So Epic, So Easy: My Plotagraph App Review

I use a lot of apps to make up some pretty epic photos: Facetune, Toon Camera, Half Tone, ElementFXPro, just to name a few. There, the secrets (some of ’em, anyway!) are out of the bag.

Plotagraph was one app I’d been waiting for since they released it for the Mac early this year. I was told it would be available this September so I was stoked to see they released it earlier when I caught it on the App Store in mid-August. 

Plotagraph is an image animation app that truly makes for epic photos: it makes elements in your photos move in a hypnotic loop, drawing people in, making them watch. If you like to take photos of the sky, water, even architectural subjects, you’re going to have a great time playing with this app.

It’s fantastically easy to use, too!

Download the app ($4.99 from the App Store) and you’re good to go. It exports directly from your gallery or camera so you can easily choose which photos you’ve taken to manipulate. Luckily, I was on a Cebu Pacific flight to be among the first to see the newly-built Terminal 4 Airport in Changi, Singapore after I got the app so I got plenty of chances to play with it:

1. Choose a photo from your gallery.

2. Mask the portions you don’t want to move. You can adjust the size of the cursor. You can erase the mask, too with the eraser tab. Like the mask cursor, the size is adjustable, too.

3. Anchor the portions you don’t want to be animated. Still not sure how this works versus the masking, I’m still playing with it.

4. Animate the portions you want to move, in the directions you want them to move.

5. Adjust the speed of the movement.

6. Review your work of art 😄 by pressing the play tab. You can refine it by tightening or erasing the mask, adding or deleting arrows using the undo button on top of the page or the select tab at the bottom.

7. Export directly to your gallery or messaging or social media platform of your choice. Saving just takes a few seconds.

You can have a cool, custom Plotagraph in less than 5 minutes!

 

I’ve had a lot of fun creating epic images using this app. I even looked for old stuff I’ve made just to see how well they work with Plotagraph:

Taken more than ten years ago with a Fish Eye camera and a stroke of luck, and now, fortified with Plotagraph!

 

My dad and his dad, film taken in the late 50’s. Subtle and slow Plotagraph effects make the moment more magical:

 

Taken with a GoPro as my son and I were learning to surf:

 

GoPro Selfie in Kayangan Lake in Coron, Palawan:

 

I hope you have fun with it! If you want me to create epic Plotagraphs for you, like the Crashtestdaddy Facebook page and send me a message with your photo there.

Cheers!

Light the Corners of My Mind

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I don’t know what this is, this feeling of dread I can’t shake off when it come and goes. Whenever this visitation inflicts itself upon me, my heart starts to race, I feel nauseous, weak and dizzy.

This has been happening a little too often lately. Like last night, when I got home from work at 10 pm to find my boys sound asleep. I kissed their foreheads and wished them good dreams like usual. I plopped down on my couch to wind down after a long day when I suddenly felt this creeping anxiety grip me.

I used to feel similar pangs before but they were nothing I couldn’t shake off. In the grocery, while driving, in bed trying to sleep, during a meeting or a even a casual conversation. But I would always just chalk it up to stress. I’m just tired and crashing, I would tell myself.

What’s worrisome is the sensation of some impending, unknowable dread, which is new to me. It’s not something I can easily deflect with Jo Stafford’s No Other Love on my iTunes which I would play ad infinitum whenever I’m in a mood. There’s something about the song, maybe its the cadence or the words, that reassures me.

It’ll be awhile until I can get a professional to tell me what this is. I do not want to speculate since I’ll just drive myself crazy. Or crazier than usual.

So, last night, during my worst episode so far, I willed myself to use the light of my happiest memories to fight the inexplicable darkness that I was beginning to feel. It worked out beautifully, (until my car hit a pole on the way to a meeting today. Oh, well) one flashback after another, like seeing my life’s happiest moments unfold yet again:

Watching my son being born, cutting the umbilical cord, wondering how something so little and so fragile could be so beautiful.

Holding my second son right after he was born, wondering what his chubby cheeks are made of.

