Saturday, 31 January 2015

Street Treat

Took full advantage of what Bournemouth had to offer today by trekking into the town centre for their street food market. My girlfriend and I got in a few moments before they started charging for entry (result) and had a perusal of what was on offer. Admittedly the selection wasn't the most varied but we did settle on a nifty looking burrito stand which served up a tasty wrap. There was also a big community tent in the middle where people could just chill and eat their food and if there is one thing on this planet I love its eating food in a tent with other people while its a bit chilly. No sarcasm, I really love that.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Final Presentations

Did our very last ever thing with our camera group today: our assessed presentation. Each group had to deliver a 4 minute powerpoint about a studio show they did over the past few months as pairs. Considering this was 20% of our unit mark we put a lot of effort into this thing and I reckon it payed off. I've been getting better and better at constructing presentations recently and I was very pleased with how my slideshow came to be.

My reward for the presentation? My girlfriend called me up in a food emergency. Apparently her housemates had too many burgers for them all to eat. I was more than happy to help out that cause!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Spot of Luck

Earlier, early rise this morning to hit the streets of Lymington for some pre-sunrise filming. I was the sound guy once again and I got very friendly with a Tascam while we watched and recorded the day breaking. This was all for a fellow student's portfolio piece and I was asked to help out on sound and assist producing. It was mostly just running shots today, but a nice way to warm up into the project. Just as we were finishing up we wanted to get some action shots and a passer by came along and took this classic pic.

Rocking the 'Front back-pack as a make-shift sound bag' look.
The person who took this photo turned out to be someone who most likely retired from the TV industry and appeared to have a wide knowledge of the town. Especially regarding who owned boats  and who ran the cafe; both spots we were keen to film at. He gave us his card as we exchanged numbers, he later calmly said he could sort out both of those locations for us since he knew the locals very well.

Bloody good spot of luck that was!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Grim Fandango Remastered

I cannot physically remember a time in my life before we owned Grim Fandango. It has always been that game which not many other people had a chance to play either, it was a true hidden gem at the time or release despite the rave reviews it got way back in 1998. I've played it countless times to the point where I can mouth along to many dialouge sequences and recited the puzzles without looking at a guide. To this day I consider it one of the most unique and stylized games I have ever had the joy of experiencing and earlier this afternoon I got to play a brand new shiny version released here in 2015.

'It makes the game look as good as you remember it' is a popular expression people are throwing around the internet to describe any 'remastered' versions of games and that taps into a very poignant theme to me. Especially in regards to Grim. Thanks to the new lighting and hi-res textures the game looks just as good as what you thought it did when you first played it. A handy click of a button instantly reverts the visuals back to 'original mode' which look garbled and messy by modern standards and make you wonder how the hell you put up with it. Now, thanks to the fancy visuals and range of control options it feels like I'm experiencing the game for the first time again.

But above all it puts a smile on my face to know that hundreds, maybe thousands of people will now have the opportunity to play a game that captured my heart for their first time as well.    

Monday, 26 January 2015

Wild Haggis

Back into the editing suite for a specialism lesson, on today's teaching plan we had:

Multi-camera editing which was a lot of fun and since I've seen Mark and Chris do it a few times before it was quite familiar. It was also refreshing to see how easy it is to do in Avid Media Composer. 

Green Screening which was a lot more in-depth but equally cool to learn about. The gist is that you really want a good camera man to get the original shot as there is naff all you can do with a bad green screen effect. We got to work with a good and a bad scene with green in the background and got to fiddle with a few sliders and effects until it was all looking pukka.

I also totally didn't forget it was Burns Night yesterday and bought a reduced haggis from Lidl to lately celebrate the prestigious day. I then wouldn't even dream of wrapping the haggis in a burrito because I had nothing else suitable to eat it with... Maybe it did seem a bit desperate then but at least I convinced all of my housemates that haggis is in fact a bird. You can read the Scottish folklore here.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Surprise Run

Struggled to face the morning with the prospect of having to do another jog today. I was steadfast under the bedsheets, waiting for that fateful text to arrive from my peer asking when to meet up. In reality though, that text never came, I got a different one from my girlfriend though saying that I walked off with her debit card after I held onto it last night for her. So I got a chance to run after all, pegging it down our local highstreet without shame or regrets. Bit puffed when I got there though, perhaps going on a few more jogs wouldn't hurt...

