Jun 28, 2009

Why Michael Bay is a worse filmmaker then me!

Despite the many warnings against it out there, I had to go see if the dire warnings were true.

Was Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen as bad as everyone said... Oh man they only touched the tip of the iceberg! Now I could rant about so sooooo many things in this film:

A story that revolved around MacGuffins that only lead to more MacGuffins! A MacGuffin being a plot device that propels a plot forward. The item itself is not so important, but what’s necessary is that it pushes the conflict between the characters... Sadly in this film it is unclear which is more unimportant, the items or the characters!

The blatant portrayal and use of racism in half the characters and robots for the purpose of a few cheap laughs.

The blatant AMERICAN F&$K YEAH message of the movie. Frankly it is a little old, especially given how "impressive" your military efforts to keep the world safe have gone in the last 5 years. If you can't handle unorganized lightly armed guerrilla insurgences I'm just not buying you containing city leveling alien robots!

The film's reliance on nothing but toilet, sex, and drug jokes as it only comedy... May I never see one more dog, robot, or human formed transformer try to hump a leg, pillow, or especially Shea LeBeouf (YES there was a BEEPing decipticon who turned into a hot woman for the sole purpose of trying to shag information out of Shea LeBeouf!!!).

However there is one thing about this movie that boggles my mind. This movie was worse then even my worst film (and it was the FIRST movie I ever tried to make... ).

The man responsible for Transformers, is of course this guy, Michael Bay. Who, fittingly in this photo, is laughing to himself about just how stupid we all are for thinking he is any good at directing.

Frankly if I were him, and allowed to produce Revenge of the Falling, I'd be laughing too. Any studio executive dumb enough to give this man $200 million dollars deserves to be shot out of a cannon into space (a far better use of $200 million then this movie!).

On no level was the direction of Michael Bay better then mine, and I'm an amateur home movie maker!

Now before I proceed I'm not referring to the technical elements of this film. There is no way I can match any of the production levels of this film. However their execution and application come across as grossly incompetent and frankly more inexperienced then me!

Most important of all in film is perspective. Now as you can see from this still, Michael Bay insists on two things in his cameras. Hand held and closeup.
WHY would you want that!?!?!?!?! ANYONE and their dog can accomplish this type of shot with a cheap camcorder!!!

To me the shaky "in the action" shots of Michael Bay are telling me he is so incompetent as a director he has to cover up his otherwise pathetic camera work by obscuring it with "realistic" motion. Anyone who has watched camcorder filmed material (especially when the camera moves) the final product it next to unwatchable...

If I had his budget, equipment, and state of the arts effects my movies action scenes would be as wide as possible to show off as much as possible! We don't go to see the movies to feel like we're in real life (and besides I don't know about your eyes, but when I move life doesn't motion blur or shake half as bad as his cameras when I'm moving around).

This is a "long" shot for Bay. Note how the characters just fit inside the frame. To me this is a medium shot, and it should be far more common then Mr. Bay uses them.

Editing is another area Michael is rather amateur in. He can't seem to stand a shot above 10 seconds, and if it last for more then 3 it has to be a moving one.

Now I'm sure he thinks this is cutting edge cinematography, and that the audience will be paying attention to the none stopping eye candy. I don't know about you but it gave me a headache at many points.

It just makes Michael Bay come across, again, as incompetent this time at editing. Can he not get his actors and takes to go right for more then a few seconds at a time? If so, why not show that off ?!? It would make you seem able to, well direct! Besides Mr. Bay I'm sure some of these actors would like a resume piece in which other directors could see them do more then blink twice in a row before cutting to the next shot!

Now one thing about the first movie that hooked me was the amazing robot effects of ILM. They were no less spectacular this time around... or at least I think they were anyway!

You see despite the fact that this is film was marketed as an effects action film, Michael Bay applied all his aforementioned filming techniques to the robots as well... Meaning shots like this one here (a pretty tight medium shot) were a rare treat in his film. However with a budget of $200 million why are these so rare?!?

The reason was that all the effects budget and effort went into tracking Michael's shaky shots and having to track, lock, and sync the CG effects to it. Not to mention the added time rendering that degree of motion blurring adds to those sorts of effects (to get 3D motion blur you have to render each image multiple times to mix them together. This means multiple renders per frame, which makes them cost more time and money... for no added visual impact other then intangible "realism").

Take a lesson from other directors. If you have access to cutting edge effects and the budget to make a lot of them (200 million is more then enough) we the audience should be treated to nothing but long shot after long shot of CG effect. Not hyper cut together blurry shaky shots of people running around robot ankles or ground to towering robots. Seriously you've seen 90% of the visually legible shots in the trailers already, all your missing not seeing in the film itself is transformer feet and the odd really shaky shot of silhouetted robots fighting.

Now onto design. Sure Bay (like the effects) didn't actually design the Transformers. However he was the guy who greenlighted the sketches and designs that would make it on screen.

Now I show you Optimus Prime in both his lovely simple, but yet iconic cartoon look and...

His unbelievably complex mutant metal redesign. He can barely claimed to have remained loyal to the original. Which isn't good as he fared the best of the conversions, and EVERY other robot in the film bares little in common with its cartoon originator.

Now a re imagining I guess can be claimed to not hurt anyone (but I'm sure car manufacturers would be taken to court over the safety repercussions of wheel redesigns). This complex new look ties into Bay's attitude towards "real" photography. Sure a "real" living robot may very well might be made of 1000's of parts like this, however the human eye can't process them (especially when the average shot of them moves all over the place and lasts for only a few seconds!). We don't need real. Like a film, we need a simplified simulation of real.

I can't fathom how Bay watched the dailies of the effects and not wondered himself which robot was which in the battles, as there is next to no way to tell them apart in the majority of the battle scenes (the first film benefited from most of the fights featuring either the bright red and blue optimus prime or yellow bumblebee...). Longer shots (in both distance and time) would have helped, but simpler (truer to the source) character designs would have solved this too!

This is a lovely example of a fan made Devastator based solely on the action figure. I would have loved to see this version even on screen, more then the Bay version of the character. Just imagine a ILM quality version of this design?!?

I can't say there was too little sound in this film. No there sure wasn't that. The soundeffect people sure had to earn their pay check this film (though they could retire if they were paid by the individual effect!). There was so much sound from this film that when I came out of Transformers I could share notes with my girlfriend who'd been watching the Proposal in the next door theatre!!!
To build suspense sometimes less noise is better. Something Mr. Bay couldn't take advantage of this as the sound was always between a metallica concert and a supersonic jet engine.
One thing even a none established director like me knows is that when characters are delivering dialogue, especially important to the story, you shouldn't have their voices competing with loud sound effects. This happened all throughout this film!
This scene with Jetfire being the worst of all. Not only was the character literally ranting in a uncaring manner about a convoluted MacGuffin, leading me to wonder why I should care about it if he didn't, but I couldn't properly hear him. See his beard made of metal, well while he talked it moved about. Well Michael Bay thought it'd be 'awesome' if it made authentic metal beard sounds. In other words loud chains clanging and clattering together. At the same volume as or louder then Jetfires voice, and both only happened when he talked...
I seriously had no clue what was going on for the next 10 minutes of the film (though fortunately as the writers seemed to anticipate Bay losing us poor audience members along his way, and so they wrote in convenient restatements of the plot every 5 minutes. Which were handy till you'd caught one of them. Then it was just insulting! I digress though...

