Archive for August, 2010

Making A Ruffus Promo

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Thought I’d take a stab at explaining what it is I do when I’m busy not answering the phone.

I just posted a promo for another episode of Ruffus The Dog. It’s a simple little thing, and was fun to do but there are a number of interesting layers to the process of creating it that I’d like to detail here.

First – the promo itself:

Short, sweet, cute – all the stuff it needs to be.

It was shot in front of a blue screen cloth in my home – in my dining room in fact. An easy three light set-up illuminated the backdrop and the characters. My son operated the camera and helped set up the lights and backdrop. The whole thing took about an hour to shoot. It would have gone faster but I was lying on the floor instead of standing – which is preferred for better puppetry – and since I’m an old fat fuck now and no longer as adept as I once was at working a character whilst doing sit-ups there are some rough edges to the performances. Too fucking bad – it’s good enough.

Here’s a picture of an old guy with a puppet:


The background image of the bookshop was culled from one of the existing Ruffus episodes. I performed both Ruffus and the Sheep which was a wee bit of a challenge because there wasn’t any audio playback or fancy-schmancy method of replaying the previous take with one character while shooting the next take with the second character – I just had to wing it and hope I could be consistent with my timing of the lines.

I did okay but I think the overall pace is a bit sluggish. Next time: faster and funnier.

This, as you saw in the above clip, is what the composited image of the two characters together looks like:


The separate blue screen passes with Ruffus and the Sheep were then cut and composited together in Final Cut Pro on my laptop. For the compositing I used the DVMatte Pro plug-in from DVGarage – it does way more cool things than I could be bothered playing with, I just slapped it on and gave it a little light-wrap and that was it. Easy peasy.

Of course, because I was in a hurry, I fucked up the lighting. There was not only a lot of blue spill on the laptop in the scene – which made it half-disappear during the composite – there was also an uncovered window in the room I was shooting in which had the shifting light of a partly cloudy day playing on everything. That’s sort of light-shifting shit can be fine with characters that are moving around but it made the foreground elements of the computer and the books look pretty dodgy as they went light and dark throughout the scene – so I did a quick Photoshop paste-up job on a frame grab of just the foreground and slapped that on as an extra layer to keep everything solid.

Oh – and the Sheep footage was all shot as closeups so it had to be reduced in size to match with the shots where the Sheep and Ruffus appear together. Fussy little stuff.

Here’s an image showing the separate layers that went into making the final image.


All this dicking around in post took only three hours to complete but it took a dog’s age to export as a Quicktime movie (I’m only using an old, original, MacBook Pro for this stuff and it’s pretty much had the shit kicked out of it over the years, some of the keys are missing, the case is corroded & scratched, there’s some kind of weird scum on the screen and the whole thing smells like an old book made from recycled underwear – just so you know) and then, naturally, I found some minor mistakes and had to fix them and re-render the whole thing. That actually happened twice. Eventually it was finished and good enough to post.

The audio sucks but I was in a hurry and it’ll be better next time.

I know my professional colleagues and friends in the industry are probably shaking their heads and muttering: “Mills, Mills, Mills – what the fuck are you doing this for?” but I’m actually enjoying the DIY aspect of the work. It’s very much like the days of my youth I spent in my friend Bryan’s garage making crappy little stop-motion Super-8 films with our tripod strapped to the lawn mower as a dolly. It sucked, sure, but it worked.

Will these little promos help drive traffic to the Ruffus web site? I have no metrics on this at the moment so I have no fucking clue – but, as I said, they are fun way to play around with easily accessible tech and it’s a proving ground for other material I want to shoot with Ruffus and the other characters, expanding this material beyond the existing episodes.

We shall see.

In time I’ll be collecting a bunch of interviews and photos to showcase how the original Ruffus episodes were created – which is more for use on the Ruffus web site than just for this blog but I’ll be sure to share a bunch of that here too.

Let me know what you think.


P. S. Be sure to check out the full episode of Little Red Riding Hood on the Ruffus The Dog web site.

UPDATE: Since this post I’ve jammed another episode online for the Ruffus web site. It’s Little Bo Peep and it features a gloriously heart rending song – sung by a dog – in a dress. Go figure.

Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Rachel Bloom proves geeks are hot in this wonderfully carnal tribute to Ray Bradbury. Reading has never been so fun.

Where was she when I was in high school?

It’s doubtful there will be a similar tribute for other authors of note unless you can come up with sensual rhymes for Azimov, Heinlein, Ellison and Lem.


Even The Troops Are Waking Up

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

It is SO inspiring to hear a calm and reasoned voice speak out with both passion and truth on their side. Yes, the music score beneath amps up the emotional quality of the testimony given by this soldier – but that in no way diminishes the content of what is being said and the need for everyone to listen – and to act.

Please pass this on to others. Thanks.


Keiichi Matsuda – Augmented City – in 3D

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Get out yer 3D specs, folks!

I found this offering of Keiichi Matsuda’s over at Bruce Sterling’s blog. Matsuda’s work has been profiled here before with an earlier work entitled “Domestic Robocop”. It showed a barrage of augmented reality imagery overlaid with normal day-to-day activities which we will very likely become immersed in within the very near future.

That sort of conjectural simulation of AR only gets better when it’s rendered in 3D.

To be fair, this looks a lot better than the dinky little frame I can offer here n these blog pages – so go to the YouTube page and watch it full rez and full screen.

I know most of us shrink from the possibility of being overwhelmed with visual information already in this intensely technically optimistic and granularly fucked up world of ours – but I really think this shit is just so fucking cool.

