Battle of the Brands

Well, I imagine there must have been a battle, because major brands don’t usually acquiesce to this kind of thing.

Leavenworth, WA, the “Bavarian” town is remarkable (if for no other reason) in that the Leavenworth brand is apparently strong enough to dominate major national brands. Corporations must forgo their brand logos and fonts for something that “blends” with the rest of the town, in this case Wells Fargo bank.

Another instance of brand subservience: Bank of America.

 

The Starbucks brand relinquishing its visual identity in Leavenworth, WA.

 

Even Subway has to use a fancy “old fashioned” font, although they are allowed to keep the two-color aspect to their name. 

MRG Foundation Justice Within Reach party

The McKenzie River Gathering Foundation is a wonderful Oregon funder that focuses on racial and economic justice, peace, environmental protection, and LGBTQ rights. Each year they have a fundraiser party, and it’s always quite a shindig. This year performers include Spoken Word artist Toni Hill and Afro-Cuban musician Virginia Lopez. More info here.

This year Blue Mouse Monkey is sponsoring a table of ten. The party’s at the Ambridge this Saturday April 21st, starting at 7:00. Get your ticket here and support an amazing local foundation. See you there!

A chance to play

Last weekend I had the opportunity to play outside. I guess I don’t get to do that much anymore, because it felt like an incredible treat. At home I can be outside in the garden in two modes: gardening, or relaxing. The relaxing thing happens rarely, and only for a half hour, tops, then I’m off doing something else. The gardening thing is good, but purposeful. There isn’t much pure play involved in weeding beds and harvesting vegetables.

img_0372But last weekend I stayed in a log house in the Hood Canal (which is really a fjord) with three other women. We were there to share creative solitude during the day, and friendship over dinner in the evenings. The others worked on writing projects, and I made art. I expected to write, too, but earlier, while cleaning out our basement, I found a bunch of leftover bits and pieces from grad school. Plaster casts of hands, rolls of colored string and cellophane, paper cut-out shapes. On impulse I decided to take this flotsam and jetsam of a period of intense art-making up to the Hood Canal to play around with it and see what happened.

At my friend’s place I chose to work in a small meadow next to an old shed. It was more like a clearing in the forest, and filled with buttercups and light slanting through the trees. I didn’t have any particular plans other than I’d make site-specific sculptures and leave them there. (Or dismantle and discard them in my host didn’t like them, but it turned out she did :-)

img_0434The first piece I made was inspired by sun hitting tendrils of tall grass in front of the shed. They made bright vertical lines of light against the dark background. I created a set of horizontal lines to complement, using embroidery thread. Keeping the tension in the thread was the hard part, since I couldn’t pull too hard on the grass stalks or they would snap.

Then I hung from a tree pieces from an installation I did years ago called The Myriad Things. Now the very cool thing I discovered, which I had never seen when this work hung in a gallery, was how it moved in the wind. Each strand has three collaged paper or glass vesica piscis shapes strung together with fine monofilament. Instead of flapping around like a wind chime, the shapes acted like paddles, and they spun in place. It created a beautiful floating, flickering effect, especially, when seen across the clearing. (Please excuse the crappy iphone video.)

img_0408Other pieces I made included burying gold foil under the duff so it glinted through, making the earth look golden. That one was hard to photograph. I also wrapped a sapling trunk in bands of gold foil, and placed plaster hands among the buttercups.

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img_0416The other more visible piece I did was a large “cellophane fin”, made by wrapping colored cellophane across the delta-shaped spaces made by low, nearly horizontal maple limbs. The cellophane was left over from some 4-color printing process, with alternating magenta, cyan, yellow and black frames. The effect was like stained glass, but delicate and fragile, and in a tree.

