Monday, January 30, 2012

Today is Robot Kick Day in the Pandora Machine

Virginia Logan kicks a robot in Android Insurrection.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Promethius Trap Bible -- First Edition

There are two ships:

  • 1. The Venom has a compliment of two biological crew and one android crew.

The ship might look like the Nostromo.

  • It must have a docking sleeve to dock with the Prometheus.


  • The Prometheus, on the other hand, is big. 
  • It has multiple cargo bays, one of which has been breached. That could mean simply that it has an open door.
  • The Prometheus also has a GUN on a TURRET up top which can be operated from the BRIDGE.
  • The bridge has a WINDOW.

The Venom docks with that cargo bay (it has a universal docking lock in order to make a tight seal.)
Here are some pretty pictures:

Saturday, January 28, 2012

New Helmets

This model is larger than a ping-pong ball, smaller than a tennis ball.
Anthony Jones is building our helmets for us. They're a fairly ingenious design. First of all, the visor is vacu-formed which makes it cheaper and lighter than buying a Lexan sphere.
He's also come up with a unique answer to the whole connect-the-helmet-to-the-body issue by using the top of a 5-gallon bucket as a "collar".
Q. Is it going to be hot inside the helmet?
A. Hell yeah.
Q. How about breathing?
A. There will be downward-facing vents in the back of the helmet.
Q. Wearing those helmets will be a pain. Would you ever ask an actor to do something you wouldn't do?
A. I'm wearing one right now.
Q. Oh God. That's true. You are wearing one right now aren't you?
A. I like pretending I'm on a computer... in space.
Q. No girl will ever date you.
A. But I'm in space.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Celtx Hot Keys

Over on the Celtx forums Steve lists the hotkeys for Celtx:

Script Elements:
Heading - ctrl + 1, or ctrl + return
Action - ctrl + 2
Character - ctrl + 3
Dialog - ctrl + 4
Parenthesis - ctrl + 5
Transition - ctrl + 6
Shot - ctrl + 7
Text - ctrl + 8

cut - ctrl + x
copy - ctrl + c
paste - ctrl + v

white space - shift + return

find & replace - ctrl + f
find next - ctrl + g
find previous - shift + ctrl + g

new project - ctrl +n
open project - ctrl + o
save - ctrl +s
print - ctrl + p

Mac users can substitute the 'cmd' key for the 'ctrl' key.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Today in the machine

For our upcoming The Promethius Trap we have the awesome Dolf Veenvliet designing and building the spaceships.
Anthony Jones is making our helmets.
A basic tutorial on the Blender interface. This was put together by Michael Richards, via the New York City Blender meetup group.
These dudes have a replica of the International Space Station. They also have a bunch of space suits and space helmets for rent and for sale. Plus they'll make custom ones for you.
Did I already mention these things? I may have already mentioned them.
The dudes at Letus have a new camera "platform" called the Master Cinema Series. I've always dug the stuff they make at Letus. The electronic viewfinder is very very sexy.
An interview with Ron Cobb on the design of the spaceships in Alien.

Monday, January 23, 2012


We're announcing a new picture today. We're going to go into production on The Prometheus Trap by Steven J. Niles.
It's a fantastic original script. So even though we'll be making it as a "mockbuster" of the upcoming Prometheus, our "Prometheus" is a groovy original concept about a ghost ship in deep space. I can't wait to get to shooting.
Yes, this changes our schedule somewhat. We're pushing back Dragon Girl until the weather is warmer.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Helmets of Space

Now, my buddy Chance Shirley already made the most awesome space movie, Interplanetary. So really I should just quit and get a real job. I'm just too stubborn.
The helmets for Interplanetary do a great job of solving one of the biggest inherent problems with space helmets: how to attach them to the body.
Now you'd think I was just posting pictures of topless women gratuitously. But, shockingly, I'm not. This picture just happens to have the clearest view of the way the gasket on the helmet works.
As it turns out, acrylic is much cheaper than Lexan.

The Pandora Machine Telephone

This took a whole bunch of experimentation. But I think we're in the ballpark now. This is our telephone.

