Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson (1958 ~ 2009)

Sad and shocked, MJ have been a big part of my early childhood memories, the MTV's, music and dance moves. Many of his songs and lyrics have influenced me to be who I am today.

MJ, may you rest in Peace, Loved and Remembered.

Portrait: Michael Jackson, Textportrait von Ralph Ueltzhoeffer

Monday, June 22, 2009

Movie Studies - Joe Wright ~ Pride & Prejudice (2005)



Study notes consists of spoilers and story plots.

Overall a comfortable drama romance period film.


Based off the romance novel ~ Pride & Prejudice written by Jane Austen (1775 ~ 1817)

Elizabeth's Ignorance Guilt Scene

I chose to breakdown this scene mainly because of the dark gloomy mood created by a series of well planned and framing camera shots. There was also a very disturbing/uncomfortable shot with time lapse which was really a well used contemporary cinema photography, to create the dark mood.

Most of the camera angles used were profiled to a wall or down a corridor, it wasn't unti lthe turning point was a 3/4 framing used, the profiles helped create the solemn, lonely mood and flatness.

SH01 ---> SH04, Total length 1min 34sec, averaging 23sec/shot. Usually when you have long takes it's to heighten the sense of drama or to reveal a series of continuous events. In this case the 4 shots comprising of only Elizabeth and her slow moody movements was to create the sense of lost, loneliness, sadness and distraught. A very moody scene of nothingness and emptiness. The angles used just made the scene even more atmospheric solemn , the use of profile angles, corridors and shallow focus. From SH01 to SH04, the camera was always tangent to wall behind Elizabeth or shooting down a corridor, everything was flat and linear. Even the movement of the camera was flat, either tracking left right front back, crane up down, the linear movement from point A to B, it just flattens out Elizabeth's senses like there was nothing left for her to feel or do. The use of anti framing Elizabeth made the composition less balanced.

SH02, Elizabeth walks down the corridor with a shallow focus camera which enhanced it more with rack focus. It made the shot dreamy , as though Elizabeth was walking down a tunnel of a dreamy thought and then fading deeper and deeper, engulfed in her thoughts.

SH04, At first impression it would give out a slight shock for the audience as Elizabeth seems to be staring straight at the audience, but actually its the point of view shot of Elizabeth looking at herself in the mirror. The initial shock was in a way to create an eerie feeling as well as set the emotional mood as Elizabeth looks at herself, studying her own emotions and thoughts. This kind of shot also allowed another contemporary cinematography to be added; Time lapse. After the initial shock, the audience will notice the sudden shift of shadow and lighting as though Elizabeth is in a state of suicidal lost of life, distraught and despair falling deeper and deeper in her emotional breakdown..... and then suddenly Mr. Darcy walks into screen. It's as though this was the wishes of Elizabeth to see Mr. Darcy there in her mind, to explain and comfort her. Even Elizabeth was doubting herself if what she saw was her own imagination.

SH04, Maybe for general audience the shock was of Elizabeth staring back at them but for some they might be more baffled on how technically possible it was to have shot Elizabeth at that angle without having the reflection of the camera in the mirror. My theory is that the camera was situated behind the mirror Elizabeth was facing and shooting through a duplicate frame from behind the wall. After that the negatives were mirrored in editing and viola, invisible camera.

SH07, I'm not sure if this shot could be considered as a 180' flip or just a cut shot, either way I'm going with 180' flip. The use of the mirror to create a sense of inner reflection and then cut to a frontal shot and breaking the 180' line was in my opinion a genius use of the 180' rule. On one hand you have Elizabeth looking at herself and studying her own emotions, deep and psychological unnerving and then cut to a shot of her contemplating what she thought she heard and saw when Mr. Darcy left. It's a sudden change and contrast of the unsettling emotions and the realization of Elizabeth and what she had done to Mr. Darcy.

