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BASIC Piano Melodies Series – 10 Year Anniversary November 13, 2019

Posted by coolmikeol in Other/TO.com news.
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“This video is to show how to play the basic melody of this song, right hand only. This is meant to be a basic piano video and not a piano skill video. It’s for people who can’t play piano that well, to be able try to play a bit and enjoy piano. I learn the melodies of the songs by ear (meaning I don’t use sheet music) and play them at a slower speed for others to like and learn. There may be some mistakes but hey, no one’s perfect.” – Video descriptions of my piano videos.

The simpler reason I make piano videos; I enjoy anime and music. When I get the melody stuck in my head, I want to be a part of the music. By playing alongside it, I feel I can truly immerse myself in the power and emotion of the song. I make these videos to share my interests to the world, hopefully to reach people who feel the same.

It’s been 10 years since I started this series, and looking back on all those years I’ve progressed and done a lot with it. I’m grateful for all the viewers and feedback that I’ve gotten, whether good or bad, and I don’t plan to stop making these videos any time soon. Let’s look back at how this all got started, as well as how I make these videos, for anyone who’s curious anyways.

History

On a whim on Sept 26, 2008, I made a quick little video for YouTube using nothing else than my first laptop’s built-in webcam. It was me playing the melody of the Negima anime opening theme “Happy Material”, the first anime that got me into non-mainstream anime that wasn’t readily available in the US.

Over a year later on November 13, 2009 I made a piano video that would become the first of my Piano Melodies Series. As I was watching through the Shakugan no Shana series, I decided to play some of the melodies from the songs from the anime in a single video, hence the name “Basic Piano Melody”.

The style of my piano videos for those first few years was to play and record multiple melodies from either a single anime series or theme. As I could only record at the college’s piano rooms and not at home due to not having a great setup for it there, it took time to get the footage. Which meant I was consistently putting out Basic Piano Melodies videos every month or so.

A couple of years later, I changed how I produced my piano videos to both ease production and decrease the time needed to produce videos by making each one focus on one song, rather than multiple. This allowed me to produce piano videos more often with better quality, which in turn increased views and subscriptions. This was the transition to the Basic Piano Melodies videos. A couple more years later, not much changed except that I wanted emphasize the BASIC part of my piano videos. I now capitalize the word “BASIC” in my BASIC Piano Melodies videos, as I have mentioned in all of my piano video descriptions that I am in no means a good piano player, just someone who enjoys music and tries to share that by using my play-by-ear skill to transcribe the melody into its simplest form.

This was generally how I used to record my piano videos, later upgrading to a Canon EOS Rebel T3.

The hardest part of the process of creating my piano videos wasn’t really the practicing of the melody or editing of the videos. Rather it was just having a convenient place to record them. I didn’t have a decent enough set up at home that I wanted to use for recording, and I wanted to stick to a real piano as long as I could. From the beginning up to the end of 2017, I used piano rooms available at my local college campus, but as time went on it became harder to use them, due to a combination of policy changes, and me no longer being a student there.

Synthesia

Starting last year onwards, I finally made the leap from recording real piano footage to recording MIDI for the digital keyboard program Synthesia. This made things a lot easier for me, as I could finally do everything from home. I was already using my keyboard, a Yamaha PSR-170, for practicing and recording MIDI to create sheet music. I used to use a program called MidiPiano to record the MIDI for the longest while, but more recently found a much better software called MidiEditor. Switching MIDI programs allowed me to more accurately record as well as do minor edits to the sequences already done.

Creating the Videos

Since then, not much has changed. Whenever an anime song sticks in my head, I have an urge to play the melody out on my keyboard. A little practice later, once I’m confident that I can play it though, I connect my keyboard to my laptop and record the MIDI. I listen to the TV size version of the anime song using earphones and play alongside it. Once I have a good take recorded, it’s on to creating the actual video footage. I switch over to my desktop where I use Synthesia to play out the melody. I record Synthesia using Fraps, to create both an original speed and slower versions. I also then create the title cards for the BASIC Piano Melody videos with the paint.NET program, using either album or anime related artwork alongside the main info of the video.

With the assets recorded and created, it’s time to put the video together. Using Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5, I edit it all together as you see them in my videos, though in the old days (The first couple years) I used good old Windows Movie Maker. They’re then uploaded to YouTube; most of the info in the video description is from a template that I copy from previous piano videos, I just change the parts that I need to for each one. The same mostly goes for the video tags, listing all relevant items, and copying it for their Piano Tutorial counterpart.

That’s pretty much the whole process I go through to make this content. One thing though that I should be doing more after uploading is advertising it on my social media. I tend to forget to post them on Facebook and such, and sometimes when I do remember a few days after, I feel that posting it late lacks relevancy to the original time of uploading. It may not help much, but any help is better than none in getting the word out that a new video is out.

