Posts Tagged ‘idea’

Retro Digital Photography

Thursday, 23 September, 2010

I was discussing photography with friends at lunch today, specifically this article about attaching a 102-year-old movie camera lens to a Canon 5D Mark II digital SLR. The sample photos on there are very cool looking.

We talked about the trend for photographer to try to emulate the look and feel of old-time film photography. You can of course create some of the old-time photo effects on a digital image with Photoshop. Some people actually go out now and buy cheap and crappy film cameras and take photos with them, and scan them in to share online. That’s cool and good and all. But we pondered reproducing the experience of film photography with a digital camera.

Consider a Canon 5D Mark II. If you shoot in RAW mode (as I do with mine), each image file is about 20 megabytes. You find you need multi-gigabyte memory cards to hold a decent number of photos. But maybe you have an old 512 MB card lying around from an earlier camera. That will hold… 25 photos, give or take a couple depending on what you’re shooting and the file compression ratios. A common number of exposures on a roll of film was 24 (and you could usually squeeze a 25th shot in).

And so was born the idea. Take your fancy-shmancy digital camera and a memory card just big enough to hold roughly 24 photos. Go out shooting, without any other memory cards. Do not delete any shots you take until you get home. Post all the shots from your “roll of film” to your photo sharing site.

This puts you into the mindset of film photography. You only have 24 shots, and you better try to make each one count.

And then we went a step further. For a real challenge, find a 32 MB card (or appropriate size for your camera), which will hold only one photo (in RAW format). Go out shooting without any other memory cards. This time, you’re allowed to delete any photos you take. But you only get to come home with one shot. If you think you can improve on the shot on your card, you can erase it and take another photo. if you think you’ve got the best shot of the day, keep it until you go home.

If you try either of these ideas, please point me at the results.

100 ideas in 100 days

Wednesday, 28 April, 2010

I’ve said before that not everyone can make a webcomic. Oh, plenty of people say they could make one if they wanted to. They say they’ve got loads of ideas, and all they have to do is put them together and post them. Only they don’t actually put them together and post them. Because that’s the hard part – actually doing the work. Coming up with the ideas is the easy bit.

This is not to denigrate the generation of ideas. That can be tricky if you’re not used to how your own creative juices flow and to capturing those fleeting thoughts we all have dozens of times a day. There is a skill involved in that. But the point is that if you’re tuned in to your idea generation engine (i.e. your imagination), then you can generate lots of ideas pretty easily.

Olaf Solstrand is in the middle of posting 100 ideas in 100 days on his blog. Not any old ideas. Ideas for webcomics. A hundred different ideas for webcomics. Some of them are so good that I want to run out and do them. Except I don’t have the time.

If you’re sitting there thinking you could do a webcomic, grab one of Olaf’s ideas and run with it. No, seriously. I’d like to see some of those turned into comics. There are ideas in abundance. What we lack is the time and resources needed to make them into finished products.

This is the lament of creative people.

Vetting Ideas

Sunday, 25 April, 2010

At my work recently we had a staff competition to design creative new features for digital cameras. I briefly thought of entering, but didn’t in the end. This resulted in me being approached to act as one of the judges (of five).

The judging process was interesting. One overriding criterion was that the ideas had to be novel. We work for Canon, an electronic imaging company, so the competition was strongly aligned to our corporate strength, and the goal was to encourage new ideas that could potentially be converted into real, new products. So the novelty criterion was primary. Anything that other camera companies had done was out. Anything that someone had patented already was out. Anything that had been described in a scientific paper, or advertising, or even on someone’s blog, was out. The ideas had to be something that, as far as we could discover, nobody had ever presented before.

Once we’d eliminated anything that we could find prior presentations for, we had to decide the ranking of ideas in order of various creativity and practicality criteria. And this is where the arguments started. (Well, there was no shouting or anything, it was more like spirited discussion. The whole judging process was handled well by all involved.) The disagreements centred on whether people thought certain ideas were “cool” or “I’d never use that feature” or “this would actually be annoying if my camera did this”.

There were a couple of ideas that two of the judges thought were really creative and clever and that people would love, but which other judges just thought were ridiculous and that nobody would ever want such a feature on a camera. The point here, as we more or less agreed after some discussion, was that the market for cameras is huge, and is extremely diverse. What a serious amateur wants on a camera to take artistic photos is very different from what a teenager wants on a camera to take snapshots to post on Facebook. One idea in particular, a couple of judges were naysaying, claiming that such a feature would just annoy the user and nobody would ever buy a camera with that on it. I and another judge countered that teenagers and kids would positively love it, and would actively seek such cameras.

Bringing this back to my topic, in general ideas aren’t universally good or bad. Just because someone doesn’t like your idea doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. People like finding faults in things, they like deconstructing them and picking all the bits that don’t appeal to them. This is not to say that your idea is brilliant – it might actually be a bad idea – but just that you shouldn’t dismiss it on the opinion of one person. There may well be an audience out there for it somewhere. If you think it’s worth pursuing, then that’s one person who appreciates it. And where there’s one, there can be more.

Fighting robots

Friday, 12 March, 2010

I do semi-regular Magic: The Gathering draft tournaments with friends. For anyone who doesn’t know, this involves getting packs of randomly sorted game cards and the drafting them, usually in the following fashion:

  1. Each player opens a pack of 15 cards and picks one card to keep and play the tournament with. The remaining cards are passed to the next player around the table (to the left, initially).
  2. Continue picking one card and passing the rest until everyone has 15 cards.
  3. Repeat for two more packs of cards, reversing the direction of passing each pack.
  4. Each player now has 45 cards, with which to construct a deck to play in the tournament. You typically use about 23 of the cards and add enough basic land cards from a common pool to total a deck size of 40.

So obviously choosing which cards to draft is an important tactical part of the overall tournament performance. It’s also a lot of fun in itself.

One of us had the idea to write a computer code framework to handle the administrative details, with an API that allows it to talk to other programs. Then each of us would write a program to make drafting decisions based on card details given to the program by the framework. We’d abstract a lot of the fiddly details out of the actual Magic cards and work with a much simpler system that basically gives certain card combinations scores based on properties of the cards. Then we’d run about 1000 drafts using the programs and analyse the statistics. The goal is to see which of our programs can draft a “better” deck in this system.

This was proposed to us in an e-mail, suggesting we might want to do this for something fun. The e-mail concluded with the following lines:

* Creating robots to fight each other is always fun.

* Complete waste of time.

I thought this was amusing… but also slightly inaccurate. After all, something this unutterably geeky should be a complete waste of time in order to be worth doing!

Anyway, since the proposal was made – less than 24 hours ago as I type – one of us has already written a framework program to enable this AI robot card drafting tournament. You can’t keep a good geek down! If we get some interesting results, I’ll be sure to share them.