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Behind The Playground

On 20, Apr 2012 | One Comment | In Projects | By Daniel Kao

My Recent short film, “The Playground”, was created using a combination of camera hacks and heavy post processing.

Taking the Pictures:

With this video, I tried my best to document a wide variety of locations and subjects in my life, including family vacations and school events. The following is a complete list of all the shooting locations in order of appearance.

  1. My Room
  2. Jasper, Alberta
  3. Duckwater, Nevada
  4. Jasper, Alberta
  5. Vasona Park
  6. Angel Island
  7. Waterton Lake, Alberta
  8. My Home
  9. Lynbrook High School Construction
  10. My Home
  11. Saratoga Ave (CCIC-SJ)
  12. Miller Ave
  13. Valco Mall
  14. Rainbow Dr (Calabazes Park)
  15. Saratoga Sunnyvale Rd
  16. Cupertino Library
  17. Mt Rose Ski Resort
  18. Lynbrook High School Wednesday Morning
  19. Rainbow Park
  20. Lynbrook High School Powderpuff
  21. Lynbrook High School Graduation
  22. Miller Middle School Basketball Courts
  23. Rainbow Park
  24. Lake Louise, Alberta
  25. My Home
  26. Waterton Lakes, Alberta
  27. Blue Hills
  28. Overpass between Kevin Moran and Azule Park
  29. Saratoga Ave (CCIC-SJ)
  30. My home

The entire video was made up of small, individual photographs resulting in a folders of pictures totaling over 25GB. Natively, my Canon Powershot S5 IS is unable to take pictures quickly and indefinitely, so I got a little help from a custom firmware known as  CHDK.

CHDK is a simple firmware you can install on top of your current Canon firmware that allows you to go beyond the built in features. Specifically, for “The Playground”, I used a script called fast intervalometer that took a picture approximately every half second.

Besides CHDK, this video would not be possible without the help of my full size tripod and gorillapod.

Processing the Pictures:

Every single frame that you see in this video was processed in Photoshop. That’s right. All 7,600 frames.

To generate the tilt-shift effect, I batched processed all the frames in Photoshop using a gradient on a quick mask layer and then using the lens blur effect. Each frame that was processed was then moved into a separate folder.

Check this out if you want more specific instructions.

Creating a Video

After I had created a folder with all of the frames processed, each scene was imported as a sequence into After Effects and rendered into a 30 frame per second video clip. Each of the scenes were then imported into Adobe Premiere, where I did my final touch-ups, ordering, and time manipulation.

Feel free to contact me if you have any more questions!

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How to Buy a College Laptop

On 16, Apr 2012 | No Comments | In Technology | By Daniel Kao

Buying a new computer can be an extremely daunting task if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Buying a new computer can be equated one of the Navi picking their flying partner mate. Secretly inside, I like to judge people by the kind of laptop they use. I have a category for each type of person with their computer organization habits, hardware and software choices. To those of you completely lost to the technology world, here is a somewhat comprehensive guide (hopefully) with personal suggestions as well.

When it comes to a laptop, here are the major things to take into consideration:

  • Price (probably the most non-negotiable for some people, more on this later)
  • Size and Weight
  • Battery Life
  • Screen Quality (and Resolution)
  • CPU and RAM
  • Hard Drive Capacity (and speed)
  • Graphics (Mainly for gamers)
  • Ergonomics (How the computer feels)
  • Peripherals (CD Drive / SD Card Slot / USB Ports / Expresscard Slot / Docking Station / Bluetooth / Webcam)
  • Operating System (If you’re not confident changing it yourself)

I suggest thinking about all of these elements as a whole, and deciding which ones of these you need and which ones you don’t. That way you can narrow down your list. I am not going to go into detail on what these do if you don’t know some of the more technical details, so do a Google search to figure those out.

The following is my general opinion for a computer that will last you four years in college. Since you’ll probably need to be somewhat mobile, the weight should be 4-5 pounds at most. As for the processor and RAM, I would recommend nothing less than an Intel i5 with at least 3-4 GB of RAM. As for hard drive space, you’ll probably want at least 500 GB or so of space, although this will vary depending on what you plan to do with your computer. The rest of the items on the list above should be up to your judgment.

