Category Archives: movie production

VIEW 2019 part 4

The Hugo Guerra of Hugo's Desk. Hugo is an extremely good compositor and teacher.

From my TV and gamemaking days, I have some familiarity with compositing. Although it is almost certain that I will never become a compositor, I sat in on Hugo's seminar. I think I retained about .001% of the technical information that Hugo shared, but observing his workflow and troubleshooting tips was inspiring.

The Addams Family: Reintroducing a Classic: the presenters, co-director Conrad Vernon and Producer Alexa Schwartz, spoke about the challenges in creating a new version of The Addams Family. Although the story is contemporary, the two looked at the original drawings of Charles Addams. His drawings, featured in The New Yorker magazine, were the basis of the original TV show.

Conrad and Alexa presented like the professionals that they are. They completed each other's sentences. They kept the topics moving. Perhaps they rehearsed and planned for a long time, or maybe they just improvised so informatively because they knew their subject so well. They showed clips and explained the stories behind them. If there is an Addams Family Hall of Fame, Conrad and Alexa should be in it.

Animated movies have their own unique characteristics, but they also act as "containers" for other art forms, music being the most obvious example, drawing being another. However, successful animated characters are the result of combining drawing, sculpture, programming and... dreaming. Animated characters are often realistic, but they can ignore the laws of physics. Dreams and animation need no logic.

Having said that, the more a VFX operator/CG artist/animator studies reality, the better. Noticing the almost imperceptible muscles movements of the human body results in all kinds of possibilities, especially when one must make a character react to something unexpected. The following clip was shown by Theodore Tye, as part of his excellent presentation entitled Beyond Eye Darts: A Closer Look at Acting for Animation:

This masterclass, through the analysis of clips from animated and live- action films as well as acting theory, takes a fun, in-depth look at the study and execution of both comedy and dramatic acting for animation.

Following is one of the clips shown to exemplify a reaction worth studying.

VIEW took place in OGR Turino, an arts center in what was once a train station.
Glen McIntosh is a paleo-artist, and the supervising artist for Jurassic World.Glen's first film was Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. It was a pleasure to watch him work and share his stories.
Turin is a delight!
Bubiko photobombing animation bigwigs.
Hal Hickel, a legend at Industrial Light and Magic.Winner of both an Academy Award and BAFTA. He has worked on Star Wars, Jurassic Park, AI, Pirates of the Caribbean, Toy Story and The California Raisins!
Closing party. The London Siggraph people put copies of interesting black and white images on the tables, making Offtopic a bit like their Drink and Draw nights in London.

I have just settled down after travelling for over two months. I am still processing all that I learned and experienced at VIEW and an other post is on its way.

VIEW 2019 part 2

It was unexpected, suddenly having a brief discussion about cancer treatments with Professor Daniel Zajfman, the President of the Weizmann Institute of Science. Unplanned as well; Professor Zajfman was being interviewed right in front of me. What I happened to overhear was a phrase that went something like this: “Historically, cancer was perceived as one disease. Eventually, we understood that there are many kinds of cancer. Now, we realize that cancer, just like every living being, seems to be unique.”

“Wow,” I thought. I felt that I should share the two cancer treatments that I am very familiar with: the two mushroom-based treatments like agaricus blazei Murrill, and turkey tail ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXHDoROh2hA 8:50 mark), as well as the deuterium-based cancer research  of Dr. Gabor Somlyai.

At first, the presence of Professor Zajfman at VIEW was surprising. The VIEW website is a striking collection of the latest animated movies, CG creations and award-winning Hollywood technical talents. Why would a physicist whose career focuses  on atomic and molecular physics be making a presentation..He seeks to understand the astrophysical conditions found in star-forming regions, as well as working to solve the riddle of star formation. VIEW also focus on exploring the increasingly fluid boundary between real and digital worlds. Professor Zajfman listened attentively, gave me his card, and that was that. Unfortunately, I had no chance to attend his talk which was entitled What is Why and Why is it Important?

A woman warrior riding upon a flying dragon the size of a 747.

A rat who cooks in a three star restaurant in Paris. 

