Posts Tagged With: videos

All your TARDIS are belong to us

“So what’s Paper Mario like, then?”
“It’s great,” said Jon, as he gunned the engine and drove the battered old Nissan through the Friday evening traffic. “There’s this bit where you face off against a boss and he shouts ‘SNACK ON MY WRATH, FINK RATS!!!'”.

Do you know Jon? He’s one of Stack Overflow’s biggest celebrities, apparently. People even stop him in the street. His wife, Holly, is a respected children’s author, and also Thomas’s godmother. But I knew them as the people who opened their doors on Fridays (and Saturdays. And Sundays, and often during the week) and gave me a second home back when the millennium turned. Those Friday evenings consisted of cinema visits, followed by Holly’s pasta and wine accompanied by long games of Siedler or Super Smash Bros – usually in the company of our friend Douglas – and the four of us would talk until the stars came out.

I haven’t seen them for years, although we still keep in touch. I miss those Fridays, not least because we liked the same things but had different experiences of them, which always made conversation interesting. Jon was a big Resident Evil fan back in the day, and we loved the creepiness of those early instalments, before it became gung ho and ridiculous. But over the years I’ve managed to remove the rose tints from my glasses. It’s hard to suspend your disbelief when you are faced with such ridiculous dialogue. “Jill?” says Barry Burton, early in the first game. “Here’s a lockpick. It might be handy if you, the master of unlocking, take it with you.”

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I still giggle about this, even though it’s fairly typical of the style. I can never work out whether these things are badly translated or simply badly written. In this instance I suspect it’s the latter, and there’s a part of me that laments the fact that designers have obviously poured their collective hearts and souls into refining a project’s gameplay, soundtrack and visual flair, only to stumble at the first hurdle when it came to finding a decent script. I thoroughly enjoyed the first Devil May Cry but it is hard not to stare at the screen and mutter “Whu…..?” when Dante cradles his (supposedly) dead girlfriend in his arms and sobs “I should have been the one to fill your dark soul with LIGHT!!!”.

On the other hand, House of the Dead 2 – or Typing of the Dead, as we came to know it – had pedestrian dialogue, very badly performed, but it doesn’t matter. Gratuitous over-acting is par for the course in many bigger titles, whether it’s Harry Mason’s B-movie schlock in the first Silent Hill, or Roy Campbell’s angst-ridden cries of “SNAAAAAAAAAAAAKKKKE!!!!” in Metal Gear Solid. That’s actually OK. Sometimes the acting suits the mood. And House of the Dead is unquestionably brilliant.

Anyway. When I was a teenager, there was a game called Zero Wing. I’m told it was a reasonable success in the arcades, but I only ever knew it on the Sega Megadrive (or Genesis, if you’re reading in the U.S.). It is a generic side-scrolling shooter with nothing in particular to single it out from all the other side-scrollers that were endemic in late 1980s culture, save its intro. Because said intro has passed into legend as being one of the worst translations in video game history, to the extent that “ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US” was a meme even before memes were officially invented. There is even a Bohemian Rhapsody version, if you are so inclined. It is not great – stretching a joke to snapping point seldom is – but it deserves brownie points for trying.

The irony is that the original Japanese dialogue – when tralsated properly – is actually not too bad at all. Observe:

TITLE CARD:
In A.D. 2101
The battle began

Captain: What happened!?
Mechanic: Someone detonated bombs all around us!
Operator: Captain! Incoming transmission!
Captain: What!?
Operator: Image coming through on the main monitor.
Captain: You… you are…!!
CATS: You appear to be preoccupied, gentlemen. Thanks to the cooperation of the UN forces, all of your bases now belong to CATS. Your ship too, shall soon be destroyed.
Captain: Im.. Impossible! (or F.. Foolishness!)
CATS: We thank you for your cooperation. Enjoy the remaining moments of your lives….Hahahahaha ….
Operator: Captain!?
Captain: Launch all ZIG fighters! All we can do is entrust it to them…Give us hope for our future…We’re counting on you, ZIG!!

With this:

TITLE CARD:
In A.D. 2101
War was beginning

Captain: What happen?
Mechanic: Somebody set up us the bomb.
Operator: We get signal.
Captain: What !
Operator: Main screen turn on.
Captain: It’s you!!
CATS: How are you gentlemen!! All your base are belong to us. You are on the way to destruction.
Captain: What you say !!
CATS: You have no chance to survive make your time. Ha ha ha ha…
Operator: Captain !!
Captain: Take off every ‘ZIG’!! You know what you doing. Move ZIG. For great justice.

Anyway.

I can’t remember the exact moment I thought a Doctor Who rendition of this would be a good idea, but I finally got round to doing it last week. I will spare you the technical details, except that I used different software in order to get the font the way I wanted it, and said software (which I will not name) proved to be more trouble than it was worth, but we got there eventually. Footage is all New Who based because it saved fiddling with aspect ratios (and besides, the ‘Cat’ substitute actually works pretty well). If it looks somewhat grainy, that’s all part of the fun. This whole experience has kind of put me off doing intros for a while, but when I eventually take it up again I really ought to work in that line from Paper Mario, simply because it’s great. It’s just a question of figuring out how to do it.

