Saturday, October 31, 2009
Finding the costume wasn't too hard and took a little historical knowledge (not many "Darcy" costumes, but lots of "Regency era" ball costumes), the trickiest part was the homegrown requirements: at the time I had recently shaved my hair to an almost non-existent 1/2 inch length. In order to become Darcy I needed to grow both my hair and my sideburns completely out over 4 months. Since I am able to grow a thick beard in about a week, I was curious at what would happen over 4 months. In the end it wasn't long enough to match my reference photo (the likable Colin Firth) but given another month or so it could have been. My sideburns, on the other hand, were too long and I couldn't wait for them to be chopped off, especially since they whistled loudly while in the wind.
The final touch of the costume was the zombie head which was easily found at the local Spirit Halloween store. Overall the costume turned out quite well, my only disappointment was how few of my co-workers even knew who Mr. Darcy was (zombie or not). Well, that and the fact that top hats are no longer in fashion. I was informed by many a co-worker, male and female, that I totally "rocked the top hat". For once I have to agree...
Friday, October 30, 2009
Why do speedometers have equal spacing when including speeds faster than I ever intend to go? I can't tell if I am going 60 in a 55 mph speed trap area because the difference between the numbers is less than a 1/8 inch, yet over 60% of the speedometer space is dedicated to speeds faster than 90 mph...
Just because someone wrote the book does not mean they have an interesting voice or the emotional range to read it for the audio recording.
Who the hell is Kayne West and why do people keep inviting him to public speaking events (and seat him close enough to take the microphone)?! In related note, the Mike Myers/Chris Tucker reactions during the telethon are wonderful "awkward moment" facial expressions reference.
Why do people distrust medical professionals so much that they believe ads claiming "single mom discovers new weight loss drug/teeth whitener/panacea/etc that doctors don't want you to know about!". Seriously, when it comes to your health why you would rather trust a single mom (who likely doesn't exist) over someone who went to school for 10+ years to study medicinal techniques developed and refined over hundreds of years?
If your car's flamboyant, cosmetic upgrades (wow, flashy spinning hubs and a car bottom one inch from the ground!) actually prevent you from driving the speed limit then maybe you shouldn't add them and/or drive your car. Especially if the upgrades cost more than the value of the car.
Facebook's new layout lists a reminder to "reconnect" with one of your random friends who hasn't been active recently. So far it has reminded me to reconnect with: a person currently in jail, a person who tragically died last year, and my dad. Thanks for the great suggestions Facebook!
24 hour news anchors: while it is technically true "some people" are "outraged" about an isolated incident that conveniently becomes an issue during a slow news week 6+ months later, it really doesn't count if "some people" are the opinion hosts (whose shows that just played before yours) trying to manufacture "outrage" to boost their ratings. Focus on reporting legit outrageous matters please, like getting rid of Kanye West...
Why does the nearest theater show the newest movies in only small Imax (LieMax) or in 3D? Both options add an extra $3-$5 to the ticket price and offer little-to-nothing to (most) movies. 9 months ago it was nearly impossible to see a movie for less than $11 here, now I can't even go to one for less than $14 unless I wait 2-3 weeks for a newer movie to kick it off the LieMax screen. I don't mind options, but don't let the luxury options prevent the standard option.
Good idea: purchasing flood insurance if you live in an area that is hit by hurricanes (even if it is every few years)
Bad idea: not buying flood insurance and blaming an insurance company for not covering your hurricane flood damage
I don't know which is worse: ads for loans/refinancing/school-financial-aid that include random videos of synchronized dancing aliens, women caught by surprise, cheerleaders falling, etc; or the fact that people actually get loans through those ads due to their selection of random, non-financial videos (why would banks continue to advertise that way if it didn't work?).
Thursday, October 29, 2009
As mentioned many times before, one of my favorite game series is Final Fantasy and my first game in that series was Final Fantasy 7. When Square released FF7 in 1997 the game was huge. As with any new installment in a hot franchise, soon Final Fantasy 7 merchandise of all sorts appeared in various outlets.
Chocobos (cho - co - bo) are essentially giant chickens used as mounts to travel the world. Like horses, in the mini-game you train your chocobo by racing it and feeding it special grains. Then you breed your trained chocobo with another chocobo with differing skills and, with a little luck, you hatch a different colored chocobo with a new set of stronger skills. Beginning with the generic yellow chocobo, you progressively train and breed your chocobos up the color ladder (green, blue, black) until you reach the ultimate color of gold chocobo. (There was also a fat chocobo that occasionally appeared but he wasn't raceable, he just sat on enemies to assist you).
