Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Nice Marmot

Wow. I got out of work on time yesterday. I honestly cannot remember the last time that happened. The reason for such decadent behaviour was to celebrate Kaff's birthday, and she'd chosen an evening of bowling and drinking. Aside from destroying my right thumb nail (note to self, bowling and guitar playing do not mix) I had a fab time. Here's the evidence:


The lanes were in a large basement in Bloomsbury, not your usual bowling location.


Dramatic action was the theme of the night as brave gladiators did battle with big, heavy lumps of plastic and small pegs which seemed about a trillion miles away.


The birthday girl triumphs.


I may have had a couple of cocktails.

Bowing to the Inevitable

Can you guess what happened next?


Yup, you were right.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

In lieu of words

leaves3, originally uploaded by Mr Atrocity.

Here's a photo I took at Kew Gardens a while back.

I've been working solidly again and so have nothing interesting to impart. I think I may have another project to go onto after HPatOotP wraps but I can't say anything about it yet. That's a relief as it's a project I can really get into, it should have some exciting imagery. It is yet another sequel but it should be fun and it won't last for 18 months like my current millstone.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Well if that don't beat all. As I mentioned in my previous post, I got a wee bit tipsy last night post-work so I cannot, in truth, say that I looked my best this morning. In fact I looked like someone with a nasty hangover who's been working his arse off for months and has not seen much sunlight. And I hadn't shaved. Would you, dear reader, be willing to guess on what day the film production decided to send a camera crew around our studio for the "making of" section of the inevitable DVD release? Yup, today. I doubt I'll feature at all since how interesting can a nerd staring at a computer monitor be? But, if by some cruel twist of fate I do appear on the disc, then I apologise, you really shouldn't have to look at anything that nasty. Bleuch

Update: I've just signed a release form to allow the studio to use my countenance in their promo material and the form states, I kid you not, that these rights extend to "the entire universe". They've not covered themselves in the event of time travel being invented though. The fools.

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Pancakes!, originally uploaded by Photosmudger.

Ate pancakes. Got drunk. Go me.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Guess Who I got to Play With on Sunday?

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Wise Hats

Wise Hats, originally uploaded by Mr Atrocity.

My comrades in arms.

Ave, Caesar, morituri te salutamus.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Here we are again

It's 10.15 on a Saturday night and I'm still at work. This is nuts, everyone's being driven crazy for a kids' film no-one is going to care about 10 minutes after they've seen it. Somehow, every major project ends up being like this and yet I suspect that the world will not care tuppence for what we've done. Oh well, with luck there'll be a couple of shots that I'll want to put on my showreel once this craziness is over. We did at least entertain ourselves by taping a latex Incredible Hulk fist to our CG Supervisor's head today. That cheered us all up for a while. Photos of this possibly to follow tomorrow or Monday.

I have nothing left to say right now, the madness continues...

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You Are A Martini

You are the kind of drinker who appreciates a nice hard drink.
And for you, only quality alcohol. You don't waste your time on the cheap stuff.
Obviously, you're usually found with a martini in your hand. But sometimes you mix it up with a gin and tonic.
And you'd never, ever consider one of those flavored martinis. They're hardly a drink!

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Tough Call (slight return)

What an emotional roller-coaster of a week. When you last left, our hero (that would me; stop sniggering at the back) and his cohorts were presented with a dilemma. The clients liked what we'd done, but when we saw it as it would appear on film we didn't. What to do? In order to explain I'm going to have to get a little technical. I am a 3D artist. What I do is create images against a black background of whatever the effect is using all the tricks I have at my disposal, in this instance a fully computer generated giant. This is then given to a compositor, who is a 2D artist who takes my images and blends them into the photographed real footage to create a finished shot that you see in the cinema.

