Japan: The Series

Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff (5432 posts) -

    

 

On July 15th, 2010, my brother and I took a two-week trip to Tokyo, Japan. It was a place I had been wanting to go to since I was in elementary school, and I planned on filming the trip so I could make a series of videos afterward. We purchased a Canon VIXIA HG20 shortly before leaving, giving me just enough time to learn how to use it. It was then that I learned my computer was too weak to play the videos properly, not to mention that I had zero experience with video editing and didn't own a proper program to do so.

It's been nearly 18 months since we returned, and, with assistance from Will and Norm over at Tested.com, I finally have a top-of-the-line computer that can play the 1080p videos at full resolution. I recently got my first video editing program, too, settling on CyberLink's PowerDirector. I'm still amazed at how fast and easy the program is to use, and, though I've just started, I feel like I've learned a lot.

With over 300 videos totaling around 168 gigabytes, my goal is to whittle those down into a series of videos that are hopefully somewhat entertaining. I actually didn't film as much as I had planned to, opting to just enjoy the trip and not focus on documenting it. Because of this, I don't really have a set plan; I'm just organizing and editing these videos as I go, eventually turning them into something I feel comfortable showing other people.

As of right now, I intend to have each video in the series represent one day and be edited in chronological order, though I might throw an extra day in there if there's not enough footage. The first episode, which I'm titling "Arrival", is nearly done and takes place during July 15th and July 16th. Each episode will be accompanied by a blog post that I'll be posting across the various Whiskey sites. I imagine the Giant Bomb and Anime Vice crowds will be most interested in these, as you can't turn a corner in Tokyo without seeing something related to video games or anime. I also spent a lot of time in arcades, though I don't have much footage of that as they don't like people filming or taking pictures inside.

There's no set format for each video, since, as I said before, I'm just now editing them and will be releasing each one when it's done. My shots weren't planned, so the quality of the videos will be dependent on what footage I have and what I can do with it. I kind of prefer it that way, as I have no idea what an episode will be until I'm nearly done with it. I'm really enjoying the process; it's a completely new experience for me and gives a unique satisfaction that I don't get from writing.

On the subject of Japan, it's the only place I've traveled that I can say I would like to live at (though I probably wouldn't want to work there). I was taking Rosetta Stone courses to learn Japanese beforehand, but decided to stop a while before the trip for a very specific reason: that out-of-element feeling one gets when in an unfamiliar environment where they don't speak the language. I experienced it in France and Italy and loved it, and knowing that Japan is a place I'll be going to more than once, figured I could either have the one experience of knowing the language and culture, or have both experiences of not knowing what the hell is going on, and then returning later, fluent and far more knowledgable than before. I chose to have both experiences.

I think that's everything I wanted to say. The videos will be uploaded to YouTube (and my SmugMug account) and posted as blogs. Episode 01 will released on the 7th, and then I'll start working on Episode 02: Electric Town. All in all, this is just something I'm doing for fun to both showcase the trip and learn how to edit video.

#1 Edited by CharlesAlanRatliff (5432 posts) -

    

 

On July 15th, 2010, my brother and I took a two-week trip to Tokyo, Japan. It was a place I had been wanting to go to since I was in elementary school, and I planned on filming the trip so I could make a series of videos afterward. We purchased a Canon VIXIA HG20 shortly before leaving, giving me just enough time to learn how to use it. It was then that I learned my computer was too weak to play the videos properly, not to mention that I had zero experience with video editing and didn't own a proper program to do so.

It's been nearly 18 months since we returned, and, with assistance from Will and Norm over at Tested.com, I finally have a top-of-the-line computer that can play the 1080p videos at full resolution. I recently got my first video editing program, too, settling on CyberLink's PowerDirector. I'm still amazed at how fast and easy the program is to use, and, though I've just started, I feel like I've learned a lot.

With over 300 videos totaling around 168 gigabytes, my goal is to whittle those down into a series of videos that are hopefully somewhat entertaining. I actually didn't film as much as I had planned to, opting to just enjoy the trip and not focus on documenting it. Because of this, I don't really have a set plan; I'm just organizing and editing these videos as I go, eventually turning them into something I feel comfortable showing other people.

