Wimbledon Fever!


It’s Wimbledon Season. And I have fever. But this post is about a video. And an event I have not written about.

I’ve been away (yet again!), and I’m just too scared to open the WordPress Reader, because I know I’ve missed way too much. The past few weeks have been rather busy and I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of working backstage for an event.

I would have loved to write about it, and probably should have done it last weekend, but for the past one week, I’ve had a series of health problems – from backaches to cough, cold and high fever. I’m feeling quite drained out, my head heavy with the medication, but I just had to write this post, and share something.

Lying down the whole day with practically nothing to do, I would have gone insane – if it weren’t for Wimbledon week. So that’s it! I’ve written down an apology of a (slightly incoherent) post. Now I’m off to take some more rest!

While I wait to recover, with some tennis to cheer me up (even without Roger, its pretty decent) here’s a short video I patched up post-event!

See you on the other side of the net!

Why Blog?


writing
Power Of Words – Antonio Litterio CC-BY-SA-3.0

Some time back, I stumbled upon a video. And I liked it so much, I watched it again, and now I’m sharing it with you (for those who’re impatient, its at the bottom of the post!)

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of ‘Eat Pray Love’, talks about creativity as an external ‘genie’, and how creativity comes to an artist, instead of creativity coming from within an artist.

This video made me realise how many times an idea or thought came to me. My genie came in the form of little bursts of inspiration. And when she came, she gave me sleepless nights. At times I’ve woken up at unearthly hours* , unable to sleep, till I have written down something. And even afterwards, I have felt uneasy at not having published it. Sometimes I’m just too tired to listen to her, and I tell her to come another time. And of course she doesn’t.

This creati-genie has inspired quite a few posts on this blog. And clearly, right now, my genie is on vacation. Or perhaps I’m the one who isn’t sensing her.

Maybe she’s somewhere around me, reading this post. Maybe she’s screaming something, desperately trying to grab my attention. Or maybe she’s just smirking, enjoying the fact that I miss her.

Off late, as I haven’t been blogging, I’ve felt frustrated. Or perhaps my frustration is making me lose connection with my genie.

I’ve had to work hard on this post. It doesn’t help that I actually drove my genie away. But I shall try to answer the question The Daily Post asked bloggers.

Why do I blog?

There may not be just one single answer. And it is most likely a combination of several answers.

Perhaps it is the want of attention, the emotional high of being heard.

Perhaps it is to share our world with others.

Perhaps it is a journal, a memory bank, should we need to refresh our own memories.

Perhaps it is to vent out the frustration within.

Perhaps it is to discover a few things about our own selves.

Or perhaps it is to allow the genies sitting on the window-sill next to us, to take the spotlight for a while.

And maybe, just maybe, it is to sleep more peacefully at night.

I’d hoped to celebrate my 100th post with my genie. But, I suppose she deserves a little break!

I hope you like this TED Talk as much as I did. Is your genie with you? How has your genie helped/troubled you? Let me know in comments…

* unearthly hours here refers to what I term as unearthly – which is not necessarily beyond midnight, but likely at the hour when you are busy relishing your dinner!

And now I wonder… Why does WordPress Blog??

The Good, Bad, and the Incomplete!


One Confession

This year has been quite a roller coaster.  A year filled with lots of firsts. I attempted the Weekly Photo Challenges, Writing Challenges, and even the Daily Prompts. Truth be told, I got lucky with some of the topics. Perhaps some one at The Daily Post sneaked in to my head, and posted appropriate challenges (including this one)!!

Two Realisations

At the end of the previous year, I had one follower. (I’m not counting my friends and family members – who were forced to visit my blog after my constant nagging). This year, I have discovered, and learnt a lot from other bloggers. Thanks to the aforementioned lucky coincidences, I have more readers, and I kick myself for not participating in challenges often.

I cannot have my cake and it too. While I love to participate in all the challenges, and I do have things to say, real life also needs priority – hence, my posts will always come at irregular intervals.

Three unfinished works

I have two sketches, and an acrylic painting that are waiting for me to complete them. I am not including the sketch from last year, and the oil painting I started many many years ago! I would have shown them to you, but I’m just too lazy to photograph them. Also, the painting is in the art room of my institute, and I’m too cowardly to face my teacher (whom I am sure I have disappointed with this one).

Four projects

This year has been one in which I have little to show – At least not as much as I would have wished. Blogging has, to a certain extent, distracted me from my studies, and at the same time, has encouraged me to create something, with the sole intention of posting it here.

