News and Updates:
or ...Welcome to my Blog!
April 11, 2005
I was pretty bummed to see the sad state of the KentWilliams.com site, so I dug around a little, and found a few more sites offering a much better selection of his work. SpearedPeanut.com/Kent Williams seems to have replaced KentWilliams.com as his more up-to-date site, with more recent updates and more images. Lambiek.net has a couple of his gn images, specifically from Havok & Wolverine: Meltdown and Destiny: a Chronicle of Deaths Foretold. But my best find was the Merry Karnowski Gallery, which has a page devoted entirely to Williams, and another one devoted to a show in collaboration with Justin Wood.
These are a couple of paintings from the Merry Karnowski Gallery page.
Added comments form and counter. Now I can start to see if I'm just sending all my thoughts out into the abyss or if maybe someone is actually stopping in now and then and reading!
Mike- Just checked out your blog...I think the speared peanut site is
Kent's old one. He just didn't take it down. Its a shame that he
doesn't update more often but occasionally you'll find stuff from
time to time.
Have you seen this site?
He's a friend of Kent Williams(they went to school together) and
also does graphinc novels/gallery paintings, etc.
Unfortunately he doesn't update his site much either.
Mike Brent, You are the coolest, most bestest fellow ever. How you get these things done so quickly and well, I'll never know. All your blog entries are interesting, honest, brilliant, and deeply thoughtful. The way you consider the intellectual aspects and dimensions as well as the aesthetic in your work lets me know you are a future force in stop motion animation to be reckoned with.
Aw shucks.... thanks Shel. Yer makin' me blush here.
April 10, 2005
New Kent Williams book!!!
Click on either image above to be taken to the Cafepress site, which is handling web sales for this gem! Williams is one of our finest expressionists, whose awe-inspiring work I first discovered in the glossy pages of Epic Illustrated in the 80's, and his sheer power absolutely blew me away at a time when I wanted to draw graphic novels, but was outgrowing my childhood love of comic books. It was artists like Williams, Dave McKean, and Phil Hale, all of whom I first discovered in that same delectable publication, that led me from Spidey and the X-Men to true expresionist art. Through Williams I developed a keen interest in Egon Schiele (his strongest inspiration).
It's been a while since I've checked KentWilliams.com, because the images rarely change (in fact there doesn't seem to be much there now), but I decided to pop on over last night and lo and behold, a new book! That's an event folks. His work is difficult to collect... he does illos for Playboy quite regularly and every so often a new book comes out, but they're few and far between. Aside from that, his work will show up unexpectedly in obscure graphic novels, and there's no way to find out which ones unless you happen to stumble across the info somewhere.
I guess what I dig the most is that he got his start in Marvel publications (though he was never a superhero-type artist) and made the transition to a highly successful artist with gallery showings and installations. It's a hard thing in this media-saturated world to avoid the glossy mind-candy and create something powerful and real, but he's shown that it can be done, and by someone who has the same geeky comic-book roots as the rest of us! He's done some of the coolest Wolverine GNs ever! But IMO his crowning achievement (thus far) is the dark fantasy collaboration with Karl Edward Wagner Tell Me, Dark. This was nearly as life-changing for me as Street of Crocodiles.
Also new out by KWms is Forma Femina, a limited edition postcard set featuring drawings and pantings of the female form. I couldn't find any mention of it at his own site (??!) but it's available through Bud Plant Comic Art and Allen Spiegel Fine Arts.
Please add comments?
Done! Good idea.
I looked at your blog, noticed that you like Kent Williams work and thought I'd pass this along incase you haven't seen it: www.comicbookresources.com
I've heard mention of The Fountain, but haven't seen anything about it till now. Looks exciting! Man, I'm still waiting for a nice catalog of his paintings, other than the Works Exhibition Catalog.
April 9, 2005
Yes my friends, that's what we do, us creative types. Alchemy. The combining of materials in the right proportions with catalyzers and colorants, subjected to certain processes within the crucible of matter. And if our meddlings are fruitful, what emerges are homunculii; twisted little simulacrum of life endowed with pale pseudo-souls wrought from the stuff of our own life-force. I was possessed by this thought today as I stirred a dixie cup full of resin with a paintbrush handle to fill a puppet head mold. Lately the catacombs of my mind echo with the idea that seems to haunt me, appearing in every darkened recess I peer into (metaphorically speaking)... this concept of matter itself being endowed with existence, or actually composed of energy. Somehow it lends a certain elegance to the arcane art of puppetry, and its modern counterpart stopmotion. Why is it then that this already marginalized artform is- 99% of the time- percieved as nothing more than a silly vehicle for children's entertainment, which must be drained of all power- eviscerated to a mere caricature of its potential?
