Thursday, January 31, 2013

Elizabeth Gilbert: Your elusive creative genius

The author of "Eat, Pray, Love" Elizabeth Gilbert talks at TED about the creative genius as something more of a divine - or at least external - spirit, and stories surrounding this creative spirit. She also talks about how she deals with the fact that she likely has her peak performance as a writer behind her.

Here is a link to the talk.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Review: The Visual Story

The Visual Story, Second Edition: Creating the Visual Structure of Film, TV and Digital Media, is written by Bruce Block. Though it had a quite attractive cover, I found the book disappointing.

One thing that is problematic is the media itself: it is hard to describe how to create a visually interesting moving picture with text and still photos. It is not something particular to this book, it is just a general problem. What I found surprising was the feeling that the author did not see this problem. The book was vastly populated with boxes with arrows, fields and lines showing camera moves and disposition of the frame, without really catching the fact that the film is a moving image. As a matter of fact, it was even unappealing.

There were several valuable tips about use of color, shadows, focus and placement of actors and items to build up an intriguing image, so the useful information was not missing. At least not for still photos.

Another thing that made me confused was the mixed level of the assumed reader. The book starts at the very basic - you could easily read this book without any experience about holding a camera when it comes to composition. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Just the same there are quick comments about lenses and camera settings rushed through in a way that made me think that if I had a clue what those terms were, I would not need this book. If a reader knows when to switch lenses, then he or she will likely know the basics about composing an image as well.

Who am I to read this book then? The title "visual story" and "visual structure" appealed to me, since I'm doing a graphic novel, love animations and somewhere have a hope of doing one myself one day. I felt that even if I will not hold a traditional camera, the visual story and its structure will be the same.

The author takes us through chapters about contrasts, space, shapes, tone, color, movements and rhythm. All useful things. I found them too basic, and as I said, I missed the feeling of how to use it in a moving image. Not even the chapter about movements added much about this.

There were lists with films to watch, but it had been far more interesting to have moving and commented examples on a disc sent along with the book. The theories in this book will only come alive if you get a chance to see, and not only read, what it is all about.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Animation Monday: Father and Daughter

This is a Dutch animated short film which won the 2000 Academy Award for Animated Short Film.

The style is minimalistic with simple siluette-like lines. The story is heart-gripping with small measures.

If you look to beginning-middle-end, I think the middle-part is too long. I would have liked a little bit more in the beginning and the end.

I find the lack of closeups rather special. Often you find images of faces and eyes to enhance emotions, but here we keep the distance.

Here is a link to the movie.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

To evolve

Over the years of human history there have been many great thinkers, many of them leaving a legacy of ideals and rules of lives in different ways.

Two of them were Jesus and Muhammad, both of them with revolutionary ideas, transforming society. What would they think if they saw the result today?

Jesus thought that Dooms Day was imminent. What would he say if he saw that people two thousand years later followed guidelines fit for imminent judgment by God? Muhammad gave women rights they had only dreamt about before. What would he say if he saw that the rights he gave them is now a limitation instead?

What would George Washington say if he saw the constitution of the United States used as an excuse for teachers to carry guns to protect the pupils from madmen?

My point is: wise men with fabulous, revolutionary ideas for a better society, set rules fit for their time, but though we still cherish their time on Earth we miss the point of their legacy. The point, I think, was not to hang on to the rules of the past. Their legacies are to dare to try something new, to evolve.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Rory's Story Cubes - Once upon a time...

Once upon a time there was a little child. A child that felt like he was the only child in the whole world. He had no other children to talk to, no other children to play with. He was surrounded by grown-ups and all they did were telling him what to do and pointing were to go - which was mostly upstairs where he would be out of the way. He had a lot of books in his room, but he was a child too energetic to be confined to books for a longer time. One would think that such child would do splendidly outdoors, but his running feet left disastrous footprints in the flowerbeds, so he was basically confined to his room with a flowerpot as a substitute for fresh air. The boy flipped his pyramid puzzle in his hands, knowing that one day he would spring away from this place and never return.

Rory's Story Cubes

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Janet Echelman: Taking imagination seriously

Artist Janet Echelman talks at TED about how she started to use unorthodox new art material when her paints went missing in India and how she used her imagination to find new ways of expression.

Here is a link to the talk.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Recreators - Preview of page 6

This is a first version of page six from my upcoming graphic novel The Recreators. The plan is to publish the story online for free about ten pages at a time.

