Saturday, 30 May 2009

Captain's Blog 30.05.09

It's the last day of May, and Episode Three is out and about at last.

Had some major issues with the sound in this one; the volume goes up drastically for some reason at around 30-35 minutes in, and is generally not great all through.

No idea why; I didn't do anything different to every other time I've exported, so am forced to conclude my dinosaur of a PC is starting to give up the ghost again (the sound card died not so long ago and I managed to cobble it back together, but reckon the whole thing is destined for the big scrapyard in the sky...)

Oh well; these things are sent to try us. Onwards and upwards and forwards, as they say; BSR to finish scripting and Ep4/5 to think about now... it's all go in the cave!

EDIT: It's the Sunday following an episode release... (which usually means I get to go on air and bore everyone who's listening into a coma with my inane drivel again!)

Yes, I'm on Roger and Ken once more, with my old chum the Plumbing God Mr Strange-Burlong, and the delightful Mr White as MC (as always), trying desperately to get us to talk about something... ANYTHING related to making machinima... best of luck, Ken :P

As ever, tune in HERE; if you have any interesting questions, fire them through to Ken or Roger on Skype before or during and I'll do my best to answer them (provided they aren't of the "two trains leave Chicago and New York..." variety, of course ;))

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Captain's Blog 24.05.09

The trailer for Episode Three, "Sins of Blood, Bonds of Honour" is out now at TMU.

(Scurries off to continue work on the episode...)

Friday, 22 May 2009

Captain's Blog 22.05.09

The Neon Age (A Cyberpunk/Dystopian Background)

As mentioned in the comment on the last post, this beast is an example of the "brainstorm" documentation I have knocking around on my PC. As I'll never get around to using it, I thought I'd post it here for dissection, examination or just perusal, as you will.

Bear in mind it was written to be used as a player handout for a campaign that never materialised, so it's a little rough round the edges.

Anyway, here it is...

In the mid 21st Century, the world fell apart…

America, long the “policeman” of the world, succeeded in alienating nearly all their former allies under a succession of increasingly right-wing, fanatical Presidents. When the “Big Drought” came in 2035, and the grain belt crumbled and blew away in the scorching heat, many of their former allies scoffed and pointed fingers: “this is the price of your continued stubborness on climate change”, they cried.

It didn’t help them when the drought struck them, too…

Isolated, cut-off from aid and alone, America was a prime piece of real-estate, ready for asset stripping…

Which is exactly what the Pacific Rim countries did.

Megacorps had grown into existence in the early 21st century, with many of the large Japanese “Zaibatsu” and Australasian companies having employee numbers in excess of the population of some third world countries, and an annual turnover that dwarfed that of some 1st world ones.

As part of an undisclosed “deal”, several companies combined their efforts and effectively “bought out” control of America from the appointed leaders; the state of the economy and worsening social unrest and issues were so bad that no one complained. Indeed, some parties hailed the move as the first step on the road to recovery.

It wasn’t.

Huge chunks of the political and socio-economic infrastructure were seized and sold off to minor companies, almost like “toys”. The big Megacorps held onto the choicest parts for themselves, aiming to use the whole country as a massive “trials and proving ground” for their latest products and services. With a captive audience of millions, hanging on their every whim, they were in heaven.

America in 2096
Urban America
Today’s America is substantially different on the whole from the America of nearly 100 years before. The USA no longer exists; each state is owned and run by one or more corporate bodies, half-jokingly referred to as “Corporate Congress”; as a whole, these representatives of their parent companies dictate policy for the whole country. Much in-fighting, bribery, blackmail… even assassination, goes on in the corridors of power, as lower echelon wannabes try to climb the corporate ladder on the backs of their co workers.

Society is rigidly stratified; the poor get poorer, the rich get richer and everyone else strives to be and buy the next, best thing.

Bloodsports made a return; in a parallel with Ancient Rome, the corps instituted dangerous games and pastimes, not only to feed the bloodlust of the populace (and keep their thoughts turned away from causing problems for their corporate masters), but also to push new product. Street Football, Iceblading; all the teams are draped from head to foot in logos and the sports stars continually appear in ads designed to get people to buy everything that’s being sold. Nearly all movie stars, musicians, writers, artists etc, etc are either owned outright (body and soul…) as a corporate “asset”, or “lease” themselves out to a company (usually only the biggest, self-made Celebs and business minds can do this, though it is not unknown for former corporate “stooges” to amass enough money to “buy” themselves out of a company contract and go freelance).

