May 26th to May 28th, 2006
Metro Congress Center
As usual it may take days to get through the sheer amount of pictures, video and art from this event. I try to prepare alot in advance such as formatting the webpages ahead of time. Things don't always work out that way.
Please be patient. Drop me a line if you wish copies of your pictures or if you don't want them posted after all.
As stated in our BLOG, I found that putting all the masquerade on site would be foolish. To fix this you can now watch the masquerade, skit by skit on YouTube! Not only will you be able to watch no matter what platform you are running but you can also comment and rate the videos. I'll see about incorporating the YouTube videos into the site as soon as I can get through all the entries I have videos for.
"Last call. usually you didnt have 2 worry about catching the bus. now a 2nd overflow bus isnt guaranteed anymore."
Friday morning and in spite of buying my greyhound ticket in advance, it didn't really guarantee a seat on the bus. This case there was just enough people to justify a overflow bus. With rising gas prices, expect greyhound to raise the limits on how many passengers are required for a second bus. Simply get there early.
Rained all morning on the way to Toronto
"3pm and finaly on the way 2 an. high humidity. got more mem n tapes. had 2 buy cr2025 4 cam. set time n blank 30 sec"
I headed to my Bed and Breakfast then headed down to College street
computer stores to buy some needed supplies. Namely miniDV tapes along
with 256M Memory Stick Pro for the camcorder. I had then noticed that the
date time wasn't set and behold.... no battery for storing the settings
in the camcorder. I installed the clock battery then blanked 30 seconds
of video on the miniDV tapes by recording with the lens cap on. A tip from
a friend who said if a tape screws up, it won't take out any footage. Not
unlike Paradise Comicon footage which I just managed to recover.
Lessons in Flash Photography - Living Daylights
Without Flash - With Flash
Odd using flash in the middle of the day outside? No. As in this
case, it's overcast light is dim. The flash in second photo helped bring
the metallic sheen of the armour right out. Since the paint is slightly
reflective the flash was effective in this case. At least, more than any
post processing would ever do.
"Got my sticker 4 masq. it was noisy w/ staff yelling 4 quiet"
It was noisy in the line-up for stickers. It was largely due to ceramic
walls and floor along a bank of windows which all reflected sound. People
ended talking louder and louder until it got to level that con staff had
to quiet everybody. At least they lady handing out the masquerade
stickers was dressed for the job.
Take a photo on the wild side
Backward glance added more
First day of a con is always full of energy. I manage to try something different with a few photos. Typically alot of people just stand there. There are times it's hard to convince people to break out of the mold. First is a typical 3 quarter shot which shows off the costume nicely. As she was walking away I asked her to stop and look back. This photo which the crowd blurring in the background is awesome alternative photo.
After thought, a snarl would have made it better
Okay Zorro shouldn't be wearing glasses for one but the first is a typical full or frontal photo. Pretty flat with no dimension. Second is 3 quarter view of just the head using flash. The flash dropped off the background leaving the face silhouetted.
The photographer gets the point
Not all alternative shots have to be facial. It can get right down.... well this case, down to the floor. No I didn't lay down on the floor. I crouched down then held my camera as best trying to still see the LCD screen. It took a couple of tries to get this one. The first was ruined by the lights in the ceiling which washed out the picture. By changing the perspective of the subject it added a whole lot more to the photo.
With digital photography and memory cards being SO cheap, it makes sense to try new things. After all, you don't have to print or even keep every picture. So many people were deleting alot of pictures because they didn't have larger memory cards, they miss looking back and seeing what worked and what didn't.
For me, I found more techniques by taking several photos of the same person. Just remember the one adage to photography....
You will always have time to take a second picture.
You will not have the time to go back and take it again.
Once again, I ate at Sushi Dragon. However the yakitori wasn't crispy as last year as I remember it. However Sushi Dragon is close by and never really packed. Service was okay and timely.
This had to be the most bizarre cosplay to date. A RC car cosplaying
as turtle dancing away on the dance floor.
