Miscellenium

Not that there is any shortage of issues suitable for a longer piece, but these ideas have been rattling around for a while. And since they all loosely fit the <thinktag> brief...

December/Jan Brill's Content coverEver since we were told 'content is king' (that was sometime before 'portals are king') it was inevitable that we'd see the word 'content' on a magazine masthead. It took a while because it's admittedly not very 'sexy', but for Brill's CONTENT, it fits fine. As I write, it's half a dozen issues old and I venture that it has hit its stride. The first copy I saw was the December 98/Jan. 99 issue (shown here) and I bought it with only a quick look inside, knowing pretty much from the cover proposition, what to expect. On reading, it turned into something a bit different ( a strong US / N.Y. centric bias) but the premise for the magazine, is as a consumer guide for the information age. Eric Effron the editor believes they are ' creating a new category of magazine, one that monitors and chronicles the Information Age (or, at least, the information part of the Information Age)". The 'Brill's' part of the masthead, comes from Steven Brill, the Editor in Chief who also contributes regularly to the mag.

Brill's magazine makes no distinction between coverage online or in print or broadcast (and may even have a slight bias to covering the move to the web), in the Dec/Jan issue they covered the sacking of Johnathon Broder from Salon, and had a good story about the negative impact of comments on a web investment site on  the shares of a US communications company.

While we wait to see the impact of Richard Walsh's Media newsletter (hopefully it will emphasise local coverage), in Brill's Content it has a substantial precursor to match. The Brill's Content website will be enough to give you a taste of the 'contents' and if you see something you like online, just wait a bit and through the power of local magazine distribution, that issue will be along on your local news stand a month or so later. What was that line about moving 'atoms' and 'bits'?

 

The Bat Man

If you were, like me, a kid who dressed up in grey baggy tights, cardboard mask and swirled a black scalloped cape as you swung from tall buildings on your Batrope, you'll have had a moments pause on the anniversary of the death of Bob Kane,  the creator of Batman who died at age 83 on November 3 1997.

Kane, who apparently described himself as a 'just a doodler', created a character, or more than one if you add the supporting cast of Robin, (ridiculously appended with 'the Boy Wonder'. What kid would want to be a 'boy wonder'?), Cat Woman, Alfred, Commissioner Gordon and all the improbable criminal caricatures) who have entered the western pantheon of Hollywood-mythic superheros and will outlive all of us.

I can't remember what the attraction was as a ten year old boy who bought each issue of those Detective Comics. I just knew that Superman was born a super-hero and that I wasn't 'super' and never would be, but I could be Batman when I grew up. The elements of night time roof top chases, Bat caves, Bat signals, and hi-tech crime laboratories where all the right stuff fuelling my childish imagination.

Bat-Man #47"The first detailed origin of the Batman was told in Batman #47 in June/July, 1948. The origin has been modified slightly over the years, however, the basic facts have remained the same. The character was given his own magazine in the Spring of 1940 with the publication of Batman #1. During the 1940's, 50's and early 60's, Batman appeared regularly in Detective Comics, Batman, and World's Finest Comics."
(Reduced size) Image and text from Bill Jourdain's Golden Age Batman Site


I was spared the other Bob Kane 1960's creations, Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse and the 'original' double 'O' agent Cool McCool, by growing up in the country away from TV. Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse was produced by Trans-Artists Productions/Bob Kane and syndicated in 1960. The awkward drawing style suggest that Kane had a bigger hand in it then in the King Features Cool McCool which is straight slick late 60's Saturday TV.

You'll find an opening title clip of Courageous Cat at Toon Tracker RealMedia Cartoon Showcase, it's either a tongue in cheek Batman reference by Kane or him plainly cashing in on the success of the Batman character.

I wonder if anybody asked Kane what he thought of the silly Adam West Batman TV series. On the basis of his silly 60's animated cartoon characters, maybe he would have approved. Maybe he just took the licensing money.

