Metro Toronto Convention Centre
September 1st to 3rd, 2006
This year would be big change. Gone was CN Fan Expo though CN Anime continued to be used for a few years later. The change was Hobbystar changed the name to Fan Expo Canada. I think the name change better branded the con than being just 'CN' or Canadian National. The old name only implied Canada while the new name was bold.
I wish to thank all who I met. Many who I have taken pictures from expressed their gratitude of having access to their photos. I know I handed out alot of DVDs of the AnimeNorth masquerade. I hope to make a DVD of Fan Expo Masquerade. Still I will try to post it for all on YouTube. Though it will literally take weeks to get everything up, I try to keep at it.
I re-introduced the art challenge this year on Sunday after 2 years of doing 4 Koma Project. I will still do the 4 Koma Project but in a lesser degree so I have more time at the con to take in other events.
Once again thanks for all your kind words.Hopefully we will see you all ... in the North Building. :)
I might consider NOT showing up for Friday or Sunday next time they have their 3 day con so close after first of the month. Rent and bus pass are due leaving little leeway for spending, even if I wanted to. Top it off, Greyhound locked out the first and the fourth for no discounts fares. Even if you bought it advance, it was still 75 dollars rather than 54 dollars Canadian for travelling the weekend if you buy in a day advance.
Even though I got to the bus depot early, the first bus was full and already left. Still it wasn't enough to wait in line at Tim Hortons and catch the bus. I suffer the entire trip down to Toronto. The it hits me .... I forgot to leave my rent cheque with the landlord before leaving. A quick call and a quick apology. There was o mistaking this would be an expensive weekend even if I didn't buy a single thing. My other rent for two nights stay at bed and breakfast would send the total higher by $150. A deal for being repeat customer. All this before I even set foot at the con's door.
The first thing I do once I stepped in Toronto was quick timed to nearest Tim Hortons. I picked up a TTC day pass. I figure I would be justifying the $8.50 for unlimited day travel. Sunday to can ride on the pass for the cost of one.
I get the B and B to find that I only got one key. Sigh. My landlady promises that can lock the room and get the key later. There was a couple staying from Montreal. A real nice guy. It would be a sign later on in the con as I would met more and more people from Montreal and area at the con.
I headed out to College street to see if I could pick up some deals. I did pick up a 512 M Memory Stick Pro for the camcorder for the same price of 30 dollars regular Memory Stick at same size. The difference in Memory Stick Pro and memory stick is transfer speed. This translates into better quality of video. my 64M MS can record 4 minutes of video but at 300K bit rate while the MS Pro can transfer at 700+K bit rate but 256M MS Pro only stores 6 minutes and 512M MS Pro just 12 minutes. I thought what a rip until I looked closely at the output.
Well at least things were looking up at this point. I got a great deal on memory for camcorder. I had my Tim Hortons. I was happy at last with all the expense and such. I got to the MTCC and stopped for a hot dog at BOZOs chip wagon before facing the line ups. Immediately the guy remembered me when asked for a squab dog. "How's it going?" he said. I thought I had arrived. Then I turned around....
Famous line from the Twilight Zone series. For me, it was only just the beginning of my Twilight Zone journey. For there was no line ups, well, not here. The sign sum it up that this year's con was in the South Building. SOUTH BUILDING?! That was five block walk or more.WTF?!
Being no stranger to South Building from the trade shows like the now defunct COMDEX. It's long and winding path. This sucks. Even though I know ALL the short cuts by taking the elevators it's still a LONG haul. I down my squab, er I mean hot dog and second coffee and head to the twilight zone.
It did not bode well to see most of the volunteers standing around chatting
at the bottom of the escalator while so few others actually helped maintain
the line-up. There was a food court this year. Given that they
were servicing a captive audience, I didn't even bother even looking at
their wares, let alone what their prices were.
The Long WALK
For years, I've tried taken pictures of the line ups at cons and they never quite shown how vast or this case LONG the lines really are. I've tried panoramas which never really fit together since a line up is never a static object but a living chaos of impatience.
Even the sweeping pan of the line twisting it way though the halls, never quite match being so far yet so close. That was until this con....
