Saturday 26 February 2011

What's Possible

Possible Stuff:

As of Wednesday afternoon, I've actually got a paid commission - making a 90-second computer-graphics-based advert for Day One Publications.  Still doesn't seem possible, but apparently it is.  Crumbs.

Following on from that: it is possible to handle financial and legal matters without your brain turning to an off-green goo and exiting your skull via the earholes.  Or so I'm told.

After seven months in the making, Fort Paradox gained its fiftieth episode last weekend.  Half-way to a hundred.  Wow.  And as if that wasn't enough, the project has its first episode or two by a guest illustrator.  I don't know about the rest of you, but from my POV that's all terribly exciting.  And it does seem possible (like I said, it's been a while since we started), but again, I haven't quite got my head around it.

It is entirely possible (and I hope probable) that I'll get round to doing Arbitrary Stopframe 4 in the next few weeks.  I've been a little distracted for the last fortnight by long-stay visitors, paid employment, and the fact that I'm running out of finished Alien President episodes, but I've got story plans for a couple more Arbitrary Stopframe clips.  Watch this space.

It is possible, but difficult, to design a bathroom by committee.  The way it's going in our family at the moment is that we came up with a perfectly serviceable plan several months ago (before discovering that Mum and Dad's bedroom was going mouldy around the corners, and deciding to de-fungus and decorate in there before doing the bathroom), and ever since then Mum's been revising the plan in every conceivable way, working out why the revisions won't work, and coming back to the original plan.

It is possible for the same composer to create some music that's crazy and thrilling, some that's beautiful and uplifting, and one little track that's deliberately, pervertedly, infuriatingly, brilliantly cringible, all on the same album. Case in point: Thomas Newman's soundtrack from WALL-E, which I've currently got on my hi-fi.  Oddly enough, exactly the same guy pulled exactly the same stunt on Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, which is also in my CD collection.

Speaking of music: it's probably possible to sit through the entire 2-disc Doctor Who Series 5 soundtrack by Murray Gold (had it as a birthday present), and not feel the slightest bit like you're having any fun for the whole two hours plus.  But I suspect you might have to be a corpse in order to achieve this.

Impossible Stuff:

I'm sorry, but a dying man simply can't do what he did, with that implement, without missing at least a little bit.  IMHO, that scene went beyond the bounds of Suspension of Disbelief and into the territory of Plain Impossible.  If you've seen Tangled, you should know what I mean, although whether or not you agree is another matter.  I've phrased it that way to try and avoid being spoiler-ish.

It is impossible to sit in the same room for too long without starting to feel like you're going to go bonkers.  It's taken me a long time to realise this, but it's finally dawning on me.


#007: Impossible Triangle

It was really tempting to paint a big letter 'S' inside the middle hexagon thing, but I resisted.

- The Colclough

Thursday 10 February 2011

Part III and All About It

Here's the third instalment of Arbitrary Stopframe, followed by a lot of verbosity relating to the clip:

Sam asked last week whether the episodes are going to fit together to form a bigger story.  The answer is: to be honest, I have no idea.  As of now, I'm not planning a bigger story, but as I go along I might start spotting connections.  Watch this space, basically!

I rambled on last week about the problem of YouTube series that start well but fall apart on or around their second episode, and listed Problem C as being when there are two instalments, and every indication that the series is set for a long and excellent run, but it somehow vanishes into thin air and Ep 3 never shows.  I've managed to avoid that one, as you can see from the presence of Episode 3 above.

I might not do one next week, as I'll have a guest staying, and it'd be a bit antisocial to ignore them for a day just to get a bit of animation done.  Normal service (i.e. Ep 4) will resume on the week commencing Monday 21st.

But having avoided Problem C, I've discovered something much more worrying:
  • Problem D: you're busy animating, and after a few moments squinting into the viewfinder you suddenly find that you can't focus one of your eyes.
That happened to me yesterday while I was shooting Inkjet, and persisted for several minutes.  I couldn't get my right eye to focus on some normal-sized text on my monitor from about two feet away.  Very worrying.  As a visual artist, if I lost the use of my eyes then every worthwhile skill I've ever had would evaporate instantly, and life on this planet would become a blank, both literally and metaphorically.