Lessons in Flash Photography - Things happen
I usually take several photos of the same subject, some with flash,
some without. For some reason, the second photo which I used flash added
a tint to the photo which added a wood or natural tint to the photo. In
second thought, I might have just be under one of the flood lights from
the ceiling.. I can't be sure. Also the red eye added to the wildness of
In the rear lobby of Doubletree was gaming section. Several video game consoles lined the walls. The one which had a crowd was pop star game which actually kept track of the pitch of the singer.
Night Vision - Lessons with flash photography
Original - Cropped
Photographing outside at night poses it's own problems Case in point. I was lucky that the background was white garage doors which helped reflect the flash and filled the background. However, most flash effective range is 10 feet. My SD300 camera is MUCH less. You can see from original how the light falls off the background. Lucky I had enough room in the picture to crop off most of the falloff, leaving a nicely light background.
Tips? Zoom out a little of your subject to allow for post processing of cropping off the falloff of the flash. If you want that spooky mood, don't correct for red eye to give that vampire look. ;) If there is no wall then you might want to use your setting and forget the flash. Push the camera as far as it can go then try to post process the picture like the one below ... letting the night silhouette your subject.
End of the day, and time to head back to my room. One guy begged to take a photograph of him.
I mounted the bus then the subway which was filled with con goers with thier own baggage.
I tried to get to the internet cafe but the guy on nights was closing shop and would have nothing of me nor answer an single question on when they be open in the morning. Sigh. I need some sleep.... zzzzz.
St. Lawrence West STN
Waiting for the Malton bus
standing room for cosplayers
finally I'm there.
I manage to get to the internet cafe in the morning. It took about an hour to transfer Friday's pictures from my camera card to computer then burn to CDr before transferring them back to a portable hard drive again. Hightail it with bags, heavy tripod and backpack to make it too the con. it was a beautiful day but also hot.
One of the first cosplayers I met as I walked into the con was this Eyeshield21 cosplayer.
I headed to artist alley to get the day's 4 komas started. I asked Mark at Dragon Mango booth if they could baby sit my tripod for me. They graciously agreed since I've known them for years and have bought alot over the years.
Crowd formed a large circle which was hard to see what was going on.
It ended up being one of the largest photo ops of Bleach cosplayers with several of them in the crowd. It was difficult to get a good shot of anyone so I left. I managed to catch a few Bleach cosplayers as the left the ring.
It wasn't entirely just Bleach. Groups of same anime gravitated together like Dragon Ball Z group. It also lead to some interesting poses you wouldn't ever think happening. Like fan girl kneeing Cell.
High end dolls made with the anime fan in mind. Sculpturer explains his work.
Everything is made other than the hair and boots which they import from Japan. These dolls don't come cheap. Starting around $700 and can go up with custom work.
Close ups of the dolls
More info can be found at www.bishonenhouse.com.
Walking by the cosplayers under the trees to Tim Hortons. This route became very familiar over the weekend.
COSPLAY WRESTLING FEDERATION?
No doubt, wrestling is NOT one of the events you expect to find at an anime con. Yet, this cosplay theme match caught the eyes of many. They are Great Canadian Wrestling Expo.
I've taken several video clips during the match and edited them together to show the action. I processed in WMV9 (2.6 meg) in better resolution for your viewing pleasure.
Throughout the weekend, the wrestlers made their impact on the con. Maybe because like Anime North, Great Canadian Wrestling Expo supports Sick Kids too. Special thanks to the guys ... and ladies too. Hope to see you next year.
The Art of Kissing
The Kiss (c) Michael Armstrong
This photo which is many photos took a few hours to stitch together. Each side consisting of two photos were stitched with Photostitch 3.1 then the two halves were stitched together using Arcsoft PhotoStudio 5. Both software came with either my camera or scanner. There was some touching up to do as markings on the parking lot criss-crossed in the stitched photo. Also some ghosting where the two halves merged. I used clone tool to get rid of the marking and the tree in the center background. Also the girl sitting on the ground in center had two perspective so I tried my best to give just one.
