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Monday, February 9, 2015

Far Side of the Moon Animation

far side moon

This is a creative animation showing the far side of the Moon.

This may not seem like a big deal - after all, the Moon is always up there, right? - but in fact it is a very big deal.

Nobody in human history who died before 1959 saw anything like this, because that is when the Soviet Luna 3 probe, which swung around the Moon in October, 1959, first sent back pictures of it.

Contrary to anything that Pink Floyd may tell you, the far side of moon is not 'dark,' any more than the side facing us is. The earth's gravitation long ago corralled the moon into keeping the same side facing the earth throughout its rotation. While we can't see it, the far side goes through a complete cycle of lunar phases, just the reverse of the ones that we see.

If you look at the pictures, you might note that the terrain of the far side is quite different than what we see when we look up. For instance, it lacks the large dark spots, called maria, that make up the familiar blotchy lunar landscape. The craters are all spread out on the far side. There is a distinctive area, the the South Pole-Aitken basin, visible here as a slightly darker bruise covering the bottom third of the disk. It is one of the oldest features known to exist in the entire solar system.

The Apollo 8 astronauts who first saw this landscape without the aid of cameras in their epic Christmas flight of 1968 created one of the most indelible moments of the entire space age with their expressions of awe and delight. Since then, only a couple dozen other human beings have ever seen it unaided on the subsequent Apollo flights, and nobody at all has seen it in well over forty years. When you ponder time frames like that - there still are no concrete plans to send anyone out of low earth orbit, though there is lots of talk - the magnitude of this type of view comes into focus.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched a few years ago, and since then it has returned hundreds of terabytes of data. Its data was used to create the imagery seen here.

far side moon

Animation is becoming increasingly important in space exploration - there is so much raw data sent back these days from probes that sorting it and presenting it in a useable fashion is a huge and vitally important job, else it just sits on a hard drive somewhere. The quality has improved tremendously in just the past few years, too. Look for more videos of this sort on increasingly remote celestial objects.

I love this stuff. All credit to the men who put it together.

Visualization Credits:

Ernie Wright (USRA), Lead Animator
David Ladd (USRA), Producer
John Keller (NASA/GSFC), Scientist
Noah Petro (ORAU), Scientist


Friday, February 6, 2015

"I Miss You" - for cat lovers

This is just a fun little riff on Star Wars. The title is "I Miss You."

Cat lovers should appreciate it!


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Taiwan TransAsia Airplane Crash 3 February 2015

Below is the original footage from a dashcam - a wondrous invention, btw, serving up much more interesting footage than the gopro ever will.

Very sad, many people lost their lives.

At least 25 people were killed Wednesday when a passenger plane operated by TransAsia Airways carrying 58 people clipped a taxi driving on the highway and an overpass soon after take-off and plunged into a river in Taiwan,. The plane barely evaded some residential buildings. The pilots did a truly heroic job avoiding a true residential Armageddon by getting the plane into the river.

Rescue workers had difficulty getting to the site quickly despite it being in the middle of town. Some reports said that it took three hours to really get the full-scale rescue operation working properly, though no doubt some rescue workers arrived much earlier, perhaps within minutes.

A crane lifted the rear and central sections of the plane from the water during the night after the crash, with one body retrieved from inside.The front part, where 17 people are believed to be trapped, was still in the water a day later.

TransAsia said 16 survivors had been pulled out of the wreckage after the turboprop plane crashed. Many of the passengers were mainland Chinese tourists. It was the airline's second crash in seven months.

And below is an animation which includes the next step, the plane crashing into the river.


Monday, February 2, 2015

How to Train Your Dragon 2 Wins Top Annie

How to Train Your Dragon 2

'How to Train Your Dragon 2' from DreamWorks Animation took the Best Animated Feature award at the 42nd Annie Awards in Los Angeles. In addition, Dean DeBlois won for his direction, and the film also picked up awards for feature character design, storyboarding and music.

How to Train Your Dragon 2
'The Lego Movie'

'The Lego Movie,' which has had a mixed history this awards season (it won the Critics Choice Award but was not even nominated for the top animation Oscar), won a writing award. Sir Ben Kingsley was recognised for his voice work in 'The Boxtrolls,' which along with 'How to Train Your Dragon 2' is up for a Best Animated Feature Oscar.

'The Boxtrolls'

The betting here is that one of those two films - 'The Boxtrolls' and 'How to Train Your Dragon 2' - will win the Best Animated Feature Oscar. The animation in both is superior, while I personally would give the slight edge to 'Dragon' for its (in  my very humble opinion) better story.


'Feast,' the Disney short film that shows before 'Big Hero 6' in cinemas, nabbed the Best Animated Short Subject Annie. It now must be considered, if it wasn't already, the clear front-runner for the Oscar in the Short category.

The UK's Aardman Animations film 'Flight of the Stories,' a short film it made to mark the opening of new galleries at London's Imperial War Museum, also was recognized.

'How to Train Your Dragon 2' is based on a book series by British author . It chronicles the adventures of young Viking Hiccup and his pert dragon Toothless as they battle against various enemies.

How to Train Your Dragon 2

'How to Train Your Dragon 2' also must now be considered the front-runner for the Best Animated Feature Oscar, as it also won the Golden Globe for best animated feature and is up for the same award at the Baftas.

