BBC developing a visuals engine for storylines

Interesting developments in automatic storyline visualisations. The experimental Mythology Engine was…

“a [BBC] prototype exploring new ways of telling stories on the web. It began as an experiment to bring storylines from Doctor Who to the web. Rather than create a basic page for each episode and character in Doctor Who, the Engine allow[ed] the storyline to be described using an ontology. This storyline can then be presented either in a linear way, mapped to the traditional TV structure of episodes and series, or [extracted] to let you examine a single story arc within a complex narrative, for example. This is particularly interesting when considering the time-travelling escapades of the Doctor. His stories can be viewed at in linear time, or as they are presented in an episode, for example. […] The team demonstrated this as a proof-of-concept by modelling some EastEnders stories and loading them into the Engine with a different visual treatment. There are many remaining challenges: how do you present cliff-hangers or uncompleted storylines without giving away the ending before broadcast, for example? Our colleague, Paul Rissen, investigated this in a follow up project called StoryBox [“which was essentially the next iteration of the Mythology Engine”, says Rissen].

Although someone must be pretty dumb not to be able to follow the plot of Doctor Who — and isn’t one of the pleasures of Doctor Who working out all those extra little fan-bits of who-what-where backstory, afterwards? But as a generative comic-strip software, it sounds interesting.

Another such early automatic story visualisation engine is StoryVisualizer from France.

Survey of animated and FX-heavy movies due for 2013

So what cool and worth-mentioning movies do we have to look forward to in 2013? Movies that are either animated or FX-heavy fantasy/sci-fi?

February 2013: The Croods. Fun caveman comedy animation, originally an Aardman project but now in 3D from Dreamworks. Sounds like just what you need to liven up a dull February.

The Croods - Image 2

March 2013: Jack the Giant Slayer. Fairytale filmed on location in England which, together with a strong cast, sounds encouraging. But it’s been delayed a couple of times, and trawling the screenshots suddenly discourages much hope for it.


March 2013: Oz the Great and Powerful. $200m prequel to The Wizard of Oz. Has “worthy” and “over-stuffed” written all over it.


April 2013: Oblivion. Sadly not a movie of the famous Bethesda videogame. The bare sci-fi plot sounds like cliched “last-man-on-Earth” stuff, with a dose of demographics-friendly “last-girl-on-Earth” romance. But it’s also apparently based on an acclaimed sci-fi graphic novel, and it’s by the Tron: Legacy director — so there’s some hope for it.

Oblivion movie HD Wallpaper

May 2013: Star Trek: Into Darkness, aka Star Trek 12. I loved the original Shatner-era movies, and enjoyed the Picard-era Trek movies. But the recent teen-friendly reboot hasn’t lingered in my memory at all. Still, it’s sort-of Kirk-era Star Trek so I’m looking forward to it.


May 2013: Epic. Whimsical animated magical-forest adventure by the makers of the abysmal Rio. A preview image of the heroine riding on a humming bird, going to meet some cute mice, suggests the target audience will be 10 year old girls. Well good for them, they deserve a big-budget movie made just for girls (that isn’t Tinker Bell).


July 2013: Pacific Rim. Give Guillermo del Toro $200m worth of Transformers-like giant robots and giant monsters to play with, and the result is highly likely to be at least a little fun. For boys of all ages.


Summer 2013?: Gravity. George Clooney vehicle, a realistic near-future space disaster drama, in the Apollo 13 human drama tradition.


August 2013: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Dark fantasy creatures invade the real world. Based on a mother-daughter “young adult” novel. Doesn’t sound very promising.


September 2013: Riddick, aka Riddick 3. Third in the sort-of series. The first two movies were OK, as gory b-grade low-budget sci-fi movies go. But Riddick is a very interesting character, so it might be an enjoyable lads’ movie.


October 2013: The Seventh Son. Sounds like a standard-issue ‘young adult’ dark fantasy, intended for young teen males.


November 2013: Ender’s Game. Major sci-fi movie based on the famous novel, which it’s a fair certainty the scriptwriters will have gutted and re-shaped beyond recognition. Concept art by Darien E. Robbins…


November 2013: Thor: the Dark World. The first Thor was pretty well constructed and was mildly enjoyable, so… who knows?


