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Everything you can imagine is real

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 25, 2018

Justin Peters

Justin Peters

Justin Peters

Justin Peters

Justin Peters takes stock photos and combines them into fantastical and mind-bending scenes. I’ve seen lots of this sort of thing, but these are particularly well done. The one with the umbrella and the road is a straight-up optical illusion and broke my brain for awhile. (via colossal, which has been a real source of joy & possibility these days)

The insides of everyday items, animated

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 19, 2018

On Tinker Fridays, industrial designer dina Amin takes apart an item and makes a playful stop motion animation out of its parts.

I spent 2016 taking products that people decided to throw away apart and showing people (not the ones who threw away those products, but others on Instagram) what’s inside and transformed all the pieces to lil creatures by the magical power of stop motion.

You can find more of Amin’s work on her website, YouTube, Vimeo, and Instagram. (thx, samira)

The chimeras of the NYC subway

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 14, 2018

The NYC subway is home to many interesting characters and creatures but perhaps none as delightfully weird as Matthew Grabelsky’s straphanger chimeras.

Matthew Grabelsky

Matthew Grabelsky

Matthew Grabelsky

(via colossal)

MTA Country, a game about the NYC subway

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2018

MTA Country

Everyday Arcade, which is responsible for The GOP Arcade (sample game titles include The Voter Suppression Trail and Thoughts & Prayers: The Game!), has designed a new game called MTA Country. Based on the SNES title Donkey Kong Country, the goal of MTA Country is to guide Andrew Cuomo, Bill de Blasio, and celebrity straphanger Gregg Turkin past hazards like track fires and stalled trains to their destination. That ending though… Hmm…

Imaginary insects based on Star Wars characters

posted by Jason Kottke   May 21, 2018

Star Wars Insects

Star Wars Insects

Star Wars Insects

Illustrator Richard Wilkinson is drawing a series of insects inspired by Star Wars and other pop cultural items.

This project was born out of a fascination with collecting, cataloguing and classifying.

It draws inspiration from classic Natural History illustration but explores the subjects that we love to collect and classify from the modern world: Films, TV, Video Games, Comics, Vehicles, Sneakers, Brands etc.

The first book of the series, working title: “Arthropoda Iconicus Volume I: Insects From A Far Away Galaxy”, is a collection of insects that bear a subtle yet uncanny resemblance to characters and vehicles from the worlds favourite space opera.

You can check out more on his Instagram and a few are available as prints in his online shop. (via colossal)

The fascinating history of the “orchestra hit” in music

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2018

I’m a big fan of Estelle Caswell’s Earworm series for Vox, and this most recent one might be my favorite. It’s about the “orchestra hit” sound that became super popular in the 80s…but which has its origins in an unauthorized sample of Igor Stravinsky included with an influential digital audio workstation invented in the late 70s.

If you listen to the first few seconds of Bruno Mars’ “Finesse” (hint: listen to the Cardi B remix) you’ll hear a sound that immediately creates a sense of 80s hip-hop nostalgia. Yes, Cardi B’s flow is very Roxanne Shante, but the sound that drives that nostalgia home isn’t actually from the 1980s.

Robert Fink and the inventor of the Fairlight CMI, Peter Vogel, help me tell the story of the orchestra hit — a sound that was first heard in 1910 at the Paris Opera where the famed 20th century Russian composer Stravinsky debuted his first hit, The Firebird.

Here’s the isolated sound from the original sample:

I love that all these musicians in the 80s got excited about a bit of classical music composed for a 1910 ballet, to the point where it became perhaps the signature sound of the decade.

The popularity of the orchestra hit is also a good reminder about the power of default settings. The musicians and producers who used the Fairlight CMI could record and sample any sound in the world but they ended up using this one included with the machine. Even the heavyweights — Herbie Hancock, Afrika Bambaataa, etc. — went with a default sample.

Caswell made a playlist of songs that feature the orchestra hit, with songs from Keith Sweat, Britney Spears, Janet Jackson, U2, and The Smiths. Not included is the song it was sampled from…you can listen to that here.

Fan of the opera

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 27, 2018

Christoph Niemann Opera

Your periodic reminder that Christoph Niemann is an unimaginably imaginative visual storyteller. This image is one of a series for the Deutsche Oper Berlin opera company; check out more of his work on Instagram.

