Author: Ankaris

An Afternoon with Visual Futurist, Syd Mead..

Howdy all..

Not a lot happening here on the painting front unfortunately. Busy looking for work and then working when I get it. My computer is on the way out as well, and holding together due the 2 foot fan cooling it down while I work! I’d kill for a new Intel Mac.. my old dual G5 is getting long in the tooth.

The AWESOME News –  Spending an entire afternoon with Syd Mead and his business partner, Roger Servick last Saturday!! Talk about a dream come true.. My friend Paul organised the Syd Mead night (18th March) here in Sydney at the Orpheum Theatre and so had a direct line to the master of futurist design himself. Syd and Roger had Saturday afternoon off so Paul and I offered to drive them around town.

Syd and Roger in 7-11. Sydney, March 2010

So our first stop was the Apple store on George St, Syd needed a power adapter for his Laptop. Half the nerds in the store were probably Syd Mead fans and had no idea he was walking past them! Mind you the Apple staff seemed to have no idea there was an elderly gentleman looking for service and also appeared ignorant of his presence.. tsk tsk Apple! Syd tells the young guy to make out the invoice to Oblagon Inc, and Paul says to him.. “Dude, you should really look that up.. like now!!”

Syd Mead at the Apple store. Sydney, March 2010

Next thing on the list was a decent coffee! The Sofitel Hotel they were staying in apparently weren’t up to the task so a stroll through the old Strand Arcade for coffee and cake was next order of business. In keeping with the theme of business, I suggested Syd get on with the paperwork and sign my copies of Oblagon, Sentury and a older book called The Guide to Fantasy Art Techniques of which he is included.

Syd Mead, the Strand Arcade. Sydney, March 2010

With the business side of things concluded we set out to achieve two objectives. Visit their old friends and find a Ford dealership – Syd and Roger wanted brochures of Australia’s Ford Falcon. The king of design was also very impressed by a new Maserati Grand Turisimo that happened to stop next to us in traffic, (who wouldn’t be!!) although he felt the logo on the rear pillar should be tilted slightly forward. So Pininfarina, pay attention! As you might have guessed, Syd talked about cars… a lot!

Syd chews the fat with the local Ford salesman. Sydney. March 2010
Syd and Roger. Sydney, March 2010

From there we headed to Watsons Bay for a wonderful late lunch at Gusto Bar and Kitchen. The food was excellent as was the great conversation. We had the place to ourselves for hours and enjoyed getting to know the man behind the Visual Futurist. It is always interesting to see beyond the ‘hero’ and meet the real person and Syd is just a regular guy at heart. A very sophisticated yet down to earth guy I might add, quick witted and always up for a laugh. His generosity is matched only by his talent and we all know how much of that he has! I cant look at Syd’s work now without acknowledging the quiet driving force behind Syd Mead Inc, that is Roger Servick, a major component to Syd’s success the many years they’ve worked together.

We finished the day off back at their hotel and snapped a few pictures. I also gave Syd one of my oil painted landscape studies as a memento of his stay and as a small thank you for all the years of inspiration he has given Paul and I.

L to R - Syd, Paul, Roger. Sydney, March 2010
L to R - Paul, Roger, Syd and myself. Sydney, March 2010
Paul and Syd at the Sofitel Hotel. Sydney, March 2010

It is a day I will remember for years to come and I feel extremely privileged to have met Syd and Roger. I also must thank my good friend Paul for making that initial connection.

Well that was my birthday and Christmas all rolled into one! 😉

Syd Mead Tour Down Under..

Howdy Designer lovers!

Syd Mead is coming to Australia. My mate Paul is organising the Sydney leg and so I thought I’d give a quick shout out and post the details. So if you’re in Sydney, come along, it should be an awesome night!

For those who dont know Syd Mead.. SHAME on you!! Here are the details:

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The Syd Mead Australian Tour 2010

Syd Mead is the most celebrated concept artist in the world today.

He was the artist behind some of the most influential science fiction of the 20th century:
BLADE RUNNER, TRON, ALIENS, STAR TREK, 2010 (to name a few).

The tour is being organized in conjunction with the CG Society, and the inaugural event in Sydney is set to be a spectacular visual experience:

On the night of Thursday the 18th of March, the premiere of the award winning film, Visual Futurist: the Art and Life of Syd Mead, will be screened at the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace in Cremorne.

The screening will be followed by Syd Mead live on stage, interviewed by Jamie Leonarder (The Naked City, FBI / previous host of The Movie Show, SBS).

Syd will be available for signings after the event, and there will be very special limited edition Syd Mead Australian tour t-shirts and dvds on sale.

Come and pay tribute to the man who, for the last half century, has played such a pivotal role in the design of science fiction in film, and who’s genius has inspired countless artists around the world.

Immerse yourself in his world, and meet the man himself.

Book your tickets here: http://www.orpheum.com.au/syd-mead.htm

It is advised that you book early to avoid disappointment. The tour has already generated a great deal of interest.

contact Paul with any inquiries about the tour: nova@bigfoot.com.au

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And for those who still dont know Syd Mead’s work, here is a sample.. enjoy!

Digital Domain.. and the great VFX craftsmen..

