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More on the Bathrooms.com Ultimate Bathroom DIY Guide

Yesterday, Retail Technology featured an article about the Bathrooms.com Ultimate Bathroom DIY Guide, which I designed and developed for Bathrooms.com (on behalf of Dynamo PR). This article covers the technical background of the guide, based on an online interview I gave for this.

I thought I’d share it with you if you were interested in how the guide was put together:

http://www.retailtechnology.co.uk/news/5252/exclusive:-bathroomscom-dishes-appdev-detail/

Toodles,

Pat

Posted on Thu 08 May in Coding,Creative,Thoughts,Web Design,Work with No Comments

Dear Blogger


Hi. How’re you doing, Blogging hub?

I’ve been enjoying your company of late through the redesign of The Custard TV’s website, but at the end of this process I must plead with you regarding one thing:

PLEASE, PLEASE CAN YOU MAKE “POPULAR POSTS” AVAILABLE AS A FEED?

It would be really, really lovely to be able to hook in (via JavaScript/JSON a la recent posts / posts of a label etc.) to that data so I could actually create some proper custom popular post widgets rather than having to hack around with CSS only with the stuff you provide, or having to use post-creation JavaScript to hack about on the fly with your generated HTML code. And let’s not even talk about your 50x50px thumbnails.

This might sound more like a rant having spent hours trying to source a decent way to resolve this, resorting to simply not using thumbnails at all (if you look at The Custard TV home page, you’ll see why 50x50px thumbnails really wouldn’t work).

It might sound like a rant.

Because it is.

All the best,

Pat

P.S. On the plus side, Blogger, you’ve definitely evolved: I’ve managed to get the Custard TV site looking like a non-Blogger site, in particular the home page, all thanks to your flexibility in terms of template manipulation through HTML and CSS. So… thanks!

P.P.S. It’s not odd to be addressing my posts to blogging websites, is it?

P.P.P.S. Actually, given Google’s latest hardware, perhaps I should tip my head up and address you as “OK, Blogger” instead.

Posted on Tue 04 Jun in Coding,Thoughts,Work with No Comments

Making a Marryoke Video: Some Tips

Marry What Now?

Allow me to explain.  A month and a half ago my awesome youngest brother Andrew was married to his awesome long-time girlfriend Sally.  As part of the day, they’d asked me if I’d be up for recording people at various points of the day miming to Five’s “Keep on Moving”, to later composite together over the song itself.  I, of course, said “hell yeah!”, thinking it was the most bizarre yet hilarious idea.

It turn out that this was already a phenomenon… known as Marryoke.

What Did You Make?

Before I show you, I want to admit something: the production quality’s not amazing.  In my defence my brief was “just record bits I you get a chance, don’t spend all your time on it, you’ve gotta have fun”.  So unlike in other Marryoke videos, I didn’t want to take over the wedding with it – i.e. no bits with the bride and groom at the actual ceremony, no bits with the confetti, no bits at the speeches.  I don’t see that as a bad thing: it was an intentional decision.  One thing that I regretted was a lack of a plan: in the end I had tonnes of material for particular parts of the song and hardly any for other bits.  Also, as – er – certain liquids were consumed, the filming quality was – er – altered… 🙂

But to be honest, I’m being picky here: the key aim of the marryoke video was to act as a great way to remember the fun of the day.  And I’m happy to say it’s served its purpose.

Anyway, all excuses aside, here it is:

So, Any Tips?

Well, yes.

I certainly learned some lessons for this, and I offer them to you in case you fancy having a crack at it.

I’m not going to offer any “pro tips” such as filming / editing techniques, nor suggest camera models / ideal tripod positioning etc. I’m just offering some practical tips to make sure the content of your marryoke video is as good as possible.

TL;DR Tips

  • Keep track of what you’ve recorded / what you need
  • Make sure the key people are included
  • Have the audio handy
  • Record more than you need
  • Record positioner sections
  • Bring a Charger and Spare Battery
  • Editing: Use a decent video editor
  • Editing: Test the Lip Synch

Tips in Full

Keep track of what you’ve recorded / what you need

This is really, really important so that you avoid the situation I put myself in with loads of clips for certain sections of the song and hardly any of the other.

marryokeThe simplest way is to bring the lyrics of the song, which you can mark off as you go, but bear in mind you need to also make a note of which parts of the instrumental you’ve got clips for.

