A great post from my friend Laurie.

Learning from Sophie

Yesterday I watched the news in horror as yet another mass shooting took place in America. Immediately I felt like I was being sent back in time to March 1996. The day in school we sensed something was wrong, and I returned home to see the news and my Nana running to hug me…my shrieks as I realised that it was the school my friend and her sister went to, and phoning my Dad to check if he knew they were safe. That weekend my friend was pictured in the paper tears streaming as she laid down flowers outside her primary school.

When evening comes and light is fading
And your heart is heavy from the tears
Lift up your eyes and look to heaven
For 17 new stars have appeared
They shine their love down upon us
And the message of their love is clear
Lost familiar voices softly…

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Sundown: Interactive Graphic Novel hits virtual newsstands

Sundown CoverWell, it has finally arrived. After over a year of my own time and even more prior to my involvement, Sundown: Part One – White Birch, has been released to the public.

I first got involved with Sundown around May of 2011 when it was being designed as a fairly bog-standard motion comic – i.e. it was a single panel per page, self-propelled video format production. After a few months of working on that, and two or three other titles under development at the time, the pause button was pressed and everything came to a grinding halt. After some review, revision and restructuring, the project was redesigned as an interactive book with a new layout much more akin to printed comics. This was in no small part due to our discovery of an iPad app created in the same tool we eventually adopted, CIA: Operation Ajax. Since then till now, I have been pretty much buried in layout designs, artwork appraisals, animation and building interaction to create a digital reading experience which, whilst maybe not 100% new and original, hopefully stands out in the crowd as both innovative and entertaining.

I know, at the very least, this project has help to push the development of the tool, The Active Reader, which we have been using. I think we have had to upgrade the tool 6 or 7 times over the course of production to be able to have some the things we were doing work. It has been a lot of hard work which has, at times, driven me to edge of madness – the sound won’t play, or that font failed to load, again, or that layer of art simply doesn’t show up anymore (Thank you everyone at Tall Chair for helping me through). But, as with most creative endeavours, its completion and now release brings a special kind of satisfaction. All that’s left is to panic over whether anyone will read it and, more importantly, like it.

The book has been published by Motion Works Entertainment, based on an original concept from the creator of The Crow, James O’Barr and features original artwork from the same, with additional art created by Space Goat Productions. The build, animation and effects work were undertaken by myself, here at Dancing Fish Productions, using San Francisco based Tall Chair’s Active Reader tool. The book also features the music of Godflesh along with original music and effects created by AK Audio & Design.

Go download it, and let me know what you think.

Sundown: Part One – White Birch can be downloaded from the App Store:

Sundown Icon

Mercury Undercover

When you meet other independent filmmakers, you know you are in the company of like minds – people who do things for the love and not the money, who often work very hard, and when it comes to their own projects, work for free. When making our teaser trailer for our film, Crew 713, we had the pleasure of working with Daniel Montoya and his partner, Elizabeth Hong, who exemplified these traits, as well as being lovely people.

Daniel kindly helped us with the editing and some graphics on the trailer. We got to talking about their previous work, and it turns out they had been working on a project that was very close to my heart, well, more like close to my mouth. Their film is Mercury Undercover, a documentary about the use of the extremely poisonous substance – mercury – in fillings. Daniel and Elizabeth found case studies of those that have been affected, dentists and conservationists who show what a horrific effect this chemical has on the body and the environment. What is scary is that dentists have known about its harmful effects for over 100 years, and yet it is still the most common type of filling. The documentary is well made, with great graphics and animation that will really make you think about what dentists are putting in your mouth.

The reason this is especially resonates with me, is more personal. When I was in my first year of university I started to have symptoms that were similar to Crohn’s disease – specifically oral Crohn’s. Anyone who knows about this particularly nasty disease will know it’s not pleasant and affects all parts of your life. Apart from an inflamed gut,  one of my main symptoms was swelling in my mouth, which, to be fair, made me look like I had had my lips pumped with something that shouldn’t have been there. Considering people pay to look like that, it wasn’t the worst thing in the world. But as the symptoms continued, a bright doctor considered doing an allergy test. The contents of my fridge and some odd chemicals were put on my arms and back and monitored over 5 days. At the end of the 5 days, the doctor made an unprofessional squeal when they saw my back. I didn’t see it, but apparently it was pretty bad. That was where the tiniest bit of mercury had been. Turns out, just like everyone on the planet, mercury is really bad for me. And because I have a sweet tooth like a child, I had a mouth full of it. The fillings were taken out and replaced by shiny white ones, which was a complicated procedure, as they had to protect any mercury from going into my gut. It took 3 or 4 sessions with gauze over my throat for nearly 3 hours, but almost instantaneously  my Crohn’s symptoms disappeared and, unfortunately, my lovely big lips.

thankfully, I did not look like this

Crazy but true. I highly recommend you find out about the way mercury fillings may affect you. And you can see a film by some great local filmmakers.

Here’s the link to the film: http://www.mercuryundercover.com/ and the facebook page : http://www.facebook.com/mercuryundercover

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The Origins of Animation?

If I was to ask you when animation began, where would you go? 1995, Toy Story (don’t laugh, there are kids out there that can’t imagine even that far back!). OK, more serious, the 1920s, Disney? How about Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in 1911? Earlier? OK, what about Emile Renynaud’s 1892, Pantomimes Lumineuses? But then there was the Zoetrope from William George Horner in 1834. But even that can trace its origin as far back as AD 180(ish) China. So is that it? Animation started in China sometime around 180 AD? Well, apparently not.

It’s been I while since I’ve put finger to key here and offered any peas of my mind. What with back surgery, welcoming a new baby, a stereotypical toddler and working up to 4 projects at a time, there’s not a lot of opportunity. However, last week as I was making an urgent nappy (diaper) run to the store, I caught a few minutes of PRI’s The World on the radio. And in these few moments an interesting story caught my ear.

Marc Azéma, a French archaeologist and film maker, has been studying French and Spanish cave art for 20 years and has come to the belief that many of the depictions were deliberately designed, not just to show the subject is moving, but to actually show that movement. He proposes that they should be viewed sequentially in much the same way we would a modern animated cartoon and has created a video to demonstrate this;

He also makes the bold suggestion that these cave paintings, estimated to be in the region of 30,000 years old, mark the beginnings of cinema – albeit several evolutionary stages away from what we have now. I’m not wholly convinced myself, it’s a wonderful idea and in the video he has created a great supporting visual for his idea. But it is a video he has made himself by superimposing the various paintings over one another, not exactly concrete scientific evidence.

So, were the Neanderthals of prehistoric France and Spain the originators of the moving image? Or is Mr. Azéma’s theory yet another of archaeology’s grand speculations – I mean, come on, can we really know what colour a stegosaurus’s belly was?!  Why not take 6 minutes out of your day to listen to the man yourself and watch the video, then make up your own mind.