Drinking with friends in college. Someone has a guitar and we’re singing old songs. It’s 1 am and we’re waking the neighbors but we don’t care. Someone’s telling a sad story like his world’s about to end. It’s 3 am and we’re out of beer. We comb the dark, dingy side streets of Recto looking for a store that will sell us more. But someone wants fresh milk so we walk farther to the 7-11. It’s 5am, we’re driving to España to eat pares and then race the sun home. Wondering what time I’ll get to school when I hadn’t even slept yet.

Waking up at the old retreat house in Antipolo on a cool Saturday morning. It’s time for breakfast. The shuffle of feet dragging sleepy bodies, the shrill of a bell herds them to the mess hall. I smile knowing they’re in for an awakening all day today and well into the evening. Superfriend is waiting.

The first time I walk her home. I run away when she asks me to come in so she can dry my shirt because I’m all sweaty.

The first date at Inca. She can’t stop giggling when I apologize for mangling her crepe. She thinks I’m flirting.

June 28, 2000. Yeah, I was flirting.

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Finding a store that sells turntables and old vinyl records while we stroll around Sikatuna Village. I find Bread’s “Lost Without Your Love” and the guy who owns it says he likes me and decides to give it to me. It will be a few years before I can make her listen to ‘Belonging’ since I don’t have a turntable yet.

Hugging my siblings and my mom whenever they come home to visit from the US. It’s like getting a piece of myself back.

That hot birthday dance, October 2014. I’m glad I brought my wingman.

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Preah Vihear, 2015. Photo by @crashtestdaddy

Lost and alone in the jungles of Northern Cambodia, looking for an ancient mountain temple. I can’t walk any more so I offer to pay a local I just met to carry me. He won’t, so I stop every few meters to rest and fume at myself. This gets me nowhere so I just pray and pray and pray with each agonizing step up. And then, reading a book at the garden back in my hostel for three days since I can’t walk because my legs are still sore from the climb.

February 2016. That smile.

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Dressing up as Darth Vader, hiring a Jedi cosplayer to surprise my firstborn on his Star Wars themed birthday party. We duel after he is given his lightsaber. The look on his face when he unmasks me as I say, “I am your father!”

August 2016. Tough talk. I’m trying not to cry when my panganay tells me he will always love his folks no matter what. And then he farts. And then we laugh.

Slow dancing to Roberta Flack, Jo Stafford and Esther Satterfield. And then, a few fleeting months later, the last time I saw that face, that smile.

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Skydive Greater Cebu, Bantayan Island, 2017.               Photo by @crashtestdaddy

Jumping out of an airplane. I am crazier than I thought.

My 12 year old sees me deep in thought, worrying about something I likely did not need to worry about. He asks me, “Hey, dad, how are you? Are you all right?” I smile.

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I am grateful I have these memories, and these kids, to light up my life.

 

 

Super Humanity


While researching stories for our fledgling website, 8list.ph today, I found myself wishing really hard that superheroes were real.

Maybe, then there wouldn’t be dead children washed up on beaches in Europe (or anywhere!), no kids taken from their parents or grabbed from the streets on their way to school.

Hh, maybe traffic wouldn’t be so bad, either. Maybe our telcos would provide us better internet service (because, Oracle and Cyborg). And I’m pretty sure Batman would scare some sense into our leaders. Too much politics, no one talks about ethics. Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth could easily weed out corrupt government officials.

Like many of you, I cried after seeing those heartbreaking, gut-wrenching photos of Aylan, the drowned Syrian baby on a beach in Turkey. Realizing my tears, my outrage served nothing, I said a prayer. But lately I’ve come to rely on my imagination more than my faith — on some level, aren’t they the same? So, I thought heroes. This world, this world’s children need heroes.

So here I am, curled up on my bed, staring at my Kotobukiya DC Comics ArtFX collection, lost in imagining how these colorful, costumed crusaders, their ideals and their courage, can make for a better world.

Bedtime trick for restless tykes who can’t sleep

Bedtime is always a struggle with Moses. I’m not talking about the usual tossing and turning here. In his three-year old mind, the bed is a wrestling ring with his sleeping brother and mom as hapless, helpless opponents. If you leave him alone, he’ll run amok around the bedroom, knocking down stuff and shrieking gleefully all the while. He’s like one of our beagles, I used to say to his mommy. Thank God he hasn’t eaten any of our pillows.
 My old and new lullabyes, bedtime stories, none of them work any more.

