Friday, April 27, 2007

And So It Begins

Here's the UK trailer for the project that has been occupying probably too much of my working life for the last eighteen months. There's even a shot with my work in there; not the best one to be sure, but at least it suggests they aren't going to cut my sequence from the film.


Stick and glue and paint and

I felt like such a little over-achiever last night. After work I went up to one of the mini soundstages in Soho where my college chum Rosco was building a set for a promo he's shooting today . The idea is to take the mini trailer to Cannes to drum up "interest" (for which I'm assuming read "money") for the project. Although there is very little in the way of budget to shoot the piece they will be needing some post-production visual effects shenanigans to make the film work so I went over to offer my tuppence on how to get the maximum bang for their tiny wee buck. After that I went home and quickly cobbled together a rough animatic to show them what I meant visually. That got emailed off and hopefully it will help them out a bit today.

Next on the task list was my housemate's birthday invite. He decided he wanted to be both Pet Shop Boys on the cover of "Actually". He taken the self portraits needed and I cobbled together the composite in Photoshop. After that I finished editing my other chum No-not-that-Paul's showreel which has been sat, taking up a large chunk of my laptop's hard-drive, for a couple of weeks. Doing showreels is odd. Choosing the music is always the hardest part. He's ended up with "Get Your Snack On" by Amon Tobin as it has the right energy to carry the fast paced cutting needed to cram 5 years of visual effects work into under 2 minutes. Hopefully he'll like it. It's pretty much tough tits if he doesn't, but it would be nice if he were happy.

After that I read another 50 pages of Greg Bear's "Blood Music" which a work-mate recommended to me after I'd explained my metallic plant short film idea. I'm really enjoying it. I haven't read that much sci-fi recently (apart from a couple of Philip K Dick novels last year) but when I find a good one I still have a huge appetite for them. Thus far this one's a goody.


Monday, April 23, 2007

The Pitt Rivers Museum

The Pitt Rivers Museum, originally uploaded by Mr Atrocity.

Tinseltroos and I went to Oxford on Sunday. The Pitt Rivers Museum is a beautiful Victorian museum devoted to anthropology and is, so I'm told, featured in the "His Dark Materials" books by Philip Pullman.

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Done and Dusted

Well it appears that it's over. The last finals from my bit of HPatOotP were approved today and so I am done, finished and off the project bar the debriefing and archiving of assets. I should be leaping about, singing and getting roaring drunk but I'm not. You'd think 18 months of work, the last 8-9 of it very hard work indeed would be worthy of some kind of massive celebration but it was announced by a short e-mail acknowledged by those of us left on the show with a tired nod and left at that. When you start out in visual effects most of us have the idea that everyone works incredibly hard up to a deadline, the project is delivered and on the crest of a wave of achievement you all go to the pub. Except it never seems to happen like that. The project finishes a bit at a time, many people will already be on other shows as keeping a whole crew on stand-by to look after the last few stragglers is unnecessary, so it tends to be the few members of the core team who are left and they tend to be the most tired.

My current emotion is very similar to those war veterans who have a melancholic depression following their discharge as though they don't quite remember what they used to do before they went off to fight. This film has been so consuming of my time and energy for such a long period of time that having my life back is a very strange feeling. There are so many friends I haven't seen for weeks or months, so many activities I've missed out on that I should be delirious, but much in the manner of the mole poking his nose out of his burrow, still woozy from a long hibernation, it's going to take a little while to get my bearings and put my feet back on the ground.

Looking back I'm sad that the work doesn't look better than it does. There are a host of reasons for that which it would be impolitic to discuss here but, suffice to say, without much work and many late nights it would have been a great deal worse. No-one's going to get sued but I don't think it'll win many awards either. I suppose that's another reason for the malaise, given what we put in I wish we'd got more out. Ho hum, at least it seems it's done at last. And with that I'm off to bed.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Todd T. Dog Esq.

Todd T. Dog Esq., originally uploaded by Mr Atrocity.


Troy Crew

Troy_Crew, originally uploaded by lornapaterson.

On the eve of finishing another movie (hopefully), here's a photo courtesy of Missy P, of the crew from the first film I worked on practically beginning to end. I was so young and naive in those days...

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

New Short Film Idea/Test

In a desperate attempt to preserve what little sanity I have left, whilst scrabbling around trying to finish off HPatOotP which is in its death throes now, I've been writing a little bit of code to make spheres deform and behave like strange alien plants. Below are a few frames from the test I rendered. Now I need to formalise my idea and draw up some storyboards before getting into making the wee blighter. With luck I'll be able to do the whole thing during my month off in May. If I could just finish the bloody film I'm being paid to work on...