As of right now, I intend to have each video in the series represent one day and be edited in chronological order, though I might throw an extra day in there if there's not enough footage. The first episode, which I'm titling "Arrival", is nearly done and takes place during July 15th and July 16th. Each episode will be accompanied by a blog post that I'll be posting across the various Whiskey sites. I imagine the Giant Bomb and Anime Vice crowds will be most interested in these, as you can't turn a corner in Tokyo without seeing something related to video games or anime. I also spent a lot of time in arcades, though I don't have much footage of that as they don't like people filming or taking pictures inside.

There's no set format for each video, since, as I said before, I'm just now editing them and will be releasing each one when it's done. My shots weren't planned, so the quality of the videos will be dependent on what footage I have and what I can do with it. I kind of prefer it that way, as I have no idea what an episode will be until I'm nearly done with it. I'm really enjoying the process; it's a completely new experience for me and gives a unique satisfaction that I don't get from writing.

On the subject of Japan, it's the only place I've traveled that I can say I would like to live at (though I probably wouldn't want to work there). I was taking Rosetta Stone courses to learn Japanese beforehand, but decided to stop a while before the trip for a very specific reason: that out-of-element feeling one gets when in an unfamiliar environment where they don't speak the language. I experienced it in France and Italy and loved it, and knowing that Japan is a place I'll be going to more than once, figured I could either have the one experience of knowing the language and culture, or have both experiences of not knowing what the hell is going on, and then returning later, fluent and far more knowledgable than before. I chose to have both experiences.

I think that's everything I wanted to say. The videos will be uploaded to YouTube (and my SmugMug account) and posted as blogs. Episode 01 will released on the 7th, and then I'll start working on Episode 02: Electric Town. All in all, this is just something I'm doing for fun to both showcase the trip and learn how to edit video.

#2 Posted by Sooty (8082 posts) -

おもしろい。がんばって。

I shall keep two eyes on this!

#3 Posted by coakroach (2491 posts) -

Man i'd love to visit Japan some day

#4 Posted by Irvandus (2880 posts) -

Can't wait duder.

#5 Posted by kingzetta (4307 posts) -

CC lemon

#6 Posted by ESREVER (2695 posts) -

I'm going to Tokyo in the Summer for about a month! Its kind of a school related thing and kinda not. I was going to go with the program that was a part of my school for class credit and what not, but it wasn't a sure thing (Have to have a minimum of 15 participants, and when I went to the meetings, there were only two of us. And the requirements are kinda high). I decided if I was to ever go, it would be most beneficial to go this summer. So I'm going with this group as kind of an unofficial thing.

I've spent a year with the language, having aced both semesters of classes, and continuing the learning this year with the third course. Of course I'm no where near fluent or have a strong understanding of what some would consider the basics. but I wanted to go while I still had the freedom, time, and understanding that I have now. Rather than wait another couple of years and everything be gone from my memory.

I'll definitely be following this series!

#7 Posted by Brendan (7817 posts) -

I used to want to go to Japan...until I went to Singapore :) I'll still watch these cool-sounding videos, but I'll also use this space to sneakily add that you should all visit Singapore.

#8 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11804 posts) -

I'd certainly be interested in seeing where this goes.

#9 Posted by N7 (3590 posts) -

I want to believe! I will await these videos and watch them!
 
I've always been interested in Japan and it's pretty exciting to see people who are as interested in Japan as I am that actually get to go there.

#10 Posted by natetodamax (19208 posts) -

Looking forward to more of these! I definitely want to go to Japan at some point so it'll be interesting to see what your experience was like.

#11 Posted by Cathryn (547 posts) -

This sounds like it'll be a lot of fun. /followed :)

#12 Posted by Vexxan (4623 posts) -

Sounds interesting, looking forward to it!

#13 Edited by JCTango (1363 posts) -

: I wonder if you'll introduce us to those kiosk terminals with an ACTUAL PERSON inside that you can summon to your aid with a push of a button... I saw this somewhere once and it freaked me out xD. The kiosk terminal guy was also freaked out as much as the show's hosts because he wasn't expecting people to be so scared :).

Edit: read too fast and didn't realize these were your videos! Wow.. cool stuff man :).

PS: How well does Rosetta Stone work for you? I always wondered about it.

#14 Posted by DudeSupreme (212 posts) -

Im stationed over here in Okinawa and have been over to the mainland twice now, and I really think Ive seen all I need to (well maybe except a trip to Tokyo Disney) but Id like to see what you found interesting. Definitely a nice place to visit but I would never want to live here for a long period of time.

