Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
So, I thought it was about time DIY posted about some of the interesting things going on in 'ol London town, where I have currently just wrapped up production on my first documentary short with the NFTS (watch this space for more info to follow!).
On Wednesday night I went to the Roxy Cinema in Borough to see their monthly "Rotorreliefs" where fellow Summer Docs student Lisa Forrest had a screening of her Documentary short "Hairytale". A really interesting and inspiring story, check it out here.
The highlight of the night for all of us was first time filmmaker Andy Wilson's treat, "Joseph". A beautifully shot and mesmerising piece of work, I have been thinking of it ever since. Watch it on his website and you, too, will soon be dreaming of white huskies, Bob Seger and caravan sunsets.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
The exhibition goes from the 15th September to 4th October 2009. It's at Catherine Asquith Gallery (48 Oxford Street Street, Collingwood Vic 3066).
I've known Barb for a number of years now (she was one of my first tutors at uni), and last year David Shiyang and I made a short documentary about her for the BBC World Service called "Neon Blue". Now things have been turned on their head a little bit, and this time Barb has done a project that features Dave and I, and the name of the exhibition references the documentary. Talk about a head trip!
Barb is an amazing artist, and it's an incredible honour to be a part of her exhibition. Get down and check it out people! If you're not convinced yet, here's a clip of Barb in action:
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Of course, the original Vigilantelope shirt is still available, so grab one of these too if you haven't already.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Children of Letterboxers present a unique interactive literature experience that meshes text and treasure hunt.
'A Novelty' embodies a new kind of writing in which small chapters and written fragments are hidden in urban environments for participants to collect and collate.
'A Novelty' has been specially created for Mudfest11, and will inhabit hidden spaces throughout the grounds of the University of Melbourne Parkville Campus from the 10th to the 29th of August, 2009.
This is where you can find clues and maps that will help you locate the pieces of writing that make up 'A Novelty.'
Friday, August 21, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Saturday, August 8, 2009
I’m a little behind the zeitgeist on this one (almost five years), but when it comes to games I’m very slow. I pretty much gave up video games for good after developing RSI, and my only real gaming experiences since then have involved me watching and shouting instructions at whoever is holding the controller. Not always the most fun experience (especially not for them). So this may have coloured my feelings a little bit. Another thing that may have coloured this review is the extremely high expectations I placed on the game. I’d had a couple of friends rave about it and I’d heard words like “best game ever” in reviews more than a few times. I waited a long time to play this game, and I expected a lot. Did it live up to my expectations? Not at all.
In my opinion, there is A LOT wrong with Half Life 2. One of the first things that annoyed me was the reliance on trial and error problems. Instead of allowing you to gradually develop skills that will help you to tackle increasingly difficult problems, HL2 repeatedly thrusts you into impossible situations. Time and time again you’re dropped into a situation (most often through no decision of your own) and promptly killed. You are then left to replay a frustratingly short sequence until you figure out the trick to get past it. What am I supposed to do here? Should I kill that thing? Ok, I’ll try. I’m dead. Should I hide? I don’t even know what the room looks like yet. Ok, run out and quickly look around before they kill me. I’m dead. Ok, now I kind of know what the room looks like, I’ll try running a different direction. I’m dead. Ok, I guess not that way… And so on. Early on in the game there is an extended sequence where you must drive a boat while helicopters are shooting you. I spent a long time trying to kill the helicopters (and dying again and again) before realising the game wanted me to just ignore the helicopters and go as fast as I can. Just keep driving until I’m one inch away from death and then the game will reward me with some health packs.
That brings me to another main gripe. While playing I was constantly thinking “Ok, what does the game want me to do.” For a game I expected to be immersive, HL2 is obscenely linear. There is only one way to do anything in this game. As far as I could tell, you have no choice in the matter at all. Every time I got stuck I would think “Ok, the game has placed these objects in this area, therefore that’s all I need. How do I need to use them?” If you get to the health packs then you know you’re headed in the right direction. To add to this annoyance is an abundance of locked doors, bricked up doors, doors blocked by debris, and what I like to call “painted doors”. Things that look like doors but are just images that you can’t interact with. Charming. Too often you’ll be in a building that is simply ludicrous in design. Little nooks and crannys with absolutely no purpose and only one way to go. Who on earth would ever design a building like that? Value would, that’s who. Make no mistake, there is only one way to progress through any one area. All these other options are a thinly veiled attempt to give the illustion of depth and freedom. They are obvious and incredibly annoying.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the immersion is continually broken by the dreaded loading bar. Other games have specific times set aside for loading. You enter a door to a new area, the game stops and loads. You’re travelling in a vehicle (tram/train/elevator/etc) to a new place, the game stops and loads. You finish a mission, the game stops and loads. There’s a whole bunch of logical places load points could be positioned. But not in Half Life 2. It seems Valve wanted to create the illusion of one giant world, not a number of individual areas that pretend to be connected but are really completely separate. Good idea, terrible execution. In HL2, the game can stop to load in the most ridiculous places. In mid air while you’re jumping. While people are shooting you. While you’re driving a vehicle at high speed. And a number of other incredibly frustrating places. It’s bad enough that it interrupts your flow while you’re in the midst of doing something, but it’s even worse when you die and have to reload from that point. It’s not very fun reloading to a place where people are shooting right in your face. Great planning there valve.
