Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 - A review of the creative side of my life

Following the closure of TMO and the move to TMU in 2008, this was the year I began to take advantage of all the tools and facilities available to me from editing software to video sharing sites and social networks.  Im no longer tied to just one site as my destination for seeing and being seen.  Credit Machinifeed for some of that as its now a daily destination for the thoughts and productions of a varied and dedicated group of peoples.  Also credit both the 2008 and 2009 MachinExpo for opening up my eyes to new platforms, new creators, new ideas and a spirit of inclusiveness that is rarely seen elsewhere (added plus of getting Ptolemy's Blues accepted as a screener at the 2009 Expo..yay!).  

That being said, heres a look at my own movies of 2009

Whitefish - My first real effort using 3rd party editing software (Magix MEP14) ended up something of an unweildy and rambling monster, part by design and part by fault.  The production took forever and as a result lost some of its focus.  Highlights include the train ride via animated overlays and Satan's musical sideshow.  Was it good?  As a narrative story it was a mess, as an idea and a an emotional feeling it hit its mark (imo).  I'd score it out at about 7 out of 10.

Upon finishing this movie I decided not to exceed 8 minutes of runtime in my future features.  Make it tighter was my immediate mantra as seen in....

Travel With Berlitz - Tight, snappy, poppy, travel agent noir with my first dash of Iclone. Even here in its little scene the beauty of iclone shined as I was able to (somewhat successfully) take an idea from my brain to execution without worrying first about the limits of the program (recreating a lost in the bermuda triangle/3D Warehouse scenario).  Also got to work with both leading ladies from TMU (Sisch and Dulci) for the first time.  A fun idea, good execution, highly watchable.  Grades as 8.5 of 10 for me.

Tales from the People Zoo - My next/first full feature foray into Iclone was a little sloppier.  Storyline resembling dadaist sketch comedy (Perhaps I give myself too much credit), some things worked some did not.  As my first Iclone feature it was interesting and ambitious and some of the sketches (the birdwatcher) still make me chuckle.  Ending credits were inspired.  However, it doesn't age as well as I slowly advance my IClone skill.  7.5 of 10.

Sleeper - Asked to include a little something into an elaborate Xmas collaboration (more on this later) this little ditty fulfilled an idea I had been playing with for a long long time.  Specifically that of 2d sets and characters in a 3d world.  The humor is only smirkable but watching the paper flutter to the ground as the result of the toddler suicide bombing is something else entirely. 8 of 10.

TheBiz's House of Horror - Easily my favorite experience working on a production as every major thought or advance was logged in an online production diary that kept me thinking and kept me on track (and gave no thought to the issues of releasing too much info).  Also a totally different concept from a story based production, I basically designed a carnival funhouse from past experience (a realistic one at that), built it from the ground up using sketchup, 3D warehouse and Iclone and then attached a camera to a character and walked him through the sets giving the whole thing a first person perspective and avoiding some of the shortcomings of Iclone; namely the animations.  My most popular production in terms of feedback, it was a big success, timely (hello halloween) and a lot of fun (if you could get past the fact I called it TheBiz's House of Horror...please excuse my ego, he knows not what he names a movie).  Winner winner, chicken dinner.  9 of 10.

Toying Around - A short ad for the video contest.  Took about 2 and a half weeks once I decided on the scenario.  Disgustingly cute and well done.  I really wanted to use the new Ic4 lighting effects here but the flat lighting approach worked best.  Kid Millions loved it to death and I bet it would have faired well in the contest (I do believe it is postponed due to lack of interest..).  8 outta 10 and a boost of confidence about trying out the contest realm.

My Favorites of 2009

TWCS - An Epic collaboration spearheaded by BudBundysMullet and featuring the talents of BBM, 6-HeadedMonster, JohnnyEx, Kwistufa and the uber-talented GoofParade (he's everywhere in this) dedicated to being the raunchiest XXXmas special ever.  It succeeds in the raunch and the humor.  The collaboration parts worked like a well oiled machine thanks largely to the BBM's overarching idea and willingness to leave things open ended and his hard work to glue it all together, not to mention GP's voice on pretty much every skit...hehe.  As mentioned elsewhere, the chipmunks Christmas skit blew my mind.  A fun project (collaborations that work are rare), a great result.

Clockwork - More style than you can shake a stick at.  A nightmare world brought to full realization.  Worthy winner of the 2009 MachiniExpo.

