Oct 15, 2010

Blog: Happenings

Oct 15, 2010 6

What's happening with
the Silent Knights?
And why should I care?

Well to answer the second question first: I have no idea. In fact you probably don't.

But in the interest of maintaining proper blogging etiquette, we should announce to you faithful that the Silent Knights are living up to their name and embarking on an 'indeterminate hiatus.'

In what really shouldn't have come as a surprise, we have found that starting a small business takes an awful lot of time and effort. But just what is this so-called business? Well, we are matching our passions for filming, writing, animating and education into one glorious monstrosity of a project; creating educational films for schools.

We've got a HD camera, proper audio equipment, editing and animation software and almost unlimited access to a professional studio - as well as three guys all eager to get started.

This means now to the end of the year will be taken up with business plans, meetings with the accountant and solicitor, and filming of a pilot episode. And if that all goes alright, then it's a year's hard labour filming, living off savings, and getting a website up and running. It's lucky we're passionate about it, or we sure as heck wouldn't be bothering.

Of course, all this leaves little-to-no time to do anything as indulgent as writing blogs - which is a pity as we've learned so much in doing it, over the last year and a half. Talking to others about the mistakes and lessons one has discovered, has been an invaluable method of really learning from it. And of course having lively discussions and interesting comments and questions from you guys is just another thing we will be sorry to lose.

Of course there is always the chance we'll be back again in a months time, significantly less wealthy, if the business crashes and burns - so we can always hope...

Luke & Mutt

For further information, or just a sticky-beak feel free to visit us at:
(Currently just a face page)

Sep 10, 2010

Blog: Ugandan Animation

Sep 10, 2010 2
There is no post this week, due to the sheer amount of stuff happening at the moment.

For a start we're in the middle of possibly starting up a Media company. And it looks like we've already got our first project.

It's a short educational animation for a missionary run curriculum in Uganda, who teach family planning and sanitation as well as other life skills.

Did you know that an average Ugandan family has seven kids? And it's a lot higher in poor regions. This is called the poverty trap, and once you have more than four or five kids there is literally no way out of it. Orphanages and other care and aid agencies do help families here and there, but in that time many more may slip into poverty. That's what this group is trying to fix - educate people, and help them avoid the trap altogether. This animation will hopefully help visualise some of that.

These are just some style experiments. I've been studying African art, which is really interesting - and almost exclusively depicting women for some reason. It's full of huge ear rings, head wraps and really tall, elongated people.

We have a much more ambitious project coming up, but hopefully we can keep this blog going through it all...

Oh, and what do you guys think of the name 'Inkspire Media'. Any good?

"Email me if you're interested in supporting this foundation."

Aug 27, 2010

Bad Practices: The Chattering Monkey

Aug 27, 2010 2
One of my greatest flaws is my big fat mouth.

I could go on forever about film and philosophy and even longer about any of Mutt and my ideas. Seriously, no one I know ever asks me about them anymore because they know just a hint of curiosity starts me maundering in a disjointed, euphoric manner reminiscent of a small boy recalling how "the most awesome thing just happened".

In essence this passion is a favourable attribute, but not so much when it fails to translate into action.

It is only in the last year I came to understand. Action trumps talk. Period. You could be the most ostentatious wordsmith alive, but the guy who manages to manifest his talent into a finished product will always win in the end.

It was a recent meeting with a very industry-savvy friend that really cemented the fact. We were so hung up on aesthetics and production values that we were holding back all our best cards until 'the time was right'. Now it is clear that such a time only ever arrives if you are moving forward, actively, towards it. In this case moving forward means manning up and making something.

It's about overcoming the fear that it will not live up to what I have in my head, and replacing it with the fear that is will not live at all. How's that for motivation?

Personal flaws: they're a laugh and a half, eh?

Aug 13, 2010

Top Ten: Commentaries and Making-Ofs

Aug 13, 2010 4
So tell me, are you the kind of person who enjoys watching Behind-the-Scene documentaries and listening to audio commentaries?

Well if you're not, here's a free heads up; you are probably going to hate this blog, as it's pretty much a diluted, conjectural and mostly plagiarised version of that.

The best Making-Ofs (M.Os) are goldmines of experience: sharing mistakes and solutions, inspirations and methods, tips and tricks. But they're not all like that. There are also bad M.Os, glorified production company ads or the briefest of vignettes - lasting only long enough to confirm that yes, a composer may have been hired.

The Silent Knight's
Top Ten Commentaries and Making-Ofs

This is a list of the Making-Ofs we found the most useful. A collection of what we thought were the most interesting and educational bonus features we've found. I'm sure if you've listened/watched any M.Os, you will have already seen a few of these. Hopefully there will be a few new ones - and if your favourite one isn't listed below, please drop a comment so everyone can find a copy.

The Mummy
They rip into their own film. On their own DVD commentary. Brilliant. Definitely worth checking out just to hear film makers being honest about their work and it's shortcomings.

Lion King
All bonus features
This is one of the most perfect movies ever made, and there are lots of lessons to be learned from this. The one that stuck with me the most was how they really simplified down the story, while maintaining such rich detail. It was also a joy to hear how they came up with the music and Rafiki and all the twists and turns.

Kung Fu Panda
The people behind this film care so much about every little detail - you'll realise layers you never knew were there, and how to add them to your own ideas. They also talk in great depth about how to really nail a theme.

