Remember when I learned Motion Capture Animation? Let's just I got an opportunity yesterday which I had to turn down. I had been really excited about it at first. My heart kind of broke. I guess that's all that would be appropriate to talk about here. Ask me some time.
ConFusion was a successful con for me. It spent all of the time in the game room, except for the room parties Saturday night, and giving a presentation Sunday.

The printer double-folded the pocket program brochure, instead of quad-folding it as I specified. They must have been looking at my instructions for the program book. A lot of people said they liked the book this year.

A publisher asked me to bring some of my game prototypes to look at during the con. It went well. I'll blog about that next.

I playtested most of my Penguicon expansion for Dominion. (Man of a Thousand Names, Chuck, Jer; ConSuite, Joe, Sal; Tracy; Aegis, Steve; Matt. Then I ran out of printer ink.) It was popular. I need to make some changes, but I'm very pleased.

The game room closed at 10PM Friday night, because they lacked someone willing to guard the game library past that time. That meant the entire spacious Mediterranean room stood empty and locked, while gamers played in the lobby and Consuite. The next day I went to the nearby coat closet and noticed that it was lockable. At the feedback session I suggested that next year they may wish to protect the game library in there after hours, and let us use the dozens of tables unsupervised. The hotel person confirmed that coat closet is indeed lockable, and they seemed amenable to probably let it be used for that purpose.

Fortunately on Saturday night, Alex Yeager of Mayfair volunteered to guard the game library so we could game until 4 in the morning, after I was all "room-partied out".

If I would characterize my con weekend with one adjective, it would be "lucky":
  1. There were a surprising number of games which I won through more luck than skill.
  2. I was quite relieved to find crash space on Saturday night so I wouldn't have to drive home. I had no such luck finding crash space Friday night.
  3. The AASFA Board held a session to award grant money to anyone who made a proposal for something that would make the con fun. I didn't present a grant proposal this time. Randy Bradakis proposed to buy things from the dealer room and go around the con playing a dice game with attendees to see who would win the items as prizes. I rolled three of a kind in his game and won a copy of "The Windup Girl", by author guest of honor Paolo Bacigalupi.
  4. As usual, I lost things, but this time they were all found and returned to me.
  5. An incident involving whipped cream was the highlight of my weekend.
Perhaps the most important thing for the comfort and social cohesiveness of a con is the quality of its Consuite. This one was kept well-stocked with quality offerings, including fruit, sandwich fixings, tomato soup, breakfast cereal, and an abundance of snacks and drinks.

My presentation on Motion Capture Animation was fun and very well-received. I enjoyed expounding on it, until the audience asked about employment prospects, which is a discouraging topic. Earning my mocap technician certificate was one of the most enjoyable things I've ever done, but I will be surprised if I ever recoup the investment. For others, getting employed involves promoting themselves in ways that impress HR departments, which I do poorly. For me, getting employed always involves either a temp agency, or someone who knows me personally and already thinks I'm fantastic. Mocap work is in cities where no one knows me, so I'm not holding my breath.
It has become difficult for our contemporaries to imagine a fantasy world inside a mundane, utilitarian chunk of plastic, without openable screws, with apps you are not allowed to modify. To them, TRON: Legacy might feel like the adventures of dust particles in a Bissell Cleanview Helix® Bagless Upright Vacuum Cleaner, $79.99 at Target after rebate. The juxtaposition of the familiar and the otherworldly makes some reviewers uncomfortable.

Wardrobes are a well-understood technology. We know their molecular proportion of wood-vs-Narnia with scientific precision. But a wardrobe can be very, very old, and made from very, very old trees-- old enough to have been around when the world, perhaps, worked by different rules. Your daughter would not find Narnia in her plywood-and-brushed-steel Hanna Montana wardrobe.

TRON: Legacy might easily leave you cold, if you never watched the original... during the eighties. Watching the original now for the first time might only put you off more. I watched it for the first time years ago, but was saved from my overwhelming disgust by having played the game in the eighties. That movie serves to tarnish its own legacy as if it were its own Star Wars Prequels.

Those who are nostalgic for the original can remember what it felt like at the time. It felt like the first one minute and twenty-three seconds of this streaming soundtrack. Of course, even then I never thought TRON was remotely plausible-- rather, the art design and music expressed how the idea of information systems felt.

The strength of TRON was a holy trinity of Syd Mead (Blade Runner, Alien), the French comic book artist Moebius (warning: possibly NSFW), and Wendy Carlos, the legendary synth composer. It should have been an art film resembling Walt Disney's Fantasia, but instead, it attempted to add a script and acting, both of which were terrible.

(The art film approach would have also benefited Osmosis Jones-- Wait. What... What am I doing? Let us never speak of that film again.)

Because a sequel has to carry on all the premises of the original, whether they worked or not, I would have preferred a remake, preferably helmed by Tarsem Singh. He directed The Cell (excerpt) and The Fall (trailer), both of which reminded me of Destino (short film) a Disney animation inspired by Salvador Dali.

