Anime Comes to life in DC

Fans gathered in Washington DC to share their love for Anime!

By: Corey Honeycutt

CHATTANOOGA/Tenn.(UTC/LOOP)–  The Hyatt Regency in Crystal City Alrington, VA. played host to one of many Japanese animation conventions on the weekend of November 12-14th.

Hyatt Regency Crystal City

Hyatt Regency Crystal City, photographer unknown

Anime USA was started by fans in 1999 and became a non profit educational organization in 2004. It’s slogan “Of Otaku, By Otaku and For Otaku has held true throughout its years.

It started off as most conventions with a few hundred people. It now brings in around 5,000 fans a year to the Crystal City Hyatt Regency.

Fans ranging in all ages show up dressed as their favorite characters, from animes and games ranging from Pokemon and Final Fantasy to more obscure titles such as 07 Ghost.

This form of dressing up is called cosplay or “costume play.” It originated in Japan, but has been gaining more and more popularity here in the U.S.

Kuroshitsuji Photoshoot

Kuroshitsuji Photoshoot, photo by Corey Honeycutt

Fans can also put together skits and compete against each other for the title of Best in Show in the masquerade which is the highlight of most conventions and draws the biggest crowds.

Shanna Labriola potrayed the character Van from the series Escaflowne. Her costume consisted of hand made wings from chicken wire, felt and feathers. Overall her outfit took her 25 hours to make.

Van from Escaflowne, Photo by Refractor Productions

“My cousin took me to a convention and that’s how I got started into cosplaying.”

The convention played host to not only the fans to but to many guests who work in the industry such as voice actors, artists, directors and professional costumers.

This year’s guests were voice actors Brina Palencia, Cristina Vee, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Patrick Seitz and Christopher Sabat. Megan Murphy, Heidi Arnold and Monica Gallagher are a few of the artists guest and Clockwork Dolls, Promise Sisters and Echostream were the bands.

Brina Palencia recently landed the main role of Ciel Phantomhive in the anime Black Butler(Kuroshitsuji).  Black Butler is an anime gaining popularity over here in the US and already has a big fan base. She has voiced small and large roles in such popular animes as Fullmetal Alchemist, Nabari no Ou, Darker Than Black and XXXholic.

“My favorite role has to be Natsuki in Summer Wars, because she is raised by her grandmother and I was raised by my grandmother. It is probably the most genuine acting I’ve ever done.”

Even though she has voiced main characters in the past when asked how she felt about the part of Ciel she said she was terrified.

Brina Palencia, photo by Corey Honeycutt

“It’s really exciting, but I’m so terrified about it. I feel I worked very hard on the part and researched the accent. I’m proud of the work I did, I’m just hoping the fans like it. ”

Brina Palencia just finished a web series called Throwingstones on top of her other voice acting roles.

“It’s sort of a Breakfast Club meets horror movie.”

AUSA is just one of many conventions dedicated to anime, games and manga. There are enough conventions to go to one every weekend. They range from smaller ones with only to a few hundred people, to over 50,000 people.

So if you feel that Halloween is to short a time to dress up, or have a knack for creating costumes and are an anime or gaming fan, there are plenty of conventions to choose from.

Other conventions are listed below that can be attended throughout the year in many different states.





Anime Weekend Atlanta

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“The Social Network,” “Catfish” offer distinct looks at Facebook

By Jonathan Higdon

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop) — It has become the college student routine. Wake up. Check Facebook. Go to class. Check Facebook. Eat Lunch. Check Facebook. You get the idea. A modern Animal House would look completely different from what John Belushi offered more than 30 years ago. So what’s a filmmaker to do? Make a movie about Facebook, of course! Two great films about the social networking site have been released recently, offering two very different views on what has become a cultural phenomenon.

The Social Network, from The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, gives a slightly fictionalized take on the origins of Facebook. In the film, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg—Adventureland, Zombieland) is portrayed as the egotistical CEO Silicon Valley legend has made him out to be. Zuckerberg himself has since refuted the implications the film makes about his character, but Eisenberg truly steals the show with his superb acting.

Besides delivering an (albeit somewhat distorted) look into the origins of Facebook, The Social Network offers one of the first mainstream success stories set in the computer science industry. Students have already said they are inspired by what they saw in the film, and have expressed an interest in computer programming because of Zuckerberg’s success with Facebook. Zuckerberg has already changed the present with his creation; now it appears he will be indirectly changing the future, as well.

