Stop-Motion Animation Recovered from Old Betamax Tape

My father was a hoarder. That’s really not a good thing, except in rare instances. This is one of them. Among the hundreds of videotapes in his attic, I found one that was gold–a betamax tape that had some stop-motion animation that my father and I had done circa 1982-1984.

The tape was clearly labeled “Animation”, so I knew it was the tape we’d made, but it was betamax and I didn’t have a betamax player to allow me to digitize it. I had to send it in to a transfer company.

When I first got the tape back, it had nothing on it but an instructional video from Chrysler. I was so disappointed. I let the company know that they hadn’t captured the animation from the beginning because I was sure this was the tape. They let me return it and the second time around, they got it.

The animation is crude. It was more experimental than any serious attempt at film making. Regardless, I was happy to have been able to salvage this video from my youth. I had always admired the stop-motion animation from Ray Harryhausen (Sinbad movies, Jason and the Argonauts, etc.), but really got interested in the technique after seeing a documentary on the Special Effects of The Empire Strikes Back that showed how they did the tauntaun and AT-AT animation.

The video here has three segments. The first (a two-legged monster) is just a few seconds (most of it was overwritten/lost) and is my first-ever animation. The second (a dinosaur) is my father’s. These two were done around 1982. The third, a series of fights between two Micronauts (a toy line from Mego), is mine and was done years later (around 1984 is my best guess based on the soundtrack “Shooting Shark”, released that year).

Aside from the deterioration of the tape that had been stored in the attic for over 35 years, the betamax machine didn’t have a flying erase head, which meant that pausing/resuming a recording showed up as a visible glitch. Because stop-motion required short frequent pauses, the video was full of distortion. I’m surprised the video transfer company was able to get as good of quality as they did.

Grade School Favorites: Cathy Lee Crosby, Farrah Fawcett, Erin Gray, and Vampirella

During my grade schools years, many of my friends had the iconic Farrah Fawcett red swimsuit poster. Everyone knows it. It was featured in Saturday Night Fever and maybe other films. I didn’t have it, though I did have posters of Vampirella and Cathy Lee Crosby.

I ordered the Vampirella poster out of a “Famous Monsters” magazine. It covered the entire door of my bedroom. I saw an original poster when I was in Seattle, but it wasn’t for sale.

I first saw Cathy Lee in “Coach”, a low-budget comedy also starring Michael Biehn (The Terminator and other films), in my father’s theater. There was some debate on whether it was rated PG or R, despite the poster clearing saying PG. Some angry parents tore my father up about it because of “all the nudity” their kids had been exposed to. It really wasn’t that much, though some scenes may have been a little much for kids (nothing you wouldn’t see on a soap opera these days though). A DVD I purchased recently says Rated R. I’d say it’s probably equivalent to PG-13, but that rating didn’t exist back then.

Cathy Lee was also one of the hosts for “That’s Incredible”, a prime-time reality TV show, along with John Davidson (actor/singer/game show host) and Fran Tarkenton (former NFL quarterback). I rarely missed an episode, not realizing half the stuff on there was complete BS. On one of the episodes, she revealed her swimsuit poster. I saved my paper route money and bought it at the local G.C. Murphy’s store (could have been Sights and Sounds, not sure). Among my friends, I was the only one who had the Cathy Lee Crosby poster.

And since I’m on the topic, my other favorite TV star was Erin Gray from “Buck Rogers”. I never saw any of her posters in the stores, but I did have some of her TV Guide “centerfolds” hung in my school locker.

Old Movie Projector

I saw this in the lobby of an old theater in Kansas.

This is similar to the projectors my father had in his theaters (1978 and 1987). This one had an “extra” component at the top just below the supply reel–presumably a magnetic pickup. I’d never seen those on a 35mm projector, just the larger 70mm ones.

I didn’t get to visit the projection booth because the theater had been converted into a performing arts house and they were getting ready for a play at the time. They invited me back, but I was in town for business and had to do some work.