Howdy All,

Came across a few old photographs of my time at Digital Domain, circa 1996.. In the visual effects world, that’s like dog years, every one of ours is like 160 odd years to us. So 1996 puts these pictures around 150BC in film VFX terms! Which makes these guys… well, its makes them advanced in years!

What they have in mileage does not diminish the spirit, creativity and sense of humor.. (despite Mark’s grave expression in the photo). They also have a credit list under their belts that most fan boys can only dream of!

They were practitioners of a ‘craft’, a way that has sadly been replaced by computer science and the idea that more rendering power will solve the problem. It’s a way of looking at visual problems in a simple practical way and cheating the effect, not simulating the effect. Huge difference here and one that can have huge cost implications. I’m not saying throw away the computers, but how about we start looking at these problems from the perspective of ‘craft’.

As the saying goes, give a man a hammer and every problem looks like a nail. No wonder vfx costs so much today.

The image that ends up on the screen is nothing more than a bunch of 2D shapes, some light, some dark and of varying colours, they are not the ACTUAL thing being depicted. So no matter how much software you throw at a film project, it all boils down to basic composition on a flat 2D surface and of course, story! For this reason I cant wait to see ‘Moon’.

These guys came out of the effects industry where limitation spawned creative visual solutions and in the process, iconic cinema visuals. In this CG age, I feel that the forest is in danger of being lost for the CG trees.. if it hasn’t already.

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First old timer.. Ira Gilford. From Detroit if I remember correctly. One of, if not the first guy to design the original HOT WHEELS toy cars! He illustrated a ton of cars for the Fifth Element among other things. I cant quite remember what he was telling Ron here and I don’t really want to speculate either!! You’re a bad bad man Ira!! 😉

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“Here.. I’ll draw you a picture of it..” Perhaps Ron’s expression says it all!! Ron Gress, matte painter, mural painter, fine artist in every sense of the word. Worked on Star Trek the Motion Picture and a million things since then. Great guy, great party host and collector of haute couture Hawaiian shirts! If you’re in the US and Reno in particular, go check out his mural at the Reno Hilton (I assume it’s still there.. otherwise see it on his blog)

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Ron in his excitement phoning Mark.. “Hey Mark, guess what Ira just told me!”

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“.. Stay put.. I’ll grab my duck whistle and be right there!”. Yes folks, Mark ‘senior model builder on Blade Runner’ Stetson! You could die a happy man with that credit alone.. That he made time for everyone, has probably forgotten more than most are still trying to learn, is a hell of a nice guy and complete gentleman, goes without saying and barely describes the man. That goes for all them.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, The Fifth Element remains the pinnacle and highlight of my professional film career… and it’s because of these guys. Thanks fellas!

RMIT Studio Photography, 2nd year..

Here are some more images that I created in my 2nd year at RMIT. Each of these incorporated some sort of special effect, photographic effect or trickery. No lith composites here, these were earlier than that..

This was a forced perspective shot, the model is sitting on a triangle shaped piece of perspex, which is also lit from below. The lights in the side ‘buildings’ were created by scratching away the film emulsion.

This was a forced perspective shot, the model is sitting on a triangle shapped piece of perspex, which is also lit from below. The lights in the side 'buildings' were created by scratching away the film emulsion.

This weird ‘air plant’ was shot under water. I had a clear perspex tank built, with rounded corners at the back so I had a continuous bg. Filled it with water and a touch of milk, covered the top with card that had holes in it and stuck a spot light on it.

This weird 'air plant' was shot under water. I had a clear perspex tank built, with rounded corners at the back so I had a continuous bg. Filled it with water and a touch of milk, covered the top with card that had holes in it and stuck a spot light on it.

How I stopped it from floating to the top!
How I stopped it from floating to the top!

The floating crystal! Mini die cast soldiers, cheap model, and not enough smoke!

The floating crystal! Mini die cast soldiers, cheap model, and not enough smoke!

And my Steampunk Snapper! Genetic engineering gone wild? Not really, just a fish from the market, frozen and thick aluminum sheeting nailed into it’s frozen body. I had to constantly keep freezing it as it would start to thaw out, I’d be hammering away and ‘squish’… time for the fridge again! Then I stunk out the entire 2nd year studio the following day. That hole in the side of its body does have a small pea bulb light illuminating the gears.. and I took out the other eye to get a second pea bulb in behind the remaining eye!

Genetic engineering gone wild! Not really, just a fish from the market, frozen and thick aluminium sheeting nailed into it's frozen body. I had to constantly keep freezing it as it would start to thaw out, I'd be hammering away and 'squish'... time for the fridge again! Then I stunk out the entire 2nd year studio the following day.

Tom 'Slappy' Johnson

(In ‘Deliverance’ voice)… I got me sum pic-tures of youuuu, I’m a gonna puttem on the innernet….

This my friends, is my friend Tom. Tom was one of the first guys I met at Digital Domain and the first man to ever hand me a loaded 9mm pistol… “Just in case..”, he said! He was kind enough to put me up while I found my own place in LA. Thanks man, you wacko!!

He can paint, sculpt, draw, he modeled all the buses flying around in the 5th Element, out of a sphere! He made some wicked ugly teeth too.. He has a penchant for wearing thick woolly socks in LA’s summer and talking like a ‘Good Fella’.

If you see him, say hi… and run!

These pics were taken when he was visiting Sydney town… sometime in the past…

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Tom 'GoodFella' Johnson
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