SH10, Up until SH10 all previous shots have slow motion and slow energy. On contrasts SH10 is fast paced, high energy and the rush of Mr.Darcy riding vigorously through the forest, the camera itself tracking Mr. Darcy is blazing past bushes and trees. The main reason for SH10 was to setup a turning point not just in this particular scene with Elizabeth but a main turning point for the whole story line of Pride & Prejudice, a mid peak and climax. It's to reveal whom Mr. Darcy truly is, the protagonist and how the situation of all the characters stand. The emotional guilt of Elizabeth and how she had dishonor Mr. Darcy from her own ignorance, pride and prejudice. The rush and speed of the energy in this shot also portrays the emotions of both Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth is going through; for Elizabeth the revealing of how wrong she was and Mr. Darcy's fury, anger and sadness. It also helped to setup a very strong contrast for the following shot of Charlotte Lucas walks into the room while Elizabeth was reading her personal letter.

Overall the film was enjoyable to watch, the use of words and language, the fashion and societies of the Georgian era with a pinch of drama and romance. Best part was that there weren't tons of mushy gushy lip locking scenes, through out the film there was only 2.

Pride & Prejudice Complete Study Notes


Sunday, June 21, 2009

CGOverdrive 2009 ~ Part 02

So, its Day01 of the character animation workshop lectured by Victor Navone, an animator from Pixar, his famed short; The Alien Song. Lectured about his work flow from reference to thumbs and constructing the performance with selected gestures and posses. Also lectured alot on how to analyze reference videos and what to looks out for. All in all an easy lecture to listen to and learnt a ton about prepping for a shot or scene.

Left the conference and went to Bugis to yum cha and to meet up another friend and what he's been up to the past few months. Hanged out at a dessert shop and chatted about the CG industry there in Singapore. Last call for drinks and went back to PoW to rest my overloaded brain.

Day02 ~ Character Animation Workshop, Jonathen Collins, though not as lively as Victor's lecture but non the less a very in depth look on the Polish level Pixar animators have to achieve and the importance of the characters eyes in character animation. Lots of Indiana Jones references and lots of slide notes which I couldn't finish jotting down.

After a long day of important facts crammed into my head, it was time to say bye bye to CGO 2009 and headed for an indoor stadium somewhere in Kalang, I had no idea where it was exactly but it was south of Kalang MRT Station. So got off at Kalang and headed south, it was dark and I was rushing and lost. Fortunately I made it a few minutes before it started.

Video Games Live Singapore 09, is a concert with a small symphony and choir playing music of video games past and present, PC and Consoles, games including Pac Man, Tetris, Metal Gear Solid, War Craft, Final Fantasy and everything in between. Between performances there was a few programs, one included an audience to play Space Invaders live on stage backed by the orchestra. Others include live stage Guitar Hero Battle, Sax performance by Norihiko Hibino (Snake Eater).

There were 2 retro adventure games which caught my attention;
Dragon's Lair (1983) and Space Ace (1984). Did some research and generally, it's a simple story driven arcade game, 1 joystick, 1 button but a breakthrough visually driven by quality character animation at its time. It was produced and animated by Don Bluth Studio, hence the animation quality. Though ancient in terms of gaming, it is highly seeked after by nostalgic collectors. Both game titles spinned off two animated series based on the games itself.

Dragon's Lair
Space Ace

It was a great way to end my last night in Singapore.

Saturday, went to Bugis Junction and got me KT Tunstal's album and James Cameron The Abyss double disc DVD special, had my Turkey Bacon at BK and headed for Tanjong Pagar KTM train station for home. Four days of fun and learning.

Victor Navone & Jonathen Collins lecture notes (mostly messy personal writing of the character animation workshop)

CGOverdrive 2009 ~ Part 01

Day 01

Like usual took the night train all the way down to Tanjong Pagar, Singapore. There's just something about taking the train than the bus besides the 8 hour journey, it just seems more adventurous and relaxing, less of a hurry of getting from one place to another. The puffing engine pulling 8 or so carriages along the cool iron tracks, some parts smooth as silk and others like a raging river wobbling the cabins left and right, the click clacking sound of the iron wheels switching iron rails, grinding and pounding onto the tracks and the screeching sound of iron brakes, the forward and back motion jerks as the cabins compress to a stopping halt.

