Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Flatspace II (The Original Soundtrack)

I've been working on a new soundtrack release for my computer game title Flatspace II over the past few days. The tracks will be on sale by download, but I'll give free downloads to those who've joined my Facebook Page.

The cover image above is preliminary. Lots of music comes with the game, and there are two music packs too. The soundtrack will include some of those tracks, but most of it will be alternative versions, remasters and some new tracks too. Here is a run-down of the track listing so far...

1. Flatspace II Intro (0:30)
The original intro to the game.

2. Journey Through Fractional Space (6:05)
A substantial in-game track commissioned by a fan. The idea was to cross two existing Flatspace tunes, Catacombs and a track from The Flatspace Soundtrack called Cobra. An edit was released in the music pack, this is the first public release of the full version.

3. Ultramarine (1:41) GBTZR0700027
Vocal version with vocals by Tor James Faulkner. The instrumental version of this track was present in the Flatspace Music Pack 1.

4. Catacombs (5:11)
From the 2002 album The Incredible Journey. The tune was based on an even older track from the 1990's driven by MIDI on an Ensoniq ESQ-1 synthesizer.

5. Serenade (0:40)
An update of a small game track.

6. Mariner (6:40)
Also from The Incredible Journey where it was called Downloading, this made it into the main game. This version is a slight remaster with a new bass.

7. Flatrunner (1:04)
A new release. Flatrunner was written for the first Flatspace game but unused.

8. Black Hole (3:25)
A powerful new track written for this album.

9. Waiting For C-Major (2:34)
A simple cyclic track written at the same time as the Flatspace II music but unused. Expanded and remixed for this album.

10. The 7th Bell (3:12)
A new master of this track from the Flatspace Music Pack 1.

11. High Score Happiness Ensemble Version (1:06)
A new version of this simple track from the Flatspace Music Pack 2.

12. Flatspace Tango (2:58)
From the Flatspace Music Pack 2, this is an alternative version of the main game theme.

13. The Heart Of Aorkhan Alternative Theme (2:28)
The Heart of Aorkhan was a game I attempted to write around the year 2000. A roguelike game, it would have been the biggest role playing game in the world, with more monsters than Final Fantasy 7, each 3D animated! Lots of music was written for the game, but ultimately I was completely under resourced to complete this giant game on my own. The main theme was released as part of the Flatspace Music Pack 2. This version is an alternative edit of that theme.

14. Mice Hardcore Mix (2:08)
Mice is the tune on the Flatspace II credits screen, released in full on the Animalia album. This is the previously unreleased happy hardcore alternative mix.

15. Flatspace Main Theme Epic Version (2:16)
A slightly different mix of the main Flatspace theme. Flatspace (The Original Soundtrack) includes the standard original theme.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


I love gold, and gilding, and I've applied a few bits here and there in my paintings before, but each time has felt like stab in the dark, a delicate hold-your-breath moment of risk followed by either reward or disaster.

A few days ago I put the gold onto my reliquary doors, and now I'm much better at gilding and manipulating the gold leaf. Unfortunately I've learned the hard way, by messing up lots of times, and the current results are not good. Look, here is the left door so far...

The key thing I did wrong is, I think, applied the gold when the size was too wet, and/or putting too much size on. This has stopped it from drying beneath the gold, and when the gold is touched it squidges, seeping oil through the gold which then flakes or otherwise disintegrates leaving an ugly sandpapery look of half gold/half oil, an ugly yellow ochre, instead of gold. I think the best solution is to squidge and let it seep, and when tacky, apply more gold. I should be able to gild over gold, I think. I can but try.

Either way I'm better at it now than before, and I can only learn by doing. So here's to a future reliquary, which will take half the time and look twice as good.

I'm using 24 carat gold and it's totally different to handle than the artificial stuff, much easier, in fact. It should also smooth out well. That picture looks like tin foil almost but in person the effect is room-blowing (which is one step better than mind blowing). There are lots of flakes and bits on there that I need to brush away, too, so that's by no means finished. If those doors were solid gold they would cost about a million pounds. As they are there is about £60 of gold on there... but it won't stop there because I'm going to make a custom jewel from silver gilt for the inside. I've not done any metalwork since school, and my only knowledge of how comes from a cursory glance at a book in Hobbycraft yesterday, but I need the jewel, so I have to try, and I have to make one.

