Artist. Designer. Awkward wad of nerd. Fights off existential terror and self-loathing with Godzilla films.

amechanicaldisaster@gmail.com

BLACK HOLE GHOST IS FINISHED

Watch and rejoice! Show your friends! I’m promoting the ever-loving crap out of this thing. It truly is one of my greatest endeavors as an artist, one of my ultimate creations, and I am really quite proud of it.

So, looking back at all the work that went into this thing, I’ve decided to do a little post-mortem, to give you some information and a look into how I created it.

IN THE BEGINNING:
Everything starts with an idea. Black Hole Ghost is the combination of two separate ideas from my first year of college, 3 years ago. I had just finished a lousy stop-motion thing called Godzilla Vs the Zoids, which was clearly just an excuse to set a couple model houses on fire. But doing stop-motion for the first time inspired me, and I started thinking of doing another project, one with live actors, in black and white. My favorite film (which I just finished writing a paper on) is Pi, and so that served as my basic framework and influence. I wanted to do a story about a hacker who gets in over her head and starts being attacked by ghosts. That was literally it, I never really tried expanding upon it.

It never happened, obviously.

A little while later, I got a new idea. I wanted to do a sort of photography project, pictures with journal entries, about a girl who starts dreaming about her doppelganger and so decides to hunt it down to kill it before it finds and kills her. Nothing too outrageous.

The only link between these two projects was that I wanted Sierra, who plays Gemini and her Ghost in BHG, involved. She IS a Gemini, oddly enough.

PRE-PRODUCTION:
Fast-forward to this semester, I’m in a class called Film & Animation, and we have to do a solo project and/or an animation. Either just a short animation to stick into a live-action production, or an entire animated short. I went digging through old notes and found the stuff I had scribbled down for those two ideas, and somehow came to merge them into one thing after asking, “what if you see your own ghost?” Writing the screenplay took very little time, especially after my friend Shannon pulled me out of a mental block by pointing out to me that the answer I needed was already right there in the script, as well as citing Pi. I kept it simple, deciding to go the silent film route not only to give it another unique layer, but also because I had no clue how to record dialogue that didn’t sound crappy and unprofessional, as well as knowing that trying to sync audio would be difficult. I kept the entire thing in one location, my apartment, for ease of shooting. I finished it up, got in touch with Sierra, worked out the storyboards, and that was all there was to it.

SHOOTING:
Using my roommate’s camera made everything so easy, almost criminally simple. I spent an afternoon shooting Sierra in the apartment, learning the ins and outs of the camera as well as settling into a groove in working with her. We got quite a bit done, but the footage had to be tossed because Sierra cut her bangs, and the inconsistency would’ve been way too blatant. I also realized that I had shot her in one shirt towards the end, and in the next scene after passing out, she was supposed to be in a different shirt. Rather than reshoot the scene using the proper shirt like any reasonable man would do, I just wrote an entirely different scene, the one in which she undresses, takes a bath, then puts on the right shirt before encountering her Ghost. This worked beautifully, because I love how she looks at herself in the mirror wearily RIGHT BEFORE seeing her Ghost. It also lengthened the film a little bit, as I was afraid it would come out too short. We wrapped up shooting EVERYTHING involving Sierra in a mere two days of work. Shots of the ghosts were done later, and in one case, the screaming face towards the end, I just had my friend AJ send me a couple photos of himself screaming. Convenient, considering the man lives in Texas, yes?  I played the ghost in the bathtub because I knew of no one else willing to strip down to their boxers and sit in a half-full bathtub. Believe me, it was uncomfortable. I suffer for my art, you see.

POST-PRODUCTION:

This is where the bulk of my time was spent in and out of class. First off, the entire thing was shot in color, so I had to take over 1800 images and convert them to black and white in batches of 200 or so using Photoshop’s Automate function. I also spent a lot of time tweaking the brightness and contrast values in smaller batches, again, wanting this to look similar to the way Pi did. I could’ve just loaded it all into iMovie and convert it to black and white at once, but I wouldn’t have been able to play with the contrast and such the way I wanted to.
Then came working on the ghosts. Every ghost has a horizontal static filter laid over them in Photoshop, and in 90% of the shots, the actors had to be cut from their images and pasted into shots with Sierra in them, except for the times I forgot to shoot a background. For instance, in her first appearance, the Ghost is sitting in the office chair and is completely solid until she gets up. Never using a tripod made things difficult, too. I learned quickly to love the Quick Mask mode, though I was pretty sloppy. I wanted it to look primitive, and it shows with some places where I either didn’t cut close enough or cut too close to the ghosts. All that static, and the transparency flickering in and out for all but a few shots of Sierra as the Ghost and the shots of me in the bathtub kind of cover those ragged bits up though. Still, it was time consuming, editing the ghosts into shots one frame at a time. Having them flicker on and off screen was both for convenience (less work to do) and as a nice, creepy effect.