On a brighter note, in case anyone's wondering what all that stuff says on the computer monitor in the clip, here's a transcript:

How to Animate in Confined Spaces
Without Going Totally Insane

Contrary to popular belief, it is in fact possible to execute a stopmotion animation in a very small and hard-to-access location (such as the inside of an inkjet printer) without going stark staring bonkers in the process.  There are three main ways of achieving this.

The first way to avoid going stark staring bonkers during your animation session is if you are already stark staring bonkers to begin with.  Many of the best animators take this approach, and are always careful to remove any lingering traces of sanity and leave them at the studio door before commencing work.  While there is no reliable scientific evidence, it is widely believed that this is the approach taken by Henry Selick, director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline.

The second approach is to channel in
impending insanity through your characters instead of bottling it up in your own brain and allowing it to ferment there.  This is particularly effective if you are animating a character who is already deranged (e.g. Ron Haggard), or at least moderately eccentric (e.g. Wallace).  The results from this technique can sometimes be impressive – see for example the relative collectedness still exhibited by Nick Park after all these years – but they are not always reliable, particularly for method directors.

The third approach is not recommended, as its primary ingredient is paracetamol, in a dose which would be lethal to most known human-based life forms, even animators.


Mea culpa: there's a typo in the third paragraph.  It was meant to say 'channel any impending insanity'.

And finally, on an unrelated topic, here's another painting I finished the other day:

#006: Arbitrary Strata

No relation to Arbitrary Stopframe, despite the similar-sounding names.  It began life as a random pattern of leftover watercolours dribbled onto the canvas, and then added to with acrylics.

- The Colclough

Saturday 5 February 2011

Half a Century!

No, it isn't my 50th birthday yet.  Just my 50th post on A White Horizon.

I thought I'd better do something to mark the occasion.  My initial thought was, "How about I write up fifty facts about myself?" - followed shortly by "That's a bit boring.  I should do fifty real facts and fifty fake ones, and mix them all up!"

So what you will see below is a list of 100 claims about myself, half of which are true, and half of which are a bit more on the fictional side.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it: work out (or at least take a guess) which is which, and post your answers in the comments area.  The truth will be revealed in a future blog post.

Advance warning: it’s not as simple as it might seem – a lot of the false claims are not too far from the truth, but with one or two details altered in order to falsify the overall statement.  But on the bright side, I think a few answers are given away in the previous 49 posts, so a certain amount of help is available if you can be bothered with the re-reading.