Entertainment is big business; really manufactured bands, tv, movie and net stars appear on a regular basis, disappearing into obscurity as they are replaced by the newest “fad”.

The average “Joe in the street” is a corporate whore; everything they are fed they eat, everything they are told to wear, they wear; they are pretty much told what to do, think and say by 24 hour continual entertainment channels.

Life for the middle class American is really no different than it is today; they are all mostly wage-slaves, getting up, going to work, coming home, slumping in front of the TV with a beer, going to bed and starting again the next day. They all aspire to be the next TV, radio, movie, pop star, to be the next Bill Gates, the next John Madden… but painfully few have the drive, the skill, the looks or the intelligence to ever rise above their lot.

“Mentoring” is one way. A pretty, intelligent, skilled and/or malleable individual gets noticed by a corporate “scout” (or a company guy who knows a good thing when he sees it); these people are destined to hit the top (if they do as they say, act how they’re told and produce the goods for their corporate “sugar daddies”). Many of the big names of today got their foot on the popularity ladder through corporate sponsorship; if you have the talent, and a Corp latches onto you (or the other way round), you can go far.

Of course, if the public trend turns away from you at any point, and you can’t repackage yourself to re-appeal, you tend to disappear into the backstreet circuit, merely a shadow of your former glory. A lot of former corporate “darlings” end up suicide cases, drug addicts or worse, when they can’t handle the loss of attention from their once adoring fans any more.

Certain areas of the big cities have become “sprawls”; huge areas of semi-derelict blocks, streets, wasteground and industrial areas, inhabited by the lowest of the low. Gangs, pushers, pimps, terrorists, artists, dreamers and the fallen all gravitate to these areas. Thriving communities can spring up around the waste-belching industrial plants; jobs can be found for those willing to slave away in the dark and grime all day and night, for the capitalistic public still want all their shiny toys, and someone has to make them (on the whole, although robotics and cybernetics have made stellar leaps forward in the last century, it’s still cheaper to get a man to do the job). Failing that, service “industries” (from whorehouses to bakeries, drug dens to hypermarkets, cyber chop-shops to furniture stores) have sprung up to take advantage of the market available here, and these zones still see some of the rare free enterprise areas available to the man in the street (though even here, it’s no surprise to find corporate sharks circling for an opening in an area, if they think they can make a decent killing… In more than one sense of the word…)

Next up are the “hab zones”; these areas basically still resemble the old streets and communities of urban America. The middle classes fill these zones, and most of them pass their blinkered lives away without ever glancing downwards at the sprawl dwellers once (they tend to have their eyes so fixed on the distant, diamond-studded horizon of the corporate enclaves that they can’t see anything else).

The majority of the populace aspires to the “enclaves”, the home of the “noveau aristocracy”; the corporate movers and shakers and their toadies, toys and hangers-on. Big corporate names are almost as well known and publicised as the royals and old-style Celebs used to be; the slag-rags (tabloid press) are filled with the comings and goings, ups and downs of the moneyed set, and a multitude of vid progs and net broadcasts play out their playboy lifestyles to the adoring middle class sheep that lap up every morsel and beg for more to take them away from their hum-drum existence.

It’s not impossible for someone to rise from gutter to penthouse; it has been done before, but the individuals who have done so have shown remarkable intelligence, looks, savvy, skill and talent in order to do so.

Rural Areas
Much of America’s former natural beauty has disappeared, either destroyed by the rapacious, resource hungry corporations, packaged up and moved wholesale to the urban areas to be parcelled out piece by piece to those who can afford it, or has simply gone to seed. Increased climate change has made the whole Midwest region a giant dustbowl, where barely an inch of rain falls in a year. Los Angeles is a shattered wasteland, testament to the huge quake of ’58, which shattered the San Andreas faultline and plunged most of Southern California into the Pacific. The madhouse of San Angeles is all that is left, and most sane people agree that the weirdoes that live out this way these days make the old Californians seem like Buddhist Monks in comparison. The Nevada Wall was constructed in 2069 to divide most of the extreme West Coast away from “right thinking” folks (i.e. what’s left of the West Coast cities and towns had very little to interest the corps, so they pretty much left them to get on with it with no influence, with the obvious exception of Hollywood).

Hollywood, or Sunset City as it’s now called, is a sprawling conurbation that spills from the Hollywood Hills out around the surrounding area. Sheltered from the acidic rains and Pacific hellstorms by the topography of the region, butting onto the Nevada Wall for a great deal of its Eastern border and edged by the Great Los Angeles Rift on the north-west, it is still regarded as one of the greatest movie cities in the world (eclipsed only by New York’s Movieville, which is rapidly growing and may well overtake Old Hollywood as a desirable location in a few short years).

