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Against my better judgment, I’ve thrown my hat into an MEP with an unspoken “elite editors only” rule, and just as I feared, I think I’m in over my head already.

I’ve edited my short clip at a resolution of 640 x 480, but since this is to be a “720p project” my submission is going to need some work if it wants to meet the “HD 720p” standards that the coordinator is aiming for. To the best of my knowledge, this means that it needs to be turned in at a resolution of 1280 x 720. How to meet this requirement is beyond my knowledge at this time.

Also, this will be a widescreen 16:9 video, and my source is in 4:3. So I fear that I may have no choice but to severely crop my clips to fit the required aspect ratio. So it appears there are two major issues with my video that I need to resolve, and they seem to be mutually exclusive, or at least working against each other. If I need to “blow up” my video to a height of 720 pixels, having to cut it down to to change the aspect ratio doesn’t exactly get me off to a good start.

First, I think, I need to either find a way to rip my footage at a higher resolution, or to upscale my footage without sacrificing quality. I’m not sure either of these solutions is possible. I’ve checked the Internet and found nothing but cryptic, false, and misleading information. On the official Avisynth website, general information is written in language that’s impenetrable to beginners, and fishing for advice on message boards is bound to get you a hundred different poorly-written methods to achieve a simple goal.

Perhaps the solution doesn’t lie solely in Avisynth, but maybe in Premiere itself. I originally created my project in a 4:3 formatted sequence. Perhaps I need to paste my work onto a new sequence with a different AR? Premiere offers not just a standard widescreen 16:9 sequence, but also HD 720p sequence settings that will set the video on a 1280 X720 “canvas.” Maybe this would be a good place to start?

I went ahead and repasted my timeline into a new sequence with these settings and exported the results. Predictably, when viewed in full screen on Media Player, it’s surrounded by a lot of empty space, which pretty much confirms that I’ll need to “upscale” the footage somewhere along the way. Again, there seems to be a dozen different ways to do this. I might as well just go with one filter that’s worked for me in the past and change it later if need be.

I’m supposed to take my 640×480 video and convert it to 848×480, as requested by the project coordinator. Some simple math for my own reference:

640×480=4:3
848×480≈16:9 (I’m assuming that the minor difference is either indistinguishable to the average viewer, or that the coordinator himself will have the means to correct this incongruity in post-production)

The script I’ve gone ahead and tried:

AVISource(“C:\Users\Preferred User\Desktop\CLBeta2.avi”)
Spline36Resize(848,636)
Crop(0,78,-0,-78)

Lines 1 & 2 upscale the footage while preserving the original 4:3 aspect ratio. Line 3 crops 78 pixels off the top and bottom of the frame to reduce the height of the video from 636 to 480 pixels, essentially “reshaping” the frame from 4:3 to 16:9. On the file exported from the “HD 720p” sequence, the bottom third of the frame is cut off. This looks terrible and is enough to tell me that maybe importing 4:3 footage into an AR that big just isn’t going to work at all. But when I apply this script to my original 4:3 formatted footage…

AVISource(“C:\Users\Preferred User\Desktop\CLBeta1.avi”)
Spline36Resize(848,636)
Crop(0,78,-0,-78)

…the results are passable, with no image stretching or unsymmetrial cropping on the top or bottom of the frame. Of course, this wrecks havoc on a few shots but otherwise achieves the desired result, I think.

To really make this work, I think I’d need to go back into my original scripts I used to turn the .VOB files from the DVDs into .avs files, and thoughtfully apply the cropping on each individual shot to avoid blocking out where the “action” in the shot takes place. This is by no means an impossible task, but would be incredibly difficult and time-consuming. Nonetheless, I will look into it once I have the time to do so.

This is not meant to be an instructional, “how-to” entry, but is just a record I’m keeping for myself to try to work through the problem. I’m still very much a beginning editor and have difficulty sorting out the hows and the whys behind these intermediate-level problems.

1. I think I always wanted to be a blogger, maybe even before blogs existed at all. Or, that is to say, I wanted a place where I could comment on my interests and share them with others, and from the moment I first learned what the Internet was, I had a feeling that I’d find something on it that would meet those needs.

