Lore Method

Lore Method

While working on client projects for UI / UX in video games, over the last six months I have been building a parallel business to finally publish my fiction writing and demonstrate these skills as portfolio pieces for narrative design work in the film and games industries. It’s called Lore Method LLC at www.loremethod.com

Signing the Founding Papers

Signing the founding paperwork, which became official January 1, 2017

I have professionally written intellectual property master documents, game design documents, story, and cinematics and in-game screenplays for triple-A game studios. I’ve also written and produced audioplays, a few novel manuscripts, adapted one of them which became a Quarter Finalist in the 2010 BlueCat Screenplay Competition and now a 5-star screenplay at Amazon Studios, and more various writing projects.

But it’s not just limited to writing…!

My Lore Method model allows me to publish this in an online user interface I custom-designed for an e-Book age. It’s built around the concept of ‘episodic visualized fiction’, wherein I release each chapter as an ‘Episode’ accompanied by fully rendered cinematics visuals and even an embedded curated reading soundtrack. Each episode is sold individually for a low price, like $1.99, or you can buy a complete Season Pass for a novel’s worth of content in one purchase.

I think of Lore Method as an intersection of fiction, comics, and filmmaking.

There is also a Codex on the site that is like a custom Wikipedia for the lore of the fiction featured. So I’m also integrating tabletop roleplaying games (tRPGs) into the mix, by adding a proprietary Lore Method tRPG system and including stats on all relevant objects featured in the Codex. So you can actually play the fiction I’m writing and the worlds I’m building!

Lore Method Debut Series - NEON ECLIPSE

Lore Method’s first title series, NEON ECLIPSE, has debuted on the site with Season 1 – Episode 1 available to read for free right now! It is a ‘tech noir espionage thriller’ starring Crane 5-53, a biodrone android super-spy navigating a post-World War era 2044.

NEON ECLIPSE - Episode 1

NEON ECLIPSE - Episode 1

NEON ECLIPSE - Episode 1

NEON ECLIPSE - Episode 1

Work on an unannounced Second Series is also underway as well.

This is of course coming off of my previous virtual filmmaking experiments that have been chronicles earlier over the years on this very blog!

So head over to LoreMethod.com and check out all that I have going on there. I’m producing all of the art, learning more and more about modeling and using Modo.

In addition to UI and design services, if you ever need world-building, intellectual property development, story, screenwriting, creative direction, etc… for your project, feel free to contact me at hello@xanderdavis.com — I’m always happy to explore possibilities with new clients!

Cheers,
-Xander


www.xanderdavis.com
@XanderDavisLive
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5 Common Film Color Schemes

Complementary_Fight_Club

Great article over at Cinema 5D on the 5 most common film color schemes.

They show two examples from Fight Club, its cinematography I love. But things have changed since the late 90’s. Particularly, Fincher seems to bathe a lot of his more recent RED-shot all digital films in green, pull all other color out almost to the point that he’s essentially shooting black and white noir (in particular Social Network, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl especially). House of Cards even has this to some degree. I did some tests in early 2015 that I haven’t posted of video I shot in my home and managed to manually match color to interior shots of Gone Girl– it was amazing going through that process and realizing how far it goes.

Color schemes / grading in film has been something I’ve always regarded as a bit of a mystery. I’ve heard there’s no right or wrong way to do it; it’s all just personal taste. But obviously there’s also a psychological basis for selecting palettes. It’s very curious how Fincher’s films and even the Matrix (the original in particular) would be so green and achieve a very striking look that feels natural when you watch it but isn’t really at all. I’ll be looking into this…

So this article helps set me on that path to better understanding. I recommend it if you’re curious about color grading film.


www.xanderdavis.com
@XanderDavisLive
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Chappie VFX Breakdown

CHAPPiE BREAKDOWN REEL from Image Engine

I loved this film! Blomkamp is one of my favorite directors working today. He’s apparently working a niche, though: the cyberpunk superfan (which definitely includes me). But even my girlfriend then loved this movie (she cried a few times, saying it pulled hard on every maternal instinct in her soul! Indeed I also find it very hard to watch at some points). All of his movies are cyberpunk concept art orgies, and I couldn’t be happier to pour over the art books and pause and study nearly every single frame.

