Three Trailers

I had some time on my hands and felt like doing some editing. I decided to cut a few fan trailers, as I’ve had a great time so far in my career cutting trailers and promos and wanted to do something just for fun.

Cold Mountain
Cold Mountain was an easy choice – Gorgeous cinematography by John Seale and an amazing soundtrack exec-produced by T-Bone Burnett. Sometimes theatrical trailers are made alongside the movie’s edit and before the soundtrack is cut, so perhaps that was the case here, as the official trailer criminally lacks the movie’s amazing music. Featuring one of the oldest forms of American music, sacred harp singing, and the Oscar-nominated Sting and Alison Kraus song “You Will Be My Ain True Love”.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
This one’s a bit controversial, and I fear it gives away the heart of the movie. So maybe this trailer is better for existing fans of the movie. I made this because I thought the official trailer, featuring ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky, was way off-tone and made the movie feel like a light-hearted romp. Yes, this movie is fun, it’s clever, it’s absurd, but it’s also heartbreaking, so I set out to capture the mood of the film using its own music.

Dark City
I actually quite like Dark City’s official trailer, though it’s got some dated elements by today’s standards and is one of those trailers that steadfastly refuses to allow any of its characters to talk. I went to the opposite extreme here and probably feature too much talking. But more importantly, my trailer is a lie! I focused on my favorite aspects of the movie – the mystery happening within the city, and left out what I see as a cartoonish comedy unfolding underground. It’s a trailer for the movie I wish Dark City were.

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Media Molecule’s “Dreams” – The Beautiful Future of Interactive Entertainment

I was a nutcase for LittleBigPlanet. This is a game with a suite of creation tools, letting players create and share their own levels and scenes. The game’s title is apt – You create whatever little world you can dream up. I got so into it that my levels saw plentiful plays in the LBP community and a behind-the-scenes video of my creations made the youtube rounds and landed me a fantastically fun gig creating an official trailer for the game’s sequel. I would sink entire weekends into making a level and endured many hair-pulling frustrations in my attempts to bring my ambitious ideas to life. It was engaging, rewarding, a ton of work, and totally worth every minute. It amounts to some of the best time I’ve ever had with any videogame and in any community.

It’s true that for some non-creators, the novelty of the game wore off, with the 2D limitations keeping things a bit retro, and the difficulty in finding really great levels amid the chaff ultimately turning them off. It took time for the developers to iron out the “sharing” aspect, leaving gamers on their own to hunt down best-of lists online. Its focus was on 2D-style games, or side-scrollers using the game’s built in platforming engine. But for people familiar with the game’s limitations, it was a joy to discover something really imaginative or clever. What it ultimately lacked was a reliable way for the community to discover levels they really loved. The game needs loud tastemakers and accessible playlists and appropriate recommendations.

Fast forward seven years and the world is rapidly changing. Games are perched on the brink of the virtual-reality revolution people have been dreaming of since before the dawn of games. Single developers and tiny teams are creating wildly successful indie games. Communal creative gaming is becoming more popular, with Minecraft taking the world by storm. Apps like Netflix and Youtube and Facebook are learning users’ tastes and recommending content. Some of the most popular Youtube channels are gamers who make millions of dollars publishing videos of themselves playing videogames. Gamers stream themselves playing live to thousands of viewers on Twitch. A lot has changed in 7 years.

What has Media Molecule been working on all this time? What’s the next incarnation in the community-creation videogame experiment? It’s something that capitalizes on all of these evolutions and may make an indelible imprint on the future of interactive entertainment.

The simply-titled Dreams amounts to one of the most ambitious video games ever attempted – that is, if you can even call it a video game. In reality it’s a creation tool and a platform for shared community-built creations. Playable games, watchable scenes, explorable worlds, and wild experiments will all be accessible. It’s a way for people to share their immersive ideas with a wide community. People who aren’t interested in creating will benefit from a continuing supply of home-built hand-crafted experiences. It will be VR-friendly, with at least some creations playable using Sony’s upcoming Morpheus VR headset. There are scant details on this, but Alex Evans has stated that “it’s an obvious thing to do” and that “Anton Mikhailov, who helped build the first-ever Morpheus prototype, is at [Media] Molecule now.”

I want to stress what some of these details infer. In the near future, you will be able to don a Virtual Reality headset and explore “inside” the crafted dreams of other people. Not just the paid-for dreams of professional game-creators, but all kinds of people, and with all kinds of dreams. Outrageous action spectacles, comedies, simple old-school games, wild experiments, moody horror, tiny pieces of heartbreaking artwork, and things so bizarre and strange you’d never think to imagine them. And you won’t just have it on your screen, you can be immersed inside these worlds with VR. If you’re willing to put in the time, you will be able to create and share your own, anything you can dream up. I expect a first-person VR-friendly control scheme will be built-in so that it will be easy for people to easily make playable their worlds. If it doesn’t, no problem – A community member will create it immediately and share it for all.

