Sunday, August 31, 2008

This will make no sense...

...unless you're one of the three (well, there's actually a fourth, but he wouldn't know) other people involved...

Last week...

I chatted through a blue cloud to a man who lives upside-down.

I spoke with a man in the future using a bird with poor spelling.

The same bird allowed me, the man in the future, and a man who lives outside of a city that split to talk to each other without taking us anywhere.

The man in the future produced an excellent stuffed figure.

We made sure that the poorly spelled bird did not see the figure.

The man from the split city and I spoke about a bloodthirsty person.

I also used the poorly spelled bird to briefly talk to the man who lived only an hour into the future.

Are you confused yet?

Can you figure out who and what I'm talking about? (I have mentioned all of the people and things somewhere in my blogs.)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

New Video

I made this video to try out Ulead VideoStudio 9.

(Warning, some language at the end, and a shower scene.)


Here's my list of video editing software I've used (I've left out a couple that I couldn't use because my system is kind of out-of-date)...
Windows Movie Maker A very easy-to-use interface, plenty of options and effects, but is easily corrupted by installing and using other video software. (And even if you don't, it often does get buggy, anyway.)
Video Edit Magic Promises a lot, gives little. A pretty daunting-looking interface that often messes up your video footage. Effects have to be tweaked before you get the desired look, and then your finished video looks choppy.
Nero Vision Excellent for making end credits, but is not a friendly video editor.
Virtualdub Okay, pretty much, you have to get a handle on using this one, but it's not that good for actually editing video, unless you're removing sections from a video. Really, for all practical purposes, Virtualdub is more like a video converter and re-encoder, it can also capture and add filters to video. (I've used it to make low-quality footage look a little better.)
AVS Video Editor Decent video editor, though making simple text overlays seems impossible, and it's difficult to preview and sync up your video.
Ulead VideoStudio 9 (Current version 11, but I couldn't get that one to install) Almost a Windows Movie Maker clone, now allowing you to use more kinds of video, saving in more formats, two video tracks, two audio tracks, and there's more effects. My worst problem is that it has trouble loading media on removable media, like CD and DVD ROMs and flash drives. Other than that, it's a very good editor.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tomorrow...

Tomorrow I will try to finish a new Oz music video, and, while I'm at it, also look through job listings.

I would be hitting the pavement, but something happened tonight that throws me off that idea... temporarily...

(Go to my other blog to read what happened. It's not Ozzy...)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Happy Birthday, Ozma!

It's August 21, and it's Ozma's birthday once again. Before I fire up the CTC production of The Marvelous Land of Oz on my DVD player (first non-Russian Oz movie I've watched in awhile), let's do some quick updates...

Wonders fans, Movie Maker now refuses to save video files. I'm about to try out yet another video editor, wish me luck!

I'm also considering doing a re-editing of the series after the finale episode... But, just to answer a question I get from Oz fans, I can't sell you a DVD of the series. I could claim that I'm charging for labor and shipping, but still, Wonders does contain material I don't own the copyright for, and selling it is illegal.

That's why my next big video series project will only use original or public domain/royalty free material...

And speaking of that, I might as well announce that the project will be an Adobe Flash animated adaptation of L. Frank Baum's The Enchanted Island of Yew, tentatively retitled Prince Marvel. If you haven't read the book, the series will follow the adventures of Prince Marvel and the Lord Nerle as they journey the Island of Yew, righting wrongs and bringing peace to the island. The only thing is, no one seems to know where Marvel has come from, and he plans to only be on the island for a year.

And now you may want to know "Will you ever animate Oz?" The answer... Yes! The opening titles for the "Wonders" finale, if I can get a handle on Flash by that time, will be animated and set to a special cover of "The Wonders of Oz" song. (Ever wanted to see an animated Ork?)

I got the finished version of the song yesterday. It was rearranged and performed by Alan Cook, an Oz fan, illustrator, and singer who lives in Glasgow, Scotland. And well, I think it sounds great! Al is quite excellent at his crafts, in fact, I got acquainted with him because he's working on an Oz-related illustration project.

And, while I'm mentioning him, today he put a video on his YouTube channel, he's the "clown" at the end...



And one last thing... It was Al's suggestion I publicly reveal my e-mail and instant messaging identities. It's the blog post linked at the top of my blog's links called "Contacting Me," but in case you can't see the link from here, here's a link to the entry: Contacting Me. Please use wisely.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Land of Oz: The Manga #1

Well, enough time has passed since I got my copies of The Land of Oz: The Manga #1, that I think anyone who might want to be spoiler-free about the series probably now has their copy. (Okay, actually, I forgot to blog about it earlier...) If you don't have it yet, or would rather wait for the likely forthcoming single volume edition, you might want to skip this blog, as I'll probably be doing some spoilers.

