Making Revisions Update (30/5/16)

I think this will be the final test, a part of me wants to see the stagecoach in action though, so maybe another time. I can however share the last of those tests, which combines 4 tests into a short piece. Beginning in a camp, before a few mount up to ride out to a Buffalo hunt. There’s no effort for visual continuity as that’s not the focus of the piece. Instead its just technique.

I’m still not sure about one of the riding sequences, which still looks like a conveyabelt at times, still that’s the risk when you animate speed. I have got to consider framing more as I have two turn the frame to widescreen which means cropping the image in the middle, top or bottom, so I need to remember where to point the camera more.

Starman (1984)

Starman (1984)I was kicking myself when I first missed a chance to catch Starman (1984) which was just another chance to see Jeff Bridges, who lets me honest can’t really make a bad film. Last seeing him in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974) even with the melancholic ending that really hits home. Like man others he will always have a place in my heart as The Dude which was really just the personification of who he has come to be on-screen, ensuring that The Big Lebowski (1998) became a classic (eventually).

What else drew me to Starman was the director  John Carpenter whose films I have seen intermittently. I’m working myself up to catching The Thing (1982), with the original by John Huston to watch soon first. Also it’s a piece of forgotten 1980’s science fiction that has to be seen really, even just for that innocent charm that it produces. You could say its an adult version of E.T. The Extra-Terrestial (1982) that’s made from the child’s perspective on finding an alien in the forest, befriending them as he helps him go home. Two years later we have pretty much the same story, throw in a bit of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) in terms of the recent NASA satellite launches, the search for life has produced a result only a few years after it’s launch. Again there is a sense if hope in science fiction with a nice mix of comedy and drama thrown in.

I’m not even bothered by the special effects that actually are special even if dated, if anything they are more charming, made with really love and craft. They don’t rely on even early C.G.I heavily, allowing you to focus on the human drama that we find ourselves following which is more important which is more engaging than any of the special effects that define this as a Science Fiction film. You believe the blue lights that hover into Jenny Hayden‘s (Karen Allen‘s) house and turn her life upside down. That’s how we first meet Starman who assumes the form of her husband in one of the most disturbing pre-C.G.I. sequences. Yet we buy into it as its looks real, the pain that this creature is going through at accelerated growth to become the man who Jenny knows as Scott, or to us as Bridges, the audience soon accepts him, imposter or not.

You could say that what Jenny experience all bereaved people hope for, at least for a time, to have their loved ones back if only for just a few days to say and do what you didn’t have time for. A theme that us explored in again in AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001) when David’s mother’s brought back to life through alien technology and his own memories. We don’t have it that complicated, all the basic ingredients for life are a the disposal of Starman as he assumes human form. His first steps and moments are comical, Bridges is a prefect fit that would have been far different in the hands of Carpenter regular Kurt Russell who would have brought a harder edge to a sensitive subject of bereavement.

What follows is one of the most human and fundamental needs, the need to go home. Its been explored to death in Sci fi and other genres, because it works and can take many form. Leaving from Wisconsin to Winslow, Arizona where we eventually arrive. On the journey he develops from a curious child into a man, without all the messy of growth spurts in-between. Karen believes she’s being kidnapped for a time, as he takes her car, she acts as his guide before they both fall for each other. Of course you have that idea planted in the back of your mind from the beginning, can she fall for an imposter. Yet she falls for another man who looks and imitates him which she accepts. She brings out his humanity that others would otherwise be afraid to see, those weird moments that are just his way of showing his kindness and alien version of humanity.

He carries with him and uses 6 silver balls, each of them allow him to carry out a miracle or act, the first for defence before learning how best to use them. They are like those pieces of cake that Alice has when she enters Wonderland she has to use them wisely. Or on another level they are games tokens that should be used to progress to the next level, but sometimes you don’t need them at all.

In pursuit as always is the U.S. government who have tracked this U.F.O. landing and want to find this new life form. Much like E.T. and Short Circuit (1986). Wanting to kill the unknown without trying to really understand it by just talking or just reaching out to the strange visitor who just wants to get back. These visitors always come with a message or want to get away quickly because they are on tight schedule. Just a quirk of the genre, stopping only long enough to learn, return and report to their own people, a long-range reconnoissance you could say. We are too primitive to really make friends with even in the 1980’s.

So after kicking myself the first time I was pleasantly surprised by the much over-looked gem of a film that explores bereavement through science fiction, tied in with some really obvious references to earlier films, its far lighter than the predecessors. Focused more on a telling a story that resonates with you. However I did want to know more about those silver balls, which could have been explored in a sequel which would work naturally as the ending tells us. Its not always necessary to have all the special effects and use them, when you have a story that could be told on a shoe-string budget.


