Category Archives: Input

Henry V, Act V, Scene III [What’s he that wishes so?]

William Shakespeare, 1564 – 1616

King Henry to Westmoreland

What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No my fair cousin:
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honor.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires:
But if it be a sin to covet honor,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honor
As one man more, methinks, would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbors,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

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Preparing a trailer for Astlan

Today, as we have planned a walk to the Aerotrain’s test site, I decided to bring my iPhone and a tripod.
The Aerotrain railway makes a perfect landscape to create a fun & intriguing trailer for my (almost finished) game ‘Astlan’.

For the record, the Aerotrain prototype was designed during the 70’s as an high-speed alternative to the regular railways. A test site running on 25km, made of a concrete rail was built in order to test this prototype (max speed recorded was around 400km/h).

Nowadays, only the concrete rail remains, making a perfect place for urban exploration.

Here are a few mockups I made of the kind of framing I want to shoot once on the site. We’ll see if the final result is close enough. Or not 🙂

Turrican 3 (title screen), a bit of (VG) archeology.

Yesterday night, a friend sent me the ASM source code of the title screen of the game Turrican 3, released by Factor5 on Amiga computers around the year 1993.

Not only the 68000 ASM source code of the title screen makes more than 5000 lines, but it contains a few evidences of where the Factor5 team got their inspiration from.

The line 31 mentions a ‘Stryfe‘ character.

I started to look into Google Image, and I quickly found the following character, featured as a Super Vilain of the Marvel universe (look at his Real Name) :

Isn’t that ‘Stryfe’ character the twin brother of the Turrican 3’s Super Vilain (and Final Boss), featured below in the title screen of the Amiga version ?

Amazing, isn’t it ? 🙂

For the record, there is a longplay of Turrican 3 Amiga :

The iPhone 4S : software polish VS product differentiation

I’d like to add my personal though on the current debate about ” how much is(n’t) the new iPhone 4S innovative enough versus its Android high-end competitors”.

While it’s always difficult to judge and compare products without having your hands on, here is my own experience with the iPhone 3G and the Android Motorola Defy.

 

9 months later, thruth is I’m writing this note on my iPhone, while the Android phone lies in a closet.

The facts

In feb. 2011 I decided to replace my iPhone 3G with the Moto Defy that was (at that time) vaguely marketed as a iPhone 4 competitor. 9 months later, truth is I’m writing this note on my iPhone, while the Android phone lies in a closet.

A question of software polish

My strongest disappointment with the Moto Defy is the objective lack of software polish. A smartphone is all about inputs to me, the touchscreen, the keyboard and the ability to handle texts, from entering an URL to editing an email or a blog post.

I/O

If the Defy’s touchscreen is excellent, the default keyboard behavior is still a mystery to me : he won’t be able to switch from French to English when it comes to word correction/suggestion, he will suggest the wrong word endlessly, and will add misspelled words to the dictionary.
Worse, the key prediction seems non-existent. The keyboard will let me enter 5 consonants in a row without finding it odd.
When your finger press an area between the E and R keys, aren’t there known probabilities if it will be a E or a R, depending what letters are preceding?

That’s the first reason why I switched back to the iPhone. I found out myself wasting my time negotiating with the MotoDefy’s interface, instead of being productive.

The Motorola Defy being shipped in France with Android 2.1, I quickly realized how much it was difficult to simply select/copy/paste accurately a piece of text from a website to my mail, from a mail to an app…

Is it possible that, in 2011, a long time leading company in mobile cellphone is not ashamed to deliver a smartphone with text editing capabilities actually really worse than an iPhone purchased more that 1 year earlier ?

The answer is YES. That’s a bummer.

The great openness swindle

At this point of my journey with the Android phone, I started to look for an original Google Android ROM to re-flash my MotoDefy and experience the freedom that the late Steve Jobs denied us on the iPhone. However, I only found out that upgrading a Motorola Smartphone was far more tricky than Jailbreaking an iPhone.

The truth is that there’s no way to install a stable release of Android 2.3 on a smartphone purposely locked by the manufacturer.

Put simply, Motorola won’t let you install a custom build of Android on your phone. They won’t care about providing decent OS upgrades either, because they are far too busy with their next piece of hardware.

There’s been 1 upgrade to Android 2.2 on my Defy, that’s all. And so far, this upgrade have proven unstable and sluggish, no matter its objective improvements.

