Tuesday 29 March 2011

Living in Analogue

So... another anthology blog thing.

1) Arbitrary Stopframe - I scraped my self-imposed deadline pretty darn close on Saturday, but did manage (just about) to get Episode 7 uploaded before going to bed.  My supply of desktop objects and episode ideas is starting to run a bit dry, hence the fact that Tim guest-wrote this instalment, and I'm not too sure how much longer this thing's going to last.  But I don't plan on making #7 the last episode.  Not yet...

Anybody else got ideas for future episodes?  I can't promise that all suggestions made will be automatically accepted, but they will at least be duly analysed for animatability.

2) Painting.  Took my paints outside on Sunday afternoon and ran off this little sketch alla prima (apparently that's Italian, and basically means doing the whole painting in one go, without waiting for one bit to dry before applying the next).  It's a strange one in that it looks absolutely rubbish from some angles - especially upside-down and from a few yards' distance, but I quite like it so long as you look at it the right way up and at fairly close range.

#009: Impressionist Glade

3) Routines.  It's been bothering me of late how much of my life has been tied up in electronically-mediated activities, be they work or leisure.  So I decided last week to do something about it: I rearranged my morning routine from something like this:
  • wake up
  • find and apply socks
  • read Bible while still in bed
  • start computer
  • find breakfast
  • return to computer
  • update webcomics
  • eat breakfast while watching TV / DVD / YouTube
  • get dressed
  • ...and onwards
to something like this:
  • wake up
  • socks
  • find breakfast and armchair
  • eat breakfast while reading Bible
  • get dressed
  • walk (yes, really!)
  • and only then fire up the electronics, update the webcomics, and resume business proper
Not sure how much difference it's making so far - I've only been at it a week - but I'll keep at it and see what happens.  This would also explain why my webcomics have been updating a bit later in the morning for the last few days.

4) Alien President.  I finished another batch of episodes yesterday (numbers 29, 31, 32 and 33 in terms of their positions in the story, but they bring the total to 37 as I've illustrated some episodes out of narrative order for technical reasons).  Number 29 in particular was a real pain to draw and colour - you'll probably see why when I publish it in a few weeks - but I was happy with the final result, which is the main thing.  Only 8 more left to illustrate now...

5) The fitful progress of Megastropulodon: a week or two ago, I managed to plug the last major hole in my character profiles, and started work on the second drafts of Episodes 1, 5 and 6, and for a few days it really felt like progress was being made.  But then I sort of dried up again.  I sometimes (read: often) doubt that I could actually make a living from creative expression, what with the way my ideas come in fits and starts, with productive patches separated by significantly longer dry ones.

6) Lack of blogging.  This is the first post on A White Horizon in 10 days.  Most of my recent posts have been triggered by having an episode of Arbitrary Stopframe to embed.  Is the lack of blogs indicative of a lack of life?  I wonder sometimes.  It might seem a bit ironic to make this connection, but: see point 3 above...

7) Firefox 4!  Mozilla have finally released the new, shinier version of my web browser of choice.  It's supposed to be several times faster than its predecessor.  Well, sometimes it is (smoother scrolling is noticeable), but it still takes a long time to load.  Version 4 has most of the same old good points (stability, for example), and several of the same old flaws, including the fact that whenever I open a new tab it comes up blank instead of going to my homepage.  The new interface is much prettier though, and the speed has improved a bit, so I'm generally happy with it.


- The Colclough

Saturday 19 March 2011

Another Lack of Horror Stories

Once again, Arbitrary Stopframe has slunk into existence without any protest or complications.  I have no horror stories to inflict on you.  I have only the finished product, hot off the press:

One thing worth noting is that I took Sam's point about not having used enough sound FX in Episode 5.  There are a lot more sound FX in number 6.

On the topic of "stuff I finished making recently", here's another painting:

#008: Stained Glass I

Yes, the 'I' signals the intent to produce a 'II', and maybe even a 'III' and beyond...