Review: The Expendables 2

I don't mind a good action flic. As a matter of fact, I enjoy action movies. And though I found The Expendables 2 to have a few gags and fun moments, it had a major flaw: it deliberately broke the window to reality.

What is "the window to reality"? The story taking place in a movie is fiction, it is not happening for real. But as a viewer we should feel it is for real. We should look at the story acted as something that is happening for real. We succeed in doing this if the actors are competent enough and the crew behind the camera do their job well. There are movies where I only see an actor acting, and not something real.

In the The Expendables 2 they break this window intentionally. It's not just me having trouble to see Trench instead of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Arnold rises from the chair and says:

Trench: I need a weapon. Something big.[looks at Caesar's gun, which is very close to the minigun he had in Terminator II] Yours.
Hale Caesar: Whoa, whoa, whoa. My big weapon's hangin' right where it is.
Barney Ross: Come on, Caesar. You got a backup.
Hale Caesar: If I don't get this back, your ass is terminated.
Trench: In your dreams.

An injoke referring to Arnold Schwarzenegger's character in the Terminator movies. Fun, if it hadn't been for the fact that Schwarzenegger isn't part of the story, but his character Trench. But hold on, it gets better. Later the following lines are exchanged:

Trench: I'll be back.
Church: You've been back enough. I'll be back.

"I'll be back" is also from the Terminator movies.

Is Arnold Schwarzenegger the only problem here? No.

Pilar: Who you are?
Barney Ross: We're Americans.
Lee Christmas: Since when?
Gunner Jensen (which is a Danish name by the way): Swedish.
Hale Caesar: Blackfoot.
Maggie: Chinese.
Toll Road: Retards.
Barney Ross: You done?

Great lines. If they had had the set up of pointing out that in movies Americans always come as rescuers of the World in the last moment. But they don't because we are in a classic American action movie and make a fun moment about that, with us watching the movie. They are, so to speak, aware that they are in a movie, being watched.

Dolph Lundgren's character Gunner Jensen is a chemical engineer and smart - which are traits from Dolph himself.

Just the fact that they make injokes about the action movies of the 80th where most of the actors had their peaks breaks the window.

Thank you for links and dialog

Monday, January 21, 2013

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Scenarios from Krater Film

This short movie directed by Sebastian Lagerkvist won Voodoo Film's short film contest 2012.

It shows everyday racism in a nutshell.


Scenarion from Krater Film on Vimeo.

Here is a link to the movie.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Rory's Story Cubes - Once upon a time...

Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived with her parents in a flat in a big apartment building. The houses were big and gray and looked all the same. Fifteen of them, they were, from A to O, and she lived in L.

This meant that she had to pass eleven gray pillars to get to the bus stop. To her it looked like an endless row of gray where she walked by her parents.

She preferred to go the other way, only three buildings. There was a river with a stone bridge across, after that a path over the fields, a walk through the woods and finally she was there at her grandfather’s house.

It was one of those really old houses with large keys and real keyholes which you could look through to the other side. Her granddad was an old fellow, more or less glued to his walking stick. She loved to go there.

Her parents didn't know about her path there, over the bridge. They didn't know she visited him once in a while on her own. When she went there with her parents, they took the bus. Once they got there, dad would get the tent up for her to play in. When she was there on her own, granddad and she would play dice games and have fun. It wasn't that fun to go there with mom and dad, but usually granddad could sneak away from them by saying that nature called, and join her in the tent, playing dice.

Rory's Story Cubes

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Rob Legato: The art of creating awe

Rob Legato shows us at TED how to create shots that are not for real but gives a very realistic feeling. My two favorite examples are the launch from "Apollo 13" and the submarine sequence from "Titanic".

Here is a link to the talk.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Update: When the Music Stops

I would like to share with you some screenshots from the raw material to “When the Music Stops”, a short film I’ve written the script to that is now in post-production. The script was written on request by Andreas Graf in Switzerland and was shot in the lovely city of Bern.

Anderas Graf succeeded well in the casting. The main character Hubert is played by Niklas Leifert (webpage).

His girlfriend Cordula is played by Lotti Happle.

The lady in red beside Hubert is Waltraud and is portraited by Charlotte Heinimann (webpage).

I’ve seen a little of what they have done before and I must say I’m absolutely thrilled to see this short when it’s ready.

“When the Music Stops” is about a young conductor with an exceptional ear for music, who gets the job of his dreams as conductor of one of the most prominent orchestras in the country. However, he soon realizes that the music he hears in his head is the music he wants to hear, not what is actually played – a devastating blow for a conductor. He gets some medication to help him find his way back to reality, only to come to the insight that all music are suddenly dead to him. Neither way he can’t work with what he loves the most.