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Free Coffee Choice

Hit the snooze button for 3 hours today in an effort to re-claim the hours that the last few nights have claimed. Got up especially for a group meeting in my local favourite coffee shop. Naturally our main director was thirty minutes late but that gave me ample time to take advantage of my free drink loyalty reward where I could choose any beverage from the board, and what did I got with? Black coffee. Admittedly I panicked a tad there as in retrospect I would have really liked to sample their iced coffee without it denting my wallet but hey-ho.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Top Ten Games of 2014

2014 has been a rather peculiar year for games. Youtuber 'Superbunnyhop' noted that while last year was all about narrative innovations in the gaming medium with games like Brothers and The Last of Us, 2014 was the year where gaming got silly again. While there were still some games this year that really pushed the envelop in terms of what the form of games can accomplish, a majority of releases instead focused on delivering more bombastic and rehashed experiences of what we have come to expect. Being silly isn't necessarily a bad thing however as many games on this list encapsulate experiences that offer pure joy and entertaining game-play without any pretentiousness getting in the way. The games on this list honour the best of a just plain fun year.

Also please bear in mind that I do not own an Xbox One or Playstation 4, I play a majority of my games on the PC and the Wii U. I also have not had a chance to check out many of the 'newer' games of this year like Far Cry 4 or The Evil Within as they are a little too pricey right now for my student wallet. With that said, lets dive right into the list:

  1. Octodad: Dadliest Catch

If you took Surgery Simulator and combined it with The Simpsons then you'd get an experience pretty close to Octodad. The premise of the game is simple: You are an octopus who is happily married with kids and no-one is any the wiser to the fact you are an aquatic lifeform. The main appeal of the game is the intentionally terrible controls, you are in command of two arms and two legs which are horrendously difficult to manipulate (and actually deliciously worse in multiplayer). You are then asked to do everyday tasks like make coffee and take your children to the supermarket but more often you end up slipping over and breaking everything. And it's absolutely hilarious while somehow managing to be heart-warming, because at the end of the day, Octodad just wants to be a good father. Even when he's flopping around the garden trying to mow the lawn.

  1. Broken Age

You play as Shay a boy confined to a space station ruled over by your over-bearing mother, routinely forced to save galaxies from ice-cream avalanches and extremely slow train crashes. You also play as Vella, a bakery girl from a village being terrorised by a monstrous deity. It's also her turn to be offered as a sacrifice to the beast to save the village, but she has other plans. Born from the brilliant mind of Tim Schafer, who spawned other cult classics like Grim Fandango and Psychonauts, this point-and-click adventure games remains one of the most inventive and witty experiences of the year. While it may be popular to scrutinise how the game was funded and produced the end result is very impressive.

  1. Bayonetta 2

Leave it up to Platinum Games to once again deliver a game with this much energy and show-stopping power. Bayonetta 2 begins with you kicking and shooting a legion of angels on top of a fighter-jet speeding through a metropolis. So it's basically business as usual for this ass-kicking witch. Armed with pistols, knives, chainsaw heels, a shotgun scythe and a hammer bigger than Bono's ego, it is pretty hard not to have a satisfying time killing enemies. And there are a lot of enemies to kill. The action can seem pretty hectic at times, just watching gameplay videos will make you wonder just how anyone can actually play this game but it ends up being simultaneously simple and oh-so rewarding to control Bayonetta on her journey to Hell.

  1. Walking Dead Season 2

While technically the first part of this game saw an late 2013 release I am putting it here because 80% of this game was released this year and it's not one you want to miss. Season 1 of The Walking Dead was my number one game of 2012 and Season 2 keeps that ball rolling. While it doesn't offer much new over the original it does continue the story and (for the most part) seal of quality the series is know for. TellTale just have a knack for putting players in positions they despise being in. Decisions you make in this game as big as who to kill off in your party to the small lies you may tell your fellow survivors build a remarkably involving experience that will keep you doubting your decisions through to the very end.

