What Google Has Up Its Sleeve

A few days ago, I was in a small lecture room at Ravensbourne College talking with some 3rd year students about business models in the animation industry, and how they affect the commissioning process for animated television series.

We looked at the difficult challenges facing entrepreneurial animators who want to promote and sell their projects through the current Cartoon Forum marketplace, as well as discussing the hurdles that must be overcome to approach local and national broadcasters.

Pretty soon our discussion had to embrace a new reality that will probably impact more on the future marketing of ideas and concepts in animation than any of the large, and let’s admit it: cumbersome and expensive commissioning methods that exist today.

It’s called: YouTube

From the point of view of the soon-to-graduate animation students, YouTube offers a fantastic new channel for promoting and marketing animation ideas, and at extremely low cost with almost zero bureaucracy.

We looked at some podcasts by the industry mavens who gave their keynote addresses at MipCom 2006 and were struck by the rabbit-in-the-headlights expressions of fear on their faces as they described the changes that have been buffeting the television broadcast industry in the past couple of years.

What does this have to do with Google?

Google owns YouTube, and Google has been laying down some serious money recently.

John Naughton has written a piece in today’s Business Observer that hints at what Google might be up to:

PBS columnist Robert Cringely reports a recent conversation in which a bandwidth broker – someone who buys and sells bandwidth on fibre-optic networks around the world – told him that Google now controlled more network fibre than any other organisation on the planet.

Second, Google has been building large numbers of data centres – ‘server farms’ with tens of thousands of computers in each – and locating them all over the US and elsewhere in the world. The company is very secretive about this for reasons of security, which is fair enough. But people have begun to notice that some of these distributed data centres are situated near electrical power-generation plants.

Naughton continues:

So we have two curious facts: Google has acquired fabulous amounts of bandwidth capacity, for which it has no obvious use; and it’s putting local data centres all over the place. Why would it be doing this? What’s the factor that links these two observations?

The answer is simple: video. You may have noticed in the last six months how YouTube has transformed computers into a natural platform for watching video. And this is just the beginning. We’re moving towards a world in which a significant amount of television programming will be delivered via the internet. Indeed, you could say that we’re almost there already: it’s been estimated, for example, that half of all internet traffic is now generated by BitTorrent, a file-sharing application that is being used mainly to transfer video files (many of them illicit) over the network.

But BitTorrent is a minority sport. Most people have never heard of it. What will happen, however, when getting hold of video via the net becomes a mainstream activity?

The answer is that the network, in its current form, won’t be able to cope. And that’s before high-definition television – which is even more of a bandwidth hog – becomes commonplace. The obvious solution to the problem would be to have an infrastructure that consisted of tens of thousands of localised data centres (which could cache video content), linked by high-speed fibre-optic channels.

Any company which had built such an infrastructure could effectively dictate its own terms, because only it could deliver what consumers had learned to crave. Such a company would, in effect, control the world.

If that comes about, we will have been well and truly Googled.

It’s interesting to see how Naughton ends on this note of fear, because for the Ravensbourne animation students at least, there is a huge new horizon of creative and business opportunity opening up like a newly discovered continent before them.

They might be a bit awed by the prospect, but they know that they won’t be owned by it.

The Last Word on Peter Ellenshaw

The BBC Radio 4 weekly obituary programme, The Last Word, aired a 5 minute tribute to the late visual effects artist Peter Ellenshaw today.

Peter Ellenshaw
(Click to enlarge)

Born in Essex, he (Ellenshaw) worked as a mechanic and painted as a hobby before going on to train as a matte artist – a special effects technique which involved painting on plates of glass that were then placed in front of the camera during filming to create dramatic panoramas. Peter got an oscar for his work on Mary Poppins and during a long career with Walt Disney he worked on dozens of films including Treasure Island, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Swiss Family Robinson.

You can hear the broadcast here for a week after transmission. (The tribute to Ellenshaw starts at 9 minutes 3 seconds into the programme.)

Link to The Ellenshaw family website.


Peter Ellenshaw was born on the 24th of May 1913. He died on the 12th of February 2007.
He was responsible for a lot of the Magic in Disney’s live action films.
Continue reading The Last Word on Peter Ellenshaw

Mike Nguyen

Way back in May of last year, I wrote a short post about July Films, and their feature film “My Little World”, directed by Mike Nguyen.

