Monthly Archives: December 2010
I`m typing this ｉｎ Ｓａｐｐｏｒｏ， Hokkaido, all thanks to the goodwill of my fellow colleagues in Little Red Ants who were so nice to basically allow me to take the entire December off. That`s why even though I have a cold, and the keyboard is definitely not in any of mine native languages, I feel more than happy to type this post out.
To be honest, before starting LRA, I`ve spent entire days wondering if the notion of starting a business in such a competitive industry was even viable at all. We spent at least 2 days and nights working on a brilliant (at least it was, to us) business plan, only to have it shot down by an appraisal board, claiming that our idea would not last for long because we were merely content generators, not innovators. I was very pissed off and according to Yan Zhao, my entire face was black and I was on the verge of raising my voice at them. We went out of that meeting room, even more determined to prove them wrong. And I`m glad to say we`re probably on the right track.
At the very beginning, we were a very DIY operation. And I`m proud to say we still are. From improvising ways to steady a Canon 5D while moving around (hint: use a tripod on your waist), from trying to recreate a atas room in the middle of East Coast Park, from utilising every tool at our disposal to fix our endless supply of broken filters and step up rings, we`ve become masters at fixing things and retrieving stuff. Like Darren puts it, `Black tape can fix anything.`
But the one thing that black tape can`t fix is AN unhappy client. Thankfully, that`s been rather rare this year,.Instead, we`ve met many people who`s helped us along in our journey. Thank you to all of you for believing in LRA, especially Kay Chin, without whom LRA would be just a pipe dream, Diana, Yee Hon, Melvin, Lina, and Dennis Chew. Special thanks to the two crazy girls, Diya and Carrie for letting us play around with their MTVs. We really enjoyed working with all of you and hopefully the future will bring us more projects to collaborate on.
I must add to Darren`s part about our cursed retreats. Even though Yan Zhao and me travelled all the way back, we did not get that project, Nice.
Darren, Yan Zhao, Kang Li and Adeline are the people I`ve spent the most time with this year. Even more than my parents, grandparents and all other loved ones. Maybe even combined, they can`t beat the time I spend with the four of them. Sometimes, I wonder how we can stand seeing each other day in, day out for 5 days or more a week. LRA was started primarily as a way to pay for what we love and would want to do on a daily basis, and I guess this might be what sustains all of us, even though I sometimes begrudge Yan Zhao the 14 minutes of wasted time he takes away from my life daily. We might bicker a lot (no, really, it`s more than you think) but in the end, even though black faces are given, or harsh words used, we make it a point to set aside our differences and work towards a common goal. And I think it is incredibly rare that 5 very different personalities can come together like that. Thank you for such a great 2010.
Aside from work, it`s very important to me to thank my parents, especially my dad for his support, especially as it takes time away from me learning how to be a plumber. Even though more wrinkles are appearing on his face, and his once black hair is greying at the edges, he always tells that there`s no problem with me doing my job and to leave the rest to him. Mom as usual, concurs with his words. Thank you, D, I`ll do my best for you in 2011.
I`ve always wanted to do a story on my Grandma and Grandpa, for no one`s sake but mine and theirs. But it`s always been shoddy, and now I have images, many images but no story. That has to change.
Although I`ve made many new friends this past year, I have failed in my duty to 2 of them. To Mdm Saadiah and Judson, I`m sorry that your stories have overshot the deadline by many months and I will meet up with you all soon to discuss about the next steps,
So to the steps that needs to be taken, and the road that has yet to be travelled, let`s all enjoy the remainder of 2010 and look forward to a smooth sailing 2011!
Years ago, a few of my best friends and I decided to climb Mount Ophir in Malaysia. During the arduous climb, we continually questioned why we there and why we were tormenting ourselves. However, looking back, it was a memory that has been etched in my mind forever, and it's mainly the good parts that I remember.
Humans are weird this way, it's always the tough and challenging times that we remember most, because we beat the odds and overcame the challenges. Before starting little red ants, there were many considerations to take; the initial investment to pump into the company, how viable our company model is, what future do I see with this company, but above all, one issue kept sticking out - I'm ultimately starting a company with friends. As cool and fun as it sounds, it's actually the most important criteria for me to consider then, because a friendship and a working relationship is wildly different and I didn't want to jeopardize the friendship.
However, I'm glad I started the company with my friends. Being friends, my partners and I have no qualms about being blatantly honest with each other, and we often thrash our concerns and views honestly and we've been very professional about it all. I think being friends first, and partners after also helps because we already have an underlying understanding of each other. It's also a plus that we're very comfortable with each other already. So far, we have had two interns in 2010, both of whom, have been very amused at our day-to-day conversations with each other, because in a sentence of 20 words, it seemed to consist of at least 10 Hokkien-based expletives. Sarcasm and teasing have also been sort of a company tradition and one of my partners have no qualms about physical violence when we're teasing her. (there's only 1 "her" in the company, so go figure") However, in all fairness, it is this fun, spontaneous, friendship driven relationship that drives the company. It's like what we often say, that we don't actually go to work, because it's not work when you actually like it. And it is this shared belief and understanding that the company has come to where we are today.