Andreas Graf gave me fairly free hands with the script. As he plays in Bern Symphony Orchestra it felt natural that it would be about music. He taught me a lot about playing in an orchestra. Not in use in the script perhaps, but tremendously interesting.

One challenge was to find proper names for the characters. Set in the German speaking part of Switzerland I could not use English names. I always want the names to say something about the character and even if I found the names that felt right, I had not a clue if they were commonly used or if they were strange, odd names. I wanted them checked before I sent the script to Andreas Graf and found a colleague with a wife from Germany who was kind enough to give me feedback.

All photos belong to Andreas Graf.
Used with permission.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Animation Monday: Restore the Earth

Yes, I know, this is a commercial, sort of. But never the less, I like it. I find the animation technique with its collage-looking appearance pretty cool and I just love how well they succeed in telling us what is right and what is wrong.

Here is a link to the movie.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

My graphic novel

For those who does not know it, I'm working on a graphic novel called The Recreators. I've never done a graphic novel before. I haven't actually drawn or painted much for the past twenty years before this project. On the other hand, it wasn't meant that I would do the artwork myself from the beginning. Things do however rarely go as planned.

Apart from me being slightly stressed because I've invested in a domain name, web hotel and some other things, I found this an amazingly welcomed opportunity for me to learn to paint.

I feel I should produce faster and live up to promises and get a product finished, but when I think about it feels like the wrong attitude. Why do we produce things? We need an income to pay for food and shelter and all that. But what about the rest? What about all the things we do when there is no money involved? We do it for fun and for learning.

Isn't that was life is really about? To learn and develop?

Of course I want there is hope for paid jobs through this project. But the more I think about it, the more I feel I need to relax and just enjoy the learning part of this. Instead of feeling annoyed by my mistakes I can think about it as a lesson in how not to do certain things. That is learning too.

When I lying on my deathbed I find it highly unlikely that I will regret all the pages of the graphic novel I didn't produce. I think I rather regret the things I didn't bother to learn while doing those pages I did.

Why are Western societies so fixed on producing? I'd rather write one book that changed me than ten which didn't develop me at all as an author.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Rory's Story Cubes - Once upon a time...

Once upon a time there was a bug. The bug had a good time these days, when more and more things became digital. In the old days, a mail was something written on paper and put in an envelope and sent by postal service delivered to a home or a office, calculations where made on abacuses or slide rules and locks where locked with physical, metal keys. To be a bug in this environment you was all dependent on a good season of flowers and fruits to stay alive. Now, in the digital world, he could move easily from one cell phone to another, from one computer disc to another no matter season and weather. The worst thing he could face was a fire-wall and they were not hardly as painful as they were in the old days. All they did were being a wall. He never understood why they were called "fire-walls". Anyway, they were no problem - he just chewed on the cables instead.

Rory's Story Cubes

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ed Ulbrich: How Benjamin Button got his face

Ed Ulbrich, the digital-effects guru from Digital Domain, tells us at TED about the Oscar-winning technology that gave Benjamin Button his digital face.

Here is a link to the talk.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Review: Storyboards – Motion in Art

This is the 3rd edition of Mark Simon’s book about storyboards.

Mark Simon starts off with the most fundamental: what is a storyboard, and what is the difference between a storyboard from a comic. Then he continues with who storyboard artists are and what to be expected. I thought a storyboard artist more or less took “dictation”, transforming the ideas told into a visual image. The author however writes that a working collaboration between a director and a storyboard artist is a just as creative situation for both parts, where the artist should be active in finding solutions and coming with suggestions to improve the visual language. The first part of the book is dedicated to your startup process, including everything from which pens to use to what to expect when getting hired for a job.

The next part of the book is about how to draw a storyboard. Of course this is the lion share of the book. Note that this is not a book about how to draw from the basics. If you have no clue how to draw a human figure, you should probably learn this on beforehand. This book is about storyboarding only. On the other hand there are plenty of things you need to know about this craft, even if you are a skilled artist. One thing is how to do quick thumbnails drawn on e.g. a meeting for you to have as a base for something to present later. Like the importance to keep your different characters apart, so you know which character is who when you get back to your studio. Then there is also a lot of terms described so you don’t have to look too sheepish when the director ask you do to a “production board”, a “comp” or an “animatic”.

Not only movies are storyboarded. There are animations, games and live shows which might need storyboarding too. Those situations are also part of the book.

