Wednesday, January 30, 2008
And that brings me to 1. Today's Theory and 2. Why Today's Theory is wrong.
Fake cities always look fake because real cities look fake. Real cityscapes look painted because of the occlusion of the atmosphere between you and the city. Looking at Manhattan from Brooklyn is a classic example of how... the city... looks fake. They look like a matte painting.
And not necessarily a good matte painting.
And the weirder the buildings -- the faker it looks.
When I was in High School my dad took me down to Florida during my Spring Break to a jobsite -- the building of Epcot Center at Disney World. It was pretty amazing to look at -- all those huge and crazy buildings all going up at once. And from a distance, they looked fake.
So: real buildings look fake, of course fake buildings look fake.
Why Today's Theory is Wrong:
Ian, who made our robot for us, disproves my theory. The image above is from his latest feature.
The image not only comes off as totally photo-real, but it also looks real. Which are two different things.
The lighting and the texture are perfect. Perhaps the real and photographed foreground helps the image be more real? Perhaps the matched atmospheric occlusion (yes, I've started talking that way) between the background of the photographed image matches the composite?
I have no idea.
But it just looks right. And therefore my theory is wrong. (Furthermore, CGI in the daytime is the hardest though. Because you can see everything.)
One day we're going to throw enough money at Ian and get him on visual effects on a Pandora Machine picture...
Just finished Deadstock by Jeffrey Thomas. I even finished it mostly on my iPhone, which seeing as it's a .pdf file that's 399 pages long, is quite a feat considering how the iPhone doesn't let you "jump" to a page so every time you re-wake the dang thing you have to scroll hundreds of pages manually to get back to where you started.
I like that the book is extraordinarily well-written. Given my prejudice that writing is not a solitary effort, I figure the author must have a terrific editor.
There are some great things in the book. Ouiji phones are the cell-phone like things which you can use to talk to the dead. There are plenty of angry clones (because they're second - class citizens) and nice little touches about mutants and other sentient alien species.
What more could you want? Oh, you want the German cover to an earlier novel by the same author.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Today Millennium Crisis is on the streets. Specifically, in North America, at Best Buy.
This is our second picture to be released. And, of course, it's already available in Japan. It just feels like we shot it so long ago. We shot another picture in the interim.
Here's keeping our fingers crossed and hoping it does well!
Sunday, January 27, 2008
This is an HDR picture of New York City. Boy, it'd be fun to be able to shoot a motion picture which looked this way. My guess is you'd have to shoot multiple exposures with a locked-down camera and then composite...
Certainly worth thinking about...
I'm amused by the screencleaning kitty. But this little pug is absolutely the thing you need if you're having a rough day and need something to relax you.
There's quite a bit of information out there about No Asshole Rules. I haven't really had to worry about it since I left the Wooster Group.
Also, I'm reading a free online book (I wish it were available in html but it's just a giant .pdf) called Deadstock. It's a sci-fi cyberpunk-ish novel and it's really quite good. And if you don't mind reading on your computer -- it's free. The imprint Solaris (which is giving this book away online in order to promote the sequel) seems interesting. One thing about the book is it is refreshingly well-edited. Unlike, say, this blog.
The iPhone camera is nigh on impossible to operate, especially for self-portraits.
Brian Schiavo is both doing a final re-write on his script but he's also building the spaceship which crash-lands on Necrosis 6.
I'm really interested in seeing how we're going to shoot this model. I even got a macro lens! Hope we don't run into depth of field issues...
I am engaged in mortal battle with Adobe Premiere. Premiere sucks. My decision to go with Premiere was a bad one. I've apologized to all the relevant parties but ultimately I'll be suffering with it the most.
1. It won't output OMF or any other kind of audio format for editing and mixing audio in another program. That's completely unprofessional and makes the program unusable in any kind of pro post-production environment.
2. It boggs down with creating audio waveform displays when you import any audio. This makes the project files ungainly and huge and causes a lot of "out of memory" errors which are simply stupid and bring work to a dead halt.
3. It doesn't even do the one thing it's supposed to do, and the thing which made me use it on the post production of Solar Vengeance. That is the ability to copy and paste from Premiere to After Effects.