Take in the scenery of this shot. Okay good now that you've taken in Fox's boobs, seriously look at the set she is lying helplessly in...

This film had a 200 million budget (I keep reminding you, as if we were just left with Bay's film as evidence it might not be apparent), yet the whole climax happened on a set from the first film... not even redressed. I'm not kidding!

Bay seems to have a thing about desert robot fights (though its not due to the nice openness of the sand dunes allowing for nice easy unobscured shots, that's for sure!), and apparently Paramount only has access to one desert set.

Remember the scene where the army boys fight the giant robot scorpion in a desert village. Well that same village is reused as a villa just below the pyramids, and apart from the big stone triangles being CGed in behind, the village is identical. Seriously, there is only a bit of an extension in the back section.

With a budget like this how could you not afford to redress the set a bit, or better yet completely!

Hell in my latest film (Delta Patrol) I used the same room as 5 different location in my film. With my mere budget of $100 dollars (no millions attached to this sadly), and none of that money spent on sets other then some X-Mas lights for futureness, we were able to make it look like 3 different places (admittedly the morgue and science lab look the same, but that works when you think about it).

I'm going to stop here.

I could take on the script and dialogue, characters, plotting ,and such. However none of my movies have ever outmatched this film on those. Only matched. In our defense our movies weren't two years in the making with hundreds of ppl involved. Usually 2-5 of us sitting down one evening coming up with an rough idea and filming it over the next week in our spare time off work.

Which I think is a key point. I don't know how people like Michael Bay get so much money to make such crap movies. I could do better with a fraction of his budget. Hell, just give me his camera and audio gear and crew, and I guarantee I could make a movie 100 times better then this (and with his effects people it could even have a transformer in it... unlike this one ;p ).

The Primeval Paradox

Well TV has gone and done it again! It has not only gone and ruined one of the few shows I do watch, but it was then cancelled to boot!

The show in question was the British sci-fi "drama" Primeval.

If you had asked me, up until this week anyway, what my favourite current running TV show was, I'd have answered Primeval. Not that I watch it (or much of anything else) on TV. I have instead been buying it on DVDs from the UK (thanks to Clare!), and watching them marathon style.

The basic premise of the show couldn't have been better targeted to my interests. Holes in time start, literally, ripping open allowing creatures from prehistory (and the future) to start wandering into present. Inflicting all sorts of needless property damage whilst trying to eat all the humans they encounter! The government fearing a world wide panic attempts to cover up the ongoing temporal crisis, and hires a team of ragtag specialists to deal with the "creatures" (their tagline for all the animals no matter what) ghostbuster style.

The first season was amazing. Well if you consider it was for all intents and purposes a serialized B monster movie. I wouldn't say it was a rival for the likes of say West Wing, but considering how silly the concept was it was executed alright (though I personally think if the audience were there, this premise could be done incredibly well and serious to match West Wing as a serious concept, but alas... it is only me). What made this early season very strong was the mix of tongue and cheekness about itself, and the interesting interactions between the lead character and the "villian".

Not that the first season didn't have a dud or two out of its mere six episodes. The second episode is a chore beyond the awesome army introduction. The 1st season's short run helped it in many ways. They introduced and established the temporal disaster quickly, and efficiently. A slick style that would be lost with the bigger later seasons, which tended to draw out their singular story arcs to the point of boredom.

Additionally the first season is where the majority of what made the show's temporal crisis interesting occurred. Season's 2 and 3 didn't do a whole lot towards progressing or explaining the "anomaly" situation. Apart from the first episodes of each of these seasons, which were cool, but I got the hint the writers had changed their mind on how the "anomalies" were going to resolve and play out in the interest of extending the show. In other words the first season was carried out well as they weren't sure if they'd get picked up beyond the 2nd season. When they were they decided to for go resolving anything expecting the good times would roll...

My favourite factor that made the show watchable beyond the CG "dinosaurs" (which were always the best parts) was the lead character, palaeonotologist Nick Cutter. A combination of good casting and breaking some of the sterotypes about scientists made Cutter my favourite fictional palaeontologist of all time (apart from perhaps Dr. Challenger).

Actor Douglas Henshall was able to infuse a sense of intelligence and insight into sometimes very cliche and unrealistic behaviour for a scientist (or anyone with common sense for that matter!), to the point you could swallow it. More to the point, UNLIKE Sam Neil's Dr. Grant, Dr. Cutter was kick @$$. He wasn't a bumbling twit, technophobe, or unable to use his prehistoric know how when confronting the creatures in the flesh.

Dr. Cutter was as much action hero as scientist, and it was just plain cool. Plus his past dark connection to the crisis (in the form of his wife) made him a very compelling character. Which sadly wasn't otherwise abundant in the rest of the main cast.

However just outside the main cast, was the series ongoing antithetical character Helen Cutter, Dr. Cutter's former wife. In the first season Helen was played with such delicious caginess. She was neither evil nor good, but someone with her own agenda and interests invested in the time crisis. Which we never did learn, beyond her having travelled throughout all of history and the future exploring the time holes.

Sadly she lost this great enigmatic angle in later seasons, where they just played Helen as a evil big bad. Though the tense and complicated relationship between Helen and her husband Nick was always present, and made for excellent moments.

Where the show was at its best was in the season 1 finale. Not only did it have the coolest creature vs. creature battle of the show (the Gorgonopsid above being assaulted by Primevals trademark creature the "future predator"), but the coolest twist I'd seen in a show since Battlestar or Angel.

What started as a chilling bit of pre-destination time travel (where the characters realize in the pilot episode they had stumbled across some of their own graves, which get filled as a consequence of the creature battle), but this is immediately followed by a huge whammy of a paradox in which all of time is altered, except Nick and Helen.

Season 2 had an amazing opening episode, following up the paradoxes effects. The episode perfectly captures what it would feel like if you were suddenly thrust into a completely altered world. We the viewers are forced to suffer alongside Nick Cutter through the complete helplessness and frustration of his situation. To top it all off the only person he cared about, the new love interest, no longer exists (at least as he knew her), and he has no idea what took her or "his" world away from him.

I thought it was only to get better from here. The creatures were getting cooler (this premier had Raptors), we had a fascinating angle on the time travel, and a big personal crisis to solve.

What could go wrong with this setup?

How about not following through with this premise!

Sadly the writers and producers of Primeval looked at the popular American shows of that time, LOST and Heroes. Next thing you know, Primeval suddenly took a 360 from the subtle sci-fi premise with a B monster movie hook, to an over the top end of the world storyline. Sadly this end of the world story had nothing to do with the time holes, but instead a dumb covery up conspiracy that put brain boxes on the time monsters to use them to take over the world...

Certainly nothing as cool or subtle as the 1st seasons mere threat of time falling apart. The show become rather formulaic, with the time holes becoming normal, and not something the characters or even the show treated with awe or mystery any more.

Sadly this form of storytelling emphasised one of Primeval's on going weaknesses. That of failing to make the human part of the story interesting. Any part with Cutter tended to be very watchable, but beyond him the other main characters were dreadfully cliche and predictable. They also didn't have very defined roles or skill sets.

Fro example the show's resident geek character, started in the first season as a palaeo student, and thus and had this annoying tendency of competing with Cutter for the science moments. Suddenly in season 2 (which could have been argued to be part of the paradox) the geek suddenly became the tech savvy genius of the operation. It filled a key niche that had been missing from the show, and it was one time it was a positive change, but it was inconsistent even after this.