Feedback

Feedback from viewers and subscribers is always something to expect from making YouTube videos. And while a great amount of them are positive, the negative ones I either think of them as constructive or just missing the point of the video. I get a bunch of comments mentioning how poor my piano playing is, and that is true. It’s not like I’m hiding it, or that I’ve mentioned about it in every video description. These piano videos are BASIC, and always will be. Maybe they’re trying to help me, but I’d rather not try to compete with other anime pianists on YouTube, as I don’t see much people do what I do.

As for when people make requests for certain songs I should do, as much as I would like to indulge them, I usually only do songs that I get into sync with. Most of the time the songs I do are new ones that are part of the current anime season, or ones from a favorite artist/anime series. If a request aligns with that then I’ll probably consider doing it for a video.

 

The Future

I don’t have a grand plan for improvement or expansion, but I will keep this series going as long as I’m able or willing to. I may not have the viewership that I used to have in my prime years (2014-2016), but recently I’ve had a bit of an uptick of viewers so I know that my content is still relevant to what some people want to watch. I guess this piano series is tied to my love for anime as well, as the majority of the songs I do are from them. The only way things may wind down with these videos is if I start to stray from anime, but I don’t see myself doing so any time soon. As small as my channel is on YouTube, I will always be proud of the piano videos I make, regardless of how unprofessional my piano playing is. These are made for people like me, someone who enjoys these kinds of music and wants to try to play them on piano but doesn’t have much experience doing so. Starting with the BASICS from me, taking that first step, you can learn to see if it’s something you want to do. If you want to go to the next level, I will gladly recommend other YouTubers who also make fantastic anime piano videos.

Axent Wear Cat Ear Headphones – Review November 20, 2015

Posted by coolmikeol in Other/TO.com news.
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Around this time last year, there was some buzz going around social media about this product. It was being funded on Indiegogo and was already on its way to go way beyond its target fund amount. The item attracted me due to its uniqueness, headphones with light up cat ears that function as speakers as well? To me that translated to cute and cool. Probably not something I’d wear all the time or in public, but probably at home or at conventions. I held off on backing the headphones while I decided if I really wanted to pay $150 for it. Eventually though I decided to go for it, backing my first kickstarter-type campaign ever. This was back over a year ago on November 7th, 2014. It was estimated to be released in April 2015, though throughout its development Axent Wear had issues finding a suitable manufacturer. This pushed back its release date almost a half a year more than scheduled. I was originally hoping to receive my pair before going to FanimeCon in May, but that fell through because of said reasons.

Because of the uncertain manufacturing situation with the headphones, the headphones left my mind at times, though at the very least Axent Wear kept giving almost monthly updates to as what was going on with the headphones for us backers. In June it was announced that Brookstone would be the manufacturer, and that the final product would be delivered in about 180 days. Finally in August it was announced that the headphones would be shipped out between November 15-27. In a late October update, it was announced that the first ones were already on their way to their customers in Japan since they are fairly close to where they’re being manufactured (China).

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I received my pair of Axent Wear/Brookstone Cat Ear Headphones on the evening of November 19th, 2015, arriving at my doorstep between the hours of 5PM and 7:30PM. I immediately brought it in to open it up, though not before getting out my camera to record myself opening it up just in case anything was wrong with it for evidence reasons. Inside the cardboard box for shipping was the official box packaging for the product, decorated beautifully with art by Yuumei along with a diagram of the Cat Ear Headphones on the back. In this box was the headphones contained inside a protective carry case, along with the manual and a postcard sized artwork by Yuumei. In the carry case we have the car ear headphones, along with three bundled cables, which is the 4-foot detachable headphone cable, USB recharging cable, and the detachable gaming mic. The carry case is something I did not expect, as it is bulky but will definitely protect the headphones during travel without crushing it, which I definitely don’t mind at all.

Now for the review of the actual product, the Axent Wear/Brookstone Cat Ear Headphones. While at the moment I’ve had it on my head for only about a couple hours, I’d like to make a first impression kind of review, and further down the line, give a review of the product after using it for a while. Let’s Review!


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11/19/2015

Mechanics

Out of the box, the headphones are partially charged, so you can turn on the LED lights on it immediately to check out the main appeal. All the lights on mine work. Next was to listen to the sound quality of both the earphones and speakers. I grabbed my iPod Touch, plugged in the headphone cable from iPod to headphone, and hit the play button. First thing I noticed, the music from the headphone was clear but average. Sound quality wise, it’s a bit worse than my $20 Sony MDR-ZX100 headphones. The main issue is that the bass is not as deep as I’d like it to be. Switching on the Bass Booster on the EQ on my iPod makes it sound almost identical to the sound I’m used to, but I wish that the bass was stronger without having to boost it. The music from the cat speakers is decent for what you’d expect from cheap on-the-go speakers for any mp3 player. The volume can be turned up quite a bit, but first off let me talk about turning it on. Switching the cat speakers on is as simple as a single button press, but when I tried to turn it on, it at first appeared to not do anything. On the headphones there are four buttons, one for switching on the LED lights, one for turning the cat speakers on, and the other two are volume control. The volume control buttons on the headphone itself controls the volume of the speakers, not the device playing the music. The confusion comes from pressing the speaker on button which at first looks like nothing happens. However, the speaker is indeed on, just at its lowest volume level. Pressing the “+” volume up button will get you the sound from the speakers. Once you turn off the speakers and turn it on again, it always starts off at it lowest volume level, so bear that in mind before you think your cat speakers are broken.