EDITING:
Getting all the shots in proper order was a pain, but getting it at the right speed was moreso. iMovie refused to set the individual frames at the speed I wanted them to be, so I had to settle for everything moving at a Speedy Gonzalez pace first. I edited it in batches of 200-300 images, saved them as individual video files, then loaded them back into iMovie, where I stitched them all together, then isolated segments and slowed them down manually. I had help from Ryan, one of the ghosts, in determining the amount of time the title cards should stay up on screen in order to be read clearly and without really rushing it. It is a bit too wordy in some places, but I was afraid that if I didn’t explain much of what was going on, none of it would make sense. Finally, I worked on getting the proper aged film effect going. Still a bit too staticky, but it still looks good.

MUSIC:
Arg. I decided to do the music myself, because I am a masochist. I knew literally nothing about Garage Band, the program on the Macs in the computer lab, and while I can play guitar and bass, I have no understanding of playing a keyboard and only a rough intuitive idea of what sounds good and what doesn‘t. And yet I did not let that stop me. A number of the tracks feel shoehorned in, but I think that also adds to the feeling that this is like a “rediscovered” silent film. The visuals are rather choppy, so why not make the audio a bit choppy too? I really just picked from all kinds of synthesizer options with names like Constellation, Ominous Dancefloor, and Metropolis (which is coincidentally a masterpiece silent sci fi film from the twenties!) and just pressed one or two keys at a time. The ominous, ambient intro? Me pressing down on one key, holding it the entire time, then pressing on the key next to it for a short while. Seeing as how he had four separate appearances, I did a little 4-note thing for the Man in Black and decided to stick to those four notes to do variations of for his subsequent appearances, sort of like a theme. Except his second appearance, which is only 3 of those notes because I’m an idiot. Oh well. Each track was only one or two layers of sound. I just wanted creepy, artificial, ethereal stuff, very much like the soundtracks to the Metroid videogames and Clint Mansell‘s score for Pi, and I think I succeeded.

AFTERTHOUGHTS:
I still feel weird about the title. I also don’t know if the “voice” of the title cards really matches with Sierra’s performance, probably because I only hear it in my voice because I was the one who wrote it all. Maybe I could’ve gotten Sierra to help out with that, but I was asking enough of her as it was and didn’t have that much time anyway. You know, apart from it being a requirement, animating the ghosts themselves, and the uncomfortable, jerky effect it has, there was no real reason for this to be stop-motion animated. It was just how I always envisioned the thing. Some shots are still too brief for my tastes and I wish I could‘ve shot a little bit more to give it a little bit more length. The pacing feels a bit too quick. You can tell in the close-up of her typing that the laptop is still just on the desktop, but she really is typing something specific which I TOLD her to type, not just random stuff. There are other inconsistencies, too, like a bracelet she had.
If I were doing it as a comic drawn myself, the Ghost would’ve been fully nude, to further emphasize the fact that she is the id to Gemini‘s ego, completely open and unrestrained, hiding nothing. The bathtub ghost probably would have been too, because I am an equal opportunist when it comes to nudity in art. Nevertheless, I think Sierra did a fantastic job in portraying Gemini and the Ghost, and I feel we really succeeded in contrasting the quiet, weary hacker and her wilder, more emotional and animated ghost. I’m still not sure why I insisted on Gemini never removing her goggles (even in the bathtub), what importance they were to her, aside from how they looked cool and further contrasted her with the Ghost. I guess the meaning of those goggles is just something for viewers to speculate about. If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them.

It was time-consuming, painful work, but I’m proud of what I’ve made and would love to do something similar again…just uh, not any time soon…

[Brett]

Jammin'

So yesterday was my first roller derby experience, and it was quite awesome. Of course, how can a gang of chicks on rollerskates slamming into each other repeatedly NOT be awesome? Our friend Shannon, aka Big Daddy Voodoo, was one of the announcers, and did a fantastic job. It's a lot more exciting than any other sport I've attended, and brought back memories of getting knocked around left and right during soccer. Vicious stuff, highly recommended.

So! Projects. I finally finished the Student Entries poster for SOAPIFF, and I am quite proud of it. It's going on the website um, eventually, but here's the final product:

Much thanks to my comrade AJ for allowing me to use his face. Actually, the photo is MEANT to be in Black Hole Ghost, and will be seen in that, but it works well for this, don't you think? Also makes a good Godzilla reference without overtly showing it.