That’s for the so-called openness or freedom of Android versus iOS. Android might be open, you’d better avoid phones with locked bootloaders and no software upgrades. And don’t trust your local dealer to tell you the truth about it 🙂

Why I prefer Polish over Openness

All in all, I have to admit that Android is a marvel when it comes to tweak your OS components :

The Motorola Motoblur app launcher was jerky (~15 FPS) and sluggish, so I replaced it by Launcher Pro that is perfect and free.

But once the app is started, what happens to it ? I’ve seen many idiotic comparison charts to claim that iOS (BSD-based…) is not multitasking. But is the Android multitasking better ? What are doing these apps in the background when I never invoked them ? Why is CardioTrainer launching itself anytime of the day ? Why is the Car Dock app doing the same when I don’t have a car ???

Why is it down to the end user to install some task manager that will chase and kill unwanted apps ?

Is that Google’s idea of a SMART phone ?

I recently found Swipe X, lost in the messy and unfiltered Android Market, a replacement keyboard that is ALMOST as good as the iOS one.

That’s an objective superiority of Android Market over iOS App Store. There are apps, but there are OS extensions as well*!

But is it a reason for Google or other manufacturers to ship their phones with the wrong OS components ?
Could’nt they have tried for us first, and deployed the best directly ?

Are they undermining their smartphones for the sake of brand differentiation ?

Obsessed by a plethora strategy, SmartPhone manufacturers are flooding the market and fooling customers with hundreds of hardware pieces embarking half-arsed versions of Android.

The Nokia way

Obsessed by a plethora strategy, SmartPhone manufacturers are flooding the market and fooling customers with hundreds of hardware pieces embarking half-arsed versions of Android.

This is what Nokia did for ages, helped in that by a Java, Symbian or Windows CE. Fortunately Apple ended that, and initiated an era of polished cellphones for demanding users.

The Apple cellphone landscape is simple to read, with a maximum of 3 models at a time. Their software releases are tested. It works their way**, but it works well.

Waiting for the 4S

That’s exactly why I’m positively impressed by the features of the new iPhone 4S and iOS5. They focused on what matters to me, and I know by experience that what ships from Apple was designed and tested.

If Siri works as well as the early reviews are saying, it might be a real breakthrough. Android embarks the voice recognition already, but Siri is about hands free assisting (a question to needed to be addressed for car owners), day life reminders and all the demanding details our brains are facing nowadays.

No matter the camera is only a 8MPixels, as long as the shots are clean and that the right “vintage photo” app is available on the phone (which, so far, hasn’t happened yet on Android).

Obviously there will be bugs, but there will be fixes and upgrades of the OS as well.

And so far I’ve been less disappointed by iOS bugs than by Android’s software nonsense and it’s confusing plethora of form factors.

 

*that’s a gap Cydia is filling, for jailbreakers only, alas.
**Syncing music with iTunes is an objective pain, partly eases by a couple of Cydia extensions.

Hipstamatic VS RetroCamera


A polaroid camera found on a flea market, photographed with the iPhone using Hipstamatic.

Accidental photography

I’ve been a long time user of an old Polaroid camera that I truly loved for its genuine output and its results with accidental framing. The low quality lenses and the color prints that renders a cold and blue light helped me to keep track of my travels in a distinctive and poetic way.

However, since the Polaroid disappearance, I’ve been looking for a smartphone application that could mimics a large range of low end cameras, Polaroid, Holga or Lomo.

I found two main apps to do that : Hipstamatic for iPhone and RetroCamera on Android phones.

RetroCamera is advertised as an equivalent of Hipstamatic in the Android Market, but is it a proper alternative ? To figure this out, it decided to conduct a rough test of these two apps.

The test protocol

To compare the output of these apps , I took a series of photos with two smartphones stuck together, at the same time, in the same place. Hipstamatic is running on my old iPhone 3G, RetroCamera was installed on my brand new Motorola Defy.

There are obviously several biases in this approach :

  • The camera and CCD of both phones are technically uneven.
  • The apps don’t provide the exact same filters and effects.
  • The framing and aperture of the phone’s lenses are different too.

