Friday, March 29, 2013


Yup. That's pretty much what ya got.

The Martian Queen and I shot some quasi-interview stuff today for a webcast. I'll blog it when it comes out. This, then, is my favorite freeze-frame.
By "favorite" I mean, it's the most ridiculous one.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Big Bucks

I just spent $720 on new glasses.
Why would you spend so much on glasses?
I know, they're just my eyes, right? I mean what do I use them for?
I got my glasses for 99 cents at a hardware store under a mulch pit.
Bully for you.
And you'll probably only have that same prescription for, like, two years.
The lenses were about $400.
So that's, like, $16 a month just to have fancy-pants progressive lenses.
And then the frames will just get broken.
I've had the frames to my reading glasses for 7 years now.
I guess you're really proud of yourself.
I am.
Why don't you use the same frames for your new glasses?
I thought of that, but I wanted somewhat bigger lenses and those frames wouldn't handle progressives anyway.

Monday, March 25, 2013

An editor should have picked this up

Okay Lee Child, I'll give you "trolly" for "shopping cart" because the POV character was Reacher and maybe he didn't know it's called a "shopping cart" in America.
But "screen wash"? That's where I draw the line.
The thin blue line of the Atlantic which stands between US and anarchy.
It's "windshield wiper fluid". And it's "America". With a capital US of freakin' A.

Weapon Bible

We're changing up the Pandora Machine armory for Android Masquerade (how long do we think that title will hold out?)
.68 caliber rifle is actually a Tippman 90 air gun. Licensed by, oddly, the United States Army. What I liked about this is how it has four Picatinny rails along the barrel so we can put whatever stuff we want to on it. I don't like the silver hose, so that will have to be masked. And the magazine is non-working anyway so we might just modify it so it looks like something else. My fantasy is to put a faux video monitor on the top rail like a video-scope.
Although you can certainly put your eye out with a paintball gun, I do feel much safer about using them on set than blank-firing weapons. In the world there are many kinds of paintball guns, some which are made to look like other sorts of guns (like the above AR15-looking gun, which is actually just a shroud on a more normal-ish paintball gun).
We actually have two of these Delta .68 guns. The very top barrel is the magazine, actually. It can be removed.
All these guns are single-shot, none are fully automatic. But those top two guns are semi-automatic. Note that the AR15-ish gun has no hopper or air tank in the picture. Adding the hopper and the CO2 change the way the gun looks by a lot. Plus, I don't have a hopper or CO2 tank yet, so I can't photograph them. In any case, you don't need either the hopper or the tank unless you actually want to fire the gun.
I got this off of eBay just because I thought it looked cool. The top barrel is the magazine, the bottom is the charging handle -- no kidding, you cock it like a shotgun. Yeah, it even has a safety button. No need for CO2 [EDIT: I am an idiot, of course it needs CO2, but you still have to cock it every time to load a new ball in the chamber.]. Note that the trigger guard makes this weapon un-fireable by someone wearing gloves.
So those are all the weapons we need for this movie. We have two of those Delta .68's so we can even do our next movie with them.
I have some fuller's earth on order, as well as some empty paintball shells. It'll be interesting to experiment with some paintball shell hits on walls and such.

Cat Tweet Old

Cat Map of the world. Because, you know, cat maps.

Okay. So. Social media and movie-making. In my shop we really enjoy making fun of indy-movie producers who scold their cast and crews for taking pictures of one another and putting them up on Facebook.
Juicer Michael Taylor talks about the week when the signs at the studio stopped saying "We've always been at war with Eastasia" "no blogging/no tweeting" to "this is how you tweet".

There are 19,214 users in the queue ahead of me, importing feeds at The Old Reader. I suspect this isn't going to work out well. Especially as I was at about 24,000 three days ago...

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Moron Stills

I mean, more, on stills.

Here's the basic instructions on what we need in the way of art for the movie. This came from our rep but it's pretty good advice for what to look for in order to make sure you'll have something for cover art, one-sheets, and posters.

10-15 poses of the principal talent on some sort of green/blue screen. Please make sure that it is flatly lit with out stylized lighting or depth of field.
Additionally, 15-20 hi res screen grabs from the movie.

So that's what we're going for. And now you know.
The schedule, archaic, for Android Masquerade. Generated from Celtx. This schedule has no basis in reality.
Tomorrow we make the first of the delivery items for Creature: Returns. I know, it's pretty early, but a teaser needs to be created.  So I'm sending off all of the stills of the picture as well as a Quicktime version of the entire picture.

Your things for today

I wish I could do nice big smooth dolly moves.
I think this last Borne movie has a really fine script with really fine acting. I do wish that the movie had a better sense of geography although I fear that's actually Greenglass' influence, even if he had nothing to do with this picture.
The Tea Party boycotts Fox News. The irony is spectacular.
The Internet is weird sometimes. Yes, that's the German version of Earthkiller. I have no idea. I guess it's proof that whomever "Swagger HD" is actually had the Blu-ray disc before uploading it to torrent sites.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

B 4

So having just seen The Bourne Legacy, which is basically Bourne IV, I have to say that yup, it's a pretty good movie. The dude who directed it (and wrote it) also wrote the second Bourne movie (which I think is the best of the series). Bourne IV, to me, comes in second place.
One thing that's interesting about it is that for a big-budget Hollywood major studio release, it does some very art-housey things. Like they're so not afraid to not tell you stuff. For a long freaking time. I mean they're willing to make you sit and wait until they're ready to reveal what's going on. I kind of appreciated that.
The picture kind of ends at the bottom of the fourth act as far as I can tell. That, too, is unusual. Typically a movie will do three acts or five.
The movie also really looks like they thought it through and made it (relatively) cheaply. I mean, Pakistan is a few close-up shots of a dusty cafe. Kazakhstan (or wherever) is essentially the back of a truck. And because that sort of closeup handheld work is the style of the picture, set from the very first scene, it totally works.
(Don't say I didn't warn you.)