There’s not much by way of media or details yet, but we have some crucial nuggets. Years ago they revealed the bones of what they were working on, to the perplexity of most. The official 2015 E3 trailer revealing the game had most viewers confused. What is this, exactly? Alex Evans and his team are not concerned by that confusion. In fact Evans stated in his intro to the demonstration revealing Dreams, “I’m hoping today I can have you scratching your heads. . . I hope it fills your head with questions. Every person I’ve shown this to in the last four years says it takes time to sink in.” The E3 presentation seems to suggest that most community creations will be small, bite-sized morsels, fleeting glimpses of imagined lands. But knowing how the LittleBigPlanet community managed to squeeze the most out of that game’s limitations, I will not be surprised if we see some pretty in-depth playable games come out of this. And as far as discovery is concerned, Evans has suggested that one way to play will be to go through a kind of “playlist” – possibly generated by the game – in which you flit in and out of many different people’s creations. Perhaps there will be a “skip” button, and it will be the VR-equivalent of something like Pandora. If all you want to do is explore, you could stick your face into a VR mask and just hit the “explore” button, sating your curiosity and hoping for a really affecting surprise somewhere in the mix.

Evans demos a slice of the creation tools, showing the sculpting of a sitting man, “sketched in” in 3 dimensions and then puppeteered, all using motion controls and also utilizing some pre-built shared community parts. There’s no convoluted suite of 3D modeling or animation tools, in fact there’s almost no User Interface whatsoever – The only thing onscreen is the 3D canvas and a floating cursor.  At the end of the official trailer you can see a series of creations inside little bubbles. I’ve screen-capped some of these, but keep in mind that the actual full-res E3 trailer contained many, many more.

Forgive the quality of these images, as they are composited into tiny bubbles in a video.

A few seem to be statue-like sculptures.
media-molecule-dreams-smoking-manmedia-molecule-dreams-heads-sculpture

A few appear to be fully-playable games.
This little interior loft appears to be explorable in the first person.
media-molecule-dreams-loft

This cute little tank is prowling the green countryside for explosion fodder.
media-molecule-dreams-tank

In this game, you appear to navigate a small cloud puff through colored cloud rings in the sky. I’m really impressed by how beautiful the 3D cloud texture looks here.
media-molecule-dreams-cloud-rings

And the rest can be described as “scenes” – setpieces which could conceivably be explorable, playable, or watchable. They look like 3 dimensional paintings, and I think the little country cottage is especially gorgeous.
media-molecule-dreams-cottagemedia-molecule-dreams-hill-housemedia-molecule-dreams-lighthousemedia-molecule-dreams-desert-ruinsmedia-molecule-dreams-mechmedia-molecule-dreams-house-window

And there were far more bubbles on display at E3 – Just take a peek at how many little bits they’ve cooked up in this creative kitchen:
media-molecule-dreams-e3-screen

Go as ambitious as you want. The chase scene demoed in the trailer takes place in a vivid, enormous, artfully-realized dream city. While most of the bubble-scenes are fairly contained, this one is expansive. In the E3 demo, the camera slowly dips down deeper and lower into the city’s guts.
Dreams-PS4-screenshot-05-Megalopolis-sm

The game has an amazing painterly aesthetic. It recalls to me the painted Heaven world in the 1998 Robin Williams film What Dreams May Come. It’s a fully 3-dimensional place, but an impressionistic one, seemingly composed of painted brush strokes. If you don’t like that texture, go with something sharper – Some of the objects in the demo lack that sketched-in feel.

I can’t tell you how excited I am for this. I often think of the incredible untapped potential in the interactive medium of “gaming,” and wonder when we’re going to be ushered into the future. Media Molecule is setting its sights astronomical here, and my guess is they’re going to pull off something really special. They’re single-handedly expanding the potential for videogames and giving the community unprecedented creative powers. If you don’t quite grasp it yet, you hopefully will eventually. It comes at a cost of course – If you don’t have a Playstation 4, the entire setup with VR and motion controls may run in the neighborhood of 800 dollars. I’ll be gradually chipping away at that pricetag because for my money it will be absolutely worth it.