New Mills Arts Trail (2016)

New Mills Arts Trail (2016)I’m pleased to announce that for the 4th year I will be exhibiting in New Mills Arts Trail, part of New Mills Festival (2016). I can’t wait to install some exciting new work. More updates coming soon!!

Making Revisions Update (29/5/16)

Last night I completed the train animation test, which as I guess is quite successful. I can’t wait now for the next one to be put together.

Moving onto today’s activity I’ve been looking ahead to new set-ups, ignoring the steam train which I pretty much nailed a few weeks ago. Looking at both the fencing off of land and a new improved reservation. I feel that they will naturally be extended when I animate to bring more scope, these are more like starting points.

Making Revisions Update (28/5/16)

Its been a very productive day, two animation tests have been completed, I’m eager to pull the still together, I’ve had a chance to run through them and they both have their strengths. First up was the train, complete with all the track and the newest flat freight carriage. My aim was for the camera to stay with the train as it moved instead of just watching it pass by. So the camera dolly is like a truck with a camera in the back filming a train in motion. The result is pretty effective too. I find that I will probably have to crop the frame to widescreen as the movement of the ground can be distracting.

Turning to the horse riding which I still had a lot of work on in different aspects, wanting to go from standing Native American figures to riding to riding off and going on a Buffalo hunt. I combined all these tests into a short film. I find myself sneaking in another tests, where the camera stays fixed on one of the horses, so the camera is always moving with the action on every frame, even from a fixed point. Each time I run that sequence it does get better, yet at the same time it looks jarring, as if the ground is moving and the horses are on a conveyerbelt. I also wanted to look at the obstacles for the horses, but found that it’s really all about the positioning of the pieces and the camera to make what I want happen.

DSCF2539Next time I’ll be looking again at the new set-ups with the additional toys and the re-write of the piece. I’m pleased with todays tests, I’ve developed as an animator with these pieces, its all about experimenting, taking the risks to see what works and doesn’t.

Making Revisions Update (26/5/16)

The second of the last weekends animation tests has been completed and ready to share with you. Looking at this test its a little too quick at times, I have made some progression, however riding sequences are fast so I can’t complain too much.

Moving forward I need to play out a few more tests, the riding does need refining. I need to combing walking to riding. Also shooting these tests from a different angle to see if the riding through obstacle tests look better. Looking at the train I am getting really ambitious, wanting to animate the train and the camera staying with it as it moves each time instead of the camera simply turning on its axis, its reacting to the action as it passes by instead of staying with it.

Hannie Caulder (1971)

Hannie Caulder (1971)I never thought I’d be discussing a western that starred Raquel Welch, however what really caught my attention was that Hannie Caulder (1971) was the feminist strain that at least is there in the first half of the film. As I’ve said before there are very few Westerns that place women at the centre of the film, positioned on the sidelines as either prostitutes, school teachers or dancers. Hannie (Welch) does not fall into any of these categories, her power comes from the same place as male in the Wild West finds it, his gun.

We first meet our heroine after she is brutally raped and left for dead by the Clemens brothers, played by three actors Ernest Borgnine, Strother Martin and Jack Elam who have grown into the roles of on-screen villain over the past decade or more. These roles take that image to a whole new level, they are no longer just gunfighters and bank robbers, they become sexual attackers who take advantage of women who doesn’t even realise she’s just been widowed. It’s a brutal beginning to a film that comes in the wake of The Wild Bunch (1969) as much as Sam Peckinpah didn’t intend to, changed the face of film violence that is being imitate in this film, not to the same proportions as the earlier. We don’t have the countless victims or the body count either, it’s a more honest and direct violence. Making use of explosive blood capsules that simulate gunshots which heighten the violence, it’s no longer suggested it emphasised for the camera, the audience wants more so is delivered more. Today it looks laughable as the simplicity of these special effect which has been refined over time so its no longer a novelty but part of the language.

So why do I think this has a feminist strand to the film, now I must be careful a its a big statement to make about a film that has Raquel Welch who you really wouldn’t associate with feminism. More of a 1960’s – 70’s pin imported to Hollywood, the next bombshell to draw in the male audience which admittedly she doe here. Instead of using that power for sex she uses her body, her entire being for purposes of revenge. First left for almost dead by the Clemens brothers who ride off loaded with sexual energy that has just been released, monsters who leave a victim who wants revenge. Its usually the man whose left outside whilst the violence is dealt out to the fa,ily who are eventually killed, leaving him nothing but anger that has to be resolved.

It takes another man to come along and transforms the defencless woman into a killer. A bounty hunter Thomas Luther Price (Robert Culp) a man otherwise to be feared. A straight version of the man with no name that Sergio Leone defined in the dollar trilogy. Hannie Caulder even has the look of a spaghetti Western, the level of violence and visual style. Price reluctantly takes Caulder under his wing becoming her teacher of the gun that will only bring her loss in life and no gains. Prices life as a bounty hunter has come at as cost, he has lost his soul. When he hands over his latest find to the sheriff he leaves money and makes sure its all spent on the dead mans funeral and tomb stone. He wants to ensure that the dead are respected, even if he couldn’t. Hannie has to learn all of this with her time with him.

