Thursday, November 30, 2017

Film Design: A Character Sketch; His Name Is....

Sketchpad on the lap. The 'radio' tuned to ZoomerRadio. Think of characters.

A few thumbnails pop onto the paper.

Who is this guy? How did his parents name him? I'm going to use him; I know just the project. He'll be a star.

I can imagine who he might be: He hangs around on a TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) subway station platform -- specifically "St. George" Station -- but never actually boards a train. He stands there, in some sort of spiritually lost limbo, not sure in what direction to travel, and not sure if he wants to leave, if at all, via the "Bedford" or "St. George" exit.

With further imagination I begin to believe he's a former University of Toronto student; Law was his first course, but switched to Engineering Science after he figured it might be easier. It wasn't easier. And now he's drawn back to this place. Life takes an unexpected course. Can he go back and try it all over again? (That outfit he wears tells me he was the water boy for the Varsity Blues football team, circa late-eighties.)

I speak with a TTC inspector who stands on the "southbound" platform. It is important for my own sanity that I ask the big question.

"He's here almost every time I'm at this station", I offer.

The inspector answers, without editorial or judgement: "His name is Dennis."

Yes. Dennis. Dennis shall be his name!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Film Design: Matte Painting Shot - Development

A couple of hours ago I posted a piece on a matte painting concept and shoot I did years ago (Film Design: Matte Painting Shot - Almost Final). Above are sketches as part of my search for the right look.

Tomorrow: More "Film Design", but a little flesh. It's been a week of towers, tanks, buildings and machines.

Film Design: Matte Painting Shot - Almost Final

There's an interesting place here in Toronto, north of the city's beautiful "Annex" area. "Sir Winston Churchill Park" surfaces one of the city's reservoirs and provides for an interesting filming location. Years ago, with a few friends, I took an Arriflex 35mm camera and shot some "plates". Our intention was to optically composite (on an optical printer) the live action footage with a matte painting. Due to the cost of hiring an optical house to composite the footage we did not finish the composite. By the way, to make the plate footage more interesting and to avoid a single "look-off" shot, my friends and I shot a little action scene.

Not long after this shoot I started working as an optical camera operator; I could have composited this bit of business for no charge. My respective bosses, George and John Furniotis at Film Effects Toronto, and Mike Smith at Film Opticals of Canada, no doubt would have let me do this by tagging it onto a "job" (rolls of 35mm motion picture film that were going to the lab as part of normal contracts).

My next posting will show the development of an idea: the optical matte painting and its composite.

Note for above concept illustration: The bottom quarter is the live action, and the rest, the matte painting.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Film Design: Matte Painting Concepts

On the first day of the month I wrote a piece on my matte painting concept for the 1996 Canadian feature film Johnny Shortwave. As I noted the film's limited budget ultimately would not allow for matte shots of any kind.

Below are several sketches of ideas I had for extending the industrial areas of Toronto into an heavily industrialized state.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Film Design: "Graveyard Shift" Graveyard Sketch

Yesterday I posted another piece on the 1987 Canadian horror feature film Graveyard Shift. Included was a photograph I took of the completed graveyard set.

After I more or less nailed-down the mausoleum design, I sketched out my concept for the graveyard set.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

FIlm Design: More "Graveyard Shift"

I've posted a few pieces to this blog regarding work I did on the 1987 Canadian horror film Graveyard Shift. It was a fun and satisfying time for me. While I wasn't exactly front-lawn green, I had attended art school and rolled in film and design for years, and was currently in my second year of film school, working on Graveyard was an enriching experience.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Film Design: Propaganda Poster "Thumbnails"

In my previous posting, Film Design: Propaganda Poster, I wrote about a poster concept I designed for the feature film Johnny Shortwave. Above are a few thumbnail sketches.

Film Design: Propaganda Poster

Over the last few days I've posted a few pieces on the 1996 Canadian feature length film Johnny Shortwave. Above is a concept I rendered for a propaganda poster; the kind of poster expected from totalitarian states, governments -- "head office", as I like to call them.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Prop Design: "Code Card" Thumbnails

Yesterday I posted some colour renderings of a prop I designed for the 1996 Canadian feature-length film Johnny Shortwave. Above are some early thumbnail sketches I produced in my search for the final card design. At first I tried various formats of card, eventually settling on a credit-card type.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Prop Design: Code Card

For the 1996 Canadian dramatic feature film Johnny Shortwave I designed a "code card", a special identification card used by citizens of a totalitarian state. I based it on a common credit card of today, figuring the dimensions and format will be around any time and any place.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Portable Cylinder Recorder - A New View

Back on November 5th I posted a piece about a prop I designed for Johnny Shortwave, a Canadian movie released in 1996.

The above photo turned up after I wrote "Prop Design: Portable Cylinder Recorder". Here is the photograph from that article:

Monday, November 20, 2017

Fellow Canadian Military Brats: The Special Addition

Back on August 18th I wrote a piece about recognizable names who are offspring of men who have served in the Canadian Armed Forces. Titled Among the Brats: A Force From Canada, I thought my list was close to complete. Well, as I found out today when I read up on "Max Headroom" himself, American-Canadian actor Matt Frewer, it was not complete enough.

Frewer was born in Washington, D.C., which explains the "American" part, when his RCN (Royal Canadian Navy) father was based there.

All those people; fellow brats; people like Bryan Adams and Douglas Coupland. I have to get my turbine in gear.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Lost Submarines

With the current news of the Argentine submarine ARA San Juan missing at sea, I'm reminded of an event that happened when I was a child living in then West Germany.