... and it's cheap, 64 bucks from KL - Singapore and back.

The other fun factor was that I didn't book any rooms for my stay :) So there was that exciting sense of urgency to find a bed at Prince of Wales a great backpackers hostel in Little India, Singapore. Designed with a pub downstairs and performances every night, its run by a helpful Australian host. It felt a bit awkward as I was the only Asian guy around, but I guess it's just that strange feeling of being around a group people from another culture, you try hard not to step on other peoples toes and stink up the place. It was an interesting experience.

Well, got a bed, took a shower and went straight to the Singapore Expo to register and check the booths out. Unfortunately like what my friends who had visited CGO the previous 2 years mentioned that it was getting smaller and smaller, and true enough this years' just seemed so .... dead. I've been to the first CGO in 2006 and that was a blast, people rushing to meet others, crowded and the air was full of festivity, maybe it was the first kind of CG conference in SE Asia region. Well, this year it just seemed dead, small pockets of people walking around 10 booths and the lack of lights just made it feel like a sinking ship. Either way, went around and check out the booths and chatted with some recruiters. Bumped into my friends who'd reached 2 days earlier for their "Track" ~ Workshop. Had lunch and discussed about the dying conference. Left after lunch and headed for city center.

My annual Pilgrimage to the Mint Museum of Toys situated right next to Raffles Hotel. About a year ago I found out that there is an authentic Bugs Bunny there autographed by Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Friz Frelang. You read books and articles about the golden era of animation, Warner Bros and Disney, countless photos of famous directors and animators but it just doesn't have as an impact as actually seeing a stuffed plush Bugs from that era signed by these great directors, something tangible and not just of words and pictures but history infused within an object of the past. Besides, Mr. Richard Tan the curator has an extensive knowledge in tin toys and memorabilia of the past, a nice guy to chat with.

Well, after visiting Bugs and all, I went over to the end of the town to meet another friend. Along the way I spotted this road side ad for Burger King, and honestly I'd never expect to see such advertisement in conservative Singapore, well I had to take a picture before they take it down :)

UPDATE : While browsing this article came up about BK's Advertising, read the comments at the bottom of the page, specific~ly haysoos' comment.

On the way back there were these wicked cloud formation, it looked like Water Colour utilizing wet on wet

Went back to the PoW to shower and come back out to meet up with my friends from CGO for dinner, finally had a chance to meet Jose Cua. Also had a chance to meet up with another friend of mine who's been staying in Singapore for the past few months, brought us go makan at some kopitiam next to a stadium somewhere, and had some nice fried seafood. Chatted, walked back to the hostel and crashed for the night.

The wonderful thing about Singapore is that I feel so safe walking around in the dark alone, maybe its just me being fool hardy but you just don't get that feeling in Malaysia.

That was it for my first day when I arrived in Singapore, lots of walking and by the time I got back to my bed my toes were aching and blistered. Slept like a log.

By the way I've set up a Flickr account, so if you want to see what I saw when I was in Singapore go check it out. Dick if you're reading this, the photo with the title Dick is not regarding you :)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Name Card

Well, I was required to bring 2 name cards to CGO 2009 and I didn't have any. So...I just couldn't help myself but to create some name cards :) My hands were itching to work on some handicraft, did some sketches, rough layout, minimalism designs, and a template for de~bossing the cards.

Materials and stuff;
  • A4 300gsm Beige Card x4
  • 4"sq Yellow Memo Paper x4
  • A dozen photostats
  • 5" x 12" mounting board
  • 1 flat head screwdriver
  • 1 flat head chromed screw
  • 1 hammer
  • Blade
  • Metal ruler
  • UHU glue
  • Cellophane tape

Direction was;

Type Writer + Animation Elements = Beige Paper + Courier + (Peg holes + Time Chart)

Wanted to have a minimalism design which played a bit with the typography and layout. After reading about Business card designs and comments, the conclusion was ; "it looks awesome but I'm going to throw it away at the end of the day". So minimalism was just the choice to go. Besides my liking for minimalism, I didn't have time to do anything more to it than I already have ..... and budget costs :)

1 dozen worth of photostats + no carbon = Fail

....... Was planning to ink transfer photostatted mirrored copies with lighter fluid to create that type writer texture, unfortunately the photostat machines didn't transfer enough carbon in the first place, even at the darkest settings the transfer was vague. So did the next best thing, photostat it directly onto the 300 gsm Paper which almost jammed in the machine.

