Sunday, November 29, 2009

year's end screenings

We are converging on the Pacific Rim in December. In addition to the Artivist fest, which I mentioned in an earlier post, Tower 37 will be a part of the 2D or not 2D animation festival in Seattle on December 5th. The organizers have been building some online buzz, so I thought I'd chime in too.

Here's their festival trailer:

You can also spend some time on their blog to see what the program's going to contain. I don't think a definitive festival guide has been published online yet... watch for it.

Soon thereafter, one ocean away, Tower 37 will be screening as a part of SIGGRAPH Asia 2009's animation festival. The harddrive I sent them is currently at risk of being orphaned in Japan due to money-saving festival policies, so if you're attending the conference and you live stateside please get in touch. I need a digital mule. Just think - you can help out an animator and have the pleasure of watching a lossless HD QuickTime of Tower 37 on your laptop as you fly over the Pacific. I'm serious.

Here's their trailer as well:

Friday, November 20, 2009

when worlds collide

Our house. Pokemon and Magic cards. Some are in piles, others have been built into decks, some are even special enough to be in protective sleeves. We've purchased and inherited some boxes to hold the most precious of sleeved decks, but they are wearing out and we don't have enough of them anyway. So the talk between my son and I for the last week or so has been about embracing our love of cardboard projects and building some deck boxes of our own (we make lots of cardboard stuff at home, like helmets, little spaceships for mobiles, etc.).

So today I was recycling an old PBR 12-pack holder and I realized I was holding the future in my hands. The cardboard was perfect, just like that in our favorite commercial cardboard "Dragon Shield" boxes:

We got two of those DS boxes when we bought sleeves a while ago and they've been the best. But today we took one apart so we could clone it. If you love something, set it free.

In case you want to follow along with us, we first laid the unfolded DS box out flat on top of the unfolded PBR box and traced it carefully. Then, using a utility knife and a ruler (be sure to have something underneath), we cut along all the lines.

The cardboard was too thick to fold cleanly without scoring first, so we studied the creases in the DS box for some inspiration. It looked like they had been scored with a heavy but relatively dull object run along the printed side of the cardboard. We tried ballpoint pens (worked okay, but left a mark), a fork (too blunt and boxy, ripped the cardboard), until finally using some crazy kitchen fork that I think is for lobster. It's a two-tined thing, and sharp as anything, but the back sides of the tines were rounded and about the right size for the score we wanted. Pushing hard against the edge of a ruler worked perfectly. The only struggle I had was keeping the lines perfectly parallel while scoring, but despite my eyeballing it the sides met just fine in the end. I was worried it would be seriously lopsided.

Turning the prepped cardboard into a box requires adhesive on one cardboard flap. We tried two ways of using Elmer's glue on test pieces: straight on the printed side of the cardboard in one case, and in the other we carefully stripped off the printed layer so we were gluing to the rougher cardboard that lives underneath. After both dried for a while, they both seemed strong but we liked the latter approach best. Our final box is drying now, but here's what it looked like just before gluing:

Oh yeah. Green. Crafty. Hip. Geeky. Though I'm not sure I'm ready to let my 8-year old out into the world with it yet.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

catch me if you can

Okay, so it was just over two weeks ago that I blogged about my new Pixelbending class. You'll have to forgive me, that was something of a FlashForward. So it's not that the post is wrong, per se, it's just that it was a few months too early.

My real spring 2010 class just went online today. It will be a departure for me in many ways, but a return to my roots in others. Here are the details:
Improving TheHub (CS 214)

TheHub is a critical online tool supporting the academic program at Hampshire. Not only is it the primary mechanism by which our Divisional contracts and narrative evaluations are created, edited, and shared, but it is also where important aspects of registration and advising take place. Despite its ubiquity and importance, however, TheHub can be frustrating for many to use.

This course seeks to improve TheHub through a unique collaboration between students, faculty, and staff. In addition to learning how TheHub is currently implemented, students will be tasked to identify areas of TheHub most in need of improvement and to propose, design, implement, and test new interfaces for these areas.

Ideal candidates for this one-of-a-kind course will have a background in design (color theory, graphic design, HTML, studio arts, etc.) or programming (PHP, Perl, AJAX, Javascript, etc.) or both. For programmers, concurrent enrollment in CS 272 (Advanced Web Design) will satisfy the programming pre-requisites for this course. Prospective students should bring a current resume and a portfolio of their relevant work to Professor Perry no later than the first class meeting.
Those following my teaching history should recognize that this is another collaborative class, akin to the animation courses that produced Displacement and Tower 37 in the past. Fairly new to me is the domain: although I've worked on large-scale software projects in the past, and of course have a hand in the ongoing development of Helga, interface design for a heavily-trafficked and mission-critical web tool like TheHub is going to demand some stretching. And some smart partnering: I will be co-teaching the class with the original engineer of TheHub, and I'm hoping to fold experienced guests in as we work to meet the challenge of the class.

This class offers a rare opportunity for students to be a part of a team whose work can actually change how Hampshire functions day-to-day. We are not going to be changing policies, of course, but we are going to investigate how our current tool does--and does not--support students and faculty working together.

How you can help now, dear reader, is to tell the most talented designers and programmers you know about this course and encourage them to discuss their participation with me.

And please start thinking about how you would like to see TheHub change, particularly in the areas directly related to the academic program (advising, evaluations, course registration, course listings, etc). Feel free to start sharing them here as comments, or wait for the site we'll be launching in the spring to collect these ideas.

Pixelbenders: apologies for now. I am working to fold that course in to next year's curriculum.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Artivist fest coming up

Excitement is building for the Artivist Film Festival in LA in early December. Of all the fests Tower 37 has been a part of so far, I think this one has the potential to have the greatest thematic alignment with our film. We're part of a Thursday night Environmental shorts program with four other films. And in other news, there are apparently FREE tickets. That's right folks, free tickets. So drag your friends out to the historic Egyptian Theater in Hollywood on Thursday December 3 and show your support for socially-conscious filmmaking. If you find it hard to show support without coughing up money for tickets, then buy some drinks for the filmmakers afterward and have long conversations about the work. You can also high-five Tower 37 producer Daniel when you're there.

Today, by the way, marks exactly seven months since Tower 37 began its festival run in April in Providence. Given that most fests are annual, we're looking at only about five more months in our festival year. I have been amazed by how our film has been received on this journey so far; here's hoping for five more months of memorable screenings, stories, and revels with the filmmakers we meet on the way.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

news I find tragic

"Strength forged through sacrifice. Never forget."
- motto of the USS New York

So I heard on the news yesterday that the new USS New York warship, now berthed in New York, includes 7.5 tons of steel recycled from the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Boy do I wish that material could have been put to a peaceful use instead of being folded into yet another machine of war. And what are the chances that this San Antonio class "Landing Platform Dock" ship will ever drop Marines on a beach in pursuit of Osama Bin Laden or any of the perpetrators of 9/11? Afghanistan is still landlocked. Can't there be a better legacy for those poor victims than more death?