InkBlot #2 - 12/14/20

Well that was longer than a week...


Well, I was wrong.

😬

Hey everyone. (well at least the the 16 views).

Long time no read. (See? Is that the right term?) In the first issue of InkBlot, I said this:

I’m going to (try and) hold myself accountable and try and push new issues each week, but we’ll see. Things are pretty weird and always changing still, but I hope to have at least one constant thing.

Well, that was a lie. It’s been around 5-6 weeks since the first issue of InkBlot. If you haven’t read it, check it out. I go over what InkBlot is, among some other things.

This last month has taught me two things:

  • I suck at holding myself accountable

  • Having at least one constant thing is impossible

There’s been so much going on, and every weekend when I had free time, I thought to myself, “Hey, you should write the next issue for InkBlot, and hold yourself accountable.” And then immediately thought afterwards, “Nah, do it next weekend.”

This is that weekend. I’m writing this Saturday night, to hit your inboxes or wherever your read InkBlot noon CST on Sunday.

So let’s end this intro out and get into the fun stuff. In this issue, we’re talkin’ about next-gen gaming and art.


Next-gen gaming

Next-gen gaming.

Let that sink in. If you are even barely into gaming, you must’ve heard of this term. Before the second week of November, it was all about going into that next-gen. But now, we’re in that next-gen. Or are we?

The general idea of “Next-gen”

Regardless if you’re team Playstation or Xbox, Next-gen sounds pretty good to you, with all of the new consoles supporting the following:

  • Ray-tracing (reflections and lighting everywhere

  • 4K (except Series S)

  • 120 Hz Refresh Rates (even smoother than 60 fps)

  • That sweet new RDNA 2 GPU and Zen 2 CPU

  • Super fast SSDs (almost non-existent load times!)

  • 8K (except Series S, but 8K isn’t mainstream, so…)

The similarities go on and on, but these improvements make this upgrade so much more worth it than the Xbox One X/S and PS4 Pro refreshes a few years ago. However, Xbox Series and PS5 both have their differences. I won’t be able to attest to those of Xbox however.

I’ll be going into my experience with the PS5 I was able to luckily pick up and spend some time with over the past month. (Analyzing, totally not gaming at all. Totally.)

Here are a few of the things I found that made “next-gen” feel like “next-gen”

Experience is Key

So some background. I’ve been apart of Team Xbox since 2011, when my cousin gifted me a Xbox 360 + Kinect for christmas. It’s what I grew up with, so I stuck with it. When I got my Xbox One in 2015, I thought it was the greatest thing, upgrading from the 360. Playing Halo at amazing graphics for the time, the sleekness of the console. It was great.

But over time, I felt like Xbox stopped innovating. They didn’t heavily focus on exclusives, and spent their time on fixing what wasn’t broken. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but is when the opponent is able to do both.

Now there were some good things that Xbox did however. Xbox Game Pass is something I truly miss since switching. (but the PS Plus Collection is really great for what it is) Since games cost upwards of $60, paying a monthly fee of $10, so $120/year, for over 100 games, makes complete sense. I get the latest titles, without any of the baggage of leaving the game growing dust.

When it came to deciding between the Series X and PS5, PS5 just seemed like it was way greater of a gaming experience. Sure, the Series X is the “most powerful console” ever, and was compact and small, and could bring over my current digital library. The controller was modified a bit, but still the same old same old.But the PS5 had the Dualsense, and the super unique design, and just more tied to it. And Spider-Man. (I’ve always wanted to play it since seeing the trailer from E3)

The Dualsense Controller

So when I say, Experience is Key, it truly is. The Dualsense controller is the next-gen accessory, and everything else just adds to it.

The haptic vibrations (much like that of the Switch Pro Controller and Joy Cons) are fine tuned, and make every experience better. There’s no feeling like the feeling of walking on sand, or metal, or even ice. Even the slight haptics of swinging your webs in Spider-Man Remastered and Miles Morales, they make the game ever so immersive. It’s very hard to explain how it feels, you will just have to experience it yourself.

