Friday, 21 October 2011

What the titles of Tintin should really look like...

With the release of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jacksons new take on The Adventures of Tintin Designer and animator James Curran decided to have a crack at what he thought the opening titles should be, and i think you'll agree, absolutely nailed it. Using the classic score by Ray Parker and Tom Szczesniak, which reminds me of summer holiday morning TV, it's already a big hit on Vimeo. I suggest you check it out and see how many of Herge's characters you can name. Check out more of his work

EVA - Sweet Opening Titles!

Amazing CG opening titles for Spanish film EVA, Created by Spanish company Dvein. Dvein is a 'collaborative project by the directors Fernando Domínguez, Teo Guillem and Carlos Pardo providing direction and art direction for live action and animation' who work out of Barcelona (as well as via London production company Stink in the UK). Invited by Spanish film director Kike Maillo to design and animate the main titles for his first feature film, they concentrated on representing the unique control process that the main character uses to control and programme his robotic creations. The organic nature of the strands and bulbs mixed with the complex glass mechanisms, make for a beautiful and engaging title sequence. Id like these guys to have a crack at the next Bond titles. Follow the link below for the film website where you can watch the full trailer.

Ninja Stop Motion

Some very slick stop motion animation by Olivier Trudeau, telling the story of 2 Ninjas battling it out, probably to see who gets to wear black to the next Ninja gathering. Using some famous fight scenes from movies such as Phantom Menace and Ninja Scroll as reference for movement, is a clever idea and one that enabled Olivier to deliver an awesome short film with some fantastic movement and some genuine moments of inertia and speed, even though the chick in the black cheated and used throwing stars to the face, which is frankly, not on...

Friday, 19 August 2011

En agosto - Andres Barrientos

A beautiful short film, written and directed by Andrés Barrientos and Carlos Andrés Reyes, which was 2 years in the making. Blending 2D and 3D animation together to tell a very touching story. If you have 15mins, I urge you to plug in your headphones and absorb the splendour. Really really lovely stuff.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

DC Comics 'New 52'

I've been reading comics for while, OK, longer than that, a long time. I drifted away for a bit when my favourite comic shop closed down (Kathies in Plymouth, you guys rocked!) and I was living in London on a teeny budget. I occasionally grabbed a new graphic novel or picked up a few issues when something caught my eye, but I've not been the comic consumer that I once was for some time.

Then I bought an iPad.

Overnight I was downloading issues (mostly free ones) like some superhero junky, to see how they looked, what the experience was like, was it as enjoyable as flicking through the pages of a freshly bought, still sealed Amazing Spiderman? Apart from the fact that they are missing the almost ubiquitous 'Got Milk' ads, I enjoy the digital comics a lot. Both the Marvel and DC readers are good, in fact I think Comic Zeal is even better, and has a few nice features, but essentially, it looks like I'm back in the market, my girlfriend will be soooooo happy.

Well, i say im back, I may have more expendable cash that the younger me, when I'm not splashing it on various other money eating habits, but I'm not too enamoured with a digital comic costing £2.99. I mean 3 quid? I could almost believe it if it was a paper vsn, wrapped is glistening cellophane with mandatory cardboard back, ripe and ready to slide into the comic box along with with its brothers and sisters. But a digital vsn, though convenient and awesome and modern etc etc should surely be cheaper, shouldn't it? Look at Wired, a digital magazine subscription that I quite frequently treat myself to, at £2.49 for a magazine that you would struggle to read in its entirety in a normal week, with digital video, animated graphics (and ads funnily enough) and more articles than you can shake a stick at. It blows a comice, that lets be honest might last 10 minutes (maybe if you're Ralph from the Simpsons) clean out of the water.

Stephen Lindsay, the independent comic creator who's responsible for 'Jesus Hates Zombies' makes a good point about the type of readers that Marvel & DC have to cater for:

“the comic industry really has three sets of consumer[s]: those inside the industry who buy comics to support one another, the casual reader, and the collector.” He said collectors don’t care about in-app subscriptions because “they always have, and always will, want the printed book” because the “ownership of it means something”

I guess I have moved from collector to the casual reader, but I wont be casual for long at costs like this, because, as Darrell Etherington at, "with individual titles costing between $1 and $3 for about five to 10 minutes of enjoyment, it quickly became a habit too costly to keep up." Surely they have to go the way of subscription? I wouldn't notice £15 a month if i had 15 new (decent sized) new titles appearing on my iPad each month...

