Archive for October, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30th, 2009

I think my house might be haunted:

Figure Drawing 2

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

I went to figure drawing again last night. I was feeling pretty tired and wasn’t sure I was going to stick around but it had been a while since I drew so I pushed myself to stay to the end.

In other news, I’m on a new server now. Can you tell? Yeah, neither can I. But hopefully everything is still running smoothly. If you can see this post, that’s probably a good sign.

Flash Applications on the iPhone

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Adobe recently announced that Flash Professional CS5 will be able to compile native iPhone apps. I suspect that this will have a significant affect on the iPhone App Store. We’re probably going to start seeing a flood of apps over the next few months as Flash developers start porting their website games into iPhone apps. I suspect this is going to make it somewhat harder to be a successful developer of 2D games, or anything else that you can do in Flash, as you now have a million or so Flash developers to compete with as well.

Agent Pepper

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Last weekend, a group of us (Emma Coats, Brandon Hyman, Erick Tyrzelaar, Vladimir Kooperman, and I) participated in the Mill Valley Film Festival Cinemasports. What is Cinemasports? It’s a one-day movie making event. All the teams come together in the morning to receive an official list of “ingredients” and duration limit (3 minutes for the short and 20 seconds for credits). Then they each try to write, shoot, and edit a short film using those ingredients in 10-hours. Finally, all the teams meet back together in a theater to enjoy everyone’s short film. This event’s ingredients were:

  • a spicy pepper
  • a stolen document
  • a shaman

Vlad, Brandon, me, Emma, and Erick at the Mill Valley Film Festival

As soon as we got the ingredients, our group headed over to a coffee shop and brainstormed for a while. Do an infomercial about spicy peppers that heal all ailments, including stolen documents? A team of assassins that uses a spicy pepper? How about a team of secret agents and one of them is named “Pepper”? Or how about an agent that is a pepper? Genius.

Once we settled on a concept, we pitched various ideas. Some of them got used (ie., I look like the secret agent at first, but I’m actually just a driver). And some were a bit too elaborate for the 3-minute limit (a series of fights between Agent Pepper and various human thugs).

Emma, our director and writer, started working on a script with Vlad while Erick, Brandon, and I started shooting the intro of me riding up to Dr. Shaman’s mansion. We planned on driving 40-minutes back to East Bay where we all lived to do the interior shots (and also to do some shooting of me riding on the freeway) but traffic was pretty heavy and at the last minute they decided they couldn’t spare the two hours or so it would take us to go back to one of our homes and back. So we started scouting around Mill Valley for some locations.

Fortunately, we happened to stop right outside a PG&E power substation which made for a great intro. We shot a couple scenes. (“Hey, how about if Mach climbs up the wall?” “But there’s an opening right next to it.” “Yeah, that’s what makes it funny.”)

But then we had to figure out what to do about the interior shots. Like I said, the closest any of us lived was 40-minutes away, so that was out. Then someone hit on the idea of using a public library. We whipped out a mobile internet device (thank you iPhone!), found the local library, and met back there. If you want something even more challenging than trying to make a short film in a day, try doing it surreptitiously inside a quiet library. We got more than our fair share of odd looks and puzzled glances. (By the way, the Mill Valley Public Library is absolutely gorgeous.)

We also lucked out in that the library was located right next to a beautiful forest with a stream running through it, which we used for the final fight sequence. Emma, Brandon, and I shot that while Vlad and Erick did the amazing stop motion animation that appears after the end credits.

Throughout the whole process, Emma was editing the raw footage on her laptop. Once the principal photography was done, she focused on the editing while the rest of us did ADR (additional dialog recording) in the car.

In the end, we were just glad to have come up with a more or less cohesive short film. The audience really responded to it in the screening, which made us even happier. It’s obviously pretty rough but hopefully it’ll still make you smile.

Some lessons learned:

  • Making a short in a day is intense but a lot of fun.
  • Leave more time for editing.
  • Always bring a spare battery for your camera.

AdWords Didn’t Work Out

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

A while ago, I mentioned that I got a free credit of $100 to use with Google AdWords. After a couple days, I wrote that it didn’t seem like anyone clicked on any of my ads. Well, it’s been over a month and as far as I can tell, none of my ads have been clicked on or my ad hasn’t gone up yet. It’s an ad for Mach Dice and I’ve tried just about every relevant keyword I could think of, including all the suggested ones (iphone, dice, rpg, boardgame, etc.). I even tried bumping up my budget to $20 a day with a max bid of $10 per click (which seems insanely expensive considering that my maximum profit would be 70 cents).

So, either I’m not doing this right or Google AdWords isn’t the right venue for advertising my iPhone apps. Well, at least it didn’t cost me much to find that out. But hey, if any of you have suggestions for making it work, let me know!

Absolute Sandman

Monday, October 19th, 2009

One of my friends bought a copy of Absolute Sandman a while ago. She never got around to reading it so she wanted it to pass it on to someone who would appreciate it. We love Neil Gaiman and Sandman so she gave it to us!

The Absolute collection retains the original line art but it’s reprinted in a bigger format and updated coloring. I took a few pictures so you can see the difference. The larger format is great and I love the new colors. They make use of modern coloring technology to provide a greater range of colors and shading and makes the art look even classier. The only quibble I have is that I think they’re occasionally a bit heavy on the use of gradients. But overall, it really works well. Thanks, Emma, for the new version of one of my favorite comics!

It’s Hammer Time!

Friday, October 16th, 2009

I put together a little video yesterday morning… Matt Davies, this one’s for you!

The Great Flood of ’09

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Three things happened yesterday:

  • the Bay Area got its first big rain of the season and it was a doozy
  • a local fire knocked out power for parts of Berkeley (including our home) for most of the day
  • our sump pump, which drains water from our basement in the event of heavy rains, was rendered somewhat ineffective without the electricity needed to power it

The result? Our basement was completely flooded with a couple inches of water. Fortunately, there wasn’t anything down there. It’s just a cement floor. But we spent most of the evening soaking up the water with towels into buckets. We ended up draining about 40 bucketfuls, or something like 100 gallons, of water!

Thank goodness we hadn’t installed the hardwood floors yet…

iPhone App Promotional Codes and Safari

Monday, October 12th, 2009

If you write iPhone apps, you can download Promotional Codes to help promote your app. You only get 50 of them, but they’re very handy in promoting your app. You’d be surprised how fast they go. Reviewers want free promotional codes, various websites want free promotional codes, cheap-ass frugal friends want free codes, etc.

But I’ve occasionally run into problems downloading those codes from the iTunes Connect website using Firefox (my regular browser). Fortunately, I was able to download them just fine from Safari. So if you’re a iPhone app developer and you have problems downloading promotional codes, try using Safari.

Update: I think the problem wasn’t the browser, it was the fact that I hit “enter” after typing the number of codes that I wanted and it seems that that caused it to go to the next page without registering the number. Hitting “tab” and then “enter” fixed the problem.

YouTube Cuts Me Off

Friday, October 9th, 2009

I made an interesting discovery last week: