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.