In the 3rd season this role swapping was taken to an extreme. Suddenly the new Archaeologist, who was added to the show for a gimmick they only explored once (in the best episode of the last season), suddenly could break complex computer codes and create complex laser containment systems. The new cop leader could do everything from fly helicopters (which at least had a great tongue and cheek acknowledgement) to break into high security fortresses mission impossible style (no tongue and cheek explanation).

The problem with these ubber talented swiss army knife characters was that it took the "human" element out the show and turned them into nothing more then walking talking plot devices. Which made for boring 45 minute rehashed B monster movies with no situational tension as any character could fix the problem.

The worst turn on the show though in season 3 was the loss of actors. Due to the studio trying to extended the show longer then initially planned (or at least so I get the impression), many of the key actors wanted out of the show. It just so happened every single one of these were the key people to the show's premise.

First Nick Cutter died. A not very easy to bring back method of departure (if at all... which I suspect was the plan). In the end this show was really about him and his "relationship" with the time holes (through both his wife and the paradox). Killing Cutter meant in a sense ending the show's relevance. On a side note, I couldn't help but get the impression the actor left not only due to the show going to long, but that he felt it had already lost its relevance by ignoring season 1's finale.

Next went Claudi Brown, in an even worse departure that clearly indicated the actress wanted out, but was willing to appear once and a while in a guest star capacity. As the key crux of the paradox her departure marked that the writers had completely given up on ever resolving this thread.

Finally with season 3's finale Helen Cutter was killed off. This was disastrous to how the show had established itself functioning. Helen for all intents and purposes had become the story telling engine by which any threat or menace from the time crisis would be revealed. With her passing you immediately saw the show degrading into simply a monster of the week formula.

Worst of all these were all the characters worth watching the show for. With the exception of the new addition Danny Quinn, the shows cast was pretty cliche and/or boring. Everything good about the 3rd season in the end boiled down to Danny who was the sole remnant of fun left in the show (beyond the creatures).

The consistently excellent facet of Primeval I will miss, is the creatures themselves. The effects by Impossible Pictures were second to none. The monsters themselves in some cases could steal the miserable episodes they were in (the Giganatosaurus at airport would have been a complete waste of film otherwise...).

Despite the fact the carnivorous creatures always had an insatiable appetite for humans, some of the best episodes were the clever and creative ways the writers could make none predatory creatures threatening. The Dodo episode from season 1 is a true highlight, where the threat comes from a previously unknown parasite the extinct birds carried that is extremely dangerous in humans. Or the Pteranodon who is accused (by the government agents) of killing golfers, but in reality is just a fish eater trying to find a mate (and accidentally distracting the team from the real killer).

I will miss the show for being the first (and so far only) to have Dinosaurs and prehistoric animals in an ongoing sci-fi episodic show. It (until the 3rd season) tended to always entertain me, and bring a smile to my face.

Yet it will always have the tinge of being unfinished, and worse not fulfilling its potential...

Possibly. One idea that has been bouncing around in my head of late is a possible tie in to a certain small Tyrannosaur's life. As he deals with weird things all the time, and more to the point would make a good instant Dinosaur fighter in the modern era...
To those Traumador readers out there (and Primeval fans) would you be interested in Primeval: Traumador?

As you can see the effects, none animated, are not beyond my abilities...

Jun 26, 2009

Pterosaur Update

Only 4 and a half days to go before the Pterosaurs go up on ART Evolved!!!

Apart from adding some fingers to this guys wings, this is the final version of my Eudimorphodon.

I write this on the brink of my tackling the rigging of this thing. I'm not going to lie, it's not going to be easy.

Wish me luck!

Jun 23, 2009

ART Evolved Pterosaur Done(?)

Worked some more on the Pterosaur last night.

Looking at it from different angles I was unsure of the dark fur colour, I'd chosen. So I lightened that down a bit. Not sure if I like it or not.

I also added the teeth, eyes, and nostrils. The head is looking a bit too much like a video game to me, but to be honest Pterosaurs don't really inspire me all that much. So I might leave it.
This was modelled after Eudimorphodon, so I guess that's what I'm going to call it. I WAS aiming for a primitive early Jurassic pterosaur, but I couldn't find any good skull references for one. I didn't realize just how early Eudimorphodon was until I looked it up last night. Oops. So I'll have to modify it the model before it appears in Traumador's life... For which I have plenty of time!

Jun 21, 2009

ART Evolved Progress

Not to alarm anyone, but the next ART Evolved gallery, Pterosaurs is fast approaching... so be sure to get your piece started and in by July 1st!

In line with that sentiment I spent the morning today sorting out my Pterosaur's final colour scheme. This is what I ended up on. It's not my best, but certainly not the worst either.

What do people think? Is this a passable early Jurassic sea going Pterosaur?

The next step is to finish up the details on the model. Eyes, teeth, tongue, and fingers.

Then onto what I fear will be a very difficult and complex posing rig. The wing membranes are bound to be a conceptual nightmare!

I'll be making a bigger deal of it once the piece is done, but the background picture for this piece is a HUGE in joke. Can you spot why it is ironic I'd put a fleshed out Pterosaur in this photo?

Jun 20, 2009

More Than Meets the Eye

June has become a very important month for hallmarks and events for me in New Zealand. Sadly none of them are happy memories, and making them worse their all pretty much independent events (meaning I've had a few too many dramas down here!).

The only commonality between them is they all were part of my progression in becoming a teacher. Yet today I stumbled across a random unifying thread that ties them all together.

It was one year ago I became a registered Teacher in this country. This led to the long epic issues I had with immigration and be paid. Not something I wish to remember really. However my immigration papers need renewing here one year later. So on my way into to town to get some of this paperwork done, I stumbled across a funny reminder of another June event in my past life.

It was two years ago this up coming week that I failed a very critical posting. At the time it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me, and caused me a lot of pain and hardship in getting my Education degree. In hindsight it was a minor hickup in my life, but at the time very traumatic, and I don't miss that year of skool one bit!

Like you can see, not really related issues. Yet they became connected in a silly way today...

Driving into town today, I passed through Dunedin city square (called the Octagon). I couldn't help but notice the centre piece statue, Robert Burns, had be modified thusly.

To start off with, I am not a big fan of Robbie Burns as the mascot of this city. He never once in his life visited New Zealand, that alone Dunedin (his nephew lived here is the vague connection). Furthermore there are plenty of cool local people who deserve the recognition of being the main statue in town. They also did more worthwhile things then write stupid bar poems...

Anyways with my disregard for this statue in mind, as I drove by it I couldn't help but be curious. I assumed the defacement of Robbie was tied into a local support rally for the ongoing Iranian civil disorder.

Man was I wrong...

Getting closer I discovered it was a clever viral ad for Transformers 2.

Someone has "transformed" (pun intended!) Robbie Burns into Optimus Prime. A change for the better here in Dunedin if you ask me!
So how does Optimus Burns tie together my two dark anniversaries?
Well I was in town solely due to my immigration stuff of last year. So that is its part in this "tale" I've constructed.
As for 2 years ago, the only good thing to happen to me on the day I failed (I was in a dreadfully depressed mood let me tell you) was it was opening night for the first Transformers movie. So I went to see it, and it miraculously pulled me out of my dark brooding unhappiness.
Despite the fact it is an awful film, I really love it. It holds a special place in my heart like Independence Day. I'm wrong for liking them, but they were key morale boosters in tough times of my life. One of the odd powers of film I guess...
Needless to say I'm primed (oh! second pun intended!) for the new Transformers. Even though I'm sure it'll be pure cheese like the first one...
Oh and that is the end of my tale of two dark Junes... this June has been brilliant in comparison, and has seen no dark events go down in my life... yet anyways...
This was not the first viral ad I'd hit for the movie (I'm still not sure if this was some nerdy students prank, or a move by the movie theatre DIRECTLY across the street from Robbie's statue... probably the latter, but in this student town you never know).

