Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Element of Being

 The Element of Being came about because of a University of Utah independent study project. My original intention was to shoot actors against a greenscreen in a variety of lighting environments, and produce an academic document outlining the process. But as I began to move into pre-production I began to explore the theoretical side of process. After two months of exploring different approaches I landed on the idea of shooting film portraits, creating an image of a world rather than a traditional narrative. I went fairly deep into the theoretical approach, and the 'script' became a rather wordy academic document

In the weeks leading up to production several fortuitous events forced me to scale up the scope of the film considerably. The main one was the opportunity to use the sound stage at Lumenas Studios (an animations company here in town), and most importantly a Motion Control rig. This particular 1/4 million piece of hardware was last used to shoot fight scenes in the Matrix, and Lord of the Rings. With a hell of a discount I couldn't avoid stumping up the 2g's it would take to rent it, the space, and the talented individuals it would take to operate it.

Of course this meant upping the production value of all the other areas of the film. Costumes had to be spot on. Actors had to be unforgettable. Makeup had to make them look gorgeous:) I put out some calls to my most trusted collaborators and in a whirlwind of pre-production got all the ducks in a row... ready to be shot;)

By industry standards this was still a small production: 9 actors, 9 crew members. But the level of skill, dedication and awesomeness kicked hollywood's ass:) 

Super props go to Alex Lee (lighting design) and Jeremy Penzien (motion control operator), the two Lumenas kids who gave their talents to the production. These guys gave the piece such a high production value. Allison Baar (costume design) & Cherie Lindhardt (Hair/Makeup) royally saved my ass. They both gave each character such a fantastic look, it was a really blessing to have them on the project.

And of course D Davis and Matt Anderson were there filling in those crucial crucial Grip/Producer roles. Special thanks to Mark Weiler, who facilitated the whole shoot, operated his Red camera, and gave fantastic advice when I wasn't thinking straight;) And finally all the actors who came down and waited patiently while we struggled to keep out schedule.
While the final polished version is far from complete, here's a taste of of how well the greenscreen worked. I still need to build all the environments for the characters from scratch in Maya (a project for next semester), but given the production value of the footage i'm really excited about the film.

Monday, September 20, 2010

More Free Press!

This years City Weekly Arty awards selected Smog Lake City as best short film of 2010. Since I made it, one cold night in January, it's been receiving an unduly large amount of attention, hopefully this is the last of it:)

//In other news I'm working on several small projects this fall, including the Salt Lake Film Societies Digital Directors Project, an independent study with greenscreens and motion tracking (!!???:D:D:D), and earning an MFA in Game design. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Dada Factory featured on Gavin's Undergound

Gavin, the disseminator of all things interesting in SLC, has interviewed US! Check it out over on the City Weekly.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Everyday Apocalypse: Behind the Greenscreens

This two & a half minute romp through the world of Half Life 2 was produced by us (The Dada Factory) in collaboration with the University of Utah and Ron Hill Imagery.

Behind the Scenes:

The Pre Production:

Early last year the folks down at Ron Hill offered a mind-blowing deal to local production companies, a day of shooting in their green screen studio. They used it as a chance to drum up some potential business, we jumped on the opportunity to shoot with the latest and greatest film tool, the Red One.

The script spawned from my seemingly un-avoidable obsession with the apocalypse. It was a chance to incorporate real world footage into the Half Life 2 game engine. Half Life specializes in gunfights, zombies, explosions so the script arose naturally from that. The idea of a disinterested, stoic, main character seemed like a good fit. Furthermore, the recent overabundance of apocalyptic films leaves us with a general feeling of disinterested monotony!

The Production:

With the tech help from the Ron Hill staff (JC & Sara) and the wizard eye of Lonny Danler (the DP of our 48 Hour Film Halcyon) we raced through the shots getting glorious 4K footage of Chris being a total badass.

More production stills are here.

Ron Hill again proved their awesomeness by letting us use the $30,000 Arri Prime Lenses, a full barrage of lights, and the giant greenscreen wall. Epic win.

The Post Production:

Everyday Apocalypse then sat on my hard drive for almost a year. I needed an elite team of nerds to construct and film the backgrounds. That opportunity came when Bob Kessler from the University of Utah gave me the opportunity to work with a team from the spring Machinima class.

