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Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Xbox360 HDMI Mystery

OK. So I checked the HDMI cable at the back of my Xbox 360 and guess what? It was not fully plugged into the port! So it WAS my mistake. Hm. It was working perfectly before the updated the OS. 

But I am a happy man. Saved me the trouble of having it replaced! Yippee! 

What is RROD

RROD stands for the Red Ring of Death. It is 4 LEDs arranged in a ring. The console will use different combination of flashing LEDs to indicated the nature of the different problems.

I did a bit of reading up and it says 4 lights indicate an AV connection problem. Either the AV port is faulty or the graphics card.

I'll go give that a try and see if it works. At least there's hope. hahah.

RROD's Got Me Again!

This is the second time I'm getting this!

I got this error after applying an update. Upon restarting, the Red Ring reared it's head.

This set is actually a replacement for my first set with the Red Ring of Death. First replacement was within 3 yrs pf purchase so it was free.

I highly suspect it's already past the warranty for RROD errors.

That's what you get for being away from home and not touching your console for 6 months!

I've got too many xbox 360 games to switch to a PS3 now.

Oh well I'll contact Microsoft and see how much I've got to pay to get a replacement.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sonivox Vocalizer

Was browsing through my mailbox today and I saw... Discount from Sonivox for thanksgiving! 25% off all Sonivox purchases!

So being unsuspecting and curious, I went over to take a look again at their products... Then I remembered that Vocalizer was their product. I came across this the time I bought Native Instruments Komplete 8. I was quite amazed by the technology and the limitless possibility this product can have.

It is not merely a vocoder (even though it functions superbly as a vocoder). It is a synthesis engine that takes waveform as input. It can take anything from instruments tracks, a percussive beat and human voices. With that as an input, and relatively simple and easy-to-understand controls, Vocalizer can output unlimited variations of the sound, bringing up harmonics (primaries and secondaries), morphing it into something totally wild (if you so wish it). Every control can be automated and assigned to midi controllers.

Listen to the demo here (or go to the Vocalizer product page). There are also quite a few videos from the product page. They are hosted by so I am embedding them here:


Monday, November 21, 2011

Paris Syndrome

This image is from, who reserves all rights to this photo.
Day 3, I ran into numerous people that behave rudely towards my wife and I. Two of them are waitresses who served us, and those young girls who "harassed" me from the previous blog. There were also people that aggressively shove and push us in the Metro. Of course I can't tell if the people at the Metro are French or not. They can very well be tourists themselves. But many of them were speaking French.

It was all a bit of a culture shock this time round, and I am reminded of the Paris Syndrome. I first heard it from a French colleague in the dneg London office told me about it.

Wikipedia defines the Paris Syndrome here:

It is a psychological disorder experienced by people who are shocked by how Paris is so different from how they perceive it to be in their mind. They cannot come to terms with reality, and it translates into anxiety, stress, accelerated heartbeat, dizziness, sweating, hallucination and such. Many of the symptoms and signs that are associated with the psychological disorder disappear after the subjects leave the country and return to their own countries.

Wikipedia says that Paris is idealised in the Japan culture and romanticised in their advertising. 

I don't know about you, but from where I grew up in Singapore, I do associate high-fashion and rich art history with Paris. I perceive Parisians to be cultured people because of their rich culture and history. I have also watched quite a few Japanese Anime series where I can see strong influence of French culture (or the Japanese version of the French culture) on the art and the settings of the characters in the animated series. 

It was a shock to me, those cases where people were rude. I can only imagine how much more it would affect the people who are affected by the Paris Syndrome.

From Wikipedia I also found out that there are other places that have similar effect on visitors: Jerusalem, Stendhal and Canada

Friday, November 18, 2011

Paris Again - The Arrival

So I am here in Paris again, for the third time. First time was 2008 with Christina (she was still my girlfriend back then, and now she's my wife). Second time was with my mom in 2008. This time its 3 years later, in 2011. 

I left London to end my 5 months working visa in dneg. I am here on holiday with my wife, and we'll be here for a week. After that I will return to London to catch a flight back to Singapore on the same day.

This is the first time I am booking any hotel stay for 7 days at a stretch - my longest hotel stay in a country so far. I booked the hotel as a package with the train, through the Eurostar website. 
The night before, Christina and I had a rough time packing all our stuff. My suitcase was smaller than hers, but I had 5 months worth of stuff to squeeze into it. She was already finding it hard to press all her stuff into her suitcase. In the end we could just barely squeeze our suitcases close.