In my opinion, even without the loading problems, Valve made a grave misjudgement in trying to make the game one continuous series of events in a continuous world, as opposed to the old different levels/dungeons/missions approach. Maybe it might work in some games, but it doesn’t work in HL2. As soon as you’re finished one laborious thing some fucker is asking/telling you to go off and do some other dangerous task. You never get a chance to catch your breath.
What’s worse is you never actually find out what the hell is going on. HL2 starts off with so much potential. You’re thrust into a mysterious dystopian city. Wow! I can’t wait to find out what’s been going on here. What might have caused this huge societal shift, and who is behind it? Do you think you find those things out? Hell no! I’m only three levels into Dead Space and I’ve already learnt more than I learnt after playing HL2 in its entirety. While Bioshock lost its way after the half way point, the first half was absolutely captivating. Sure it was fun to kill Splicers, but I wanted to find out more about Andrew Ryan and what the hell went wrong in Rapture. Do I get that chance in HL2? Not at all. Even Diddy Kong Racing has more story development than HL2. And if there’s no storyline, why the hell should I care what happens to Gordon Freeman (the character you play) or any of the losers who ask you to do their dirty work? You don’t. At least I didn’t.
If you don’t care about your friends then you come to care even less about the enemies. Your main opposition are the “combine” forces. Humanoid figures who I initially imagined might be part human & part alien. They look kind of cool and are always masked. I wanted to know what they looked like under the masks. Do I get to find out? Of course not! So for all intents and purposes, you are fighting an unending see of blank faces. Exciting to start with, but quickly boring. Far more interesting are the zombies. They moan horribly and are genuinely frightening when they surprise you. It's honestly quite terrible when you set one on fire and watch them moan and writhe in pain, it reminds you that beneath their headcrabs they're actually human. Very disturbing (in a good way). The fast zombies are particularly frightening (the first glimpses you get of them seemed like a pretty clear inspiration for Bioshock’s “Spider Slicers”). Since these zombies are so affecting you’d expect them to be a big part of the game right? Of course not! After a brief intense encounter (the best part of the game in my opinion), they’re rarely seen from again. For the most part you are fighting Combine soldiers and you come across a zombie every now and again. It really feels like Valve just throws a couple in every time they think you might be getting bored. If they knew how bored I was getting maybe they would have thrown in a whole lot more. And also a whole lot more different types of zombies too. After the harrowing “We Don’t Go To Ravenholmn”, you’re pretty used to the three different types of zombies. There’s no new types and the pre-existing types don’t get any harder to deal with. In fact they’re actually a lot easier to kill as you never encounter them in such numbers again. This really seems to go against the traditional idea of things actually getting harder as you progress through the game.
Yes, the game is dreadfully unbalanced. Instead of gradually ramping up the difficulty, I found it switched between easy and hard without rhyme or reason. I still count the early boat rides as a very difficult part of the game, whereas the last two levels were pretty straightforward in comparison. In fact one of the hardest things towards the game’s end is dealing with the AI of the annoying non-player characters who are supposed to be helping you. They’ll continually get in your way, block your exist from volatile situations, before offering lame apologies like “Sorry Freeman” or “Let me get out of your way.” They really shouldn’t have been so rude to me earlier in the game (regularly telling me to “get going” and asking “what are you still doing here?”) if they planned to be such a hindrance later on.
Ok, I’ve been harsh. But that’s how I experienced it. I enjoyed some parts of HL2 but there was a lot of frustration to go along with it. Sure, Half Life 2 wasn’t all bad. The graphics still look fantastic, even five years on. The physics are awesome; it’s really fun and constantly surprising to see the way enemies and objects react to explosions and other things the like that. The level “We Don’t Go To Ravenholm” was also really thrilling. But unfortunately, that’s not enough to make up for the disappointments.
I was originally going to title this review “Half Life 2 Sucks”. While maybe that’s a little strong, I think HL2 is a very long way away from being “one of the best game of all time”.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Santiago 'Bou' Grasso (Argentina, 2008, 6'15)
As I understand it this was in close contention for the Best of the Fest (which went to Chris Landreth's "The Spine"). For me it was a bit of a one trick pony, but it was very effective in its simplicity. Great looking, a message we can all relate to, and some excellent comedic timing.