For those who don't know, and think Machinima (pronounced Ma-shin-i-ma) is a strange word, check out the wikipedia page. The gist of it is to use videogames (and their modding tools) to orchestrate and shoot movies. 90% of the time this turns into incredibly nerdy, poorly shot, awkward pieces of fluff. That's not true for Bob's Machinima class, he gives students a chance to learn some real film skills, and produce decent Machinima stories.

With a group of four students we set about building and filming the sequences. Some of these were scripted and controlled by the games AI. Others were live sets: The shot below required participation of the full team, one person filmed the scene, another triggered explosives, another fired rockets, and the last threw the car across the road. I danced around behind them cuing the effects.

With the backgrounds shot, I took the composited the footage into After Effects, matching as best I could the size of Chris with the backgrounds, the angles of the shots, the speed of the bike, etc. Color correction helped to mesh Chris into the background. The final task was a comb through with sound FX and foley work, which really made the film come to life. 

The film was a fantastic first experience with greenscreen compositing. As the quality of videogame engines increase (Half Life is 6 years old now), and the tools become more accessible, I think we'll see a whole new direction of animated films emerge. When I go into the EAE masters program next year I plan to explore this exciting new world of greenscreens, motion capture, and Machinima!

Everyday Apocalypse will screen with a host of other Machinima films April 30th @ 3:15 pm in the UMFA auditorium. 

Up Next: Keep reading for the release of 'This Place' our official submission to the 48 Hour Film Project International Shootout, later this month.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dada Painting Night

Tonight I had a painting night with Davey, Jessica and Luke. They can take credit for the idea, I decided to tag along. 

Recently I had tacked up a whole slew of reference photos I used for this piece in the 337 face off event. The reference I used was a Pygmy owl, a tiny creature that can fit into the palm of your hand. They're fantastic birds, beautiful feathering, & there's something so perfect about the proportions. 

So anyway, here's the painting, I think I'll give it to my mother for her birthday next week:

Monday, March 1, 2010

Episode 1: The New Game Theory & Atemporality

I'm going to start posting 'episodes'. Each one is designed to take about an hour to fully consume, through video, articles & related readings. So instead of watching an episode of a mind numbing TV show, you can learn a little about this crazy new world we are living in.

This episode is about the current trend of online culture, games, and how that can be used as a vehicle for social activism and awareness. The two videos are from 2008, so a little dated, but they outline perfectly the trend we have been seeing in recent years. The integration of real life into games and vice versa.

The first talk is by Clay Shirky delivered at the Web 2.0 conference back in 08. Shirky talks about the idea of cognitive surplus. The huge amount of free time that we as Americans are blessed with, yet squander needlessly. He drops some scary statistics on TV watching, building to his beautifully simple statement "it's better to do something than to do nothing". (16 min)

What I love about this talk is shift to positivist thinking. No longer is the internet a mess of uncoordinated data and childish humor, it's the nascent form of something great. Maybe, yes, it's infantile in parts, but there are sparks of brilliance like wikipedia that shine through.

The second talk is from the New Yorker Conference that same year. Jane McGonigal, the force behind the experimental MMO Superstruct, talks about the history, psychology, and future of gaming. She nails down some of the theoretical notions that Shirky brings up, and illustrates just how effective utilizing the cognitive surplus can be.  (15 ish minutes)

Saving the World Through Game Design

I want to work at IFTF. McGonigal's next project is a game called Evoke. Its again a social MMO, designed at solving real life problems.

"Our goal: to empower young people all over the world, and especially in Africa, to start tackling the world’s toughest problems: poverty, hunger, sustainable energy, water security, conflict, disaster relief, health care, education, human rights."

It launches in March 2010, so sign up now to become a part of it, it could be really interesting.

The last entry in this eposide is a post on the Wired blog Beyond the Beyond. The blog is authored by novelist and FururistBruce Sterling. Sterling is an interesting character, he not only helped to define the Cyberpunk genre, but co-authored with William Gibson The Difference Engine, the seminal work of the Steampunk sub-genre.