  1. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

The platformer is one of gamings oldest genres, but leave it to Retro Studios to produce a game that takes a concept that we hold so dear and just run with it. Donkey Kong handles a little differently to Mario, and that does take some time getting used to, but it gives DK a heavier style which adds character. Other members of the Kong family also lend a hand, providing temporary power-ups which you feel practically naked without sometimes. But by far the most impressive thing about this game is its great sense of place. As you move between worlds you witness your environments evolve and throw some really gorgeous looking worlds at you that are brimming with life. The challenge is the other thing that will hook you, despite all their bright colours, these levels will really test your mettle, dishing out crumbling platforms and cruelly placed enemies at every turn. The difficulty curves to well that although each new world can be tough at first, you will rarely lose the will to press Donkey Kong through to the end.

  1. Shovel Knight

It's strange to think that a game modeled on software from the 1980's would appear on a top ten list in 2014 but Shovel Knight is just irresistibly excellent. Everything about this game just evokes nostalgia thanks to several nods to games from our childhoods. From everything that it borrows it gives back so much more through it's stellar music, stages, boss fights and tone. Playing as the titular knight is responsive and intuitive and you are on his side the entire way as he battles towards his long lost love. His journey also lends itself to one of the best and most unique after-level mini-games of all time as you are forced to hopelessly forced to fend off waves of enemies to catch your falling beloved, all while blending narrative and gameplay seamlessly. Just experiencing this sequence alone is worth the price of admission.

  1. Binding of Issac: Rebirth

The original Binding of Issac was a game I picked up on a whim for £1, I expected to enjoy it's gimmick briefly and then forget about it. Instead I ended up racking over 70 hours of gameplay on it. Now that this new and updated version (which almost feels like a directors cut) has come out I have little reason to go back to the old game since Rebirth improves on every single aspect of the game. The controls are tight, the art-style is equal parts hideous and mesmerising
but it is the difficulty and random elements that makes this game more addictive than any mobile app and more satisfying than many other triple A releases this year.

  1. Mario Kart 8

I still can't believe just how pretty this game looks and how well it plays. It is apparent from the moment you start your engines that a lot of love went into the craft of this latest entry in the Mario Kart franchise. While it doesn't re-invent the wheel and the anti-gravity mechanic is a wee bit underutilised, it is still a blast to knock out your opponents while traveling up a waterfall or hanging upside-down. And with the second DLC pack due to release in May there is more than enough reason to keep coming back to the most complete Mario Kart experience to date.

  1. Towerfall Acsention

If Mario Kart makes you horribly competitive then steer clear of Towerfall Acsention. The game pits 2-4 archers head-to-head in a battle to the death. And death if frequent as a single arrow is enough to put you down but since matches typically last less than 30 seconds you'll be quickly thrown back into round 2 for a chance at revenge. A series of inventive and fun to abuse power-ups like exploding and ricocheting arrows are thrown into the mix to keep players on their toes and the core mechanics are simple to pick-up but have a lot of depth to them. It's laughably cheap as well compared to other games on this list. Once you invite a couple of friends over to play 'this cheap little indie game I picked up' it becomes clear that your money was well spent on this cracking game that will make you and your friends scream 'One more game!'

  1. Smash Bros

The number one spot was very heated this year in my mind, like a phoenix from the ashes, the local multiplayer genre made a comeback this year and in that category no game boasts the sheer content and fun factor of Super Smash Bros for Wii U. The roster is expansive and balanced featuring characters spanning all of Nintendo's most popular IP's and even including some great outsiders as well. It's exhilarating seeing all these characters fight one another in a way that so beautifully uncharacteristic it's hard not to smile when you see Mario unleashing destruction on Princess Peach. The fighting feels tighter than ever, and while you can't take advantage of the wave-dashing mechanics seen in Melee, everything feels responsive. Including the online which is near flawless if you have a good internet connection but this is a game that is begging to be played on a sofa with friends in yelling distance. Landing that one killer blow on a friend you never thought you could beat provides a rush you will tell you grand-kids about. Plus there is an absolute shed-load of collectable trophies, music tracks and special moves ensuring that OCD types will always be coming back for more.