It is experiencing somewhat of a slow down nowadays, as a lot of the “smart money” edges slowly to the better developing east coast cities with their easier links to the vast markets of Eurasia and the British Republic. Still, as one of the original areas first “conquered” by the corps, many of the Megas still have their out of Pacifica headquarters situated there (and, indeed, as time passed and the Austra-Asian companies saw what an opportunity America was, many of them moved their HQs there to better oversee their “corporate take-overs”.)

Crime and Punishment
In the sprawls, crime is a fact of life. The general rule of thumb is “If you have something I want, and I can take it away from you, you didn’t deserve to have it in the first place”; possession is pretty much 100% of the law here. Drugs are rife, as is prostitution, slavery (of many different kinds), black market and cheap surgery, and a million other crimes are all accepted as pretty much “business as usual”.

Gangs tend to have well defined territories and areas of “exclusive access”; certain “crime families” are well known for dealing in specialised criminal areas, and syndicates spring up, get butchered and wither away regularly. Big gangs, or those syndicates with a structured and well-organised system, tend to hold the “best” areas, or control the best paying “businesses”. Corporate cops in the sprawls tend to be those who either know when to look the other way, or are from the feared Megacorps subsidiaries (rent-a-cops, most of whom are ex-military or working their way into corporate security). Law here is corporate law; dependant on the city you live in, and which corp owns the local cops, what’s illegal these days may be perfectly acceptable in New America (and probably is, somewhere). However, certain crimes are still considered heinous enough to warrant the “full penalty of the law” (which can range from a rainy alley and a Tamagori 10mm Predator shell in the back of the head, to a full court of law); these are the ones which are usually focussed on embezzlement, destruction of property, etc (as material assets are very important to corps, as you would imagine).

Murder, sexual crime, slavery, abuse; in most places these are still considered crimes and will be punished as such (unless, of course, the individual guilty of these crimes is a member of a corporate family or otherwise well connected…). Some crimes can be punished by “indentured servitude” in certain places (i.e. you effectively work for the corp for nothing until your “debt to society” is paid off), enforced conscription into hard labour units or the military and, for certain offences, a choice between death or entry into the “Entertainment Rehabilitation Program” (i.e. the criminal is offered the chance to enter a Bloodsports team and, if they successfully complete their allotted “term of service” (i.e. survive to finish their stint), they are free to go.).

Several of the top-rated athletes, Icebladers and Deathmatch stars of recent years were crims who went onto great success and eventually made their names in the business; however, those who enter a criminal life in order to try this shot at stardom be warned; they start in the Gutter Leagues where every step forward in progress makes you more and more of a target for “up-and-comers” who want to make a name for themselves… and what rules there are are often overlooked for the sake of entertainment or to ensure that a big money deal gets completed….

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Captain's Blog 20.05.09

Beware; tiredness may lead to bad spelling! ;)

Beavering away on Episode Three (just awaiting the final lines from 2 cast members now to embark on putting everything together so, provided they arrive in time, I can get it all completed next week while I'm off work :)).

WotW script completion next week, too (hopefully; need to get back into the rythm of that writing again, as it's different from my usual fare), and more work on my K4 collaboration project (stoked about that, as it should prove to be a very fun and interesting one to do!).

Decided that, once I have the sponds available, am gonna splash out and pick up the Moviestorm packs I need and launch into that for my previously mentioned horror/action/supernatural movie "Faithful Dawn" (based off the RPG campaign I mentioned a few posts back), purely as it will give me more scope to portray how the feel of the movie should be.

As good as iClone is, I just can't get into using it (and I simply don't have the available cash or time to pick up the stuff I'd need to do what I want with it; I find MS more intuitive for the way I tend to work. Horses for courses, I guess.)

Shadows of Albion is also something I'll get into properly at last once I have MS available (simply because TM can't handle the fighting sequences I'd need to do); not sure whether MS can handle it, either, at the moment, but am determined to give it a go once I'm fully into "fantasy" mode!

Season Two of Odyssey is naturally occupying my thoughts as my long-term focus; once Season One is well underway, am gonna throw the door open to submissions from other writers who fancy a crack at writing an episode or two (which will take the pressure off me slightly next season), provided I can get some good writers in who "get" the feel and direction of the show; by that point, the characters and situations will be well-established and therefore it should be easier for others to pick up the "feel" of the series and be able to script for it... hopefully!