It’s hard to wrap one’s head around at this point, because there’s really little like it in history. Soon after the launch of virtual reality to consumers, people will be able to create their own virtual worlds, and also to explore the worlds of others. It will provide an unparalleled outlet for creativity and curiosity to anyone who desires it. With a little curiosity and the right gear, you’ll be able to glimpse the incredibly-varied contents of the human imagination and stick your head right into the stuff dreams are made of.

I have every faith in this amazing team and in the forthcoming community of creators. There’s a real soft squishy place in my heart for the brilliant humans at Media Molecule and this, in my mind, has the potential to be a revolution.

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Editing Demo Reel

It took me a while to arrive at this demo reel. My first edit was a series of entire scenes from a variety of video projects. Then I decided to research online what makes a good editing reel – and I started again from scratch.

But something wasn’t sitting well with me. I read all this advice – Pick a song, show off your best projects, keep it short – and I knew that this reel didn’t feel like a good editing reel. I believe you have to do more than just cut a montage of impressive-looking projects – You have to demonstrate, in the edit of the reel itself, your editing prowess. I didn’t like the advice I was reading, and I didn’t like the reels I was cutting that matched this advice. So I started from scratch again, and I threw out the rulebook, and I followed my own advice.

More than just a montage, I think you should include snippets of entire scenes; change the mood of the reel to match the content; tell a story; and show off. Make your music edits count, make your montages meaningful, keep your content organized, and cut new, shortened versions of whole scenes to tell a story in a tiny block of time. It’s all about rhythm and action and variety – and, perhaps, a bit of ostentatious sensibility. Most of all, I think it should be fun to watch on its own.

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Seattle’s Biggest Party

On February 2, 2014, the Seattle Seahawks won the Superbowl. It’s hard for me to avoid the infectious mood in a city whose team is approaching a championship. Sports are an ancient ritual, they’ve withstood the test of time for a good reason. When a home team approaches the big win, the entire city transforms. Flags and lights and banners, conversation and celebration. There’s no avoiding it – It’s a big deal. I never was someone who followed a team through a whole season. Call me a fair weather fan, but I tend to only gravitate toward sports when there’s no more avoiding it. It’s the point at which the city is overtaken by fever that I really start paying attention, and I’m more interested in the effects the sport has on the city and its people than I am in the game itself. It’s undeniably fun, and can also be stressful for the die-hards. But when triumph comes, the party is like no other.

This is a glimpse at how Seattle parties, the night of the big win, a noisy celebration by a city on good behavior.

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Memories of Flying

New video: Memories of Flying from Thom Stitt on Vimeo.

A couple of years back my friend Mike put the word out. He was in pilot school and was going to take a flight to Calgary and back to Vancouver, through the Rockies, and wanted a passenger to sit co-pilot. I was able to immediately take the day off and take the ride. I don’t regret it – I brought a couple of cameras and decided to document it for sharing purposes. This is that video.

I am self-employed, taking video contract jobs for my bread and butter. This is not always feasible. Very rarely is it feast; Mostly it is famine.

What’s been on my mind a lot is the question of where you put your gainfully-employed time. In one camp there are those who say that you should follow the craft of your passion at every juncture, that you should work in your field and better your skillset in the process. But the danger here is burnout; Working hard on other people’s shows may drain you creatively to the extent that you don’t want to see anything resembling editing software in your spare time, which is the time that you may ultimately need to devote to doing your own passion projects. The alternative is to work as a grunt cog outside of the vid/film industry and do filmmaking on the side, with a fresh creative mind. But a danger of fatigue is present here too. The dream is to be paid to do your own stuff, but this is a pipe dream for most until it happens, and until it happens we must make do.

I don’t know the answer and I’m in the midst of figuring it out. This video offers little in the way of an answer to the conundrum of employment but rather raises the question and seeks connection.

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Say Bike What? (What a Bike Rave Looks Like)

“Bike Rave!”
Later, earnestly: “Bike Rave.”
And minutes after: “Bike RAAAAAVE!” (“wooooo!”)
“Hey, do you guys know wh-BIKE RAVE?”
“I’m bike raving right now!”

Nobody did it better than Zoe, who would occasionally sing “bike raaave” in a lovely ringing tone.

All the bikes have glowsticks, LEDs, some multicolored luminary apparatus to announce to the world that the FUTURE is HERE.

Bike Rave

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Across the Oculus Rift

I’m predominantly a movie man, but I do have a permanent knot in my muscles and bones called video games. I’ve cooked up game ideas since I was a lad, when I was a child I would draw out entire diagrams for levels of my ultimate game, an early lesson in discovering that visualizing your “ultimate” anything is far harder than it would seem. A few years ago I combined my passions for filmmaking and videogames using LittleBigPlanet, creating two youtube series called Creator Closeup and Creator Rewind. This also led to my being hired at an ad agency to create the content for one of the trailers for LittleBigPlanet 2 before its launch.