Malcolm Sutherland (Canada, 2008, 3'00)
Good clean fun. Cute animation with a cute song.
Mike Hollingsworth (USA, 2008, 2'00)
Another simple, but fun animation. A bit predictable, but still funny.
Kristian Andrews (UK, 2008, 5'30)
I really enjoyed Kristian's previous film "Bald Dad" a year or two ago so I was delighted when I recognised his distinctive style on the screen. Very simple, but strking visuals. I'm a big fan of the way this film looks. I don't think I enjoyed the story quite as much as Bald Dad, but this one had a much darker edge to it which could account for that.
Anton Setola (Belgium, 2007, 6'45)
Another great combination of visuals & music. I guess I'm a bit of a softy for the combination of jazz & animation, but I really enjoyed this one.
Peter Parlegreco (USA, 2008, 8'15)
This film shows a bizarre world full of strange creatures. It isn't really clear what's going on, and as this one was in the late night bizarre screening I just embraced the weirdness and sat back to enjoy. That was all I was expecting to get out of the film,so I was shocked as about half way through a simple story began to develop and I was quite moved by the surprise ending. I'm not sure how a casual viewer would find this film given how strange it is, but it was one of my favourites from the Late Night Bizarre session.
Looking back over the festival there were a few films I really enjoyed that I haven't yet mentioned, so here's a little retrospective:
The Black Dog's Progress
Stephen Irwin (UK, 2008, 6'00)
This is quite a disturbing film where a dog is repetitively abused. That might turn you off, but I assure you it looks and sounds incredible. The film is hand animated using flip books and is drawn in a style that reminds me of the old rubber hose cartoons. The sound track is incredibly chilling. Very well put together, and it was very affecting on the big screen. A real technical & artistic achievement.
Serge Elissade (France, 2008, 5’00)
Black tea features a funny, paranoid character and some very nice animation. The story is funny, but the thing I really enjoyed about this film is the way the character is animated differently as their mood changes. Great stuff.
The final session I attended at MIAF 2009 was Chris Landreth's Q&A session. Chris won an Academy Award for his film "Ryan" and was nominated for one of his earlier films. You can appreciate and enjoy his films, watching them now, but it was really interesting to hear Andrew Hagan's introduction where he explained just what a huge impact Chris Landreth has had on CG animation when his films were first released.
This session was a real highlight for me. It was really great to hear about Chris' approach to animation and some of the technical developments that went into creating his films.
His latest film "The Spine" won Best of the Fest, and it was great to get a chance to see that (playing for only the third time at a festival).
Well I guess that's it for another year folks. I'm too tired to write any more! Sorry for the short and somewhat inconsequential breakdowns of each film, but it's quite hard to get your head around so many films in such a short time.
I want to send out a huge thank you to Malcolm, Helen & everyone else for once again putting on an astounding festival. And thanks must also go to all the filmmakers who submitted their work. It was a real pleasure to see so much wonderful work.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Sparrows Are Children Of Pigeons
Nina Bisyarina (Russia, 2008, 5'00)
A simple, gorgeous film, exploring childhood and imagination. Really beautiful, the cutest film I've seen since last year's "The Tiny Fish".
Matilda Tristram (UK, 2008, 2'00)
Simple, and really funny. A really great sense of (somewhat absurd) humour.
Patrick Jenkins (Canada, 2008, 8'00)
The starkness of this film is really beautiful, and it works very well with a really great "noir" style soundtrack. The storyline is filled with unexplained happenings, but instead of being annoying this mystery really just adds to the experience. Unlike many detective stories where the audience is trying to guess whodunit along with the detective, this film takes you on a strange and fantastical ride and I was quite content to go along with it. For me, the combination of noir genre elements and these more strange ones worked really well and was a lot of fun.
Another great screening yesterday was the Studio Watch of UK company The Mill. You will definitely have seen some of this company's ads on TV. Possibly their most well known one was the Sony Bravia bouncing balls ad.
There work is of an incredibly high standard, so many great looking TVCs that were actually interesting and enjoyable to watch. They also had a couple of really cool shorts in the program as well. As this company shows, TVCs don't have to be shit.
Yesterday, I also caught the "Works in Progress" 101 Session. Three animators gave us an insight into the project they're currently working on and what stage they're up to.
Sue Stamp is working on a very promising film about Gorillas at the Melbourne Zoo. Her initial sketches are just gorgeous and her ideas for the film are really fantastic. I can't wait to see this one come into fruition.
Hung Lin, who's previous film screened at last year's MIAF, is working on a new film called ‘The Impersonator’. He's done a lot of concept work and storyboarding for this film already and I have to say, it's looking magnificent. He restricted his first two films to black and white due to time constraints, but for this one he has gone all out with glorious colours. The boldness of his style looked fantastic in the stills and I'm sure it will only look better once it's animated.
