Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Doings and Goings On

I could be working on a script. I could be doing some rotoscoping. I don't like doing either so I'm writing on this blog.
Via Chance Shirley, Ron Brinkmann on FCP X. Ron points out that Apple trashed Shake, which was a pretty important compositing program 'till they bought it and decided they didn't want it anymore. I bet the makers of Nuke and AfterEffects are pretty happy about that decision.
So Apple may be bringing the "pro" part of Final Cut Pro to an "end of life" in the product development cycle. Which is very good news to Avid and Adobe.
Hey, I actually edited a feature on a... Cube? Sphere? D-Vision? I don't even remember what it was. It was on a PC and it was a real bear to operate, that's for sure.
So, where am I going with this? I have no idea. It's a good thing I didn't get that dual six-core Mac I was talking about.
The Philadelphia Desert in Earthkiller. Matte painting by Joe Chapman.
Boy, on the movie Earthkiller we're having quite a hard time with our bluescreens. For some reason they're really hard to key. They look like they're correctly exposed. The GH1 is hacked so it's operating at 30Mb/s, so theoretically it should work better. But we're just having a bear of a time with these keys.
Today I eliminated one or maybe two characters from the screenplay of Earthwar. Just think of the money that will save on lunches.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Today in the Machine June 28 2011

Brian Schiavo takes you through the process of creature building. One of the best ideas of this creature is to not try to make the whole creature as a suit. That's going to make life vastly easier. I am, however, very amused at the idea that Brian thinks a PA will be operating the creature and not him. ;-)
Although it takes five-and-a-half minutes for them to get into it, the new Zacuto Camera Test is interesting. The short answer is that film does not do well in low light and does great with highlights. Of course, we already knew that.
The other short answer is that all the cameras look great. But we already knew that too.
My studio is a mess and we have to keep a battery of fans going just to keep the temperature reasonable. If my studio becomes clean you'll know that I'm not even trying to do work anymore. I'll be avoiding work by cleaning.
We have acts one through nine on Earthkiller. Maybe we have a lock of the whole picture? We might open up act 8 for a couple things, I don't know yet.

Unnecessary Closeup

This is the last shot of the last day on Earthkiller. Robin Kurtz is directing and DP at this point. This is my mouth.
Blood Moon looks like a kinda cool werewolf picture. It stars Naomi McDougall Jones. It was produced by Triboro Pictures.
As far as I can tell, I can't upload .zip files and expect them to be downloadable via http anymore on my server. I'm not absolutely sure that's the issue. But it seems to be. Renaming the files something like ".barf" seems to work.

Final Cut, Premiere, and the GH1

So, there are some limitations in Adobe Premiere when it comes to so-called "merged clips". We really need to have the option of using at least two tracks of audio. What if we have two characters and one is far behind the other? Normally on set we would put a plant mic or a lav on either the close character or the far one. That's standard operating procedure. We don't do anything nuts with multitrack audio like they do in TV or big-budget pictures. We just want to have the option of two tracks. Most of the time we'll use only one track (I think we did all of Android Insurrection with one track.) But we need the option of two.
And Premiere won't let us do that. Phooey on them.
There's another way to go and that's to make each clip a sequence. And then to edit by cutting a sequence made up of other sequences. Whatever you do, though, never ever alter one of those originating sequences.
Or, you can sync all your footage on timelines and then copy and paste from the "synced" timeline onto an "edit" timeline. We've actually made quite a few pictures that way. It's not necessarily the world's most awesome way to work, but it's a way to work.
Another advantage that Premiere has over Final Cut is that it'll read the .mts files that are made by the Panasonic GH1. With Final Cut Pro you have to convert those files to Quicktime movies. And presumably FCP X can read the files directly -- although it still seems to need to convert them. Yeah, I know.
The strange thing about FCP X is that we don't have to do anything right now. I do have a list of things I want changed though:

  1. Oh please heaven can't we have a simple key command to export a still image? "File > Export > Using Quicktime Conversion > Format > Still Image"? You're kidding, right? Who thought of that? 
  2. I know that you guys at Apple only edit home movies. But you've been shouted at by professional editors for many years until you've gotten most things right. Still, you can't seem to fathom that I have more than one hard drive with (shudder) more than one project I have to work on each day. The default location for all the render files and such should be saved with the project. I shouldn't have to manually change the scratch disk drive every damn time I change drives and/or project. It may be that FCP X has fixed this, I don't understand their new and much bemoaned data management system. Premiere, on the other hand, has always had this problem under control.
  3. I do kind of hate how I'm married to a codec (specifically ProRes) when working with an Apple product. I don't mind the Quicktime wrapper even, but making me work in ProRes (although it's a perfectly good codec) but not letting a PC write to ProRes is pretty obnoxious (and exactly the sort of thing people accuse Microsoft of doing.)

