Tuesday, 26 December 2017

06 Documentary/Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child

Figure 1, Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child [Poster]

Over the past 20 years, there was a number of books and films trying to capture the essence of an extraordinary artist called Jean-Michel Basquiat. What makes the film by Tamra Davis so exceptional is that the story of this young artist is told by his friends and people that were close to him. It is not often that you can find a documentary that would provide you with new facts and opinions but manage to maintain a relatively objective approach. 'Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child' was released in 2010 and it is the latest movie about Basquiat. The movie was directed by the artist's friend Tamra Davis and it gives the audience a brief insight into an intense but short life of a remarkable artist.

There's no doubt that 'The Radiant Child' uses in a first-place expository type of documentary filmmaking. Archival footage that the director, Tamra Davis took in 1985 when Basquiat was at the height of his career, is the essential part of the whole documentary. The artist himself answers a question at the interview recorded on archival footage. His answers are then supported by interviews with hosts in the documentary which were his close friends that knew him personally, curators of the galleries where Basquiat had some of his biggest exhibitions or people that just knew the scene at the time and were admirers of his work.

The story of Basquiat is told almost chronologically beginning with an interview with his childhood friend Al Diaz with whom he started doing a graffiti tag SAMO whilst they were still at school. The graffiti that he was leaving on the walls around New York gained him a first public attention because of his new almost poetic approach towards graffiti art. One of his girlfriends, Suzanne Mallouk is also telling stories about his beginnings and struggles as a young artist living on a street followed by his sudden transformation into a Neo-expressionist with a rock star status. The document then moves on to the next stage of his life as one of the most important contemporary artists of his time. 

Figure 2, Archival footage [Film Still]

Even though the film is mainly using characteristics of the expository style of documentary movie making there are some elements of the participatory and performative type of documentary as well. In the interview with Basquiat recorded by the director on the archival footage, Tamra Davis asks him a few questions by herself. She also sits down in front of the camera to tell a story and one of her memories of Jean-Michel. Therefore, Tamra Davis as a director interacts with her subject and perform in front of the camera as well.

It is a truly remarkable and unusual document about a sudden rise and fall of a young artist and his intuitive art that apealed to intelectuals as well. Tamra Davis takes out of the drawer a footage that has been left unseen for over a 20 years and creates a personal film about her friend who died too soon and she manages to stay relatively objective. 'The film’s a decent introduction to a man who walked the world of SoHo, CBGB, and Andy Warhol’s final days, but the more you know going into the movie, the more you sense it leaving out.' (Cutler, 2010) Even that the movie is full of interesting facts about the artist maybe even information that the viewers didn't know before or shots of paintings they haven't seen before, it doesn't go into depth of disgusted aspects of Basquiat's life and the viewers find themselves wanting to see more at the end of the film.

Figure 3, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta (1983)

Cutler, Aaron (2010) Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child 
At: https://www.slantmagazine.com/film/review/jean-michel-basquiat-the-radiant-child (Accessed on 26th Dec 2017)
DeFore, John (2010) Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child - - Film Review 
At: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/jean-michel-basquiat-radiant-child-29225 (Accessed on 25th Dec 2017)
Fuchs, Cynthia (2010) Jea-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child 
At: https://www.popmatters.com/128533-jean-michel-basquiat-the-radiant-child-2496165473.html (Accessed on 25th Dec 2017)
Holden, Stephen (2010) A friend, an Artist and a Personal Interview 
At: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/21/movies/21jean.html (Accessed on 25th Dec 2017)

Illustration list:
Figure 1, [Poster] Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child 
At: https://trustmovies.blogspot.co.uk/2010/07/tamra-davis-radiant-movie-jean-michel.html (Accessed on 25rd Dec 2017)
Figure 2, [Film Still] Archival footage At: https://i-d.vice.com/en_au/article/gyg947/the-docs-that-captured-the-wild-vibrancy-of-new-yorks-art-scene (Accessed on 26th Dec 2017)
Figure 3, [Artwork] Jean-Michel Basquiat, Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta (1983) 
At: https://curiator.com/art/jean-michel-basquiat/undiscovered-genius-of-the-mississippi-delta (Accessed on 26th Dec 2017)

Friday, 22 December 2017

Maya Tutorials/Lighting & Rendering 2/Arnold Part 9: Sky Dome Light

Maya Tutorials/Lighting & Rendering 2/Arnold Part 8: HDR Images

5B Film & Quality/Part 2: Exploitation Cinema/Mad Max: Fury Road

Figure 1, Mad Max: Fury Road [Poster]

Exploitation cinema has a very loose definition and has more to do with the audience's perception than with a film's subject matter. However, the movies of exploitation cinema still have some common characteristics which differ accordingly to the current time period and social situation. Movies defined as exploitation are generally low quality B-movies using cheap and easy ways to attract a huge amount of money. They are aiming for a wider range of audience by exploiting controversial or taboo themes such as drug use, violence, sex, slavery, rebellion or current society fears. Exploitation cinema got widely popular in 60s and 70s after the relaxation of censorship rules in USA and Europe, but its roots goes as far as early 1920s. Movies of exploitation cinema are often combining two or more exploitation subgenres such as Biker movies, Ozploitation, Women in prison and many others.

