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Journal: Graduation

Journal by tentac1e
Shoudl have mentioned this earlier, but in honor of graduation in less than 12 hours, I'll mention it now.

I have a new website. It will be the new home of my journal. Enjoy.

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Journal: Much delayed update

Journal by tentac1e
This post was actually written April 21st, but I haven't gotten around to finishing it until now. I'm going to add yet another post to cover the last two weeks at some point in the near future...

Lots has happened.

New Voices went off well. There were hitches. Grief went as I envisioned it.

You're Never Alone was enjoyed by the audience. It was a one joke monologue... with lots of little jokes. It's not something I'm ashamed of, but I don't consider it award worthy.

I was extremely pleased with the execution of Entropy. I think it was loaded with enough little things that make it impossible to nail in a 4 week span of rehearsals, but I think it came out outstanding. In fact, I think it's one of the few things I've written where, if someone didn't like it, I would know they're incorrect in their viewpoint.

I heard from Paul all my 1/6 credit classes are gonna be taken care of, so it looks like I'll be graduating with my humanities degree.

This week is pure hell for me. Tuesday was project presentations, today was my ISP meeting, tomorrow is the movie, and Friday is the GI/Empty Set show.

It sucks New Voices syphoned all our time away for Empty Set. We had to go into rush mode to complete the half-hour worth of material we had.

One night, at rehearsal, I was extremely pleased when I noticed that there are virtually no "straight man" sketches. Someone asked at rehearsal what that was, and the best definition I could give was...

One character is normal, the other is crazy. The Crazy guy does crazy things, and the normal guy goes, "You can't do that!" This escalates: the crazy guy gets crazier, the normal guy gets more and more frustrated. And so on.

Sometimes you need a straight man, to act as an anchor while insanity occurs. What's hack is when there's nothing but the straight man relationship to the scene. It's the sketch comedy equivalent of monologues-about-your-ex-girlfriend.

I've written straight man sketches. "Pranks," is a straight man sketch. Actually, it's about three straight-men who realize their friend has been doing something abnormal. The only thing going for it was that it's short and cuts to the point.

"TA" is another straight man sketch. Bunch of kids in a classroom have to react to their wacky TA. Slightly less straight man-ish than pranks; the TA doesn't get more and more absurd, and the students accept rather than try to change the TA. Big difference.

The first beat of Entropy (which began as Blind Date, for The Tribe) isn't really a straight man sketch, though. But there is a straight man. The main character is nervous, while the other one is wacky, but the two of them get along, and consequently the scene progresses.

Again, this comes down to character and relationship. We laugh because we empathize with the scene. The cerebral approach says "We need a joke here. What's funny?" In the process, we lose the characters and the momentum behind the scene. We cash in for the laugh, when much greater laughs are available to those who put effort into the actual sketch.

In improv, selling out your scene for a laugh will, 9 times out of 10, destroy your work. Once you've sold out, your scene has no legs to stand on. Or, the only direction to take your scene is the hackneyed scene we've watched a billion times before, and probably ten times better.

Think of the limitless potential of the empty page. Until you write your first words down, there are an infinite number of things that can be written. The first words you put down cuts that number down. With each word you add, the possible directions the scene can go will diminish, until there is only one path available, like in a game of "go." The fastest way to kill paths is to sell out your scene.

Update
The Empty Set show was an outstanding success. I'm very pleased with the material produced, especially in only one-half a school year of existence. I look forward to seeing what the future holds.

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Journal: Umass

Journal by tentac1e
Entertaining weekend all around

Friday, went to Umass to watch the shows. Arrived at half hour late. It was interesting because the professional Chicago troupe, Bossley, was doing a very entertaining set, yet the audience was relatively passive. The audience Friday was, overall, pretty dead.

Went back to Worcester that night, and woke up at 8:45 the next morning to drive Adam to Umass. The first workshop was slated to start at 11, but it turns out they were moved to 1. So, we hung out with Zach from Toast until people showed up.

The workshops were productive, albiet they covered a lot I'd already heard through class at IB. Despite this, you always pick up something new when you attend a workshop, if only from playing with people you've never played with before.

