Monday, July 07, 2014

Anime Expo 2014

This year's Anime Expo (AX) has come and gone now. Just like the previous years, I went again to take photos of the cosplayers. For me, AX, has the best collective gatherings of cosplayers I've ever come across-- although one day I'd like to check out DragonCon, which I hear is amazing.

If you just want to see my sets of pictures see below:
I'm also on Instagram (again). I tend to post pictures there first.

Here are some of my pictures and thoughts by day. 

Day 0 - Registration goes down

I always try to pick up my tickets on Day 0 since it's an easier, aka shorter line than Day 1. However, they had some problems with the registrations and printing this year. This caused major delays with AX responding that they would extend pre-registration hours until midnight.  Despite hearing about these delays, my friends and I decided to go anyways since Day 1 would probably be even worse.

I got to the Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC) around 7:20pm. On the way to the line, I bumped into another friend that just got his badge and was walking back. He had been in line since 9am. That's right, he was in line for 10 hours. TEN HOURS.

tweeted about how far the line was-- several blocks long! Walking to the end of the line was a disheartening experience. Every step I took was a step I knew I was going to retake in the opposite direction. In the end, we were in line for about 3.5 hours. Surprisingly, they processed 25,000 badges on Day 0.

Day 1 - Opening Day

Anime Expo from the front of the building.

The huge line waiting for the exhibit hall to open at noon.

The mad rush of everyone going up the escalators once the exhibit hall opened.

The Marvel and DC Universe gatherings merged into one big one.

LeeAnna Vamp

Day 2 - Cosplay in America Meetup

I actually spent almost two hours at the "Cosplay in America" @ Anime Expo 2014 meetup. I'm also a backer of the Kickstarter project:  'Cosplay in America' book. This was actually a relaxing time spent sitting down and talking with other fans of cosplay.

Ejen (right) meeting fans at the Cosplay in America meetup.

At this little meetup, I learned the difference between gender bender and crossplay.

Gender bender is when a cosplayer takes the character of the opposite sex, and portrays it as their own. An example is a male that takes a female character's costume, but portrays it in a male outfit.

Crossplay is when a cosplayer takes a character of the opposite sex, and portrays it as the opposite sex. An example of this is a male that takes a female character's costume, but portrays it as a female outfit.

Lonstermash cosplaying Wolverine. I enjoy photographing this guy, he makes it so easy for the photographer.

Loki Hates You-- the best Loki cosplayer I've ever seen.

Sailor scouts and Tuxedo Mask

Katarina from League of Legends

Famous cosplayer Monika Lee

Mystique from X-Men (cosplayer: Masochrist)

Ironhide from Transformers

Day 3 - The Busiest Day

The third day, Saturday, was easily the biggest and most crowded day. It was uncomfortable walking from one side of the convention to the other as you were shoulder to shoulder with everyone else.

League of Legends Ahri

The League of Legends cosplay gathering

Luffy (gender bender) from One Piece (cosplayer: cosplay_doll)

Bumblebee and Optimus Prime from Transformers

Saint Seiya

Cosplayinabox (On instagram: alicialoraine and spidergeorg)

Day 4 - Short Day For Me

The last day of the con I only wanted to go for a bit since my friends only wanted to do last minute shopping. I didn't bother to attach a flash to my camera and just shot casually. In total, I was only there for a little over an hour.

Snow White Mandalorian armor

Anbu Special Ops member from Naruto

Mortal Kombat's Sub-Zero

Final Thoughts

I hope AX staff are open to the idea of distributing tickets in other ways for next year. The two main ones are:
  1. Multiple locations for badge pickups.
  2. Mailing badges (maybe even for premium price). 
AX is just getting more popular each year and the lines are longer than ever. This year was also very hot. AX staff were distributing water for those in line-- many of those in line were in cosplay gear too!

Another thing they should consider is moving the convention to another bigger place. LACC is nice and all, but it's got some major bottlenecks going from one hall to the next. That and anime fans love to sit around, talk, wait, and cosplay everywhere. It's a fire hazard to have so many tightly packed areas.

I understand that there are concerns about counterfeit badges if they are mailed out. I guess getting the badges a few days early by mail gives more time for those who want to create/sell fake badges?

Throughout the con I overheard many fans complain the long lines, lack of communications or miscommunications, and general disorganization of AX staff. Although I feel for the con-goers who suffered in the heat in line, I can't help but think about how much we paid for tickets. For my 4-day pass, I paid $45 many months ago. It think it went up to $70 after the pre-sale. Either of these ticket prices are pretty cheap compared to other cons.

Anime Expo is a inexpensive, best-bang-for-your-buck con I've come across. They have notable guests, panels, booths, exhibitors, screenings, etc... for between $10-20 per day. I've said this before too, but in general their handling of the lines is actually pretty good considering many of them are volunteers. I've been to other conventions where the line handling isn't even half as good-- and this isn't even considering how much bigger of a con AX is to other smaller ones.

I was interviewed in a podcast at AX this year and I briefly made a comment about cosplay gatherings being rather poor or not as good as cosplayers in the main hall. I feel what I said could be taken out of context and wanted to take the time to explain my thoughts on that.

What I meant is that cosplay gatherings can indeed be a mess as some people don't even show up. Conversely, they can be incredibly large too. For a photographer, it's difficult to get quality shots at these gatherings. The photographer may not be in the best position, or even many cosplayers cannot get in the best poses either. Cosplayers and photographers are tripping over each other at cosplay gatherings and may not be worth the time and trouble to attend. The main hall is also a mess, but a more organized mess since the subject(s) are more limited to maybe 1-6 cosplayers.

