August 10, 2003 at 7:54 am #11136
NOTE TO NEWBIES:
Some of the following may sound EXTREMELY critical of a film deemed ‘Best of Show’ in the recent BrickFest 2003, but please note that in the past, Doug and I (and Jared for that matter) have been highly critical in our reviews of each others films in the past, noting both things we liked AND disliked, and possible paths for improvement (if indeed improvement was an option, and it wasn’t a stylistic choice). This review is what ALL reviews around this place used to be like just over a year ago, and it is this respectful criticism of others films which saw the quality of films around here jump in huge leaps and bounds in a very short amount of time.
More recently reviews have turned into, “I loved it! 5/5”, or “It could have been improved heaps. 2 stars”. But in both cases no context is given as to the background of the reviewer or the reasons for their views.
This years BrickFest animation comp theme was ‘a Music Video’ to quote from the rules:
The Brick Fest ‘03 Animation Competition this year will encompass music
videos. Any category of music may be used from classical to rock, show tunes
to sound tracks, and new wave to heavy metal. You may produce your own music
or borrow from a published work. The music video may be an original work,
parody the music, make fun of the artist, or be a creative interpretation of
the original music video.
Already we see that the concept of music video is as broad as anything! The way I approached my entry compared to how Doug and Jared approached theirs is like ‘comparing Apples and Oranges’. It is important to know this about me before reading this review.
My interpretation was that this would mean we would have heaps of entries that looked like music videos that you would see on weekend music video shows or even the extremes of MTV. But as the comp panned out of course we had a much broader range. I planned my entry to follow the conventions of a ‘traditional’ music video… cuts to the beat, repeated footage, random elements unrleated to the song, and an subtle plot that did not push the music itself to the background, it is, afterall, a ‘music’ video.
So anyway, that is my perspective on the theme, BUT IMPORTANTLY, it is not the only perspective!
The Actual Review:
There is not a single doubt in my head when I say that in my opinion this is certainly Doug and Jared’s best film (including their individual efforts), on that note alone it is worth downloading to have a look at.
* Enjoyment Factor: The car race theme is an often used one, but when done well they often work. This had all the elements of ‘the race’ different teams, a variety of cars (the horse one was great), the bad guys … etc etc. Even a photofinish (one of the best shots in the film in my opinion). To put it plain and simply it was fun.
EDIT: Watched it a few more times to find possible things to change in the review. I really do find it kinda fun! (The film that is)
* Models and scenery: All the cars looked different, a good thing when you only have limited time to work out who is in the race. And some of the cars were excellent, I’ve mentioned it before, and I’ll mention it again, the horse was great. Good to see an effort put into the scenery as well, not only the bushes and landscape rushing by, but the hills in the background.
* Music: Good choice of music for the plot. It was familiar and reminded me of watching cartoons as a kid. I guess that was the point.
* Opening Titles: Nice use of flash! Loved the cars and how their type tracks made the ‘i’s in Shootin Bricks and Mystic Studios. I also liked the ‘traffic light’ circles, both for the simplicity and the way it harped back to tv show titles of old. (Though having the car audio pan from right to left as the car moved left to right was a mistake, yes?)
* Lighting: The backdrop looked like it was cloudy, it was never too dark or too light. I could see everything and the colours were consistent throughout. Enough said!
* Sense of Speed: Some (not all) of the chase shots had a great sense of speed, this was particularly apparent when a shot was framed so that the ground/road was not a major element in the frame. In particular, the close-ups of the drivers with the scenery rushing behind and the shots of the cars zipping around corners looked nice and fast (I really liked the shot of the car side-on and the background stuff rotating as it turned the corner). It was cool to see the scenery zipping by like that.
EDIT: After more viewings, yep, those turns look good!
* The cut aways to the drivers: Were cool, be it to emphasise speed, their place in the race, or to show the steering and gear changes. Nice touches that added to the realism.
* The water accident: It just looked cool, sitting there in all of the blue bricks.