WREECH Literary Magazine (May 1982)

This is the complete WREECH Literary Magazine from May 1982. WREECH was a writing/speech tournament held in Fayette County, WV for grade and high school.

This particular collection was during my 8th Grade year. I did not place this year, but did the previous one. To my knowledge, there is no collection for that year. I was certain the tournament was renamed SPRITE this year, so I’m not sure why this is still WREECH.

A Corpse for the Coffin – Entire Comic

I wrote about “A Corpse for the Coffin” a while back. It was featured in a black-and-white horror comic I had around the late 70s or early 80s. I never could quite figure out when it was. There were several magazines that featured it, but the timeline I remember doesn’t match those, so my best guess is somewhere between 5th and 8th Grades.

I decided to post the entire work here. I think it’s been out of print long enough not to matter to anyone, even though it’s still in copyright. I think this falls into fair use. If not, I’ll remove it.

Enjoy.

AT&T Long Lines

Here are some diagrams and a picture regarding the AT&T “Long Lines”. The maps are just a mess of lines unless you know what you’re looking at. The building is a fairly recent picture of a long lines station near Kanawha Falls, WV. The maps show this site.

Additional information can be found on (of course) Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AT%26T_Communications_Inc.#AT&T_Long_Lines

Bruce Lee Eve

I attended a Bruce Lee Eve film festival back in 1987. Here are some flyers from it. It was the first time I saw two of his movies at the proper aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Until then, I had only seen the pan-and-scan versions on Beta and VHS. The 35mm prints were really bad though. Lots of splices and scratches. 

Of note is George Dillman. My initial impression of him wasn’t good. He struck me as a man who’d just happened to have his picture taken with Bruce Lee and then later claimed to be a close friend (see flyer below).  He was cocky and standoffish. Flash forward 30 years and a quick Google or YouTube search reveals just the type of “martial artist” he is.




Star Wars Novelization

I ran across this pre-movie release novelization of Star Wars (note back cover “Soon to be a spectacular motion picture…”, the understatement of the year). December 1976, five months before Star Wars was released. I wonder how many people read the book before seeing the movie. 

I love the artwork on the front, obviously not how Vader appeared in the movie. I think he looks more sinister here. 

Star Wars Comics

I own the Marvel Comics movie adaptations of Star Wars. Mine are the 35¢ Reprint versions, worth very little. 

I also have the rerelease of these by Dark Horse Comics. Despite being the same artwork, there is one huge difference I noticed–the lightsaber coloring. 

In the originals, both Luke’s and Ben’s lightsabers were red. 
   
 

In the rerelease, they are the proper color–blue. As far as I can tell, all else is the same aside from more vibrant colors and higher quality paper stock. 
   
 

I also have a smaller Marvel comic in black and white, presumably the template for the color versions. 
 
 

Computavid Expansion – 1985

A program that a friend of mine wrote on the Commodore 64 to promote my father’s expanding video store business. This would often play on a TV in his main store to attract potential partners. He also used a printed version of it when he met with people. This is screen capture of the program running in VICE, an emulator for Mac OS X (et al). I pulled the program from the original disk I had with a device called the ZoomFloppy that interfaces modern computers with the Commodore 1541 disk drive.

Commodore 64 Sprite Gallery – 1984

A gallery of sprites I made on the Commodore 64 circa 1984. I used “Sprite Magic”, a type-in program which was featured in a magazine called Compute!’s Gazette, to create the sprites. These were to be used in an adventure game, but I never did finish it. This gallery is taken from an actual 5 1/4″ Commodore 1541 floppy disk that I copied to .d64 format for use on an emulator on my MacBook.

