Like most people around the world, I awaken each day with dreams of having my own green-screen film set. People commonly have this dream, right? I’m the only one? Hmmm… well that would certainly explain why my top holiday wish-list item has garnered so many odd reactions? Anyway, I thought I’d take the economies-of-scale approach this week in building my own desktop green-screen set.
I suppose the inspiration comes from model railroad enthusiasts, who build realistic landscapes to scale for their trains by using things like lichen for trees and small, heavily contoured rocks for cliffs. I felt I could similarly create detailed small-scale desktop environments and shoot them up close so that, when images were later dragged into Photoshop and layered with other elements, the images would appear as realistic landscapes to scale with whatever else I dropped into the mix. As an overall sensibility already followed by many in the simple sizing and placement of image elements, I felt a desktop green-screen set had some real possibilities in creating fantastical landscapes with depth and weight.
For those unfamiliar with green-screen technique, it’s how filmmakers create images that would otherwise be difficult (if not impossible) to capture in real life. As an example: If a filmmaker shoots a model of a spaceship against a green screen, the green color is easily removed in post production, leaving the spaceship against a transparent background. (The same effect can be achieved through classic blue screen.) When that transparency is set against an image of stars, the final image looks like a shot of a ship in space.
I put my desktop set together for next to nothing using cardboard, tape and some snazzy Gay-Glo green Bristol board from Shoppers Drug Mart, and set the whole thing against a wall in the studio where there’s plenty of natural sunlight.
Though I’m quite certain I’ll one day soon have a regular-size green-screen set, I’ve long believed that there’s always a way to start down the path of any dream, even if that ultimate dream seems cost-prohibitive or even silly to others. So here’s to green, the color we celebrate this holiday season as the color of life, eternalness and its embodiment in everyone. Here’s to dreams and the dreamers, and the knowing that it’s all in the imagining.
Two vintage letterpress printing blocks, discovered a few days ago in the bottom of a forgotten box while doing a bit more unpacking at the newly refurbished Candy Factory Studio. As early ads for two Rexall Pharmacy products (Bisma-Rex and Brite ‘n Groom), the blocks were preserved by my late mother while working at the Rexall office in Oakville, Ont., and as inherited items, I’ve oddly found them to be of great comfort where they rest alongside other printing blocks by my workspace. As I sit there alone late at night sometimes to render images by hand using pencil and ink before dragging images into Photoshop for further work, I’m reminded of the centuries preceding offset printing and software, when relief printing involved the skilled, artisanal hands of machinists, typesetters and press operators. In the weight and craftsmanship of the blocks, there’s an odd assuredness that somehow transmits itself through time by heft and hand, meaning as much as I love conjuring the digital ether through applications like Photoshop, I’m slowly rediscovering the strange Zen that comes from rendering images slowly by hand into physical form.
For readability, each image has been set beside a flipped version, as letterpress blocks are engineered in the reverse for correct reproduction on a printing press.
Neil Peart’s steampunk drum kit from Rush’s 2010-2011 Time Machine tour was the inspiration behind this new Mixcloud track art for Radio Xrisville, a podcast I began some while ago to explore the craftwork of humor writing, innovative copywriting, social commentary, soundtrack composition and audio engineering.
There were a few seconds when I believed I might be hallucinating. Having arrived at Rosewood to clear brush and work the gardens for a week, I’d certainly seen the odd feral cat glide through the woods over the years. Yet I’d never known one to take up residence. So as I stood somewhat dehydrated in the blazing sun of 71-percent humidity and saw the world through sweat-clouded eyes, I briefly thought I was seeing a mirage as two kittens perched atop the rocks of the field stone fence.
Hovering near a den they’d found in a crevice, they were wary, underfed and far too young to be on their own. As they tended to head for the thickets when I initially moved close, I waited until they were comfortable enough to at least retreat into their den before drawing near to set out tuna, the only suitable food I had on hand. Feeding and monitoring them for a day, I began making calls to regional animal rescuers—and then a storm hit.
Rain poured down overnight and thunder ripped the skies. The next morning, the kittens were gone, and didn’t return. Dismayed, I thought the downpour had forced them to seek shelter elsewhere, and I worried about their safety. Yet days afterward, a friend suggested the kittens’ mother may have returned and they’d followed her away, and it made sense, as leaving the protection of the den in the dead of a stormy night hadn’t made any sense at all.
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Once in a while, we’re fortunate enough to encounter something that feels like coming home, and to that, I’m so very grateful today to be welcomed to Starlight Music Chronicles as their newest contributor. As one whose graphic-arts interests have always leaned toward music and bands, and who wrote professionally for many years as music reviewer for TV Guide Canada (and other publications), it’s a return to a world that has always lent great color and inspiration. Tremendous thanks to Starlight Editor Candice Marshall for the invitation, the always-inspiring words and the sheer opportunity to shine within the starlight.
Last March, I began the lengthy application process for Second Career in order to upgrade my skills. Yesterday in Kitchener, the MTCU signed the final approvals. Beginning Sept. 29th, I’ll begin 24 weeks of full-time study as a Digital Media student at Conestoga College in Waterloo, where (among much) I’ll study Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, HTML, interface design, graphic design and typography, Flash and web intractivity, web authoring and video and audio production. I’m nervous and excited about it all, but more than this, I’m immensely grateful, not just for being one who managed to meet Second Career’s many requirements (and secure entrance to Conestoga through a portfolio showing of my visual, design and audio work, much of which is featured on this site) but for the guidance and support of my partner and fellow joy-seeker, Mary Beth, as I walk forward on this previously unimagined path. I’m also grateful that I followed inspiration and began self-publishing Xrisville humor magazine. All that writing and design work really tipped the Conestoga scales in my favor and reminded me to always follow inspiration, even if it initially doesn’t appear as if it’s headed anywhere. You just never know how something will ultimately serve or when it will reveal its purpose.