Hannie must also learn how to handle herself, she won’t allow herself to be seen as a sexual object, even though the camera does until she learns how to handle a gun and loosing her femininity, gaining respect and fear, two attributes you don’t associate with a woman of the West. Hannie learns her trade down in Mexico with the assistance of a gunsmith Bailey (Christopher Lee) who builds one to her needs, a gun light enough for a woman to handle yet just as lethal once she learns how to handle it. Some of the training is rather pointless though. He is vital to her transformation into a gunfighter. Lee’s time on-screen is limited to a few scene but his steals the scenes he’s in.

Going back to the Clemens brothers, there’s an attempt really bring profanity into their roles which really doesn’t sit well in this film. The aim is to bring in a new audience, that has actors from the golden age. They become more comical as the film goes on, losing that edge they had in the opening scenes that define Hannie who is hell-bent of revenge. She becomes more violent as they lose their edge, when they should be showing the audience how dangerous they are. Or maybe there is another reading, their age is getting the better of them, Hannie was one last messy conquest before it all goes terribly wrong for them which make more sense.

Hannie Caudler is a film that starts with good intentions, the hopes of reaching a new audience that is slowly starting to fail. There’s an attempt as a romance between the teacher and student gunfighter which doesn’t really happen and that a good thing for this film that should rightly focus on her coping with a multiple rape that has traumatised her (for a while). She shows weakness, the humanity that Price lacks which is one of the films few strengths, placing a woman in stronger role for a change which in the 1970s is still rare without a few love scenes. It’s a minor Western made as the embers of the fire that was the Westerns fire was going out.

Making Revisions Update (23/5/16)

The first of the weekends animation tests is complete. I’m pleased with the outcome, I have the right speed, which is 6 frames per second, which is too fast for standard figure movement that becomes comical. I have noticed I have created the illusion of the wheels moving at times which I’m pleased with. I can’t wait to see how the second one turns out.

Painting the Town…Update (22/5/16)

A quick update as you can see the other work is getting most of the attention at the moment. I have sealed the church now. All of these models are whole objects, they aren’t facades as such. Going back to the church I started yesterday I have now begun to clad the roofs, only able to do a few sides at a time for logistical reasons. I am thinking of adding a cross but I can’t decide where yet.

Making Revisions Update (22/5/16)

It really has been a day focusing on the animation of the newest additions to this work, needing to know how they would work when it comes to their respective sequences. I began the day by adding the remaining detail to the flat open carriage. I had to only re-fix one of the posts which is very lucky really.

Moving onto to the majority of today’s events, the animation tests, first looking into the train and the carriage. I notice as I began this set of tests that I had gone a step further than Iron Horse of the Studio (2015) which relied on found footage and the track being laid out in front of the camera as it moves around. This time I am doing all of that minus the found footage. Looking at the two processes, the first process is rather slow, as a I move the camera dolly delicately over the track. This time the dolly can stand at he side or be substituted for a tripod that I used to get an aerial shot over the track as the train moved under the camera. I animated the train from multiple angles. I also reference The Wrong Trousers (1993) as the track was laid out in front of them so the train could carry on. I will use some of that logic in the sequence, hopefully with more track so it’s not so apparent I am short on track, camera angles should mask that. Talking of track I worked on 2 more pieces which lengthens the line considerably.

Moving on I now have a collection of riders, which I wanted to see out in action, concerned about how I should animated then. Then as soon as I got them out I knew that I was going to be OK. I know the speed they should be moving out when running, however that it’s a not with a rider, which alters things a bit. With that in mind I began to animate them, I knew after going through the first test on my camera they didn’t look natural, as if they were being ridden. I don’t think it helped having them in a straight line. They’ve the illusion of moving, but not as the horses or riders own pace. With that in mind I decided to add obstacles to the test, placing everything I had to hand that I could use, cacti, bushes and corners of buildings. This would then force the rider to avoid the piece to get through, making the journey across more natural. Yet it still wasn’t right, the camera was seeing the obstacle straight on, from the riders point of view its minor, so I changed the direction of the horses and ran the test again, which started in a line, before I re-positioned the riders and finally I had something to make the tests worth white.

I still have a few more tests to do, as you may have noticed these Native American are mostly a tanned colour, I need to get around that, as much as I want to embrace the fact they are different, so I’ll be looking at the best way to animate the transition from standing brightly coloured figure to tanned/orange rider. I also want to look at the getting the Buffalo into the mix, maybe animate another hunt and on horse back this time. Overall its been a productive day, I can’t wait to bring the still together on both tests and share them now.


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