I suppose it's mostly due to the sterile nature of mainstream media. Not much gets through intact in that barren landscape... which is why I see such exciting portent in the looming (or already present) excursion of stopmotion into the new media. Webvision is the underground movement that will supplant television and give the lifeless entertainment media
a shot of adrenaline. It is through these electronic portals... this pixellated looking-glass into which you are peering even now, and streaming along numberless kilometers of dry-rotted 50 year old wire strung between splintered and canted poles that the revolution is taking place.
Struck by the ferocious intensity of the Bruno Schulz writings, I further persued the origins of the genesis of those mad anarchic alchemists, the Brothers Quay, which led me to this intriguing article on the Senses of Cinema site. I also sought out the writings of Robert Walser, another of their inspirations in the Eastern European literary scene, and one of the seminal modernist authors. I wasn't able to locate a trove of his translated work, as I was fortunate enough to excavate for Schulz, but I did unearth this review and have ordered his book Masquerade and Other Stories. It's important, if you want to break the shackles of mediocrity, to keep your mind stimulated with strange and revelatory experiences. Read some of this stuff, and the scenes you shoot that night will be very different than if you had sat all day watching the Insipid Sitcom Network. You see, your skull is itself a crucible; for your creative process, and what goes in affects what comes out. As the saying goes... garbage in, garbage out.
Here's a little quote grabbed from the Walser review that particularly struck my fancy:
"I feel how little it concerns me," he observes in Jakob von Gunten, "everything that's called 'the world,' and how grand and exciting what I privately call the world is to me."
This resonates with my own affection for what I call "personal landscapes"... little cubbyholes or private stages nestled in some hidden alcove of the greater world for your own enjoyment. I suppose they're like echoes of the snowball-forts and pillow-tunnels we constructed as children. For me there's nothing quite as bracing as a new-fallen snow that drapes the world with a crisp coverlet and seems to draw in the rim of the little bowl that your personal world becomes on those occasions when the black sky is filled with the smell of distant water and the stars themselves seem to huddle closer.
April 8, 2005
I was re-reading an excellent interview with the Brothers Quay called Through a Glass Darkly, and ran across this very enlightening quote. The first paragraph is the interviewer:
"I was wondering if you consider your films to be self-sufficient. All of your films, it seems, complement each other. We could even see Institute Benjamenta as a 'Quay illustrated guidebook'. You have anamorphic painting, scissors, and even images taken directly from The Comb and Stille Nacht (1992).
Quays: The reason for this is that, immediately after Street of Crocodiles, we wrote the script for Institute Benjamenta. We then waited almost 8 years to film it. And in between time, we kept making little sketches, like the Stille Nacht series, as scenes that could potentially be in Benjamenta. The Comb was entirely devoted to some initial ideas about how we wanted to deal with Lisa Benjamenta and puppets, thinking that we might combine them. In the end we rejected that idea. It at least gave us a chance to sketch it out. We knew about anamorphosis beforehand, before doing the documentary, it simply made things click. In a way, we're sketching out all the time."
I really love that idea... stopmo sketches! It answers a need I have right at this point... see, I'm not quite ready to launch into full production on my big movie yet... I want to get some more practice at animating and try out some of the ideas and effects etc. And sketches would offer the perfect venue for it. Something more involved than the simple tests I was doing before, but still without the sheer pressure involved in actually starting out on my first big film. And I just can't bring myself to work on anything else while this movie is dominating my every thought... the specter of Ahab looms ominously over me, and when I stray from the plotted course, he grows very angry....
I'm lovin' the idea of giving this film as much time as it demands. As I once heard someone say about getting a first record deal in the music biz... you have your whole life to come up with the first album, and after that you have to crank them out every six months. I think the first one is the most important step... it sets the tone for everything to follow. I like to hold up the example of a guy named Nick, who took 8 years to finish his first film. Maybe you've even heard of it... it kicked off the worldwide sensation of an eccentric cheese-loving inventor and his dog. Yeah... I sometimes wonder what the world would be like today if he had decided to rush through it and have something done in a year. We probably would have never heard of him.
Bruno Schulz- self portraits
Also ran across this site: Schulzian.net, the translated works of Bruno Schulz, a polish author whose writings inspired some of the Quays' films (like Street of Crocodiles). I intend to spend a little time looking it over soon.
HOLD THE PRESSES!!!