Jon would know. Maybe I’ll email him.

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Doctor Who: The Day Before You Came

(If you’re reading this on a phone or tablet there is a chance that the embedded video may be unavailable to you. If that’s the case, I’ve left another version at Vimeo; that one should work.)

You say ABBA, you think ‘Dancing Queen’. You think Eurovision and ‘Waterloo’. You think Meryl Streep crying on a hill. You think Pierce Brosnan belting out ‘S.O.S.’ in the manner of someone having a prostate exam off camera (not my joke). You think flashy costumes and a certain joie de vivre.

Because no one likes to remember how utterly miserable they were by the time they disbanded. ABBA were a group who bore their hearts on their sleeves, or at least that’s the way it looked to the rest of us, whether it’s the raw emotion of ‘The Winner Takes It All’, the slightly manipulative but no less heartfelt sadness of ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’, the parenting anthem to end all parenting anthems (with the possible exception of ‘The Living Years’)…even something as outwardly upbeat as ‘When All Is Said And Done’ is amicably miserable (though it does include the line ‘not too old for sex’, so every cloud). I’m not saying we ignore the miserable bits, more that we tend to give more airspace to something like ‘Fernando’ than something like ‘One Of Us’. (I’ve never much cared for that song, although that’s the point at which Agnetha permed her hair and I stopped fancying her, so maybe that had something to do with it.)

The starkness plays out in that final album. The Visitors is possibly the best thing they ever did, tapping new and uncharted musical territory – an almost industrial technopop that was years ahead of its time and which Andersson and Ulvaeus would see come to fruition of a sort when they finished Chess, even though that’s still fairly theatrical. But it’s those two non-album singles – ‘Under Attack’ and ‘The Day Before You Came’ – that make the playlists, despite an initially lukewarm reaction from an audience that wasn’t ready for anything like this and had in any case more or less lost interest. Years later the latter regularly tops fan polls. I wonder if in years to come we’ll view ‘Fear Her’ with such retrospective acclaim.

FearHer1

…No, I don’t think so either.

The Wikipedia entry for ‘The Day Before You Came’ is worth reading, but I’ll summarise the best bits –

– Despite the minimal backing track, what really stands out is Agnetha’s voice, which is by and large sung in her native Swedish accent, rather than the twang she would adopt for other recordings

– The song’s meaning is the subject of intense scrutiny and debate – is this a song to a boyfriend? An ex-boyfriend? A murderer? Did her mundane life change for the better when this mysterious figure arrived, or did it in fact get worse? (The video goes some way to explaining this, although if you need a video to explain a song, the song’s a failure, so I prefer to think of the video as an afterthought)

– She left at 8 am and was at work by 9:15; conversely she left at 5 pm and didn’t get home for three hours. I know the woman stopped to pick up a Chinese but even allowing for rush hour traffic there is something going on here.

– Myself, I’ve always liked the image of Agnetha alone in the studio, completing the final recording with the lights out, as a musical union that’s outlasted two marriages limps along to its final, scrappy conclusion. Roll credits.

Anyway. Why the hell hasn’t anyone done something with Doctor Who? When you consider the new series’ focus on companions and the way their lives are changed by the arrival (and eventual departure) of the Doctor, isn’t it an obvious fit? The Doctor has a habit of blustering in, acting as a catalyst for revolution and reform and then making a quiet exit so someone else can clean up the mess. Doesn’t he have a tendency to treat people the same way?

What annoyed me intensely was that all those departure / regeneration scenes I found myself mocking when I watched the episodes that contained them took on a sudden emotional resonance when I looked at them again. I mean, I was crying at the Doctor / Verity Newman scene in ‘The End of Time’. That scene is faintly ridiculous and here I am wiping my eyes clean. Then I was crying at Rose. Dammit, I’m one of the ones that smirks whenever this sort of thing shows up on the Tumblr feeds. WHY IS THIS UPSETTING ME? I’M SUPPOSED TO BE DEAD INSIDE!

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That’s a roundabout way of saying that I made this last week, feeling sad and not really knowing why. Perhaps I knew, on one level or another, that this week would be the way it was. And I do feel sad this week, more than I can tell you. The world seems to have no real sense of self, just a collection of squabbling factions and misunderstandings and hatred and bile. I feel as if we’ve broken something we’re not going to be able to fix in a hurry, and rather than actually sitting down and working out how it broke and what we can do to piece it back together, we’re just kicking the fragments round the playground like angry schoolchildren.

And I don’t know the answer. I don’t. But I know that’s no way to run a planet.