So two neat things about this movie are that 1. there's no love scene even though we came right to that place where in most movies there would be (even if it's a bit forced because love scenes are at the worst part of the character's journey and seriously, who gets jiggity when they're feeling that low?) and 2. this "Bourne's" motivation for getting his meds: he was 12 IQ points too low to join the freaking Army before the program, and so the pills make him smart. Man, that is some motivation. Brilliant.

Friday, March 22, 2013


One of the most important tasks in making a movie is getting good stills. Arguably it's more important than making the movie itself. I know, right?
Today Julia came to take some stills in front of bluescreen so that art could be made. We won't even know if these stills get used until (I'm guessing) after Cannes.
Of course I've also rendered out ten thousand dragons (which really ought to be the name of a movie). And those dragons are animated by Nathan Vegdahl. It's likely that a dragon will take the lead in the artwork. We'll see.


Our own lovely Medina Senghore is doing a Kickstarter for her movie "Somewhere in the Middle".

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Signals Of Fury: SRC Stall #14: Total Retribution (2011)

Signals Of Fury: SRC Stall #14: Total Retribution (2011): If you've ever wondered how a group of filmmakers could so completely flush away a $1.5 million budget, wonder no more.

So yeah. There's this. A podcast which makes fun of indy films. Our man Tom Rowen joined in. "Soiled Restroom Cinema" takes apart Earthkiller, er, Total Retribution. Tom Skyped in. He is his natural and charming self.

Estimated $1.5 million budget? Where on earth did that come from? Actually, I don't even know who submitted it to imdb. Tom technically shouldn't have told them the budget but even he estimated it at twice the actual budget. I suspect that in the middle of that exchange he suddenly remember "Oh yeah, the distributors hate talking about the actual budget."
Warning, this podcast is very mean to the actors.
The Pandora Machine logo does not help us.
Laos? Tom, we're not in Laos. You've been reading Dispatches.
Everyone knows that the terminal velocity of androids is 125 miles per hour.
They really don't like our Earthkiller space station CG.
Tom's justification of the way characters go from not-cursing to cursing is pretty much what the idea in the picture is. Which explains why and which characters cursed.
They actually criticize an actor for being too into their role.
The deal with the gun she throws away is very specific. Hmm... they really didn't understand the picture. I thought we spelled everything out pretty explicitly.
I do sort of get the impression that they are extraordinarily jealous of other people making movies. The idea that we made the movie in the first place seems to befuddle them.
Actually, their snotty comment about the "token black guy" who has a British accent "go figure" makes me say they're just assholes.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Android Masquerade Bible

Korbin's apartment is fairly iconic. The built-in lighting and the ceiling are very nice. I want to sink the background into a very earthy red/brown. Also, the bed will likely be permanently in place rather than rolling away.
Android Barbara needs a very specific sort of look. Lots of contrast I figure. She should be immediately striking.

These pictures are actually of the woman who plays Zorg's secretary, Sybil Buck 

I completely forgot there was a cat in this movie. A kind of derpy cat.

Yes, the Mac OS is Soooo Much Better

I wish I had the time back that I've spent in my life trying to get a freaking disc to eject from a Mac computer.
Lucky for me part of what makes OSX so much freaking easier is that you can go into command-line in UNIX. Because when I think "easy" and "user friendly" I think UNIX.
Lucky for me to check the root drive without a working DVD drive goes like this: the single user mode "command-S" command is "fsck -fy". Got that? Good.

A Dumping Ground for Stuff

You know what are great near-field monitors? These Focal Twin 6 monitors. Yeah, they're $1850 a piece, and you need to get a subwoofer for them to do it right. But hey, at least you don't have to buy an amplifier. Eric has a pair over at Trax East and they're very nice to mix on.
Instead of getting an M-AUDIO 2626 and a Focusrite Scarlett I think I shoulda just got the M-Audio Fast Track. Although, it wasn't available even a month ago. Derp. Of course for the difference in price I could just get another Mac Mini. Wait. Why do I need another Mini? Oh. Because I'm only barely allowed to use mine. Ahem.

The version of the Eyes of the World we're going for is the 1974 Jersey City version. They go into some interesting middle sections in that version.
The basic chords to Eyes of the World are pretty straightforward.
The Dm section at the end of the live version brings us into Gentle Giant territory though.


Paisleys (with instructions).


Greg Bartus points out there are tie-dye ones as well

My lust comes from a reddit porn site for guitar stuff.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Moi. Et rouge.

The People Have Spoken

The poll (below) is closed. And we have a winner.
Note that nobody voted for "brownish".

Indeed. Winning.
And hopefully the closing of the poll will result in the color of this blog to return to normal.

