Monday, May 30, 2011

Coming in from the cold

I am a spy. A so-called "sleeper agent" for the planet Kargonon-6. I was put in place 30 earth-years ago to report on your technology.
I'm considered a bit of an embarrassment in the intel field. The people I work for have interstellar travel and what have you guys got? Velcro. Cat videos. Actually the cat videos are quite popular on Kargonon-6. But that's not the point. I'm supposed to ship technology back to Kargonon-6 and you guys just don't have anything interesting. I'm really looking forward to the custom - built human shells our minds can be placed into. 20 year-old athletes with titanium skeletons and the ability to shut off pain. I wanted to report back "They've got the bio-tech to do that!"
Instead all I got in the iPad II.
That's not technology. Force fields are freakin' technology. Warp drives. You know, that sort of thing.
Make some of this stuff so I'm not sending my employers the latest copy of Wired and an apology.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Short Films

Short films are usually too long. This one is kinda perfect. It's not entirely un-misogynist. But it has Nazis!
Ollie Klublershturf vs. The Nazis


Beware Russian Bride Scams

There are a number of ways you can tell if your future "bride" is scamming you for money for her supposed "visa" or plane tickets. You can tell from her correspondence. Does she say "I love you" too quickly? Has she had such a hard - knock life that you want to send her money because you feel sorry for her? But the most important thing you can tell if your future "wife" has no real interest in you at all:

  • she loves eating fruit salad;  

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The News From Cannes

So, the Asylum says they just had their best Cannes ever.

Actually, we did too. We sold Clonehunter, Battle:NY Day 2, Earthkiller, and Android Insurrection. And we sold to many markets we've never sold before. Of course, we have to finish half those movies. Ahem.

So although my cash situation is what we might call "dire", we do actually have some sales coming up. To which I say "whew".

But they at the Asylum have more to say. About IMDB:
We’ve just returned from the Cannes, where we had our best market ever in the history of The Asylum (sorry, haters, we’re set for the next couple years…). But we also heard a disturbing bit of news from some of our friends who were also selling movies: Apparently, some Buyers were coming to meetings armed with IMDB ratings for the films they were considering.
Personally, I make movies to impress my friends. That's the secret. I'm just trying to impress fellow-filmmakers with what I did and how little I had to work with to do it. Shockingly, I'm not lying.
Two critically important prop-making posts:
Making old-fashioned prop microphones
Making sci-fi armor
Read and memorize. And then make me a whole lot of each!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

When Someone Writes My Bio

When someone writes my biography, or my obituary, I don't care -- I just want this line in it:

"feeling that New York had become unsafe, and that his friends were too timid to take a stand on his behalf—decamped to Grenada for two weeks with a woman he’d originally met on MySpace."

Cats, Gold, and Light

This video of a cat actually manages to get weirder. No, I mean it even gets weirder after that. No, shockingly, it has somewhere to go that's weirder.

So Roger Ebert is gettin' all up in the business of theater owners using 3D projectors to show 2D movies. If the light levels are wrong, doesn't that mean that these theaters can't be THX certified? Surely THX has a digital cinema standard, I mean George Lucas was the one who insisted they put in digital projectors, right?

Our own Stacy Raymond is in the news! (And not for double homicide, although she killed a lot of people in Earthkiller.)


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Irish Money

Blinky is a short movie about a nice little robot. There are some gratuitous shots of a robot in the rain. Robots robot robots.

It's a pretty smart flick. Like most shorts it's about 1/3 too long. And there are a whole bunch of roto-out-the-robot shots in it which are super clean. Somebody spent money on post. Rebecca Kush turned me onto it. Irish Film Board helped pay for it.

It's not creepy to have a Stana Katic crush, is it? No? OK, cool.

Party Van

Rebecca Kush took some pictures in the van on the way home from location on the last day of shooting Android Insurrection.
Tom sniffs my head. I'm scootched down because he's giving me the willies.
On the way home, the Queen of Mars is driving behind us with Maduka Steady and Juanita Arias. So once we got into slow traffic David and Tom decided to moon them. Minutes later we got a text that the driver had hysterical blindness.