I'm keen to get "fresh blood" in on the picture to prevent it getting stale and, also, to get some more character development on the characters from a different set of eyes. There is a lot still in the closet for the brave crew of the good ship Odyssey (especially what happens to them in the finale, which will really stir things up a bit!), and a lot of interesting history they each have, which is yet to be fully revealed (some hints have been dropped already in the Pilot and the two released episodes; can you spot them? :)).

Am working on the Season Two opener, which will develop the arc story a little more, expose a bit about certain character's pasts which have been alluded to, and rev the engines up for the new season (which will be a little darker in tone than the first, as the interstellar situation begins to change following the happenings at the end of season one). I have a definate idea about how the arc itself will develop, but there is always room for "one-offs" and character pieces are still going to be the main focus of the show, even with the "big picture" in mind and a definate end goal in sight, even though that end goal is still waaaaaay off in the distance.

I have an idea to eventually go back and examine what the crew and other characters were up to prior to them coming aboard the ship (which will hopefully fill in the blanks on some of their backstory), but that will be a way down the line (as the audience needs to find out a little more about them first before I start throwing out the revelations!)

I also toyed with the idea of doing a "spin-off" mini-series, examining other aspects of the Odyssey universe (a bit like K4 has done with Conquest), with a project under the working title of "War Stories", designed to look a bit more at how the Stellar War affected individuals we know and new characters (initially, the idea was to look at a ground-based military unit during the war and see how the conflict shaped them as people, based perhaps on one of the "resistance" groups behind Canis lines which I mentioned in the backstory posts on the TMU forums). I might get around to that at some point, or I might even hand it off to someone else to do, if there's any interest in it from a third party.

Alternatively, it might go onto the "slush pile" for sometime-never, yet... I have too many ideas, and not enough time to form them all into projects!!!

Well, the Allianceverse is a big place and there's plenty of room to spread wings in it, so you never know!

Monday, 18 May 2009

Captain's Blog 18.05.09

All done.

Season One is completed script-wise, and the scripts have winged (wung? I dunno!) their way out to the regular cast and guest stars a plenty.

Got some mighty fine talent lined up for future episodes (again, massively thankful for the assistance of some great VOs who've come onboard to do, in some cases, widdly little parts to help out, which is great, ego-boosting and (as ever) humbling!).

Work plodding along on Episode Three (but, as I'm off on leave next week, it'll give me uninterrupted time to beaver away and complete it at my own, frentic speed as usual!)

On the other people's work front, some corking movies out this week; The Expedition by Animatechnica/Aknzrdude; a project I was happy and honoured to work on with some fine Voice actors. Great looking movie, great story (I had NO clue what the final sequence in the temple was; the sneaky devil kept it under his hat!!); loved the experience.

And, of course, my old chum Biggsy has cranked out another laugh-fest in The Thonginning (starring some familiar voices and Deuce the Dog's first on-screen acting role as himself... bugger me, he's a big lad ;))... now heed thy wife and stop slacking off on HotD, idle git!

Picked up a great cheese recipe, kindly posted by Mr Sinclair, which I shall be feverishly enjoying this weekend (boy, I LOVE cheese... probably explains where my bizarre thought-processes come from, to be honest...). Mad busy at work this week so next week (Bank Holiday weekend in the UK; woo-hoo!!) I'll be enjoying the rest... well, enjoying NOT being at work, anyway :)

Anyhooo, I must away and do some more scripting and shooting and modding and other "ing" things, I guess... toodle-pipski for now!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Captain's Blog 10.05.09

Star Trek
Went and saw the new Trek movie today...

Was impressed with it; as mentioned elsewhere, it will no doubt have Trekkers up in arms due to the playing around with canon, but I thoroughly enjoyed it (don't go to the flicks as much as I used to anymore; little time and am very picky about what I go and watch (due to it costing nearly £7 bleedin quid a chuck for a ticket these days, and that's without munchies...).

Out of the lot, I thought Karl Urban did the best at capturing the persona of the character he was playing (if he was still alive and you "de-aged" DeForest Kelly and put him in this movie, I defy you to tell the difference, he was that good...); Zachary Quinto did an admirable job (having to carry the character of Spock), and he pretty much did it well (it helps that he bears an uncanny resemblance to a young Leonard Nimoy anyway); Chris Pine did ok as Kirk (some nice little character moments but all-in-all he didn't have a massively hard job, let's be honest). Some of the other characters I thought came over far too much as characatures of themselves (Chekov and Scotty, to my mind, were played far too broad) and the character of Uhura... well, aside from the fact she was a fine lookin' lady, her role entailed a BIG change to the established canon of TOS Trek (no spoilers here, folks! You wanna know, go watch the film!)

