First HAB Adventure

It was November before we got around to our yearly mancation – with this years goal to launch a camera into the Stratos.
We simulated the flightpath to land in the centre of the Black Rock Deserts 1 million acre expanse to maximise chances of recovery.
(This was actually our second choice target. After a month of planning, it turned out what looked clear on google satellite images was actually a hidden TOPGUN airbase. As that may have impeded recovery somewhat we changed our target location last minute¬† ūüôā
We launched at 3:30pm from Susanville to maximise the golden hour. We’ll use the Ricoh GR again, but this time we gave it too much choice over shutter speed when we would have achieved better results pre-set. Despite multiple ball and socket joints in the rig there was more movement on the payload than we estimated so a number of the images were blurred. (We countered spinning but suffered swing). We still got some rewarding shots though.
Inline image 1
The High Altitude Balloon reached 66,000 feet; this was the last shot before the balloon burst and plummeted into darkness. It drifted 102 miles to the center of the projected landing spot.
Inline image 2
We successfully recovered the payload 24 hours after launch…
Inline image 4
…during which time we fell in love with Black Rock desert.¬† Its unbelievably beautiful, and the short time we spent out there we were literally avoiding stepping on shells embedded on the desert floor which have remained untouched for >15,000 years. We were surrounded by wild horses, goldmines, geode mines, hot springs, hand carved flint arrowheads and other remnants of settlers through the ages.
Inline image 7
Inline image 6
We worked with Friends of Black Rock on the recovery, they were awesome and generous with their time.
None of the payload images have been edited yet; I’ll repost if there’s significant improvements after tweaking the RAW files.¬† We’re planning to launch again next year with lessons learned, an improved payload design and 360 camera(s). I don’t know yet how easy it will be with multiple cameras in tow but it would be something to reach the mesosphere.
If anyone else has launched a HAB I’d love to hear your learnings too.


Color made easy.

Five awesome tools that make our lives a lottle easier.


Coolors is an intuitive application which allows us to generate color combinations in a simple way, share palettes, and even export them to different formats like SVG, PDF, or SCSS.


Continue reading

Star Wars – An Iconic Introduction

I think this might be my favorite Star Wars photo ever.

Star Wars ILM Credits

To this point, movie text and credits had been shot similarly since film began, and yet a simple camera tilt and it becomes something else entirely.  Iconic.  Synonymous.

Photo’s like this just make me smile.

Seoul #1 – SICAF

Last month I was honored to spend 10 days in Korea as an international juror for the Seoul International Cartoon & Animation Festival, a six-day festival held in the Myeongdong district.

Firstly, I should take the opportunity to say how impressed I was with the organization’s attention to detail and hospitality; from¬†the minute I arrived in the country I was incredibly well looked after. Everyone was hugely generous with their time which made for a very social and full visit to the wonderful capital, and a great festival.


The Festival Opening Ceremony was at the park in the center of the city, directly outside the City Hall.  It was a high-energy couple of hours with huge video screens, singing kids and dancing characters.  I was Continue reading

The Corridors of Lucasfilm #4 ‚Äď Howard Anderson Optical Printer

Lucasfilm ‚Äď Howard Anderson Optical Printer

Not much is known about he Anderson Printer before ILM purchased it from Paramount Pictures in 1975. ¬†It had been used for compositing for Cecil B DeMilles The Ten Commandments in 1956, and shots for Alfred Hichcock’s North By Northwest in 1959. ¬†The printer fell out of permanent use as the VistaVision format waned.

VistaVision is a method of shooting a a 35mm negative horizontally (8 perforations), double the size of typical upright negatives.  To project a VistaVision movie a special projector was necessary; one that lay on its side.  The cost of the new equipment and higher costs to process the film made VistaVision an impractical format for film.  Though the quality of an Continue reading

The Corridors of Lucasfilm #3 ‚Äď The ILM Kodak Scanner.

In 1995 ILM was awarded a technical achievement award from the academy of motion pictures for the development of the Trilinear High Resolution CCD Digital Input Scanner, commonly known at ILM as the Kodak Scanner, and at Kodak as the ILM Scanner.  The evolution of the digital scanner was a joint effort, beginning with concept design and planning in 1998.  It was completed in 1989 with its first use in a feature motion picture in 1990 on Die Hard 2.

IMG_6073As the first input scanner with the capabilities and throughput to be an effective digitizing system for use in the production of feature movie pictures, the ILM Kodak Scanner dramatically changed the way movies are made.  The scanner digitized motion picture film, converting it to digital format for use by digital image compositing and effects systems.  The ILM Kodak Scanner employed a tri-linear CCD array instead of a serial array and mechanically moved each frame of film past this array to scan the entire area of the frame.  The tri-linear CCD integrated circuit is coated with specifically developed red, green and blue dyes that match the color response of the Eastman-Koadk film.  This provided both higher resolution and superior quality for its cost than serial arrays.  The last show that was scanned on the ILM Kodak Scanner was Mission Impossible in 1996.