Took a quick look at the Schulz site, turned right to A Treatise on Mannequins (of course... where else?) and this is the first paragraph that should happen to pummel my trembling eye:
"DEMIURGOS, said my father, did not possess a monopoly on creation; creation is the privilege of all souls. Matter is prone to infinite fecundity, an inexhaustibly vital power and, at the same time, the beguiling strength of the temptation which entices us to fashioning. In the depth of matter indistict smiles are shaped and tensions are constrained, congealing attempts at figurations. All matter ripples out from infinite possibility, which passes through it in sickly shudders. Awaiting the invigorating breath of the soul, it overflows endlessly into itself, entices us with a thousand sweet encirclements and a softness which it dreams up out of itself in its blind reveries."
Whoah... did this guy read him some David Peat, or what??!! This stuff falls right into step with my entry from a few days ago about Quantum Physics. I really need to delve into this stuff deeper now... like for instance, when did Schulz write? Was he familiar with Quantum Physics? Guess he must've been. Heh... my mind is still spinning....
Ran into some more trouble with iMovie last night. I'm starting to wonder if this version isn't buggy. Need to do a google search and see if other people have any complaints similar to mine (or maybe I'm going buggy).
April 6, 2005
Why I Hate Ken Burns
Spent a good deal of last night trying to piece together a rough title sequence of sorts, just to get the ideas flowing and create an early template that will then be refined over time. Right off the bat I ran into problems with iMovie 4.0.1 with importing still clips. And this is a big issue for me, because I'm a fan of montage. Every time I got an image imported it automatically blew it up to twice it's normal size, making it all blocky, and then it slowly zooms out on it. And I couldn't find a way to shut it off!! I used a lot of still images in Pumpkin Patch, using an earlier version, and didn't have any problems... they go in just the way they're supposed to and remain rock steady. Sometimes new version 'improvements' can be a real headache!
So I decided to try getting images directly from iPhoto instead, something I've never used before. One of the truly beautiful things about the Mac platform is the seamless integration in the iLife apps.... when you need a piece of music or sound effect, just open the iMovie Audio pane and you can instantly access your entire iTunes library... no hassles with having to switch formats or import. So, after a little introductory exploration, I figured out how to doctor up my images in Photoshop (to put borders around them) and get them into iPhoto. Sweet... from there it was a simple matter to access them.
BUT, the problems weren't over yet!
There's a little box at the top of the Still Images pane that you can check for the "Ken Burns" effect. It makes the pictures slowly slide across the screen or zoom in or out. It's something Kenny does to add zip to his documentaries when there's nothing but a still image onscreen, and it's a nice effect... assuming you have a big enough image to start with. Mine were all pirated off the web, and most aren't even 640x480, hence the need to add thick borders in the first place, to minimize blockiness. So I unchecked the box (it's pre-checked by default) and fiddled with the sliders so the pictures display at the size I want them to. So much freakin' work, just to try to make them look the way they already looked! And guess what... now they jiggle! I got disgusted with it and tried importing them in Quicktime Pro instead, and it seems to still jiggle. Geez... what's the deal??!! Do I need to get a whole new movie editor just to do a little montage?
Anyway, after a while I decided I can live with a little jiggle. I'd rather have it be at my own discretion, but I guess it's sort of like in real movies (you know, how they used to have to use film and stuff?) the still images often jiggle slightly. And it sort of works because the images are of ships. After I added some scratches and uneven exposure and whatnot, it all looks pretty good, although I crashed my computer by having too many apps open at once and lost most of that work. It's cool though... valuable lesson learned, and it was just a learning experience. I did save the original sequence before adding the artifacts, and that's the best part anyway. You have to be careful with those Stupendous Software plugins... some of them are great, but some (like the uneven exposure or dark corners) show some hard aliasing where it should be a smooth gradation. I just got the After Effects Classroom in a Book, so maybe I can finally figure out how to use AE to do these effects. I imagine it's a world of difference.
I don't really hate Mr Burns.... actually Jazz was an awe inspiring doco, the only one of his I've seen. But dammit, why did Apple have to become a Burn victim??!! There should be a simple way to switch that effect off and lock the images in rock steady, the way it used to be automatically!
I decided to combine the production log and blog together on this page. There's no way I'm gonna write up some involved essay on days when I get some work done. So the On the Table page is now just for clips from my project... this is where I'll do all my writing.
April 4, 2005
Added a whole passel o' links over in the left hand margin.
April 2, 2005
April is here.... we can now see Illume at Anarchy:
I joined and voted for it... it just takes a few minutes. Let's push this film right over the top for Jason... and for stopmotion!