You could be as nerdy as creating something like that to the right, or you could be a little less anal.  I only originally had a list of the lyrics.  Would I go so far as to the anal list of things to the right next time?  Peh, come on now, I’m not that much of a gee… ok, ok, yes of course I am.

Make sure the key people are included

Again, really important.  Get a list of the people you’ll definitely need in it: the bride and groom (duh), their family, the bridesmaids and ushers.  Even if it’s just to have them smile and wave at the camera, getting them all in there is really important and you’ll have to scour through other clips, speeches etc. to grab them otherwise.  Trust me on this.

Have the audio handy

Not everyone will know the song you’ve chosen, nor have an idea of pace.  Having the audio handy to play them is really useful.  Ideally you’d have it split into various files, so you can easily play people the small part of the song they need to sing.  You can easily split an mp3 into various smaller ones using something like Audacity or the brilliant REAPER.

Record more than you need

You never know whether the people you’re filming will muck up, or whether something unexpected might’ve happened to the recording.  So record loads.  You’ll thank yourself for it.

Record positioner sections

Not all of your song will have lyrics in it, so make sure you record a good couple of minutes of “positioner” shots: outside the venue, inside the venue, the bride coming down the aisle (if possible), confetti being thrown etc.  It not only helps fill the gaps but it really rounds the video off and makes it more of a keepsake of the day.

Bring a Charger and Spare Battery

My goodness, this is a good thing to remember.  If you have neither, you might well be stuffed.  We had a charger available for the camera, but no spare battery, which meant that we had to have the camera out of action for an hour or so during filming various clips.

As a result, some of the footage was taken on alternate cameras, some of which weren’t amazing in low light.  A spare battery would’ve been hugely helpful.  Better still a spare (identical in quality) camera, but I understand we’re not made of money. 🙂

Editing: Use a decent video editor

This is really important in terms of being able stretch clips to fit to time (you WILL need to do this as some people will sing your song to quickly, others too slowly etc – even if you’re playing them the audio at the time).

It doesn’t have to be Hollywood-grade, but something like Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum (rolls off the tongue, no?) is both cost effective (~£100) and allows complete control over the positioning and length of your clips along with a decent range of effects.  Plus it natively exports up to YouTube, which is very handy for sharing.  There are plenty of other decent programs out there, and many offer demos so you can test out the features.

Editing: Test the Lip Synch

One thing I found when using Sony Vegas Movie Stu… Vegas was that although the lip synch appeared perfect when previewing in the program itself, the audio was around 0.25 seconds off from the video once a video was exported. 

The best way to test this is to select a few seconds of your clip that appears fine, export it at high quality (low quality can cock up the lip synch of its own accord in my experience) and see for yourself.

Fine tune the positioning of the music audio track (the whole thing, not just a few seconds of it – as you want the fine tuning to affect the entire video of course) and export again.  It’s rather iterative but it’s worth it.

Well, there you go.  A ramble about something you will probably not be inclined to ever do.  You’re most, most welcome.

Toodles,

Pat

Posted on Wed 17 Apr in Creative,Thoughts,Video with No Comments

PlayStation Plus: Where’ve You BEEN All My Life?

Morning!

Do you have a PS3?
Do you like games?
Do you want to play more games for game research purposes, pure entertainment purposes or both?

WELL NOW YOU CAN.

…obviously. It’s a PS3.

What is, however, particularly cool is their PlayStation Plus subscription service. You’re probably aware of this already, but if, like me, you needed someone else to tell you what it is and why you need it (thanks Matt!), allow me to describe it:

You pay a yearly subscription of £29.99. Whilst you’re subscribed, you can get the following* full games for free :

  • BioShock 2
  • Guardians of Middle-Earth
  • Mortal Combat
  • Knytt Underground
  • Big Sky Infinity
  • Limbo
  • Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One
  • Cubixx HD
  • LittleBigPlanet 2
  • MotorStorm Apocalypse
  • Infamous 2

When taking into account the upfront cost, that’s an average of £2.73 per game.

Oh and there are lots of other free bits and pieces, plus exclusive trials and lots of discounts too. All for £29.99.

Why the hell had I not signed up to this before??

Well, I have now, and it’s going to be invaluable to have free (well, at no additional cost) access to a whole raft of games to test and enjoy, which will of course inform my own game development activities in future. Plus allow me to excuse entire evenings of battling Big Sisters as “research”.

Huzzah!

Pat

* At present. The list alters over time, mind.

Posted on Sat 05 Jan in Game,Thoughts with No Comments

Happy New Year!