Now, with numerous editors editing on different machines with hard drives comprised of identical data, we've found another exciting issue with the Panasonic GH1. Whenever you format the SD card on that camera, the counter resets the name of the movie file to "00000.mts". What this means is that every danged day we start out with files that have exactly the same file name as every other day on the shoot. So yeah, we're very careful to put each of those files in their own directory.
But -- if you go from a drive named (say) "0801 edit" and work on a drive named (say) "0801 drew edit", you can find that Final Cut can lose the location of the files pretty damned easily. And now you have the problem that your files all have the same names. So you go in and manually reconnect the media. But sometimes Final Cut decides that an entire sequence should come from (say) "day 04" and your edit gets very very wack.
I wish the GH1 would let you manually reset the counter to zero on movie files. Interestingly the GH1 does let you manually reset zero on the names of the still picture files. What I'm thinking now is that we shouldn't be re-formatting the SD cards but rather should be erasing the data inside them on a computer. We'll see if/how that system works in a test at some point before we shoot the next movie. (Ha! Like we ever do tests.)


You can go here to buy the new album by Delicate Cutters and get a free t-shirt in the process. Chance Shirley is the drummer for the Cutters.
Ethan, the bass player of Tyrannosaurus Mouse, is playing with Chuck Dorman's Big Sticky Band at The Tony Lounge at New World Stages (340 West 50th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues) on Wednesday, June 29th from 9-Midnight!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Alien Queen

Alien Queen is the most awesome thing I've ever seen in my life. And that's only using a minimal amount of the hyperbole I am granted by the Internet. And I haven't even seen the show.
Why is this so awesome? How can I say this with so much conviction? I'll tell ya.
The music of Queen. The characters from Alien.

Nothing in the world is remotely as cool as this. Via Danny Thompson.

Sexy Jews

See Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish on July 8th at Lincoln Center! Written and directed by Eve Annenberg, who was in Apostasy.

The Legal Blue Book is apparently the thing that used to tell lawyers to double-space after a period. Now it's come around to telling lawyers to single space. Apparently the double-space issue in law is one that causes lawyers to initiate epic flame wars on message boards. This is all according to my niece.

By the way, since we don't use typewriters any more, you only use a single space after a period.

As a cranky, drunk, guy, I watched a little bit of Leverage (what is this, written for children?) the beginning of an episode of Burn Notice (does every line of dialog have to be on the nose?) and giving up I selected a free episode of Firefly and it was like being given a big soft comfy chair after people were hitting me with sticks. I know, I'm a fan boy. What do you want? Well, what I want is for the dialog to be off-the-nose.

I'm reading all about workers and the number of hours they work. Hey, I'm happy if I can get someone to work four solid hours in a day with no distractions.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Iron Your Shirts

You may think that ironing a shirt is the most boring thing conceivable. Well, you'd be right. But I've always wanted to know how to do it properly. I'm unnecessarily afeared of burning my shirts. When I worked at the New York Shakespeare Festival I would try to get this wardrobe supervisor to show me how to iron a shirt and she would always say "I have two older brothers, I know what you're trying to do -- get me to iron your shirt." But that isn't what I was trying to do. Really! She never showed me how to properly iron a shirt.

Anyway, here is a video of shirt ironing. Enjoy.

Final Cut Pro has Unexpectedly Quit

You know your software is in trouble when it gets bashed on the Conan O'Brian show:

Apple making the latest version of Final Cut into iMovie Pro is not an immediate panic for us. I'm sure we can ride out Final Cut Pro 7.x for the rest of the year or, heck, even into next year.

I'm just going to go ahead and quote PSA from his response to the post below:
i need to upgrade my machines before worrying too much about the software side. from what i've been reading, the most recent version of premiere, cs5.5, is much more stable. given a box with a mercury capable card, it should chew through huge projects with relative ease, not to mention all the dslr codecs being native. as for final cut ex, it looks a lot like the imovie interface on steroids. me no likey. i was forced to do a job in imovie (so the client's wife could make changes... shudder) and it was a retarded nightmare. a film strip mr jobs, you finally get around to applying the magical shiny miracle rub to the pro-editing wares and you give us a film strip interface? no wonder the BBC ditched apple and put premiere on all of their editing desks.
Being able to work without converting to ProRes has a huge advantage for us. Then I started wondering, "How much does Premiere cost?" And the attractiveness of Adobe Premiere became even greater. You can get Premiere, Photoshop, and AfterEffects from a subscription for $85/month. You can activate the suite on two computers for that price but you can only work on it with one computer at a time. That seems pretty fair.
I know from experience that editors who know one of the programs (Premiere or Final Cut Pro) can jump on the other program very quickly. They're practically the same interface.
I have had very bad experiences with Premiere. Apparently if you type "Adobe Premiere Sucks" into a search engine, one of my posts will come up in the top ten. But I've also gotten it to work. So the program has had it's ups and downs.
And it's not like there isn't a history of Apple telling its professional user base to shove it. Hey -- anybody remember when Apple yanked the SCSI interfaces off their computers even though every graphics professional had a SCSI scanner? Good times.
So we're going to ride out the Applestorm for another year and see what happens.

Drum Replacement

I got Twitter-spammed from a service that replaced drum sounds. will take audio files and replace your kick and snare. I can see that working for a lot of bands. Not us, just because we recorded at Trax East and our drummer Lou, using his special drum-magic, always sounds freakin' great. Also, the room sound I think is critical to our sound as a band (and I don't just mean that all the hootin' and hollerin' I do). So replacing the kick and the snare would be counterproductive to us anyway.