It seems that anyone kissing for the crowd got cheers ... and I do mean anyone.
On to the masquerade ... lineup that is.
I headed after grabbing bit to eat at Swiss Chalet. I expected a line-up but this was ridiculous. Down the hall, out the door and circling the parking lot. Attempts were made to make the line-up shorter but the line only grew. I must have dropped my tripod over 6 times during the wait. Good thing it was a Velbon. I'll be looking for lighter one for next time.
The staff this year was alot better and marked improvement in handling the line up over two years ago. I think the sticker method has to be the best method so far. Better than the armband or tickets and is clearly seen. One line-up staff, masquerade veteran agreed the no flash photography is outdated. Since lights of the stage drown out any light from the crowd, it's also pointless to use flash when it's range at best is only 10 feet even at best conditions. Flash in the hall is massively distracting and doesn't get your picture.
Suggestions? Switch to switch off flash, set or use 400 ASA and keep to optical zoom then crop later as mentioned below.
Suggestions to con promoters? Sell booth space to a camera store so they can teach people how to use their camera settings.
Suggestions to con goers for next year? Get larger memory cards and practice shooting in the evenings outside. You don't have to keep the photos you take. Try ALL the settings. READ the manual.
Still the postponement of the Kotoko concert only pushed getting the chairs setup for masquerade. Lots of people were worried as line grew on whither they would get in. Still the number of stickers were suppose to be the number of chairs. I wonder if I was going to get a decent seat at all.
The delayed stretched into hour and half. Not only was setup for the
masquerade delayed but also a lock down for lost kid only added to the
misery of the heat of the day. You think after searching the line-up
for the child... no one fit the description. You think that moving the
line into the hall would allow people to see she wasn't there. Clearly
there needs to be better system for this. At least they had a blow
horn as oppose to trying to yell all weekend. (One of my gripes from 2004.
Along with con staff having flash lights for blackouts.)
Cropping versus resizing
Occasionally it's good not to zoom into a subject. Digital zoom can
leave pictures grainly. The one key is stretch the optical to it's max.
then crop. method I used is crop the shortest margins to crop in. This
case, the sides then resize to 600. This leaves cropping top and bottom
to 800 for web pages. Leaving more details of the picture less compressed
Once in the hall, I scope out two things... an isle seat and water. I lucky found both on the right hand side of the room just sitting beside the sound board. Still stretch for camera but with 20x optical, I could catch the stage and zoom in on a character. More than a digital camera with only 3x optical.
There were a couple of cameras on risers and shotgun mike. They could have mike the stage with peso (sp?) microphone mounted on acrylic sheet. Used in boardrooms by placing on the table and highly directional. The 404's took the stage briefly only so those people could get seated. Improv is tiring and repetitious for me to watch.
The host was more in tune with the crowd than last year's MC. Still many thought the acts weren't up to last year's bar. Videos will be posted. Considering I went through 2 batteries and 3 tapes it will take a while and be it's own gallery. With up to 99 entries with only a few obstainers, it can be a daunting task. I had two tapes prepped with 30 second blanked lead and labelled. Having the tripod was godsend. I couldn't imagine holding a camcorder for over two hours ... even with a mono pod.
Still I made sure I wasn't blocking anyone's view by turing and asking those behind me. I could concentrate on the masquerade but when the first battery showed signs of early depletion, I worried. Yes, it conked out right in the middle of a performance. I might have to have fluorescent sticker to make which way is up and which battery is which. It only added to the delay of changing a camcorder battery in the dark. I immediately put the write protect on the miniDV tape to make sure I wasn't going to re-record over usable footage.
Click here to view the entries for the Masquerade.
One of the poorly advertised events was right outside the masquerade.
Cosplay parade was photo shoot of cosplayers after they left the hall after
their performance. A makeshift photo backdrop with lights was setup.