I learnt a lot this year, especially about 3D animation, and spent a major part of the year on two projects – a character, which I built from scratch, and a short film, in which I rigged a character, and oversaw other member’s work. These are quite amateurish, and hence I haven’t posted much about them. The sheer effort involved in creating a 60 second 3D animated clip, was overwhelming. I can only wonder what magic must be required to produced full length feature films in this medium.

My best creation to date, and one I hold close to my heart is ‘Mr Paper’. It was made in the early part of the year, and has made me a bit of a celebrity 😀

And finally, dear reader, if you found most of this article vague and has left you confused, it is probably because I am currently working on my fourth project – capping one of the busiest years of my life.

Many Memories

I’ll leave you with a small collage of stills – which visually represent what I have been up to this year – the things I’ve made, the places that I have seen… Here’s wishing the entire blogging community a very happy and prosperous New Year.

Waiting at the airport


Boarding pass in hand, the family waited to board the flight. There was one seat less, and the young teenager sat on the baggage trolley. Perhaps even if there were enough seats, she would have preferred to sit on the aluminium structure and slide around. She was getting bored. They had been up early in the morning, but the flight was delayed.

She looked around, trying to amuse herself. Near one of the check-in counters, she caught two gentlemen picking up their passes. Gosh they looked awfully familiar! Where could she have seen them? The one nearer to them was slightly shorter, with a moustache and a short beard – much like that of a goat. The other one was much taller, and…

Her eyes grew wide. She called out to her mother, “Look!” She pointed in their direction. “Look who’s here!”

The two men saw the excited girl. One smiled, and the other waved his hand slightly – perhaps they felt a little embarrassed…

She smiled ear to ear, and looked at her mother, “He waved to me! Loy waved back to me!”

Perhaps, Mr Ehsaan and Mr Loy, you are used to this sort of attention. You must have encountered fans giving you such horribly wide-eyed looks several times. You may not remember that little girl on the trolley at Chennai International Airport so many years ago, but you sure made her day!

*  *  *


Even Wikipedia is a fan! Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy

We Created A Monster!


After months of procrastination, we present to you, our creation. That the topic for this week’s photo challenge happens to be ‘create’, is a lucky coincidence!

The Project:

A 2d animated short film, being made for a student’s competition, on behalf of our institute.

The Concept:

Story Board Extract
Thumbnail story board extract
Story Board Extract
An extract from the story board

Theft of content discourages the the creators of original content. This, in turn, hinders creativity, and ultimately, when creation stops, everything comes to an end.

While this is rather extreme, we used it as the basis for creating our protagonist.

The Protagonist:

Concept Character
In search of our spirit

A formless spirit. People cannot see it, but it watches our every action. It has always existed in some form, but over the years it has grown exponentially. We needed a simple, yet mean creature. After unsuccessfully creating several rather cuddly creatures, we finally managed to locate our spirit.

The Plan:

Putting ideas to paper
Putting ideas to paper

We began with a simple story, with simple line art for presentation. It eventually grew more complicated, with more supplementary characters, and more complicated animation.

The Resources:

A lab – which we shared with five other students, two computers and a pen – tablet.

For the next three months, this room would virtually become our second home. We entered early morning and left late in the evenings – including Sundays. The windows were covered with black paper. The air-conditioning, at times, prevented us from suffocating, and at times made us shiver. The pen tablet came close to becoming my best friend!

The Human Resources:

We searched, and searched, and searched. We knew we needed a character artist. We found none. Eventually, we decided to handle it ourselves.

The Implementation:

Trying out animation
Trying out animation – manually, and digitally

To create one second of an animated clip, we needed 24 frames. A software can make things move smoothly and blend frames, saving a lot of work. But it has its limitations. There are times, when everything must be done manually. For our story, every bit of animation involved manually creating unique frames.

Back when early Walt-Disney animations began appearing, there was no software which could blend and create frames. There was no copy and paste. The artists created each of the frames from scratch. The colours couldn’t be picked from a digital colour palette. They had to mix paints and inks for every frame. Yet they managed to create believable, realistic characters, which had a consistent form, and colour across every frame!

Where We Messed Up:

Testing style
Trying to establish a style
Becoming a little complex
Still trying to establish a style… Becoming a little complex

During the process, we fought. A lot – with each other and with our own teachers. We argued about the best approach towards solving issues. We lost a lot of time, just trying to figure out the style for the film – something that should actually have been a part of the planning stage. While we did do a lot of planning, our paper work was inadequate. It threw our schedule so far away, that our mentors, peers, and even we, began to lose hope of it even being completed. We lacked the foresight, and the skills which, we realised, were essential for taking on a project of this magnitude.

It seemed like our project had been set up to fail.