ICBINS, iDrive, Insurrection

Julia Rae Maldonado's theater company, ICBINS, has an open submission for their reading series. Submit! (And note there's no fee.)
  • With iDrive, if you have the situation that happened to us where an external drive dies and you get a new drive and name it the same as the old drive, you can restore to that drive and iDrive will pretend it's the same external drive as it was backing up before. So you get to keep incremental backups rather than re-backing-up the whole thing. This saves much time and hassle. 
  • We use Neoscene. It had stopped working so I downloaded the latest version of Neoscene. I had trouble with interlace-y jaggy edges. I read the directions. Turns out that shutting off the by-default-checked "filter 420 to 422" box should be unchecked for us.

The Queen of Mars in Android Insurrection. Well, the character she played was much more grim than this. But you get the idea.

Groove To

Anthony Litton is interviewed here. And yes, the airlock he's thrown out of is in our Earthkiller/Total Retribution movie.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Report from the Front

I'm on an adventure to find out how to record a rock band using the stuff I'm using.

Part of this adventure is to successfully record a rock drum kit with three microphones. The big issue I have is keeping the sound of other instruments out of those drum kit microphones. The City Samanas are a four-piece (two guitars, bass, and drums) and that offers a lot of opportunity for other sounds to get into the drum mics because we all record together in the same (small) room.
The two things we're doing in order to keep those sounds out of the drum microphones so far are:
  • Using a headphone monitoring system
  • Recording bass guitar "direct"

The headphone system we're using is the JamHub "bedroom". We have one remote for the drummer. Separate headphone mixes are available for each of us.
Recording the bass via a direct injection system rather than through an amp is interesting for Samanas.
Firstly, our favorite bass amps so far have been my JTM-45 clone (with an Alnico Blue 12" speaker) and a Fender Twin Reverb.
The reason we like them is because they've given us a sound which seems full-range in that there isn't that "separation" one frequently hears where the lower midrange, between the actual low-end tone of the bass and the "slappy" sound of the strings, is scooped out.
So we've been experimenting with the sound of bass going direct into a mic preamp. For most of our last rehearsal we were trying a Mesa Boogie Walkabout -- using the balanced "DI" output from the amp to feed a Lindell mic preamp. That hasn't quite yet given us the sound we're looking for.
Then we tried injecting the bass directly into a Neve 1272 high impedance input (the Neves I have are Brent Averill 1272's so they have 1/4" direct inputs). That sounded better but still wasn't quite what we (and by "we" I primarily mean the bassist) were looking for. But it was better.

Lily is going for a broad-range "lyrical" (my words, not hers) bass sound. In discussing with Ethan I came to realize a couple things:
Regular preamps with direct outs typically have cheaper electronics in their DI outputs. A bass head is made to drive a speaker and the line-level direct injection outputs are typically an afterthought. For this reason it is typically better to use a DI box like a Countryman or what-have-you. Side note, I don't even think I own a DI box anymore.
Now as a side note (because this blog post isn't long enough) I'll admit to being prejudiced 'gainst active electronics in all guitars -- including bass guitars. Ethan, however, pointed out that in all Tyrannosaurus Mouse recordings the basses were active. So my prejudice is not legitimate.

I am still convinced that the coloration of the tone using an amusing bass preamp will serve us well. And, as it turns out, Greg actually owns an SMS tube preamp. This is essentially a kind of mid-60's Twin Reverb preamp. Serendipity, no?

Do you have a lot of time on your hands? You can listen to our entire rehearsal (don't do this). Click through:
I'm sort of interested in simply plugging it directly into an M-Audio 2626 high-impedance input (which I totally forgot that I had -- there's two of them actually). It'll be easy and straightforward.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


What happened to the nicely calibrated colors on my blog? No really.
I'm going to go ahead and suspect it's the java code in the poll below.

So vote. Then I can replace that Java code with a picture of the poll instead.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Things What Was and Will Be

You know, what with Google shutting down Reader I become more afeared of letting Google run so much of my life. Right now documents, email, and these blogs are all on Google products. If they shut them down it would really suck trying to get them going again on different services.

But that's not what's important. No, of course not. What's important is this poll.

That's right. Vote. Like a baby stoat. What color should my hair be for the next movie? This is probably the most important vote you will cast in your entire life. Unless you live in the United States, where the most important vote you'll get is for county comptroller.
Click through to the blog (if you see this in a reader like the ill-fated Google Reader, or if you're reading from an email). Then vote.
Ha! It's set up so that only one vote per computer/IP address is valid. That doesn't mean you can't go to another computer or another network though. ;-)
UPDATE: poll closed. The People have spoken.

Jazz Phones

Ethan on the Jazz Bass:
Squier (Fender's Indonesia-made cheap brand) makes the Classic Vibe and Vintage Modified Jazz Basses.  It's pretty much a '60's reissue with cheaper...  um...  everything.  Wood, electronics, hardware, the works.  Funny thing is, they play really well and sound pretty good.  With upgraded pickups, they sound great.  They're pretty inexpensive.  A lot of pros are using them as reliable back-up basses.
A step up would be the "Highway One" series from Fender or the "Roadworn" series.  Both Mexican-made, and both really good basses right out of the gate.  No mods necessary.  Both can be found used for good prices.
In the fantasy world I live in there are some good, isolating, flat, wide frequency-response headphones with a boom microphone on them. And they're cheap. It's my fantasy world and I can have anything I want there darn it!
There's the AKG 271's. There are the AT BPHS1's. The AKG's are interesting because the mics turn off when the mics are flipped "up".
The Mouse wears headphones.

Otherwise you're gonna need to insert a mic mute footswitch.

I don't know. All the options are expensive once you've priced them together with options, etc.
Eric has some very boss Fostex headphones at Trax East. I like heavy-duty headphones because people are always dropping and kicking my headphones.

