Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Review of the year: 2009

I'll get around to it sometime early in space year 2010.

Hope you had a good Christmas, and have a Happy New Year in the meantime.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

"Soldier" - Bitter Ruin

So I completed the music video so details can now be revealed. I suppose the main reason for not giving out much information about a project is to svae you from any embarrasing confrontations if the project fails and the interested public continually ask "Whatever happened to the music video idea, it sounded awesome".

I decided to take this further and just not reveal what I was working on, even when I was pretty much finished. This was mainly due to not having the time to blog about it.

So here we go, the complete making of the music video Soldier by Bitter Ruin.

I first met Bitter Ruin back in June at the BirdEatsBaby album launch party. When performing they asked a very casual audience that they were interested in a video and if anyone had any ideas to let themselves known. I had no ideas, however bought there second EP and emailed them a day later to say I was interested in making a video for one of their songs. They happily agreed and that was that, Soldier was made.

At least I wish it was that simple.

Over the next couple of months I worked on ideas thinking of what would work best, and how I was going to make a video. The last full animation (and by full I mean animated short) I made was back in 2005, In Case of Zombies. Chris gave me the idea of doing something Jan Svankmajer-esque from there I remembered the story of The Brave Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Anderson. Now I don't read much so I just presumed any knowledge I have of stories will be common knowledge, not the case. As with John Otway on Jonny the Pessimist I had to remind a whole load of people about the story of a one legged tin soldier who falls in love with a ballerina and has an adventure to get to here only to end up in a fire with here at the end. (Here's a link if you want to read the full story - The Steadfast Tin Solider)

So I storyboarded the video and met up with the band to explain my ideas. All was going smoothly, I gave them my ideas, and they gave me their thoughts. The premise was that "someone" was building a War style diorama so had set out a variety of tool son the table, sewing things, work tools and paints along with the set "they" were building. This was where the soldier saw the ballerina. However rather than just recreating the story I flipped it around so that it's the ballerina trying to reach the Soldier, influence from the Jean Pierre Jeunet film A Very Long Engagement.

I was set to begin. I wanted a lot of actual First World War footage to play in the background of the soldier set. Therefore my plan was to create a lot of the video on the computer using Combustion to alter camera movements and so on. This was to avoid any lighting issues I would have with an actual green screen.

So at the end of July/early August I began work on the preparation side, building the set, designing the ballerina and guttering any props I needed.

Production kind of began towards the end of August when I took photos of the soldier and the set ready for composition in the computer. At the beginning of September I animated the ballerina. This went surprisingly well. I'd planned on having to pull an all-nighter just to get that thing done but found that id didn't quite tae m that long. Maybe watching A Mighty Wind and Hairspray helped. I don't know, but I finished all animation over a couple of days. Now things began to get complicated. In theory I had the majority of the scenes and could begin editing. Which I did to a degree. The soldier scenes couldn't be completed until I had the chosen war footage. The footage was all sourced online from the Internet Archive from the video, America Goes Over. I left this side of the film a while and worked on the ballerina. Most of this was simple, just a case of speeding up the animation. However there is a scene in the middle that in my head was simple but in practice drove me insane.

There is a shot where the ballerina is dancing go the edge of a table but as she is there a wind blows an assortment o f objects off the table. This was fine until I wanted the objects to fall off the table. It's pretty difficult animating with gravity. So I had a lot of importing and exporting, green screen masks and layers and composited the whole thing together. It was not simple however I was finally happy with the result, which unfortunately is only on screen for a few seconds. Did I waste my time? I don't think so, that's kind of the point of animation. Although you may not notice it the film just wouldn't be the same without the scene.

I met up with the band once again to update them on how things were going. They informed me of an idea that they were planning on having a screening launch night. I thought it was a great idea and agreed on the beginning of November. A couple of days later after working on the video some more, I changed the date to early December.

