Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Visual Effects for "Like Moles, Like Rats" Completed

Today I composited the final visual effects shot for Like Moles, Like Rats. I have completed 60 effects shots for the film over the course of about a year and a half.

I began work on the film as visual effects supervisor in June of 2006. This is the first feature length film I have ever worked on, and it's been a great experience. Sure, there were very stressful times too, but I have learned so much about filmmaking, and also about creating ever more complex visual effects shots.

I'm truly glad I had this experience to learn new VFX techniques. And the director, Jim Torres, is a great guy to work with, and also a good friend. He's probably had more patience with me than I deserved, heh.

The reason I say that, is that the premiere of the movie for cast and crew is on Friday, and I'm turning in the last visual effects shot on Thursday morning. I like to cut it close, to keep Jim on the edge of his seat, biting his finger nails.

I would also like to especially thank Tom Miller, an online buddy of mine, who lent a hand as an Effects Technical Director. He created some beautiful computer simulations of oil fires, smoke, nuclear bombs, and S.O.S. flares. His work is fantastic, and he is truly talented at particles and fluid simulations. Tom, thanks for your hard work, buddy.

Also, I want to thank Kristian Andi Lemmik, who created some wonderful, and very detailed 3D virtual environments for the most complex visual effects shot in the film. He did great work, and his work allowed me to fly a camera down a fully CG street, and still see rich detail. Thanks for your hard work as well, Kristian.

Speaking, of environments, my father-in-law, Dick Shook, allowed me to use several CG models of buildings he had made, to detail a virtual city environment. A very big thanks to him for use of his buildings.

I also should thank my best friend, Jonathan, and also my wife Sarah, for spending many hours by my side, keeping me company while I slaved away on shots.

It's been a wild ride, and I am very excited to see my work for the first time on a movie screen on Friday night.

As for future projects, Jim and I will be working to complete my short SciFi film, Invasion, which was put on hold to work on Likes Moles, Like Rats.

I am also assisting Tom as compositing supervisor for a space battle sequence in a Star Wars fanfilm called Star Wars: Threads of Destiny.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Invasion Teaser Poster

I finally got around to making an "online teaser poster" for our short scifi film, Invasion.

I would like to thank Mandi Milligan for lending her photography skills to make this possible.

Expect more updates on Invasion soon.

Friday, November 16, 2007

"The Menagerie Part II"

So, tonight Jonathan, Sarah, and I finally got to watch the Menagerie Parts I&II at our local theater. You can refer to "The Menagerie Part I" (blog) to read about how Tuesday night's attempt to watch it got me a speeding ticket.

I must say, it was a great time. There was even a guy there fully decked out in a 60s Starfleet uniform.

CBS Digital has done a great job cleaning up the old camera negatives, and making the episodes look sharp and colorful. The new CG effects, most notably, the all new digital U.S.S. Enterprise looked great. Very nice job all around.

Great night. We all had lots of fun. And this time, the showing wasn't canceled, and I didn't get a speeding ticket.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"The Menagerie Part I" (A.K.A. How Star Trek Got Me My First Speeding Ticket)

So, last night theaters across the world showed a Star Trek Remastered episode to promote their new HD-DVD release of Star Trek. The episode shown was "The Menagerie".

I learned about this showing a month or so ago. Sarah and I made plans to attend the screening, with our good friend Jonathan, on November 13th at 10:30pm.

Why Jonathan agreed to go is beyond me, because he claims to hate Star Trek. However, in the past year, he has watched all 10 Star Trek feature films, numerous episodes of TOS, TNG, and VOY. He has even admitted that he has watched episodes of VOY on his own. He's obviously a closet Trekkie. Maybe one day he will "come out".

Anyway, on to the story. Because of work, I knew that I would miss the first 15 minutes or so of "The Menagerie" showing, because it started at 10:30p.m., and I don't get off work until 10:33p.m. The first 30 minutes, however, was a behind the scenes look at the Remastered episodes, and so I knew I wouldn't miss any of the actual episode.

Around 2:30 p.m., Sarah goes to the theater and buys tickets for herself, Jonathan, and me. The theater lady asks her if we are going to the 10:30p.m. Star Trek, and Sarah says "yes". The theater is expecting alot of Trekkies to attend at that time.

So, Sarah and I spend a whole day at work, looking forward to seeing the episode, as it's a diversion from the monotony of my daily routine. Obviously, Jonathan spent the whole day dreading it, as he won't admit he likes Star Trek.

Anyway, 10:33 rolls around, and we head out in a hurry to get to the theater, which is about 10 minutes away. So with Jonathan, Sarah, and I loaded up in the car, we drive fast down the parkway toward the theater. The speed limit is 50, but I know I hit probably 72 or so.

As I'm peaking at about 70, I came over a large hill, and right as I reach the peak, I see a police car sitting on the side of the road. As soon as I pass him, he jumps on the parkway right behind me. I knew he was after me. He throws on his lights, and I pull over.