That night, me and Adam stressed over Sarah and Dan and Travis not being there... the people in charge were cool enough to shuffle the schedule around, and thankfully our guys arrived a half hour before we had to go on. The Empty Set performance was pretty good, and the GI performance went very well. For GI, we decided to do our improvised musical. We were dumb, and didn't tell the lighting people to flash the light when we had 5 minutes left. Consequently, our story got cut at a half hour. Still, the audience really liked it.

Nifty party afterwards. I'll leave it at that.

Sunday, I slept in. I watched 24 on TiVo in Natick. I checked my mail there, and it turns out I'm going to be going to Vassar for the Powerhouse Theatre Apprenticeship! Woo hoo!

That night, I worked a lot on my ISP, and then got an e-mail about being able to see my lighting setup for A Slice of Grief. I stopped by Alden at about 2 a.m., and worked until 3 perfecting the lighting. I think... it's really kickass. Really.

I got back to working on my Graphics ISP, and finished up creating a Tornado using particle expressions and sprites. Lots of fun.

Tonight is tech for Grief. This week is New Voices. SEE IT!

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Journal: Procrastinate

Journal by tentac1e
It's Sunday. Tomorrow I have my meeting for my graphics independent study. It's coming along well.

Friday was the GI reunion show. Ton of performers. Ok sized audience.

The show itself served its purpose, that being a nostalgic night with old people. Improv-wise, the show was absolutely wretched; if I was a stranger who paid to watch it, I'd have asked for my money back. But the show wasn't about the show, it was about the reunion.

Yesterday I got up at 7 to drive my dad to the airport. Went back, slept until 11, and went to class at ImprovBoston. Very productive class. Covered some Annoyance stuff, and we played a lot. After, I came back to Worcester for the Two Graves runthrough, edited more footage for the movie, and went to Jake's party.

Waking up at noon this morning, I lost an hour of the day to Daylight Savings. Rehearsal for A Slice of Grief ran from 1 to 3. From 3 to 4:30, I had Two Graves rehearsal. From 5 to 6:40, I worked on the movie. From 7 to 9, Empty Set rehearsal.

I sit here now working on my Graphics ISP.

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Journal: Film Like

Journal by tentac1e
Adam has been handed a cut of the movie, so he should currently be in the process of scoring it. Right now I'm taking the video and running it through a post process to make it look film-like.

Television is 30 interlaced frames per second. That means every other line is drawn on the screen, 60 times per second. It's complicated. What's important is that movies are 24 frames per second (and it isn't interlaced).

Another interesting facet of television is that video camera suck. Even though I have a very nice camera, it still looks like video. Why? Well, film has a very different response to light, when compared with what's captured in a CCD (the thing that captures light and converts it to an electronic signal).

To solve these issues, I'm running my film through "magic bullet," a suite of plugins for After Effects that handles these issues... or at least combats them.

First, I export segments of my movie from Adobe Premiere as an AVI. I say segments because I want individual control over each section, rather than run one giant filter over everything. The down part is, I have to do this piece by piece to the movie.

Once I've got the clip into After Effects, I run the Magic Bullet plugin on the footage. It deinterlaces the footage, so now I have solid frames just like captured in a movie. "But isn't it going to be interlaced when you put it back on video?" We'll get to that later. First, though, i want to treat the footage like it's full frames. The de-interlacer does a wonderful job, unlike the de-interlacer hacks that are included in most editing applications.

Next, I run the "looks" plugin from the Magic Bullet Suite. This messes with the color to give it the sharp contrasts you expect from film. It has lots of presets, to mimic different film styles. Very dangerous though, because there's presets for a "Saving Private Ryan" type look... there's nothing more embarassing than overusing a new toy.

Once I've applied the filmlook, I can use the letterboxing plugin to chop off the top and bottom. Yeah, you can do it yourself, but it's nice they made a plugin to automate the process.

Finally, with all this color tweaking, they have a "broadcast-safe" plugin. If you try displaying unsupported colors on a television, the results can look crappy. The plugin finds the offensive colors and tweaks them. very sweet.

So, now I've got 24 frame per second video that has a very filmy look. The final step: I tell After Effects to render back out interlaced. The key is, I run it through the same process that they run movie footage through to put it on television. It's called 3:2 pulldown. All you need to know is... it tweaks the order frames are displayed. If you're observant, you'll notice 24 fps footage has a weird look when put on television. After years of watching it, our minds associate this artifacting with "movie." Score!