November 2013: Singularity. Roland Emmerich’s (2012) disaster-movie(?) about nano-technology. Probably Emmerich’s usual highly enjoyable “no brain required” stuff, given the nature of his previous movies. Let’s hope he moves on to start Asimov’s Foundation trilogy after this, at last, along with a scriptwriter who can infuse them with Asimov’s intelligence.


Undated 2013: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Captain Nemo. Disney tells Nemo’s back-story. Cancelled in 2009, but now it’s said to be back, with the director of the superb The Social Network at the helm. So there’s hope.


Undated 2013: Imaginary Enemies. Interesting concept, and a live-action/animation mix. Young children’s ‘imaginary friends’ come back in the future to wreak havok, in the grown-up world.


Late 2013? The Europa Report. Apparently a serious low-budget sci-fi about the exploration of Europa, Jupiter’s frozen (but quite possibly life-bearing) moon.


December 2013: Beyond Apollo. The tagline “director of Cloverfield” turned me off immediately, since I found that movie unwatchable.


December 2013: Frozen. Disney’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. There’s singing in it. Now I’m all for a good old-fashioned 1950s song and dance movie, but I suspect this won’t be it.


December 2013: The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug. The theatrical release of the first movie had mostly tepid or hostile reviews, so we can only hope that the trilogy takes a leap with the second installment. No doubt everything will smooth out once we finally get the trilogy in full as an extended-cut DVD set.


And over in the “Big Dumb Hollywood” dept.: Iron Man 3 (it can’t be worse than the tedious Iron Man 2); Man of Steel (a Superman reboot); After Earth (yet another post-apocalyptic gloom-fest, yawn); World War Z (more post-apocalyptic gloom-fest, this time with zombies for added boredom, snooze…); Monsters University (sequel); Despicable Me 2 (sequel to an inventive but forgettable movie); The Smurfs 2 (sequel); Yogi Bear 2 (sequel); Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (sequel); Turbo (Cars rip-off, but with racing snails…); Elysium (politically-correct “evil sci-fi megacorp” Jodie Foster vehicle); Mighty Mouse (desperate reboot of an old character); Lone Ranger (desperate reboot of an old character); Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (sequel to a very poorly reviewed first film. Why bother?).

Also vague rumours about movie adaptations of the classic SF novels Rendezvous with Rama, Neuromancer, Snow Crash. The latter would be especially awesome, if they get it right.

Remixes legal in the USA

Possibly spurred by Reallusion’s new dance video competition (maybe…), the U.S. Copyright Office has this week announced some new exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act…

“the [U.S.] Copyright Office ruled that it is legal to use music or clips from copyright media for personal or educational use.”

Your groovy remixes are apparently now safe until 2015. Let’s hope that someone tells that to the YouTube music-wiping auto-bot…

iClone 5 review in the latest Digital Artist

Good short review of iClone 5 in the latest Digital Artist magazine. But the writer manages to get through the review without once mentioning that iClone animates in a genuine real-time “what you see is what you get” mode. Anyone reading the review would think iClone is just a simpler and more accessible version of the likes of Maya or 3DS Max.

Monthy Python team reunite for SF animation

Cool breaking news, just in. The famous Monty Python team — Terry Gilliam, John Cleese and Michael Palin — will reportedly be using their vocal talents to voice a gang of extra-terrestrials in a new animated science fiction farce movie, Absolutely Anything. The film will be directed by Terry Jones. Eric Idle has also been approached.

Turning machinima into a job

An academic paper from June 2010, available free from the author’s website…

Under The Radar: industry entry by user entrepreneurs. Research Policy No. 39 (2010), pages 1198 – 1213.

“We study an emerging group of [business] firms founded by users of video games who became entrepreneurs on entering the animation industry by producing Machinima, a new film genre characterized by shooting film in video games. We explain how user entrepreneurs gain access to complementary assets (video games) for their new use (shooting film), how they deal with intellectual property issues when using other firms’ assets, and how user entrepreneurs combine domain knowledge about film production with their experience in video games and the art of Machinima.”