True Skin: Full Version

Earlier this year I blogged the teaser for an upcoming short film by the team at N1ON, which looked like a really interesting work-in-progress.

Yesterday, their film ‘True Skin’ was released to the world, kicking off a bidding war as studios move to capitalise on its unique visual style in a full-length feature, that will most likely build on the short’s basic premise:

A sci-fi short set in the not too distant future where augmentation is the way of life. For Kaye, still a natural, augmenting will help him keep pace in this now hyper-paced world. However, after acquiring an off-market prototype, Kaye quickly finds himself fighting not only for his own humanity, but something much larger.

I think it shows real consideration for the potential for inner-city living in a post-human age. If anywhere is going to end up like a cyberpunk’s wet dream, it’s probably Bangkok. Take a look:

OK sure, the narrative may be a bit weak, but there are enough unexplored little details to engage the mind, and if it ever does get green-lit I’m sure they’ll have their pick of great writers.

My vote would be for Warren Ellis, who gave The City such depth and texture in his series Transmetropolitan that it – at least to me – stands as the most complete vision of  a cyberpunk society to this day.

But in True Skin he may have found a contender.

M83: Midnight City

Psychic children break out of an oppressive institution and run wild with their powers. What more could you want from a music video? Oh, how about some brilliant music, too?! Then here you go:

And the rest of M83’s album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is exceptional. It’s been the soundtrack to my last couple of weeks.

In the video, a great mood is struck between the visuals and the music itself. They could make a whole movie about these kids’ misadventures in ‘Midnight City’ through each consecutive single release. I’d watch them all, as I’m sure you might, too.

In other psychic kid news, Warner Bros. have just greenlit a live action Akira remake. With this, the above, and the recent exploits of the students of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, it’s interesting how popular culture keeps returning to the theme of outcast, yet highly talented students. What’s going on there?

Cinemetrics: Interactive Movie Infographics

Cinemetrics is the fascinating result of Frederic Brodbeck‘s bachelor graduation project at The Royal Academy of Art in the Netherlands.

cinemetrics quantum of solaceAs a graphic designer, Brodbeck is drawn to particular style details, but as a generative coder he’s interested in exploring the role for graphic design in analysing these same details.

He picked the medium of film as his ‘data-set’ and came up with something actually very unique: rather than analysing the meta-data around a film (i.e. from IMDB), he’s using movies themselves.

The project seeks to ‘fingerprint’ films (a bit like the recent moviebarcode site) and turn them into interactive models. The models can be manipulated to allow users to identify differences or trends in the graphics via a sexy looking interface, all of which he’s now open-sourced on GitHub.

Here’s a demo:

Brodbeck defines the project as “an experiment to find out if the data that is inherent in the movie can be used to make something visible that otherwise would remain unnoticed.” It’s a really interesting area for academic inquiry, one which he set out the following goals:

Measuring and visualizing movie data to reveal the characteristics of movies and to create some sort of unique “fingerprint” for them.

Extracting and analyzing information – such as the editing structure, use of colors, speech or motion – and transform them into graphic representations, so that movies can be seen as a whole and easily be interpreted or compared.

Working experimentally and presenting the work both in print and digital media.

A side effect is that the system he’s built is great at comparing films, so as to see differences between originals and remakes; within similar genres; among a string of sequels, similar filmmaking styles or certain directors.

What’s great is the system is actually useful. It’s an infographic engine for film-buffs, and we know how popular those are, don’t we?!

Frederick, I look forward to the sequel!

Experience a Glimpse of 3D Web Browsing

Coming Soon: 3D computing. Well, it makes sense, doesn’t it?

3D Windows XP Icons
image credit: http://goo.gl/98PXI

My claim is that 3D is the next step in object-oriented user interface (OOUI), which is the way most of us interact with computers after someone (at Apple, I think) had idea that we’d store ‘documents’ in ‘folders’ rather than access them via a command line. Ever since, we’ve  been using ‘object-oriented’ analogies to interact with our machines.

Now is the age of 3D screen technologies, with Hollywood fighting back from piracy with a new golden age for cinema, Samsung outperforming Sony to becoming the number one manufacturer of 3D TVs, and the Nintendo 3DS making use of prismatic 3D in it’s menus, and of course in-game (think I might be buying Ocarina again soon). Not to mention Microsoft’s Kinect, which changes the way we interact in the three dimensions of physical, as opposed to virtual space.

But before all of this, there were innovators trying to make 3D compliant with everyday use, such as TATMobile who, without the power to print prismatic screens, force a behaviour change through the use of 3D glasses, or sell expensive stereoscopic 3D projectors, had come up with a pretty cool lo-fi solution:

The video above demonstrates the use of a front-facing camera on one’s mobile phone to track the location of your eyes, augmenting what’s onscreen, allowing you to see ‘behind’ icons or onto different screens by peering around. Hopefully you can imagine how a 3D screen might alter the way you interact with your device, so it’s no wonder they were bought by RIM and are now developing UI for BlackBerry.

While we’re at it, also check out the work of Bumptop (sadly now defunct), Johnny Lee‘s Wii hacks, and even YouTube‘s foray into 3D video.

Another lo-fi solution to making 3D useful comes from Mozilla, outlined in this fascinating article. Their technology, called Tilt, is not a way to physically see in 3D (it’s just software at this point), but certainly nods towards the future 3D stereoscopy web content. You can test Mozilla’s Tilt plugin in Firefox with their beta plugin at that link, but here’s a demo:

All we need now is for computer, laptop, tablet & mobile screens to become 3D-enabled, and for vast swathes of web designers to optimise their sites for WebGL, and suddenly those social buttons become a bit more clickable.