Look and Feel

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The build of the headphones is sturdy, and the details on it is high quality. Smoother and stylish, it sports the Axent Wear logo on the left and right side above the headphone extension area, along with “Axent Wear” proudly engraved into the cushion that is in between the wearer and the arch of the headphone. The buttons and recharging port are located on the right earphone, with the headphone cable and boom mic plugs on the left earphone. The material used for the cushion for the ears and head is probably foam with a leather covering, with the foam being quite firm, not too much but just fine. The cat speakers look nice, both lighted and non-lighted. As a whole, its looks pretty awesome, especially in the dark. Walking around a big room with mirrors around with the cat ear headphone lights on, it’s a cool new experience for me. I even danced around a little, with my face silhouetted by it, I looked as if I was in a commercial for it. My only concern with the aesthetics of my pair was that there was a single scratch already on the product when I opened the carry case for the first time. Not too major but worth noting.

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Naturally, because of its relatively bulky design, it does have some weight to it when worn, but it is surprisingly comfortable. The headphone’s over-the-ear cushioning fits over my own ears perfectly, instead of my Sony headphones which compresses my ears which is uncomfortable after a while. Because of it’s over-the-ear design, it also has some noise canceling which I haven’t tested too much of yet. The top of the headphones slides a little on my head if I tilt my head too much downward, but it’s to be expected due to the weight of the cat speakers on top. I can probably see that I would have a problem with the included 4-foot headphone cable, as I do like to have some space to move around without being tied down to a computer. At least I can swap it out for any other male-to-male 3.5mm cable, which I tested and works.

Overall and Future Tests

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So far I’ve had and used these headphones for only a couple hours at least, and in my opinion are very good so far. I have not tested the noise canceling, nor have I used the detachable gaming boom mic. I also have not tried charging it yet or had enough time with it to see how long a full charge lasts. The quality of those features will be noted over time and usage of this product. One question I have with the product: Does the headphones need to use power in order for it to work solely as headphones? Normal ones do not need power, so I’m assuming power is only needed for the lights and speakers. I have noticed a staggering amount of negative feedback about other peoples’ received Cat Ear Headphones, but so far my experience has been positive. I’m hoping that the quality this product has visually will also carry on in its endurance in normal usage situations.  I will update this post when I feel something worth noting comes up, or in about six months or so from now, or both.


If you have this product, I’d like to hear your opinion about it. Leave a comment and I’ll respond to whatever questions or comments you have.

Future Projects, from Inspiration July 18, 2011

Posted by coolmikeol in Other/TO.com news.
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Ocean Beach Sunset

This post is going to be a little bit different than most of my other ones. Ever since I went to Anime Expo in LA this year, I’ve been inspired to try working on new projects and learning new skills for “personal development”. This comes from meeting many new people and comrades at Anime Expo, who in my eyes are very inspirational to me as they have achieved much solely by working hard from the ground up. Since my interests and past projects are similar to those of people I’ve met, I’ve decided to work past the “comfort zone” that I didn’t realize that I was in, even though I knew it was a bad thing to be in.

Now, I bet you’re wondering what projects and skills I’ve been mentioning that I was going to work on. Those skills that I want to work on during my spare time include photo/video editing, photography skills, and blogging and networking. I don’t want to just keep myself within those limits though, so I want to keep an open mind to new skills that interest me, as I think of myself as a “jack of all trades” kind of person. When I look back a few years ago, before I had thought of what I wanted to do for the future, I was already doing a little bit of blogging, video editing, and photography, but just for fun and I didn’t have any plans to expand on those skills as I never thought of those kinds of jobs/hobbies as a future thing for me (back when I lived for the present and never thought of the future). But now, after meeting people who have made a name for themselves doing what they like doing, I feel that I can maybe grasp something for myself for my future from personal development of skills I want to work on.