A mouse whose best friends are a dog and a duck.

The tortured soul of a giant robot.

A captured clownfish.

Spiderman.

Animation is the art form in which ideas like these become the foundations of global economic powerhouses.

Besides toys, the animation industry sells food products, books, health products, clothing, banking services and more. At VIEW 2019, I was very fortunate to listen to, and interact with, some of the most successful men and women in contemporary animation.

It is difficult to say who impressed me the most, but Thomas Schelesny would be in the top of the list. His presentation about the dragons created for Game of Thrones was extremely impressive.

However, after his talk he spoke to a few people, including students. He discussed the idea of being an artist. Egos were discussed. Mr. Schelesny did not mention his Emmy. What he did speak about was the professionalism needed to keep things moving. The dragons of GoT were an extremely expensive undertaking that required seamless interaction between a number of companies all over the world. These companies, for the most part, rarely work with other companies. The production schedule was dangerously short.

Mr. Schelesny exemplified the traits that are usually found in the best soldiers fighting the worst wars. He was a leader who stayed focused and thought of all members on his team.

Those watching Game of Thrones saw a beautifully choreographed and realistic battle of flying dragons. Those aware of what was happening behind the scenes , with Thomas and the Image Engine Design, saw a very different battle; one equally thrilling but real.

Bubiko learns from the master.

Bubiko in Lawnspace screen test

Bubiko's guide to AR is now available on Amazon!

Bubiko: what is a stage?

The goal is to prepare for the possibilities of AR cinema.

This post documents a simple test. The Bubiko model used for the Tech in the Tenderloin event was used. Two locations: a garage and an open piece of land. The objective: to gain an understanding of what a “stage” can be in AR. AR is a new medium; to use the established techniques of theatre, television and movie is to fail to grasp the uniqueness of AR. Performance art and dance provide clues.

Notes: Spark used

  • Occlusion not a concern at this time
  • Ambient light a constant
  • Size and scaling of Bubiko purposely varied

Bubiko was created by Stephen Black and Sayuri Okayama

  • iPad used; no manual controls nor color correction
This is Bubiko Foodtour, still with the balloons and banner she used for her debut in San Francisco, at Tech in the Tenderloin’s 2019 TNT Tech Fest,  Bubiko is a work in progress, this is not her final version.
Bubiko is a 3D model made by Novaby, based on ideas by Stephen Black and Sayuri Okayama.
These images are a screen test of sorts, a way of documenting the possibilities and challenges of AR cinematography.
AR cinematography is one of my AR goals, especially making content for autonomous vehicles.
In these images. Bubiko was positioned near the white log. Only the camera (an iPad) moved. The software used was Spark. It was stable, except when used at long distances, in which case Bubiko appeared some distance away from the post.
The camera automatically controlled exposure. The light was even, the time being late afternoon/early twilight.
Occlusion was not important in this test, but I would love to use a software like 6D for testing.
Again, Bubiko did not move, but her size was changed in camera. AR cinema reminds me of machinima. There is another test of Bubiko HERE.
The format of the screen size is both an opportunity and a challenge.
Bubiko Foodtour models for some AR camera tests.
Interesting that the same model can have the size of a mouse, or a giant, or anything in between. Size in AR was the topic of this blog post. Thanks again to Fabian Winkler.
Bubiko is actually closer to the stump than this image suggests.
Sparks had some difficulty as I moved away from Bubiko's position. For this experiment it was simply an interesting development. If this were actually part of an movie shoot, I would reposition her, or do testing. It should be noted that wifi was not needed to create these images.

Preliminary metacarpal results

Hi! Stephen Black here!

Following are works in progress for a project for a health provider. This is a very basic TEST for a short film and far from complete. Bubiko's mouth for example, does not properly move yet.

Simply, please do not share with anyone unless they are a professional.

Our partner, the 3D model making company, NOVABY, is doing a superb job, but the newer versions of these scenes are confidential.

Drop me a line if you would like to know how Bubiko could help your business in terms of video, animation, AR and VR...