When I reached Paris, walking out of the train station, the first group of people I encountered was a group of girls loosely scattered across the arrival area of the station, collecting donations for poor and homeless children. They were teenagers from about 12 to 17 years old. Christina and myself were quite lost and we had our hands full, so we had to turn them down. We ran into 3 of the girls, all asking for the same thing. They all ask if we spoke English. 

The first girl showed me a list of people names on a piece of printed donation list, and tried to explain to me about the objective of the fund-raising. I got past by apologising and saying we were in a rush. Second girl came as we went down the escalator to the basement. There was a group of them at the end of that escalator. 

This girl asked if I spoke English, then showed me her donation list and asked me to sign without saying anything about money. I felt she was persistent and misleading me into thinking it's simply a petition by signing my name. However, when I took a closer glance at her paper I saw the column stating the amount donated. I said sorry with a declining smile and waved my hand "no". She physically tried to stop my by using her hand to push against mine in the middle of my waving action to stop my advancing forward. It was more of a gesture than a really obstructive force to keep me from going, but I felt it was far too aggressive for fund-raising.

The third girl was with the second girl. She approached us only after about 6 steps away from the other girl. She said "Hello" to me. I waved my hand with an apologetic smile. She looked indignant, like she was offended, like "I only wanted to say Hello". Then she repeated her "Hello", like 2 times, each time louder and more pissed off than before. I kept saying sorry and smiling but waving "no" to her. On the third time I said a firm "hello" in a matching loudness with her, with a smile while looking directly at her. I was trying to show that I was not ignoring her, but I was also not going to make a donation just because she was trying to intimidate me. She jabbed me in the upper arm with the non-writing tip of her pen and said "hello" again, with the loud and offensive tone. That was just when I got far enough for her not to be able to reach me any more. Her jab was not injuring but the force was firm, and I could feel it for about 8 seconds after.

I was quite surprised by the whole incident. Why were children who were so aggressive allowed to raise funds at Gare Du Nord, a major railway station in Paris? Were they taught to be so aggressive in their manner of approach? It would seriously affect tourists' impression of Paris and its people right? I was seriously doubting if there was a non-profit organisation behind the girls asking for donations. I also doubt they would just let me go if I told them I've already made a donation to another one of their peers earlier on. 

After we exited the station, a man tried to approach Christina asking if she spoke English. She said "no". He asked "Can I hug you?", she said "no" again then she ignored him. He continued to ask if he could help her. She continued to ignore him and he left after a while.

We finally found the official taxi stand, with a long queue. When we joined the queue we were greeted by an old lady asking for English Pounds to spare. I was wondering why she was specifically asking for pounds? If she was really in need, why is she selective about what people give her?

This was a totally different experience from my last 2 trips. We were left alone most of the time, and I do not recall any encounters with the locals that even approaches the intensity in persistence like what I had just encountered. It is just 3 years since, and I felt it is really different from how it used to be.

I know the state of the economy in Europe is quite bad, and I am wondering if all this is the result that is affecting society.

The taxi ride and booking in to the hotel was pretty un-eventful. The hotel is L'Empire, which was just behind the Louvre and just a street away from the Metro station called Louvre Rivoli. The hotel room was really nicer than I expected. It was clean, nicely furnished and had very friendly and professional staff. 
That's looking in from the front entrance
Our room. All the rooms are named after Napolean's generals.

The whole Eurostar package included 2 return train tickets from London to Paris and a hotel for 7 days. All in all it cost me £1,360. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

FL Studio Merchandising Design Contest: Won 2nd Prize!

What a big surprise! I opened up my email and I saw a receipt from Image-Line software, makers of FL Studio. 

I went into the contest forum thread, and I found that I won the 2nd prize!

First prize by AndrAKondrA had 167 votes, winning 25% of all the votes:
This image is from the forum where there was a button to click to vote ;)

2nd prize was my entry, scoring a 148 votes, winning 22% if all votes:
This image is from the forum where there was a button to click to vote ;)

The entry by gamecat666. It won 3rd prize with 111 votes, bagging 17% of all votes:

Winning the 2nd prize in this contest means I would receive 300 IL Virtual Cash. 1st prize wins 500 IL Virtual Cash and 3rd prize wins 100 IL Virtual Cash.

There were comments on the voting page that 3D renders are more eye catching on computer displays and more likely to attract voter's attention. However the concept and layout/composition may not be the best in the context of a t-shirt design or a mug. My piece was used as an example, because my cables were "cut-off" by the boundary of my rendered frame, thereby making it not the best candidtate, design-wise.