Giving those with flash cameras a chance to take pictures up close without
being yelled at.
Line-up for the dance was outside the hall after the masquerade. Tired most of them waiting for hours passed the start time. I found out later that hotel had no crew for setting up chairs. This made delays even longer.
Hallways are always questionable lighting at best. Sometimes a mixture of incandescent, fluorescent and whatever. Sometimes even flash is not enough.
Alot of cosplayers had already left because of the late start. At the bus stop I met Nightko of the forums on Studio of Masquerade Arts. He just got a digital camera and was interested in the panoramas I created. I gave some tips. The bus came and unfortunately packed as it was, he took the next bus.
Note: At Anime North 2007, I met once again with Nightko on the bus leaving the con. He meantioned that he was on the SMA's forums and not with SMA directly. My apologies and I have made the corrections.
I didn't even bother with internet cafe based on previous night's experience. I headed to bed and placed my batteries on charge only to get up to change batteries during the night. The camcorder is the charger which is one of it's flaws I didn't like.
"Damn' i almost on the malton bus when i realize ... con badge' rush back 2 b.b 2 get it. lucky i have a day pass."
Baka! yes I manage to get almost on the long bus ride to the con when I noticed that I had forgot to remove my con badge from my T-shirt from Saturday. Thankfully it wasn't a long ride back ... and I had a day pass so I could use the TTC as much as I like.
As I clean up getting the final panels of 4 komas drawn, I headed into the dealer's room on Sunday. It is possibly the best time to buy though any rare items you may find already gone.
Usual booths like Buddhist Temple booth with many items. I was surprise
at the number of weapon props dealers at this show. One, Mythical Merchant
had medieval wooden props which were nice.
Hiramaki International Fans
How can one booth have the hottest item in the con that is so cool? Well, Hiramaki Int. did. They handed out over 6000 fans with advertisement on both sides. You could see these fans in use for most of the weekend, Particularly Saturday by those standing outside waiting for the masquerade to start. These fans are quite popular form of advertisement in Japan. No doubt many a otaku standing and waiting in line as well.
While most of you may not play their games, I know alot of fans are
fans of these fans. (Try saying that seven times really fast.)
I headed to Tim Hortons for coffee.
The Amazing AndrewRagazzo
Occasionally you come across something totally amazing. This case, someone totally amazing. Andrew is quite physically fit individual. There were other photos I have but the video below shows his talent. I suggested that he could have a career as a stunt man. Years ago I met Felix Silva who played Twiggy on Buck Rogers TV show. He had worked as Ewok, stunt double for children.
When I was a teen I had inferior complex about being short. Now when
I see someone who is even shorter than I was make something of themselves,
I'm amazed that I ever 'belittled' myself. Thanks Andrew! You
made my weekend.
It's the end of the con
as we know it...
As 5 o'clock rolled across the grounds and hotels of Anime North, people started the mass exodus to head home after 3 long days of anime, art, Jpop, wrestling and meeting old and new friends.
"Finaly headn home on oflow bus. defended 2 guys who bought practice swords @ d con. w/ ttc strike loom on."
I met two guys who bought stuff at the con at the bus terminal. A security guard was giving them a hard time. I noticed the con badge on the one guy's hat so I stepped in to the conversation. I carefully explained the con's weapons policy to the guard and how anything that can be mistaken for a weapon must be checked, stored and used. The guard hearing same story from a stranger convinced him that these were indeed safe though they would have to be stored under the bus during the trip back to St. Catherines
The two guys thanked me for saving them from the hassle. I found out that one of the guy works at a hotel there and wasn't impressed with hotel staff when asked to stack chairs for Jpop dance which started horrendously late. 'I do this for a living, why should I do it on my vacation?'
I also phoned back to bed and breakfast to let my temporary landlady know that even the transit workers didn't know whether there would be a wildcat strike monday. Thankfully the con was over by then.