Also, I would like to thank Vik at Evoaura Records for the music and Alexis Smith for her vocal performance. Hats off to Six Cats Studio as well, for technical guidance.

LOTUS MOUNTAIN, a VR movie

This proposal was posted on Kaleidoscope on February 25, 2019.

Shenzhen, China's Silicon Valley, on the night of Chinese Valentine's Day. Joyh, a cyborg, is finally taken out into the world by Dave, her creator.

Five years later, the two are reunited, with very different memories of that night.

 Lotus Mountain: 12 minutes 360 VR film 

Directed and produced by Stephen Black

Cinematography: Leo Wei  

Starring Alps Bethneck, Joyh and the Shenzhen 40th anniversary urban light show, with the city decorated for Chinese Valentine’s Day.  

Original soundtrack: Japanese composer Rei Shimizu, and ​Since You Were Gone​, from The Riverwalk Session album by 3how (High on Chai Productions).  

Featuring an original VR artwork by Scobot, award winning VR artist.  Sound mix by ambisonic pioneer Giovanni Lion

 Editor: Zephyr  

Status: Completely shot, soundtrack and voice acting completed.  

Needed: budget for graphics, final edit, audio mixing and promotion.  

This video was meant to be an inhouse experiment, but due to time restrictions, is being used as an introduction to​ Lotus Mountain​. A proper 4K rough cut will be ready by SXSW, as well as a detailed booklet for press and distributors.  

The assistance and support of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Kandao were invaluable in the production of Lotus Mountain.

Stephen Black is an independent artist/producer/writer committed to finishing ​Lotus Mountain.

Starring John Cusack and the Spirit of Yosh Kawano

Next to me is Mari Goround, probably the only Asian in the audience. We’re in the balcony, the “cheap seats” that cost us a hundred and six bucks. We wish we’d bought drinks. And eaten. Below us are couples and groups of middle-aged Caucasians. Some pink hair, some green hair, some went-to-my-stylist-this afternoon-hair, grey hair, no hair.  To my right, a guy in a tee shirt that says: I can’t keep calm. I’m from Toledo.   

Soon, Grosse Pointe Blank will start. Afterwards, John Cusack, the movie's star and producer, will answer questions. We're hoping John will autograph a book called Ernie Banks, Home Run Slugger. It was the only Chicago Cubs book we could find. Only yesterday did we learn that John would be here.
My hands are still pale red; I just checked the backstage door again, hoping John would be there, and in a good mood. A long shot, I know. All I saw was
the Ohio Turnpike and an empty, long white bus in a parking lot full of nothing but dirty snow and black ice. The wind was freezing.

With that autographed book, Mari hopes to crowdfund a film about Yosh Kawano. Yosh took care of the Chicago Cubs for six decades.
Inside the Ernie Banks book is an envelope containing a paper describing Mari’s documentary idea. Four images on the paper:  Yosh’s famous white fishing hat, now in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Then, a baseball card of the 1958 Cubs, with a yellow circle around Yosh.  Next, Yosh’s smiling face in front of the American flag-- his obituary photo. The last photo: the Manzanar internment camp. Yosh was one of the over 100,000 Americans interned during World War II. Anyone 1/16th Japanese or more was given six days to pack and get on a train, with no destination given. Yosh was released early so he go fight in New Guinea and the Philippines. He won combat medals.

Grosse Point Blank ends and John, seated and wearing a black baseball cap, is answering questions. He’s talked about music, about politics, about the movie business. “They were open to ideas then... Like, we could talk about Dan Akroyd’s character wearing a woman’s Kabuki costume. Wild things like that. Now, committees plan everything. They film different endings and take surveys to decide who gets a happy ending or dies or falls in love or whatever. It’s discouraging. Great art can't be predicted.”

Next,  a woman approaches one of the mikes and suggests to John that he should marry her daughter. Then he’s asked about his most challenging role. “Max,” he answers. An attractive woman asks John if he’d like to meet her and her friends afterwards, in a karaoke bar. The moderator moves things on, points to a man at the mike on the other side of the room.

"John, what about the World Series? I'm a Cleveland fan ".