Also, be sure to check out a variety of computer manufacturers, and be wary of their often misleading advertising. Don’t look down on a computer just because it’s labeled a “business” computer, or any other advertising of the sort. Here is a list of major computer manufacturers, not an exhaustive list. (starred are companies I recommend checking out, and some of my personal opinion):

  • Acer
  • Apple* (You’ll be stuck with a different OS than everyone else)
  • Asus
  • Dell* (Generally the cheapest option, somewhat decent build quality)
  • Fujitsu
  • Gateway
  • HP (Overrated in my opinion)
  • Lenovo* (only the ThinkPad line, with super durable and high quality build)
  • Panasonic
  • Samsung (They make some super sleek computers, quite expensive)
  • Sony
  • Toshiba

Now that I’ve listed out parts and companies, here is how you actually go about buying a computer:

The Easy Way: (Making one purchase for a complete computer)

According to trends and statistics, it has been noted that computer prices are the cheapest around March and April. So if you’re on the hunt for a new computer, now is a pretty good time to be looking for one.

Be sure to look around at as many stores and retailers as possible to find the cheapest price. Check the manufacturer’s website, Amazon, Newegg, Fry’s, Costco, etc.

Also, as a note, be aware for coupon codes and promotions that can save you some money. A friend of mine saved nearly $500 on his laptop by applying 5 different coupon codes during checkout to purchase a computer for $300, and now he happily uses an i7 equipped laptop (he actually mixed this with the suggestion below as well).

The Cheap Way: (Finding the best deals on individual parts and assembling it yourself, saving up to $400)

This is slightly more difficult to do, as most laptop manufacturers nowadays will not allow you to simply buy a laptop without a hard drive and RAM. A laptop without certain hardware components is called a “barebone laptop”, which you can generally get for a significantly low price. Unfortunately, many of the barebone laptops that I am finding currently are not from the top manufacturers. The other way you could do this is buying a computer off of ebay / craigslist, although there will always be risks associated with buying computers second hand. You could try contacting a manufacturer by phone to order a barebone laptop.

After getting your barebone laptop, you would have to scourge for cheap hard drives, memory, and whatever else you need to get your computer functioning. I won’t go too much into detail because I know that few people will actually do this, but if you would like to assemble your own laptop to save a couple hundred dollars and learn a little something about computers, feel free to contact me!

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In Life

By Daniel Kao

The Playground

On 06, Apr 2012 | 3 Comments | In Life | By Daniel Kao

The Playground.

Contains over 40 scenes shot in many different places over the span of a year, resulting in over 7000 photographs. Definitely the most extensive video I have ever worked on. I will put a behind the scenes post up soon!

HD and Fullscreen please.

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On 02, Apr 2012 | No Comments | In Education | By Daniel Kao

The education system has always been focused on one thing: getting students to have more knowledge. Along with this goal comes many educational strategies. Homework, notes, quizzes, tests, labs, projects, grades, etc are all tools that are used by teachers in order to teach their students.

However, it is commonplace to hear students complain about homework, tests, or anything else their teacher assigns. Many of my peers consistently complain about the amount of work they receive from their teachers, and the pressure to do well from their parents.

I didn’t really think much about it until this year, when I took up two tutoring positions. It wasn’t until I began trying to help students that I realized how ineffective such assignments were to certain people. Sometimes, students just take the notes or do the homework for the sake of getting it finished, leading them to forcefully output work that resembles poor effort and little creativity. Such patterns causes students to hate attending school, and hate particular subjects in school.

And as I tried to help some of these students, another thing became clear. The naive and cheesy “try harder or study more” lecture produces negligible effect.

The problem the education system faces today, which is perhaps also a problem that it seems to be completely blind to, is that students simply aren’t motivated to actually learn the subjects at hand. Students today are motivated by a fear of failure, instilled in them by the people who preach that not going to college results in life without a home.

There are very few students I have met who truly have a passion to learn. Despite the fact that the people who truly passionate about what the learn may not receive the highest grades or get accepted into the top performing colleges, those are the people that I would put my money on for becoming the next wave of entrepreneurs and innovators.

Learn to appreciate the opportunities you have. Learn to ask questions and explore the subjects that you have access to, beyond what is required of you by the state. Because education is not there to turn young people into mindless, trivia cramming zombies, but a way for people to explore the universe around them. Learn to use the education system to accomplish your goals before you try to accomplish theirs.

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