Tag: art

James Cameron’s ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ stars creepy CG anime eyes

James Cameron has been toying with the idea of remaking Battle Angel Alita for decades now (seriously, I wrote about it back in 2009). Now, with its first trailer, the anime adaptation finally seems to be more than a myth. It centers on a scientist (Christoph Waltz) who discovers and repairs a trashed cyborg, Alita (Rose Salazar). And, as these stories tend to go , it turns out she's a bit of an ass-kicking powerhouse. (Her giant CG anime eyes might be enough to make her enemies cower in fear, though.)

Unfortunately, Cameron isn't directing the film -- he handed over those duties to Robert Rodriguez two years ago, after he decided the world needs several Avatar sequels. And while Rodriguez hasn't had any huge successes lately, the trailer seems more reminiscent of the guy who made Sin City, and not the one who made Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.


Marvel comics arrive in Hoopla’s public library app

Comic books are a brilliant medium, but keeping up with the latest releases can be expensive. If you live in the US, it's worth checking out Hoopla; the service is supported by more than 1,500 public libraries, and offers free digital access to DC, Image and IDW titles. And starting today, another major publisher is joining the platform: Marvel. More than 250 collections and graphic novels will be available, including Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet book one — by author, journalist and comic book writer Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates — Civil War and X-Men: The Dark Pheonix Saga.

There's a handy map here that shows all of the Hoopla-supported libraries in the US. As Variety explains, the libraries set their own lending limits, so you might be able to check out five or 10 at a time through the app. You won't, of course, get every new Marvel release, but it's a good place to start if you're unsure which characters or series to follow. Hoopla says there should be plenty of familiar faces from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Spider-Man, Daredevil, The Runaways, The Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy. As Luke Cage would say: Sweet Christmas...

Via: Variety

Source: Hoopla (Press Release)


Patreon is shifting processing fees from creators to supporters

On December 18th, Patreon will be changing how it handles service fees. Currently, Patreon takes five percent of whatever creators make on the site but because of various processing fees that also apply, creators actually lose seven to 15 percent of their earnings. So now, Patreon says it wants to streamline those fees and on the 18th it will charge patrons a new service fee of 2.9 percent plus 35 cents per pledge. That means creators will now only see a flat five percent taken from their pledges. However, while the funding platform is presenting this change as a benefit for creators, many are concerned that these new charges will cause a good portion of their patrons to stop pledging.

Because the fee is charged per pledge, it will affect those who give small amounts to many creators much more than it will those who pledge the same amount but to just one or two creators. For example someone pledging $10 to one creator would see their payment increase to $10.64. But someone paying $1 to 10 creators each would see their payment increase to $13.79. Many creators are, therefore, worried they'll lose a lot of their $1 to $5 pledges.

Some patrons have already said that they will have to pledge to fewer creators or reduce their pledges across the board. Some are already doing so ahead of the December 18th change. And a few creators are even trying to retain their support base by reducing their pledge tier amounts.

We've reached out to Patreon for comment and we'll update this post once we hear back.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Patreon


Ryan Reynolds is ‘Detective Pikachu’

The Hollywood Reporter reveals that the upcoming live-action Pokémon movie has found an actor for its title role: Ryan Reynolds. In a performance that its sources say is "motion-capture in nature" (think Jar Jar Binks or Gollum) Reynolds will embody Detective Pikachu alongside Justice Smith (The Get Down, Jurassic Park: The Lost Kingdom) as the teen searches for his missing father.

Other details are scarce, but now the movie (which got its greenlight just as Pokémon Go fever exploded last year) is said to start shooting in January, and will include Kathryn Newton (Big Little Lies) in the cast. Just something to think about while you're watching Deadpool 2 in June.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter


Turning indie horror hit ‘Neverending Nightmares’ into a manga

She stands in front of you, clutching a teddy bear to her chest. She can't be older than 8, with long, straight black hair and a frilled dress. You don't know her name, but she's smiling warmly. And then, suddenly, she isn't: Her doe eyes widen, white and afraid. Her mouth gapes and blood drips past her lips. You follow her gaze down -- a knife protrudes from her stomach, staining her dress bright red, blood dribbling into her socks and Mary Janes. A knife that your hands are grasping tightly.

This is how the video game Neverending Nightmares begins, and it's also the first scene in a manga of the same name that debuted last week. As a game, Neverending Nightmares is a chilling, powerful peek into the darkest thoughts of a person struggling with depression and intrusive thoughts. The protagonist, Thomas, is trapped in a hellscape loop, repeatedly waking up only to realize he's still in a terrible nightmare: Headless corpses are piled against black-and-white walls; bodies hang from meat hooks in a claustrophobic cell; Thomas pulls a vein from his wrist like a stray thread.