The officer walks up, and asks me for my license and proof of insurance. Then he walks back to his cruiser to run my info. He takes a good while, I'd say 8-10 minutes before he comes back. At this point, I am very late for the screening of Star Trek. When the officer comes back, he hands me a speeding ticket for doing 67 in a 50. The first ticket I have ever gotten.

At the age of 24, my first I got my first speeding ticket, all because of Star Trek.

So anyway, after the officer let me go, I continue on to the theater, and at this point, I am almost 30 minutes late, and I know that the episode starts at 30 minutes in. I am quite frustrated at this point, because I have a speeding ticket, and I am missing the event I waited all day for.

Jonathan, Sarah, and I get to the theater, and run inside to get a seat. As we walk in, a theater worker asks us what we are there for, because all screens have already started showing. We explain to her that we are there to see Star Trek, but are just a bit late.

She then informs us that the 10:30 showing was canceled. We couldn't believe it. Why would they cancel just mere hours before the showing? It didn't make sense. Anyway, we got a refund, and free passes to our next movie. We are going to try for the Thursday night screening instead.

So there you have it. I had rushed to the theater, got an expensive speeding ticket, all for nothing. We Trekkies sometimes have to pay the price of social awkwardness, but never once did I think Star Trek would make me pay the price of a speeding ticket.

Friday, September 7, 2007

"The Great Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Size/Taste Differential Experiment"

Everyone loves Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. They are delicious. The chocolate, the peanut butter...mmm, what a combination. In fact, it appears that the combination is in fact the secret to the success.

My friend Jonathan and I have agreed on something about Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. It seems that the smaller, miniature cups, seem to taste the best. Don't get me wrong, they are all good, but the small cups seem to be far superior to the normal sized cups. Then they released the "Reese's Big Cup" and these tasted even more inferior than the normal sized cups.

The larger the peanut butter cup, we found, the more unfavorable (or unflavorable) the product became. How could this be possible? In our society of supersizing, isn't bigger better? You would think more chocolate and more peanut butter equals more taste. I won't lie, this paradox troubled Jonathan and I for many a year.

So in the name of science, Jonathan and I set out to find the answer. Thus began, "The Great Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Size/Taste Differential Experiment." Also known as the "Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Experiment" for short. Like any good experiment, first we needed a hypothesis. Jonathan and I bounced around many theories as to why the smaller Reese's cups tasted better than the larger cups. After thinking about it for a while, we came to the conclusion that the chocolate to peanut butter ratio in the miniature cups must be the most favorable (or flavorable) ...this would be our hypothesis.

However, is there a higher chocolate than peanut butter ratio in miniature cups? Is it a higher peanut butter to chocolate ratio? 50/50? These quesitons would form the basis of our experiment. We called this "yummy ratio" or as we will refer to it further in this writing, the "yummatio."

So first we needed many specimens. We bought the miniature, normal, and big sized cups. First on the list, were the taste tests.

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We began by sampling the miniature cups. Then we drank a mouthful of water to "reset" our tastebuds for the larger cups. We then taste tested the normal and big cups, again with mouthfuls of water in between.

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After running the first test we definitely felt that the smaller cups seemed to taste more chocolaty. However, we couldn't prove this on taste alone, so we continued our experiments.

Our next test was to cut the cups down their centerline so that we could have a cross section look at their insides. We theorized that the larger cups would need more of a chocolate shell in order to retain structural integrity. So we began to cut into the cups. Believe me, this is no small feat for two nerds in their early twenties who never go to the gym.

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Once all of them were cut open, we were shocked at the findings. Our theory about the structural integrity was disproved. In fact, the opposite was true. Through visual inspection of the specimens, it seemed that the miniature cups had a greater ratio of chocolate, while the larger cups had much more peanut butter, and a smaller ratio of chocolate.

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We could have ended our experiment there, as we had seemingly found the answer, but we had to be SURE. We reasoned that the incision of the knife caused minute buckling and collapsing of the top chocolate layer, and could possibly skew the results. So we decided to run a second test...core samples.

From our earlier difficulty with cutting into the surface with a knife, we knew the top crust was very strong. We were not sure if we could push a plastic straw through the top crust of the cups. So to test its strength we used a Dremel tool to see how easy it would be to drill through the surface.

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After running our test we thought it might be possible to take core samples. While we don't have exact numbers, we know that the strength of the top crust layer is somewhere between that of butter and forged steel. With that knowledge, Jonathan took a plastic straw and began extracting core samples from the various sizes of cups.

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We ran into a bit of a snag at this point. When we tried to push the core samples out of the straw, the samples would crumble and thus ruin the evidence. We almost accepted defeat, when my brilliant wife came up with a solution. She suggested putting the samples in the freezer so that they would harden, and thus be structurally sound when we pushed them out of the straw. So that is exactly what we did.

However, at this point, we had to wait for awhile for them to harden. During this time, we took other measurements just to be sure we had enough data. Jonathan then ran some equations on our data.

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After about an hour, we were able to pop out the core samples and take a look. Here we found the very same results as our cross section experiment. It was indeed the larger chocolate ratio in the miniature peanut butter cups that provided the optimal "yummatio".