New Blog.

Mike Nguyen

Mike writes: “i’ve just made a new personal website where i can speak my mind on all things random toward life and art from my perspective…”

My Little World
From the July Films Gallery section.

Mike Nguyen as a boy

Mike declares:”There is always a need in me to retreat to the “Home” deep within the self, away from the outward world. I treasured simplicity, quietness, peaceful existence” ¦; for these reasons, I’m in constant search for harmony toward the world around me, sometimes by means of stepping away from of its paths.”

Here’s the link.

Today is John Frum Day

On 15 February, 1957, an American flag was raised in Sulphur Bay to declare the religion of John Frum.

Sidle over to the BBC’s excellent Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy website (H2G2) and read why this is such a special day.

What is not mentioned on the page is the origin of John Frum’s name. I heard long ago from an anthropology student who had been working in PNG, that when American GI s were new to the islands they always introduced themselves as “John, from… “Idaho, Texas, or wherever, and were thus collectively known as John Frum.

Weirdly, the Wikipedia page on John Frum states that:

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, is also worshipped in Vanuatu by cargo cult followers, the Prince Philip Movement. He is regarded as the head of the cargo suppliers.

There’s a fabulous quote at the end of this post in The Smithsonian magazine:

When I ask what he most wants from America, the simplicity of his request moves me: “A 25-horsepower outboard motor for the village boat. Then we can catch much fish in the sea and sell them in the market so that my people can have a better life.”

As we look down into John Frum’s fiery Tanna home, I remind him that not only does he not have an outboard motor from America, but that all the devotees’ other prayers have been, so far, in vain.

“John promised you much cargo more than 60 years ago, and none has come,” I point out. “So why do you keep faith with him? Why do you still believe in him?”

Chief Isaac shoots me an amused look. “You Christians have been waiting 2,000 years for Jesus to return to earth,” he says, “and you haven’t given up hope.”

I always put Cargo Cult as my religion when it’s required by official forms.

(Thanks Paul!)

L’Âge D’Or

It’s always a pleasure to walk towards my studio. Often the nearby bamboos will project a shimmering, almost three dimensional lightshow onto the large door.

thumbnail of Shadow Play
Shadow Play

I make an effort to concentrate on the flickering patterns dancing in front of me. It’s not enough to merely see these things. We have to look. To pay attention. To get close in.

thumbnail of Light Show
Light Show

The door is painted shocking pink on the inside. It’s a stable door that can have the top half open while the lower half of the door stays closed, to keep the mice out.

thumbnail of Maple leaf

One of my daughters placed the maple leaf on the inside ledge of the door.
Blooming little aesthete, that one.

Luc Desmarchelier

Great news! At last my friend and colleague Luc Desmarchelier has launched his own blog.
Actually, he’s already been at it for a couple of months now, but since he posted a comment about it here a couple of days back, I feel it’s fine to announce it to the rest of the world.

(Click on the thumbnails to enlarge)

Luc is a concept artist / visual development artist for feature films who (I believe) is currently working for Sony Pictures, in bleak Culver City, L.A.

I first met Luc on the crew of Balto, at Universal / Amblimation in bleak Acton, West London.
You can see some pictures of Luc at work during the production of Balto, on Hans Bacher’s blog, “It’s A Wrap”. Link 1 and Link 2.

Curious George
Curious George 2003

Cats Colour sketch, 1995

Aloes. Personal work, Watercolour

Redwood forest in Big Sur. Acrylic sketch.

Dead Town
Visual development work for The Corpse Bride, 2003

Acrylic colour sketch for Dreamworks 2003

Wave Burst
A gouache from 1993

Luc’s blog is called Ushuaia, after the southernmost town in the world, in Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego.

The Rat Magically Reappears

TADAAAH! UPDATE 2 He’s reappeared on YouTube!
It looks as if this is an officialy approved release this time, so it might just stay up.

There’s a link to the trailer website in the profile of the poster, Ratatouillemovie.

UPDATE! It looks as if the rat has magically disappeared! I hope you had the chance to enjoy it! I learned a lot about the use of holds in the short time that he was visible.

This little piece of rough animation dates from April 2005. It doesn’t look very rough to me. I’d say it looked rather polished. But there again; I’m ignorant. :) That just has to be Django Reinhardt on the music track, No?

( Thanks to Tim, who made this piece public once again. )