So production moved along until a fateful day in October when I got a job. This is a good thing, but it slowed done production having my days taken away. But still I plugged away. Until another fateful day in October WHEN MY PC BROKE. This caused me no end of stress and general anger. Especially when I had to take if back to PCWorld and couldn't find out what was going no until two weeks later when I got it back. So once again I began work. Until a further fateful day in October when I got a cold. OK so this wasn't so bad, but it was the first weekend I had on the video for a while and was planning on getting a whole chunk completed, and then I got instantly ill. I did as much as my brain could take and then had to focus on getting better. Now I had just over a month the finish the video.

So I spent the next three weeks filming the last remaining scenes, filmed the band and melted the soldier. This was obviously done last in case I needed reshoots. I managed to get the video completed by the last week of November, in time to have my birthday free, and giving me just over a week for any changes, which was needed.

The final cut was fine however there were concerns over the look of the film. I had opted for a black and white video to match the whole silent film feel of the video but it was later agreed that the original colour cut looked more visually appealing. I'm still fond on f the black and white though and it will probably appear online one day.

So it was complete, the last four months had been spent working on the video and it was time for the launch. In that time another video was being completed for the band to share the evening, and annoyingly it only took Mark Withers about two weeks.

Regarding the night, it was excellent. The audience really seemed to enjoy the whole thing. BirdEatsBaby provided support which put a whole full circle end to the story and the videos were screened to a great reception. The two videos are completely different to one another which is good as I was worried that the night would be spent comparing two pieces of work.

I had to provide a short speech, which I'm becoming a dab hand at, sort of. I said something, can't really remember what but it was relevant so all was good.

And without further ado, here's the complted video.

So that was the saga of Soldier from start to finish. Since completing the video I haven't really done anything. It is Christmas after all. That isn't to say that my brain is empty, I'll be spending the New Year writing another feature with Brother Chris (shhh!) and hopefully at some point get a long awaited live action short off the ground.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

We're not worthy...we're not worthy...

Will he ever get live that down? Brother Chris and I went to see ALICE COOPER last night and it was awesome. It made things a lot easier that he was playing at the Brighton Centre so no complicated travel was needed to get there which helped the evening go more smoothly. Also there weren't many annoying drunken louts in the audience. This ones that squeeze themselves in to the non-space in front of you with their overflowing pint cup.

The support came in the shape of Man Raze (yeah, we didn't know either) who consisted of Phil Collen of Def Leppard, Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols and Simon Laffy of Girl (Yeah, we didn't know either). They were ok. There's only three of them which isn't that great on a large stage. As support bands go, they kind of served their purpose and played a few songs to kill time before the main attraction.

And then we waited. We weren't sure why there's still a long wait between bands. Surely the sound check will have been completed before the show. With Alice Cooper I realise there's a lot of stage to set up for the show but still I wonder if it's more of a traditional thing. Anyway, we were standing at the front, once again only a few people back. Pretty much the same position when we saw Devo. Here's the opening fro your pleasure, excuse the terrible sound.

We were standing just to the left of the curtain in front of the microphone at he the far end.

He then continued to play a real mix of tracks from the old to the new, even some I wasn't too familiar with such as Killer and Guilty. It was an awesome stage show this time around. I saw him last year I think, maybe the year before supported by Motorhead and Joan Jett, and although there was a (stage) death, there wasn't much of a link between the songs. However this time, with The Theatre of Death, there were some cool set pieces, including numerous deaths and a nurse grinding sparks off her body.

Once again he didn't fail to impress. He also doesn't seem to have aged since the eighties. It's not all about Alice though, his band were excellent. It's a pity I can never remember who they were, research must be done I think.

So once again Alice Cooper survives, hopefully for a few more years. I look forward to seeing what he pulls out of the bag next time.

As a quick note, there's a lot of stuff that gets thrown into the crowd such as canes, necklaces and Alice Cooper dollars, and on his occasion I was qucik enough to grab a dollar bill out of the air. Unfortunately it is only pretend currency, but still a great souvenir.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Movie time once again...