March 31, 2005
The Quantum Physics/Stopmotion connection
I'm going to get a little weird on you today. Well ok, actually a lot weird. Anyone who's been a long time reader at SMA knows that I sometimes go off on these bizarre philosophical tangents or delve deep into the psychological dark country. Now I don't claim to be smart enough to actually call myself an intellectual, but I am interested in intellectual subjects... I find it stirs my thinking and can lead me to new creative levels in a way that ordinary workplace conversation just can't. I offer the following in this spirit of creative exploration and mind expansion (this is better than drugs, and it's completely legal!). ...And yes, I'm actually going to tie this in with stopmotion believe it or not.
Allow me to introduce F David Peat, a very unique and immensely interesting thinker after my own heart. It's hard to explain exactly what he does... I suppose the best way is to say he is at the cutting edge of those modern scientists searching for a Unified Theory of Everything in the wake of Einstein. He draws together Quantum Physics, Art, Native American Religion, Psychology, Spirituality and who knows what all else into his eclectic mix. There's no quick and easy way to express the full complexity of his concepts... it took me a few days of avidly absorbing the essays posted at his site to really 'get it'. He tends to repeat the same anecdotes in the essays, often in different words, which helps to keep it all in mind and hammer it home after a while. I'll present a few excerpts here from one of my favorite essays, called Creativity: The Meeting of Apollo and Dionysus (the grammatical errors result because these are transcripts of his lectures and haven't been corrected):
"The physicist David Bohm pictured the electron, as well as other elementary particles, not as a object but as a process, an action that is constantly collapsing inwards from the entire universe and then scattering outward again. Or as an unfolding out of a ground of ceaseless movement -the implicate order - and then enfolding again. For Bohm matter is in a constant state of coming into manifestation and then unmanifesting. Matter of its very essence is therefore creative. Creativity is inherent in each star and in each particle of dust. Creativity is the essence of our physical bodies. My own vision is of each piece of matter as an inexhaustible inscape, an inner song of authenticity, an endless process of renewal."
"Pauli, from the perspective of physics, and Jung from that of depth psychology were both approaching the "psychoid", that deep level where the unconscious merges into matter. The psychoid is variously described as "neither matter or mind, and both". Or by the metaphor of the speculum that reflects one world into an other while, at the same time, transcending them. In one way of looking the psychoid is material and it is also mental. In another it transcends these categories which, after all, are only the distinctions created by thought."
"It is a world in which matter is constantly coming into being and fading away. This subatomic level is one of pure creativity. Thus must also the nature of the psychoid which lies beyond the distinctions of matter and spirit. Creativity is to be found at the level of this psychoid. It bubbles up into the manifest world where it expresses itself mentally and physically. In this sense creativity is a synchronistic since its origins lie in the deep ground beyond matter and mind. Its metaphor is that of the artist who requires both the mental image or intention, and the material substrate. These are then brought together in the creative act which leaves both matter and consciousness transformed and renewed."
Hey there... me again, with a bit of commentary.
I included all of the above as a way of setting the stage for what's to come. This is going to be the longest entry yet on this page, but I feel I can't get these ideas across without giving them the space they require.
"The middle ages saw the human body as a microcosm of the macrocosm - "as above so below". This was also the conviction of David Bohm who felt that because his body contained the same matter out of which the universe is created, then within him could also be found the deepest understanding of the nature of matter, its order and laws. Something very similar was said by the Philosopher Bergson who argued that reality is ultimately unknowable through the mind yet, since this same reality is the stuff of our bodies, it can be known within the body."
"In Bohm's case, he was aware of certain interior sensations, muscular dispositions, and acts of proprioception. On one occasion when thinking about physics he had a particular sensation. This was joined by a second sensation. Then the two combined to produce something quite different. This was directly related to a mathematical result about quantum theory, one that turns out to be very counter-intuitive.
Einstein told Bohm that he too "thought" by means of subtle muscular tensions. His work on non-linear field equations of space-time was helped by the movements he sensed within his arm as he squeeze a rubber ball.
What is curious in Bohm's case is that mathematical results came to him out of the body- without the various logical and deductive steps needed to derive a result. Conscious work was something that came later - having to sit down and work out a proof for what had unfolded out of his body in a very different way.
What we take as the experience of mind and consciousness is only a small part of something much larger that is distributed within the entire body. It takes place at the muscular, visceral, biochemical levels. It is at this material level that much of our natural creativity is to be found."
Hmmm... interesting stuff.
Thinking through the muscular movement of the body itself... this is something a stop motion animator does instinctively I believe.
