Monday, January 29, 2007


Teething. What a joy. A week's worth of restless nights so far for my son. I think he's pretty much through the worst of it this time round. I can't wait for them all to come through.

As a result, I decided to combine dad duty with a little late night work on the Grimmwood teaser that's coming soon (above you'll see a bit of design work for it). It's actually a sponge scanned in at high rez and then put through various filters in photoshop, grey scaled, and then wrapped around a sphere in Swift 3D, exported as a shockwave flash and imported directly into Flash, set against a star map background I made earlier, with added blue glow in Flash and a shadow to form the crescent. In Grimmwood the moon is going to be enormous, so this is one of several tests for it. I am getting happily addicted to making planets and moons now.

Friday, January 26, 2007


"... in which I was foorth growne; and more kindely love have I to that place than to any other in yerth ..."
- Geoffrey Chaucer (The Testament of Love).
I was born in London back in the days when everything was brown and orange, when winter's fulfilled their promise of snow and a half pence was valued currency in any sweetshop. We were still at risk of being washed away with the evening tide because there was no Thames Barrier. I would later stand beside General Wolfe (Admiral to me) looking out over the city as the docklands took shape and from the art room of a sixth form college I watched Canary Wharf gradually take its place on the city's skyline, slowly rising against a montage of setting suns.

Somewhere beneath my feet there lay Jack Cade's Cavern, rumored to contain an effigy of the Horned God. And he sounded like a reasonable chap to me...
"And here, sitting upon London-stone, I charge and command that, of the city's cost, the pissing-conduit run nothing but claret wine this first year of our reign."
- Henry VI, part 2, Act IV, Scene VI (Shakespeare.... from whom we also get the line "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers")
Through my college years that pissing-conduit ran more than just claret wine. I liked my stories of rebellion, but I loved more, and still love, the city that lay hidden beneath the streets.

At the end of 2001 I traded London for Nottingham. A city also filled with local legends of revolution and highwaymen and with history beneath its streets. I've been back to London on occasion, mostly for work meetings, but I have not traveled underground since 2001 (opting instead to walk from St. Pancras, over the River Fleet, to Soho via the British Museum... and Gosh! comics of course). I've been on the District Line, when I visited my mother with my wife and son (in September I think it was) last year, but the District line isn't quite like the Northern Line or the Victorian Line which takes you right down into the belly of the beast.
"Hell is a city much like London - A populous and smoky city."
- Percy Bysshe Shelley.
So I hopped on the Victoria line to get to a meeting regarding a project I can't talk about. Gone was the daily ritual of squeezing onto one of these tube trains in the morning and at the end of the day, each day, and I couldn't be more glad of that. I was so out of practice with it all I even forgot how to use the ticket machines, much to the delight of the people behind me.

After the meeting I then wandered over to Picasso Pictures to say hello to everyone at HQ there. It was lovely to see familiar faces once again, people, though I work with on a regular basis, I miss the company of. I've been a director there for almost 10 years now, and most of us have got married, had children, all that sort of thing. It feels like family. I was also pleased to finally meet new people I'd only ever spoken to on the phone (as many meetings are conducted via conference calls). On my journey home I realized that whilst I may have left London, London hasn't left me.

One final touch of nostalgic bliss for me this week arrived on Thursday when I started experimenting with textures for 3D elements in Flash. The images below are part of an animated flyby imported straight into Flash from Swift 3D. It is something I have wanted to do since I first saw the Battle of Yavin in Star Wars: A New Hope. There's something rather therapeutic about making planets, albeit as simple as the results I've achieved are (this is just a small step in a new direction for me; I can't wait to get properly stuck into star maps and heavenly nebulae). I think I now see what Slartibartfast* saw in it all.

*no prizes for guessing the link between Slartibartfast and the Battle of Yavin.

Monday, January 15, 2007


Just finished a commercial and have also finished the animation for Animex (applying sound at present having scored the music for it). It's been a remarkably busy week already and it's only Monday.

This weekend I bought portable digital recording equipment and fancy microphones so as to build on my Foley library and have been recording the inside of my freezer, throwing water containers around a room, throwing bags of frozen peas at the wall, turning on taps, splashing about, jumping about, whooping, cheering, laughing maniacally, all the usual stuff that makes my neighbours wonder what I do for a living. The sound from these bouts of madness are then put through garageband, cleaned up, altered (bass boosts and pitch shifts for impact sounds etc), and filed in the library under files labeled as "Ambience", "Booms", "Running", etc.

I love Foley and sound design. It started as a hobby of sorts and now it's increasingly becoming part of my working day / weekend / life. I was about eleven or twelve when I bought "Sounds Effects Vol 13: Death and Horror" on vinyl. What I loved most about it was finding out that "red hot poker in the eye" (how could anyone forget a track title like that?) was in fact a red hot poker being squashed into a cabbage (if I remember correctly). I think cabbages were used for 'neck twisted and broken' too. Poor cabbages. Opening and closing an umbrella would provide the sound for a vampire bat, and if it was labeled as such then how could anyone argue? It wasn't the horrid nature of the record that tickled me, rather it was the ingenuity of the Foley artists, sound designers in coming up with all the gruesome and imaginative sounds that thrilled me, and still does. Wonderful stuff.