As it turns out, that copy and paste is not the most reliable thing in the Adobe world. On a complex project (like, oh, say, a feature film) some clips don't come over on the first try at all. And not all effects come over with their settings in tact. So what's the point?
One lucky thing is that Premiere will render in 32-bit float. So I can output with Magic Bullet Looks and not lose information (I think).
But next time? We're going back to Final Cut Pro. I forget, will Final Cut import .tga sequence files? I hope so. ..
So, apparently, violent movies decreases crime while football games increase crime. That makes sense to me.
Every year I try to see how long I can go without finding out who's playing in the Superbowl. I've made it to the following Monday on a couple occasions. My, er, loving, brother, upon hearing that I try to not know, said "Go Giants." Thanks Dave. You'll be hearing from my representative.
See? Football. It makes me more violent.
Every once in a while I think I'd like to write a book. It'll probably end up being a picture book from a bunch of movies we've made.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Pandora Machine has just green-lit a new feature called The Shriven. The job number is "0704". We're producing with Brian Schiavo, who wrote, will co-direct, and star in the movie.
Brian did our wonderful props and guns for Solar Vengeance.
This is the first of five pictures we're shooting over the next two years.
Friday, January 25, 2008
"There is an old (rather cynical) adage that states that, given the categories of speed, cost, and quality, you can only have two of the three options."
And all I'm thinking is "Oh, do you mean the 'Cheap, fast, good, pick two' rule?"
And I still can't figure out premultiplied mattes. I mean, how does the computer know it's premultiplied, or rather which black is just black and which is "there's no image here"? What's different about the "black" or whatever color you're using for the alpha channel? What's the difference between that color which isn't matted out from that color which is? I'll keep looking.
This is pretty darn funny:
Quotes from Godzilla's own DVD commentaries.
I'm color-correcting and sending out bits of video for notes from the editor and writer (who has no notes but who is probably also not working on the two scripts he's supposed to be writing) and producer (who sent me six and a half single-spaced pages of notes).
And remember: over the next two years we're shooting 5 pictures (and prepping 6). If I keep saying it, it'll happen.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Last night I met the man behind this website. His portfolio is simply amazing.
Am furiously trying to lock some picture on Solar Vengeance.
Over the next two years we will prep, shoot, and complete 5 feature films. That is, we'll be finished with 5 features by December of 2009 and have a screenplay for a 6th film by then too.
All of this means, of course, that very soon we'll be announcing the movie we begin shooting in March.
Here's a blog about the experience of being an effects artist working for a bunch of different production companies over the years.
Would you like to see the images which Picasa censored from my Picasa account this week?
Prepare to be shocked by obscenity...
...Horrified by the incitement to violence....
...Revolted by the promotions of hate...
These were the images which they claimed "violated" their Terms of Service.
Perhaps they violated their unbelievable levels of ignorance, but their TOS? I don't think so.
They took down my entire folder of "Prague Spring Images" which are pictures of my band Prague Spring. If I haven't fixed the side bar of this blog you'll see a missing folder of stills there.
An ambient acoustic group for the love of Pete.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Ooh. Drew. You're so... so... dangerous."
What stupid and petty employee of Google decided these had to come down? I mean really.
Someone was offended by the paintings? By the dude with the djembe?
I know, it's the girl on the red chair with the flute.
What kind of idiot would insist these be taken down?
You know, this really illustrates the danger of stupidity and ignorance in power. Censorship, in and of itself, is evil. Because it will be used for stupid evil purposes.
Like taking down these pictures.
The paintings, including the odalisque at stage right, are by the great 19th century French painter Ingres.
Everybody run for the hills! Anarchy is coming! 19th - century French masterworks are corrupting your children's minds!
The dancer (whose back you can see on the projection) is Melissa Riker. The people playing instruments are Kevin Keating (drums), Sky Grealis (flute), and me, Andrew Bellware, on acoustic guitar.
I, of course, own the photographs and I created the video projection.
Taking these down is just a spectacular level of censorship and idiocy. What kind of jerktard complained about the images in the first place?