So far, the manga is just as brazen in its depiction of suffering and death. It's done in the same Edward Gorey-esque art style, filled with scratchy black lines and explosions of red highlighting gruesome scenes of disembowelment, murder and torture. For creator Matt Gilgenbach, these scenes are the heart of Neverending Nightmares, though they're not gory for the sake of gore. They serve a profound purpose as he attempts to demonstrate the depth of his own depressive thoughts.

Neverending Nightmares spawned from a dark period in Gilgenbach's life, as described to Joystiq (now Engadget) in 2014: His game, Retrograde, had just bombed and he was financially downtrodden. He slipped into depression, something he'd faced earlier in his life. His mind began to fill with images of self-inflicted violence and he longed for an outlet to express the overwhelming nature of these thoughts.

"When I started thinking about how to represent my obsessive compulsive disorder, one of the main things I struggled with are intrusive thoughts, violent thoughts of self-harm," Gilgenbach says. "These were very upsetting, and as soon as I became comfortable with a particular image, my mind would dream up an even more intense and awful image that would make me miserable. I thought that Neverending Nightmares would be a great opportunity to bring those to life."

Gilgenbach was onto something there. Neverending Nightmares premiered on PC in 2014 and it's still relevant today, picking up new players and expanding to fresh platforms. Alongside the launch of the manga last week, Neverending Nightmares landed on Android and iOS with a sticker price of $4. The game is now available on Steam, PlayStation 4, Vita and mobile devices.

The prologue of Neverending Nightmares

Pixiv

The prologue and first chapter of the manga are available now, for free, on Japanese artist forum Pixiv. The remaining eight chapters -- each readable in English, Japanese and simplified Chinese -- will roll out once a month through July, also for free.

Pixiv played a big role in making the manga happen. Gilgenbach hadn't seriously considered transforming his game into a comic book or any other medium, but once Neverending Nightmares hit PlayStation Network in Japan, it picked up a lot of interest on Pixiv. The company reached out to Gilgenbach with an offer to license his IP and create a manga.

"One of the most exciting things about the manga is that I can reach a different audience that might not be interested in the game," Gilgenbach says. "When I met with Pixiv early on, I stressed to them how important of an IP to me this was and how I wanted to ensure it stayed true to the theme of the original work. They were very receptive to this and worked with me on keeping the same theme as the game."

Developing the manga is a collaborative process: Gilgenbach doesn't have any experience in writing Japanese comic books himself, so he and Pixiv worked with a specialist on the script. The story itself, however, resides in Pixiv's hands.

"I feel that they have made the manga a bit faster paced, and added more gore and horror to the beginning of the work," Gilgenbach says. "It definitely changes the feeling, but I think it really works well for the medium. I get chills reading the manga, so I think they pulled off the horror effectively."

Gilgenbach is surprised to still be working on Neverending Nightmares after all these years. Its longevity is notable in the crowded independent marketplace to begin with, but it's especially impressive considering the game's dark subject matter and heaps of gore.

"I didn't expect it to continue to have interest at this point," Gilgenbach says. "I think because I set out to do something different and recreate my personal journey with mental illness thematically, it really resonates with a fanbase that is continuing to grow through word of mouth."

And, now, word of manga.


How ‘The Walking Dead Collection’ enhances the original season

Telltale's original Walking Dead game was special, blending a gut-wrenching storyline with interesting, believable characters. Five years and two seasons later (four if you count 400 Days and Michonne) the adventure has started to show its age. So for The Walking Dead Collection -- a new bundle that launches on December 5th -- the developer has given everything a visual upgrade. To explain the changes, Telltale has released a video comparing the two versions during a pivotal scene -- Lee and Clementine's first meeting. (It includes some mild spoilers, obviously.)

At first, the differences might seem small. But don't let that fool you -- some serious work has gone into the update. In a blog post, the California studio has broken down some of the biggest changes, which include heavily revised character models. The team created new, higher-resolution meshes for all season one and two survivors, improving their facial expressions and clothing. Many scenes were also reworked with additional props and better textures. The tree house that Clementine starts in, for instance, now has a slew of wooden beams holding up the main platform. The tree, too, has additional branches and more convincing foliage.

