Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Act 23 fandub, redo of SM/Golden Compass trailer, day at Balboa Park

Well like I mentioned last time I did work on the Act 23 fandub, although I didn't get to it till Sunday evening. Placing the lines -- the first stage -- is basically done, although I am missing a few lines from one of the cast members. I e-mailed her about it but have not heard back. I could have sworn I sent her a message on YouTube about this too, a while back.

Hmm...just checked, and I guess I didn't send her a YouTube message. I suppose that would be more effective than an e-mail. The cast member in question lives in England, where's there an eight-hour time difference from here, so I have to take that into account. I'll send her a message that is a virtual copy of my e-mail, for convenience.

Other than that glitch, placing the lines is done for all three parts. Normally, I do each part one by one, doing lines and then music for each one in turn. But this time I decided to not do that because it takes more time. Not like placing the lines doesn't take a long time as it is -- it takes me 2 hours or so to do one 10-minute part, just because I usually cut the audio line down to the best possible length (cutting out silence before and after, etc), and then before placing it, I use the frame-by-frame thing in the preview window to make sure I put it in exactly the right place, using the subtitles as a guide. I know, I'm weird. But the result -- a video with perfectly synced fandub lines -- is very satisfying, and worth the extra work.

As far as splitting the parts, generally my modus operandi for the Dark Mercury Arc project -- and also my SM episode 42 fandub, the other full-episode fandub I've done -- is to split the parts at some natural place. For the episode 42 fandub, for instance, I had three parts. For Part 1, I reached the 10-minute mark (YouTube's time limit for videos) at the eyecatch/commercial break for the episode. So I cut Part 1 at that point, leaving out the eyecatch to stay under the time limit. Part 2 began with the eyecatch, and then continued to the end of the "Venus in London" series of flashbacks, which seemed like another natural breaking point, since the scene right after that is the final fight with the youma. Part 3 then picked up right after Usagi responds to Venus's story, with the lights coming on and the youma appearing. It included the fight with the youma and the resolution scene of the episode, as well as some fan-made closing credits with the PrettyCast version of "Moon Revenge," which I'd used in the fandub, even including fansubs of the song done by me. (The fandub also had its own opening, set to "La Moon" from SeraMyu, which was uploaded separately from part 1 due again to the time limit rule).

For the Dark Mercury Arc project, I tend to split the parts at the commercial breaks. In a typical PGSM episode, there are two commercial breaks. They are easy to find: just look for the scenes that show the small PGSM logo in the bottom right corner of the screen when the scene starts. The appearance of this logo indicates (to the best of my knowledge) that the viewers are coming back from a commercial break with this scene. Also, if you look at the timestamp in the top left corner of most PGSM fansub eps, when a "coming back from commercial" scene starts, the timestamp has usually advanced 2 minutes ahead of what it was at the end of the last scene. (This means that they have really short commercial breaks in Japan, apparently).

For Act 23, though, doing this kind of split was not possible because for whatever reason doing so made the parts over 10 minutes. Usually this does not happen. Usually the episode splits nicely into two 10-minute segments and a third segment of 4-5 minutes. Somehow this didn't occur this time. I instead split the episode at other natural break points. Part 1 ends with Rei fuming after Minako says "Good luck, Mars Reiko-san." Part 2 opens with Rei "battling" the karaoke machine and ends with Venus and Moon finishing off the youma. Part 3 opens with Venus and Moon discovering they're stuck in goo, covers Nephrite's entrance, Mars's appearance and awakening, and ends with the end of the episode (the resolution of the battle, and an injured Nephrite going after Dark Mercury with some weapon consisting of a large blade, resembling that on a pizza cutter but with chainsaw-esque edges, on a long staff).

