Friday, March 27, 2009

Blog redesign/rename/art post

I've decided to change my blog's name from "Cereal is Just Cold Soup with Milk" to "Cereal is Just Cold Milk with Soup" to get it to match up my URL a little better, also when dealing with a non-sensical title I feel the order of the words doesn't really matter. Also here's a quick little higher res version of me on the unicorn, just so you can see it better.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

so I wrote an essay on that "Where the Hell is Matt?" video...

As a side note; yes I know I've posted the video here before but I've still been watching it quite religiously since then and it seemed like the perfect choice for a recent assignment in video editing class. I figured its worth posting here.

Ever since its inception, video has led a double life lying somewhere between the realm of art and entertainment. From the earliest silent films all the way through to the sound era, film has been controlled by a cultural elite. For every visionary there are hundreds of suits and investors backing a film leading it as a financial vehicle. That is not to say art couldn’t have been made under these circumstances, it's just highly unlikely.

Up until very recently, many “art” and “experimental” films were not a far step away from the name driven world of Hollywood. Most conceptual pieces were controlled mainly by artists that have already built up a name for themselves and often contain very little or no entertainment value whatsoever. Factor that with the rules and conventions of continuity invented by the Hollywood system and it’s absolutely impossible for the Average Joe to make a film that’s widely popular without any formal experience or “knowledge” of the rules of cinema. That is until now.

In its earliest 2005-era inception, YouTube allowed ANYONE to upload a video to the Internet that could be viewed by a mass captive audience instantaneously. Due to the limits of a very poor video and mono audio quality, this format has been limited to low-brow videos of people getting hurt or web cam diaries. That is until very recently when YouTube added “High Quality” and “HD” formats to its repertoire as well as the emergence of competing websites such as Vimeo which offer higher bit rates that are ideal for artists.

Fast forward to 2008 when Internet speeds and compression codec’s have finally caught up to make the landscape of the Internet a comparable experience to viewing the film on a DVD or in a theater. In this, the playing ground is finally neutralized and as a result true “art” videos can finally emerge. In the short film, “Where the Hell is Matt? (2008)” we follow Matt Harding on a fourteen month journey around the world in a paltry four minutes. The creator, has never attended college and his only past career was working as a game designer. He only received average grades in high school and by our societal standards; one could call him a “reject”. Most of his world travel was funded by Internet donations and a late sponsorship by Stride Gum, he had no real background in the world of film.

The “Where the Hell is Matt?” video works because it takes a simple premise and blows it up beyond any feasible expectation into the realm of something extraordinary. In each shot we’re presented with text giving us a vague idea of his location along with him performing a “silly” dance in the center of the frame. This captures our interest and is quite humorous perhaps placing it firmly into the entertainment category along with web cam videos like “The Numa Numa Dance” but the joke quickly changes into light-hearted insight while only providing a few details along the way.

In its simplicity and repetition of “man in center of frame, with text set to music” we’re forced to take in the differences of each location. The film also uses this visual structure to set up a clear beginning middle and end. When the short starts, we see Matt quickly telling his cameraman to keep the frame steady and him in the center. We see a few sequential shots of him alone in the frame and then as soon as the music picks up, we see crowds of people run into the shot and dance with him. The effect of this is powerful because no matter how different the locals and the cultures are of the places his dancing, common people would be willing to join him in something that looks like a total joke. The short ends with the clips slowly moving more towards the evening versus the day as we're treated to one last shot of hundreds of people joining him in Seattle, Washington followed by a brief credits sequence which serves as a curtain call to the piece.

The rhythm of these crowds is occasionally broken up with segments that give us a subtle clue as to the story and the setbacks on his journey. We see him awkwardly dancing in a demilitarized zone in North Korea next to a security guard that seems less than pleased as well as a shot of him in a French maid fetish cafe in Tokyo. Pair this with real dancers from Native areas of New Guinea and cultural dancers in India. We even get to see him getting knocked down by a tremendous tidal wave, in Zero Gravity and in front of the orchestra providing the background music for the video.