It's the trying that matters.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Birth of Venus

Here is my latest picture to make the website, Birth of Venus. The original idea came last year, and was inspired by the theme of Liberation for the Sue Ryder, "Art Liberating Lives" event, and art competition which they held two years running, but then stopped, probably because the galley charged a lot compared to anything they made from the auction, anyway, the idea of a woman undressing out of a man's skin came into my head. There are lots of possible interpretations of this simple idea, from revealing the feminine side of a man, to something like an allegory of a divorce, but I think it's about the achievement of independence and nothing to do with gender. The free flying bird in the sky mirrors a bird tattoo, to reinforce this theme.

It's not very large, about 40cm high after I scaled down my original ambitions. Technically there are lots of niggles that annoy me in this painting, the hands are different sizes for a start, and I had to add a glow around the dark bird in the sky to make it more visible, but the flesh is rendered well enough. Here is the face...

This is one that will make me concentrate harder and check things more in future, instead of going with the first drawing! Those that say there are no rights or wrongs in art are wrong. This Venus needs to be beautiful, more beautiful.

Onward to future works with the safe knowledge that things will get better as we learn. I'm still busy with music video work at the moment and from next Friday will add a new video a week to my YouTube Channel.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mice Video

Last week was spent working on videos, mostly in the frustration of animating The Spiral Staircase, which is a complex tune that I'm finding impossible to do justice in animation form! Is a bad video better than none, when the aim is to promote music? I suppose it is, but a good one is better.

The one above is the video for "Mice" which is new! A bit of fun this, and made in a similar way to the China Syndrome video. I went for a silent film look (an ironic look for a music video don't you think?) because the video looked grainy. I remember director David Lynch saying that he loved low quality digital video because of the random patterns and distortions you get, which react with the mind like ink-blots. Nice thought.

You can see Rapunzel's Tower in the background, a model I made for my Love Reliquary, which is nearing completion... but more on that later. In the mean time, I hope you enjoy the video.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I've been working in a frenzy over the weekend on a music video for my tune Challenger. I wanted to share how I did it... first look at this...

That sheet is one page of the list of frame numbers for the song. The video looks computer animated but actually it's "hand animated", sort of. I made little animations, usually individual photoshopped frames (like the glowing dots above). These were included into a long animation at the correct points to correspond to the different notes in the song. I effectively made a different video for each instrument, with a black background, then overlaid each one to make the final edit.

The whole thing was made possible because I wrote a small program to automatically calculate frame numbers when you input the frames-per-second of a video and the beats-per-minute of a tune. This was synchronised with my music software so that I could see where each note was triggered. Then I highlighted the times that the notes played.

The first bit I did was the bass, the vertical red lines. I drew 8 pictures and animated them with the right gaps between frames. Not as easy as it sounds because the notes are not always the same space apart due to fractions of a frame. After 1.5 patterns, the sequence repeats.

Next came some swirly chords which in my head were a cyan/grey sort of swirly colour and for that I used a 3D program to rotate a giant ring. I put two rings inside and made them transparent, offsetting the angles so they twisted as they spun. In the music, the song takes four measures to sweep through the filter, so I used that number of frames, multiplied by 3 (to again account for fractional frames) to complete one sweep, so that's 1080 degrees.

Then came the "sine blobs", the glowing blue dots, which worked like the bass. The most time consuming bit though was the main piano melody. I drew an expanding circle over 70 frames, then had to work out how to put it into the video. In the end I put the notes into "clusters" that had gaps of at least 70 frames between. Then I added enough black space to the start so that when the cluster was triggered on a specific frame, the animation would trigger at the exact right frame for the piano sound. So each note had to be placed as a separate specific animation. There was a lot of mental arithmetic involved for that one!

After that I added a poem and decided to invert the video for dramatic effect for the finale.

Overall, this has been exhausting, but worth it.

The software I used was my usual free set by the way. AviSynth for the main editing, compositing etc. and VirtualDub for previews. I used SUPER to convert to mp4 for YouTube. It took 35 mins to render the final video on my 3Ghz PC.