The lines were great for this act I think. The girl playing Rei (the same cast member I mentioned earlier) is obviously the star of this episode, which focuses on Rei. And she does really well, both as Rei/Mars and in her other parts (Minako/Venus and Artemis). Even Mammurachibi, who plays Motoki and all of the Dark Kingdom except Jadeite (Jadeite is played by me), had some great lines, and his audio was easier to hear this time around. (He didn't record in very high audio quality, unfortunately).

Ok, moving on...I am having to re-do the SM/Golden Compass trailer yet again. It didn't save. I am downloading AVI's this time, to see if using converted files is what messes things up. Fortunately, I found out a trick from Keiichi's Anime Kingdom that helps out with this - if you set up an account with Megaupload and download the Megaupload toolbar, a certain button will appear in your toolbar that, when pressed, will give you access to "Happy Hour Premium," a special from Megaupload which gains you temporary premium user status for the "Happy Hour" period (9pm-3am Eastern Standard time, which is 6pm-12am my time), with all the benefits that come with it (unlimited parallel downloads, unlimited downloads per 24 hours, no waiting for downloads to load, etc). Cool, huh? The only glitch is that I think the toolbar occasionally messes up your internet, causing to start loading instead of the site you want.

Today I had the day off from work, so I decided last night to take a little excursion today to get out of the house. I went to Balboa Park, which is located near downtown San Diego. It's a huge park which houses 16 museums, an old house you can tour (the Marston House), the world-famous San Diego Zoo (famous for its giant pandas), 7 performing arts venues, and 14 gardens, as well as some other attractions. I found out today that a free tram takes you to pretty much everywhere in the park (except the Zoo), though most of the museums are laid out rather close to each other so that it is fairly easy to walk from one to one.

One great thing I took advantage of is the "Passport to Balboa Park," a special card you can buy online that gets you into 13 museums in the Park for one purchase of $39 (well, $40, actually, cause they charge you a $1 convenience fee). It's also good for 7 days after you buy it, which means you don't have to see everything in one day, and there is also another more expensive package where you can buy it and also include admission to the Zoo. In other words, it's $40 well-spent.

I realized that I couldn't see 13 museums in the limited time I'd have there (I had to leave by 4:00 to make sure I could catch the bus home, since it takes around 3 hours to get back on public transit), so once on the SPRINTER, I took out the list I'd printed out that said what museums you could get into using the Passport and decided which museums I considered "must-sees" for the day. I figured, if anything, I could go and see those. I narrowed this down to 4 museums -- the Museum of Photographic Arts, the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, the San Diego Air and Space Museum, and the San Diego Museum of Art -- and the Japanese Friendship Garden (I had read last night that it had a Fujidana, or "wisteria arbor," and this sounded like it would be really pretty). I figured that was a good start.

I got up at 7:00am and began getting dressed and stuff. I'd packed my bag the night before. I had planned to walk to 7-11 to take out money and decided against it, choosing to just go straight to the bus stop because I wanted to get to the Park with enough time to really look around. I caught the bus and arrived at the station just minutes before the 8:00 SPRINTER train to Oceanside. I rode this and arrived at Oceanside at 8:25. I killed the hour I had to wait for the next COASTER train by going to get breakfast (I'd skipped breakfast in my haste to get to the bus stop). This consisted of Cheetos and a Diet Pepsi from the vending machine and a bacon, egg, and cheese Cross'andwich from the Burger King at the station. Then I panicked when the train arrived half an hour before its departure time, and ran as fast as I could to the track it was on, only to find out it wasn't leaving for a half hour. You could still board though, so I did.