The Controversy:

Piracy is a sensitive issue, and a grey area. After all, sales of recorded music hardly account for an artist’s income. They benefit distributors. And artists earn millions from live concerts anyway. The concept seemed irrelevant for the digital age. The internet makes the cost of producing and distributing intellectual property almost negligible. A viral video on a video-sharing site is all it takes to get famous!

Ironically, we used music with creative commons licenses for our film on piracy!

At home, debates and arguments surrounding our project became a regular feature. My spending long hours working, only added to the gloomy atmosphere in the house.

The Final Touches:

With just about 3 weeks left, tension and tempers were rising. We asked Google for help. We analysed footage from videos, and animated clips. We searched for music, and shot footage of ourselves for reference. Desperate to finish what we started, we used videos and images as templates, and traced over them!

With just a couple of days left for the deadline, we had a few animations still left to do, and some of the backgrounds were incomplete. We had not compiled our work even once to check if all the pieces fit the puzzle. In a last ditch effort, we worked for 24 hours straight to complete the little bits. There were some glaring mistakes. But we ignored them. Ultimately, we rendered it – just in time for submission.

The title for our project was decided on the very last day!

Final shot
Final shot – The pen tablet came close to becoming my best friend

The Aftermath:

The consequences of the marathon effort on my health were explained in detail in my previous post.

After nearly six months, we blew the dust from the project to fix some of the major glitches. During the rendering, our ghost showed up in a few frames, where we did not put it, and disappeared from some other frames. What can I say… It was being true to its nature.

The Perfect Monster:

The debate surrounding the definition of what constitutes piracy sparked a debate around our house, and divided the family. Several issues popped up during the planning and animation stage, which put some wonderful friendships in jeopardy. Our ghost didn’t help either. It distorted in unusual ways while animating, which caused a lot of head ache. It skipped frames on rendering, and appeared in places where it clearly didn’t exist. It ensured that we spent months, cooked up inside a sun-proofed room. While we brought packed lunch with us, it did not prevent us from eating out. Our health took a severe beating.

It seemed, that we had created the perfect monster.

The Other Side:

While we were blaming our creation for our troubles, the spirit was subtly doing its part to put us in our place! Working on the project, was a huge learning curve. We bit way more than we could chew, and that made us push our limits. We learnt the importance of pre-production, the importance of paper-work, the limitations of our skills, tricks to overcome it, the long road that lay ahead of us before we could even think about calling ourselves animators, how to work in a team (even if it was just the two of us), and to believe in ourselves, and our vision. Most importantly, we realised that nothing can ever be more important than our health.

We had to use every trick in the book to reel in the spirit which was running amok. I’m happy to report, that it has been caught and placed inside a container. It is on display as a video on Youtube. Its still not perfect, but considering that there were only the two of us, working on our very first animated clip, and practically the whole world betting against it, I think it turned out fine 🙂

Please visit the blog of my partner-in-crime, guilty of creating the monster!

The Disclaimer:

We admit we used a lot of references from the internet world. We have tried our best to give credit to our sources. Further, this project was not made for any commercial purposes. It was just an idea, which we feel extremely proud to be a part of, and hope you too enjoy it!

Campaign Season


The elections for the municipal corporation were held today. Where there are elections, there is bound to be campaigning. So I too have jumped into the campaign mode. Albeit, of a different kind.

This year, as part of an internal competition, students were asked to make short films under various categories. I too was encouraged to participate.

I had no clue as to  what I should do. But since the staff members wanted me to participate, I searched the internet world for some inspiration. After several days of wandering, out of sheer desperation, I decided to settle for a biography. It wasn’t the most original of ideas, and it wasn’t very interesting, but it was something. After discussing it with our teacher, I picked up the registration form and headed home.

The evening had set in, and I was sitting next to the window of the local bus. As the wind blew across my face, something happened. All of a sudden words streamed into my head. In a matter of a few minutes, I had a concept, a story, and even a vague picture in my mind.

I submitted my form on the very last day of the registration and over the next 4 weeks I set about executing it. And so, I am proud to present to you, Mr Paper.

This is an advertisement for a fictitious company named Papyres. The spelling mistake is intentional. I had intended it to be Papyrus, but after I had almost completed the animation, I searched, and found out that it was a real company. So I had to change it.

That brings me to the disclaimer – this video is a purely creative venture and not made for any commercial purposes.