The down part of this is how slow it processes. You're looking at an hour a minute of rendering. That's not counting the time it takes to tweak your settings. With the screening coming up April 22nd, and New Voices sucking my life out the week before, I need to get on this ASAP or I won't make its deadline.

Well, back to studying my .NET ISP while the footage renders.

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Journal: In Your Head

Journal by tentac1e
Being in your head, the act of thinking rather than paying attention and reacting on stage, is the bane to any performer. Here are some signs that you're either in your head or about to be.

"I think I'm in my head!"
"I've got to get out of my head!"
"I've got to be funny!"
"He's got to be funnier."
"Why the hell did he do something so stupid?"
"This isn't working."
"It'll work this time!"
"Oh my god I should have been paying attention!"
"He wasn't paying attention!"
"Better late than never."
"Ouch."
"He's so much better than me."
"I'm so much better than him."
"This is gonna get me laid."
"I've been doing that too much. I'll try this instead."
"I'm out of my head! That means I can keep talking and everything is brilliant!"
"What's the next line... uh..."
Not having lines memorized will also get the job done.

The last few days I think my character work has been mediocre. I think it's time I switched up my approach. I'm thinking way too much about the characters rather than playing them and seeing what happens. Oh well. Phases.

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Journal: Plateau is nearing its end

Journal by tentac1e
I think I'm on the verge for my next improv growth.

Last night I posted to Yes And's message board, asking what to do if my partner gives a lot of exposition. I wanted to know if it's alright to say "Why did you just ask that?" My worry was, it's a cheap way of not making it about the thing they expositioned about.

Tonight, Adam asked me to lead warmups since he'd be late. I did, along with some Annoyance exercises I got from the Mick Napier book. They were designed to get people out of their head.

When I began getting people out of their heads, I ran with it. I started doing character exercises, now that people were out of their heads. I began doing 3 line scenes, with people out of their heads. It was fun!

When Adam got in, we started going specific exercises. People snapped back into their heads. Suddenly, the rhythm of speech went from "Ping Pong Ping Pong" to "Ping... Pong?... Ping?... Pong?" I didn't notice this until after reading the Annoyance book. It makes perfect sense now.

Tonight I checked the replies to my thread. What made most sense came from JillyBee, an improv board guru. Don't worry about your partner. It's that simple. I asked what I response with. She said exactly what I knew but was afraid to come to grips with due to its simplicity: bring it back to the relationship.

I'm overcomplicating things. I think there's a perfect response I can do in a situation. The worst response I can do is hope for the best response. Whatever I do, I must assume it is best. That is the basis of strength and empowerment in improv.

I was about to write a bunch of "don't"s. Don't think ahead. Don't worry. Don't judge the scene. Don't hestitate. I've said before, you can't do a "don't."

Live in the moment. Act and React. I've said this before. Truth is, I think I'm starting to believe it.

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Journal: IA

Journal by tentac1e
Last night, finally went to see ImprovAsylum with Craig. I hadn't seen a show until last night, and could only judge its quality based on its buzz and training program graduates (both of which, positive).

Parking was insane. We missed the 8 pm show, because we didn't get near the North end until 7:30. We ended up driving an hour until we found a parking lot that was relatively cheap. We walked around, hit a pastry shop, and bought tickets for the 10 pm show. $20. Not terrible, given the location in Boston and the quality of the theatre.

Turns out, Tim Paul (whom I've had the pleasure to perform with in the past) is now a mainstage member of IA. I noticed this when looking at the list of the new cast in the lobby, then ran into him before the show in the lobby. Huzzah!

The show itself consists of 50% sketch, 50% impov. It was all shortform games. The sketches were themed around Massachusetts. There was an intermission halfway through, so the show ran a total of an hour and a half.

I think it would be very easy to find excuses to insult IA, because it's commercially successful. That's the way it is in life. Everyone's looking to be a victim, and the success of people who don't deserve to be successful is a wonderul means to derive victimhood.

Coming from an improv point-of-view, I'm not terribly entertained by shortform. Despite this, I was entertained by the show. The scenework was solid. The performers were confident and organized. It was professional from beginning to end. I completely understand why it is a commercial success.

Given the choice between IA and IB mainstage, I'd enjoy IB mainstage more. IA is easier for an audience who expects "Whose Line" style games. IB expects the audience to come along on something it may have never seen before. Still, IA deserves credit for performing the incredibly difficult task of doing games well.

