Posted in communication and networking, electronic imaging and displays

Gadgetbox – The most stunning iPad app so far

Who’s up for a story? I’m actually a huge fan of children’s literature, and am always up for new ways to tell stories. This is an interesting utilization of iPad technology to perform the ancient art of storytelling.

The app is called The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore and it is an interactive children’s book — but it’s also so much more.

It was designed by award-winning author and illustrator William Joyce and the folks of Moonbot Studios. Together these people created something they describe as both “old-fashioned and cutting edge.”

As soon as you start flipping through the interactive pages of the iPad book, you’re pulled back into the days of bedtime stories and fairytales. At the same time though, you’re perfectly aware of the fact that you’re being drawn into a wondrous narrative by a series of animated clips and interactive cues.

If you choose to, you can tap, swipe, swirl, and smash your fingers against your iPad to trigger additional animations and sounds — or you can simply swipe through the book’s “pages” and let the tale unfold as if it’s simply a well-produced short film.

more via Gadgetbox – The most stunning iPad app so far and to check out the video of it.

Posted in communication and networking, electronic imaging and displays

Science behind the art: DIY green screen/glove

From  our good friends at Make Magazine: DIY Movie Making

Today’s topic: how to make your LEGO creations dance all by themselves

Miguel Valenzuela “created a green screen glove out of some fabric and used it to animate a LEGO robot across a table. The green glove was made with green spandex and stitched together with only the thumb. It should really be called a ‘green mitten’ since it has no fingers.

I shot the video of the LEGO moving around and then moved it out of the frame. I then let the camera shoot about 20 seconds of background.

I imported the video into Adobe Premier and cut it into two segments: the glove shot and the background shot, and layered the glove shot over the background shot. I then keyed out the glove as much as possible and let in the background which matched seamlessly with the foreground.

On my second try I’d use a different material than spandex because it reflects a lot of light and creates hotspots which are hard to key out. I’d also crop out a significant portion of the hand and only key in the edges close to the LEGO.”

See the original article

Watch the LEGO dude in action.

Posted in biology, communication and networking, electronic imaging and displays, music

Avatar’s choreographer

Just in case you’re not already sick to death of hearing about the processes behind making Avatar, or just sick from the 3D, here’s more from NYT:

Until recently the Los Angeles-based choreographer Lula Washington did not use e-mail. Actually, she resisted most forms of technology. Her dance company had a Web site; Ms.Washington just hadn’t visited it. So it’s somehat interesting that a few years ago she found herself working with one of the most technologically innovative directors in Hollywood.

Ms. Washington, whose company is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and will be performing at Peak Performances@Montclair beginning on Thursday, helped choreograph the ritual movement and body language for the Na’vi people in James Cameron’s blockbuster “Avatar.” Dancers in her company also helped provide motion for the characters through performance-capture technology. Ms. Washington, who grew up in the Watts section of Los Angeles, worked with Alvin Ailey and specializes in reflecting the African-American experience through movement. She speaks very softly, but her bright poppy-red lipstick hints at her feistiness and strength. Her new piece, “www.connections.2010,” which is having its world premiere on Thursday, is inspired by the ways people connect and expose themselves through social networking on the Web.

We talked to the choreographer at the Ailey Studios in midtown Manhattan about her experience working on the film. Here are excerpts from the conversation:

Continue on for interview.

Posted in aerospace, astronomy, education

Come fly with me over Mars

From Wired:

A space-loving animator has created stunning flyovers of Mars from data captured by NASA’s HiRISE imager, which is mounted on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter satellite.


HiRISE creates detailed digital-elevation models. Crunch that data, add perspective and some cinematic effects, and you have the movies that Doug Ellison, founder of, posted to YouTube this morning.

The video at the top shows the Mojave Crater. The one below takes you flying through Athabasca Valles. Ellison said that both animations are rendered accurately from the data with no exaggerated scaling.


Posted in astronomy, biology, design and architecture, electronic imaging and displays, engineering

The science of the film “Avatar”

You knew this was coming, right? The blockbuster film of the weekend wasn’t going to sneak by without a little bit of geeky inspection. Not only is it a science-fiction film, the film itself was created using lots of cool artistic technologies and techniques that were themselves science fiction only a couple of years ago. From MSNBC and

A member of the Na'vi humanoid race in 'Avatar'

The science fiction blockbuster “Avatar” is set on a mysterious alien moon with out-of-this-world technologies. Its star director, James Cameron, has not only directed other science fiction epics like “Aliens, The Abyss” and the first two “Terminator” films, but was apparently the president of his high school science club, a physics major in college and has an engineer brother who has designed underwater robots.