Telltale upgraded the lighting and in-game camera "for a greater cinematic look." A bunch of optimizations were also made to ensure all of the games -- developed over many years and with slightly different engines -- ran smoothly on a single disc. It sounds impressive, however Telltale games are known for their dreadful performance. The studio has recognized this, cutting jobs and promising to focus on fewer, higher quality titles in the future. The Walking Dead Collection is a chance to show how serious it is -- and what fans can expect from the fourth and final season in 2018.

Source: Telltale (Blog Post)


BBC launches VR division with ISS spacewalk experience

The BBC is getting serious about VR content production. Today, the broadcaster has released a spacewalk experience and formally announced a VR team that will work with filmers, showrunners and "digital experts" on new pieces. Home — A VR Spacewalk was developed by the BBC and digital production studio Rewind for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift last year. It's based on NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) training programs — yes, the same ones used by astronaut Tim Peake — and takes you through a repair on the outside of the ISS. It's been shown at various film festivals but hasn't been available to the public before today.

The BBC has experimented with VR before. Early projects included We Wait, a story that took you to the heart of a refugee crisis, The Turning Forest, a VR fairy tale for Google Daydream and Samsung Gear VR, and Trafficked, a 360-degree animated film about human trafficking. While impressive, the BBC's efforts have often felt a little disjointed and scattershot. The broadcaster's new team — the VR Hub — will attempt to organise this work and develop experiences with broad, mainstream appeal. They'll be infrequent, however; the BBC says it wants "a small number of high impact pieces" while the VR install base continues to grow.

Via: BBC (Press Release)

Source: Steam, Oculus


VR at the Tate Modern’s Modigliani exhibition is no gimmick

In recent years, HTC has partnered with several museums to cultivate VR as a tool for art and learning. New projects are always in the works, and recently the company launched the Vive Arts program, reaffirming its commitment to working with developers and cultural institutions to further explore VR as an artistic and educational medium. The first installation under the Vive Arts banner has now opened at London's Tate Modern gallery as part of a new exhibition celebrating late-19th/early-20th-century Italian painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani. And to its credit, the VR portion of this retrospective is no gimmick.

As Nancy Ireson, curator of international art at Tate Modern, led the press tour around the exhibition, she explained that it was fitting for Modigliani to be the focus of the gallery's first VR installation. Modigliani was an early proponent of African art as more than just a curiosity after all, and was interested in film, which itself was a fledgling medium at the time. As you walk the many rooms, you come across sketches, paintings, nudes and sculptures of ever-changing style and influence. Eventually you come to a small, sparsely decorated room with rows of wooden chairs and an HTC Vive headset next to each.

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There are no room-scale sensors or controllers, because The Ochre Atelier, as the experience is called, is designed to be accessible to everyone regardless of computing expertise. And at roughly 6-7 minutes long, it's also bite-size enough that hopefully every visitor to the exhibition can take a turn. Its length and complexity don't make it any less immersive though. The experience itself is, superficially, a tour of Modigliani's last studio space in Paris: a small, thin rectangular room a few floors above street level.

In all, it took five months to digitally re-create the space. A wealth of research went into The Ochre Atelier, from 3D mapping the actual room -- the building is now a bed-and-breakfast -- to looking at pictures and combing through first-person accounts of Modigliani's friends and colleagues at the time. The developers at Preloaded took all this and built a historically accurate re-creation of what the studio would've looked like. You teleport around this space a few times, seeing it from different angles and getting more insight into the artist at each stop. Look at a few obvious "more info" icons from each perspective and you'll hear narrated the words of those closest to Modigliani at the time, alongside some analyses from experts at the Tate.

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At the tail end of the experience, you learn about why this space was so important. It was where Modigliani created his final pieces and enjoyed the last of his troubled relationship with alcohol and drugs before dying, aged 35, from tubercular meningitis. In this way, the experience concludes on a somewhat morbid, emotive note. Dotted around his virtual studio are some of his final works. You notice, once the experience is over and you leave the VR area, these very works greet you again back in the exhibition proper. It creates an impactful sense of continuity between the VR part of the exhibition and the real one. The Ochre Atelier isn't a gimmick or a quirky piece of new media for the sake of it, but a genuine complement to the static paintings and sculptures in the halls beyond. Walking back through the exhibition and scanning the walls, I felt I'd learned a little bit more about Modigliani, his personality and his motivations, and looked upon everything in a more intimate light.

Given the reputation of the Tate Modern, anything other than a well-researched, thoughtful VR experience wouldn't have made the cut. And it wouldn't have really fit the Vive Arts brief, either. As Vive Arts' director, Victoria Chang, told me at the event, it's an "initiative that is designed to advance creation and appreciation of art through the latest technology." The goal of the program is to challenge the idea that VR is mere entertainment and "to bring more high-quality, educational, artistic content to more of our consumers and to the general public around the world."

