Last Week: Alida’s Birthday & More

Monday, Jan. 21st: DRAT! Ok, for anybody unfamiliar with the workings of a camera, here’s a quick lesson so you understand my problem.

There are basically 3 ways to expose your digital “film.” The first 2 involve letting light into the camera. Aperture is size of the the iris that opens up and allows a controlled amount of light through the lens. Shutter speed is the length of time each frame is open, allowing the light to pour in. The third way to brighten things up is to raise the gain, or the digital version of the ISO, which means the film’s sensitivity. The higher the gain/ISO, the brighter the image gets, but there’s a catch: as you raise the gain/ISO, you start to see more and more noise/grain.

Here’s my problem: The gain control on my work camera (a Canon XL-H1,) displays the gain level right in the middle of the screen- unless it’s set to “auto,” where it causes the most trouble.

So when I accidentally set it to “auto,” and set my camera levels in the studio, the gain raised up to compensate for my dark background. Confused, I closed the iris more, letting less light in, which told the camera to crank up the gain some more. I repeated until I maxed out the amount of gain the camera was able to give out and the image finally settled where I wanted it.

Since I was looking through the tiny viewfinder, I didn’t notice until I was home that I had the grainiest footage I’ve ever worked with.

“No worries,” I said to myself, “After Effects has some pretty sweet noise reduction filters!” I edited the video and set it to render out with the filters. The estimated completion time was 10+ hours, so I went to bed. When I woke up, it wasn’t even halfway finished, so I canceled it and figured out another way.

It all worked out alright in the end, but it really drives me crazy that the catastrophic “auto gain” setting doesn’t even show up on screen to let you know it’s ruining your footage.

Tuesday, Jan. 22nd: Filmed a really close basketball game between Meridian and Central A&M. It was lots of fun to watch, so check it out HERE!

I also finished and posted the latest episode of “Ken Reads Erotica,” which you may already know about if you read the last post. Either way, check it out HERE and subscribe!

Wednesday, Jan. 23rd: Spent most of the day entering tons of ads for a digital career fair. At the end of the day, as I was finishing up the ads, we had some exciting breaking news. The police had just released audio from the 911 call made by an off-duty officer who shot and killed an intruder. The audio was really chilling, but if you want to hear the whole thing, from the break-in to the shooting, take a listen HERE!

Thursday, Jan. 24th: Went with Alida to Millikin’s Art Faculty Biennial. Alida had a few photos in the show, and it never gets old to go see her artwork up alongside our former professors.

It seems like it wasn’t long ago that we were hanging shows as students. Now she’s upgraded to peer and co-worker to our teachers. It’s pretty cool to see. Alida is also an official mentor to one of the photography students, who came by to join us while we were talking with Ed Walker, one of Alida’s mentors. Alida pointed out that Ed was a Grandmentor to her protege. I’m hoping her protege becomes a mentor soon so Ed can take the next step to Great-Grandmentor.

Friday, Jan 25th: High school kids don’t really need an incentive to play dodgeball, but when you tell them it’s to help a teacher’s little cousin battle Cystic Fibrosis, it doesn’t hurt attendance. I had the honor of watching Argenta-Oreana High School students play a few rounds of dodgeball for a really cool little kid with a sweet Batman watch. Check it out:

After almost getting hit in the face a few times, I filmed from the stands, but our photographer Mark braved it out and took a couple hits.

Saturday, Jan. 26th: Went to a costume sale at Millikin and picked up a pretty cool wig to use in an upcoming sketch. I also snagged a weird pair of furry gloves that look kind of like animal hands. The gloves are odd, but the wig is really nice. I got both for $3, and Alida got a cool faux-leather jacket for $4.

That evening we went out to dinner, but let’s rewind for a second: the day after Christmas, I tweeted a picture of a grilled cheese from Cheesie’s on Chicago’s north side. A bunch of friends chewed me out for tempting them with food they couldn’t get in central Illinois. Well fear no more:

Grown Up Grilled Cheese: Tender, slow-roasted Provimi Beef layered between four slices of Cheddar and white American cheeses then grilled golden on our potato bread.