First off, the artwork. David Hutchison has improved in his manga-styled artwork, and has now utilized shading in his art. It helps the artwork look a little three-dimensional. His character designs on Mombi, Tip, Jack Pumpkinhead, the Sawhorse, and Jinjur (who's very cute!) are, once again, superb and original.

As for adapting the story, as this is only the first volume in an (8 volume?) mini-series, it's a little early to say, but it's very faithful to Baum's book. But actually, in any form, Baum's story here moves very quickly (especially if long dialogue's, like Tip's recap of Wonderful Wizard, are excised), so the first issue ends with Jack's arrival at the Emerald City (and Tip enjoying some sandwiches, courtesy of Jinjur).

I look forward to the next issue, where the main part of the story will really begin!

Some hopes I have:

Jinjur will not be played off as evil or completely trusting of Mombi.

Hutchison will do Ozma of Oz, despite a robot that resembles a bipedal ant named "Tick-Tock" appearing in the Emerald City. (And replacing the Soldier with the Green Whiskers.)

If you haven't yet, get your copy!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

And Lo, There Shall Be An Ending

(Okay, I admit to being a comics geek as well as an Oz fan...)

I got Movie Maker working again, so the re-edited Wonders 11 should be coming soon.

And, I guess, if you haven't noticed, the Wonders series is coming to an end. Some Oz fans have responded "Why? You aren't doing anymore Oz videos?"

Well, to answer number 1, Wonders has been briefly covering history, and really, you can only do history for so long.

Another reason is that I've been doing the series for what's getting to be a year and a half, and really want to try something else.

The second question isn't so easy. While Sam Milazzo has more video ideas that I'm interested in (though he's getting into video editing himself), I have plans that kind of go outside of Oz.

I'm trying to get a handle on Adobe Flash, which is some pretty good animating software. Currently, I plan on adapting one of Baum's non-Oz fantasies for it. (This also means I can cross-post my videos on Newgrounds.com as well...)

So, there are no current plans for another stream of Oz videos.

If you remember, yes, Sam and I are working on screen adaptations of Baum's Oz stories, but we would both like to try our luck getting them optioned before deciding to make them into independent animated movies. (Though, I did note to him, the creative control would be a plus.)

Wonders 12 is currently titled "21st Century Oz," and it will cover pretty much all of the areas of the Oz phenomenon not covered in the previous eleven episodes.

After that, Sam Milazzo will be presenting a very special episode that will be covering the Land of Oz itself. He'll be onscreen and doing all of the narration, and I hope to try out some blue-screen effects to more effectively show Oz illustrations from the original books.

There are ideas floating for other special episodes, about Oz publishers, illustrators, and a very good chance that there will be one about Oz websites that Aaron Pacentine has contacted some webmasters for. (As I have no material in hand for these, the chances of production vary.) I might do some later on, we'll see. (And if anyone wants to take a shot at making an episode on their own, I'm all for it.)

Then, there's the finale coming. I'll be showing video footage of Sam, Aaron, and myself talking about making the series, and there will be a very special cover of the theme song that I got the demo for a week ago (SOME of you may have gotten it, as well), and I think it just sounds great! (So much so, I got a little excited there.)

I would love to say "You can expect all of this soon!" but I and everyone involved just do these videos and our other projects alongside of our personal lives. We all have jobs, we all have bills.

OH... and I have a very special Oz-related video project coming up, more on that when it's ready... if you haven't seen it before the time I blog about it...

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Wonders 11

I guess I owe my blog readers some word about Wonders 11: I did finish it. I uploaded it in the wee hours of the last day of July, so it's been on YouTube for about a week.



As you can see, it did not turn out as I'd hoped. The big culprit: Windows Movie Maker. Yes, after making 10 regular episodes of Wonders, it broke down. (Which is weird, it's not a car, it shouldn't wear out, it just bugged up.) It saved the opening titles segment and the very first part with Aaron's narration just fine, but when it came to the excerpts from "Wicked," the audio fell out of sync. When it came to the musical, I set it to mute the first bit, but it didn't in the exported video, and then you see more audio syncing problems in the clips I chose!

I tried using alternatives, Nero Vision, which I like how it does credits (the credits roll was made with it), but it would crash when I tried to save the completed episode. I goofed around with AVS Video Editor, but honestly, I wasn't sure if it wouldn't let me NOT make a DVD. The video on YouTube was edited with Video Edit Magic, which, as you see, is terrible at using pictures, and it made the Idina Menzel Tony Award video go out of sync with it's audio (I edited myself).

