Saturday, December 13, 2008

Music to my ears NOT

Maybe I am turning into a very old fogey, but does anyone else object to social conversation being made impossible by playing loud music? Bronnie and I got into a film-makers party at "Galatos", (well we are "emerging" film-makers!), and we had a great time meeting interesting people, but that blasting music meant that conversation was conducted by yelling at close quarters. We worked it out that we could escape outside into the street to talk and the street filled up with exiled smokers and talkers with it being a little annoying and a lot funny that the bouncers were obliged to deprive we street people of our drinks. It seems that smoking and intelligent conversation are now the twin evils of society requiring the perpetrators to be put outside. Nice party MIC but next time lose the music, we film-makers are not out-of-it nightclub bunnies requiring music to cover for an inability to communicate - we are actually the articulate ones.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Effects just got easier - DAZ Studio can output PNG

DAZ Studio ( - basic toolkit free) is the 3D posing and animation software I have been getting interested in recently. In earlier posts I have been writing about adding a bluescreen background in "DAZ Studio" then following that up in the video editor software with compositing. Today I looked for rendering movies to a sequence of .PNG files and I found it. And even better it did what I wanted which is to render no-background as transparent. This is good news because a sequence of .PNGs supporting transparency (alpha values) is going to composite better than any process where a colour needs to be changed to transparency. I don't know if this is new in version 2.2 or whether it was there before and I missed it.

Monday, July 7, 2008

3D Animation Example

Following up the previous entry with a "For Example" - this is from one of my students:
"Victoria at MIT" on Youtube
Ricky has animated Victoria in "DAZ Studio" with a plain "bluescreen" background. "Compositing" with photos and video done in "Ulead MediaStudio Pro 8".

Sunday, June 22, 2008

IAFILM heading for 3D Animation

There's an indie response to "Beowulf" in our future

We the current IAFILM film-makers have decided to adopt the "DAZ3D" 3D computer animation technology with its libraries of ready-made characters and concentrate for our new direction on how far we can push this. Over the last 3 years, we feel we have "cracked" low-budget high-definition greenscreen production with human actors only to hit the social and human problem of not being able to get enough actors interested in staying the course of low budget indie movies even short ones. Other indies are reporting the same experience - cruel when accessible technology finally enables our visions. BUT 3D is doing trickle-down to the likes of us. I had earlier said no to this partly because of what I perceived as the lonely isolated nature of the process. What we are finding now is that we have links to a pool of wonderful voice characterisation actors who we relate to well because many of them are 50+ years old like many of us. We are finding that the voice/sound production for these movies is great fun with most of the tedium and stress of human-actor-filming removed. Risk factors like fights and stunts involving enthusiastic non-professionals (and horses!) are also removed. Kinda radio plays with pix added. We can still get into some acting to give movement guides to the animators but we don't need elaborate setups and costuming. Acting sessions can be very free flowing and we can see rather than a loss of human acting dynamics and experience we may well find a freedom here to create in new ways.

DAZ Animation gives us lots of nice safety nets. An actor suddenly can not make it to filming? We can run with a stand-in and voice-record the missing actor later. Critical actor suddenly going overseas? Haul him/her in front of the mic with those others we can round up to feed lines and we can survive. Or replace much more easily with another actor. Our real people partners can do a Ray Winstone/Beowulf and play impossibly pretty-in-the-Hollywood-way humans and any kind of fantasy creature.

Who are DAZ3D? Refs:
DAZ Website:
The basic software toolkit "DAZ Studio" is a free download after registration.
It comes with a minimum set of "3D Models" = characters and clothes. You need to buy in extra "actors" and buy "morphs" for them to get a range of characters out of one model. Prices are reasonable, we can "cast" our next 10 minute movie for about US$100 which is well below what we would spend on such a project made by other means. This is not a rave review by any means - this looks to me very much like an emerging technology and at present we often need to tell ourselves to "keep it simple". DAZ Studio works well with bluescreen backgrounds processed later in the video editor and it does the basics of animation very easily - I especially like its "puppeteer" method. With some ingenuity of approach we seem to have here a kit for making the alternative no-budget indie response to "Beowulf".