One thing that still resonates from those often clumsily drawn pages was the use of advertising signs/displays. If the inevitable fight was atop the Needlework Corporation building, then the giant size needle and roll of thread all worked, and were used by the hero or villain to stitch up the plot conclusion.

framecorn.gif (20862 bytes)
From Batman #50 1948 ©National Comics Publications

This was the trademark of one of the writers on the comic series, Bill Finger (Kane apparently never wrote the stories). Finger was the chief writer for many years but it was Kane who contributed most of the the key characters such as The Joker.

There's a definite surrealist touch to what Kane created, (along with obvious links to Dracula, Nosferatu, Will Eisner's The Shadow etc)  that deserves the full cultural thesis treatment. (Yeah I know it's just a comic book ). I'll just get my Palm Pilot from my bat utility belt and make a note to pursue the topic.

Further Reading : Yahoo! Full Coverage - 'Batman' Creator Bob Kane Dies

Ron Kurer, who runs Toon Tracker has an exhaustive list of  (variable quality) links to web cartoon pages.

 

KISSfp

Despite the current critical climate, I still like FrontPage98, and I'm sure that FrontPage 2000 will have as big a market.  There's no other tool, Mac or PC that can put a HTML page together as fast in a MS Office environment. That said I never recommend it to people with a serious job to do and who don't have basic HTML skills. Why? Because by trying to be 'the people's HTML layout program' it's almost useless if you need to have control over how it formats. You have to spend time at the HTML level taking out a lot of the stuff FrontPage puts in. (We have a number of clients who make changes to specific pages on their sites using Front Page. It works well if the stick to the templates provided and we keep them away from the databases and Cold Fusion pages.

( I also pretend that FrontPage 1 for the Mac never happened!)

That's the principal that moved Michael Vorburger, a young Swiss computer science grad to create KISSfp (as in Keep It Simple Stupid). This  program strips out a lot of the multiple tags and 'bots' that FrontPage adds, and if you're not using the FrontPage extensions on your site, it works a treat. The first version was clunky to use but V.2.0 has a full Windows interface, integrates on your Front Page menu bar and Vorburger has now made it available as fully supported shareware, US$15 personal, $50 commercial. You can download a full working (untimed) version from his website.



Aardman UK coverPick a book (title) any title ...

If you're looking for a good read while we are waiting for the first Aardman feature, The cultural divide between KU and US is alive and well. Just to confuse you Peter Lord and Brian Sibley's book Cracking Animation (published by Thames and Hudson) in the KU, is called Creating 3D Animation: The Aardman Book of Filmmaking by its American publisher Harry N. Abrams. Which one you'll see here depends on the bookshop you visit. Online it's  listed at Amazon and Barnes & Noble and hasn't shown up yet in Dymocks list.


Aardman 3d bookThe first part of the book is written by Brian Sibley, an arts
programme presenter on the BBC World Service, and the author of the now out-of-print The Disney Studio Story. It modestly "sets Aardman's achievements and the history of the studio into the tradition of 3-D animation, which spans such Hollywood triumphs as King Kong and Jason and the Argonauts". The how-to component of the book comes from Peter Lord, co-founder of Aardman , and uses tutorial examples from 'Morph', his 3-D plasticine BBC TV series. The foreword is by Aardman's more public star director, 2 x Academy Award winner Nick Park.

There's enough of the book online at the Aardman site to get a feel for it. All 3D animation fans will probably buy it any way, it seems a better 'beginners' text and a bit too slight for advanced animators (but still gossipy fun if you're an Aardman fan). It is a reasonable 184 pages long, with 478 illustrations, 450 in colour and there were pictures I haven't seen any where else, so that's probably enough reason to buy it.


Keiretsu SymbolDo you Keiretsu?

In what may be just a hip new name for 'business networking', comes the term Keiretsu. I saw it first as an off-hand reference on a site that made me sure I was missing something important or had been asleep for years. To save you the social embarrassment (or to compound mine further by telling you something you've known for years), with the help of a few links, here's how it works.
The word translates as "series" or "group". It's a Japanese term for the relationship of a company, or a group of companies and their suppliers or sub-contractors. All of them are dependant on the layers beneath and above them to pass on work down the structure and add value to the product passed up. The system is controlled to benefit everyone financially and there is some ethical responsibility between the companies.