So how much science is there in “Avatar”?

CAUTION: Possible spoilers ahead.

The movie is set on the fictional Pandora, one of the many moons of a fictional Saturn-sized gas giant, Polyphemus, which is located in the real Alpha Centauri system, which at nearly 4.4 light-years away is the closest star system to Earth.

While astronomers have yet to discover moons beyond our solar system, they expect to. And the Alpha Centauri system could be a place worth looking. The larger of the two real, sunlike stars that make up this alien system, Alpha Centauri A, is the fictional Pandora’s sun. In reality, scientists might soon be able to detect habitable moons with the James Webb Space Telescope and also study their atmospheres for key life-related gases such as oxygen, and water vapor.

Tropical rainforests cover most of Pandora’s continents, which suggests its mother planet must be fairly close to its sun to take advantage of its light. A few years ago, this might have seemed implausible, but most of the alien planets scientists have discovered so far are in fact gas giants that are exceedingly close to their stars.

However, life on a gas giant’s moon might present a host of challenges. Jupiter’s moons exist within an intense radiation belt of electrons and ions trapped in the planet’s magnetic field, and Saturn’s gravitational pull leads to extraordinary tidal effects that may have once ripped apart nascent moons to produce its rings, and today can drive winds and volcanic eruptions on its moon Titan.

The draw that Pandora has for humans is a naturally occurring ore dubbed “unobtanium,” an old in-joke in science fiction for materials with physically impossible qualities. (Technically, since it’s a mineral, it might better be called “unobtainite,” but that’s a pretty nerdy quibble.) Unobtanium is the best superconductor known, and apparently works at room temperature. Just as real-world superconductors can float in the presence of a magnetic field, mountains on Pandora apparently loaded with unobtanium can float in the powerful magnetic pockets that dot the moon’s surface. The films show these magnetic fields can interfere with technology, just as they would in real life — although, apparently, not whatever wireless links which allow the main characters to link with their “avatars.”

High technology

Continue reading…

Posted in communication and networking, electronic imaging and displays

Profile: Ray Harryhausen

This profile was written in March, but it’s still good stuff:

Stop-Motion Pioneer Ray Harryhausen Books His Scariest Creatures

Stop-motion pioneer Ray Harryhausen tinkers with a skeleton featured in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. Photo courtesy Watson-Guptill Publications
Stop-motion pioneer Ray Harryhausen tinkers with a skeleton featured in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. Photo courtesy Watson-Guptill Publications

Five decades before Coraline scared the hell out of moviegoers with its spooky stop-motion storytelling, special-effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen got audiences screaming with his creepy Cyclops creature in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.

Now Harryhausen, 88, shows how he pulled off the movie magic in a new book titled A Century of Stop Motion Animation: From Melies to Aardman.

The picture book offers behind-the-scenes photographs of Harryhausen at work on mythological monsters for films including 1963’s Jason and the Argonauts and 1981’s Clash of the Titans, both of which are being remade for 2010 release.

Published early this year, A Century of Stop Motion Animation illustrates Harryhausen’s DIY resourcefulness as he developed an approach to anatomically precise micromovements he called “Dynamation.”

Posted in communication and networking, music

Live music using 1s and 0s

Live coders jamming together
Live coders "jamming" together

I kid you not: writing coding to make music, in front of a live audience. Truly New Wave.

It might just be the most conceptually complex way of making music that modern man has yet devised. But that is the challenge of live coding – the process of writing computer code, in real time, to compose and play music or design animations.

“It’s not just a passive process, not just someone creating sounds, which is the problem with electronic music – because people don’t really see what it is that the musicians are doing,” says Dave Griffiths.

Dave is a live coder and a performer in a night of live coding held in a south London pub, organised by the collective Toplap.

“Live coding brings the audience closer; they can see that you’re making something in front of them,” he says.

The furious coding is also projected onto a screen for the audience, making the programming as much – or more – of the performance as the music it codes for.

If anything it should go wrong – and anyone who has ever done any programming will know how frequent this is – they get nothing out.

A crash. Epic fail.

Because the software that live coders use is designed for a compile-free, real-time use, the performers face this prospect much less often.

But it does happen, Dave tells me. “That’s what keeps it exciting,” he says.

Read more on BBC