If you're wondering why we haven't gone and mixed this record which we recorded 10 months ago -- it's 'cause I have no cash right now. I have two movies in the can, so hopefully some money will be coming in soon.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Source my crowd

A tsunami in New York City. If you could make the visual effects of a movie about a tsunami in NYC look as good as the video in that post, you could probably make a bit of money. But the big question is: after 15 minutes of that, what more do you want? It's kind of like producing porn, nobody watches more than 15 minutes of it. What are you going to do, develop characters and show how their lives are changed or whatever? Nobody cares, it's a freakin' tsunami!
Note that our official position is that you shouldn't use laser pointers to play with cats as it really frustrates them. Just get some aluminum foil and a string and the cat will be more than happy. Add catnip to the equation and your cat will be in heaven. 

So you too can invest in a Broadway musical. It's crowdsourced! Sign up here!
Actually, you'll note that you cannot sign up there. The minimum investment is a thousand dollars. Note that this is not a Kickstarter project -- you're actually becoming a member of an LLC when you fork over your cash. As the producer points out, he had to become a Series 63 Licensed Registered Representative (Securities Agent).
Funny Pictures - Cat Gifs
see more Lolcats and funny pictures, and check out our Socially Awkward Penguin lolz!
Now the State of New York, with it's lovely regressive policies, bills an LLC $100/member per year. That means if you've put in, say, $1000 to an LLC, the value of that money to the LLC is only $700 over three years. So the State eats at multi-member LLC's which have small investors.
The only advantage to having a whole bunch of members in your LLC is that the fees are topped off at $25,000 per year. So over three years the fees paid to the State will "only" be $75,000. From New York Small Business Law:
LLCs generating income in New York must pay an annual filing fee of $100 multiplied by the total number of members in the LLC with a minimum fee of $500 and a maximum fee of $25,000 (single member LLCs have to pay $100 annually).
I figure that the costs of operating the Godspell LLC will be somewhere in the order of $300,000. That's my guess. And that's just to operate the LLC -- no actual production costs or salaries. Just lawyers, accountants, and fees. Theoretically those costs could be as low as $150,000 or as high as half a million dollars.
The State, making it as hard for small businesses as they possibly can.

What I need

I need a mockbuster (by the way, that's a trademarked term owned by The Asylum) of John Carter of Mars.
I need a Total-Recall-like movie too.
Ooh, wait. Darkchylde! Somebody write a script about a teenage girl who turns into nightmare creatures!
Hey! A Halo mockbuster!
But what does my sales rep want? DRAGONS! Dragons attack New York. We can do that, right?
The thing is we can do any story. Just put it in a world where dragons are attacking New York City. It's an interesting kind of freedom. A hitman and his girlfriend try to get away from the mob -- while dragons are attacking New York City. Or a teenage girl comes into her inheritance but must fight her evil aunt -- while dragons are attacking New York City. Or a man learns he will rule Scotland as his wife goes insane and freakin' dragons attack New York City. You get the idea.
Here's a Blender dragon.

HBO has the life

So I'm watching Game of Thrones on my parent's HBO.
HBO has an amazing track record of making good "stuff". I thought their Rome was terrific. Well-written, well-acted, and looked great. And they're able to do that level of quality really consistently. They seem to know exactly where the "soap opera" part of the show should balance against the blood-and-guts part. They know how the Shakespearean dialog should balance hot people will their clothes off. They know how awesome the scene you're in should be balanced against how cool a place you're going to is. All these things are really subtle and they do a fantastic job with each of those elements in Game of Thrones.
I mean it's like...
It's like...
 I feel... tricked. Everything they do is perfect. By "them" I mean HBO. Every scene is perfectly laid out. Every character is beautifully set with motivations and conflict. The appropriate characters are ironically setup. It's TRICKERY I say!
But of course all of movie-making is trickery. Hell, theater is trickery. All tricks. And the folks at HBO seem to know all of them. And they know how to get them out of their writers and directors and actors.
Now, when I look at Game of Thrones sometimes I think "This isn't quite up to what a big-release Hollywood picture would do." The visual effects are by-and-large kept static rather than moving. That's cheaper (and to my eye the look better) than moving the camera. There are some bits which look, albeit briefly, "TV budget" rather than "Theatrical budget". But those things are real brief and don't affect the experience of being in the world.
My question is: how does HBO make this kind of thing consistently? They're very good at consistent high-quality writing and performances. That's got to be at the executive level. I've heard that the HBO offices are the most relaxed offices on the planet. I suppose when it doesn't matter how many people are watching on Thursday night at 8 o'clock or how many people show up to the first weekend's showings, you can get pretty relaxed. Plus, you get to do anything as long as it's "good". So yeah, that'll make you relaxed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Post Fear

Slurpy android.

