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.


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 Corridors of Lucasfilm #2 – Bell & Howell Splicer.

Bell & Howell SplicerBell & Howell SplicerBell & Howell Splicer

Bell & Howell is a U.S.-based former manufacturer of motion picture machinery, founded as Bell & Howell in 1907 by two projectionists, and headquartered in Wheeling, Illinois. According to its charter, Bell & Howell Company incorporated on February 17, 1907. It was duly recorded in the Cook County Record Book eight days later.

The splicer (above) was constructed to join together¬†separate¬†pieces of film, usually bonded by a specially formulated ‘film cement’.

Historically, Bell & Howell Co. was an important supplier of many different media technologies, starting with a rotary framer on 35mm film projectors in 1907.  This was quickly followed by a 35mm film perforator (1908), a professional 35mm motion-picture film camera (1909) and printing equipment used in motion-picture film laboratories introduced in 1911.  In 1934 Bell & Howell introduced the first light weight amateur 8-mm movie camera, in which the film was loaded in a cassette that allowed daylight loading and unloading.

For a brief period in the early eighties, Bell & Howell marketed a version of the Apple II in a black case to educational institutions.  The company merged with Böwe Systec Inc. in 2003; it was known as Böwe Bell & Howell until 2011, when Versa Capital Management bought the company and returned it to its original name.

(Text from Wikipedia).

The Corridors of Lucasfilm #1 – Moviola.

There’s some beautiful old hardware hiding in the corners of the Lucasfilm Presido campus. It’s intriguing; although I learned to edit with film it wasn’t using gear anywhere nearly as incredible as this. ¬†Infact, there’s a couple machines in the office I wasn’t entirely certain what they were for. ¬†(But now I am – thanks Wikipedia).

This is the first in a short series of posts covering the gear I’ve discovered so far…

Moviola UD-20-S Moviola UD-20-S Moviola UD-20-S Moviola UD-20-S

The Moviola allowed editors to study individual shots in their cutting rooms, thus to determine more precisely where the best cut-point might be. The vertically-oriented Moviolas were the standard for film editing in the United States until the 1970s when horizontal flatbed editor systems became more common.

Iwan Serrurier’s original 1917 concept for the Moviola was as a home movie projector to be sold to the general public. The name was derived from the name “Victrola” since Serrurier thought his invention would do for home movie viewing what the Victrola did for home music listening (The Moviola even came in a beautiful wooden cabinet similar to the Victrolas). But since the machine cost $600 in 1920 (equivalent to $20,000 in the 2000s), very few sold. An editor at¬†Douglas Fairbanks Studios¬†suggested that Iwan should adapt the device for use by film editors. Serrurier did this and the Moviola as an editing device was born in 1924 with the first Moviola being sold to Douglas Fairbanks himself. Ninety four years later, a framed copy of the original receipt still resides at Moviola, the company, in Hollywood.

Many studios quickly adopted the Moviola including¬†Universal Studios,¬†Warner Brothers,¬†Charles Chaplin Studios,¬†Buster Keaton Productions,¬†Mary Pickford,¬†Mack Sennett, and¬†Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The advent of sound, 65mm and 70mm film, and the need for portable editing equipment during¬†World War II¬†greatly expanded the market for Moviola’s products.

Iwan Serrurier’s son,¬†Mark Serrurier, took over his father’s company in 1946. In 1966, Mark sold Moviola Co. to Magnasync Corporation (a subsidiary of Craig Corporation) of North Hollywood for $3 million. Combining the names, the new name was Magnasync/Moviola Corp. President L. S. Wayman instantly ordered a tripling of production, and the new owners realized their investment in less than two years.

(Text from Wikipedia).

Siggraph 2012 Real-Time Live!

Okay, so I’m a little sad to be handing this amazing program off. ¬†Real-Time Live! has been an incredible part of SIGGRAPH to be involved with, from¬†technical and show direction, through¬†marketing, jurying, content outreach, logistics,¬†donations, hardware,¬†branding and social media. ¬†Not to mention the awesome people I got to work with.

The program was set in motion by Evan Hirsch at SIGGRAPH 2009 as an original, twenty-minute pre-show for the Computer Animation Festival.  This year Continue reading

Siggraph 2012 Real-Time Live! Press Release

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SIGGRAPH Real-Time Live! is the première showcase for the latest trends and techniques for pushing the boundaries of interactive visuals. A series of 10 international jury-selected submissions will be presented in a fast-paced, 90-minute show of cutting-edge, aesthetically stimulating real-time work at SIGGRAPH 2012, 5-9 August at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

The diverse show includes breakdowns of an audio-driven procedural graphics engine, an augmented reality gesture-based control solution from NYU/MIT, proprietary and commercial rendering engines, and a number of cutting-edge unreleased games titles.

See here for the press release  |  full list of content  |  show Q&A

Pulse Check.

SmartWatchSo the small screen is now the big screen, at least in terms of units and revenue opportunity – and if that isn’t confusing enough, there’s a new small screen in town.

Kickstarter has a way of launching both new and existing products, and the already available but barely known Pebble is a prime example, receiving well over $3 million in funding within a few days, and arguably more importantly Continue reading

Official Real-Time Live! 2012 Trailer Released.


The official RTL! trailer released for Siggraph 2012, showing 2011 highlights from NVidia, Digital Artforms, SCAD, Microsoft and Criterion Games.

Submissions for 2012 are open until April 9th; be a part of the show!

(Special thanks to Kevin Yost for the trailer).