Postscript: episodes used, in order of first appearance – 

Rose
The Zygon Inversion
Smith and Jones
Partners in Crime
Last Christmas
The End of Time
Listen
Parting of the Ways
Day of the Doctor
The Bells of Saint John
The Wedding of River Song
Journey’s End
The Angels Take Manhattan
Doomsday
The God Complex
The Fires of Pompeii
Army of Ghosts
Hell Bent
Last of the Time Lords
Death in Heaven
The Eleventh Hour
Turn Left
The Name of the Doctor
Face the Raven
Fear Her

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The Inevitable Doctor Who / Ulysses 31 mashup

I’ve talked about Ulysses 31 more than once. It’s a show I’ve loved since the 1980s – ever since the Chronos episode gave me recurring nightmares; ever since I was able to gloat that I’d seen the final episode when Matt Brady had missed it; ever since Philip Schofield did a memorable lipdub in the Children’s BBC Broom Cupboard on an otherwise nondescript Thursday afternoon. When Josh started studying Greek mythology as his school topic I insisted we watch the entire run together, and that’s exactly what we did. Some of the visual effects are rather dated, the characterisation is often paper thin (was any son so sickeningly worthy as Telemachus?) and the Everybody Laughs ending is used with alarming frequency. But by and large it stands up. There is, as yet, no big screen adaptation – but we do have the live action version, which I’m hesitant even to link to, given that it puts my own paltry efforts utterly to shame.

Still, you find stuff. My admiration for the programme – its mythology, its grand design, its fantastic score – is what prompted me to construct a redub of the closing monologue from the much-derided ‘Rings of Akhaten’, scored to ‘Vengeance of the Gods’. It was round about the time I first discovered the unscored audio tracks that lurk around the internet, which make seamless transitions much easier to do. It largely works, although – as I’ve recently had pointed out – you’d struggle to find a scene that wasn’t improved by the inclusion of the Ulysses 31 soundtrack. Some of it’s a little disco, but that’s by no means a bad thing. If it’s good enough for the Bee Gees…

It was while I was sharing this on Facebook, for no reason other than oh-it’s-Thursday-and-I-haven’t-posted-in-a-while, that someone suggested they’d rather see a full title sequence. It was an utterly insane idea and as such it was something I couldn’t really not do. The smallerpictures venture is all about experimenting with the insane to see if it bears fruit. In this case the fruit is lumpy and harbours the occasional worm. It’s organic. Don’t mess with it; you’ll be sorry when the bees are gone. And my goodness, this one was a faff. There are zooms and reverses and all sorts of trickery. Look, anyone can make a title sequence. There’s an art to doing it well, but it’s a fairly trivial endeavour. Far more fun, surely, to try and find existing footage that matches the original? At least that’s a bit quirky. That’s what I did with Magnum P.I., and that got picked up by BBC America, of all things.

So that’s what this is. I’d not expect you to be sufficiently familiar with the original to be aware that this is an attempt at shot-for-shot, which is why I did a comparison, which you can see below. Some parts are more successful than others. I am particularly proud of the ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ footage that pervades the closing moments – you’ll know it when you see it. Gareth said “Do a Classic Who version!” And I might, at some point. But this has wiped me out. Of course, it’s not as good as the live action version. But then, what is?

 

 


Postscript

Episodes used in order of first chronological appearance were:

The Rings of Akhaten
Death in Heaven
The End of Time (part one)
The Waters of Mars
The Runaway Bride
Hide
Curse of the Black Spot
The Big Bang
Smith and Jones
The Girl Who Died
Vincent and the Doctor
The Woman Who Lived
The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe
Face The Raven
Partners in Crime
Journey’s End
Doomsday
Fear Her
Doctor Who Titles (series 7 part 1 edition)
Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
The Poison Sky
Deep Breath
A Good Man Goes To War
Voyage of the Damned
The Zygon Invasion
Parting of the Ways
The Empty Child
The Day of the Doctor
Hell Bent
Rose
The Doctor Dances
Doctor Who Titles – Series 8

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Swords of a Thousand Men

“I am the Doctor. And this…is my spoon.”

Did you see that film, The Pirates in an Adventure with Scientists? It is fun, although the book (Gideon Defoe, whose real name actually appears to be Gideon Defoe) is inevitably better, focusing as it does on the Church’s reaction to evolution – a plot line that the film tries rather too hard to avoid. On the plus side, the cast (particularly Grant) are wonderful, the set pieces are impressive, and there are lots of ham jokes – by which I mean jokes about ham, as opposed to jokes that are prone to theatrical exaggeration. It even has Brian Blessed as the pirate king, for goodness’ sake. What’s not to like?

This song plays over the end credits – the montage in which the pirates see their reputation restored, before sailing into the sunset – and while I’d heard it before, I think this was probably the moment I decided that it would work rather well with scenes from Doctor Who. Because let’s face it, when you’re dealing with a time-travel themed show that features frequent jaunts into history, it’s more or less a given that at some point someone’s going to whip out a cutlass or a rapier. The Doctor’s sword prowess has varied over the years, but he’s usually game for a laugh, although it’s a shame we never got to see McCoy take down anyone with his umbrella. Certainly it might have made ‘Delta and the Bannermen’ more tolerable.

