Friday, March 29, 2013


Yup. That's pretty much what ya got.

The Martian Queen and I shot some quasi-interview stuff today for a webcast. I'll blog it when it comes out. This, then, is my favorite freeze-frame.
By "favorite" I mean, it's the most ridiculous one.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Weapon Bible

We're changing up the Pandora Machine armory for Android Masquerade (how long do we think that title will hold out?)
.68 caliber rifle is actually a Tippman 90 air gun. Licensed by, oddly, the United States Army. What I liked about this is how it has four Picatinny rails along the barrel so we can put whatever stuff we want to on it. I don't like the silver hose, so that will have to be masked. And the magazine is non-working anyway so we might just modify it so it looks like something else. My fantasy is to put a faux video monitor on the top rail like a video-scope.
Although you can certainly put your eye out with a paintball gun, I do feel much safer about using them on set than blank-firing weapons. In the world there are many kinds of paintball guns, some which are made to look like other sorts of guns (like the above AR15-looking gun, which is actually just a shroud on a more normal-ish paintball gun).
We actually have two of these Delta .68 guns. The very top barrel is the magazine, actually. It can be removed.
All these guns are single-shot, none are fully automatic. But those top two guns are semi-automatic. Note that the AR15-ish gun has no hopper or air tank in the picture. Adding the hopper and the CO2 change the way the gun looks by a lot. Plus, I don't have a hopper or CO2 tank yet, so I can't photograph them. In any case, you don't need either the hopper or the tank unless you actually want to fire the gun.
I got this off of eBay just because I thought it looked cool. The top barrel is the magazine, the bottom is the charging handle -- no kidding, you cock it like a shotgun. Yeah, it even has a safety button. No need for CO2 [EDIT: I am an idiot, of course it needs CO2, but you still have to cock it every time to load a new ball in the chamber.]. Note that the trigger guard makes this weapon un-fireable by someone wearing gloves.
So those are all the weapons we need for this movie. We have two of those Delta .68's so we can even do our next movie with them.
I have some fuller's earth on order, as well as some empty paintball shells. It'll be interesting to experiment with some paintball shell hits on walls and such.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Moron Stills

I mean, more, on stills.

Here's the basic instructions on what we need in the way of art for the movie. This came from our rep but it's pretty good advice for what to look for in order to make sure you'll have something for cover art, one-sheets, and posters.

10-15 poses of the principal talent on some sort of green/blue screen. Please make sure that it is flatly lit with out stylized lighting or depth of field.
Additionally, 15-20 hi res screen grabs from the movie.

So that's what we're going for. And now you know.
The schedule, archaic, for Android Masquerade. Generated from Celtx. This schedule has no basis in reality.
Tomorrow we make the first of the delivery items for Creature: Returns. I know, it's pretty early, but a teaser needs to be created.  So I'm sending off all of the stills of the picture as well as a Quicktime version of the entire picture.

Friday, March 22, 2013


One of the most important tasks in making a movie is getting good stills. Arguably it's more important than making the movie itself. I know, right?
Today Julia came to take some stills in front of bluescreen so that art could be made. We won't even know if these stills get used until (I'm guessing) after Cannes.
Of course I've also rendered out ten thousand dragons (which really ought to be the name of a movie). And those dragons are animated by Nathan Vegdahl. It's likely that a dragon will take the lead in the artwork. We'll see.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Signals Of Fury: SRC Stall #14: Total Retribution (2011)

Signals Of Fury: SRC Stall #14: Total Retribution (2011): If you've ever wondered how a group of filmmakers could so completely flush away a $1.5 million budget, wonder no more.

So yeah. There's this. A podcast which makes fun of indy films. Our man Tom Rowen joined in. "Soiled Restroom Cinema" takes apart Earthkiller, er, Total Retribution. Tom Skyped in. He is his natural and charming self.