Why I Hate TV

The effect.

So, the networks bought 429 pilot scripts. E-freaky-deaky-gads. And they shot maybe 40(?) pilots. And then they actually pick up about a dozen of those, most of which fail.
That don't really work for us. Buying over 400 pilot scripts is maybe great if you're a writer, but that's not what I consider the thing I do. I want to actually make stuff. Finished, completed, stuff.
The cause.
Here's another problem I have with TV. The length of "hour long" episodes seems to be just exactly wrong. Well, let me modify that, it seems to have been just exactly wrong. When episodes were like 50 minutes long they were just too long and had too much filler in them. Nowadays, when an hour is only like 42 minutes, the writing and editing seem to have gotten tighter.
So yes, I'm saying that more commercials are better for TV.
That being said the freakin' act breaks in TV can make it a structural nightmare. This is the thing I hate most about TV: act breaks.
Maybe it's because I find them personally so hard to write. Maybe it's because I'm cranky. But act breaks in TV are frimmerjamerous.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

How did that happen?

I think I was completely emotionally unprepared for High School. I remember being surprised that some kids were... joining the football team and, for the love of all that's holy, becoming cheerleaders. They were massively buying into that whole thing.
What was I expecting? Some sort of enlightenment where the students took over and created art or something?
I mean, what was going on? I thought we were all beyond that. It was like the principal telling us that we were going to have a segregated school.
Really? You guys I knew in elementary school are now on the football team. So you don't talk to any of us anymore? The striations of social positions becomes suddenly engraved in stone.
The "cool" kids ended up striated into different camps.
I totally didn't think that was going to happen.
UPDATE: I should stop watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Strunk, White, and Drew

The Drew Style Guide, which is the leading reference to English usage in the world, has dictated the following by fiat (again, and this time with other artwork, I don't know why):

"His" will be "their".

"Him" will be "them".

And so on. That's the new grammar. If you have any complaints do not bother me with them. Put yourself in jail and then punch yourself repeatedly as though being beaten by Royal Guards. That will save me time an energy.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I'm greatly afeared that the cool scene we have set up for the next movie does not actually belong in the next movie. That afears me.
It afears me because I really love the scene. But we may just have to cut it. Unless Nat Cassidy tells me it can go into the 3rd act. Then we get to keep it.

I've been making favicons. With this thing:

Favicon maker- Create a favicon from any image

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How About a Popular Language Like Dutch?

Eve Annenberg has a new movie out. Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish.

They're asking for money because although they're playing at Lincoln Center, Lincoln Center's P&A requirements require a lot more cash out of them.
Actuate sarcasm font.
Yay Lincoln Center's support of indy film!
When I first heard about this movie I thought it was actually Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish. Which, at least according to this trailer, it's not.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hard Drive Failure Woo!

The edit drive for Android Insurrection ditched. I mean it died without any warning. And it's really dead, too. I can't format it, I can't do nuthin'.
I guess there's a reason we keep duplicate data in another state. Or at least another county. We certainly don't keep it on the same island.
It seems that iDrive did save what little CG we'd done on the picture. And we hadn't done any editing at all, but our latest edits (which were really just some synced dialog) are saved on iDrive too. Now, the huge files -- the original camera files and the ProRes transfers are in some dark depth of hell, so I'm re-transcoding all those files from the camera drive.
And we even have another copy of all the data. By coincidence I'd sent this entire movie -- all the ProRes files, all the original camera files, all the production audio, to Singular Software just a couple days ago. They are doing some testing on a feature's worth of data, using our files.
So it's going to take a couple days to re-transcode all this data. And then I have to wait a couple days more to get an appropriate drive from Amazon to put it onto. Right now I'm just scooting it onto a spare 1TB portable drive we have.