Glendon over at the Flying Trilobite did this awesome Autobot Trilobite called fittingly Trilobot. Which was my first real reminder the film comes out very soon!

(Speaking of Trilobites you have to go check out Marek's 2 part article on Trilobite eyes and vision. Here are your complementary links to Part 1 and Part 2 :P)

Speaking of the deep dark past, here is my lame attempts at a transformer from 2 years ago! Before you compliment me on anything here, the only thing I did was make the water. The robot and bridge are models that come with Carrara. I simply redid the robots shaders.

I thought someday I might revisit the giant battling robot genre, but it hasn't come up yet. Who knows after seeing Transformers 2 I might be re inspired, and this time bringing my new 3D kung fu to the table!

Jun 19, 2009

Lighting, my new 3D frontier

I finally got the Raptor Attack done! Please go check it out! I spent nearly 60 hours putting everything together for it...

As of such I've been a little sick of Dinosaurs the last couple days (for some reason), and turned back to Delta Patrol.

Though I set out trying to fix the Delta System "set" (on which I hit a big break through as you'll see) I accidentally stumbled across a new lighting tool I'd never understood before...

Resulting in this lovely new version of the Arthis Warship (the movie's big bad). The model itself is virtually untouched since the 2006 version. However you'll notice it looks completely different due to the new lighting.

Who knew instruction manuals could be so handy?
Well honestly I do know how handy they can be. Especially considering how big and complicated Carrara is.
However as I had to leave my hardcopy manual back in Canada (it is about the thickness of a phonebook, I kid you not!), so all I have to reference here is the built in PDF version on my machine. I'm not a huge fan of reading such things on the puter, especially while I'm trying to do what I'm reading about at the same time. It means constantly switching between windows (and having to memorize the instructions before jumping).
So I haven't been using the manual as much as I should be... for shame I know!
Anyways due to an unrelated topic (I was trying to create a custom starscape) I discovered a "new" type of light. Well okay. It'd been there since day one, and in fact all new files start with one of these lights default, but I'd never bothered to learn how they worked.
However given my recent fascination with lighting lately (due to the complex lighting setup of my Gorgon piece for ART Evolved) the off handed reference to this lighting type intrigued me.
Looking it up, I'd been SO stupid for never learning about it before!
However I'll save the specifics for a tutorial I have planned for ART Evolved.

For the movie I want my starships and space environments to have no ambient light what's so ever. Meaning they have to be completely lite by either the single "sun" of the Delta System, or somehow lite themselves.
However as you can see, my intial killing the ambient light left the ship nearly invisible in the dark void of space. I knew how to make it so the ship lite itself, but these tools nearly double rendering time, and are a pain in the neck if I want to make copies of the ship (which I do).

With a combination of this new lighting source tool, and my newly learned trick of targeted lighting (as in I can tell a light to only effect certain objects) gives me this nice self-lite appearance.

With some tweaks this was the final product which looks pretty sweet compared to old versions.

The cool part is I can even turn off the "sun" light, and you'd still see the ship in the darkness.

For no reason other then I can post it, here is a test animation to see how both my ship's newly incorporated movement looks, and if my new lighting rig will slow down rendering. The great news is it doesn't. Even for multiple ships in the same scene!

That is also the new Delta System set they're literally flying into. The models involved are literally astronomically big... the planet is 100 000 3D units in diameter compared to my ships at a mere 7 in length! That didn't slow down rendering either, which I was worried about.
Feedback would be welcome though (especially for the PIP crew).

Jun 14, 2009

Goal Update

Well I know I vowed in my last post on my goals to try and get the CG work done (and thus the post) for Traum's RAPTOR ATTACK!!! done by today...
Of course I didn't, but I gave it my best, and I have a good excuse.
I had banked on 3 days to do 13 pics. However my first day ended up getting completely eaten up by an immigration crisis, and having to lead a plumber around the house to fix various parts of our house (who knew a knowledge of pool pumps would be so helpful to a professional plumber?).
So I only had 2 days. With that I did manage to crank out 11 (9 of them good in my opinion) CG pics, which without boast is seriously legendary! You try it some time if you don't believe me...
Sadly though that is 2 short of making it to the finish line. However the post will be up within 2 days, so watch for it!
I'd give you a sample, but it'd give away too much. So here is the last photo of the post for you to compare to when I have finished adding CG Dinos too.
Hope it doesn't give too much away :P

Jun 10, 2009

My Creative Goals

Well like usual, leave it to me to steal a post idea from my internet hero Glendon of The Flying Trilobite. Of course I've done it before, and I'm sure to do it again! This time I'm following his lead on talking about his art goals for the future.

Funny enough I'm not entirely stealing his idea. Lady R pressed me the other day as to what my goals in life are (as I'm lacking ambition career-wise at moment).

My creative endeavours featured heavily in my answer, as I'd like to branch out of teaching into something more"fun" eventually (or even just teach Palaeo or [3D] Art). However I'd never thought of making a blog post of it till I saw Glendon doing the same thing. So I'm more stealing the idea of being able to post my goals, and not really stealing the whole concept with new freshly thought up goals :P

I also like this post as I can use it as a public virtual contract with myself, witnessed by others, to motivate me to get stuff done!

Some of my short term goals as you'll see are current projects I've been slacking on a lot lately (part of my current apathy). So I hereby state I aim to accomplish at least 33% of these goals on the dot. Why give myself 66% wiggle room? Well let's face it, at moment I don't make money off any of these, and so surviving takes a priority. Also I've found scheduling creativity is a fairly futile task, so if I set loose goals I'm more likely to press for the ones to turn out to be achievable (and yet leave me free to ignore the ones that turned out to be too ambitious or not in the cards).

Also as my discussion with Lady R was much bigger in scope, I'm just going to focus on my creative goals. I'm not going to bore you with the career ambitions of an ambition-less substitute teacher.
My Short Term Goals

To start off with I sort of lied. Obviously me and Lady R didn't discuss my non-profit creative projects, but I think these are important to layout for myself. At the same time I'm not making these up for this post (thus meaning I didn't entirely rip Glendon off :P)

I'm always doing a running record of what I should be working on and prioritizing with my time. So this is a list of my current status of my list. I again put it here so that I have put out a formal deadline/incentive to get some of this stuff done!

I need to get back on track with Traumador! He has been suffering a lot at the hand of my lack of ambition. I've been taking a "break" from him for well over a month (and soon that'll be 2 months if I don't get back on the ball!). His traffic is starting to suffer, and I fear I'm alienating and losing his few readers.

However at the same time it has been nice to take a momentary break from him. I have been doing his blog almost non-stop for 3 years. Which is a long time for me to stick to something!

The most immediate thing on this week's chopping block, I must get the Raptor Attack story finished! This Sunday of June 14th by the latest!

I'm very proud of the Raptor Attack, it has panned out very close to how I imagined (which as all artists knows rarely happens. You have that picture in your head, that never emerges into the real world exactly how you pictured).

However through it I'm realizing just how ambitious some of my future plans for Traumador may be.

