Friday, 25 November 2016

Monday, 14 November 2016

Online Tut. Digital Sets 1: Part 1 - Modeling

Old Alley Set
Lamp Post
Slats and corner-post for Crates

Online Tut. Modelling 2: Hard Surface Modelling

Online Tut. Intro to Maya: Animation Part 4 - Dynamics

I attempted to create the (unexplained) texture Alan used in his render. However I found NURBs surfaces have a fun habit of creating a separate instance of a texture on each segment. So this was the best I could get from playing around with Mental Ray textures which weren't causing the same issue as the blinn. For some reason though a red element crept in that I couldn't find a way to remove.

Online Tut. Intro to Maya: Animation Part 3: Using MEL

Online Tut. Intro to Maya: Animation Part 2 - Using Motion Paths

Online Tut. Intro to Maya: Animation Part 1 - Using Rigs

Friday, 28 October 2016

Sixth Life Drawing Session

15 min (acrylic spray + torn stencil and pastel)

30 seconds - 4 minutes (pen and graphite)

30 minutes (pastel)

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Film Review: How Kubrick defied Space Opera with a ballet - 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick (1968)

Fig. 1 2001: a space odyssey (1968)

Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)(see fig.1.) is a seminal cinematic work, a thought experiment, a choreographed dance, an introspective contemplation of humanity, a cautionary tale, a film about how we watch films - "...a mise en abyme wherein the viewer is finally meant to perceive no more or less than his or her own act of perception." (Rowe, 2013:44). Putting aside any subjective significance that can be and has been attached to it, it is a masterful representation of a truly realistic ideation of space travel in our near future; it's aesthetic, and even it's soundscape, deeply underscored by scientific principles. It proceeds in a rhythmic fashion, punctuated by repeating motifs, both visual and audial, and Kubrick's trademark one point perspectives.

2001 is a film of three parts. It tells the not inconsiderable tale of our species' evolution. The first act is retrospective, showing us our ancestors, primitive apes in a stricken landscape, squabbling over water, before being confronted by a black slab - a monolith. This seems to trigger a change in the apes in which they 'discover' the concept of weaponry and use it to dominate a competing family of apes - the advent of human innovation. The plot then snaps to, presumably, 2001 where we follow a Dr. Haywood Floyd as he makes his way to an excavation site on the moon via a series of choreographed space-flights, ultimately resulting in our second encounter with the monolith. The plot then forwards again, a mere 18 months this time,  to follow the events aboard the spacecraft 'Discovery' which is on a mission to Jupiter. Aboard the spacecraft are five astronauts - three in cryogenic sleep, two awake to manage the mission - and the HAL 9000 computer, an AI, considered a member of the crew, who governs the ship. HAL is meant to be infallible, and indeed all confidence in the mission is reliant upon his infallibility, so when he not only makes a mistake, but denies doing so, the two functioning astronauts, Dr. David Bowman and Dr. Frank Poole, secretly plot to deactivate him. HAL, attempting to preserve himself, sets Frank adrift in space without an air supply and murders the three astronauts in stasis whilst Dave is attempting to rescue Frank. Upon returning to the ship, Dave is denied entry by HAL, forcing him to risk his life manually breaching the hull. He then goes about deactivating HAL, node by node, as HAL pleads with him for his life. In doing so, a video message is activated revealing the true nature of the mission to Jupiter - to seek out alien life on the basis of a powerful signal emitted by the monolith. As Discovery nears Jupiter, the monolith appears again in outer space. Dave takes a space shuttle into/through the monolith, passing through a psychedelically visualised 'star-gate' before arriving in an otherworldly luxury apartment, in which he skips through stages of aging before being reborn as a celestial foetus (see fig.2.).