I got to make a sculpture garden! It was the most satisfying thing I have done in a long time. I need to get out and play more often.*

* Bucket list:
1. Experience the Calabi-Yau in all ten dimensions
2. Play outside regualrly

Scott Sparling reads at Powell’s Burnside

img_0176Last night Portland author Scott Sparling read from his debut novel Wire to Wire (Tin House, 2011). His story of how the book came to be was funny, poignant, and inspiring. Twenty years in the making, and now it’s a beautiful edition, lovingly produced by one of indie publishing’s top houses. I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of being associated with Scott’s work in two ways. Firstly, for several years I shared a space at the Pinewood Table with Scott. Pinewood Table is a critique group facilitated by Stevan Allred and Joanna Rose, and it’s where many Portland writers learn, in a challenging but supportive environment, the craft of fiction writing. Each week writers bring a handful of pages to share around the table and read aloud. Then the writers get verbal and written critique of their pages. During my time at that table I read most of Wire to Wire in small weekly chunks, and Scott’s amazing prose worked its way in under my skin. But I read the story out of order: I’d come in in the middle, and the controlled chaos of the character’s lives never quite gelled for me until Scott started again at the beginning. Then things fell into place, and I could appreciate the work anew.

Later, after the news that Wire to Wire was being published by Tin House, Scott approached me to make him a website. He needed a look-and-feel as cool and edgy as the book, as well as an easy way to keep it updated as the reviews rolled in and the events calendar grew. So far Wire to Wire has received glowing reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Playboy, and the Oregonian, and Scott is in the middle of his book tour.

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Scott Sparling signs a copy of Wire to Wire for Portland artist Brenda Mallory

Here are photos from his presentation on June 30th at Powell’s Books (Burnside location). Scott told the story of the book’s creation, read three excerpts, then signed copies, while the art show on the wall behind him happened to create some great visual juxtapositions!

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Scott Sparling signs a copy of Wire to Wire for Portland writer Yuvi Zalkow

Time flies…

Makara Beach, outside of Wellington, NZ

Makara Beach, outside of Wellington, NZ

…when you’re busy, then you go on vacation. We were in Hawaii and New Zealand for a couple of weeks, visiting relatives. It was lovely. We really should get back there more often. What was also lovely was that Blue Moue Monkey carried on in my absence. Now that we have a project manager (John Redder) and a studio manager (Sheliese Gieseke), stuff gets done even when I’m not there! I am so thrilled to have them both on board. And of course Jimmy Thomas, who strictly speaking isn’t part of Blue Mouse Monkey, but he does so much work for us he may as well be. Jimmy built the new Blue Mouse Monkey website while I was away. We’re putting the finishing touches on it and hope to launch it this week!

Refreshed

Port Orford from Humbug Mountain

Port Orford from Humbug Mountain

Back from a week in SW Oregon. The first two nights were in Port Orford (eponym of the Port Orford cedar). The weather sucked, and the seascape, which looked so pretty one sunny day we passed through some time ago, was now bleak.

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However, we did climb nearby Humbug mountain (1700 foot elevation gain, 5.5 mi round trip), where the flora and fauna were impressively coastal and wild.

We then moved inland, dipping briefly into California and back up along the dam-free Smith River. The weather got warmer with each mile and soon we broke out into sunshine and the Indian summer that is blessing Oregon this year.

Darlingtonia Californica

Darlingtonia Californica

New Thing Learned: Darlingtonia Californica likes nutrient-poor bogs, and is often in the same location as Port Orford cedars, which, by the way, are suffering from an attack of an incurable fungus and are on the decline. (Another factoid: the straight-grained wood is used for coffins, shrines, arrows, and aircraft.) The darlingtonia is also known as the cobra lily, and is a carnivorous pitcher plant. First time I’ve ever seen a field full of carnivorous plants. The tallest were about 18″ high, and they were beautiful greens and reds.

Cantrell Buckley

Cantrell Buckley

Then we camped at the Cantrell-Buckley Park at the start of the Applegate Valley. Beautiful. And we practically had the madrone-forest campground to ourselves. Saw deer, a very cute feral cat (kitten, really) native snails, lizards, and Tom saw a fox and a skunk, in silhouette. (Their shadows cast on our tent.) But it still counts.