Hello and a big ol’ Happy New Year to you!

I hope you’ve had a splendid end to 2012 and managed to avoid getting ill at the very beginning of the year. I swear, if it wasn’t for all that beer on New Year’s Eve, I’d definitely be feeling worse right now.

Yes.

Because that’s how it works, right?

Ahem.

Anyway, I thought I’d do a quick – inevitable- blog post about my intentions (I refuse to call them “resolutions” as, well, that just brings back memories of deciding around mid-Feb (and often mid-first-week-of-the-year) that I could maybe give them another try in a year or so…) for 2013.

Here they are, in sexy bullet point format *:

  • Focus on games.
  • Blog regularly.
  • Continue freelance design / art / voice over work.
  • Lose about 1.5 stone.
  • Run a half marathon (or at least get to comfortably run 10 miles again).
  • Release a computer game on mobile devices.
  • Make enough money from games to live (even for just one month).

That last one is a big one, but I believe that with the success of the first bulleted item I’ll be flying towards that in a few months. Having had a brief look at the rathe impressive Phone Gap, it seems that the transition from HTML5/JavaScript to mobile might be a lot easier than first expected.

Anyway, yes, that’s my focus for 2013: get fit, get into games.

Both will be difficult. Both will be worth it.

Toodles,

Pat

* If you find bullet points sexy, that is.

Posted on Thu 03 Jan in Thoughts with No Comments

iNeed U

Hiya,

Today I thought I’d try my hand at a bit of basic Photoshop manipulation, to create a minimalist poster design that’d reflect our relationship with and use of technology in our modern society.

It’s called “iNeed U” (see what I did there? Yes, that’s right, I’ve added an “i” like on an iPhone. Brilliant, I know.) and is designed to let you interpret the direction of the need and the players involved. I’ve my own opinions (some, I’ll admit, came to me after looking at it for a while), but I’ll let you make your own mind up.

Here it is:


(Black border added so you can see the shape of it :))

I’ve put this on my Redbubble site if you fancy getting a copy! It’s available as a poster, photographic print and various other things!

Huzzah!

Pat (with arty hat on)

Posted on Tue 06 Nov in Creative,Technology,Thoughts with Comments (2)

Font EError?

Howdy howdy!

If you live in the UK, you’ve probably heard the rumblings about “4G” mobile coverage. It’s going to be fast and modern. Very fast and super modern, in fact.

Initially, a company called Everything Everywhere (a.k.a. “EE”; a joint venture between France Telecom (Orange) and Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile)) will be the only ones providing this service.

They’re ahead of the pack, super modern and offering something that’s very fast.

Super modern, it’ll be.
And very fast.

So, we’ve got these things clear, right?

Super modern?
Very fast?

Ok, good.

Now, next question:

Would you reflect this with a font for your brand that screams “OH MY GOD I’VE GOT MEASLES”?

No?

Oh dear.

EE Web Site

Eek.

Pat

P.S. I could provide a slightly more sensible critique of the font choice (the issues regarding readability of sans-serif, bobbly, ALL CAPS text with tight kerning between words, for example), but I’m feeling a little ill so instead I’m going to have some Lemsip. It’s very fast.

P.P.S. For the record, I would use blinking pink italic Comic Sans. Did I mention I’m feeling a little ill?

Posted on Tue 09 Oct in Fun,Review,Technology,Thoughts with Comments (3)

littleBits: Lego Technic Eat Your Heart Out

I fondly remember the days spent as a boy playing around with my various Lego Technic sets. It was always satisfying to complete a pre-designed construction (my Power Crane was truly a beauty to behold), but the most fun had with those sets was to play around with the motors, pneumatic pumps and various switches. Planes, etch-a-sketch type drawing devices… all sorts of bits.

I also remember the feeling of satisfaction upon finally getting my printed circuit board (which I’d painstakingly drawn out and had created in an acid bath) to connect to a light sensor, power supply and LED to create a light-sensitive lamp.

It took blooming ages, and would’ve been so much easier had a cross between manual circuit board creation and Lego Technic existed.

But nothing like that did. Or does. Does it?

Enter littleBits

Here’s Ayah Bdeir’s TED lecture on what littleBits are, and their potential:

SO good, right? Just think of the things you can create with these, and also the learning potential for kids.

Personally I think if schools can purchase various sets of these, and also (eventually) get their hands on a Raspberry PI, we could see a whole generation of kids who are much more in touch with the technology that we find ourselves understanding less and less about as time goes on.