Fig. 2 (1968) The celestial foetus
The opening scene of 2001 drops its audience into a black cinematic void of contemplation haunted by an unerringly sinister tone, which slowly fades in and out, subtly fluctuating and building before suddenly dropping out to a low thrum that becomes Richard Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra (1896). Zarathustra is used to signify momentous, transcendent events throughout the film - first heard in the opening of the film in the establishing shot of the moon, earth, and sun in perfect alignment (see fig. 3.). The alignment of planetary bodies has been held to be portentous by multiple cultures throughout human history, and by subtly including this astrological implication, Kubrick associates a prophetic element to the Strauss piece without damaging the credibility of the scientific roots of the film.
The original score composed by Alex North was actually abandoned by Kubrick in favour of established classical and orchestral works, which had initially only been intended as guide pieces (LoBrutto, 1998:308)(Mcquiston, 2011:151). Kubrick didn't hesitate to design and alter segments of the film to fit the length of the classical and orchestral pieces he chose. He considered it essential in order to sustain select moods at distinct points of the narrative (Mcquiston, 2011:152).
Notably, Kubrick made use of several works by György Ligeti. In stark contrast to the majesty of the more classical works employed in the score, the more contemporary works of Ligeti are jarring, making heavy use of dissonance and ear-splitting crescendos.Their dissonance is used in the context of the air of the 'alien other' that surrounds the Monolith, repeatedly throughout the film to build tension, not necessarily with sinister intent, but more to signal an impending disruption of our, and the character's, expectations.

Fig. 3 (1968) Opening Shot
The manner in which Kubrick lavished the grand orchestral score upon 2001 makes the moments of the film in which it is absent truly compelling. The score so engrosses the audience in the majesty of the spectacle they are witnessing that Kubrick was able to use it's complete absence to powerful effect - most notably in the space walking scenes, where the score is substituted simply by breathing, as though the audience themselves are inside the space suit, encompassed by the immense silence of space. More startling still, is that this is achieved from a 3rd person perspective as we watch from a distance - the atmospheric impact of hearing nothing but the astronaut's breathing generates an extraordinary degree of empathy that has no right succeeding without the 1st person viewpoint that should accompany it, yet the audial impact of being severed from the grandeur of the score manages to situate the audience in two separate perspectives - they are simultaneously both the astronaut, and the audience.
Similarly, the manner HAL murders the three astronauts in stasis is made truly chilling by both the speed the absolute silence (save for the machine hum of Discovery) in which it occurs. The film progresses at a sedate pace, uses minimal dialogue, and never presents a compelling human protagonist with whom the audience empathises. Instead it is the score that drives our emotional response and investment, and in divesting the murder scene of any emotional stimuli, the murders conveyed through nothing more than medical diagnostic devices, HAL is made truly monstrous to us, abhorrent, inhuman (Pezzotta, 2012:59).

What is really happening though when the film lashes out with silence? It's impact does not derive solely from the absence of the score itself, but by what the score has built. 2001 is balletic throughout. Kubrick makes heavy uses of grand panning shots of the variety of spacecraft in the film as they pirouette through the void, elevating even landing sequences to sophisticated choreographed pieces, toying with graceful otherworldly motions only possible in 0G. The score doesn't merely reinforce this sense of dance, but imposes it upon you quite literally by making heavy use of The Blue Danube (1866) a waltz composed by Johann Strauss, and Aram Khachaturian's Gayane Ballet Suite (1939) (Pezzotta, 2012:53). Even within the interiors of the spacecraft the dance is present. "The gracefulness and weightlessness that are usually the attributes of dance also characterize the first scenes set inside the centrifuge of Discovery." "Their movements and those of the camera and the rotation of the centrifuge, accompanied by the Adagio from Aram Khatchaturian’s Gayaneh ballet suite, are like an acrobatic ballet in which the dancers challenge the weight of their bodies, in which the set slowly rotates to follow their choreography." (Pezzotta, 2012:54)(see fig.4.). As such, whenever silence is employed, the audience sits up and pays attention not merely because the score is absent, but because the dance has paused, it has well and truly ground to halt and there is no clear reason why yet - this in itself creates a narrative dissonance.

Fig. 4 (1968) Interior of Discovery 
This balletic portrayal of space only becomes plausible however due to Kubrick's dedication to replicating the underlying technical principles behind space travel as laid out in Arthur C. Clarke's original novel - who himself paid great attention to the physical realities and problems posed by a realistic vision of space travel.