Anywhoo, got it done and now back to animation studies....

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Votes Are In!

Just barely reaching 10th place with a rating of 6.59, guess have to try harder. After not watching it for the past 2 weeks and seeing it again with a fresh eye, I could see all the mistakes and wish I held some poses longer here and there to give it a bit more snappiness and added some subtle gestures etc. Currently it flows too linear from one pose to another which is one of my weak points in animation.

Well what's done is done, move on to the next one and try not to repeat the same mistakes....... like being hypnotized by the previews and believing that its the best work eva! ... because its never, there's always something to improve on.

Below are some of the more interesting critiques to consider, the Break Downs and Final.

Daniel P. Lane:

Great subtleties! Nice, clean motion. Very, clear staging and silhouette. Feels like he might be missing an antic before "and better still" I like how he interacts with the prop and the hand gestures. It might be cool if he does a little extra somewhere maybe thumbing the plane back and forth while he looks at it and thinks. Also, maybe at "well it's..." he could to a little side-to-side head shake as he finds the words to describe the experience. Over all I think you're matching the energy of the scene and character very well. Good job :)

~(Did do subtle thumbing in the beginning, guess not clear enough)~

Sam Caudill:

Very good! My only critique (and this is really nit-picky) would be to make the left hand arc for "see 'em fly" snap on fly instead of flowing into it.

M. Strohbehn:

Well done. His expressions appear genuine. From 80-120 it gets a little busy with hand motions. Love the juke box in the background and the setting.

~(I was afraid that was the problem, tried to hide it and some one caught it, proves that you can't get away if something just isn't working right)~

Richard Vaudrin:

Nice! I like the psychology of the character, great poses all the way through.

~(This would be the deepest critique I've gotten, thanks!)~

And to the rest who commented thanks for the feedback.

Break Down

Final Animation

Funny that nobody commented on the Eye Dart at frame 167. Initially there wasn't any but I decided to add that in just to add some small antic/details to break that monotonous head turn from looking at the plane all the time to the bar tender with the Front Profile, it also gave off a bit more mystery to the character like to question if he was really sincere or not.... maybe that's what
Richard Vaudrin's comment was about.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Pot Luck Practice 01 ~ Diving Into ...

Randomly picking a piece of yellow paper with something written on it to practice animation. Time taken about 5 days on and off
. Overall I still feel its a bit floaty..... :(

Oh it's also my first time animating majority with Forward Kinetics (FK) arms and switching them to Inverse Kinetics (IK) when they contact surface, I still feel much more comfortable with IK arms being an IK animator from the begining. With FK arms I had to change a bit of how I usually animate, had to really start with the body and then work my way too the tip of the fingers, make sure the body animation, including shoulders, is more or less there if not you're just wasting time and going to have to reanimate the arms from shoulders onwards caused by FK.

Critiques and Comments are welcome.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Movie Studies - Quentin Tarantino's ~ Reservoir Dogs (1992)



If you have not watched Reservoir Dogs before, you should watch it first if not the surprises and twist that is the main focus of revealing the characters in the movie will be ruined.

Its a great movie so go watch it first, trust me you'll blow the movie experience once you've read the studies below.


A bit About.....

Quentin Tarantino is the director of some of the most controversial films and carved a name in the world of film making. Some of the other films directed by QT are; Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill 1&2 and Grind house : Death Proof.

Was a Special Guest Director on Frank Millers ~ Sin City (2005)

Reservoir Dogs is Quentin Tarantino's director debut film at Sundance Film Festival, before this he worked as a video store clerk in LA. Initially QT was planing to shoot it on 16mm film with his friends on a budget of 30,000 USD, with some help from Harvey Keital managed to raise the budget to 1.5Mil, the movie grossed about 3Mil.