The Keiretsu structure is a post war Japanese development from the  four large Zaibatsus - Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Sumitomo and Yasuda who monopolised the steel, international trading and banking industries.

Many western companies have found it hard to break into Japan's manufacturing structure because of the close, long-term ties between manufacturers and their keiretsu suppliers. With globalisation of the smaller industries within the keiretsus, the structure is changing and there are many negative issues relating to price pressure down the chain.

Tracey Wilen of Cisco Systems has an introduction to Cultural and Social Issues for women working /visiting Japan which includes a good introduction to Keiretsu, as it affects operations in Japan for Apple Computer. It explains how Apple products are manufactured by OEM's and describes the systems within their factories which are quite different from most European and American manufacturers.

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers have a description of how they approach kieretsu, as a Venture capital company whose portfolio includes @Home, Netscape, Marimba, and Sun.  (There's a balancing view to this in The Red Herring article, American keiretsu)

Although there's a current business drive to amalgamate companies perhaps it's not the only way to gain the size to take advantage of the moment. I find the idea of a close group of  independent companies who can operate more efficiently given wide networks, the Internet and distributed database stock control and ordering, a virtual keiretsu, is more attractive for 'creative' new media companies.
What's your view?

 

Tell me, what's my name?

Spare a thought for Special FX and Plug-In manufacturers and how hard it is to get a unique name for their effects. This thought was prompted as I was looking through
Alien Skin’s Eye Candy filter collection for Adobe After Effects. The names pretty much gave me an idea of what to expect,  Carve, Chrome, Cutout, Drop Shadow, Fire, Fur, Glass, Glow, HSB Noise, Inner Bevel, Jiggle, Motion Trail, Outer Bevel, Perspective Shadow, Smoke, Squint, Star, Swirl, Water Drops etc. and that's probably a good thing. But it's definitely boring when compared with some of the other names out there who are much more imaginative. There's no point in being obtuse in a functional plug-in, but a good name is especially important when the effect is something new or describes a function we've not seen before.

Northern Lights Productions call their 3D Artifex plug-ins  somewhat classically, Zeus 2.5 (for lightning of course), Dante 2.0 (particles)  and  Da Vinci’s Chisel but they also have the descriptive Flock This!, complete with exclamation mark.

Windmill Fraser Multimedia have a suite of plug-ins including Wiggledy, Multiplex and my favourite, Displacedatplace. CineGraphics BlowUp & Shatter does just that,  DirtyReyes from REM Infografica is a weathering tool for your models. On the Fly from Viewpoint DataLabs makes flying logos. RAYflect's Blubble is a real-time Metaball modeler. Dynamic Realities  have the aptly named TreeDruid (a procedural modeler for trees) and you'd know what Autonomous Effects Furrific would do. They also have TVTweaker to 'tweak' your images for best TV performance and HotLips which allows you to select an audio clip and use its volume levels to drive the animation. Cinema Graphics have ShadeTree, to control render-state shader operations.

The James K. Polk Collection from Worley Labs offers Dangle and Parent. AnimatsFalling Bodies 2 lets you create dangerous fall stunts, with support for complex characters with flexible skins. Real-Time Healing 1.2 from Imageware allows real-time, multi-surface healing of holes in your NURBS surface models. Digimation have Brick-layerSand Blaster and Shag:Fur. LambSoft make Smirk, a facial animation tool and Swurve with a keyframe animation curve editing. The name of the company is better then the product's in the case of Canberra developers The Driftwood Think Tank who make  Seascape. It allows you to base your 3D-Max wave and ocean effects on real-world wave systems and ocean models.

Just as the (apparently mythical) story goes, there are dozens of words that Eskimo's have for snow, how are you going to describe your fire effects when Flint, Flame, Inferno, Smoke etcetera. are already major product names? RAYflect  have taken the path of claiming ownership of the Four Elements so you can put the power of Earth, Water, Wind and Fire into your 3D scenes. Trinity’s PyroCluster creates 3D clouds, smoke, fire and gas effects and Tinder from The Foundry offers you 43 kinds of sparks, and I'm sure there's more.