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Friday 13th Part A Bazillion

Yesterday was, on the whole, not a good day. I had thought that I was pretty much done with HPatOotP especially after Wednesday night's epic last gasp attempt to get the final tweaks done. But no, the clients have decided on yet more changes to one shot which has been the bane of my existence for nearly a year now. It keeps coming back, never because there's anything wrong with it but just because it's been decided that want something different. That is their right of course, they're paying for it, but it is somewhat soul-destroying not only to be in work for yet another weekend, but also because I've done this shot 5 or 6 times now and I look back on all that wasted work and time that could have been spent making other shots look better.

Yesterday's final bombshell came when I found out that the creature I was due to supervise the creation of on the project I was due to go onto after HPatOotP wraps has been removed from the film due to budgetary cuts. I was really looking forward to that and now I'm at a bit of loose end professionally. I shall have to think what I want to do next and I'm not in an ideal mental state to do that at the moment. From having the next year mapped out work-wise it's suddenly all fallen through and I'm a little dazed and confused.

In much happier news, Tinseltroos had got me a present to cheer me up: James Martin's book of Puddings. I think it may be a hint of what she thinks our life will be like together when we find a flat together in June. I think she's probably right. We also laughed like loons with a good run through's Photoshop Phriday. This and this made my face ache with hysterical giggling. I'm sure everything will be fine.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Few More Photos

Here's a few pictures I shot at the weekend on Kodak 400 CN film. It's a black and white film that is processed in C-41 colour chemistry like regular colour negative film. This means you can get Snappy Snaps to process your film rather than having to do it yourself as you would with normal black and white. I quite like this film, I'll probably use it again, though it's not a patch on my beloved Tri-X.

Top of the Stairs

Swan at Dusk

Lazy Afternoon

St Alban The Martyr - Coro Concert

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Me Going Home From Work at 1.37 a.m. This Morning

Nuff said.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Code of Conduct

Following the furore surrounding the horrific online assault on Kathy Sierra, which I believe is now a police matter, Tim O'Reilly along with similarly minded Internet mavens, have come up with a first draft of a proposed "code of conduct for bloggers". It has six main points. I'm quoting the code in full below with my own comments following each section:

We celebrate the blogosphere because it embraces frank and open conversation. But frankness does not have to mean lack of civility. We present this Blogger Code of Conduct in hopes that it helps create a culture that encourages both personal expression and constructive conversation.

1. We take responsibility for our own words and for the comments we allow on our blog.

We are committed to the "Civility Enforced" standard: we will not post unacceptable content, and we'll delete comments that contain it.

We define unacceptable content as anything included or linked to that:
- is being used to abuse, harass, stalk, or threaten others
- is libelous, knowingly false, ad-hominem, or misrepresents another person,
- infringes upon a copyright or trademark
- violates an obligation of confidentiality
- violates the privacy of others

We define and determine what is "unacceptable content" on a case-by-case basis, and our definitions are not limited to this list. If we delete a comment or link, we will say so and explain why. [We reserve the right to change these standards at any time with no notice.]

Whilst Mr Atrocity takes responsibility for the words on this blog, I certainly don't take responsibilty for those of my commenters. That is madness. Who am I to judge what is acceptable content to you? Let us go through Mr O'Reilly's bullet points.
  1. Any comment abusing someone else is unacceptable. So if someone writes that Tony Blair is a lying hypocrite who has destroyed the last vestiges of cabinet government for his own selfish ends I should delete it because it is rude about our Prime Minister? I don't think so.
  2. Content that is libellous is the responsibility of its author. I think expecting blog authors to audit and fact check every comment is barmy. Newspapers don't manage to do a very good job and they have professional staff to attend to the task. The law as it stands already deals with libel quite adequately so this edict is surplus to requirements.
  3. The copyright infringement question is intersting because it depends under whose jurisdiction the infringement is alleged to have taken place. In the US there is the notion of fair-use and yet in spite of this major corporations try, daily, to bully individuals with whom they disagree by threatening copyright infringement or violation of a trademark. The bully-boys of big business do not need any more assistance. Once again, the law as it stands provides for this.
  4. Violating an obligation of confidentiality is generally wrong, but without it Watergate would not have happened. It is also dependent upon who is obligated to whom.
  5. Similarly, violation of the privacy of others is hugely open to interpretation and potenital abuse and bullying.
The closing comment invalidates everything that goes before, "We define and determine what is "unacceptable content" on a case-by-case basis, and our definitions are not limited to this list." What does this mean? In effect the whole screed says, "please play nice by our rules even though they are so vague as to be meaningless and even if you do figure out what they mean we may change them any time it suits us". That's no good. Point 1 is therefore worse than useless, it defines no rigid parameters whilst at the same time sounding draconian, heavy-handed and authoritarian.