I'm going to leave it for a while now and do the final mastering in a few days. I expect the official release to be in a couple of weeks.

Edit! It's now Jan 2015 and I decided to remaster this, this time using FreeMake to convert it. I added a new "Cornutopia Music" intro and overlay'd a subtitle. It took about an hour in Freemake as an 8000kbps mpp4 file, quite a lot longer than SUPER. Both FreeMake and SUPER are now adware and should be installed only with great care to avoid toolbars and other malware. Freemake v4.0.3.0 was the last stable version that didn't brand your videos (yes, newer versions put their logo in your video!), so use that version. Don't go near SUPER, it auto-updates and can't be uninstalled.

Friday, November 11, 2011

China Syndrome

Voila! I've been working on videos this week. I say working, most of the time it's been trying new ideas and hitting brick walls, so I've only finished one and a half videos. Anyway this is the "one", and easiest because it's a remake.

The tune is China Syndrome, and like in the first version I slowed down the music, drew to it, then speeded the video back up again. This time used a special L-shaped arm thing that looked down on my desk, so I could draw and have a good close-up and still use my cheap camera.

The image was filmed from the top, which meant it was upside down, so I flipped it vertically. That's why I look left handed here when actually that's my right hand. I used AVISynth for editing and most of the work, with VirtualDub for previewing, and SUPER for conversion. All free software (although SUPER is annoying adware).

Phew, well it's been an unusual week and sadly one that began with the death of a pet, then the death of a great man from my art group, and ended with the funeral of a dear friend's beloved mother. Those events made me more reflective than sad for myself, but concerned for the sadness of others.

I've also learned how to memorise a pack of cards, thanks to Derren Brown's book. A useless skill, but the book also had in it somewhere... or I felt it somewhen... that people without many friends can seek to impress, and that young magicians and impressionists are particularly prone to this. This thought made me over self-analytical and made me wonder if having my work accepted and lauded would stop me wanting do so much of it and show it so much. There was no conclusion. It's an artists job to create, and one could hardly call Picasso, the most prolific artist in history, lacking in acclaim.

I think part of me would like to give up art, that with money and someone to share it with I wouldn't want or need it. What a horrible thought! I'll never stop!


Monday, November 07, 2011


Escape is my latest painting to be added to the website. By coincidence it's on public display from today too at Keele University as part of their annual Three Counties Open.

Eagle eyes might see that it's the same portrait as used on The Colours of Cheshire. The plan was to draw it once to effectively get two paintings in half of the time. It didn't work and it took a few attempts until I was happy enough. I think this is as good as my portraits used to be, after a few years of dip. I must focus on improving quality from now on.

In other news I excitingly created some new undapper and textastically amazing software that takes the frames per second of a video and the beats per minute of a song (with optional millisecond offset) and then produces a printout of the frame numbers for each beat, half beat and yes! even quarter beat. That will make it easy to sync music to a video with brilliant exactitude.

Working on music videos for two songs is what I've been doing over the weekend and the results are goodly awful (as opposed to awfully good). However it's better to have any video rather than none. More results soon...

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Angela Rippon Dream

Last night's dream was so vivid that I decided to type it out...

Three sibling children were doing some coursework, about cyclops mythology. The eldest was doing the work and the others helping. The youngest one, a tiny girl of about 6, was working on the wrong type of paper, the others doing it on lined paper with holes in. She got some of the right paper and continued to help.

Prof. Richard Wiseman was there, and he and I decided to tiny up some 1p and 2p coins that had been spilled. I started to throw some in the pot and he did too. He was rather distant towards me, but seemed to tolerate me joining in with the tasks.

Prof. Wiseman got a message from a friend. The friend wanted to know how if it was possible duplicate his old furniture so that it wouldn't be lost. I said that I knew how to do that. I could perhaps, I suggested, make moulds from it and make plaster copies. Prof. Wiseman went into the friends house through a gate. It was somehow automatic and I knew that if it closed I wouldn't be able to get in. I decided to follow, asking if it was okay for me to come along to help. He ignored me but it seemed okay.