In all seriousness, starting the company was not easy, there were many "firsts" to be done and not everyone was very supportive of me. Many friends and family much preferred that I took up a regular job, something less risky. My Dad even wanted me to join the military. I was also told horror stories by people in the industry. We knew it was going to be tough. My partners and I spent countless hours sorting out administrative and legal matters and had to juggle the business side of things in the mean time. We started out working from our homes, working on the floor, or where-ever there was space, then, with the help of Kaychin, a friend-teacher-mentor, we managed to rent a temporary space that was more conducive for working, whilst searching for a more permanent office solution. With a stroke of luck, we found an ideal office space and now we're housed in a quaint shophouse in Joo Chiat road.
So, here's some stuff that happened in 2010 that I've learnt about and has been memorable to me. (I've only listed down things that I feel have been really memorable and I've left out business projects, because its more fun to hear about things that you don't usually know of.) Here goes:
We, as a company, is destined not to have a proper company retreat. This year alone, we've had 2 attempts. The first was in Phuket. And we were there for less than 36 hours because we had to fly back for some work stuff that cropped up. And mostly we were in the airport waiting, because the damn Jetstar flight was delayed for 5 hours. By the way, my complaint letter to them was ignored, of which I'm still sore about. The second was in Redang, this time around, we were supposed to spend 3 days 2 nights there but because of some work stuff, Alex and YZ had to go back early. So Alex and YZ spent 26 hours travelling on a bus to in Redang for 1 day. With an incomplete team, Adeline, Kang Li and I decided to do some stupid stuff.
Adeline decided to test the weatherproofing of a Canon 7D by taking it for a swim in the sea, (it's a nice paper weight now) then she decided to buy a Canon 5D Mark 2 to replace it, then decided she wanted a 7D instead. So she and was looking for a buyer for the 5D Mark 2. Then Yan Zhao bought a separate Canon 5D Mark 2 for his sabbatical trip and after his trip decided he wanted to sell it. Then Kang Li expressed that he wanted to buy a Canon 5D Mark 2. However. By the time Kang Li said he wanted one, Adeline's set found a buyer. Then, he took a look at Yan Zhao's set and fussed that the knob was too stiff. So Yan Zhao sold it to someone on Clubsnap. Thereafter, Kang Li grew quite desperate to purchase one because he was 2 days away from going to Perth to catch U2, the band. So he bought one from a Clubsnapper that was in a really really really really bad and salty state. After some egging from us, he decided to return it and he bought another one at a higher price. So, in 2 months, there were 2 5D mark 2s in the office floating around and Kang Li managed to get neither. Nice.
Laptops are meant for your lap, not to run around in. We managed to kill 2 macbook pros in the space of 1 week. During the shoot for 插班生‘s first music video, we ran around with 2 macbook pros and killed both. NICE. So much for reliability. Remember to buy your apple care guys.
We are equipment destroyers. This year alone, we have managed to destroy 10 filters, break 1 lens mount, 1 lens adaptor got stuck and needed to be pried open, destroyed 1 multi-storey height limit signboard, killed 2 Macbook Pros, killed 1 CF card, destroyed a tripod, and killed a server.
We suck at painting. Mid-way into the year, we had our office expanded to twice the size, but for the expansion, we needed to knock down the wall that our logo was painted on. So we had to paint our logo onto a new wall. And we used brushes. NOT a good idea. Lesson 1; there's no liquid paper in painting, lesson 2, use a roller.
Lack of sleep brings out the weirdness in people. During one of our very late night colour grading sessions, Adeline decided that sitting under the glass table was something she had to do, and she sat there for quite a bit while we edited.
We calculated that Alex on average loses about 2 days a year of his life picking Yan Zhao up for work.
Kang Li is on a brown diet. Any food that is brown in colour, he will consume. Anything green, unless its sour worms, he will not eat.
Yan Zhao likes to burp when talking to Alex. Nice.
Happy New Year everyone!
We staged a car accident, witnessed a rape and buried a friend in a bathtub full of ice.
We went to prison, flooded a school with ping pong balls and spent a record 36 hours in Phuket before flying back home for a last minute business meeting.
We upgraded our office from Darren's/Alex's/my house to a place in Chempedak to our current space in Joo Chiat that was recently doubled when our landlord decided to build a shophouse next door.
And when the going got rough for me, the guys gave me time off to find balance.
I spent six weeks farming with autistic adults in the countryside in Poland, had a family holiday, went Malaysia, salted my 7D and climbed a mountain. And still had time to do personal photo projects.