We have a fairly workable post-production process now. We have a few editors who each can put in a few hours per week. We've never really calculated how many hours it takes to edit a feature. Probably something on the order of 250 hours? That's 250 hours of concentrated work though. And it doesn't include audio editing or visual effects done outside of the picture editing program. But we should be able to finish a picture edit in a couple months.
Being that I fear Apple's upgrade path in Final Cut Pro is to make it more impossible for professional video editors to use it, I've been re-checking-out Adobe's Premiere.
I've edited two features on Premiere. Apostasy was edited in version... 3? or so. I used a video card and imported the video onto this huge SCSI 9GB (!) hard drive I bought.
We had some difficult times editing Solar Vengeance with Premiere. Premiere hates it when you bring in libraries and libraries of stuff (like music) because it has to render previews of all that dang music. It makes opening a project take a loooooong time. And, for whatever reason, when we were doing the color correction in Premiere, the dang program would crash fairly regularly. I would get three edits in and then BAM! Crash.
But my biggest problem with Premiere is that it wouldn't export OMF files for us to use in audio editing and mixing. That issue has apparently been solved.
Right now Final Cut Pro 7 works for us. Who knows? Maybe we'll be using a frozen version of FCP 7 for the next ten years as Apple runs off with the amateur market.
But of course option number two is that Apple decides to put a secret switch in Final Cut Pro X v.5 called "I know what I'm doing, get out of my way" for professional editing facilities which lets us get our work done.
I'm very pleased that Premiere has (finally) included OMF export. And I'm glad it's a potential backup if we need to jump off the Final Cut Pro teat. ("Jump off the Final Cut Pro teat"? Grab your bull by the hand and don't mix your metaphors.)
But here's yet another issue: every lab we use can accept Final Cut Pro projects with flattened ProRes422 Quicktimes. Maybe this new version of FCP will convince labs and everyone else to go to an open - source wrapper and compression format.

Book Stores, Meh

Oh look, an article which references my favorite book store, Book Court. Now they're charging people to come into their literary book store.
You know what I like about Amazon? They have zero attitude about the books I read. Actually, that's true of the Barnes & Nobel I go to also.
Independent book stores. Pthththt.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cat and Dog

The up-to-date guide to managing Facebook privacy.
A big issue for me with Google Chrome is that it has no provision for a master password. So maybe the Passter Extension solves that? I dunno. I'll find out.
Really? There's a book based on an XKCD joke? I guess. It's called Rule 34.
According to this review of Final Cut Pro X, you won't be able to export OMF files from the new version of FCP. That's a deal-breaker in our studio. It makes FCP X a complete no-go for us, we may as well switch over to PC's (again) and edit in Premiere (again).

Here is Sammy the cat snorgling up to Chien d'Or the dog. Chien manages to look put-upon all the time.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Bears are Coming

Good grief. I'm glad they didn't get my new address. Clearly these bears are coming after me. My parents only just sold their house in Metuchen. And now Metuchen has bears. Armies of cruel, steel-teethed, hungry, bears. That want to eat you. Or me. One of us is getting eaten. By ravenous bears.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Earthwar new structure

Beat Sheet Page count 90pp
Opening Image : 1 John rises from the dead
Theme Stated : 4
The Set Up: 1 to 8 John hunts Raut with Lydia the digital cat
The Catalyst: 10 John is saved by Morgan
Debate: 10 to 20 Morgan wants John to help them activate the global shield
Break into II: 20 John agrees to help them with the shield as it might help him kill Raut
B Story: 25 introduce the ensemble
Fun and Games: 16 to 45 fighting robots on the way to the repeater station
Midpoint: 45 John and Morgan get to the repeater only to find it abandoned
The Bad Guys Close In: 45 to 61 The main station has been destroyed, John and Morgan escape through the city
All is Lost : 61 John and Morgan hide from the arachnobots in an apartment
Dark Night of the Soul: 61 to 70 John tells Morgan the story of his wife
Break Into Act III: 70 John and Morgan head back to the generator
The Finale: 70 to 90
Final Image: 90

Three Things on Father's Day


Play Porn Star or News Anchor.

Groovy article on Ian Hubert's Project London. Hey, we're a Blender house too! Where are all our free animators?

Joe Chapman should totally build us a couple Mechs. Via Tana Sarntinoranont, whose name I take pride in spelling without looking up, these mechs are $350K

We need a structure-pass on the Earthwar script. And we absolutely must be shooting this movie before the end of Summer.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Sweet. We're on Vanguard Cinema's homepage now. This is a very cool piece of art. I dig the widescreen-ness of it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Your Three Things from Today


Regardless of the degree to which these older rural dialects are extinct now, the fact is not so much that the British stopped talking like Americans, so much as urban British dialects became the type of English spoken by a majority of the English populace. Particularly London.
In essence, something happened in Southern England that didn’t happen in America. Whereas the local dialects of New York City (the largest city in the US) have remained largely confined to a small portion of that metropolitan area, the dialects of London (the UK’s largest city) have been spreading their influence in various ways for hundreds of years. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Is this a bit like stalking?

"Stalking" is a very loaded term. I prefer to think of it as "extreme liking".

So I started watching this series with a terrible name, "Peep Show". And I'm like, this is brilliant man. It's like 30 Rock meets Flight of the Conchords. So I go to the beginning of the series (because they're all available for free on Hulu) and I'm like, "hold on, this isn't funny at all". Then I realize that the later seasons are funnier than the earlier seasons.
I fink dat's cause the earlier seasons rely on that sort of excruciating moments-type humour (which The Office excels at) but that I don't find terribly funny. Later though, they go for more of that witty stuff-being-said (like 30 Rock) does, which I do find terribly funny.
Either that, or I'm secretly in love with Isy Suttie. Which isn't a shameful thing at all. Don't tell her though. I don't want her to think I'm a creeper.


