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January 19, 2017 11:01:47

The recent release of Rogue One (2016), has sparked an unexpected controversy. The film features Peter Cushing, a familiar face from the original Star Wars: IV A New Hope (1977), reprising his role as Grand Moff Tarkin.

Cushing appears in new scenes and interacts with fresh characters, despite having died in 1994. More than 20 years later, an actor has been digitally resurrected.

Responses have been mixed, to say the least. Some hate the digital version of Cushing because they perceive it to be artificial and distracting. Others have ethical concerns about the use of a deceased actor’s image (although Cushing’s estate gave permission for this). Other viewers just assumed they were watching a live actor.

As a visual effects artist, I found the work in Rogue One impressive but not totally convincing. There is still, for me at least, an element of the uncanny valley, that oddly disconcerting gap between the artificial and the real that is yet to be completely overcome in this area. If the computer generated (CG) version of Cushing had been used more sparingly the audience would have had less time to study every detail and search for flaws. (Of course, those of us who knew Cushing was dead seem to have been the only ones distracted.)

The CG version of young Princess Leia in Rogue One was altogether more successful with audiences, though I confess to finding her smooth-skinned youthful face less believably real than digital Cushing’s craggy visage. The acceptance of CG Leia was likely due to the character’s limited screen time – before you had time to fully process what you were seeing the scene was over. Fisher herself is said to have approved of the move. Since her death, however, Disney has emphasised that it will not be creating a digital Leia for future episodes.

Regardless of the success or otherwise of these examples, I suspect we are very close to a genuinely believable CG actor who will fool even experienced professionals. As an artist I find the prospect exciting, though as a human being I have twinges of concern that the technology may not always be used wisely.

Indeed the ability to digitally replicate actors as photoreal versions of themselves at any age is a tool of such powerful storytelling potential that regardless of public opinion, directors will demand the technology be continually improved.

This has been a long time coming. For at least 15 years, there have been various attempts at recreating photoreal digital versions of living actors.

The efforts range from the ridiculous – such as when Dwayne Johnson’s likeness was mangled to create the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns (2001) – to a digitally rejuvenated Arnold Schwarzenegger who first appeared in Terminator Salvation (2009), before various versions of Arnold at different ages appeared in Terminator Genisys (2015).

Robert Zemeckis, with his trilogy of motion captured CG films, The Polar Express (2004), Beowulf (2007) and A Christmas Carol (2009), has arguably done more than any single director to push the boundaries of fully CG digital actors.

The characters from these films are oddly unnerving to watch and more than one commentator has called them “creepy“. However, they represent key moments in the development of an emerging technology.

Digital scans and body doubles

A more common current use for digital doubles is to portray living actors in situations of great danger. There are a couple of options in this scenario. One is an entirely digital character created from a full body scan of the actor. The other option is to digitally paste an actor’s face onto the body of a stunt performer.

Disney has recently denied a rumour that for the next Avengers film it plans to paste Benedict Cumberbatch’s face on to a body double to facilitate shooting around his busy schedule.

However, it is very likely that Cumberbatch will shoot close-ups for performance when he is available and digitally altered body double shots will be used for his action sequences. Extensive digital doubles were already used for Doctor Strange (2016) so there is no reason to assume Disney is about to change its working methodology.

Less well known is the use of this technology for “beautification”. Body doubles for nude scenes have been used in Hollywood for decades. Now, an actor’s face can be pasted right on top of the body double for a seamless effect, though no actor wants to admit to it and visual effects companies are required to sign non-disclosure agreements.

It is generally only when things go terribly wrong – such as when viewers noticed obvious signs that Lena Headey’s nude Game of Thrones Walk of Shame involved Headey’s face pasted on to another actress’s body – that it’s noticed.

There is an evolving debate about the ethics of actors being made to appear younger or more attractive. However the “person” on screen has always been a fictional character that has only ever been partially brought to life by a performer. Makeup, wardrobe, lighting, all contribute significantly to their look. Digital effects are just one more tool giving filmmakers added flexibility in the depiction of the character.