I didn’t take my laptop with me, nor any other electronic device except my phone. Tom had his laptop, but I refrained from getting online when we were at coffee shops in Ashland. It’s the longest I’ve gone without an Internet connection in years. And it was great.

Our camp in the madrone forest

Our camp in the madrone forest

Devising Narrative Structures, Day 5

I’m fast, I know. I managed to turn these puppies around in…a month. Wow. So anyhow, the fifth and final day of Paul Wells’ course was mostly spent working on our projects, which were to be about 4 characters who had an effect on each other (after the animation ‘Four’ we’d seen previously). We worked in pairs, and Christopher Huizar and I collaborated. There were also some mini-lectures on the basics of storyboarding and event analysis.

From a Ren and Stimpy storyboard, courtesey of animationarchive.org

From a Ren and Stimpy storyboard, courtesey of animationarchive.org

STORYBOARD
Each storyboard panel should depict a dominant story point. Each panel should also have plenty of space around it to indicate actions within the frame, actions outside the frame, dialogue, and notes, such as points from event analysis, the color script, etc. Since we were working in a super sped-up way on stories we’d come up with really fast, during a prior 10-minute exercise, I personally found it difficult to integrate these layers of analysis and meaning onto our storyboard, while also trying to figure out what the dominant story points were for said storyboard. Now collaboration is a great thing, and some of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on have been collaborations. But collaboration never shortens the amount of time it takes to do a project. In fact the opposite it true: always lengthens it. So Christopher and I went round and round trying to figure out what our actual story was, which was time not spent on setting it into storyboard panels and layering the other information around them.

Paul went over the definitions of ‘blocking’ and ‘performance point’. When a director says to an actor, “Enter the room. Sit on the chair. Show nervousness,” the blocking is the “Enter the room. Sit on the chair” part, and the performance point is “show nervousness.” The same blocking could have a different performance point, e.g. “show confidence.” This is theater 101, I’m sure, but having never studied theater, it was news to me, and a handy way of looking at action.

SCENE BUILDING AND EVENT ANALYSIS
Once you have some potential scenes, you address them through these core questions:
1. Description of the scene. What happens? Which characters are involved? (The psychology of the character is revealed only out of what happens.)
2. External event. What happens that is the definitive development of the plot? What moves the story forward?
3. Internal event. What happens in the scene that is a definitive movement of each of the characters in the scene?
4. What the action means for the screenwriter. This is a ‘stepping back’ question. What is happening in the story? What emotional response are you looking to evoke? If you can’t answer this satisfactorily, then go back to Qs 1, 2, and 3.
5. What the event means for the audience. (meaning viewer or reader) What does it mean for them in terms of information, understanding, and emotional response?

Kitchen fight scene from The Incredibles

Kitchen fight scene from The Incredibles

We then looked at a scene from The Incredibles in light of these questions. Every scene needs a hinge that turns it and moves the plot forward. The scene we watched depicted family dinner table chaos in which most of the action was taken up by the mother trying hard (and failing) to enforce a “no superpowers” policy amongst her fighting children. The hinge was a quieter moment when the father opens the paper and finds an article that piques his interest, and causes him to lie to the family when he leaves with a friend.

Next there was a mini-lecture on THE ANIMATION EVENT
Paul kept coming back to the question of what can animation do, that can’t be done in live action? It’s fine to take from live-action theory, but in what ways is animation different, and in what ways does the theory need to be expanded or adjusted to accommodate this?

Examples are:
- A phase of imagined motion for it’s own sake. It may take on narrative purchase, but it can be for its own sake.
- A sequence of choreographed emotive images, e.g. a contrast of fantasy and reality.
- A dramatized scene that contains something not possible in live action, e.g. a mythic character.