"The equatorial region of the pressure-sphere – the slice, as it were, from Capricorn to Cancer –
enclosed a slowly-rotating drum, thirty-five feet in diameter. As it made one revolution every ten
seconds, this carousel or centrifuge produced an artificial gravity equal to that of the Moon." (Clarke 1968: 113)

This principle of centrifugal force is a key consideration where application of REALISTIC artificial gravity is concerned. Space Operas have traditionally ignored, and continue to completely ignore the practical design issues space travel would actually pose - beyond the occasional Red-shirt being sucked out into space. Instead audiences are often treated to sci-fi in which spacecraft can just magically stick their occupants to the floor, totally violating our real-world understanding of the laws of physics. In this reviewer's opinion, films that actually design for the issues of space-travel are far more compelling as they do not require their audience to suspend their disbelief to such an extent - what they are being shown is not mere fantasy, it is legitimately viable. More recently, Neill Blomkamp's Elysium (2013) showcased the principal to stunning visual effect, and on a grand scale, with the toroidal design of the luxury space-station Elysium (see fig.BLAH) - every detail was considered as opposed to being simply conjured out of convenience. Elysium was surely inspired by 2001 in this regard.

Fig. 5 (2013) Exterior of the Elysium space station

The detailed considerations of the limitations of space-travel are the perfect complement to Kubrick's tendency toward single point perspective camera shots. Both the interior of the Space-station we encounter on Dr. Floyd's journey to the moon, and the main living space of the Discovery spacecraft conform to the centrifugal design, which combined with Kubrick's signature shot simulates an almost hyperreal experience as the environment curves both away from, and toward the audience on all sides. Other exemplars of the single point perspective twinned with the considerations of 0G are; the scene in which the space-airliner hostess turns and slowly walks herself up the cylindrical wall and onto what we would perceive to be the ceiling, before walking into the pilot's cabin; when Frank is shown spiraling helplessly into outer-space; and most interestingly, to simulate claustrophobia as the camera follows Dave in his space-suit as he exits Discovery (see fig.6.).

Fig. 6 (1968) One point perspective shot of Dave exiting Discovery
The final scenes unmask the philosophical nature of the film's narrative. Upon reaching Jupiter and passing through the monolith, Dave is catapulted through a chaotic and seemingly infinite kaleidoscope of time and space, only to find himself alone in a place that is both without a sense of time or space. He is shown the full extent of his own mortality before yet again encountering the monolith, whereupon he is reborn, transcending his human state, into a celestial being. Our initial evolutionary moment in 2001 is shown to be when our ape ancestors invent the concept of tools, specifically weaponry, propelled by competition over resources, and resulting in acts of incredible violence. This is a sad commentary on essentially the entirety of human history. Kubrick holds us up against our furthest direct ancestor as if asking 'What's changed?'. The origins of our space programs are rooted firmly in military advancement, driven by callous greed, driven by the question of 'How can we better kill our fellow man?'. No modern space rocket would exist without the V-2 missile, a Nazi super weapon developed in the spirit of vengeance with the specific intent of inspiring existential terror in the Allied peoples. So when the narrative suddenly jumps forwards to a glorious future of space travel, there is almost something sickening about the achingly beautiful scenes of space-craft pirouetting amidst the stars, because this space-ballet exists as a result of aeons of incredible violence, made even more poignant by the sedate, hate-free manner in which HAL murders the astronauts in statis, and Dave in turn clinically murders HAL. As a result however, the final scene ultimately twists 2001 into a tale of extraordinary optimism; that humanity can eventually transcend its flawed nature, that there is light at the end of the tunnel of human advancement, not death and destruction.

Kubrick's vision absolutely ignores the cinematic convention of the time. Minimal dialogue and his use of score to drive narrative and control the delivery of its visual experience was not some backpedaling homage to the silent film, but an insistence that film is not an extension of the stage play (Pezzotta, 2012:52,58-59). It's narrative challenges audience perceptions of monstrosity, humanity, gravity, even violence, and ultimately questions our purpose and place in the universe. It is a profoundly beautiful film whose age only shows in its wardrobe, and can only go unappreciated if its audience actively renders themselves incapable of intelligent thought.


Clarke, A. C. (1968). 2001: A Space Odyssey. London: Arrow Books.

LoBrutto, Vincent (1998). Stanley Kubrick. London: Faber and Faber.

