Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Custom Merchandise Design - Playing Cards, Stickers, Badges and Shirts

We have done a lot of commissioned shirt, sign and sticker designs. But this picture shows something different again.

Custom Playing Cards. These are from our Heavy Metal Garage Drinking Game...

We can be contacted at Art & Technology

Monday, April 20, 2015

Topgear, Crap Cars, Middle Aged Men, the Road Trip, Cartoons and a d20

Some of the funniest Topgear has been when the guys get crap old cars, and go on a cross country Road Trip.  Crap Supercars, Old English Rubbish, and even Topgear USA's most dangerous American cars Road Trip were all very entertaining.

Part of what makes them funny are the driver personalities in sync with the foibles of the crap car they are trying to cope with.  It is all lighting in a bottle though, and only a few of such episodes have been really side splitting.

Deep Purple's Black Night starts as James put the boot into the black Lambo for a fast lap... and the car just pees all over the track and doesn't go any where......    Jeremy disappears into a cloud of tire smoke as the Yellow Heap of British Engineering can not make it up the incline to get to the hill start test.... 

And then this type of thing:
"Koenigsegg are saying that the CCX is more comfortable. More comfortable than what... being stabbed?"
"Owning a TVR in the past was like owning a bear. I mean it was great, until it pulled your head off, which it would."
"That Zonda, really! It's like a lion in orange dungarees. Kind of fierce, but ridiculous all at the same time."
This is the thing you have to remember, Alfa build a car to be as good as a car can be... briefly.
I will miss the old Jeremy Clarkson Topgear, that is no more...  

We have tried on occasion to capture the funny in the car relationship.  Part of the attraction of caricature and cartooning.

The exaggeration and play on words..

And some of it is just guy stuff..

And in our ongoing voyage of discovery, to explore new worlds and boldly go...,  we are experimenting with different uses of our cartooning and templates we set up for the now completed Heavy Metal Garage Drinking Game.  We have found using card sleeves make prototyping of this straight forward.  Card Stock, Screen Board and all the usual things we do our illustration work with all helps too.

In the last few days we have applied this Heavy Metal Garage ROADTRIP  scenario to the dungeon crawl d20 D&D board game system to make a prototype board game.

Now we hadn't had any experience with RPGs at all, not even at university , but there is so much stuff out there on the d20 that applying it has just required a bit of Googling. Our last 5 months of trying various modern board and card games has also helped. Ahhh, the cartoon joke dungeon of Munchkin, the style and beauty of Tokaido and Tsuro, the tiles and strategy of  Forbidden Island, appeal more than Nemos War or such strategy game.

A single 20 sided dice actually makes things simple and controllable. This prototype is still using the D&D terms AC, HP, ATTACK and DAMAGE, but the reality is these are just SKILL, HEALTH, DURABILITY and GREASE MONKEYness in this setting.

"So there I was, 20 miles out of the last town and the bloody engine catches fire!So we pulled to the side of the road, and because the hamburger I had made me sick, it took 3 attempts to put the fire out, and it caused a bit of damage.  
Something I'll have to do something about when I get to the next town, which I'll have to limp to..... hope I don't get another flat tire, or the oil leak gets worse."
This came out of one of the tests I just did.... which is what we want. The further you go, the more stuff will go wrong with the car that needs to be fixed to keep it on the road.  At towns you can get better help, food and parts. Some of that will help. Some will not.  So it has EVENT CARDS and TOWN CARDS, and towns are set up randomly along the route at set up.

Just needs to be funnier and somehow presented via more cartoons or prose...  and at the same time simpler to manage.  Keeping track of Damage and Hit Points isn't hard, but really all too geeky.  I'm just as happy with having an interesting story and little strategy, but gamers aren't like that.
There is a 1001 Arabian Nights board game that comes with a 300 page book with almost 2,000 numbered story paragraphs referenced from the game system.  This actually tells stories, but you have little control over anything. A booklet with comic strips may help, but be a huge task to complete and not practical.

May go play in the world of Computer Music or cartooning for a while and see what I think of it all when I come back.

We can be contacted at Art & Technology.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The THX Surround Logo Sound - Computer Music for the Masses

The THX Surround Logo Sound must be about the most famous piece of Computer Music.  An audio segment that has an algorithmic score driving code defined audio generating subsystem producing 30 oscillators in this piece. It is cool and also very short, something most such music doesn't share.

It was done my Dr. James Andy Moorer on the Lucas Film SoundDroid ASP Processor in late 1982. A massively expensive and fast chuck of digital hardware driven from a Unix Sun Workstation,  all very dead and gone in 2015.

Before that he was very much involved with Academic Computer Music.

This world is something I also got involved with while I was at Fairlight Instruments, (where I mostly designed the expensive digital audio hardware and

embedded computer systems) and continued with at Roland Japan where I also attended the International Computer Music Conferences for a decade or so.

The Computer Music Journal from MIT is also still a central forum for this world. Dr. Moorer published a number of papers in this over the years.

