Awesome Anime Sampling: The Race


Imagine Christian Marclay’s multi-channel movie mosaic masterpiece, Video Quartet, but done entirely with anime–and with a little bit of narrative laid over the top.
That’s Istiv Studio’s The Race, which is made up of clips and rotoscoped characters from over a hundred anime films, laid over a Weezer soundtrack. A pretty awesome way to spend a year of nights and weekends.

The Race by Istiv Studio
[google video via boingboing]

In-Game Developer Commentary, In-Game Video Production

Andy has some video of some in-game developer commentaries that are included in the Half-Life 2: Episode One. They’re a cross between a typical DVD director’s commentary track, hyperlinked footnotes, and a first-person video tour. Fascinating.
Perhaps the coolest, though, is a commentary where they show how an in-game video projection–where a game character’s talking head appears on an in-game monitor–is made. Turns out the clip is actually “shot” “live” in a walled off part of the game, and “broadcast” to the monitor. It’s like in-game machinima or something, which is a bit to recursive for me. I think my head will explode.
Half Life Developers’ Commentary []

Edge Displays The Views: The Making Of Grand Theft Auto


Edge magazine takes a look back at the torturous, tangled development process that resulted in Grand Theft Auto. At one point, all the artwork was thrown out and redone when programmer Mike Dailly figured out a new way to render the game’s pseudo-3D cityscape; it added a year to the project. Though they came up with film-inspired features and innovative workarounds for technology constraints, they didn’t really have much inkling about what would become some of GTA’s biggest draws:

Elements of the game were added as they were thought of, often as a consequence of some casual tinkering with the behaviour of the living city.
“The Gouranga bonus is a really good example of that,” he points out. “One of the programmers came up with a routine that had pedestrians following each other. This led to the idea of a line of Krishnas following each other down the street and then, once we had all experimented with ploughing through them all in one go, the Gouranga bonus became an obvious addition.”

The Making Of…Grand Theft Auto [ via rw]

The Making Of A Machinima Feature

Amazingly, Hugh Hancock has been making Machinima–movies created inside video games–since 1997. [If by “Machinima,” he means capturing playing sessions within user-created levels, core functions of the Doom game engine, then hasn’t everybody been making Machinima since 1997? But I quibble.]
What Hancock and his peeps at Strange Company have done is produce BloodSpell, a feature-length machinima film, which they’re releasing in 5-7 minute segments every week. There’s a production blog [on livejournal, which explains why I never saw it], and now they’ve published some more expansive Making Of articles as well. Here’s Hancock’s discussion of the 6-month creation of the animatic:

At this point, we started what was probably the most controversial part of BloodSpell’s development, and also the part that is, today, most crucial in ensuring we can meet our schedule – the creation of BloodSpell’s animatic.
For the uninitiated, an animatic is a storyboard, scanned in and converted to a video file, with voice laid over the top at approximately the pace of the finished film. It’s a handy tool to tell whether or not your film will work for your audience in its finished form.
In our case, our animatic was created by taking screenshots in Neverwinter Nights, based on a rough storyboard (and as you can see in the picture, I’m not kidding about the “rough” part – Ridley Scott I’m not). For each shot, we took either one or several shots of the expected action, then edited them together at about the pace of the film.
It was a mammoth project that rapidly gave us an idea of the scale we would be working at – the first draft of the animatic took from December 2004 to May 2005 to create, with either two or three people working from three to five days a week on it, as we created what essentially was a static version of the whole film.
In hindsight, I don’t think BloodSpell would be half the film it is today without the animatic. We went from shooting half a page a day, maximum, to shooting four or five pages of script per day by the end of the animatic’s production. It was through the animatic that we managed to find and iron out literally hundreds of problems with our sets and characters, and develop the toolset we use today to film. In addition, from the first draft of the animatic to the final shooting-ready draft, we added nearly 20 minutes of new plot, exposition, character development, and de-confusing.