Something leads to something. Nothing leads to nothing. – Danny Choo

I’ve started already thinking about what new things I’ll be doing for at least the next six months or so, but they’re still in the developmental stages of planning. I’ll elaborate on each one:

Photography/Videography

I’ve been taking photos of anything and everything interesting since I got my first digital camera back in late 2007, but I’ve never really expanded on skills or equipment. My first digital camera was a Kodak  EasyShare M753, but it’s an extremely basic digital camera with 7.0 mega pixels. It worked fine for a while, but one day while charging the battery after letting it drain (which is done through the camera), it never turned on again. I don’t have a clue why my DC broke, but it was a good time to upgrade. My next and current DC is a Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS with 8.0 mega pixels. While it is good point and shoot DC in general, there are a few drawbacks that it has that prevents me from taking better photos. It does horrible in low light settings, does not have a wide enough view for wide angle shots, it has some problem where max zoom photos has lines streaking across the photo (though I don’t think that it is a original problem with the camera but a problem that came up with age and usage of the camera), and overall bad lighting adjustment such that when pointed at bright objects, everything else becomes dark. I know that these limitations are to be expected with a basic DC, but I’m just mentioning the aspects that keep my photos at a amateur level (though I’m not planning to go pro either).

Besides the bad aspects of my current DC, there are its good ones as well. Easy to use and nice quality of photos/video make it ideal for casual use. Another great thing about my DC is it’s features such as color swap, macro mode, etc. One of the features that it has for it’s video function, time lapse, is one that I’ll be using for a new future project that I want to try. Ever since seeing a several time lapse videos online, and knowing that my camera has a time lapse feature, I decided that I want to see if I can make time lapse videos too. The idea for making time lapse videos came before Anime Expo though, but I lost focus on that project after some time lapse tests. My time at Anime Expo has inspired me to reboot my time lapse video project, as an experimentation of what I can produce.

For my first time lapse project, I plan to do a short time lapse video that shows various places throughout the west side of San Francisco which is my around my own area. It will be a test of sorts, but I’m confident that I’ll be able to make a decent time lapse video showing my area of San Francisco. I won’t say exactly where I’ll be shooting the time lapse videos, but so far I have several places already in mind to go to and shoot. Time and weather conditions will be the deciding factors when I’ll do it though. I think it may take a few months to have my first time lapse video completed. As this is a side project of mine, I’ll probably release it in early 2012, which is around the same time as when I predict that I’ll run out of ideas for my PMS video series (hopefully not!).

After Anime Expo and meeting some new comrades, I really want to start expanding on my video editing skills. My skills are limited mainly by technological limitations. My current hardware and software for video editing is a (now bugged up) HP laptop from 2007 and WMM. It’s a sad reality that my laptop cannot handle high CPU programs without having extreme slowdown or freeze ups which cause major problems in working with many video files at the same time. I’ve been waiting for a while now, saving up money for the day that I’ll be able to get a new laptop so that I can finally work with bigger, better video editing software like from Adobe and Sony. I learn fairly fast just by playing around with new unfamiliar things, so I don’t think that learning how to use the programs will be that much trouble. I plan to get a new laptop early next year.

For a while, I’ve just been taking pictures without any real skill. It was just a casual thing for me to do. I never considered to learn to improve my photography skills… until now. Even though I have a basic camera, that won’t stop me from learning about how to utilize camera angle shots and other skills from the very resourceful google-sensei Danny Choo mentioned. Since causal photography is something I enjoy, why not expand on it? I want to improve my skills for myself and for others who checks out my photos on my Flickr. Besides improvement on photo taking, I will also look into photo enhancement programs in order to create better visual effects and fix photo problems. I originally wanted to avoid using any kind of photo editing software, as I wanted to keep my photos as natural as possible, a kind of pure sense of photography I had in my mind. But while watching a presentation at Anime Expo in the exhibit hall advertising a program called Topaz Labs, I feel that if  I invested in something like that, it would help me take a step forward to give my photos much more flare than what they are left alone.

While blogging doesn’t really require any skill at all (anyone can blog), there are a couple of things I’d like to improve on, such as like updating my blog/posting blogs on a regular basis and changing up the design of how my site looks. The updating part is not hard, but a bit time consuming. What really gets in the way though is my laziness to do so sometimes. I know that it’s no one else’s problem but my own when it comes to me being lazy, and I’ll try my best at working against my laziness, like people say, “Your worst enemy is yourself.” As for the design for my site, there is not much I can really do as it is a template of WordPress’s, but I can still change up the banner and background. I won’t have decent ones until I get better programs to create them, so I’ll just use what I got for now (Microsoft Paint) to keep my site fresh until I get a new laptop and some new software early next year.

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Most of my future projects mentioned above I won’t be able to start on right away, as money is the big obstacle that separates me from moving forward. That means that I’ll just have to keep looking for a part time job to save money (hard to find in this economy) and focus on my college studies. I’ll also look into learning a few things from Google-sensei from time to time when I have the time to do so. This time next year I hope to be at a whole new level in terms of skills and such, and to show the results when I return to various cons next year like FanimeCon and Anime Expo.