Monday, December 26, 2011

It's all about the music (video that is)!

Back in the early 80s (yes, that was in the last century) when MTV was still new and VH1 was its easy listening cousin, I had a dream of being the next great music video producer. Robert Palmer's girls danced across my TV screen and Peter Gabriel was king of music animation. And I recorded hours of videos on VHS tape to watch over and over so I could learn how to make the magic. In the 1990s I helped create the  Shockwave 3D authoring studio with NxView and in the first decade of the new century developed automated lip synching applications like MakeBeliever Stanta Clause. Now with the aid of Muvizu ( I have found a way to be the music video producer/director I always wanted to be.

My first video is of Dan-O's "The Art of Gardens." Most of his music is free royalty free at I really like the variety of music and songs he has on his site for download. I look forward to creating more shorts like this one in the near future.

If you like it, click here to go to YouTube and leave a comment and share with all your friends.

- Ken

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Muvizu is taking me back to my roots

I have been officially animating for over thirty-three years now. I started way, way back in the sixth grade under the guidance of the greatest teacher I ever had the pleasure of knowing, Joseph McCoy, in St. Petersburg, Florida. He introduced me to the magic of stop motion animation with a Super 8 camera and a chess board. From those humble beginnings of slaying pawns with cocktail swords weilded by kings and queens I dabbled over the years; experimenting with other forms of stop motion including my own custom video editing rig for doing filmless animation with AT&T Tips for performing real-time optical matting and touch-up.

After graduating from NCSU, I got my first professional gig producing computer animation for EPA training videos in Tampa, Florida. Back then it took hours to render a single frame of animation on equipment costing tens of thousands of dollars. From there I returned back to North Carolina to produce animation for Glaxo Smith Kline sales events, manufacturing animation for Textile/Clothing Technology Corp, and commercial animation for Kerr Drug Stores.

I left broadcast animation and migrated to the exciting world of computer simulation, virtual reality and eLearning for many years, but always maintained a passion for video and animation. Over the past year I have had several opportunities to go back to my roots. My most recent foray was for the AMD Fusion competition. On a decent laptop with a graphics card and the Muvizu software, I can now produce animation better and cheaper than the old EPA system could have ever dreamed. You can see the end product here.

I see great promise for animation tools like Muvizu in the area of digital storytelling and narrative centered learning. For now, animation will primarily remain a hobby for me. Look for more short films to come.

- Ken

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Thanksgiving + Leftover Fireworks + Father and Son = Cool Videos

So my son and I found ourselves with some time to kill over Thanksgiving weekend. And we said, "Hey, there are leftover fireworks from the 4th of July, let's make a movie." And so we did.

Given the fact that mom was home, we promised to be careful, which in retrospect was probably a good idea. So, instead of lighting the fuses directly, I recommended we take a lesson from my old model rocketry days and observations taken from watching Mythbusters. We created a firing board consisting of some large gauge nails, wire, a portable car battery jump starter and homemade rocket igniters (more on this in a minute). The nails served as contacts for triggering each of the igniters to fire when touched by a lead from the battery. What this enabled us to do was run 8 foot leads to each of the fireworks we wanted to explode and trigger one or more in sequence when we wanted from a "safe" distance.

Key to the success of this operation was the homemade rocket igniters. To create these, simply take about 3" of picture hanging wire, create a small loop in the middle, coat the loop with some lacquer nail polish (see mom for this) and let dry. Running current from the jump starter causes the loop to heat up rapidly igniting the lacquer which in turn will ignite the fuse of the fireworks.

The results of this operation can be seen in the videos below. Note, the two videos are the same except for the sound tracks. Izy discovered that you get an entirely different experience based on the music playing during the movie. Enjoy!

- Ken