The 2D process can tweak our elements quite a bit, adding some blur here, tweaking a colour there, that sort of thing. What we discovered is that substantial changes had been made to our elements that didn't look so good on the clients' screen. So we've fixed that and then got some better feedback from the clients such that they were willing to put it in front of the film's director and producers to get their feedback. They are the ultimate arbiters of what's hot and what's not and they can ask for literally any change that takes their fancy. It's rather daunting. So the revised shots were put in front of the powers that be. They reacted very positively and the only changes they requested (read "demanded") were things we'd wanted to do anyway, which was the best thing we could have asked for. It does mean yet more work, but it will be worth it and will really improve the finished look. As I write this I'm watching renders of some of these improvements appearing on my monitor as I make some of the changes. It's already looking better and by the end of Saturday hopefully we'll have effected everything that needs to be done and we can resubmit the work for final sign-off. I'm sure there'll be more tweaks but we're in a much better position now than we were on Tuesday evening. Phew.

I'm sure at some point I'll actually be able to write about something non-work related but it is all consuming at the moment. Sorry folks.

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RSS Goodness

I suppose it's time for a little bit of house-keeping and that means I'm adding an RSS button to the sidebar. It's one of the annoyances of Blogger is that it doesn't do this for you. Since the tedious debate on icon standardisation seems to have died down and settled around this I thought I'd follow along in a sheep like fashion. Look for this button on the sidebar and use it to link to the feed for this blog in your newsreader/aggregator of choice. I use the Google Reader but if you aren't currently au fait with what RSS can do for you have a read of this or this.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tough Call

We have a problem, well a difficulty more than a problem. Yesterday we had a presentation of our work on the movie to the clients in their fancy screening room in Soho. They were very pleased with what they saw, indeed so pleased that they sent us a cake to show their appreciation. Naturally, none of us who'd been working on this part of the show saw any of it as it was all scoffed by those with less insane workloads but that's another story. Our problem is that those of us who do the work really thought it looked awful. This presents us with a quandary, the client is the happiest they've been and of course they have the final say, but we've been working on this for nearly a year and a half and we think it's just got worse. Now in the end, if push comes to shove, the client will get their way, they've paid for it, it's their property. And yet, we just can't forgive ourselves if we don't try and make it better (in our eyes) and hope that the client also believes it to be an improvement. So GW and I spent last evening in the studio until nearly midnight having one last throw of the dice. We owe it to ourselves to and I'm not giving up on this just yet. But I'm paying for it this morning; I am very very tired.

We will never surrender (until there's about two weeks until the deadline, then we'll capitulate so fast there'll probably be a shock-wave).

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Monday, February 12, 2007

English Food

English food has a pretty rotten reputation worldwide. This, it has often seemed to me, is rather unfair as there is a great history of cooking here with as much regional variety as anywhere else. People like Keith Floyd and Gary Rhodes have somewhat rehabilitated the cuisine of this sceptered isle latterly but the original champion was Jane Grigson. She has two seminal books, "Good Things" and "English Food". I've just treated myself to the latter to inspire me once I have some time to cook again. Whilst the relative merits of any nation's cuisine can be argued for eternity, one of the joys of English food is the names that adorn some of these wonderful old dishes. Here's a list of a few favourites culled from a brief browse.
  • Murrumbidgee Cake
  • Stuffed Monkey (a cake; fear not)
  • Kidneys In Their Own Fat
  • Finnian Haddock
  • Whim-wham
  • Gooseberry Fool
  • Doris Grant's Loaf
  • Cornish Charter Pie
  • Jugged Hare
  • Cockie-Leekie
  • Hindle Wakes
I promise I haven't made any of them up.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007


I actually had a day off today, my first in 3 weeks I think. I have spent it with T, sleeping, eating and slowly working my way through the mountain of washing which has accumulated as I've not been home long enough to sort it out. I'm still incredibly tired, but at least I'm not going nuts. I hope this state of mind persists but I suspect there's more insanity in store at work this week. God, I hope this film is good when it comes out, I shall be devastated if I've devoted 18 months of my life to a pile of shit. I've lost all subjective judgement on it now so I'm going on blind instinct whether things are working or not.