Not only that, these could inspire future engineers and designers to come up with fascinating solutions to problems we’re not even aware of yet.

I’ve bookmarked the littleBits web site, because I think there’ll be a lot of interesting things coming from the community on it.

‘Til next time,

Pat

Posted on Fri 13 Apr in Technology,Thoughts with Comments (2)

The Power of Introverts

There are many impressive lectures on the TED web site. If you’ve never heard of TED, allow me to explain: it’s a huge collection of lectures, given at various conferences around the world and across a myriad of subjects. Many are thought provoking, a large number are interesting, but all are free.

One such lecture is by Susan Cain named The Power of Introverts.

If you’re a parent, it will be of interest to you. If you’re a teacher, it will be too. If you work in pretty much any industry, in fact, it will be of interest.

Before you continue reading this, please watch the video itself. You’ll probably better understand what I’m waffling about afterwards:

I’ll be honest, during the first 10 minutes of this video I was rather frustrated – was Cain stating that being an extrovert was a bad thing, or to be discouraged? I sought to hear the opposing view, with the many examples of where being an extrovert is of benefit.

But then I realised she was merely setting the stage, and explaining that in more recent times the more introverted were being sidelined; left behind by a society that values those who stand up and shout over those who sit back and consider.

I certainly recall the occasional “Thought Shower” in my former corporate life, where those few people that speak loudest and . Also, “meeting etiquette” suggests that one should speak up early in meetings in order to be listened to later (point 3).

She brings up an interesting point regarding “extrovert”-like behaviour being encouraged in education: more group activities, fewer self-study exercises. Surely this has an impact on those people who work better on their own, but then as a counter argument, surely the group activities give children an opportunity to improve upon their confidence working in groups.

This is where it started to get a little unclear for me.

Just what exactly classes as being an introvert versus an extrovert? Are they key personality traits that influence others, or are they just one measure of many other areas of one’s personality? Can one become one or the other? Should one try to become more of one than the other?

Through researching this online, I’ve learned that:

  • The concepts of introversion and extroversion are included in most psychological theories.
  • There is a scale of introvert-to-extrovert, and we are all more or less of both – a person who’s in the centre of the scale is known as an “ambivert”.
  • Some theorists (such as Carl Jung) state we each have separate introvert and extrovert parts of our personality, with one usually dominating the other.
  • You can change from an introvert to an extrovert, as per Steve Pavlina’s Experience.

So, if one can become an extrovert, should one? Well, in our current society I am inclined to say yes, because it would help one can easier make a difference / have an impact in this extrovert-favouring society. Of course, on the other hand, perhaps society should instead better support those of us who are more introverted.

Personally I consider myself an ambivert: I enjoy social interactions but I also very much appreciate time to myself when it all gets a bit too much. Heck, I love going walking by myself (and frequently do) and am happy in my own company for days at a time, but then when we watched Cain’s lecture at University I happy to openly discuss it in discussions afterwards.

I’d be very interested to hear the thoughts of those who watched it who considered themselves introverts, but for some reason they didn’t seem keen to discuss it in a group.

Odd.

🙂

Pat

Posted on Wed 28 Mar in Thoughts with No Comments

Indian Summer I & II

Hello!

Well, the Digital Media Design course I’m doing is now under way. Part of the course is to look at and comment on various pieces of art work within the many galleries that Brighton has to offer.

To start, here’s some work by Phillipe, found within the Art At Five Gallery in the midst of The Lanes in Brighton:

Indian Summer I & II - Philippe (from the ArtAtFive Gallery, Brighton)
(Click to enlarge. Apologies for the photo quality, please thank HTC for that…)

For me, this work immediately conjured images of a bright bhangra dance scene:

  • The mix of gold and blues evoking the memories of the splendid Indian dresses worn by talented bhangra dancers
  • In the streaks of paint connecting the two pieces lay connotations of tassles flowing through the air mid-dance

It was no surprise to find this piece is titled Indian Summer I & II.

Upon reading that I noticed that each of the parts of the work denoted an open flower, with gold and blue petals combined… further enhancing the feeling of brighness into that of “summer”.

It appears Phillipe has a rather distinct – perhaps narrow – style, as a cursory glance at his page on the Art At Five web site shows.

For me that doesn’t take away the impressive ability to create so vividly the feeling intended with only colour and the suggestion of shape and form. Basically, I really like it.

But what do you think?

Pat

Posted on Sun 16 Oct in Painting,Review,Thoughts with No Comments

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