"When art brings us to a dark internal space it exercises a healing function. The idea of the artist or musician as a shamanic figure is an ancient one. Orpheus tamed the wild beasts with his music. Within many Indigenous cultures songs have healing properties. Indeed, songs are considered to be living beings in their own right. What is important is not so much the act of the healer who sings, as the song that sings itself, that makes itself manifest through the medium of the singer's body. In doing so, the song heals the sickness within person."
A song that sings itself through a singer...
Motion that dreams itself into being through a jointed rubber dinosaur in the hands of Ray Harryhausen...
Certain animators, case in point Uncle Ray or Willis O'Brien- just seem to have "the touch"... a way of moving things that speaks deeply to the unconscious and compells our attention powerfully. As Michelangelo brought out what was inside the stone so it could be seen, these animators bring forth some kind of universal movement that we can seem to feel deep inside our bodies. Quick show of hands... how many of you used to walk around with your arms cocked back and your head thrust forward, shifting your body from side to side and roaring like the Ymir? Come on now, don't lie. Many stopmotion professionals freely admit they did this very thing. Or if they didn't they wanted to.
"The act of painting for Cezanne was pure physicality, the realization of sensations within his body. Towards the end of his life Cezanne felt that all he had were his "little sensations". But they took him into a world that lies beyond conscious thought and emotion.
I have struggled for a long time with Cezanne, more than with any other painter. I spent a long time in front of his paintings. I can't say that I like or dislike them. That simply does not come into it. It is more that he engages me in a way that goes beyond analysis or reason. And so I would read what art critics say about Cezanne and then go back to look at a painting. Yes, I could see the way he created a new perspective out of color. Yes, I could see how he analyzed the picture into a variety of planes. Yes, I could go on and on with this. Yet, in the end, none of that seemed to be to the point. Then, earlier this year, the big Cezanne exhibition opened at the Tate gallery in London and I visited day after day, each time seeing something new. Finally, one day, I stood in front of a particular painting and asked myself "what is really going on"?
Finally an answer came. I had always been aware of sensations within my body when I looked at Cezanne - inner movements, tensions, sensations of orientation and so on. Now I paid more attention to these inner sensations and the way they seemed to be orchestrated. It wasn't about looking any more but about feelings and experiencing. I was hit with an intuition, a firm conviction, that these were the sensations Cezanne himself had experienced as he sat before the same motif."
"This recalls a letter I had from the English painter, David Andrew. He felt that nature "looked him", that is, looks at itself through him so that "art is nature in action." The art of painting for him was an act of dreaming where, in a series of paintings, forms emerge, shift, transform and crystalize. The environment "knows" him and paints itself though him. and here I should add this is work is not purely representational since he is not so much responding to external object but to, I quote, "the vibration of related bodily sensations"."
Nature dreaming itself through the eyes of an artist... god, I Love this stuff! There have been a select few stopmotionists that I believe qualify as this kind of shamanistic medium.... O'Bie and Ray, as already mentioned, Trnka and Bretislav Pojar, Jim Danforth, Starewitch, and at this point I begin to run out of candidates, though I'm sure there are more.
Svankmajer falls into a closely related but different category.... he actually brings forth the hidden life of inanimate matter. As some people believe there is such a thing as vegetable consciousness, a sort of dim slumbering semi-cognizance similar to a comatose state, Svankmajer and the surrealists believe objects also have a sort of mentality. Not sure just where I'm going with all this, except that it makes me feel that animation is more than just 'playing with dolls'... it gets at the deepest motive powers in the universe and in the human subconscious. Or so I believe anyway.
Take it for whatever it's worth.
March 30, 2005
The Parade's Coming Back Around....
Over the past couple of years I've developed a keen interest in silent films. I must admit that, until recently I was one of those luddites who would just flip past them on late night TV or maybe stop and chuckle at their lameness, though occasionally even then I noticed some spectacular cinematography mixed into the overwrought melodramatics. But since I've started studying filmmaking I've developed an appreciation for black and white photography (and tinted film stock, which was quite common in silent films, though today they're generally presented in B&W).
Kevin Brownlow has written a number of excellent books about silent films, among them one called The Parade's Gone By, featuring interviews with many of the directors and actors from those bygone days (which weren't really as long ago as they seem). In today's hollywood, movies are mega-multi million dollar affairs with incredibly complex special effects and armies of stunt people and computer-controlled Dolby Surround sound mixes... but in the early days of cinema things were much simpler and more direct. They were exciting times, with new discoveries and advances being made all the time (most of them by a fellow named David Wark Griffith... you might know him as D W).
