Wednesday, 26 December 2012

May you live in interesting times [Elite: Dangerous]

The Elite Dangerous kickstarter campaign is closing in on the £1 million mark (four fifths of the target) but with only 9 days to go there's still some question as to whether they will succeed. The video above was released a few days ago, and together with the concept art already on the site, really gives a feel for what Elite Dangerous will be trying to achieve in terms of epic atmosphere.

It's a relief to see evidence of such clear vision, when earlier in the campaign the team seemed to be more focussed on how good the clouds were going to look (impressive though that might be.) It's also encouraging to see profiles of team members and quick and reasonable answers to questions from backers. This campaign has suffered from a slow start - but in a way that's encouraging too, we're not backing a slick marketing job but a small company with genuine enthusiasm.

Interestingly, there's also a kind of meta-fundraising going on that I haven't seen before on KS. One of the KS pledges is the "writer's pack" - a £4,500 license to write a novel set in the Elite universe, with co-operation from the programming team who can add elements of the novel such as planets into the game. Amazingly it's working - several writers, such as Drew Wagar, have come forward and have started their own mini-Kickstarter or indiegogo campaigns, most have hit their targets and added their pledges to the main E:D campaign. The latest author to join the fray is BBC tech journalist Kate Russell - check out her Kickstarter page here.

The videogame market is alive and well. There's no shortage of casual jewel-matchers, FPS and MMO lookalike wargames, or quirky indie concept games. And sadly there's also no shortage of games with a magnifying glass on the cover. What's missing from the computer gaming world at the moment is the epic. And Elite: Dangerous is one project that just might produce one. Would you like to know more? Main Kickstarter page here. You can also read more on programmer Michael Brookes' blog, The Cult Of Me.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Showreel 2012

Models, scenes, effects, clips taken from the past 4 years, with modelling and animation in Cinema 4D and Blender. There are exciting plans for 2013...

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Reel Thing

"Soupremacy" screened at Showreel short film night on November 28th: finally I can claim to have had a film shown at the B.B.C.*

Highlights of an extremely entertaining programme included this "French" short "Magnifique!" (directed by James Pilkington)

and this most unusual music video starring Celia Imrie:

*(ahem) Balham Bowls Club

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The First Cut Is The Deepest

Some reflections on editing together studio footage in Blender:

The visual sequence editor has always been one of Blender’s best features. There are plenty of free video editors that you can download, but very few are multi-track: essential here for cutting between multiple takes or camera viewpoints.

Thanks to an extensive upgrade the Blender interface is now only moderately impossible to use. It’s also more stable than ever before - but "stable" is a relative term, you should probably back up before and after each edit.

 New features such as adjustment strips and colour-balancing strip modifiers are sensible and make some post-production tasks easier. Overall Blender is up to the task of a complex edit but is still harder to tame than some of the professional packages.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Santa meets John Stuart Mill

I like Santa. I like John Stuart Mill. But which is best? Two indie music videos made by talented Kino London regulars:

"What Did John Stuart Mill Say Again?" Butterflies On Strings
Directed by Emma Rozanski, DoP Jamie Kennearly

"Topsy Turvy Xmas" David Fisher featuring John Cooper Clarke
directed by Molly Brown

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Right On Commander [Elite: Dangerous]

An update on the Elite: Dangerous Kickstarter campaign: the campaign now has more than 13,000 backers and £600,000 pledged. This is impressive but the Frontier team have set themselves an ambitious target of £1,250,000 - and that won't be easy to reach.

The campaign is active with new information and FAQ answers, pictures and videos being added every few days, such as this development diary video.
I think this game has the potential to be awesome but I'm still waiting to see what will set it aside from games such as "Freelancer" (one of the many games heavily inspired by the original Elite.)