What Sterling alludes to is an idea brought up by Skirky and McGonigal, Crowd Sourcing. The technique of pulling knowledge from a common database, rather than an 'academic'. It is the idea that fuels open forums, and projects like Wikipedia. It functions on the assumption that the cream naturally rises to the top, and that the shit sinks to the bottom. 

There of course also a darker side to this type of "internet meme ooze" that Sterling mentions timidly; crowd sourcing can rewrite history. Rumors, if they are told by enough people, and they resonate enough with the reader, become part of history. Indeed it is clear that a battleground is forming. On one side you have the guerrilla troops of 4chan and the like trying to undermine authority, and on the other you have the corporate publicity machines attempting to right their image. In the middle of this the internet academics are maintain some sense of credibility.

Atemporality for the Creative Artist

"I think there is a large hole there that could be filled, from an atemporal perspective. Not at the lowest end of artistic expression, but way up at the top philosophical end."
Throw out grand historical narratives, or pull them apart anachronistically, fill them up with relevance, because dignifying them does no good to anyone. Post-Modernism was a cute jab to the ribs, 'look how clever I am when I mix old and new'. Well fuck that, that's old school. I want to mix past, present and future. Mash it up so much you'll forget whether this is old or new, to the point it becomes irrelevant. To the point that all that matters is your visceral reaction. Forget post-modernism, it's time for Atemporality!

Related Watching:
This is a 30 minute lecture that goes a little deeper in to the game world. It is a talk delivered by Carnegie Mellon Professor Jesse Schell. It gets technical and numerical at points but ends with some comical speculation about the world of disposable technology and omnipresent games.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Smog Lake City in the Tribune

Uber thanks to Ben Foulton for the Smog Lake City feature in the Salt Lake Tribune.

High fives should go to Davey Davis, Adam Price and Shawn Rossiter for promoting the video.

If you get a chance to see the Smog show at the Bayleaf cafe, it should make for a great evening of entertainment (March 5th).

Seeing the response to this video has sparked an interest I have to document the city in interesting ways. With any luck you may see more of these short videos cropping up!

I'll leave you with a great quote from UTpiper on the Trib comment page:

"I'm sure the Utah tourism board is loving this going out on the net....all the advertising dollars spent to get people to come to Utah and a simple, less than four minute, piece shreds the concept of this being a mountain city with fresh air things to do at night (could there have been fewer people downtown???)."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Smog Lake City: Main Street

The other night I decided to strike out into the inversion and shoot some video around my office on Main St. The carcinogenic soup that fills up Salt Lake City may be shortening our lives, but it sure makes it beautiful. The video was an excuse to use Davey's Rebel T1i at night (I was interested to see how the high ISO exposure would look in HD). I was amazed at how the camera performed with a quick prime lens in the available light downtown.

The adventure quickly turned into more than just a clip show of the smog, I got interested in who was around at 9 o'clock on a Thursday evening. So, looking super surreptitious with giant headphones and a camera & tripod I snuck around getting shots of people in their nightly routine.

The best encounter was with the late night meter maid, who called in the tow truck to jack a car that had parked in one of the new ride share zones ("tell your friends not to park there" she warned me). We chatted for a bit about the negative image that comes with her job. "You're all just number plates to me!" she exclaimed, "hmm, you're not helping with that image problem" I replied. We chatted about the circle of the economy, life and death, and all things that are good. Then she left to go ticket more cars, and I sprinted off to find my car before she did.

The whole experience was far more enjoyable than I could have anticipated. Forcing yourself to focus on a small portion of the city gives you an almost palpable taste of the urban environment (especially when the air itself is palpably tasty!). I enjoyed being a passive observer, shrugging off the odd looks and belligerent stares with a feeling that I was in search of something important. I don't know if I found it, but I did find details I had previously overlooked, and I had a great time.

Music: 16 Megatons - Funki Porcini

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

In 1943

I found this disjointed piece of writing in an old journal of mine. I wish I could claim credit for it, but I have no recollection of writing it, and no idea what it means.

In the rabbit, it was 1943, my mother fried and that was the end of that rabbit. Hector, the timid brother of my bygone childhood, was off to war. Victor too, gone into the machine. It wasn't as warm, and not because the furnace broke. She could find beauty in anything, my mother.

By the 60's I had become a drifter. Someone who goes with the wind. India, then back with the ships and pains.