Yes, a lot of movies from that period are ridiculous (the same can be said today) with make up seemingly applied with a trowel and awkward overdone pantomime that was a holdover from theater, where subtle nuances didn't carry all the way to the rafter seats. It took a while before filmmakers started understanding how to exploit their new medium.
But when they did, they created some sublime entertainment. Many cinemaphiles feel that 'talkies' destroyed a developing artform just as it was really coming into its own. The silents spoke the universal language... since there was no dialogue ideas had to be conveyed through pantomime (which could be done subtlely in the hands of the right actors and directors) and cinematography. Title cards were kept to a minimum as the visual storytelling got better, culminating in some of the finest films ever made; F W Murnau's Sunrise and The Last Laugh.
Early Technicolor and sound were experimented with in what are still considered silent films... but it wasn't until The Jazz Singer that sound became an integral element, and it changed everything. The formerly lightweight and highly maneuverable cameras now had to be shut away inside soundproof boxes and actors had to stand as close as possible to microphones that were clumsily hidden in flower pots. The result was the "talking head" movies that dominated cinema for many years afterwards.
With the passing of the silent age the great magicians of movement and timing were obsolete... Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd... all displaced into minor roles in films dominated by endless prattle and now treated as foolish holdovers from an earlier era. For my money, animation has a lot in common with those great silent films. Movement and pantomime are at a premium, visual artistry and cinematography become more important than chit chat. And in Europe, where close-packed countries all have different languages, International animation festivals feature what are essentially silent films that can be understood by anyone regardless of nationality. I've always felt that in animation there's an especially close bond between image, motion and music or sound.
The reason I call this entry The Parade's Coming Back Around is that, as some of you know, I'm planning to make my Ahab movie, and several other ones in various stages of pre-planning, as silent films. I've just posted a clip at the top of my On the Table page that shows what it might look like. I haven't decided yet whether it will be completely silent with title cards, or a hybrid with some narration and some title cards. I'm also not entirely sure if I want sound effects... there might be some added over the music. Or, I might just have one section be silent, but I'm leaning mainly toward full silent or hybrid. Interestingly (and significantly) many of the problems that plague today's desktop stopmotionists (term ™ and © Lionel Ivan Orozco) using digital cameras are the same problems faced by early silent film pioneers... flickering light levels, jerky motion, fluctuating speed. So in a sense, doing a stopmotion film as a tribute to the silent era can help disguise (or more properly 'utilize') the problems and turn them into charming effects. Hey, I'm all for that!
March 29, 2005
Shelley Noble sent me this inspiring picture in the mail today, and I like it so much I had to post it here. Please forgive the poor quality... it's a printout of a very old image clipped from a magazine and kept pinned on a wall for many years.
Shelley says this image provided her with a whole new outlook on life and creativity. What it says is there are no mistakes... all the wrong turns and false starts we make are just part of the growing process and not to be considered failures. I know this idea makes me feel better about my labyrinthine progress on the Ahab movie! ; )
March 28, 2005
Lots of little changes, all adding up to make the site more pleasing to the eye. I started adding grey lines on some pages to divide up sections, and put a little "phi" at the bottom of (most of) them. It's just a little symbol to create a sense of closure at the end of the page... think of it as the graphic equivalent of a period. The Masters page is fighting it though... I can't get it centered right for some reason. Confound this HTML code sometimes, darn it all! I also decided to subtitle this my Blog page, and the On the Table page is now my Plog. There's an explanation on that page of just what I mean by Plog (there are several "accepted" meanings).
The most noticeable change is that I photoshopped my background image of Ahab's close-up. It was awfully hard to make out this pale yellowish lettering, especially against the lightest parts of the image, so I darkened it and lowered the contrast. I also made it a bit less greenish. It's hard to believe I actually took this shot with the trusty little Unibrain!
But the most exciting changes aren't to the site...
I've decided to center my attention once again on the Ahab film project. After helping to create StopMoShorts, we all felt like we should contribute to the first few rounds to kick things off. But I was plagued by the feeling that I should be working on my real project. I'm deeply invested in that old captain and his ship, and have so many great ideas, and since deciding to blow the dust off him and let him get his sea legs (um... leg) under him again, I feel like I'm back on track. And the best news is, I finally seem to have worked out an actual storyline for it! Of course, I've thought that before....
March 27, 2005
Pixar takes up the Disney torch
Well, I finally saw The Incredibles yesterday. I could tell from the trailers this was going to be great, but little did I know.... at this moment, I feel like it's the best movie that's been made in the last 10 years. And I'm not just talking about animation; I mean the best movie, period.