#15 Posted by Hoffafiles (285 posts) -

I went in the winter of '09 to Sapporo for training, so I didn't really get to go out much The times I was able to go out about town was fun, and I enjoyed every minute. Even just walking around base and watching the SDF practice Kendo was a fun event. I would love to go back and really experience life in Japan.

Can't wait to watch these videos, next best thing of going myself.

#16 Edited by Sooty (8082 posts) -
@JCTango said:


PS: How well does Rosetta Stone work for you? I always wondered about it.

Avoid it like the plague! It's useful if you just want to learn some phrases when going on holiday but I really wouldn't use it for any serious attempts at learning, especially Japanese!
 
It doesn't teach grammar or sentence structure at all, nor does it teach kanji. Basically it explains nothing because it goes with the philosophy that only speaking to a person in the language they are learning is a good idea, while this works to some degree it's also pretty dumb. How can you really learn something if nothing is explained? This isn't a game where you can figure things out through trial and error within 30 minutes. There's so many exceptions to grammar rules in Japanese that the program really falls flat. For beginners I would use the following website http://www.textfugu.comthen once you progress through the site pick up a few good study books, such as this.
#17 Edited by MiniPato (2741 posts) -

If you went to Japan, you had better have done all the things a foreigner is supposed to do in a travelogue when they go to Japan.

1. Point out how crazy a Japanese toilet is.

2. Point out how expensive everything is.

3. Find a funny mistranslation on a t-shirt, food label, sign, whatever.

4. Taste test drinks like suntori or boss coffee or a strange flavor of pepsi.

5. Film yourself eating an exotic food.

6. Find something Ghibli related and fawn over it, shouldn't be too hard I'd assume.

#18 Posted by JCTango (1363 posts) -

@MiniPato said:

If you went to Japan, you had better have done all the things a foreigner is supposed to do in a travelogue when they go to Japan.

1. Point out how crazy a Japanese toilet is.

2. Point out how expensive everything is.

3. Find a funny mistranslation on a t-shirt, food label, sign, whatever.

4. Taste test drinks like suntori or boss coffee or a strange flavor of pepsi.

5. Film yourself eating an exotic food.

6. Find something Ghibli related and fawn over it, shouldn't be too hard I'd assume.

Boss coffee is awesome xD. Sometimes I get a few cans of it when they're on sale at an asian market.

#19 Posted by TheDudeOfGaming (6078 posts) -

Eh, i don't understand what's so great about Japan, yeah sure it's a great country. But they've never been the same after the nukes. I kinda wanna see an Emperor and samurais replace those God awful, entertaining, but God awful tv...reality shows. Also, weird porn.

#20 Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff (5432 posts) -

@Sooty: Thanks!

@coakroach: It's pretty awesome!

@kingzetta: It's SO good.

@ESREVER: That's awesome! Anything in particular you're most excited about seeing?

@Brendan: One day, perhaps!

@JCTango: I didn't see any of those. :(

@MiniPato: I honestly don't think I did any of those things. I am definitely going to write about the toilets, though!

@Irvandus: @ArbitraryWater: @N7: @Voxel: @Cathryn: @Vexxan: @SlimJimm: @WhiskeyAbe: Thanks, everyone! The first video is pretty much done; I just have to write about it. There's not a lot to it since it's just video clips from the airport in Texas to our hotel in Shinagawa, but there are some great shots of the scenery. Then I'll start editing the video of our first trip to Akihabara.

#21 Edited by JCTango (1363 posts) -

@CharlesAlanRatliff: The kiosks with a staff member inside it whom you can call upon for assistance were in a few of their subways. I remember seeing them in a show called Departures.

Ok, I rewatched that part, and it wasn't as funny as I remembered, but it still freaked me out :D.

The kiosk is probably connected to a ticket collector's booth or something.

#22 Posted by Sooty (8082 posts) -

@TheDudeOfGaming said:

Eh, i don't understand what's so great about Japan, yeah sure it's a great country. But they've never been the same after the nukes. I kinda wanna see an Emperor and samurais replace those God awful, entertaining, but God awful tv...reality shows. Also, weird porn.

Depends what you consider great I guess. I love the fact Japan has such a low crime rate and it has some incredible landmarks. There's a lot of emphasis on respect too.

#23 Posted by DarthOrange (3864 posts) -

Very cool man! I look forward to these videos.