EDIT: Happened a little too quick though maybe a little slower to get the actual entry more…
* Music: Have to say that not for one minute did I feel like I was watching a ‘music video’… more it felt like i was watching a ‘video done to music’ (NOTE: my apples and oranges comments above, keep this in mind). My major issue being that what became most imortant were the visuals not the song. I guess I see music videos as a way to ‘sell’ the song through the music and doing so with compelling, but not overpowering, visuals. But as I said above, it depends on your interpretation of music video. Oh and also keep in mind that this was at heart, an ANIMATION competition. So of course it makes what I have written seem, in some ways, totally contrary to what the comp was about. (So sometimes I’m internally illogical, at least I’m aware of it!)
* Sense of Speed: As I said above, sometimes it is excellent, but at other times it is not at all. The biggest issue being the ground staying perfectly still in some shots, this really threw my interpretation of movement out the window. It wasn’t anywhere near as much of a problem when you could see only a minimal amount of the ground, with the main focus being on the moving wheels, but in quite a number of shots the foreground made up a good 1/5 of the screen, and thus seeing the road sitting perfectly still totally defeated my brain perceiving the cars as moving. I think I would have had a closer shot of the cars and not shown as much of the road sitting still to improve this effect. There were also a couple of occasions when a join in the road sat nice and visible and still while the scenery moved by.
(An aside: When I filmed NK2020 over a year ago I discovered how hard it was to make high speed car chases look good, I made a choice to keep the main car still and move the road and all the scenery under it, I only had 4 base plates so it took a lot of planning… anyway, I moved the base plates etc by too fast and even though the road and everything moved, the chase sequence happened way to quickly… if only I’d known how to downsample and upsample framerates back then…)
The sense of speed was also affected by the…
* Animation/Framerate: This is probably what I have the biggest issues with. It looked like it could have been much smoother. From the starting of the cars through to the movement of the scenery, the ways the minifigs moved (just simple arm movements) to the gear changes.. Sorry, Doug and Jared, this is where my expectations were really let down. The best comparison I can make is between your film and the new one around here ‘The Letter’ an example of how getting the movement fluid can postively effect the look of the whole film.
EDIT: I’m leaving the original comments here (rather than editing them out). After more watchings I’m still not happy with the movement/rate of change of the backdrops, but I think I was too harsh on some of the little movements and gear changes. Some of them are really quite smooth, maybe the animation in preceding scenes had an effect on my interpretation.
(Little voice in Nick’s head: Nick, are you sure that if it was all really, really smooth animation you wouldn’t say… “And to top it off they are in old cars on a country road… shouldn’t it be all bumpy and stuff?”)
(Other Little voice in Nick’s head: Shut up devil’s advocate voice!)
Now I can see that problems may have arisen in that you didn’t want to have such a high frame rate that the race looked slow like in wandrer’s Invention of the Wheel film with the car race in it… the animation there was super smooth… but the cars drove so slowly!
Just like Wandrer mentioned above, some motion blur could have done wonders! Videomach has a very simple motion blur function, and you could have just blurred a few frames (not even all of them) to make the transition between frames look a little smoother, but still keep the impression of speed up high. Or you could have used the blur brush in Painter 5 add some blur to the tail end of some of the objects.
* Direction of Movement: Ok, this is certainly moving towards the ‘picky’ end of the scale, but one of the things we were taught at uni when doing a unit on teaching students to make short films was ‘don’t just suddenly completely change the direction of movement of objects or character’. That is, when you see a character leave a shot on the right, they should enter the next shot from the left, top left or bottom left… of course, this is one of those ‘film speak’ rules of thumb, that certainly does not mean, stick to it at all cost (aren’t rules made to be broken?) but do help the viewer percieve movement more easily. Ok, why do I mention this, because early in the film the car move from right to left, then all of a sudden they are moving left to right. I knew what was going on, I didn’t get confused, but it did look jumpy. As I said, picky.
(I also mention it because I intentionally set up this sort of movement in A Forest, the fig moving from left to right, or top left to top right, or bottom left to top right (or even… a mistake in the forest sequence, you’ll see it now…) in the forest and then running into the ‘nothing’ at first from left to right, then turning… and then running from right to left until he gets confused and ends up running in circles…)
* Shot Clarity: Jay’s been using frame averaging for a while now (look what it did for the gauntlet, shot with a firewire webcam on a mac, it did wonders). SMP 4’s frame averaging certainly help make ‘A Forest’ look good. “I’d swear Nick was using a professional camera. it just looks that good.”