Shelf Life - Most cinema-esque feature I've seen in game based machinima.  Creepy and very, very good.

Push - Like a commercial that is trying to sell you an improved imagination.  I would never have guessed it was made in Second Life.

Other things 2009 and my hopes for the New Year

Comics and Graphic Novels - Starting with a January reading of the Watchmen (my first entry into comics) I managed to collect 15-20 classics of the genre with favorites including ; Asterios Polyp, The Dark Night Returns and The Leaugue of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  Those with a slight interest in finding grown up comix with a boatload of style, vision and sheer art need look no further than Asterios Polyp.  Its an interesting genre with strong ties and similarities to animation that Im hoping to further explore in the new year.

I'm finishing up the year with an interest in film theory, practice and editing techniques.  Reading and thinking a little more about how the story will get told once Ive developed the story itself.  Looking forward to a little self improvement.

Im also really hoping to see some Iclone productions that will challenge some of the wonderful stories that have unfolded in other software (namely MovieStorm as they share so many similarities) such as Daddy is Home, Clockwork and Death in Venice.   I tend to put Coming Home on the same level as those 3 but otherwise the IC productions are a bit lacking in the fully realized story based realm - imo but also a quick look at the 2009 MachinExpo finalists tell the same story.  Not sure if its an issue with the awkwardness of the homemade animations, the editing style that has evolved from the software or what but I have high hopes for the new year.

Ok, I am winded...Have a lovely New Year.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The TWCS and Sleeper

After many many months in the making, BudBundysMullet has released The TWCS!  Its full of much XXXmas cheer, holiday shenanigans, rad 80's commercials, a truly stunning Chipmunks Christmas parody thats so well done you will swear its the real thing and much else.  Its kinda like a perverse and twisted Heehaw Christmas Special but with Aussie in-jokes substituting for redneck outhouse knock knock jokes.  Sort of.

Anyways, part of my contribution to the project was a take on the old TMO xmas scenario that inevitably featured jesus and the easter bunny (being that The Movies provided a bunny suit, santa suit and jesus was easy enough to achieve).  I managed to get a paper cutout look by designing everything as a 2d prop in sketchup including the characters.  This was an idea that I had been playing around with for a long long time.  Originally I wanted to make a Coney Island movie using 2d props so as to look like a community theater production.  The Coney Island movie eventually morphed into Whitefish and now I have finally used the idea here in Sleeper.  I was mighty happy with the resulting look.  Its best viewed as part of the whole TWCS but if you happen to be under the age of 18 and 6 year old suicide bombers don't disturb you you can see it below.  But you will be missing out on the reason for the season you scrooge!

Sleeper from thebiz on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More Set Design, Doilie Patterns and Mercury Men

Here are a couple of things I have been working on lately.  Below is a set about 2/3 complete of which I am rather proud.  Its a full on dive bar that I would be proud to patronize.  Its a pretty hefty resource hog but it looks pretty.  Still need to add some tables and a juke box.  Will probably be used in a 5 second shot in my Monsters of the Atomic Age project but I think its on the same level as the space age bachelor lounge from a previous post.  Solid work biz.  A pat on the back...hehe.

Found some groovy old beer, liquor and car ads (used in my dive bar set) at a strange half dead site called  They also sell those old pattern sets that my mom used to buy at fabric stores back in the 80's.  Very distinct cover designs.  Kinda cool in an old lady way.  Also really like that "Doilies" image which is strangely grandma modern.  Worth taking a look at if you like things of yesteryear (postcards, ads, designs, bottles, etc).

Anywho, next up is a rather simple little project I am working on to experiment with light and animations.  Doubt it will get released but you never know.  My own rendition of Green Eggs and Ham which is Kid Millions absolute favorite book right now.  Needless to say he has seen the early production work (18 seconds) and he is mighty impressed for a two year old though he believes the HDR effect is a little over the top.  This project began the day I made a personal promise never to use that stupid toon character in any of my productions...EVER!  Personal promises are made to be broken (preferably on the day you make them).

Finally, I caught a mention of Mercury Men on the Celtx blog and went off to check it out based upon the overall design of the production (the storyboarding segment is very informative).   I'm really impressed with the package they have layed out to promote this upcoming web series.  Theres a digital prop series that features things like  papercraft characters, very groovy poster sets, production journals and a running blog from the writer/director.  Promotion in the machinima community too often seems like a lost art and as a result many productions that have a serious amount of time spent in their creation end up feeling temporary and small (often dissapearing a week or so after their release).  In contrast this feels...big.  Chris Preksta (the writer/director) mentions Myst as an overall influence to the series and briefly discusses how Myst was able to develop a world that felt like it existed with or without you and exists far beyond what you could physically see.  All of the promotional content here does something similar for the Mercury Men.  I have seen similar web promotions used for some studios (moonlight pictures) and it would be nice to see others (including me) think a bit more about their promotion beyond just the initial release (and thinking outside the box and beyond just a web presence). 