As talented as many of the artists that create experimental and “surrealist” films are, I feel there is often a reason why these don’t catch on with the general public. In their rejection of convention, they can come off as pretentious and as a result are only really watched by other artists or people who follow the “art” field very closely. The "Where the Hell is Matt?" video quickly became the most viewed clip on YouTube of the year 2008 (keep in mind this was released in the Fall) and received such honors as being featured on NASA's website as well as being named best short film of the year by blogs such as AOL's Cinematical. This film, despite being non-conventional, caught on with audiences in ways few advertisements or short films really could. How many "art" films are able to obtain such widespread success? The reason why I consider video such a tremendous success in the artistic sense is that its able to convey a complicated message without trying to be too “profound” and by definition, isn’t the simplification of complicated issues from the use and manipulation of a few tools what defines art?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I'm a Twit

I’m a Twitter addict. I didn’t think it was possible. I’m a few months away from a year using it and I’m already starting to spend more hours on it than Facebook. Granted, Facebook is slowly becoming what MySpace was back in 2005 and Twitter what the cleaner and more efficient Facebook was to that.

When my work forced me to join back in June as an excuse for me to check out some social networks, I dragged my feet into Twitter. I didn’t really see how it was that much different than the status updates on Facebook and none of my friends used it. I also didn’t understand how following an organization was any different than the hundreds of RSS feeds I have already tracked on Google Reader. Then I found out about the Twitter Search function and slowly eased my way into the site.

After finding a handful of friends and reading the live search for #Heroes every Monday using, I’m become increasingly reliant on the website. Its sort of like the mix between a chat room and a blog, except most of the chat posts are self-contained. While there are some Twitter users that post about mundane topics, when your message is limited to 140 characters its pretty easy to skip over the boring Tweets and read the feeds you directly care about.

With Twitter taking up most of my time, I’ve virtually ended my 4 and a half year addiction to StumbleUpon. I still check from time to time to see what links my friends have sent me, but by now I’m pretty sure I’ve seen everything “good” StumbleUpon has to offer and I’m left mostly with pages crowded with stolen images and 4chan memes. At this point, I’m more interested in seeing what my friends on Twitter “re-tweet” than what the masses as a whole find “funny”.

My only issue with Twitter at the moment is that most of the Twitter clients make my MacBook Pro heat up very quickly. While I’m sure this would be unnoticeable on desktop, I really have to wonder how much processing power these clients use; my Laptop behaves better with Twhirl than it did with TweetDeck but it still gets pretty bad.

On a side note, I just got out of my Spring Break and am pretty ready to take on the other half of this current semester. I’ve gotten a pretty sizeable harddrive and finally the right software to edit those pesky .MTS files that Pratt’s HD cameras generate (Pratt doesn’t really have any program that can swiftly work with HD footage at the moment). Now I only need to see if my computer is fast enough to edit 720p footage. Also, I finished my rigging midterm today (due tomorrow) and played through Halo 3’s single-player campaign as well as about a third through The Simpsons Game, the latter of which is surprisingly good.

if you're on Twitter, make sure to add me. I won't bite...I think.

…and here are some videos I found on YouTube, you know, for good measure.

I've seen this one in Rigging class, I love it a lot.

and this intro for this new show on Revision3 (from former 1UP employees) is surprisingly catchy and well-done

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Another post of Cloverfeld concepts

Here are some more images I came up with for Storyboarding class which is by far my favorite class of this semester. The board is at 56 panels and I'll probably cut it down from there and add a few more scenes to it by the time its due and colored in six or seven weeks. Its at a rough stage now but I'll post up the final boards too.

also here's some more concepts of how its going to look like when all is colored and LINE TOOLED!

also while I'm at it, my buddy April wanted me to make a cartoon picture of her, so here it is complete with a comparison picture too.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I watch too much TV

To start things out, below is my little montage assignment for Editing class featuring the vocal stylings of Vince Offer of Sham! Wow! fame and special guest appearances from Marvin's Magic, Oxyclean, Set it and Forget It and The Power Juicer.