Whereas The Social Network lauds Facebook by immortalizing its place in today’s culture, Catfish takes a different approach. This documentary follows Yaniv Schulman, a New York photographer who begins a relationship with a family after receiving a painting from the family’s eight-year-old daughter. When Schulman travels to visit the family in person and learns that they aren’t exactly as they advertised online, he learns an important lesson which he passes on to the audience.

The movie serves as a warning to the threats posed by the socialization of the Internet. Social networking sites like Facebook can be an important tool in society, however they also have a darker side. Catfish provides a glimpse into the real story of a man who was a victim of the easy anonymity of the Internet, but also warns on the dangers of easily accessible information made available on Facebook.

Although Catfish and The Social Network explore two completely different sides of Facebook, it is safe to say that the film industry is ready to explore this new branch of social culture. Hopefully impressionable audiences will not only be inspired by Zuckerberg in The Social Network, but will also heed the warnings laid out in Catfish and deliver us into a new, better age of social networking.

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A Rated R Movie that Lives Up to the Rating. Movies You Need to See: High Tension

This horror thriller puts the slash back in slasher film, taking the viewer on an adrenalin filled ride of death and mayhem that is rarely see in today’s overly watered down horror films.

By: Justin Dee

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop)For far too long studios have watered down horror movies in order to label the films PG 13 in an attempt to make more money. However, this 2003 French horror thriller from Alexandre Aja is one of the hardest R rated movies in the last decade.

This French Horror Film originally received a in NC 17 Rating from the American ratings system.

  • Release Date: June 18, 2003
  • Staring :Cécile de France, Maïwenn Le Besco, Philippe Nahon
  • Budget: €2,200,000
  • Gross Revenue: $6,291,958

Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco) on the left and Marie (Cécile de France) as they cower from the maniac down stairs.

High Tension centers around two college friends Marie (Cécile de France) and Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco) who decided to spend the weekend with Alex’s parents in their country home. Mayhem ensues when an intruder kills Alex’s family and takes her hostage, living Marie to save her friend from this homicidal maniac.

Ethan Alter, of Film Journal International, called High Tension refreshing and wrote in his 2003 review that the film takes full advantage of the R rating.

Alter went on to write “What really gets the audience involved are the tense moments before the blood starts to fly. And, as the title implies, High Tension is filled with those sorts of beats. In its best moments, the film is reminiscent of such seminal slasher pictures as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes .”

Philippe Nahon plays Le tueur (The killer) is a French a born actor best know for roles in horror thrillers such as The Pack

UTC student, Steven Redd, described High Tension as an exceptional slasher film saying ,” Its also interesting to see how our crazy, inbred, redneck fantasy has influenced the horror genre internationally.”

The acting in High Tension is better than most films of slasher film genre. Maïwenn Le Besco and Philippe Nahon do very good jobs with the material, but the film rests on the performance of Cécile de France. The fear, forcefulness and determination adds to the tension in the film title and makes the viewer care about the victims and their situation.

Cécile De France is currently staring in Clint Eastwood Hereafter along side Matt Damon

The films ending has been a source of contention for fans and critics alike. Love the ending or hate it you’ll enjoy the ride getting there.

High Tension served as director Alexandre Aja catapult into Hollywood. After High Tension Aja was taped to direct 2006’s Hills Have Eyes remake, 2008’s Mirrors starring Kiefer Sutherland, and 2010’s Piranha 3D.

High Tension is currently available on DVD.

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The Digital Shootout: Does size really matter?

by Benji Aird

The ‘Haves’ and the ‘Have Nots’ in the digital single lens reflect camera industry makes a big difference, size matters! Laying the smack-down on full-framed digital slr’s are the medium-format digital slr’s. Don’t let the distinction in the title, medium, fool you. Medium formats’ capture images starting out with 30 mega pixels. We see the tip of the ice berg in a short comparison between the full and medium framed cameras.

Chattanooga, Tenn(UTC/TheLoop) — On set at a photo shoot in between the firing of  strobe lights, hair-stylist crofting hair, make-up artist reapplying foundation, and wardrobe repositioning garments, photographers patiently wait to capture a single image. I think this one of the greatest times in history to be a photographer. The evolution of the camera has taken leaps and bounds in every decade.

In my not so distant past, I began shooting with a Kodax 110. The number ‘110’ refers to the size of film measuring not quite 111 mm. Fast forward a few years to Christmas 1998 when I received a 35mm automatic camera. The simple point-and-shoot helped me see, and develop an artistic eye. Now, I have a Digital SLR that allows me to instantly see what I photographed! Oh how I am easily amused.