Wikipedia article:

Friday, May 30, 2008

48 Hours

The big film-making activity for this month has been competing in the "48 Hours Furious Film-making Competition" in Auckland NZ.
We drew the genre of "Juvenile Delinquent".
We went the same way as last year doing stop motion animation with modelling clay.
One speed-up technique, we did most speech as close-ups by taking only 4 to 6 photos with various mouth positions then throwing those at our 2 x editors to arrange along the timeline opposite the sound. Gets those editors involved early doing "parallel processing".
Best move for this year was to recruit voice actors from a band I worked with to make video clips. This band, the "Frank E Evans Lunchtime Entertainment Band" plugged us into a folkie network of actors, comedians, and children's entertainers and they were great. Soundtrack was directed and recorded as a separate operation some 30km away by my co-director who sent it in by internet.
Generally all went well although we were wildly over-ambitious and we feel amazed that we threw together a result that does kinda reflect most of the story but with the rushed final editing showing. I got it across the finish line with 2 min to go.
"How EUROPE got its Name" is based on a story from ancient Greece. Our ancient city of Tyre 1000BC was mostly made out of file boxes. We printed out paper sheets of computer-file brick, wood and stone textures and glued those on the boxes.
We had some modelling clay characters from last year and earlier movies that we remodelled. We were character and set building till Sat 4:55pm when we fired the first of about 700 stop-motion shots.

Our last year's modelling clay entry, "Dancing with the Pollies", similar approach, is on youtube as a tidied up version:

Reviewer "Godfather" writes:
"How Europe Got Its Name" by MITCIT (Juvenile Delinquent)
These guys always come up with something from left field, and this was no exception.
Where do you find inspiration for a Juvenile Delinquent story? Why, Herodotus, of course! For a claymation musical about a fairly obscure moment in ancient Greek history, this got a huge audience response. B-

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Concert Video Lessons

The big project this month for many of us has been shooting and editing the 40th reunion party concert of the Frank E. Evans Band. We're mostly into doing indie drama so event video gives us some variety. Overall it worked out well. Notes and Lessons:
Best moves: (1) taking the time and trouble to set up some backlighting. (2) using a home-made camera steadying device for hand-held shooting (ref ). (3) using 4 cameras. (4) using a high definition Canon HV20 for the master wide shot and getting away with digital blow-ups of half of that image in post.
Main lesson: we had some shots with exposure problems - the classic case of spotlit entertainers against a dark background and cameras reading the background and over-exposing the highlights. Next time we need to give our newbie helpers more training and we need to find and use the "spotlight program" setting on the cameras.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Review Parachute Music Festival

I'm a secular kind of guy so it was my family who got me along to this Christian music festival. My opinions of what I saw:
This was a young band let loose for their half-hour in the "Debut" tent. They had supporters running around beforehand holding up advertising posters so I though "good on you" for that effort and braved the journey through the heat to take a look. This was high energy loud enthusiastic rock. I'm guessing here but maybe "Thrash Metal" is the common description in that culture. The madly leaping-about lead singer looked-like a testosterone-fuelled young Tom Cruise but he was upstaged by the even more energetic girl drummer breaking into a stereotypical male role, well done! I could make out very little of the lyrics but they seemed to belong to a comic horror movie and the whole act had a kind of cheeky parody flavour to it, something like "Spinal Tap". This with their enthusiastic sense of fun set "Twink" apart and above the mass of similar bands performing here. "Twink" had what looked like a large crowd of supporters moving, dancing and clapping on cue in front of the stage. This was confirmed by the MC at the end of the set who remarked on so many supporters coming from the small town of Warkworth (ie a long way!). Deep thought - "Split Enz" emerged from Te Awamutu so maybe there is something about NZ small towns and maybe "Twink" is the new "Split Enz"?

This is the house band for a megachurch in Sydney, Australia, and IMHO they did a steretypical performance in that style, lacking in distinctive or original touches. This is easy-listening pop reminding me of Barry Manilow. Out on the edge of a big crowd, I had a Monty Python moment like the sermon scene from "The Life of Brian" where the crowd fringes are struggling to hear what Brian is saying - "blessed are the cheesemakers?". Hillsong sounded to me like this:
Eat baked beans,
Eat baked beans,
For a larger brain,
For a larger brain,
You will mistake me for a shoe

Monday, January 21, 2008

More useful things with cellphones

Ancient as I am, I am making cellphone progress. Mine (see pic) is a "smartphone" which I picked up secondhand in an online auction. Motorola MPX220 which is an early example of running Microsoft Windows Compact Edition on a cellphone. It has room for improvement as a phone - I need to run outside to get a clear conversation where others around me can talk just fine on their cellphones. But as a text device and pocket computer it delivers some nice surprises.
I was talking about "Askar" the book with one of our test readers, when I thought of using the MPX220 as a voice recorder. This worked very well and gave me all the interview details that I could never have recorded just taking notes.
I also find that the program for web access, "Pocket Internet Explorer", can be pointed at HTML files on the plug-in memory card and do a remarkably good job of using the phone as an e-book reader - (see pic below - note "Askar as E-Book" is not available to the public yet). Last night, Bronwyn and I were away from home and we got into debating "Askar" paragraph wording, as one does. We were able to call up the paragraphs in question and decide that they did not need further editing.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Book Publishing and First Reviews