#24 Posted by CABBAGES (530 posts) -

i think i will go this year.

Probably on my own because no one i know wants to go or could afford to go .

Looking forward to watching your videos :)

#25 Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff (5432 posts) -
@JCTango: Ah, OK! I never needed assistance, so I'm not sure if a person would have popped out of my machine or not. :P 
 
 
Just a quick update on this. I thought I could place external links in annotations on YouTube, but I can't. This kind of messes up the very end of the first video, so it will be delayed until the 9th while I figure out another solution.
#26 Posted by 49th (2766 posts) -

@CharlesAlanRatliff: You can put external links in the description, just add an annotation pointing out that there is a link below.

#27 Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff (5432 posts) -
@49th: I know, but the way I designed it at the end requires changing the actual video. Kind of like this (at the end).
#28 Edited by CharlesAlanRatliff (5432 posts) -

@coakroach: @Irvandus: @ESREVER: @Brendan: @ArbitraryWater: @N7: @Voxel: @Cathryn: @Vexxan: @JCTango: @WhiskeyAbe: Hello! Apologies for the PM, but I need some assistance. This is the first video I've ever edited like this and uploaded to YouTube. It's done, though it is currently unlisted. Whenever I watch the video on my computer it's choppy/it stutters/experiences frame rate drops/slowdown or whatever you want to call it. It doesn't seem so bad on my brother's laptop, but I want to make sure it's on my end and not the video itself before releasing it. If you were planning to watch it, you can do so here. All I ask is that if you experience problems, to come here and tell me what happened and at what point in the video, along with what resolution you were watching it at (360p, 480p, 720p, 1080p). It might also be helpful to know your browser/flash version. I'm specifically looking for parts where the video obviously stutters or isn't playing as smoothly as it seemingly should be. The shakiness is normal!

If everything is OK, I'll release the video tomorrow along with the blog post, which goes into detail about the actual trip. If it's not OK, then I kind of don't know what to do, as I've produced it in different formats and still have trouble. This video is the MP4 version.

Thank you!

Video

#29 Posted by JCTango (1363 posts) -

@CharlesAlanRatliff: Whoops, sent a pm instead of replying here... I didn't notice any problems on firefox 1680x1050. The video looks cool btw! Looking forward to more. The train ride parts were pretty awesome.. I liked the cuts you made there. The music fits nicely with it too... kinda looks like the shows you can watch on those travel channels.

#30 Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff (5432 posts) -

@JCTango: Thank you! This video was difficult to make since most of what I had was just train shots, so I added some music by Hamst3r to try and make it more interesting. I'll go into more detail in the blog post tomorrow (if no one else has problems, either).

What setting did you have it on? (360p, 720p etc.)

#31 Edited by JCTango (1363 posts) -

@CharlesAlanRatliff: actually, I watched it in regular 360p :D... that might be why I didn't run into any problems.

PS , cool music :).

#32 Posted by Daveydave (131 posts) -

Just watched it. Ran fine in 1080p. Looking forward to more. Was great. I am also very jealous!

How much did it all cost in the end? The trip I mean!

#33 Posted by Vexxan (4623 posts) -

720p/1080p worked just fine, looking forward to the next episode!

#34 Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff (5432 posts) -

@Daveydave said:

Just watched it. Ran fine in 1080p. Looking forward to more. Was great. I am also very jealous!

How much did it all cost in the end? The trip I mean!

Thank you! It was somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000.

#35 Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff (5432 posts) -

@Vexxan: Thanks!

And thanks to the several people who PMed me to say the video played fine for them. The first episode is now available.

I'll start work on the next episode soon, though I won't be announcing a date until it's actually done this time. Arrival was five days late due to various issues I encountered, and there's no reason to put unnecessary pressure on myself.

#36 Posted by Fattony12000 (7460 posts) -

@charlesalanratliff: So, er...did any more of your footage see the light of day round these Giant Bomb parts? I'm mainly asking for selfish reasons, as me and my lady are in the planning stages of a trip to Tokyo and I'd be very interested in seeing more of the sweet places you went to. Like you, I plan to record EVERYTHING so my stupid mindbrain won't forget a second of it.

To anyone else who might see this post, have you been over to Japan since Ratliff's posts? Are there any thoughts, insights or feelings you'd care to share about your journey to the east?