Estimated $1.5 million budget? Where on earth did that come from? Actually, I don't even know who submitted it to imdb. Tom technically shouldn't have told them the budget but even he estimated it at twice the actual budget. I suspect that in the middle of that exchange he suddenly remember "Oh yeah, the distributors hate talking about the actual budget."
Warning, this podcast is very mean to the actors.
The Pandora Machine logo does not help us.
Laos? Tom, we're not in Laos. You've been reading Dispatches.
Everyone knows that the terminal velocity of androids is 125 miles per hour.
They really don't like our Earthkiller space station CG.
Tom's justification of the way characters go from not-cursing to cursing is pretty much what the idea in the picture is. Which explains why and which characters cursed.
They actually criticize an actor for being too into their role.
The deal with the gun she throws away is very specific. Hmm... they really didn't understand the picture. I thought we spelled everything out pretty explicitly.
I do sort of get the impression that they are extraordinarily jealous of other people making movies. The idea that we made the movie in the first place seems to befuddle them.
Actually, their snotty comment about the "token black guy" who has a British accent "go figure" makes me say they're just assholes.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Android Masquerade Bible

Korbin's apartment is fairly iconic. The built-in lighting and the ceiling are very nice. I want to sink the background into a very earthy red/brown. Also, the bed will likely be permanently in place rather than rolling away.
Android Barbara needs a very specific sort of look. Lots of contrast I figure. She should be immediately striking.

These pictures are actually of the woman who plays Zorg's secretary, Sybil Buck 

I completely forgot there was a cat in this movie. A kind of derpy cat.

Yes, the Mac OS is Soooo Much Better

I wish I had the time back that I've spent in my life trying to get a freaking disc to eject from a Mac computer.
Lucky for me part of what makes OSX so much freaking easier is that you can go into command-line in UNIX. Because when I think "easy" and "user friendly" I think UNIX.
Lucky for me to check the root drive without a working DVD drive goes like this: the single user mode "command-S" command is "fsck -fy". Got that? Good.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cheaper VFX Volume II

So remember how I was all a-talking about how visual effects could be less expensive and how I wanted a camera which would take pictures of 3D environments and put them into 3D programs?
Well my dad came through with finding this Kickstarter campaign.
The Lynx A Camera seems to be a bunch of kids from UT Austin (do you like videos of really uncomfortable people talking? Watch the video embedded in that Kickstarter page.) And the camera seems pretty neat. And reasonably priced -- under $2000.
The cons are that the camera is standard-definition (and looks it). I don't know how much cleanup the models would need. The camera needs to be able to smooth out the polygons on large surfaces (ignoring the slight deformities in a wall, for instance).

Also: Presumably they'll take 2-D images and give you a mesh. But the texture data isn't created (as far as I can tell).

Other than that, as soon as I can get NeoScene to re-import 13 more files, we're back up from the Great Hard Drive Crash of '13.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Taking a Dive

Do you enjoy dropping hard drives on the ground? Because, you know, apparently, I do.
I dropped this Seagate drive twice yesterday. And (this may surprise you) it died.
Astute listeners might ask, "Why — isn't that the primary edit drive for the dragon movie?"
Why yes. Yes it is. And it has all the data for editing the dragon movie. I'm so glad you noticed that.
It looks like I have all the data to reconstruct the drive, but re-rendering the AVCHD files into Quicktimes may take a few days. IDrive was backing up this drive and I did a restore last night. Now I have a new 3TB drive for the movie to sit on.
Not by coincidence I installed a new shelf in the studio.
So far IDrive is working out for us. This is the second time I've had a movie dump on me. It looks like the total reset will take 36 or so hours just because of the re-rendering but as far as I can tell no work was actually lost because the I snatched the Seagate's rattling last breaths on a PC and managed to move the Final Cut Pro project onto another drive. Otherwise I would have lost about 7 minutes of work I did on Sunday before repeatedly throwing the drive on the ground.
The shelf, which has a speaker, which has a cable, that wrapped around the drive, twice, is nice though.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Party Video

1102 party video small from Andrew Bellware on Vimeo.

Rap Partay

Dragon Girl, which will now be called The Creature: Returns, had our wrap party today.

This was the "everybody close your eyes and we'll tell them that we all blinked simultaneously" actors taking direction test. You can see how well that went.
A vastly more right showing of the Dragon Girl cast.
We had air-mailed to us. Oh man. Those pizzas were delicious. We actually ate all the pizza. Chicago pizza for the win.
Queen of Mars made Nutella Rice Crispy treats. And we had Turkish salad. And drunken fruit salad (which makes me drinky e'en now). White wine, honey whisky, and whiskey and Cokes were served. As I recall.
Oh, and the name of the movie now is The Creature: Returns.

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Reputation. Finally.

The brilliant Mac Rogers referred to me on Facebook as an "unbearable, salivating, dead-eyed, hell-portals-for-eye-sockets, sleaze merchant". 
I can now die a happy man.
Today is a good day.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

White Spheres

Annalisa and Julia among the spheres.
Nathan Vegdahl made some reference spheres and sent them to amuse me. It worked. I am amused.