You Mewling Quim

I have never been into superhero movies. I didn't like superhero comic books when I was little. I don't like comic books at all now. (I find them unreadable, I can never figure out who is hitting who in them.)
Costumed superheros are just... silly.
I mean you have to figure out a way around the costumed-ness. 
I finally watched the Watchmen movie. I know. Too little too late. I'd... tried to read the comic book. I just couldn't. The movie, to me, was just a bunch of cool sequences about characters I was pretty much uninterested in. I mean, if maybe we could have tracked Rorschach's evolution and then had the fun and games section begin when he went to prison and then... whatever. It would have been... maybe? I don't know.
With trepidation I watched the Avengers movie.

The Avengers is a completely different ball of rabbits. Lordy-lo the characters are better written. The whole thing is really good. I mean, with The Watchmen I get it. The logical conclusion of costumed superheroes. The logical conclusion of "superman" (Doctor Manhattan).
But the Avengers is actually an enjoyable movie.
Yeah I know that
  1. I'm late to the party
  2. My geek-cred is completely shot by these admissions
 It's hard to be me. Very, very hard. Hey! Look over there! [Scooches out of the room...]

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Anarchic Botany

Here then is the latest ambient jam recording. Things. Which include a certain guitar player's performance (mine), and the the sound recording methodology. But not necessarily in the same blog post. First let me talk about the recording process we used.
Dave Wolfe at the drums with 2/3rds of the microphones.
It was something like this. The bass was going direct via a Mesa Boogie Walkabout (feeding a Lindell preamp) and the two guitars were somewhat hidden from the drum kit using SM58's (feeding two Neve 1272 preamps). Two Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina microphones in an X/Y configuration over the drum kit (feeding Neve 1272 preamps) with a Rode NT1 just outside the kick drum (feeding a Lindell preamp).
A closer view of the drum "overheads".
So yeah. Thing one is that the "overheads" for the drums are down pretty low. This is perhaps a mistake, they should be about a foot higher than they are. The cymbals will be relatively less loud if the mics are moved further away.
But having the bass go direct really worked nicely: for drums. Lily and I struggled a bit with getting the bass to sound "right". Listening back to the recordings I'm not really hearing the stuff we were struggling with. What we're trying to get is a good midrange sound on the bass without it being to stringy/buzzy/slappy. But we were fighting with the low end on the bass and I think this indicates we should be using vastly better headphones when we're recording so we can hear those things. Ha! Yes. Capital idea, that.
The JamHub works remarkably well. I mean, it's by far the least-expensive of those kinds of things—headphone monitoring systems where each musician can control their own mix—and except for the somewhat irky fact that the 1/4" signals are all stereo (and that only the XLR inputs may have effects applied to them) it behaves as one thinks it should. Indeed, the XLR inputs even seem to be able to handle line levels, which is nice because we use one of the drum channels to come in line level so we can put some gated reverb on it (for monitoring).
The jam evolved into the Dead tune "Eyes of the World". Or, rather, it evolved into the rhythm section playing Eyes and Drew insisting on playing a melody to it which is quite simply wrong. So I have been told. In order to get that out of my system we might have to pretend that there's a new song here and have Pleasure for the Empire be responsible for it.
The thing we get into at about 9 minutes is interesting. It could possibly be an interstitial between City Samana songs or something for the Imaginary Opera. The Em to G#m is kind of cool. We could have the Chorus in the opera (a soprano) sing over it.

Pie Reading

From Sky, how to make a vegan no-bake chocolate peanut butter pie:
Get your self a pre-made pie crust or bake your own. graham cracker crusts work well, but use whatever you like. I  use whole wheat. in any case make sure it is baked off, cool, and ready to be filled.
For the filling:
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
1 package (12.3oz) of silken firm tofu
1 and 1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup vanilla soy or almond milk (apparently other, er, milks, can be substituted)
Mix it all together in a blender, pour it into the pie crust, and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.
Blogger being able to handle animated .gifs is a new thing, isn't it?
Google Reader is going away. Here's a list of possible replacements.
The Old Reader.
Another list.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A New Level of Dorkitude

The Caldwell E-Max low-profile hearing protection. They're twenty-five bucks. Which means they're cheap.

Pros: fit well. Seems to actually work. Does not look as fantastically dorky as one might expect.
I was surprised at some of the sounds which kicked above the 85dB threshold. A very squeaky metal door slamming, dude dropping his bicycle chain on the ground while I walked by. 

Cons: audio is band-limited. Outside traffic sounds like it's on the telephone. One's own voice still sounds muffled (like you're wearing headphones) unless you turn it up pretty loud. The overload protection is "all or nothing" so loud noises just cut off.
The stereo-ness of them is not quite as awesome as I'd hoped. I was figuring they'd be more binaural and the directivity of sounds would be better than I feel they are with these.
I wish they cut off at about 80dB. This would probably not be something which would be that useful out on the range or whatever, but in the subway it would be nicer. I wish I knew were unity-gain was on the volume knob.
Also, I wish they would function non-linearly. A compressor would work more and more until shut-off, keeping volumes similar. That might be awful for other people though.

Neither Pro nor Con: Lastly, they're warm. This is to be expected with over-ear headphones. And if you're out in the cold it's a good thing -- they're warmer than earmuffs. But it ain't been cold enough in New York for the last couple seasons to justify how warm they are. 