Tenpole Tudor were / are one of those punk bands that managed to be well-known in their community without ever reaching the household name status ascribed to someone like, say, The Sex Pistols, typically in disapproving tones about how awful the music was. Or perhaps that was my house. I mean, my father dismisses most of my jazz collection as ‘just noise’ (which I refute utterly, although when it comes to Ornette Coleman, he’s got a point). Punk as a movement was designed to be brash and functional in a way that decorative prog rock was not, but to reduce the entire genre to a three chord wall of noise and profanity is to ignore the stylised, occasionally highly intelligent music of people like The Clash, Stiff Little Fingers and Sham 69. But this isn’t a musical discourse, although if I were feeling whiny I might point out the sheer laziness of setting an establishing montage of the capital to ‘London Calling’ – something that TV and film directors do constantly, usually accompanied by at least two or three images of the uniformed police force that the song condemns.

But anyway.

For the purposes of this exercise I limited fights to ones involving the Doctor. There are plenty of other scenes in the show in which Ian, Madame Vastra and even Amy Pond demonstrate some form of prowess with a pointed weapon, and they’re usually fun to watch (even if Amy goes from being entirely competent with a hunter’s rifle in one story to completely useless with a revolver a week later). But it muddies the waters. And why do that, when you have stuff like ‘The Androids of Tara’? I mean, just watch Baker with that sword. Watch him. He fights like a demon. It’s a wonderful conclusion to the second-best story that years (beaten into submission only by ‘The Ribos Operation’, although there are some who would disagree. Missing: the First Doctor taking on his robotic clone in ‘The Chase’, and the bit in ‘The Time Warrior’ where Pertwee prances around a hall in a suit of armour. They just didn’t fit.

There are times when you almost regret starting something, and that might have been the point at which I decided to overlay every single clash and clang for the sake of making a unified video (because otherwise the swordfighting is entirely silent, which somewhat lessens the effect). And it’s not like that took ages. Or that I spent three hours trying to get the damned thing to interlace properly. Not at all. But that’s fine, because eventually it worked. And I was quite pleased with it. And then it occurred to me – in that way that one thing inspires another – that there was plenty of scope for a montage with axe fights.

Yes. Well.

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Clara and Ashildr: The Long Way Round

I’m doing a River Song. Certain stories are being told out of sequence. I usually post videos in the order I create them. Today’s an exception, largely for the hell of it. What’s the point in having a self-imposed rule if you can’t break it sometimes? This might, of course, explain why I’m still fat.

Emily and I got home from the school quiz on Friday evening to discover the news that Chris Chibnall will shortly be replacing the departing Steven Moffat, after Moffat has produced series ten of Doctor Who – a series which has been delayed until 2017. I have my own views on this, which I’ll save for another day. If you want the Cliff Notes, here they are: a year off is probably going to do us all good. It’ll give me time to stop hating the direction the show has taken. I need breathing space. I need to watch the Sarah Jane Adventures with the kids. And goodness knows I ought to get that book finished.

But talking of spin-offs, this revelation came hot on the heels of a video I’d uploaded only hours previously. It was one of those things we talked about back in December, when such a thing seemed obvious. A few days ago I had the germ of an idea. I Googled it. The results were minimal enough to convince me I could offer something of substance that wouldn’t look like everything else that people are doing. Alternative title sequences for Doctor Who are all over the internet. Have you seen the Friends one? There are several, but I like this one better than most of the others, largely because John Simm seems far more convincing as a slightly crazed Murdock goofball than he ever was as the Master.

Still. You remember that series nine finale. When Ashildr (I cannot and will not bring myself to refer to her as ‘Me’) and Clara nicked the TARDIS – now permanently disguised as an American diner, which presumably made it impossible to actually park the thing – and went off for centuries of adventuring? I mean, I hated it. I really did. Clara’s dead. She’s pecked to death by a giant bird in the middle of Diagon Alley. She’s already had more than enough adventuring for someone her age. Why does she get to have more? Can’t she leave some for the rest of us? But still the cries of ‘spin-off! spin-off!’ ran thick and fast. Never mind the fact that Jenna’s off to play Queen Victoria and Maisie Williams is presumably still knocking around in Game of Thrones (I wouldn’t know, I’ve never seen it). It doesn’t matter. The fan-fiction writers are, I’m sure, out in force and I daresay that a lot of it comes under the Rule 34 subheading.

Photo: Simon Ridgeway

I mean, that’s good. I rather like that one. But you couldn’t possibly do a spin-off and not call it The Long Way Round, could you? It just seems such an obvious title. I can even forgive Moffat for using it twice. It works.

The most difficult part of this was finding music that worked. There is a decent Stereophonics song entitled ‘The Long Way Round’ – used for a biking documentary that was quite popular over here – but stylistically it didn’t fit. A close contender was ‘End of the Line’, which was eventually ditched because a poor facsimile of the song has served to underpin the New Tricks titles for years, and it just felt a bit like cheating. I consulted a Facebook group of which I’m a member. They were helpful, although I didn’t employ any of their suggestions. The idea of using ‘Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves’ was one I feared would be fraught with difficulties until I discovered the 12-inch version. There was a lot of copy-and-pasting, and if you listen carefully you can hear the joins.