One problem that Christopher and I had with the story we were trying to develop into a storyboard was that it could easily be shot as a live action film. We had to search for ways to give it attributes that could only happen in animation.

ADAPTATION OF EVENT ANALYSIS WITH REGARDS TO ANIMATION
(I have to admit my notes start to not make much sense at this point. My brain was full. So I will transcribe them verbatim.)

Q1. What happens in the phase/images/scene under observation? How might its intrinsic action be described and how does it specifically relate to the methodology of process and visualization in general?

Q2. What is the key narrative development in the phase/images/scene? Animation trusts color, line, form, etc. How can the sequence progress?

Q3. What is the core punctum (from Barthes) of the sequence, and how does it advance its presence and effect? Barthes’ punctum refers to the key point of attraction in the image, and in this context might be a character, a form, a pictorial event, a visual gag, etc.

Q4. Asks the same kind of questions [as what, I'm not sure]. How far are you using the language of animation? I.e. metamorphosis, condensation, symbols, associative relations, sound, etc.”

Q5. Who is your principal audience?

As Christopher and I progressed (or failed to progress) with our story, Paul reminded us to differentiate the central story motivation from the core story event. The central story motivation is what motivates the four  characters in the story to come together. In our case it was an outdoor tuba concert. I won’t go into why a cyclist, an indie music blogger, a truck driver, and a tubist had to be there, but we spend the better part of our work time getting those details sorted out. The core story event, on the other hand, is the crash between the truck driver and the cyclist. This causes 1. the cyclist to die, 2 the driver to be devastated 3. The tubist to play the saddest tuba music in the world, and 4. the indie music blogger to write a heartfelt, instead of cynical piece. So the central story motivation gets them to the scene, and the core story event changes each one of them in a different way.

Looking back, perhaps I should change my opinion of how the last day went. We actually progressed quite far with our story, we just didn’t get it down into a nice storyboard in time for the presentation to the class at the end of the day. I think if we’d slept on it, and come back to the storyboard refreshed the next day, we would have popped one out. However, we still struggled to nail down how to work in the language of animation. Our story could have been shot in live action. Our ideas for how to work in the language of animation were mostly fine, but seemed to add in merely a decorative element, (e.g. a dreamy surreal sequence of visuals during the playing of the saddest tuba music) and as such could become contrived. I wished there was something central to our story that could only have been done via animation.

I also struggled with meaning. The story we were proposing was not going to re realized. We were pulling ideas out of thin air with no thought as to how we’d pull them off technically, or to budget, time, etc. As such it remained an academic exercise, and that keep tripping me up. Not that anything could be done about that in a course of such short duration, but it did give me pause. We’d have an idea, and I’d think, “wait, no, that’s too hard to do.” Then I’d think, “Hang on, that doesn’t matter. We’re not going to actually do it.” Then I’d think, “Well then why should I try and find the perfect solution?”

Perhaps I’ve been a web designer for too long. Too many years in charge of projects from start to finish, with budgets, subcontractors, client expectations, and ongoing technical developments to keep in mind at all times! It was certainly hard to let go and just make up a project that had no real-world constraints. My brain is indeed full. I need to rinse it out.

Devising Narrative Structures, Day 4

Yes, it’s been more than three weeks since the course finished, but, it is what it is.

Day 4 began with a brief overview of Bruce Block’s model of visual storytelling. Now Bruce Block is a narrative designer/film producer/creative consultant who teaches at USC’s school of Cinematic Arts. He’s the author of  The Visual Story: Creating the Visual Structure of Film, TV and Digital Media. I had the good fortune of attending a lecture by Block last year, hosted by Cascade Siggraph, and I was excited to revisit the material again. (And I just came across this interview with him.)

From Visual Storytelling, by Bruce Block

From Visual Storytelling, by Bruce Block

Block’s model of visual stortytelling is based on live action. Paul Wells has adapted it for animation. The following is from my notes:

Much building of narrative is about associative relations, literal and abstract. There are six areas of visual communication that you can work with to build a story, without relying on text or dialogue. They are embedded in our thinking. The key is to use the consciously. Be aware of visual tropes and reconsider them with intention.

