Monday, March 31, 2014

Gary Numan and... my phone

Gary Numan was in Toronto last week and I went to see him live for the second time, again with Kaid (who, again, purchased the tickets). It was at the Phoenix Concert Theatre down on Sherbourne Street. I'm not sure how many people crowded in... 500? 1000? The place was packed. Kaid and I got there 45 minutes before the doors opened (7:30) so there was only one row of people between us and the stage.

Last time, we had VIP tickets and I actually got to meet Gary Numan briefly, shake his hand, offer the sincere fan flattery he's heard a million times, and get my copy of Exhibition autographed. I didn't have anything like that this time but there was no need to gild the lily. I've met Gary Numan and talked with him, once. No need to press my luck. :)

Things kicked off with the band Roman Remains at 8:30. They were fronted by a pretty young blonde with a terrific voice and vocal range. The songs were varied and engaging and I personally felt their set could have gone a little longer.

The next act was Big Black Delta. The thing I principally remember of this two-man effort was that the drummer really played his ass off. The other guy, who I think is solo and technically constitutes "the band", worked a board to provide his pre-cooked accompaniment. His vocals seemed to consist largely of moaning "oooo, ooo, ooo ooo" into the mic and punctuating that with lyrics that were occasionally understandable. While I enjoyed the first few numbers, they quickly took on the air of finding your own footprints in the woods, the same tree by the brook, the same stump you tripped over before. Do I even need to say I thought his set went on too long? I didn't hate the act; far from it. I just thought he was taking advantage, you know?

And then out came Gary Numan and the four musicians backing him. Wow. There were lights, but that's all they needed. They didn't need gimmicks and props to put on a show. They were the show. They came out and they played songs I've known nearly all my life. Songs I've known since university. Songs I've known for just a few years. And songs I've never heard before. And when he indicated he wanted the audience to join in on Are Friends Electric?, a thousand fans were right there. People in their 20s. People in their 50s. That was magic. :)

Now I swear, towards the end of the show, there came a moment when he caught my eye, smiled in recognition, and pointed to me. I thought I had it on video but I don't. Now maybe I'm just kidding myself, but the man was only about a dozen feet away, and I'm going to go to my grave thinking this man saw a friendly face he remembered from before in the crowd, and took a moment to let me know. :)

They played for 90 minutes. I was on my feet for over six hours end to end, but while they were up there, it honestly ameliorated the discomfort. That's how I knew for sure I was onboard. But oooh, the walk back. Because I'm cheap, I parked up in Rosedale, about a mile from the concert hall. No big deal going down. But coming back, after standing for six hours, wow... that was some fun walk, let me tell you. I got to the car at quarter to one, home a bit after one in the morning. I was convinced I'd be hard pressed to get out of bed the next day. But no, to my surprise I was just fine. Go figure.

Anyway... the phone. Last winter my carrier convinced me to trade up, so being a Samsung fan I went with the S4. At the concert, I had my two 3D Fuji cameras, the W1 and the W3. I manned the latter and Kaid the former. I got a lot of video; he took a lot of photos. Y'know, and they're 3D. But I decided to put some of the features of the S4 through their paces. One thing it can do is shoot slow motion video, at 1/2, 1/4, and 1/8 speed. Now the resolution is at best 800 x 450... but that's better than the resolution of the same feature on my S100, a dedicated camera: at best, 640 x 480; at worst, 320 x 240.

I showed the full-motion, 1920 x 1080 HD video to P-Doug on Saturday, on the phone itself, and he was surprised by the quality of it and remarked on it. It was one of those things where you don't really notice how good the quality of something is till someone else notices it, but when he did, I started noticing, too. For a camera smaller than postage stamp, with no moving parts, in the back of a phone half the thickness of my index finger, it did some fantastic work. It was dealing with light levels that literally went from twilight to sunburst in the blink of an eye and it kept up with it all. As far as the sound goes, it's mono, but it's not blown out. It's loud and muffled, but it was standing there beside the speaker, too. It actually sounds very much like I remember hearing it. I was disappointed with the audio response of my cameras at the last Numan concert. While I'm not overjoyed with what I got this time, I at least think it stands on its own.

I recorded one song pretty much end to end; one of the newer songs called The Fall. It's one I particularly enjoy. The full video was shot 1920 x 1080. I decided to do my own video in Premiere using what I got from the S4. Since the slow motion video is 800 x 450, I decided that would be my "working" resolution. What that means is I had all kinds of room to do tricks with the full HD video. I could zoom in and out with out pixelation, from 100% all the way down to about 45% (where the image becomes smaller than the field). So I could do things in post I didn't do live, like track musicians as they move. Anyway, I cut it all together. It's no hell, but when you stop and think it was all accomplished by holding up a cell phone (and then assembling it all at home), I think the results are kind of impressive. Imagine telling somebody in 1960, or even 1990, that this would be possible in their lifetime.

Here's the video. :)

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