I developed related Computer Music style Audio Generation Systems controlling similar DSP base hardware at Roland. So I was rather involved with it all, unusual interactive controllers, Smalltalk, hand coded unit generators running on DSPs, real-time midi control, Algorithmic Composition, Synthesis and Signal Generation, the full 9 yards.

Visually Programmed Digital Modular Synthesiser Demo 1990
So it was with a sense of nostalgia and glee that I read that Dr Moorer has recreated the THX logo code on a Dell Laptop in the last few months.  What was once  hugely difficult and expensive can now run in real-time on any old laptop.  With the right code and idea.   I also love that Dr Moore plays the Banjo.

And what really made me pay attention is that this THX sound has also been recreated in SuperCollider with code here by Batuhan Bozkurt in Turkey.

And after downloading SuperCollider, working out how to get it to work under XP  (you need to start scsynth.exe before the environment from a DOS command prompt), I now have a modern Computer Music Environment up and running.

And by Modern Computer Music Environment, I mean very similar to the Smalltalk based code I used 25 years ago!  Computer Music has come a long way, but really doesn't seem to have changed.

But I haven't read an issue of The Computer Music Journal for over 10 years, so I'm not really that up to date, but the examples and demos in the SuperCollider system are all very familiar and very old school.

Now, I have a project studio and do your more traditional playing and production

using Reaper, and you can hear that here:  Megacurve on SoundCloud but having SuperCollider up and running may add some new sounds and effects you don't get in the traditional DAW studio.

We do freelance technical development, illustration and a few other things. We can be contacted at Art & Technology 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sketch to One Colour Custom 4x4 Vector T-Shirt Design

Here are a couple of work in progress images of going from a sketch to a vector cartoon image.
We draw the original sketch in pencil on paper. In standard pencil in this case. If we are inking the paper sketch, we use a Blue pencil so it doesn't need to be erased. 

In this case the sketch is converted to a blue color in Photoshop, saved as a jpeg at 200dpi, then brought into Corel Draw as a reference layer.  We make it blue, as the lines we make in Corel are black, and it makes it all easier to see our work.

We make shapes and lines, weld some things together, and at other times subtract one from another to get the lines and fill objects we are after.

It has a very clean line, but organic look, which is actually not easy to get in a vector design! In this case we get a Black on White Design for silk screening and business use.

A one color design is the easiest to apply for a small business.  It ends up being two colors when applied to a background of another color. The color doesn't have to be black, and the shirt doesn't have to be white. Once the stencil is made, it can be used to produce different color combinations.

We can be contacted at Art & Technology

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Battle with Image SEO and Scrapper sites

A little on maintaining our website and its coding..

We do, along with some other things,  freelance cartooning, graphic design and car/ truck/ bike/ race team logos and illustrations and have found being in the first page of Google Image search makes a different to how many enquires we get in any period when Google isn't changing their search algorithms.

We are always top in the none paid Web Search, (probably dependant on which country you are searching from) but often drop down in Image search.  This has often been because of scrapper sites, that collect web content and host it on pages covered with  Adsense advertising. They contribute nothing, but take others work to make click traps. These places may have 1000s of webpages and sites all linked which makes them look like a quality source to the dumb Google Algorithms for page rank.  

A skimmer site stealing my content and hosting it on their site

Another Skimmer site with some of my go-kart images I was recently told about by email:

Another stealing skimmer claiming images are copyright free

For over 12 months a few years ago, we almost completely dropped out of Google Image search altogether. That was a quiet time.

Limited color shirt design samples
Was a bigger problem before we water marked all our stuff so that you could find the original source, but it still causes the problem in that nobody can bother to find you!

Originally thought part of the problem was that Google's bot didn't handle the html "alt" text on images correctly.  Also if you used small thumbnail images to make the page lighter to download, these didn't show up in Image search, and neither did the larger images they linked too.

All things you have to learn by trial and error. This takes time to sort out.

Now with Google enforcing Mobile support, they have changed their algorithm again, and this is helping the skimmer sites rank higher than the source material again!

Sometimes it feels all too hard for a small business to keep up, and there must be a better way..

We can be contacted at Art & Technology

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Your Friendly Neighbourhood Birman Cat

Neighbour a few houses away had a Birman Cat. We knew this when she started coming around to visit. It didn't take long before she decided she liked us, and then dropped in often. Not to get anything to eat, but she just enjoyed our company.  We also had some really good places to get the sun in our small enclosed back courtyard, and she loved getting in the long grass. All fun times.

A Birman is described as a "dog like" cat. When she saw us she would come running up to greet us . She also liked to play, and was nothing like any of the two cats my family had when I was much younger. This Birman was a small furry person with wonderful blue eyes.  "Seal point" describes her coloring.

When she was passing the house, she would drop in, call us to our back door, explain something to us, then go on her way. Her version of having a short chat over the fence.

She had an incredible range of expressions. The one above is of disdain, but she could also be so bright, and wide eyed happy to greet us.  NOT to get food, but just to see us, like "OMG how wonderful to see you again!".

We have done a few cartoons of her, and have now put just two designs in our Zazzle store, the Birman Cat Items  .

Contact us at Art & Technology