I haven’t spent much time with adaptive triggers, but in Fortnite and Watch Dogs: Legion, they also add a new form of immersion. Spider-Man utilizes it, but not in the way you’d think, and it’s more just there to show off. The triggers are variable, creating tension upon pressing, making you put more force into it, as if you are actually pressing the trigger on a gun. I’m especially excited for Deathloop, a future game with this feature used to the max.

The controller is great in tactility. The buttons are clicky, joycons smooth, and the touch pad is a cool touch, coming from Xbox. The Create Button is great for quick screenshots and videos. The built in microphone is great for those that don’t own one, and the in-built speaker also adds a little bit more immersion, when not wearing headphones.

But one thing I think is underrated? 3D Audio. You might’ve heard about it. The Tempest Chip. When I play my games, I wear headphones, to increase immersion, and to not annoy anyone at home when I am shooting in the living room. It works with any headphones (and soon for surround and stereo sound systems), and basically creates a form of surround sound. Your head is in the position of the player. So in Spider-Man, I can hear the direction of where the person is talking, cars driving, and even just the pigeons flying around. It’s a form of spatial audio, one which I assume is a smaller version of Apple’s Spatial Audio system for the Airpods Pro and Max (which we’ll talk about next time).

The Console

Now, the PS5 console. It’s everything you expected. Super fast cold boot and rest boot up times. Smooth menus and a 4K home screen. Instantaneous (almost) loading. Ray-tracing. 60-120 FPS.

The user interface is a breath of fresh air in my opinion, after coming from Xbox’s clunky and confusing UI for the past few years. Everything is just there, and works. Sure there’s the occasional glitch or bug, but it’s first-gen software, versus Xbox, who’s running an updated version of the same OS that basically shipped in 2014.

Games designed for the PS5 use all of the PS5’s new features the most. But games from the PS4 or even PS3(the minority) see the most benefit. One of my major gripes with the PS5 is storage space, being around 667 GB of the 825 GB after the system takes it’s portion. Even though there is expansion, it requires specific SSDs of the future, and isn’t even supported right now.

Luckily, the PS5 works with external hard drives, SSD or HDD, where you can store PS4 games. With PS Plus, PS5 users get the PS Plus Collection for free, a collection of around the best 20 games from PS4. I installed most of these onto a 1TB HDD. Load times are a bit faster (even when running off the HDD), but the graphics and performance have boosts. Any game that has unlimited FPS can now hit 60 on a dime, where even the PS4 Pro struggled, getting to 30. Playing last-gen games never felt better. I’ve only messed with God of War and Infamous: Second Son, but 60 FPS on these games feels great.

Ray-tracing is a great new addition as well. In Spider-Man: Miles Morales, the game was designed for the usage of Ray-tracing everywhere. From his suit, to the linoleum floors, all the way to buildings and puddles. It makes the game way more detailed. Before today, you had to choose between Fidelity and Performance mode. Fidelity was at a locked 30 FPS, at native 4K, with ray-tracing and higher graphics quality. Performance was a locked 60 FPS, also at native 4K, without ray-tracing. With the latest update for both Spider-Man games on PS5, there’s a new Performance RT Mode. This mode gives a locked 60 FPS and ray-tracing, at the expense of a lower quality (upscaled 4K), and less civilians and details. It’s a compromise, but from playing for a bit with it, you can barely tell the difference.

Conclusion

In conclusion, next-gen is still to come. Games are still being made for Xbox One and PS4, so games made for Xbox Series and PS5 will be held back. But over time, with games being specifically made for these consoles, we will get closer to that dream for next-gen. And by then, we might be waiting for next-gen again.

You can’t go wrong with either team, Xbox or Playstation, it just depends on the experience you want. Do you want a more refined version of what you have, or a brand new experience for a brand new generation? Both are valid perspectives, it just depends on you.

I’m excited for where gaming is headed, especially with optimizations being made to games and software improvements to make everything greater.