Making VFX Cheaper Part II

My dad came through for me here. Here's a fun fact, Leica actually makes one of the laser 3D scanning devices out there.

And it's really close to the magical way I want to just set this device in a room, have it measure the room, and photograph the textures, and spit out a fully-rendered 3D version of the room. It's not quite there yet. Oh but it's so close.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I Wish VFX were cheaper too

If you've been paying any attention to the VFX community lately they've been complaining about how their companies go out of business and how Ang Lee said something to the effect of: "I wish visual effects were cheaper."
Also, why can't science-fiction motorcycles look this cool? And why can't I have one?

I wish they were cheaper too.
So my question is, how do we make VFX cheaper? 3D VFX involves a whole bunch of rather specialized skills: modelling, rigging, animating, texturing, lighting, and compositing. There's also stuff like rotoscoping which is (to me) stupendously boring but is usually best done in the 2D world. In any case, here's a couple things I wish I had in order to make VFX cheaper:
  • Make 3D scenes self - light by being able to do the following: set a silver ball (like a Christmas tree ornament) in the middle of the scene. Take a picture of it. Then your favorite open-source 3D animation software automatically lights in order to match the lighting that falls on your silver ball. You can do this in Blender using "environment HDR lighting" but it's not quite as quick and dirty as I'd like.
  • Use some sort of cheap 3D-cameras to make autocad references of actual 3D objects and architectural elements (with shading and texturing) in the field.
    The fact we don't have this technology is actually something that's driven me nuts since I was a pre-teen.
    I used to go out into the field with my dad and measure stairs and stuff "as built" so that the handrails that my dad made would actually fit the stairs which had been made. (You couldn't go off the architect's drawings because in the field things would get altered slightly by the ironworkers and carpenters and whomever in order to actually be able to build the darn thing. The drawings one made from measuring in the field were labeled "as built" to distinguish them from the architect's drawings which were, from an engineering prospective, fantasy artwork and not anything you could actually work with.)
    I ever so wanted to just be able to set up some sort of laser-guided multicamera that would automatically measure the size and shape of staircases and walls and ceilings and stuff all that data into a computer. (Actually, one technology change is that they do use lasers now in order to get true level measurements. They're also less troublesome than a plumb-bob.)
    As far as I know this technology does not exist although I'm sure we're somewhat close to having it exist.
    [UPDATE: my father tells me that some sort of device like what I describe does in fact exist and that it costs about $10,000.00. I'm sure it won't also photograph and import the texture of the architectural elements like I want it to. I have no idea what the thingy is. I'll find out.]
Being able to do just these two things automatically would be a huge time-saver in post. One of those things is practical now although no software I know of does it automatically without some fiddling; and the other one will be fantastically expensive if someone made the technology but in 10 years every Radio Shack will have a kit that'll do it for $59.99.
The things that will not get cheaper is the modelling. You want a unique robot? You're gonna need to get a good artist. That artist will have to have put a lot of time into making their robot skills awesome and, you know, you're going to either have to pay for that or use some sort of secret guilt-inducing power in order to get them to work cheaper for you. Making feature films is more glamorous than making, say, television commercials so artists will be willing to do that cheaper than they would for a boring corporate client.
Rotoscoping is becoming automated as we get more powerful computers. With a mirror ball you might solve some lighting and compositing issues.
But still, you're up-in-the-air with modelling, rigging, and animating.
On my particular planet I've been using Blender open-source models on our last couple movies. So that saves money except for animating. I'll tell ya how that goes...

Plan View

I'm gonna grace you with mah skillz as a draughtsman. Here's a plan view. Note that 1" doesn't really mean anything on the web. The side panels are 3 feet (about 1 meter) and that means the wall at the top is about 2 meters. A little less.
Version uno.
The updated super-sexy version.
The walls need to be detailed like crazy. Plus, being me, I want to have all the lights built into it.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

You'd Think I'd Know

If it weren't for Joe Chapman, I'd never know anything.
Total Retribution is out on video. You can buy it from Amazon. If Joe didn't inform me of these sorts of things I'd never know them. Earthkiller, which is the same movie, is available on demand on Amazon. I have no idea when Prometheus Trap comes out. Nor do I know about Angry Planet. You'd think I'd know these things. I don't.