There'll probably be more posts like this charting the steady decline of the HPatOotP crew into madness between now and deadline time. Sorry for the lack of lucid prose but my tiny mind seems to have shut down. I love visual effects but it really knocks hell out of you sometimes.

Good night, one and all.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Two Bits

From this:

Hostess With the Mostest

To this:

New Me

What a difference a day makes... I have spent the week being not recognised at work.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007


It would appear I picked the wrong evening to shave my beard off and get a much shorter haircut. It's freezing outside. My poor little face. I think I'll have to track down some monsteriser at lunchtime before my face turns into parchment.

I do like my new look though. It's a whole new me. Or something.


Monday, February 05, 2007

Two More Things

1) Van Halen have reformed with "Diamond" Dave Lee Roth back on vocals after 23 years. Over recent time friends of mine and I have idly speculated as to what lengths we would go to to see one of our favourite bands if they reformed with Diamond Dave (never liked Van Hagar) and we'd agreed that should the impossible happen we'd fly to L.A. to catch that gig; Van Halen in its natural habitat. Well the impossible's happened so we'd better get booking I guess.

2) I'm toying with shaving my beard off, retaining some sideburnage and getting my hair cut รก la Clark Gable thus and thus. Is this a good idea? I'd want a less pomade dependent version though.

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More Me(me)

Inspired by Churlita, I've decided to answer this little meme quiz thing:

Things That Scare Me

1. People who are proud of their ignorance.
2. Drowning.
3. Prejudice.

People that make me laugh

1. Woody Allen.
2. Frankie Howerd.
3. Bill Hicks.

Things I love

1. My life and those who make it so great.
2. Blanket forts.
3. Cricket.

Things I hate

1. Killjoys.
2. Fundamentalism.
3. Banks/dealing with finances.

Things I don't understand

1. Foreign languages (to my eternal shame).
2. Maths very well (though I'm trying to improve this).
3. Reality T.V. - I lack the schadenfeude gene.

Things on my desk

1. A metric shitload of computer equipment.
2. A cubic shitload of books.
3. A plastic Jimmy Page action figure.

Things I'm doing right now

1. Trying desperately to finish "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix".
2. Nothing else.
3. See above.

Three things I want to do before I die

1. See a great white shark in the wild.
2. Learn to play "The Hermit" by John Renbourn properly
3. Paint something I'm truly proud of.

Things I can do

1. Play the guitar acceptably.
2. Cook.
3. Prattle on endlessly about things I am enthusiatic about.

Things you want to listen to

1. Your heart not your head
2. John Renbourn
3. Music you play yourself

Things you should never listen to

1. Whiny Indie Rock
2. Any album whose title has the word "Moods" appended to it.
3. A junior school violin orchestra

Things I would like to learn

1. Ancient Greek
2. To program computers properly
3. To be a better draughtsman

Favorite Foods

1. Steak frites
2. Sushi
3. Cold apple pie with milk

Favorite beverage

1. Tea
2. Beer
3. Wine

TV shows I watched, books I read as a kid

1. "The Moomins" (both books and TV).
2. "Captain Scarlet".
3. "Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day?".

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"I'm a Tosser, I'm a PC"

Hello, my name is Mr Atrocity and I use an Apple Macintosh. I am now sorely tempted not to. It's not that their software or hardware engineers have let me down; it's not that I have found them lacking in design or usability. What makes me hate them at present is the loathsome new "localised" advertising campaign the company is running.

The new UK "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" ads are the epitome of why I've always felt uncomfortable going into Apple stores. The overwhelming sense of smug self-satisfaction and studied nonchalance is almost vomit-inducing. The "too cool for school" attitude of the store and company it represents may just be about bearable in some of the wankier clothing emporia in London but not as the face of a vast global corporation. I just don't buy it. And I really don't buy these damn adverts. I do not need to be assured that I'm cool because I own a Mac; I do not feel the need to make snide remarks about those who run Windows.