In a year full of slightly silly, maybe less respectable games, Smash Brothers at least gives us the chance to share the best of that sillyness with friends.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

When to go to Bed

Mum came down to Bournemouth to take me out for a coffee and a bite to eat. I also told her that recently I've been having a bit of difficulty sleeping, not because of stress or coldness but we simply deduced that I was over-tired by the time my head hit the pillow. As she dropped me off at the uni for editing I told her I would be getting some early nights in soon. Sadly I wasn't able to keep my word on that commitment due to the folly of technology.

My camera group gathered in the editing suites at 1pm sharp for our final day of working on our cut. I was mostly moral support until 8pm where I finally got the chance to do my audio mix and editing which went really well. Everyone else started heading home at this point so it was just me and my director working together into the wee hours of the night. We got a coffee (for free) a bit later and eventually we were ready to export at 1:30am. Each time we attempted to shoot off a copy however it got to the 99% completion point and then spat out a error message. The cavalry arrived a bit later and we spent the next few hours sorting out the seemingly invisible technical issue. We all went a little bit crazy in that small room while we were all together, but eventually at the fresh time of 7:55am all was sorted and I could go home and have a well deserved rest.

Taken at 6:48 this morning. Looks like we are trying out for the cover of Clerks.

Man I crashed when I got back. I treated today as a recovery day and accomplished very little beyond revitalizing myself.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Blueberries are a bit poo

Another day, another disappointing smoothie. I attempted to improve on my original yoghurt and blueberry recipe by using natural style rather than Greek yoghurt and add a fair few more blueberries. What I got was somehow even worse than before, not only did the mixture still taste of just yoghurt but I got a horrendous after-taste from it that almost tasted as if the juice of the berries curdled the product. I took two sips and deemed it unfit for human consumption and poured one quids worth of blueberry mush down the drain.

So while I felt rather under-vitalized, I went into uni to round off a few edits for our submission portfolio. Finishing off the last touches to that tomorrow which could mean an all-nighter at the uni but I reckon we are slightly on the ball so we'll be A-OK.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Rain-Check Edit

Chill Monday thanks to a very relaxed timetable this week, time to crack on a film. Check my phone 2 hours later and my facebook went mad with course-mates asking for people to come in and edit their projects. Mad rush to uni to face a rain-check for tomorrow so that gave me ample time to prepare for dinner with my girlfriend. I made sheppards pie again after a lengthy hiatus and it came out really well! Rebecca even went back to the baking dish say that 'this meal is so moreish!' That probably the highest accolade any of my cooking has received. Somehow this evening we also went from watching Se7en to Waterloo Road. Bit of a dip in quality but certainly a perk of living in an (nearly) all girls house, you never know what you'll watch next.

Sunday, 18 January 2015


I bigged up my coach trip home to be lengthy at just under four hours but in reality they were possibly the quickest 4 hours I have ever experienced. It did give me ample time to sum up all my thoughts on watching Birdman this afternoon and the crowd I went to see it with can also testify that it takes a little while to sink in after seeing it.

Easily, the biggest highlight is the performances. Keaton finally has a movie where he can flex his stuff in a role which is deliciously close to home for him; it almost feels as if he is playing an alternate reality version of himself which was delightful to see. Norton, as always, deserves special mention as well, perfectly playing a wild and self-obsessed actor ensuring that every second he's on screen is a treat. The camera really benefited from getting so up-close and personal with each actor, at moments it felt like your breath could warm the character's cheeks.

The eternally tracking and moving nature of the cinematography was also really impressive to see in action. At first I was worried that the effect would be tired and irritating later on but thankfully it totally enhanced me into the narrative and gave it a good sense of realism.

That said, I respected the film a bit more than I enjoyed it. At points it teetered on having Paul Thomas Anderson levels of pretentiousness but thankfully it often clawed itself back with some self-awareness and humour, but it was never funny enough to laugh out loud at. Nearly all the characters also seemed overly spiteful of their existence, it completely fits with their 'woes of being talented, yet unrealized' nature, but at no point did any character feel especially welcoming. However, this is most likely intentional to suit the theme of the film but makes us feel only a pang of indifference when something unfortunate happens to a character.