I've been teaching a lot of Final Cut Pro lately. To really teach you should be a master, and I'm a journeyman at best, but the basics of FCP are fairly simple and everyone is WAY ahead of where I figured they'd be. I suspect that's less a matter of my teaching abilities and more that FCP is fairly intuitive.
And although I know the technicalities of editing I'm not actually a very good editor because I get bored and frustrated with editing fairly quickly. Joe Beuerlein, Rebecca Kush, and Tom Rowen all have vastly more patience than I do.
Straight-up cutting seems to be a simple lesson. Syncing footage and putting into custom bins seems to be easily comprehended too. It's funny how some people prefer to cut-and-paste from a timeline with synced footage and some people prefer to bring footage into a bin and edit from the canvas window into the timeline.
We're also doing straight-up composites of muzzle flashes and such. Some blood spurts and some wall hits too.
Aren't those Schoeps in the interrogation room in Castle? They seem too far away to be usable. TV is funny, the tape recorders are always Nagras and the microphones always Schoeps.
I do kind of feel like Tom Sawyer painting a fence here. But that's mostly because I hate editing picture so much.
Now we're laying in sound effects in FCP too. I've been given the edict to "teach me more!" which I'm afeared will run me out of things to teach about Final Cut.
But if we go into AfterEffects... Hmm...

Monday, May 16, 2011

This Cat Freaks Me Out

The top-rated stuff on Amazon.

The Things I Do

While rendering, I've been working on the Pandora Machine Wiki. Basically I'm writing everything I know about filmmaking on the wiki. It's a lot shorter than I thought it would be.
Abel Cine made a chart of recorders that go onto cameras. (Link is to a .pdf). May I have a Penelope with a digital back now? Can I have it for five thousand dollars? Can I please not record in 8K or whatever dumb resolution they want to make it in?
You know that I'm just going to end up with an Arri when the big, big, bucks start rolling in.
Video Copilot has a list of AfterEffects scripts. For us, one of the most important scripts (and one Andrew Kramer doesn't mention) is the Magnum Edit Detector. We use that script. It's nice.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Ides of May

I've decided not to get a new computer until a lot of whining and complaining has happened. We're not at nearly the level of whine and complain to get a new computer yet. Of course, it might be really nice if we could actually make DVD's. A new computer could help with that.
You can buy ads on TV through Google.

I don't bother coming up with my own content. I just re-publish Chance Shirley's Tweets:
It's amazing that you can make a film with zombie pirates and killer mermaids boring, but that is not the film's greatest sin.
Via Alex Epstein, there's this new program called "Logline" which is screenwriting software and looks kinda interesting. It's a web-only program. The philosophy of the thing is that it lets you look at your structure at the same time as your screenplay. And of course ideologically I'm totally with that idea.

Have I been pushing the Pandora Machine Wiki? If you're really bored, or stoned, the Wiki is the place to go.

Oh, and Video Copilot has a new script for working for sequences in AfterEffects. If you work in AfterEffects you will want this script. It's called the "trim compose" script and it divides your layers into pre-compositions. For us we'd probably have to use a script to divide up an image sequence into "shots" first. Am I making any sense? Not if you don't use our system for CG. But I do make sense. Somewhere. Anyway, Video Copilot.

Lookit me. Almost six minutes to render a frame. And that's going to get worse before it gets better.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Our Own Robin Kurtz

The stunning Robin Kurtz, of our own Earthkiller, is in the New York Times. She's the redhead in the back. I texted arbitrary things when they performed yesterday.
She's awesome. And in a cube.

Strunk, White, and Drew

The Drew Style Guide, which is the leading reference to English usage in the world, has dictated the following by fiat:

"His" will be "their".
"Him" will be "them".

And so I have said. And so it is.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Today is the first day of the Cannes Film Market

And, as we desperately need a new computer, please keep your fingers crossed. (Why does having your fingers crossed simultaneously bring you good luck and let you tell lies?)
Our own Betty Ouyang (from the movie Pandora Machine) wrote an article in The Dig In Magazine.
And James Edward Becton is in this awesome little short:

Ha! Followcost is funny.