Last Con: Red LED on side is frequently used by androids to target biologics in the field. So be careful out there if you know there are synthetics in the area.

So my conclusion is that they do work but I'm not so sure of how much I'd wear them as opposed to regular passive earplugs. If I were shooting a firearm they'd be great. 

Cheaper VFX Volume II

So remember how I was all a-talking about how visual effects could be less expensive and how I wanted a camera which would take pictures of 3D environments and put them into 3D programs?
Well my dad came through with finding this Kickstarter campaign.
The Lynx A Camera seems to be a bunch of kids from UT Austin (do you like videos of really uncomfortable people talking? Watch the video embedded in that Kickstarter page.) And the camera seems pretty neat. And reasonably priced -- under $2000.
The cons are that the camera is standard-definition (and looks it). I don't know how much cleanup the models would need. The camera needs to be able to smooth out the polygons on large surfaces (ignoring the slight deformities in a wall, for instance).

Also: Presumably they'll take 2-D images and give you a mesh. But the texture data isn't created (as far as I can tell).

Other than that, as soon as I can get NeoScene to re-import 13 more files, we're back up from the Great Hard Drive Crash of '13.

Pater Noster

My father actually wrote this in an email:

Back in my day a pack of cigarettes was 20 cents. In fact, soda fountains and such, where teenagers hung out, would open a pack of cigarettes and sell them one at a time – a penny each. 
I well remember the price of many things because during the war (the big war that is) the Gov. instituted price control so as to avoid inflation (administered by the OPA) and merchants were not allowed to raise prices for several years. 
Gasoline was $.18 gallon.  I worked in a meat market. Hamburger was $.25 a pound, sirloin steak $.38 and round steak $.40.  I can’t remember the exact price but I’m sure my father bought a new, 1941 Ford sedan for under $1,000.  This is just to let you know why I now get sticker shock every time I go into any store. 
Incidentally, my pay at Kroger’s was $.30 an hour (some stores paid only $.25). On Saturday the store hours were 8 – 8 but I had to be in at 7AMto get prepared and then clean up after closing took until about 10:30 PM. The real kicker was that I got paid ONLY for the hours the store was open.

Image via.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Taking a Dive

Do you enjoy dropping hard drives on the ground? Because, you know, apparently, I do.
I dropped this Seagate drive twice yesterday. And (this may surprise you) it died.
Astute listeners might ask, "Why — isn't that the primary edit drive for the dragon movie?"
Why yes. Yes it is. And it has all the data for editing the dragon movie. I'm so glad you noticed that.
It looks like I have all the data to reconstruct the drive, but re-rendering the AVCHD files into Quicktimes may take a few days. IDrive was backing up this drive and I did a restore last night. Now I have a new 3TB drive for the movie to sit on.
Not by coincidence I installed a new shelf in the studio.
So far IDrive is working out for us. This is the second time I've had a movie dump on me. It looks like the total reset will take 36 or so hours just because of the re-rendering but as far as I can tell no work was actually lost because the I snatched the Seagate's rattling last breaths on a PC and managed to move the Final Cut Pro project onto another drive. Otherwise I would have lost about 7 minutes of work I did on Sunday before repeatedly throwing the drive on the ground.
The shelf, which has a speaker, which has a cable, that wrapped around the drive, twice, is nice though.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Party Video

1102 party video small from Andrew Bellware on Vimeo.

Dragon Moon

This book Dragon Badge by Scott Moon is a hot mess. With an emphasis on hot.

This guy can write. You might not know it from reading the bit on the back cover of the book because the plot description seems tawdry. But seriously, Scott Moon is fantastic.

I know that people only write stuff they feel passionate about so I've blown off writing any book reports on a number of books I've read recently and didn't care about. But this book is both brilliant and almost completely structure free. I'm going to make the supposition that Scott Moon is such a good writer that it actually becomes a fault.
He's too good a writer for his own good.
Every page of Dragon Badge is immensely compelling. Reading it you're all like "Yeah! I love this character! What's going to happen next??!!" And then four pages later you're following another character. You still have the same reaction to the new awesome character, but eventually you'll think "Wait, what happened to that character three characters ago?"
Another brilliant and strange thing about this book is that it's a supernatural fantasy with very realistic police drama, racial politics, and social tension.
I mean it's really well written. So when the inciting incident doesn't happen until page 208 you're not frustrated in any way, you're just like "Oh, okay then."
I mean seriously. This is one of the best cop novels I've ever seen.
And, you know, the slug line for it might be particularly awesome. A beat cop has to team up with the thug who killed his partner in order to defeat a sorcerer.  Cops having to team up with criminals is cool, cops who have to team up with a cop killer is a freaking awesome idea.
And there are awesome moments and details. We do switch around the POV character quite a bit and for a while we follow the thug dude, Klinton. And if I haven't mentioned it, it's pretty brilliant.
See? This would make a great TV series. This is what we should be doing.

Rap Partay

Dragon Girl, which will now be called The Creature: Returns, had our wrap party today.

This was the "everybody close your eyes and we'll tell them that we all blinked simultaneously" actors taking direction test. You can see how well that went.
A vastly more right showing of the Dragon Girl cast.
We had air-mailed to us. Oh man. Those pizzas were delicious. We actually ate all the pizza. Chicago pizza for the win.
Queen of Mars made Nutella Rice Crispy treats. And we had Turkish salad. And drunken fruit salad (which makes me drinky e'en now). White wine, honey whisky, and whiskey and Cokes were served. As I recall.
Oh, and the name of the movie now is The Creature: Returns.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Obnoxous Guitar

Who is the obnoxious guitar player on this track?

