A hobby I’ve mentioned on this blog is Exploration HQ, an online video series I’ve created with a friend. Since our last batch of videos years ago, I’ve made higher quality and resolution logos.
The new one has a few variants. It was made in Photoshop, same as the last. It was made through layering a couple of photos of grass using different masking effects. The polygon tool was also used for the triangle; the first time around, I’d actually meticulously drawn a triangle because I had no idea how to make a triangle in Photoshop at the time.
New Logo and Variants
Logo without text
Logo with white text
Logo without text with background
Logo with text with background
Logo with black text
Using After Effects to Create an Intro
Mask not showing logo
Mask showing logo
In the two above images, I’ve made it easy to see where I’ve masked the logo by showing it with the logo and one without. There are three masks; pink, green, and yellow. Each for different sections of the logo. Using these masks, a stroke effect has been applied and animated using keyframes.
The two big tools used on the logo were the masking tool and the stroke effect.
Finally, a black solid was used as the background and used the gradient ramp and noise effects to create a subtle red vignette. CC Ball Action was used for a particle effect.
I’ve had the unusual pleasure of living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for nine years of my life. Of course, the way us Westerners view the country is a lot different to the way Arabs do. We live in compounds surrounded by high walls and electrified wires with watch towers, they tend not to. Instead they live in houses with… high walls. According to my old Arabic teacher; the higher the walls are, the more important the person living there is.
King Salman hasn’t been seen in public for ages now due to poor health. His reign hasn’t lasted very long. After the death of Abdulaziz in 2015, Salman took over. Now, King Salman has fallen ill and it is thought that he could pass any day now, so the reign has been passed onto another Salman; Crown Prince Salman – who now rules the KSA.
What do the other Arab royals think of it? I’d imagine he’s quite polarising for them. He’s kicked most of them out of their palaces and taken away their money, theoretically to invest in more important things.
The new crown prince has seen Saudi Arabia boast changes mostly aimed at modernisation. Stepping foot into the country for the first time after nine years of living away, I couldn’t believe it. The airport now has shops in it, civilians and women working at the immigration, new glass gateways, and restaurants – all previously unimaginable for the country.
Incredible, I thought. Later during my stay, I found out that popular Western music artists would be performing in the country; the Black Eyed Peas, Enrique Iglesias, Jason Derulo, and David Guetta. I never thought in a million years that I would be able to see any of these famous people perform in Saudi Arabia of all places. I managed to see the Black Eyed Peas and Amir Diab, a famous Egyptian singer.
In addition, I thought something was off when I was at the shopping centres in the city. It took me a while to realise, but I saw women working in the shops. “Hang on,” I thought – “since when could women work here?” Turns out that they’ve been able to work here for three years now. However, some archaic and skewed religious laws remain. At the concert, I noticed a security guard leaning into the crowd from the fence and shouting in Arabic at some men. I had no clue what was being said, but it was clear that he wanted them to leave the crowd. After thirty seconds of that, he noticed me and started pushing me and shouting in Arabic. I wouldn’t budge, so he gave up after a moment. Some nearby onlookers introduced themselves to me and then told me that he was trying to separate the men from the women. Crazily enough, I managed to capture some of it on my phone below. It appears that the culture has yet to catch up.
On the topic of Formula E, it was a showcase event for the country to show the rest of the world that it can be like them. It’s the first of its kind in the country, aimed at the international community as if to say “come in, we’re open.” Below are a few pictures I took at the event.
The city of Riyadh is expanding rapidly. Only ten years ago, it was a tiny city with only two skyscrapers; Al Faisaliyah Tower and Kingdom Tower. Below are some photos from the top of Kingdom Tower (AKA Kingdom Centre).
Only about 20 years ago, most of the buildings in the photos above didn’t exist. It was all desert with only steamrollers paving the roads now filled with traffic. The country is rapidly catching up with the rest of the world, but it still isn’t a nice place for women to live. Need to get an Uber? You may need to get in a separate one from a woman. The Mutaw’ah or religious police barely seem to exist anymore – if they still do in the capital. They would be men with robes sporting golden lining, armed with swords. They would usually catch out any women who aren’t wearing an abaya or a headscarf.