Arie is a 48 extra long
So far he's the only one who's told me his size.
Shockingly, I don't even know my own size. Eerf. I'll be updating this page once more news comes in on this exciting subject.
UPDATE: Ethan is a 42
Lou doesn't know what his size is. He certainly doesn't want to wear a jacket while playing live.

Tell me you don't want these groovy guitar picks. That's Clayton Custom guitar picks. What I don't have right now is $69 to buy a hundred of them. I mean, we still have to mix our album yet. Not to mention get an oil projector and a Jabberwock. O. It is so hard to be me.
I'm pretty sure my guitar playing would be better if I had a set of these picks.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Clearing out the tabs on my browser

Dapper Cadaver has dry blood.
Oil wheel projectors seem to only exist in the UK.
The Mathmos Space Projector isn't sold through their site in the US.
But Lamp Lust seems to have them.
Body armor. You know, for motorcycles. I think this will be the costume for Major John Keynes in Earthwar.
The Bowery Electric is a groovy club downtown.

Order Now!

Battle NY: Day 2 is available for pre-order from Amazon. The movie comes out on August 23rd.
The artwork isn't here yet. That... concerns me. But only temporarily! I dig this movie.

And if the above link doesn't work, here's a permalink for your dining and dancing pleasure.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Rap Party for Android Insurrection

It came to this. Virginia went outside for a smoke. Some random dude/neighbor of mine gave her a tract on not smoking. And she read it (dramatically) and then Nat started playing guitar so I (of course) had to join in on flute. There's video of this somewhere.
Andrew Bellware (flute), Nat Cassidy (guitar), Virginia Logan (spoken word).
We need berets don't we? And bongos. Everyone needs a beret and a bongo.
Jiah Peck being serenaded by Drew and Nat (with Virginia in foreground).
Surprisingly, by this point we were all less than drunk. I'm not so sure what causes that.
A groovy, arty, shot with Virginia reading. Note the bowl of M&M salad.
Yep, that's how we roll in Jersey City.
Virginia reads. Queen of Mars takes pictures.
Crazy kids.

I should include our recipe for zombies. It's not that we followed this to the letter. But it served as a guide.

Zombie #2 recipe

1 ozlight rum
1/2 ozcreme de almond
1 1/2 ozsweet and sour mix
1/2 oztriple sec
1 1/2 ozorange juice
1/2 oz151 proof rum

Shake all ingredients (except 151 proof rum) with ice and strain into a collins glass over ice cubes. Float the 151 proof rum on top, add a cherry (if desired), and serve.

19% (38 proof)
Serve in: Collins Glass

Read more:Zombie drink recipes


E-mu makes a couple sweet keyboard controllers with built-in sounds. The Longboard is (relatively) cheap and has nice sounds. Certainly sounds that are more than adequate for live use.
The trick is that we have to build the keyboard we use into a prop organ or piano. Because it would look cool, that's why.

Where am I going to buy a ruffled shirt? I'm going to end up at a steampunk or a vampire place, aren't I? There are other options. There's a place in Easton, PA called "Reconstructing History". Of course, we might be back to Civil War uniform pieces.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Are you under the impression we're not going to use Andrew Kramer's light saber preset in Android Insurrection? You shouldn't be.


There are some things which just seem fishy. Like the idea that The Confession, a web-series made exclusive to Hulu, is profitable.

Videoguys has a system recommendations page for PC's and Mac's. I do want a dual-6-core Mac, but it's going to run us $4500 even with an education discount.

Name your shared folder something non-stupid. Stu on Dropbox naming conventions. Writing the Pandora Machine Wiki has made me think through our procedures. A shocking number of those procedures have to do with logical naming of folders and files so that they can be easily found.

The boys down at Abel Cine on color sub-sampling. Yup, you actually need to know this.

I have more liquor and food in my apartment than I ever had before. Partay tomorrow!

I think we're locked through act 5 (of 9) on Earthkiller but I have a bunch of dialog replacement to do (actually replacing the camera audio with the dialog from the audio recorder because one of our editors... er... made some technical decisions which were less than awesome.)

Greedo was played by a woman. Or, at least some of the shots Greedo was played by a woman. Sometimes Greedo was played by a man. Which is, of course, awesome.

"Amhn" maybe.

Dream last night was very involved but I was an actor (!) and although we had a number of hours before we shot my scenes I hadn't yet seen my lines. So. Not exactly an actory stress-dream. I was trying to convince the wardrobe supervisor that I get a Lawrence of Arabia head-piece. My character's name was something like "Amh".

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hey Zeus

Anything you can do I can do meta.
Finally, a good picture of me. Maybe it's the girl standing next to me who makes it good. Aslan Grealis took the shot.
Andrew Bellware and Sky Chari

OK, so on a list of things which are different between Macs and PCs. Macs don't seem to let you do anything in a File > Open window that you can normally do in the Finder. PC's "open" window inside applications do let you do whatever the file browser lets you do (like copy or delete files). 
Also, the default action when copying a folder in OSX is that it "replaces" rather than "merges" the data together. As we have multiple people working on multiple projects, or pieces of projects, that all go together, this can be highly dangerous. The default action on a PC is to "merge" data. I have zero idea why OSX is like this. Apparently you can use the terminal window to merge folders which is just awesome -- like a flashback to the 1980's. 
I heard a rumor they've fixed this in "Lion".