A Kickstarter campaign is more than just a way to raise money - it's a chance to connect with potential players and build a community before a product is launched. Not all Kickstarter campaigns bother to do this. It looks as if  David Braben and Frontier are listening to the backers and fans. For example the game was going to be download-only, but as many commenters said they'd like the option of a traditional hard copy or boxed set, they've changed their minds and both standard and collectors edition boxed sets are now on the list of pledge rewards. It's a small change but a positive one.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Let's Go / Thus Spoke Venter

"Let's Go" (C) Tenderstar 2012

"Thus Spoke Venter" (C) Tenderstar 2012

Tenderstar recording session at Resident Studios 20.5.12. All tracks mixed by Matt Burns. Videos produced and edited by Joshua Westbury for Tenderstar, with thanks to Max Blustin for additional technical input.

Find Tenderstar here or on their Facebook page.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Kick Start My Heart [Elite Dangerous]

There's a faint glimmer of light at the end of the (docking) tunnel: a Kickstarter campaign has been launched to fund a new Elite game, Elite Dangerous.

When the classic space-opera Elite first appeared on the BBC Micro it was ground-breaking and a work of genius. Eight galaxies of 3D open-ended interstellar trading, fighting, adventuring, asteroid mining, docking and ship upgrading were squeezed by programmers Bell and Braben into less memory than an e-mail.

Elite is still the watchword for non-casual computer gaming. The learning curve was brutal: it took me three  weeks of playing to figure out how to launch my ship, turn it around and return to dock (you are required to match spin with the space station) – only then could I venture out beyond the safety zone, try out my shiny new hyperdrive and get blasted to pieces by space pirates. Elite rewards the dedicated player: some events in the game are only seen rarely, or are scheduled to occur on reaching a particular rank which could be weeks or months into playing.

Elite created something which still marks out the best computer games: a player community. Micro User, Acorn User and BEEBUG magazines regularly printed letters describing dubious in-game discoveries e.g. “I found another secret mission!” “I was ambushed by Thargoids!” “I saw a space dredger!” sometimes accompanied by pencil sketches and followed by weeks of debate as to whether the space dredger was real, or whether the pilot had indulged in one too many narcotics trading runs.

Versions of Elite appeared on different computers: each with its own graphic style and quirks. An early PC version was extremely playable however the best and most quirky version was produced for the Acorn Archimedes: features included an ongoing war between police and criminals, and fleets of unarmed Space Missionaries calling on you to repent. A popular hack for this version kitted out your Cobra with fluffy dice and a bumper sticker.

Elite also spawned two sequels: Frontier and Frontier First Encounters, both groundbreaking in their own way, and then - nothing. Rumours of a planned Elite 4 have come and gone, and all but a few of the waiting pilots had given up hope.

So last week's announcement, more or less unexpected, came as a pleasant surprise. The story is by no means over: the campaign is live and the video and concept art look serious, but Frontier have yet to achieve their ambitious Kickstarter goal, and then they have to actually write the game. As a backer Sci-Fi Gene is hopeful and looks forward to completion - Godspeed Elite Dangerous.

Friday, 2 November 2012

"Soupremacy" screening: Showreel

It's a reel pleasure: "Soupremacy" will be on the programme at Showreel short film night, at the Balham Bowls Club on 28th November.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

"Soupremacy" screening: Brighton Moviebar

Let the good times roll - composer David Novan and I will be at Moviebar, at the Caroline Of Brunswick in Brighton, on 3rd December for a screening of "Soupremacy."

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Turning Over A New Leaf

This is not an environmentally friendly car.

The beautiful white shell on this Aventador is actually a pure ivory veneer made from the tusks of twelve elephants, each one certified as personally shot by the King of Spain.

Look, there wasn't any parking space outside. I had to leave it here in the lobby.

With expert handling this car will achieve an impressive 0.1 miles per gallon. That's per gallon of champagne. When the tank is running low the on-board satellite navigation computer will guide you to the nearest off-license to fill up.The rainforest mahogany dashboard is perfectly complemented by the tigerskin seats, sewn together in India's finest sweatshops. And each time a child grows up and buys one, a fairy dies.

This AMG-something is also not an environmentally friendly car.

But it's really fast... and it's got wings!