For a few days it was top of the news. I remember the graphic behind the television newsreader: A silhouette of a submarine against a simple map of the Mediterranean. On March 4th, 1970, the French Navy submarine Eurydice went missing after a dive, and after a search effort, several pieces of the ship were found as was an oil slick. (It was known at the time that something catastrophic happened when a geophysical laboratory registered an underwater explosion.)

The ship's crew all perished. As a matter of fact the French navy lost a submarine two years earlier -- it too sank in the Mediterranean. The Minerve has to this day never been found. I hope the crew of the San Juan is found alive and well.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Christmas Music to Rock

The store/shop public address and music systems are already spilling and spewing the Christmas tunes/toons. As I've been saying for years, Christmas, here in Toronto, Canada, at least, runs a full one-tenth of the calendar year.

Go ahead; call me "Eb".

At the Gas Pumps, Apparently

In the mornings I have the radio on to give background to my daily ablutions.

Early this a.m. I realized that this may be one of the most common types of news flash:

"At the gas pumps....the cost of gas will go up by one cent at midnight."

That sounds like a song lyric to me ("Country"?).

Friday, November 17, 2017

I'd Prefer to See a Doc

I remember my realization.

I was returning to Canada from England on an Air Canada 747. Sitting beside me was a young woman -- I too was pretty young at the time -- who happened to be a great conversationalist. One story she recounted was about a video party she had with friends in London. The group rented four movies, one of which was a documentary.

In summary she added: "The best film was the documentary."

For some reason I often find documentaries to be my favourites. With an emphasis on that film form today -- helped by easy access to high resolution imaging equipment -- I too prefer on average to sit down with a "good doc". Reality trumps.

Ready to go: The Russian Woodpecker.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Pop Up Demo Miniature Scenery

Back in November of 2009 I wrote a piece about my experiences designing a set for the 1987 Canadian horror film Graveyard Shift. I mentioned building a 'table top' miniature on spec to show the film's producers that I could design and construct one in just a few hours, and, just as importantly, for next to no money. (In the first, and later abandoned, production there was a need for scenery in miniature form.) The above diorama took four to five hours to design and construct. Afterward I took a series of snaps, which I presented to Graveyard Shift's production manager and producer.

The punchline is I got the job. I like to think that my model job helped me secure the gig.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Conductor's 8 x 10: Julius Rudel

When I was nineteen or twenty years of age I decided to collect some eight-by-tens of orchestra conductors. Back in the days before the Internet the process of getting mailing addresses for the various orchestras was not too much of a problem. My local library, like most of the kind, had reference books for such a task. I collected several contacts. In the name of good public relations I always got a response, a large-size envelope containing an eight-by-ten glossy.

Viennese born Julius Rudel was principal conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in 1981, when I sent away for the glossy. Like many good conductors he built a reputation in opera, including the New York City and Metropolitan opera companies.

Julius Rudel died in 2014 at the age of 93.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Remembrance Day Last Post

On November 6th of last year I wrote a pre-Remembrance Day piece; a story from personal experience:

Human Nature and Remembrance Day

With Remembrance Day almost upon us, I thought about a story of my own regarding that special day; and its special symbol: The poppy.

In early November in the late 1980s (I'm thinking 1989), I hopped onto a TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) subway train car. With the seats being all but fully occupied I took the famous door position as the doors closed behind me. Sitting on the other side of the car, with his poppy box resting on his lap, and looking sharp in his uniform, was a veteran.

Immediately I remembered that a few minutes earlier I had shoved a two dollar bill (remember those?) into my shirt pocket. I approached the vet as I drew out the money. He got up from his seat and carefully pinned the poppy to my lapel. I thanked him and went back to my first position. Then, all of a sudden, and in the style of an over-directed film, several other riders popped open their purses and pulled out their wallets.

The New Math - Problem Solving

No Smartphone, No Facebook - In Remembrance

Two minutes, that's all.

We can do it!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Aliens Await "Hyper-Reality"

A Westie (West Highland White Terrier)

How To Make a Monster (Mask)

Back on Halloween (Tuesday, October 31st) I posted a behind-the-scenes photograph from my unfinished 35mm epic, Hyper-Reality. The film's resident monster was something I designed and built using the old, and very bad, television series Lost in Space as my template. (It makes sense, if the film ever gets finished. As I've mentioned on this blog a few times, "HR" may get submitted by me to a crowd-funding platform very soon.)

The photo above: This monster-build started on my office's work table. I bought a theatrical mask from Malibar, here in Toronto, and used that as my starting point. From a hardware store I grabbed a tube of urethane foam and a star was born.

Yes, that is the National Post underneath my work of art.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Prop Design: Portable Cylinder Recorder

I designed the above prop for a low budget feature film titled Johnny Shortwave. The world depicted in the black and white epic has an almost steampunk aesthetic, with audio recording happening not on linear magnetic tape, but on cylinders; Edison style.

In addition to the above I designed two table-top models. The idea I had there was that those were older machines. The rationale for the portable recorder was that miniaturization was producing more compact devices -- like a cylinder recorder. A character in Shortwave carries the machine around by slinging the carrying strap over his shoulder.

John Gajdecki built the prop from my plans. I told him that he could run with the design. He did a beautiful job, I think.

Soon I will post the original plans.

Nose to Nose with a (Noseless) CF-104

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Poem: You Must Find Yours (Good Luck!)

They did
you see

They said
to me


Bliss dropped from
the sky

But I

know not where
... nor why.


Simon St. Laurent