Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Spiral of Despair

And downwards and ever backwards into the ever deepening pit of no-telephone despair. Once again Tinseltroos and I have spent the better part of a day taking turns waiting for a BT engineer to turn up. Having begun our ordeal at 8.00 a.m. with Tinseltroos holding the fort it was a big no-show. I took over at 10.30 and sat, twiddling my thumbs, as the morning ebbed away. I received a classically impersonal SMSBT were "sorry" (how sorry a machine can be is somewhat moot) and that all their engineers were running late. This I had noticed given the presence of no engineers in the flat. He finally arrived at 2.30, which BT, is not "in the morning" i.e. when you claimed that he would arrive. I had to leave to come back to work and left Tinseltroos, who'd come racing back, to deal with the unfolding situation. Please can we have a phone line now? It's been over 6 weeks and I begin to give up hope that I will ever surf the web at home. Once again, apologies for the lightness of posting but I can only write this stuff whilst waiting for renders or sims at work. At present I'm simulating pouring boulders into a large statue shaped mould for a film due out next year sometime. There aren't that many people who could claim that today I'd wager.


Tinseltroos has just phoned from our new B.T. land-line. Right, now to try and organise some broadband from, surprisingly enough, another supplier than B.T. Mr. Atrocity heaves a heavy sigh and trudges off to argue the futility of existence with another service "provider".

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Farewell To All That

Empty Room 1

So farewell then Atrocity Mansions, you were a good ship but it's time for you to have a new crew. Last night was spent frantically cleaning my old house so that there is at least a fighting chance of getting our deposits back. In fairness when my friends and I took the place, seven years ago, it was not the cleanest, primmest nor most proper house so I think we are returning it cleaner than we got it.

Although I've felt like Schossadlerflug is home from almost the moment we moved in there was a little moment of quiet nostalgia as I closed the door to my old, now empty room, put the house keys onto the kitchen table and closed the front door behind me for the last time. There were many good times in that place and when I look at the person I was when I moved in there and the one I am now I think the Atrocity Mansions era represents a major phase of my life, one that I am now leaving behind as I embark on a new life together with Tinseltroos. The time is right, it feels good to move on and now there is real closure on my previous existence.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

wine in the bath

wine in the bath, originally uploaded by jaypod.

Someone may have had a glass of Pinot too many.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Wherever I Go, I Cannot Escape My Past

The Great Game

There is still no phone line at Schossadlerflug meaning that the only time I have to update the blog is during the quiet moments at work and since I'm still working on two shows simultaneously that time is proving elusive, hence the silence last week as I attempted to spin many, many plates at once. By male standards I am quite good at multi-tasking, what I do have difficulty with is changing gear in my brain from dealing with those who are in a mad panic because their project only has a few weeks to run and those who are in the quiet contemplative early stages of a project where everything seems possible and there is no rush. I have been driving myself quietly barmy over the last few weeks in try to cope with this dichotomy.

I did have a splendid Sunday though. I was fortunate enough to land a ticket to the fourth day of the England vs India test match at Lord's and though I was excited at the prospect the appalling weather had made a full day's play seem unlikely. I duly left Schossadlerflug for the 50 minute walk to the ground armed with a raincoat and umbrella in addition to my regulation cricketing panama hat to protect me from whatever elements the day could chuck my way. I also packed a tiny, modest selection of comestibles consisting of a large pork pie, 4 apples, a loaf of french bread, butter and big chunk of delicious organic cheddar. Though it was scarcely enough to keep body and soul together I decided to make the best of it.

The walk to the ground was beautiful. There was a delightful apricot coloured sunshine suffusing the streets and it was too early in the day for most people to be out and about so I had the majority of the city to myself. I past The British Museum, wandered through Fitzrovia then up Marylebone High Street onto Baker Street before walking along the underside of Regent's Park until I reached St John's Wood. There I met my chum KiwiBen and we headed into the historic ground and took our seats.

The Pavilion

Lord's was bathed in this magical light all day; I've said it before and it bears repeating, visiting Lord's is as close as I get to a religious experience. The history of the place is everywhere. The earth has soaked up nearly two hundred years of cricket, even the stones of the pavilion have been quietly absorbing the magic of the game for well over a hundred. For the day's play to then be as good as it was meant I could really ask for no more and can safely declare in hindsight that it was the best day's cricket I've ever seen.