Why it's me.
There's a lot of things I dig about this jam. Firstwise one should note that there is not a single part of this which was pre-planned. And that includes the key we're playing in. For some reason I went to full acid-rock mode on the Marshall.
Greg has a MoogerFooger which, let's face it, sounds awesome. Apparently I decided to turn the regeneration on my MXR analog delay all the way to the right which has predictably chaotic results. But once done with that I still had the preamp turned almost all the way up on the Marshall.
The Edwina microphones are about 18" closer to the drums than on the other tracks on this "album". I don't know if that's really the way to go. Do the toms sound more... something? I have no idea. There's certainly more specific spread on the drum sound -- ride is in one speaker and the hats are in another.
Also when I mixed this song I was focused on another part of it. So the apallingly loudiciousness that my guitar is relative to the rest of the mix can't be blamed entirely on me. As far as you know.

A Reputation. Finally.

The brilliant Mac Rogers referred to me on Facebook as an "unbearable, salivating, dead-eyed, hell-portals-for-eye-sockets, sleaze merchant". 
I can now die a happy man.
Today is a good day.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Those things in a list that belong here.

The best snare drums. Who doesn't need a metal Ludwig?

Ursa Major Sound is a mastering facility. They're inexpensive.
I am completely baffled at what Cash Music does.
I'm trying to list all the Jethro Tull concerts I've been to.

  • 1980 with my brother David. Whitesnake opened. In support of the "A" album. Madison Square Garden. My first rock concert actually.

  • 1982 with my brother David. Nassau Coleseum.

  • Crest of the Knave tour. This was one of the best concerts I'd ever been to. I'm guessing it was this show:
22/11/87Meadowlands ArenaEast Rutherford, NJ. USA
Songs From The Wood, Thick As A Brick/Steel Monkey, Farm On The Freeway/Heavy Horses, Living In The Past/Serenade To A Cuckoo, Budapest, Hunting Girl, The Waking Edge (intro)/'Classical' Instrumental/Keyboard Solo/Drum Solo, Wond'ring Aloud, Skating Away..., Jump Start, Too Old To Rock'N'Roll..., Aqualung, Locomotive Breath/Thick As A Brick (reprise), Wind Up
I do specifically remember them opening with Songs from the Wood.

  • Garden State Arts Center. Procol Harem opened. They did not play Aqualung.

  • Beacon Theatre with brother-in-law David Lewis.  
I finally got around to watching Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking TED talk. I don't think she really understands the backlash of the broo-ha-ha over the "free musicians" thing. Or, she was using a strawman to defend her position.
Me? I have my finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist. I'm like a cultural EKG machine.

Penguins and You

Here are some things City Samanas did last night. This is just a rehearsal. I believe that there isn't a single piece we did here where we had any idea of what we were going to do before we did it. At least that might be true for me. In any case, the thing we're looking at here is the recording(s), not the performances. Click through to dig the grooviness:The songs have progressively more "stuff" on them. The Foot Hen song is all but dry. Those are just the raw tracks with panning and a limiter strapped over the stereo buss.
Then I added a drum submix buss with some additional compression on the next song.
Last mixes have a bit of reverb on the drums. With bigger compression. So this is a decent overview of what the raw tracks sound like, and then the various things I did in the way of mixing them.
There are a number of new or different ways we did of things:

  • The drum overheads are, in fact, overhead, and are the Ear Trumpet Labs "Edwina" mics in an X/Y pair.
  • I only recorded two tracks for drums. No kick drum microphone.

I didn't have my camera with me so you'll have to be satisfied with this X/Y pair.

  • The bass was put through the PA cabinet because the Twin Reverb was being buzzy. That is not our preferred solution however it did sound surprisingly good.
  • We used the new Jam Hub (bedroom) headphone amp. I fed one of the drum mics into it via an XLR adapter so that we could put a bit of gated reverb on the drums. That seemed to make people happy.
My feelings right now are that I (for the first time) wish I had used the kick drum mic. I feel derpy. Dave does not have a heavy foot to start with. But although I feel the rest of the kit has a good (albeit "old-fashioned" sound) the kick is a bit buried. So: next time we'll use a Rode NT1A on the kick and send it through the Lindell preamp.
I think I want to get the bass guitar mic a bit further from the bass speaker. We're not getting quite the midrange out of it that I think we're going after. I'm even punching a bunch of mids on the EQ on the Lindell.
Do I want even yet more separation of the drums from other instruments? Yep. I sure do.
Am I digging the sound of the Edwinas as overheads? I sure am.
The big takeaways: we still need more isolation for the drums. Also, we seem cool with the normal X/Y configuration (about a meter above the snare).  Everyone digs the headphone mix. We will add back a kick microphone.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

White Spheres

Annalisa and Julia among the spheres.
Nathan Vegdahl made some reference spheres and sent them to amuse me. It worked. I am amused.

Crowds, Sounds, and Jobs

Alex Epstein on crowdfunding. Spoiler alert: he thinks its a waste of time.
Plus you can tell from her right hand that she's an alien.

Here's a nice little interview with a production sound mixer. You're not going to learn any fabulous secrets. But it's nice anyway.
SoundWorks Collection: Production Sound Mixer Nicholas Allen from Michael Coleman on Vimeo.

Today's main job seems to be getting other people to get back to me. Sheesh.