The trick is to use as many different outfits and contexts as possible. Coming up with a variation for Ashildr turned out to be easier than I thought, even though she only appears in four episodes. There’s understandably very little footage of her and Clara together, which is why I spliced a scene from ‘Cold War’ with the ending of ‘The Woman Who Lived’, in one of those things that’s so bad that people will hopefully just assume I was being artistic. The opening dialogue is a composite of Clara’s monologue at the beginning of ‘The Name Of The Doctor’ and various things she said in ‘Hell Bent’.

Overall, this straddles a fine line between Life on Mars and Cagney and Lacey, purposely emulating the former. In that respect, it works. You don’t see the Doctor at all, and that’s entirely deliberate. Someone else mentioned they’d like Jenny to be on board, and while I don’t think the TARDIS is quite that big, she could be a recurring character. She could pop in every series and slide under lasers or something, and then bounce off again. Or they could do a series finale where she goes all veiny and evil. I’d kind of like to see that one.

Oh, and that quiz I mentioned? We won. And there wasn’t a single Doctor Who question. Some days, you just throw a double six.

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Uptown Funk: The CBeebies Edition

Do. Do-DO-Do, Do-DO-Do, Do-Do. You’re humming it now, aren’t you? Oh, it’s catchy. It’s one of the most cynically manipulative records since ‘The Living Years’, a cocktail of old sounds under a modern groove, several records ripped off (amateurs borrow, experts steal) in order to make a song that teenagers play loudly through their phones in those evening alcopop sessions in the park, even as their parents dance badly to it at the office disco. It is masterfully produced, expertly performed and I love it. Say what you like about the state of contemporary music; Mark Ronson’s a genius.

I first encountered ‘Uptown Funk’ at Butlins, in February last year, where it featured in the finale of Diversity‘s street dance act. They were tight, they were effortlessly entertaining and I was humming that song for weeks. Winter turned into spring and someone did a lipdub featuring hundreds of classic movies. Then someone else did a montage using dance sequences. Then someone else did the same thing with the Golden Age of Hollywood. I have not linked to any of these because chances are you’ve seen them, and because my own meagre offering – proud of it as I am – does tend to pale into insignificance. But that’s OK. “Always,” said Max Ehrmann, “there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”

Here’s a reflection on parenting. When you’re faced with the prospect of bad behaviour, you can sometimes circumvent it by simply upstaging it. One evening in August I had to entertain four tired, slightly fractious children – and a very well-behaved dog – in the van in a Lidl car park while Emily shopped. I did this by turning up the radio, and singing along to ‘Uptown Funk’ at the top of my voice, accompanied by with the sort of extravagant, flamboyant Dad dancing that would make Carlton Banks raise an eyebrow. In doing so I attracted the attention of several passers-by, as well as the cashiers in Lidl, who stared in bemusement while Emily pretended she didn’t know who I was.

When we were done, Thomas said “Dad, that was really embarrassing.”

I said “You think that was embarrassing? You just wait and see what I’ve got planned for your teenage years.”

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Fast forward to October, and the video you saw at the beginning. I won’t go into the details, except to say that I restricted myself to HD clips only, which is why certain programmes aren’t featured (I’d have loved to have included Big Cook, Little Cook, but the surviving footage on YouTube really is rather grainy). In a way, that sort of self-imposed limitation made things easier, because otherwise you find yourself floundering under the weight of serious choice fatigue. There are so many CBeebies programmes (past and present) in which dancing features. Several shows are featured more than once, partly because they fit but partly because I was exhausted and just wanted to finish the thing. This was as painstakingly down-to-the-frame as anything I’ve ever done, and hopefully it shows, at least in the decent parts.

The first person I showed it to was Alan Gilbey. “It’s good,” he said, “but it needs more Dinopaws!”. Which gave me another idea, but that’s still in the works, so you can’t see it yet. In the meantime, this went on YouTube and round the houses (I’ve been informed, anecdotally, that several people who are in it saw it and liked it) and there it now sits, drawing in a steady stream of visitors. Certainly the hit count – 105,000 as we go to press – is gratifying, and as close to ‘viral’ as I am ever likely to get.

Just in case you’re interested, here’s a list of all the shows featured, in order of first appearance:

Rastamouse
Show Me Show Me
Twirlywoos
Balamory
Let’s Play
Zingzillas
Brum
Boj
Dinopaws
Gigglebiz
The Elves and the Shoemaker
Number Raps
The Lingo Show
LazyTown
The Tweenies
Dinosaur Raps
CBeebies Pantos: Strictly Cinderella
Something Special: We’re All Friends
My Story
The Three Little Pigs
Numtums
Tilly and Friends
Charlie and Lola
Furchester Hotel
Peter Rabbit
Tree Fu Tom
Make Way For Noddy
Kerwhizz
Teletubbies
Justin’s House
Sarah and Duck
Mr Bloom: Get Set Grow
Alphablocks
Waybuloo
Pingu
Small Potatoes
Grandpa in my Pocket
Wussywat the Clumsy Cat
Let’s Celebrate
Baby Jake
Hey Duggee
Lunchtime Song
Same Smile
Mister Maker Round The World
Old Jack’s Boat
Katie Morag
Swashbuckle
Carrie and David’s Pop Shop
Swashbuckle does ‘Happy’
CBeebies Prom
In The Night Garden
The Let’s Go Club