Well, to the ignorant knuckle-draggers in charge of abuse of the Picasa TOS: I fully intend to "continue to violate these Program Policies" as you put so nicely in your email to me. So if these images violate your stupid interpretation of your policies you just better suspend my account.
Just to prove it, by putting these images back on Google, I'm putting them on Picasa too.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
"The cult was there for the joining."
That's going to be my excuse at least. Well, that and the fact that I'm saving $30/month (originally I thought it would be a $40/month savings but I was wrong. OK, maybe it'll only be $25/month but still...)
I did it.
I bought an iPhone.
And I'm trying to figure out how to hack it now. But I can get email and look at maps and surf the interwebs and that's all the most important thing.
I'd had Verizon. Now I'm on AT&T. In the olden days AT&T wasn't very good and Verizon was the only service which actually worked. But now AT&T even works in my studio (one of my partners -- Mitchell -- used to have to grab his phone and sprint to the front of the theater in order to take his calls. He doesn't have to anymore.)
Here's a picture of me from my new phone.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
I'm going about re-rendering everything in Blender now that I think I've found a satisfactory photo-realistic way to render. I'm not so sure what it is but it seems to involve using a few hemisphere lights rather than anything else.
Still irked at Picasa for taking down some unknown number of images. Still don't know which ones they got but I have a feeling...
Friday, January 18, 2008
"Good writing technique, well rounded characters (no matter where you stole them from) and high quality story telling will always triumph over originality."
But this moose is very ASCII dramatic. Well, really, I couldn't find a good picture to put up here. Still no resolution regarding Picasa...
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
"Please be advised that we have recently received reports that inappropriate content has been posted to your Picasa Web Albums account. One or more photos displayed in your gallery violates our Program Policies and has been removed.
Our Policies state that images displayed on picasaweb.google.com cannot contain obscenity, pornography, promotions of hate, incitement of violence, or spam, malicious code, or viruses. Please note that if you continue to violate these Program Policies, we may suspend your Picasa Web Albums account.
To read more about our Program Policies and Terms of Service, please visit http://picasa.google.com/web
Thank you for your cooperation."
Of course, on the face of it, nothing I have posted even remotely comes under the heading of "obscenity, pornography, promotions of hate, incitement of violence, or spam, malicious code, or viruses". But as it turns out that doesn't matter. They have taken down pictures without telling me which ones they took down. And I fear I'll never get them back.
I wrote to them using their hidden contact form. We'll see how that works:
I just got an email saying that one or more of my pictures has been removed because they violate the TOS.
I sincerely do not believe that ANY images I have on Picasa actually violate the TOS. They are neither obscene, pornographic, or hateful. This seems somewhat arbitrary and it's very upsetting to me.
Can I at least be told which images have been deleted?
I wish that instead of deleting the images they were simply made "unsearchable" or set to private.
Do I have any redress in the determination that my pictures violate the TOS? I appreciate any help you can give me in this matter.
Thank you for your time,
As far as I can tell, Picasa won't let you download your own pictures when they've decided they violate their TOS and the pictures are gone forever. We'll see. They immediately sent be back an automated form letter. I'm sure their actual response will be something on the order of a link to their TOS, as though that explains everything.
This is Claire Sommer's dog Kenny.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
The second picture has Photoshop clone-tool extended height -- in an attempt to make the environment a tad more oppressive.
And the third picture adds extensive color correction using Magic Bullet Looks. There's no faces visible but even in such a heavily corrected shot I believe faces will be relatively "natural" looking.
I took this picture toward the end of daylight -- which is why the lights in the stores are so "bright" yet there's still light in the sky.
Incidentally, the shop to the right of the van was used as a model for the shop in Eyes Wide Shut.
Millennium Crisis comes out on the 29th of this month. It will be in Best Buy and Hastings and a variety of 1-stop distributors.
The movie will not be at Blockbuster or Hollywood Video. Both of those chains are havin' their troubles and we fell below their needs.
Also, got some real numbers: for "indy" product Netflix orders about 30 to 60 copies at best. We haven't got an order from them yet but apparently retailers and such get their orders in fairly late anymore so it's not surprising.