Making VFX Cheaper Part II

My dad came through for me here. Here's a fun fact, Leica actually makes one of the laser 3D scanning devices out there.

And it's really close to the magical way I want to just set this device in a room, have it measure the room, and photograph the textures, and spit out a fully-rendered 3D version of the room. It's not quite there yet. Oh but it's so close.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

I Wish VFX were cheaper too

If you've been paying any attention to the VFX community lately they've been complaining about how their companies go out of business and how Ang Lee said something to the effect of: "I wish visual effects were cheaper."
Also, why can't science-fiction motorcycles look this cool? And why can't I have one?

I wish they were cheaper too.
So my question is, how do we make VFX cheaper? 3D VFX involves a whole bunch of rather specialized skills: modelling, rigging, animating, texturing, lighting, and compositing. There's also stuff like rotoscoping which is (to me) stupendously boring but is usually best done in the 2D world. In any case, here's a couple things I wish I had in order to make VFX cheaper:
  • Make 3D scenes self - light by being able to do the following: set a silver ball (like a Christmas tree ornament) in the middle of the scene. Take a picture of it. Then your favorite open-source 3D animation software automatically lights in order to match the lighting that falls on your silver ball. You can do this in Blender using "environment HDR lighting" but it's not quite as quick and dirty as I'd like.
  • Use some sort of cheap 3D-cameras to make autocad references of actual 3D objects and architectural elements (with shading and texturing) in the field.
    The fact we don't have this technology is actually something that's driven me nuts since I was a pre-teen.
    I used to go out into the field with my dad and measure stairs and stuff "as built" so that the handrails that my dad made would actually fit the stairs which had been made. (You couldn't go off the architect's drawings because in the field things would get altered slightly by the ironworkers and carpenters and whomever in order to actually be able to build the darn thing. The drawings one made from measuring in the field were labeled "as built" to distinguish them from the architect's drawings which were, from an engineering prospective, fantasy artwork and not anything you could actually work with.)
    I ever so wanted to just be able to set up some sort of laser-guided multicamera that would automatically measure the size and shape of staircases and walls and ceilings and stuff all that data into a computer. (Actually, one technology change is that they do use lasers now in order to get true level measurements. They're also less troublesome than a plumb-bob.)
    As far as I know this technology does not exist although I'm sure we're somewhat close to having it exist.
    [UPDATE: my father tells me that some sort of device like what I describe does in fact exist and that it costs about $10,000.00. I'm sure it won't also photograph and import the texture of the architectural elements like I want it to. I have no idea what the thingy is. I'll find out.]
Being able to do just these two things automatically would be a huge time-saver in post. One of those things is practical now although no software I know of does it automatically without some fiddling; and the other one will be fantastically expensive if someone made the technology but in 10 years every Radio Shack will have a kit that'll do it for $59.99.
The things that will not get cheaper is the modelling. You want a unique robot? You're gonna need to get a good artist. That artist will have to have put a lot of time into making their robot skills awesome and, you know, you're going to either have to pay for that or use some sort of secret guilt-inducing power in order to get them to work cheaper for you. Making feature films is more glamorous than making, say, television commercials so artists will be willing to do that cheaper than they would for a boring corporate client.
Rotoscoping is becoming automated as we get more powerful computers. With a mirror ball you might solve some lighting and compositing issues.
But still, you're up-in-the-air with modelling, rigging, and animating.
On my particular planet I've been using Blender open-source models on our last couple movies. So that saves money except for animating. I'll tell ya how that goes...

Plan View

I'm gonna grace you with mah skillz as a draughtsman. Here's a plan view. Note that 1" doesn't really mean anything on the web. The side panels are 3 feet (about 1 meter) and that means the wall at the top is about 2 meters. A little less.
Version uno.
The updated super-sexy version.
The walls need to be detailed like crazy. Plus, being me, I want to have all the lights built into it.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Blue Concept

[Nothing for the 1st of March on Taxi for me.]Click through for a proof of concept for recording drums with only two mics. Here I was going for a dry mid-70's sound. I feel somewhat successful. My guitar playing is simply atrocious. And honestly the drums are e'en now too compressed. There's no reverb on them but there's a multiband compressor on the drum track itself and on the whole mix.
There's still way too much of the other instruments in the drum tracks. I have two submixes: one for drums and one for the bass and guitars. Honestly if you were to solo the drum mix it wouldn't sound that substantially different from what we have here.
The drum sound is in the ballpark. Right now the bass is enormous, vastly more than you could expect from an analog master.
With the headphone amplifier we may be able to turn down the instrument amps. Honestly we don't play very loud. I could measure it but we're staying under 85dB SPL A in the rehearsal room. But ha! It may encourage Dave to play louder if we don't put any drums into his headphone mix. Hee!
In order to get to this mix I'd put way too much stuff on the submixes and the mix buss. And then I started taking stuff away until it sounded better. You'll notice that there's no lack of compression. It's plenty compressed.
Now I'll admit that with the whole 2-mics on the drumkit ideology that it's impossible to do things like, say, put special reverb on the snare drum. See? This is me. Admitting that.
But I'm kind of digging where this whole experiment is going. Plus, one day I'll actually be able to play this song.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

You'd Think I'd Know

If it weren't for Joe Chapman, I'd never know anything.
Total Retribution is out on video. You can buy it from Amazon. If Joe didn't inform me of these sorts of things I'd never know them. Earthkiller, which is the same movie, is available on demand on Amazon. I have no idea when Prometheus Trap comes out. Nor do I know about Angry Planet. You'd think I'd know these things. I don't.