Also, as long as we're on the topic of advertising, check out these two Japanese fast food ads if you want to see a combination is disgusting and delicious fast food products. I'll probably have that Japanese Pizza Hut "SAUSAGE ROLL" song stuck in my head for ahwhile, they should totally bring that here alongside the inevitable return of Dominos Oreo Pizza.

Yesterday marked my first college snow day, which included tons of Luigi's Pizza and three or four B-horror movies back to back (Demons, Killer Klowns from Outerspace, Bloodsucking Freaks and Ghoulies 2). I still had to return my copy of The Iron Giant to avoid an overly expensive late fee of $12 a day (you can probably buy that movie for $6 at a Costco) but otherwise it was a pretty fun day and I had enough time to finish my Editing assignment and push over my half broken rig that I'm probably going to start over anyway. I also finally got to live out my dream of watching Heroes with a live

Apart from those musings, I've currently been playing a ton of Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection on the Xbox 360 alongside bouts of Castle Crashers and Braid. Its weird how 75% of all my current generation game playing has been downloadable or retro titles off of Xbox Live Arcade or the Wii Shop Channel. Despite consoles now having "teraflops" of processing power and whatever else the marketing executives are trying to throw at us, they seem to be forgetting the reason why most people play games...for fun. With a lot of retro titles there's a certain degree of depth but the titles are simple enough where a non-gamer can pick it up and do relatively well. In one sense, this was the point Nintendo was trying to make with the Wii console but after the console caught on with casual markets most of the Wii titles on store shelves are low-rent rush jobs from hack developers trying to get a quick buck. The most depressing thing about this is that now, even Nintendo is jumping on that bandwagon with titles such as Wii Music and the forthcoming ExciteBots (seriously...). I guess Super Mario Galaxy was awesome and my 180 hours of Super Smash Bros. Brawl made the console worth the price of admission alone, but I want just more simple and fun titles like what Mario Kart Wii was promising to be.

After getting used to spending $8 a pop for a Sega Genesis title on the Wii shop channel (or consequently a slightly more reasonable $5 on XBLA), thirty bucks for fifty Sega Genesis titles seemed like a no brainer to me. Apart from the lack of Sega titles like Gunstar Heroes (which I got on the Wii Shop Channel anyway and its omission is probably foreshadowing its Xbox Marketplace release) the collection is surprisingly solid and polished with enough special features that you are getting a much more refined experience than playing the titles for 10 minutes off of a ROM.

My favorite thing about Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection would be how it handles the Xbox's achievements. While I don't exactly want to say all the achievements are easy, they're all perfectly attainable by just about anyone and they encourage you to play through a lot of the obscure "non-Sonic" Sega titles. Few of the games achievements force you to spend more than 10 or 20 minutes with each Genesis title and it adds a nice little meta game to the title. Alongside each achievement that you unlock, you also get video interviews and some arcade and Master System titles. While, with the notable exception of Space Harrier, none of these arcade titles are really THAT phenomenal, its a nice touch, especially for those who don't really care too much about their GamerScore.

I'm already five or six hours into Castle Crashers which reminds me of what you'd get if you mixed together Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles and Golden Axe. Like Crystal Chronicles, this game is painfully boring alone and despite featuring a level system, each incremental stat boost is miniscule enough where a beginner could easily drop in at any stage of the game and catch up pretty quickly. Its a huge time suck and an obvious improvement over the Bahemoth's Alien Hominid, which I played quite a bit of on the Gamecube. Also I picked up Braid with it being reduced to $10 as opposed to $15 last week. Despite the critical acclaim, I could never see myself paying $15 for a game that could be essentially beaten in a day but pair the price reduction with Best Buy's 2 Free Watchmen tickets with purchase of $20 in Microsoft Points and Braid could consider itself bought. I've only just started playing it and my impressions are a lot stronger than they were with the one level demo they had of it on Xbox Live. The game is a lot more surreal than I was expecting and the puzzles are pretty mind bending. I see the real length of the game comes from trying to figure out how to get all the puzzle pieces, which I'm desperately trying to avoid reading the walkthrough to figure out.

That's it for this post, now I'm off to fill out more paperwork for Pratt and get a jump start on my next batch of work for Storyboarding.