For the record I bought a Mac because I like Unix, it has a lot of neat development tools built in and the OS itself is very good to use. In short, at the time of purchase, it was the best tool for the job. I owned Windows PCs before that because Apple operating systems prior to OS X were the worst sort of garbage, no matter how pretty the boxes they came in looked. I did not buy it as a crutch to support a sense of flagging self-esteem and as soon as someone else makes a box that better suits my needs I'll buy that instead.

Apple does currently do some things very well. Engineering, operating system and industrial design they do really well, software design they do pretty well too. But trying to make these computers into something that does for twenty and thirty somethings what sports cars do for those in their fifties makes me want to hurl the thing through a window.

You will not get laid more often because you own a Mac. Remember that.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

All Work And No Play

I have very little news to tell you, if I'm honest. It's now Sunday morning and I'm back in work. Worked some crazy hours in the week and was in the office till a quarter to eight last night. Tinseltroos is also putting in the hours at the moment too so I have a kindred spirit at least. I really hope it's all going to be worth it, because it's really hard going at the moment. It is one the aspects of visual effects that I think very few people outside the industry appreciate; the whole amount of effort it takes to do anything worthwhile is huge.

I suppose the best way I can explain is to take the current movie I'm on as an example. It is going to be released on 13th July worldwide (that date should tell you what it is if you care about such things). By the time we finish we'll have been working for 18 months on the film. Non stop. For eighteen months of effort my little team will have produced perhaps two minutes of footage, if that. And we've been working pretty damn hard for all that time, ramping up to 10-12 hour days for 5-6 months and now we're in the 12-14 hour, 6 or 7 day week working pattern which will continue until we finish. I'll reiterate, all for two minutes of screen time. There are other teams here and at other studios doing the same thing to produce the rest of the effects for the film. The belief that "it's all done with computers nowadays" is largely true, we're all CG visual effects artists but the notion that the machines do the work and it's now easy to create these effects is utterly untrue. And the very tired bunch of people who surround me will back me up on that.

It's a psychologically strange profession; we utterly obsess over something, in the current instance a fully CG giant for many many months to the point where all critical facility is gone as we are so immersed in the finest and tiniest detail that we cannot see beyond it and therefore rely on those with fresher eyes to tell us where we're going right or wrong in a more general way.

I remember when I created the squirrels for "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", which were mostly digital whatever spin Warner's press office put out about the hordes of trained squirrels they had for the sequence. The fact is squirrels are skittish rodents who will not perform to order and so our workoad went through the roof. I worked on that film for a year and everytime I walked through a park, there would be one of the furry little bastards staring back at me, as if it were personally defying me.

That project was a massive undertaking because everyone has their own idea of what a squirrel looks like and I have to tell you, you're probably wrong. I realised this when we went up to Pinewood, where the film was shot, to see the squirrels who were being trained and we going to make digital versions of. I had an image in my mind's eye of what to expect, everyone does. The human brain is an amazing thing, it reconstructs almost everything that our eyes take in to the point where 90% of what you see at any one time is what your brain believes you are seeing on the basis of past experience rather than unfiltered input from your eyes as you might expect. That's why we don't notice when people get new glasses or change a haircut, even if the effect is startlingly different; our brains make huge assumptions about what we see.

The one way I have found to get around this is when I need to study something as it actually is, rather than how I think it is, I draw it. If you have to construct the image yourself you can break the brain's desire to do the work for you. Photography doesn't work so well because your brain tries to make the same preconceived reconstruction of the image when you look at the print, that's why I prefer drawing. Drawing those squirrels totally changed how I saw them and understood them to look. Then there was a year of hell to build animate and produce the images for the film. This current project is about ten times as complicated. Wish us luck.

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