Sporting events compressed into single composite photos

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 17, 2018

Pelle Cass

Pelle Cass

Pelle Cass

Photographer Pelle Cass has been constructing composite photos of groups of people for some time now, photoshopping the action from dozens of photos into a single frame.

With the camera on a tripod, I take many dozens of pictures, and simply leave in the figures I choose and omit the rest. The photographs are composite, but nothing has been changed, only selected. My subject is the strangeness of time, the exact way people look, and a surprising world that is visible only with a camera.

More recently, Cass has turned his attention to sporting events, capturing competitors playing basketball, diving, playing lacrosse, running track, and playing hockey. The project is called Crowded Fields; it’s not up on his website yet, but you can see some of the images on Instagram and Booooooom.

I love this sort of thing, whole stretches of time compressed into single frames or short videos. See also time merge media, Peter Funch’s Babel Tales, Dennis Hlynsky’s bird contrails, and busy day at the airport. (via colossal)

Trailers for Wall-E in the style of seven different genres (horror, romance, etc.)

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 12, 2018

Recutting movie trailers to wrong-foot movies into different genres is an old YouTube tradition — see The Shining as a romantic comedy, 90s-style opening credit sequences for prestige dramas like Game of Thrones, and Toy Story as a horror film — but this recasting of Wall-E into trailers for seven different genres (including a Jony Ive bit at an Apple keynote) is a good demonstration of the power of film editing. Just switch a few scenes, slip in some different music, change the pacing of cuts, and you’ve got yourself a completely different movie. Watching these types of videos always makes me think that film editors do not get the credit they deserve. (See, for example, how extensive editing rescued Star Wars.) (via @johnbarta)

Ikea-style instructions for programming algorithms

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 11, 2018

Ikea Algorithms

Ikea Algorithms

Ikea Algorithms

Sándor P. Fekete, Sebastian Morr, and Sebastian Stiller came up with these Ikea-style instructions for algorithms and data structures used in computer science. In addition to the three pictured above, there are also instructions for several other searches, trees, sorts, and scans.

Star Wars: The Last Laser Master

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 06, 2018

The Auralnauts have finished up their epic comedic retelling of the first six episodes of Star Wars with episode 6, The Last Laser Master. Follow Laser Master Duke Dirtfarmer and his friends in the fight against the Empire and its fearsome planet-killing weapon: Laser Moon II.

You can watch the five other episodes — including Jedi Party, The Friend Zone, and Revenge of Middle Management — in this playlist.

For snackier Auralnauts fare, see How to make a blockbuster movie trailer, some Bane outtakes from the Dark Knight Rises, and the Star Wars throne room scene minus the John Williams score.

GIFs of ancient ruins restored

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 27, 2018

Parthenon Restore

From Expedia, a series of animated GIFs that show what ancient ruins from around the world would look like if they were restored. They did The Parthenon (above), Pompei’s Temple of Jupiter, Hadrian’s Wall, the Luxor Temple in Eqypt, and the Nohoch Mul Pyramid in Mexico:

Coba Restore

I climbed Nohoch Mul during a recent visit to Coba. (via colossal)

The Philharmonic Turntable Orchestra

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 26, 2018

A turntable orchestra that includes several past DJ world champions recently performed Mendelssohn’s Concerto in E Minor, which was the first LP released back in 1948.

I love everything about this: the history, the music, and the aesthetic of the performers sitting on the floor with their shoes off, wearing tuxedos with optional non-fancy headwear.

An honest trailer for every Wes Anderson movie

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 22, 2018

As Isle of Dogs prepares to enter theaters,1 Honest Trailers created a bitingly truthful trailer for all of Wes Anderson’s films, in which they ding the director for symmetry, nostalgia, whimsey, whip pans, the overwhelming maleness of his ennui-suffering & disaffected protagonists, and Bill Murray on a tiny motorcycle in a profile shot. The description of his films as “meticulously crafted awkward family fables that make you kinda happy, kinda sad, and kinda unsure when you’re supposed to laugh or not” is pretty much spot-on and the reason I like them so much.

In 2012, before the release of Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson talked about his approach to movies on NPR’s Fresh Air:

I have a way of filming things and staging them and designing sets. There were times when I thought I should change my approach, but in fact, this is what I like to do. It’s sort of like my handwriting as a movie director. And somewhere along the way, I think I’ve made the decision: I’m going to write in my own handwriting. That’s just sort of my way.

And that’s why he’s “your barista’s favorite director”.

