed her would’ve snapped out of it and realized things have gone too far. If the writer has simply included a scene like that then it would’ve made the film a lot more believable. The ending was also out of character, and felt too forced.

Enchanted – It’s annoying cute on purpose in the first half, which might turn some people off, but if you stick it out, the second half of the film becomes a lot more interesting–when reality starts to sink in and everything becomes more grounded.

Appleseed: Ex Machina – I liked the smoother cell-shading rendering this time more than the last film, but I think they squandered an excellent sub-plot that could’ve been a lot more intense dramatically. The main plot itself is quite derivative and not worth mentioning–even the action choreography was lackluster compared to the previous film. Overall, I enjoyed what little they did explore with the character sub-plot, but wished they could’ve done more.

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