Monday, 28 July 2014

Mad Max: Road Fury ComiCon trailer

This looks utterly awesome.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Beacon by Monothetic

A quick post to say I am loving the WIP images coming from developer Monothetic for their new 'Roguelike' game Beacon. The concept art has a wonderful early-80s vibe and I definitely want a copy of Freja's jacket.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus

Some late night insomnia lead me to watch the excuisite documentary Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus. It was first broadcast in 2004 and is an exploration of the music and religion of the poor, white South by musician Jim White. At the outset, White hires a very broken car from a wary owner, then buys a four-foot statue of Jesus as a kind of oversized dashboard memento to accompany him on his drive across the American south. En route he meets all manner of swamp dwellers, bikers, woodsmen and tele-evangelists.

What binds these people together is their choice of where they sit on a very stark divide. On one side is a perilous life of crime, hedonism and alcohol often resulting in prison or death. The others choose god and, while their lives are no less punishing, they are completely convinced of the rewards they will receive in the hereafter. Thus the small towns tend to have two neighborhoods - that of the brothels and bars, and that of ramshackle churches.

The lyrical speech of the subjects is mirrored by the photography of the documentary. In this respect Wrong-Eyed Jesus reminds me of the excellent 1999 Wisconsin Death Trip. Long tracking shots describe the rugged, jumbled landscape while interviewees tell weird and depressing tales of their youth. The effect is utterly brilliant and provides a fascinating window into how capitalism and western values can fail miserably and how humans have the capacity to comprehend and choose between instant or deferred gratification.

Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus is currently on BBC iPlayer.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Very dirty LEGO

I've been working on this project for years - in fact, over two. That's not to say it took me the full duration, but I rather lost steam along the way and it's been an effort to bring it to fruition.

Having seen one or two examples of painted LEGO amongst the wonderful stuff on the web, I decided to experiment with heavy weathering on a mech. I deliberately chose materials that could be washed off to leave the bricks as-new if I decide to break him up. I think I used chalk and ground pastels for the bulk of it, which (I hope) will clean off easily. The build itself was a great learning experience. I am not experienced at creating from scratch with LEGO and I can tell you it's super-hard to end up with anything that looks remotely coherent!

I stumbled a bit when it came to presentation. I went round the houses on a graphic design scheme, and what you see here is rather a pale expression of the grandeur I had planned. I experimented a lot with Russian criminal tattoo designs, but nothing ended up working in the end. I chose the painting in the end as its hues matched those of the model, and the combination of the image and the text drew the associations I wanted for this mech.

I firmly believe there is no such thing as wasted work though, and I think the tattoo research will be very handy for something I am brooding over right now.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

3D handcrafted video games

Things have been a bit slow on the blogging front for two reasons - I am having terrible trouble with my broadband (thanks, seemingly, to some indeterminate problem at what Sky refers to only as "The Exchange") and I've been away. More on the latter in a bit...

During the rare moments when I do have a connection I've been discovering 3D handcrafted video games. This is a genre of games which use traditional 3D animation techniques in place of more conventional computer graphics.

One of the first (or possibly the first) was The Neverhood released on CD ROM in 1996. It is a point and click adventure using claymation sets and characters. The static nature of the point and click mode allows almost any style of images to be used, so while visually innovative, the title did not make any advances technologically. The use of claymation was very probably a response to the critical and commercial success of the film A Nightmare Before Christmas, released in 1993. Indeed, there were two other 'claymation' games in the early 90s (Claymates and the ClayFighter series, both on the SNES) but these was conventional looking games, which adopted the claymation aesthetic for their pixel-based sprites and cover art.

A sequel, Skullmonkeys, was released in 1998, this time on the PlayStation. This title is a platform game and successfully combines claymation figures and sets into a fully animated gaming experience interdispersed with claymation cut scenes. The plot has you collecting clay balls, which seems to be a wry but clunky way of justifying the use of claymation in the videogame marketplace.

While 2D animated games abounded over the years, there seems to have been a bit of a break on the 3D handmade scene until The Dream Machine in 2010 from Cockroach. This is a mystery puzzle game in which a claymation protagonist uncovers some rather odd goings-on in his new flat. Although brightly lit and colourful, the style of the puppets reminds me of the expressionistic Eastern European work that terrified me as a child.

2011 saw the release of Lume, from State of Play games. Rather than claymation, it picks up on the recent trend for using relief and layered paper and card to create images. It's a beautiful, friendly looking piece which harks back to the 60s and 70s childrens illustrations which used blocks of colour with wobbley hand-drawn lines as detail. 

The Swapper by Facepalm Games was released only a few weeks ago and is available on Steam. It is a side-scrolling platform adventure where the bulk of the environments are miniature sets. I love the juxtaposition between the gritty, dirty world, and the luminous HUD overlays. There is also a bit of a late 70s vibe going on with the protagonist(s) sporting silver visors atop their bulky environment suits.

 Lumino City is State of Play's forthcoming sequel to the aforementioned Lume. From the teaser it seems that they talented folk in South London have turned up the volume on its predecessor to create an amazing blend of animation and physical models. I particularly love the use of depth of field, makding everything seem very intimate.

Via Awesome Robo

Friday, 23 May 2014

NSFW: Blow Your trumpets Gabriel by Behemoth

Just discovered this amazing video by Polish Metal band Behemoth. It features some awesome monochrome magikal imagery. I've seen quite a few stills floating around on tublr, so it's nice to know their origin and see them in motion.

Having won a battle with cancer, the lead singer and his band have just been banned from gigging in Russia. The official reason is that they lack the necessary visas, but the suspicicion is that the authorities fear another Pussy Riot episode.

Via The Guardian

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Star Wars Revisited

Again, I am pretty late to the party on this one but I've just been learning about the Star Wars Revisited project.

In a nutshell, some very hard core fans of the franchise are making surgical tweaks to the films to, in their eyes, enhance them. These alterations are as subtle as adding accurate and synchronised navigation 'flaps' to the Land Speeders on Hoth, and cleaning up some of the mismatched effects applied (and re-applied) by Lucas and his team. The lengths to which the fan team go are quite extraordinary. They're even making accurate physical models which they shoot as live action elements and then composite in to the footage.

It also seems that the team are planning more significant edits to the saga in the future. These will take their alterations from mere 'enhancements' to fully fledged revisions or re-imaginings. They are talking about editing to remove a lot of the genealogy from Star Wars. Anakin will no longer be the creator of C-3PO ('Why the hell would Anakin build a protocol droid for his Mum?' they argue, fairly convincingly) and Anakin and Vader will be separated editorially so their relationship is never made clear until The Empire Strikes Back.

Although there are some quite legitimate legal questions surrounding this activity, I can't help think that it's just plain awesome. Of course Lucas is most high profile filmmaker to alter and re-release his own work and has, arguably, given rise to the culture of tweaking himself. Perhaps this Lacanian proliforation of views of the saga marks its true apotheosis from being a much-love film to a major cultural entity which is bigger than any one person (or mouse-shaped corporation)?

An example of some of the subtle tweaks that are being applied. In the old footage (below) the generator continues to glow a weird white colour after the explosion recedes. This afterglow has been removed (top).

One of the physical models the Revisited team is making to composit into existing footage.