England Batting

Both sides played superbly, there was drama and spectacle and a real ebb and flow to the teams' fortunes was evident throughout the day. From Michael Vaughan's middle stump being knocked flat by RP Singh to Kevin Pietersen's magnificent and measured century together with Matt Prior's dogged 42 that stabilised the England innings setting India an unlikely 380 for victory.

Sachin Tendulkar

Sourav Ganguly

The England bowlers were every bit as good as their Indian counterparts - there was no rubbish bowled anywhere. For a supposed second-string attack they acquitted themselves with panache and determination, never giving one of the finest batting line-ups in world cricket an easy time to score runs. The icing on the cake of the day was to see legends Rahul Dravid and especially Sachin Tendulkar bat. The ovation around the ground when the little master walked down the pavilion steps made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I've never seen anyone, not even Brian Lara, receive such reverential applause at the start of an innings. Tendulkar's tenure at the crease was brief, the magical Monty Panesar trapping him leg before wicket for 16 though not before we'd been treated to three of the sweetest boundaries it has been my privilege to witness. The day drew to a close with play being called off at 7 o'clock, Karthik and Ganguly resisting as best they could and a slightly tipsy, very happy crowd drifted through the gates and out into the evening sunshine ready for a leisurely journey home filled with some very happy memories.

Evening Over The Pavillion

Old Father Time Tells Us To Go Home

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Monday, July 16, 2007

The Proof of the Pudding

So yesterday I finally saw what 18 months of blood, sweat and tears looks like on the big screen. Together with the entire clan Tinseltroos we went en masse to see "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix". Tinseltroos had already seen the film on Friday morning and declared herself delighted. She is a rabid Potterphile so I felt I had to make allowances for that and was far from certain that I would feel the same way.

The thing I was most concerned about was how the sequence I'd worked on had been treated after it left us. Once the visual effects for a film are complete they are generally run through a procedure called grading where the director sits down with a colourist and decides how to subtly (one hopes) adjust the colour in a sequence to make it a tad bluer, or a little more contrasty or whatever. This is left until last as it enables the director to be sure that the live action elements and the computer graphics will sit next to each other happily and that an overall style for the film can be maintained. The downside for us is that we in the VFX side are never quite sure what we're going to see on screen and most VFX artists can tell stories about shows where the colourist has gone nuts and really screwed up a sequence. I once spent a year working on a movie that then had the whole film brightened up massively to the point where much of the detail we'd pain-stakingly put into each shot was blown out to white. Suffice to say there is always a sense of trepidation when you see your shots in a cinema with a paying audience.

Another aspect that's nerve-wracking is that audience reaction. It is one of the great pleasures of my job to sit in a cinema and watch people laugh or cheer or cry at something I've spent a long time crafting. The other side of the coin is that if it doesn't have the desired effect on the public it is very dispiriting to see your work have no effect at all.

And so it was with this mixture of hope and abject terror that I took my seat in the Odeon Leicester Square for the Sunday matinée. The film didn't do too much for me, if I'm honest. I enjoyed the "Goblet of Fire" more but I think this is mostly because "Order of the Phoenix" made no allowances for those unfamiliar with the story from the book. Many relationships were never explained and the film had a jolting, episodic/montage quality where one event simply led to another in a relentless and slightly mechanistic way. If you already know the story backwards I doubt this would bother you. That said I was heartily relieved when Grawp finally appeared on screen and our boy looked fine, the extra grading had helped if anything and there he was, 20 feet high performing in front of 1700 people. It was a bit of a rush but the crowd responded well, "oohing" and "awwing" at the right moments and generally I was much happier with how Grawp looked in the cinema than I ever thought I would be. Tinseltroos' contribution, the apparating and flying wizards, looked amazing but I had no doubts about that beforehand; she's just too talented for her own good.

I'll probably go and see the film once more for the 3D IMAX release but I think true Potter-fans will not feel let down. Also no-one laughed at my work and both of those mark the experience down as a win in my book.