I continued on the trail and ended up watching 5 episodes of Chris's previous project; Captain Blasto.  Definitely small budget but pretty fun and cut up into little web episode chunks that work very well.  Dialogue and acting was a mixed bag at times going over the top and at times feeling like filler. Some of the slapstick worked, some didn't.  However, I really liked the music and the editing (see the ending of episode 1 for an excellent musical editing job) as well as the overall scenario in which a teenager who wants to be a super hero enlists various men to play the role of thugs and bad guys.  Together they create elaborate plots that the kid can then foil as Captain Blasto.  In playing these "thug" roles the men find something exciting and fun in their otherwise frustrated lives.  Theres a bit of a fun Oceans Eleven vibe going on  It has a cute naiveté and the editing keeps things from getting too sappy.   

As an added plus, I am enjoying the 3 years of blog posts as Chris deals with the project and goes through things we as creators all seem to go through.  I feel enriched.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Youtube explorations continued...

Heres another great one off of youtube: The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello. First watched it about a year ago but rediscovered it last night.  Shadow characters in steampunk airships battle monsters (ala Skull Island) and disease. Engrossing and very nice to look at. I only wish the export quality was higher.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Stop Motion Goodness

I have never really sat down and searched for good movies on youtube, feeling instead this is the proving ground for 13 year old Jackass wannabes and illegally uploaded tv show clips.  However, after being required to upload to youtube for the contest (and realizing its a much more snazzy site that it was a year or two ago) I've been spending a little more time there and have been enjoying the visits.  Here are two stop motion flicks I caught last night that impressed me to no end.

First up is Madam Tutli Putli.  Reminded me of Amelie by way of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (or perhaps more fittingly Jacobs Ladder..though the sound design in "Madam" is similar to "Massacre" in its crazy tension and volume)  Tense, beautiful, cluttered.  Characters move with the heaviness of puppets with realistic (creepy) eyes.  Open ending might frustrate some but its pretty haunting altogether and will stay etched in my brain fro quite a while.  And I have my theories on just what is going on here.

Next up is Vincent by Tim Burton.  Created in 1982 and narrated by Vincent Price its a cute and deranged little short that has more than a hint of what Burton would soon become.  What struck me was the lighting and the angles of the shots.  Kind of a Noir, expressionist, classic horror, children's short.  Watching it made me want to attempt to recreate certain scenes in Iclone.  Would certainly be a fun exercise. 

Hope you enjoy.  

Monday, November 30, 2009

Character Development

Spent a chunk of my free time over the holiday working on characters for my upcoming project.  There are all sorts of quirks and oddities in the Iclone body and facial sculpture but eventually I got some characters that I felt I could live with and have grabbed enough experience to move forward with less dress rehearsal jitters.  Still wondering why there are not more hairstyles (either by RL or 3rd party).

The chubby fellow to the left could use a better hawiian shirt for sure (less a hawiian tshirt) and my bikini gal should probably roll with a different design than polka dots but like I said, it'll do for now.  Hope you all had a fantabulous turkey/pie day.  Mine was solid.

And if anyone might be interested in helping me create a Robot Monkey suit that the afore mentioned chubby fellow to the left could wear, aquire within.  This is my last big hitch in the production at this time. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Room to Die In

It's a common story.  I just wanted a platform to tell my little stories and show off the ideas in my head.  Along the way I've learned a bit about video game theory, began making digital music, have become somewhat proficient in graphic arts, dabbled in acting,  touched on costume design, done bags of research on bizarre topics, developed scripts, proofread  scripts for others (Am I qualified for this?  As much as anything else I suppose...) , gained (limited) knowledge on video conversion processes, developed architectural exterior and interior designs and the list goes on.  