While the evil planet-destroying sports cars were all parked in the lobby, the hybrids or electric cars like this Ampera (European version of the Volt) were outside, hidden away down a side road. This is an environmentally friendly car.

You can tell because it's got crazy headlights. In accordance with EU regulation 224 section 2 paragraph 8c all electric or hybrid vehicles must have crazy headlights by April 2014.

This is an environmentally friendly car.

It's a limited edition Tesla Roadster. It's 100% electric and range is limited however can be extended if you happen to have a central groove and two metal strips along your road. Tesla have not read the memo about crazy headlights.

This is an environmentally friendly car.

The Leaf feels good to test-drive, and handles like a similar-sized family car. It can be charged from your home using a regular extension lead, or from a dedicated charging point, or even from an induction plate. Apparently you can't charge it from the cigarette lighter.

[Pictures: Sci-Fi Gene. Cars: Motor Expo 2012, Canary Wharf. Some of the Aventador features above may not be standard on all, or indeed any models]

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Work In Progress: Microbial [update 3]

An alternative method for the scanning electron microscope look: this time the material has a fresnel diffuse shader, and no specularity or transparency. Lighting is a single spot immediately behind the camera and in line with it, plus a little environmental light and mist.
Basic material settings. There are also two cloud procedural textures influencing displacement and normals. I think with a few minor tweaks I'll probably go with this method. Incidentally there's a vimeo tutorial here with some good tips for electron microscope effects.

[Produced in Blender 2.64]

Monday, 22 October 2012

Work In Progress: Microbial [update 2]

Tried out a few approaches to get an electron microscope look: this render uses environment lighting and a transparent material on the microbes, plus mist and DOF. Now working on some animation tests: more to follow.

[Produced in Blender 2.64]

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Work In Progress: Microbial

A chain of single-cell organisms with base material and texture.

Setting up depth of field

A virus-like particle

To be continued...
[Produced in Blender 2.64]

Friday, 28 September 2012

She's Electric! [Tears Of Steel]

The latest short film from the Blender Foundation, Tears Of Steel. It's not as emotionally affecting as last year's movie Sintel but (sob) what is? (sob) I like the plot: I like eccentricity and unnecessary-but-cool, you can never have too many evil roboticists or armies of killer robots, and the Amsterdam setting is a nice touch too.

Technically I was blown away: this live-action/CG is a world away from Sintel and shows that Blender has evolved from an animation tool into a filmmaking tool. And there's more: I understand this film was produced from start to finish using only open source software.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Six Of The Best [Music Videos]

A selection of music videos from the indie film scene, mostly seen at short film nights: great opportunities to meet other filmmakers or artists and share war stories. I've mentioned one or two of these films before but I thought it would be good to bring them all together. So make yourself some popcorn and enjoy your own music video festival...

A fantasy antidote to a busy life: "Lazy" Juliet Russell, directed by Ayala Sharot (spotted at Rotoreliefs)

An intergalactic love story: "Cold Caller Love" Me & The Neck, directed by James Spinney (spotted at Kino London)

"Ivan" Leika Mochán, directed by Carlotta Cardana & Marcos Villaseñor (spotted at Kino London and everywhere)

"Young People Love Noise" Lazarus directed by Angelo Calarco (spotted at Kino London)

"Lover" Bandish Projekt Feat. Shaa'ir directed by Geoffrey Gilson

And finally a heart-broken robot tries to escape the clutches of his moonshine-making hillbilly captor: "Purity Of Heart" Pearson directed by James Scott (spotted at Moviebar)

Monday, 17 September 2012

When Danny Met Jenny?

I previously posted about Jenny Ringo And The Monkey's Paw, a short film by Chris Regan competing for Shooting People Film Of The Month. The competition is hotting up and there are only two days left in the first round. If you haven't already done so please check it out and sing along to the musical number... then, if you're a Shooting Person, and you agree with me that Jenny Ringo deserves a date with final round judge Danny Boyle, please give them your stars and let's get them into the top five. what is this, not just folklore... it's a magic monkey's wishing paw... so wish your wishes well... with the primate's paw from hell...