Modelling the Dinosaurs aside (each taking 16-20 hours work to be usable), posing them with my new skeletal system though easier, takes a lot longer if are more then one Dinosaur in the same render. Added to that feathers (oh how I hate feathers!... many complain of Hollywood using naked Dinosaurs, but there is a reason!) each of the Raptor Attack pictures has taken at least 1-2 hours to make. The photo with 9 Raptors surrounding our heroes, even when rendered 3 raptors at a time, took me 7 hours to create!

So this is why I have left it hanging. With at least 10 more pics with at least 4-5 Dinos per shot this is a LOT of work I'm signing up for. However it must be done. Fortunately there is only one more part of the Canada trip that involves any significant number of Dinos (and they're not all in camera for this one PHEW!).

Deadline: THIS Sunday the 14th!

I then need to get Traumador out of Drumheller. Much like the bloated and never ending Museum Quest, Traum has been stuck in Drum for over 6 months now. At least unlike the museum quest things have been interesting and varied in Drum (or at least that's what I aimed for). Plus I'm liking the mix of narrative with science facts... A hopefully ongoing thing on Traum's blog.

He still has to goto Calgary before getting back to New Zealand.

Deadline, Out of Drumheller: by the end of July!

Deadline, Out of Canada: by September!

The reason I need Traum out of Canada is that I'd like to finally get onto the Search for the Taniwha! I've been planning this for almost 2 years now, and have lots of great photos, and a hopefully funny story to accompany them!

Deadline: The search must start no later then November this year (the 2 year anni of my thinking it up!)

Of course all the rage with my creatively lately has been my old movie project Delta Patrol (proving I still have gusto in me at moment!). Having been filmed 3 years ago this (northern) summer I need to get this one cranked out. In the last two weeks, huge progress was made towards this by the completion of editing all the live action footage into the long awaited rough cut.

However I have tond of special effects work to do! One of my immediate problems is that to do the effects I need to model all the elements. The worst part is that even though I did a lot of modelling back in 2006, I've lost many of it, and my 3Ding skills have increased so much since then that I'm having to remodel everything I still have anyways. After that lengthy process I'll have to animate it all. So...

Deadline on the Modelling: This New Year (aka before 2010)

Deadline on the Animating: Fall 2010

Deadline on the Finished Movie: Before I turn 30 (aka before 2011)

Okay so those are my current tangible and accomplish able projects out of the way. As is common knowledge with those around me, I like a full plate! The next list are the bigger loftier and hard to pin down things.

My Long Term Goals

My teaching friend Scott and myself back during our teaching training in 2007 put together a children's story that we've both been making the rounds of local skools with. Our story though very kid friendly has many dark undertones and a slightly unhappy message about how life works. The kids have seemed to like it and definitely relate to the message, but it has been teachers and skool staff that have been most enthusiastic about it so far. Which we hope means it'll sell...

If we can get the damn thing published! In our two half a$$ed attempts at approaching publishers we couldn't even get a letter or email reply. That alone someone to look at the book.

We may have a new innovative way of pitching ourselves (or so we hope), but I'm keeping quiet on it till we see if it works. Partially so no one steals our idea, and more to the point I don't want to publicly embarrass myself if it doesn't work!

I'm loving the goal and challenge that ART Evolved's galleries have been presenting for me on my Palaeo-Art. I'm particularly proud of this piece from our last gallery on Permian Synapsids.

With the strides I've been making with my 3D art the last few years (this year in particular) I'm aiming in the next 2 years to get at least one piece of my palaeo-art published in a formal capacity!

Now in good news I may have made my first step here in Dunedin working with the universities geology department. However I'll save the surprise and details for some upcoming posts I'll be doing on ART Evolved about my "Quest for Publication"!

I'd also like to try (quite possibly in collaboration with other people) to do some popular level Palaeontology books that include my art.

Another of my ongoing, and never completable goals is "celebrity" shots of Traumador with famous and established Palaeontologists.

I'm starting to get a nice small collection going, however I can always use more. I also have a bit of an Alberta worker basis, so I need to try and get Traum out there a little more!

My wish list includes my childhood heroes Phil Currie (the ONLY Albertan palaeontologist I've never managed a photo with... all I have is video evidence I have personally met him), Bob Bakker (is a must!), and Peter Dodson (I already have one of Darrel Russel). Also high on my list are net sensation Darren Naish, marine reptile expert Mike Everest, and (the skull of) Edward Drinker Cope. However I'm game for any and all Palaeontologists!

The unreal version of this goal is that historians could catalogue every worker, of even just one branch, of Palaeontology during Traum's "lifetime" by there being a photo of each of them with the puppet!

With these photos and meeting the scientists I hope to increase my network within the science world for other possible goals such as...

Though not a direct creative goal, through my creative efforts on his life... I aim to get a new fossil genus or species named after Traumador. I don't really care what, and frankly how many. I'd be fine with every phylum having a Traum names thing or twenty in it! However I'm not overly ambitious at moment, so one will do just fine :P

As of such I need to make sure that I get him out there into the Palaeo world, and that his science is as accurate and as well presented as I can muster!

Most pinnacle of all I'd love to expand Traumador into a real franchise! I'm not picky as to what kind. Whether it be I figure out how to make money off him on the web, or get him back in front of people doing live shows, or into documentaries or TV shows, a movie (a few of home made ones are slowly in the works right now mind you!), and/or books!

Meaning I need to keep up the work on him, and try to up the quality of his material while I'm at it!

Much like Glendon I'd love to increase my creative networking, and do more collaborative or cooperative projects with people. Much like this 3D version of the comic strip Walcott's Quarry I did for the internet's own Etrilobite.

On this goal I have been making strides towards it, but there is always so much more to do!

No matter what, I have my usual collaborator Peter Bond to count on. Recently we also took a huge step with the creation of the online Palaeo-Art community at ART Evolved, where we every two months collaborate with people to create awesome galleries of art.

However I'm always open to new creative ventures with people, and potential friends to work with. So if you have something that needs either puppets or 3D drop me a line and we'll talk!

This also being a hint to Glendon you are far from alone here on the net ;P

My last goal, while being identical to one of Glendon's, has been on my list for a while. I even have this 4 month old test render to prove it!

I'd love to illustrate (possibly write as well) at least one story about Marvel Comic's Devil Dinosaur in the savage land. Hopefully my contact within Marvel can set me up once I'm ready to commit to this!

So there is a rough look at my current goals and ambitions creatively. Not a short list, but it'll keep me out of trouble. Which can be a very important thing for the world's sanity I've been told.

I'll try to do a summary goals post every 6 or so months to see if I'm on task...

With that in mind, time for me to get to work!

Why Can't I Have My Music?!?

I'm furious!!!

Not only did my computer's MP3 program bugger up over the weekend rendering it useless, but NOW my headphones on my portable MP3 player just broke (my only two sources of music down here in NZ).

For absolutely no reason what's so ever, Microsoft Media Player 11 began f%$king up on me during the weekend causing my computer to irrevocably crash if it so much as opened. I had to spend ALL of yesterday trying to fix it, and after 11 hours working it I was forced to resort to downgrading it to its older version 10. I tried reupgrading it to 11 when I discovered that 10 worked (and figured I'd eliminated the still unknown issue) only to find that the problem returned.

I can handle the downgrade. It'll just take some getting used to, but I'll cope. What makes this situation intolerable is that now Windows is constantly trying to reupgrage me to 11 and thus to more crashes... For crying out F&^%ing loud, if their going to force me to upgrade make sure it doesn't take down my system first!

