Station Life

Season 6 of The Expanse kicked off at the start of December, I have only recently caught up on the first 5 seasons after two of my friends insisted that I should watch it, it made for good lockdown viewing. I am of course totally hooked and really enjoying the show and the new season is as gripping as expected.

As much as I’m liking the current story and plot, some of the original elements that drew me in have since diminished with each passing season.
For me a huge element that I really enjoyed was the focus on station/colony life, the personal interactions and background characters. Add into that mix the gumshoe element and a whole lot of mistrust/conspiracy and it was a blend that I really felt at home watching.

Once I was all caught up on the first 5 seasons of The Expanse, was itching to watch something else so I decided to start a re-watch of my favourite space themed show Babylon 5.
Turns out the elements I originally liked in The Expanse were the staples baked into almost all of Babylon 5, which is most likely why it appealed to me so strongly initially.

Since the announcement of the ‘from the ground up’ B5 reboot, with JMS at the helm, I have to admit that I am a little on the excited side.

Part of who I am

CW : Death

Yesterday I attended a virtual memorial for a ex co-worker from my first job, the event was lovely and emotional, it was also hard as the person in question had chance to record their own eulogy, it was difficult to hear but had some laugh out loud moments too, which was very typical of the person.

I spent some time thinking of when I was working alongside them, the day to day laughs that made the days go faster and smoother, their always cheeky grin that instantly make you think they were up to something. Reading some of the comments from friends and co-workers there is a strong pattern of how much joy flowed from the person, no matter the setting.


I entered the corporate world of shirts and ties at 19, fresh from college and stepped into an environment that was filled with some of the most wonderfully unique people and personalities.
I was taken on as a trainee programmer, given hemps of training, on COBOL/CICS/DB2 (Mainframes in banks) but the practicalities of actually using it in a real environment was a completely different matter.

Those co-workers, all my senior, mentored and guided me as I learned the ropes and continued to support me through-out my 9 year career.
Many of them already had kids and it was so different to move from a learning environment in college to a workplace filled with conversations about “grown up” stuff, other would tell use how good we had it as they regaled us with details of their experiences of working with punch cards and messing up the ordering.


I know that some of those lessons are still with me today, and despite the technology moving on by 23 years they resonate strongly with my values and my approach to work.

 

 

 

XSplit VCam

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with using my camera on stream, so in the past I have tended to only use it ad-hoc or when doing charity events.
I know it’s fuelled in part by my own self-image, but there was always some unknown factor that I struggled to nail down exactly what it was.

Since March when we left the office to work from home, I have had to get used to being on camera for longer periods of time attending virtual meeting often 6+ hours a day, this became the norm and I once more pondered using my webcam on stream. Of course one of the features that many of these video chat software offer is removal or blurring of background, this one feature was key to me feeling more comfortable being on camera a lot more.

Seems that unknown factor was down to having more control over what’s visible on the camera.

Blurry

I don’t have a lot of space for my Streaming setup so my Camera is going to be limited to a monitor mounted one, I get that other focus techniques exist on other equipment, but this isn’t going to be a option for me, at least at the moment.
So I went on the hunt for a webcam blurring software, in part fuelled by the fact I had a community goal in October for a jump scare play-through of an old game that scared the crap out of me in my youth.

After playing around with a demo for bit, I signed up to try Xsplit’s VCam software to give me the background blur effect that I was looking for, it has other options such as removal or replacing the background (just like those conference calls I’ve been in all year) but for me, Background Blur was the main thing that I was seeking.

I signed up for the monthly price with was $5.95 (before tax) which meant I was able to do a good few streams using the software before I had to renew it, there are some other payment options that bring the price down if you are wanting to invest for a longer period.

The software does a fairly decent job considering that I’m always wearing headset, which it sometimes determines is part of my head, and on occasion the gap between my head and the headset will show un-blurred content, not a massive concern for me at this stage as I’m frequently not in full screen and it normally only lasts a fraction of a second before vanishing.

However the Software will blur my mohawk 100% of the time when I wear it up 😆

Masks

After ensuring that VCam delivered the features I wanted, I then turned my focus on picking a camera mask that trimmed the view down to the area I wanted to appear on stream, of course you can alter the dimensions of the video input, but masks just allow you to shape the video input into something more unique and to your liking.

If you would like to try out some masks I suggest that you check out the following blog post from Hey Shady Lady, which contains links to guides on setup and with a download for 30 webcam masks that she has created for free https://littleshadylady.com/blog/webcam-masks-for-your-streams/.

Going all in

I had been using VCam for two months when a discount came up around Thanksgiving for the Lifetime Licence, I had been pleased with how it had been working and could see me using this long term not only for Streaming, so it was an investment that made sense, plus with the discount it would also save me about $12 of the normal cost.

In November another feature of VCam was announced, XSplit Connect : Webcam, which allows you to use your Android or Apple Device as a camera connecting it to VCam over WiFi which is handy if you haven’t got a webcam or you want to show off projects in more detail without having to unplug or re-arrange your camera set-up, but isn’t a feature I see myself using at the moment, but with some future Lego stream, it maybe a option to consider. The software is free and your license for VCam is the key part.

Stream music and sounds

Over the last few years streaming I have sourced and used music to play on intro and outro, however the mood of them was a quite industrial sounding, great for me but not so much for anyone tuning in at 9am on a Sunday morning (my usual time slot).

So I’ve been hunting for some alternative music pieces and two weeks ago I heard a tune over an infographic video on a news site that really caught my attention and I thought it could work well for an intro piece as it reflected the Cyberpunk/Futuristic theme of my overlays, with the industrial ground pounding that I was using.

After some digging around ( I found it on Google Music first) I discovered that the music could be licensed with a personal license being £10 a month with a 30 Day free trial, of course for that price it also includes many other tracks and sound effects too.

So have taken the plunge to see how it all works, the 30 day trail allows you to test out before  you have made any payments, but your channels (Youtube, Twitch, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Podcast) are still able to use it without having a copyright strike.

The key point that I wanted to check and that is confirmed is that any content created (uploaded) during the time you have a license is also covered when you cancel.

Last few streams have been good, I was pleased with the audio quality and felt that it could be a great investment to help me customise my Twitch Channel more to my liking and capturing more of the feel I’m after.

This IS my referral link https://www.epidemicsound.com/referral/5o13xg/ however if you want you can navigate directly to the site https://www.epidemicsound.com.

Lockdown for me so far

For myself lockdown seemed relatively straight-forward, I have my “Office” setup facing a window so that family members walking by won’t distract me too much.
Munki has been homeschooling Little Troll since September so there has only been some small tweaks needs to handle my being home all the time.

I bought Animal Crossing New Horizon for Munki so there was something new to her distract from events and the fact we will at some point get on each others nerves, this hasn’t really happened but I’m not sure if it’s just luck or down to ACNH.

We are arranging for shopping once every 7 to 9 days to keep the fresh foods topped up, this seems to be working well so-far and we are noting down dates of foods so we don’t forget to use anything. This has actually seen our weekly food waste amount diminish quite a bit.

The Unexpected

The first Monday after the UK entered lockdown (23rd) mid morning we got the sad news that a family friend of ours had passed away (unrelated to CoVID), this came out of the blue even though they had been in Hospital recently they had been discharged and were at home.

Later that same day we learnt that one of my grandmothers had also passed away (again unrelated to CoVID), she had been unwell for a little while but it was still another shock that hit us for six.

This week both of the funerals have taken place and in both cases the number of attendees is heavily restricted, one to under 5 persons (excluding officials and pallbearers) the other 10 persons (including officials).

I couldn’t attend either of the events due to the limitations, there are plans afoot to hold events in celebration of people’s lives in the future once the world returns to normality.
However not having the release/closure that comes from the attendance of a service is something that is very difficult to get to grips with and I found this very overwhelming at certain points this week.