Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Devil Made Me ....

Worked with grad students today, discussing time as it relates to image sequences and demonstrated a few factors using long exposures. Saquib drew these wings. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Warm thoughts

All I have to write about is the same old stuff. I'm still modifying my grant application. It is still very cold outside. I had a class where I talked too much. I had a meeting which I had to go to even though I knew I desperately needed the time to do other things. I have a class tomorrow morning (ten hours from now) which I'm not ready for yet. All I really want to do is lie on the beach somewhere and cook until I can't stand it any more. That won't happen for a few more months. Dare to dream. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Getting cold again

After a couple of days reprieve  the temperatures are dropping quickly. As I sit at my desk at home, I can hear the loud snaps of the wood as the cold shifts the wood. I'm certain this can't be good for the house. Feeling a bit frustrated as my email seems to be down (but not the internet) meaning that I can't get my notes that I'm hoping are there to finalize my grant application which is due Friday, nor can I get my calendar to update my annual report which is due Thursday. No reprieve with those. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Too much animation software

I made the mistake of trying to demo three different software programs today n class. I think I'd have pulled off doing just Blender, even though I've never really got the hang of it, or just After Effects, which I know a enough tricks to get by, but I also tried to show some features of DragonFrame and that's where it all fell apart. I think I don't like teaching software because I really dislike watching people demonstrate software and I cannot help but empathize with the poor class. Anyway, the clip above is a piece of Blender I created just before class today.
William started a new blog today, dedicated to his fiction rather than his life. Check it out:

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Canister the Robot rises again

I built another Canister the Robot video today as part of my 10 second clips which make up my support material for my grant (due in less than five days). George came over for supper. William seemed have decided that he'd spent too much time playing Minecraft all of a sudden. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

IT Crowd and Star Trek

With all good intentions of getting ahead on my work today, I didn't. I tried but William was having such fun playing Minecraft on a server with his friend that I found his activities more distracting than I was capable of withstanding. I got some progress on basic stuff, but nothing really clever. Of course, there is nothing better at beating a distraction than another distraction. Fortunately we discovered that season four of The IT Crowd has been added to Netflix so we caught up on those. I also clicked on something I probably shouldn't have which now allows me to get the American shows on Netflix, including all of the Star Trek series', so I'm planning to start watching Enterprise with William. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Double Banana Surprise

Meeting and some grant details tied up most of my day. William went to Teagan's birthday party in Moose Jaw and spent the rest of his day off on a Minecraft server he and Rowan found access to.
No images for today but this photo is from earlier in the week. Margaret found an oversized banana in the grocery store. When I opened it, I found a mutant double banana inside. Each of the halfs split easily into their usual three sections by length as well. Very filling. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

pinhole photo overexposure

Worked with the grad student group today, introducing pinhole photography. I had them make pinholes and we calculated the exposure time. However, something in our math was way off. It seems certain that we were going to need to treat the cameras (made from cans) as between f-400 and f-600 which means we'd need to use very long exposures on a cloudy snowstorm day like today. However,everything was very overexposed. We didn't have time to do a second round. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Another weird student film shoot

Class shoot went from "Three Little Pigs" to pig-with-bricks to pig-talking-with-wolf to pig-as-contractor-talking-with-wolf to contractor-pondering-math to contractor-disgusted-by-hair-stuck-on-brick to contractor-with-duel-inner-dialogues-Germs-in-German-plus-math-hate-in-French. True. If you were there, you'd understand. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Grant writing and students shooting weird video

Taught again. We made a funny little in class film, riffing on drama but using some experimental components. I'm actually not sure I should be doing this as it creates an expectation that I want them to make a weird drama, which I don't. I really just want to show some strategies and even some pitfalls in doing this.
I knocked out a draft of my SSHRC application finally. I'm still missing the budget and bibliography and a couple other things, but if Randal thinks it is up to the standard, then I'm likely going to be able to get it in on time. I also still need my support material, but it is partially created. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

becoming a blur

Taught today. Animation, although we got into some photography tricks that the students seemed more interested in that the subject at hand. Perhaps it will come together. Straight home afterward to put another five hours into my grant application. Editing of it seemed so impossible that I just printed it out and used a pair of scissors to make sense of it. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Screen envy

I worked on my grant all day. Going to take a break this evening. I think William is leading an opposite life to mine, watching youtube or playing minecraft for hours equal to my work hours. Envy. 

a bit too much gin

I worked all day on my sshrc application. Made lots of progress but still having problems bringing it together.
This evening Steve (from across the street) came over for supper and drinks. He brought a 26 of gin. As if that wasn't enough, we also split a bottle of wine and more gin. Was extreme.