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Blood Puddles

Oh man, this is something we totally could use. Blood puddles for when you don't want liquid blood all over the set. Which is often. Via.
The wrap party for Android Insurrection is on Sunday. Liquor and sandwiches. Those are the things on my mind.
I'm trying to figure out where I should put the standard for web uploads on our wiki. Maybe there should be a page called "web uploads". 640x360 is the answer, by the way.
We have picture lock up through act 5 on Earthkiller. But we're still missing dinobot animations inside some of those acts.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Today in Pandoralic News

The wonderful Bill Martell reads too many message boards.
The thing I find interesting about the way the big studios make decisions is that we have to make decisions almost exactly the same way. Actually, we have a bit more freedom than they do.
I was reading this blog on electrics and he mentioned the show Samantha Who? The idea of that show, a woman wakes up with amnesia and finds that she was a horrible person, sounds awesome. But it doesn't seem to me like a concept that would last more than a couple seasons. Which it didn't.
Today I spent half the day trying to make a shot in the movie look as good as it does in the trailer. Embarrassingly it's a visual effects shot matched to live action. So I learned how to make Blender bring in a plane with the correct aspect ratio as the image it's derived from. And then I learned how to make that plane play back a movie. But right now it looks like poo because anywhere I put this plane on our space station that looks like a window just doesn't work. So... there's that.

Plus we have to animate some dinobot action happening in those shots so I wouldn't be able to finish the composite today anyway.

But I've done a big pile of work on the mix of act 3 of Earthkiller. Joe Beuerlein did some most excellent sound effects editing in the picture edit and the gunshots are awesome. Actually, the version in Final Cut is better than the mix I'm doing -- I gotta do something about that.

Idiotman, the Dream

My sister left her dog here with me and some guy and I had to take showers and get dressed. Then I realized we had no way of taking the dog on the train.
We'd left the front door of my apartment open and somebody's cat just walked in, oblivious of the dog. The guy's girlfriend was arguing with him via chat on the computer.
But then a squirrel got in through a window in the dining room and the dog, who we had to walk because she really had to go potty, was chasing the squirrel.
what about the BEARS?
10:34 AM
How would I get my sister's dog (I actually wrote "god") on the PATH? We would have to buy a "service animal" vest for her.

I imagine you can't just buy vests like that at any pet store.
But it's a good plan.
Ros Chast is kinda babely


See: Melissa Riker dancing Tuesday night "Gibney Dance Center @ 890 Broadway."

Read: There I was, an American escaped POW on an American Sherman tank, with a woman tank commander! Joseph Beryle's tale of fighting alongside the Soviets in the Second World War.

Buy: Stingray Sam

Study: the skillsets required of a VFX artist.

Make: foam Halo armor.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Words and Music

Here is Bobbie Lurie's recording studio, Maverick Studios.

I've been practicing actually playing the guitar parts to Tyrannosaurus Mouse songs while singing. Singing and playing is really freakin' hard to do. Plus, I do really have to memorize those guitar parts. And the words. Sheesh.

It seems that I have a good three different sounds I need to get from my guitar(s). I suspect I'll need to hop from the Les Paul to the Blattocaster, sometimes even inside a given song.

What I need is someone to babysit me -- hand me guitars and continually reset my amplifiers during and between songs in order to get those sounds. Who will do this? We don't know yet. That person will likely have to help operate the Jabberwock.


3 of 9 acts

Oh, here's a good time-waster. 40 ways you can avoid making movies: listening to these podcasts instead of actually making movies.
We're locked on Earthkiller acts 1 through 3. That's out of 9 total acts. I'm hoping to lock 4 and 5 today. Rebecca Kush is on that right now. She's making a punchlist for me. Wish us luck.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Keeping My Distance

I decided to calculate how long it would take the bear in my sister's yard, using public transportation, to get to my apartment and eat me. Looks like I've got a few hours in which to bear-proof my apartment.
I'm hoping the bear can't drive.

A Bear in the Woods

My sister, who lives in a place almost exactly the opposite of the place I live, has a bear in her yard, as evidenced by this photograph.
My older brother suspects it's a Yeti. I'm not convinced it's not a dog in a bear suit.
Either way, I'm staying indoors.


Here's all the places you can get to from Theatresource in 23 minutes via public transportation. Note that my apartment in Jersey City is just barely visible on the left side, there at Journal Square..

Saturday, June 04, 2011

The Dangers of Predictions

Within five years there won't be a significant distinction between TV and broadband.
-November 7th, 2007
This was written during the recent Writer's strike. Marshall Herskovitz writes an interesting essay. It does seem to me that the inverse of most of his conclusions have come true, however. He looks at how government and corporate interests have poisoned the TV business:
It started in 1995 when the Federal Communications Commission abolished its long-standing "finsyn" rules
I'd say it was after 1995 when TV started actually getting good. The vast wasteland that was television from its inception through, oh I don't know -- how about when Buffy the Vampire premiered? -- all happened under "finsyn" rules. But afterwards, television programming has actually gotten relatively good.*
Most of that programming has been on HBO (or maybe AMC). But it sure has raised the bar on network programming too.
And perhaps FinSyn has been all but irrelevant as the increase in quality is a result of the fact that now the network' multivarious channels are all in competition with each other. I dunno. Nobody really does.