Johnny 5 is alive.


www.xanderdavis.com
@XanderDavisLive
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The Future of Video Games is the Future of Animation

Seems I’m not alone in my assessment that game engines are now viable rendering engines for CG filmmaking. I’ve been seeing this discussion pop up a lot lately. While working at triple-A games studios during the advent of the eighth console gen, I routinely heard rumblings then that this was the big objective, to achieve ‘hollywood level CG in realtime’. With a focus on game engines at this year’s GDC, it seems it’s been truly brought into the forefront of people’s minds.

Now FastCompany is echoing these thoughts as well, with their article ‘The Future of Video Games is the Future of Animation‘.

I particularly liked the stat that a single frame from Pixar’s Monsters University took them 29 hours to render using “what’s considered one of the fastest supercomputer rigs in the world: 2,000 computers with 24,000 processing cores”. In my analysis from my own testing, a 4K frame was taking me about 4 hours in Maya Mentalray, but it wasn’t as complex as a frame set up by Pixar. Meanwhile, to capture a 4K frame out of Unity, it takes only 0.91 seconds, on my five-year-old iMac. So 29 hours or 104,400 seconds on a state-of-the-art super-computer versus 0.91 seconds on a half-decade-old prosumer desktop. As this provides literally millions of dollars in cost-savings and time-savings value to individual creators, it’s not even a question of which route an indie should take for CG filmmaking.

And check out the recently released Kite Demo from Unreal Engine 4 and the Nvidia Titan X to see yet another impressive example of where this is all going:

I haven’t tested Unreal Engine 4 yet myself, as it barely runs smoothly on my five-year-old iMac. I’m going to need to get a new computer anyway (it’s time), and I’m aiming for the 5K iMac as my primary machine with Windows on Bootcamp. If that’s not enough, then I’m also considering getting a super-beefy Windows box with the Nvidia Titan X as basically my render machine only.

nvidia-titan

But the new computer(s) will be a bit down the road. I’m content to finish the virtual set for VFM02 first in Unity 5 for now while I train myself up on CG modeling and texturing. I’ve also just finished figuring out cinematic cameras, lighting and rendering modes, and the full capture pipeline from Unity, and am thrilled to have got all of that working. I’m actually not that limited with my old iMac, primarily because uRecord can get animation out of Unity at any res in perfect lossless frame-by-frame PNGs without runtime even being a factor. Then there’s having to decide between Unity’s royalty free offering and Unreal Engine’s 5% cut. Unity’s results aren’t bad at all, but Unreal Engine’s seem pretty obviously amazing– for a price.

starwars-rebels-texture-fidelity-1b

Going through VFM02, I’m already beginning to appreciate the value in a stylized approach on an indie-scale. It really comes down to how easy it is to implement these features in the engine editor, and whether that scales throughout an entire production. Meanwhile, you can actually see low-fidelity texturing on background assets of Star Wars: Rebels produced and aired by Disney (high res example 1, example 2), so there’s a level of efficiency possible through stylization that works. People tend to focus on the characters in the frame, especially the eyes, anyway. It really just depends on your production parameters and goals, so there’s huge value in custom-tailoring a style to fit those. The Kite demo certainly wasn’t made by one person in spare time, but it nevertheless does demonstrate an enormous leap forward in efficiency at smaller production scales.

Either way, it does seem that using game engines now for filmmaking is a trending idea. Go experiment and create something awesome! There’s never been a better time.


www.xanderdavis.com
@XanderDavisLive
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VFM02: General WIPs

20150319-VFM02-WIP00

20150319-VFM02-WIP01

20150319-VFM02-WIP02

Set UVs and established textures for the lower half of the scene– next will spend some time really dressing those textures up. The holotable needs a bit more polish to the diffuse map as well.