Finally, Jonathan Nix showed us some clips of a 30" animated film he's been working on for more than four years now. He's working with two other animators (one cell animator, and one 3D CG) and the footage we got to see looked really wonderful. The main character has a gramaphone for its head so you just know this film is going to be a good one!
I think that's enough updating for today. I'll be living it large this weekend for the final two days of the festival so my next and final MIAF update will probably be coming on Monday or Tuesday.
If you haven't already, get down to the festival and check out some screenings! The quality of these films is really fantastic, and there's so much variety to appreciate.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Simon Bogojevic Narath (Croatia, 2008, 12'30)
I'm not exactly sure what was going on in this film, but it was quite interesting to watch. A really nice combination of traditional CG and CG with cell shading for the characters. There was really interesting character design too. I also enjoyed the pacing in this film, there was lots of stillness in the early sections building up to a lot of excitement when the film changes scene.
BBC iPlayer “Penguins”
Vince Squibb, Darren Walsh, (UK, 2008, 1’00)
Some of you have probably already seen this one. I won't say much, as you can watch it yourself.
There were also a number of other great TVCs in the London's calling program. Passion Pictures (the guys behind the Gorillaz videos) had a great Audi TVC, there was a very funny ad for comparethemarket.com pretending to advertise for comparethemeerkat.com, and a couple of really beautifully animated TVCs advertising the dangers of drinking too much around children.
I also quite enjoyed Pritt Parn's "Life without Gabriella Ferri". Another one that I wouldn't have normally expected to enjoy (especially at its length of 44"), but it was quite a bit of fun. There was definitely some disturbing imagery, but the film had a good sense of humour. Again, beautifully animated.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
The Horrors: "She Is The New Thing"
Corin Hardy (UK, 2007, 2'45)
I'm not usually into the gruesome demonic imagery that can stereotypically accompany hardcore music, but I really enjoyed this video. The animation was perfectly suited to the song, not just in imagery but also in the pacing and style of movement. A great combination of live action with animation (which I think can often look pretty naff). Check out the video below.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Well it's that time of year again. I've thoroughly enjoyed the first two days of this year's Melbourne International Animation Festival, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the week. MIAF is one of the world's biggest animation festivals, and as the program proudly proclaims it includes 50 screenings, 400+ films, from 35+ countries. We're very lucky to have such a prominent festival right here in Melbourne, so if you get the chance I highly recommend you get down and check out some films! You can check out the program here.
Over the next few days I'll do my best to write about some of my festival favourites. Here's some films that stood out to me from day one and two:
According To Birds / Volgens De Vogels
Linde Faas (Holland, 2008, 5'30)
This film is absolutely stunning. The theatre was completely silent as this film played and you could really feel just how mesmerised the audience was. It was almost like we were all holding our breath. Beautifully animated, with a gorgeous look. A real stand out for me so far.
I Am So Proud Of You
Don Hertzfeldt (USA, 2008, 22'00)
I didn't actually realise how long this film was until I checked the program afterwards (which is a good thing). The D.I.Y crew have been fans of Don Hertzfeldt for a few years now so I was really looking forward to this one. It has Hertzfeldt's unique randomness and humour as you would expect. But I was surprised and delighted by the strong sense of humanity the film had. It looked great - combining Hertzfeldt's simple line drawings with photos and other elements very successfully. I'm not a fan of much mixed media animation, but the different elements worked very well together in this film. A great soundtrack too.
The Year I Cut My Hair
Ami Lindholm (Finland, 2008, 5'15)
Another film with an excellent soundtrack. The music contributes significantly to this film, really setting you on edge, and lending the visuals (that might otherwise have appeared cute or flippant) a real sense of eeriness. This film also contained a great mix of visual styles, often simple in appearance but quite disturbing and affecting.
Fantasie In Bubblewrap
Arthur Metcalf (USA, 2007, 3'45)
A very simple film, but it succeeds perfectly in what it sets out to achieve. This one reminds me a lot of "Global Warming" which played very well at last year's MIAF. This film had the whole cinema roarng with laughter. Definitely a crowd pleaser. A great idea, exectuted perfectly.
By no means were these the only films I enjoyed in the last few days. I thought International Program 1 showcased a great variety and it was really great to see so many wonderful sand animations in the Sand program.
More wrapping-up tomorrow kids!
Friday, June 12, 2009
The film was a lot of fun to work on. I got to work alongside DP Peter Falk (who was the director of photography on "The Jammed") which was really great.
You can watch "The Trainer" here.
There's also a making of video (in which you get to see me standing around looking useless). You can check that out here.