Typically, one would travel to Bangkok for the city life, night life, and all that buzz. Funnily enough, one would travel to Pattaya for the same thing, except there is also a beach there. A thing that has almost always been true about Thailand is that its economy is highly dependent on tourism – a lot of things are targeted at foreigners with lots of disposable income. Over the years, I have noticed the hugely increased likelihood of seeing other foreigners in Thailand whereas there used to only be a few.
The three displays above are examples of marketing towards the tourist market. The first image is of a food menu I saw in Bangkok; obviously imitating what Westerners would usually go for in a meal, but it also appeals to the local population due to curiosity in what Americans and such usually eat. One easy thing to make fun of is the misspelling of ‘Western Main Cause,’ but I find it interesting just to look at because it reminds you that the person who made the menu probably does not have the same luxuries in technology that we do over here. It is also the determination in the attempt at English shows how important it is that some Thai businesses are able to attract tourists and on some occasions; expatriates.
Soho Town in Pattaya boasts being the first Chinatown there. The interesting thing about this is that it is a recent addition to the city; having only existed there a few years now. There is a massive Chinese presence in Pattaya, especially during the summer where bulk tour groups consisting of hundreds of Chinese tourists visit for cheap. I would think that the existence of a Chinatown is related to this trend, as it must be a popular place for meeting up and doing things.
The lit up London Calling billboard was found in a hot spot called Nana Plaza in Bangkok. Funnily enough, there were actually British people around here. Again, the symbolic link in Western iconography shows the importance of being able to attract tourists for business.
The above photo was something I found humorous. A statue I saw in a hotel lobby in Bangkok and I just had to snap a picture. More than meets the eye – what is the connotation in the statue of a plump woman walking her dog? It’s an impression of the average Western female, of course! The small details matter when you look into them.
April 2018 edit: Took the site down, wasn’t used, but it’s too exploitable. Pyramid schemes suck anyway
I’ve launched a Tumblr blog that’s set to give out discount coupons for G Suite. Now that I’ve used the word Tumblr, WordPress has probably blacklisted this blog post from reaching search engines, oh well! Haha.
After about a year of using WordPress, very little entices me to stay. You have to pay annually to get your own domain mapped, as I have done. It’s free to do so on Tumblr. You have to pay to remove ads. There are no forced ads on Tumblr blogs. You would even get more control with a Blogger site.
Here’s a little list I’m about to brainstorm about why Tumblr is better than WordPress:
You can edit HTML for free on Tumblr, you have to pay with WordPress
There is a greater impression of community with Tumblr, giving you the freedom of choice to ‘reblog’, ‘like’ posts, or follow blogs if you wanted
Tumblr is completely free of gimmicks such as paying to remove ads, mapping domains, with the exception of ‘premium themes’
Tumblr is easier to use in my opinion, it has just as much flexibility as WordPress, if not more
In my opinion, even the ‘personal’ plan WordPress has is overpriced – why should I pay for these things when I can get it for free elsewhere?
So then, why should anyone choose WordPress? If you’re rich or a business; WordPress has more business tools to offer for people willing to pay for them. These are Search Engine Optimisation tools and other ‘plugins’ (like bolt-ons from your mobile phone provider). Oh and there was a Tumblr password leak years ago. Of course, this shouldn’t be a problem if you follow rule #1 of passwords; never re-use them.
Well that begs the question; why did you choose WordPress, Dufus?
Because after having used Blogger, then Tumblr, I felt like a change. Now I’ve experienced all the big three blog sites, I have to say that I feel Tumblr outdid the competition. However; I’ve done too much on this blog now to be able to move, unless I just copy all my posts over. It’d be a long process though.
I’ve mostly thought of myself as a graphics manipulator, but moreso in the moving kind. Before university, I photoshopped animal faces onto people heads, and now look where we are. Making flash games, physical collage softcover books, websites, and writing screenplays. It’s a broad area.
As I enter my final year of university, I’ve done a few things on the side for fun over summer. I have a few shared YouTube endeavours.
One of them is a totally original gaming channel called Fug Squad, named after the meme with the walrus saying “fugg :DD”. You can find it in all its glory here.
