The difference between a “normal” lens and wide-angle lens in practise


Here, I’ve attempted to effectively take the same picture twice, in that I tried to get the top-left segment of the bedpost in the same spot in the viewfinder. Generally, photographers will tell you that a wide-angle lens will get more of the background in your shot. I don’t understand how it works; personally I think it’s some sort of warlock or the X-Men what’s doing it. I’ve taken my picture to prove that it holds true even in really small environments, such as my horrendously untidy bedroom.

You can also see the same effect all over the net, such as here:

You can find the source for that photo and some bonus explanation text here:

You’d think that “getting more in” would always be a good thing. Well, not necessarily. Look at the photo above. While the picture of the woman is fine in itself in all three, the buildings in the background of the first one look a lot more… epic and angular and… scary or something. Which is fine when you’re taking wankery shots of buildings or anything where you want something to almost feel 3D, but it’s not so good on, y’know, humans. It has a tendency to make them look like a grotesque painting that verges on caricature at times. In fact, now that you’ve read this, you’ll start to notice that this is the reason why you get a feeling when you go on Facebook and see something that was taken on a little handy digicam thing, and you’re able to count the individual hairs sticking out of grandad’s gigantic nose, while his ears look like they’ve been removed and hung on the wall at the back of the room for a laugh. While you might technically “lose” some of what’s in the background when using a normal or telephoto lens, you flatten out (KEYWORD ALERT: compression) your subject (apparently human brains like 2D photos to look 2D and not like an episode of Spitting Image – thus the flatter you are, the sexier you are) and can end up with a softer, more abstract, “suggestive” backdrop. Not everything needs to be photojournalism; it’s OK to not capture everything within a mile behind whichever rubbish local metal band wants a few awkward-looking snaps taken in the park.

If you’ve got a few more minutes, you can see this in action here:


My Games of 2013, or lack thereof

Before we started our marathon of awards podcasts and Games of The Year Stuff, here’s the initial list I scratched up of “things that will probably be in the discussion for some sort of awards, or something”. Underlined are the games that I imagine would have been in contention to make my top games of the year. In bold are the games I, at the time of writing in MID-JANUARY, haven’t played enough – or indeed any, in some cases – of, so wouldn’t be able to name them in my top 3 games.

  • The Swapper
  • Divekick
  • Monaco
  • Don’t Starve
  • Gone Home
  • Papers, Please
  • Gunpoint
  • Rogue Legacy
  • Tomb Raider
  • Proteus
  • Kentucky Route Zero
  • Bit Trip Runner 2
  • Speedrunners
  • GTA V
  • Last of Us
  • Device 6
  • Bioshock Infinite
  • Brothers
  • ARMA 3
  • Cannon Brawl
  • Kerbal Space Program
  • State of Decay
  • King Arthur’s Gold
  • Arse Pirates
  • The Stanley Parable

As you can see, the crossover of “probably would be one of my games of the year” and “I haven’t played enough of it to, in good conscience, proclaim such a thing” is pretty chunky (6 of 15, to be precise). So rather than write a list that I wouldn’t be happy with, I’ve decided just to play said 6 games and decide once I’m done. And since there are a few nice looking indie games coming out soon, I’d better get on with it.

And yes, I know it’s my own fault for not prioritising what I play. The truth is I buy more games than my free time and appetite for games can handle. If I’m not busy watching basketball or going out for dinner (most of the time it costs more to cook at home than it does to eat out in Japan,  in my experience at least), then I’ll often play an hour or so of something before slipping back into idly browsing reddit and Twitter whilst watching other people play things on YouTube. It’s hardly conducive to prolific consumption of games.

I guess this year I’ll have to just be more selective about what I play. Rather than getting something because it’s cheap and looks OK, I should spend my time playing more of the things I already bought that looked outright good. And maybe that means less NBA 2K14, as much as it pains me to suggest such a thing.

I just started reading Red Mars, and it set my brain off thinking about festivals and the calendar as a whole… What “Utopian” folk festivals would you put in place in a new colony?

I first posed this question in the worldbuilding subreddit, which is aimed at people who write or create sci-fi and fantasy worlds: “This reddit is about sharing your worlds and discussing the many aspects of creating new universes.”

In Red Mars, there’s reference to old Earth festivals and traditions being carried over. Let’s say this post and its readers is made up of the administrators and community spokespeople tasked with deciding “the calendar” for a very new society, and that the civilians of your town (let’s say of 5000 people, in case it ever comes up) have all voted that it would be best to create a new, secular, equalitarian calendar, including holidays and festivals. Let’s also say, for argument’s sake, that a year is 365 days, and seasons are the same as they are on Earth (including Australia being Opposite Land, so let’s keep that in mind if possible). We want a “special day” roughly once every month, spread throughout the year.

  • What are some holidays and festivals that you think should be implemented? (they can be duplicates of or inspired by current Earth holidays, or they can be completely new ideas)
  • When is the best time for the school year to start and finish? Should there be a long holiday between years (as in the UK and the US), or should the long holiday be part way through the school year (as in Japan)
  • Should be there gender- or age-specific days? “Boys’ coming of age day”, for example, or “respect for the aged day”.
  • Should festivals and holidays be purely centred on human activity, or should they be seasonal?
  • What “traditions” would you like to encourage as part of your holidays? Should everyone wear green New Year’s Day? Should everyone eat a specific kind of food for a specific kind of festival?
  • Should we focus on celebrations that occur in private, in the home? Or should the majority of festivals focus on some kind of interaction with the local or wider community?

