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Thursday, 31 March 2011

Red: Character Bio: The Lumberjack

Our adapted tale of Little Red Riding Hood will feature a narrative told by our protagonist.  A detective named Jack.

 Jack is based on the lumberjack featured in the original fable, who appears at the end of the story, cuts the wolf open and saves the yet undigested Red (and Granny)  Is it strange that I'm spiteful of this eventual outcome?

Our depiction of this character is a man riddled with troubles about the inability to solve his case.  He has been after the Wolf for some time but has so far been unable to close the file; the Wolf is still at large. With the eventual kidnapping of Little Red Riding Hood, this all changes.  Jack is the only hope of saving the young girl from who knows what gruesome fate.  This also allows him the opportunity to close on his nemesis, and deliver justice as only a lumberjack could.

I'm thinking a lot of this:

A little bit of this:

Mostly this guy though, I think I unwillingly modeled the entire character of Jack on John Constantine when approaching the storyboard, and the image has just kind of stuck. For me anyway:

A little less of these:

Red: Style.

So basically we are going to rip 'Sin City' off.

If I didn't post it everyone who read about and/or seen our short film would pin it down anyway.

I guess drawing the Crime/Detective genre from the hat aptly pointed us all in that direction from the start.  We wanted to create a desolate urban story, something that dealt with hyper-violent and vulgar themes, but retained its believability. 

The distinct visual style of 'Sin City' would lend itself to the story of Little Red Riding Hood amazingly well -blowing up the red on a reasonably neutral (if not completely black and white) background. It has also been used by another recently released Red Riding Hood adaptation, which I guess we could cop some flack for but I'm willing to take it.  We had vision as to how to make our film aesthetically powerful, we'll stick to that vision and see if we can pull it off.

The narration element was used throughout the entirety of 'Sin City' as it will be in our movie.  This we thought would be an easy method to transcribe the original story into our new grittier modern version, and reach the level of detail we are hoping to achieve in 4-6mins.

Our characters in essence are quite similar, but maybe that's just a reflection of the stereotypical cynic detective.

We also looked at crime dramas from modern cinema, particularly Scorsese's 'The Departed'.  Its use of troubled protagonist and shady mob-boss contributed a lot to our characters. The relationship between whom, we developed in a pulpy style modeled on Quentin Tarantino's movies.  We are aiming to keep the viewer engaged by chopping the story up to a small degree and letting it all pan out as we go deeper in.

Lastly, what I wanted to do now that I had access to one of the fancy new Steady Cam's from the department was try build a few shots based on one really long take.  Something I loved about 'Children of Men' and 'Kick-Ass'.  Not going to be on the same scale (being that Children Of Men's longest shot is nigh on 5minutes continuous action-packed footage) but I'll give it a crack. -Children of Men ridiculous shot.

*Kick-Ass scene not one long shot, but the seamless transition is pretty sweet. Definately where I want to go with the action scene from our movie. 

New Project: Red Riding Hood. (Expect Robox Results Soon)

Our new task is to create an altered version of a kids fable or nursery rhyme, adapted to fit a randomly chosen genre.

We drew Crime/Detective.  We have chosen to adapt Little Red Riding Hood.

We have recently been running through several minor projects using final cut and adobe premier.  Including Reverse-Film Production, and Editing exercises.  Honestly, I initially thought I was going to struggle with this project. The idea of being on the performance side of the lens is one that doesn't appeal to me, but the editing process, the development of ideas into particular scenes and interactions. the intricate level of detail involved in cinematography as an art-form, these do.  Until now these had been outweighed by the nauseous unease involved with performing for a camera, but a week in I'm now looking forward to whatever rolls I have to play, just to see what we can achieve with the finished product.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Robox Ep5-Construction ([Insert Semi-Witty Reference]) -too tired

We were ready to move onto the physical construction of our project. First was the robot.

Whilst we were in the development stages for the project, to alleviate the burden of our time constraints a little, Sam plunged into the construction of the robot. The design was fairly simple, the base model was similar to the initial tribot bar the back wheel (we replaced that with sledges to create more interesting textures on the paint surface. To house the vivid that would mark the roof, the frame was heightened slightly which caused problems -the robot was very top heavy and prone to toppling at very little provocation. He ran on two wheels, to counter the stability issue we resorted to the original third wheel design (just like the tribot) Once he was operational we added the ultra-sonic sensor to navigate the area. Once he reached a certain distance from a wall he would perform a randomly generated turn and continue forward. Also to add patterns to the artwork, we incorporated an arm extension with a sponge attached at its rear. This ran on the third available motor, and was linked to a sound sensor. When this was triggered (by noises over a certain decibel reading such as claps or shouts) the arm would slap the ground; causing a paint 'splodge'.  tweaks were made constantly throughout the process.  But the main design remained the same throughout.