Ben Burtt is probably one of my sound design heroes, for having been the sound designer on some of my favorite movies, the Star Wars original trilogy. I think it was either Empire Strikes Back, or Return of the Jedi, one of the two, that I went to see in Leicester Square in London and watched it in one of the first cinemas able to handle the movie's sound requirements which today is commonplace (the sound of Tie Fighters flying in overhead as though it was right there in the cinema was an incredible thrill). Tie Fighters screeching past the camera were actually the modified sound of elephants, blaster sounds were made by tapping wires on a radio tower, and the sound of a lightsaber was a combination of a TV Set and a 35 mm projector.

I remember, round about that time, using a rather old cassette recorder to make my own sound effects tapes (raiding the refrigerator for vegetables, I've no doubt). I recorded my own Incredible Hulk radio play, doing all the voices myself, using the sound of unfurling (is that the right word?) sellotape for the sound of the transformation. So, this weekend certainly brought back one or two fond memories.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


New TV show (six part drama) coming to ITV1 here in the UK called Primeval. You can see a teaser trailer for it here. When Nick Cutter (Douglas Henshall), says in the teaser, "Some force, out there, ripped the boundaries of time and space to shreds", a little mischievous voice in my head says, 'yeah, he's called the Doctor and he's over on BBC1.' That said, the thought of dinosaurs roaming through the streets of London gets my vote, so I'm looking forward to it, and the teaser looks great (the kid armed with a toy lightsaber investigating a disturbance reminded me of Spielberg's cinematic motifs for some reason).

It's great to have another addition of science fiction to our prime time telly, and Primeval certainly sounds lavish what with it's million per episode budget.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


"There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We can reduce the focus to a soft blur, or sharpen it to crystal clarity. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to... The Outer Limits." — Opening narration (The Outer Limits)
I picked up The Outer Limits, season 2 today. Sat down to watch the first episode, Soldier, and found it starred the very person I had been talking about in an earlier post. Michael Ansara, aka: Mister Freeze, who plays Qarlo Kobregny, a soldier from the future. The episode is also of marked importance, being Harlan Ellison's first teleplay. Ellison would go on to be creative consultant for The New Twilight Zone some years later.

It's a small yet wonderful world.


The prologue to The Movie probably sums up the orginal tv series best as the two guys in the car talk about their favorite episodes. I LOVE The Twilight Zone (the original series). One of my all time favorite shows (and this prologue from the movie pin points a few of my favorite episodes). I think my boxed set DVD collection is wearing thin from repeat play. The show also showcases the work of one of my favorite writers, Richard Matheson (who wrote "I Am Legend").

Oh, and Dan Aykroyd's Character's right, "A Kind of a Stopwatch" IS a Twilight Zone episode. Another classic. Also, that's Burgess Meredith narrating at the end after they mention his particular episode (which is a great episode called "Time Enough At Last").


I found out about this via AICN (Ain't It Cool News). I quite liked Star Trek as a kid, but it wasn't something that stuck with me. To be fair, I had Star Wars and Doctor Who.

I recently acquired Star Trek season 1 after having watched Shatner as Bob Wilson in “Nightmare at 20000 Feet” which happens to be written by one of my favorite writers, Richard Matheson.

Very much enjoyed Trek Season 1. Notably a very TZ style episode "The City on the Edge of Forever" guest starring Joan Collins.

The main thing I absolutely love about all those episodes is the vivid primary colors. Absolutely wonderfully rich, saturated reds, yellows and blues. And it's something these restored versions punch out wonderfully (if you go to you'll see what I mean).

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


A good chum of mine, Colin Fawcett emailed me this. I can't quite get over Tom Postman's (is that his name or was that my hearing?) shirt collars. They look deadly.

Friday, January 05, 2007


A wonderful film. Made in Moscow in 1975. Directed by Yuriy Norshteyn and written by Sergei Grigoryevich Kozlov. The fog effect was achieved (stop reading now if you don't like to know how things were done) placing very thin paper over the scene. When the scene required more fog, the paper was lifted towards the camera, frame by frame allowing the animator to completely envelope the scene in fog.

Norshteyn is presently working on a feature film called "The Overcoat", which he started back in 1981, of which 25 minutes currently exists.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


I have been busy of late. Towards the end of last year I set about trying to scrape in as much paid work as possible so as to tide me over on the production of Grimmwood and have found myself with so much work I've had little-to-no time for the project (and am eager as anything now to get back to it). I've been finishing production of the Animex festival intro animation and have employed a sizable portion of the 3D skills I set about learning for Grimmwood and so really, the Animex job has proved a 'working run' for Grimmwood in terms of set building and camera jiggery-pokery. I've learned quite a lot from doing it with regard to lighting and target cameras performing flybys. All tip top fun.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Happy New Year. What better way to start 2007 than with some great stop motion. You'll believe a man can fly!