30 May 2006

What Does It Mean?
In 1997, writer director Kevin Rubio unleashed upon the world a Star Wars fan film that spawned hundreds of other Star Wars fan films, and kicked off our modern age of internet video. Troops is the most significant fan film since the utterly insane Hardware Wars of two decades prior. It is a testament to the strength of "pro-am" content production (although to be fair, Rubio is far more "pro" than "am".)

So imagine my confusion at seeing this video lumped together with grilling tips and funny animal videos on the MSN homepage this morning. Go on, imagine it.

Maybe I should explain: Troops is as important to online video as Steamboat Willie was to feature animation. Yet here it is, being passed off as an AVERAGE piece of content. How so? It's being positioned alongside "Sasquatch Festival highlights" and "Attack of the vicious show cat" for crying out loud! This beacon of the media is being treated in a disposable manner (it's already off the MSN homepage.)

I'm glad that it's still getting some play, I'm just astonished at how shallow and superficial MSN is. Will the death of the internet be mindless opportunism? "Oh - a Star Wars parody! Our metrics indicate males 16-24 enjoy this sort of thing. It will improve our click-through and page impression numbers by a fraction of a percent! Ad revenue here we come!"

Yeah, I'm probably overreacting.

26 May 2006

The Felties: Set Design part one

The Felties have a very simple design, and the world they inhabit should be an extension of that simplicity. As much as I'd like to set a puppet show in the Okefenokee Swamp, or backstage at the Moulin Rouge, I realize that most folks will be watching this thing on a two-and-a-half inch display. If the picture is cluttered with superfluous detail (or if the background has too much texture) the main action will get lost. Also, the more complex the picture, the bigger the file. The bigger the file, the longer the download, and the longer the download the greater the chance my potential audience member will click on through to something else.

The pilot episode takes place entirely in Mimey and Pupsumoto's apartment. (Yeah. It's another puppet series set primarily in an apartment.) The up side is, I can build a "box set", basically three walls that surround the action diorama style. Very simple. The downside is, box sets are boooring.

Curiously, although there is a wealth of information available online about how to build puppets, there is very little regarding how to create environments for those puppets to inhabit.

Any Henson geek knows that the way you build sets for puppets is to build them "up" (see first illustration.) Also, couches and chairs should be built without seats (see the second illustration) and "built up" to match the lower edge of the set walls. In fact, any set-prop that would normally sit on the floor has to be put on stilts, as it were (coffee tables, televisions, etc.) And now you know why you never saw Bert and Ernie's shag carpet!

The first illustration is a thumbnail sketch of what Mimey and Pupsumoto's apartment is going to look like. Like I said, boooring! The challenge is to extend the fun, zany design of the puppets to the environment around them. The answer lies in something called "stylistic consistency" and that has everything to do with the principles of design.

To be continued . . .

25 May 2006

The Shoulders of Geniuses
Some thought for food:

The problem with the scientific power you've used is it didn't require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn't earn the knowledge yourselves, so you don't take the responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you knew what you had, you patented it, packaged it, slapped in on a plastic lunch box, and now you want to sell it.

- Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park,
screenplay by David Koepp
Every time you do something for the first time in your life, you're going to do a better job than other people who have done it before. You're aware of the most modern components. I was aware of the best chips that existed and used them for jobs for which they weren't intended.
- Steve Wozniak, Apple inventor,
interview with Hardy Green
of BusinessWeek
If others had not been foolish, we should be so.
- William Blake, The Marriage of
Heaven and Hell

There's this great concept called "time-binding". It's "the distinctive human ability to build on the accumulated knowledge of others" according to Alfred Korzybski originator of the term (and the concept, as far as I know.) I am very thankful to live in an age when I have the wealth of human knowledge at my fingertips. It helps make The Felties more than just a pipe-dream. The internet is truly a miracle.
God bless you, Al Gore.

24 May 2006

Tex the Rubber Chicken

Did I say I had a "ton" of Tex pictures?

Oops. I have one:

For some reason, my little flash memory card didn't save the other pictures. That's right. It's not my fault, it's the flash memory card's fault.

So you see the oh so impressive bicycle brake. There. The curtain has been pulled aside and the illusion has been ruined for everyone. Yes kids, Tex is not a living, breathing, pompous, Shakespeare-mangling rubber chicken. He is an inanimate object brought to life by means of my gentle and expert manipulation.

The handle to which the bicycle brake is attached runs up through the puppet to his head. A thin plastic tube guides the fishing line through the body, which is stuffed with fiber fill.

Someday I'm going to contrive working wings. I think a simple mechanism like the one found in "boxing" type toys. Like this one:

I figure I can drop the thumb triggers down so that the index finger operates the mouth and the thumb operates the wings. That leaves my left hand free to hold my beer.
In the words of Jesus Christ, "It is finished."

My small backlog of "Up to Bat" comics has been uploaded over at www.uptobat.blogspot.com. I'm going to attempt to make this a weekly thing, but you know how that goes ("Disembodied Animal Head Theatre," anyone?)