Anime Expo, every year, is a reminder to me of how much anime is out there and how much I have not watched. Last year it introduced me to Attack on Titan. This year, it's Kill la Kill and Sword Art Online.

The next con I will attend is none other than San Diego Comic Con in San Diego. Just a few weeks away!

Related posts:

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Photos of Naver Line Friends

I was in Chiang Mai, Thailand recently and found some Naver Line toys at the mall. I bought them with the intention of giving them to my sisters since we all use the Line chat app. But on the way back to the US, I had an eight hour layover at the Incheon International airport in South Korea. I happened to pack the toys in my carry-on so I took them out to have a little photo shoot.

I initially made them for my Instagram account, but decided to re-crop them with a different finish for HD wallpapers and prints. Then I expanded to take more pictures with them in other locations once I was back in the United States.

Here they are, hope you like! I plan to do more and maybe have them in other resolutions for mobile wallpapers.

My personal favorite is Brown the bear. And no, I won't be giving them to my sisters-- I ended up getting them Naver Line t-shirts.

Gimme a Call
Buy on 500px:

Waiting at the Airport
Buy on 500px:

I'll Wait Here
Buy on 500px:

What to Drink?

Where is my Gate?
Buy on 500px:

Flight Delayed
Buy on 500px:

Friends Visit the Chicago Bean
Buy on 500px:

Not Part of the Wedding Party

Monday, June 23, 2014

Converting Your VHS and Betamax Tapes to Digital

I've started a new initiative to help my parents convert all their VHS and Betamax tapes over into the digital world. These tapes are those precious family home videos. These are mostly tapes from the 1970s, 80s, 90s, and even part of the early 2000s.

In today's times we should all be capturing everything in digital format already. From DSLRs, HD camcorders, to even our smartphones. We just need a way to bring the past thirty plus years of our lives into the modern age.

A few years ago, we had a VHS to DVD recorder for the house. But these were and are expensive-- $150-200!! Plus, they save to DVD, which may as well join the VHS/Betamax family as being old and outdated!

The world is digital now and the future isn't in CDs, DVDs, or even Blu-ray discs. The present and future is in local hard drives in many of our devices and PCs, which should be syncing to another backup or cloud solution. All these choices are cheaper and better than ever.

What You Need

  • A computer running Windows or Mac OS X.
  • A VCR or Betamax player that works still.
  • Elgato Video Capture Device (~$80).
  • Enough hard disk space on your computer.
Below we have both a VHS and Betamax players.

Uses the standard RCA cables as input/output.

The video capture device. It's USB.


So here's a quick list of what I recommend as extra if you got the cash or really care about backing up your stuff.
  • Drobo 5D (~$575) - For backup and redundancy for your data.
  • Seagate Barracuda 3 TB HDD (~$100) - I recommend 3 or more, depending on how much you need. Or...
  • WD Red 3 TB NAS Hard Drive (~$125)- Even better, get the NAS optimized hard drives. Just avoid purchasing any green drives as they don't perform well and even Drobo doesn't recommend them.
  • Handbrake - Software to convert DVDs, CDs, or other digital formats.
The Drobo 5D.

The three internal hard drives, and two unused bays.

Do It Yourself

So these are my recommendations. I do not recommend you take them to CostCo or some other store to have them convert your tapes to DVDs/online. No! I personally consider the tapes to be too valuable to leave with a store or stranger to convert. You can easily do this yourself with the peace of mind that your valuable memories won't get accidentally lost or destroyed.

How it Works

Here's how the conversion process works for video tapes. You put the tape into the VCR and play them as you would normally. The video/audio feed then connects via the capture card and goes into your computer. Your computer's software will record all this digitally. The space required varies depending on how long the videos are, but I find that it's between 500MB for 30 minutes, and 1.7GB for 2 hours of video. The software allows you to trim the beginning and end in case there's blank or empty space.

A screenshot of the video capture software running on Mac OS X (Mavericks)-- pretty straightforward guide.

If you have some DVDs that you want to convert, there's Handbrake software. What it does is detect the video/audio source files needed to convert into a single video file output.

I recommend naming the files something that makes sense to you. I personally use the following format:
So a video of my Halloween in 1985 would be named: "1985-10-31 - Steven's Halloween.mp4"

If the month or day is unknown, it's okay. Not all our videos are timestamped that well. But year and description are the most important. So something like, "1989 - Steven playing in the backyard.mp4" is still good.

This is similar to how I organize my photos in Lightroom. The date is first so it gives you a sense of when it happened. They also align by date when your file manager like Windows Explorer or Mac's Finder organizes by filename.

The purpose of the Drobo 5D is so you can backup your files and have redundancy. Imagine if you only had an external hard drive to backup your work-- and if that failed and you didn't have another copy anywhere. You might be devastated! Hard drives do fail. It's not a matter of it, but when.

So with Drobo, if you have two or more hard drives attached, one of the drives could fail and your data would still be safe. Or if there's a red light, it'll be warning sign that something is wrong and to replace that hard drive as soon as possible!

Yes, you pay a lot for the Drobo enclosure and proprietary software, but the internal disks are getting cheaper and bigger every year. You can easily add more drives to it and it will reconfigure itself automatically-- little to no work on your part!

I hope you found this post useful. As a final note, I'm teaching my parents how to do this-- and it's a bit of a struggle for them since they are computer illiterate. But it should be very doable for you if you born after 1970-- i.e you know how to open a program, copy&paste, rename files, etc... then you should be good to go.