Speaking of which, Black Hole Ghost is completely finished with the exception of MUSIC. Which I'm currently doing myself using GarageBand and a USB keyboard. With all the crazy options in that program, it is way too bloody easy to make really bad synthesizer music out of a bad old videogame or a bad sci fi film. It brings to memory the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode where they watch Pod People.

Point being: The soundtrack to Black Hole Ghost MIGHT sound like a bad 70's sci fi film. I'm trying my best for it NOT to, but you know.

HOWEVER, I have to do a "Machinima" in Second Life, which is to say, I use a program to record my actions in Second Life, load it into an editing program, and produce an animation. So I will doing an infomercial about...THE FUTURE. With aliens, UFOs, robots, and other fun stuff. And for that, I WILL do really bad 70's sci fi synthesizer crap. So yay!

No I do not know how to play a keyboard. Yes, this makes it more fun.

Now, food. AWAY.

[Brett]

Like you never had wings.

Hello there. It's been a while.

I suppose some of you are eager to find out what's been going on, huh? Well, let's start with the bad news: I failed Works in Progress. Again. This makes two strikes, one more and it's bye-bye BFA. What's troubling is that practically everyone else failed it as well. I only know of maybe two people who passed. TWO. Out of like, twenty or something! I've heard they had to buckle down more because people were graduating through the BFA program that didn't really deserve to, but isn't this a bit of an overkill? I don't know. You can speculate all you want, I'm sick of thinking about it. My plan is just to work my arse off this summer to have a brand new portfolio to show next semester. And if I fail again? I'll hopefully still be able to graduate on time with a BA after getting a couple semesters of Spanish out of the way.

And now on to more pleasant things.

REJOICE! For the editing of Black Hole Ghost is completed! I just need to cut together the final credits, finangle around with it to get the right old-fashioned film look I want, and add music. Then I will throw the thing online and we will all celebrate and you will love me. And I made this for it, or well, for a gallery/temple I'm creating in Second Life:


I love that shot, for some reason.

I've done other, similar pieces for the gallery/temple. I'll be putting them up, along with screenshots of the place itself, in a new gallery once it's all done with.

In Typography, my Flash animation of the lyrics to Dance Commander went over quite well. I MIGHT put it on Youtube, if I can figure out how. No telling whether I'll really bother or not.

I am also working on a pair of poster designs. A Call for Student Entries poster for the Southern Appalachain International Film Festival, which will go on their website, and one for the Knoxville Horror Film Fest, which may not even get used. But at this point, I'm getting pretty bloody used to rejection, y'know?


Isn't this one of the greatest book covers ever? And it's EXACTLY how I pictured Palmer Eldritch when I was reading my own copy, except for the wings, but those are just sweet. I'm posting it because, well, for one it's pretty awesome, and for two, I just came off of another of my Philip K. Dick kicks. See, I read a huge chunk of his work back to back, burn out, read something else, then head back, and this is my third burnout phase. I finished Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and while I still have FIVE more novels of his to read through, I also picked up a collection of 21 of his short stories, read a few of those, and read a bunch of stuff about him online, as well as worked about halfway through an essay of his entitled How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later.

I guess that, as much as I read of his stuff, as fascinated as I am by him, that PKD is one of my favorite authors. He's certainly not the best, and his works are all quite flawed: the main characters are almost always some kind of blue-collar everyman, the women deceptive, his dialogue is weak, there's little sense of urgency, no real climax or third act, things just kind of end. Not to mention they almost all deal with the same themes of the questioning of reality and paranoia. But I keep reading his works because they're so weird, and have this almost David Lynch, Twin Peaks feel to them. I wish I could explain it better, but I'm not sure I can.

But alas, I'm burnt out again, and because I read William Gibson's classic Neuromancer during my last break, I'm borrowing my girlfriend's copy of Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson. She claims it's a parody of Neuromancer, as well as one of the major inspirations for the creators of Second Life. Not too far into it, but it is both hilarious and awesome, and I am loving it.


Also, sloths are adorable. And always smiling. I'm planning on doing a lot of drawings and paintings and stuff of them during the summer, for that portfolio.

And that's all there is tonight.

[Brett]

Dance, monkey, dance!

So today I take Works in Progress. I took it last semester and failed utterly, so now I'm on attempt number 2. I'm feeling more confident this time around because I've really gone over my portfolio, I know what to talk about with each piece if I am asked, and I've practiced with my girlfriend. I also think I've made a lot of leaps and strides since I failed it last semester. Nothing like failure to wake you up, huh?