...sorry, carried away there. Anyway, if you're not a Shooting Person but you love the film please watch it and comment, this may also help as there are wildcard places in the next round too.

Monday, 10 September 2012

I Have Had It With These Motherf****** Dinosaurs On This Motherf****** Spaceship! [Review: Dinosaurs On A Spaceship]

Thpoiler Alert.

This week the Doctor rounds up a posse made up of Queen Nefertiti, Amy and Rory, Rory's Dad and an Edwardian game hunter, brings them aboard a spaceship populated by dinosaurs and heading straight for Earth, hoping to divert it before the Indian Space Agency blows it sky high and makes dinosaurs extinct.

Riann Steele as Queen Nefertiti

This episode is light and frothy: I'd go further and say the comedy seems to be the main point, since the plot is so simple. There's Matt Smith's clowning, Rory's Dad who turns out to be a little eccentric, plus some very funny moments with the two throwaway historical figures (surely spin-off material?) a tame stegosaurus, Robert Webb and David Mitchell in fine form as two bickering robots, and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to Iron Sky. It's all very entertaining - perhaps a bit too entertaining, almost like watching Red Dwarf or a sketch show rather than a drama. There's not much substance, and I feel I'm still waiting for the Moffatt scriptwriting genius of yore to kick in.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

When The Tripods Came [London 2012]

The Paralympic Closing Ceremony tonight brings to an end a summer of inspiring sport and spectacle. I expected to enjoy the Olympics and Paralympics but I've been amazed by how much I've been drawn into the drama of it all, whether watching live athletics at the Olympic Park or following on TV or Internet.
The Olympic Stadium with its vast walls and pyramid structures reminded me of the Tripods' City.
That City was built over a river, providing a source of water for the Masters within, but also an escape route, and later an attack route for the rebels.
The Orbit could be a Tripod patrolling the countryside.
The last thing you might see before being Capped.
At sporting festivals throughout the occupied Earth, the best athletes would be carried away by the Tripods to serve the Masters either in person, or in the mines and factories of the City, their strength needed to cope with the City's artificially high gravity.
The City's power source and it's only vulnerability, the mysterious Pool of Fire.

[Pictures: Sci-Fi Gene]

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

“We Can Get You Some Really Cheap Gear” Screening: A Voyage Through Animation

On September 16th “We Can Get You Some Really Cheap Gear” joins a diverse line-up of animated films at Whirlygig’s A Voyage Through Animation, at the Yard Theatre in Hackney Wick. This night is part of the Scala Beyond programme of film events around the country, and looks to be an exciting screening with many of the films re-scored to live music.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Doctor Is In [Review: Asylum Of The Daleks]

It turns out the Daleks have socialised medicine and a surprisingly progressive attitude towards mental health issues. Who knew? However "Asylum Of The Daleks" the Doctor Who series opener never makes it quite clear whether their secret Asylum is a state-run NHS or a Medicaid-style insurance programme. Perhaps there's hope for them yet.

Thpoilerth follow.

The Doctor, Rory and Amy are captured and delivered to a Dalek spaceship where the Dalek "Prime Minister" sends them on a mission to an entire planet of captive, insane Daleks. Insanity is best viewed as a relative term in Doctor Who.

This episode promised to bring together all the Dalek designs from all the different Doctor Who eras. However the show is a victim of it's own super-high production values. Thanks to the brilliant atmospheric lighting, and the equally brilliant set and model work, the decaying and malfunctioning Daleks in the Asylum are as menacing as ever but you never get a clear view. Also these daleks did not appear at all.

I did spot a Special Weapons Dalek at 24m 58s though, which is some small consolation.

More interesting was the nanofield - a new way for Daleks to control or enslave humans, which also creates a crisis for the trio when their protection against the field is lost. There's a twist in the tale which I won't thpoil for you but I guessed fairly quickly as it reminded me of a situation in a Duncan Jones movie.