So what does all this have to do with campaigning? Well, this video was short-listed for the viewers’ choice award. Yippee 😀 So now I have to get people to ‘like’ this video on Facebook. Being one of the rare breed of people not having such an account, I decided to post it here. So if anyone accidentally stumbles on to this blog, I hope you have a look at the video. Liking is not compulsory, but I do hope you enjoy it. I, for sure, enjoyed making it. 🙂

* * *

For those interested in ‘liking’ it on Facebook, it is posted on this page:

https://www.facebook.com/Competition.WideAngle2012/posts/411233848887855?ref=notif&notif_t=share_reply

Update: The competition ended in the video being nominated for the award. It was showcased during the cultural programme and award ceremony :). The response on the facebook page was overwhelming and I have a lot of people to thank for that! Thanks everyone! 🙂

PS. The above link no longer exists.

The Good People Of Kotla


Long long ago, when I didn’t have a blog page, I just recorded the random thoughts that came to my mind in separate files on the computer. I wrote this little journal entry on the 22nd day of the month of May in the year 2010. It is in relation to the video about the monuments around Kotla Mubarakpur.

I was working on a short film about the little known monuments around kotla mubarakpur. The narration had been finalised and all that was required was to go for the photo shoot.One of the monuments that was to be covered was that of the Tomb of Mubarak Shah.

I had done a little research about how to get there. And all that I could find were a few photographs, and the location on the satellite image of the area. I could not find any information about the occupant of the tomb, except his name.

A week ago, I had gone hunting for the monument with a friend of mine. I feared going there all alone, knowing that it was a medieval village, and there were very narrow gullies. We asked for directions from some locals, and after a long time, finally managed to locate it. An elderly gentlemen, who gave us the precise direction to the tomb, asked us rather suspiciously why we wanted to go there. We just replied that we wanted to see it. It was rather awkward.

When we reached the tomb, we found it fenced up and locked. We were expecting it. Entry to the tomb was sealed. The village buildings were barely a few feet from the monument. The monument cut a rather sorry picture. It belonged to one of the rulers of Delhi during the fifteenth century. And it was languishing in the middle of some obscure village, with even the locals not bothered about it.

Today, I had to go there again, with my brother, for the actual shoot. We left early in the morning, in order to avoid the scorching summer sun. I felt rather lazy and was beginning to regret the idea.

But we had set out, and the work had to be done. I traced back my steps and to my relief, we managed to reach the monument without asking any one for directions. A horrible stench and open drains greeted us. My brother pulled out his camera and began taking some shots at a very close range.

Anyone with a rather fancy camera is bound to attract attention. And some shop keepers were leaning out of their windows. After a while, a few men surrounded my brother and began questioning him. He answered them in his usual calm and friendly manner. We had come there to see the monument, and were clicking photographs for personal reasons.

His answers seemed to be sufficient for them to relax around him. For, a few seconds later, a middle aged gentleman passed by and told me that it was the tomb of Mubarak Shah and said that we could enter it through the gate on the other side. We reached the gate and I climbed up the ramp in front of the locked gate. I looked at my brother and told him we could enter it. He joined me, and then we realised that it was locked.

Gates Unlocked
Gates Unlocked (Photo by R. Karthik)

By this time, a lot of eyes were fixed on us. And just as we were turning back, a youth walked up carrying a set of keys. He opened the lock on the outer fence and entered the tomb. An observer shouted light-heartedly, “yeh yahaan ka maalik hai!” (He is the owner of this building).

He asked us to take off our shoes and we entered the tomb’s premises. It was then we realised, that we were probably the only outsiders to have set foot in this tomb. A very special privilege indeed. The caretaker then allowed us to enter the main burial area.

When we entered, we were awestruck. There were six tombs inside the tomb – not just one. They were covered with half burnt incense sticks and sweets. There was a broken street lamp fitted on to one of the walls lighting up the interiors. The inscriptions on the walls were well preserved and it was rather peaceful being inside. We took as many photographs as we could and exited the gate, thanking the care taker for his generosity.

As we were leaving, a local called out to the caretaker. “Upar bhi le jaao inhe” (take them upstairs as well).

My brother asked the caretaker, if there was a way to go upstairs as well. We had been around the circumference of the tomb and not noticed any staircase.

Once again the care taker unlocked the gate and ushered us inside. He told us not to take off our shoes and we followed him to another gate. It led to a hidden staircase to the roof. The stone staircase was steep, dark, narrow, and smelling of rotting flesh. With difficulty, we climbed up and reached the terrace. The main gumbad was surrounded by many chattris. I stood there chatting with one of the locals, sharing whatever little knowledge I had about the monument as well as the surrounding tombs, while my brother went around the terrace.

Once we had exited the premises, we spoke to some more locals who were still very suspicious. They told us how officials from ASI would just come there, give some false promises, and leave. The locals had taken it upon themselves to protect the monument.