I'm still worried, though. I'm still concerned. My girlfriend goes in before I do. We'll see what happens.

IN OTHER, LIGHTER NEWS!

Our group project for the film and animation class is completed and uploaded to Youtube. It is simply one of the greatest things you will ever see. Our friend Joseph put on a gorilla mask and danced around campus and downtown to the happiest song ever, Tunak Tunak Tun. Give it a watch:

Also, I've ditched the song from the previous blog in exchange for Dance Commander, by Electric Six, also known as the greatest song ever. So I had to start a new Flash animation from scratch. I still know next to nothing about this program, but I'm making progress.

That's all for now. COMMENT ON MY DANCING GORILLA VIDEO!

[Brett]

The Virgin Child Makes Her Wish Withot Feeling Anything

Heh. This is more for my own use than anything else. In Typography, we have to do a text animation set to music, and so I finally decided on this song from the videogame No More Heroes, sung by Dr Peace, the second boss of the game. I'm posting the lyrics for my own reference, and I'll post the song and the cutscene it's from, also:

Despair, the end of the world
I hear the rising phoenix in my dream
And the virgin child made her wish upon a star
That night her mother talks no more
Cape of Hope, the end of the dream
A shiny fish splashes in a stream
And the virgin child loses´╗┐ her heart and soul
That night her mother's eyes see no more
When the wind blows
The virgin child's corpse sings a song
Such a pretty melody, never heard before
No more lullabies
The virgin child smiles from Hell

The song itself:


And the cutscene its from (NSFW due to language?):


I could write pages on why I love this game and its sequel, but lets not worry about that right now. Back to work.

I'm a scary gargoyle on a tower.

No I'm not.

I finally picked up the new Gorillaz album, Plastic Beach, on Monday, and I've been listening to it every chance I can in the car. I haven't made a final decision on my opinion of it, but it's still very good. Has a very wet, summertime, floating in the ocean feel to it, which contrasts with the ugly weather we've been having lately. I mean, it snowed on...was it Monday or Tuesday? Then it got bright and sunny on Wednesday. Then it got cold and rainy, and there it stays. Schizophrenic weather is schizophrenic.

So here's how things have been since my last blog update. Over the weekend, my girlfriend and I went to the Biltmore with free tickets from my parents. It was a lovely day for it, and a good trip. Afterwards we wandered Asheville and I bought some older Japanese manga called Pixy Junket, made by an artist known simply as Pure.

Last night we invited some friends over and watched Black Dynamite, which is utterly hilarious. Not world-changing by any means, but still crazy entertaining. We also watched a DVD of Eddie Izzard's standup.

Aaaaannnnnddd as far as work goes, I've uploaded sketches and stuff to the galleries and fixed page 2 of the Ezra Neuro comic, so give those a look. Also you may notice a new page for Black Hole Ghost.

You wanna know what's there? A TRAILER. A TRAILER FOR BLACK HOLE GHOST.

Oh fine, I'm sure you're too lazy to click away from this here blog to watch it, so I'll embed it:

Now, let me also show you a MUCH BETTER TRAILER for the Scott Pilgrim movie! I'm afraid to admit how many times I've watched it. I cannot wait:

Um. Let's see, what else. Here's what I've been working on in Computer Art and Design. A horrifying skin for my Second Life avatar:

Um...Yeah.

I recently accidently kind of sort of destroyed our glass coffee table in our apartment. Because I was sitting on it like a moron. BUT I used the frame and some glass shards for Typography!

See? I am creator AND destroyer.

Um. That's all I've got. UNTIL NEXT TIME!

[Brett]

We are on the brink, of awesomeness.

So in case you haven't noticed, I put up my 5-page Ezra Neuro comic this morning for your free consumption and enjoyment. Drawn in 4 days with the story formulating panel by panel, it is an exercise in near-stream-of-consciousness artistic madness. "What should happen next? OF COURSE, a giant slug monster bursts out of the tower's stomach!" It is also me testing the waters of an entirely new style, one with several influences merged into...well, that. Go read it right now if you haven't already done so.

This week has proven insanely productive.

So we shot the majority of the script for Black Hole Ghost on Wednesday, including reshooting just about everything from Monday because Sierra cut her bangs. Arg. But no, things went really great. I've spent hours and hours converting the over 1200 pictures to black and white and messing with the contrast and brightness to get it all looking just the way I want it to...which is very much like Pi. I guess I'll be giving that film a Special Thanks credit.