Within animation, the six areas of visual communication are:
- space
- line & shape
- tone (what I call value: lightness or darkness)
- color
- movement
- rhythm

SPACE
Deep: offers compositional opportunities. background and foreground issues.
Limited: we saw a short film in which there were 27 loops of behavior happening in a small, kitchen-like space. I think it was called ‘Tango’.
Ambiguous: Paul Driessen’s films use this. E.g. ‘The boy who saw the iceberg’.
Flat: used in a lot of 2D animation, e.g. SouthPark, and Stacey Steers.

LINE & SHAPE
Paul talked in general about line and shape’s relationship to space, objects, and surface. E.g. Felix the Cat is a cat and a changeable graphic mark. The code of conventions set up around him allows the creator to manipulate him via his line and shape in ways you can’t do with live action. (See previous examples, e.g. Felix morphs his tail into other objects.) The animator sets up the logic of the world within the animation. Populist forms often played with deconstructing the frame space. Tex Avery (Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, etc.) liked to play with this, e.g. draw a character running past the edges of the film holes, as if they could move in or out of the frame within which they existed. Also, anime has conventions around how line and form carry symbolic representations. Then there are the animators who use line for its own aesthetic pleasure, and draw directly onto film. E.g. Rose Bond‘s early work.

In animation, we draw a huge amount of information from visual tropes. Minimal iconographic information can do a lot. E.g. a triangle head with ears on top signals ‘cat’, even if the creature has two arms and two legs and may be walking upright.

Jessica Rabbit

Jessica Rabbit

But iconic shortcuts can be problematic, e.g. the way beautiful women a drawn extra-curvy. (Recall Jessica Rabbit’s “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way,” in Who framed Roger Rabbit.)

TONE
One of the chief converors of mood, tone (value) can be very persuasive on a narrative level. The play of light and dark can signal environment, relationships, and responses.

COLOR
Subdivided into Hue, Saturation, Brightness (I would call this value again. I.e. degree of darkness or lightness).
Color Interaction – how the tension between colors can help with the construction of mening within the image.
Color Symbolism – e.g. ethereal blues for dream sequences. Hitchcock’s use of color symbolism in Vertigo came up.Then there is also use of color and form for its own sake, to express the dynamics of feeling abstractly.

From Waltz with Bashir

From Waltz with Bashir

Yuri Norstein’s  Tale of Tales, which draws from Rembrandt, is an example of a fine art model being used for lighting and color. Also, Waltz with Bashir is a great example of the use of color (and tone) for narrative effect.

The color script is a sequential map of the colors used during the main events of a script. When I googled the phrase, I kept getting a color map of Pixar’s ‘Up’, which seems to be simply a collage of frames from the film. But the example Paul showed us was much more interesting, if not as–colorful. It was from Halas and Batchelor’s 1954 film Animal Farm, and it listed the main events across the top, then down the side were tension, mood, music, color, time of day, time of year, and maybe other variables. A graph was plotted showing the relative rise and fall of these variables, as they changed from event to event. This kind of graph was used in Bruce Block’s work, too, so I’m guessing it’s an industry standard. However, I’m having trouble locating an example online. Perhaps I’m using the wrong phrase when I search.

MOVEMENT
Movement carries a lot of narrative weight. Movement happens in and through the frame. We looked at fire in Fantasia, and the fighting-with-skeletons sequence in Jason and the Argonauts. Virile Games, by Jan Svankmeyer is an example of movement for narrative and symbolic effect. Football is represented lyrically, like ballet, but embeds violence and brutality in play and spectatorship.

