Spartan Ops

The original Halo came out just as I was starting to get deep into the commitments of my first real job. I enjoyed spending my bachelor evenings with a buddy screaming at each other as we would toss plasma grenades down the hallways to see if we could make them stick to some baddies before reveling in the satisfying thud as the glowing baseballs went off. Real life has a tendency to get in the way of such activities, though, and I soon found myself neck deep in work. Since my buddy was the one that owned the Xbox, and I didn’t even have a TV, the investment to get up to carrying on my interest in Halo seemed to be a pretty high barrier to entry. As the franchise blossomed, it all but faded from my memory.

343 Industry’s series of short videos titled Spartan Ops has sparked my interest anew. It is a well-shot, fast-paced miniseries that is worth getting into for any science fiction fan. Although there are clearly bits for which I had no knowledge of the evidently deep background lore that has developed over the game’s three subsequent iterations, I was still able to enjoy it deeply.

The videos are available on Youtube, but I have embedded them all here, if anything to make it easier for me to go back to watch it again in the future.

While I’m at it, I might as well include the Halo 4 Story, which has been stitched together to form a single continuous clip. It has helped me fill in many of the blanks. Ideally, this should be watched first if you haven’t diligently been playing Halo.

Spartan Ops 1

Spartan Ops 2

Spartan Ops 3

Spartan Ops 4

Spartan Ops 5

Spartan Ops 6: Scattered

Spartan Ops 7: Invasion

Spartan Ops 8: Expendable

Spartan Ops 9: Key

Spartan Ops 10: Exodus

Spartan Ops 11: Exodus Conclusion

And to top it all off, here’s the preview for Halo 5, which now makes much more sense to me (and still looks awesome!)

Filmaker IQ: The History of Compositing

I learn so much from this series every time I watch it. This particular episode is about the history of compositing. It covers some technical aspects that I think I’ll have to watch another dozen times to have completely figured out.

A great primer on Film Noir lighting from

Many thanks to my brother for finding this primer on the basics of lighting film noir by

There are 92 other videos on the site at this time, with more being regularly added, so if you’re a movie buff, it will be worth your time to take a wander down there.

I hope Pacific Rim signals more ginormous robot movies on the way

Ginormous robots. Check.

Titanic monsters. Check.

Sweet visual effects. Check.

Pacific Rim has all the makings of  a brilliant summer blockbuster. Hopefully the script will be up to the challenge of complementing the flashy visuals, but when we take a moment to honestly assess this kind of movie, there’s some expectation of switching the brain machine to “off” and doing some healthy suspension of disbelief to enjoy this kind of movie.

A few thoughts about the trailer:

1. Mr. Del Toro and his concept artists must be big fans of Warhammer 40K’s Tyranids.

The Hive Tyrant’s cousins got big parts in the movie.

Games Workshop: inspiring terrifying creatures everywhere.

2. If a giant robot movie with no pre-existing fan base can make it big, and I certainly hope so for this movie, then it suggests that it is time to bring out the movie that I’ve been waiting for years to see produced: Mechwarrior.

Rolling thunder. In space. With massive dropships. And energy weapons. 100% awesome and then some. Image source: He’s an awesome artist. Check him out.

My giddy-o-meter jumps a couple notches at the thought.

The Hobbit in HD – An Unexpected CG

I did not catch The Hobbit while it was showing in theatres. Thanks to the magic of iTunes,  I purchased the HD edition and began feasting my eyes on…PS 3 video game footage?

I’ve never seen a Blu-ray edition of the Lord of the Rings, so it is hard for me to compare, but the photography seems off somehow. Clearly, the Hobbit was made by incredibly talented artists, but for some reason I am unable to let myself get sucked into the story as I did for the LOTR. The image quality is surreal, too crisp, and what may well be carefully-crafted creature masks look like CG. Perhaps they are CG, which may explain that aspect. Nonetheless, I find my suspension of disbelief challenged at every scene. The villains don’t quite seem to be physically present, but rather appear as uncanny apparitions on screen, unlike the masked orks, goblins, and uruks of the LOTR. Herein lies the rub for FX-heavy movies, and with television technology pushing towards ever-higher resolutions the effort needed to seamlessly blend live action and CG will become ever more difficult. Entirely CG films also run the risk of looking like elaborate cut scenes from video games rather than feature length blockbusters.

As much as I loved Peter Jackson’s efforts to bring to life LOTR, wondrously lifting the images my imagination had built years before and displaying them in the flesh, I am not so certain it works as well for the Hobbit. A few observations:

1. The Hobbit takes place in a more innocent time than LOTR, and this is reflected in the tone both the book and the film set, but I am not quite so sure that singing dwarves translates from paper very well.

2. Azog looks like a computer game character pasted onto most scenes. Though my recollection of the book’s version is clouded by the decades since I read it, don’t recall him having that prominent a role. A useful tool to stretch the film out into a trilogy, I suppose.

The Uncanny Azog

3. Have I mentioned the paradox of fancy graphics vs. physical effects yet? Just checking. There’s CG here. Lots of it.

4. It’s still a fun movie, and it fits into the LOTR, so I’ll probably end up watching it again a few times, regardless. The true curse of the Ring!

Helicopter used in jailbreak? Sure! Just another day in Quebec.

I love living in Quebec! If I am ever caught short for a story idea, I just need to wait a day or two, and something will come up.

This weekend, individuals hijacked a helicopter at gunpoint, and forced it to fly to a prison where they lifted away two inmates…dangling from the helicopter by climbing rope!

It’s well worth your time to watch the entire news report: CTV News: Helicopter used in prison escape was hijacked at gunpoint

You can’t make this stuff up! Brilliant! Sounds like Grand Theft Auto VI: San Jerome was released a little early.

Of course, crime doesn’t pay, and the lot of the thugs were caught shortly thereafter, which really makes you think about the value of the concept of busting out of prison in the first place. Even if it ain’t Dredd, the law is coming for you, crooks. Be patient, serve your time, then think about going for sessions of aerial tourism. Or better yet, don’t break the law and you can earn frequent flyer miles like the rest of us.

Having said this, I bet Hollywood is taking notes and coming up with a way to jam the concept into the next Bruce Willis mega blockbuster, Die Hard: Die Hardest Another Day: Resurrection.

If they aren’t, I’ve call dibs on the storyline!