Some pro-amateurs and professional photographers alike use full frame digital SLR. To get you up to speed click here to read what a full-frame digital SLR is all about. Just when I thought it could not get any better…IT DOES! The lion has entered the den with a presence that commands respect, the medium format digital SLR. Medium format brands include Mamiya, Hassleblad, Hola, and others. These cameras are  fashion’s equivalence  to Gucci, Fendi, Prada, and Chanel.

In digital, medium format is a very expensive option, with typical brand new all-digital medium format cameras retailing for $10,000 (Mamiya ZD) to $32,000 (Hasselblad H3D) in 2008, though, older and used equipment can be substantially cheaper.

Derek Blanks in a helicopter shooting the New York skyline with the Hassleblad.

Celebrity photographer Derek Blanks recently shot with a Hasselblad medium-format digital SLR in a shoot on-location in New York. Derek said, “Ok guys, I think I am in love with this new camera! The Hasselblad! Check out my beauty shots…”

Digital medium format SLR’s shoot at an astronomical 30 to 60+ mega-pixels. Lets put this into perspective:

  • Camera phone at best is 5MP-8MP.
  • Average point-and-shoot digital camera for adventures in the club is 10MP-12MP.
  • Canon T2i Digital SLR is 18MP.

The Fuji most conservative medium format camera starts at 30MP!!!! If your head is about to explode, this sensation is perfectly normal. As Derek would say “That’s dope.”

Image of Tomiko Fraser Hines taken by Derek Blanks with a medium format digital SLR.

Up close and 'Pore'sonal. The 30MP+ hides no problems defining each pore with crisp definition.

Notice how in the DSLR image (left-side) the image of the bird is not seen. This is a result the the smaller frame size of the DSLR. The Medium format on the right captures more of the image.

I get goose bumps looking at a side-by-side comparison of the full-frame and medium format.

Does size really matter? Well, thats relative to your level of photography. If you have the money to spare and really, really, I do mean really want to go all out you can rent a medium-format from as well as other equipment to keep your shutter-finger happy.

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Anything You Shoot, I Can Shoot Better…& Cheaper

By: Benji Aird

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn (UTC/TheLoop) – Here recently I have noticed the growing trend of small to even large production companies incorporating Digital SLR (Single Lens Reflect) cameras into their arsenal of equipment. Digital SLRs allow the camera operator to shoot tight spaces with a minimal amount of equipment.

DSLR Video Rig

Many ‘Guerrilla’ style productions are shot using this type of system. A camera rig and operater, gone are the days where you need three and four people make up a production crew.

Everyone from music video producers to reality television shows often shoot concepts and pilot shows to pitch to broadcasting networks to get showtime.

About a year to two ago some friends and I started what I call a visual communication team. Wherein we Tweet, Blog, Vlog and anthing else you can think of to visually communicate with the world.

Everything is done one of the two Nikon D90 Digital SLR’s we currently own. Its our staple when I comes to in-the-field footage and studio photoshoots. We are always keeping an eye out on the latest gadjets that help us do what we do better!

Window shopping lead me visit my friends at Wolf Camera to see what hit the shelves.

The featured Nikon D3000 has a very user friendly user interface and in hand it does feel soild. I won’t be trading up/down/or lateral until all the kinks are worked out.

Back view of the Nikon D3000

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Horrors Awaits You Deep Within The Earth. Movies You Need To See: The Descent

By: Justin Dee

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop) Descend deep with in the bowels of the earth and see what horrors await you in Neil Marshall’s 2005 film The Descent.

The Descent was shot entirely in the United Kingdom although it was set in the U.S.

  • Release Date: April 2, 2006
  • Staring :Shauna Macdonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid, Saskia Mulder, MyAnna Buring, Nora Jane Noone
  • Domestic Gross Revenue: £3,500,000
  • Gross Revenue:  £2,701,595

Starring a all female cast The Descent centers around a group of friends who decide to go an a spelunking trip in  the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina when they get trapped in the cave and run across some vicious cave dwelling creatures known as crawlers.

When Roger Ebert described the the film in his 2006 review he compared the film to classics like Deliverance, JawsAlien and Dead Calm, writing that “It’s just that good.”

“Finally, a scary movie with teeth, not just blood and entrails — a savage and gripping piece of work that jangles your nerves without leaving your brain hanging. And so, for a change, you emerge feeling energized and exhilarated rather than enervated, or merely queasy,” wrote Ebert.

Steven Redd described The Descent as “defiantly different” when he was interviewed about the film.

Redd did have one issue with the film however, he said “The lighting and the fact that it’s an all female cast sometimes makes it difficult to differentiate some of the lesser characters.”