One thing that is very characteristic for storyboards is the camera movements shown by arrows in the image. There is a whole chapter about these in the book. This might sound a bit to overdo it, but they are vital, since your storyboard will turn into a moving image by a camera operator using your storyboards as a base for his or her work. There is also a chapter about such fundamental thing like numbering so everybody knows which scene that is illustrated and in which order the shots should appear; it’s far from rocket science, but vital to get a working storyboard.

Part three of the book is about how you can promote yourself as an artist, like what to put into the portfolio and common mistakes by rookies. There is also a vast part about who hires a storyboard artist and in what situations they are needed – no need to knock on the wrong door at the wrong time after reading that chapter. Here you also find all you need to know about the practical and legal aspects of a job.

Part four of the book is filled with interviews with established storyboard artists. Part five with exercises.

Part six is short and only contains a part of a scene storyboarded by different artists. It is interesting to see how much that differs. Personally I also feel that a computer program for storyboarding (one of the storyboards was made in such) has lots of things missing to create inspirational images. The images are correct, but they feel very dead to me. I suppose it is all about what kind of result you want.

In the seventh part Mark Simon lists a lot of resources and books useful to enhance your skills as an artist and part of a crew. The last part of the book contains storyboard examples.

I enjoyed the book very much. It was an easy read and valid illustrations. The first three parts I found most interesting. When it came to interviews and exercises I felt that perhaps it would have been a more accessible book if it had been shorter and the price lower. Not that the interviews were worthless and I don’t need exercises, just the fact that it is a 450 pages thick book and for me that is a heavy and unpractical format and then I come to page 250 somewhere it keeps more to keep my interest on top.

This is not a book that will teach you how to draw. It is about how to use your skills to do storyboarding. It is important to be aware of the difference when selecting a book. If you know how to draw and are looking for a book about how to do storyboards and become a professional, this is the right book for you.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Animation Monday: L'Animateur - The Animator

This is a stop-motion movie I saw a few years ago and kept lingering in my memory. I find the whole story fascinating. Especially if you consider the ending and the Animator's part, what he is and does.

Here is a link to the movie.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The magic of 1989

1989 I experienced something that would influence the rest of my life. Backa Teater (Backa Theater) had its premier of A Midsummer Night's Dream on their new stage Bulten (the Bolt). I knew one of the actors and got a ticket to the press’ pre-premier and then I spent a week on a school holiday there helping the prop-master, seeing every show.

Bulten was an old bolt factory. 3017 square meters of stage opportunities. They made a magical forest with concrete pillars and light. Later they set up The Hunchback of Notre Dame where they moved the audience around to different sets.

In the middle of it all was Anders Ekborg: young, talented and seductive. He hung from one of the pillars as Puck singing like a dangerous, wild animal with a voice that had every good future possible. He also played Frollo in a way that made the blood curdle and lava freeze.

I met a lot of magic in that place.

Today Backa Teater has moved on. Now the area is filled with an indoor playground. Anders Ekborg left long before that.

I walked up the stairs that used to be their stage entrance, now painted with jungle motifs. I found the place where Pierre Gringoire had stood opening the doors to 1482’s streets of Paris. One of the pillars must have been the one Puck clung to. . .

The magic was gone.

At least that magic. Maybe there is another type of magic there now, with kids clinging and climbing.

It’s not without grief I realize that some things will only live on in my memory, impossible to experience again. 1989 was indeed the year where I made up my mind about what to do in the future. I couldn't put word to it, but I knew. I wanted to work with magic.

Photo belongs to Göteborgs Stadsteater.
Anders Ekborg to the left.
From A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1989

Friday, January 4, 2013

Rory's Story Cubes - Once upon a time...

Once upon time there was a turtle with the name of Tom. He was sleeping in the forest when he was woken by a fire. He grabbed an apple and ran away. Now, turtles are no runners and the fire was catching up on him when an alien appeared in front of him and put a parachute on his back. It was an inverted parachute, so it lifted him off the ground and high up in the air above the fire. He landed on the top of one of Egypt’s pyramids and was given the key to almighty wisdom by the alien. Tom climbed – or rather tumbled - down from the pyramid and wrote a book about his experiences.

Rory's Story Cubes

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Adam Savage: My obsession with objects and the stories they tell

Adam Savage, the host of "MythBusters" on the Discovery Channel and special-effects artist talks at TED about the stories of object and his obsession of the dodo bird.

Here is a link to the talk.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Marvelous news!!!

I'm happy to announce that I won the short scene contest I wrote about earlier!

Read more here.