I've been known to be a very tough critic, especially on CGI. It's not that I dislike the medium, not at all. In fact, I want to see it done well. Unfortunately it only happens rarely, and when CGI is bad, it can be very, very bad!
I now feel that the first CG masterpiece has arrived. Pixar is at the forefront of animation studios in the world today... to me they're doing exactly what Disney was doing in the 30's and 40's when they were producing the finest animation the world had ever seen, and now that I've seen the bonus features on the DVD, I understand why. I recently read Disney's The Illusion of Life, an account of those heady days written by some of the animators who experienced it, and I'm just bowled away by what a perfect creative environment the Disney studio was, with Walt nurturing the artists and encouraging them to grow and learn and develop to their highest potential. What a rare individual Walt was... the head of a businessman with the heart of an artist, and he was able to maintain the perfect balance between the two. And now that his empire has descended into chaos and seems to be cranking out garbage for mass consumption, the torch has been passed to Pixar. I don't know a lot about the company, basically only what I've seen on various behind-the-scenes featurettes on their DVDs, but I sense the same nurturing and stimulating environment where the emphasis is on creating the best animation that's humanly possible, and unlike most CGI studios, there's an understanding that the most important element of any film is the underlying story.
Also, Pixar wisely creates stylized, cartoonish forms that are fully "animatable"... they can be squashed and stretched, and actually exploit the nature of CGI rather than attempting to exactly reproduce reality in extreme detail.
*I changed my Darkbio a bit and added a section to the Index page for some of my friends.
Hey, y'know what.... I just realized. I'm bloggin' here, aint I? Is that what this is?
March 23, 2005
Geez, has it really only been a day since I last updated? I'm on some kind of roll here or supm'. ; )
Ok, well I got the links set up the way I wanted... now it's not nearly so intimidating to add new pages or change things around a bit. Remember the old 1st page, the one that just said Darkstrider.net.... explorations in the art of stopmotion animation, and then you had to click ENTER to see anything? As fun as that seemed in the beginning, I came to realize people don't like that stuff. It's now my bio page, accessed by clicking on the Darkstrider.net link up in the left hand corner of every page. It's not a very informative bio really, but it gets the job done.
I added some QT thumbnails on the Masters page alongside each of the directors sections (the ones I have clips for anyway... I need to post some Quays and Svankmajer clips one of these days). Nothing new, they're the same ones on the Video Clips page, just another way to access them, and some more color added to my site. It's the beginning of the big renovation.... I'm thinking I can do it this way rather than make separate pages for each of them. I'll also be adding image links to all the DVDs featuring their work. Exciting, huh?
I've also got something in mind for a header on each page. The top edge needs a bit of dressing up in the pictorial way. I'll try to whip something up in Photoshop and pop it in one of these days.
March 22, 2005
My friend and fellow StopMoShorts co-founder, NY animator Jason Gottlieb has completed his 5 1/2 minute graduation thesis film Illume, and it's fantastic! He's got a synopsis and production log posted on his thesis page. It's going to be featured in Slamdance's online film competition Anarchy in April. Be sure to check it out and give it a vote to support stopmotion in the digital age.
Finally got around to creating a LINKS section, in the left margin space of this page. I've been meaning to do this since the very beginning. Little by little, this is looking like a real website! Also, I'm going to experiment with changing my intra-site links (the ones that go to various pages within this site). If I can make it work the way I hope to, I can put up the ABOUT ME page I've always wanted to and change the name of the OBSCURITIES page to the more appropriate THE MASTERS. I still want to do some really extensive changes, and re-organize all my material so the major Eastern European masters each get their own page, with all his/her clips located there along with direct links to the DVDs at Amazon Japan or wherever they're available. But this is going to take me a while.
March 20, 2005
Well, happily the message board problems at SMA.com only lasted about a week, and we're up and running again! Whew!
I was really bothered by some "jaggies" that show up along some of the high contrast areas in my Pumpkin Patch film. Here's an example, blown up a bit:
This doesn't happen everywhere, only where there's a bright color against a dark background area. I asked about it at Anthony's board (my home away from home) and got some good answers. It seems I was capturing my images as PICT files, which is the default on a Mac, and also in Framethief. You need to open the Framethief perfs and switch to uncompressed TIFFs. I did this, and also set frame averaging up to 15 rather than the 5 I originally had it on. This resulted in a much better image, but I still noticed a bit of jagginess, mainly only along brightly colored edges, especially red and orange.
This is where things get interesting.....
