It’s been six months since we moved to Seattle, so I thought it was finally time to get my 3D printer out of mothballs. Well, at least that giant box full of Styrofoam peanuts.

I hadn’t left it in a great state the last time I used it. ABS plastic had gotten stuck in the nozzle, and heated to the point where it was a bit crunchy. So, first I had to burn the ABS out from the brass nozzle, using a propane torch (but minus the alcohol bath, because I’m really not fond of unnecessary fireballs).

After cleaning out the nozzle assembly, I screwed it back into the MakerGear GrooveMount and it was a little tough going, so I used a wrench to tighten it some more… and promptly cracked the entire GrooveMount in half because I torqued it way beyond what it was designed to withstand.


So… enter a week of waiting for my shiny new GrooveMount.

Got that in an mounted last night, and started trying to print some calibration objects, and immediately ran into a temperature problem. Let’s back up.

I had installed the latest version of the Marlin firmware, and am now using Repetier-Host (Mac) to run the printer. However, the PID settings I had pre-set for the hot end were resulting in the temperature never actually hitting the target, but hovering about 10ºC below. Thankfully, I found out that the Marlin firmware now auto-calibrates PID settings, which gave me much more accurate temperature control. After about 4 minutes of setting the target temp, my hot end now settles in with only fluctuating within a degree or so of the target.

Now, I’m back to following the calibration advice here, here, and here, to get things back in ship-shape.

More to come once I get everything re-calibrated.

These are the “show notes” from my half of the Master Video talk at Renaissance 2014, on January 21, 2014 at 10:30 am.

Slides, AV Script Format, and Videos


More Bits

This coming Tuesday, 2014-01-28, is the Bobtiki Crawl!

If you’re native to San Francisco, or just in town for Renaissance 2014 (like I am), I’d love to have you along. The generous and lovely Jen Tiki (part of the Tiki Oasis crew) will be leading us on a journey from the Tonga Room to Trader Vic’s to Smuggler’s Cove for an evening of Polynesian paradise and luxurious libations.

The plan:

Let me know if you’ll be joining us with a Twitter DM or Facebook response, if you can, but last minute drop-ins are absolutely acceptable, especially if you plan to join us at the last stop for late-evening shenanigans.

See you there!

Ever since the iPhone first started shooting video, people have decried the use of the vertical orientation. Why would you do that? It looks so horrible! It’s unnatural! Hang on a moment while I pass judgement on you.

Stop it.

Let’s take a look at the history of film aspect ratios for a moment. Sure, the first film format was 4:3, just like our old TV sets — slightly wider than it is tall. In fact, TV cribbed the 4:3 ratio from film, and it wasn’t until TV started sucking away some of the film audience that the movies started to get wider and wider and wider.

The point being, aspect ratio is an artistic choice, and mostly a gimmick to get people back in theaters. None of those aspect ratios are “right” — not even 16:9, which was a compromise between many ratios for an acceptable film “fit” when TV stole widescreen back for itself (and pushed the movies into another 3D frenzy, which is a rant for another day). Even 9:16 (the iPhone’s vertical video ratio) is just another choice in a long line of choices.

And why shouldn’t you shoot video vertically? Apple’s own ads show people chatting on FaceTime with the camera held vertically. Our faces our vertical. There are tall buildings, and kids coming down playground slides. I argue that, sometimes, it’s a really good fit.

Most of the arguments against vertical video seem to boil down to one of two things. One is some pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo about how our eyes are set horizontally in our heads, so our natural field of vision is wider than it is tall, and we should obey that restraint. (Yes, art is all about obeying natural restraints, and conforming to convention.) The other is an argument that the way that we share video now, via YouTube and AirPlay-ing to our AppleTVs, demands that wide ratio to fit the screen. This latter theory has some merit, but I would argue that the video sharing sites should accommodate multiple aspect ratios in the way they present the videos, instead of letterboxing things inside a widescreen frame. (At least Vimeo and Flickr seem to handle this properly.)

That leads us to Horizon, a new app that uses the accelerometer in the phone to detect the angle of the phone while it’s shooting video, and automatically crop the video to a level 16:9 horizontal image.

This is super clever, and certainly fills a need — sometimes you do want perfectly level horizontal video, damn the resolution (the crop in vertical mode has only 32% of the resolution of the full image). Probably most people just want a video that looks nice when they play it on their TV, or share it on YouTube. This will do that, and quite nicely.

The more interesting thing to me, is how it enables a unique interface for the zoom function on the phone. Now you can use the angle of the phone to control the crop, instead of clumsily sliding your finger on the screen while you’re trying to hold the phone still.

It’s all about using the camera in creative and unique ways — There is no one “right” way to shoot video. Just a plethora of interesting decisions.

Since the launch of my new podcast, I’ve been trying to keep track of stats on podcast downloads and subscribers. FeedPress has been my feed tracker of choice recently, and seems to work very smoothly (even if they only update stats once a day).

I’m also a big fan of Panic’s Status Board iPad app for keeping track of all sorts of stats — so much so that I’m considering getting a dedicated (old, used) iPad, just to hook up to a big monitor and display stats all day.

These are obviously two great tastes that taste great together, as FeedPress already supplies a JSON file that you can load into Status Board to see 7 days worth of subscriber data for a single feed. But what if you want to see more days? Or more than one feed? That’s where my Python script comes in.

FeedPress Subscribers Panel

FeedPress Subscribers Panel

Feedpress Subscribers Status Board Graph Panel

Yeah, it’s a mouthful, but at least it’s descriptive. You can download it on Github. Full instructions are included in the repository, and here, in my scripts page.

I find it hard to believe than anyone who follows me here doesn’t also follow me on Twitter or Facebook or somesuch, so you’ve probably already heard way too much about this, but just in case…

I’ve been blogging at a Tumblr site called The Optical for the last three months or so, posting cool movie-related items every day: mostly behind-the-scenes stuff, but also videos, photos, art, and links to interesting movie articles.

Just a couple of days ago, I launched The Optical podcast, which has been 9 months in the making. In the monthly podcast, we’re revisiting the very first issues of Cinefex magazine, talking about the movies and topics they covered 30+ years ago, one issue per episode. We talk to people involved in the films, people who make movies, and people who love movies, and try to have a fun time doing it.

In our premiere episode, we talk about Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Alien with my good friends AAl and Matt from the Post Atomic Horror podcast, chat with Daren Dochterman, VFX Supervisor on Star Trek: The Motion Picture — Director’s Edition, I admit my 2001 shame, and we ask: just what is an “optical,” anyway?

If revisiting old effects movies from the ’80s sounds like a cool idea to you, I hope that you’ll join us on the journey and give the podcast a listen.

The Optical Podcast Episode 001 Cover Art

I realize this is probably something that only I want, but just in case, here it is for Google (and for future me, who has forgotten how to do it).

Run this in the Terminal:

Thanks to my pal Jim Correia for figuring that out! He asked me to name a background color in his honor, so I choose “Correia Battleship Gray”.