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Scrubbed Up Lovely

I spent Saturday painting and putting the decals and stickers on my bike frame. Here's the progress from intially stripped frame to removal of paint, sanding of the frame's rusty bits to final paint job and new badging:


After Stripping

The whole sanded frame

The finished painted and decaled up frame

I'm really rather pleased., it's taken a lot of effort and time to get this far and though there are a couple of minor paint runs for a rattle-can paint job, it's not too shabby.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

A Simpsons Atrocity

If you take a gander at the Simpsons movie website you'll see you can make yourself a Simpsons avatar. This would be me then.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Good Press

The Times has its review of "Harry Potter and the Order of The Phoenix" up and the review concludes with the following:

"But the unexpected charmer is Hagrid’s half-brother, a simple, sad giant who takes a fancy to bossy Hermione. Although entirely rendered in CGI, the giant outacts several of the supporting cast members with a moment of pure pathos – seeking to impress Hermione, he roots around in his pile of junk and comes up with a bicycle handlebar which he passes to her, gently ringing the bell and scanning her face for approval."

Thank you Wendy Ide, it's nice to have our work appreciated. Given that single scene took us a year and half to make it's really appreciated when someone likes it. I'm a bit buzzy now.


From the Ain't It Cool review :

"The effects are also fantastic. Both Grawp, Hagrid's brother (a full-blooded giant) and Kreacher (the twisted house elf who calls Sirius Black master) make you forget how poorly Dobby and the Troll were handled earlier in the series. Of course, the effects worlds have made big leaps since the first film, so I won't crap all over the early ones, but I will say that the effects in the new film struck me as being fantastic."

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That's Dada for Now

The never-ending utility meter reading story continues...

Total reversal of fortune today. Having had the "nope, no, no way" attitude from the MD of the recruitment agency and being told to contact Samantha I was not feeling hopeful when I called this morning to try and speak to the fabled Sammy. I did not need to. The receptionist, not the one who initially cold-shouldered us on Tuesday, was friendly and very can-do. She was American and it seems to be something of a national trait, at least compared to the lazy Brits I have generally had to deal with. She contacted the receptionist from the old company to find out what the protocol was, phoned me back inside 15 minutes with the go-ahead to come over and take the reading whenever was convenient. Having been brought around from my swoon by a colleague who happened to have smelling salts (this is turning into a Victorian melodrama, sorry) I thanked her profusely and counted down the minutes until I could go and do the deed.

The deed was accomplished with minimum fuss and I was able to contact both the old gas and electricity suppliers, get yet more reference numbers, fill in my EDF form and post the bugger all within an hour. And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I am emotionally done for the day.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tuttle Not Buttle

Right so the electricity meter isn't in the embassy, it's the other next door. The company that occupied the bottom two floors of that building has now vacated the premises so the key to the meter cupboard currently resides with a recruitment agency on the second floor. And they won't give us the key; they don't think they're allowed to. We have to go back on Thursday when Samantha will be in and ask her. She may think differently.

This is achieving a level of bureaucratic insanity I did not believe possible. I've obviously been working with motivated competent people for far too long and had forgotten about the majority of lazy jobsworths whose sole desire in life is to make sure their own arses are so completely covered that they can never appear to be responsible for anything. They generally achieve this by inaction and continual buck-passing. It is slowly driving me mad. It's a bit like those puzzles in Zelda where you have to get an item that allows you to do a thing so you can talk to the wizard who, in return for another thing, will give you a doodad so you can finally take a fucking electricity reading.

The saga continues...

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Look, My Baby all Growed Up

Bringing Up Grawpy
It seems that the cat is well and truly out of the bag. This Harry Potter making of documentary has been airing world-wide and has now hit youTube. It's in three parts but the section which covers the part of the film I worked on is here from about 7 minutes in:

So there you are folks, I, along with a bunch of amazingly talented people, spent 18 months making Grawp and although the documentary only shows the first part of the process we went through, that of capturing Tony Maudsley's performance, you can see a whole load of the shots I made. I really like the first close up, there's a gentleness to the performance there and, although you can't tell in the youTube video, Grawp's skin had months of work put into its detailing and surface properties. There's also some lighting on him of which I'm very proud. Anyone who gets to see the film before I do (this Sunday) I'm keen if you can let me know how it all looked, it seems quite dark to me but that may just be the video on youTube.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Spiralling Out Of Control

It appears our electricity meter is in the High Comission of a major African nation. Oh God, can the madness stop now? please? The world has become too weird for me.