McQuiston, Kate (2011) '"An effort to decide": More Research into Kubrick's Music Choices for 2001: A Space Odyssey' In: Journal of Film Music, The 3 (2) pp. 145-154

Pezzotta, Elisa (2012) 'The metaphor of dance in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket' In: Journal of Adaptation in Film & Performance 5 (1) pp.54-64

Rowe, Christopher (2013) 'The Romantic Model of "2001: A Space Odyssey"' In: Canadian Journal of Film Studies = Revue canadienne d'études cinematographiques 22 (2) pp.41-63

List of Illustrations

Figure 1. 2001: a space odyssey (1968) [Poster] At: (Accessed on 23.10.16)

Figure 2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) [Film Still: The celestial foetus] At:

Figure 3. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) [Film Still: Opening Shot] At: (Accessed on 17.10.16)

Figure 4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) [Film Still: Interior of Discovery] At: (Accessed 23.10.16)

Figure 5. Elysium (2013) [Film Still: Exterior of the Elysium space station] At: (Accessed on 15.10.16)

Figure 6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) [Film Still: One point perspective shot of Dave exiting Discovery] At: (Accessed on 15.10.16)

Friday, 21 October 2016

Crit Addendum

Reflection on Invisible Cities

The Invisible Cities Project challenged me beyond my expectations. I got to a point where I didn't think I would be able to achieve the brief due to the extent I have struggled with painting digitally within any reasonable span of time.

Having actually pushed myself to finish it though I am elated. I always have sttong ideas in my mind of exactly how I want something to look, feel, etc, which is part of what makes my workflow so slow. I simply haven't had the practice yet to achieve what's in my head. However, since I had to just surrender the absolute control I wanted, I am surprised to find that my resultant work is entirely unexpected, in a way that I'm actually happy with and I can actually paint something decent without spending eternity on it. I would have wanted to spend far, far more time on them had there not been the constraint, and I'm glad I didn't, because otherwise, to me at least, my work would have been predictable.

I am however looking forward to the next project resetting everything, as I now have much clearer and realistic ideas on how to manage my workload and actually maybe enjoy having to be so busy.

Invisible Cities - Art of: Ersilia

Invisible Cities - Crit Presentation

Animated GIFs of Final Paintings

Exterior Shot Build Up

Low Angle Exterior Shot Build Up
Interior Establishing Shot Build Up

Ersilia - Final Concept Paintings

Final Exterior Establishing Shot

Final Low Angle Shot
Final Interior Establishing Shot

Invisible Cities - Ersilia Supporting Research

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Fifth Life Drawing Session

Turn around warmup - 5 minutes per (Pastel)
1 Minute Poses (Pastel)
30 Minute Study (Pastel)

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Online Tut. Introduction to Autodesk Maya: Animating in 3D Software

Quick demo of animating 3 balls through use of keyframes + graph editor, scripting, and physics simulation + baked keyframes (left to right).

Film Review - King Kong, Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack (1933)

Fig. 1. King Kong (1933)
Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack's King Kong (1933)(see fig.1.) has been remade twice, and inspired four existing spin-off films, with two more films starring the monstrous ape in the production pipeline for 2017 and 2020 respectively (LEGENDARY, 2015). It birthed an enduring fascination with monster movies, laying the foundation for films like Ishirō Honda's Godzilla (1954), Matt Reeves' Cloverfield (2008), and Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park (1993). The latter even makes a direct nod to King Kong in its sequel when a T-Rex is brought back to San Diego with disastrous consequences.

King Kong follows the events surrounding Carl Denhem's - a film director - disastrous voyage to Skull Island. On Skull Island Denhem and the crew he has hired are assailed by a native tribe, who kidnap his leading lady - Ann Darrow, and offer her up as sacrifice to a monstrously huge ape who happens to have a penchant for women, specifically blondes. The crew are then brutalised by other giant monsters, ranging from dinosaurs, to giant lizards, to Nessie, who inhabit the island, as they attempt to rescue her. The first mate and Ann's love interest - Jack Driscoll, manages to single handedly rescue her. As the surviving crew flee the island, Denham is able to subdue Kong, and so takes the beast back to New York, as an attraction. Kong breaks free and terrorises the city, re-kidnapping Ann, before being shot to death by biplanes as he roars from atop the Empire State Building.