I, for one, can’t wait to join the Borg. Then we can get all Pew! Pew! Pew! on the asshats in charge. A middle-aged transhumanist cyborg wannabe can dream, can’t he?


P. S. Posting this prompted me to look back through my other AR posts and I came up with this one from a full year ago. Geez – actually makes it sound like I know what the fuck I’m talking about. Go figure.

WikiLeaks – Julian Assange TED Talk

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

TED’s Chris Anderson talks with Julian Assange of WikiLeaks:

Any furor over the release of documents via WikiLeaks should always be tempered with the hidden truths revealed.

In a world where our own privacy is being relentlessly corroded, monetized, surveilled and abused by governments, military and business we are constantly being inculcated, subdued and inured to believing it is inevitable and inexorable for us to live in a world without privacy.


But that goes for everyone.

No secrets.

You want to know everything about me but aren’t willing to share?

Fuck you.

If a democracy cannot operate openly and transparently it is not a democracy. To pretend otherwise is delusional. If you accept the necessity of a government or business to keep its illegal and unethical behaviour secret from those whom it serves or affects then you give up all control over your world and acquiesce to a life of servitude in a plutocracy.

Fuck you.

If you stand against the imposition of secrets to hide fault and criminal action, regardless of the consequences – welcome friend.


Everyone Says I Love You – Harpo Marx

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Just a clip from “Horse Feathers” featuring Harpo Marx playing his version of “Everyone Says I Love You”.


It’s Harpo. No other reason needed.


P. S. You might also appreciate Groucho’s version.

Educate Your Kids About Food – Jaimie Oliver TED Talk

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

I’m a big fan of Jamie Oliver – hell, I’m a big fan of food.

I was raised in a family that ate it’s fair share of junk but also came from fairly basic lower middle class farmer stock so the idea of real food was never foreign to me. Being a hedonist also helped in my pursuit of good tastin’ eats.

I can munch down on McDonald’s crap in a heartbeat – knowing as it clogs my veins that it’s a sin against my own body but not really giving a fuck because I loved the taste of the excessive salt and the ever-ubiquitous Vitamin G. Yeah, it’s shit – yeah, it’s a punch in the heart – yeah, it’s addictive — fuck you, I’m gonna chow down.

But I don’t do that every fucking day. I eat good food – I eat real food – but I also drink too much and eat bacon in a way that almost puts me on par with the Burgess Meredith character from Grumpy Old Men:

But that’s okay because because it’s my fucked up aging body and I refuse to have anyone tell me how to handle my own fucking business. Don’t even try.

But I also have a son. My wife and I have raised him up to enjoy the savours and joys of real fucking food. Where it comes from, how to make it, knowing the difference between factory churned out processed garbage and the real deal that grows up out of the ground or gets hacked off a freshly bleeding animal. You know – the good stuff.

Where was I? Oh yes – Jaimie Oliver. He recently had a limited series on broadcast television called Jaimie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Good piece of work. Check it out. If you’re too lazy to do that – or too busy sucking back pork rinds – then get the short strokes here with his TED Talk:

I’ve spent the better part of my career creating works for young viewers that, in one way or another, always had some level of educational content in it. Fuck the 123′s and the ABC’s – they won’t learn dick unless they’re still alive. Compassion, empathy and the basics of feeding yourself and others lie at the heart of humanity.

My son, bless his heart, is a healthy lad who knows his food, enjoys it and understands the value of it. We both eat salty, greasy crap together. It’s fun. We also bake bread, make pasta, make sausage, sushi, stir-fry vegetables, grow fruit & veggies in the garden and occasionally make wine. He’s gonna live a lot longer than me. That alone shows there’s at least a modicum of justice in the universe.

You want to do something good for the world?

Teach your kids about the food they eat.

It’s that simple.


Ruffus The Dog – “Around The World In 80 Days”

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

The latest episode of Ruffus The Dog to be posted online is our own version of “Around The World In 80 Days”.

It was scripted by Bill Murtagh and contains some seriously silly shit. I recall when we made it we couldn’t stop giggling over the audaciousness of our trying to cram Jules Verne’s classic adventure tale into a mere 14 minutes of screen time.

Here’s the short promo video for the full show:

This episode also features what is perhaps my most favourite JP Houston song from the entire series: “Ol’ Blue Soul”.


<a href="">Ol&#8217; Blue Soul by Ruffus The Dog</a>


The process of posting the full episodes along with these little promo spots is becoming more of a manageable routine. It’s gratifying to see the viewer numbers slowly rise – as I have more info on our stats I’ll be sure to share it with you here.

We’re also rolling out the show in other venues – like our own YouTube channel, an iTunes podcast, along with the de rigeur Facebook fan page and Twitter account – on the understanding that wide exposure is the best possible promotion on the internet.

Over the coming weeks I’m preparing a series of interviews with some of the folks involved in the original production and will be sharing those here and on the Ruffus web site too. Eventually all those interviews will be cut together with other footage to form a Making Of documentary as part of the DVD extras.

Something else I’m going to try – like I don’t already have enough to do – is to shoot some new short spots with Ruffus and some of the other characters. Just little 1 to 2 minute bits based on nursery rhymes, jokes, poems and any emails or comments we’ve been receiving. Extra bits – you know – for the kids.

The writing of the storybooks continues as well as some other plans for the online existence of Ruffus. One step at a time. Tell yer friends.


Of / By / 4 – Lawrence Lessig TEDx Talk

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

I always enjoy Lawrence Lessig’s talks – this one from TEDxBoston is great.

Pass it on.