I've just realised: I spoke too soon.  There may not be a horror story in this blog post, but the post itself is arguably part of one: this is my 57th post on A White HorizonThat darn number again!

- The Colclough

Wednesday 16 March 2011

It's for Burning!

I have realised in the last 48 hours that the existence of Lynx deodorant is not, as I had previously thought, just a hideous blot on the face of the universe and a complete and utter waste of time.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I like the brand now.  I still despise it.  The products stink (imho, anyway), and the adverts stink even worse - a concise translation of any Lynx ad from recent years would read: "use our products, and any female who comes within smelling range will instantly turn into a brainless moron whose only aim in life is to get in your bed" - a message which I find crass, moronic, and offensive, not to mention probably untrue.  I don't want my female friends and acquaintances to turn into brainless morons, thank you very much.

However, I recently found out via my younger brother that there is actually a use for this hitherto-thought-to-be-worthless product: when combined with a tealight and some Lego, it burns beautifully.  I was informed on Monday night just before he went to bed: "Guess what?  I've built a flamethrower!"

...as one does, of course.  I mean, he's fond of Lego projectile gadgetry, but a flamethrower?  Well, if you say so...

I got a demonstration of the device in the back garden yesterday, and tonight he asked if I could video him using the flamethrower.  Which I did.  It's a very simple concept, really: aim the can over the top of a candle, and squeeze the nozzle.  Helps to have a Lego frame to hold everything in place, including a built-in firing rod so you can operate the aerosol while your hand remains a relatively safe few inches away.  Deodorant sprays out over the flame, catches fire on the way past, and you get a lovely fireball.

"Cool" isn't really the right adjective right now, for reasons I'm sure you can work out... but I thought it was quite impressive.

So that, it turns out, is what Lynx is for.  Not for destroying women's brains, and certainly not for shoving up your armpits, but for incinerating.  As someone once said to me while poking the remains of a fifteen-foot-high bonfire: "Pyro is the second-best mania in the world, after Megalo."


- The Colclough

Saturday 12 March 2011

The One I Didn't See Coming

I had the basic idea for Arbitrary Stopframe 4 some weeks before I got round to animating it.  Not so number 5, which only popped into my head a day or two ago.

I don't have any tales of woe from the soundstage to regale you all with either.  So here, without further ado or embellishment, is the latest of my weekly stopmotion exercises:

To try and compensate for the fact that this post is so short, I've decided to open a little opinion poll: which Arbitrary Stopframe episode so far is your favourite?

Also: I will try and remember to post the answers to Fifty Facts and Fifty Fibs soon... I've given up waiting for anyone to post their answers...

- The Colclough

Friday 4 March 2011

Lenses, Coins, and Action

After a couple of weeks' delay, I've finally made Arbitrary Stopframe 4 - but it was an uphill battle to get it filmed.

The root of the problem was a small dark speck which has been appearing frequently at the same position on various photos taken on our Nikon D80.  I decided to try and get rid of it before shooting AS4, so I took off the lens (the default zoom one that comes with the camera body), cleaned it as best I could, and then reattached it.

The camera and the lens then refused to talk to each other, making it impossible to control the aperture, and therefore impossible to set up properly for the stopmotion piece.  I detached and reattached the lens a few times, but it didn't fix the issue.

So I decided to give up on the zoom lens altogether, and instead dug out one of our alternative lenses - a fixed-length, mid-angle model with an aperture control ring (which the zoom doesn't have).  Attached this, took a test photo... and then discovered that that same darn speck showed up in exactly the same place - which meant it wasn't in the zoom lens at all, but on the image sensor.

I ummed and aahed, and then remembered that I've got a very soft paintbrush which I've never actually used for paint.  So I set up the camera in full manual mode with a 30-second exposure time (thank goodness the D80 will still take photos with no lens on it), and while it thought it was taking an arty-farty time-lapse picture I flipped it over, stuck my paintbrush into its gubbins, and flicked away the offending bit of grot, which was fortunately visible to the naked eye so I could see what I was doing.