2. We won't say anything online that we wouldn't say in person.

This poses the question, "to whom?" I am certain I have written things on this blog that I would not repeat in front of my mother and I've also written things that I probably wouldn't say if they were to be identified with my real-world persona rather than that of Mr Atrocity. There are of course many people who know who Mr Atrocity is, but I'm glad I have this online personality I can use to shield myself when I write as I think it enables me to be more honest with you.

3. We connect privately before we respond publicly.

When we encounter conflicts and misrepresentation in the blogosphere, we make every effort to talk privately and directly to the person(s) involved--or find an intermediary who can do so--before we publish any posts or comments about the issue.

Why? This presupposes that the author of the "offensive" comment wishes to have a private debate or indeed cares what you might have to say to them. Civilised discourse can only happen between two consenting parties. Trying to take the moral high-ground with someone who doesn't care is an exercise in futility and is for whose benefit exactly? I also fail to see what I private exchange would achieve that a public post would not. If a comment is made in public, a response in public seems not unreasonable. A flame war in public is no worse than one private. Indeed a public flame war merely demonstrates to the rest of us that these two people are dunderheads who should not be taken too seroiusly in future. It would enable us to be more selective in our future reading and God knows we need to be able to do that.

4. When we believe someone is unfairly attacking another, we take action.

When someone who is publishing comments or blog postings that are offensive, we'll tell them so (privately, if possible--see above) and ask them to publicly make amends.
If those published comments could be construed as a threat, and the perpetrator doesn't withdraw them and apologize, we will cooperate with law enforcement to protect the target of the threat.

Once again, terms are not defined here. By whose judgement are we deciding the level of offense? Certainly those who are making threats of a violent nature are cruel, hateful people, but they are already breaking existing law in most nations and thus this code of conduct is not necessary; the law already provides for dealing with these people. Co-operation with law in these instances is not an option, it is a legal requirement. Point 4 provides for nothing that is not already extant.

5. We do not allow anonymous comments.

We require commenters to supply a valid email address before they can post, though we allow commenters to identify themselves with an alias, rather than their real name.

This is the killer as far as I'm concerned. The previous points are either irrelevant or just say "play nice" in faux legalese. Point 5 would have us do away with freedom of speech on the Internet. If you cannot be anonymous, you cannot guarantee freedom of speech. This is a self-evident fact; it cannot be done. For this reason alone I would never sign up to this code of conduct. I do not respect most anonymous comments because I like to know about the persona who has made the comment in order that I can glean some kind of context, but I will defend utterly the right to comment anonymously. Either allow no comments, or allow all.

6. We ignore the trolls.

We prefer not to respond to nasty comments about us or our blog, as long as they don't veer into abuse or libel. We believe that feeding the trolls only encourages them--"Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, but the pig likes it." Ignoring public attacks is often the best way to contain them.

Once again, it is unnecessary to add this, it is what every halfway sensible Internet user already does. Anyone who has taken the trouble to read the proposed code of conduct this far is smart enough to know that trolls exist purely to try and cause misery. Like the playground bully wanting attention, attention is what they thrive on. We deny them that already if we are sensible; we do not need a code of conduct to spell it out as if to innocent children.

To sum up then, this code of conduct consists of intellectually lazy homilies towards "being nice", one proviso to remove freedom of speech and one statement of the blindingly obvious. I don't think it's a particularly good piece of work and I'm not playing ball, sorry.

If I were to offer one constructive suggestion it would be the following: I think the blogging world is looking at this issue arse-backwards. I believe that anyone should be able to comment on a blog but I think that blog-reading software should enable the reader to apply filters to the content. Most of us who have worked for companies that have intranet message boards have set up e-mail filters to ignore posts from certain individuals who are either repeatedly offensive or painfully stupid and I see this as the solution to unwanted comments or posts in blogging. If you do want to read person X's comment or post it should be possible to filter them out. Similarly, if you believe that anonymous posters are cowards whose opinion does not count then you can make their opinion irrelevant by filtering it. Since e-mail can already do this I don't see that it would too hard to implement into a browser or news aggregator.

I'm sure this code of conduct is very well intentioned and for the most part I probably abide by the spirit of it but as a document it is mostly unnecessary and in some parts fundamentally flawed.