2. Sadly, desire and even a knack for writing don’t automatically transform to success in this pursuit. Blogging isn’t just about writing and posting your own entries, even with a noble “quality over quantity” mindset, but also being an active reader and commentator on other blogs. I realize that to many people this is a simple and painfully obvious principle, and one that’s probably made many (most?) successful blogs what they are today. I’ve made an active attempt to do this myself but have never been prone to casually comment on someone’s blog unless I’ve felt that I can really contribute an opinion of real worth or meaning to an author’s post or readers’ discussion. Commenting for its own sake has always felt wasteful to me and has made writing this writing exercise somewhat of a struggle.

3. How then, do you explain this horribly unnecessary entry? I don’t know, the whole matter was a non-event and it was probably pointless to attempt to pontificate over its real “meaning” for more than a sentence or two. This is the sort of thing I’d like to avoid from now on.

4. I really love anime, but do I love it enough to justify having a blog partially-devoted to it? I watch it 2-3 days per week, which has been enough to satisfy my regular craving for escapist fantasy. But could it be that many of the other bloggers out there that I follow are living in it for five, six, seven days a week? I look across the blogosphere and see bloggers writing thousand-word entries on individual episodes of K-On and So Ra No Wo To, already expressing strong opinions on these shows and ideas about where they’re headed after only a handful of episodes had aired. I’d guess that these are at least a year or two away from being released on DVD in the US, which for the most part is how I come to obtain the series I watch. As of now I only have a vague idea as to what these shows are about, but already they’re yesterday’s hype online as the new season in Japan gets underway. By the time I get my hands on them, they’ll be about as relevant to the anime blogosphere elite as early seasons of Naruto are today. I only just figured out how to download torrents, but do I want to invest time in keeping up with these new series? I’m not sure.

5. I tend to bemoan the fact that the most passionate anime fans online are usually the ones following new/current series, apparently not buying DVDs or watching older titles, and not engaging in the hobby in any way that overlaps with my usual habits. This is an ironic stance to take given how I tend to use the Internet to find so much music that’s outside of the mainstream and often unavailable through traditional means, and don’t align or concern myself with the habits of most music fans or the kind of ongoing dialog they hold online. Why it should rub me the wrong way that so many people want to download freshly-aired, single-episode torrents of Chu-Braa!! or Dance in the Vampire Bund — two more programs that all the cool anime blogs I found last year are suddenly enamored with, much to my unprovoked disdain — and then devote two-thousand word write-ups with 20+ screenshots to them is a mystery. I’ve always wished that people would give more consideration to the films, books, music, and all the media they enjoy rather than quickly consuming and disposing of it as they’re so apt to do. Here’s a community of fans lovingly chronicling and reexamining a medium that I love to treat with a great amount of seriousness, and I have nothing but critical words for them?

6. I guess what bothers me about episodic blogging in general is that I just can’t find any use for it. Who is it written for? Readers who’ve already watched the episode themselves? Readers who haven’t? A detailed recap and a dump of screencaps would be redundant and pointless for the former, spoiler-ridden and useless to the latter. Is it possible to infer anything meaningful from a single episode without jumping to conclusions and making snap judgments? Is this kind of blogging just a way for fans to foster a deeper connection with a series, even if they’re only writing for themselves? When it comes to anime, I suppose I tend to treat series in the same way I would a novel, where the individual chapters only take on a real sense of meaning when they’re all together. Other bloggers seem more prone to treat them like albums, in which each song is worthy of individual examination and appreciation on its own.

7. Do I really think this approach is flawed or “wrong,” or do I simply lack the energy to summarize and dissect episodes in such minute detail myself, and need to summon up a justification to excuse myself from it? How often am I invalidating the viewpoints of others simply because they’re not right for me?