  1. But only in a limited release, as I found out this morning. 27 theaters this weekend and not in wide release until April 13. I’d have to drive to fricking Boston to see it earlier than that. :(

3000 years of art in just three minutes

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2018

This short film from 1968, set to Classical Gas, shows 3000 years of fine art in just three minutes. As the final frame of the film says:

You have just had all of the Great Art of the World indelibly etched in your brain. You are now cultured.

As mesmerizing as the film is, especially for 1968, the backstory is perhaps even more interesting. Mason Williams, who wrote and recorded Classical Gas, saw this film by UCLA film student Dan McLaughlin and arranged, with McLaughlin’s permission, to have the original soundtrack replaced with his song and to have it aired on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour on CBS, then the number one show on TV in America.

The impact of the film on television opened the door to realizations that the viewer’s mind could absorb this intense level of visual input. It was a double shot of a hundred proof music and video that polished the history of art off in three minutes! It was also the beginning of the fast images concept now called kinestasis (a rapidly-moving montage technique set to music) that has over the years been exploited so effectively by television commercials, documentaries, etc.

Curiously, a similarly produced film called American Time Capsule also aired on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour that year. Directed by Chuck Braverman, it showed 200 years of American history in less than 3 minutes:

McLaughlin’s film was produced and aired first (he made it in 1967) and was the inspiration for Braverman’s film (see the relevant snippets from David Sohn’s Film: the Creative Eye) but Braverman made a career out of the technique.

I was actually working in the same building as [Tommy Smothers], at CBS as an assistant — really as a messenger — trying to get into the cameraman’s union in the news department. They literally made the Comedy Hour just upstairs. I called, made a meeting, and Tommy looked at my other work and we discussed doing a film on the history of the United States — American Time Capsule. I made it and it aired on the weekend before the November ‘68 election and it was a huge hit. It catapulted me into a career. Not only did it appear on the Smothers’ Brothers Show, which was huge, but it appeared on The Tonight Show within a few weeks and then 60 Minutes picked it up. So I got a reputation right away for being the king of the fast-cut montage. I ended up doing dozens of commercials and lots of title sequences.

My favorite use of the technique is in the trailer for A Clockwork Orange:1

But anyway, getting back to Mason Williams and Classical Gas, after the success of the 3000 years of art video, he wrote a sketch about video jockeys playing music videos on TV:

As a result of the response to the CLASSICAL GAS music video, in September of 1968 I wrote up a piece for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, projecting the idea that someday VJ’s would be playing hit tapes on TV, (as well as DJ’s hit records on radio), a prophesy of what was, 13 years later, to become MTV.

All this film and media history, just barely surviving in YouTube videos, video descriptions, partial scans of out-of-print books, and interviews & obituaries scattered willy-nilly all over the we, what a mess. What a fascinating mess. (via open culture)

  1. Who made this trailer? Kubrick? His editor? Braverman? A Warner Brothers employee who was in charge of making film trailers and was a fan of Braverman? I couldn’t find any info on this.

Rihanna with a Pearl Earring

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2018

Shusaku Akaoka

Shusaku Akaoka

Shusaku Akaoka

Japanese graphic designer Shusaku Takaoka takes famous artworks and cleverly incorporates them into movies scenes or celebrity photos. If you scroll back through his earlier photos,1 you can see him experimenting with various techniques before hitting his stride around September of last year.

  1. One of my favorite things to do is scroll back through Instagram accounts like this to see the evolution not only of the work but of their self-presentation. You can often see the moment where they go, “oh shit, I’ve got lots of followers now, I’d better think more about what I post here”. See also the unbearable lightness of being yourself on social media.

Famous scenes from 2018 Oscar-nominated films recreated by three young girls

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 26, 2018

Oscar Reenact 2018

Oscar Reenact 2018

Oscar Reenact 2018

Since 2015, the Storino sisters have been reenacting scenes from Oscar nominated films. This year, Sophia, 7; Sadie, 5; and two-year-old Sloane, have recreated stills from Get Out, Call Me By Your Name, The Post, The Shape of Water, and several others. Vanity Fair showcased the project and ran an interview with the girls’ mother, Maggie.

By helping her three daughters emulate the year’s most-celebrated movie characters, Storino has grown aware of how often her girls are tasked with portraying Hollywood’s many male leads.