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Everything is Everywhere

I had a weirdly existential moment this weekend. As most of you know I make digital visual effects for movies for a living and until the end of May I'd spent 18 months working on "Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix". I still can't say what I did until the film's out so I'll fill that blank in at the start of next week. One of the few aspects of the job I dislike is going on set. This is mostly because of the boredom factor. When you are on set you are always waiting for someone to do something so you can then do your job. This results in hours of standing around, and as a natural fidget I get very restless and then I get tense and cross. Fortunately I was only required to go on set twice, once for the sequence I was to work on and the other time to comprehensively photograph the Room of Requirements so a digital version could be built. As a result of taking about 1500 photos of the place I have a very clear mental image and though it was only a set its physicality is very profoundly etched into my mind as the room was complete with ceilings forming a totally enclosed environment.

How does this translate into weird existential moments? As part of her pre-Potter film and book excitement building regime, Tinseltroos bought herself the "Order of the Phoenix" Wii game. She has been waving her Wiimote around casting spells for most of the last few evenings and last night spent a great deal of time in the Room of Requirements. As a movie tie-in the game version looks as close to the movie one as possible and it was a very odd experience to look at a very detailed virtual representation of somewhere that I had actually been in person and spent quite some time. If you aren't careful you begin to lose your grasp of what is real, what is pretend on-set real and what is fakey-real. I shall have to have a little sit-down and a cup of tea until I calm down.

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Friday, July 06, 2007


I finally received one too many Facebook invitations and decided something had to be done. I've made this spoof website to show an idea of what an anti-social networking site might look like:


I got the idea of doing a one page spoof website from this fantastic Second Life satire:


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I'm too angry to write much now. I took half a day of my very limited and precious annual leave in order to have a phone line put in only for me not have a phone line put in. Now I need to chase up a whole bunch of other people to get access to various cupboards and then go through the torture of contacting BT again. It's taken three weeks to have nothing at all happen. Argh!

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Schossadlerflug is still without a telephone line hence no broadband hence a lack of activity here. Sorry, folks. Lucky me gets to take a chunk of my meagre holiday allowance on Friday to wait around for an engineer from BT to come and prod our sockets (not a euphemism) until we have a connection. Then I can order broadband and wait another ten days until that gets connected then normal service can be resumed.

Last weekend was Tinseltroos' and my first weekend in our flat. Though we'd been moved in two weeks, the first weekend was spent in the beautiful Welsh market town of Llangollen (roughly pronounced Th-lan-goth-len) for my college friend Ed's wedding to the beautiful Katherine.

The Vintage Railway

This is How You Ensure You Arrive on Time

Yes he did arrive at his wedding in the Delorean from Back to the Future. It was a lovely service with most of the music in the church coming from Star Wars, including the happy couple walking down the aisle at the end to the Throne Room Theme from the end of A New Hope. Pure, kitsch, genius. I was so proud. The reception was lovely and Ed's band played so he spent the last two hours of his wedding party on the drums. Kat also sang a couple of Kate Bush numbers. It was very lovely.

That did mean a fortnight until we finally settled into the flat and got the last items of the landlord's that we didn't require put down in the basement, including the world's largest, heaviest, widescreen TV. Now we have space for our guitars in the living room, which is a relief.

We had a pretty relaxed Saturday, it seems determined to rain perpetually at the moment, which is a drag as I've sanded down my bike frame and I want to paint it, but it did mean we could spend the majority of Sunday baking. We had invited several of our work friends around for tea , cake and booze on Sunday afternoon and we wanted to be prepared. Having a double oven meant that we could combine forces. We ended up with two different sorts of savoury muffin, one of my ginger cakes and a Somerset Pomona cake which is a boozy cake with apple in it. Bloody lovely. Having baked, relaxed a bit, got all our pictures on the wall, set up the guitars and the projector it really feels like home now. If we could just get some damn broadband...

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