Anyways, here's a couple shots to whet your appetite. The first is of my roommate, CJ, who plays the Man in Black, the third primary character of the project:

And here's a shot of Sierra as Gemini, looking into the mirror just before things get crazy:

We finish shooting on Monday, then I have to get some friends together to play ghosts. I'll be playing one, too. Then we edit, add music, finalize, and it will be DONE.

I am excited.

Um, I think that's about it. I've more finangling around to do with the pictures, Photoshopping and whatnot.

Until next time, yo.

[Brett]

Black Hole Ghost

This is Sierra. I have known her since, like, senior year of high school. She has sort of become my go-to model from time to time, and who knows how many times I've drawn her. She also has several pieces of my art.

A few years ago, after doing a crappy stop-motion video of my Godzilla action figure and a couple Zoids models smashing up and setting fire to two model houses put together in highschool art class, I wanted to play more with stop-motion. Specifically, I wanted to do something with live actors and/or actresses. Specifically, Sierra. I knew it would be in black and white, and I wanted Sierra to be a hacker who starts getting haunted by ghosts.

It never happened.

A little while later, I got a completely DIFFERENT idea, more of a photography thing, about a girl searching for and confronting her own doppelganger. Again, I had Sierra, who happens to be a Gemini, in mind. But that never happened either.

Flash forward to this semester, and I'm in a film and animation class. We have to do a large solo project, and something involving animation, so I started thinking, and dug up the two aforementioned old ideas. And then I promptly fused them. Once more, I had one person in mind to play the lead girl and her doppelganger/ghost, and that had to be Sierra. Especially because I don't really know anyone else with the patience to do stop-motion animation and who is willing and trusting enough to follow me through my crazy ideas.

So the short live action stop-motion animated silent black and white cyberpunk thing is called Black Hole Ghost, and we started shooting today. YAY PROGRESS! The photo above is a shot I took and manipulated in Photoshop to get an idea of how I want it to look. Which is, like Pi. In stop-motion. Because Pi is my favorite movie.

Speaking of which! Yesterday was Pi Day. So we watched Pi last night, my girlfriend and I. Any excuse to watch my favorite movie is a good one.

[Brett]

And we are now ready to begin the test proper.

And Animated Trigger is now officially up and running. Paid my bills, made a (somewhat lousy) banner, and we are good to go. So let's consider this the first official blog post, eh?

Hi, my name is Brett Marcus Cook. If you're reading this, there's a decent possibility that you already know who I am. For those of you who don't, I am a graphic design student at East Tennessee State University. I am an artist and designer, and I wish to be professionally writing and drawing comics in the future. We'll see how well that pans out, huh?

I've needed a website for a while now. In my graphic design workshop class, we were given the opportunity to put one together as a project as part of our grade, so I jumped at the situation, then quickly stumbled and fell because Dreamweaver is bloody retarded and only disturbed masochists use straight HTML coding these days. Thank the gods for my friend Shannon, who recommended Squarespace to me. I wanted to have a website built and up and running before my spring break came to an end, and it seems I am successful!

This is the first step to unlocking greatness, right? Having my own website? Anyways, I'll try to make semi-regular updates here, but considering how busy I am most of the time, I can't make any promises.

So! Stuff and things:

Over this Spring Break in which I made this here website, I also penciled and inked a 5 page comic starring the girl in the previous blog entry (who is also in my gallery), named Ezra Neuro. It's a crazy thing, with a giant slug monster, a fire-breathing bag, and a hot tub. I'll be scanning it in this weekend and coloring it, in the hopes of getting it online next week! I'm excited for this, because as you can see, the last comic I really drew to completion is that 12-page mess, Dream Dive, which is also on this site. And I drew that back in what, 2007? Criminy, it's time to up the ante finally!

Anyways, this comic will be the start of some new stuff I'm gonna be doing. So, you know, don't go anywhere or you might miss out!

In other news, I recently finished reading Neuromancer, which is a most excellent novel, highly recommended. With that out of the way, I have dived into Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, which so far is basically nothing like the film adaptation, Blade Runner. It's better. Of course, the book always is, isn't it? And I'm slowly reading through From Hell, Alan Moore and Eddy Campbell's epic tome about Jack the Ripper. Dense stuff.

Also replaying No More Heroes 2, which so far is my personal videogame of the year.

...And um, that's about it. I have to finish a paper on the cinematography of the film Avalon. Um, the Polish/Japanese production, directed by Mamoru Oshii, not that other one that I know nothing about. Nevermind. AWAY.

[Brett]

In the beginning...

I, Brett Cook, artist extraordinaire and modern day renaissance man, am trying like heck to make a bloody webpage. This is all I have so far. BUT FEAR NOT! There will be content! Um, eventually.

Page 1 ... 19 20 21 22 23