Digitally archiving for beauty

It is now standard practice for any up and coming young actor who draws the attention of a major studio to have a full body scan completed so that there will always be a digitally archived version of them in their “prime”.

These archives can be accessed for dangerous stunt work, or in the case of unexpected injury or death that may prevent the actor from completing filming, such as when Paul Walker died before completing Furious 7.

However it is becoming more common for scans such as these to be used as the basis for beauty work.

Harrison Ford famously refused to dye his hair for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) and again for Star Wars: the Force Awakens (2015). However, not all actors may have the confidence or the industry clout to resist when there is a digitally perfect version of their 25- or 30-year-old self readily available to be used.

Peter Allen is a lecturer in Film and Television in the Victorian College of the Arts at the University of Melbourne.

Originally published in The Conversation.






First posted

January 19, 2017 10:55:09


January 19, 2017 09:43:36

It wouldn’t be a shiny new year without shiny new marketing strategies and advertisements, particularly from older companies desperately attempting to stay relevant.

After all, nothing appeals to the youth of today more than a company full of wealthy, middle-aged men shouting about Snapchat filters.

Just last week we heard that Hasbro was allowing fans to vote online for new Monopoly tokens, which could see the new edition of the game contain not only the classic boot and Scotty dog, but a tiny jetski or even — god help us — a hashtag.

That won’t ever seem outdated, right kids? #KillMeNow

Now, lolly brand Allen’s is running a similar promotion, albeit a slightly less cringe-worthy one (no hashtags in sight), in which the public can vote on which classic sweet — black cats, teeth or strawberries and cream — will be “remixed”.

It’s worth noting this competition is only open to voters aged 15 years and over, because children’s opinions are notoriously horrible and should never be considered, especially when it comes to the confectionery they consume regularly.

Allen’s have poured their blood, sweat and tears (figuratively, hopefully) into the three remixed sweets on which people can vote: a bruise-coloured lump that is supposedly chocolate and cream, new flavours for the classic lolly teeth to match the dental health of Australians (such as pineapple-mint) and lastly, a ginger cat highlighting the continual anti-dog discrimination that occurs within the sugar industry.

I know what you’re thinking … these are disappointing choices.

(Also yes, you did leave the iron on, and the perfume you got for Christmas does smell suspiciously similar to bathroom spray.)

But also: where’s the Aussie vibe? I propose we remix the remixes and add the following modern flavours to the pick ‘n’ mix.

Deconstructed raspberries

Ask any child what their favourite lolly flavour is and most will scream “RED!” without foolishly realising that red is not a flavour.

No wonder they don’t let kids vote in these very important competitions.

Still, this love of rouge makes raspberry sweets the most sought-after in a mixed bag. Why not give this popular treat a modern touch and serve it deconstructed?

A small bag containing glucose syrup, cane sugar, gelatine and thickening agents just screams ‘modern cuisine’.

Halal Snack Pack

This delicious combination of meat, cheese and chippies isn’t new to a lot of Australians but it certainly became even more popular last year after Labor Senator Sam Dastyari invited Pauline Hanson out for a meal.

Who doesn’t love a HSP?

As it turns out, Pauline Hanson: in the end she declined Dastyari’s invitation to share one. Oh well, more for us!

Almond milk bottles

These tiny white lollies are a staple in any mixed lolly bag and contain just as much calcium and Vitamin D as a glass of milk! (Please do not quote me on this.)

Let’s move the milk bottle into 2017 by making it dairy-free, and three times the price the old version.

Vape sticks

Remember when the cigarette-shaped sweet treats FAGS were rebranded as FADS? Me neither, I am in my twenties.

Anyway, smoking isn’t trendy anymore and e-cigarettes (or vape pens, as the kids call them) are growing in popularity. Let’s encourage our children to vape by providing tiny silver sweets in their lolly bags.

Nothing can possibly go wrong with this idea.

Dessert combination lollipops

The dessert industry is full of zany renegades always looking to out-do their competitors.

If you were impressed by the cronut, you’ll just die when you taste the new milkshake-donut-creme-brulee-ice-cream mash-up treat, entirely covered in hazelnut spread and perched atop a tiny lollipop stick!