This week has been one involved in interior design.  Based on my experience from the House of Horrors project, I've developed a workflow that begins with me creating my rooms in sketchup.  Wall cutouts are hard to achieve in Iclone but rather simple in sketchup and I actually like the textures offered there.  So when I realized I would need an office for a movie mogul in my current project, off I went to sketchup where I built a simple rectangular box with three square windows on one side, the walls divided with a wood finish on the bottom and a seventies wallpaper texture on top (see the pic from the previous post).  My muse was most likely the initial office of the movie mogul from Barton Fink.  At least some version of it stored away in my porridgey like brain.   Tossed it into Iclone (the prop, not the brain) and got to work on furnishing and lighting.  Then realized how much I disliked the design.

My experience in interior design consists of a "use what you find" (I am an avowed garage sale kind of guy) attitude and the memory of that interior designer in Brewster's Millions who kept trying to design a room that Brewster would want to die in.  As I decorated that room I realized how much it looked like the band rehearsal space I created in my parents basement when I was 15.  A hodgepodge of crappiness. Ok says I, back to the drawing board.  After thinking things over, the intent here is some sort of swinging bachelor pad of an office (the time period is a combination of late 50's to the early 70's in some type of alternate universe of style and makes more sense in my head I suppose).  So I hit up the google image search and found two pics I liked....oooh, circular and wood and stone and groovy fireplaces and bars.


Loved that bar on the first pic so it became the focus of my office (which is now an office/lounge...ok just a lounge).  Then I realized a fishtank would be needed.  So mixing all these elements (and a pair of Corbusier chairs) together like some kind of chef salad here is what I got:

Im still short a possible rug, lamp, fish for the tank (hmm paths not stationed on the ground are difficult), fire for the fireplace, track lighting, additional posters and some knicknacks but I think Ive got the basis of a room here that I could die in. Or at least have a drink in.  

As much as I like to get things done in an expeditious manner, I always find it satisfying when I step back, think about what I want and eventually achieve it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

HDR Effects, Classic Fairy Tales from Virtual Worlds

With Toying Around being the first production done wholly in IC4, I made an effort to dally about with the new HDR settings.  However, the content (toys) called for a flat colorful look and I ended up not using the effect.  Now that that project is complete, I turn my attention back to bigger and more ambitious things.  Things that can use the HDR effect to better results.  

Heres a simple screenie of what is supposed to be a studio executives office.  The office layout kinda sucks and theres much work to be done here but I do think the lighting really brings things to life (or mayhaps it's just the bowler).  Much experimenting in this area to be had.  And how are there no good old classic typewriters available on 3D Warehouse?  Theres like 150 pod racers and not one typewriter older than 1970?  Hurumpha.

And not to be outdone, heres a quick closeup of Steve-O's electronics and our hero (?) done up wrong.  Agaion the HDR lighting with a lot of contrast seems to be the look I am going for.

Heres a little flick I caught last night; The Princes and the Pea  by ToxicMenges.  Shot in Second Life, amazingly cool costumes and sets, very effective storytelling.  Color me impressed.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Expo, deep thoughts, ect.

My brain is soup.  Not that it's a bad thing but it needs to be strained to get anything solid from it.  Busy weekend full of thoughts on the MachinimaExpo, machinima and animation in general.

The Expo was grand, full of interesting looking people, films and presentations.  IceAxe's Clockwork took home the gold which somehow further validated the jury panel in my eyes.  As I said previously it was a really strong contender but I figured on a win by the excellent Push because the Expo organizers have shown something of a  penchant for the more artsy films and an appreciation  for process.  Removing knowledge of process from the equation perhaps led to the selection of Clockwork (or perhaps not, what do I know).  Overall, it was neat to see the darkhorse (and deserving, though I could have slept easy with many of the other jury selections as well) win.

This issue of process has also been of interest to me of late, coming to a head in the great 48Hr Film faux pas  (I amplify only for comedic effect) in which the differences between MS, IClone and virtual world and video game video capture were discussed.  While it turns out the omission of Iclone in this event was simply a mistake, some very valid differences were brought up in terms of process.  In short, filming in IC or MS is very different than filming in SL.

As someone who now works with Iclone, I tend to think of myself as an amatuer animator more than a machinimator  as there is little link to the video game world (for me) and the idea of real time rendering as a dividing line is a technical one at best.  I don't think of one as better than the other but I do recognize that working in Iclone or MS knocks off a level of uncertainty and chance from the process (no bikini girls wondering into my shot...unless they are in the script) and allows me to follow a more rigid process to get my vision on film.  