“What started as a lark has taken on additional meaning as the conversation around representation has evolved in Hollywood,” says Storino. “In the past, it’s been a struggle to find stills that are identifiable by the female lead. This year felt much different. The future is female, and increasingly so are the films. My girls had so many strong actresses to emulate in 2018, from Saoirse Ronan to Frances McDormand to Sally Hawkins to Meryl Streep. I also loved being able to show them Greta Gerwig in the director’s chair. What I’m most conscious of now is how much imagery matters.”

I wonder if they have had similar conversations about race? You can follow their recreations on their website or on Instagram.

See also Oscar nominated films reimagined as Winnie the Pooh adventures.

8-bit scenes from TV shows

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 21, 2018

Pixel Art TV

Pixel Art TV

Pixel Art TV

Pixel Art TV

For his Pixel Art TV project, Gustavo Viselner illustrates scenes from TV shows in a pixelized video game style. Looks like he’s done scenes from Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale, Breaking Bad, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Seinfeld, Star Trek, and several others. (via @john_overholt)

Update: See also The Screenshots, a project by Jon Haddock from 2000 in which scenes from historical & fictional events are rendered in a The Sims-like style. (via @dens)

Maps of UK national parks drawn in the style of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 15, 2018

Tolkien Maps

Tolkien Maps

Tolkien Maps

Artist Dan Bell has drawn maps of the UK’s national parks in the style of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. Bell has also drawn maps of Westeros (from George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series) and places like London and Oxford. Both prints and the original hand-drawn maps are available for purchase from Bell’s online shop.

Mona, Vincent, and The Girl with the Pearl Earring hit the beach

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 13, 2018

Art At The Beach

Photo collage by Dan Cretu.

What’s happening just offscreen of famous album covers?

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 06, 2018

On his Instagram account, Igor Lipchanskiy is imagining what’s happening just “offscreen” of musical album covers.

Igor Lipchanskiy

Igor Lipchanskiy

Igor Lipchanskiy

Solo, A Star Wars Story

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 05, 2018

Someday, I will see the trailer for a new Star Wars movie and not get completely gooey inside. Today is not that day. Here’s the briefer “TV spot” (don’t call it a trailer!) that aired during the Super Bowl last night.

I think my insides and outsides briefly switched places when they showed Donald Glover as Lando.

Update: Demi Adejuyigbe made this fake Donald Glover / Childish Gambino song about Lando and it’s too good.

Update: The Solo trailer with a soundtrack of the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage is an improvement on the actual trailer:

Which is not surprising…adding Sabotage to any fast-paced video sequence improves it.

Update: New longer trailer. Still cautiously optimistic!

A pair of oil paintings algorithmically pixelized into treemaps of color

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 30, 2018

Dimitris Ladopoulos

Dimitris Ladopoulos

Greek visual designer Dimitris Ladopoulos took two of his favorite oil paintings, one by Rembrandt and the other (confusingly) by Rembrandt Peale, and used a piece of 3D modeling software called Houdini and pixelized them into treemaps of color. They look great in 2D (above), but he also rendered them in 3D with a worn texture:

Dimitris Ladopoulos

Those worn plastic rectangles with the beveled edges are reminding me of something in particular, like a piece of electronics. Something from Sony maybe? Anyone? (via colossal)

The surprisingly great mashup of Pearl Jam’s Jeremy and Footloose by Kenny Loggins

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 25, 2018

If you were to name a pair of songs that would absolutely not sound good mixed together, Pearl Jam’s Jeremy and Footloose by Kenny Loggins would be a good place to start. But as DJ Cummerbund’s mashup Jereloose, the two songs actually go surprisingly well together.

But what’s actually blowing my mind is that Footloose and Jeremy were released only 7 years apart. Maybe it’s because I went from 5th grade to my first year of college in that span, but the cultural distance between the two seems much greater than just 7 years.

What if Chewbacca sounded like Pee-wee Herman?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 22, 2018

This is probably one of the dumbest things I’ve ever posted and I love it.

A comparison of the visual similarities between Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 22, 2018

Blade Runner 2049 takes place in the same location 30 years after the events in the original Blade Runner film, so it’s natural that the two movies share a visual style. But director Denis Villeneuve and director of photography Roger Deakins also sprinkled their film with direct but subtle references to scenes in the old movie, as seen in this side-by-side video. In this discussion with Rian Johnson, Villeneuve talked about his approach:

This is the first time I was making a movie inspired by another movie and I didn’t try to stay away from it. I just kept it as a bible, as a reference, as music that was very close to me that I was always referring to every time I was directing, thinking about the spirit of the first movie.