Before anyone suggests it, I will not and can not switch to Mac's Itunes. Macintosh programs have a tendency to change video settings, without asking, on PC machines that interfere with my 3D software.

As if adding insult to injury, right after I fix my computer's music capabilities now my headphones have broken! I go through headphones quite a lot sadly, but I only just bought this pair 1 month and 3 days ago! They cost $40 down here! I don't have that kind of money!

I'm off to go make a scene at the electronics store from which I bought them, and they better replace them, because I'm in a very foul mood when it comes to my music right now!!!

Jun 9, 2009

Soundtracks: The Star Trek Films

With the release of the new Trek last month, my inner Trekkie has come bursting to the surface once again (after a long hibernation). Though I tried to avoid the new movie, one aspect that caught my attention was its soundtrack. So after finally going boldly where I wasn't sure I should have gone, (my thoughts of the film here) I sought out the new soundtrack.

Here a month later I bring you my thoughts, weighed with lots of reflection and comparison of the various Trek soundtracks.

I decided to rather focus on music from ALL of the Trek movies, but not the episodic music. I only own about 1/3 to 1/2 of the TV music on CD, and they are hard to compare. The movies are by far better in overall quality (though there is something to be said for mustering compelling music with the limited time and smaller band size a TV show budget allows, but not this post!).

It must be said that for a franchise that has spanned over three decades and numerous incarnations Trek's music has varied a lot and has seen some big changes. Yet this considered it has fared well compared to many far younger franchise's, at least musically. The first Trek theme by Alexander Courage from the 60's show has managed to endure as a constant in all [good] Trek scores, and it has unified some otherwise totally different approaches. Due to this Trek's music can be interspliced for a somewhat coherent listening experience (ie. shuffle in your music player), but you can tell its many composers.

I'll note that many of these scores hold huge sentimental value for me. I've listened to and loved some of this music since I was 4 (the motionless picture specifically).

So come with me as I go into the music frontier...

As I do fairly lengthy reviews here is my quick summary:

The Absolute Best Star Trek Music:
  • Star Trek 1 the motion picture
  • Star Trek 2 the Wraith of Khan
  • Star Trek 6 The Undiscovered Country
Great Star Trek Music:

Star Trek 5 The Final Frontier
Star Trek Generations (but a great TV episode score, not movie! Details below)
Star Trek Insurrection

Mediocre Trek Music:

Star Trek First Contact
Star Trek Nemesis
Star Trek (2009)

The Worst Star Trek Music:

Star Trek 4 The Voyage Home (the worst hands down!)
Star Trek 3 The Search For Spock

Star Trek The Motion[less] Picture by Jerry Goldsmith

This was one of the first soundtracks I ever listened to. I believe the story goes something like this. My father seeking a follow up to the huge hit (at least with 4 year old me) that was Star Wars A New Hope, found this album at the library. It started my love affair with the music of Jerry Goldsmith.

I've already talked about Bad Movies=Great Soundtracks, and the incredible slow and dull first Trek movie is no exception. In fact I'd argue it was among the first of this trend (Goldsmith was the master of taking an awful assignments and turning them into musical masterpieces).

Though this film was an absolute waste of time and energy as far as Trek continuity was concerned, it was the single most important event musically to ever happen to it (though Alexander Courage's 60's theme is a keystone buried in it). The opening theme to this day is the song of Trek with the general public (due to it being the theme song of the Next Gen), and endured right up until the current re imagining of the franchise.

Despite the fact I reference the music of this film when I make fun of it. This is because it is the ONLY memorable thing about the first Trek movie. Goldsmith takes the rather impressive, but dull, visuals of the massive alien V'ger and brings them to life with his music.

The V'ger entity's score is the only thing that really communicates it raw power and menace. Interspliced is music the conveys the discovery and exploration for the Enterprise and her crew (not that any of this comes across in the film beyond Jerry's brilliant music).

This V'ger music is an early triumph of Goldsmith integrating electronic synthesizers into his orchestras. Though he wouldn't always be as successful as the Motionless picture, Goldsmith always had some synthesizers in his scores from here on in as a fifth element of his orchestra. This new view of orchestras led the way to such modern "greats" (depending on your point of view) as Hans Zimmer as his pupils.

Another highlight for me (and Trek) is Goldsmith's Klingon theme. I love this piece of music which thankful he would reprise in all his future Trek score efforts.

This is among the best of Trek's music, and I recommend it (though do NOT watch the movie to sample the music... you'll fall asleep trying! The album removed though will keep you quite awake and engaged!)

Star Trek 2: The Wraith of Khan by James Horner

This was the first CD I ever bought and owned! So that should tell you right there how much I like it! Back when I was 14, $20 for a CD I could only listen to on the family CD player (as back in those dark days all I had in my room was a tape cassette player!) was a big cost and condition.

The new direction of the franchise in the 80's after the removal of Trek's creator Gene Roddenbury (Trek was always SO much better when they got him out of the way!) they also departed from Goldsmith (though he would return thankfully!). Relatively new composer James Horner would be brought on. This would become one of his great classic scores (one whose sound he would recycle and reuse for many decades and films to come!).

Key strengths of this film are the pacing and the dynamic themes. The score invokes swashbuckling in space which matches the duel of wits between Kirk and Khan perfectly (and makes for good background music for imagining anything remotely exciting :P).

The Enterprise and her crew are given a very suitable heroic theme that is constantly threatened and overshadowed by an appropriately brutal but yet calculating horn suite for Khan .

Another treat of this music is Horners opening and closing theme for the final frontier. Goldsmith's opening Trek theme invokes a sense of adventure with a hint of awe and the unknown, but Horners is nothing but. Listening to Horners theme it vividly paints the picture (with sound ;p) of the vast infinity of space, and our standing on the threshold into it.

This is among my top Trek soundtrack recommendations, and it is only rivaled by Trek 6 in my opinion.

Star Trek 3 The Search For Spock by James Horner

Despite his amazing score for Khan, Horner couldn't seem to find his stride for Spock. His re imagined theme for the film's Klingons is an annoying twist on Khan's, meaning it sucks compared to Trek 2 on album right away. Plus even Khan's theme was no match for Goldsmith's Klingon theme (though Khan's benefits from appearing throughout all of Trek 2's score, and functions beautifully as a musical foil for Kirk and the Enterprise's heroics).

Frankly I find this score dull and mostly unmemorable. It is a grossly watered down version of Khan, and this is probably more to do with the rather boring film it is associated with.

There are some highlights though. Horner's infinite space opening and closing is still present, and as always fun. However the single track worth listening to (and honestly it is the only track I current have in my MP3s) is the 5 minute long track when Kirk and company steal the Enterprise. This single piece is like a mini movie score in and of itself, and is centered around one of the most awesome (in the scale sense... not surfer dude one) music the Enterprise has ever had accompanying her in any incarnation. Presumably to hit us the audience harder when they blow her up later in the film...

The Stealing the Enterprise track is most definitely worth getting your hands onto, but I seriously can not, and do not recommend this album. It is among my lowest rated Trek scores.

Star Trek 4 The Voyage Home by Leonard Rosenman

Well as in every franchise there is a weak link, and though it wouldn't be the film of Trek 4, in the soundtrack realm this is by far the worst of the Trek lot!

This score has no connect with the Trek universe, and feels more like a very generic action comedy score. The score is always upbeat and cheerful (taking away all the menace of the whale probe), and makes the serious conservation message of the film seem like an accident.