Finally the train departed for the 1-hour trip to San Diego. I ended up at some point with an elderly couple sitting across from me who were on their way to fly to Seattle. They were going to take the train to downtown and catch a special bus that connects the COASTER to the San Diego International Airport (also known as Lindbergh Field). Across the aisle were some mothers and their kids who were going to the Children's Museum, one of the few San Diego museums not located in Balboa Park -- it's located downtown actually. One of the moms said it was by the Convention Center (another hallmark of downtown -- I'll be going there in a couple weeks for the Comic-Con Convention). This information led me to remark, "Ah, in the Gaslamp Quarter." This is the name given to a 16 1/2 block district of downtown San Diego, so called because all the streetlamps in the district are old-fashioned gaslamps rather than modern streetlights. It's a historical district, with 94 historic buildings, but it's also very new and hip -- the district also hosts many restaurants and clubs. Plus there's the convention center. Nearby the district are two major places of interest in downtown -- the outdoor mall Horton Plaza (and the nearby Lyceum Theatre, home of the San Diego Repretory Theatre) and Petco Park, new home to the San Diego Padres, the local MLB team that I must confess I even have a slight passion for, despite my constantly expressed apathetic disinterest in sports.


(Speaking of sports, the All-Star game is on tonight and it is still going as I write this - at around 10pm my time - and is in the 13th inning!)

Anyway, I got off the train in San Diego, offering my assistance with luggage to the elderly couple before disembarking, which they politely refused. I walked across the street to America Plaza to catch the trolley for the next leg of the trip. I got a little confused at the ticket machine and in the process got a useful tip from a station worker - for $5 I could buy a MTS Regional Daypass, which would be good on MTS buses (Metropolitan Transit System, the San Diego transit system) and the trolley for the whole day. However, all I had were $20 bills (I'd taken out $40 at the Oceanside station, plus I had what was left over of the cash Lisa from the Asperger's group sent me to "buy" my Comic-Con ticket from me, since I'd pre-paid for a Saturday ticket and then they changed the day of our excursion there to Sunday, so I needed a new ticket), so I had to go across the way to the 7-11 and buy something to get change. My first instinct was to buy food, but I wasn't hungry so I grabbed a trial thing of Advil instead (I get headaches often), and then, once I got to the counter, also bought a disposable camera, since I thought I might need a backup for the camera I'd brought. (And I did indeed, it turned out).

I took the trolley to City College and got on the bus around the corner to get to Balboa Park. I met up with Larry, one of the baggers at my work, on the bus. He was there with his girlfriend Meg (who works at the Target in the same shopping center and frequently comes to our work to visit Larry and have lunch with him), and they were going to the Zoo.

I made sure to get off closer to the park this time (something I didn't do on the Dead Sea Scrolls trip), and was able to get to the museums rather easily via a pedestrian bridge. I came out on the end by the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. From there, I walked down the pedestrian walkway to the area by the Prado Restaurant (at the other end) to redeem my e-ticket for the Passport at the Visitor's Center, as instructed. Then I decided to go to the Museum of Photographic Arts first, since it is in the same building as the Visitor's Center. I somewhat avoided the "FLESH" exhibit (it was an exhibit of photos of, well, flesh), but I looked at the other two exhibits - "Picturing the Process: Landscape Through Time and Space" and an exhibit called "Humanitas" that focused on India. After this, I went to the gift shop, because I'd subconsciously decided to buy one thing from each place I went to as a souvenir. But unfortunately, things are almost always overpriced in museum gift shops. So I reverted to my usual "bargain hunter" mode and bought really cheap souvenirs at each place. For instance, at the Photographic Arts museum, I bought a pencil that says "MOPA" on it.

Next, I went in a different door in the same building and down a flight of stairs to the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, giving a somewhat unattentive window clerk my Passport. (She didn't see me at first cause she was trying to put new receipt tape in the register). This place, unlike the MOPA, allowed photography, so I took full advantage of this, even chasing a moving model trolley from window to window to get a good picture of it. It's quite a museum. I know Steve from Loaves and Fishes, himself a big fan of trains of all sizes and a subscriber to Model Railroader, would have loved it. The gift shop didn't have much to offer, though it did have a rather large selection of "Thomas the Tank Engine" stuff (Jesse, this kid I used to babysit for, would have loved that). I continued my bargain shopping and bought a magnet with the museum's name on it.