An interesting discussion "Tactless Reviewers" has started on Lulu. I thought author Sylvia Semel, writing about her experience with BEING A TWIN, made a good point about how a community of authors should handle initial peer reviews.
I have responded saying that the first few public reviews for the web page of a new self-published book need to be positive else readership and therefore discussion can be severely damaged. If the reviewer feels negative about the book then IMO a private message to the author is the best way to handle that. I know there is a controversy about authors and their friends stacking online review pages with patsy reviews. I suggest the best way for authors and publishers to handle this is to start the page off with reviews from test readers but with statements like this: "Publisher-posted review from John Doe, one of our test readers."

Friday, January 11, 2008

"Askar" gets publishing industry interest - EBook goes off-line

Our E-Book new media publishing experiment goes off-line until further notice because of conventional publishing possibilities opening up for "Askar". We are guessing that Traditional Publishers would not like an E-Book "on the loose" without heavy security locks so we are taking a wait and see approach.
The Physical Paperback book continues to be published and available at:

Monday, January 7, 2008

DIY Bookbinding update

We printed the first copies of the "Askar" book ourselves. The hardest part was diy bookbinding. Following advice found elsewhere on the Internet gave us books that held together OK, but were very flexible at the spine so that the spine artwork was quickly creased and worn by normal handling. But by experiment 15 we have a method that is meeting the challenge of our rather large 464 page epic.
IN BRIEF - Start with contact glue then cover that with cloth-based gaffer tape.
IN DETAIL - Conventional paperback binding is a complex hot glue critical temperature mass production process that is quite impossible to emulate for cottage industry one-offs. My answer is lateral thinking for the niche unpredictable small demand situation - I have after a lot of trials come up with a cloth-tape spine with contact glue. The result is very flexible rather than having the conventional gutter stiffness and some find it a better lie-flat reading experience. Most people who have inspected examples of both have preferred this version. The minority report was concern that the flexible spine would not last but examples have gone through our test reader program with no problems. Hey it's gaffer tape - my film-making influence shows!

We start by using a cotton bud to paint contact glue eg ADOS F2, PASCO on the spine edge of the block of paper including the covers which are separately cut front and back covers to match the paper size. Let that dry then paint another layer. Then cut a piece of gaffer tape and place that sticky side out in a jig (wooden frame) so that it will align with the book block when we stick it on the spine and wrap it about 10mm over the spine edge of the covers.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

CEV is the sensible copyright Bible

When writing my essay "Ideas and Themes Behind Askar", I needed to quote from "The Bible". Checking out the copyright notices on Bibles I found them surprisingly demanding. The Bible itself is more than 50 years old but publishers claim copyright on their translations. The worst example I saw was the "New International Version"(NIV) which allows even small amounts of quoting only on condition of a LARGE statement at the BEGINNING of any essay or article. IMHO NIV's statement infringes the critical review provision of the copyright law of most countries. This is part of a wider issue. It is quite OK and fair for publishers to say "ALL RIGHTS RESERVED". In my new role as a publisher I do that myself. But the wording that follows on many title pages seems to be an exercise in wishful (or paranoid) thinking that tries to invent diy copyright law that simply does not exist. Electronic versions seem to have more of this disease than printed books. My reaction to the NIV statement was to reject the NIV and search for a Bible with a sensible copyright statement compatible with the APA Referencing standard for quotes where we add brief pointers to a list of sources at the END of the article.

And the winner is .. (ta da!)

Congratulations to the American Bible Society for their Contemporary English Version(CEV).

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

ASKAR as an e-Book

After much discussion and research reading, we plan to publish Bronwyn's fantasy epic ASKAR as an e-Book priced at US$5.00. We are going for a "human relations" approach to copyright issues including writing our own copyright statement . We have decided that our e-Books will NOT have any digital restrictions like license keys. We believe that the most important format issue is to make it as user-friendly as possible for the customers. The package is a zip file containing 4 e-books, that is the content in 4 different file formats. 2 of these are print-friendly pdfs, one for US Letter paper and one for UK A4 paper. One is html format, we expect this will be the most user-friendly for screen reading on most devices. One is .prc format, this is the "MobiPocket" format for the "Amazon Kindle" e-Reader and other small devices like pocket computers.

EDIT (11 Jan 2008) - e-Book on hold - see post above