Today, 4 to 6 is "Yes And Practice Group." 7 to 9 is Empty Set rehearsal. 9 until I sleep, I'm working on my Graphics ISP.

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Journal: The Final Term Begins

Journal by tentac1e
Tuesday was the beginning of the term. I'm doing an ISP (independent study for non-WPI'ers) with Professor Agu on the .Net architecture.

Originally, I was going to take Data Mining with professor Ruiz. I didn't particularly like AI, and the first day of class reminded me I probably wouldn't like Data Mining. Now, I'm taking an ISP with Professor Ward on Graphics Scripting (in MEL, Maya Embedded Language).

I'm also taking environmental bio. It looks like it'll be a relatively easy bio course, which is good since I don't do well in non-CS courses. As a matter of fact, if I pass both my ISPs, I'll have never failed a single CS course at WPI.

Just now I signed up for a bowling PE class. With that and "Intro to Golf/table tennis/tennis" I'll be taking PE classes 4 days a week. Not strenuous ones, but at least I'll be getting physically active again.

Monday, Tuesday, and Today are New Voices auditions. Tonight's will probably be most packed, since yesterday (and somewhat today) it was snowing. Unfortunately, it just so happens to fall when I'm supposed to be performing at the IB Hump Night show. I feel terrible not making it, but Craig was absolutely awesome and volunteered to give all the GI members who needed a ride a ride. Before he did that, all Worcester GI people were screwed. Now at least we can have a show.

I'm looking into The Gnomon School for training Post-WPI, and it's looker better by the minute. If I enroll in the Fall session, over summer I'll be able to attend the Powerhouse apprenticeship, participate with The Tribe, and maybe get a contracted gig in the mean time. Plus, in Hollywood, I can get involved with The Groundlings. Absolute best of all worlds.

In 20 minutes I've got Empty Set rehearsal. We've got a show Tuesday at ImprovBoston, so we need to generate some new material.

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Journal: Youth is a Commodity

Journal by tentac1e
March break is almost over. Spent some time relaxing. Spent time watching tutorial videos. All in all, I think it was well spent, but still I feel like I fiddled it away.

Today was my class at IB. I was 5 minutes late due to a backed-up tollbooth, so I miseed the warmup. Normally I'm skeptical of warmups, but I think it would have helped today. I wasn't as comitted as I could have been. Still, I learned, and it was productive.

Afters, a few of us (including our teacher, Steve) went to the S&S to have a bite. I had a Monte Cristo. Very good.

Steve spent 10 years in Chicago. He explains it was in the awkward period when improv in Chicago sucked. I mentioned my plan to move to Chicago. He was saying that if I plan to do video/film stuff, LA is the place to go. Based on his friends that hit Chicago and then LA, they wish they did LA first. Youth is a commodity.

If you're a woman, don't even try to go to LA after 30. If you're a man, it's not quiet as bad, and if you're a character actor it almost doesn't matter. Still, if you're going to do it, do it young. Youth is a commodity.

So, now it's down to "LA or Chicago." The big advantage of Chicago is the improv. In LA, there's the movie and film connection, plus The Gnomon School of Visual Effects. Of course, it's very difficult to get a job in visual effect, but it's absolutely dependable when compared to writing/improv/directing/acting.

Life is complicated. T-minus 7 weeks.

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Journal: Break

Journal by tentac1e
Handed in my MQP friday. The term is over. One term to go. In theory.

Today was the start of my Level III class at ImprovBoston. I'm pretty exited. Not just over the content, but also the people. Based on today's work, they seem to be fun to play with. Fun people make improv fun. Unfun people make the most technically proficient improv abhorant.

Tonight I'm watching Shake training videos. Shake is the standard in compositing in major Hollywood productions. Based on what I've seen so far, I can see why.

Tomorrow I might play at the "Yes And Practice Group," and then hit IB to see/play in the Sunday night jam.

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Journal: Comedy Festival

Journal by tentac1e
The festival was outstanding.

The workshops run by Will Leura and Mat Gagne were great. Definately reminded me of important, important things I'd forgot.

The shows were great. Big variety of acts. Saturday was definately a personal showcase night for me. Before intermission, Empty Set went on. I called cues, and the show went off without a hitch, to a great response.