After this, I headed up to the cafe in the same building, since I was considering getting lunch. But it looked pricey, so I moved on.

From this museum, I made a detour and went across the way towards the Botanical Building, a large wooden building with a pond, known as the Lily Pond, in front of it. I walked around this building, taking pictures of many of the plants. Then I walked out and, desiring a photo near the Lily Pond, asked a nearby stranger to take my picture and posed on the railing with the Lily Pond in the background. This done, I headed to the Timken Museum of Art, a small art museum that is always free and is the home of the Putnam Foundation Collection. Despite its free admission, it hosts quite a collection: three painting collections -- European, French, and American -- which include paintings by Rembrandt and Rubens, two medieval tapestries hung in the atrium area, and one room devoted to Russian Orthodox Church iconography. I bought two postcards here of two paintings I liked -- John Frederick Peto's In the Library (a still life of some books) and John Singleton Copley's Mrs. Thomas Gage (a portrait of the wife of Thomas Gage, one of the early commanders-in-chief of the British army during the American Revolution).

After the Timken, I headed to the other big art museum in the Park, the SDMA or San Diego Museum of Art. Despite the fact that the lady at the visitor center who gave me my Passport warned me to stay clear of the SDMA today (it's the "Free Tuesday" for that museum, meaning admission was free and thus it would probably be really crowded), I went anyway. And yes, it was crowded. I was particularly interested in the Asian art and a small room on the second floor with prints (having just taken Printmaking), not as much with the other stuff. The main attraction there was the "Georgia O'Keeffe and the Women of the Stieglitz Circle" exhibit. Having taken Modern Art History, both the names "O'Keefe" and "Stieglitz" were familiar to me. The exhibit consisted of both paintings by O'Keefe and other women in the "Circle" and also photography by Stieglitz (he is known to art as a photographer) and those in the "Circle." I did not expect photography to be allowed here (most art museums don't allow it), but I did not see any signs forbidding it, and I saw one girl take a picture, so I figured it must be all right and took some pictures. Here I bought a postcard of William Bouguereau's The Young Shepherdess, one of the most popular paintings in the museum.

After somehow finding my way out of the museum, I stopped by the museum's outdoor cafe, again rejecting it for its high prices. Then I decided to go to the Friendship Garden next, and realized it was a bit of a far walk and my feet were tired. So I hopped on the free Balboa Park tram in order to ride there, but I got off at the wrong stop and ended up by the Air and Space Museum. Since I had been planning to go there anyway, I went there next, trying to ignore the loud loop of the Star Trek theme playing from outdoor speakers near the museum alongside huge banners for the museum's special Star Trek exhibition. I presented my Passport and decided against using it to get a discount on the Star Trek exhibition, since I'm not much of a Trekkie. I instead checked out the regular exhibition, which includes a replica of the Spirit of St. Louis (appropriate for a city with an airport named after Lindbergh), among other things. As I was walking out of this museum, I realized I'd run out of film on my backup camera, which meant no film for the Friendship Garden. This also nixed my photo op of the gift shop's Rosie the Riveter collection (which includes extremely overpriced plush Rosie the Riveter dolls for $20 apiece). Here, after waiting behind a family with a little girl who was insistent on buying a backpack that came with a NASA Barbie (what the...?) despite her mother trying to encourage her to get something else, I bought another pencil, which the cashier claimed was a mood pencil. I was a little distrustful of this, especially when he blew on it to try to make it change color and nothing really happened.

After this, I decided I had delayed lunch long enough. So I went to the nearby Starlight Bowl (a theater for stage plays) and bought a combo at the snack bar, the one reasonably priced place to eat I'd seen all day. I got a combo with a pretzel, chips, and a drink for less than $5. I sat down over there to eat, turning on my iPod in an effort to drown out the Star Trek music, which seemed louder from this angle, with my Beach Boys playlist. Then I walked up to by the International Cottages, hoping to be able to buy another camera at the gift shop there. I didn't find any cameras, but they did have, as the tram driver promised, "trinkets and candy" from many different countries. I bought a cute small pouch with a Chinese design and took the opportunity to enquire whether the Friendship Garden was nearby. The cashier replied that it was, and said it was near the Organ Pavilion (another performing arts venue), which was just up the way.