Then, one night, I thought of a way to get him to be still, inspired by how I used to listen to his older brother Noah’s heartbeat before we had heart surgery done for his murmur. 

Me: Hey, Moses, come here! Lie down for a minute so I can listen to your heart! 
Moses: Ok!
Me: Your heart is beating so fast! It’s saying boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! (It’s working I thought! He was still for almost a minute!)
Moses, looking amazed: I want to listen to your heart, daddy! 

Me: All right, but you gotta be real quiet, close your eyes and lie still! 

(Places his head on my chest)
After a few seconds, Me: What does daddy’s heart say? 

Moses: Twinkle, twinkle little star..! 

Hahaha! Yeah, well, daddy’s got little stars in his heart, all right, kiddo. Thanks to you! 

Unboxing: Kotobukiya ArtFX DC Comics Big 3

I’m not ashamed of it: I really am a kid trapped in 39-year old body. I still daydream a lot, still love Jollibee, never stopped collecting comic books (though these days I just get them off the DC comics app) and Superman will always be my greatest idol.

It’s a joy to share my love for superheroes with my kids today. I teach them their greatest power is their imagination. See?

used to buy my comics every Wednesday from Filbar’s, Comic Quest, Druid’s Keep and Planet X — comic book shops where I would drool over toys and action figures after going through their back issue bins (very thoroughly). But I figured I already spent a lot on comics (about P500 to P1,000/week back then) so a toy collection would be too much for my wallet, plus, where else could I keep them? 

And then I saw that Kotobukiya had come out with a stunning ArtFX 1/6 collection featuring Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman (she would be released later), designed by Jim Lee, one of the best comic book creators today. I just had to get my hands on them.

Superman was the first to fall into my clutches. After some online sleuthing, all I had to do was call Hobime at (0917) 559 1885 and the owner, Mark, happily delivered my very first Koto figure to me in Makati within a few hours. I flew home faster than a speeding bullet to unbox:

The box features fantastic spectacular amazing Super (sorry, Marvel’s cornered too many superlatives!) cover art from Lee’s acclaimed “For Tomorrow” run on the comics.

    

Great Scott! He’s gorgeous!

  

Check out the bold colors and intricate detail! They all scream, “BUY ME!” And so I did for P5,500.

  

It IS an ‘S’ — for ‘stand’ made of plastic.

Superman got lonely because I couldn’t find Batman and it would be a few weeks until they released Wonder Woman. I got REALLY LUCKY when I stopped by Bestoys in Greenbelt one day and was told that she had just arrived that morning! At P6,500, she was more expensive than Superman.

Kal-El would finally have his Diana!


So I set out to free the amazing Amazon from her box prison. Carefully.

            Hera, help me, she’s perfect! Look at that skin — Vicki Belo would be proud! In the pre-New 52 retcon comics, she was made of clay. But this baby, like all Kotos, is made of beautifully-sculpted PVC. Like the gods made her, which is so New 52. Except her costume is from Kingdom Come. #Convergence, anyone? (sorry if this paragraph is confusing. Us comic book geeks are confused, too)

    

Regal, baby!

A day later, my lucky streak continued when I stopped by another toy store in Greenbelt (it was Christmas! I was shopping for my godkids!) called CSCentral.com. I found Batman (Black Costume edition) under boxes of other  Koto figures. Poor guy had been waiting for me there for a few months, I was told. I haggled for a discount, so I got this for a little over P6,000. The store’s closed since but you can look them up on Facebook.

Anyway, on to unboxing this dramatic sculpt of The Dark Knight!

          

Of all these three Kotos, Batman’s very dynamic, springing into action pose is my favorite. I also catch myself marveling (again, sorry) at the creases and torn detail of his cape.
      

So here they are. Three heroes, icons and legends who used to loom large but only in my imagination, brought to life by the skillful mastery of sculptor Kouei Matsumoto of Kotobukiya. They have never looked better, especially together. I’m a happy kid each time I see them.

You are my sunshine

Normally, I can’t get our 3-year old, Moses to sit still long enough for a brief conversation. But music’s our thing — he used to love it when I played my old songs on the turntable to put him to sleep — so I’ve recently started singing to him. It worked! At least for this video, I got him to be still for about a minute until he got distracted by himself.