For what Birdman perhaps lacks in heart, it more than makes up for in ambition and technical excellence. Its a little bit different to anything you'll ever see and it makes it worth a watch for that reason alone.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Bournemouth, Southampton and Bristol

My girlfriend did the sweetest thing this morning by bringing me a cup of coffee in bed. As a guy who intentionally gets up 30 minutes before having to leave the house in the morning just for the sake of caffeinating himself, this small act of hospitality really put a smile on my face. Also it really pepped me up for my next run this afternoon which went remarkably well. We set out to find a really nice park I went to just once a few years ago which left a big impression on me and found it really quickly!

Just came from Southampton visiting Dan and have at long last been introduced to Mark and Lucy's very nice house in Bristol. And more importantly, their spare bed! I'm gonna sleep very well tonight!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Old Ground

Stepped back into my old house on Frederica this afternoon with a fresh face by my side. We organised a house viewing for some of my new housemates and when we showed him around he was over the moon with how nice the house was. He was especially excited about how decent the attic was as a storage space and a location for potential filming. Having him see the house got me really pumped for next year and spending it with people who are on my course. We all have a similar love for films and television so I simply cannot wait to get back in there for final year.

A Goodbye to MC2

My iced coffee recipe is slowing turning into my unfinished masterpiece. Every time I make it it always turns out very differently, but now that I have a stove-top espresso maker and a blender I can really get creative. And by golly, I think I nailed it this time. What I produced this afternoon was a delight that would make any barista blush. Ice cream is certainly shaping up to be a key ingredient, further testing is needed until I can produce a remixed recipe from my previous iced coffee recipe.

Today also marked the final day that my studio filming group (MC2) worked on a project together. I can say, without any hyperbole, it was the best group I have worked together with at uni. Hands down. Even after our first project I think we all just knew that we each had skills that complimented an already very hard-working team. Very proud to be a part of that, the lecturers called us the dream team and that is no understatement. At least we said goodbye in style!

Monday, 12 January 2015

Masterful Mesh

Wielding my tunes I walked into our uni HD studio for what could potentially be, the last time ever. I set up shop quite quickly in my sound desk and was on my lonesome for 80% of the experience, listening in over the comms for an opportunity to spring into action. What we actually did during our session was quite bizarre and very unique as the lecturers kept on saying. Placing our actress behind a series of meshes and projecting images onto them was exceptionally cool, one special effect in particular where she scrolled across her iphone which was projected onto her face was brilliant.

There's a long road ahead for editing (I'm doing the music for it all along with a sound scape) but we are all really excited for the end product.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Copyright Music

Royalty free music is one of those things I have slowly gotten the knack of finding and using competently it seems. Tomorrow we will be doing a show based on a dance routine across projectors beaming onto mosquito netting for a really cool effect. I've been tasked with tracking down the tunes once again for a dry run. I had a few difficulties getting in touch with our director about what kind of sounds they wanted so I went solo and grabbed a basically everything I could possibly need; I'll walk in armed with 30 different tracks to use. I even categorized them on mood and where I reckon they might fit into the narrative so it will be just a case of dipping into a folder to find the perfect song. I hope this makes me organised enough for tomorrow, if not though I still had some fun listening and pigeon-holing everything.

Blueberry Smoothie

Sadly, my smoothie attempts were foiled again. I attempted to make a blueberry and yoghurt drink to go with my pancakes this morning, I followed a recipe which I thought was fail safe. Rather stupidly I mixed in 400ml of Greek style rather than natural yogurt so the consistency and flavour was just... off. I still drank it though, probably had a shed-load of good stuff in it despite the taste so I'm glad I drank it to the last drop. Needed to get my moneys worth, blueberries are expensive...

The drink certainly gave me the energy I needed throughout the day though as I ended up staying over at a friends house until 1am tonight just chatting and drinking. I am quite bad at departing from a conversation it seems, I am 99% sure I didn't over-stay my welcome but I had a little bit of difficulty getting up to leave since I was just enjoying my time there so much. This has happened on a few occasions actually, so along with being fashionably late I now need to learn when to leave a social situation without making a fool of myself; I'm just worried that I'll look eager to get home most of the time.