Good fun for 2 hours; it will have the rabid Trek fans frothing madly at the mouth, but as posted elsewhere, it's a new take on an old franchise that has brought it bang upto date. It won't be everyone's cup of tea, sure, but there won't be a finer sci-fi blockbuster out this summer, I'll lay money on it (and yes, I know the new Terminator movie is coming out... pretty much sums up what I think about that, I feel :P)

Definately worth watching if you aren't a rabid fan of TOS but like a good sci-fi action flick (which, ultimately, is what this is, once you get past all the "canon" bumpf). Yes, being a huge geek there were some moments that made me say "hang on a second..." (even WITH the huge plot "twist" in the last third of the film; again, no spoilers!), but there are also some nice little throwaway lines and nods to the fans tucked away in there (play "Spot the Tribble" with your friends! ;)).

So, all in all, I'd give it an 8 out of 10 (only docking 1 point for some criminally underused characters and cardboard walk-ons that deserved more, but I kinda figured well, it's got to set up Kirk and Spock first, I suppose, so it's understandable, and another point for that goddawful "self-assembly modern minimalist look" of the new Enterprise... the old TOS version had a certain grace about it; this one looks like it was cobbled together in 30 minutes after someone threw away the instruction manual... and put the nacelles on the wrong way round, for starters; a BIG let down to see one of the "stars" of the film get such shoddy treatment).

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Captain's Blog 07.05.09

Well, as I've had a load of VOs back for Ep3, I've embarked on starting to put the next episode together already. Got the effects shots done and out, ready for dropping in, and did the first sequence I can complete with the VOs available last night.

Bleedin Kwis; already done ALL his lines for Episode 3, 4 and 5 (and, bearing in mind he does FOUR seperate roles in Episode 5, the fact he rattled off all 4 (AND they all sound different!) is just mind boggling... and I thought I didn't sleep... it seems to be catching...)

So, with all seven episodes written, Episodes One and Two shot and released, and Episode Three underway, things are looking nice and organised for Odyssey.

My Conquest project is coming along nicely; Master Yodel seems happy enough with what I've scribbled down so far, so all good on that front.

Busy as hell at work right at the moment and, coupled with Skype playing silly buggers the last few days and a potential HD error that has reared its ugly head in the last coupla days as well, I'm not as active as I usually am right now; managed to get a coupla hours shooting done last night setting up my episode 3 studio lot, loading in the cast and guest stars and getting the first sequence done, so am hoping to get stuff filmed and out as time progresses. Doing it in small chunks means a) less mad scrambling to get it all out in one big run at it, b) more time to key up cameras and sets how I want them and c) enables me to switch in and out of "director" mode and "writer" mode to avoid burning out by doing one or the other too much.

Well, more stuff to do so away we go, into the wild blue yonder...

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Captain's Blog 03.05.09

I don't often post or follow live-action fan films, but this one made me make an exception; and I'm glad I did.

The Hunt for Gollum
is based on the happenings "off stage" during the first part of Lord of the Rings; a fan-made movie which took 2 years to make and cost £3,000... and it looks sensational.

If you're in any way a fan of fantasy or LotR in particular, do yourself a favour and check it out. The movie was simultaenously released on-line and screened at the Sci-Fi London Film Festival.

My suggestion? Sit back, load it up and enjoy some pretty damned nice stuff for 40 minutes.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Captain's Blog 01.05.09

New month, new blog post...

Finally cracked Episode 7 (in a marathon 2 days write-a-thon), so at last Season One's scripts are all in the bag, baby! Just awaiting cool-off and "Eagle Eye" check, final edit and brush-ups and they can be safely put to bed.

It's just a matter of making em all, now...

Work commenced on my CQ script (which is coming together pretty well at the moment); should be a nice, dark piece when it's finished, if all goes well :)

I actually wrote the last two scenes first, as they were the ones that came to me when I was brainstorming the project, so it's a matter of now linking the start and finish together without dragging it out too much (one thing I can safely be accused of ;)).

Still thinking about the script for at least one other project, aside from the one mentioned a few days ago, which I'm not going to reveal anything about, save to say it has to be a good one as it's for someone who is a VERY talented director and I don't want to skimp on anything for that. It has to be spot-on.

Not much else to say at the moment, other than go and watch Shadow Over Innsmouth if you haven't already.