Foreshadowing is used to great effect throughout, mainly through its innovative musical score which, unlike silent films, doesn't simply serve as background music, but moves with the action, underlining the personality of the characters, the tension and drama in specific scenes, building anticipation and adding impact to otherwise unseeming events or actions. Nathan Platte states that, "In the prevailing histories of American film music, the first three notes of Max Steiner’s score for King Kong (1933) bear much weight. As the film’s block-lettered title surges from background to foreground, low brass intone a chromatic descent—B, B-flat, A—each slab of sound foreshadowing the approach of an oversized ape and, ostensibly, an era of original, symphonic underscoring in Hollywood sound film." (Platte, 2014:311). There are other notable elements of foreshadowing. Denham's initial reference to 'Beauty and the Beast' when Ann Darrow states "Ignatz is nice to me too. He likes me better than he does anyone else on board, don't you Iggy?" - Iggy being the ship's capuchin monkey, is an ironic prediction of what is to come. There is also an implication that Denham's sources who exposed the existence of Skull Island died trying to get away from it, and the native's foreboding drumming is heard from the ship before landing as if warning them away.

Figure 2. Close up of Kong eating a native (1933)
A wide variety of animation techniques were used to bring Kong into being. Much of the animation relied upon stop motion with the addition of glass paintings to create layers of destructible midground (Edwards, 2013). These full animation shots were interspersed with 'live' closeup's of mechanised large scale replicas of certain body parts (see fig. 2.), i.e. Kong's head or hand etc., forefathers to the animatronic dinosaurs of Jurassic Park. Roger Ebert explains how "...some live-action scenes were miniaturized to make the Kong model look larger...", and that "...Kong's fur seems to crawl during several scenes; the model was covered with rabbit fur, and the fingers of the stop-action animators disturbed it between every stop-action shot. The effect, explained by the filmmakers as "muscles rippling," is oddly effective." (Ebert, 2002). In spite of the clearly unrealistic animation of Kong and the other creatures of Skull Island, they have been cleverly interwoven with live action in such a way that the audience can accept them as 'real', but due to our rational suspicion of manufactured effects and imagery, the on-screen savagery is made enjoyable due to a still clear detachment from reality (Tuck, 2008:249-250).

Figure 3. Denham saves Ann from a fruit vendor (1933)
"The potency of this adventure-tragedy depends on colonial/minstrel notions of race and gender." (Hairston, 2007:189)

Sadly, King Kong is characterised and indeed reliant upon lashings of the sexist and racist attitudes not atypical at the time of its production (Hairston, 2007:189). The character of Ann Darrow faints dramatically into the arms of Carl Denham within seconds of her introduction on screen, supposedly from the stress of having been caught stealing (see fig. 3.). The only reason why she matters at all is purely because Denham wants a woman in his film as a selling point, the plot immediately stresses that her only worth is as eyecandy and she is shown to be utterly defenseless, weak, and indeed generally hopeless throughout the entirety of the film. Even her love interest with Jack Driscoll serves only to provide a reason for him to be so concerned with rescuing her. Leading up to their kiss he has only had disparaging comments to make concerning her gender, certainly not grounds for an emotional connection, but all it takes for a man to charm a woman they've consistently belittled is a square jaw and clumsy confession, right?

Figure 4. The 'primitive' tribe of Skull Island (1933)
Driscoll's attitude toward Ann primarily seems to change when Denham exposes her to the threat of the 'black other', whereupon he becomes highly protective. Landing on Skull Island, the white crew immediately encounter a black tribal culture (see fig. 4.). There is a clear undertone of the black minstrelsy popular in late 1800s America. They are portrayed as primitive, almost clownish, yet senselessly aggressive, with cultural elements of Aztec religious sacrifice and ritual thrown in which seem to indicate that they have deified Kong. The ship captain handles the exchange as though he was talking to invalids. The leader of the tribe, who is of course very taken by the presence of a blonde, white woman, goes so far as to offer 6 of his 'lesser' black women in exchange and is angered when she is denied to him.

Figure 5. Kong arrives to claim Ann (1933)
In the scene when Ann Darrow is seized by Kong (see fig.5.), Kong doesn't actually pick her up from the sacrificial platform; she dramatically tumbles off of it after freeing herself, before being picked up off of the ground by the beast. Her tumble conveniently removes her from the shot prior to her re-emergence on screen as a stop motion character in Kong's hand, but even this initial transition from live action to animation in the film is reliant upon a perceived 'feminine incompetence' - there is absolutely no reason for her to have feasibly rolled off the platform toward Kong, beyond some tragically inept damsel in distress syndrome that the directors whitewashed the character with.