Ninja Fight – 1985

When I was in high school, one of my dreams was to become a film maker. I had made some stop-motion animation tests in Eighth Grade, mostly with a black-and-white video camera and Betamax machine but also some 8mm film (which never got developed). I’m not sure if the videotapes still exist or not, but I did find one tape a few years back that contained a martial arts (ninja) movie I made in high school circa 1985. The tape had deteriorated so bad that it was barely salvagable. The in-camera edits caused many dropouts and glitches because the Beta VCR we used didn’t have a flying erase head.

I edited it a bit with some sound effects and slow motion just to play around with iMovie and get it down to a tolerable length. I also added the original soundtrack (also salvaged from an old audio tape) back in since the copy I had was an older edit. No amount of editing or digital restoration can help the content though.

Anyway, here it is…

The Frame – Jamin Winans

Just watched the trailer for “The Frame”, an upcoming movie by Jamin Winans. It’s hard to tell much about the movie from the trailer, but if this movie is anything like Winans’ previous films, then it will certainly be worth seeing.

Jamin Winans is known for the movie “Ink”, which is one of my favorite movies of all time. The only reason I don’t rank it number one is because that spot is reserved for “Star Wars”. I first saw Star Wars (now Episode IV) during its premiere run in 1977 when I was in Fourth Grade. No matter how much critics berate it or how bad it really is, I’ll always remember it through a Fourth Grader’s eyes and the excitement I had watching it again and again.

But “Ink” is far better in terms of storytelling, an intellectual movie for the adult mind. The music and cinematography are also wonderful. What’s sad is that no major movie studio would pick up Ink (opting for lower quality crap IMO), so Jamin Winans and his wife, Kiowa, distributed it on DVD, Blu-Ray, and online themselves. Ink’s popularity is due in part to its release onto Torrent sites. Here’s what the Winans had to say about it:

Dear Fans and Friends,

Over the weekend something pretty extraordinary happened. Ink got ripped off. Someone bit torrented the movie (we knew this would happen) and they posted it on every pirate site out there. What we didn’t expect was that within 24 hours Ink would blow up. Ink became the number 1 most downloaded movie on several sites having been downloaded somewhere between 150,000 to 200,000 times as far as we can tell. Knowing there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it, we’ve embraced the piracy and are just happy Ink is getting unprecedented exposure.

As a result, Ink is now ranked #16 on IMDb’s movie meter and is currently one of the top 20 most popular movies in the world.

This all started as a result of the completely underground buzz that you’ve each helped us create. We’ve had no distributor, no real advertising and yet the word of mouth that you’ve generated has made the film blow up as soon as it became available worldwide. So many of you came to see the movie multiple times, bringing friends and family and many of you have bought the DVD and Blu-ray from us. All of this built up and built up and suddenly it exploded.

We don’t know exactly where this will all lead, but the exposure is unquestionably a positive thing.

Ink hits Netflix, Blockbuster, iTunes and many more tomorrow! Remember to get your signed copies, t-shirts and posters at the Ink Store.

Thank you so much for the constant love and support.

Jamin and Kiowa
Double Edge Films

Here is the full story.

Here’s the trailer for Ink:

Winans has also made numerous shorts, including “Uncle Jack”, which is my favorite from him.

Retro, Retro – Metropolis

Just finished watching the 1984 Giorgio Moroder version of Fritz Lang’s 1927 futuristic dystopian classic “Metropolis”.  I had seen the original years ago, but never the 1984 Moroder version.  I have to admit, I quite enjoyed the 80s soundtrack – a double dose of retro – though the version was panned by many critics.  I’ve always enjoyed Moroder’s work, especially his movie soundtracks — Scarface, Midnight Express, Electric Dreams, Flashdance, Top Gun, just to name a few.

Many scenes from the original were lost over time, but have been rediscovered.  Moroder’s version from 1984 did an admirable job of reconstructing the film from what was available, but was still very incomplete.  According to Wikipedia the run times are:  153 minutes (1927 premiere, lost); 82 minutes (1984 restoration); 118 minutes (2002 restoration); and 148 minutes (2010 restoration).  The 2010 restoration is the most complete to date after a 16mm negative was discovered in Argentina containing footage previously thought lost forever.