I've realised that it's hard to find true friends as you grow older. And even harder to find friends who are your colleagues day in and out running a business together, despite all our differences and quirks. We argue and quarrel, but learn to live and let live. And these are people that I've grown to trust over time.
So thank you, little red ants, for making my year nothing short of an adventure (:
However, like some wise sage have said before, the best things in life (like friendship, love and air) are free!
Here's a list of free (woohoo!) programmes that help us a lot in our daily work and hopefully will be equally useful to you too. It's in no particular preference order, okay okay, it is, its in the order which my memory can serve me.
1. MPEG Streamclip: This programme is a god sent. Very powerful media converter. It's our "go-to" programme to convert our videos to different formats. Works flawlessly and it does multiple files at the same time. NICE.
2. Google Calender: We load all our shoot schedules and company meetings onto this. Its great because its cloud computing, meaning everyone's calender is always up to date. It's our slave-driver.
3. VLC: THE ultimate media player. Need I say more? Plays ANY and EVERY format/codec imaginable. I have yet to find a format/codec that VLC cannot play. Maybe this should be my challenge for 2011.
4. Thunderbird: Mail client from the folks at our favourite web browser, Firefox. It's quite idiot proof and it syncs many emails together (your gmail, hotmail, yahoo mail, company mail etc) into one nifty programme. Great for people who like things organised and are a little anal retentive.
5. Oynx: This programme is a maintenance programme for Mac users. Because of the way the OS is built, after using for a while, the OS will start to develop weird errors and behave oddly. We use this super programme to "clean" up our OS and return things to their default state if things get out of control.
6. Testdisk: This has got to be the "Programme of the year" in my books. It'll probably be useless to most people though. Ever formatted your SD card/ CF Card or have your harddisk crash? Welcome to the amazing world of Testdisk. It'll magically bring your information back to life as advertised, the more amazing thing? It really works, and is free. Did I mention its the "Programme of the year" in my books?
7. Dropbox: This programme is sort of a virtual storage space that multiple users can access to. Basically you download the programme, it then creates a folder on your computer. You then put stuff in it, and it uploads it to an online server and everyone who has access to that folder will have the file automatically downloaded into their desktop folder. Amazing!
8. Celtx: Great programme that can help you write scripts, comics, screenplays, theatre dialogue and other film/visual kind of stuff.
9. Openoffice: IBM's response to Microsoft's Office. Except, it's FREE. Works great albeit the formatting needs a little getting used to if you're all too familiar with Microsoft Office.
10. Yousendit: Nifty little programme that allows you to send large files to your clients, friends, colleagues, lovers, enemies. There's a limit of 100mb for free accounts though. But I'm sure its great for 90% of your needs.
Lets hope in 2011 we'll have more open sourced programmes and more kind programming souls out there who will continue to provide excellent free programmes to make our lives all a little more efficient!
Here's me wishing all undervalued/under-appreciated programmers a Merry X'mas!
We needed to do something to relax after yesterday's wedding shoot, and Darren's face masks from korea came in handy!
Mount Kinabalu, 2010
Lesson learnt: When you climb a really high mountain, the most important thing you'll ever need is a good pair of shoes with soles that stay on amidst the rocks, soil and rain!
I didn't reach the summit, but did make it down with help from fellow climbers and mountain guides who gave me some leftover gaffer tape, hair bands and lanyards. Not before they had a good laugh and picture-session with the shoes though =.="
Next year, I'm getting rock solid boots!
In the US and Europe, content creation is regarded as the core to any creative project, and society sees the value and appreciates the rights of the content creator. Copyrights, intellectual rights, patents, trademarks, usage rights, these are all highly enforced and appreciated there. It's also why your iPod does not allow you to drag songs out of it onto other computers, because Apple believes in copyrights and goes all out to prevent their consumers from pirating creative content. It's also why Napster, Mininova and Limewire were all royally lambasted by laws that protect creative content producers.
However, I think that content creation is undervalued in Singapore, maybe even in the region. Simple case in point, when little red ants started out, we applied for a grant with SPRING Singapore, some sort of an entrepreneur grant for local start ups. We got rejected because they said we didn't offer anything new, that we were just another technical production house. They failed to see that content creation was an important part of our business proposal. Anyways, we showed them.
So, my point being, we are a society that needs to be educated, and to learn to appreciate and respect content creators more than we do now. If the creative content does not belong to you, and you would like to use it to create something, the least you could do is to credit the content creator or better still, to inform the content creator if you have the means to do so. We creatives are not selfish people who will reject you outright, so do civilised society a favour and try asking. The positive responses might surprise you.
I must admit that sometimes creative people do have their off days. And that is why we like to collaborate with other creatives to step out of our comfort zone and try new stuff. Recently, we had a blast of a time working on 插班生's hit single 《逞强》with renowned local DJ 周崇庆. It was his first foray into directing, and our first attempt in producing such an emotional music video.
Here's a sneak peak at how we did it, less emotional than the music video of course. =)
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