When speaking on the matter of racial sensitivity regarding the numerous remakes of King Kong Andrea Hairston said, "You may swear that you are not presenting yet another version of black male/gorilla brute who lusts after innocent white womanhood and gets lynched for his audacious passion, but if she's blonde and civilized and he's dark, wild, monstrously violent, and at home in the heart of darkness, when he tumbles a hundred stories to his death once again, you are perpetuating the cultural landscape you claim to abhor." (Hairston, 2007:188). Kong shares many of the qualities of the Skull Islander's themselves and is ultimely rendered as a more primal, more powerful exaggeration of the 'black other'. Indeed there is no rational reason for a Gorilla, 50ft tall or otherwise, to take any interest in a human female of any ethnicity. Why the islander's have been 'sacrificing' women to Kong is a mystery, and the interaction that plays out between Kong and Ann ends up sexual in nature; Kong is fascinated by her femininity, clearly shown in the restored scene where he begins to undress Ann, breathing in the scent of her clothing.

Upon the return to New York, in introducing Kong to the 'civilised' crowd Denham almost takes on the role of slave owner - "He was a king and a god in the world he knew, but now he comes to civilization merely a captive - a show to gratify your curiosity. Ladies and gentlemen, look at Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World." - and when Kong breaks loose, seeking out Darrow, it inevitably results in him being cast down and destroyed by the white man for his transgressions.

Figure 6. Gore Verbinki's portrayal of cannibalistic islanders (2006)
There is much to be enjoyed about King Kong, but this can only be so if the viewer forgives the time period of its production their prejudices. No part of the narrative can be held socially acceptable by modern standards and yet, as Andrea Hairston said, "Whatever else it is, King Kong is an adventure-tragedy of racial/gender identity as constituted in the American, Hollywood, world imagination. This tale, forged in the sexism/racism of its and our time, cannot purge itself of the dramatic basis for the story and remain wildly popular." (Hairston, 2007:188). Although the attitudes shown in Kong no longer hold sway in modern Western societies, films rooted in fiction still continue draw upon themes of the 'alien/black other' and sexism in their characters. Even as recently as 2006, Gore Verbinski's wildly popular Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) made use of a comical version of the 'tribe of black savages' trope (see fig. 6) to hilarious effect, but does prejudice for the sake of plot preclude its abhorrent nature?


Edwards, Graham (2013) How King Kong Was Filmed (Or Not). At: (Accessed on 16.10.16)

Ebert, Roger (2002) Great Movie: King Kong. At: (Accessed on 16.10.16)

Hairston, Andrea (2007) 'Lord of the Monsters: Minstrelsy Redux: King Kong, Hip Hop, and the Brutal Black Buck' In: Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 18 (2) pp.187-199


Platte, Nathan (2014) 'Before Kong Was King: Competing Methods in Hollywood Underscore' In: Journal of the Society for American Music 8 (3) pp.311-337

Tuck, Greg (2008) 'When more is less: CGI, spectacle and the capitalist sublime' In: Science Fiction Film and Television 1 (2) pp.249-273

List of Illustrations

Figure 1. King Kong (1993) [Poster] At: (Accessed on 13.10.16)

Figure 2. King Kong (1933) [Film Still: Close up of King Kong eating a native] At: (Accessed on 16.10.16)

Figure 3. King Kong (1933) [Film Still: Denham saves Ann from a fruit vendor] At: (Accessed on 16.10.16)

Figure 4. King Kong (1933) [Film Still: The 'primitive' tribe of Skull Island] At: (Accessed on 16.10.16)

Figure 5. King Kong (1993) [Film Still: Kong arrives to claim Ann] At: (Accessed on 16.10.16)

Figure 6. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) [Film Still: Gore Verbinki's portrayal of cannibalistic islanders] At: (Accessed on 16.10.16)

Film Review - Metropolis, Fritz Lang (1927)