C64 / C65 compatible computer in FPGA

I ran across this the other day and wanted to repost it.

Making a C64/C65 compatible computer in an FPGA

It’s a project by Dr. Paul Gardner-Stephen to develop a Commodore 64 / Commodore 65 compatible system in a field-programmable gate array (FPGA). There have been other similar projects for the Commodore 64, but not a hardware version of the Commodore 65 (a successor to the C64, but was unreleased to the mass market, with only a few of the prototypes being sold) that I know of.

What I like about this is that Dr. Gardner-Stephen (in his own words) “purposely used an off-the-shelf FPGA board, so no one has to wait for a PCB production run. Just buy yourself a Nexys4 board and get a spare SD card 2GB or less in size.”

Specs for the board are here (on the Digilent website – not an advertisement, just the first site I ran across).

I’m looking forward to seeing a completed version of a hardware (FPGA) Commodore 64.

Two-Nexys4s-ethernet

VNC ViewerScreenSnapz009

Superbooks: High-tech reading puts you in the story — CNN.com article

I just read an article on CNN.com about “superbooks” (CNN’s term), interactive books that let you participate in the story.

The full article is here.

It’s an interesting concept, but is really nothing new.

Interactive Fiction as a computer medium has been around since the 70s when Will Crowther made Colossal Cave Adventure (also known as ADVENT, Colossal Cave, or Adventure) circa 1975-76 for the PDP-10 system. Crowther was a programmer and caving enthusiast who based the layout on part of the Mammoth Cave system in Kentucky. He later collaborated in 1976–1977 with Don Woods, who made significant expansions and improvements with Crowther’s blessing. A big fan of Tolkien, Woods introduced additional fantasy elements, such as elves and a troll. (Wikipedia)

Another well-known interactive fiction work was Zork: The Great Underground Empire, also created on a PDP-10 in 1977-1979 by Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, and Dave Lebling, MIT students at the time.

Zork was my first experience with interactive fiction. My father gave me the only copy he had for sale in his video store, the Commodore 64 version.

Zork I C-64 Folio

I was surprised that the article mentioned nothing about the previous interactive fiction games and companies, especially popular through the 80s. Not to mention Graham Nelson’s fantastic (my opinion) interactive fiction authoring system Inform 7.

After reading the article from CNN, I explored the inkle studios website (here) and found that Emily Short is a contributor to their work. Emily is well known in the interactive fiction community, working on the Inform 7 project and authoring several works of her own. Her WordPress blog can be found here. Very interesting reading.

I’m curious to see how “superbooks” catch on with readers.

I still enjoy the Infocom-style (et al) interactive fiction games.

Robert Reed – “Night Calls”

I’m currently reading (actually listening to the audio book) Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series and it reminded me of “Nightfall”, one of his short stories. It also reminded me of Robert Reed’s short story “Night Calls”, which apparently pays homage to “Nightfall”. I read Reed’s story in Asimov Magazine a couple of times, but didn’t really get the point of it. I thought the author would appreciate an inquiry, so I sent this to him:

Hi Bob,

I read “Night Calls” a while back (twice actually) in Asimov’s, and I’m hesitant to ask this because I’m probably missing the obvious, but could you explain to me what it was about? I’m sure there’s something deeper, but I just didn’t get it.

Thanks (and I hope I’m not coming across as implying something was wrong with the story).

Kevin

I was quite surprised when I got the following snarky reply:

Hello Kevin,

Nope, I’m not helping. You’re on your own.

Thanks,

Bob R.

Not sure what his problem was. My reply:

I thought you’d appreciate the inquiry. You didn’t have to be a d*** about it even if you do think it’s beneath you to explain what it was about. Sorry I f****** asked.