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Finally, we had a reason why the smaller the Reese's cup, the better the taste. It's the larger chocolate ratio. For those of you who have been confused up to this point, we have provided a scientific graph to illustrate our point more visually...

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So, in conclusion, I hope you will remember what you have learned here the next time you are craving a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. When you can't decide which size to get, you can bank on our findings here. The miniature ones will always provide the optimal ratios for the best taste.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Good Times

Today is May 10th, and that is significant, because that marks two years since I eloped with my wonderful wife Sarah.
I must say that it's been a wonderful two years. She and I have always been very good together, and our connection to each other is quite extraordinary. We met, oddly enough, on the Internet back in the summer of 1999. A year later, I met her in person in Salt Lake City, Utah.

After one crazy situation after another over the following years, we finally got married on May 10th, 2005, in secret, at the courthouse in Athens, Alabama. I had no plans to marry her that day, I just simply woke up and decided I wanted to married to her that day.

So, I went over to her apartment, and she was still noticeably sick from a cold. I asked her to get married that day, and at first, she thought I was joking. However, I made it clear that I was indeed serious. She agreed to elope, and the rest, they say, is historyToday, two years later, I reflect on all the struggles we have gone through together, and I must say it was all worth it. Sarah is the greatest wife anyone could ask for, and I am thankful everyday for her companionship. Being apart from her for more than a few minutes brings on feelings of loneliness.

Happy anniversary, Sarah, I love you.

On another personal note, my best friend, Jonathan, graduates from college tomorrow. He's put in alot of hard work at school over the past few years. So I want to publically congratulate him, and his very big accomplishment. Congrats, J.

Visual Effects
On a more professional note, I have been working on CG buildings for the film Like Moles, Like Rats. Specifically, I've been working on the CG version of the Times Building. The real life counterpart, which is in downtown Huntsville, Alabama, serves as the setting for the films third act. I modeled it based off reference photos I took, which is mentioned in my last blog entry.
Anyway, below are some various renders of the work in progress on the CG Times Building.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Trip To Iowa

So, last weekend I went to Iowa to visit with my in-laws. For those of you who don't know, I lived in Iowa with them in 2001-2002 for about a year. Undoubtly, the best year of my life. So, needless to say, this trip was a blast.

So, we left Friday morning at about noon on Northwest Airlines, and departed from Nasvhille. At around 3:45pm, we arrived at the Des Moines airport. Sarah's mom, dad, sister, and our 3 year old nephew, Riley, were there to greet us. This was actually the first time I had met my nephew, so that was a new and neat experience.

The rest of Friday included a trip to the hobby shop (awesome, btw). I went there to look for Star Trek model kits, but while there my nephew, who loves trains, saw all of the model railroad stuff in the hobby shop. He went nuts. I think we both were sad to leave the hobby shop.

After that, we all went to Sarah's sister's house to eat dinner. We had hot dogs and chips, how can you go wrong...yummy. As I arrived at the house, I got to reunite with my brother-in-law, Jason, who is a really cool guy. It was fun to see him again after 5 years.

The next morning, all the ladies went shopping around at Goodwill's, while the men had their own plans. Sarah's dad and I are both artist, so we spend much of the morning discussing our various art projects that we were working on, and complimenting each other's work. I got to view many of his paintings, while he got to view some of the visual effects work I did on Ryan Vs. Dorkman 2.

After that, Jason and Riley came over, and my father-in-law took us to Iowa State University's Reiman Gardens. I must say, it was quite the good time. They had over 80 species of butterflies in the atrium, and many exotic plants as well. Riley had a great time looking at the butterflies, as did the rest of us.

Later that night, we had a church meeting. After that, the whole family at at Pizza Hut, where we had sausage and pepperoni thin crust pizza. How can you go wrong? Yummy.

On Sunday morning, we attended our church services, and then went to Jason and Laura's house to have a delcious meal. Laura is a great cook, by the way, just like her mother and sister. After that, we all went back to Sarah's parent's house to play Cranium. That was a fun game. Movin' on up! That night, I had to say goodbye to Jason, as he had to work the next day, and I would not see him anymore on that trip. After everyone went their seperate ways, I watched Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith with my father-in-law. I always enjoy that movie, if for no other reason that the awesome visual effects.

On Monday morning, I went with my sister-in-law, mother-in-law, wife, and nephew to Ames. There I went to two hobby shops, and Hobby Lobby. I picked up a 1/144th scale F-15 Strike Eagle to assemble in my spare time when I am bored. After all that, we all, excluding Jason who was at work, went to my in-laws house for lunch. We had tacos. Very good.

Sadly, at around 4:00 pm, I had board a plane to come back to Alabama. A very sad and sinking feeling came over me as I stepped onto that plane. I had had such a fantastic four days, I did not want to leave. But alas, I am now back in Alabama, anxiously awaiting my next trip to Iowa in July.

And as a side note, my 3 year old nephew, Riley, is an awesome little kid. I'm happy to say, I have a new buddy in Iowa, that I look forward to hanging out with again in the future.