Well that was a long one. I hope to share more info on PS5 and next-gen gaming in the coming issues, but especially shorter. Let’s move on.


Ink Experiments

Over Thanksgiving break, I decided to spend some time with art. It was a stress relief tactic after school being a stress the weeks prior.

I don’t like traditional forms of art. I’m more into abstract, geometric, and even just weird pieces. Something with a multitude of perspectives and opinions to it.

During my two-day process, I was able to make some really cool art, and give it a spin with editing with RAW.

Playin’ with Paints

From the get-go, I wanted to make something unique and abstract. I came across this video from two years, from Art Insider:

The video shows Artist Callen Schaub with a custom trapeze, creating awesome pieces of abstract art. This began my idea of basically creating a trapeze, or a simple pendulum in my backyard.

But the more I thought about the logistics of it, it was harder to do. So I turned to a different route, acrylic pouring paints.

Acrylic pouring paints are great. You just get a cup, pour some paints with different patterns and styles, then pour onto canvas. Here’s a video of the methods I used:

Being my first time, I didn’t really want to splurge on expensive pouring paints and canvas, so I purchased some of the cheaper and smaller amounts. And it worked out really well. Here are a few I made:

Being totally honest, these don’t look as good digitally as they do in-person, but there’s a way to make these look amazing. And that has to do with RAW.

Editing RAW

First, what is RAW? A quick Google search gives the following:

A camera raw image file contains minimally processed data from the image sensor of either a digital camera, a motion picture film scanner, or other image scanner. 

Shooting RAW ensures you are capturing as many colors in an image as possible, creating photos with a higher color range and color depth.

RAW essentially gives more room for editing and manipulation of image data. What’s even better is ProRAW, Apple’s new, proprietary RAW standard. I’ve been daily-driving iOS 14 Betas since WWDC, so I was able to be test out ProRAW, which should go public soon, if it already hasn’t.

Here’s a brief description of ProRAW:

ProRAW gives you all the standard RAW information, along with the Apple image pipeline data. So you can get a head start on editing, with noise reduction and multiframe exposure adjustments already in place — and have more time to tweak color and white balance.

That’s a lot of technical jumbo. But in a nutshell, it’s RAW, but with more even data from your camera. It also takes care of a bit of the adjustments too. From testing, ProRAW photos tend to be around 20-25 MB each, so storage is a big deal.

So the day after making all the paintings, I sat down and used my iPhone, shooting in ProRAW, to take different close-ups and angles of my pictures.

Then, I imported them into Adobe Lightroom, to see what I could do. And it turns out, I had lots of freedom. Freedom to the extent whereas the new pictures don’t look anything like the original paintings, but even better.

I messed with tone curves, exposure, noise reduction, and even color profiles. For someone who hasn’t really dived into photo-editing, I was really amazed with how much freedom and flexibility I had.

After I played with adjustments for each painting, I finally was able to get the final results I wanted.

The Final Results

And here they are.

Now, these aren’t aren’t all the same as the paintings I showed above, but they are different angles and magnifications.

They look completely different and very unique, all thanks to the editing processes of RAW and Lightroom combined.

If you want to download these for use of your wallpapers or any private projects, feel free to. If you want to use them for any commercial projects, please reach out. They are in their full resolution, so the file is sort of big, and aren’t indicative of the original ProRAW files.

Download


Phew.

The end of the second issue of InkBlot. Even though this issue was really long, I hope there’s something that you found helpful or interesting. With winter break coming up, I hope I can go back to (or achieve) that one issue a week goal I set.

Next week, I’ll be talking about a certain space bounty hunter, the iPhone 12 Pro, as well as Google Stadia. I’ve been playing around with a lot of different tech in the past month, and I hope to get everything shared here in the next few issues.

You can check out more about me and what I do at my website, https://ritesh.tech

You can also feel free to hit me up on Twitter if you have questions or just wanna chat, either works.

Until next time, 👋