*Reposting to fix an issue with viewing the original post from 2 weeks ago*

If the transparent amount of effort put into the crystal clear restoration doesn't hint at this film's cinematic relevance, its scope does. In spite of its highly stylised, theatrical sets (exemplary of German Expressionism), the intricately imagined and the vast city of  Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) is truly believable, its cityscape vistas conveying a very strong sense of a massive metropolitan interior (see fig. 1.), used repeatedly to show characters moving great distances across the city. At no point in the film do you see a horizon, or any suggestion of the city's limits. In the viewers mind it is infinite, expanding far beyond the screen; this is one of the first examples of a film that doesn't simply plonk down scenes to tell a story, but builds a world. No expense was spared on the production; although sources disagree on the true total, between 25000 (Ebert, 1998) and 37000 (Hall, 1927) extras were employed in the production of Metropolis in order to truly present a densely populated mega-city.
Fig. 1. Metropolis cityscape (1927)
Bear in mind that Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) was released only 7 years after Robert Wiene's Der Cabinet Des Caligari (1920), born in an era when cinema was still trying to invent itself. The modern equivalent of the difference in scope and world building (in an emerging medium) between Caligari and Metropolis would be the degree of advancement between Namco's Pacman (1980)(see fig. 2.) and Square's Final Fantasy (1987)(see fig. 3.).

Fig. 2. Pacman Arcade Game (1980)
Fig. 3. Final Fantasy for the NES (1987)
Metropolis is both a love story and a tale of social revolt. Grand as it is, there is a sinister duality to the city of Metropolis. The glory of the upper city exists only because of a subterranean worker city, a literal social underclass who slave away, unacknowledged, to support the systems that sustain the city above. It is this class division that drives the dystopian vision behind the film's plot and over the course of the film we witness the workers ruinously rise up to overthrow the ruling class of the wealthy upper city. We discover the existence of this underclass vicariously through the experiences of Freder Frederson, the son of the city's creator, and who at the beginning of the film is just as ignorant of the nature of Metropolis as the film's audience. He encounters Maria, a beautiful woman who has brought children of the workers up from the lower city to see the opulence which is denied to them. After her departure, Freder is driven to find her, and in doing so is shocked to discover the existence of Metropolis' cruel underworld. What follows is a series of misadventures driven by the results of Joh Frederson (Freder's father) colluding with the mad scientist Rotwang in order to unleash a robotic doppelganger of Maria upon the city, an allegorical whore of Babylon, who drives the upper city into a frenzy of gross indulgence, and inspires the lower city to violently revolt. The film resolves these problems once Rotwang and the robot Maria are focibly stopped, with Freder stepping in to amicably reconcile the workers and his father.

Although the film ends on a rather weak note, rampantly high emotions mysteriously settled by the wholly underwhelming Freder, as Roger Ebert noted, Metropolis is "Considered the first great science fiction film" (Ebert, 1998). It serves as a basis for much of modern Sci-Fi. For example, traces of the scene in which the heroine Maria's likeness is replicated onto der maschinenmensch (see fig.4.) can be found in nearly every significant sci-fi film to date, from the electrode cap on her head - Matthew Vaughn's Xmen: First Class (2011) when Charles Xavier dons the prototype electrode cap of Cerebro, to the machine Maria is bound in - Luc Besson's The Fifth Element (1997) when Leeloo is fabricated out of thin air by genetic reconstruction, even down to the act of fabricating a human facade for a machine - Chris Columbus' Bicentennial Man (1999) wherein Andrew, a robot, is furnished with a human facsimile by a prosthetist (in fact the entire premise of Bicentennial Man hinges on the idea that a robot could appear convincingly human).
Fig. 4. Maria is held captive by Rotwang, strapped into a machine about to replicate her likeness onto der maschinenmensch (1927)
Fig. 5. Charles Xavier connects his mind to Cerebro (a machine) by donning an electrode cap (2011)
Fig. 6. Leeloo lies strapped down immediately following her genetic reconstruction (1997)
Fig. 7. Andrew's original robotic face alongside his human face (2000)
Grand scale aside, Metropolis notably made use of several simple, yet highly effective filmic devices to drive audience's emotional response. The scene in which Rotwang chases Maria through murky undergound tunnels in an attempt to kidnap her is strongly characterised by the manner in which he uses the light cast by his torch to terrorise her as he slowly catches up. Much of the scene simply involves Maria being 'caught' by the light and fleeing from it in terror, yet it succeeds in evoking the horror of being pursued and assailed in the dark environment. Much later on in the film, during the destruction and evacuation of the worker city, Freder and Maria are the last to escape up a stairway to the surface. At one point during their ascent the camera shakes violently and zooms in toward, and back out from Freder and Maria as they are flung to the ground by the cataclysmic collapse of the worker city - an effect which, again, is exceedingly simple, but by using the camera to simulate environmental instability, a tremor, we understand implicitly that they have not randomly fallen over, but that the environment has flung them to the ground, which is swiftly supported by a shot of the worker city collapsing.