Which leads me to the original reason I started this ramble in the first place, DC's new 52 release. Some are saying its a misguided attempt at attracting new, younger readers, by re-inventing their core characters (52 of them if you hadn't guessed). Will making Superman younger and wearing a tight t-shirt, appeal to the teenage masses? Im not sure, lets hope the writing is good, really good, and Jim Lee pulls out the stops like the old days. Marvel got a lot of stick recently by making the new Spiderman Black/Hispanic, but at least its gutsy. Making Wonder Woman wear long leggings is hardly competitive.

There's a very good article here, at Forbidden Planets UK blog, but essential there is a big concern amongst comic fans that DC have 'flipped out' and may not have the depth of talent to cater for 52 new releases. I am hoping that DC take this opportunity to sync up the release of the digital comics (now confirmed) and make the costs a great deal more attractive, after all, if they aiming at a younger market, then the price needs to be compelling, and it's this younger market which will dominiate the digital comics sales figures... OK, with some help from me too.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Phantom Flex and other time based fun

This week I've been mostly looking at slow mo or time lapse films, as theres a bunch of them online of late, due to the amazing capabilities of low to mid level DSLR's many of which are able to film HD video. At the other end of the spectrum are the new data cameras that folks are getting excited about such as the Phantom Flex, which can shoot up to 10,750 FPS @ 640x480! Below are a few of my highlights:

8 Hours in Brooklyn - by Next Level Pictures

Production company Next Level Pictures has produced a beautiful slo-mo film using the Phantom Flex camera. Directed by Jonathan Bregel, the entirely Brooklyn based short, shot over 8 hours, has some wonderful scenes captured at frame rates approaching 2570 FPS and true 1920x1080. My personal fave clip is the brief but brilliantly wobbly tattoo shot, if i do ever get a tattoo, someone please remind me to pick somewhere really firm on my body. Shot on the Phantom Flex Camera, using a Tokina 11-16 & an Arri 150mm Prime

Claymore Challenge - by Tom Guilmette

Secondly we have a film directed by High Speed Camera fan Tom Guilmette, this is a brilliant short, filmed at the Claymore Challenge which is a freestyle mountain bike competition in New Hampshire. Awesome shots, some utterly bonkers moves played out at ridiculous frame rates, plus the obligatory wipe-outs too. For some really useful tips and advice on how best to use the Phantom Flex, check out Toms website here

Manhattan in Motion - Mindrelic

One of my recent DSLR favourites is 'Manhattan in Motion', by Mindrelic (Josh Owens). Using a combination of Canon 5D & 7D's and a dynamic perception dolly rig, he filmed hours worth of footage from various NY Hotels over the course of the month. Some of the night scenes are EPIC!

A day in California - by Ryan Killackey

Finally, another time-lapse film with some Tilt-Shift thrown in. 'A day in California' by Ryan Killackey is all shot on a Canon Rebel (which is the Canon 550i here in the UK i think) with just a couple of kit lenses and no dolly right. Its really impressive to see what can be achieved with mid level pro-sumer gear, with a little thought and lot of patience. This film is made up from over 10,000 shots, made all the more impressive by the fact that he shot 10,000 photos with a LensBaby adapter on his DSLR, only to discover he hated the results and took them all over again and produced the Tilt Shift effect via After Effects. I doff my cap sir.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Open letter to Steve Jobs

Dear Steve Jobs

I'm a big fan of Apple, have been for ages. I bought the iPhone 3, then the 3GS then the 4. I shelled out on a MacBook Pro and only recently invested in an iPad2. I love all that stuff, its life changing, without sounding ridiculous, for all the reasons that we know and love (could you do something about iTunes though please?).

As a VFX professional I have often looked at Apple for the alternative ways of doing things. I have designed and installed various depts that are based around your infrastructure, and have gone to great lengths to sing your praises when the bean counters were not so sure.

Well, I'm not sure I can anymore.

Everyone is aware of the problems or issues, that many professional editors and post production houses have with the FCPX release. I wont go into too many of the technical details, many better and more knowledgeable folk than I have picked it apart. But suffice to say, from my point of view, there's a few obvious glaring mishaps, such as no video out (my clients will love that), no audio export, and no backward compatibility. I'm not saying it wont be good, heck, it could be brilliant in a few releases, but that's not the point. Its not the software release as such that I have an issue with, its the attitude that comes with it.

