San Francisco 2013 diary: Day 3

Tuesday 5 February, 2013. 15:27

It’s coffee break time at the conference. I let myself sleep in this morning to get over the tiredness, and didn’t get up until 09:30. I missed a few talks, but I needed the sleep. I showered and had breakfast of two blueberry bagels and an apple. The bagels were good, but apple wasn’t as crisp and juicy as Granny Smiths back home. Then I went down to the meeting rooms for the rest of the morning’s conference talks. I attended some on 3D conversion of video and heard some stats which seem to indicate consumer 3D is here to stay. One paper was about the psychology of 3D, and whether people are more engaged in 3D than 2D, whether they enjoy it more, and whether “facts” presented in 3D content are more convincing than in 2D content. The results were interesting: based on objective measures of psychological engagement, viewers do find 3D more engaging, however viewers don’t find 3D any more persuasive about “facts”. And on the enjoyment side, people enjoy 3D sports and video games more than 2D, but showed no significant preference for movie content in 3D over 2D.

3D driving
3D video games demo.

Another talk was about depth grading, which is a similar process to colour grading in video production, but related to the placement of objects of interest in a video graphic scene within the 3D depth space of the viewer. The depths need to be adjusted so they are consistent between successive shots and objects of interest don’t jump in depth between shots, to avoid eye fatigue.

Between sessions I looked at some of the technical displays in the lobby area, which included one by FlightLine, a company with dedicated hardware for filming aerospace material. The have a truck parked outside my hotel room window, with high end video gear mounted on a pan-tilt turntable on the back, for tracking planes in flight. In the lobby inside the hotel they had two guys with some of the more portable hardware, including some of the camera packages that flew with Felix Baumgartner on his record skydive. The control and memory module was barrel sized and designed to withstand 10 Gs, and the guy said it was packed with dry ice to keep it cool. Then there was a camera housing with a Red video camera mounted with a Canon EF-S 10-22mm lens, a 5D Mark II with a 15mm fisheye lens, and a small live feed video camera. It has a massive heat radiator built in to get rid of heat, which is a big issue for high altitude where there isn’t enough air to carry away heat by convection. The were showing videos of the jump, and also some shots of the last Space Shuttle launch, which they filmed from their truck in HD video and shortwave infrared. I went outside to the truck and got to climb inside to see the control panels for all the gear. They had the cameras working, but there was nothing to see from where they were parked except the hotel building across the road.

Flightline rep with the actual camera gear that flew and recorded Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking free-fall jump.

For lunch I walked down to Burlingame again and tried the other Mediterranean restaurant across the road from where I ate yesterday. This one had chicken kebab tacos on the menu, and the sounded good, so I tried those. They turned to to be really good, on soft tortillas, with a really spicy sauce to add on top. After that I went back to the candy store and got a cup of burgundy cherry ice cream to eat while walking back to the hotel. It was delicious – very much like Cherry Garcia only without the chocolate bits.


The afternoon conference sessions went fairly uneventfully. After they finished at 17:00, I returned to my room and prepared for an evening out taking photos. I’d arranged to meet Lisa, who lives locally, at 17:30, and she would take me out to a few good spots to take night time photos around San Francisco. She arrived on time with her own camera gear and just before we left I showed her the Felix Baumgartner camera gear that was still set up in the conference area, which she thought was really cool.

We left and she drove us in her Mini to Sutro Baths, an old abandoned and decaying ocean bath complex near the Cliff House on the Pacific side of the peninsula. The sun had gone down by the time we got there, but there was still some light and colour in the sky. We got some photos, walking down the steps to the baths from the car park. It was dark down there and Lisa discovered she didn’t have the torch she thought she was carrying in her camera bag, so we climbed back up again just before it got too dark to see. I think we got some good shots though. It was very cold down there and my hands were freezing as we got back in the car.

36/365 Sutro Sunset
Sunset at Sutro Baths.

Next we went up to Twin Peaks for a panoramic view over the city. Unfortunately, the good old San Francisco fog foiled that plan, as it sat shrouding the top of the hill so that we could barely even see where Market Street began, and it was just featureless grey where the city proper was. Further down we saw good views from the flanks of the hill, but there was nowhere good to stop for photos.

Undaunted, we continued on to a place called The Front Porch for dinner. It was just off Mission Street on 29th Street, and did southern US cuisine. We had to search a while for a parking spot and got eventually one a couple of blocks away. Lisa recommended the fried okra and the fried chicken, so we ended up getting those, plus a starter of bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat’s cheese. The chicken came with mash and gravy, collard greens, and a few pieces of popcorn, which Lisa shrugged at and said she didn’t understand the significance of. There was also small pieces of complimentary cornbread, which was nice. Everything was really good, the fried chicken in particular being delicious. I also tried a glass of Napa Valley Chardonnay, which was good.

Bay Bridge at night
San Francisco and Bay Bridge at night.

After eating, we drove out to Treasure Island for the view across the Bay to the city lights and the Bay Bridge. We stopped and set up our tripods for city shots, then moved to a nearby illuminated giant wire sculpture (titled Bliss Dancer) of a woman which looked really cool with the city lights behind it. As we took photos, a van pulled up and some sort of security guy sat watching us. He stayed watching us for a while, but never got out of the van. We ignored him and continued shooting photos until we were read to go.

Dancing on Treasure Island
Bliss Dancer sculpture on Treasure Island.

Lisa then drove me back to my hotel. She will try to organise Casey and Mary and Andy for our intended group dinner on Thursday, so I have to hope she can wrangle them into showing up! Also, while we were walking from the car to the restaurant, Gian-Paolo called, and I got to speak to him. Unfortunately he couldn’t make it for the dinner and is leaving town tomorrow morning, so I won’t get to meet him on this trip.

Now back at the hotel, I’m about to turn in for an earlier start tomorrow.

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