Robox Ep4-Establishing Meaning (Psyche)

So I've delved into where we're going with the Robox briefly, but I'd like to go into more detail concerning the running theory behind what it's trying to demonstrate. It gets a bit fluffy (it's late, and I've drank too much caffeine) so skip this one if you want to avoid the 'mind-f**k'.

Essentially to me it started off as a duality thing, a coexistence between the robot and the programmer. The robot is dependent on the instructions, without these he is incapable of anything at all. On the other hand though the programmer does not create anything at all, the body of work itself is all produced by the robot. This idea would be conveyed with the two canvases, the vivid showing man's direct input, whilst the paint shows man's ultimate vision. The robot executes this on its own terms therefore creating a partnership.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Robox Ep3-First Development (Ball Rolling)

We had an idea, now we had to figure out how to make it happen.  If we had consistently learned anything from our previous assignments it was the importance of thorough planning.

We were going to create a robot that randomly generated a path and printed designs on two surfaces, one above and one below, essentially sandwiching the robot between the two.  On the top we originally wanted to use floods of paint to produce a wash of colour.  We would fix a ball to the top of our unit which would 'roll' over the paint surface creating a trail.  Several problems arose: 1. We had no idea what to depict on the base, as the top canvas demonstrated the concept of duality which we were initially aiming to do.  The second canvas was somewhat redundant.  2.  On a much simpler note, gravity would take its toll on the paint and taint the bottom surface ruining the functionality of the design.  We changed to the idea of distributing the paint onto the bottom surface whilst using a large vivid tightly fixed to the top of the robot, to trace his path on the upper canvas.  We had a list of things to research.

Eventually after much youtube deliberation we decided the NXT hardware didn't provide the means to carry and apply the paint without help from some other system.  We looked into options (even considering water balloons again) ultimately settling on some sort of syringe, if we could make it work as an affordable and efficient option.

Robox Ep2-Brainstorming (Getting Lost)

So I had my outline and for a while I allowed my mind to wander.  I had abandoned logic and any potential meaning temporarily in exchange I was racking my brain for what would be a really dope way to approach the project.

Off the bat I was worried about how i was going to get the robot to draw anything, seemed daunting.  Trying to teach a robot to move from one spot to another was hard enough to program, it'd be murder to get it to produce a work of art.  I was hung up on poorly drawn vivid- lineart images and how weary and frustrated that would make me.  During our run-down with Gabe i quickly realised this was not going to be the case.  I had to broaden my horizons, add a little creative flair

Robox Ep1-Interpretation (Waffle)

Am way behind on blogging, this entry may be pretty big so I'll try break it up.

We were given the task of creating another robot using the kits we had been using for the last fortnight.  The task this time was to create a robot that "does not perform a functional task, but communicates or expresses an idea." we were to produce a "drawing machine."

After spending time reading through the brief and letting the concept sink in, I landed on the interpretation of the brief that I ran with for the entirety of the project; which I'll try and convey.  Essentially we were to create a robot that responded to interactivity in an expressive way, the machine, the drawing, and the 'performance' of demonstrating the capabilities of our machine would all be taken into consideration and assessed.  However I feel that there were several underlying factors that we needed to take into consideration to connect better with the aims of the brief.  What we focused on heavily, and tried to communicate was the concept that the robot was "expressing an idea" - there had to be a purpose for what the machine was ultimately creating, and that final product had to have some commonality between the robot and ourselves.

It was also pretty clear that we would be heavily assessed on the content of our journal, our reflective statement, and what we have blogged about over the course of the project.  So I may have shot myself in the foot by leaving the blogging so late.  Will need to work on running a tighter ship with the next project.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Recap/Looking Ahead

I'm actually running a little behind on these blog updates but I feel now would be a good time to reflect on the course so far, and my thoughts for the future.  A little "meta-reflection"

We have already started the next group assignment which has allowed me to move into a different working group, and has allowed us a little more freedom to move within a given brief.  I felt that the initial projects with the Mindstorm kits were albeit challenging, they were limited in how far we could really differentiate what we were doing from one another.  Maybe I'm trying to run before I learn to walk here (I realise we were still learning the programme with our previous projects).  I can't wait for the coursework to open up, so I can see what we're all capable of, myself included.

For the future, most of all I'm feeling like i want to crack into some larger projects both to see some more results, and work with some different people.  We have such a diverse little community of individuals working in the BCT department.

p.s.  Finding myself spending a lot of time playing with photoshop developing digital illustration techniques now that I have access to it anytime I feel like.  If anyone from BCT (or otherwise) who's into that sort of thing does find themselves on here, and you happen to read this particular entry, we should tee something up. I know I have a lot to learn and a lot of practise to do, if anyone's willing to teach or work together.


What Next?

Our next assignment was to utilize everything we had learned and put into practise with the robots so far, to send them on a designated path, from A to B.  For our group, this was a struggle and in the end we weren't able to make it happen.