#37 Posted by TruthTellah (9160 posts) -

Well now! As Fattony said, I'd be curious about seeing how the rest of the videos turned out, as well.

#38 Edited by CharlesAlanRatliff (5432 posts) -

@fattony12000: @truthtellah: Whoa! I wasn't expecting to see any comments on this post this morning. Thanks for checking in!

The only things available right now are what's linked in the List of Episodes post. The third official episode, A Day in Akihabara, is complete, but I still need to do a writeup for it. I've been dealing with severe computer issues that have caused me not to get much work done for several months now. I hope I'm not jinxing it, but after replacing every single part in my computer with the exception of the motherboard and power supply, I think my issues are resolved. I also have a pretty amazing computer right now, too.

In September I went to The Art of Video Games exhibit and dedicated all of my time to that. In August, I started working in the film and television industry as a background actor and stand-in, which takes up a lot of time. I just worked on Banshee and Stephen King's Under the Dome recently, and a new Melissa McCarthy movie, along with Homeland and some other projects are coming up which will take away even more time. I've also acquired an Elgato and have started capturing game footage!

So things are pretty hectic, but I do want to get back to the project this year and hopefully finish it. Right now I am in the process of redesigning my website to be more video friendly, and after that is complete I hope to ramp up video releases, whether they be for Japan or games. I don't want to give an exact time frame since I have a history of being unreliable when it comes to those, but hopefully I'll be able to start the series back up this summer.

And now that the forums are back on the front page, I'll be more inclined to post stuff here again. Not having that stuff pop up there results in a lot less views!

@fattony12000: When are you guys planning on going?

#39 Posted by Fattony12000 (7460 posts) -

@charlesalanratliff: Yay! Thanks for the reply, and good job on getting a sweet job too duder! We are probably looking at going in autumn of this year, or next spring. I've heard from a few people that those are generally quite good times to visit the country. I'm not going to pick your brains on each and every post that we exchange in this old ass thread, but I'd love to know what was the situation with regards to getting photo/video/computing technology transported there. Would rocking up with a bagful of lenses, memory cards, batteries, chargers, laptops, DSLRs cause any troubles? I ask because you obviously managed to get a camcorder through customs, but what was the general feeling you got by filming as much as you did? (I'm aiming to record hundreds of hours of video, and tens of thousands of photos, by the way.)

#40 Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff (5432 posts) -

@fattony12000: We took a digital camera, video camera, laptop, and their respective batteries, chargers/cables with zero issues. I'm not sure where you live, but I'll just assume you're aware of the TSA and their reputation. Leaving the U.S. with that stuff wasn't a problem, and arriving with it in Japan was even of a problem. From "Arrival":

They didn't bother looking in our bags or anything, and it was the first of many instances that revealed just how much better dealing with Japanese airport employees was compared to the TSA.

Leaving Japan with all of our stuff, along with the extra batteries and things we purchased in Japan, was also a non-issue.

We took the video camera specifically to avoid taking pictures as much as possible. We got a high-quality one where we could just take screenshots from the footage in lieu of actual pictures. I tried not to be too blatant about filming people, but I would have acted that way anywhere. Filming indoors is not allowed, and we were told to specifically stop filming in an arcade, as seen at the end of this video. The only time I tried to get a picture of anything after that incident is mentioned in "Electric Town":

As my brother was fishing for the camera in his backpack, a male employee watched us and approached when he took it out and said, "No picture." We pointed at the amusing photoshop to indicate that's all we wanted to shoot, and the employee laughed and said, "Just that." He was very nice, and we put the camera up right afterward.

Most of the time I held the video camera at my side or in front of me pressed up against my stomach when walking around. This way it wasn't obvious I was filming people but still remained steady enough for footage. When I wanted to shoot something specific, I held the video camera higher than I needed to so the people wouldn't think I was trying to film them.

It's really up to you. I just did this because I feel weird filming people. There wasn't anything specific about the country that made me film this way. The only specific thing regarding this, besides not filming indoors, and is to ask any cosplayers you see if it's OK to take their picture instead of doing it without their permission. Also, if anyone makes an "X" symbol, whether with their fingers or arms, stop filming/taking pictures.

Also, feel free to ask me as many questions as you want, preferably on this blog or one of the others since the info may help others. It's one of the reasons I started the series, and answering questions helps jog my memory. The series should be done before you leave for your trip.

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.