Looking into getting Quixel Suite, but they don’t have a Mac version (it’d be the only thing in this entire pipeline between Maya, Mudbox, Zbrush, Unity, and the full Adobe CC Suite that I’d have to Bootcamp into Windows for).

I also realized as I was adding new assets to the Maya scene, Unity was not automatically setting those elements to static, so lightmapping was skipping over them. Fixed that last night. There’s still some weirdness going on with some assets’ lightmapping though, such as the pipes.

There’s still a long way to go on this stuff, my first attempt at environment art like this. Overall, making progress!


www.xanderdavis.com
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SXSW Keynote: Mark Duplass Tips for Indie Success

“The cavalry isn’t coming… The calvary is not coming. But YOU are the calvary.”

This. A thousand times this.

Also, at 50:46, there was an amazing part where he pretty much echoed what I said earlier in the Unreal Engine 4 post. “In 1995, a kid from Ohio in the suburbs, who is 14 years old, couldn’t turn a camera on himself and make one of the more explosive movies we’ve seen come out of Sundance, and that could happen now with the technology.”

Well, I was 11 in 1995, from Ohio. At the time, we’d borrow my dad’s boss’s VHS camcorder to make home movies. Today, I’m shooting on greenscreen in 4K, creating virtual CG sets, and compositing in After Effects, in spare time. If I were a teenager today, there’d be nothing stopping me from doing that at that age now either. The real gatekeeper at this point seems to mainly just be skill level and finding the time. So keep working to learn, expand, and refine skills so you can close that gap between vision and result, in realistic time.

For pretty much every type of creative medium today, there is now a commercial distribution channel for you to self-publish it and drive it with do-it-yourself social media marketing. You have a shot at making good money (not crazy money unless you get lucky), or enough to at least pay for the project. At the very, very least, you for-sure can do it to have done it for the satisfaction alone, and that’s a new reality of creativity today.

At this point for me, that’s mainly all I care about. If whatever I make makes some money, that’s great and extremely helpful, but I’m in it for the love of doing it above all else. I’m going to do it, either way. And now the tools and the marketplaces are totally accessible to do what you love and take it seriously, at a level I call the ‘hobby pro’ project, that can become full-scale businesses or career trajectories but don’t actually have to. Today, you can just make a thing, share it worldwide, and that can be cool and make you happy, and that can be enough. I think most people, deep down, are hoping for even just that, just to make enough doing what they love. It’s easy to get distracted by the stories of unlikely mega-success grandeur; it’s wiser to accept the realities and probabilities and to engage them to your advantage. If you can work the business side as much as the art side, your odds are increasing.

I liken the ability to make a film, game, album, etc today to the idea of writing a novel. It’s okay to self-publish today, where this used to be a stigma. It’s so okay today, that it’s really the norm. Duplass is basically saying that’s the only realistic viable option anymore, and I would wholeheartedly agree, for any medium. And just because anyone can write a novel, it doesn’t mean all succeed. Even those that do, their skill level determines whether or not it’s any good.

As both Duplass and I have said as well, success is no longer assured just on the merit that you’re doing it at all, as it used to be. You’re not one out of seven indie films at Sundance. One out of three indie game devs on Indie Game: The Movie. Really, online you’re one out of thousands spilling out in social media feeds that day alone. The same thing that happened to the music industry has happened to every other creative industry, one by one. But I’d rather have no one between me and my creativity than the old models of last century, even if the market is flooded. And if you get good, there are now new business models in place, like Netflix / Vimeo / VHX / Amazon Instant for film or ubiquitous indie support now for games, that have figured out how to make this work in the new DIY reality.

Duplass’s whole keynote is so spot-on, and it’s refreshing to hear someone actually doing it on the filmmaking side say how it is today, especially for indies, straight-up. The future is now. It has good and bad news. The bad news is the old models are dead, and many will still think they’re alive for decades, trying to resuscitate it all with shock paddles, struggling every step of that way. The good news is, you are the calvary now. Adjust accordingly.


www.xanderdavis.com
@XanderDavisLive
IMDb / LinkedIn

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