As geeky as it is to collect plush animals of video game characters, that alone wasn't geeky enough to earn my geek cred (lots of movies and cartoons have plushes after all, just visit Disneyland). No, to make this collection truly geeky it needed more obscure qualities. And these chocobos fit the bill: a. they were only released in Japan (foreign); they were a limited release in 1997 (old and rare); and they could not be purchased in stores, they were only released in "ufo catcher" toy crane machines in arcades (hard to find). That's right: I collect colored chicken video game plushes only found inside rare toy crane machines from Japanese arcades in 1997. Bam, instant geek! Woohoo!
After discovering these plushes existed in 2000 I began my search for them online. Of course the only way to find them (at least in Arkansas) at the time was on Japanese auction sites. Within months I found and purchased my first one, blue chocobo, in 2001. Through the years I kept up the search (although it did go on hiatus once I started having children save for an occasional eBay search here and there) online and at anime conventions and would come across one for sale (some were fake/knock-offs, booooo...). This week my last plush, a real black chocobo to replace my fake one, arrived and my collection is now complete after 9 years of searching!
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
The day was so beautiful that we also took pictures in the garden where Raeleigh demonstrated how fast she could run and how tall she could reach up (and stopping to smell the flowers in between).
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Watch the video below for a few extreme examples:
First of all, why is this funny?
Contrast in Setting
Why it works: The overall humor in the theme is seeing athletic giants performing their required actions (which require speed, precision, strength, and focus) in a state that is completely contrary to their norm (slow, tired, weak, and confused). Not only do they perform terribly, but the rest of the world is seemingly oblivious and carries on as if nothing is different.
How it could have failed: If played realistically, this game would have been stopped within 5 seconds of someone collapsing to the ground in a drug induced stupor. As funny as it is to see players lumber around like idiots, it is the obliviousness of the rest of the world that pushes the humor. The contrast between our own reality and this fantasy game keeps us interested.
Contrast in Action
Why it works: One of the constants in this entire piece is the sleeping player on the field that contrasts the main subject. In every shot the sleeper appears the screen is full of movement (some of it small) yet he remains in the same position each time. He is the constant that keeps us "grounded" in the video as everything else around him changes. He may even get the biggest laugh by being featured as the only person on screen after the big hit at the end. His sleep contrasts our own reactions by being oblivious to the world we are laughing at. As the entire world collapses in chaos and pain around him he remains unaware and peaceful.
How it could have failed: Not having him present would have changed the video into a collection of somewhat random mini scenes of crazy football players. Having him him move or react to the world around him (other than a small jump in his sleep) would have broken the contrast to the world around him and the viewer.
Contrast in Character/Emotion
Why it works: When two or more characters share a scene and one character is "straight" while the other is "looney" you have humor: the goofy player interacting with the unfazed ref, the comparison shots of the offensive and defensive lines (serious white players, amused red players), the wiggling man and the stationary laugher (whose utter collapse the contrasts the stationary wiggling), and the happy, peaceful ball carrier vs. the serious and violent tackler.
How it could have failed: Having both teams acting goofy would be amusing but not as much as with contrast. Some of the least funny scenes (in my opinion) are the shots of single players doing different actions. Maybe one or two work, but by the time we see the 4th red player twitch and fall asleep standing up we are tired of the gag. If a few of those scenes had a white player angrily staring at red player as he giggled/twitched/yawned/bit-his-tongue the scenes would be much stronger They could also cut a scene of a single white player being serious prior to cutting to the corresponding goofy player across from him.
Contrast in Timing
Why it works: A player laughs at the strange, fluid movements of his neighbor then suddenly collapses in the same manner. Yes, there is contrast in character between the shaking man and the pre-collapse man. Yes, there is contrast in action with their two stances. But the genius of this shot is the timing of the collapse. The player remains upright long enough for the viewer to survey the scene, laugh at the humor in the wiggling man's actions, and right when the interest in him wanes the "grounding object" of the shot collapses. Without the viewer realizing it, the seemingly normal player builds anticipation for the unexpected (he is the only character not acting abnormally) and once the humor wanes from the other element of the shot he rewards the anticipation by suddenly collapsing into a heap.