Probably not very professional of me I know, but I included my response in this post in the spirit of full disclosure. I’m sure Reed and/or his fans will have issue with my comments regarding his attitude, but I dont care. It was rude and uncalled for.

IFComp.org has a new website design

Image

The 2014 Interactive Fiction Competition doesn’t officially open until July, but in the meantime check out their new website. Going on 20 years now, IFComp is (according to their website):

The 2014 Interactive Fiction Competition doesn’t officially open until July, but in the meantime check out their new website. Going on 20 years now, IFComp is (according to their website):

The Interactive Fiction Competition is an annual event begun by passionate hobbyists in 1995 to encourage both the creation and the discussion of new interactive fiction works (also known as IF). While the definition of IF has evolved in the years since then, the IFComp’s format and schedule have remained stable since the 1990s. Anyone can judge the entries on a one-to-ten scale, and the laurels go to the entries receiving the best average rating.

The 18th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2012)

A very late post, but the 18th Annual IFComp voting ends today. Once again, I’ve missed the opportunity to enter a game into the competition (something that I’ve wanted to do since around 2001 when a friend and I started writing it).

From the official site:

http://www.ifcomp.org/

For the last seventeen years, the readers of the Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.int-fiction have held a yearly interactive fiction competition. For fans of the old Infocom games as well as for newcomers to the genre, the competition is a chance to enjoy some of the best short adventure games available anywhere.

Maybe next year.

Synaptic Void Update

One of my short stories (Graceful Exit) will appear in the upcoming Synaptic Void anthology along with a collaborative effort with Thomas C. Johnson (Binary).

Here’s what the editor posted on his blog:

This anthology is now officially closed, and with some great stories, I might add. I just sent everything off to Chris, so hopefully it won’t be too much longer until its out!

Now on to the winner of best story… Congratulations to Ran Cartwright for his story “The Last Singularity.”

Close runners up were “Graceful Exit” by Kevin P. Kilburn and “Pupils” by Wol-viery

Many thanks to everyone who submitted. It’s going to be a great anthology!

Graceful Exit

My flash fiction work “Graceful Exit” has been accepted for publication. Not much to tell about it because it’s less than 1,000 words and “experimental” in that the format is part of the story telling. It will appear in the upcoming Synaptic Void anthology with “Binary” (writing as Patrick Christian – a collaborative effort with a friend of mine, Thomas Johnson).

Synaptic Void Anthology Update

The Synaptic Void anthology, which will feature Binary, a story by Patrick Christian (the pen name for collaborative efforts between me and Thomas C. Johnson – our middle names).

So far, the antho is up to 40K words.

The Last Singularity by Ran Cartwright
Dear Mom and If Buk Wrote Sci-fi by David S. Pointer
Invaders We by Martin Zeigler
The Death and Life of 14RR-E by Jake Johnson
Alpha and Omega by Voss Foster
Binary by Patrick Christian
Ego Trip by John H. Dromey
The Bachelor by Ron Koppelberger
Memories of Jonathan Lampedius by Howard Cincotta
As Nature Intended by Ken Goldman
Edge of Twilight by Matthew Wilson
Deejnoy 351c by Dene Bebbington
Ganglion Trains by Sean Monaghan
Rat Pack by Lee Clark Zumpe
Pupils by Wol-vriey
Snowbound, With Wolves by Dave Fragments
Death of Progression by Matthew Wilson
Dead Air by Matthew Wilson

Read more: http://staticmovement.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=bizarro&action=display&thread=689&page=2#ixzz1lwdJTemK

The End of A Glitch in the Continuum

Seems that A Glitch in the Continuum is not destined for publication. The new publisher (after the old one cancelled), Pill Hill Press, has also cancelled Glitch. Too many of the original authors bailed out making it unviable for Pill Hill to continue with it. When I get time, I’ll submit my story “The Healing Time” elsewhere (and now I have the opportunity to change the title, which was a reference to a part of the story that I eventually removed, making the title a bit obscure now).