I busted out the ol' captain, and what do you know... it just so happens he doesn't have any bright cartoony colors anywhere on him! In fact, there are none anywhere in the entire movie, if it works out the way I planned it. How fortunate is that??! It's as if somebody is trying to tell me something.... every time I work on the Ahab project things fall into place and work beautifully, and when I'm working on something else, well, you know. Fugeddaboudit.
This image is actually blown up to twice its normal size, to more clearly show exactly what's happening along those edges. The aliasing (jagginess) is almost undetectable, and at normal size you don't notice it at all. There's a bit of reddish bleedover along those edges, but it doesn't bother me at all... heh, it kinda looks cool.
Feb 16, 2005
Sad news... the message board at StopmotionAnimation.com has been down for a few days. According to Anthony's news page, it happened during a routine maintenance check. I've heard a nasty rumor that there's a virus wiping out DC Forum type message boards. I hope it gets straightened out soon... what a horrible thing it would be if all that information is lost forever!
Meanwhile, I've been adding to the Tech page lately. First a section about my sound recording/foley system and then one about Manipulating color and light. Enjoy.
Jan 26, 2005
Did some updating on a few pages. Mainly on the Obscurities page, but also added some clips to the Video Clips page and one to the On The Table page. I'm trying out a new approach to using more of the space on my site by putting information (and in some cases even video clips) in the margin space along the left side. I don't know... it's looking a little crowded, so I might yet change it again. Added sections for Aurel Klimt and Vlasta Pospisilova, 2 of the most important new directors on the Czech puppetfilm scene to the Obscurities page.
Jan 7, 2005
I have a special treat.... I was given permission to host the Quicktime version of one of the most exciting stopmotion films going right now... Franck Dion's Phantom Inventory! Here's a link to the official site: http://franck.dion.free.fr/invent.htm
The reason he's letting me host this is because the clip on his site is difficult for some browsers to access; Macs in particular. So Dan Ross was kind enough to download it and convert it into a Quicktime file, at the same time reducing it to 18.3 MBs, and he then handed it off to me to upload to Darkstrider.net.
I am very proud to present this clip, an awesome example of the artistry that can be achieved through stop motion in conjunction with some computer rendered effects:
The Phantom Inventory
Many thanks also to David Joseph aka "YAGAN" for contacting Franck and securing me permission to post this!
Nov 3, 2004
I've decided to use this page for news and updates, as you might have noticed already. The big news right now is the launch of StopMoShorts.com, the new film festival site created by a few of us at Anthony Scott's message board to promote our arcane and all but forgotten artform in this age of computer overload. The idea was originally the brainchild of Kelly Mazurowski, who perhaps unfortunately was whisked away to LA to work behind the scenes on a stopmotion show out there, and has been unable to participate. But I'm sure he's out there somewhere checking in from time to time, and I hope we're making him proud. I know I'm extremely proud as well as a little shellshocked that we've actually pulled it off. Hard to believe the first round is already past, and we got 7 entries... which is more than we really expected. The really impressive thing is that every member of the StopMoShorts team managed to contribute a film, made especially for the event, in spite of their own workload.We also got entries from a couple of people who are newcomers on the board, or have never posted before.
The purpose of the festival is to provide momentum for people who otherwise might stagnate without ever finishing their projects (ahem). I actually got my first film under my belt... hard to believe it all happened so fast. It's true what they say... work really does expand to fit the time allowed, and if you don't have a deadline, your film will take forever! Give yourself a timeframe, when people are depending on you getting it done, and you'll be amazed what you can accomplish. My entry is called Terror in the Pumpkin Patch, available on the Gallery page of StopMoShorts or here's a bigger file:
I put up a page of Production Notes about the making of this little micro-epic. Enjoy.
I cleared away some of the older stuff from the On The Table page, the Cave Movie stuff and the embarrassing early tests. For now all the Hammertests are still up, but it's only a matter of time. When I've got something better, they're history! My focus has shifted now, thanks to the StopMoShorts festival, and the Ahab film (which I never did really get worked out scriptwise) is going into cold storage at least for the next year. Don't misunderstand, I still love the idea, and the imagery, but I'm planning to spend my time now making films for the festival. If I enter a film in each round, I'll have six done by the end of 2005, which is a pretty good batting average. And who knows, since I can't seem to work out a story, maybe the Cap'n and crew will show up in one of my festival films....
I got tired of looking at those ugly little thumbnails for all my video clips, so I made them bigger and uploaded new, much nicer images (for most of them anyway... give it a little time and I'll have them all revamped). Wow, the Video Clips page looks completely different! Now, I really REEEALLY need to make the load times shorter for all my pages!