The descent currently available on DVD.

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Dark Twisted Fate

Bryson Simpson

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.(UTC/TheLoop)–What would you do if you entered an elevator with four people that you have never met before; the elevator stops, and demonic events start to take place? Well that’s what five characters have to go through in the film “Devil”.

The film “Devil” starts off with a man committing suicide by jumping off a building. Then you hear Ramirez mention stories of the Devil roaming the earth and it always begins with a suicide. Detective Bowden is called to the building where the suicide happened to help with the investigation.

At the same time, five strangers enter an elevator, which is located in the same building where the suicide has taken place. The five strangers consist of an elderly woman, a security guard named Ben, a salesman named Vince, a young woman named Sarah, and a former U.S. military soldier named Tony.

Weird things start to happen starting with the elevator getting stuck. While stuck in the elevator the five strangers start discussing their backgrounds and found out that each of them has a criminal background. The elderly lady was a thief, Ben the security guard has a violent past, Vince was a con artist, and Sarah was a blackmailing gold digger.

Then, the lights go off and Sarah has a wound on her back. The people in the elevator start to suspect Vince of assaulting Sarah because he is covered in blood. Later, one by one the five strangers start to die. Vince is the first to die when the lights cut off and his throat is slashed.

Overall the film “Devil” has a good plot, the story made sense, and the special effects to draw in the audience. Also, “Devil” did a good job by not making the storyline obvious and it keeps viewers in suspense. Also, the film has a lot of “twists” and unexpected connections throughout the story.

Copyright 2010

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Dolphin Massacre”The Cove”

By Bryson Simpson

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.(UTC/TheLoop)– Several types of massacres have taken place in our history. However, there is a different type of massacre taking place in Japan where dolphins are the victims.

When you think of dolphins, you think of the funny, intelligent, and loveable marine animal from the famous TV series “Flipper”. We have grown so attached through “Flipper” that we have created theme parks based around them. Also, dolphins are very friendly animals and interact with humans like they already have a mutual understanding for each other.

A scene from "The Cove" where the dolphins are swimming with Rick O'Berry

However as close as we are with dolphins, people out in the world cause harm to the gentle smiling animals of the sea.  Several groups of fisherman from different parts of the world who capture the healthy, finer looking dolphins and kill the rest to sell the meat as whale

meat. “The Cove” is a documentary that shows us the highly kept secret dolphin massacre in Taji, Japan. The website for “The Cove” is here

“The Cove” is a very good film from the amazing underwater shots of swimming dolphins with undercover filmed grisly footage of their slaughter. Fishermen in Taiji, Japan kill about 2,000 dolphins every year for their meat, while some are captured and sold to aquariums for up to $150,000 a piece.

However,dolphins are extremely toxic because they bioaccumulate heavy metals like mercury. Fishermen would disguise the tainted meat as whale meat and sell it to the Taiji community.

The fishermen would take long metal poles and hit the bottom of the water to create sound waves. Dolphins communicate with different “clicks” and “whistles” that causes sound waves that could be heard by dolphins miles away. When fishermen bang the poles in the water the sound waves that are created scare the dolphins. Furthermore, the fishermen use this technique to corner the dolphins in a secluded cove location where the dolphin slaughters takes place.

The secret location of the cove where the massacres take place

Louie Psihoyos is the director of “The Cove” stated, “ This movie is great because it have vivid imagery and informs people on what is going on in the world.” The movie has created a lot of publicity that actors have donated money, and created a public service announcement  to stop the brutal and unnecessary killings of the dolphins. “I can’t believe how people could kill something so intelligent.”

Rick O’ Berry the man who captured and trained the dolphins for the TV series “Flipper” starred in “The Cove”. O’ Berry said that when he was training the dolphins he realized he was doing the dolphins a disservice by keeping them in captivity. “Flipper” was the best and worst thing for dolphins”, O’ Berry stated.

If you would like to donate money to help stop the dolphin slaughter the link is here.

Copyright 2010

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Not Your Grandparents “Picture Show”

By Benji Aird

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn (UTC/ The Loop)– The Story Beyond the Still is the first ever user-generated HD Video Contest where photographers become filmmakers, and we all see beyond the still. I will highlight last month winner Marc Jonathan de Jesus of Chapter 6 for his film “Fool Circle,” based on his interpretation of a still photograph left at the end of the previous winning chapter. I will also showcase what makes the Canon EOS line so great!