Friday, 9 January 2015


It finally arrived. I ordered a pop vinyl figuring of Malcolm Reynolds in the beginning of September and today marks the day that he would sit upon my desk as a trusty knick-knack. He was a nice surprise this afternoon and arrived just in time to show my girlfriend who was equally thrilled with his eventual appearance.

This little guy will be guarding my dreams tonight

She also brought with her a big old tub of ice cream so we could make some milkshakes with my new blender. It went alright... I underestimated how potent the flavour of chocolate could be at first and tried to water it down with more and more vanilla ice-cream. I ended up making the thickest milkshake I have ever produced and alas... I had no straw so I had to eat it with a spoon.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Nearly Nicknamed

Group meeting today revealed that I would be in charge, once again, of sound in our final studio piece. And I am really going to give it my all, the director is asking for some sound-scapes amongst other things so I will really go into town on this one and go all Hans Zimmer on this brief.

Getting back home I felt a bit mechanical for once and decided to have a stab at my first ever Nerf gun internal modification. It went quite well at first, taking out the screws and seeing how it all worked on the inside was pretty cool. I followed a good video guide telling me what parts to remove and so forth and ended up nearly ruining my blaster. An electronic switch was not quick connecting after I had a poke around and it took me the better part of 45 minutes to get it working again. But now it does run a fraction better than usual so I'm pleased, got it all fixed back again just in time to get to the gaming society where I wrecked at Towerfall and Nidhogg and was almost, almost given a nickname for my skills.

Slowly I am integrating myself there.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Improv Tango

Handed in my essay without a hitch and went straight into helping a different group with their TV studio project. I played a contestant in a game show who sadly didn't win. I attribute this loss mostly to how we performed in the 'perform your own tango' segment. My dance partner and myself put a lot of effort into rehearsals and choreography in our 15 minutes but we ultimately thrashed but a much more talented duo.

When I got home I just crashed and enjoyed the sensation of knowing that I had no duties to fulfill. I'll try and enjoy it while it lasts.

Gentle Moon

My girlfriend swung over with a care package full of custard creams and orange juice to give me that one last push I needed to finish my essay. Right now I am listening to Sun Kil Moon's Gentle Moon is perhaps the greatest way to celebrate finishing a very long and tiresome essay at 1:30am. I feel so happy and weightless now, I also just had a look at my timetable to see that after next week is over I have a 2 week break with no work to do. I will plan my mooching period well in the morning when I can think again.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Living in an Igloo

After waking up a tad late I was driven back to Bournemouth by Granny Sue who also treated me to a hot lunch at my local coffee shop. I told her 'This is be the last taste of quality I'll have in a while.' While she deemed that to be poppycock I was treated to an afternoon of less that luxury after getting home. The heating wouldn't turn on for the first two hours, at firth this didn't bother me too much but after I started seeing my own breath as I worked on my essay I decided that was an issue to be addressed immediately. Another few hours pass until it is revealed to me that there is effectively a 'boiler override' button I could press. At this point I was swearing an becoming delirious with being alone, cold and stressed out from the essay but the moment I heard that little click of ignition I could have earned an Olympic medal in jumping for joy.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Back from Eeklo

Rung in the new year while dressed up as a giant penguin in Belgium surround by many old and new faces, I'm not sure there could be a better way to celebrate the coming of 2015.

For those of you who don't know, I have been away in Eeklo, a small town in Belgium for another Twin Town/Youth for Europe trip. We squeezed in a trip to Brussles where we sampled some classic (and affordable) waffles along with a really excellent light show in the main square where all the main buildings were illuminated with LED lights and changed depending on the music. Bruges was the other town we looked at and while I am now no stranger to Bruges, I can now happily say that I have made chocolate there as our 'surprise activity' was a trip to the chocolate museum followed by a practical 'make your own edible souvenir' course.

And as mentioned, we did the big countdown in Eeklo and then partied long into the night. But the beers were free so there was not much reason to go to bed, our host also performed a pukka DJ set which gave way to 6 hours of dancing. Most notable was my 'Mahna Mahna' dance which completely came out of nowhere and left the floor flabbergasted.

Now I am back home and the collective lack of sleep over the past week can finally catch up to me. But here's a nice photo of my girlfriend and I enjoying the Bruges Christmas Market.