Then there are the names for lens flares...and...
That's enough.


FH

 

 









Reading online.

The long and the short of it. Before you email, I know you can only read short grabs online before the monitor scrolling gets to you. Even Bill, we're told, prints out things that are more than a few pages long. But I'll never get used to reading a magazine and then sitting at the PC typing them in and trying to guess what the URL really was that some journo was too lazy to proofread.
(If you click away here and find a dud link then you can email me. A web site is alive and can be changed. Print on dead trees can't be until the next issue.)



 

I saw a press release a while back, about Toronto-based animation production company Nelvana who has acquired the worldwide development, production, distribution and merchandise licensing rights to the song Puff the Magic Dragon. Even if you didn't live in the hippie sixties, I'm sure you've heard the song written by Peter Yarrow of the legendary folk group Peter, Paul & Mary and  Lenny Lipton.

Nelvana will produce an animated Puff the Magic Dragon feature length film, television series and special, as well as license all Puff merchandise. Production will begin on this property in late 1999 or 2000. The children's story that tells the tale of Little Jackie Piper and his dragon friend Puff, has sold 50 million copies since first being published in 1963, making it the best-selling folk song in history.

The name you might not have known in that list of folk legends above was that of  Lenny Lipton . Lipton however achieved some notoriety as an exponent of amateur film-making, especially in the boom years of Super 8, and later of 3-D camera systems.

Super8 Filmmaker magazine

(see below for more Super 8)


samnmax.gif (8219 bytes)

Nelvana produce Steve Purcell's Sam &' Max for Saturday TV. It's one of the great Lucas Arts games (and one of the few I ever felt like playing, usually with a kid sitting with me). On the site Purcell briefly tells how the characters came about.

 


bat_man.gif (6075 bytes)
The original Kane design was a true 'Bat' -Man (it was even hyphenated). The black and white images here are from a now out of print book with introduction by E.Nelson Bridwell who was the editor and writer of the Batman newspaper strip. The hardback book is Batman, from the 30s to the 70s. Crown Publishers New York.1971. It has a dedication from Carmine Infantino who once drew the comic, then edited, directed and became the publisher.

















Beaulieu 5008ms

I was one of the prophets of The Church of Super 8 (my cupboards are full of hundreds of hours of my life, all in litanies of lovely Kodachrome), until semi-pro video gear and its editing sophistication galloped past it.

There's still a strong use of the medium with people who love the film projection experience, but it's got a lot tougher to get the stocks and processing. Here's some links that might help.

Super 8mm Links of All Kinds

Mike Brantley's Super-8 Filmmaking Site and of course
the Melbourne Super8 Filmakers Group







The curse-or Comet 'joke' cursor

Comet Systems, Developers of the Comet Cursor

When I first saw it, I  thought it was great. It still pops up when I least expect it, and it's amusing at first then very irritating. It's on so many bad home pages courtesy of the Lycos cursor page that it's becoming the equivalent of overused animated gifs. It seems as if it's being used mostly on commercial kid sites.  But maybe I'm wrong, what do you think about it?














While Keiretsu hunting I found...
FUJIFILM'S REBUTTAL REGARDING ITS ALLEGED CONTROL OF THE TOKUYAKUTEN

FUJIFILM WORLDWIDE - WTO Film Case

(the upper case is theirs)


The Keiretsu term has some flexibility. It is used to describe the community of high technology companies in Cambridge, KU, the Cambridge Keiretsu' (in what's been amusingly called the "Silicon Fen"). The guys from Acorn computing there are a bit more relaxed about it and say "Of course, to most of the people involved, these lofty terms seem inappropriate. Instead, they tend to just see it as a bunch of people they've met down the pub at one time or another."


























DCC Cover
(I pulled most of the plug-in names at left from a great list of new media products on the DCC site. I haven't seen it on our news stands in locally yet, (the  DCC stands for Digital Content Creation). The site is pretty awkward with a Flash interface but the content is up to date. Produced by Advanstar, (who do POST Magazine, CADALYST, and NewTeknique, it is published by Lou Wallace who used to edit DV magazine.)