Despite that exploitation movies tend to be low quality there are a few exceptions to high-quality movies referring to current social anxieties and using characteristics of exploitation cinema subgenres. Such an example is George Miller's latest sequel to his Mad Max movies franchise about survival and redemption 'Mad Max: Fury Road'. While the original 'Mad Max' (1979) movie is mainly pointing out to the global oil crises that happened only a few years before the movie was released, the new 'Mad Max: Fury Road' (2015) is focusing more on water shortage which was a hot topic in California around the releasing time of the movie.

Miller twists the plot and main issues of the movie with every new Mad Max instalment whilst still maintaining the essentials of exploitation cinema. 'Miller has redefined his vision of the future yet again, vibrantly imagining a world in which men have become the pawns of insane leaders and women hold fiercely onto the last vestiges of hope. ' (Ebert, 2015) As Ebert said in his review of 'Mad Max: Fury Road', Miller re-wrote again his picture of the astonishing near-future apocalyptic world and looked at its kingdom worshipping masculinity from a whole new perspective.

The post-apocalyptic world in the near-future of Australian desert is dominated by cruel and insane Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). He is a combination of the worst characteristics of the patriarchal governor. He treats women as things needed only for reproduction. Surrounding of his kingdom is drought and its citizens are dying of thirst but Immortan Joe keeps all the water away from them because he believes that water is addictive. He has also a personal army of violent machine-like guys, The War Boys, who worship him and would do anything to satisfy him. They drive across the desert in trucks supercharged with all kinds of weapons, exploding and destructing the environment throughout the movie. Essential characteristics of Ozploitation subgenre as for instance respect of masculinity, men attitude towards women, apocalyptic desert, explosions and destruction of environment can be also found in the original 'Mad Max' from the late 70s.

Figure 2, Explotions and destructions in the desert [Film Still]

Joe imprisoned a selection of women as his wives in The Citadel kingdom and keeps them there for breeding purposes. Meanwhile, one of his best soldiers and driver of The War Rig, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), is sent out to deliver Guzzolene to the Gas Town. However, she decides to stop Joe's oppressive patriarchy and instead of fulfilling the task, Imperator Furiosa frees Joe's five wives and heads with them in The War Rig towards her birth land, The Green Place to get them to the safety. The rebellious female character of Imperator Furiosa with her appearance similar to Joe's War Boys and her abilities to handle a gun, ride war vehicle and be as much violent as War Boys, are contrasted with fragile-looking five wives who look like supermodels dressed in lingerie and who already accepted patriarchy.

The motive of women being owned by men is very common in Ozploitation movies and also in Women in prison exploitation subgenre, but unlike women in Fury Road, female prisoners in Women in prison movies were always guilty of committing some kind of a crime. Women in Fury Road are portraited as a blameless and pure (Five wives) or morally strong and rebellious (Imperator Furiosa). The director of Fury Road decided to look at Women in prison movies issues from more of a feminist point of view and create the character of Furiosa as the main protagonist. Female character as the main hero is very unusual compared to the previous Mad Max movies driven by male characters. In a mad masculine world, Furiosa is the sane one, she is the strong moral role model who is in charge of the mission. On her way to The Green Place, she meets Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) who is still attached to one of Joe's War Boys, Nux (Nicholas Hoult) and serving him as his blood bag. Both men join her after a while and help her to defeat Immortan Joe but since Miller changed the typical positions of men and women in the action movie, Furiosa is their leader. 'Only one bullet remains. Furiosa takes the gun and hits the target, using Max’s shoulder as a rest. The tough guy is nothing but a cushion.' (Lane, 2015)

Figure 3, Women prisoners [Film Still]

Another very common elements of low budget exploitation cinema and original Mad Max movie are motorcycle gangs and road warriors. Fury Road is full of breathtaking stunts on motorbikes, road fights on the top of the vehicles going full speed. The influence of the 60s and 70s Biker movies in new Mad Max movie is best seen in The Rock Riders motorcycle gang. The Rock Riders are bandits and guardians of the only pass through the wall of mountains and they catch and strip from any valuable parts every vehicle that dares to try pass through the mountains. Furiosa, in order to get to The Green Place, has to pass through the wall of mountains. She makes deal with Rock Riders to exchange 3000 gallons of Guzzolene for letting her pass through the mountains. However, Rock Riders are sure that the original deal included not only Guzzolene but cars as well and that's when another amazingly insane road fight of a motorcycle gang chasing justice begins.