I've got billions of things to blog about, well four actually, so let's go back one week, a single day after my birthday and a second adventure geeking out in London at Collectormania.

So here's the obligatory opening picture of R2D2. I decided to attend yet another Sci-Fi convention to celebrate my birthday, this time Collectormania. I say this time as though it's a completely different event, however it clearly isn't. So with girlfriend in tow we took the train to old London town. It's the same old story, there are booths selling stuff, celebrities signing and talks, both free and expensive. The mine drive this time around was to see Anthony Michael Hall, he of Breakfast club fame and more recently seen in The Dark Knight. Unfortunately he cancelled. I also got excited about the possibility of meeting Jess Harnell,the voice-over artist of Wakko of the Animaniacs, who also featured in the film Comic Book: The Movie. Unfortunately he also cancelled. So I was left with two main choices, Steve Blum, the voice of Spike Speigal form Cowboy Bebop and most recently Wolverine in game and cartoon forms. I was also interested in meeting Katherine Isabelle, though not widely known she has popped up as a guest star in a variety of US shows, have a brief scene in Uwe Bolls Rampage and was the leading lady in the awesome Ginger Snaps.

So to cut to the chase, the reason I have a strange expression in this photo is due to the fact that I just had a strange experience discussing the film Rampage. I remarked that that was the last film I saw her in at which point she confessed that she hadn't seen it. I then wasn't sure where to go, I explained that I saw it at Phantasmagoria in case she smelled a pirate. It then got weird as I wasn't sure if she was happy with he film, hadn't been shown due to distribution problems, or if it was just considered a job. So i got my autograph, photo and left.

As this was the second convention this year I wasn't feeling as much excitement as before, there were things to take photos of, and people to see. George Takei was one, Billy Dee Williams, Shannen Doherty (looking miserable) and John Rhys Davis were others. Doug Bradley was in attendance but I didn't want to approach him for two reasons, firstly I'd have to mention Chris and Ten Dead Men and hope that he knew what I was on about, and secondly, I didn't want a repeat of last time and have Halloween quotes spat at me. So I left him alone.

We later attended a talk by Steve Blum. This was cool, not many people turned up so the atmosphere was very casual. Unfortunately this meant he went straight to questions. I managed to think of one, asking which medium he preferred to work in, anime, western animation or video games (he said he enjoys them all so which he's working on that day is his favourite). I did have another question regarding a point made in Comic Book the Movie about how, with all this voice over talent, major studios still feel they have to cast "stars" as the voices in their animated films. There was no way I'd be able to say all that, and the face that the question had become more specialised and fan related, I kept quiet.

And that as more or less it for the convention. Trains were all messed up so I was pretty stressed at we then had to make it to the south bank to experience the Movieum., the most hated word in the English made up language.

This was a strange place. It's straight-forward, being a museum of film props, but I tries to educate in the process on the making of a film, but doesn't succeed. Also a lot of the items in the corridors were just not labelled so I had no idea what some things were. I realise this was Batman, but what is if for, Is it just a decoration piece or did it serve some design purpose. Answer on a postcard please. So there were a lot of cool things in the museum. Costumes from Harry Potter and a lots of James Bond stuff. I got quite excited when I saw the Glaive from Krull.

The coolest part of the museum though was a temporary exhibition/shop of animation cells. They were hidden in a small room, where a lady offered us some sweets and told use to ask if we needed help. Which all seemed fair enough until we realised that all the cells were for sale. I wasn't sure if she expected us to buy anything. There was a lot of Batman stuff in there which was really cool to see. One day I hope to buy something like that as I really like animation cells. At the moment I cannot justify spending that much (£200+). I got a bit worried when flicking through a folder when I came across a sketch of Charlie Brown selling for £3000. There were so many expensive pieces that the public could just look through. So we left to continue the journey.

So we had a great time visiting the nations capital. We would've stayed longer but the heavens opened, pouring down on use. It was a cool, self indulgent, film geek day.

Some more photo's from the Movieum