Would I do it differently now? Probably. There are vague synchronicity issues I’d like to fix, mostly near the beginning (I swear the original is correct; I think it happened during the YouTube encoding). On the other hand it mostly works. A couple of scenes still make me wince. But I am pleased, in particular, with the way it unfolds in the last minute. Don’t believe me? Just watch.

(Yeah, you knew that was coming.)

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Daleks: Lost in Translation

Watch this, and then cast your minds back a few weeks, to ‘The Witch’s Familiar’.

You remember that one, right? It sort of got forgotten, really, in the general melee of confusion that was series nine. There were Zygons and immortals and people hiding beneath bedsheets and eventually there were TIME LORDS, but before all that, we had Daleks. Specifically we had Clara Oswald hiding inside a Dalek in order to sneak into the Skaro citadel to find the Doctor.

Those of you who recall the scene in which she’s strapped in will remember the conversation she tries to have with Missy. “Say ‘I love you'”, says Missy, to which Clara replies “EXTERMINATE!”. Cue comedy scene with Michelle Gomez leading up to a chilling finale in which she eventually convinces the Doctor – after something of a narrow squeak – that she’s Clara, and not a disgusting mutant.

“Well,” says Gareth, “to be fair, no Dalek has ever said anything other than ‘exterminate’ and similar simple phrases. No conversations or speeches or anything. Honest. It’s a bit poor. And doesn’t really make sense – so when the Daleks want to exterminate you, and are threatening to exterminate you, and are preparing to exterminate you, they’re actually saying ‘do stay still, there’s a good chap’, and it just sounds like they’re saying ‘exterminate’?”

That’s entirely possible, of course, although it’s more likely that the Daleks would have been conditioned to say ‘Exterminate’ and that this is something that had been built into the travel unit in case it ever happens to be occupied by a non-Dalek, which makes about as much sense as there actually being room in there for Clara in the first place, but I think we can all agree that ‘The Witch’s Familiar’ stopped making sense the moment the vampire monkeys turned up, so I think we can let it go.

Letitgo

(Sorry. I’ve given you an earworm now, haven’t I? Both of you.)

Anyway. It was a silly scene but it did give me an idea: an idea that took me an hour to shape into something tangible. This was an easy one to do, as it was simply a case of finding appropriate Dalek-led exchanges and giving them appropriate subtitles. You could probably do this quite effectively with New Who as well, but given that I wanted to include a particular exchange in which a Dalek’s vision is impaired, I stuck exclusively to the 1970s and 80s. Stories used for this, in order of first appearance:

Planet of the Daleks
Destiny of the Daleks
Resurrection of the Daleks

The Doctor appears a couple of times, but this isn’t really about him at all, of course. And please don’t tell him about these problems the Daleks are having with their language filters. It’ll crush him.

By the way, if you’re not up on early 90s UK children’s TV, the blinded Dalek’s wails that he “cannae see!” are probably going to confuse you. In which case this suitably iconic TV moment might provide a little insight. For the rest of us, this is simple nostalgia.

Gosh, they look so young…

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Holby City meets Batman

“Sorry,” say many American readers, “What meets Batman?”

Holby City is my one concession to soapdom. I can’t commit to Eastenders. If I want to be depressed for hours at a time I can listen to Joy Division. I don’t need Phil Mitchell and his nails-down-a-blackboard gruffness, or tales of abortion or domestic abuse. Coronation Street isn’t any better these days, particularly since the Duckworths left. Soap operas and me don’t really go together. It’s like an allergic reaction. I had a friend who watched Eldorado (one of Verity Lambert’s rare failures) in the 1990s. I endured fifteen minutes of it on his bedroom TV, and I had a nosebleed.

But Em and I can spare an hour a week, and besides, Holby isn’t miserable. It’s usually downright hysterical, sometimes on purpose. Neither of us have any extensive knowledge of medicine but even I know that accuracy takes a firm second place to dramatic impact. Patients are wheeled into the hospital and receive their operations within hours. There are no major problems with sanitation, apart from the write-the-headlines MRSA scandal that saw the downfall of Michael Beecham in 2005. Most of the orderlies and nurses appear to be English. God, even the food looks reasonable.

Crucially, patients very seldom die. There are near misses on the operating table, of course, usually caused by arrogance or staff who are sleeping together. I would be willing to bet that the unorthodox solutions that invariably save the day would only work on a human body that was wired up completely differently, but this is television, and thus it matters only if you happen to know that. I was at an author’s session in Cholsey last week and got talking to a heart specialist. “You must watch medical soaps and point and laugh,” I said. She broadly agreed.