Tintin & The Uncanny Valley

I wonder if Spielberg, Jackson, Wright, Moffat, Cornish et al have considered the mystery of the ‘Uncanny Valley’ in their latest CGI film, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn?

I’m talking about the principle that when things appear, or intend to appear as visibly human as possible they often can’t jump the gap in one’s perceptions, thereby freaking the living crikey out of an observer.

The Uncanny Valley

Take some time to digest the diagram above, and then hit up the video below to see what I mean. My suspicion is that, yeah, they’ve just about played it safe, but the characters in the film will feel less familiar than they did in the comics, or even the cartoon series.

For more on the Uncanny Valley, check out my post on Branded Robotics, where a leading scientist gives me his thoughts on what works and what doesn’t. Hopefully, the Tintin creators have done their research too.

Crowd Financing: The Saviour Of Short Film?

Here’s an exploration of how young filmmakers are turning to the web to translate their concepts into capital, by means of a case study.

Lucy Tcherniak, a very talented friend of mine, has spent the last 18 months working on ‘Dominic’, her Psycho-Noir short film set in an English gentlemen’s club in the 1950s. How cool does that sound?!

The project is nearing completion, and word on the street is it’s going to be a corker. Judging by early imagery, I’m sure it’ll be a cult hit on the online video and awards scene.

A still from the short film 'Dominic' - release date TBC
A still from the short film 'Dominic' - release date TBC

However, the film hit a snag that prevents it reaching completion, thanks to a cock-up pertaining to securing music rights. Here’s a note from the film’s director on the piece of music in question:

The film has an entirely original score apart from a vital track which is played on the radio in the very first scene – Vera Lynn’s ‘It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow’. This was in the script from the beginning and sets the tone for the film. The £600 fee for the publishing rights for the track were originally in Partizan’s budget. Though unfortunately, because Partizan had to go way over budget during the shoot they can’t stump up any more cash for it now.

So, how does this director plan to solve the issue, release the movie, and see her name in lights? She’s turned the funding issue over to us: the crowd. Lucy has created a profile and project page on IndieGoGo, one of several very cool new crowd funding services that makes it easy to get support and feel good about giving it, this one seemingly focused on media production.

Alternative services include:

  • KickStarter –  currently the largest crowd funding service in the world, with renown from projects like Diaspora, voyURL and Eyewriter.
  • RocketHub – which crazily splits it’s site into ‘creatives’ and ‘fuelers’, which in my view makes it feel like less of a collaborative effort.
  • CatWalkGenius – invites visitors to “make history by investing in the first ever public-funded fashion collection” in return for profit and perks.
  • Profounder – which is the more overtly business-focused site, where entrepreneurship and managing your investors takes precedence.
  • Fans Next Door – a new site focused on the creative arts, with a wide mix of typically very small art and music projects.

So how do you make your project stand out? In Lucy’s case, she’s bundled her plea for funding along with her film’s plot and pre-release stills, followed by details of her problem:

Dominic is a man who lost everything the day the love of his life killed himself. Years on, he is so consumed with grief that he has become victim to his own dangerous imagination.

The track is Vera Lynn’s ‘It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow’, which plays on the radio during the suicide scene. The melancholy but hopeful lyrics of ‘It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow’ bring a wonderful dark irony to start of the film, as Will attempts to write his suicide note, then picks up the radio and climbs into the bath; Vera Lynn’s cheery tone fizzling into silence.

This high profile short film starring Daniel Caltagirone (The Pianist, The Beach) and produced by Partizan Films (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind) is in its final stages. The only thing left is to pay for publishing rights for the vital piece of music used in the first scene of the film.

Pretty compelling, no? But this alone isn’t going to open too many wallets (sorry Lucy!). What investors are really after is a return on investment: a share, a slice of the action, a reward, notoriety or plain old ego-massage.

The various perks for investing in the short film 'Dominic'

So IndieGoGo allows it’s hopefuls to offer sweeteners to the deal (image right). It was the promise of premiere tickets and a Limited Edition DVD that nudged me towards a $100 donation (that and the need for some fresh blog content 😉 ).

With all this give and take however, it does beg the question: what is IndieGoGo’s business model? Where is their slice of action?

I suspect services like these skim a percentage of total funding, so really what they’re after are for investees to use their services to attract big bids, meaning a greater profit for the facilitator. The other route to profit is to take on more small projects. The clever bit is that growth seems entirely driven by the entrepreneurship of it’s users: their traffic driving is done for them through friend-to-friend referrals and through the PR-ability of the projects they host.

These sites seem a perfect storm, where the investee, the investor, and the platform owner have their needs met. With such potential for mutual reward, I’d be interested to see whether these sites take on an eBay-like ecology, where mutual gain through the system becomes so commonplace that near-all smalltime entrepreneurship starts out as a project page online.

It’s certainly a trend in the film industry, where right now there are 5,319 listed film projects on IndieGoGo alone. I’ve seen some projects where for funding of, say, $10,000 you’ll be credited as an Executive Producer! This is a major shift in film production, reducing barriers to entry all the way down to the level of one’s own ability to self-promote.

For anyone interested in donating to this cause, here’s the link.
Maybe I’ll see you at the premiere.