Monday, January 14, 2008
The JL421 Badonkadonk Tank.
It's all about the reader comments. They're what sell it baby!
You'd think I'd have a lot of time on my hands or something, blogging about irrelevant stuff. It's almost like I'm rendering robots. Oh right. I am.
Here, use this for all your future screenplays. The model works.
Visited Julia and Jason, the good folks down in Forked River who are making the webcast series Venus Rises.
These pictures are taken with only the built-in lighting in the sets.
According to the metadata in the jpeg file the pictures are taken at f2.8 1/8 second at an equivalent ISO of 800.
Duh. That means... uh. At 1/48th of a second... duh... 2 1/2 stops less light? And if one were shooting at an ISO of 200 you'd lose two more... which means almost 5 stops down and um...
Well you can see I can't do math and conversions well in my head. Or on this blog. In any case, the practical lights won't blow out that hard because they'll be down some number of stops. We probably wouldn't want the background to be that bright anyway. I'm presuming these pictures on their site are not from the DVX100 they use but they could be. I'd rate the DVX 100 camera at most to be about a 320 - 360 ISO on a good day.
Even when I get a new adapter for my HVX we'll be shooting about 200 ISO or so.
In any case the sets look amazing. Somebody should write some more scripts using them.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
My brother Dave wrote to my sister and me:
"This is from a guy who works for Hannah Montana's publicity company, explaining why she uses a body double for a couple of minutes in her show: 'There are absolutely laws of physics that prevent you from doing gee-whiz things without some hocus-pocus.'"
I wrote back:
"That should be my mission statement."
Pushkin likes to sleep on top of the cable box. Sometimes his tail drapes over the edge in front of the infrared receiver and you can't change the channel 'till you get up and move his tail.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Nobody ever asked me, but the Writers strike is a bad idea. I mean, it's a bad idea for them, not for me. For Pandora Machine, it's a great idea. They should strike for years.
1. It's a bad idea because the employers want them to strike. That's always bad -- doing what you're told. It's an ineffective strike action if it's just doing what the employers want. The studios figured they could clean house and make some money using force majeur clauses in their contracts. So when the strike happened, that's just what they did.
2. It's a bad idea because as it turns out, striking Writers means fewer people watching TV shows. What's wrong with that? How does that help the employers? It helps them because the advertisers still need to hit the same demographic numbers so they're advertising more. And when they buy more ad time, the price per ad goes up. "The best guesses so far from analysts and executives on both sides of the upfront bargaining are that agencies will agree to spend on behalf of their advertiser clients about 3 percent to 6 percent more in the coming prime-time TV season than was sold ahead of time for the 2001-2002 season."
The Networks are actually profiting off of having fewer viewers.
I doubt that the Networks anticipated that happening, but it certainly works out for them now. I bet they're going to want to ride that gravy train for a while.
3. It's a bad idea because as far as the Studios go, it's not about the Writers. Now I realize I'm using the New York Times for all my links here, and the New York Times (while not the Post) isn't the most accurate of news sources, it doesn't mean that these things aren't true. But as far as I can tell, since Terminator 3, stars have figured out how to penetrate the "first dollar" wall the Studios have had in place (at least sort of according to Edward Jay Epstein's The Big Picture.) But here's from the Times article, referring to a new report about the studio's business:
"The report, prepared by the research company Global Media Intelligence in association with its partner Merrill Lynch, concludes that much of the income — past and future — that studios and writers have been fighting about has already gone to the biggest stars, directors and producers in the form of ballooning participation deals. A participation is a share in the gross revenue, not the profit, of a movie."
So the studios are doing a proxy fight with the WGA when what's really irking them is the overly-generous deals they're making with giant stars and directors who are taking a piece of 1st-dollar gross before pictures are going into profit. (Now in essence, any "royalty" deal does the same thing, although with the Guilds and the IA it's a vastly smaller percentage.) I don't think anybody at the WGA recognizes that they're in a fight with their spouses mother-in-law (there I go getting the award for worst analogy) but in essence they are. And as long as you're arguing without mentioning the elephant in the room ("You're calling my mother an elephant!") then the real issues won't get resolved.