However, as you can see below, I found the output photos to be surprisingly close, and especially close enough to compare the way each app can work. The framing is exactly the same, the color treatment is somehow similar, with a vignetting effect.
Of course, the Motorola Defy took a sharper photo with its 5MPixels camera, but in my opinion it is not a relevant criterion.

Left : Hipstamatic. Right : RetroCamera.

The frame is very close, the color temperature goes in the same direction and the vignetting is quite similar. Of course, the 2Mpixels CCD of the iPhone provides a less sharp image.

Point by point comparison

The image process

It appears that if both apps have similar process, they don’t apply the filters in the same order. In my opinion, the regular sequence would be :

  1. Acquiring the raw photo from the CCD
  2. Vignetting & various spots and scratches
  3. Levels processing & color correction

First comes the vignetting and other leaks of lights such as those seem on a Holga or Lomo. This happens when the light enters the camera, either through the lenses or the leaks previously mentioned.
Then, the purpose of the level process is to get the image burnt, under/over exposed, which is typical on a toy camera or a Polaroid on which the exposure is static.
Eventually, after the light came through the 2 previous filters of a rough exposure, a coarse lens and a leaky camera body, it will hit the film, and that’s what the color correction is about, because every color film has a different color response to the light.


The diagram above shows what kind of RGB transfert curves is applied to the raw image to mimic the color response of a real film. Notice how the lower (darker) part of the blue curved is bumped, thus making the shadows of the photo to be tinted in blue.

Now, how does it works in practice ? You can see below a situation showing a huge difference. The original subject shows a clear sky. In my opinion, the spots & vignetting added by Hipstamatic created a compelling result. On the other side, the vignetting of RetroCamera looks almost fake, and shows some middle gray values that do not match the color response of this kind of film.


Left : Hipstamatic. Right : RetroCamera.

Clearly the worse example I have found where the process of RetroCamera shows its shortcomings. Even though the color response is relevant, it is spoiled by the vignetting layer that brings back these shades of dark grey in the upper corners of the photo. On the contrary, Hipstamatic’s vignetting is properly interpreted and provides blue shades that subtly match the overall color mood.

To understand why RetroCamera was creating these irrelevant shades, I tried to simulate the whole process in Photoshop, starting for a classic iPhone photo. The image below shows the steps detailed above.


Process breakdown of a typical ‘vintage’ effect. This was made with Adobe Photoshop, the actual internal process of Hipstamatic & RetroCamera may differ.

I suspect that RetroCamera swapped the step 2 and 3, because the color correction is quite effective and works well. However, the grey shades seen in the corners of the image are really specific to what happens when the original image is alpha-blended with a dark mask (either vignette or scratches).

I really have no clue why RetroCamera works this way. Is it on purpose ? Some people may appreciate the result, of course, but in my humble opinion it is sometimes hurtful.


Left : Hipstamatic. Right : RetroCamera.

A case where the alternate process of RetroCamera makes something that still is worhwhile. Some people might even consider that Hipstamatic color’s are way too cheesy.


Left : Hipstamatic. Right : RetroCamera.

In this shoot, Hipstamatic’s result is almost too blue. It might be a matter of greyscale values, that are interpreted as blue under a certain threshold. Wether you prefer the right or left result is probably a matter of taste.

Color correction

This really is a delicate topic, for several reason. Each print color film ever manufactured always came with a document that shows its color response, among other data (example here). But in this case I don’t think it is necessary to look for such a genuine behavior. Hipstamatic and RetroCamera are both meant to emulate a toy camera. I my opinion, only the final result matters, even if it is not technically correct.
Besides, it’s important that such apps provides a lot of various settings & camera modes, because each user will look for a specific result and atmosphere. I think that booth apps fulfill this demand.


Left : Hipstamatic. Right : RetroCamera.

I tried here a different mode (or filter), but couldn’t find an exact equivalent between the two apps. It is not really a problem, and both result have their own qualities. I definitely love the red-ish output of Hipstamatic, that reminds some of my aged polaroids. RetroCamera, on the other side, made something with more contrast and subtly purple shadows.


Left : Hipstamatic. Right : RetroCamera.

This case is really interesting. Despite a trend to turn everything to blue, Hipstamatic created a photo with more dynamic & warm colors. RetroCamera made something almost monochromatic, which is very strange considering the result on the other photos with the same filter (where the blue tint is actually less strong than on the iPhone app).