If you’re a regular viewer, you’ll be aware of the Holby Staples – the things that happen in every episode. In no particular order:

  • A senior doctor will finish an opening conversation with a patient by bombarding a nurse with jargon: “FBCs, U&Es, LFTs and an MRI” (BTW, BBC, this really is all a bit OTT)
  • Character-with-emotional-crisis is paired with patient-with-similar-emotional-crisis; at some point one of them will advise the other and the Holby regular will emerge from the experience a wiser person
  • Problems occur during surgery. The heart monitor (or something) makes a melodic ringing sound to indicate irregular pulse, flatlining or brain death. The maverick surgeon will do something brilliant.
  • There will be a heart-to-heart either on the bench or outside the front door (or, if they’re feeling brave, on the roof)
  • Elliot Hope will be seen shoving a pastry in his mouth.

Oh, and a while ago I made this.

Holby_City_map

Anyway. This week’s episode featured a hostage crisis that grew out of a botched operation (arrogance, this time): an antiques expert spent half the story handcuffed to the chief neurosurgeon, who had his fingers wrapped round a live grenade. An already implausible story was stretched to breaking point when the armed response unit showed up and decided that their first priority was to shoot the unfortunate widower in the head (an action that breaks every rule of hostage negotiation and which would in any case have set off the grenade). In the end, plucky nurse Adrian Fletcher – guilty of several recent mistakes and looking for redemption – managed to get the grenade out of the building in an improbably long seven-second dash up the corridor.

So, Batman. Obviously. I mean, take a look.

(Parenthesis: If you’ve seen The Dark Knight Rises you will recall that precisely the same thing – minus the ducklings – happens in its final act, and that the Caped Crusader once more manages to save the day through an act of apparent self-sacrifice. It is monumentally stupid, but so is the film. And don’t get me started on that cafe scene. Really. Don’t.)

Assembling this was a challenge. I had about four or five seconds of usable footage that had to suffice for four different cycles, and there is thus a lot of mirroring and reversing. The interspersing clips were all found on YouTube, and the final explosion – if you hadn’t worked it out – is from The Dark Knight, which is coincidentally a much better film than its immediate successor. But the 1966 Batman movie is better than both of them.

And Katie Hopkins? Well, doctors and medical staff are supposed to preserve life, where they possibly can. But I think we can probably make an exception here, can’t we?

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Doctor Who: Switching Channels

In 1992, John Ritter (Three’s Company, It) and Pam Dawbey (Mork and Mindy) starred in Stay Tuned, in which an unmotivated couch potato and his long-suffering spouse inadvertently make a deal with Satan and wind up stuck inside their TV. There they are forced to escape from a variety of pastiches – The Dukes of Hazzard, Wayne’s World and Star Trek all feature – before winding up in a Salt-N-Pepa video. It is thoroughly silly, and twenty-five years later, it is ripe for a remake.

This is not that remake. But it is as close as I’m ever going to get to it, given my limited editing skills. And it has Muppets.

Switching Channels – as I have called this, even though I’m not entirely sure that’s the right title – started life as something very different. I’d originally envisaged a sweeping, rambling narrative that took in the entire Pond backstory, from encounters in Leadworth to farewells in Manhattan, by way of spaceships and mines and factories. It was going to be called The Ballad of Amy and Rory, and it was going to be epic. The Doctor and Amy would look up at the sky in horror to see a giant Zebedee jumping over the hedge, as in this Goodies episode (I haven’t timestamped the link, but the moment in question is at 7:10, if you were wondering). River’s announcement that “I’m your daughter” would segue into the Eastenders theme, because I always thought that would have made for a better ending. (Actually, the episode really ought to have finished with Amy bellowing “I’m not telling you what to do. I am not your mother!”, before River screams “YES YOU ARE!”.)

Best of all, I was going to juxtapose the Doctor’s tearful farewell to Amy in the New York cemetery with extracts from this.

It would have been fun, and I almost managed it, but in the end I couldn’t find a decent helium-recorded version of ‘Annie’s Song’ that didn’t have dialogue playing underneath it. Someone clever could probably rip it from the foreign language DVD and re-pan the stereo tracks. I even went down that road myself. So maybe another time.

But there was also going to be another segment in the middle that saw Amy and Rory fall into a TV set, and it was during the process of becoming increasingly frustrated with the other bits that I realised that a little streamlining was in order. So out went the other bits, and in came the the metaphysical post-modern silliness that you’ve hopefully just watched, unless you decided to scroll down and read this first (in which case scroll up again. Go on; we’ll wait for you).

The main inspiration for this stems from 1990s children’s television. If those of you who’ve never heard of Tots TV could bear with us a second:

Is_It_Just_Me_3

You see what I mean.