Reservoir Dogs is a Indie Cult Classic and hailed as one of the best independent films ever.

Opening Round Table Diner Scene

One of QT's trademark in his films is the chit chatty gossips and rambles of a group of the characters at a diner or in a car. Most of the time the gossips and chattering are about social issues and current/past events and not really related to the movie but it does give an insight of the characters habits and mind set, example; Mr Brown is a pervert. In the Opening Round Table Diner Scene, all the main characters are seated at a diner having their breakfast while chatting about the following topics;

(1) "Like A Virgin" by Madonna
(2) "The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia" by Vicky Lawrence, Reba McEntire.
(3) The social ethics of tipping.

The thing I like about this scene is the use of the camera tracking around the table behind the characters back, while they idly chat on about stuff. The use of the FGround characters back as a transitional effect and framing/anti-framing. Like some thumbs I've drawn above, the backs of the FG character would block the focus of the other characters at the opposite end, there is even one time the screen went black for a while because the camera was tracking behind the characters back. The use of it as a transition when they needed to cut to another track they waited till the backs of one of the characters covered the screen black and then cut, making the transition seemed seamless and smooth. The use of framing like when the character talking was framed in between two of the FG characters back at time 3|12.

The idea of using a track instead of cutting from one person to the other was that it didn't make the audience feel edgy/constant need of changing focus and restlessness from the continuous cuts. The tracking helped made the scene light, relaxing and enjoyable, the slow tracking left/right was smooth like silk, it made it comfortable for audience to enjoy viewing certain faces of characters at their own pace instead of constant changes caused by cut, like a waiter serving you food after you're done with one plate and not just shoving food in your face when you're not ready.

The other reason from my personal opinion is that what you see isn't as important as what you hear. I felt that the director wanted the audience to listen to the issues the characters were chatting about and not really at the characters themselves and when the director wanted to he could single out anyone of the characters to emphasis a reaction at a point of the topic. Besides that the tracking created a sense of unity among the group because of the semi circles it would be tracking around them. Most importantly it eliminated the use of constant cutting from one angle to another to show all the characters. And when it did make a cut, the cut was sharp and focused at a single point of importance like when the camera suddenly cut to Joe who said "Wong" and Mr White snatches the address book away from Joe out of irritation, that was an important and sudden reaction.

Mr Blonde's Torture Scene

The infamous Torture Scene, when people talk about Reservoir Dogs, this scene would be one of the most talked about especially the brutality of the ear cutting despite the fact that you don't actually see the action of cutting off the ear, and the unforgettable rendition of how Michael Madsen plays Mr Blonde as the psycho maniac dancing to the song "Stuck in the middle with you" by Steelers Wheel before slicing Officer Nash's face.

Just going to Breakdown the shots and describe some of the more important shots like Shot 07, as well as comparison of the 180' flip between Shot 05 and Shot 23.


Shot 07; Having the choice of not showing the audience the gruesome act of cutting off Offc. Nash's ear by turning the camera away but remaining in the same take in actually makes the scene more disturbing, not disgusting and gruesome ... but very disturbing. This is because though visually we don't see the torture happening, we as the audience knows Mr.Blonde is slicing something on Offc. Nash's face, and the audio of him squirming just helps ignites the audience's wild imagination on how brutal and gruesome the torture is.

The director is tapping into the audiences power of imagination to portray the brutality of the torture scene. The depth of our imagination is always deeper and livid than what is shown to us, besides each of us have a different threshold of what gruesome is. Example; some people might imagine that Mr Blonde is slicing Offc. Nash cheeks (some might find it bearable), while others imagination might be Mr Blonde slicing the tongue off or worse still skewering the blade into one of the eyeballs of Offc. Nash eye socket. You see we all have different levels of what gruesome is in our imagination and how effective it was to this torture scene.