How it could have failed: By immediately collapsing without giving the viewer a chance to interpret the scene. Or by waiting too long and collapsing after the viewer grew tired of the scene. A similar gag did fail too, as the Mascot also collapses in a similar fashion but it happens immediately when the shot appears. An earlier shot established the Mascot as being stationary but since he was not the main focus of the shot most viewers never noticed him. If the shot gave the viewers enough time to see all the elements in the scene before Mascot fell then the scene would be successful (although the spooning players add humor through contrast in reality) .
Contrast in Composition
Why it works: My favorite shot, all the players are stationary (but fidgeting, except the sleeping man) and one player begin running in the wrong direction. What makes the shot work excel is not the contrast in action, but the contrast in the composition of the shot: We see the widest shot of the entire piece and the camera is stationary (just after tilting and shaking in the previous shots) when suddenly a very small portion of the screen has a major movement.
How it could have failed: Yes, the contrast in action is funny, but if the camera was a close up shot and panned as the guy ran it wouldn't work. The humor is in the placement of the characters and lack of movement in the shot which is suddenly broken in a small portion of the screen.
These are just a few examples of how contrast in this commercial makes it as funny as it is, see if you can pick out more...
Monday, October 26, 2009
Below you can see the simultaneous Before and After of my shot from the 4 weeks I worked on it in the Polish and Portfolio class.
If you can't see the major changes here are a few hints:
- Stronger spine poses in first 100 frames
- Look at the difference in lip sync, the syllables are much stronger now
- Much bigger jump on "Why to me"
- Head shakes and bend forward on "Why, Why?!?"
- Tenser build up in crouch, further leap and better position on "Get Out"
- Plus lots of subtle hand/knee/shoulder movements, gestures, and arcs.
Here are the stages of the shot from beginning to end (look for a future post on the actual proces to describe what these labels mean):
And for extra entertainment, here is the various video reference I recorded:
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Today's playlist is: Skullmonkeys (also Imaginarium: The Neverhood Chronicles)
Earlier this week I discussed animations from The Neverhood Chronicles. The animation in these games is quirky and humorous, but they wouldn't be as quirky or humorous without a soundtrack that was also quirky and humorous (okay, I'll stop now).
I enjoy the music to these games, it is just different. Mostly it is one guy (Terry S. Taylor) singing weird nonsensical words while accompanied by a guitar, electric piano, and drum set (and occasionally an organ and accordion). And once you think you've heard every noise his voice can make he changes the speed of it for an awesome (or not) "chipmunk" effect. Honestly, unlike other albums from my playlist, I can't listen to this one for very long but occasionally I get in the mood for goofy music and this is at the top of my list.
Some of his music actually uses lyrics but they still don't make much sense. Take this soundtrack from the Spanish-themed level "Castle de Los Muertos":
(no food makes an appearance in this level, it is just... weird)
Some of it makes you want to jump in a lake and swim...
Some of it makes you want to kill whoever created the "chipmunk effect"...
And some of it takes familiar schoolyard poems and adds a much needed chorus...
This is one of the most literal "Bonus Room" songs I have ever heard (a game's bonus room is an extra level with no enemies that let's you collect money, coins, items, etc for extra points):
I'll never leave you...
Saturday, October 24, 2009
These are the photos that have no point. I wasn't taking a picture of my friends or family. I was just... someplace. And I pointed the camera at an object and hoped a somewhat decent picture came out. Some are experiments, some are accidents, and some were just being at the right place at the right time:
Friday, October 23, 2009
Quick history lesson aside, one of my favorite game series from the era is "The Neverhood Chornicles" created completely using stop motion clay figures.
(feel free to click on the links in the paragraphs below for more info these games, I will embed the more interesting videos in the post itself)
Creator Doug TenNapel has a style all to his own. He shares this style by creating an entire world (The Neverhood) using clay and letting the players explore it. If the player clicks the correct areas he is shown a short clip of the main character interacting with other clay figures as a part of an overall storyline. The main point of this post is not to relish in the gameplay of these games, but admire that, even in the absence of a game, these animations are very well done and still highly entertaining. The following movies from this game (and its sequel, "Skullmonkeys") are a few animation clips and not the actual gameplay of the game.
(just watch the first 2 minute clip, you can then watch pt 1 of the entire Skullmonkeys games a few videos below and finish the rest here)
Half a cheer for The Neverhood!
Thursday, October 22, 2009
And in a completely and utterly unrelated note, whoever that "AM Staff" guy is who occasionally writes for the Tips and Tricks blog, well he sure knows what he is talking about and seems wise beyond his years. They should post more articles written by him...