Also, with regards to designing for the print-medium in mind, some people also commented that photo-realistic renders, even they look attractive, would not be so suitable for mugs and t-shirts, if the designers had actually had experience doing designs for t-shirts.

The moderator commented that the designs could be used in posters for example, and they might work with us to request for modification to make the designs more suited to their purposes.

I absolutely agree with the fact that 3D spoils the market, in a way. The glossy finish and realistic shading do have the effect of covering up a weaker concept. Any piece of deisng with a nice 3D render is a design with a good execution. It would carry an average design through to become above-average. 

Only people who're trained in design can tell if a design is strong or not. It means that with their strong foundation, they will always have an edge over 3D software users who do not have fundamental knowledge in image composition, lighting principles and colour theory. That is why I believe being a 3D (CG/VFX) aritst, one should also be very aware of those foundation in art and aesthetics.

Thank you for your support, voters!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Bought an Expresso Coffee Machine!

YC spotted a good coffee maker that was selling at It was the Delonghi EC152 Pump Espresso Coffee Machine, selling at only £59.95. Due to the fact that my wife HAS to drink a cup of coffee in the morning, I thought this could be a good thing to have. Therefore I asked my wife over instant messenger, and she said "ok let's buy it!"

An expresso maker in Singapore would cost about SG$300 at least.

So I've placed the order. With the date of my departure being barely more than a week away, I hope Amazon makes a timely delivery.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Submitted Entries for Image-Line Merchandise Design Contest

I've finally finished it! Submitted what I've worked on for the last weeks. If you read my blog entry just a few posts back in my Patrick's VFX blog or the Journey into Music blog, I submitted 2 ideas for merchandise: a coin bank and a candy jar

While I was still working on it more than a week ago, YC happened to see it and commented that they weren't so attractive. As in, he probably would not want to get one if he saw it at an online shop.

On Friday evening I purchased FL Studio and I told YC about it. YC saw it that the prize for the competition was the sole motivating factor for my purchase of the software, so that I could start posting entries at the forum. 

Since last week, YC was already telling me to try and come up with something else. So last Sunday, I began to build the model of a headphone. Initially I had no idea at all what I was going to do. I had a vague idea that I was going to do the Fruity Loops logo again, on the headphones or something. I also thought of using the fruit as the source that the headphones were plugged into.

On Wednesday I submitted the coin bank and candy bar entry. On that night, YC tried to help me brainstorm for design ideas. I think he was itching to stretch his creative brain muscles. We came up with strange things, from lava lamps to trees bearing the fruity logo as fruits. 

So all the way to the weekend I continued to model and develop the model. I had some problem trying to model the mesh. I had 1 that is bump mapped, and I had 1 with circular holes and another with hexigonal holes cut into planes.
On Saturday night, I went without sleep for the full night trying to light, texture and develop the look for the single shot I am rendering. 
Some technical details pertaining to CG and 3D which described my process of modelling and rendering the image are included in the similarly named post on my VFX blog here:

That was 30 Oct morning, London time. Contest ends 30 Oct. I was not very sure which time zone, so I finished it by Sunday 9am, my local London time.

After submitting it, I decided to run the rendered image through an Android app by Autodesk called Pixlr-o-matic. Its available from the Apple App Store too. Here are the amazing results and variations.

Many of  them are useable and
totally changes the feel of the image right? I was quite amazed at what mobile apps can do these days. So after I got these variations out, I quickly logged on and submitted a few more just to show the potential of the render.

I got a reply that said "damn kids throwing their 3D around these days". I think it was meant as a joke :). Another person replied "I want one of those, would you actually make them and how much can I buy them for?". Thats a great compliment to my work! 

The design contest was primarily a DESIGN contest. Probably the most important factor for judges  to consider would be the element of design. So I am prepared that the people evaluating the entries would throw my image out the door (including the fruity coin bank and candy jar). 

My very lousy connection at home prevented me from replying them.

After my last 2 entries (coint bank and candy jar) that had links to a video clips of animated turn table, 3D entries in the forum started to include turntable video links. Copycats! Hah! ;)

There are not activities in the forum, so we'll just wait for the results and see.

I had an idea of smoke coming out from the logo and cable, but I did not have time to do it. I think I'll continue to work on it and maybe post a post-contest entry in the forum, just to show how I meant it to be. I've just got to be disciplined enough to carry it through.