So I continued in my stoic rigidity until reading these thoughts from Mike Joyce (Pineapple Chunks) which reminded me that some level of uncertainty and chance can be a good thing and organic filmmaking is something to remain open to in the future.  When we spend 3-6 months working on a film and it open and generates 20 responses in a week and then fades to relative obscurity perhaps process (those 3-6 months) indeed is as important as the end result.  Theres also an ease of collaboration and interaction that occurs in a virtual world that is much harder to attain in something like Iclone.  

And amid all these thoughts I have finished (I think) my video contest entry.  It's sugary sweet and reminds me of my childhood aspiration to be a tv adman dreaming up catchy jingles and cute catchphrases.

At the advice of Phil Rice I purchased Quick Time Pro for the h.264 video codec and am quite happy with the results.  1 minute of film uncompressed from Iclone to Magix was coming in at 2.5Gb.  Compressed in Quick time with nice looking results it 33Mb.  The conversion to flash looks solid in youtube as well as Vimeo.  And there was much rejoicing.  Thanks Phil! 

Thursday, November 19, 2009

2009 Machinima Expo - Some Jury Film Comments

The 2009 Machinima Expo takes place in second life this Sunday with multiple events, screenings and the winners of the Jury Prize and Asian Jury Prize.  I spent a lot of time recently watching some of these films and here are some of my thoughts..

The jury films can be broken up into two categories; the artsy films (9, Transient, AM-Radio, Push) and the story based films (Cafe Insomniac, Clear Skies, Clockwork, Death in Venice, Saving Grace, The Orchard).  Outside of this was Taste the Cake which is a music video about the game, Portal, and Twilight of the Gods which could be considered a story based film but the story is so thin that it feels (to me) more like an extensive flight sim tech demo.  

Noting the dominant platform used in the film,  there are 4 Moviestorm films (Cafe Insomniac, ClockWork, Death in Venice, Saving Grace), 2 Second Life films (AM Radio, Push), 3 Half Life2 films (Clear Skies2, Shelf Life, Taste the Cake), 1 WoW film (The Orchard), 1 TM flick (Transience), 1 IL2 flick (TotG) and one that Im not entirely sure of (9).  Its a bit dissapointing that no Iclone flicks were selected though my favorite Iclone film, Lizard's Coming Home was selected for screening.

Here are the films:

9 by Claus-Dieter Schulz - Akin to watching a collidascope set to music.  Too esoteric for me personally.  It would have probably been more impressive if I had any background on the how/what/why but without this info I found this one lacking.  As an aside I did a little research and found this:  Like I said, it does seem a lot more interesting when theres some background accompanying the flick.  

:transient” by Sisch - I remember watching this about a year ago.  At the time many of The Movies people were considering using outside editing software on our movies and this was a highly touted example of such things.  Its funny that outside editing was such a big deal to us old TMOers not so long ago.  Anywho, I paid a lot of attention to the technical aspect of the film and failed to just watch the movie.  Coming back to it I was highly impressed at how well this holds up compared to the other art films selected for the jury.  Great music.  Very cool movie.

“AM Radio – Second Life – HD” by Pyewacket Bellman - Another esoteric one but this time full of images and things and places that I can relate to (at least on the surface).  Definitely beautiful things to look at and perhaps there is a hint of story here but I found myself wanting more than a hint and thinking about what else could be done with all these crazy places and things.

“Cafe Insomniac” by Hardy Capo - I need to revisit.

Clear Skies 2 by Ian Chisholm - I will have to come back to this when I have 45 minutes to dedicate to a machinima film.  I saw the first Clear Skies at a Machinima Fest in NYC last year.  Seeing it live on a big screen with a crowd of people was actually not an optimal experience for me.  I was preoccupied with watching the people attending and there were other things happening (a forum discussion in another part of the room) and the sound was inferior to the headphone experience.  As such I wasn't all that impressed.  The exterior scenes all felt like a video game and it felt pretty long to me. I will try to give this the attention it needs (soon) as many people have raved about it.   And many people cant be wrong..hehe.

Clockwork by IceAxe - Heres one that I forgot just how good it was.  The strength here is the environment that is created.  A V for Vendetta/Clockwork Orange world that is so real you can touch it. Put together through colinear peeks into various phases of that life (the robotic radio - a definite V influence eh, the govt sequence, the droogs, the police).  It really is effective and soo stylish to boot (that scene of the gang walking along the edge with all its high contrast is very very nice).  A strong contender me thinks.  

”Death in Venice” by Kate Lee & Sherwin Liu - I need to revisit.