Figure 4, The Rock Riders [Film Still]

'Mad Max: Fury Road' is full of hyperactive editing, constant car chase and explosions, entirely over the top yet it never gets repetitive or boring. Every fragment of the movie is intense and gut-punching. 'Miller knows when to let the pace coast when it needs to, which is rarely, and then he pushes the pedal down and plasters you to your seat.' (Tallerico, 2015) The director managed with his new Mad Max instalment to successfully refer to a current social issues and burning questions whilst keeping the essentials of the first original low budget exploitation movie from the series. However, this time it's not a low budget movie at all. It's full of brilliant stunts, beautiful production design (by Colin Gibson) and high-level sound design (Tom Holkenborg alias Junkie XL). 'Miller hasn’t just returned with a new instalment in a money-making franchise. The man who re-wrote the rules of the post-apocalyptic action genre has returned to show a generation of filmmakers how they’ve been stumbling in their attempts to follow in his footsteps.' (Ebert, 2015) After a 30 years from the last Mad Max movie, George Miller returns with a new perspective on patriarchal post-apocalyptic desert and makes sure that no one can do it better.

Berlatsky, Noah (2015) Mad Max: Fury Road is less radical than, its B-movie influences
At: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/may/26/mad-max-fury-road-less-radical-exploitation-influences (Accessed on 19th Dec 2017)
Bradshaw, Peter (2015) Mad Max: Fury Road review – Tom Hardy is a macho Mr Bean in brilliantly pimped reboot At: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/may/11/mad-max-fury-road-review-tom-hardy (Accessed on 19th Dec 2017)
Lane, Anthony (2015) HIGH GEAR: 'Mad Max: Fury Road
At: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/05/25/high-gear-current-cinema-anthony-lane (Accessed on 19th Dec 2017)
Macnab, Geoffrey (2015) Mad Max Fury Road review: Charlize Theron's Furiosa is every bit as mad and bad as Max
At: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/reviews/mad-max-fury-road-cannes-film-festival-2015-movie-review-charlize-therons-furiosa-is-every-bit-as-10242492.html (Accessed on 19th Dec 2017)
Tallerico, Brian (2015) Mad Max: Fury Road
At: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/mad-max-fury-road-2015 (Accessed on 19th Dec 2017)

Illustration list:
Figure 1, [Poster] Mad Max: Fury Road
At: http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/hammerandthump/the-dark-brutal-ritual-and-romance-of-mad-max-fury-road/ (Accessed on 19th Dec 2017)
Figure 2, [Film Still] Exploitions and destructions in the desert
At: http://www.roadandtrack.com/car-culture/entertainment/news/a24471/mad-max-fury-road-teaser/ (Accessed on 19th Dec 2017)
Figure 3, [Film Still] Women prisoners
At: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/movies/zoe-kravitz-wives-mad-max-fury-road-article-1.2213982 (Accessed 19th Dec 2017)
Figure 4, [Film Still] The Rock Riders
At: http://motorcycleboy.fr/en/2015/09/mad-max-fury-road-2/ (Accessed on 19th Dec 2017)

Maya Tutorials/Lighting & Rendering 2/Arnold Part 7: Stylised Internal Lighting

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Collaboration/Hero's Journey Short/The Making of/Reflective Statement

Hero's Journey, final short animation

The Making of Hero's Journey document

Reflective Statement

I was quite anxious before the start of this collaboration project as everyone has different ways of working and expressing themselves. I've also never participated on a similar project before so I didn’t know what to expect, but after this experience, I think that the key factors to a successful collaboration are to be open-minded, reliable, listen to other people‘s opinions and to be willing to discuss any issues or problems. I was lucky enough to be put together into a group with hard-working and open-minded people with which we were able to successfully produce short animation.

We named our animation studio 'Twisted Turtle Studios' and my collaborative partners were Michael Brook and Douy Singsamran. After a first few weeks of coming up with initial ideas, we realized that we've been looking at the given theme, 'Forgotten/Failed Superheroes' from the wrong angle and those ideas don't have much of a potential. Therefore, we had some difficulties in the early stages of our collaboration but once we came up with a new concept and refined our new ideas, the collaboration started to be a fun and enjoyable project.

At the beginning of the project, we've been asked to allocate specific job roles for each member of the group. We split the tasks as follows: Michael - project director, Douy - art director, myself - producer. Our group was working democratically throughout the whole project and we've been trying to be helpful and supportive towards each other. As we've been working on this project democratically, listening to each other's opinions and asking for feedback, our group never experienced any arguments. Even if we had some differences in our opinions, we managed to resolve and find a solution in a calm and mature way.