There was an interesting digression about cultural norms/expectations. A lot of anime apparently ignores historical chronology, and this comes out of the different approach Japanese animators have. American animators usually work on story, then characters, then design. Japanese animators tend to work of design first, then characters, then story. It makes a difference in that when you’re working on the design idioms, you’re not necessarily designing for a purpose. Anime prefers to come up with a design that it then populates. Does any type of animation begin with character? Apparently children’s animation does. (I found this particularly interesting after studying creative writing for a few years, in which character, not plot, is considered the critical, central element of literary fiction. “You only need enough plot to hang your characters on” is an oft-repeated adage. Which takes me straight to something a Dutch friend said once about American fiction: “A lot of it’s very well written, but what is it about?” — a digression I won’t get into further here…)

beep beep!

beep beep!

RHYTHM
This can be visual, auditory, or felt. In terms of pacing, you can use different rhythmic models. E.g. the typical model of alternation used during a chase scene can be freshened by changing the oppositional variation. Beavis and Butthead uses repetition a lot.  Some animators use speed, temp and timing to effect. Contrast Text Avery, in whose work which speed is key, with Bill Plympton’s 25 ways to quit smoking, in which pauses and delay serve to intensify the gags.

CAUSE AND EFFECT
While this was discussed under ‘rhythm’, it seems to be important enough for it’s own headline. Cause and effect is a traditional narrative device. Fine-art animation often undermines cause and effect, and keeps it fragmentary. Films that combine traditional (continuous) and non-traditional (fragmented) cause and effect are interesting. Miazaki‘s anime films apparently do this.

CONTRAST AND AFFINITY
Contrast and affinity need not be only related to light and color. You can also contrast (or affine (new word?)) concepts, space, value, subject, movement, and so on. In fact (and this is something I came away from Bruce Block’s lecture last fall) it is the increase of contrast in some or all areas of the visual elements that works to convey the narrative as it hits  points of intensity. E.g. in a film you might use a lot of neutral hues at the beginning, but during emotional moments you can introduce a bright color or two, then during the final climax you can go all out with clashing colors. Maybe a a bit of a heavy-handed example, but you get the point. And it’s these changes of contrast that get plotted on script maps.
Waltz with Bashir uses tonal contrast with huge success. I have only seen the trailers online, but watching how he causes shadows to pass over people is quite wonderful.

COMPOSITION
My notes from this one are sketchy. Something to do with “middle eastern” composition used in Azur and Asmar, AKA The Price’s Quest. Plus the quote from Michele Ocelot, “What is important is that our work makes the audience intelligent”. Which is not to suggest the audience starts out unintelligent, but that the work stimulates them.
Also we learned that the famous Beatles film Yellow Submarine was very hard to animate. It was based on the graphic style of a famous designer who wasn’t an animator. Hence, it was never influential in animation.

Devising Narrative Structure – Day 3

felix-2-inkToday we looked at examples of two more from the list of ‘dominant models of narrative’. Firstly, Multiple perspectives on a single incident was represented by the Slovenian film ‘Four’. (Which I can’t find of the web). There’s a core incident – the climax, and we see developments towards this climax four times, each through the point of view of a different character. The characters are related to each other in some way, and to the climax. Variations on this structure can be seen in live action films such as Beautiful People, and Thirteen Conversations About One Thing.

We then paired off (me with Christopher Huizar) to devise a narrative based on 1 core event, with three characters for whom the event is meaningful. While also considering what animation could bring to the story the live action filming could not. Christopher and I got going with a truck/bicycle crash. Trick driver, cyclist, and witness who inadvertently causes the distraction that causes the crash.

picture-5We also looked at the narrative model of the list-led set of relationships to a core topic. For example, Portland animator Bill Plympton’s 25 Ways To Quit Smoking. We also watched a great piece by Nikki Braine called Procrastinating Gus. Our paired-up response to this one was ‘How to Fake Technical Proficiency’. But early on we concluded that the list we were coming up with was more about language, and would be challenging to express with images. Unlike Plympton’s ‘Smoking’, which is one sight gag after another. So when were were given the choice of which of the two exercises to pursue over the final two days, Christopher and I decided to go with the 1-story 3-POV one.