Effect control

To emphasize the look of your vintage photo, both apps can add a wide range of different frames : a sober white frame of a polaroid, the torn sheet of Ilford paper, the side of a reel, and so on.
There is one major difference I could notice between the two apps : Hipstamatic allows the user to choose independently the film effect and the frame, which RetroCamera does not.
However, I suspect this won’t be an issue for most users, except for those who will find the torn or scratched frames a bit too cheesy 🙂

Processing time & reactivity

I didn’t spent too much time to benchmark the processing time of each app. It wouldn’t have been relevant because my iPhone 3G is a bit slower than my new Motorola Defy. Processing a full resolution photo on my iPhone can take up to 20 seconds, whereas the process is almost immediate on the Motorola Defy.
Furthermore, it is unclear to me wether these apps have the same kind of process, or not.

Anyway, in my case, having to wait 30 seconds between each shot is not a real issue. This quite close to my old Polaroid, and it helps me to think wisely about my next photo.

Conclusion

So, Hipstamatic VS RetroCamera, who’s the winner ? I can’t honestly tell.
I can’t consider RetroCamera as a real equivalent of Hipstamatic, because the outputs of these apps are really different. Moreover, the processing flaw I suspect in RetroCamera is a real issue for me. But considering that RetroCamera is absolutely free in the Android Market, it would strongly recommend to test it, anyway 🙂









A selection of shoots. Left is Hipstamatic. Right is RetroCamera.

If you want to know more

Here a few links for you to dig on the vintage/retro photo emulation.

All my Hipstamatic/RetroCamera shoots : flickr.com/photos/astrofra/sets/72157626023324700/

Virtual Darkroom : except.nl/lightwave/hdr/index.htm

About the photographic film : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photographic_film

Color Temperature (and how it affects photography) : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_temperature

Model & inspiration on this review : flickr.com/photos/38623641@N05/

Hipstamatic : hipstamaticapp.com/

RetroCamera : urbian.biz/apps/retrocam/

The Pattern from U.N.C.L.E

Watching “The Man from U.N.C.L.E”

Patterns appearing :

– Woman sidekick changes every episode
– Woman sidekick looks subtly exotic
– If the woman sidekick is a native, Indian, Eskimo, Arab, she’ll fell in love with Illya.
– Whatever place they try to infiltrate, UNCLE agents are spotted by the enemy, instantly
– Illya Kuryakin gets the dirty and/or annoying tasks
– Thrush guards are weak and badly trained, they barely resist to the famous karate shuto technique.

Impressionism and the NES Palette

Lately, I spend some time watching the experiments of some blokes making pixel art with the very own palette of the original NES. This palette is quite limited, thus it forbid absolutely the nice & soft gradients our eyes are accustomed to …

Therefore, I noticed some nice contrasts of blue / orange, in such experiments, nothing revolutionnary, but it reminded me two things :


I checked the facts, and indeed, there IS a violent and gorgeous contrast of blue and orange, especially in that Morimoto’s anime. Then I decided to conjugate these visuals with the so-called “NES Palette”.

The result was beyond my expectations, ‘looks like it was made for it :


And Yet, no tweak at all !!!


Then I tried this palette on my 3D. It required some tweaks, but looks nice :



I have to work with this palette. Period.

Coin Locker Babies

  “Coin Locker Babies” contains some of the strongest visual evocations I came to read in a novel. Probably because I’m from that generation who experience a morbid fascination for urban ruins and waste lands. Is it the Island where Kiku and Hashi are raised, its abandoned mine and deserted town ? Is it this flat in Tokyo where a crocodile is locked in ? Or probably this solid and wildly dyed vision of Toxitown ?

Wikipedia mentions some interesting side facts :
“Coin Locker Babies” was the original name of this grand group “The Pillows”.
The authors of “Silent Hill 4” might have found they inspiration is the novel.

God Bless Wikipedia (that was the lamest though of the week).


Related links :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coin_Locker_Babies
http://www.urban-exploration.com/
David Ghodsi photography

Stunt Car Racer

Yop, nothing to add. That’s all I wanted to say, in rememberance of the nice hours we spent with some friends, dueling in Stunt Car’ with two Amigas linked by a serial cable …

Subsequently, I quickly made a 3D track, remotely inspired by STR’s tracks.
Here’s how it looks like, screenshot in nEngine :

Ain’t it cool ?