Look, I’m aware that some things probably shouldn’t be thrown together. Baileys and Coca-Cola, for example (I know this from experience, having tried it). The happy, carefree, multi-lingual world of the three small puppet children in Ragdoll’s 1990s extravaganza is streets away from the thoroughly twisted sight of Amy the Peg Doll careering through George’s doll’s house in the final act of ‘Night Terrors’. But I refuse to accept that there wasn’t at least a part of the concept design that wasn’t influenced by it, however subconsciously. It was therefore an obvious starting point – and from there, other influences followed. The Scooby Doo / Doctor Who thing, for example, is something I’ve talked about before, but if you don’t fancy reading all that, just have a look here:

Is_It_Just_Me_4

And so on and so on.

There are rough spots. The Third Doctor scene isn’t as I’d hoped it would be, because of the non-existence of certain lines that Arthur Darvill never said (and probably never will). I shot the animation over the course of a single hour, and boy does it show. I make no excuses for this except that I was on childcare duty and Edward kept wandering in and jogging the table (which is why the landscape keeps moving around). The lighting is inconsistent and the figure placement even more so, but the animation itself is comparatively smooth by my standards. I’d love to be Oliver Postgate working in his garage, but it’s the middle of the summer and I have to keep breaking up the Minecraft squabbles. Besides, our garage is full of junk; you couldn’t swing a cat in there, let alone a Soup Dragon.

There is a point at which any artist or creator has to stop with the polishing. I’m comparatively scrupulous over my blog posts – even more so when it’s paid work – but I often think that with the videos I draw the ‘stop polishing’ line somewhat prematurely. It’s cost me in the past – I still regret the occasional glitches and random, almost subliminal frames in some of the early stuff that wasn’t trimmed properly – but I’m also at the stage in my life where I care less than perhaps I should. When you have only so much time, and (in my case) only so much technical expertise, it is sometimes better to get something done than to get it perfect. Russell T. Davies knows this, perhaps, better than anyone, as his confessions in The Writer’s Tale only re-affirm.

So I’m happy with this being rough. The Beatles’ first album was notoriously rough, and everyone loves that. Besides, being ‘rough’ means that it’s finished. And I’m glad it’s finished, because now I can go and do something else. That tribute to ‘Logopolis’, for example, or the Withnail and I mashup I’ve been tinkering with for months. I have more ideas than capacity to implement them successfully, but this isn’t a career; this is a bit of fun. And I’m happy for it to be fun, and nothing else.

Still, I wish I’d managed to fix ‘Annie’s Song’.

(Incidentally, if you were wondering about the significance of the blocks in the background during the animated bit, they’re there for a reason. But I’m not going to tell you. It really ought to be obvious.)

 

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The Gospel of John: the Elbow version

It’s been a busy week, all told. Thomas’s party (improbably Lemony Snicket-themed) is next Wednesday and we are still up to our ears in cake plans, brainstorming sessions for games and the sheer rigmarole of chasing people for RSVPs. (Dealing with a few ambiguous or non-existent responses is comparatively easy if you’ve invited thirty or forty children: worst case scenario, you wind up overcatering. When you’ve only invited seven or eight, that’s half the party.)

I am also leading worship on Sunday, and this led to the thing you see above. I wanted to depict the resurrection (the subject of this week’s service) in montage form, rather than just playing a couple of clips.  The first problem was finding suitable source material, and The Gospel of John – from the Visual Bible series – turned out to be a second choice. Son of God, which reuses footage from the 2014 Bible TV series and combines it with new material, has more striking visuals, owing in part to its larger budget. Sadly, there just wasn’t enough – the resurrection and ascension are dealt with in about four minutes flat, so it’s gone on the back burner for another time. (There is also the 1999 Jesus mini-series, but it’s so horribly Americanised I really didn’t want to touch it.)

What strikes me throughout this was the ambiguous mood. I’d anticipated a gradual buildup to the reveal of Christ (that first clear shot, in the Garden of Gethsemane, is quite deliberately placed) and then a jubilant release for the coda, with multiple shots of smiling, overjoyed disciples. In the end, you make do with what you have, and that turned out to be a sea of troubled faces. But that works, largely because I can’t help thinking my own reaction to a resurrected Jesus would be one of similar ambivalence – elation at seeing him again, coupled with shame and despair that I’d let him down a couple of days back.

The song choice was never up for debate. I’ve been wanting an excuse to assemble something to ‘One Day Like This’ ever since discovering Elbow a few years back. While not quite their creative peak (Build A Rocket Boys is a better album) there are few anthems by them – by any band, come to that – which carry such a sense of euphoric triumph. The song’s about waking up next to someone and realising that you love them, but it seems to fit the mood. And as much as I live in fear that it’s set to become our generation’s ‘Hey Jude’ – with a wrinkled, balding Guy Garvey hoisted out onto the stage in thirty years’ time to lead the Olympic crowd in a grand singalong of a tune that’s been played to death – I’m glad I finally got to use it.

My brother-in-law, incidentally, does not share my fears about the fate of ‘One Day Like This’, stating that he “can’t see Guy Garvey allowing that to happen”. And he’s probably right. Elbow can fill an arena in ten minutes, but when it comes to creative choices, I really can’t see them selling out.

Elbow

Well, probably not.

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