It was amazing how, just a week ago, I had formed a rather negative opinion about the tomb – how it was lying completely neglected. And today, I had a completely different perspective. Some hospitable locals had granted us access to the monument that few could get. They had taken care of the monument that no one had bothered about.

We left the village and the stench behind us, still unable to believe our luck.

Back home, I edited my script for the film. To the concluding lines, I added, “Though these monuments are over 500 years old, there are no wide-eyed tourists gazing in awe at their magnificence. They might have suffered the ignorance of officials, but they have stood the test of time and survived with a little help from the locals of this enigmatic city called Delhi”

The video that I had been working on, had a roller-coaster of a journey and after almost a whole year, I am relieved to say that I’ve finally managed to complete it! The video has been uploaded to youtube:

Photograph by R. Karthik

Getting the monkey off my back!


For almost a whole year, I have had a tough time trying to negotiate my way around a project that I was very enthusiastic about. It began in the month of April last year, and I had rather grand plans for it. Now, looking back to what I had planned, I think I ended up trying to bite off more than I could chew. Perhaps it was too ambitious.

Being the superstitious person I am, I wanted to keep the project a closely guarded secret, and then reveal everything later on. For I am of the opinion that you should never divulge your plans before executing them. Otherwise, the plans never materialise. But, as luck would have it, that did not happen.

Due to unavoidable circumstances, word got out that I was working on a short video. And very soon, what was supposed to be a month’s work just kept getting delayed and delayed and delayed… I began losing interest.

With great difficulty I managed to get the footage together. But by that time, I had begun my freelance project. Once I was done with it, I thought, well, time to finish what I had started. Even as I was thinking about getting to work, the annual creative minds competition was announced, and I was selected to work on a small 2D movie. Unfortunately, it couldn’t be completed on time, and ended up being shelved. It was quite a setback, even though I was shortlisted for the finals in another category.

Soon after things had settled a little, I decided to get back to my project.

But this time, technology let me down. Not once, but thrice. Something or the other just kept cropping up. Finally, when things did work out, over six months had gone by and I was getting frustrated. I thought I would quickly finish it and get it off my back. But, when I took my finished project for evaluation, it received a very negative reaction. One after another, people came up with flaws and suggestions to fine-tune it.

I did the video-editing from scratch and created animated footsteps. That again took a lot of time. The next time I got it reviewed, I was told the audio was not good enough. And that there should have at least been some sort of an interview in it. That really threw me into a fit of rage. I had given up.

Then one day, my uncle paid us a visit, and saw the project. Not bad, he said. Just add one interview. That should make it complete. I was severely dejected. But he told me to complete it. He made a few suggestions, and they were very good ones too. But I was mentally tired. The very thought of looking for an interview, editing the video again, and changing the whole story, was too daunting.

The video was now haunting me. I felt like I had let myself down and I was severely disappointed.

It took me a few more months to actually think about touching it again. I kept thinking every morning about doing something about it, but it never happened.

There are times when you plan for things, and they never work out. And there are times when you don’t consciously plan for something, but its there, lurking quietly at the back of your mind, without you realising its there. It was just one of those days, I just mechanically opened the file and started editing the audio. What I had feared would take me weeks, I ended up doing in a day. Well, not exactly a day. But the major part was accomplished on that day, and some fine-tuning the next day.

And today, I feel that I have done it. For a major part of the process, I felt I could not accept the outcome. It was a failure. It failed to impress anyone.

But over the last few months, I have come to accept it for what it is. Partly because I have little choice, and partly to get over the setback. Unless I learn to accept it, with all its flaws, no one else will. It still does not have the interview, and the audio is yet to be evaluated. But unlike the other times when I was scared of a negative review, I can say right now, that I am satisfied with the outcome.

I have finally realised that I was looking at it through a completely wrong perspective. I was trying to impress others. Ideally, whatever we do, we must always strive to do it for ourselves. If there is an external benefit we are seeking, it will never make us happy. But if we are satisfied, no one else matters. It was not for others that I took on the project. But for myself.

It was not exactly what I had imagined it to be. There are perhaps a million flaws in it, some of which I am aware, others, which I am yet to be told about.

Perhaps sometime in the future I will look back and say, that’s crap! But right now, I would say its done. I know its not yet got the final nod, but no matter what will be said about it, I’m not changing it. It may not be complete, or perfect for someone else, but to me, its just right!

A beautiful message


For this post, I owe a close friend of mine for sharing this video. It’s so beautiful, and even before it had reached half way, I had goose pimples (that’s what they are called right?) all over. Just wanted to share it with anyone who’s interested.

Patriotism has no language… A beautiful message…