The one good aspect of this score I can mention is it very accurately conveys and highlights the 1980's era that Kirk travels back to. However that is about it. Typically I find 80's music overall very annoying, and so this causes this score to irritate me all the more.

The opening titles are a little catchy, and do justice to the heroics of Kirk and his crew, but it is devoid of any epicness, seriousness, and most importantly awe. When played beside any of the other opening themes it just plain sucks (even the new 2009 Giacchino one).

Just don't buy this album, it is easily the worst of Trek music!

Star Trek 5 The Final Frontier by Jerry Goldsmith

I'm not sure whose idea it was to have Kirk and company search out God (though with Kirk directing the movie, one kinda has to point the finger at him), but this is easily the most laughable Trek movie. Yet amongst the disaster that is this film (I personally love it, but as a comedy) is one shining beacon of awesomeness. Jerry Goldsmith's score.

Goldsmith makes his triumphant return to Trek in an action packed romp in search of the Almighty.

Having now just completed my Rambo collection this month, and comparing it to other Goldsmith efforts of the time, Trek 5 shares a great deal in common with Rambo 2 (the strongest of the Rambo scores). Though they aren't similar in theme, the pacing and general composition of both are identical making for some great action music! Sadly for Trek 5 due to the dumb story, and lack of ILM effects, this music fun Rambo-Trek music is restricted to the singular rescue mission track.

Despite Goldsmith's ability at producing great music for awful films, Trek 5 puts even his skills to the test. As an overall album it isn't strong, but the highlight tracks and segments still make this a great Trek CD.

The Klingon theme makes a triumphant return, and has some of its best performances are here (in place of the Russian theme from Rambo 2, and his Trek theme takes over for Rambo's... this may come across as dumb, but it sounds so COOL!). Helping hint at the renegade nature of this film's Klingon captain and his Bird of Prey the Klingon theme gets an over the top feral instrumentation, which is really neat.

The true highlight of this album is the music of "God's" planet. They are all the awe of V'ger without the over the top electronics. Thankfully this is not in a religious sense of awe, but rather of exploring an alien setting when Kirk and company search for "God" on his barren planet.

Though not my first pick, this is a very strong Star Trek score, and definitely one worth picking up. Especially if your an overall Goldsmith fan.

Star Trek 6 The Undiscovered Country by Cliff Eidelman

It is funny how with the Kirk Trek movies the strongest films produce the strongest scores (and the worst producing the second tear best!). Trek 2 and 6 are easily my favourites among the movies, and definitely what I consider the highlights of Kirk and his gang. It is odd that my favourite music comes from these films too (as often in franchises the best music is to be found with some of the weaker parts).
Star Trek 6 is an unmatched Trek score experience, with a unique dark atmospheric feel from start to finish. Yet it feels like Trek, despite not sounding like any other Trek entry before or after.
The aging (and impending retirement) of the Enterprise and her crew is one side of this score, off set by a brooding and dark theme for the changes occurring in the Klingon Empire that "threaten" the status quo of the rest of the universe. The intelligent and on going interplay of these two theme are simply incredible and match the film perfectly. Removed from the film it is a rare perfect soundtrack listening experience from start to finish.

The slow almost lethargic pace of the Enterprise (a hybrid of Goldsmith and Horner's themes) is very soothing, and sets up for an emotional farewell at the end of the film. One that really won't have been possibly without the musical setup throughout the film!

The dark ominous horn suite and Russian style chanting captures the Federation/Klingon cold war in space dynamic perfectly, and doesn't conflict with the Enterprises theme so much as converge with it. This is the single most intelligent part of the score. Rather then conflict or fight with the Klingon theme, The Enterprise and Kirk's music works alongside it, I dare say make love it, even though they are opposites in tone. It musically captures how the Enterprise was at the forefront of the Human Klingon standoff, and how it wasn't part of the solution to the conflict, but rather a big cause of it. You have to listen to it, and/or watch the film to hear what I mean, but it is brilliant (as is Trek 6 the movie!).

This is probably my favourite (overall) Trek soundtrack (but there are parts of some of the others I like as much or more), and I definitely recommend this to anyone seeking a great score. That alone Star Trek!

Star Trek Generations by Dennis McCarthy

The first of the Next Generation films, and a very odd entry in the Trek soundtrack family. With the film coming out on the heels of the Next Gene series ending, to ease production (and possibly connect the film to the still very popular show?) the Trek folks decided to carry over the TV's main composer Dennis McCarthy. Oddly either he or they decided to keep the sound and orchestra the same as on the show. So we ended up with essentially a ubber long episodic score for this film.
So immediately this makes it in outright comparison a weaker score. However unlike many soundtrack review sites I don't think evaluating this score in direct comparison to the other Trek movies is fair.
I note here it sounds like a TV score, and as of such if you like your soundtracks huge and polished this may not be for you. I myself can appreciate a good TV level score, and this is among the best (as McCarthy clear had time to perfect his usual show sound with the longer production time).
With those limitations in mind, this score is among my favourite Trek soundtracks as it really captures the feel of the Next Gene show, and has some very fun themes.

Kirk picks up a very catchy snare drum variation on the Alexander Courage theme Meaning every action sequence with Kirk are highlights, whether it be saving the Enterprise B or disarming the sunkiller missile.
The action music in general is strong, and despite the limited TV orchestra they put out some music that compositionally would rival Goldsmith and Horner in quality (not sound though). The music during the destruction of the Enterprise D was so strong it would be used in the First Contact trailers.

The awe music for the Nexus, though not on the level of the other motion picture awe music, has a creepy untrustworthy style awe perfectly conveying the Nexus' deceptive nature.

Though not necessarily the strongest Trek score, I recommend this for anyone seeking strong music from the Trek TV episodes. While I'm at it if you want more such music in addition to Generations, the score for the Next Gene episode "Best of Both Worlds" is low budget/scale soundtracking at its best!

Star Trek First Contact by Jerry Goldsmith

While this is easily the strongest of the Next Generations era movies, unlike the Kirk era, this doesn't translate to the best score. In fact this is a rare let down by Goldsmith, and though not a terrible score it isn't a particularly compelling one either (at least compared to other Trek entries or many of his other scores).
The real problem is that Goldsmith's two main themes for this film are not that interesting. The romantic theme for the first contact of humanity and the vulcans is very enchanting, but it is very mellow and slow. It plays for far too long when it occurs, and doesn't have much in the way of variation or rearrangment.
The music fo the Borg, while a bit more exciting is surprisingly not much more. Jerry went for a classic horror approach of minimalism. Which leads to some suspencful moments when the Borg theme revs up on rare occasions. However for the majority of the time it is a understated relentless and methodical theme, which doesn't lend itself to enjoyable listening.

Even saddier the coolest musical moment of the film, the Enterprise chasing the Phoneix, isn't even on the CD!
There are two standout tracks though. The space battle above Earth sees Worf personally take over the Klingon theme and carry it as his own (though in the film the Defiant with this theme is a little odd, despite Worf commanding it), as well as a heroic swell for the new Enterprise E swooping in to the rescue. The creepy and eerie temporal wake music is cool in how uniquely creepy it is.
First Contact is hands down the weakest of Goldsmith's Trek. Though it isn't the worst of the franchise by any stretch either. This is probably the most middle of the pack Trek Score if you ask me.