The Modigliani exhibition is now open at the Tate Modern until April 2nd, 2018, and for anyone who can't make it in person, a more comprehensive VR experience focusing on the artist will be released to Viveport in the coming weeks.


Photoshop uses AI to make selecting people less of a hassle

Masking a human or other subject out of a scene is a pretty common trick nowadays, but it's is still arguably one of the hardest and lowest-tech parts of Photoshop. Adobe's about to make that a lot easier, thanks to an upcoming AI-powered feature called Select Subject. Using it is pretty much idiot-proof: From the main or "Select and Mask" workspaces, you just need to click anywhere on the image, and it'll automatically select the subject or subjects in the image. From there, you're free to change the background or tweak the subject separately.

The tech is powered by Adobe's AI platform, Sensei. "Complicated details around the subject aren't an issue, because this feature is using machine learning to recognize the objects," Adobe Photoshop Product Manager Meredith Payne Stotzner says in the YouTube video (below). During the demo, she uses it select a single person on the street, a group of volleyball players, a couple on the beach and a red panda.

In some cases, details like hair and fur aren't properly selected, but using the tool would certainly give you a big head start. It pretty much eliminates the tedious hand-drawn or tweaked masking process, letting you focus on the fine details. Since it uses machine learning tech, it should also get better over time.

There are already plenty of Photoshop plugins like Akvis SmartMask and Fluid Mask that can do something similar to Select Subject. However, it'll be nice to have such a feature as part of Photoshop, rather than paying extra for a plugin. And the new feature is more than just a technology "sneak" -- it's an actual feature coming in a future Photoshop build. Adobe has yet to say exactly when it'll arrive, however.

Source: Adobe (YouTube)


Catching lightning in a volcanic bottle

What do you get when you marry two of Earth's most dramatic natural events, lightning and volcanoes? The answer is a "dirty storm," an infernal melange of lightning, magmatic fire and ash that surpasses even the wildest Hollywood disaster movie effects. If the volcano has enough energy, dozens of bolts -- which blast upwards, rather than downwards -- can spawn in the ash. At at the Volcán Calbuco in Chile, photographer Francisco Negroni captured a stunning example of the phenomenon, winning second prize at this year's Epson Pano awards.

If you think I'm exaggerating about how dramatic these storms can look, a quick Google image search of "dirty storm" will change your mind. All suggest that some kind of impending apocalypse/horsemen scenario is about to take place.

Many of the best ones were taken by Negroni himself, but even he admits that the image above is special. "The photograph with which I obtained second place in the Pano Awards was taken during the violent eruption of the Volcán Calbuco, located in the south of Chile," he told Engadget via email. "The technique was simple: long exposure, tripod and a 80-200mm lens. Approximately 10 minutes to achieve that incredible image that, without a doubt, is my best photograph of an eruption and I think the best taken in the world."

How does this happen? In a regular thunderstorm cloud, lightning is created when rising air makes ice crystals and water droplets bump together, forming static electricity. Once the charges build up enough to surpass the atmosphere's natural insulating tendency, lightning discharges either from one cloud to another or to the ground.

Volcanic lightning works on the same principle, but via different actions. Recently, researchers studying one of the world's most active volcanoes, Japan's Mount Sakurajima (above), learned more about how it forms. Using high-speed cameras, they discovered that charge created by churning magma builds up just above the rim, electrifying the ash just above it.

That creates an electrostatic potential in the lower portion of the cloud that eventually causes lightning to discharge into the cloud or air, often in the opposite direction of regular lightning. As such, lightning formation is usually limited to the bottom part of the ash plume, and depends strongly on how the plume develops.

Chile is located on the Pacific "Rim of Fire," and has 90 active volcanoes, the second most in the world after Indonesia. Negroni has photographed volcanoes like Llaima in the Araucania region, the 2011 eruption of Puyehue-Cordon Caulle, and in 2015, the Villarrica Volcano and Calbuco pictured here. Volcanologists and seismologists have become extremely adept at detecting eruptions ahead of time, so endangered inhabitants were evacuated well ahead of time.

Though volcano science has improved dramatically, getting near active ones that produce lightning isn't for the faint of heart. "Photographing volcanoes is very dangerous and I do not recommend it to anyone," Negroni said. "But if you have the opportunity to do it from a very safe place, it will be an incredible show that nature gives us."

Via: Kottke

Source: Francisco Negroni