Saturday, March 02, 2013


What I need in my life is a full-time person to write essays and reports and books. It would also be nice if they could keep websites current. I need a way to pay this person. Sigh.

Other notes.
Roy Batty has to be someone else. And instead of Blade Runners, we have Sandmen.
Plissken is looking for a guy who is a model of himself.
The war isn't off-world. Let's put it in South America. The colonels that were killed will be British.
The comments on this Glenn Greenwald piece seem to be better thought out than the piece itself.
We need a single octagonal set.

I'm being dithery. This clear facemask looks very cool. Will it reflect the camera?
The mask will need some sort of balaclava. And we'd probably need to put a radio inside.
I don't know if the balaclava will make keeping a radio headset on easier or harder.

The other major item I'm dithering over is a long gun. I'm interested in a C02-operated .68 caliber paintball gun. And really, if I had my druthers, I'd have water-filled paintballs. For some reason those are really hard to come by.
And for the members of my family complaining about parody and fair use: Suntrust v. Houghton

What is Mine and what is Elsewise

A friend asked me recently how much of Six Easy Days is from Mark Owen's No Easy Day

Which part of this is "yours" and which part is from No Easy Day?
Well, I feel you can sort of tell when it goes into my own voice. Paragraph-to-paragraph it's mostly the structure of the original book. But all (or most) of the sci-fi things have been made sci-fi-ish. So guns, details about his armor, the existence of androids, those sorts of things I just made up.
Obviously the android stuff is new. But what about the story? Is the way the story unfolds from being on the way to the Xenomorph AI's compound and then going back and describing other missions the way it worked in No Easy Day?
By and large, yes. The structure of No Easy Day is very very good. 

There are two major bits of story that I altered. Well, three actually. One is the story of the search for an Army soldier who was captured and still hasn't been found. I felt uncomfortable about making a parody story about that so I made it about a Skinny General who'd defected instead.
The other thing is finding the Brain Bug. In Owen's story the whole point to that mission was that they did a hard mission but were successful and they had no casualties. Instead, I made that mission have a whole impact on the rest of the War.
The third major thing I altered was the way the "helicopter" (which is actually a drop boat in my story) crashes. I give a reason for it. Plus I make the narrator more of a hero by having him figure out how to save the mission.

Owen's parents were missionaries, but obviously not for the Machine God. Obama is now Atredes and Washington is Beijing. The "Skinnys" and the "Bugs" (or Pseudo-Arachnids) are from Starship Troopers. Of course I had to be snotty and make it so that although we're fighting the "Skinnys" we'd been concentrating on the males rather than the females and the narrator is deliberately and spectacularly unreliable.

I do make fun of Owen's complaining about paperwork and treatment of prisoners and "Governor Atredes". Also, I cut out the very ending of the book because it wasn't interesting. Obviously Owen does not have a chip in his brain which helps him control combat armor. And Usama bin Laden was not a Xenomorph Artificial Intelligence. As far as you know.
So, why on earth did you do this?
I thought it was funny. When I was reading the book I thought "This would be even better if they were wearing servo-powered armor and were hunting the Xenomorph AI."
You wrote/re-wrote/heavily edited a book just because it amused you?
You got it. I read No Easy Day and thought that the story was so cool it needed to be retold in space.
Other than Starship Troopers, what else do you reference?
Man, there's a lot of stuff. Very briefly there's The Forever War (the bit about the blades inside your armor cutting off limbs and sealing you in, also the notion that there's heat-venting at the back of the suits). Also the notion of the HUD and the chip in the brain is a cross between Old Man's War and the Jeff Somers Avery Cates novels.
What about the Machine God?
There's a Machine God in the Warhammer 40,000 novels. But I think I was thinking more about the God-Emperor in the Dune universe. I can't think of a direct analog of it. 
How much of your inspiration came from Owen's anti-Obama stance? 
Well. A lot actually. It made me think about how unreliable narrators are. And I wanted to see the logical conclusion of Owen's ideology. I thought that it was interesting that although Owen is so clearly (I mean, he says so) anti-Obama yet every single successful mission he talked about occurred after Obama became President. I thought that was interesting. So the "parody" part of the book is mostly about that.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Implicating the Stranger

So then therefore:Further experimentation.

My monitoring environment is problematic right now. Standing desk = speakers are too low. Also I can't figure out where to put my subwoofer. And there's something wrong with the crossover point. Either that, or the subwoofer is too loud where it is.
I'm not even trying to make sense of the dialog. This is all the dream ballet.
But soon the rewrite will make the whole thing work.

Dedicate Your Porpentine

Next week we will try having separate headphone mixes when we rehearse/record. Hmm... it occurs to me that this will mean we'll actually be able to hear what we're recording too. The trick with the JamHub is that it has TRS stereo inputs. So you can poke a regular 1/4" cable halfway into one of the inputs and the signal will show up on the left and right outputs. But you know, that's less than reliable.
The new Darth Vader hospital.
Take a listen to the Porpentine. This is City Samanas. I'm not sure what the piece of music we'd started jamming on was. I was just endeavoring to keep up.

I think we've figured out a pretty good 1968 band sound here. Of course, I'm still convinced we can move ourselves into the 1970's still only using two microphones for the drums. But I think we'll have to use some magical multi-band compression in order to let the cymbals ring and make the toms boom more.