Even from here we see John’s eyes flash. “Biblical! Grampa Rossy got hit in the face with a ball, comes back with a solo homer! Seventeen minute rain delay before the tenth... it was like Moby Dick!” John starts describing the wild ups and downs of the " most greatest world series ever.” A baseball has 108 stitches. Last time the Cubs won the series was 108 years ago. Coincidence? I think not.”

Mari looks at me. Soon, we will sneak her into one of the lines of people who paid a hundred and twenty five dollars to be photographed next to John. I will then go outside, by the backstage door, and wait.

.............................................................

Hi , I am Stephen Black and I'd like to thank you for reading this.

First, Mari Goround is a fictional character. The idea of crowdfunding a movie about Yosh Kawano is a good one, but I do not know of anyone doing that.  I would be happy to develop the ideas above into a script. For now, I am hoping to write more, as well as develop my ideas about AR software and Augmented Reality movies. I'm also planning to be in Austin for the SXSW festival next month. If you can help keep the balls in the air, or just want to wear an attractive, unusual (and comfortable) tee shirt, click here. THANK YOU!

PS. The story above is was extracted from a longer version, half of which is posted here.

PSS I just discovered Ansel Adams photographed a baseball game at Manzanar! I do not know if Yosh was at Manzanar; I read a newspaper article that a family from Washington State was sent there. As Yosh was born in Washington, perhaps he was sent on a train down there also.


Bubiko Foodtour tests the WordPress Gutenberg Editor

What's cooking in Shenzhen!?

Bubiko Foodtour Update

This new Gutenberg editor for WordPress is fun and full of options.  This is a "block". (The colored background was easy to do, as was the drop cap.)

This is a block for quotes. And you can quote me on that.

  • This is the list block.
  • I should write what I have been doing lately.
  • Like: singing opera
  • and studying the great cuisines of China
  • and researching Chinese restaurants in Shenzhen
  • Did I tell you that I want to be a superstAR?
  • My book about Ipoh, on Amazon.

I like these blocks! The VR block didn't seem to be ready yet, so I cannot show this yet, but soon! And how about a block for us AR people? 🙂

Support? VR films about relationships and China’s Silicon Valley

Hello! An update... and a request for support. I know the world is a goofy place and that a film is a luxury, in many ways. But I am now, with a great team, making a short 360VR film. The setting is the city of Shenzhen, the Silicon Valley of China. The film is about a couple, one of whom is a robot, but the film is ultimately about relationships.

Additionally, we are also in postproduction for a documentary on the city of Shenzhen itself.

Your help would make these two projects the best that they can be. We documented Shenzhen for 24 hours on August 18th. The documentation actually started on the 17th, which was Chinese Valentine's Day. That inspired the second short film, called Lotus Mountain.

I will write and do some Facebook Live broadcasts soon. If there were more time, I would do a crowdfunding campaign.

Stephen Black holding a Qoocam 360VR camera at the 2018 Maker Faire in Hong Kong.

Leo Wei, on the left, demonstrating a Kandao camera at Hong Kong Polytechnic

But we discovered the deadline for the Sundance Film Festival is this month, as is the deadline for a major European VR festival.

>

We are looking for sponsors and perhaps there is a way to sell it later. VR is a frontier, and there is no way to predict what will happen. For what it is worth, my first VR film was shown at festivals in Brisbane, Las Vegas and Singapore.

If you would like to support, the easiest action with the most value is to buy one of my books, probably i ate tiong bahru. It is a bestseller in Singapore.The paperback version is 17.88, and the ebook and audiobook versions are less than that. If you want to support more, please send me a private message. If you have a company that has a product that could appear in the movie, I am very happy to talk about that as well. Thank you very much for reading this!

At the 2018 Maker Faire at Hong Kong Polytechnic

Stephen Black holding a Qoocam 360VR camera at the 2018 Maker Faire at HK PolyU.

In the next post I will write about the great production, music, art and acting talents who are involved.

Oh yes... Beach Road, my first VR film, was a co-production with Hiverlab that has been featured in VR film festivals in Las Vegas, Singapore and Brisbane.