While I follow industry news and keep an eye on industry movement and shakeage, I play through games that interest me, and I think a lot about game ideas and the future of the interactive form. Here’s what I know: Videogames are utterly schizophrenic right now and part of that is a very exciting spark. It’s an exciting time, even though most games at the moment are write-offs. We’re perched on a cliff, poised to jump, hoping the flying-squirrel suit deploys. My prognosis: It will, and it’ll be beautiful, and we’ll probably smash into a mountain anyway. Here’s my look at now-and-future video games, written with both the non-gamer and hardcore gamer in mind.

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Come Fly the Psychedelic Skies

I miss getting into my zone. It rarely happens. When I sneak my way in it’s a bit like this: I’m in the edit bay, something right is happening and I’m just trying to keep up with it. One idea stacks on another and another and they keep flowing – There’s an invisible spring somewhere and an invisible levee has broken and I don’t want sleep, food, or toilets to get in the way. It’s been a while. I found the zone again this weekend.

3 elements: 1. Seattle traffic in focus; 2. Seattle traffic out of focus; 3. Close-ups of VERY out-of-focus traffic and city lights.

I may have also discovered a new passion – Visual accompaniment to live music. This first video will be playing at Shambhala fest at the RockPit stage. I hope to do many more. DJs, musicmakers, party-throwers, and friends and allies of all of the above, hit me up! Maybe at some point I’ll have this stuff available through an online store, but for now it’s just in the kitchen.

The idea is this: I create the video to random music using only footage that has come through the camera in my hands. I allow the chaos in the footage to do its thing regarding rhythm. Inevitably there will be pattern overlaps with almost any music you play it with. What I hope to have is something like an album full of song-length clips, each done in a single sitting. I have a nigh-bottomless well of nutrient-rich video content from years of taking my camera everywhere and NOT editing it down, and here it is at last: A place for it. Old sleeping lovelies dusted and allowed to breathe again.

2 elements: 1. Seagull in front of Seattle from Bainbridge ferry; 2. Silk dancer.

It glitters and it’s grimy. And it’s quick – 15 minutes of the good stuff took me about 2 days in the kitchen. I keep everything in Final Cut and I keep the effects simple to manage – color correction and luma keys are all I use. It’s easy in post because the footage I begin with is properly crazy. Mostly because I’m crazy, but I’m happy to have somewhere this footage can go. Keep in mind everything moves – the lights twinkle, the raindrops trickle, the smoking plane tumbles and the silk dancer flies. It’s designed to be large and bright and accompanied by loud music that people move to. If people at the show stop dancing and stare at the screens for a while, I may consider the video TOO successful, but nonetheless, a glee-squirm is a good feel.

3 elements: 1. Out-of-focus traffic lights through foggy window; 2. trickling rainwater on window; 3. Hand-smudgy cityscape timelapse.

Once Shambhala’s underway I’ll put together a short version of this reel and publish it for the enjoyment of all. Just add music. Now if anyone’s going to be at Shambhala, stop by RockPit at night and take some photos for me.

3 elements: 1. The crashing flying-machine show; 2. Crows migrating over the city; 3. Maya chilling in the forest.

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Effigy, BC – Trailer

Here it be: A peek at what’s cooking on my documentary on the Vancouver hockey riots. My goal is to have this thing out during the playoff season. The Canucks are expected to do well, and I don’t think the timing could be better.

For now, here’s a little look at the movie – the tone, the noise, the images. Please spread the word, if there’s anyone at all you think may be interested in this, pass it forward with the note that this little documentary will be done by the end of the hockey season. Look forward to it!

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In the kitchen, simmering: Effigy, BC

I’ve (finally) officially started the edit on my Vancouver Riots documentary. I’ve been sitting on the footage for nearly a year, and now, going into the new playoffs, I’m finally feeling like I know what to say. This documentary isn’t an informational research-and-interview deal. I am not asking professors of sociology why people act like they do. I just go out with my camera and notice things, and some of those things I notice while the camera is running. I hope the camera notices them too.

The edit’s going to be a little bit on the gruelling side, but I’m already excited about what I have, and I’ll be releasing a short trailer in the next week. I’ve been working on it the last couple of days, and while I’m struggling to find the right pace and music, and it’s entirely too long to boot, I’m quite stirred and excited.

A couple shots made it into Memory Machine, but I’m sitting on the best stuff for now. I promise to stay postin’!
Effigy, BC

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