Metropolis is responsible for a series of impressive cinematic firsts, but it was almost overly ambitious and it shows. The grandious visual ambition seemingly resulted in a neglectful approach to the story itself; Metropolis, with the exception of Maria, suffers from weak character development and a sometimes baseless narrative which could have easily derailed it, but as Roger Ebert concluded - "The gaps and logical puzzles of the story (some caused by clumsy re-editing after the film left Lang's hands) are swept away by this torrent of images. ... Even when the plot seems adrift, the movie itself never lacks confidence: The city and system are so overpowering they dwarf any merely logical problems." (Ebert, 1998). As a result of it's visual strength there is little doubt about the pervasive influence it has had, and continues to have on Sci-Fi in film. Jonathan Romney states, "Rotwang's creation is not the first film robot, but it was the first to be sexy and streamlined." (Romney, 2010). Metropolis spawned not only the future-dystopic megacity, but the idea that robots could be sleek, agile, human. Without Fritz Lang's vision of der maschinenmensch George Lucas' Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) would have been without C3PO, there wouldn't be the Replicants of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982), and we would have struggled to empathise with any of the robotic characters in the film adaptations of Isaac Asimov's 'Positronic Brain' stories, if indeed they still existed at all i.e. Bicentennial Man, and Alex Proyas' I-Robot (2004).


Ebert, Roger. (1998) Great Movies: Metropolis. At: (Accessed on 27.09.16)

Hall, Mordaunt. (1927) 'A Technical Marvel.' In: The New York Times [online republication] At: (Accessed on 27.09.16)

Romney, Jonathan. (2010) 'Metropolis, Fritz Lang, 145 mins, (PG): Back to the ravishing and dystopian future' In: Independent, The [online] At: (Accessed on 27.09.16)

List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Untitled. (1927) From: Metropolis, UFA. Directed by: Fritz Lang. [Film still: Metropolis cityscape] At: (Accessed on 03.10.16).

Figure 2. Untitled. (1980) From: Pacman, Namco. Created by: Toru Iwatani [Game Still: Pacman Arcade Game] At: (Accessed on 03.10.16).

Figure 3. Untitled. (1987) From: Final Fantasy, Square. Created by: Hironobu Sakaguchi [Game Still: Final Fantasy for the NES] At: (Accessed on 03.10.16).

Figure 4. Untitled. (1927) From: Metropolis, UFA. Directed by: Fritz Lang. [Film still: Maria is held captive by Rotwang, strapped into a machine about to replicate her likeness onto der maschinenmensch] At: (Accessed on 03.10.16).

Figure 5. Untitled. (2011) From: Xmen: First Class, 20th Century Fox. Directed by: Matthew Vaughn [Film still: Charles Xavier connects his mind to Cerebro (a machine) by donning an electrode cap] At: (Accessed 03.10.16).

Figure 6. Untitled. (1997) From: The Fifth Element, Buena Vista International. Directed by: Luc Besson [Film still: Leeloo lies strapped down immediately following her genetic reconstruction] At: (Accessed 03.10.16).

Figure 7. Bicentennial Man. (1999) From: Bicentennial Man, Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group. Directed by: Chris Columbus [Film Poster: Andrew's original robotic face alongside his human face] At: (Accessed on 03.10.16).

Fourth Life Drawing Session

20 Minute warm up - I got way too tied up with the head, I knew it was mishapen and lost lots of time trying to bring it back to what I wanted.

20 Minute Study - I used pastel for the first time as I want to just give my brain an excuse to get over the imperfect details I was drawing. I found it much easier to pick out elements of tone, not to mention actually getting the whole composition in within the time.
30 Second to 3 minute studys - I'm slowly beginning to get my head round capturing form super-quick, it makes my brain feel like it's contorting but at least I seem to be getting to grips with it.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Maya Session Work - Textured Character Cube + Render

Leopard texture made in Illustrator using the cube's UV map as a template.

3 Point lighting used to showcase the textured cube in a 'Studio'. Blinn shader used for texture of both the cube and the surrounding. Exported a much harsher lighting effect than expected due to auto-gamma correction in Maya.
Added Linear Decay to Spot light and Fill light.
Corrected the light intensity to accommodate the decay