8. If I hate anime fandom so much, why do I go to such lengths to try to inject myself into it?

9. Do I blog just to satisfy and fulfill an identity-bound need to believe that I’m a thoughtful, critical and discerning person? Hasn’t telling myself this every day for the last 15 years or so been enough? Does everyone reach a point where they “get over themselves” and recognize the unimportance of having a great number of cultured opinions or a sense of expertise on trivial matters? Or does digging deeper into your obsessions, as harmless but petty as they might be, eventually have its reward?

10. Is my inability to regularly connect with others over what should be a wealth of common interests and experiences (point #2) a symptom of a deeper unresolved problem? Do most people take more than a week to compose a simple blog entry? Do I suffer from a real inability to recognize thematic and social connections, or do I just overanalyze every opportunity to communicate until I paralyze myself? I think about this stuff a lot and wonder, is there something wrong with my thought process, or is it possible that everyone feels this way?

11. Am I blogging because I really have something to say about the things I enjoy? Or is it because I want to push myself to take a more active and observant role in the way that I consume media and use the Internet, and hope that the interesting observations will begin to form as a result?

12. Where would my interests lead me tomorrow if it weren’t for the Internet? If I cannot answer that question, or cannot imagine them existing in an Internet-free world, then how important are they to me?

Daft Punk – Alive 2007
Having listened to all three of their albums more times than I can count, I found it surprisingly difficult to muster up much enthusiasm for a live album that promised nothing but the band’s most recognizable songs, probably played in a pre-programmed, straightforward fashion. I’d heard amazing accounts from friends who’d been at some of their American shows on this very tour, but I remained sadly unconvinced. Until now. Alive 2007 injects new life into their hits and even makes some of the lesser-recognized tracks from the kinda disappointing Human After All sound fresh, exciting, and brimming with vision. I don’t know if or when I’ll ever get to see Daft Punk in person — sadly, their 2007 stop in Chicago was my last chance, and their final tour with the pyramid — but in the meantime this secondhand experience is a nice consolation.

Tamiya Terashima – Key the Metal Idol: Original BGM Soundtrack
If you’re looking for the opening and ending themes to Key, you’ve come to the wrong disc. Just background music here, simple vignettes that work great in the series but aren’t very engaging on their own. A whopping 36 tracks featuring saccharine arrangements, 80’s-style splashy stadium drumming and lots of midi keyboards. Most of this sounds like demos for forgotten Playstation jrpgs, so if you’re nostalgic for that sort of thing then maybe this is up your alley. Otherwise, it’s a dated and mostly forgettable collection. Track #12 is a notable exception, a hauntological and creepy moodpiece that’s worth hanging onto.

Carl Craig & Moritz von Oswald – Recomposed
Two giants of techno team up for an album of classical remixing, reworking famous symphonies from Maurice Ravel and Modest Mussorgsky. Aside from a synthesizer version of Bolero that I own on vinyl for some reason, I’m not familiar with either of these composers, so the classical merits of this album are wholly lost on me.  It’s a challenging listen that I’m unable to form a meaningful opinion on. A nice enough slice of ambient techno, anyways. Like watching gourmet cookies bake through your oven window.

Peter Van Hoesen – Entropic City
Fantastic techno LP, will probably be one of my favorite albums of the year. It’s times like this I realize that I’m not very good at writing about music. Choons from front to back!

Ewan Pearson – We Are Proud Of Our Choices
A strong mix of minimal/deep house and techno, has the same scene-defining quality as Michael Mayer’s Immer mixes. Everything is so of-the-moment these days and it could be said that people are more likely to be listening to a day(s)-old mix they grabbed from a podcast than one like this that’s gone through the time-consuming process of being mastered, promoted, pressed, shipped, and sold, which seems like more troubled than the average DJ or consumer wants to go through to disseminate or obtain an hour’s worth of music. I hope that mixes like this keep being made and held up as recordings that hold up the same value as an album. The free-model of the Internet certainly allows DJs to utilize the newest tracks and to get their mixes out in the most efficient way possible, but will it eventually mean the end of CD release-worthy mixes like this? I don’t know. I have little insight into the business or club culture and sit at home on the Internet too much. Also, I downloaded this for free so I’m just as much a part of the problem as anyone. Anyway, this is a good album that sags a bit in the middle — I really don’t like sappy trance like this “Open Our Eyes” track — but it starts out great and ends on a beautiful note. I’ve been playing the last two tracks over and over ever since I first found this.