Marc’s film was the sixth chapter of seven, ending with a still photograph of its own for the Vimeo community to once again interpret. After a wave of entries, Tony Leech’s “Exit Interview” was chosen as the winner of Chapter 7, leaving a new still to guide the way for Chapter 8 – the final chapter of The Story Beyond The Still to be interpreted and shot by Vincent Laforet in collaboration with all the chapter winners!

What will he see beyond this still? And how will the award-winning user-generated HD Video contest end?

Blake Whitman, Vimeo staff says, there are “no limitations, Judges will just be looking for entries based off of the criteria spelled out in the rules. But have fun with it, there is no right way to make these.”

Celebrity photographer, Derek Blanks, shoots with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II. He has even filmed behind the scenes footage with his Canon. His favorite line is, “This is DOPE!”  as a reference to the video quality.

Watch an entry from Isaac Viel’s group!

On the Technical Side

Bigger is Better!

What makes these Canon Digital SLR’s such a power house are in part due to its sensors. Canon develops and produces its own CMOS sensors. Unlike CCD sensors, CMOS sensors convert and amplify signals before they are transferred to the image processor, enabling them to produce exceptionally clean image data and reduce power consumption.

Experiencing this first hand I can say the Canon’s senors, the brains of the operation, are stunning.

Japanese love affair, dont tell my Nikon.

In holy matrimony with the CMOS sensors are its  image processors.

Developed to enhance performance between capturing and recording stages of digital photography, Canon DIGIC chips use advanced signal processing technologies to dramatically augment image quality and deliver a more intuitive, responsive camera.

What this translates to is the ability to capture stills in photo mode with relentless sharpness quickly. This allows the camera to capture such fine details like pores on the skin and fine hairs.

In addition, the latest DIGIC 4 Image Processor speeds up all operations to make a number of inventive new features possible, such as Live Face Detection AF, HD video recording, Auto Lighting Optimizer and Lens Peripheral Illumination Correction. Top EOS SLRs such as the EOS 7D and EOS-1D Mark IV feature two DIGIC Image Processors for an even greater level of quality and power.

The EOS HD Video Lineup starts at about $900.00.

I found great deals on the enrty-level EOS Rebel T2i at Sam’s Club and Amazon.

Sources: Canon , Vimeo Video Entries

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Movies You Need To See: The Stoning of Soraya M

By: Justin Dee


Horrifyingly beautiful is how one might describe Cyrus Nowrasteh’s 2008 film The Stoning of Soraya M, about a women’s untimely death at the hands of family, friends, and neighbors.

The Stoning of Soraya M  Movie Poster

Click on image for cast and director interviews

  • Release Date: September 27, 2008
  • Staring :Shohreh Aghdahloo, Mozhan Marnò, Navid Negahban, Jim Caviezel
  • Domestic Gross Revenue: $636,246
  • Foreign Gross Revenue:  $349,795

In the film, based on the book of the same name, Soraya’s widowed aunt, Zahra (Shohreh Aghdahloo) recounts the true events that led to Soraya (Mozhan Marnò) tragic death to French-Iranian Journalist Freidoune Sahebjam (Jim Caviezel) who happens upon the remote Iranian village in 1986.

Soraya’s adulterous husband Ali (Navid Negahban) hatches a plan to have her killed using trumped up adultery charges so that he can marry a 14 year-old girl.

All the acting  in the film has perfect  pitch, the characters are believable and multi-dimensional.

One of the film’s stand out performances is that of Shohreh Aghdahool as Zahra. Aghdahloo does an excellent job portraying  both the character’s strength in standing up to this injustice and anguish in watching a loved one die in such a horrible fashion.

Shohreh Aghdahool (Top) was nominated for an Oscar for her 2003 role in a House of Sand and Fog

“Against them is one strong voice,” wrote Roger Ebert In his 2009 review. “The widow Zahra, Soraya’s aunt. She knows all the players and all the motives and publicly calls them on it, to no avail.”

The film also serves as a window into a society and practice that most viewers only see in news report.

Steven Redd,  of Memphis Tenn. said, ” While we are repeatedly told of the ordeals that some of these women face to connect with one and experience the stoning with her gives a very human element to the situation over there.”

Soraya M (Mozhan Marnò) about to be stoned by her farther, husban, sons and other men of the villiage

Soraya M (Mozhan Marnò) about to be stoned by her father, husband, sons and other men of the villiage

The stoning sequence in the film may be overwhelming for some views but it is an important part of the film that should not be missed.

Roger Ebert wrote in his 2008 review, “The Stoning of Soraya M. has such a powerful stoning sequence that I recommend it if only for its brutal ideological message.”

The Stoning of Soraya M is currently available on DVD.

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