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
We also brought along stale bread for the ducks, but as soon as we walked into the regular park area we were surrounded by fat squirrels who recognized the sound of a bread bag. And there was much rejoicing by a toddler (and fat squirrels).
We also had a preview of the show to come as the Blue Angels practices over the bay for Fleet Week on Saturday...
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Well, that's not too odd since I wear new clothes to work often. But usually they consist of "animation themed" Hawaiian shirts or geek culture shirts. Exciting, I know. But not "odd" for me.
No, what was odd was that I wore a nice outfit to work today and literally had over 20 comments on it (pretty much everyone who saw it). I don't think I have ever been complemented on my clothes more than 5 times in a day (now funny looks, I get those all the time). The complements surprised me so much that I actually took pictures of myself in them to record the day. Now that is odd.
This blog is about becoming a new me, so I might as well add them here...
And no, no matter how nice the new look may be I will not give up my Hawaiian shirts. They are my... precious'es.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Changes this week range from subtle to flat out stretching the limit:
- Moved camera forward, character is no longer cut off at the shins.
- Opening stance is shifted screen left to accent move to "act rashly". "Rashly" has a hard accent in the head
- "But you..last straw" the hands unfold and each finger overlaps into next pose
- Added small breaths in chest and shoulder prior to major phrases ("but..")
- Head movement on "havoc and chaos" is even more frantic than last week
- "BUT WHY ME?!?" is huge now, character stretches off screen and jumps off of ground
- "why me, why, why?" the head shakes in disbelief each time he says why and leans forward to close the distance to the woman each time.
- After tense shaking the arms move backward to prepare for the scream
- "GET..." now has a head tilt to camera to read the mouth, pupils are small and dilated, body bounces and wrists overlap arm movements
- "...OUT" head is now turned closer to camera. I can push this further still, I almost want him looking directly at the camera to startle the viewer who witnessed him go from acting calm and "not rashly" to screaming and jumping.
Next week is the "final" week on this shot. I could work on it for another month but you have to pull it away from the artist at some point or they would do nothing but tweaks to the piece forever. I will also include a comparison video which simultaneously plays each update to compare how much they changed each week. The week to week changes may not be obvious, but when you view the first post to the last post on this blog is it obvious.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Today's playlist is: The Other Promise from the Kingdom Hearts Piano Collections
One of my favorite genres is soundtracks. One of my favorite sub-genre of soundtracks is game soundtracks (it is much easier to become attached to music that you hear repeatedly during an emotional 50 hour game). And my favorite sub-genre of game soundtracks is orchestral/band/piano arrangements (most game music is simple techno sounds, arranging it for an orchestra brings a new sound, and legitimacy, to old familiar themes).
One of my favorite game companies is Squaresoft (now called SquareEnix). Definitely my favorite games series from Square is the Final Fantasy series (which also has my favorite game music). And finally, one of my favorite animation companies is Disney...
Are you ready for this? Because it is a doozy: Kingdom Hearts is a game by Squaresoft that takes Final Fantasy characters and mixes them into Disney worlds so the stars of Final Fantasy are working with Mickey, Donald, Goofy, et al, to save other Disney/Final Fantasy characters from Disney/Final Fantasy villains. The soundtrack compose then arranged the Kingdom Hearts musical themes for concert piano and released them as a part of the Kingdom Hearts Piano Collection (KH:PC). If there ever was an amalgam of my favorites, this is it.
The biggest difference between the KH:PC and the many Final Fantasy Piano Collections
is the range of difficulty. I am able to perform most of the FF PC pieces but the KH:PC pieces are on a whole other level of difficulty. Listen to this piece beginning at 0:44 and again at 3:06 and hear my piano fingers whimper in fright:
Regardless of my performance chances, this music is some of my favorite to listen to and currently holds the honor of being the most played pieces in my 14,000+ song iTunes library (to be fair, the play count was reset last year due to a clean OS install). Hopefully you can enjoy it too even without having the emotional connections the I have to the original game/characters/music...
Listen to The Other Promise's (first piece linked above) hauntingly beautiful melody performed by an orchestra:
And if you are curious, watch the trailer to Kingdom Hearts to get a better idea of the game:
Saturday, October 17, 2009
For this post, an Active task is defined as a task that requires your cognitive concentration and/or memory retention. Most forms of entertainment and creativity fall into this category (if we didn't concentrate on the activity it wouldn't be very entertaining would it?). Examples include reading a book, watching an important show on TV, practicing an instrument, vigorous exercise, intense cooking, talking to friends/family, etc. In many cases, tasks which require physical activity are not active tasks.