Speaking of DAHT, I also have episode four uploaded to www.daht.blogspot.com. Why did it take so long, you may ask? The truth of the matter is, my collection of animal grabber toys is very limited at the moment. I've been just about everywhere trying to find more, but no one carries them. Correction: They have them at the zoo, but I'm not sure I want to pay $10 admission just to buy $5 worth of cheap, plastic toys (although I've spent more than that in gas money trying to find a store that sells them.) So I concocted this whole "labor dispute" plotline to excuse the fact that I don't have a full ensemble at my disposal.

(On a related note, I'm curious how many people thought that I had more than just the giraffe and flamingo? I tried to create the illusion of a much larger cast, and I wonder how successful I was in that attempt. Let me know?)

You may also note that Tex's mouth doesn't work so well in the better lit shots of episode 4. Yeah. His mouth has lost most of its elasticity so I installed a piece of ribbon elastic to keep his mouth closed. I have a ton of Tex pictures that I'll post later on today (cross you fingers and hold your breath!) that show his construction in more detail. Trust me, seeing that bicycle brake sticking out of his ass is pretty impressive.

I'm still learning much from this mad, rubber chicken-involved experiment. For instance, the importance of matching lighting between shots. Watch episode 4: the mismatch between shots is glaringly bad. Pun intended. I'm very proud of the edits in terms of matching action (I taped the full-shot on Thursday and the close-up on Saturday.) If Tex's mouth had been working right and if the lighting had been more harmonious, I think the whole thing would come off seamlessly.

Oh yeah ... after I put together episode 2, I noticed that the black and white inserts looked hand held (I was moving Tex back and forth towards the camera.) So in episode 4, look for a slow "dolly in" on Tex towards the end of the monologue (really just me moving the puppet closer to the camera.) Stupid simple, and subtly effective.

Well, as subtly effective as a rubber chicken performing Shylock can be!

18 May 2006

Seth Godin on MySpace and website traffic.

After giving us a graph of daily pageviews, which shows MySpace completely trampling Amazon, Seth makes the following observation:

The problem here is that Amazon users visit to buy stuff, and MySpace users visit to flirt.

Last time I checked, flirting was a fairly unprofitable activity.

Here here! It's so easy (for me) to look at something megalithic in popularity and go almost catatonic with overwhelm. It's important (for me) to remember that we're living in a "long tail" world, and it's more important to create content that resonates with a few people, than ephemeral drivel that hits high like a wacky wall-crawler only to disappear leaving a Macarena-like echo in its wake.

To put it clearly, as Seth goes on to say:

Whatever your website, I think you want better traffic, not more traffic.

You want to figure out why the right people will come, not build a sideshow that attracts exactly the wrong people.

Now, I love sideshows, but I get the man's point.

12 May 2006


Since The Felties is finally taking flight, I've decided to devote this blog full-time to the eponymous project.

Relax: My ponderous pontifications on play production shall continue at www.madtheatrics.blogspot.com. I wanted to use "www.emptyspace.blogspot.com" or "www.theemptyspace.blogspot.com" but as you can see, those names were taken. Drat!

As for all things of a deep and personal nature (you know: obits for friends and pets, complaints about college courses I take, etc.) I'm not sure if I want to continue blogging that sort of thing anyhow. We'll see what happens.

So there you go!

10 May 2006


I met with puppet builder extraordinaire Russ Walko last night for the great Felties hand-over. I now have most of the cast in my possession, and let me tell you . . . I am pumped!

Russ did an incredible job.

The above gives you an idea of how Mimey evolved from my first prototype to a more finished prototype. Well, I have the final version of Mimey ("Mimey 3.0") in my possession, and believe me when I say it is a cut above the last prototype. The same is true of all the characters. I can't believe how comfortable and expressive these puppets are! Brand spanking new puppets typically have a certain stiffness to to them. Not so with these babies - these puppets feel broken in, like a pair of well-worn Levis. And the look . . . I'm proud to say we've done something different. These ain't Muppet clones!

So . . . Would you like to see a picture of the completed Felties?

You're gonna have to wait for the world premiere of The Felties this summer. (Unless Russ posts pictures on his website, which I hope he does. He hammered these out of the ball park, and has every right to crow about it.)

First day of production is on May 20th.

09 May 2006

It's okay - I'm still alive.

I have the second of three HUGE exams coming up in my cinema class, I completed the play for the play contest, I have production meetings scheduled this week for The Felties (Yay!), I'm trying to track down a cheap (or free) studio, and I need to finish a first draft of Sonny, the play I'm planning on producing in July! Oh yeah - I need to do a few more episodes of Disembodied Animal Head Theatre.

By the way . . . does anyone out there have a line on a studio (or just a relatively quiet room with electricity) for free (or cheap)? I want to shoot on Saturday afternoon, 20 May 2006. I figure if other bloggers can find true love, free houses and millions of dollars (all true) THIS blogger may be able to find a free (or cheap) place to shoot. Yes, I am calling upon the awesome power of the internet, as I lift my power sword above my head and cry out "BY THE POWER OF GREYSKULL . . . I HAVE THE POWER!"

Let me know, okay? andrewmoore_AThotmail.com

03 May 2006

I'm hanging in there.

There's just not enough time in a day.