Incidentally, this may become a rare case of the sequel out-performing the original. The first 'How to Train Your Dragon' was named best animated feature at the 2011 Annies, but later lost out at the Oscars to 'Toy Story 3.' This Annie award also helps to keep 2014 from being a complete disaster for DreamWorks Animation, which has had a few box office disappointments in recent years. Although 'Dragon 2' had an indifferent start at the domestic box office, it performed well overseas and could gain some more legs from home sales if it does indeed win the Oscar.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

'The Lego Movie' Strikes Back, Wins Critics Choice Award

The Lego Movie Critics Choice Awards

Right after being passed over for an Academy Award nomination in the animated feature film category, 'The LEGO Movie' gave it's creators a consolation prize. The film took home the gold at the 2015 Critics Choice Awards .

Co-director Chris Miller, referencing the Oscars snub, noted, “What a roller coaster of emotions today has been.”

The other nominees were:
  • Big Hero 6, 
  • The Book of Life, 
  • The Boxtrolls, and 
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2
The Critics Choice Awards was hosted by Michael Strahan at the Hollywood Palladium. It happens every year and the ceremony was broadcast live on the A&E network for its 20th anniversary year.


Friday, January 16, 2015

2015 Animation Oscar Nominations

2015 Oscar nominations

The animation Oscar nominations for 2015 are in, and they contain some surprises. I predicted that Irish eyes would be smiling at Oscar time, but for another movie than will be under consideration (omitted was animated short "Coda," which shockingly wasn't even nominated). In any event, these nominations still show that Ireland is moving forward steadily in the world of animation.

2015 Oscar nominations

Best Animated Feature

Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How To Train Your Dragon 2
Song Of The Sea
The Tale Of Princess Kaguya

Four out of the five nominations for Best Animated Feature were on pretty much everybody's list. The interloper is "Song of the Sea," produced in Ireland, which is becoming a hotbed of animation talent. Tomm Moore of Big Farm is the director/writer of this charming feature which has Brendan Gleeson and Fionnula Flanagan playing the leads. It is an engaging play on Celtic mythology that follows on cult favorite "The Secret of Kells" (2009), also by Mr. Moore among others.

Naturally, everybody is talking about the omission of "The Lego Movie." On a financial basis that film swamped "The Song of the Sea," but, let's face it, "The Lego Movie" was just another toy movie made by insanely creative people. Toy movies like "The Lego Movie" or "The Smurfs" or what have you that, no matter how good, seem like nothing but giant product placements have trouble with the Academy voters. Also, the big studio films weren't all so wonderful that they could crowd out some very charming smaller films, and the bombastic "The Lego Movie" was the odd man out. It also probably didn't help that "The Lego Movie" came out very early in the year, unlike all the others.

2015 Oscar nominations

As for the others, "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya" is an awesomely beautiful film and also a sentimental choice because of Studio Ghibli is winding down. "How to Train Your Dragon 2" from DreamWorks Animation has awesome animation, though the story is nothing special as it is a sequel, after all (the only sequel nominated). "Big Hero 6," well, you knew they weren't going to leave Disney out, but it is just an average Disney film (meaning very good work, but, let's face it, an average Pixar film would have beaten it). The real sleeper nominee, and the one that might just run off with the whole thing in a wide-open field, is "The Boxtrolls," which has superior stop motion animation and a charming plot that wisely focuses heavily on the animation, not the actual (rather pedestrian) story.

"The Lego Movie" did earn a nomination for its original song "Everything is Awesome" by Shawn Patterson, which must be cold comfort to the filmmakers.

Very, very tough to call this category this year. "The Boxtrolls" would be my choice.

2015 Oscar nominations

Best Animated Short

“The Bigger Picture” 
“The Dam Keeper” 
“Me And My Moulton” 
“A Single Life”

The Best Animated Short category was full of surprises. The only real favorite to get a nomination was Disney's 'Feast,' which has superior animation in its role as lead-in to 'Big Hero 6.' The animators really worked hard on this one, getting the shadows just right in a difficult setting.

The shocker aside from 'Coda's' omission is that 'Duet' did not get a nod either. 'Duet' had sparkling animation from Disney veteran Glen Keane, who won for 'Paperman' a few years ago. That may have hurt him, along with the fact that the animation, great as it was, could have struck some voters as more of an exercise in animation than an actual mini-movie.

As for the other nominees, it's basically pick'em. 'Feast' may win simply because I doubt 'Big Hero 6' will in the feature film category, and the voters may want to, er, throw Disney a bone. But this is one year that very few people watching, in or out of the industry, are going to nod their heads when they announce the award and go, 'Eh, I knew it all along, that was so obvious.'

So, the bottom line again is that Irish eyes certainly could be smiling on Oscars night - only for a different film than I thought. And that ain't too shabby for the animators in Ireland, to produce two quality films in one year like that.


Friday, January 2, 2015

Walt Disney: It's a Snap!

Walt Disney

Every so often, for absolutely no reason at all, I post a few little-seen shots of the animation master, Walt Disney.

Above, Walt Disney serves as the Grand Marshal at the 1966 Rose Bowl Parade, accompanied by Mickey, some elves, and a pretty smooth ride. Could you imagine Walt Disney himself appearing, open limousine, fearless and greeting his fans? That's just a fabulous occurrence right there.

Walt is glad you came, and wants to preserve the memory with his Instamatic!

Walt Disney

Below, Walt shows that all this animation business is simply a snap! And he's off to take care of business.

Walt Disney