Then we talked at length about moral dilemmas. Starting with the chestnut example in which one imagines various numbers and types (friends, strangers, drunks, surgeons) of people lying on train tracks, and the train is coming and you can not stop it but you can flip the switch to run over the folks on track A or track B…you know the kind of thing. Comes up in ethics 101 and other places. Anyhow, characters’ agency is the key point, and that you can build a story on a moral dilemma, and have it play out based on the characters and their levels of agency. So the next exercise was to construct a set-up of a situation that presents a moral dilemma, then develop two tracks of problematizing from the one dilemma. I.e. answering ‘yes’ leads you down one track, which gets progressively more complex to answer ‘yes’ to, and same with answering ‘no’. Bag of money found at a bus stop was our starting point. It got more interesting when we gave the money-finder some significant backstory. Anyhow, moving on…

One interesting point that came out, as we were discussing ambivalent reactions (e.g. “I’d keep some of the money but hand the rest back…”) is that drama is driven by specific responses. You go one way or another, when faced with a dramatic choice. So muddying the response is not a great way to create drama. Comedic drives, however, often hinge on complications. If you were creating a dark comedy around the finding of cash by a sympathetic protagonist, introducing ambivalent responses would work. A lot of contemporary storytelling plays with ambivalence.

Then we looked at some major themes, such as desire for justice, fear of the unknown, self-discovery, etc. And tomorrow we continue our work on our multiple-perspective stories.

The late afternoon session was a lecture by Larry Sherman, a neuroscientist at OHSU. How the Brain Sees Motion: From the Static to the Animated Image.

Dr. Sherman did a good job of presenting the material to us lay people in a way that removed the jargon but presented the fascinating aspects of the latest findings in neuroscience. There was a compeling list of agnosias, the specificity of which point to neuroanatomical specificity is handling different type of information. A person with Drawing Agnosia, for instance, can recognize objects just fine, but cannot recognize the same object in a drawing. Achromatopsia robs a person of the ability to distinguish hues, even thought they can see perfectly well otherwise. There are distinct areas in the brain the light up in fMRI studies when the subject views or thinks about faces. And another area for bodies. And another area for houses, would you believe! There is a ‘house’ slot in the brain.

Dr. Sherman also talked about the limbic system, and in detail about how visual perception works, and how much data is processed in the eye before is gets to the occipital lobe, and the what goes on with it once it’s there.

The area of the brain that processes motion is called hMT+ . It’s very small. Damage to this area prevents you from seeing things in motion. Kind of the opposite to those reptiles that can only see something if it’s moving. The speaker cited a case where a woman woke up one day (presumably after a stroke) and found she could not see the coffee pot in her hand. She could feel it, but because it was in motion it was invisible to her. Then she was pouring coffee on herself and she couldn’t see it. She’d see a car in the distance, then step out onto the road, and suddenly the car was right there. So moving things she saw as still objects, a few seconds apart, with no ‘frames’ in between. I can’t imagine how you’d adapt to this. You wouldn’t be able to see your own body unless you kept still.

Then Dr. Sherman showed us some MEAs, motion after effects. Like how you stare at a red spot for 30 seconds, then at a white wall and you see a green ghostly shape, but this was with motion. He showed us a spiralling black and white animation, after which we looked at the back of our hand. The flesh was crawling of its own accord. Visually, of course – not really, but the effect was stong enough to creep me out and make me hind may hand. A motion after effect.

Today the workshop started to feel harder. Paul Wells, such an entertaining and buoyant (one of his favorite words) teacher, is speaking less now, and getting us to work more. Plus it’s an intense course: 8 hours a day for 5 days. For the record, The faculty at the Animation Institute are Rose Bond, Suzanne Buchan, Paul Vester, and Paul Wells.

More tomorrow…