This episode is good but not earth-shatteringly brilliant. It doesn't need to be. It's the series opener written by Steven Moffatt and no doubt it's real purpose is to set up plot arcs, surprises and themes for the episodes to come. I would be very surprised if the nanofield doesn't re-emerge at some point, it's a fantastic plot device. The episode introduced some interesting characters, including the Dalek Prime Minister O_o and a character played by Jenna-Louise Coleman, who will be joining the series to play the Doctor's travelling companion in a few months.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

When You Wish Upon A Paw

Jenny Ringo And The Monkey's Paw

Written and directed by Chris Regan, one of the nice people from Brighton Moviebar, this short film about a young witch, an unwise flatmate and a magic monkey's paw is 25 minutes of pure Jeff Awesome-ness. Jenny Ringo is a contestant for Shooting People's Film Of The Month and needs your vote - if you like it please give it your stars.

Jenny Ringo is also the first in a planned series - if you like, you can find out more on the film's website and sign up for the mailing list. What more could you (very carefully) wish for?

Thursday, 30 August 2012

"Soupremacy" screening: Kino London

My animated music video for "Soupremacy" by David Novan will be on the big screen at the Kino London short film night on 14th September. Kino has moved to a new venue: the Horse Hospital near Russell Square. It's not a hospital and there are probably no horses. However there will almost certainly be popcorn.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Stepping Out [Review: The Long Earth]

Step Day: the day a blueprint for a potato-powered circuit is released onto the Internet and everything changes. Thousands of people construct their own device and instantly vanish, travelling “east” or “west” along a chain of Earths in parallel universes. The chain may be endless, and although it’s full of life there are no signs of humanity anywhere. The ease of stepping, at least for most people, creates a land rush and a lawless frontier society as humanity expands into the Long Earth.

Two travellers – Joshua Valiente, a human with a natural ability to step, and Lobsang, a computer who claims to be a reincarnated Tibetan, set out on a journey that will take them over a million Steps to the west. Along the way they meet other Steppers, explorers and colonists, and discover more of the secrets of the Long Earth multiverse. Joshua is ambivalent about humanity, drawn to silence, needing human contact but shy and awkward up close. Lobsang is another HAL 9000 or GERTY, human-ish and apparently caring but alien and difficult to trust.

The Long Earth is the first, much anticipated collaboration between two of science fiction’s greatest living authors, Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett. This would be exciting enough, but this is no licensed novel in a franchised series – both writers have put their heads together to create something newer. Of course the idea of parallel universes itself is not new, science fiction writers have been exploring it for a long time. I've already reviewed Iain M. Banks’ recent novel Transition; also Pratchett and Baxter have both been there before. It’s fair to say that The Long Earth shares themes with Baxter’s Manifold novel Origin. However I don’t recall reading a novel that deals with colonization of parallel universes in this way.

The novel occasionally feels like the result of a brainstorming session, and indeed the authors did hold such a session at a sci-fi convention along the way. Some interesting limits are placed on Stepping – the device will only work for the human who completed its construction, suggesting that it may have a psychological or metaphysical mode of action. The chain itself, with only two directions of travel, instantly makes the whole concept easy to grasp. Iron cannot be Stepped although iron compounds such as haemoglobin seem to be OK – so every new colony has to set up its own foundry, and guns cannot be transported, at least for about ten minutes until humanity solves that particular issue. This seems to serve as a way of slowing the rate of colonization on each new world, and creating a more interesting narrative.

The Pratchett influence is more subtle, although the characters are very much in his style. I didn’t pick up on any obvious references to Discworld. However, while most parallel Earths are only slightly different from the last, each Step bringing gradual changes in the geography, evolutionary outcome or climate, there are occasional outliers where anything goes – a world dominated by tall forests, a crocodile-infested waterworld, etc. These acquire the name Joker Worlds - as a fan of Pratchett’s early sci-fi novel The Dark Side Of The Sun, this makes me happy.

Friday, 24 August 2012

“We Can Get You Some Really Cheap Gear” Screening: Braine Hownd

 “We Can Get You Some Really Cheap Gear” is up for a screening at Braine Hownd Film Night, September 4th at the Hideaway, near Archway. In addition to a great selection of short films the line-up also includes a premiere of Braine Hownd’s own sitcom pilot “Off The Charts.”