Alternatively, a Passive task is a task which does not require one's full attention, has frequent breaks, does not require new memory creation, or is an active task whose priority has temporarily shifted. Examples include most simple chores (laundry, dishes, cleaning, lawn work, simple cooking), light driving, traveling, light exercise (walking, jogging, sit ups, etc), or watching non-valued TV (commercials, background noise channels, etc).
The secret to productivity is to simultaneously complete Active and Passive tasks whenever possible.
Write down all the tasks you do (including your entertainment and wish list items) and categorize them into Passive and Active. One person's Active task may be another's Passive task depending on the complexity of the action (when I cook it doesn't take much thought/action [Passive], but someone else may need to cook 5 dishes at once which need their undivided attention [Active]).
Here is a partial example for me (you should be more specific than this, use your To Do List):
Write blog post
Watch classic movies on my "must see" list
Exercise (jog, lift weights, etc)
Run errands around town (grocery store, post office, etc)
Chores (laundry, clean room, etc)
- While doing chores (folding laundry, picking up rooom, washing dishes, etc) I can listen to an audio book, or if there is a lot of waiting during the chore I can read the book. If I am waiting for a pot to boil or the grill to heat up I can pick up a book and read.
- While driving for my errands I can call my family or friends I haven't talked to in a while
- During my animation, working out, or writing my blog I can listen to a new album a few times (I'm listening to the Dexter score while writing this)
- While watching movies at home I can do sit-ups, push ups, simple cardio routines, or practice the guitar (quickly switching my active and passive tasks depending on which needs my attention at that moment)
- Buy a simple treadmill or exercise bike on Craigslist and do a slow, easy pace while watching your favorite shows or playing a game (I lost 30 lbs in 5 months doing this)
- If you have no exercise equipment, try doing sit-ups, a set of push-ups, or jumping jacks during commercials or game loading screens. Doing 4-5 two minute exercises an hour really add up over the week and beat sitting on the couch.
- Practice guitar while watching a sports game or TV show that doesn't need your full attention (the news, game show, etc). It may not be perfect practice but it is better than nothing. Try adding your own soundtrack to the show.
- During your morning commute listen to a book, a new album, or call a friend (hands-free set of course). Designate a day in the week to call a different friend/family member!
Finally, when writing your tasks down ask yourself if there is an alternative way to do the task. Most people have a reading list a mile long but can't "find the time" to sit and read, but many forget how easy it is to listen to the same books while doing their other tasks.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Unfortunately, John's ambition and desire to change the (stagnant) norm at Disney led to confrontation with his direct superiors. The aging administrators did not like the idea of a young upstart taking over animation as he did and immediately fired him after presenting this test.
(He then went on to work for Lucas/Arts, founded Pixar, created Toy Story et al, outsold Disney features at the box office, sold Pixar to Disney, and took the position of Chief Creative Officer at Disney where he had final say in all creations. Things worked out for him to say the least...)
I will see the new Wild Things movie this weekend but so far the general consensus is the movie serves the book well. Which is a relief because this movie could have been much, much, worse. Vern at "Ain't it Cool" gave a great example of this movie's probable terrible adaptation:
"You know what the trailer would've been like: Starts out real dramatic, Harry Pottery orchestral score playing as the camera floats through a beautiful CGI ocean, onto an island, into a forest. The sound of giant feet plodding through dirt. The camera comes to the unmistakable shadow of a large, horned monster. Then...
"Wild thing. You make my heart sing. You make everything... groovy." The computer-animated wild thing leaps weightlessly in the air doing air guitar. Then a wacky record scratch and Tone Loc's "Wild Thing" comes on. And some sort of dated MATRIX reference maybe. Or American Idol. The wild things make little quips, puffs of smoke come out when they dart around waving their arms everywhere, and there's jokes about cell phone minutes or 401Ks or something. Ha ha, because why would a wild thing have a 401K. Funny stuff.
The teaser poster: white background. A wild thing standing with his arms folded like a lost member of Run DMC, wearing Snoopy Joe Cool sunglasses. Max next to him, similar pose, backwards baseball cap, skateboard in hand. Below that it says 'BORN TO BE WILD.'"