Star Trek Insurrection by Jerry Goldsmith

My theory on why the Kirk era Trek typically saw the better movies with the best music, and the Picard era ones saw the worst with the better, is Goldsmith. As this, my least favourite Trek movie (apart from the Motionless Picture possibly), has among my favourite scores.

Insurrection combines a touching melancholy love theme with very snappy and militaristic action music for a very dual sided album(as they seldom mix, and never effectively). Despite the fact these two sides don't directly compliment each other well, I enjoy both very much. Just when I'm in different moods.

The melancholy music has a very nostalgic quality and I find if I want to conjure a moment when a character is looking back on times long gone much of Insurrection's love music does the trick nicely. The third track has a hint of innocence covered up by something darker, and though I recall the movie's sympathetic aliens having a secret, this music ascends the film's pathetic story (I found the film sooooo boring it is the only Trek movie I've only watched once).

As for the action this is the pinnacle of Goldsmith's new millennium style, and has a very militaristic sound to it (which really didn't quite match the movie as I recall). The music swaps perfectly between moments of chaos to the calmer but tense moments of regrouping and planning.

I warn you though it is not a very solid listening experience from start to finish. Well unless you swing between hopelessly longing to wanting to smash stuff every few minutes.

This is my personal favourite of the Goldsmith Trek's, but again both dynamics of this score resonate with me. As an overall album Trek 1 is a better buy.

Star Trek Nemesis by Jerry Goldsmith
As the famous last episode of Next Gen stated "all good things must come to an end", not only was Nemesis to be the last Picard era (and may I venture "my" era) of Trek, but among the last scores Jerry Goldsmith would compose before his death in 2004. As of such this score has a sad place in my heart.

Immediately much like the movie it was attached to, this score was a bit of a let down. It certainly has cool moments, but isn't quite as strong as most of Goldsmith's previous Trek. ` Overall the first half of the CD is quite dull, and neither the Romulans nor the Enterprise receive any music or themes worth noting for the most part.

One exception in the middle of the album is a rather satisfying chunk in the middle of the 6th track where we get a very lengthy sentimental treatment of Goldsmith's Trek theme. If the score has had more of these (in the same way Trek 6 mixed its intrigue music with a touching send-off theme for Kirk and the Enterprise A) it would have been brilliant. Sadly it just teases us with what it could have been.

The latter half of the album is dominated by the villainous theme of Shinzon, a very satisfying mix of electronics and harsh winds and horns. The Enterprise and her crew are given a token heroic theme to futilely oppose this Reman theme, but as it is very understated and not very Trek in nature (or anything else really) so it throws the music off.

Had the Enterprise gotten a bit more beef to her side of the duel then this would have been the Goldsmith Khan, as Shinzon and his Reman theme are easily the highlight of the album.

However the lack of Enterprise causes this score to fail in comparison to most other Goldsmith Trek's where our main crew still feel like their a key element, musically speaking.

Interestingly this score blends really well with another late Goldsmith score, Tom Clancy's Sum of All Fears. The two have similar structure and sound, and though Sum lacks the Reman theme, they otherwise interplay rather well with each other.

Nemesis with its more memorable Reman theme, and solid action cues in the last tracks fairs better then First Contact, but fails compared to Goldsmith's Trek 1, 5, and Insurrection.

Star Trek by Michael Giacchino

I wasn't sure what to expect from the new reboot Trek's music. I'd paid so little attention to the making of this film, due to my dislike of JJ Abrams, I had no idea that Giacchino was attached (or for that matter that he is JJ's main composer on everything!). I'm only really acquainted with Giacchino's music from his Pixar scores, and of these I only moderately enjoyed The Incredibles.

However due to his work on this score (and others like it I've read about it) he was oddly the perfect choice. Giacchino has a talent at producing very authentic sounding era music, and in particular for the Incredibles 60's era Bond. With the new Trek trying to tie more into the 1960's TV series then an of my favourite incarnations of the franchise, there was a need for more cheese in the music then in any previous Trek film. He on paper would seem the perfect fit to capture the style and feeling of the old Alexander Courage music.

On occasion in the actual final score it would seem Giacchino succeeds. There are some moments where this score genially sounds like, through the composition, instrumentation, and even recording (Giacchino insists all his recording sessions be done on analog tape) to be a long lost 60's feature film score.

However these are sporadic and not necessarily logical in their placement. Personally I dislike that eras music too, and so they are not highlights to me. In fact the main version of the villainous Nero's music (which sounds like a 60ifed version of Goldsmith's Shinzon theme from Nemesis) is an irritating track, I only find it interesting due to how well Giacchino captured the 60's feel.

The one exception that is among my favourite tracks is that of the destruction of Vulcan (I refuse to quote the ridiculously stupid pun track titles for this disc). This ominous build-up of suspense music has the same feel and composition as my favourite TOS score for "The Doomsday Machine" by Sol Kaplan (I'll also note my overall favourite episode of TOS too), many argue the source for John Williams classic Jaws score (10 years after the TOS).

However the new Giacchino track isn't as cool as the Kaplan as it lacks a big payoff at its end. Kaplan's suspense built up to a terrific blasting theme for the Doomsday Machine, Giacchino should have followed this lead and tossed out the annoying Nero theme for a cooler Doomsday style theme (and while we're at it Abrams should have tossed out Nero for a new version of the Doomsday Machine instead!).

Overall this new Trek album is a very dysfunctional score, and to be honest feels like a compilation rather then its own thing. The only unifying element is the new Trek theme Giacchino composed for this film. It is ever present throughout most of the score. I do like this new theme, but it doesn't quite work at representing the Enterprise or Kirk as it is intended. Sure it is all heroism and adventure, but it lacks the intelligence I expect from Kirk and his crew. Plus there isn't a hint of awe or awesomeness (again in the true grand scale sense of the world) of space.

The new theme feels like it should be for something cool on the sideline or trim of the story, like space dock or a (friendly) rival ship like the Excelsior. In fact just like the Excelsior the theme is big, shiny, and very impressive, but deep down in the end it falls apart when it counts most. Still like the Excelsior I have a weak spot for it, so the score passes. The rest of the music is all over the place. The new Vulcan theme, though very intelligently designed with Chinese ethnic instruments, doesn't mesh with either the new Trek theme or the 60's moments. The action music is all over the board, and can't make up its mind as to whether it is 60's cheese, a bond film, or from Lord of the Rings. The sound style seriously jumps all over these ranges, sometimes in the SAME track (very odd).

Toping off the negative is the inclusion of the classic Courage theme at the end of the score. Clearly Abrams and company were impressed with the recent relaunch of Bond, and wanted to emulate this for their new Trek (and on every front including the music they failed utterly, if you ask me). For Bond, composer David Arnold decided to hold off on the classic Bond fanfare till the end of Casino Royale. It was a musical metaphor of Bond having to earn his double OO status, and it worked beautifully!

Well Giacchino follows this formula to the T, but it just does NOT work! Bond's original Barry 60's theme is still cool and sexy today. The TOS, though classic and iconic, is not slick or cool. It is ubber cheesy, especially considering he didn't retune or instrument it at all. The Courage theme may have a few more instruments playing it, but it IS the theme as you remember it from the Shatner days. What's worse is it is directly lead into by a powerful conclusion of Giacchino's new modern style Trek theme, and the transition between the two just sounds really stupid!!!

The new Trek, as a Star Trek score is very weak. Still not Voyage Home weak mind you, and it is a far more enjoyable album then Search of Spock or First Contact, but as a Star Trek score it has only a few scattered moments that fit in.