Friday, November 6, 2015

Hurray For Blu-ray!

I haven't posting a thing since Ray's passing in 2013. There is finally something to get excited about, though, and I can't support this enough. Warner's has released "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms" on Blu-ray. For fans like myself, who love to pour over every scale and wrinkle in Ray's arguably most inspired creation, this release is an opportunity to do so with unparalleled detail. For better, or for worse, (depending on your point of view), you can analyze every nook and cranny, detect previously invisible matte lines, and quote a friend, "You feel you could touch & smell the rubber itself."
There is a review of the release that can be found here,

The review is by Matt Paprocki and is worth the read. It also has some wonderful screen grabs demonstrate the quality of the Blu-ray. Here are a few from his review:

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

RIP Ray Harryhausen

Yesterday, May 7th 2013, the passing of Ray Harryhausen was announced. A few words are appropriate. This site is dedicated to just one of Ray's many, influential works. Actually 'influential' seems an inadequate word to me. Among  many admirers and more than a few detractors, Ray's work has become a kind of touchstone. I don't think I've past a day in my adult life where I don't think of some puppet pose, a patch of scaly skin, or stoney canyon, through a Harryhausen filter.  So engrained in my psyche are the images he created that even something as simple as  a grove of trees and tumbled down rock wall, evoke some 'Harryhausen' moment. When I was eight years old I saw "One Million Years B.C." and I was obsessed for days with the Allosaurus  and it's fluid, serpentine tail. It's ferocity, almost tangible in it's 'crazy eye'd' stare. Debates fill web pages about the efficacy of stop-motion vs. CG. There are those who, justifiably, cannot abide by  the 'strobbing' effect that is a by-product of stop-motion animation. And then there are those who look past that minor artifact and see 'Life'. There is something fantastic being offered. Something that walks out in the full light of day, with scales and muscles and satyr legs and engages in intimate combat with the little rear-screen projected protagonists. That was the kind of stuff to buy Monster mags for. To stay home 'sick' from school if "Mysterious Island" was on T.V. For thousands of young minds that inspiration led to an "I want to do that!" awakening that has spawned a vast industry. The technology that we now worship, has given Ray's, mostly well meaning, critics everything they wanted: The end of strobbing, endless motion blur, constantly moving cameras. Gone are the oft criticized, 'stagy left to right' locked down compositions. The cliche`d arm cocked stance. The grainy rear screen hot-spot in the background. Creatures now flex and bulge with wriggling skin. There are no boundaries keeping them from moving anywhere in the frame. Seven skeletons are nothing, now you can have thousands. There is no arguing that technology has given 'Life' to fantastic creatures in ways that Ray could never have dreamed of, let alone achieved with a rubber puppet and small projection screen. But there is something else that has to be admitted. Technology has obscured the artist. The product of the contemporary visual effects studio is certainly polished. That is now a given. But where do we go from here? The animated creature is mired in a world of 'sameness'. When I see a creature in a movie now I know exactly what to expect. I know the camera will move wildly in and out of the action. It will blur the image into a impressionistic collage of streaks and colors. The camera will shake with every step and obligatory roar, (just a side note: ever notice the camera shaking when a real elephant walks through a shot? I'm just saying...). Lovers of all things CG can pat themselves on the back and revel in glory of having 'pushed the envelope', I take nothing from you. But I will always extol the virtues of the 'artist' who leaves an indelible stamp on his work. I will always love the work of Ray Harryhausen because, among other things, his work reveals his person.

requiescat in pace Ray Harryhausen

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A fresh look...

at some familiar images. What I'm posting here are images from a few stop-motion classics that I've put together using some digital 'fakery' with  Photoshop and a pretty amazing 'photo-stitch' program included in Windows 7. I took frame grabs from shots that have a linear camera move, or a pan, and stitched them together to create  new images from old ones. In some cases the results were pretty remarkable, in others you just get a little bit more of an extended frame. In the best case it gives you a taste of what  it might have been like to see the whole set up.

This is, after all, the Beast's blog site so it gets to go first. This was a tilt down from head to neck wound.

This was tilt up of Talos on the beach.

Here is a tilt down to the door.

A right to left camera pan. Obviously there is a bit of time compression going on, but I wanted to get a sense of what it was like to be there.

No stop-motion here, but I've always wondered how high that cliff was. That guy was nuts!

A tilt down of the beautiful painting that is the opening shot of "Mighty Joe Young".

A tilt up, followed by pan to the left as Joe climbs into the tree house loft in the night club sequence.

This right to left pan shot reveals the beautiful the nightclub set just before Joe fights the lions.

King Kong had some of the most beautiful table top sets in any stop-motion film. This stitch-up gives us a great look at the detailed wall above the 'spider pit'.

I saved my favorite for last. "Look at the size of that brute!" If I could, I'd blow this up to actual size and make a wall mural, (I'd have to have pretty big wall!).

CG imitation...

I didn't do this to compare CG to stop-motion. I needed to stretch myself as a digital artist and I chose my favorite animated character as a subject. It's as simple as that.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rhedosaurus Test?

This screen grab comes from the "Black Scorpion" trailer. The shot does not appear in the "Beast From 20,000 Fathoms". My guess is that it is a model and/or lighting test that Warner Bros. had the negative for and used it without knowing,(or caring) if it was actually a scene from the film. To my eye it seems a little pale compared to the darker grey version we're used to. It almost seems to have a subtle hi-light brushed over to pop out the texture.