Stick this in your noggin

Dear Noah and Moses,

Today, you are nine and three, and, boys, we’ve still got a looooooong way to go!

I need to make sure we understand each other. We can’t know if you will still look at me with those eyes so full of love and admiration (you gotta understand I live for that!) when we’re fighting about your curfew or when you’d rather spend Friday nights with your friends than with mom and dad. But I’ve seen families fall apart just because they couldn’t be honest with their feelings — somehow, it’s easier to lie and rage than to say I’m sorry or I love you. So, as we grow up together, I want you (and me) to remember how your daddy will always feel about you:

I will always worry and look out for you even as I know you must learn on your own. So tell me everything: how you’re doing, where you’re going, your friends’ names, phone numbers, addresses and social media accounts. I’ll never get tired of asking.

I will always doubt myself and the decisions I make for you. Having said that, doubt is no sign of weakness. You are free to tell me if you think I’m wrong, but calmly, please, so we can come to an understanding of what is best for you. Have faith in me.

I will always be in awe of you. Watching you grow up is incomparable. You guys level up better than any video game and you’re more fun than any comic book I’ve read and re-read. Growing up with you has been the greatest adventure!

I will prepare you for a life without me. Heck, that’s why I’ll keep telling you boys to 1. take care of each other, 2. be good to others and, 3. choose your friends carefully. Later, when I’ve learned how, I’ll teach you how to use your money wisely.

I will always love you. ’nuff said!

Dad

Noah & Moses

 

 

Thinking/Unthinking

Things I know to be true about me and my life on this ruminative Easter Sunday afternoon:

I think too much, worry too much. I tell my friends my brain is too tired from thinking things through and down to the last detail. In my work as a public relations orchestrator that’s usually a handy trait, but it makes me very anal company outside of the office. Ok, even in. Nobody likes a controlling know-it-all. My brain is tired and I’m beginning rub my family and friends the wrong way.

I need to return to my creative roots, instead. I am a storyteller by nature and I need to be able to tell better stories. I’ve always known I ought to write more. I love creating. I also miss TV production work: shooting, directing, scriptwriting, editing and seeing the final video. In my heart, I know this is why I bought my GoPro cameras and I realize I am happiest when I am creating home movies of our adventures with our kids.

I can’t do it all and this Superman complex that has me believing I should fix everything and help everyone will be the death of me. DC Comics really fucked me up this way.

I have to accept that some people are meant to be in my life only until a certain time. If they are meant to be in my life, they will catch up. Still, maybe some people are worth fighting to keep?

I’m an impetuous malcontent and I still haven’t learned to rein in my typical Sagittarius fire-sign + ADHD impulses. That’s why I burn out so often. Only, when I burn, I burn really bright.

I miss having a quiet place where I can think. Back when I was in school, I would spend mornings and afternoons in the prayer room above the cafeteria.

I have got to stop being a melodramatic, sentimental sadsack who lives inside his head too much. If you see me zoning out these days, I’m probably: 1. Thinking a problem through or 2. Reliving an old hurt.

I need funny, new friends. People who will tell me I’m taking life too seriously. Over beer and karaoke.

All these things I’ve written down are self-inflicted hurts. I could be writing about things I’m grateful for, but these things have been weighing down on me for awhile now.

It’s time for a change. It’s time for me to change. This cocoon is taking too damn long to spin.

Guilt trip

I went on my first backpacking trip last week — I’m certain I’ll find the time to write about it here in this lifetime!
A temple run through Cambodia’s fabled Angkor Wat monuments, with my brother Andrei, was the adventure of a lifetime.
Still, there were times I felt guilty about traveling without my wife and sons. Even as I spoke to them on the phone every day, I couldn’t help but feel bad. I was having the time of my life learning about this ancient civilization and eating all that awesome streetfood, but…it just felt wrong not having them with me.
A local restaurant Phnom Penh gave me a chance to redeem myself.
One day, my sons will go off on their own adventures. If they happen by this awesome restaurant called Kabbas, which lets customers write reviews to tape on their wall, Noah and Moses will find a nice surprise shoutout from their dad.

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It was a good meal alright, but I didn’t have time to write a long review as we were rushing to catch our bus to Ho Chi Minh.
But I know, wherever I am in the world, there’s always enough time to be a good dad.