(I quote Doug here from his BrickFest animation comp comments). All I’m getting at here is that you can get pretty decent picture quality with a web cam, it is something to aim for, for next time Doug and Jared!
******************** End Spoilers *********************
As I said above, I came to this film from a completely different direction due the way I worked on my own film. This type of thing always makes it really hard to write-up helpful critical feedback.
Anyway, I’ve put a good hour or so into this write-up, and good, bad or ugly I expect Doug and Jared to do the same for me!!!
Closing Comments: This is Doug and Jared’s best film. It won the ‘Best in Show’ at BrickFest 2003. What are you waiting for? You know what to do.
EDIT: I’ve been thinking about this review and the very nature of it for the past hour. What bugs/excites me is that I haven’t been this passionate about our hobby in a very long time. C’mon, let’s all make films that make us want to review with this much detail and passion!August 10, 2003 at 8:34 pm #11169
You guys did a great job… it was very enjoyable…
I really liked this movie it was intresting, comic, and very entertaining. I really liked how it fit so perfectly with the music… it was most excellent 😀
Well dont have much time to ive more of a review so great job guys!
**end spoilers**August 10, 2003 at 9:27 pm #11173
Animation: It was pretty good. Some scenes had few jerky parts, but besides them, everything looked smooth
Lighting: The lighting looked like it was really outside in a sunny day
Voices: the voices were enthusiastic and I was able to hear and understand perfectly.
Sets: You guys did a nice job moving the backround to make it look like they were moving. The sets were excellent.
Music: I disliked the music; I am not a fan of carnival/trumpet classicals.
Overall, the movie was quite entertaining and humourous with beautiful sets and an imaginative race.August 11, 2003 at 8:01 am #11215
I’ve just got permission from Doug to post a 4.62 mb realmedia recompression of their film, to enable people with slower connections or bandwidth requirements to get access to the film more quickly. (Note to others around here, make sure you ask and get permission before tampering with other people’s work)
I have made every effort to recompress this to do absolute justice to the 50mb divx version (and I think I did very well), and of course, this film stays the property of doug and jared and will be removed immediately if they deem the recompression in any way not suitable.
(Jared, feel free to repost this link up above, or to download and rehost this file, I’d even be happy to recompress it in a number of different sizes if you think I’ve done a decent job with this one)
It will be available from a link here in about 15minutes (I did have it ready at brickshelf, but then the folder got moderated WAY more quickly than I expected, so I deleted the file until I had permission)
HaliAugust 11, 2003 at 11:14 am #11224
Better late than never 🙂
I think this was a very entertaining and well-made film, although there in some places weren’t as smooth as you are capable of, I think the gathered experience is the most important. And that was great!
I want to add my praise to the mechanical horse. It was really cool. The design in general was a bit cartoonish and surreal, so that went very well with the music.
The bandages on the man were funny. It looked good too. Nice that you put on that little touch.
Two small comments:
When the cars flew I felt that the speed was very low compared to when they drove. That made it a bit silly.
The other: One place when they drove they had a turn behind. The turn didn’t get farther away, but was replaced with other turns. That also looked a bit strange.August 11, 2003 at 2:03 pm #11235
This film was really fun!
Lighting was great, the camera angles were superb, the music was really neat, and the animation was fantastic!
Congratulations, Doug and James!
You really earned best in show!August 11, 2003 at 9:52 pm #11349
I spent 3 hours this morning posting a huge behind the scenes write-up only to lose it (invalid session- AAAAAAAAAAArgh!)
I will re-post it tomorrow, I don’t have time right now.
Thanks to evryone for the reviews and the kind words!
LOL Tub-O 😆
I am Doug and James, my partner in crime is Jared, known to us lesser mortals as Legogod 🙂August 12, 2003 at 12:30 am #11361
😆 Great film, guys. The animation was very nicely done. I liked the car designs, especially the red one with the bobbing head. I enjoyed the various antics of the car drivers. The movie was very funny, it’s the best racing brickfilm I’ve seen. It’s on my favorites list now. 😀
Tom, who hopes that Hali won’t cry when he reads this review…
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