Friday, January 18, 2013

MacKenzie Art Gallery faculty show

UofR president Vianne Timmons, MacKenzie Art Gallery                                                                      Executive Director Jeremy Morgan, Fine Arts Dean Sheila Petty.
The opening of the faculty exhibition at the MacKenzie was well attended this evening. We arrived a bit late and only caught the tail end of the New Dance Horizons performance. University president Timmons said a few words and also came up to me afterwards and we had a nice chat. She even introduced herself to William. My piece drew positive comments. I'm happy with it. While it is presented as a loop on a video screen, I felt that the usual short loops, such as the nature of most of my previous loops as well as the works I was doing on my sabbatical, were not the right approach for this event. So even though I never want to watch films in galleries for more than ten minutes, this one is over twenty.  I wanted a project which had a greater range of complexity and that would be very difficult to digest in this surrounding. Why? Perhaps I simply didn't want to be easily understood and therefore, just as easily dismissed. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Grain" at MacKenzie opening Friday

Friday night is the big opening of the UofR Fine Arts Faculty exhibition at the MacKenzie Art Gallery. I am hoping lots of people will be there. Their openings usually are well attended. I have a 20 minute silent film which will be showing on a video screen. Events begin at 7:30.
Today I worked extensively on my SSHRC application. It is far from complete but the associate dean has agreed to a short extension on the internal deadline (of tomorrow). 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

That's Comedy

This evening I took William to the comedy improv held at the Artesian. It was more busy than before so even though we were 10 minutes early, we had to sit separately. The first bit featured Daniel Maslany and another guy and they asked for objects from the audience. William offered up his half eaten Snickers Bar, it ended up feeling very connected. A good night.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Grain blue ray delivered

The blue ray disc I created last night (and retrieved from the lab this morning) seems to function properly, looping beginning to end as designed. Class was a bit too chaotic today since I'd forgotten that the avids in the classroom only have standard dv decks and not hdv decks, making the already unrealistic in class project nigh-impossible. I have not yet delivered the Sockvile because I cannot copy it off of the Mac it was rendered on. I think this is because the file is over 5 Gb. Is there a solution for this? I really have run out of patience for Mac computers. I've set it to re-render so that I can have a smaller copy of it for adjudication purposes. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Time badly used

With two deadlines remaining, I committed my morning before class to rendering the first episode of Sockvile for the puppet festival. The first rendering failed due to an "unknown error" so I got it redone just in time to get to class. On my way past my office, I discovered that this deadline is moved two weeks, so it seems that I should have worked on Grain, due at the MacKenzie in two days but really due tomorrow since Wednesday is too busy for me to get there an deliver it. I suppose I could have got both of them done had I not spent an hour before class running errands such as picking up my 500 free reprints from Don's Photo and purchasing the supplies I needed for teaching today, only to discover that I'd misread my own syllabus and had prepared for next week's class. Fortunately  the real material for today was easily at hand, but for my stumbling around with software which differs more than I'd expected from from the current version. I made a crude little walking sequence with the old "Green Man" from my Utopia Cafe days to demonstrate the use of After Effects and keying. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Snow Cat

Brunched with mom today. She was excited to show me the cat she adopted and keeps in her back yard.
I've put together "It's About Time" and will be uploading it momentarily for entry to the puppet festival. Fingers crossed. As expected, it did not turn out as I imagined (always the trouble with something that is pre-visualized with complete clarity). It is up on my Vimeo channel but will be private until after the festival (or sooner if it isn't accepted).

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Foley for puppet film

William got me up at 7 am today (it's Saturday) to watch Star Trek. We watched a few episodes, primarily borg episodes of Next Generation. I did manage to pry myself away long enough to record a number of sound effects for my puppet film. Just need to do a bit of mixing and it will be done. 

GoAnimate embed attempt

In class last week we did a demo GoAnimate animation. This is it: The+Fantastic+Spanish+Class. by gerald.saul

What surprised me was that the words we gave to the character for  whom we gave a Mexican voice were translated, somewhat, into Spanish.

Friday, January 11, 2013

In too deep

With last night's storm, the snow, which was already quite deep around the house, is now becoming difficult. I've been out digging three times today and still have not begun the driveway.
I did manage to spend much of the morning at home working on "It's About Time" but stepped out to shovel and drop off my order for 500 free photo reprints off at Don's. Ran into Erik there who got the job he applied for. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

New grad seminar and "Hotel Transylvania".