”Push” by Lainy Voom - The odds on favorite to win in my book.  Beyond polished and way too cool.  If I saw this in a commercial break I would sit up scratch my head and hit the rewind button on my dvr.  What does it mean?  Who knows.  Who cares.  Its fun and interesting to watch like some kind of complex cartoon mousetrap device.  If you haven't seen it yet let me assure you that you can find two minutes of your life to watch it.

”Saving Grace by Sisch - Will need to revisit.

Shelf Life by James Spencer and Jon Sortland - This one was a revelation to me (I'm not so very up on the latest and best releases).  Cinematic and very eerie.  Pulled me in and left me wanting more (Shelf Life 2 will premeire very soon).  Ended up reminding me a bit of Carpenter's "In the Mouth of Madness".  I have been playing HalfLife2 a good bit recently so I am aware of the world they have to work with and this still felt fresh and inventive.  Still, I think the restrictions inherant in the engine/platform will keep it from taking home the win.  For example, the creation of Push is constrained only (well mostly) by the imagination while Shelf Life is a very good story acted out in a premade environment.  Eh, perhaps this makes no sense.  Regardless, I will definitely be in line to see part 2.  Very good flick.

”Taste the Cake” by Ray Koefoed - A fun, well made music video about the game Portal with very original music to boot.  Its the only jury film that could be considered Comedy.  It probably wouldn't have made my list of 12 (lacks something to really push it over the top and felt like a commercial for the game) but its definitely very good.  

The Orchard by Dan Ross - A world of warcraft flick that is attempting a little bit of fairy tale horror but ends up feeling awkward because of the character cartoony looks and some of the mildly awkward and limited animations.  This is the first WoW film I have watched and I suppose the land of fairies and orks just isn't my thing as yet. 

“Twilight of the Gods” by Jan Kopřiva - A WWII aviation flick with loads of very very cool air combat footage and very little else (in what was approximately a 12 minute film).  There are little snippets of story here and there (the nurse, the germans, the Saving Private Ryan ending) but overall it felt like a very long tech demo to me.

Im hoping to rewatch Death in Venice, Saving Grace and Cafe Insomniac soon as well as watching Clear Skies 2.  Also hoping to get around to the Asian Jury films this weekend.  Might try to post again about these and some of the screened films as well in the next day or so.  Saw a mountaineering GTA flick I'm just itching to talk about..hehe.

Friday, November 13, 2009


A little something I've been working on this week for the comp and a quick reminder of how great IClone is at creating stills and screenies but how frustrating the animating process can be.  The toy man below has been cloneboned and can be animated similar to any other character except for the fact that the legs and arms are one piece instead of 2 and therefore cannot bend.  Not the end of the world but the legs had to be connected to the hips and the clonebone character will not allow you to get rid of the lower leg section nor the feet.  I shrank them as much as possible but they still exist and therefore toy man walks a few feet above the surface.  No problem, I'll just adjust the transform key and...well, he bobs up and down like a corpse in the Hudson when he starts walking.  Its a problem.  I havent found any keys in the timeline that are causing this so I might just have to figure a workaround.  Still the screenies look nice and I like all the new lighting features and the ease of giving this a washed out super bright look.  

Ive been thinking about the wisdom of posting so many screens of whatever Im working on at the moment.  Does it dull the surprise for the 4 people who happen to see it?  Maybe but my third point overrides this one.

Does it create higher expectations than the project can/will deliver?  Probably.  I see so many great screenies from Iclone projects where the animation ends up stilted and lacking compared to how my imagination spun things upon seeing the shot.  This is probably the case with the screenies I put up but I already know about my shoddy animation skills so no suprises for me..hehe.

I think the real reason I put up so many screenies is because it allows me to think about what I'm doing compared with the visions in my head and to help guide me through the process.  And all this while not cloning about.  For instance, I really like the low camera angle on that second shot.  Makes things look a bit more grandiose.  This is something I will probably be playing around with.  And then I notice that the ball shown in the screenie is the same color of the toy horn squeezie and should be changed.  See, its already worth its weight in screenie gold.   Just sayin.

And since you've put up with my rambles, heres an excellent bathing beauty from  Kay Laurell, A Zigfield Follies girl and actress of the silver screen.  Died 5 years after this shot of pnemonia.  Not sure if she's on the banks of the Potomac (note the Washington Monument in the background) or what but those one pieces are excellent.  Or perhaps its that hat.  Eh, either way.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

O My!