We take turns to make spoofs out of our gameplay videos, hopping in-between games. No, we don’t monetise because that was never the aim. It’s a just 4 fun little-effort type of thing. This is one of the videos I made. I never claimed it was good.
A more serious piece of work. Psuedodocumentary series about urban exploration; looking at abandoned places and such. There’s clear improvement over the years. I recorded the footage on a camcorder or phone, then edited the clips using Adobe Premiere Pro and sometimes After Effects. For the more recent videos, I’ve added subtitles.
Here’s something I like to work on in my spare time and when I’m bored. It’s an urban exploration YouTube channel that a friend and I started in sixth form in 2014. Since then, we’ve made a few videos and you can see how they’ve improved over time. You have to start somewhere.
What do I use to edit these videos?
I use Adobe Premiere Pro CS6. Or if I’m using a university computer, I hop onto the CC version. I used to use Sony Vegas, but I ditched that because Adobe is generally accepted as the overlord of editing media content, and is also beheld as a more professional editing suite. If I really wanted to, I could use After Effects to create better visual effects, but these aren’t necessary for pseudo-documentary type of internet videos.
How much money went into this thing?
Not a lot actually. I already had an old camcorder called the Sony HDR-CX115E from a second-hand shop. I think it cost about £180 at the time. I’ve started using my phone instead; modern smartphones make very decent videos and it’s now even better than my old camcorder. We all chipped into the project by buying our own equipment. Torches, respirators, etc. As for the video editing software? You know how it is.
I actually used this channel in a university interview and I have to say; they were impressed. It seemed like I knew more about the program than ther interviewer did as well. Call me a bragger, but I couldn’t think of any other sixth form student who made videos as high quality as these. It showed that I was genuinely interested in the subject I wanted to do.
As for advice for doing this sort of thing yourself? Get motivated. If you don’t have any friends who would do this with you, do it yourself. You know the saying; “if you want something done, you’ve got to do it yourself.” Just watch other internet videos and copy them – but make them into your own creation. That’s what I did. Think of it as market research. You’d also want to hop on a good username for your stuff and grab it quick. We made the mistake of choosing the name Medway Urbex and then deciding we wanted to expand it outside of the Medway towns. We changed it a couple more times before we settled with Exploration HQ. We managed to change some of our URLs, but not all of them. Now we’re stuck with a YouTube channel that has “medwayurbex” and “ministryofexploration” as custom URLs but not “explorationhq” as with our facebook and twitter pages.
If you actually go ahead and make a YouTube thing (as well as if you already have), please don’t go putting in pop music in your videos. Use a royalty-free library. Back in the day, the selection of music in royalty-free libraries were so bland and common I didn’t bother using them. I tried mixing the tempo and pitch of good songs owned by copyright-holders to cheat the system, but now they’re being picked up on. Over the past few months, more and more of our old videos have been flagged up by the automatic Content ID system. Just go with royalty-free music; there’s many good sounding copyright clean music out there nowadays, so there’s no reason not to.
Engage with your community as well, social media is a thing to take hold of. Nowadays, you can’t have a YouTube channel you intend to spread without having the complementing Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Have fun with it while you can; once you move onto your next stage in life (e.g. university), you’ll find it difficult to find the time and place to do this stuff.
Captioning your videos actually improves search engine optimisation (SEO)
Tag your videos with keywords people are likely to search for
Do not monetise your videos until they reach into the thousands (or better, tens of thousands). Seriously, it’s not worth it if you only get a few hundred views. The adverts will only drive new viewers away. Even we haven’t monetised anything yet
To achieve the effect we have on our newer intros, just layer upon layer of grunge textures on top of each other and change the blending options
One dirty tactic of getting your content to spread is by spamming twitter users with links. You know, those people who slide into your DMs after you follow back
Longer videos are preferred by the YouTube search algorithms. Try to make your videos 15~ minutes long. Our videos usually end up being about an hour long before editing, so it’s a lot of cutting but also a lot of leaving good stuff in
Try to come up with a unique concept. A reason for people to watch your stuff instead of “genericoolgamer1998”
Yes, this post is also intended to promote my channel