01 February, 2011

A very special day

Updated on 2 Mar 11

Here's a record of what happened on 29 Jan. Nothing much to do with technology, just using this as a blog here.

The plan
2009-2010 The idea for the line "let's not be boyfriend and girlfriend anymore" arrives in my head.
Dec 2010 Rough ideas for a birthday celebration. Book Koko at Crown.
Jan 2011 Decide to go for a photoshoot. Look for portrait/studio/couples/glamour photographers near our area. Want to do makeup and hair as well, otherwise might as well do it myself. Narrow it down to Blush and Starshots, finally decide on Blush since their before and after shots and prices look better. Book lunch at Insieme once decided.
15 Jan Receive idea for presentation of the ring (see The Ringdant). Buy the ring.
22 Jan Get idea to hire videographer. Proposal moved to Eureka Skydeck. Buy cookie cutter for Ringdant.

The Video
I knew this was going to be a big event, and wanted to capture it on video. Rather than repeating the story hundreds of times (and exaggerating each time), it would be great to be able to show people what really happened, and have something to keep for the future.
  • Since I was planning to do it at Koko, I wondered if it would be dark and noisy, like most restaurants. I asked on a blog what Koko was like.
  • Naturally, I thought of using my iPhone 4 to record it. It had reasonable video quality, 720p autofocus. However, I wanted to play music at the same time and the iPhone can't record and play at the same time. I also tested the framing and its focal length is a bit too long to record yourself. I didn't want to risk having a video of the wall.
  • I thought of buying a Bloggie/Flip style video camera, and was in fact on the verge of buying one. The problem with this idea was explaining why I had a camera. I could say I borrowed it, but I would have to be using it the whole day to avoid arousing suspicion when I really intended to use it. I had compared and checked prices for the Kodak PlaySport, Panasonic and Bloggie Touch. I even viewed the sample videos on YouTube. Naturally I wanted one with a better video quality than the iPhone 4, but which of these did wasn't clear. They all had 1080p, but the PlaySport didn't have autofocus. Myer was having a good price for the Sony Bloggie Touch, and the only thing that stopped me from buying one was that the only colour left was pink. Looking back, I'm glad I didn't buy one.
  • On 22 Jan I woke up with the idea to hire a professional videographer. Rather than spend $300 on a camera of questionable quality that I'll only use once, I could hire someone for the same money. I couldn't enlist the help of my friends as 1) nobody had a 1080p camera 2) nobody I knew could hide the secret and record without being recognised. I emailed a few companies, but few were willing to do such a small job. I was truly lucky and grateful to find Design on Demand, which was free on that day. Other quotes were >$400. I also decided to propose at the Eureka Skydeck instead, because it was brighter, easier to hide a cameraman, and higher. I originally wanted to propose at a high place.
  • On hindsight, and everybody agrees, I'm glad I hired someone. The video quality and editing was top-notch. Not all 1080p are equal, and this is one of the best (Canon EOS 5D Mark II). No problems with framing. Camera was undetected so performances were natural (so natural, in fact, that we think she looked better than during the photoshoot!). We used a wireless mic, so audio quality was better than any handheld camera could have been. I had a look around and I found wireless mics are about $700! I couldn't get this quality myself, so this is excellent value for money.

The Ringdant
The plan for the Ringdant went like this. Its final form was quite different from the initial.
  • In the early hours of 14 Jan, I was thinking of a heart-shaped stone Echo's brother held in a picture during his wedding. I was wondering what are the odds of finding one naturally. Plan 1: make a heart-shaped stone with the ring inside, take her to a rocky place and pretend to find it. Convince her to carry it for the day. At the end of the day, say let's get married, but there's no ring. We'll get married if the stone contains a ring.
  • Remember air-drying clay, a product I'd heard of but never tried using. Seemed like a good material to use to hide the ring. Order some right then using iPhone.
  • Once it arrives, it's apparent that the clay cannot be disguised as stone. Decide on making a necklace pendant instead.
First prototype, using Fimo Air Light. It is brittle when dry. Hard to hide the seam/weld the edges together.

Second prototype, using a printout as a guide for the shape. The layers do not stick together well. Decide it needs a base layer. The plan was to thread the necklace through the ring as well, so even if exposed, the ring wouldn't be lost. For this reason I got a leather necklace to avoid scratching the ring.

Third prototype. I was quite happy with this, but it was too small to hide the ring.

As a last resort, I bought a cookie cutter. I was looking for a heart mould with rounded surfaces, but couldn't find one. Fortunately, it was just big enough for the ring.

This prototype was still unsatisfactory. The blue clay cracked when I put the ring in, and the layers were separating. I used some glue to hold it together, then liberally applied nail polish to hide the seams. I added the decoration on the front to draw attention away from the edges. Originally, I got a small keyring I was planning to hide inside as a decoy, but sealing with nail polish meant it couldn't be opened again, so I didn't use the decoy.

The requirements for this were quite complex:
  • It had to hide the ring. This means it had to completely enclose the ring, and the ring couldn't shake inside.
  • It had to be openable by hand, within a few seconds, for someone who didn't know it was there. In other words, it had to be like user-friendly packaging. This meant I couldn't just press the ring into the clay.
  • It couldn't stick to the ring, since the ring had many small holes/details. Again, I couldn't just press the ring into the clay. I wrapped the diamond in paper to prevent it from sticking (see last picture)

At this stage, I was losing hope in being able to make a pendant that could do all of the above. I was also running out of time to work undetected. As a backup plan I was thinking of getting some wood/stone and a Dremel tool. In the end, I decided to chance it. I was sure Echo knew something was up with the Ringdant, and was just playing along.

The event
10:00 am Leave, takeaway breakfast at McDonald's and arrive at Blush for photoshoot.
2:30 pm Finish ordering pictures at Blush. Go to Insieme restaurant for lunch, half an hour late for booking. Order truffle and leek soup, pasta and fish of the day (kingfish). "Cigar" (like crepe) for dessert. Fortunately, Echo liked the food. Service was good. Staff kept asking how was our meal.
3:30 pm Leave Como Centre
4:30 pm Arrive at Eureka Skydeck 88. Buy tickets, go up. Make excuse to go to the toilet and wire up the mic.
4:45 pm 1 hour late for videographer
6:30 pm At Koko for dinner. Food was very fresh. Service was excellent, the best I've seen other than hiring a private room. I hardly had to pour tea for myself!

Sadly, the Ringdant did not survive. But it served its purpose admirably and nobody suspected anything!

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