As I darted from my position from somewhere in the middle of the line to take various photos, I sought out the start of the line. I figure I could put my DV camcorder with newly bought 512 M memory stick Pro to good use.
Spending my summer walking with the camcorder had to have some point. The point was to see how long the line really was. I was walking quick pace all the time yet, following the line showed me one thing. The line, though fitting into large hallway was huge. Once I got to the end, I looked at the time remaining for video on the camcorder memory... 8 minutes! It had originally had 12 minutes of recording time, making the brisk walk over 4 minutes.
The video was speeded up 2 times as not to bore people. I was thinking of some ragtime tune in my head but when I heard the munckin track, it stood as that. I nearly fell over laughing hearing my voice munckin out 'I'm walking to the end of the line'. Even 'Excuse' was funny. The real deal maker was one of the staff greeting me at the back of the line. The recording of the guys at the front was an after thought before the dealer's room opened.
If you thought walking to the end of the line was long, it grew even longer with another couple of loops before the doors actually opened. That was alot quicker than when I got back to my spot in line as the line up finally moved. It took about half an hour to actually get into the con after it officially opened at 4 PM.
Now that's Maid Service!
While I got my con pass upstairs there was some staff with portable
ticket seller that operates on Interac. This staff member knows no
limit to service by dressing in a traditional Maid Cafe uniform so often
seen in the streets of Akiba, in Tokyo.
I guess we could have counted ourselves lucky last year as Rue Morgue's Festival of Fear was surrounded by a dark shroud. Actually it was more a black curtain that separated their section from the rest of the mundane exhibits. NO LONGER! One the problems with dealers' room was no real clear boundary between dealers that were horror, sci-fi, comic or anime. Even the artist alley seemed to stray across the back of the hall. With little room for isle ways there was little choice.
It did lead to two discoveries for myself.
... and ...
I got up real early in the morning, even missing my breakfast of my bed and breakfast to get to the MTCC to make sure I got a ticket this year for the masquerade. I stopped briefly at the Theatre to see IF that would be the place for the line up for tickets. All I found was rendant of Fireman convention that happened last weekend.
When I got to the line-up there was several. Obviously I started in
the wrong line up for tickets. If I hadn't been walk from my spot in line
to take photos I would have never found out and possible loss another chance
to record the masquerade this year.
Old Friends from years back
This year at Fan Expo Canada it seemed I was meeting everyone I previously taken pictures of. For the two on the right, I had taken their picture practically 4 years ago at CN Anime 2003. It was good to hear that they were impressed or even remembered that I took their picture. Still it shows that this family still cosplays together.
Thanks for encouraging words, and I hope to see you in years to come.
I finally found the line-up for masquerade tickets and once again was at the end of the line... again. I moved from my spot to capture more cosplay pictures. Finally the clock struck 10 am and the line moved. with my ticket finally in hand, noticed a THIRD line-up. This one was people registering for being IN the masquerade. So I manage to get some quick peeks of that evening's entertainers.
I would grab several other pictures of the crowd in all the line-ups before hunger beset me. No Snicker bar was going to handle this. :)
Finally getting my ticket and starving... no breakie. It was after 11 am so I headed a few blocks to Swiss Chalet. I wolfed down my meal. It was much needed as a photographer can't live on chip wagon hot dogs alone.
I returned to catch the new line-up (number four?) of people just buying their tickets for the day. Fresh blood!
The French (Canadian) Connection
Otakuthon staff - cosplayers in disguise
What really impressed me the most about Fan Expo Canada was that the French Canadian fans came out in force. It makes me wish I had paid attention in French class in high school after meeting this and other cosplay groups from Montreal and area. I mean impressive that two groups had large casts in the Masquerade.
The Otakuthon's group was cosplaying Tsubasa Chronicles while another group from the day before was cosplaying Inu Yashu. I now wished that I had gone to Otakuthon but I couldn't. I seriously thinking of attending next year after seeing this pair of energetic cosplay groups. If I do, I'll definitely will have to brush up on my French.