  1. I was born in Southampton.
  2. If you follow my dad’s-dad’s-dad etc line back far enough, one of them was a second cousin of Henry VIII.
  3. I hold Australian dual citizenship.
  4. I am the oldest of 5 siblings.
  5. I have a high-functioning autistic spectrum condition.
  6. I’ve always been single.
  7. I got dumped once, but it was a bit irrelevant because I didn’t know I was in a position to be dumped from.
  8. My eyes are green.
  9. I need glasses because I’m long-sighted.
  10. I am a morning person.
  11. Breakfast, for me, is usually some sort of cereal with milk on it.
  12. I’ve got a random patch of hair on my lower back, and I’ve never been able to work out whether it’s meant to be there.
  13. I’ve never had a filling, blood transfusion, broken bone, braces, piercing, tattoo, hangover, or basically anything.
  14. I hate having anything tight around my neck.
  15. I am allergic to lavender.
  16. I have an irrational phobia of spreadsheet software.
  17. My favourite colour is white.
  18. I have three left feet.
  19. My first home was in Havant, near Portsmouth, but we moved to Bristol when I was 3 weeks old.
  20. After leaving Havant, we lived in Bristol for six years.
  21. One of my earliest memories is of getting scared to death by the unexplained presence of a small, stuffed E.T. toy in my bedroom when I was about 2 or 3.
  22. One of my clearest memories from my early childhood in Bristol involves our old Peugeot 104 breaking down in the carpark exit at Asda.
  23. During my three years in primary school, I earned notoriety for accidentally flooding the men’s room.
  24. One of my oddest memories from primary school was when my class was taken to the staff room and fed turnips.  I can’t remember the reasons, just the vegetables.
  25. I used to be an avid roller-skater.
  26. I set fire to my hair once, I think when I was 7 or thereabouts.
  27. I’ve lived in a hotel room for about three weeks.
  28. I once had an ice-cream birthday cake which turned out to be sesame-seed flavour.
  29. I’ve lived in Hong Kong for two years.
  30. While living in Hong Kong, one of my most prized possessions was a two- or three-inch-long snail shell which I found in a gutter.
  31. Throughout our stay in Hong Kong, we had to get a non-air-conditioned bus to and from church, because the bus operator never bothered putting any on that particular route, the lousy so-and-sos.
  32. I was forced to learn to touch-type when I was about 8 or 9.  I resented it a bit at the time, but I now find it extremely useful, so I’m retroactively grateful.
  33. In my previous house, I had a playroom in the garage conversion.
  34. I once helped to fell a giant conifer which had been irreparably damaged by a storm.
  35. I have been to France, Germany and Poland in the last ten years.
  36. I studied the piano (not sure whose idea it was) for a few years, but gave up after passing ABRSM Grade 4.
  37. I was once in the same room as one of the guys who designed the basic audio-handling layer for the MPEG-2 video coding algorithms.  I didn’t get to speak to him, as I don’t know any Japanese, and the translators were busy.
  38. I’ve been involved in three road accidents since passing my driving test in September 2007.
  39. I only have a driving license for automatic cars.
  40. I’ve had a week’s work experience with the BBC.
  41. I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media Production.
  42. The most expensive film I’ve been involved with was a final-year college project which cost just under £500.
  43. I spent all three of my final-year Media Production theory exams rambling on about Avatar, after having seen the film just once, and ended up getting a First in the module even though I hated it (the module, not the film).
  44. I’ve been to five consecutive Root Hill camps, and have no intention of stopping if I can help it.
  45. If I had to pick a favourite bit of the Bible, it’d probably be the last two chapters of Revelation.
  46. The Screwtape Letters is one of my favourite pieces of literature ever.
  47. I own four Rubik’s Cubes of different sizes, and can solve any of them within 10 minutes.
  48. And I know the solution to a 2x4 Rubik’s Magic too.
  49. I have met Ratatouille writer/director Brad Bird.
  50. My favourite animated film is Kung Fu Panda.
  51. Shrek 2 is the only animated film which I’ve seen at the cinema more than once.
  52. I have seen some episodes of The Simpsons, but never seen any Futurama.
  53. I have seen all 74 episodes of Doctor Who aired since the show restarted in 2005 (i.e. Rose onwards) at least once each, and several of them twice or more.
  54. Continuing the point about Doctor Who: I can even remember who wrote each one.
  55. The Lord of the Rings is the only multi-film series for which I’ve seen every instalment on the big screen.
  56. I have all six Star Wars films on DVD.
  57. I own exactly three films on Blu-ray: Inception, Up and How to Train Your Dragon.
  58. The composer responsible for the greatest number of CDs in my collection is Howard Shore.
  59. Continuing the point about CDs: the second is Lady Gaga.
  60. I am a fan of 3-D film technology, and one of my ambitions is to obtain a 3-D camera.
  61. I once made my own pair of 3-D glasses and used them to watch a DVD.
  62. I went to the UK premiere of TRON: Legacy.
  63. I have never used a computer with a Linux-based operating system.
  64. When I was younger, I used to like building towns out of wooden blocks, cardboard boxes and Lego, and I’ve got photographic evidence to prove it.
  65. I used to have a model railway in the garage, but I gave up on it in the end because the board warped, the tracks kept getting stupidly dirty and the trains never ran very well.
  66. Both of my current computers are iMacs.
  67. I did some C++ programming once, but I’ve forgotten nearly all of it now.
  68. I have dabbled in computer games programming in Visual Basic.  My biggest project was a Breakout clone.
  69. I am proficient at coding web pages in PHP.
  70. The bus I used to get to sixth form was so unreliable that I wrote a poem about its failings.
  71. I have produced a series of small sculptural works from a broken Shloer bottle.
  72. I have built a 5 x 7 ft mosaic, using over 400 custom-designed and hand-crafted tiles.
  73. I sometimes like devising writing systems for the languages spoken in my fictional worlds, and in more recent years I’ve made a point of never giving them 26 letters.  Ossirow has 23, Dyngarria Eribit has 30 (well, sort of 29 and a half), and Grud Ballum has 24, 27, 38 or 41 depending how you interpret the system.
  74. I have written nearly 2000 comic strip episodes, and the total is still climbing.
  75. I can draw geometric stuff, and cartoon people, but I tend to fail epically if I ever try to draw a realistic picture of a human.
  76. I’ve been known to draw something, and have absolutely no idea what it’s meant to be.
  77. I have owned three camcorders.
  78. One of my life ambitions is to make a big-budget film adaptation of The Pilgrim’s Progress.
  79. I have a vague, half-baked contingency plan in case I ever get invited to write for Primeval.
  80. I have a vague, half-baked contingency plan in case I ever get invited to write for Doctor Who.
  81. My bedroom walls are yellow.  I chose the colour.
  82. I love Marmite.
  83. I once took six months to eat a Bounty bar.
  84. I dislike Creme Eggs as I find them too sweet.
  85. Most of my favourite foods are French.
  86. Most of my socks are green or brown.
  87. I dislike centaurs – not for any philosophical reason, just because their physiology is so badly thought out.
  88. I have a basic first aid qualification.
  89. I have eaten kangaroo.
  90. I go swimming two mornings per week.
  91. I like watching jellyfish.
  92. Guinea-pigs freak me out.
  93. My favourite town in the world is Exeter.
  94. I’ve got an old diary (started when I was 7 going on 8), whose cover features some remarkably well-preserved petals from my back-garden sunflower crop of 1995.
  95. One of my friends is an Oscar-winning film composer.
  96. I once got a 50p coin from Gibraltar in my change.  I’ve kept it ever since.
  97. I have an antique fibre-optic lamp, on indefinite loan from my Grandad.
  98. I usually vote Labour.
  99. I firmly believe that you are never too old for Lego.
  100. This is my fiftieth blog post.