The bottom line is that I greatly enjoyed TRON: Legacy. It put the problems it inherited into the background, and did well with its advantages. I rarely go to first-run movie theaters, so I saved specifically to see this alone from the current season. I was not disappointed. I plan to watch it again, and would recommend it to anyone prepared to accept it on its intended terms.
I daydreamed about this system for years, and now I get to watch it.

World Builder from BranitVFX on Vimeo.

What you are about to see is not science fiction.

It appears to depict an alien civilization grander than the planet Coruscant of George Lucas' Star Wars prequels, but make no mistake, it's happening in every cell of your body right now. Real data from the sequencing of nucei, proteins and lipids was used in this animation, to create computer-simulated molecules in which every atom is in the same place as in one of your actual molecules. See the blog of PZ Myers for a professional's critique of the depiction.

Link: "Cellular Visions: The Inner Life of a Cell."

Read more... )
Every time I go to a convention, there is usually an anime room. Sitting in there watching the otaku enjoy subtitled animation from Japan, I am impressed by how powerfully this medium spreads a foreign language through other cultures. I think back to the anime conventions I've visited and consider the classes on Japanese that they teach there! An entire subculture exists online, called "fansubbing", for amateur hobbyists to translate Japanese culture into English and other languages before it is officially released.

For another example, audiences hear Klingon spoken with subtitles in Star Trek, or Quenya spoken with subtitles in The Lord of the Rings, and are captivated by the setting that language creates. Not only could Lojban gain the speakers that it needs by using this effect, we'll have fun creating a film!

Animation once required prohibitive amounts of time and money. But with the advent of machinima, that's no longer true, if you're willing to settle for relatively crude computer animation.Read more... )Much of the work could be distributed among multiple people who become excited about this project. It would require:

1: finding or writing a story.

2: converting it into a screenplay format with dialog and voiceovers.

3: drawing storyboards.

4: translating the script into Lojban.

5: modeling the characters, props and sets in 3D.

6: if we decide to use Second Life, probably purchasing land and paying to put the models in it.

7: puppeteering and recording the models in machinima software such as Second Life.

8: recording our voices acting the Lojban script.

9: editing it all together with music and English subtitles.

10: posting it to Youtube and Google Video.

11: submitting the link to my friend Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing.net who will probably blog the $#14 out of it.

12: welcoming the influx of newbies.
When I was a kid I used to watch Will Vinton Claymation films and specials every week, forwarding with the remote one frame at a time, making a half-hour piece last hours as I studied the animating decisions the sculptors had made. A few days ago, Will Vinton Claymation's overlooked masterpiece, "The Adventures of Mark Twain," was been released on DVD. This is going right onto my wish list.

As is typical of the Vinton studios (as opposed to Aardman's Wallace and Gromit/Chicken Run), the faces are incredibly well-sculpted and express themselves by constantly resculpting their shape instead of swapping out rigid polymer mouths and eyes in the Aardman style. The Vinton animators were fantastically expressive actors.

Twain has a flying riverboat and flies with Huck, Tom, Becky and their jumping frog to meet Halley's Comet. I will never forget how they animated the character of the frog by distorting its shape into a squirt of green clay when it jumped; how they made characters walk through intangible walls; the funny depictions of Adam and Eve and the heaven for alien beings; and the chilling disembodied mask of "The Mysterious Stranger" who sculpted happy little clay people and then smashed them with godlike power.
Conventions frequently promote themselves with room parties in hotel suites at other conventions. Cafe Penguicon and the ConVersation party were both great successes at ConClave.
Both conventions got many pre-registrations at their room parties, and a great time was had by all. We partied Friday and Saturday nights. In addition to the whole-bean freshly-ground coffee and espresso, Cafe Penguicon served the home-made fudge for which Kimba "The Fudge Goddess" is renowned. In honor of the latest addition to our guest of honor list, we featured a new flavor, "Google Fudge"!

ConClave has been going thirty years, and despite the definition of the word "conclave" has never elected a pope. This year the ConVersation room party had an event in which we did so. Sadly for [livejournal.com profile] palindromeg33k, who wanted the position very much, he came in a distant second to the door of the hotel room. The door was the way to... to... The Door was The Way. Since the pope costume and hat was unable to fit on the door, we gave them to [livejournal.com profile] palindromeg33k, who was dubbed AntiPope and blessed the balloon herding event as a huge cloud of balloons were pushed out of the ConSuite, down the hall, into the elevators, and into the ballroom for the dance.

Tux the Penguin put in a brief appearance. Tux wanted to meet Dr. Kage because of the "furry" connection, and although I (as Tux's agent and co-ordinator) am not into that, I felt it was appropriate. But due to poor timing that meeting was fated not to be.

I loved the panel "Fun With Liquid Nitrogen." After that event I got a pair of volunteers to bring liquid nitrogen to Penguicon and make liquid nitrogen ice cream in the consuite! Another panel I enjoyed very much was the discussion of Disney by Bill "Aksel" Kuehl and [livejournal.com profile] paranthropus. I knew [livejournal.com profile] paranthropus was a fantastically talented animator but until I looked through his portfolios it had not quite sunk in how stunningly accomplished he has been.

