07 March 2009


Links of interest (2009-03-07):

  • The first animals that people domesticated were wolves—we call them dogs now. Coincidentally, within an hour last night I read a Slate article and saw an episode of "Martin Clunes: A Man and His Dogs" on that very topic.
  • From Salon: "To this day when I walk into a grocery store and see a mom with her teenage daughters, I have to leave. Every time I just get tearful, I just can't be in the same room, even after all these years. It just kills me that I don't get that time back."
  • The Economist makes a compelling argument that all recreational drugs—yes, even hard drugs like heroin and cocaine—should be legalized (via Dan Savage). That's a pretty radical position, but the magazine posits it as the "least bad" option, after "the war on drugs has been a disaster, creating failed states in the developing world even as addiction has flourished in the rich world. By any sensible measure, this 100-year struggle has been illiberal, murderous and pointless."
  • Don't forget to put your clocks forward by an hour tonight for Daylight Saving Time, if you're in a part of the world that invokes it early Sunday morning.
  • Scanwiches are sandwiches, cut in half and imaged on a flatbed scanner—which I presume needs very frequent and thorough cleaning (via J-Walk).
  • New Homestar Runner meta-cartoon: 4 Gregs.

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29 August 2008


Video montage of Gnomedex

Chris Pirillo, who organized the Gnomedex conference last week, posted a fun video compiling a bunch of photos from the event. As far as I can tell, most of the photos are from my Flickr set, which is cool:

He calls it "The Beginning of Human Circuitry." The groovy technobleep soundtrack is "Icarus" from Trash80.net, and the video was assembled using Animoto.

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27 August 2008


"Edison and Leo" hits the screen

My friend Jeff is a movie publicist, and in January, he took me to visit the set of one of his projects: Edison and Leo, the first feature-length stop-motion animated movie ever made in Canada. At that time the film had already been shooting for eight months in a converted residential school in Mission, B.C., about an hour east of Vancouver, after several years of preproduction. Now, eight months after that, the film is ready.

Edison and Leo - Electro

I haven't seen it yet, because Edison and Leo will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival next week, on September 4.

Edison and Leo - Train

Just as I compared the impressive but bleak The Dark Knight to 1989's supposedly "dark" Tim Burton Batman, I suspect that Edison and Leo will better Burton's 1993 stop-motion production, The Nightmare Before Christmas, too.

Edison and Leo - Lotte lightning

From what I know of it now and what I saw on the set, Edison and Leo shares elements with many scary elements of classic fairy tales: parental abandonment, evil meddlers, plotting siblings, strange castle compounds, and lightning bolts and electrocution. Okay, maybe that's more Dracula.

Edison and Leo - Danger!

Not only is it the first stop-motion feature from Canada, it's also apparently the first such movie aimed at grownups anywhere. If it's as good as it seems it might be, there's always that Best Animated Film Oscar to shoot for as well.

Edison and Leo - Mother cage

You can get an idea of the look of the film from my photoset at Flickr. I'm looking forward to a viewing.

Edison and Leo - Angry in the lab

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05 March 2008


VFS students made a video of my tsunami blog posts

Shal, Jamie, and Erica at VFSBack in late 2004 and early 2005, following the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, I wrote a series of blog posts that turned into a popular online article about tsunamis.

Now a two-minute video based on it, created by three local film school students, is available in iPod-compatible format for iTunes or QuickTime—as well as on my podcast.

Click the preview below to play it, or the direct link to see it bigger (that big one is a 25 MB MPEG file, so it may take awhile to load):

My friend Sebastien, who is Head of Digital Design at Vancouver Film School, referred me to the three students (Jamie Peterson, Erica Edwards, and Shalinder Matharu), who needed a topic for an infographic project. My contribution was limited to a couple of basic scripts; they did the rest, adapting the article into the instructional video graphic using Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and After Effects (no, those are not real paper cutouts—I asked).

Obviously, they had to cut down the concepts a huge amount to fit into the short time available, but I think the result is effective. It's difficult to keep scientific accuracy in such an abbreviated format, but I believe any quibbles a real wave researcher might have (such as with the shape of the wave) are pretty minor. Nice job, Jamie, Erica, and Shal.

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13 January 2008


Photos of the "Edison and Leo" stop-motion movie set

Edison and Leo - Edison and the towerFor a good chunk of the past year, several dozen animators have been working in a former native residential school near Mission, B.C., rented out to them by the current owners the Sto:lo Nation, on what looks to be a fascinating movie, Edison and Leo, which should come out later this year.

It's the first feature-length stop-motion film made in Canada, which is suprising considering this country's long history of innovative animation projects. I visited the set last week with my friend Jeff, who is working on publicity for the project.

Edison and Leo has a dark, retro, steam-punk look (it's set in the 19th century), and when production was at its peak late in 2007, there were as many as 14 sets in use simultaneously. Now that the main shooting process is winding down, there are only a few sets left, but it's still a strange experience if you've ever visited a movie set before.

Unlike computer or traditional animation, stop-motion has actual sets, with all the wiring, lighting, and construction that entails. However, the sets are at a strange scale, built for characters a few inches high. And while live-action sets require absolute silence and very careful tiptoeing around, with Edison and Leo Jeff and I were able to wander about, say hi to people as they worked, take photos, and generally feel at ease—because each animator produces, on average, less than 10 seconds of footage a day, one frame at a time. Take a look:

Edison and Leo - table set Edison and Leo - stagecoach Edison and Leo - friendly! Edison and Leo - pies Edison and Leo - title card Edison and Leo - holding the head Edison and Leo - Edison head Edison and Leo - hands Edison and Leo - train and gate Edison and Leo - train Edison and Leo - blurry gate Edison and Leo - compound set Edison and Leo - Vancouver Sun article Edison and Leo - editing Edison and Leo - Xserves and drives Edison and Leo - computer control Edison and Leo - hallway Edison and Leo - head sketches Edison and Leo - idea sketches 1 Edison and Leo - idea sketches 2 Edison and Leo - former residential school Edison and Leo - field outside Edison and Leo - library set Edison and Leo - Edison and the tower Edison and Leo - Edison onscreen Edison and Leo - sauna set Edison and Leo - storyboards Edison and Leo - parts bins Edison and Leo - little body parts Edison and Leo - attaching mouth Edison and Leo - big gloves Edison and Leo - body part station Edison and Leo - Leo with no mouth Edison and Leo - Leo with mouth Edison and Leo - storyboard Edison and Leo - discussion Edison and Leo - view of Fraser Valley Edison and Leo - school front Edison and Leo - trailers

There were some neat details. "Filming" actually takes place with modern Canon digital still cameras, hooked up (oddly) to old manual-focus Nikon lenses. They're connected into computers next to each set, which the animators can use to check their work, and then through a jury-rigged fibre-optic cable network run through the old school to a set of storage servers, and also to a room where the movie can be edited on the fly.

The production facility is almost completely self-contained: all the sets, costumes, and characters are built on site, which gives the team a lot of flexibility and also keeps costs down. (Most of the staff are from other parts of Canada, and have been living in trailers on the property.) Other than the sets themselves, the building still looks like a school, which is pretty creepy considering its history.

If you'd like to read up on the project, check The Province, the Victoria Times-Colonist, the Deadwood blog, the MTV Movies blog, Playback, Telefilm Canada, and IMDB.

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