After intermission GI went out. I was a bit in my head this weekend, so I wasn't on the top of my game. I think I did a good job though, and a lot of people in GI shined. We definately got to strut our stuff to the other troupes, so it was grand fun.

After GI was immediately the Tribe. I was performing with them, which was interesting. I hadn't played with anyone in the group before, but in theory that shouldn't matter. I think, though, I was still pretty timid, so I got too into my head. Consequently, I wasn't hitting the stage as much. I'd argue that's my big hurdle right now. I need to be as confident in playing with strangers as with my friends. Still, The Tribe show was great, and I think it'll give The Tribe some big positive buzz.

After The Tribe was ImprovBoston. Yet again, they proved out outstanding they are. I can't remember how long the show was, because it just flew by. In the end, they got a standing ovation. They deserved it.

The most educational experience of the weekend was at the after-show party. Mat, Will, Elyse and Don were there. Will played some Beraute. I sat by Mat Gagne as he talked theory with people.

One important observation that I really needed to hear was the playfulness necessary for great improv. He said that college directors should not improvise while they're directing. You get into analytical mode, which screws you over. He said the reason I hit my plateau in growing is because I mistakeningly took in a bunch of theory. I need to have faith now that it's sitting in my subconcious, and I don't need to worry about it.

That was exactly what I needed to hear. I'm happy that I heard it now that my directing is over. Finally, I can work on playing again, and get out of my head, and react, and have fun. I know my shit. Now I just need to forget it.

Tonight was GI elections. Adam is new director. Spavis is new producer. Dan is SCP rep. Good results. I have faith in their abilities.

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Journal: Empty Set

Journal by tentac1e
Just got back from the Empty Set/Guerilla Improv double header. It went outstanding.

The Empty Set... set... went 30 minutes. I'm very happy that it was a high energy, well paced 30 minutes. I'm especially happy with the variety. I think it's too much to do one blackout between each sketch, but it did help this particular run.

Thinking back, I'm remembering how nervous everyone was before the show. I know everyone knew what was funny had gotten older to us, and consequently we were unconfident of what we had developed. When that first sketch took off and the group was validated by the laughs, that really brought the energy up beyond anything we had in rehearsal.

I think professionalism is having faith in the process. I think the key to greatness is having faith in yourself.

GI was extremely successful tonight, too. All our rehearsal in realistic scenework really paid off. The show proved we can do the ImprovBoston run.

Looking back at the past year, we've gone through a growth process. D-term we did our first scenework exclusive show. A-term we were able to confine ourselves to a structure. B-term we proved we could tell a story... hell, a musical. This term we prove our brilliant we are.

Now that we've reached this point, the sky's the limit for GI. It can do the standard out-there improv, it can show realistic, intelligent characters, or it can do something in between. Tonight validated my goal as director. Even if the comedy festival bombs (knock on wood), I can still retire happy.

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Journal: Marketing 1

Journal by tentac1e
I've been busy all day. A good 5 hours consisted of working on my computer architecture project. It still isn't done. It may come down to the wire, tomorrow.

In my non-coding time, I bought a new hard drive to completely my movie. It's "250" gigs. Why the cynical quotes? Because that's 250 marketing gigabytes. You see, marketing people don't count kilobytes as 1024 bytes. They round down to 1000. So my "250" gigabyte drive is actually 238 real gigabytes. The 12 gigs is lost in the world of Trick The Consumer.

If I have time tonight, I'll be able to capture a lot more footage waiting to be captured. That'd be good. It looks like my movie will come down to the wire. Do we sense a pattern?

Tomorrow, 11 to 3, I'm coding. From 3 to 6, I've got rehearsal for our improvboston run. From 7 to 9, Empty Set rehearsal. From 9 to sleep, computer architecture and scheme homework(s).

That's all.

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Journal: Progress 1

Journal by tentac1e
Well, I'm starting to take back control of my stress levels. Today I took my midterm for my Scheme class, and while it sucked, I think everyone thinks it sucked, hence I think it will be scaled.

I took a two hour nap when I got back tonight. I was wide awake for GI rehearsal, and consequently it was very productive. I'm happy to see our Harolds are starting to kick some ass.

Still got lots to do, and I'm going to promise myself to cut down on the length of the journal entries. I'm spending too much energy on them.

"A mind is a terrible thing to have leaking out your ears." -- The League of Sadistic Telepaths

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