Check out this crazy parody from Teviniii, made with Ic4.  Amazingly good character creations (look  at those facial expressions!), lighting, lifelike animations and snazzy set design.  Similar in subject matter to those old claymation deathmatch shows or perhaps a touch of robot chicken.  Probably the most polished production I've yet to see made with Ic4.  Wouldn't surprise me at all to see this on the boobtube one night.  A high bar to strive for me thinks.  Very good stuff.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Future!

I've been working on a new scene from my future project and created a space aged character with a nifty jetpack and a hot babe and figured I'd just go get a nice backdrop of a future city and we would roll right into the 10 seconds of shooting that I needed.  But then I found the backdrop image I wanted and I started worrying about copyright issues and I thought...hmm, time to work with Iclone primitives.

So there we go.  I might revert in my thinking back to someone's future city image as a backdrop but with a little vaseline on the lens I think I can get away with this.  Went ahead and had the babe saddle up to jet pack boy and they take off together.  A lot of fun involved in making this scene.  Made me late for work this morning when I decided to point JPB's feet downward on takeoff but was worth it for the smirk of accomplishment that is splattered on my mug today.

On another note, heres an interesting take from James Berardinelli on the death (or near death) of independant film.  

Thursday, November 5, 2009

If only it were that simple...

On the local front I'm in the midst of trying to make a bear cheer and a man fly.  Or is that I'm trying to make a man a fly.  Well yes, that too.

And if you havent seen the Star Wars Uncut project, do so now.  I doubt I'll participate but I will certainly be awaiting the finished project.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Challenge by David Thomas

Heres a little action flick from David Thomas that was advertised in the Reallusion forums. Pretty solid flick with some nice sets, custom music and good action sequences. Sweet finish too.
Some of the character animations seem far too slow (a common complaint from me) but still a very solid action feature.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hallows Eve and some flicks that are treats.

Halloween  was lovely.  Released my House of Horror on Saturday after a nice premier at TMUTheater.  Received some nice comments which makes me happy.  Did some trick or treating with Kid Millions and then made it out to a friends to watch Basket Case (exploitive 80's b movie shlocker - very nice).  Late night in a bar in Brooklyn on Halloween is quite a treat.  Some great drunken costumed characters.  Robots, aliens, tiny tim, wonder woman, vamps and many undead.  It was like spending the evening in someones little crazy machinima flick.  Good times.

Work continues on my Steve-os set.  Ive added a backdrop of panoramic Indianapolis 1918 (thanks library of congress) but the resolution was shoddy and I didnt like the actual results as much as I liked my gimped mockup test (below).

Also worked up a more elaborate terrain but the scale is weird so much more work to do here.  Hopefully I wont spend too much more time on a set that will be used for less than a minutes worth of filming.  And I suppose I wont show any more pics of Steve-Os till its done (at least not the same image perspective).

On the filming front, I find I'm much more of a dream it up and then figure out how to do it kind of guy but decided some old fashioned learning without a goal was called for what with me owning Iclone4 and not having played around with many of its features.  So last night I played with the path editor and was rather impressed to have my characters walking (pretty naturally) around corners in less than a minute.  Path based motions are good.  

A lot of good movies put out this weekend.  Here are two that caught my eye and went largely unseen...

What the Fu-ture? by TR3 - Live action high school spanish class educational video that rivals all that old 1985 mtv stuff (think David Lee Roth's "I aint got nobody") and includes turkish belly dancers and people getting pushed into a pool.  Did I mention this is a high school production?  Its a blast.

Cateneda Cops - Garn by Bongo - Trippy and fun moviestorm flick with more mod magic than you can shake a stick at.  Reminded me a bit of the Big Lebowski in tone.  Much unique and inventive.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hair Loss, Bewitched, Chick Tracts and Baby Monsters

In the battle against hair loss there can be only one winner.  No wait, there are four winners (of varying degree of prizes). 

Create a 60 second clip about hair loss (comedy, drama, else) for a chance to win cash or a fancy camera.

I'm in. Plus I've enlisted a bit of help in the idea department from some friends which gives the whole process a Mad Men/Darren Stephens* (Bewitched) kinda advertising campaign feel.  Im stoked though I gotta figure out how to create a toupee thing in Iclone.  Thanks for the heads up Dulci.