5. And it's a bad idea because it's about the Internet. Except for a very few businesses, the Internet has been something that's supposed to revolutionize everything and make gazillions of dollars, but instead hasn't made very much money at all for most people. Sure there's Google and Amazon, even (for a while) MySpace et al. But it's incredibly unpredictable. And nobody's figured out how to make money with movies on the dang thing. We've been hearing that it's going to happen for what? More than 15 years now...
But That Being Said 6. Please keep striking for a couple more seasons. That should help our sales at Cannes and the AFM by reducing the amount of features made by the smaller signatories and the direct-to-dvd divisions of the major studios leaving more crumbs for us. In fact, if we could just shut down the Hollywood machine for a couple years to let us catch up it would be really appreciated. Thanks!
Friday, January 11, 2008
This is him when he's just woken up. He looks pretty gumpy when he's just woken up. I didn't even wake him!
View Larger Map
And here's a picture of a downed pod from the upcoming Starship Troopers III.
Like Species III, the direct-to-DVD Starship Troopers II is not that bad. Actually II is better than I in the Starship Troopers canon.
The big problem with Starship Troopers is that a big part of the original story was that the characters were in servo-powered armored suits which means you have the same problem as with the moisture-collecting suits in Dune. In the movies, if you can't see someone's face then you instantly lose tremendous amounts of drama (and you can't figure out who different characters are.) They instantly become cartoony, indistinguishable, and typically evil. So when they lose the armor, all you have left is the Greco-Fascism. And of course the movies parody that.
Yesterday I saw a reading of Josh James' The Pleasure Principal. It's an out-of-chronological-order series of scenes about six friends and a very good play. It's pretty well ready to go. What I mean by that is that if you had this script in hand you could cast it and start blocking, there's no "Well we have this thing which needs to be cleaned up, or this other thing which doesn't work, and there's this section where the tone is way off" at that's really hard to get right before you put a play in the hands of actors. It takes a lot of experience to write something so it actually works the first time. But it sure makes the director's job a lot easier.
And hey, if The Pleasure Principal were cut to 90-minutes it would be a good art-house movie too. Sort of a Desperate Housewives meets American Beauty or some such thing (someone could come up with a better description.) It has great characters and dialog - two things frequently missing from art-house pictures. It has an ending. It would be simple to shoot but not boring. What more do you want?
You could probably get a name actress in the lead and shoot the thing with "style" up the wazoo for a million bucks or so and get some good festival play and maybe even an art-house distribution run. If you kept the budget down, you might even be able to make money at it. Of course, most anyone else would say they'd have to make the picture for $2-$6M but I think they'd be spending a lot of money on lattes to get rid of that cash. Lord knows that spending a lot of money on making movies isn't a hard thing to do. The other way to do it is to just shoot the dang thing with your friends in different people's apartments. Then you'd have something to take around to festivals...
And now I'm thinking about the Kensington section of Brooklyn. Looks like there are still reasonably - priced apartments there.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
My dad's selling his house in Metuchen and moving to Princeton. What I need is a place close to an MTA (subway) line or the PATH, in an elevator building, with a separate bedroom (elevator and bedroom are so my parents can visit.)
And of course I want all this for less than $1200/month. $1K or less would be better. And for that I suspect I'll need to go through a broker.
My dad was surprised to hear than Greenwich Village has no cheap apartments (shows you that he came to the New York area in the 1950's, doesn't it? Jersey City would be ideal for me for a number of reasons (like the 7-minute commute to my studio via the PATH) but it too is basically out of my price range (mostly because of the short commute all those parts of Jersey have become pricey.)
So that means that basically Inwood, Bay Ridge, or somewhere out past Forest Hills in Queens are the lead possibilities. There's also Harlem and of course there's always the possibility of some wacky deal I might get in Midtown or the Upper East Side.
I would prefer a place close to the blue or orange lines (A, C, or F trains) as those come closest to my studio. But the red line is fine also. And truthfully the green line is only a few short blocks away too. I would really love to live somewhere that has two lines nearby (in case one of the lines isn't running some weekend - another reason to hate Williamsburg).