Kids Indestructible – Trans-Pienne Express
A forgotten entry from the seemingly-dead Gooom Disques label, best known for releasing the early works of M83 along with launching the tragically-stunted careers of Abstrackt Keal Agram and Cyann and Ben. A very cool blend of spacey ambient music, Kraut-jamming, Mogwai-ish drone and upbeat, organ and synth-driven pop. I’d been on the hunt for a CD of this for years but finally donated a few dollars to their Bandcamp.com site and downloaded a high-quality digital copy instead. A lost gem that deserves a second life. Highly recommended.

Pantha du Prince – Black Noise
I was a little underwhelmed by This Bliss but Hendrik Weber’s second full-length effort packs a heftier punch and is just a lot more fun. One of the guys from Animal Collective shows up on a track but actually isn’t annoying, which in my book is a major feat. No, really, Weber has reached a new level of confident command over his tracks, where he’s really establishing a sound that’s truly his own and not simply a microcosm of German techno, which was the vibe I used to get from him. A bold and beautiful album, this is.

Sog – Abweichung
A strange little release that I don’t know how to feel about. I have high expectations for any project that Wolfgang Voigt takes on, and in light of the reboot he gave his Gas project throughout 2008 and 2009, I guess I was expecting him to work some of the same magic on this single. But instead of slowly drawing you into icy ambient soundscapes, he brings an insistent, clanging beat that sounds like the one from Aphex Twin’s “Bucephalus Bouncing Ball” and runs with it for about 18 minutes. It gets off to a good enough start and wraps itself up nicely by the end; in between there’s plenty of opportunities for for his ideas to wear themselves out but Voigt shuffles his cards just right and keeps things too unpredictable to ever get boring. The sampled woodwinds and orchestral arrangements are a nice touch, and the interplay between them and the more abrasive electronic stomp is more interesting than it should be. Maybe I like this after all?

Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
At this point I’m not even sure what 2D, Murdoc, Russel and Noodle exactly have to do with the music of Gorillaz. Are they still supposed to be the band behind the songs, or has the project changed to the point where they’re merely mascots for the music? By Demon Days I should have realized that Gorillaz isn’t really a high-concept “animated band” so much as simply a Damon Albarn solo project, albeit one that’s allowed him to collaborate with almost anyone he wants and — thanks to Jamie Hewlett’s visual contributions — find a successful niche in a pop landscape that would otherwise not know what to do with his eclectic visions. This time out, it seems unlikely that average music fans (at least here in the states) will be willing to turn the fantastic lead single “Stylo” into a chart contender like they did with “Clint Eastwood” or “Feel Good Inc.,” but considering that they’ve done nothing but listen to the Black Eyed Peas for the last four years, that was perhaps inevitable. Very good tracks featuring Snoop Dogg, Little Dragon, Mark E. Smith, Mos Def, Kano and Bashy. The only track I end up skipping is “Some Kind of Nature” featuring Lou Reed. Some days I like “Superfast Jellyfish,” but it does sound like De La Soul weren’t really trying on it. Overall, a very strong album that was worth waiting for.

The Stooges – Raw Power
I know this is supposed to be the go-to Stooges album but when I’m listening to any “important” band of past or present, I like to go through their discs in chronological order, hence the reason why I hadn’t heard this until now. That’s really no excuse though, so to even the score this CD proceeded to give me a pulsing headache after a mere half hour’s listen set to a usually safe “30” on my car stereo (which I’ll turn up to “40” if I want to listen to something loud). I guess that was my experience with Stooges and Funhouse, too: in 15-minute doses The Stooges sound like, well… the best band ever. Any more than that and it’s almost like the music gets bored of me, kicks me to the curb and stomps on my head until I give up and go listen to Nick Drake instead. Just like before I’ll brush it off and come back for more. Am I man enough to make it through this (very short!) album in one sitting? If I never post on this blog again, you’ll know why.

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