Sometimes Racism is Confusing

So yesterday I had the stressful time of unloading the last of the stuff from my childhood home. I took Tom Rowen with me to hold my hand. It wasn't too bad, actually, as the house looks so dang different now. The new owners (who haven't actually closed yet) have been redoing the floors and have a lot of furniture moved in (which irked my dad to no end).
So because we only had two truckloads of stuff to move, we were done in about an hour. And I made Tom take me to lunch. Unfortunately we couldn't go to get submarines because the dang sub shop in Metuchen is closed at 3pm (??). Anyway, when we discovered that we had to turn around to go back into town for burgers and we saw this bumper sticker on the back of a pickup truck.
And, apparently like the vast majority of the Internet, it confuses me to no end.
I'm sure it doesn't mean what it says -- "If I had known the Civil War would have happened I would have picked my own cotton."
The Internet seems confused too. Scoot down this blog post. He has no idea either.
I expect it's something more like "If I'd know we'd have a black President(?)/unspecified problems which I arbitrarily blame on black people/something else I would have picked my own cotton."
I... I simply can't figure it out.
UPDATE: oh, apparently the original,from which this is minced, read (more clearly and racist): "if I'd known they were going to be this much of a problem, I'd of picked my own cotton."

Monday, May 09, 2011

The Only Nudity in Android Insurrection

Why? What's wrong with me? 
Why didn't anyone say anything? 
Do you need video? Click on the thing below to go to the full(ish)-res version on Vimeo.

Just another day on set from Andrew Bellware on Vimeo.

How to Direct a Feature Film

The first and most important step in directing a feature is to have crazy director hair. Crazy director hair is critical to managing your image as a genius. There is no reason for anyone to doubt your decision making "process" when you have crazy director hair.
The second most important thing to have is an all-but-incomprehensible foreign accent. It doesn't have to be an entirely accurate accent -- for instance now I'm using a cross between a bad Italian and bad Russian accent -- but it helps when you say pretentious things like "All film is a dream. Each frame is a frame of our unconscious."
Really once you've mastered the crazy director hair and the pretentious foreign accent everything else is window dressing.

Friday, May 06, 2011

I Am Working, I'll Have You Know

Yes, it looks like I'm watching Hulu on 30 Rock. Or something like that. But I'll have you know that I'm rendering. And these aren't just any renders either, these are emergency last-minute renders.
I need to do a wide shot of the robot where we push into the head, and I need to so a slow... er... I don't know what it's called in the film world but it's called "pod up" in video. Anyway, I still have to do those two more animations.
But that's not the important thing. The important thing is that Nat Cassidy is working on the Earthwar screenplay. And it's super awesome. "Superawesome" should be one word. If this were German, it would be.
Here is an example of his prose:

"John and Lydia run like hobos to a bean buffet."

In the meantime I'm rendering like a hobo at a bean buffet. Oh, and the mother of one of our actors is sick (seems like she's going to be OK) but it means we have a lot of schedule wrangling to do.


Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Pandora Machine News

I have the creeping crud. Two of our editors have/had it. Our producer had it. And now me. Luckily, there's this handy article about helping you feel better when you have the crud. I'm following the instructions to the letter.
So I get three emergency emails from two different distributors demanding stuff they need RIGHT NOW in the way of stills and bits of movie. We're talking about doing 20 seconds of 3D rendering they need by tonight, a bunch of CG stills for another movie they need for artwork, and then an entire version of a movie with "For screening purposes only, not for sale" splattered across the middle of the frame. That last thing they only need by Saturday. So, whew, at least I don't have to get that out by midnight tonight.
Any doubts I'm having that I need a dual 6-core computer are being wiped away by these kinds of last minute "requests".

I mean, those doubts that aren't supersceded by the fact that such a computer is going to blow six grand.