This is from Cheddar’s, which is a chain, so you can get it pretty much anywhere, and it was just like the awesome sandwich I got from Cheesies. As suggested by the waitress, I subbed out mayo for BBQ, and it was amazing.

You’re welcome.

If you’re in Central Illinois and crave Chicago-style food, here are a few local substitutes:

  • Greasy Fried Rice: Not that saffron crap with peas and carrots. I’m talking about brown, full of egg, green onion, and bean sprouts. If that’s what you crave, go to China House on Eldorado and Jasper.
  • Pizza- By the Slice: Pizza has lots of categories, especially when you’re comparing to Chicago. Best place to walk in and grab a slice is Sloan’s Calzones on Merchant and Prarie.
  • Pizza- Deep Dish: Don’t have time to drive to a Chicagoland Giordano’s, and don’t feel like spending $60 to have Lou Malnati’s mail one to you in dry ice? Go to Sloans again. It’s not on the menu, so you need to ask nicely.
  • Hot Dogs: If you want a good Chicago dog, go to University Dogs on Oakland and Wood.
  • Pizza Puffs: Would you like your pizza deep fried so it can clog your arteries quicker? Grab a pizza puff at University Dogs or at Tasty’s Chicago Grill. As Tasty’s name implies, they have a typical Chicago fast food menu with a great gyro.

And here are a couple I’m still looking for:

  • Pizza- South-Side: Hard to describe this type of pizza, but it’s what I grew up on. Places like Phil’s or Danny’s with a not-quite-thick-or-thin crust, homemade everything, and real sausage (not the little frozen pizza meatballs.) Unfortunately nobody has this in Decatur anymore. There used to be a place called Damon & Devin’s, but they went under and I never figured out why.
  • Breaded Steak: Most well-known from Ricobene’s in Chicago, but I prefer to get it from Freddie’s on 31st and Union. It’s amazing, and impossible for me to finish in one sitting, especially with fries. If we had this in Decatur, or anywhere nearby, I would be a more complete person.

Ok, #fatkid rant over.

Sunday, Jan. 27th: Alida’s birthday!

We had planned on making a trip to see a friend in Indiana, but she had some scheduling conflicts. Since a fun part of Alida’s birthday celebration was rescheduled, I decided to still include it as a present. I put together a pretty fun travel ticket with some “vouchers” for different activities to do when we go.

I was actually pretty surprised to see how much cool stuff there is to do in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Kudos to their visitors website.

After she opened presents, we went to hang out with her parents. Her dad was fresh off having some work done on his back, so I got to help out with a few small farm chores. I could tell he didn’t want to impose and put me to work, but it wasn’t asking much at all. Not only do I love being around the animals, but I’m also from Chicago. Going to a farm was a field trip for me when I was little. So even if I have to get my hands dirty and drag out a big metal pen filled with goat waste, I’m still a bit enchanted by the whole experience.

I’m sure if I did it every day the novelty would wear off, just like any daily routine, but for me it was fun. Do you think you need to ask me twice to climb up the hay bales in the barn to find the chicken’s nest and get the eggs? Absolutely not! It’s hard enough to resist climbing them for fun, so if you give me a reason to climb up to the rafters of the barn, I’m halfway up before you finish your sentence.

Sunday was also the last day of my friend Doug Bishop’s production of “Leaving Iowa,” and he was in a pinch. His videographer was sick and unable to film. I was busy, but fortunately we have a pretty good network of creative friends, and our buddy Jim Cloney was able to help him out. Jim only had one HD camera available, so I lent him mine to complete the setup. From my experience, it REALLY helps to have a second camera when you shoot anything live.

I don’t mention this to brag on myself for being generous, but to point out again how great people are in this area, especially in the art community. When a fellow artist is in need, it only takes a couple of phone calls to solve just about any problem. I have been on the receiving end of lots of favors, and seen lots of people donate their time and talents to me and my creative vision. It’s nice to be able to pay it forward, and return favors.

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