It's a three-year tradition for me after paying for the hotel room on Sunday to buy a book in the dealer's room at ConClave. But this year I didn't have cash. The minimum purchase to use credit was absurdly high, so I went completely overboard on [livejournal.com profile] cosette_valjean's credit card. In my insane, giddy spree I actually had nine or ten science fiction novels on the checkout pile, until she pointed out I already had enough. I culled the list down to Ventus by Karl Schroeder, Iron Sunrise by Charlie Stross ([livejournal.com profile] antipope), and two Robert Sawyer novels, Hominids and Calculating God. I owe [livejournal.com profile] cosette_valjean lots of money. With apologies to the Popeye character Wimpy, "I'd gladly pay you Friday for a library today." Fortunately [livejournal.com profile] cosette_valjean is only too happy for me to get mind-bending science fiction novels because I'll either tell her the complete story or actually read it aloud to her.

I like being with a rare woman who is interested in that. :)

Thoughts about Karl Schroeder's Ventus. Spoiler warning. )
BoingBoing blogged about How to make latex puppets for animated videos and I immediately went to the website and plunked down my money for the instructional DVD. Foam latex is a casting substance which I have a deficit of information on. This is extremely timely as the fiberglass outer shell on Linux-tan's silicone mold is almost complete. Nobody brought a camera to Sunday's party (which was very successful by the way) or I'd have photos.

I've said before that I intend to make at least two finished Linux-tans, one in flexible foam and one in a hard substrate. I'm still debating what hard substrate to use. I'd rather not make a solid casting, especially of a heavy material such as plaster or expensive material such as Alumilite, because Linux-tan is so large. Fiberglass is a possibility, especially since I'll probably have some left over from creating the outer shell.
Here's a useful LJ meme, gakked from [livejournal.com profile] howardtayler: Identify one goal that you've had, and that you've not been able to reach in the past. State why you don't think you've reached it.

Despite a lifetime of sculpting (in plasticine, a medium so fragile that I have almost nothing to show for it) I have not yet made a clay-animated short film. When I was a child and a teenager I had the talent and the time, but animation in any form was outside my price range by several orders of magnitude. I still have the talent and now I have a little disposable income which is not half-owned by another person with her own spending priorities, but find myself without time. As a beginner I'd be lucky to get two seconds of satisfactory footage -- that's sixty frames -- into the can in eight hours. I'd need a place to do the shooting that would be completely sealed off from daylight so I control the lighting conditions, that can go utterly undisturbed. If the tripod or set nudges out of alignment even slightly, I would have to start the shot over.

After I found The Clay Animation And Stop Motion How-To Page I realized that the goal is financially within my grasp. It answered questions I had been researching all my life, and also sold me the fine tools and equipment I've been looking for all my life. I've even started mixing custom clay colors in a melting pot.

If I ever got a Video LunchBox, I would no longer have any excuse at all. This is a standalone digital video appliance that requires nothing more than a camera, a TV, and a VCR. Press a button and it records a frame. It superimposes a view of the last frame over the realtime view of where the model is now, and provides instant playback of the motion so far. Too bad it costs as much as my car. I'll bet there exists a combination of camera / video capture card / software that's more affordable and can do the same.
nemorathwald: (me Matt)
As an artist my only interest has been to tell stories and bring characters to life, which is why I revere comics, puppets, costumes and animation as art but disdain museums as decoration. Why frame a cel of animation or a page from a comic book and hang it on a wall? I would feel like I was using something wonderful for something pointless. I have no interest in images in frames on walls, lacking narrative context; but if you do, there are lots of them already created specifically for that, which are actually good at it. "Animation" is a word meaning "life." A collectable cel in isolation looks like a cross section surgically extracted with a dull razor from the context where it worked. It's as ugly as a taxidermy kitten.
nemorathwald: (me Matt)
I rented the anime anthology Memories by the creator of Akira, Otomo Katsuhiro. The entire film is top-notch, with breathtaking visuals and uncompromising artistry. Each segment is an individual vision instead of marketing-driven by a board table full of business suits. The first episode, Magnetic Rose, set in orbit in 2192, is now my favorite work of animation ever. It's rare to see zero-gravity depicted and ships with thrusters that actually fire correctly to move in it, even in anime (Cowboy Bebop notwithstanding). For its realistic acting and plausible visualization of the future I've got to own Magnetic Rose. A couple of technologies (which I won't describe to avoid spoiling it) are on the blue-sky fringe of legitimate futurics, but are depicted so convincingly that they are more an asset than a liability to the segment. The film contrasts them against a background of solidly realistic hi-tech which is antique to the characters because it's based on our own present-day research trends. I'd like to show Magnetic Rose to my GURPS Transhuman Space group, but I doubt I'll find a copy in time for our session Saturday.

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