This could get confusing...

- The Colclough

Friday 4 February 2011

The Second Instalment

So, I've made it to Number 2.

Back in the early days of my YouTuber-ness, I came across this phenomenon with several different web series, where Episode 1 was really good and then Episode 2, in one way or another, was where it all fell apart.  I found three major variants:
  • Problem A: they make something labelled 'Episode 1', but they might as well not have said 'Episode' anything, because there's never a second one.
  • Problem B: the second instalment does show up, but it's a massive letdown, and the series either ends forthwith, or else straggles along as a pathetic shadow of what it could have been.
  • Problem C: there are two instalments, and every indication that the series is set for a long and excellent run, but it somehow vanishes into thin air and Ep 3 never shows.

Once you get to three or more, there seems to be some sort of critical-mass effect, so Ep 2 is generally the cruch point.  At least, that's what happened in the series I looked at.

Which all raises the question of how I'm getting on:
  • I've obviously managed to avoid Problem A, because as you can see, I've got a second episode right here.
  • I'll leave it to you to decide whether I've fallen foul of Problem B... is 'Fruit Pastilles' up to par compared with 'Marker Pen'?
  • And I've got some plans for another Arbitrary Stopframe clip for next week, so hopefully I'll avoid Problem C.

And speaking of long-running series and things: my next post on A White Horizon will be the fiftieth.  Fifty already?  Crumbs 8/

- The Colclough