Sunday, November 13, 2011

Convention Report - Pacific Media Expo 2011

Of the 200 or so cosplay shoots I have done to date,
this Gentleman Alliance Cross shoot is one of the my favorite photoshoots.
I first attended Pacific Media Expo in 2007, I was intrigued by going to a different kind of convention after exclusively going to Anime Expo for many years. After attending PMX in 2007, I didn't attend the convention until 2010. Part of it was because I was intrigued by the location change, part of it was because I delved deeper into cosplay photography and would like to attend more conventions to know the cosplay community better. While Pasadena was a good location, the hotel was too small for PMX. For PMX 2011 they moved back to the hotel that has housed PMX for many years, the LAX Hilton. Here is a convention report on my adventures in Pacific Media Expo 2011.

I left my house early because I held a gender bending panel on Saturday at 10am. Arriving at around 8:55am, it was very difficult to get a parking spot. The parking lot was full, and after circling around the parking lot for a while, I decided to drop the car off in Valet parking. As I walked in the hobby, I remembered the layout of the hotel used for Pacific Media Expo. The LAX Hilton has a nice, elegant layout that actually is quite easy to maneuver from location to location. It was very easy to pick up an industry badge for PMX, it took me about 2 minutes to pick up the badge. I proceeded to walk around a bit to get a feel for the hotel before the crowds arrived.

The Gender Bending panel was supposed to start at 10am, but due to the parking situation my panel partner Bryan Yang arrived a little late. As the panel moderator, I was introducing myself and doing a quick question and answer session with the audience before the panel started. Aside from the delay in starting, the panel went off without a hitch. The crowd loved the panel, it was easy to see that we got a passionate crowd who loved the genre. The only issue was that we couldn't see what slide we were on, so I had to rely on my powerpoint printout. It helped watching the audience reaction to determine the slide we were on. For our third panel I think that it went really well. Personally, it would be nicer to have a larger crowd, but I know many people couldn't make it because we had such an early panel. Beggars can't be choosers, especially since we sent in our panel submission very late in the game.

The rest of the day I preoccupied myself with hallway shots of cosplayers and extended photoshoots, interspersed with extended conversation with many of my friends in the cosplay community and the cosplay photography community. I came into PMX with 6 planned shoots, and I did 14 impromptu shorter shoots in between the longer shoots. The hallway shots are the typical hallway shoots I do in an anime convention, I take 4-8 shots of the cosplayer and then move to the next one. As I said in an article about hallway shots, there is a Pokemon "gotta catch em all" mentality when doing it. It is actually quite addicting trying to get as many photos of different cosplayers as possible. The hallway shot is limited by where you find the cosplayer. Unfortunately, the lighting within PMX has a very strong yellow tint, and it really shows in the pictures. It will take multiple external flashes to drown out the bad lighting. The lighting was much better on the third floor, where you had access to 4 outdoor areas for photoshoots.

Christine was spot on with her
depiction of Ushio
The best photoshoot I did during PMX was a shoot with cosplayers from The Gentleman Alliance Cross. It was also the longest photoshoot I had ever done in a convention, clocking in at 64 minutes. Of all the photoshoots I had ever done, it was a dream of mine to do a photoshoot from the Gentleman Alliance, since it is my favorite Arina Tanemura manga. I have to give special thanks to my friend Christine Choi who did an awesome rendition of Ushio and was able to get her friend and her boyfriend to cosplay as Haine and Maora. PMX 2011 will be fondly remembered for this amazing shoot.

In between the many photoshoots and hallway shots I did in PMX, I also spent much of that time socializing. I started getting more involved with the cosplay community as a direct result of a cosplayer back in Anime Expo 2010 wanting to know where I post my pictures and if I do personal photoshoots. Since then I have gotten heavily involved in cosplay community, becoming close friends with many of them and hanging out with them during anime cons. I also got more involved in the community of cosplay photographers, since I want to know their styles, how to get the best shots and many other things. It was awesome to see some of my favorite photographers in action like Mike Rollerson, Dale Oshima, Jerry and Fremen. Part of the appeal of going to these cons is the social aspect, which has been steadily increasing in prominence over the years.

The layout of the convention was very similar to how it was in PMX 2007, so it was easy to get used to the convention layout. The dealer hall had a nice variety of products from Japanese fashion to anime and manga. PMX has a stronger fashion focus compared to most cons, so it was really awesome seeing a wide variety of Japanese fashion represented at PMX. Due to the strong emphasis on Japanese fashion I was at a loss trying to determine whether to take a picture or not of people since I didn't want to come off as rude. I also noticed that there was a strong gender bending theme among cosplayers at this year's PMX, there were a lot of crossplayers and genderbent characters. Had my panel been done at a later time there would be no doubt in my mind that it would have been insanely popular.

Overall, PMX 2011 was a great con. Parking issues and hotel lighting aside, the convention was a great experience. It was great seeing so many of my friends from the cosplay and photography community, I will definitely attend PMX again next year.

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