Our logic was sound,  we were going to avoid using sensors as this initially seemed like the more complicated programming choice.  Instead we would run our robot on a completely pre-ordained path, that we would input and perfect with trial and error.  There ended up being a whole lot of trial involved, and even more error.  With a little more time planning beforehand, and a little more time spent playing with the NXT software to learn the correct methods, we could have followed the approach that was employed by the majority of the other groups in class (moving our LEGO robot from A to B using sensors to gather and interpret the surrounding environment).

Our technique involved a lot of room for error.  Initially it was vital that our robot was set off from a consistent starting point.  The life of our batteries affected the rotation of the wheels, and therefore the length of its forward movements, and the degree of its turns.  We had to maintain the condition and allignment of the robot itself to insure consistent movement (a problem not helped by the fact that we had to take it apart in the morning to insert fresh batteries).  Lastly I'm fairly sure that the movement of the robots after programming was naturally pretty inconsistent anyway, so we were fighting an uphill battle from the start.  It would have been far more efficient to train the little guy to read the current situation, and decide for himself how to navigate from A to B.

I was losing my cool.

Even though we chose what seemed to be the easier option, we should have had the foresight to see that these issues were possible.  Probable even.  We were a fairly promising group to begin with, but we didn't make it to the end of the course when it mattered.

Props to our group for fitting into character though.  Our character the thief was implemented by sneaking around the outskirts of the room as opposed to a direct route, and our shady head movements charmed a few of our classmates.

Next time though we'll definately do things differently. Can't win em' all but.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Pretty Much A.I.

We recently produced a new character to integrate into the game of chess.  Our latest small assignment was to develop the character idea into a LEGO Mindstorm Robot. To portray a development from our initial assignment the LEGO robot had to emulate the characteristics, and behaviour of the chess piece we had earlier designed.

We got off pretty easy at this stage.  Compared to some of the other more eccentric characters developed by the rest of the class, we had a moderately simple design, with an easy loop-able path.  This allowed more time to focus on tuning the finer points of our newly introduced chess character into the robot.

Simple is good.

After spending the day refining our maniacal laugh, and our on-screen devious eyes, we were happy with the final product.  We left WT005 with absolute faith that our robot was capable of displaying exactly what we needed it to.

We arrive next morning to display our achievements and succumb to what is apparently a mistake made every year; we forgot to charge our batteries.  Along with a few minor hiccups which we missed overnight (it's important to finalize all your programming after your robot is fully constructed, physical adjustments as small as they may be require programming adjustments).

7.jpgPlan these things ahead.  six degrees of separation is a big enough issue to deal with never-mind having to alter the behavior of your construction because you've knocked a wheel out by 2mm when replacing the batteries.  If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing right.

Needless to say, no Nobel prize in the mail yet, but there's always tomorrow.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Playin' Chess

Developing Robots From LEGO.

Years of chocolate abuse, cartoon network marathons and STAR WARS kit-sets are finally paying off;  I always told my old man my early twenties were being spent productively.

Step 1. Designing a new chess piece to fit into the existing game.
Our Chess piece to begin with was 'the Beggar', a filthy little obstacle piece that erratically moved around the board getting in the players way.  more of an obstacle- an uncontrolled unit on the board.


Working within the constraints we couldn't use this idea (The restrictions involving a minimum movement space of three squares, and the theme of a homeless decrepit hungry old pauper stumbling around the board).  For the sake of the character, and consistent storytelling, we changed to a much more nimble and vicious avatar-'The Thief'.  This piece moves around the center of the board in a square robbing surrounding pieces of their equipment and ipods, thereby disabling them for a turn.

The story telling aspect was a new spin on what i had thought of as a purely aesthetic and functional design brief.  But the more I thought about the relevance of these details, and the more the project develops, the more comfortable I feel.  I guess that's why we're being pushed to develop back stories and bio's for inanimate chess pieces, because they do represent something flesh and blood (bar the rook maybe).  Something that has the potential to tell a story of its own (imagine the tale of the powerful but burdened king as the turmoil of a game of chess unfolds.  Its our job as the creative minds driving a creative industry to breathe life into the things we work with.  otherwise maybe we should be doing another course of tertiary education instead, like business (number-crunching dweebs).  I'm glad BCT has made me think like this in the first week.


My name is Ryan.
I am enrolled at AUT studying Creative technologies.
This is a blog devoted to my progress within said course.
I'm into Illustration, and aim to develop this skillset via said course.
I used my illustrations in my entry portfolio.
I'm 23. I'm probably slightly older than the majority of the class but don't hold that against me.
I like turtles, peanut butter, motorbikes, tattoos, superheroes, check shirts, coffee and photoshop.  Any combination of these things would be pretty rad too.
I have a mildly scottish accent.  Charles our HOD has a much thicker one.  I'll bring it up with him soon.
I've never blogged before, this is very unfamiliar.  Forgive me if I'm doing it wrong.

See you at school. Thank you, You're welcome and Goodnight.