My friend has a joke about mecha cosplayers... IMmobile Suit Gundam. He has seen his share of mecha suits living in Japan. Most of which are beautifully made yet lack one thing ... the ability to move. What is impressive about this suit is it is mobile to a reasonable degree. He won't be doing the macorana (sp?) dance but at least he can walk. One thing I think is the shoulder pads are way too large and the feet are one piece which means he shuffles along . If the toe of the feet were hinged at the arch of the foot, it would allow better leg movement. Still an impressive work.
Once again, back to another line-up. The one I originally was in to the dealer's room.
Fan fun and the Artist Alley
One of my now favourite cosplayers and no doubt the most enthusiastic was the 'Girl who loves Candy'. Well, that is her name on the Dragon Mango forum. Not only she cosplay as her all time favourite character Candy. Mark, the gentleman behind her, put her as a secret player in his own two player fighter game with live character and real backgrounds. 'Girl who loves Candy' jumped with glee at being included in this game. I must admit it was impressive. I now know what Mark does in his spare time when he isn't drawing Dragon Mango and now another sci-fi online comic.
The artist alley wasn't just art but clothes as well.
While a company that embroidery might be out of place, I have been thinking of getting custom patches for a costume that I wanted to wear one day.
Skunk hat from Wild Things
No matter where you went there was opportunities to take pictures of any movie or anime. Upstairs there were planned photo shoots for many different animes. I only caught a brief glimpse of the Naruto Photo shoot. It was difficult to find a place in line but I got the photo of the photographers all in a horseshoe at the one end of the con floor upstairs.
Once again I headed to the chip wagon for some pop for the long line ahead. This one being for getting into the masquerade itself. I was, of course, greeted by, you guessed it, another line-up.
In a Con not so far away...
I've met a lot of cosplayers over the years. Some even have their own website and their own business cards like myself. Not many with their own collectable trading card like this fan, Gilberto Guemes Jr. dressed like Jek Porkins, Red 6. Not only the card was high quality but signed. No doubt you have heard of those cosplayers who are infamous for dressing in wrong costume like 'ManFay'. Yet this guys costume was detailed and so perfect that if it wasn't for the fact, the first Star Wars movie was SO long ago, I would mistake him for the actual actor who played Jek Porkins. Having met several of the original Star Wars cast that are still around, Gilberto's tribute to this character a touching tribute to the lasting appeal of Star Wars.
Oh, by the way, the URL is... www.rebellegion.com should you wish to check out the site.
Every year the expert cosplayers come out to Fan Expo. By their own merits, they are beyond the master class system of the masquerade level. The level of detail goes beyond the pale as I tried to capture the scale and detail of the entire costume. massive and articulate as it is.
If the line up for masquerade tickets was any indication of the crowd, I would say the line up for the masquerade was haphazard. I found the end of the line about 5:45 pm had already grown long. I marked my spot by remember who was in the line in front and rear of my postion. Two hours was hell for someone who takes pictures at cons. Yet I wasn't going to miss this year's event.
The chap above was my marker in line which we talked about Gundam and other mecha anime for most of the time.
I would occasionally move out of line to get more pictures while we waited. Apart from the panorama shots here, I took little before the masquerade started since I kept close to my postion in the line.
Once in I immediately headed center isle for the best isle seat I could get. Isle seat is extremely important. For one, it hard enough to setup in isle seat. Two, if someone wants out, you can quickly move into the isle to let them through. Three is when the show ends, and you have to move quick.
I didn't want to sit too close as the camcorder weakness is close range. Not to far back or I be straining to zoom. I did manage to get a seat to the left of the guy who was professionally capturing video for the two large screens on either side but also the gree room where other masquerade contestants could watch the show.
My setup was tripod with the legs close in. I placed my backpack underneath the tripod to keep it out of the way without taking another seat or blocking the isle. The height of the camcorder is decided by how high I could comfortably handle the controls while seated. LCD screen was tilted for viewing while seated. After all this, I turn and ask the audience behind me if I'm blocking anyone's view. No. We're good to go.
