I’ve started experimenting with computer animation

That’s right.  This former model builder and stop motion animator is embracing the evil, evil world of CGI.

Way back in the before time when I was a kid, my first step into narrative film-making was stop motion animation.  I was a model builder and it was a natural step.  It was also the only way for me to create the SciFi worlds I saw in my young head.  Since then as technology advanced I always wanted to try computer animation.  In fact, when I bought my first non-linear editing system, it was a toss up between that and a Kinetix 3Dmax system.  I went the editing route and I have the heavy iron D/Vision workstation holding my door open to prove it!  Cut to today:

Right now I’m experimenting with DAZ studio which is free software for the new CGI/Illustration market.  (Go check out anything traditionally illustrated with paintings like romance novel covers and chances are you will see a CGI image created with DAZ models.)  DAZ also has a marketplace where you can buy reasonably priced CGI characters, clothes, environments, and yes, spaceshipsRight now I’m at the basic learning stage.  I have goals like: “Can I make a character stand in a room, set a camera, and render it properly?”  Well, what do you think?  (click to embiggen)

v6 test 09 cam 01 v6 test 08 cam 04 red light off



Space: 1999 original 44 inch Eagle One special effects model!

Check out this video of the original Space: 1999 Eagle One 44 inch special effects model as it appears today!  See the inner workings including the crude pilots in the cockpit and how the rocket engines shoot out compressed air!  Fabulous!

…The Original 44 inch Eagle One special effects model, from the 1970s Gerry Anderson television series Space: 1999. The only large model available at the start of filming (it was later joined by two other similar models at that size) it featured heavily in most episodes – and was crashed many times. Now 35 years old, it has been damaged and painted several times over the years but was given a major refurbishment in 2002 to return it to it’s studio appearance and more importantly to prevent it falling apart. It should now easily last for another 35+!


Steam Powered Giraffe is a music group not a robot giraffe

We saw Steam Powered Giraffe at the Steampunk World’s Fair last weekend.  Well sort of…  It was really crowded in the tent where they were performing and we were stuck outside, but we stayed for a few songs.  We saw a couple of good musical groups (and a few not so good) but these guys were the most “steampunky.”

We weren’t sure what this act was until we saw them.  I thought maybe it was a big robot giraffe.  There WAS a big robot there but it wasn’t a giraffe.  Actually it wasn’t even a robot, just a statue of a robot, but it was cool.  Most of the fair was like that, wandering around wondering what was going on.

Are big media corporations using fraudulent copyright take-downs to sabotage other media corporations on YouTube?

I posted this video to Google+ and Facebook yesterday.  It’s a really great promotional video for the upcoming film Prometheus.  Today it looks like it was taken off YouTube by Comcast because of copyright.  What a stupid thing to do, I thought.  You want your promotional videos to be copied and posted to YouTube right?  That’s the whole point of promotion.  You want people to see it.

Then I realized, wait…  Prometheus is a 20th Century Fox film and Comcast owns Universal.  Not the same company.  Is Comcast fraudulently using YouTube’s copyright protection technology against a competitor?  Looks like it to me…

These kinds of shenanigans really piss me off especially since huge companies like Comcast are trying to force all kinds of new copyright restrictions on everyone.  You can’t have it both ways Comcast.  Copyright law is intended to protect your own content.  It’s not a weapon to go after your competition.

Here’s the video on another YouTube channel.  Check it out before Comcast tries to take it down!

Amazing old school special effects from Space: 1999

Brian Johnson is a well known special effects genius who worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey, Space: 1999, and The Empire Strikes Back. He is not a good TV host. In spite of his dry delivery this documentary ends up being a treasure anyway. It’s a behind the scenes look at how they created the Eagle model shots in Space: 1999. All the composting was done in camera – no blue screen, no optical printers. The SPFX shots were one strip of film directly from the camera.

My first glimpse of Star Wars was through Ralph McQuarrie’s eyes

Below is a full page Log Entry from Starlog magazine, issue number six. My dad picked it up for me at the airport as he was coming home from a business trip. As I flipped through the pages I slowly realized that I enjoyed almost all the articles. Up to that point I knew I liked Star Trek re-runs on TV but I liked a lot of other unrelated things too. I didn’t understand the concept of a genre until I saw all these wonderful articles grouped together in one magazine. I decided I liked Science Fiction. It was a revelation that shaped the direction of my life.

The Star Wars preview from page nine was my first glimpse of the SciFi explosion that was to come in just a few short weeks. The blurb itself was forgettable (and as it turns out, highly inaccurate.) What dominated the page were two paintings. The scenes were so far out that they really didn’t register with me at first. Surely these were just paintings and the movie won’t look like this… right?

Younglings reading this won’t understand but before Star Wars, nothing like it existed. It was so far beyond what anyone had seen before. The commercials on TV left you stunned. The movie played in the theater for 25 weeks even in the small town I grew up in. That’s half a year. Some people went to the theater to see it 20 and 30 times.

Star Wars not only changed the course of cinema, it changed my life. It solidified my love of Science Fiction and eventually convinced me that I wanted to dedicate my life to making movies. I’ve been doing it ever since. And it all started with this one page in a magazine dominated by these two magnificent paintings.

Thank you Ralph McQuarrie. You changed my life.

Incident In New Baghdad gets Oscar nomination!

James Spione, a friend of mine from back in film school, has snagged an Academy Award nomination for Documentary Short Subject. Congratulations to him and to Ethan McCord the subject of the film. It took an awful lot of courage from both of them to speak out on this subject and as an American I am glad I was able to see this story. The film has won several awards already and I predict it will win the Oscar too. Hopefully all the recognition will lead to wider distribution so everyone will have a chance to see it.

Check out the film’s web page HERE.

What I was doing on 9/11

Ten years ago today, I was sitting in the exact same chair I am right now, in my basement studio cut off from the world, editing what would become my favorite Discovery Channel production that I’ve ever been involved with. I would have remained totally oblivious to the events of the day except for the fact that my wife called me, a direct eyewitness to what was happening at the World Trade Center from her vantage point at work directly across the Hudson river. (Her story is here.)

Two of my friends and fellow filmmakers were working on the same production, shooting the end of the documentary on the Army base in Fort Knox, Kentucky. They ended up trapped there for a few days when the base was locked down on alert but eventually got the rest of the story.

The show we were working on, Tank School, follows a group of new marines just out of boot camp, learning how to drive and shoot tanks.

I’m quite proud of this show and to this day I haven’t seen any driving or shooting scenes inside a tank that are as intimate and dramatic as the ones in this documentary. Looking back I think this show was something quite appropriate to be working on exactly ten years ago today.

Don’t swim upstream baby the future is right where you were…

Online video pioneer Ze Frank is “replaying” his much imitated daily video series The Show exactly five years after its original broadcast in 2006.  Follow along as episodes are released on a new blog complete with reflective commentary.  It’s an exploration of a brand new medium, an examination of spontaneous creativity, and a study of viewer engagement.  It’s funny too.  Watch the replay every day here.

The Mercury Men… finally!

Big, big news today.  The Mercury Men is a highly anticipated, independently created, dramatic sci-fi online video series.  There’s been buzz about it literally for years and now, finally, it’s about to be released to the public.  It will be shown for free “soon” on Syfy’s website.  Check out the trailer:

Here’s the official announcement on the Mercury Men blog.  Congratulations to Chris Preksta and everyone else who obviously worked very hard to make all this happen.  I can’t wait to see the show!