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Last night I went to Clare Kitson’s presentation of films celebrating the launch of her book on the history of British animation since 1982. She was the commissioning editor for animation at Channel 4 from 1989 to 1999. Find out more about the book at the publisher’s website.

One of the films she showed was “Love is All” by Oliver Harrison, an animation inspired by the song as sung by Deanna Durbin in 1940. That reminded me of a TV advert he made based on his graduation film back in 1988.

In 2002 I wanted to get back into using Adobe After Effects as I hadn’t used it for a few months. I had recently heard a version of Noel Coward’s “I’ve Been to a Marvelous Party” by The Divine Comedy, and vaguely remembered a typographic TV ad from some time in the 80s. I decided to make a typographic animation based on the song inspired by the ad.

At that point I might have been able to find a copy on YouTube. There are few visual references to it today, and I might have found some to base my animation on. I decided not to copy the ad, but copy my 13 year old memory of the ad. The advantage being that my memory would combine with my other experiences and interests over the intervening years to create something a little more original.

Here’s what I came up with:

Today I found a video with some excerpts from the original short film mixed in with some other stuff (somewhat spolit by it). There are no more exceprts after 1:30 –

Oliver’s typographic compositions are a lot more advanced than mine, but you can see how his ideas informed mine.

So if ‘immature poets imitate; mature poets steal,’ steal from your imperfect memories of other artists works.

Visit Oliver’s website to see what else he’s been doing over the last 20 years. When I find some video of his work, I’ll post links to it on this blog.

To edit drama, we need to understand acting for film. Almost twenty years ago I saw a film acting masterclass presented by Michael Caine. One of the first things he said is:

[1:12] – “What we do, we actors in the movie, hang on to each other’s eyes. That’s the most important thing in film: eyes. If you are fair and have blond eyelashes like I have, you wear mascara, because if you have blond eyelashes, you might as well be in a radio play.”
[4:30] “If I look at you and I blink, it weakens me… If I don’t blink, it makes me strong”
[5:40] “Listening is what acting is all about in movies… ‘Think of extraordinary things to say, and decide not to say them’ – that’s the greatest piece of advice I could give to someone who wants to act in movies.”

If writers write to help actors act this way, and editors capture these aspects of actors’ performances, we’ll have great films.

While the BBC leaves this on the web, watch the rest of the show on YouTube. It is an hour long. Part 1:

Here are the links to the following parts: Part 2 · Part 3 · Part 4 · Part 5 · Part 6

Today is World AIDS day. You’ll see stuff all over the media for a day. The dilemma for those publicizing the spread of HIV is that encouraging sympathy for those infected in the third world will make life harder for the newly infected in the first world.

Earlier this year I made some films for a website to support British gay men who have recently been diagnosed as HIV positive. The concept is to them stories from all sorts of men who have different stories to tell about how they dealt and are dealing with HIV. After seeing that all sorts of reactions are ‘allowed’ on hearing the diagnosis, users should learn that being HIV positive in the UK is medically just like any other disease that requires you take a pill or two at the same time of the day for the rest of your life. It is other people’s reaction to your positive status becomes the hardest thing to deal with for most people. Sadly, awareness days like today might make other people’s reaction more difficult to manage.

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To find out the practicality what it means to be HIV positive in the UK in 2008, visit What Next? Note that the site uses adult language to talk about all aspects of HIV.

I’m not posting much of substance today apart to point out that I’ve added a comment and footnote to the post about YouTube’s HD service and to remind people:

If you don’t have a backup plan, make a backup of all your files now. Then create a backup plan and stick to it.

The HD on my parents’ computer failed today (during a backup). Hence this message.

As Matt Davis said in a recent presentation: ‘A file only exists if it is in more than one place’.

Technology has helped movies evolve in many ways over the years, but sometimes it’s a good idea to eschew an advance to see what happens.

In a podcast from USC featuring the team behind ‘Son of Rambow’ the director describes a method for helping their two child leads. From 6:40 in:

“We got rid of any monitors or any way to watch playback… So that they [the kids] never saw themselves, and they never became self-conscious. It was great for us as well because we hate that whole thing of rewinding and going ‘ohh, maybe he was a bit slow in the background.’ As we just got rid of it everyone just had to watch. For a couple of days there was a bit of a mutiny, the crew didn’t like that: ‘How am I supposed to do my job… how can I light…’ We answered: ‘Just watch.’ … It made everyone focus… empowered and on the case”

Take a look at the technology around you and see if some of those aids are holding you back from giving your best.

Subscribe to the other podcasts in the USC series from their site or from iTunes.

A few months ago I posted a shortcut that let you see better quality encodes from YouTube (add &fmt=18 to the end of the URL). That was part of YouTube re-encoding all their videos to a better codec: H.264.

They’ve now been re-encoding videos that were uploaded to YouTube at higher resolution than standard definition. On videos that are available in higher quality, you’ll see a link below the video: ‘Watch in high quality”

Normal quality:

High quality:

To see the differences zoom the videos to fill the screen. You’ll see that YouTube may be using the better resolution than SD uploaded but its users, but it isn’t displaying HD on it’s site or in embedded videos yet.

This sort of content seems tough for the Flash encoder. It isn’t been optimised to deal with primarily dark video. Although Vimeo is better, there are problems:

Of course in the case of Vimeo, you can click their logo to see the video in higher resolution on the Vimeo site, but even the SD embedded version looks better here. If I was based in the US, I could also have the option of paying $60 a year to have the HD versions of my videos embedded on my blog.

PS: If you want all the videos you see on the YouTube site to default to the higher quality version and you have an account, click ‘Account’, ‘Playback Setup’ and ‘I have a fast connection. Always play higher-quality video when it’s available.’

Followup 23 November, 2008 by Alex

As you can see from my comment below, YouTube is encoding 720p videos – an HD resolution. It just takes a few more hours for that version to be available.

Engadget pointed to a video on Vimeo that shows ‘the first major step in computer interface since 1984’:

They’re referring to the introduction of the Mac user interface (almost 25 years ago). That UI was a revision of the Lisa user interface for home users. The elements that made this work were the mouse, icons and overlapping windows. They were around for many years before 1984.

The stuff in this video is the equivalent of the generic concept of a pointing device. A 3-D mouse.

There is no next generation representational abstraction, i.e. a replacement for icons. The 2.5 D interface (the 0.5D being the layers of windows on screen) is now a 3D interface.

There’s no point having a multi-touch 3D mouse unless you have better ideas for what you’ll be manipulating with it. They even had to fake automatic keying of a truck and a man from a couple of shots that were then combined in a third. Anyone who has done that kind of keying and composition knows that you need to do a lot more than point at what you want to get things done. Just because you are compositing some 2D footage in a shallow-depth 3D-space doesn’t make the job of compositing that much more intuitive.

They didn’t even use eye-parallax – if you need to collaborate with others, you still need cursors. How twentieth-century of them…

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