And it's not clear that there won't be a significant distinction between TV and broadband. Until more than Dr. Horrible can make money back from an Internet release nobody's making money with broadband. Arguably Netflix makes some money with broadband, but, er, we don't (and won't) really know for a while.

Companies are, however, making money in TV. The mysterious "Internet dollars" haven't materialized. Sure, there are some IPO's that happen with companies tangentially related to content producers but by definition those companies aren't making money (yet) which is why they had to have an IPO. 
Here's an essay on the Kickstarter campaign for the serial "Divine". They raised $20K by people donating money through Kickstarter (I have zero idea what the tax consequence of this sort of "income" is.)
If that's not the essence of capitalism, I don't know what is.
Well, I'm afraid you don't know what is. What we have here as an economic model is the same as a church -- it's called "tithing". It doesn't even involve investors, just donors. Capitalism, in almost anybody's theory of what it is (Smith or Marx) doesn't involve donating. This is more like crowdsourced patronage. It worked for Tchaikovsky, it could work for you. But if you're gonna go ahead and work that way you may as well hit the gym and become a trophy wife.
Basically, business-wise, you have to look at two numbers: how much money you spend over how much money you take in. Now, with a church, you get to spend however much money people give you. With a business, you get to have spent some portion of the money you will get.
Now it's true that in the independent feature world there are a lot of movies made using the economic model of "get some rich guy to put a bunch of cash up-front that he'll never see again." Kickstarter has modified that model to "get a whole bunch of people to put a smaller amount of money that they'll never see again." Which is just like being at church. They pass the plate around, you put some money in (maybe you'll get a communion wafer out of it.)
As long as you get donations, you're on the top of the world. Just ask Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.

And not only is video-for-the-internet not viably financial, it's artistically a nightmare.
I'm a-gonna say it. Video for the iPhone sucks.

I am the biggest fan of Cory McAbee's American Astronaut. But I started watching Stingray Sam and I was thinking "something is wrong here". There's something off with the framing. And it's true. The framing is... bad. Which is odd coming from someone who made the brilliant American Astronaut.

Now, I read somewhere, and I can't find where I read it, that the Stingray Sam "series" is yet another attempt to make the Internet Millions™ by "monetizing" a cross-platform media experience for the iPhone and the... oh criminy, I can't even talk like this.

Anyway, obviously somebody gave them some money but, after seeing how big a disaster American Astronaut was financially, decided that they couldn't do a theatrical release. So they gave Cory money (which he totally deserves for being so brilliant) with the caveat that they were going to do some sort of Interwebs "buzz" thing with it and make it available on every kind of player and viewer in the universe.
Which specifically precludes a good-looking aspect ratio.
The iPhone is so dang small you just can't have those black bars at the top and the bottom of the screen (Cheezuz -- it's 2011 and we're still talking about letterboxing?) so we have to frame it so that it looks right on an iPhone.

And it just doesn't. Which is sad. Because as imperfect as Stingray Sam is, it's still kinda neat and I will buy the whole thing on DVD.

So here I am, the head of the world's smallest movie studio, arguing that big companies be given more power and that we all-but-ignore "new media" except to release trailers and such.
At least, that's what we should do if any of us want to stay in the black. And if we want to make anything good.

*Be advised that correlation does not imply causation, it my simply be that Finsyn was and/or is irrelevant to good TV shows, if my argument is correct.

Friday, June 03, 2011

And That's the Way Things Are

Flixter sold to Warner Brothers for between sixty and ninety million dollars (according to the article.)

Oddly, I have an actor page on Flixter.
But I don't seem to have a director page.
I start to get lost with what movies were released, so I haven't included all of them here.
That makes me feel a bit derpy.
I had dinner tonight with Sky and her dad Gary. They made me eat a lot of vegan food in Park Slope.
And that's the way things are.

Earthkiller animator needed

I put this up on a Blender forum:

We're looking for a Blender animator -- specifically someone whose skill set is animating a bipedal creature. We can handle the lighting, compositing, and rendering (but we don't have to if you want to do it ;-). Our regular animator is way too busy right now.
The android Helen in Earthkiller.
Of course we don't have any money, so this is a non-paid position. But there's IMDB credit and whatever footage you want for your reel. If the movie were to do monster business, you'd get a small piece of the back-end, but it's not likely to make that much cash. Just being realistic here.
My science - fiction production company, Pandora Machine, is in post-production on a couple feature films. One of the features, Earthkiller, has some shots of a dinobot that need animating. The "dinobot" is already rigged and ready to go in Blender.
Here's a brief teaser for the movie:
Android with Digital Anarchy's "Beauty Box" applied.
I'd say that the amount of animation is certainly less than 40 hours of work. The dinobot runs down some hallways, it gets shot at, it bites someone, finally it gets thrown out an airlock. We tried to shoot in order to keep the rotoscoping to a minimum, so the dinobot is typically the thing that's closest to the camera. You can see a closeup of the dinobot briefly in the above teaser.
Pandora Machine's "studio" is in a theater in Manhattan. Typically we don't have an open workstation so in addition to exploiting your labor for free, it would be awesome if you could work at your own computer. This is totally a gig which could be done remotely.
If you want to know more about us you can read my (not safe for work) blog at
Our deadline? Boy it would be nice to have this animation finished by the middle of the month. ;-)
Feel free to email me for more information.