I found the garden, and I got the impression that maybe there was a souvenir shop there that sold cameras. They did sell souvenirs at the ticket booth, but no cameras. One nice perk is that the Friendship Garden was also having a Free Tuesday, but in this case you had to have ID to prove you were a San Diego County resident, an active military member, or a veteran to get in free. I fit into the first category, and so I flashed my California ID Card for the officer at the gate, and was allowed in. Despite being camera-less, I strolled the garden anyway, left, finally found a place to buy a camera (the Visitor's Center), bought it, and then went back to the garden a second time, where there was the same officer, who didn't even say anything about seeing the same ID twice. I stopped to buy yet another postcard, this from the ticket booth.

I used my camera to take pictures of the garden, including a shot of the not-so-impressive Fujidana (a bystander I asked about it informed me that it looks much nicer in the spring, when the wisteria are in bloom). I also took pictures in the small Exhibit Building, which is currently showing an exhibit of items made by people who were in the Japanese internment camps (like Manzanar) during World War II. Determined to get a photo in the garden as well, I went to the balcony off the Fujidana, which provides a nice backdrop of the trees behind, and asked a stranger once again to take my picture. This lady seemed a little more serious about it though and actually tried to pose me in some artistic fashion. I won't know till I get the pictures back whether letting this strange lady do this was worth it.

I should mention I also took a couple pictures of myself on this excursion - one of me against a column at the Organ Pavilion, and one of me sitting on the Friendship Garden sign. They probably won't turn out as well though.

After the Friendship Garden, I decided it was time to head home, and walked quickly back to the West Prado area, where I boarded the tram, in hopes of getting off close to where I could catch the bus. I did, but it was across the street so I had to go to the light and cross.

I got home finally around 7:00, at which point I took pictures of my room to fill up the last of the roll on camera #3. If they don't call me in tomorrow, I'm going to take them in to be developed. Two of them are primarily from today, but the first camera already had 10 pictures taken on it, and I don't know what those are of.

Oh I should mention -- I was on my way home on the SPRINTER, listening to MuggleCast and minding my own business, when the transit security guy came down the aisle to check tickets and passes. I got mine ready, but never ended up showing it to the guy, because he got preoccupied with writing a citation for someone behind me who apparently didn't have a ticket or something of the sort. This apparently suddenly irritated the guy sitting across from me, who up to this point had been quietly sketching the face of Michelangelo's David from an art book. He went off on the officer, getting angry, cussing, and even giving him the finger! The cussing distressed a gentleman across the aisle, who was there with his young daughter, and he reprimanded the man for using bad language within earshot of his daughter. For me, the cussing did shock me but not so much as the act of giving the officer the finger did. I have never seen someone do that gesture within such close proximity to me, and I was "properly horrified" (as L.M. Montgomery would say).

Speaking of bad words, at around that moment I was, as I said, listening to MuggleCast, and they, per custom, were going to play songs for the deaths of Bellatrix and Voldemort (they've played songs for everyone who died in book 7 during their "Chapter-by-Chapter" discussion). The song they played for Bellatrix is called "I'm a B****" and is by Meredith Brooks. Despite the cuss word, the lyrics do fit Bellatrix pretty well. The song they played for Voldemort is "Ha Ha You're Dead" by Green Day, which despite its irreverence, sounded kinda funny and did somewhat represent how the good guys might feel about Voldemort's death (actually "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" from The Wizard of Oz would have even worked).

Okay it's late, and I'm in desperate need of a shower. Good night. I'll post pictures from the trip tomorrow if I can.

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