Full list of films scanned on the ILM Kodak Scanner.

1990 – Die Hard 2.
1991 РMickeys Audition, Switch, Arachnophobia, The Doors, Hudson Hawk, Backdraft, The Rocketeer, Terminator 2 Judgement Day, Star Trek VI, Hook.
1992 – The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Alive, Death Becomes Her.
1993 – The Nutcracker, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Last Action Hero, Meteorman, Malice, Rising Sun, Fire in the Sky, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List.
1994 – Hudsucker Proxy, The Flintstones, Maverick, Wolf, Babys Day Out, Forrest Gump, The Mask, Radioland Murders, Star Trek Generations, Disclosure.
1995 – In the Mouth of Madness, Village of the Damned, Casper, Congo, The Indian in the Cupboard, Sabrina, The American President, Jumanji.
1996 – Special Effects (an IMAX film), Mission Impossible.

Brand Allegiance – Victorinox Aesthetics

So¬†my allegiance to¬†Victorinox¬†wasn’t a conscious decision.¬†When awarded a holdall for 5 years service at Electronic Arts, little did I know that experiencing something so well engineered would ensure the Swiss brand become a first choice for practical, on-the-go gear.

Hunter Mach 1 Watch
Victorinox Swiss Army Brand Hunter Mach 1Victorinox Swiss Army Brand Hunter Mach 1I’ve only ever seen one of these for sale, anywhere – and I bought it. ¬†I love the retro ¬†feel; it carries a seventies vibe with the squaircle frame and Hunter logo. ¬†It’s heavy too; weighing more than expected gives it a solid and well constructed feel. It was originally available with an all rubber strap (left), an all chrome bracelet, and a rubber inlaid chrome bracelet (right). ¬†The model I purchased has the latter Continue reading

The Best 3 Albums You’ve Never Heard.

So¬†the beautiful thing about Spotify is finding great new music. ¬†And if there’s one thing better than finding an awesome album that’s new to me, it’s finding an awesome album that’s new to everyone.¬†¬†I¬†spent a while looking through my (relatively small) library of Spotify¬†albums and found three¬†which – despite being go-to albums for me – the¬†artists have¬†very low number of followers. ¬†Infact, they have little over 7,000 followers combined.

How can that even possibly be? ¬†Either I have really bad taste or you’re missing out on some great music.

Villager – Matt Deighton (82 followers)
Smooth Hound Smith РSmooth Hound Smith (287 followers)
Sleeping on Roads – Neil Halstead (6664 followers)


Do you have¬†an SFA (secret favorite album)¬†on Spotify… ¬† wanna share?

s2013 Pre-Conference Round-Up.

There’s a lot out there now to give a good indication of what you can expect to see at this years conference, and it’s looking like a pretty awesome 40th Anniversary.

Schedule at a glance.

Advanced program pdf.

The Computer Animation Festival Trailer

Dailies Preview

Art Gallery Preview

Real-Time Live! Teaser

Emerging Technologies Trailer

Technical Papers Trailer

For more info on what’s coming, check out these links:
Media Blog
European Directors Win Majority of SIGGRAPH 2013 Computer Animation Festival Honors
SIGGRAPH Business Symposium to Focus on Key Issues Facing Film and Game Industries
SIGGRAPH 2013 Highlights Accomplishments in Computer Graphics

And while you’re here, check out the¬†40th Anniversary SIGGRAPH People¬†website.

Hopefully see you in 19 days!

The 2013 Animation Festival Jury is done!

What an amazing weekend with an incredible group of people.  The official write-up is now on the SIGGRAPH Blog.

My prior connection with some of the Jurors was tenuous. ¬†I’d met Norman Badler briefly while speaking at UPenn and caught a John Frame exhibition at Portland Museum of Art last January. ¬†Infact, the only significant connections I held with any of the Jurors was three years studying under Peter Parr (at Bournemouth Arts University) and two years working with Wayne Stables (at Electronic Arts). ¬†Most of the others I’d never met previously, but to me this group represented a strong mix; four continents, a diverse array of backgrounds, animation styles, technical skills, industries and education.

In these situations you’re never quite sure how things will pan out. ¬†Fortunately, with Fran and Cris managing the hard work of¬†logistics¬†and technical direction I could focus on direction for the Jury process. ¬†Now it’s just a case of wrapping their results into a show the Jurors would be proud of, and one the SIGGRAPH attendees will enjoy…

SIGGRAPH 2013 Computer Animation Festival Jury

… very special thanks to Dayna & Lutzner at Disney for hosting us (again!).

Walt Disney Archives

20 hours of movies can be tough. Carlo Vogele taking some well earned time-out.

Carlo Vogele

If you’ve ever considered being involved with SIGGRAPH – it’s hard work, and one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll have. ¬†The graphics and animation communities are simply an amazing group of people with an unbelievable mix of humility and talent.