I got one response to this on reddit, from user _nimue:

First off I think the “Mars” trilogy should be required reading for worldbuilders… it’s an amazing example.

But to your specific question, to me, there are two kinds of holidays: those that are deliberately implemented, and those that arise organically.

The first category includes things like state holidays- independence day (founder’s day for a colony?), days commemorating historic events, and so on. Some societies will have more of these than others depending on how “official” or “enforced” they want their sense of community to be.

The second includes things like religious or “traditional” holidays- Christmas, calendar New Year, Lunar New Year. These are difficult for a society to sit down and plan. Even non-religious traditional holidays tend to arise organically from the ambient culture; my dorm, for example, wanted an inoffensive winter celebration and chose to call it Festivus, a la Seinfeld, and borrowed “ceremonies” from the show. Why? Because it was more fun and less sterile than simply having a “winter party”. Something in the human brain likes ceremony and traditions, but doesn’t like being ordered to perform them.

There’s obviously overlap. American Thanksgiving is a great example. Putting aside the false story regarding the pilgrims, the holiday really grew out of a lot of traditional fall celebrations and erratic national holidays until an official date was fixed and it became a nationally-mandated annual holiday.

I imagine in a space colony environment, there’s going to be a mix of desires. On one hand, probably a lot of the inhabitants relish the opportunity to create a new society from a semi-blank slate. On the other, there’s going to be homesickness and longing for a connection with the old world or their previous lives back on Earth (or wherever). So some celebrations will be carried over, though perhaps modified and reinvented, and some new ones will be implemented based on the history of that particular colony. Which are carried over depends a great deal on where the people in the colony originated.

Tea and Biscuits and Gnomoria

Myself and CJ natter about next-gen apathy, and failing to finish our games of 2013. Whilst having a brew and largely ignoring Gnomoria.

I (badly) try to explain the first few minutes of a Gnomoria game, before we get to talking about next-gen consoles and games of 2013.

The plan currently is for one of us to play something slow-paced, and combine playing the game with talking about whatever topics we come up with at the same time.

Any thoughts on the format appreciated. I personally love podcast-style (unplanned and unscripted) conversations and let’s plays, so in a way this is supposed to combine the two. I suppose it’s intended to be on in the background while the viewer does something else.

Sound Design in Star Wars Ep. 2 [Short Documentary]

I don’t think the sound in Star Wars is perfect, but their Foley looks like so much fun!

Part of my degree touched on audio production, and there were a fair amount of library-sourced sound effects that we mixed in to some of our video work, but I regret not doing more mixing of non-musical sound.

At the moment I get to edit my games podcast, but that’s purely vocal (noise reduction and compression) with a couple of clips thrown in (fading and mixing), but my main aim with those is to be efficient, rather than perfect. Maybe there are some contests or tutorial files online that I could play with to scratch the itch of wanting to do a full movie mix.

Fushimi Inari, Kyoto (2013/12/27)

To be honest, I wasn’t exactly floored by the apparent thousands of temples and shrines within the city of Kyoto. There’s something about paying a fee to go and look at a building that doesn’t sit right with me. Or it could just be that I’m not a massive fan of the architecture in general, or that I live next door to a shrine. Either way, I’d much rather appreciate the beauty of a shrine I happen to come across on some random side-street, than be herded through  to take the same posed photos that millions of others before you have taken (then through the gift shop) for 500 yen.

Fushimi Inari was much nicer, in my view. It was free! And I was happy to spend more money on souvenirs and food while I was in the area, as opposed to how I resented being charged to look at temples on previous days, which led to my not wanting to buy anything. Which is to say, Fushimi Inari operates the way I think tourist spots should operate.

Anyway, this is the place with the hundreds of torii gates. There’s a decent number of paths you can wander around, and we were actually disappointed that we didn’t get to spend more than a couple of hours there.

I’m starting to think that unless a building contains some sort of educational aspect (like the museum inside Nagoya castle), I don’t have all that much interest in just looking at buildings. I have no desire to see the Eiffel Tower, I know that much. Maybe I prefer rivers and forests and the history of people, more than the artefacts themselves. And that’s OK.

Arashiyama, Kyoto (2013/12/26)

Just outside the City Day Pass bus routes (that’s how they get ya), Arashiyama is a nice little touristy village, in a way. The gardens surrounding the main temple (Tenryuuji) are pretty (prettier in spring, I’d expect), and the famous bamboo walkway is part of the paths that go around the hillsides next to the small built-up area. Across the river, you can go up into a monkey park. The monkeys live outside (I’ve been to a “monkey park” that was basically a zoo with small cages in the past) and are fed from a small hut on the secluded hillside. We bought bags of nuts, apple, and sweet potato, and fed them by hand to the eager little buggers through the caged windows of the hut (we were on the inside passing food out, to be clear). They also have regular feeding times by the staff, so while it’s not exactly a completely wild safari, you also don’t get your eyes scratched out by territorial macaques who aren’t used to being around humans.