It's an inexpensive handset hooked up to an iPod Touch. The Touch is hooked up to our Mac Mini (which serves mostly to just power the iPod.
We're running Skype. This way the telephone can be answered from wherever. In fact, you can pick up the handset and the iPod and walk to the conference area or anywhere you like.
Right now the only downside is that the ring is very quiet. But if we have enough computers also set up with Skype we'll have no trouble hearing them ring. The Mini is serving both as power and as a ringer.
The Skype account is unlimited minutes to US and Canada. So go crazy with it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


It's not that I just like to think each movie we make is better than the last, they are actually better.
I think that the biggest issue is visual effects. Because, facing reality, the only thing our buyers really care about is the genre and the visual effects, right? I suspect that all the work we spend on getting scripts just right and nuanced performances and such are really just for us and have nothing to do with how well our pictures sell.
Which is no big deal. It's just nice to know that fact when we're racing to the finish line on getting a movie completed.
What surprises me though is how frequently I am able to just idiotically and without thinking blow things off -- really important parts of the story -- just because I'm too close to it. Last night our producer, the Queen of Mars, came by the studio and looked at footage. And what do you know? The first big decision our lead character makes, the decision which the second 2/3rds of the movie is based on, is absent from the cut. And yup, it's all because Mr. Derpitude over here didn't shoot the scene with it.
The decision.
Crimea if I don't know better than to miss those critical decisions. But knowing better and actually doing it right are two way different things. So I blew that one. I mean, it's simple enough to shoot. Get a closeup of your lead looking one way then another.
Lucky for us the Martian Queen found a bit of footage (just before the slate comes in, don't you know) which we cut into the edit of reel 3 which shows our lead making the decision to save the android.
You might be surprised (spoiler alert!) to discover that later on that android saves our lead's life. But that's another story. No, wait. It isn't.
If no off-world royalty ever came to give us notes, that very important story bit would have been missed. So although I might suck as a director, at least the people around me are really good. That helps mask my imperfections.

My new Skype picture

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Notes on spacesuit helmets

Generally speaking there are three basic kinds of face-readable spacesuit helmet designs. 

1. There's the "bubble" helmet like the Apollo suits had, with variations like the helmets in Alien.

I do love the clunkiness of this particular suit design but I expect it's rather expensive because the Lexan dome is going to cost more than our budget.

2. The second main kind of design I do not like because it's very visually distorting and makes it hard to read the faces of the actors. I'll call this the "Firefly" design. 

3. The third design is what we might call the "Outbreak" design. Three flat lexan panels instead of a curved piece of plastic for the visor is likely vastly less expensive to manufacture.

The big cost issue is the visor itself. I haven't been able to source reasonably-priced bubbles. Flat pieces are likely to be the cost-effective way to go. 

The other big issue is the method by which the helmet will actually attach to the body. Typically a pair of rings are used (like in the Apollo design). Another way to go is to make the helmet attached to the carapace which would then have the suit itself pulled up over the carapace -- similar to the way dive suits sometimes are made.

We're very price-conscious. When we say the budget for all three is $500 it really is $500 for all three of them complete. ;-)

So those are our thoughts regarding spacesuit helmets right now.

Karma Pirates

Here's a brilliant little piece of filmmaking. I'm not sure I have even the slightest idea what's going on. I am totally envious of the sound effects editing. Ian Hubert. Karma Pirates.

The photography is beautiful. The composites are amazing. The walled city is something I want to steal. And I love the party lights.
The inside and the outside of the ship are fabulous. I just don't know what else to say.
Hey Ian -- did you have a rain machine? ;-)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Into the Evil

Here's a still from Android Insurrection. The landing ship approaches the facility.
We have a cut of almost the entire movie. Picture lock should occur in a few days.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Et More Spacesuits

Brian Schiavo pointed out some good resources for spacesuits and space helmets. Groove to thus:
Global Effects has helmets and suits.
Global Effects armored spacesuit.
UPDATE: this is amusing. These suits rent for $3450 a week. Monthly... $6900.