I'm going to remake this episode, but I'm trying to find video editing software that will actually work.

And yeah, I should really get a Mac, because they're better equipped for video editing, but unless someone wants to donate one or a thousand dollars to buy one, I'll just have to make do with what I have.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

(Post 222) 2 Returns To Oz

Sam Milazzo asked me to compare two animated sequels to The Wizard of Oz: Rankin & Bass' 1964 Return to Oz and Filmation's 1974 release Journey Back To Oz (which, coincidentally, at one time seems to have been given the working title Return to the Land of Oz).

First off, let's compare the animation styles. In Return, the animation is not especially notable. It is charming, however, with the out-of-proportion character designs (large heads, small bodies) and "flat" storybook background designs. In Journey, the animation style resembles a cross of Chuck Jones and Hanna-Barbera. All around, it is quite beautiful and smooth.

Now for the story: both start with Dorothy and Toto in Kansas, Dorothy wishes she could go back to Oz (in song), and, via cyclone, they do!

In Return, Dorothy receives a magic letter that tells her everything is going all right in Oz and that they miss her. Dorothy sings "Oz Just Can't Continue Without Me" as the letter folds into a paper airplane and whips up a cyclone that blows her and Toto to Oz as the opening titles play. In Journey, Dorothy remembers Oz, while Aunt Em tells her that there is no such place. Uncle Henry vocally says that Dorothy should stop being such a dreamer. Dorothy sings "There's A Faraway Land." A twister catches her attention, and she is knocked out by a swinging gate. The opening titles play. (Sam mentioned that Dorothy seems to be fully conscious when you see her in the cyclone...)

SPOILERS AHEAD!

Next, Dorothy arrives in Oz... and plot lines differ... or do they? Dorothy lands in Oz, a witch is causing trouble for her old friends, down the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City, some help or advice from Glinda comes into play, the witch is defeated, peace is restored. Dorothy goes home via cyclone...

In Return, Dorothy and Toto land in Munchkinville, where Glinda meets her and informs her of the restored Wicked Witch of the West, and how she has harmed her friends. Dorothy finds her old friends, returns to the Emerald City, gets misled by the Wicked Witch posing as the Wizard. The group walks into the Wicked Witch's trap, where the Lion gets hold of the Silver Shoes as the Wicked Witch dangles Dorothy out of the window. Remembering advice from Glinda, Dorothy tells Lion not to touch the shoes. The Lion gives them to the Witch, who turns into stone and inexplicably crumbles. At the Emerald City, Glinda reappears and tells Dorothy's friends they really have brains, heart, and courage, then advises Dorothy on wishing on "Kansas Magic" to whip up a cyclone that sends her home.

Return features short, somewhat forgettable songs, though there are some good ones. ("The Wonders of Oz," "Oz Just Can't Continue," and "Magic is Everywhere" are some pretty nice songs...)

Journey is loosely based on The Marvelous Land of Oz. Dorothy and Toto follow the Yellow Brick Road (after an encounter with a signpost who points in all directions that doesn't bear on the plot), and meet Pumpkinhead, who warns them of the Witch Mombi, who Dorothy shortly meets, and discovers that she's making an army of Magic Green Elephants to conquer the Emerald City with. Dorothy, Toto, and Pumpkinhead flee Mombi to warn the Scarecrow, meeting ex-carousel horse Woodenhead. At the Emerald City, they tell Scarecrow just before Mombi arrives and captures the Scarecrow and Toto as Dorothy, Woodenhead, and Pumpkinhead flee to Tin Man's Tinland. Tin Man gets scared of the thought of magic green elephants, and sends them to the Lion, who also gets scared, and sends them to Glinda, who appears and tells Dorothy that the solution to Oz's problems lies within Dorothy herself. She gives Dorothy a small box that Glinda tells them to use only in dire need in Emerald City, so the trio heads back (facing Mombi's Fearsome Forest), scares away the elephants with magic mice who crawl out of the box. These mice also scare Mombi, who runs out of the palace, turns herself into a rose with poison thorns, but she is crushed by her own elephants. Mombi dies, the elephants disappear, the Emerald City is restored, but Pumpkinhead's life vanishes. He is restored with a tear from Dorothy. Dorothy is sent home via cyclone.

Journey really suffers from too many songs. Some, especially Dorothy's (who was played by Liza Minelli) songs are quite excellent. Others feel pointless.

So, which one is better? Well, Return has a tighter plot, but it feels less inspired, since it is just a re-working of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a sequel to itself.

Journey has a better plot, but it drags because of pointless songs and plot devices. It's also animated better.

So, this is one case where neither is really better than the other...