Look, Betty Ouyang has a page on MobyGames for her work on Grand Theft Auto San Andreas.
Look, a whole book on rotoscoping:

Look, the OECD Better Life Index.
Look, the Pandora Machine Wiki (which nobody reads) is getting fairly big.
Look, Freesound has all your sound-effects needs.

Ethan on Bass Amps

What Ethan likes:
Ampeg - for "classic", tubby, slightly mid-heavy bass sounds of the 50s-70s.
Eden - for more modern sounds, but still able to do the classic thing if needed.
A note about Eden: There isn't actually a David Eden. Edens cabinets (and some early amps) were designed by David Nordschow, who also designed SWR's famous Goliath series a couple of years earlier. He later sold Eden out to a larger company and has recently started David Nordschow Amplification (DNA), which has a few cabinets out and is planning to release heads and combos soon. Rumour has it that Eden has gone downhill in quality and customer support since Nordschow's exit, but I don't know if that's really true.
Carvin - yeah, I know. Factory-direct only, so there's no way to try it first. Still, their stuff sounds good, works well and is very affordable.
SWR combos - some of them, anyway. More on this later.
Trace Elliot - if you can find their stuff used, it probably still works and sounds good.
What Ethan doesn't like:
SWR separates - their signature sound is too scooped for my taste. No mid push at all, just super-deep bass and treble. If the calander had stopped in 1989 these would be the best bass components in the world, but it didn't.
Berhenger - absolutely the worst quality you can get.
Ashdown - when Ashdown was British made their stuff was really good. Now it's dog shit. Doesn't sound good, either.
Hartke - get that crap away from me! Sure, it's reliable but it sounds like pooo!
Gallien-Kreuger and Genz-Benz - I put these together for the same complaint, which is that they're too sterile sounding and have too much mid-range bark. I also find myself wrestling with G-Ks EQ all the time to get any useful sounds out of 'em. Having said that, both brands have very good reputations for reliability and HUGE legions of fans, so my opinion on these must not be the only one out there. For their reliability alone, they'd be worth a test drive.
Okay, so let's look at some specifics:
There's an Eden Metro 2x10 combo at Sam Ash right now. It's a discontiniued model that sounds quite good, but it may be a bit big for the subway.
Sam Ash also has an old, early 70s Ampeg SB-12 flip-top. If you're not using a five-string and you like old-school thump, this is a GREAT amp. It, along with the Ampeg B-15, was a studio standard for about 20 years. BUT, it will have a little trouble keeping up with a drummer at anything other than the smallest of venues and old tube amps require a lot of care and feeding - even ones as reliable as an old SB-12.
Sam Ash also has a discontinued Aguilar combo - a tiny, little 1x12 that sounds nice. 500W, so no problem in the volume dept., but I did notice that the really low lows were a bit weak. Not much booty there.
I believe that Rudy's carries a little Mesa rig - I think it's called a Walkabout...? - that sounds really good and that thing is freakin' tiny. It might be a 1x10.
Markbass makes several really small combos that Guitar Center carries. Markbass is another company who's amps don't sound great to me, but loads of people love them, so what the Hell do I know?
Genz-Benz' Shuttle series is very, very highly regarded, and very lightweight and portable.  Personally, I hate the way they sound, but....
Carvin has a few very small combos in their catalog. The MB15 and MB12 are both well-liked by the internets and look pretty damn intriguing to me, too. Can't beat the prices, either! I would seriously look into these.
This is where things can get really interesting.
I just saw a Phil Jones Bass Pup "suitcase" amp on Craigslist for pretty cheap yesterday. I doubt it would be loud or deep enough for gigging, but it sure is portable. Might be worth looking into.
Rogue Music (30th Street) has two really little used combos in stock, as of last week. One Eden and one SWR. 1x10 or 1x12... I can't remember. Neither struck me as being very loud, but they were both cheap, in nice shape and VERY small and portable.
Other specific models to look for used would be:
SWR Workingman's 12 or 15 - The 15's a better all-around amp that could be used w/ a drummer in low-volume settings, the 12's much more portable and would work okay for coffee-house type gigs, but a drummer would bury it. Not much booty with the 12, either. I have a 12 that I bought used. I'm not in love with it, but it works. I see them used all the time.
SWR Baby Blue - I don't know if theses are made any more, but they're great for what they are. Not a whole lot of volume (2x8!), but they sound wonderful.
SWR Redhead - IMO, the best amp SWR ever made. A super-reliable, great sounding 2x10 combo. A little big for the subway, though. It's comparable to the Eden Metro. Carvin also made a knockoff called a Cyclops (I think) that was also killer.
Polytone, Roland Cube or G-K MB112 - these are all favorites with upright players who want just a little amplification. They're all very portable, super-reliable and very neutral-sounding. They're also pretty boring-sounding with electric bass, IMO. They all show up used quite a lot. They would be loud enough for a cabaret gig.
Peavy - the much-maligned Peavy has made a number of small, reliable combos. These guys will never get the respect they deserve.
I'm sure there's stuff I'm forgetting, but I've only had one cup of coffee.