But when you have 3D rendering to do, there really isn't any choice. You gotta go with a fast machine. Or two. Or maybe a render farm. But a really fast machine probably has top priority.
You'd think with all these high-end demands on us we'd be getting paid. Getting paid something so I can have a staff.
Sigh. Eventually.
In the meantime I'd thought that maybe I'd push off part of Saturday's shoot to another date because I'm feeling under-the-weather. Instead what's going to happen is I'm going to sleep 18 hours tomorrow and I'm going to have a lot of alcohol on hand. I'm also going to be super nice to the set designer because he's under a lot of pressure.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

There. I said.

Our own Rebecca Kush is going to be in a movie this Fall: Palace Living.
You know what's next week? The Cannes Film Market. Please buy our movies.
I thought that Final Cut 7 was supposed to have fixed that annoying thing where it won't let you change the speed of a single clip.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Today's Things Three

I'm simultaneously surprised by how much awesome fiction is written and by how much really terrible stuff is published.
By awesome I'm thinking about James Knapp (see contest here) and Jeff Somers. By awful I'm lookin' at you guys (Warhammer and Laura Hamilton).
Right now I'm reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by Jemisin and it's just fantastically well-written. There are some things in the narrative that would normally make me scream with horror if they weren't handled so well writing-wise (like the first-person saying "I know this isn't a good way to tell a story but...")
I'm at five minutes per frame. And still wondering what kind of computer I'm going to get. The truth of the matter is that 64-bits isn't going to help my audio life until Samplitude goes 64-bit (which it presumably will do in the next generation).
I do need a second Mac around here. The question is how much is making my renders go from five minutes/frame to (say) a minute-and-a-half/frame worth? Well, right now as I'm cashless, an infinity number of dollars I suppose. But I am seriously thinking about building that hackintosh.
The new iMacs are presumably coming out tomorrow, which might affect the pricing of Macs or Mac parts. I dunno.
After yesterday's shooting I went back to the office and stared at the computer for two hours before I could get up the gumption to drive home. I think I would actually be dead if Maduka hadn't taken over duties as second unit director (even though we only had one camera) in order to shoot a section of Juanita's death scene. Whew.

Why Firefly Sucks... and so do you (Part II)

The only thing worse than someone who doesn't like Firefly is someone who writes deliberately provocative blog post titles. Those people are real jerks.

Now, I don't have to tell you that if you're afraid of spoilers to either the Firefly series or the movie Serenity you probably shouldn't be reading this blog, do I?

No. I didn't think so.

OK then. Why the hell did they kill Wash?

Yes. Joss Whedon killed Wash in Serenity. And everyone hates him for it. As well they should. But, I think, not for the reason they think they should.

And sure, I have a lot of half-baked ideas. And I'm going and blogging these half-baked ideas. But just because they're half-baked doesn't mean I'm wrong. So here we go. Now note that I actually saw Serenity before seeing any of Firefly. So I watched it without Firefly prejudice. And when they killed Wash I though: "Wait, they killed that dude? And they did it now?" It just seemed so wrong.

And ergo: I think they killed Wash in the wrong place. If he'd died closer to the end, or if he'd died a little afore that, it woulda "fit in" with our dramatic sense a big better. Instead, they waste his butt. And it's surprising.

Now there be those who don't want to be surprised that way. And there are those who think those kinds of turns against a few thousand years of narrative is sort of amusing for them. I ain't makin' no value judgments either way.

So, yeah, I'm a big fan of the series and of the movie, but I can totally see why someone would not be that into it.

It kind of reminds me of the time Mitchell Riggs told me that Macbeth wasn't a very good play. I remember thinking "I've heard of people like you, but I've never met one."

You see, for some people Macbeth doesn't work because we don't really see him as the "good" guy he was before the witches showed up in his life. Other people think Macbeth is one of the most important pieces of literature in English. You know, half of one and six dozen of the other.

So if people can have such diametrically opposed opinions on one of the pieces of the canon of English literature (well, drama at least) then surely we can disagree on a TV show.

I mean... except that Firefly is really really good.

Now on further thought about the detail of the narrative of the Firefly series, is another one of these weird things which might just throw the whole narrative for many people. The point of view, and indeed the hero of, the whole show is the Doctor: Simon.

But that sounds to me like yet another blog post.