Oh, and I have to have a place which doesn't mind cats.
So if you know of anywhere, tell me!
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Facebook has a terrible and unintuitive interface. It's nigh on impossible to use.
You're thinking: "Aw Drew, you're old! You just don't understand."
Oh yeah? This year I learned to animate and composite in Blender. You like complicated and convoluted interfaces? I'll show you one. Plus, I learned how to use nested comps in Adobe After Effects. That will fry your mind. I can understand some complicated crap.
Just not Facebook.
Come sit with me for 15 minutes as I show you how to create and import a 3D camera track into Blender using Python.
I promise you will be on your knees and in tears at how counterintuitive it is.
You better remember that layer one has to be turned on because the Voodoo camera tracking script we're using defaults to placing the camera, the render cloud, and the environment on layer one.
Then we're going to set the background image as an environment in the project's "world". Yeah, that's when it starts going good baby.
You will plead with me to stop as I show you how to select a camera, make the view conform to that camera, click off and on the "lock" button so the renders always use that camera and not the other object you have selected as the "camera".
You will beg for a quick and painless death as I show you how to make sure the z-buffer is being used on output so the node editor can calculate the depth of field using the camera distance and f-stop.
You will ask your Maker why He has forsaken you when I open the Targa sequence, flipping from RGB to Alpha channel in the viewer and adjust the gamma of the Alpha channel so the composite will actually work in AfterEffects.
Yes. I do these things every day now.
I get an email saying that someone has written something on my "Fun Wall". I click on the link to see what they've written. Nothing. It takes me to my Profile page and... nothing. There's no new message there.
So I click on "Fun Wall" in Applications, and it takes me to "Create A Post For All Your Friends". So I click on the "My Fun Wall" tab and... nothing. The post from the email just isn't there. Same thing with "Super Fun Wall".
All this just so people can throw turkeys and sheep at one another?
Furthermore "Spam My Friends" seems to be the default application. For instance, you can't use the "Sketch Me" application without spamming a minimum of 10 of your friends with it first. That's just evil isn't it? If anyone knows how to use that thing without "inviting" a bunch of your friends to use it, please tell me.
UPDATE: Oh look! What the link in the email from Facebook does is takes you to your profile page but with an anchor deep in the page on the "mini-feed", below the "Super Fun Wall", below almost everything else. If it takes, say, 15 seconds to load the page (that not being unusual -- Facebook not having the fastest servers in the world) you will likely think it's not working.
The message still doesn't work if I go to the Fun Wall tab but it shows up in my mini-feed. According to my cousin Kelly the message can be seen if you visit my profile from another account.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
It's important to note zeros when posting.
Here's Ben Sulzbach getting too close to a robot.
Apparently it's a Xik hunter-killer drone. (That's an inside joke, Ben's the only one who read and understood the script so he's the only one on location who knew what the robot was.)
That's Blair Johnson and Diana Ferrante lying dead and knocked-out (respectively) in the background.
We shot some pickups this weekend. Nothing all that exciting, just some closeups. But it takes care of a bunch of footage on Emi's list.
Monday, January 07, 2008
Because I'm emulating Chance, I've been looking around on the webernet for pre-existing spaceship sets (because unlike Chance, I don't have any friends who just happen to have those kinds of things lying around). ;-) And in my journeys I've stumbled on some interesting things.
In Asheville, NC (which really is a lovely town) there's the movie Moon Europa which seems to be an art-house sci-fi pic. At least that's what I gather from the teaser trailer on the site.
They do a nice job with the early-70's all-white aesthetic. Packing Styrofoam has gotten me pretty far up 'till now. I'm sure it'll continue to provide repeatably molded goodness in set designs.
While looking at the site for Venus Rises (and they have some very nice-looking sets) I stumbled upon IllusionTV "on-demand sci-fi". This is a digital cable network which will offer Venus Rises as a series.
As a distribution channel that's kind of interesting. I wonder if it's actually possible to make any money at it though.