In my fourth day of teaching I began the new graduate seminar for the MFA students. There are only three in the group so it will combine the intensity of one on one teaching with the benefits of group discussion. I'm excited. The rest of the day was spent getting ready for the MacKenzie screening next week. This evening we went to "Hotel Transylvania" which was designed well and somewhat funny but seemed very poorly directed. Quite often the gags were deflated by awkward compositions or overly active camera movements. I began imagining the possibility that a CG film such as this could actually be reshot with entirely different direction without significant difference. I wonder if this would ever happen? 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


I'm not sure if it is the weather, the daily teaching, or if I'm coming down with something, but after supper I started falling asleep again. I faded in and out of the Peter Cushing Sherlock Holmes version of "Hound of the Basktervilles", William prodding me every time he noticed. Yesterday I napped an entire hour after I got home. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Art in classroom, edit room, and home.

Today I taught Film 202 for the first time. I never like to say whether I think it went well or not as there will certainly be someone who was there who would contradict me either way. I don't know any of the students, having been on sabbatical when we did interviews with them last spring. I generally like the process of getting to know them, so I anticipate an interesting term
With only a few days to deadline and classes to each for most of those days, I dove into editing my "Grain" project for the faculty show at the MacKenzie. The transfers from film look really good so I'm quite optimistic. I don't have the overall structure yet as I still basically creating an assembly of footage that I like and that fits thematically.
In the mail when we got home, Margaret received a copy of Vie Des Arts magazine with an article she wrote. She's not been able to find a copy of it anywhere in the city so it's great that she was put onto their mailing list. The article was published as a two page spread with a couple of colour photos. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Back to teaching

Today classes started back up. My animation class is a bit undersized (7) but will likely be a good group. Here is a loop of some sugar cube destruction we animated as a demo.

On other fronts, my film to video transfer of my "Grain" project came back today. I'll need to get editing for my deadline next week (on top of the puppet film deadlines that is). Class has left me a bit drained so we watched the season opener of "Republic of Doyle" instead of sitting in front of the computer. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Shot my puppet film

Gerald Saul on "It's About Time" puppet set. Photo by William Bessai-Saul
With William as my co-puppeteer (two things need to be manipulated at once and each of them require two hands), I shot my puppet film this afternoon. It took me about 4 hours to clear my space and light my set but he shooting itself was quite quick. The final project should be about 90 seconds, perhaps 2 minutes, although I might let it linger on screen a bit longer since, as the title suggests "It's About Time".

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Puppet set

Today I used wire, screws, clamps, staples, scotch tape, duct tape, white glue, a hot glue gun, a glue stick, string, needle and thread, and clothes pins to assemble the set for the puppet film which has been basically finished in my head for six months and just awaiting the physical creation. I don't usually have things pre-visualized like that and I think this is the reason I've been so slow at wanting to finish it. While usually the project takes shape during the process, this one will deviate from its shape through the process. It can do nothing but disappoint me. Regardless, I've got to finish shooting tomorrow or just forget about it. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Gerri Ann and Steve

Did a bunch of planning for Monday's animation class today as well as re-rendering some Sockvile footage for the upcoming deadline and sending the final payment to Frame Discreet for the "Grain" footage being transferred for the MacKenzie show which is nearly upon me (shipped today, here on Monday). This evening Gerri Ann and Steve came over for drinks. Had a great evening of chatting and boozing. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Mercury Diner

I worked on animation much of the day, trying to remember how to operate Blender again and putting some last minute details together for my animation course. This evening William, Paul, and I went to the Mercury then out to the east end for some errands. I've been in contact with Frame Discreet about my film transfer. It's almost done, being a bit of a rush at this point, and we're hoping it ships back tomorrow. This will give me only a week to edit. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


I think I have sympathetic hormones with my son who is feeling very frustrated with everything right now. It makes me feel very uninspired. I did get a lot of work done on my course plans but to do so I needed to turn up the music very loud for a few hours. This squirrel was outside the window but was not cooperative for the camera. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

First times in the new year

Our year began on a usual tradition, going for crepes at Gertrud's. We arrived a bit late, basically just dragging our heels a bit, tried to search for whipped cream at 7-11s, but by the time we got there, she had a good crowd. William enjoyed some tv in the renovated basement while the rest of us chatted. Later William wrote his first blog entry. This evening he and I watched "Citizen Kane". I'm not sure how enthralled he was, but it is certainly always a treat for me. He paid attention right to the end, which is always good for a 2 hour black and white film in which nothing blows up.