The effect is not enough to be distracting, but there’s definitely some visual rhyming going on.

See also the visual effects breakdown for how they created the digital double for Rachael in Blade Runner 2049.

The magic carpet ride scene from Aladdin dubbed with realistic audio

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 16, 2018

This is silly and I loved it: someone took the clip from Aladdin when he and Jasmine sing A Whole New World while riding the magic carpet and dubbed realistic audio over it. I laughed embarrassingly hard at this. (via @JossFong)

Smells Like Teen Spirit in a major key is an upbeat pop-punk song

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 06, 2018

This bent my brain a little: if you re-tune Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit in a major key, it sounds like an upbeat pop-punk song. Like, Kurt Cobain actually sounds happy when he says “oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile” and the pre-chorus — “Hello, hello, hello, how low” — is downright joyous. Although I guess it shouldn’t be super surprising…in a 1994 interview with Rolling Stone, Cobain admits that the song was meant to be poppy.

I was trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it [smiles]. When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily I should have been in that band — or at least in a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard.

“Teen Spirit” was such a clichéd riff. It was so close to a Boston riff or “Louie, Louie.” When I came up with the guitar part, Krist looked at me and said, “That is so ridiculous.” I made the band play it for an hour and a half.

Like me, if you don’t know a whole lot about music, here’s the difference between major and minor chords & scales.

The difference between major and minor chords and scales boils down to a difference of one essential note — the third. The third is what gives major-sounding scales and chords their brighter, cheerier sound, and what gives minor scales and chords their darker, sadder sound.

You can also listen to the song on Soundcloud.

See also this falling shovel sounds exactly like Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Update: I heard from a few people that the changes made to the song aren’t as straightforward as shifting from minor to major. See this series of tweets by Jesse Appelman.

This is fun and well-executed, but it’s not just Smells Like Teen Spirit transposed as-is from minor to major. They changed the chord progression (from 1-IV-bIII-bVI to I-V-vi-IV) and altered the melody to better fit the chords…

If they had just switched all the minor stuff to major it would sound, well, pretty hilarious but less like a radio-ready pop song. This is not to take away from the joy of this clever reimagining…

…but it’s not quite as simple and miraculous as “change from minor to major and voila!” It’s more like “write new changes and melody while preserving the rhythmic phrasing and general contours/directionality of the original.” Still great stuff and sorry if I un-blew your mind.

And to appreciate the difference between major and minor keys, this six-minute video of Chilly Gonzalez is highly entertaining and worth your time. (via @karolzyk)

Update: On his YouTube channel, Oleg Berg has reworked dozens of songs from major-to-minor or from minor-to-major, including Don’t Worry, Be Happy in a minor key, Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World in a minor key, and the Game of Thrones theme in a major key. Surprisingly, the comments of the GoT theme are pretty good:

Meet Brienne, the beautiful maid of Tarth. Meet Jon, the legitimate son of Ned Stark. Meet Cersei, the queen of hearts. All these characters meet at the Blue Wedding and vow eternal friendship.

Spring is coming

If the plot ran backwards, this would be the theme.

You know everything, Jon Snow.

(via @volapuk)

Dunkirk, re-edited as a silent film

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 02, 2018

One of the first things you notice when watching Dunkirk is the sparse use of dialogue. There are long stretches of the film, particularly on the beach, when no one says anything. In interviews, Christopher Nolan has stated that he wanted to use visuals to drive the story in the film…”looking to the visual masters of the silent era”. Tom van der Linden took Nolan at his word and recut Dunkirk into 7-minute-long silent film; it works remarkably well.

Someone did a full-length silent version for Mad Max: Fury Road as well after director George Miller stated that the purest version of the film would be silent, but it got taken down. In my quick review of Dunkirk, I said “I feel like Christopher Nolan watched Mad Max: Fury Road and said, ‘I can do that…but my way.’”

Your fave TV shows, but with animoji characters

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 02, 2018

Happy New Year everyone! Let’s get the year started off on a good note with some lowbrow laaaaaaaaffffs. Video funnyfolk Corridor took scenes from TV shows & movies (Stranger Things, Arrested Development, The Office, Full Metal Jacket) and replaced the actor’s heads with iPhone X animoji. The Gob scene is *kisses fingers*.