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

"We Can Get You Some Really Cheap Gear" Competing For Shooting People Film Of The Month

"We Can Get You Some Really Cheap Gear" is an entry in Shooting People's Film Of The Month contest. In the final round, the top 5 films will be judged by Plan B but the first round is a public vote - if you liked it, please visit, vote and share. As an incentive, if we make it to the final round then I promise to make the sequel ;)

[Post script 24.8.12: We didn't make the final round so plans for a sequel have been shelved for the moment. Congratulations to the finalists]

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Sci-Fi Lies and Butterflies [Review: The Metalmark Contract]

An alien parks his spacecraft in orbit and makes contact with humanity. His arrival creates tension amongst the politicians and divides nations and religions, while scientists try to make sense of his message and his seemingly generous offer.

Year after year, sci-fi novels and films keep on re-writing this story of our first contact with an intelligent alien. Do they declare outright war, as in War Of The Worlds or Independence Day, or try to conquer us by stealth, as in The Tripods, V or Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers? Might benign aliens make contact in order to share knowledge or guidance, like Klaatu and Gort, or the broadcasting intelligence in Contact? Or perhaps they’d rather wait mysteriously for us to come to them, as in 2001 or Rendezvous With Rama.

What’s clever about the cagey Metalmark is that he could be any of the above. When he makes first contact, he appears in the guise of a slick, human-like salesman offering a win-win trade of tech for resources: a little of your Solar System, and in return the stars. He’s also a pacifist and an enthusiastic student of human culture, particularly that of the US – but he’s smarter than he appears, and he’s holding back one or two key pieces of information, not least his own, alien nature. Taking the name of an endangered butterfly is a literal and also metaphorical clue to his identity, as well as a cryptic message intended for one of the characters.

The Metalmark Contract is written by NASA astrophysicist David Batchelor and is the first in a planned series. The plot takes in national and international politics but focuses on mild-mannered scientist Dr. Steve Simmons: I’m glad about this because Simmons is a good, believable hero, and much of the science feels plausible too. Other plot strands are less strong: I’m not sure I’m quite as convinced by Simmons’ possible love interest, translator Ilana Lindler, nor by the many politicians who also figure. To be fair, it’s hard to write convincingly about the corridors of power – The West Wing and The Thick Of It are very rare examples.

Another subplot concerns terrorism – when Metalmark appears to endorse a Christian leader there is a backlash led by a fundamentalist imam. I’ve got no objection to generic Islamist terrorist bad guys, but I don’t buy the entire Arabic world uniting behind this sort of leader. It’s much more likely that huge divisions would open up between different states. There are hints that this conflict might actually be engineered by Metalmark, which would make more sense.

I think the most enjoyable aspect of this novel is that there really is a puzzle to be solved, and a race against time to solve it. There’s a skillful drip-feed of clues about Metalmark’s body, or what he might want with Mercury and Triton, and even at the end of the book only a little of the solution is revealed, so there are plenty of unanswered questions to drive the sequel.

Available as paperback or e-book.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Olympics Brick By Brick

A friend visiting the Olympic Stadium earlier this week was extremely impressed. Why? "The audio-video equipment is something terrific - I saw cameras which I've never seen before." Admittedly he is a photographer but he has a point. The quality of the BBC coverage is one of the real success stories of this Olympics.

Over at The Guardian's website, meanwhile, Olympic highlights are being broadcast in a different way - through the medium of Lego. Usain bolts:

and Aly and friends fly to success:

Warning: may contain adverts. Go to the website for the full Brick-By-Brick series, including a cool timelapse of the set construction. Amazingly, apart from the sets, they are being produced within a day of each event. There's also plenty of humour: look out for Phelps' high protein diet, and who has sneakily managed to get tickets for the gymnastics?