Besides that, Shot 07 also reminds me of a similar take in the film Scarface (1983) played by Al Pacino. There was also a torture scene where one of the gang members were using a chain saw to dismember a person in the bath tub, similar situation similar camera move of shifting the camera away from the actual torture sequence but remaining in the same take. Quentin Tarantino being Quentin Tarantino I'd bet he would admit of lifting this camera move from the torture scene from Scarface (1983).

Comparison between Shot 05 and Shot 23; Breaking the 180' line is used in cinema photography to create a sudden change/to confuse/an exchange of power to the situation. In this case, Shot 05 was breaking the 180' to give a sudden jolt of confusion to the audience's vision, to throw us off balanced of the situation as Mr Blonde splashes gasoline onto Offc. Nash, the sudden impact of the gasoline splashing the face, the shock Offc. Nash would be facing that he's going to be burnt alive.

As in Shot 23, the breaking of the 180' was gradual as the camera started off on the correct side of Mr Orange base on continuity issues and gradually the camera started to track Right and around Mr Orange till it's facing his back while he continues to unload his gun at Mr Blonde. The use of this camera movement was great for mainly two reasons;

(1) It's a cool way to portray Mr Orange gunning down Mr Blonde instead of a cut here and a cut of dead Mr Blonde, the audience gets to watch the action uninterrupted.

(2) The shift of "Power" of the characters and situation from Mr Blonde to Mr Orange.

Conclusions & After Thoughts

A damn good movie, especially if its the first time you've watched it. Utilizing one main stage setup as a primary location to slowly unfold the turn of events while using chapters to reveal the truth and back story of each characters and how they got in the current situation.

After re~watching Reservoir Dogs a few more times and assuming the events in the film Reservoir Dogs chronically happened after Pulp Fiction, I can't help the fact that this movie and Pulp Fiction is related in characters, so below are just a few interesting debatable points.

Time 5|30 ~ Mr Pink played by Steve Buscemi debates on the issue of tipping and is against it, Mr pink mentions that he has worked minimum wage before and never had the opportunity to get tipped. His points of debate is why people are tipping waitresses in diners but not waiters at fast food joints or franchised restaurants. In Pulp Fiction, Steve Buscemi plays a young waiter in Jack Rabbit Slims dressed as Buddy Holly.

Time 38|04 ~ The character Mr Blonde aka Vic/Victor Vega is a stone cold egoistic sadistic thief/killer. In Pulp Fiction, John Travolta plays Vincent Vega an egoistic drug addict henchman. QT also admits of having wanted to do a film called "The Vega Brothers".

Time 27|15 ~ During Mr White's interview, Joe asked "What happened to Marsellus's Spy, didn't he always move your ice". In Pulp Fiction, Marsellus Wallace is an underworld Lord, Mr White played by Harvey Keital also played The Wolf (cover up agent) working for Marsellus Wallace.

Time 1|00|00 ~ After Mr Orange guns down Mr Blonde, you can subtly hear the radio in the BGround playing "... the traffic report is brought to you by Jack Rabbit Slims...". The phrase "Jack Rabbit Slims" is repeated 2 more times after that. In Pulp Fiction, Jack Rabbit Slims is a franchised steak house with fancy theme decorations and dressed up waiters and waitresses as famous people. Steve Buscemi plays a young waiter dressed as Buddy Holly.

Time 1|15|30 ~ There are some specific shots in Reservoir Dogs where Mr Orange looks for his ring to wear. Mr Orange played by Tim Roth also played Pumpkin aka Ringo a small time British accent thief who thinks of quitting and holds up a diner with his wife but fails. Mr Orange and Ringo wears a similar ring on the same finger. Personal opinion; after an emotional and psychological failure at the diner hold up and given a second chance to live at gun point by Jules, Ringo turns a new leaf to become a cop, wife leaves him. The scene of Mr Orange putting on the ring is a remembrance of his past life.

Other characters played in Pulp Fiction;

Mr Brown played by QT also played Jimmie Dimmick in Pulp Fiction, a spoilt opinionated proud house husband who has links to the underworld. Mr Brown complained about his colour code.

Reservoir Dogs Complete Study Notes