How can you spend so many years, supporting the professional market, with testimonial films on your website, allowing start up companies and VFX studios to build whole departments, yet alone whole businesses that are based entirely on your software & hardware, then take it all away, with no more than a 'we don't do the pro market'. Its ignorant and arrogant and I would love to know what the thinking is behind it, and I don't want to hear the numbers excuse. I don't blame Apple for turning away from the professional market, if you can't be bothered to compete properly with the other guys, better leave them to it, but all I would ask is a little professional courtesy and a heads up that things are changing, so we could at least prepare ourselves.

And I'm not just talking about FCPX, that's just one example.

Last year I designed and built a brand new dept in a very successful, Oscar & BAFTA winning VFX company, of which I proudly still work. I convinced them to let me build it around your hardware (Mac Pros, Apple Server) all hooked up to an XSAN, with Final Cut software, working in tandem with Autodesk's Smoke on Mac. What makes it unique is the way in which we utilise the Final Cut Server software, developing and re-writing scripts to enable us to have a truly tapeless workflow. We celebrate our 1st birthday in 2 weeks.

About 6 months ago, we had a visit from your very own systems engineers, as they had heard we were using the FCS software in an interesting way and they wanted to see for themselves. They spent the afternoon, watching the work flow through the dept (over two physical sites, over a mile apart) and left, all in agreement that they we would have a film about our system put on the Apple website as a testimonial as soon as possible.

Your decisions have an impact on the industry as a whole, you should know that by now, but it's not always positive. By discontinuing Final Cut Server and no longer supporting FCP7, you have taken a workflow that you, Apple, were proud of and about to PR and ripped the heart out of it. What are the chances of you providing me with the code for the front/back end of FCS so I can develop it further as our business grows? What happens when I need a new codec supported for a tapeless camera, but you only provide it for FCPX? Why the hell did no one say 'we aren't releasing vsn 2.0 of FCS, in fact in 6 months, we're killing it, be prepared'.

There are many people out there that say 'stop moaning, its a new way of doing things, embrace it' which is all very well and good, and they can go and download the new FCPX, and be done with it. I like change, I love technology, but I've invested a lot of time and money and effort into my job, and I expect the same from the companies & suppliers that I rely on. Upgrade some software yes, adapt some hardware, of course, but don't just pull the plug on it all.

What will I do - adapt of course, but it wont be with Apple. I've been bitten by the prosumer supplier and I wont go that way again, not unless my clients want to sign off their edits via Facebook. In fact, I'll probably buy Premier 5.5, because you know what, even that's backward compatible with FCP7.



PS: Please, tell me it was the same team that worked on Mobile Me that did FCPX etc, it would explain a lot.

This letter is a personal opinion and in no way reflects the points of view of my employer

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Half Life 2... The (short) Film!

Continuing the alien theme, have you ever played Half Life 2? No? Well, frankly I'm disappointed, but if you haven't it's one of the most successful FPS (First Person Shooter) games ever released. It's essentially a sci-fi adventure against alien adversity where you take part in a good old human uprising. It's commonly referenced for its amazing design and general futuristic style, most recently in Karl Erik Rinsh's short film for the Phillips Parallel Lines project; 'The Gift'. Now some plucky fellow called Brian Curtin has taken it to the next step by making a short film based in and around the world of HL2. Filmed on a tiny budget of $1200 and shot on a Canon HV20 Mini DV. The 12 minute short took Brian and his 7 friends 2 years to complete and no doubt a shed load of After Effects filters I expect. It's a fantastic achievement and I for one am intrigued to see what he can produce with a decent camera and twice the budget. Canon should send him a 5D.

Google's Motorola Xoom Tablet

This year at the 2011 CES (Consumer Electronics Show) the big hit was the new tablet computer, rumoured to finally be labelled as a genuine threat to Apples iPad. The 10.1 inch uber screened beauty, is running Googles new Android Honeycomb OS, designed specifically for tablet computers. If you have 6 mins spare, have a watch of the demo below, but a few highlights include full 16x9 playback of HD video, widgets such as the new vector based Google maps and a redesigned YouTube app, not to mention it has Flash on it.... I'm in the market for a tablet and was saving all my now defunct smoking cash for an iPad 2, but i may have to grab one of these and have a play.