* Did you know that Darren was played by Dick York who hurt his back and was replaced by Dick Sargent (did the producer figure no one would notice so long as the actors first name was Dick?).  But perhaps more interesting, 2 actresses won posthumous Emmys for Bewitched.  Yep, bewitched won an Emmy (er...2).  Which leads me to Boo! which I actually picked up in a Kroger in the South (the religious tract, not the movie) and vividly remember the page discussing how Bewitched was indeed Satanic.  But thats neither here nor there.  Watch Boo because it's funny and Halloween themed.  Then go watch Guppy's Godzilla because it's cuter than ...well I got nothing.  It's cute so watch it.  End transmission. 

Thursday, October 29, 2009

More Set Design and Wasting the Rappers

In news of old things that I find interesting, theres a new Life magazine special that highlights the 50 Greatest unsolved Mysteries.  Some pretty good little snippets here like "What Killed Rasputin?", "Who was D.B. Cooper?" (I love DB Cooper), "What Happened to Judge Crater?" and so on.  Cool black and white photos, though the text was probably ripped straight from wikipedia (or is that the other way around).  Anyway, the mysteries are listed in chronological order so the older ones start it off and towards the end we get "Who killed Jon Benet Ramsey?".  Now almost all of the 50 shorts involve questions like "Who killed...", "Where is...?", "What happened to...?".  Then out of nowhere comes the title "Who Wasted the Rappers?" which should have been followed by the question "Which Editor got fired for allowing such a title?".  The inclusion of the murder of Biggie and Tupac is appropriate (I love Biggie as well) but that title just strikes me as demeaning and incredibly stupid.  Eh mountains and molehills and such.

Worked a bit on Steve-O's last night.  Adjusted the Steve-O sign (much better me thinks), added interior backdrops running at an angle within the building to give a sense of perspective when looking through the window, created the balloons in sketchup (would you believe there is no effective group of balloons in 3d warehouse that are less than 1Meg), added the Color TVs sign, adjusted the sidewalk width and added the roadway markings and a scooter.  Whew...

Still some additional signage to add to the windows, add some color to the grand opening sign and then I need to figure something out for the background besides trees.  I think this is an urban setting so I'll either look for some buildings or perhaps either a photo-realsitic or cartoony urban backdrop.  Have to play around with this to see what works.  Might shrink the line weight on that roadway marking..its kinda big.  Finally I'll send it off to some set design guru to get an opinion.  Overall, I think shrinking the sidewalk and the Steve-O sign goes a long way to making this look better.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Surfs up and the need for some perspective

Strolling about on my morning web commute I ended up reading the reelviews review of Wings (1927).  An interesting review  that describes the flick as something of a time capsule capturing the essence of WWI in that brief time before the world had to view it through the lens of WWII.  Also mildly amusing is James' brief take on how Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor (made approximately 70 years later) infects Wings with a sense of cliché.  So a fine read of a silent classic which made brief mention of Clara Bow's breasts (Wings was pre-Hays code) which sent me googling Clara Bow and...hubba hubba.

Not all that familiar with Clara (somehow thought she was the intended parody of Lina Lamont from Singing in the Rain..but perhaps not).  Anyhow, the "It" girl wikipedia entry is well worth 20 minutes of your day.  At least it was was to me (my favorite quote from Dorothy Parker..."It, hell, She had those."  Also fun to note that putting on your lipstick in a heart motion is called putting on a Clara Bow...).  

And moving on to things more animation based..Ive started work on a new project.  Script is drafted and being reviewed and I'm currently developing some of the characters and sets and such.  So here is a very early version of a set I was working on last night; a simple electronics store.  

I'm still considering how to develop the store interior (use an interior backdrop/wall or use individual props...I don't have any interior scenes so probably just the backdrops) and I will be adding some flyers on the windows (20% Off!) and pehaps some street and parking lot markings (and perhaps a vehicle or two).  The Grand Opening sign is a flex prop that waves gently in the wind (though I think it could use some color).  And I'm rather proud of the how the set is shaping up.

But the question is should I be?  I keep trying to step back to view things as an outsider because as the creator I have that bit of pride that keeps me from realizing its not all that good.  The same issue happens with all my projects in just about all the phases.  Is this script good or is my sense of pride unjustified.  Is my halloween movie solid or have I just watched it too many times to know the difference.  This is where a mentor/critic role would come in handy.   

Looking at the screenie this morning I'm thinking that the Steve-O sign is way too big in relation to the building and the sidewalk is too big as well so thats more things to add to my list.  More on this project as it develops (feels like 4-6 months production to me) though as a little teaser clue I will say that this flick will use of exclamation marks to excess.