The stage was a disappointment. The left side (stage right) was unlit. Meaning anyone standing stage right was in the dark. Last masquerade I had problems with the auto-focus cosntantly auto-focusing. At first, I thought that I just let the camera focus then switch to manual. Test during the summer showed that didn't work. (One of the reasons you should practice with your camera BEFORE an event.) I ended zooming in the the back railing on the stage then manual focusing. The problem with every battery change I had to redo manual focus. With 3 batteries and 3 tapes prepped, I had no reason to let my batteries or tapes run to the end. I prep my tapes by recording the first 30 seconds with the lens cap on. Any glitches with the tape will be at the start.
With the hall partially lit during the masquerade so chainging batteries wasn't a problem as at Anime North. I also had a sticker on the top of each battery with different marks to distinguish them so I didn't confuse grabbing a already spent battery. I stood briefly to switch tapes so I could grab the finish tape with one hand and insert the new tape with the other and close the camcorder. I prelabled each tape (VERY important) and once the tape was full I switched the write protect tab on before placing it in it's case. (EXTREMELY important thing to remember.) This will prevent you accidently erasing or recording over important footage.
The masquerade itself was okay ... except for the dark part of the stage which left some performers in the dark. The MC had joked that there was no could see what was happening behind the podium. So every once and while, the cmeraman beside would drop his camera down the podium. This brought tons of laughs from the crowd and the poor MC wonder who was playing a joke behind him.
Since Nighko from Studio of Masquerade Arts is getting into doing panoramas, I'll post details of this difficult picture.
This panorama is the largest I've done that worked. I tried to use Photostich 3.1 that came with my camera to do the entire panorama but it curled up and was unusable. The trick ws to use Photostich in sections. I merged left, right and back of the hall with Photostitch. I used the same picture in the end for each seperate panorama so they match up better in the final stage. For the final stage I used the stitch feature in Arcsoft Photostudio, which came free with my scanner. I found I had to crop the picture close to the point I was using to match up sections to prevent ghost imaging. The picture is actually larger than it's preview image above. The thumbnail was over 900 pixels so I trimmed it to 800.
End of show is always insanity for all as they try to leave. Worse for someone who has gear like me setup during a show. The time to pack up isn't when people start moving. It's when the MC is starting to make his closing comments, even before is better. Before, you should only keep what is necessary to keep running your camcorder like the next battery and tape. As the batteries and tapes are done, put them immediately away. I had quick release on my tripod and my camcorder bag open and on my shoulder. Once it was over, people started moving instantaneously. I barely had time for bag my camcorder with lens cap on, grab my backpack andplace it on my seat then move my tripod beside my seat in the isle. People bulked at me standing practucally ontop of my tripod but they clue in and move around. There was no point of trying to take down the tripod with people all around. I either damage the tripod or hurt someone or both. I waited for the crowd to thin out then collapse the tripod. Repack my gear, remove the battery from the camcorder then place the camcorder bag in my backpack.
With the end of show, everyone had left. Only a few acts from the lastpart of the con remained. I grabbed what photos I could and headed to local internet cafe to backup the day's photos onto CDR and my portable compact flash hard drive I had won at Stan C. Reade Photoday courtesy of Lexmark. I headed back to my bed and breakfast room to recharge myself and all my batteries.
While game manufacturers could be found throughout the dealers room and even the Artist Alley, the main game playing area large area with rows of tables.
I had previously photoraphed some of the Games Workshop's Lord of the Rings displays years ago. That was with 640x480 digital camera. I didn't really bother with photographing every display again. I haven't played Warhammer 40K in years though I own several old figs like the original jetbikes. I even made up my own space marine chapter.
Back from the show and had to fix the menus on Anime North video pages. I have to eliminate this first so I can keep track of any more 404 errors. (file not found.)
The first priority getting back is of course, backing up the photos before anything else. Backups are good and I do them daily of my pictures at a con. It is important to backup your pictures prior to sorting through them. It will save you from a costly mistake or drive or even card failure. Yes, I have had memory cards fail. My sister had their hard drive fail. Taking with it all the photos of the grand kids.
I found that I made a mistake with a camera setting so I have to renumber the originals before I do a master backup. This doesn't affect the quality though having two IMG_0001.JPG doesn't help.