Blender in Space

A basic tutorial on the Blender interface. This was put together by Michael Richards, via the New York City Blender meetup group.
These dudes have a replica of the International Space Station. They also have a bunch of space suits and space helmets for rent and for sale. Plus they'll make custom ones for you.
Speaking of making spacesuit helmets, one way to go is to simply get a welding helmet, put clear plexiglass in it, and light it from the inside with LED's or florescent lights.
But the thing is that what you really want is one of these three-panel faceplates. That way you can actually see the actor inside, which is, you know, dramatically important.
I got a rich man's problems with a poor man's pocketbook. Distributor is screaming for us to finish this picture. So back to work for me...

Friday, January 6, 2012

The New Machine

So, I'm getting a new computer. $2900 for a PC.
It's not an Earthkiller, but it's close. I'm ordering it from

Basically it's an i7 Six-core Sandy Bridge computer with 32GB of RAM and a Quadro 4000 video card. That should give me the best of the two things I need the computer for: 3D work/compositing and audio editing/mixing. I'm getting Windows Professional 7. Apparently you need "Professional" because of something with memory and multi-core management. Or something.

I'm also getting the computer with liquid cooling in order to make it a quieter computer. We'll see how that works out.

Unfortunately the Sandy Bridge-E chip is not in right now so they're not going to be able to build 'till next week.
Which means I'm going to be on frame 14 of this render for another three and-a-half minutes.

So I figure this computer should last me a few years. And it could eventually be made into an editing machine if/when we move over to Adobe Premiere for editing picture, which might happen later this year.

I need a name for this computer. All my computers have classical-sounding names like Pygmalion or Athena. I need a name for the computer and a user-name. Hmm...

X195-Intel i7 Six Core Sandy Bridge-E Workstation Computer
Processor:Intel Core i7-3930K Sandy Bridge-E 3.2GHz (3.8GHz Turbo) LGA 2011 130W Six-Core
Motherboard: MSI X79A-GD65 (8D) LGA 2011 Intel X79 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard with UEFI BIOS
Memory: 32GB (8 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 2133 (PC3 17000) Quad Channel
Case:NZXT Crafted Series Tempest 410 Elite Black Steel / Plastic ATX Mid Tower
Power: A-Power AK 680W 20+4-pin ATX PSU w/SATA & PCIe (Black) Power Supply
Video / GPU Card 1: NVIDIA Quadro 4000 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCIe 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready
Sound Card: Onboard Premium level HD Audio (Note that I'll never use this even once.)
Hard Drive 1:Seagate Barracuda 2TB 7200RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 64MB Cache
CD/DVD:Black 2MB Cache 22X DVD Burner drive
NetWork:Onboard LAN 10/100/1000Mbps
USB/Firewire:VANTEC 4-Port USB 2.0 & 3-Port FireWire 400 PCI Combo Host Card
OS:Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit

Warranty:2 Yr Standard Parts & Labor Ltd Warranty, 2 Yr Business hour support
Fan Controller: none
CPU Fans: Intel BXRTS2011LC High Performance Liquid Cooler - 120mm Fan, 2200 RPM Max, 74 CMF, 35dBA Max, 150mm

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Alien Treasure

Steve Burg.
The Alien Revenge movie we're shooting this Summer -- I keep looking at this picture and thinking "Wouldn't it be cool if we could shoot on an empty steel-and-concrete planet, where it was raining all the time?"
Yes. Yes it would be cool.

Do you like feeling bad about yourself?

Take this color hue test from
This chart shows where my color has issues.
Now go color-correct that movie!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How do I record things?