This collaboration project was in some ways easier and in some ways harder than the previous ones when we all had to handle the projects individually. The easier part was that making the decisions and the variety of jobs needed for creating short animation were evenly distributed amongst three people. In my opinion, by focusing only on a few selected jobs and have always someone to ask for any advice, feedback or help to resolve some issue, we were able to increase the quality of our work. The harder part was the consciousness of someone else relying on my work or waiting for me to finish my part to be able to continue with his part. It definitely adds a lot more pressure but on the other hand, it also pushed me to get better with meeting deadlines and organising my time.

Even that this collaboration project taught me a lot and helped me to improve a whole range of skills, there are a few elements which I wish I have done better. Time management is a thing with which I've been struggling the most throughout the all previous projects. I think that during the collaboration project my time management skills got way much better. Although, I came across some errors which caused that I wasn't reliable and available all the times as I should or want to be for the rest of the group. I also feel that in later stages when we moved on to the production part, I've spent too much time on improving small unnecessary details which left me with not enough time to produce my part of animating the scenes with higher quality. Time management and organising the work better are two main elements I am aware of that I need to improve.

Overall I've enjoyed working on this project with other people and I find this collaboration experience very interesting and successful. I think that we've managed to communicate effectively inside of our group and come out with a solid piece of work which all three of us are happy with.

Collaboration/Ending Scene/Final Playblast & Rendered stills

Collaboration/Superman Scene/Final Playblasts & Rendered stills

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Collaboration/Superman Scene Animation - Progress 01

Collaboration/Scene Layout/Superman&Ending Scene

Superman/Ending scene was also quite a challenge for me. It is a fairly complecated scene including all of our superheroes and a few props. 

Probably the biggest problematic part of this scene was the grass. I was trying out a several grass paint effects with a different settings. However, all of the paint effects grasses were looking too realistic comparing to cartoonish look of the rest of the scene and it didn't fit in. Therefore, we decided to use a grass textured plane with simplistic modelled grass. 

There is still a few things to improve in this scene. As for example texture projection of bushes still doesn't have correct transparency settings and Superman is still missing his cape. The lighting is another issue which is needed to be improved as we want for this scene lighting which would simulate sunset. 

I'm currently moving onto the next stage which is animating the Superman and Ending scene and I'll come back to improve those small missing details in the scene later on. 

Final ending scene layout render test.

Final Superman scene layout render test. 

Grass tests

Collaboration/Scene Layout/Hulk Scene

As we've moved on to the production part of our collaboration project, I was also in charge of setting up the scene layout for two of ours scenes: Hulk scene and Superman/Ending Scene. 

I came across a few problems with lights and setting the right shader for car's windows whilst setting up Hulk scene. As we are currently working in Maya 2018 and using Arnold renderrer, I found it a bit more difficult to achieve the glass window effect than it was with Mental Ray. After a few render tests we decided to not include windows in our scene as we are going for an old school comic book style and the glass shader in new Maya was looking too realistic and was requiering several lights which was increasing the render time. 

The brid's eye view for Hulk scene required a lot of car models to simulate a busy traffic. Therefore, I decided to use StandIns for all of the cars appart from the main Hulk's car to be able to render a difficult scene with the quickest render time possible. 

After setting up both view for Hulk's scene I've handed over the scene to one of my collaborating partners, who fixed the problem with lights by using ony new Arnold SkyDome light with HDR image of sky applied onto it and is currently working on animating the scene. 

Test render of glass shader for front view mid shot scene. 

Another render test for front view scene.

One of the first render test for front view scene.

Render test of glass shader for front view scene.

Final birds eye view for Hulk scene using StanIns instead of car models int he scene. 

Render test of bird's eye view scene. 

Friday, 24 November 2017


Hulk's car rigging. Simple rig to simulate engine rumble. 

Batman's mobility scooter rigging. This was the first try of rigging the scooter. However, the handle was moving too far away from the seat so I needed to change and fix the rig. 

Playblast test of fixed mobility scooter rig and joining Batman to the scooter. 

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Maya Tutorial/Lighting & Rendering 2/Arnold Part 6: Light Filters

Gobo Filter (mix)

Gobo Filter (blend)

Gobo Filter with Barndoor and Light Decay Filters

Light Blocker

Maya Tutorials/Lighting & Rendering 2/Arnold Part 5: Maya Lights

Maya Lights

Point Light

Point Light Settings

Directional Light

Directional Light Settings

Area Light

Area Light Settings


Spotlight Settings

Arnold Light

Arnold Area Light (quad)

Arnold Area Light (disk)

Arnold Area Light Settings