Reattach the alternative lens, take another test photo... and the speck was gone.  That felt good.

All that remained then was to animate Doctor Murkum having a bad time with a £1 coin.  Or rather, a few £1 coins.  I've currently got thirty-something pound coins lurking around my room, but for the purposes of the animation I picked out the post-April-2008 Matthew Dent ones with the royal shield on them, because in my humble opinion they look better than the old ones.  That's the one and only reason behind the particular number of coins that appear in the clip: that's just how many 2008-design £1s I've currently got.

I've noticed that the light flickers a bit in this episode.  This is probably due the fluctuations in the natural light sneaking in through the window, as I forgot to fully close the curtains before I started animating.  Note to self for next time...

Anywho, now that I've had my nice long rant about electronics and aesthetics, here's the clip from the centre of the furore:

...and now that I've got started again, I shall try and get back to doing these clips on a weekly basis.  Watch this space!

- The Colclough

PS. unrelated: I reached a rather momentous landmark the day before yesterday: I drew my 2000th comic-strip episode!  In case you want to know, it was Fort Paradox 56, and was executed with fibre-tip pens, with dialogue added in the computer using the dreaded font Comic Sans.

Wednesday 2 March 2011

A Rediscovery

This afternoon, I decided to go on a little archeological dig.  Sort of.

Translation: I unpacked the bottom shelf of my wardrobe, which contains all my papers from sixth form, more or less undisturbed since I put them there two-and-a-half or maybe even three years ago.  But I wasn't really after the papers - I was more interested in what they were sitting on: my first-year final coursework sculpture from my A-level in "Fine Art (Ceramics)", as I think the course was officially called.

It looks like this:

And it also looks like this:

Yes, those two photos really are the same object.  The second one shows the view you see if you get down on the floor and look through the small viewing port in the front panel.  That was the point: the brief was to create a sculpture which would force the viewer to change their position in order to fully appreciate the artwork.  There's also some cunning forced-perspective stuff going on: the plasterwork is built onto some slanting inner walls, and both back corners of the box are hollow, which conveniently leaves room to store the plug and cable when the sculpture is packed away.  The outer side walls come off (at least in theory - they were ridiculously stiff last time I tried moving them) to allow access to the four light bulbs for replacement when necessary, without disturbing the aesthetically-important parts of the box.

I think this piece would rank joint second as one of the biggest and most impractical artworks I've ever created, and solo second in terms of the ones that still exist.  But despite the bulk, the weight, and the unimpressive exterior, I'm rather fond of the thing.

I got it wrong the first time round.  Version 1 was made with all the sides in place, and the ceiling missing, which was all very well and good in terms of getting the plaster and paint onto the floors and walls but not so good in terms of making the ceiling fit.  You could always see a load of nasty gaps where the separately-fabricated ceiling piece didn't really fit the rest of the cave.

And then, it went a bit mouldy.

So sometime during my A2 year, I revisited the cave, partially dismantled it (ie. removed the ceiling, front panel and outer side walls, and after killing off the fungus I then reattached the outer lid, flipped the whole thing upside-down, and remade the cave ceiling from scratch, this time plastering straight onto the insides of the box as I had done for the walls and floor.  I seem to remember the original back-wall plasterwork fell off during the deconstruction, so what you see now is a new back which was made at the same time as the ceiling.  That funny little flat-topped stalagmite thing at the back-left is a second-generation addition too.

Since then, all I've done with it was to bring it home, look inside it again, and then shove it in the wardrobe for posterity, underneath a heap of paperwork.  So it was a bit of a blast from the past looking at it again today - and I was delighted to find, upon revisiting the cave, that it hasn't gone mouldy again in the last three years.

I should try doing something huge and impractical like that again sometime...

- The Colclough