You're saying to yourself "How do I record stuff using the Tardis voiceover booth in The Forbidden Palace?"*

Well, how do I?
You start inside the booth. There are two blue cables which come in through the top port. They're each labeled: "Mic 1" and "Mic 2". Just plug a microphone into one of those two cables.
The cables in the booth are labeled. They come in from up top.
OK, so I've plugged in a microphone. Now what do I do?
The signal from those mics appears at our patchbay.
What does that look like?
It looks like this:
Closeup of the patchbay.
See where it says "Mic 1" and "Mic 2"?
That's where you plug an XLR into and record straight to the Sound Devices 702 or what-have-you.
What mics do we have?
We have different microphones. Do make sure you ask me about them as they might not all be around.
Where are they?
In a case marked "Input Transducers" on top of the booth.
You have to be kidding me.
I wasn't going to label the case "Microphones".
Oh. I see your point.
Left to right: SM 57, Black Oktava MC-012a, Silver Oktava MC-012a, Black Oktava MC-012, diagonally on top: AKG 460 (with CK-61 capsule.)
Of all our microphones, only the Shure SM 57 does not need phantom power.**
All the other mics do need phantom?
Yes. That's frequently just called "+48V".
What mics are used for what?
The SM 57 is very hearty. It's mostly used for big violent things like guitar amps and snare drums.
The Oktavas are what we use for recording dialog in the field.
The AKG 460's are nice for music-related stuff. I record the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York (sometimes) with them.
Which mics would I use for ADR?
Well, I've been using the Oktava's for ADR. I put it up high and pointing down at the actor. Because that's how we would have recorded on set.
How about voiceovers?
Try the Rode NT-1's. They'll be the best - sounding mic for most voices. Remember to use a pop/spit filter. And never blow into any microphone.
Rode NT-1 mics.

Really? Don't blow into a microphone? But I see people do that all the time. 
It destroys them. Don't do it. The more expensive the microphone, the faster it'll destroy the mic.
What's the deal with the other mic in the booth?
That's an AKG C12A. 
It's funny 'cause it looks like a little bitty AKG 414.
Don't say that. You'll hurt its feelings.
What's it for?
Mostly my own vocals. I got it because it doesn't have the hyped high-end of an AKG C12.
And it's eight thousand dollars cheaper.
And that.
What if I want to use it?
You don't want to use that microphone.
That isn't the microphone I'm looking for.

*I call our new studio "The Forbidden Palace". You know, because I can.
**The C12A does not need phantom either, but that's because it has an external tube power supply.

Funny things about our new office

There are two shoe-repair shops within a stone's throw.
You know we're in the same neighborhood as the World Trade Center? And near the infamous "Ground Zero Mosque" (which is neither at Ground Zero, nor is a Mosque, and I walked by it yesterday -- I should take a picture of how amusingly benign it is.)
The zombie apocalypse building across the street actually has a plaza built into it. With the weather this cold it's completely uninhabitable but come springtime...

Now I'm starting to think I should go with a speedy i7 rather than a dual-hexa-core Xeon. I used to bullseye womprats in my T16.

Videoguys has their Nvidia page here.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Computer convincerations

VideoGuys publish a DIY computer guide and they're up to their 9th machine which is based on the i7 chip.
I'm persuaded to go with a dual xenon hexa - core machine. And 24GB of RAM.
And even though the videoguys specifically advise against it, I figure a GTX570/580 card is right what I want.
And I want the computer to be in a rack-mount case. See that rack behind me? The one with the headphones and Purell? I want to put the computer in the bottom of that rack. That means wireless mouse/keyboard in likelihood I should think. And a 10-foot DVI cable.

Girl with the Dragon

I'm thinking that our Dragon Girl might have ended up painting her face like a fierce little dragon-fighting warrior girl. Then when she meets the witch the witch can try to wipe it off, which would amuse me greatly.

Vampire Buffalo

I watched two episodes of The Vampire Diaries because of this blog post. Maybe I watched the two worst episodes of the show ever but it's just terrible. Every scene is just "data data data". There's no ticking clock, no problem which needs to be solved by the end of the episode, nothing. In fact there's no way to know how far along you are in the episode by anything that's happening on-screen.
The worst thing is that there are way too many dark-haired white boys in it. Practically every male character is indistinguishable from all the rest.
My friend Xavier Rodriguez made this movie, Dead Buffalo, a while back. I mixed it. Yes. The noise behind the dialog is my fault. And yes, the gun is not anachronistic, it's actually contemporary to the time the movie is set.