Inside was a large room with a hard floor and some shrouded furniture in the streaming light. A middle aged man with white hair was there sitting on the sofa. There was a baby crawling about the room that the man was responsible for. I sat next to the man and we talked. He was very relaxed, almost in a daze and talked very calmly in sharp contrast to my energetic positive self. He did nothing all day, or very little which I found surprising. I told him that he must get bored or depressed. He said no. I told him that I work all of the time, constantly busy and that I've never had a holiday, which he doubted. I said that I probably had a few when I was at school. He talked about me living with my parents for a bit.

He became a woman a bit like Angela Rippon and we began to talk about sex. She took me to the bedroom and I sat on the bed. I said that I'd not seen a naked woman and she said that she would show me. I was in the bed now. She undressed in front of me and then lay on the bed. I put my hand on her body and she felt a rush of pleasure and had an orgasm. She said that that had never happened like that before and that we must have a deep connection. I had ejaculated too.

Suddenly a bullet flew through the room via the large window that made up the wall at the head of the bed. The shooter was a companion of sorts of the woman, a man who followed and watched over her like a detective, whether she wanted him to or not. He was a minor annoyance to her, her shadow, but she tolerated him. He appeared in the room with lots of other people and stood with another detective. He was rather weak and humble. I had a tommy gun and imagined shooting him to get rid of this annoyance. The dream however, and any seduction, was over.

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Invisible Woman

Today I decided to make a music video for the song Semi-Automatic-Woman-Marvelous-Machine, a task which I instantly and fantastically failed at having been tangented by wonderment and SO I decided, at the last minute, to design a Christmas card this year after all. So I'm doing that.

In the meantime, see this, my latest completed painting; The Invisible Woman. It's about childlessness and not having a family. With no family she is empty, past statue and part invisible, her reproductive organs dry and useless. It is my largest painting to date at around-and-about 70x120cm, far to large for me to transport to most exhibitions(!) or transport to the framers(!!) and so it's going to be difficult to see in real life(!!!). Okay so that's enough exclamations for now.

Here is a close up...

Now, some interesting technical wonderments...

1. The scanned painting is 300dpi and the image file is 8185x14197 pixels. I scanned it in 21 A4 sections on a flatbed scanner.
2. The figure is about half-life size.
3. The canvas is polyester, a brilliant surface but one that resists pencil drawing, so the underdrawing was transferred directly using oil paint. I've described how I've done it elsewhere on this blog.
4. There are three paint layers here. The first one was mostly in ashen greys and tone made of earth colours. The sky is/was cobalt blue on all layers, and this often produces a nice effect. That blue is technically more opaque than ultramarine but ultramarine is more powerful and dark and so needs much more opacifying white... so in practise cobalt is much more transparent for anything except dark tones, which it's quite useless for anyway. The rainbow colours were all grey greens on the palette, gentle mixes with the sky blue, proving that colours are relative. The top layer made everything much stronger.

Here's another detail...

I have no family, although like most of my work the painting is not autobiographical but inspired by my interpretations of other people and/or situations.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Iterations of Isolation

I'm scanning this year's works at the moment. Here is Iterations of Isolation, a momentously sad painting about the isolating barriers all too familiar to the likes of Nietzsche! I wanted to paint a painting that hummed with a deep darkness, like the sound of an obsidian block or the heartbeat of a black hole.

The idea is many years old and had remained half complete, huge and stretched on a canvas for years. It became trapped in complexity. This year I decide to complete or destroy everything that was half finished, and this was therefore resolved. I decided to repaint it on a smaller scale, packing the mountains into something as big as an office letter.

The essential idea was of monoliths within monoliths, rocks within rocks showing multiple layers of personality from external to the ultimate intimate baby. By the time that layer was reached though, the outer layers had become not mere tree rings but barriers that had isolated, and the introversion had trapped the psyche in a joke lonely hatred; the essence of the extreme right (I say joke because all such barriers are artificial constructs). I probably heard Pink Floyd's The Wall for the first time in this year and perhaps that became an influence.

I find the painting horrific, but I think it has succeeded in conveying the power I wanted. If I had found it lovely it would have failed as an artwork.

Technical notes. It's oil on perspex and 234x336mm (a little bigger than A4). It's painted in two layers.