BloodSpell: From Concept to Finished Scene Part 1 [via boingboing]

Zelda And Battle Of “The Hair-Brained Scheme”

In August 2001, video gamers protested the cartoony feel of the new version of Zelda because “it would be nigh impossible to introduce a serious and epic plot and epic characters” into such a “childish environment.”
It’s not unlike that time, fellow old-school Zelda fan Jordan Barry, replied, when Robert Reed sent a memo to Sherwood Schwartz, expanding on his refusal to appear in episode 116 of The Brady Bunch:

There is a fundamental difference in theatre between:
6.Satire &
They require not only a difference in terms of construction, but also in presentation and, most explicitly, styles of acting. Their dramatis peronsae are noninterchangable. For example, Hamlet, archetypical of the dramatic character, could not be written into Midsummer Night’s Dream and still retain his identity. Ophelia could not play a scene with Titania; Richard II could not be found in Twelfth Night. In other words, a character indigenous to one style of the theatre cannot function in any of the other styles. Obviously, the precept holds true for any period. Andy Hardy could not suddenly appear in Citizen Kane, or even closer in style, Andy Hardy could not appear in a Laurel and Hardy film. Andy Hardy is a “comedic” character, Laurel and Hardy are of the purest slapstick. The boundaries are rigid, and within the confines of one theatric piece the style must remain constant.

Teevision falls under exactly the same principle. What the networks in their oversimplification call “sitcoms” actually are quite diverse styles except where bastardized by carless writing or performing. For instance:
The Paul Lynde Show….Farce
Beverly Hillbillies…..Slapstick
I dream of Jeannie….Fantasy

Episode 116, by the way, was titled “The Hair-Brained Scheme.” Here’s a synopsis:

In the final episode, Bobby’s hair tonic turns Greg’s hair orange on graduation day. Robert Reed refused to appear in this episode. Oliver speaks the last dialogue of the series. And the word “sex” is used for the only time in the series.

Wow, protesting the last episode? That’s really standing up for your Craft. Meanwhile, how’d Zelda turn out?
The Odyssey of Hyrule – Letter of the Month – August 200190- [via tmn]

Dude Learned To Draw Manga-Style In Two Years?


Now I like me some Japanese animation, and it’s been a central element to the AYUAM [As Yet Unannounced Animated Musical} screenplay I’ve got kicking around. But when I first approached a couple of anime studios was shocked–but not, alas, surprised–at their kind of hidebound, orthodox view of the medium. There was not much interest, it seemed, in hybridization or redeployment of an anime aesthetic or even production process that didn’t “fit” [I hate to use that word in this context] within the anime worldview.
Maybe as a gaijin, even one who spoke Japanese, it was already a fait accompli that I was a consumer at best.
So it’s interesting to read about the experience of Gez Fry, a Japanese/British illustrator who, the legend goes, taught himself to draw in Japanese manga/anime style in “just” two years. Obviously, there’s more to that miraculous achievement than comes out in the hagiographic interviews in Ping Mag and Pixelsurgeon.
But the essentials are all there: the guy’s very talented, and he didn’t come up within the rigid, apprentice-y Japanese animation/illustration industry. AND, relatedly, he’s viewed as something of an outsider who tends to work with companies and clients from outside the anime world, too. []
How Japanese style Illustration works [pingmag via coudal]
Gez Fry interview []

Coming Soon To A Coffee Table Near Me: Cartoon Modern

Cartoon Modern is Amid Amidi’s blog which accompanies his forthcoming book of the same name, Cartoon Modern: Style and Design in Fifties Animation.
Good stuff. Here, for example, he talks about how inexperience and an inability to collaborate with other animators undercut art director Evyind Earle’s contributions on Sleeping Beauty.
There’s a lot more, and I expect the book will be gorgeous.
Cartoon Modern, via Amidi’s all-animation blog, Cartoon Brew.