All bonus features
A brilliant movie that should not have worked, but did. The bonus features and commentary really expand on exactly how a documentary about a political interview could be turned into a fast-paced subtext-ridden Hollywood nail-biter, and not feel wrong. It also explores how actors can really make or break a movie.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Behind the Scenes feature
No matter what you think of it, Atlantis really aimed for the stars - and as such it was plagued by a range of strange and unique problems. Their cast were so varied and ambitious each had their own obstacles - one was animated overseas in a different style, and another was covered in intricate tattoos. They were still struggling with 3D and how exactly to use it. The expensive opening scene was abandoned and the story naturally turned into two separate movies, that constantly fought for attention. Of course, all that made for a much more interesting Making Of.

The Matrix Collection
All bonus features
The Matrix Revisited is definitely right up there in showing that the Brothers Wachowski really fought for their dream and gave 110% to get it made. Now, that alone would be interesting, but then we really get an incredibly rare insight into why the sequels didn't work so well. How? They let critics do their own commentaries and pick it apart. Wow. This alone demands your hard-earned cash.

Futurama Series
Filled with humorous stories by interesting people who really care about their craft. As of two years ago, Luke now officially quotes the commentary more often than the show.
Star Wars Original Trilogy
Empire of Dreams documentary
A compelling documentary explaining how Star Wars, a franchise that changed so much, came to be. And more interestingly, how it almost didn't come to be.

The Incredibles
All bonus features
One thing Pixar Making-Ofs excel at, is showing how far from the finished product they start. Watching the M.Os for Finding Nemo (2003) or Monsters Inc. (2001) is terrifying, because it isn't until almost the very last moment that it all pulls together. However it is The Incredibles M.O. that really stands out, because in addition to this it also contains eye opening views on design and extremely applicable writing dos and don'ts. I am always referring back to how Brad Bird dealt with the scene ‘Snug’s Death’.

Could anything else be on the top of this list? Now I think the LotR trilogy is easily one of the greatest trilogies ever made, and even then... I almost think that the Appendices are better than the films. It is the most complete account of the journey of making films we've ever seen - by the end of it, you really feel you were part of it. Extremely interesting all the way through, and that's saying something - just look how much that is:


Of course ten is a pretty arbitrary number, and we have a few more that we really learnt a lot from. Other great Making Ofs to check out are:
We'd love you to share with the group any good ones you've found.

Jul 30, 2010

Article: The Vicarious Sequence

Jul 30, 2010 5
Movies are opportunities to experience the impossible.

If I write a script where characters can control the elements (ahem), then I need to empower the viewer to feel what that would be like. I owe it to each and every one of them to have a sequence that is purely about the wonder and magnitude of it, to suspend the impossibility of it and make it utterly real.

Often it's these sequences that become the most treasured, especially in the hearts of younger viewers. Why? Because we want to be them. We want to feel the fantastical as tangible, and if you believe that then giving the viewer something to experience has the potential to be everything.

The Vicarious Sequence
Or "Why Can't I Ride A Dragon?"

Vicarious Sequences are sequences deliberately designed to be these pure experiences of an emotion, exploring a key element of your universe that exists outside of the boundaries of the normal world. It could generate excitement, wonder, joy, sadness, horror, just about anything. Here are a couple of great examples of more obvious Vicarious Sequences.

The "Test Drive" Sequence (How To Train Your Dragon)

I freaking love this scene. It, better than anything I've ever seen, captures that feeling of blissful flight we've all dreamed about more than a few times. In this sequence we are Hiccup, and Toothless is our dragon, and it's awesome. It also taps into that primal longing, that at least us guys have, to tame and share a special, near-psychic connection with wild beast. That's two seriously powerful things it has going for it.

But it's more than that. If that's all it took to create such a sequence we'd have a million of them by now. So what is it? Well, here's my guess; It's also a 'HOW TO' sequence.

If dragons did exist and they could be flown... how would you do it? This sequence is full of fleeting details that ground the whole thing in a reality that makes that feeling of joy all the more potent. He had to design the saddle, he had to work out he needed the tether... he had to learn it's fatal flaw.

It was these details that took the sequences from us watching some kid flying around on a dragon to being that kid. It was real to the viewer.

The Dojo Fight (The Matrix)

The above shot, an improvised moment on set, sums up this sequence flawlessly. He was an ordinary nerd trapped in an ordinary life with nothing going for him. Now he knows kung fu... instantly. Awesome.

This is how the viewer feels as Neo; Smug, sure and on top of the world. He just got what every little boy would kill for and he's ready to kick some ass. But even better than that is, believe it or not, the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar.

Not only did Neo just get mad kung fu skills, but he's got an audience primed to see if he's The One. This taps into the viewer's desire for fame and recognition, and very powerful desire to draw from. That, and the fight scene was really well choreographed. Without that, none of it would have worked. But because of that, it worked so much better as a Vicarious Sequence.


I chose these sequences because they embody the most commonly used emotions; excitement and joy. If you wish to see an example of how to utterly fail at this sort of Vicarious Sequence, give Astroboy a rent (actually, that film is worth seeing for finding a way to fail at just about everything).

Inception is another really good example of giving the viewer a unique experience. When Ariadne (Ellen Page's character) first enters a dream consciously (paradox?) she immediately starts flexing her metaphysical muscles and changing the world. Come on, wouldn't you?

Yes, you would. Don't lie.

These sequences have the potential to be the most impactful, the most powerful, the ones that can stay with a younger viewer the rest of his or her days. When you get so caught up in the rules and the structure of storytelling... it's the Vicarious Sequences that can be the most easily forgotten.

What are your most loved Vicarious Sequences?
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