Dead Island Trailer

Posted Monday, February 21, 2011, 12:18 PM

I need to write this down, so I can clarify my thoughts on this. It's something that is annoying me a lot, and yet I am almost a lone voice in the wilderness and I feel somewhat displaced by that fact.

A new trailer for a video game was released a few days ago. It's a zombie killing slaughter type game, one of many in a widening genre, called Dead Island. From what I can tell, it's no more unique than any other of its kind, but for those people who like that sort of thing I'm sure it will be fun to play. Or not. Who knows?

The trailer, however, has gotten a huge reaction of positivity. People look at it as though it was the greatest work of art that has crossed their field of view in months, and they are all talking about it like it was the video game equivalent of the Mona Lisa.

What bothers me is that they have all failed to realise that it is a badly made piece of shit.

It starts out close on what appears to be a dead girl of about 8 years old, and reverses, in slow motion, for us to see how she ended up that way. Intercut with this at random intervals are quick shots of earlier in the sequence of events, this time in regular speed, and in forward motion.

Ideas like this are not uncommon to see in various media. Teaser trailers, commercials, montages, etc, in TV, and for movies. It can be intriguing, it can have a great emotional impact, and it can inform the story and its stylistic approach in a very simple yet powerful way.

The problem is the makers of this trailer don't seem to have understood at all how and why this works.

1) The main story is in reverse. This should be to tell the viewer that the end is the important part, and now we need to know how we got to that point, and the final shot in the sequence should fill in the last piece for it to fall into place.

2) The forward motion parts that are intercut should be juxtaposed with the reverse sequence to inform us at each moment of the cut. i.e. when we see a moment in the reverse sequence, the forward sequence gives more detail on that moment, either its origin, or what it means in a wider context.

3) The music should match what we are seeing. It should impact us emotionally, as well as augment the visuals.

4) It should be an accurate representation of the game it is promoting.

5) It should have high quality rendering, modelling, effects, and animation.

Well, here's what it actually has:

1) It's in reverse because they thought it would look cool. It tells us nothing to know this girl is dead at the beginning of the trailer. We do not gain any more information on how she died, or why she died. As it turns out, she was already bitten long before the entire sequence we see. No matter what was ever going to happen in the sequence, she inevitably was going to be dead anyway.

Plus, the conclusion at the end of the trailer is meaningless. It's just the point where the forward and reverse shots meet, there is no significance to that moment whatsoever.

2) None of the forward shots relate to the reverse shots at all. They cut together completely randomly, with no additional information being doled out. All of the relevant storytelling occurs only in the reverse sequence. The constant cuts to the forward motion violence are just childish "Boo!" scares, but aren't actually of any more scary imagery than what we see in the reverse sequence. You could almost have left out the forward sequence entirely and just played the whole clip in reverse, for all the difference it makes.

3) The music doesn't match the cuts, doesn't build the right atmosphere, and is deliberately manipulative without augmenting the visuals.

4) It has nothing to do with the game. Neither this sequence, nor these characters, appear in the game at all.

5) The modelling looks like they were ripped out of Poser 4. The animation is average at best, mostly motion-capture poorly applied to the character rigs. The rendering is ordinary, tolerable if this was the in-game engine, but it's pre-rendered. The cloth dynamics are non-existent and make the character models look like Barbie dolls.

This whole trailer has been made using only well-worn tropes and by-the-numbers tricks, without any understanding of the art involved; copied from others without realising why or how they made it work; a jumble of mismatched concepts that in a competent artist's hands would have merit and impact, but instead all we get is a shallow imitation assembled by a talentless hack.

I wouldn't mind so much if it had been dismissed by everyone else, just as I did, just as so many things are deservedly ridiculed or forgotten. But instead they are all lapping it up and praising it as one of the best things they've ever seen!

It's even being immediately signed up for a movie adaptation, all apparently based on this one teaser trailer that I insist is made up entirely of "fail"!

I am upset. Upset at all those who cannot see how bad it is. Upset that I can see something so clearly, and yet nobody agrees.

It's like I am lost, trapped, tossed amongst a sea of, well... brain-dead zombies.

Wot? Ullo John, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Posted Tuesday, February 8, 2011, 2:19 PM

Here's an interesting discovery I made.

This is Alexei Sayle, circa 1982.

This is Captain Sensible, circa 1982.

And this is Cyndi Lauper, circa 1983. I can't embed the video, but you can click on this link, and here are some relevant pics.

And if that isn't enough to make you go "Huh?" there's also this:

Back In The Saddle

Posted Sunday, February 6, 2011, 4:27 PM

My life has been something of an unholy mess lately, and I'm not out of the hole yet, not by a long shot. If anything it's getting deeper. But I need to get out of these doldrums somehow, and I have found solace in getting back into writing again.

Having been thinking about a story idea that had been around for a long time, and making the graphic image a few weeks ago for fun, I went back to the story outline I had written a year ago and rethought some of the elements that didn't sit right.

For one thing the overall story was too reminiscent of an existing film. Unconsciously I was emulating it, and had come too close to the line too often to get away with it. So I have considered this off-and-on since realising it, and tried to figure out ways to distance it more. So as I rewrote the outline, keeping some elements and adjusting the rest, it came together a lot better, and faster, and in the end is stronger for it. There's still a lot of influence, but only broadly and is now more inspiration than straight out copying.

I have begun writing the actual script. It's a slow process. I've often wondered how it can be that professionals can take months, sometimes a year or more, to write a screenplay, when they're only 90 pages long and have around 200 words per page. Why does that take so long? Well, I still don't know. I've been working on it for less than a week, and am up to 25 pages and nearly 6000 words, and that's only working for about three hours a day. If I doubled my efforts to a full working day, I'd have the entire first draft done in two weeks. As it is it will probably take me four.

This is including the fact that I rewrote an entire scene again, twice, because I forgot to include a crucial character introduction, and had to go back and slot it in seamlessly, and that took some effort and rejiggering. Two days were spent on one scene that, while normally would be addressed in a subsequent draft, had to be done this time so that the rest of the story made sense (everything that needs to be there should be in the first draft, and it's up to subsequent drafts to rearrange and tidy up the dodgy bits).

Now that's how long a first draft takes, something that wouldn't ever be submitted. A third or seventh or fifteenth draft is not uncommon, and only then will it get shown around. That might be where they're using their extended time.

I find writing to be an entertaining pastime, even though it can be a effort. Most writers do it because they enjoy it, but some find it difficult. After all, deadlines and expectation can be quite stressful and interfere in getting the best work done. For me, I don't have any deadlines, I'm doing this as a hobby on my own schedule. So I can extract the fun and eliminate the stress. But I also am not getting paid.

Like many creative pursuits, the final script can all depend on how the day went. If I was given the same story to write a year previously, or in the future, I may end up writing a completely different finished product. How good it is can be determined by random factors and could fail so easily. In order to clarify my thoughts I need to take some time out each day to think about where the story is headed and what happens in the next scene I write. During those moments anything might influence me; something as random as the weather, what TV I watched this week, or if I had cheese for lunch, can make my thoughts turn one direction or another and lead to quite a different finished product.

So as this story plays out, it is exciting to see it develop, as it will rarely turn out quite the way I plan, and with luck be even better than I hope it to be.

Now onto the next scene...