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Mundania, originally uploaded by Mr Atrocity.

Bloody film still not done. Sanity is now in very short supply and tempers, not least my own, are starting to fray. I pride myself on being very calm and remaining patient in almost all conditions but it is getting to the stage now where not only do I not want to do anything further on the show, I am starting to get annoyed with the very idea of making anymore of this rubbish. It looks like I'll be working late tonight, once again, to make yet more minor revisions. I've looked through the menu for food and I've eaten everything I like several times already and do not fancy any of it but that's probably just a symptom of my malaise and temper; the food itself is actually pretty good by take-away standards, so it could be much much worse.

This is a pretty whiney post I'm afraid but I don't have that much else to say right now. I did manage to shoot some black and white film over the weekend which I've now got developed so when I get an evening at home I'll scan that and post some pictures but otherwise we've mostly been toiling and trying to relax from toiling and at the moment the fact that I'm utterly exhausted, pissed off and generally sick to the back teeth with the whole enterprise suggests that the relaxing part isn't sufficient. Additionally, that there are now guaranteed, barring disasters, to be two further sequels to this film frankly fills me with dread at the moment. I'm writing this now so I can look back on it in a year or two when these sequels come around to remind myself how I felt at the end of this project and to remind me not to do another show like it. Too much; too too much.

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

One Tree Hill

I took my old digital camera out for a walk this morning up the lovely One Tree Hill, a lovely mini nature reserve that affords beautiful views of the city from the top.

The City

Reading on the Hill Top

One Last Leaf


Tree Lined Walk

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

When Will It Ever End?

This goddamn project refuses to die. I'm still toiling away on it (though I only worked Saturday last weekend) but this is all getting too much really. We've all had enough and to be honest maintaining any sense of interest or motivation is proving very very difficult now.

The other odd aspect to reviewing the shots as they slowly, one by one, achieve final status and leave the building is that whatever show you work on, however long you spend, it tends to break down to 20% of the shots look great, 60% look OK and 20% are stinkers whatever you do. I'm sure a lot of it must be to do with our own myopia on the project and that others may see things differently but nonetheless that weighting just keeps coming around. I am so sick of this film now I can scarcely think about it without wanting to hit something. I shall be working the Easter weekend and bank holidays in order to get this morning's list of changes finished. You have to love show business sometimes.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Alan Moore Article on Pornography

A superb article. Normally I don't just post links but I shall make an exception for this.

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Danger: Diabolik

I finished work at about 9.30 last night full of good intentions of going home and getting a good night's sleep. Instead I ended up staying up half the night watching "Danger: Diabolik" which had arrived from Amazon in the morning. I think I have found another favourite movie. The last time I remember staying up late because I got hooked by a film unexpectedly was when "Vanishing Point" was on TV a couple of Christmases ago.

As a warning I should probably say that my taste in film does not seem to tally with most others and that my delight in late 1960s heist/spy/crime/caper movies knows no bounds. Danger: Diabolik is pretty much all of these genres. It is an adaptation of an Italian comic book and is tremendously successful as such. Mario Bava does a better job of transposition than most others who've attempted to wrench a character from drawing to screen.

The plot is very silly but involves jewel heists and general evasion of the police whilst looking cool and driving an E-Type Jag. As someone who finds the most heart-wrenching scene in cinema history the destruction of the Aston Martin and E-Type in "The Italian Job" you can imagine my joy in watching a film where at least half the Jags make it out alive.

The film's stars, John Phillip Law and Marisa Mell are both incredibly sexy and were a couple when the film was made. You can definitely sense this; the chemistry is palpable and it makes a pleasing change from the James Bond promiscuity idea of masculinity to have a hero who is faithful to his girlfriend for the entire movie.

A film like this would not be made today I suspect. You might argue that some of the Tarantino/Rodriguez films are modern descendants but I think they lack the charm, wit and sense of effortless style that Diabolik has. These modern films are just too try-hard, they try to copy what Bava just did.

Finally I need to mention that Diabolik has Terry-Thomas in it too. I could not have asked for more.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Strawberry Tart

Strawberry Tart, originally uploaded by Mr Atrocity.

We made this. We ate this.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Work Space

Work Space, originally uploaded by Mr Atrocity.

Since I've spent most of the last 18 months sitting in front of my workstation and since it's all about to come to an end and as I'm going onto another project I shall have to dismantle this magnificent edifice that I've constructed over the last year or so I thought I ought to document it. I'm really rather proud of my work here and it says a lot about my character I think, for better or worse. I might start annotating the flickr photo with a few details.

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