Sikhs On A Train

As soon as it started, I knew that “Chaiyya Chaiyya,” a song from the 1998 breakout Indian film Dil Se directed by Mani Ratnam with music by A. R. Rahman, would make my list of Favorite Music Videos Shot On A Train.
Right now it’s duking it out with Lars von Trier’s and Bjork’s train song from Dancer In The Dark from the top spot. It is, at the moment, a two-song list.
Chaiyya Chaiyya, from Dil Se [youtube via tmn]
Previously: 101 Cameras: Lars von Trier and Me

Putting The Later In Linklater

Richard Linklater has the hope that A Scanner Darkly will spur more animated films to get made for adults. It’s under $10mm budget (it started out at $6.7 and got bumped up to $8.7 when the animation process lagged.)
Oh, did someone say production problems? Apparently the producers locked out Bob Sabiston, the MIT guy behind the whole rotoscoping system because the production flow was all mucked up and on the verge of turning out Waking Life 2, if anything. Also, Linklater was so freaked out by the animation process, he stayed as far away from it as possible. Grand champion of animation there.
Wired has the whole some of the conflicted story.
Trouble in Toontown [wired]

Making “Plane Crazy,” The Stewardess Musical

While it’s kind of short on specifics besides “It’s freaking hard!!” Suzy Conn’s article on her experience writing the book and music and lyrics for “Plane Crazy” all by herself is pretty interesting.
The iterative, collaborative, open-door process of creating a piece of theatre is fascinating, particularly to see what variables are fluid and which are fixed. While stories abound of screenwriters and directors delivering new pages to the set in near-real time, and entire stories and characters transformed or eliminated in the editing room, filmmaking has this odd sense of fixedness very early on: what you film is what you get. And of course, much of the development process all takes place way out of the public view.
After previewing the show at the NY Musical Theater Festival last fall, Conn is putting on a much-revised, refined “Plane Crazy” in Toronto starting last week.

Checking in on Plane Crazy by Suzy Conn
[ via boingboing]

BBC Jesus Christ, Superstar

And you thought Mel Gibson’s Passion was gonna hasten The Apocalypse:

The BBC plans to mark the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ this Easter with an hour-long live procession through the streets of Manchester featuring pop stars from The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays and featuring songs by The Smiths and New Order.
In the programme, called Manchester Passion, a character representing Jesus will sing the legendary Joy Division anthem Love Will Tear Us Apart before dueting his arch-betrayer Judas on the New Order hit Blue Monday, according to senior church sources involved in the production.

There is so much to quote in this article, you absolutely must read the whole thing.
This is not a drill, people. If you have lamps, I suggest you fill them with oil, cuz the bridegroom cometh, and it ain’t gonna be pretty. But just in case the world doesn’t end, I’m setting my TiVo right now.
BBC’s Jesus sings Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now [mediaguardian via tmftml]

Music. And. The Spoken. Word.

I’ve heard this recording many times before, but I’ve never seen the video. Let me tell you, this is right up there with Leonard Nimoy’s “Bilbo Baggins for President” music video.
The great thing is, the artist, Shatner, still stands by his work, unfazed by the Priceline-era ironists. His album of spoken-word covers and collaborations, Has Been, produced by Ben Folds is deeply serious. It’s the Shatnerian equivalent of Johnny Cash’s Rick Rubin-produced Cash, with a little Sinatra Duets thrown in for good measure.
That said, I notice there are no Elton John-related tracks on the album; I hope this “Rocketman” performance isn’t the reason why.

“Rocketman,” by William Shatner, c. 1978
[youtube via gawker]

Gorillaz “Live” Performances

Using 19th century illusionist technology known more formally as “smoke and mirrors,” Gorillaz performed live and simultaneously last week at the MTV Europe Music Awards in Lisbon and at the Manchester (UK) Opera House.
The Times of London has a bit of the “how’d they do that?”
Gorillaz ape a Victorian parlour trick for a bit of stage presence [ via core77]
So far, Gorillaz Live Shows covers just the 2000-2001 appearances []