No room at the inn

Altnagelvin HospitalI sit here alone, in a spare room in the nurses home in Altnagelvin Area Hospital, contemplating what I did wrong to end up in this situation. As I suspected prior to my arrival, there was no room allocated for me, even though all students placed here are supposed to be given rooms without booking ahead. I had not even gave much thought to where I was placed for my student selected component (SSC – the module we get to “pick”), assuring myself that knowing I was placed there, they would hold onto my deposit and save me the hassle of banking their cheque, only to have to pay them the same amount again. The only reason I requested it back before term ended was that I would probably forget about it, and they are not quick to send reminders. So, if my first mistake was to take the money and run, then my second mistake was to choose here again. There’s one thing you need to know about me: I like Altnagelvin. Too many people whine about being placed up here, but it’s a great hospital, everyone is very friendly, and the accommodation is very close making the journey every morning a lot more palatable (as palatable as the free lunches anyway – bazinga), but there are certain things that are less than favourable. The main issue is geography. I’m here, and almost everyone else is at the other side of the country, where everything seems to happen. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a certain peace and tranquillity knowing you don’t have any commitments or any clubs out here, but they are also a big part of university life. It just means I’m another three weeks behind in everything I needed to do there. But I will make the most of it, and it will be an enjoyable time. The bad part will be coming back to reality in Belfast and figuring out there is a hell of a lot to do.

I’m coming back this Saturday to fulfil my assistant editor role, working on a film for the Ulster Aviation Society, which is going quite well. It is really interesting working semi-professionally on a project with someone who was in the business, and hopefully I’ll be able to bring the experience to some of my projects. The latest film, the Duel, was made during the week in a very short period of time, after going from having nothing, not even an idea. We decided to try and make one based around a duel, though a pistol duel would be over too quickly, so it had to start off as a sword fight. It was quite fun to film even though it was a basic routine, and we got it up to speed pretty quickly. It was all new to us – I had experience from fencing, but no experience of stage fighting. Everything has to be over-exaggerated and much more flamboyant, but the swords did make a great sound on their own. Hopefully I will be able to weave sword fighting into something with a bit more of a storyline, though I was fairly happy with how that film turned out.

A bad photo of the new TV Setup

A bad photo of the new TV setup, with the stealthy PS3 hiding, and the home cinema receiver concealed behind the screen

The week was another busy one, with the arrival of a new suite for the sitting room, which is now the living room. The living room has become the new dining room, and the kitchen; well, the kitchen is still a kitchen. Thankfully some things never change. I was handling the technical setup as always, and it took a while, but everything is slotting into place quite nicely now. The AV receiver arrived on Friday, and it is a fantastic job. 5.0 surround sound is configured (we still need a subwoofer) and sounds great, though my new Tannoy floorstanders were relegated to the upstairs home cinema because of their monstrous size and presence. They do sound good though. The receiver is a Teac AGD-200 – a rebadged Onkyo receiver, that is pretty much the same internally, but because of the name, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper. Gone are the days of switching on the TV and AV receiver, and changing the mode so everything works together. When I switch on the TV, it tells the AV receiver to turn on, and change the mode to the correct setting instantly. It even sets itself up! All you do is plug in a microphone and tell it to start – it does the rest, including working out the speaker distance and levels, and it can even compensate for the room. Don’t be put off by the make, this is a great piece of kit and invaluable to any home cinema.

1095043-mgs4_snake4_superThere is a big difference in sound particularly with the PS3 playing Metal Gear Solid 4. Being able to hear where exactly the enemies are helps a lot, and also immerses you more in the gameplay. It is very quickly shaping up to be my favourite game of all time. It has just about everything – the over-the-top storyline, likeable characters, the best voice acting, great gameplay, and amazing cutscenes which you wouldn’t want to skip. There are times I have been sitting down to play and have spent 45 minutes watching the story unfolding before I got to touch the controller, though I did enjoy every minute. There are so many different ways to play the game, and most of the time problems require some thinking outside the box (or on the box in MGS1). For any Metal Gear Fan, this is the ultimate experience. Combining elements of the second and third games, and settings from the first, they have created a fantastic title, dare I say it, making it worth buying a PS3 just to play it. I would stand by that, particularly if you have been waiting for four years to play it. Four years! I think I waited just as long for the third game, but it was worth it in the end. Metal Gear Solid is consistently the best game series there is in my humble opinion (you know I’m right) and everyone should play through the games at least once. There is something for everyone there, and this game is the most diverse yet. What is even more awesome, is that you get to ride Metal Gear Rex, and fight Ray in the most epic showdown ever. I didn’t think it could get any better; then they blew my mind. All I have left to say, is go play it!

Better yet, there may be a film in the works!

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