Monday, 6 August 2012

FILMSshort results

Congratulations to the FILMSshort winner Ali Asgari for Tonight Is Not A Good Night for Dying, and to runner-up Leo Burton and team Devils Tower Social Club for Paul's Meditation - a completed film from this year's SFL48! You can see both on the FILMSshort website, where you can also find a collection of some  of the greatest shorts from the festival scene.

Of the other entries, I personally loved this fashion short - La Prochaine Fois by Duffy Higgins and John Jaxheimer. Manon des Sources meets Groundhog Day with some stunning camerawork and editing.

La Prochaine Fois (The Next Time) from A76 PRODUCTIONS on Vimeo.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

"We Can Get You Some Really Cheap Gear" FILMSshort Finalist

There's only one international competitive event that really matters this summer - so on behalf of Team GB I'm proud to announce that "We Can Get You Some Really Cheap Gear" is a finalist in the FILMSshort Summer Competition 2012. You can see all eight finalists on the FILMSshort facebook page.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Sunshine On A Rainy Day [Olympic Opening Ceremony]

Danny Boyle is about to premiere his latest production – not a movie but a stage show, the opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics.
Is Boyle, or any movie director, the right person to direct this type of show? The answer is: if anyone is. Making a feature film requires collaboration between hundreds, or thousands, of different artists and professionals, while still retaining a clear artistic direction. I think that almost by definition the director has to be an egotist and a control freak, otherwise the artistic direction won’t survive and you end up with something designed by committee which we all know is a bad thing. Filmmaking also needs understanding of how a complex narrative can be told, without words, through a short montage or a single moving image (moving in both senses). So for making the ceremony clear and meaningful, and for keeping the team together, a movie director is probably a good choice.
Boyle in particular? Absolutely. Danny Boyle has made movies on a shoestring, so should know how to make the best use of a limited budget. His movies are full of striking visuals: the opening shots of post-apocalyptic London in 28 Days Later, the space environments of Sunshine or the vibrant scenes of Indian life in Slumdog Millionaire. You could also argue that, unlike a few other present-day directors, his mastery of the visual spectacle doesn’t compensate for a lack of emotion or meaning.
Along with many in this country, and a certain high-profile visitor from the US, I have at times been cynical about the Olympics. We have had a few amusing failures – G4S has still failed to supply a single promised ED-209 enforcement droid so we are now recruiting seven year olds with Nerf guns for crowd control duties, and it’s fair to say we haven’t had such aggressive branding since the 1936 games.
However as the opening ceremony approaches I find myself in a more optimistic position. Stratford has been seriously smartened up and the expanded platforms and rail links are all in place. We’ve got a cable car! We’ve built all of our sports venues on time, only slightly over-budget, and for the most part they look pretty good. Tickets are selling out in seconds and the Torch relay really has brought people on to the streets.
Also, the 100m and 200m are probably wrapped up, but in other sports we actually have some decent contestants in the running, amongst them a Tour de France winner, a Wimbledon finalist, and a world class football team (yes, obviously I do mean the ladies’ team).
Whatever form the Opening Ceremony takes tonight, I’m sure it will be quirky, eccentric and personal, will not feature CGI-enhanced fireworks or dubbed performances, and will be fun to watch. So, in the words of another great American statesman, it’s time to let the sun in and shine on us, because today we’re happy and tomorrow we’ll be happier.

Monday, 16 July 2012

"We Can Get You Some Really Cheap Gear" Screening: Portobello Pop-Up Cinema

Possibly the trendiest screening yet of "We Can Get You Some Really Cheap Gear" will be at Portobello Pop-Up Cinema on Friday 20th July. As part of the London Lo-Fi season, the evening's entertainment includes a selection of Kino London shorts followed by the 1950 classic "Night And The City."

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Grassy Knoll

Produced in Blender 2.63

Work in progress: Grassy Knoll

 Hair-particle system applied to plain
Grass texture with colour ramp, basic sun-and-sky lighting
 A second hair-particle system for long grass
 A third hair-particle system for daisies

Produced in Blender 2.63
based on WireHeadKing's grass tutorial