Not for the faint-hearted, or those prone to spillage.

Garlic bread gummies

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this week, or paying attention to less-important news (Trump’s inauguration? Boring!) you’d be aware that Australia is currently in the grips of an extreme garlic bread shortage — or GBS as it will be known in the history books, listed alongside other tragedies.

Never fear, garlic-loving friends, a lolly can be manufactured in the shape of a loaf of the beautiful bread we all know and love.

It will not provide us with the same amount of joy, but it will tide us over until this heartbreaking shortage ends.








First posted

January 19, 2017 09:34:45


January 18, 2017 17:46:23

A clown couple visiting Australia with their colourful act believe people need laughter now, more than ever.

Seth Bloom and Christina Gelsone have brought their show Air Play to the State Theatre in Melbourne.

It features the pair inside giant balloons and “air sculpting” — the art of manipulating fabrics and confetti using air.

While the show is apolitical, Bloom said the New Yorkers could not avoid questions about the soon-to-be inaugurated US President-elect, Donald Trump.

“This show was built in an Obama world, when people liked to laugh and see things that were beautiful, so that’s the spirit we take forward with us,” he joked.

“If we’d made this in the Trump world, it might be even cheekier.”

Gelsone said the world needed clowns in times of turmoil.

“During the Great Depression of the 1930s, comedy just found its wings and flew because people needed a way to get out,” she said.

“And I think that during this recession that’s been happening since 2008 and where politics are going, people just want to come out and be together as a family, and laugh and have a good time and forget about things, be inspired by something.”

Their show is wordless, allowing them to tour globally.

Bloom described it as a “visual poem to childhood”.

“We like to think of making shows for adults that kids can come to, rather than making shows for kids that adults have to tag along for,” he said.

“So we always think about the adults first and know that the kids will be there and we work our comedy from there.”

Needing to adapt as public tastes change

Bloom trained as a clown with the famous Ringling Brothers Circus, which just days ago announced it was closing after 146 years.

The company cited declining attendance figures and high operating costs, raising questions about the future of the traditional circuses.

“Ringling Brothers especially brought spectacle to America,” Bloom said.

“Big tent shows, 15,000 people, things you’d never seen before, acrobats, elephants, lions — nowadays you can see that on YouTube, you can see it on National Geographic and I think people are interested in a different kind of spectacle.”

He said it was sad to see the change in public tastes.

“We have to adapt … circus is moving much more into theatres and out of tents and I think people want more closer intimate experiences,” Bloom said.

But Gelsone said she is confident there is still a future for circus arts.

“You might have to squint a little bit to see it, it’ll change it’s form, you might not recognise it as circus but it’ll still be around,” she said.




First posted

January 18, 2017 17:37:41


January 18, 2017 14:02:34

The son of Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood could be slapped with a fine after taking the plunge at a notorious cliff diving spot south of Sydney.

Scott Eastwood, 30, made a splash on social media earlier this week when he posted a video of himself jumping off cliffs at Wattamolla Falls, about 50 kilometres south of the city.

But now, he could be in hot water.

A National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) spokesperson confirmed they were reviewing the incident.

A 27-year-old man drowned at the popular Royal National Park swimming spot on Christmas Day.

Eastwood, who is also an actor and model, is in the Harbour City filming a movie and uploaded the video on Monday.

His resume includes roles in Hollywood blockbusters Gran Torino, Invictus and Texas Chainsaw.

The NPWS spokesperson said jumping from the cliffs at Wattamolla Falls was not safe and a range of measures had been put in place to manage public safety.

“Unfortunately some individuals put themselves at risk of injury by disregarding warning signs, jumping over barriers and not keeping to formed paths,” the spokesperson said.

“NPWS will review this incident and decide what actions, if any, are required.”

The spokesperson said NPWS would consider further options to improve public safety there.






First posted

January 18, 2017 13:47:26


January 18, 2017 11:09:31

Celebrations at the Sydney Opera House to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum have looked back at the significance of music in helping to inspire historic change.

The concert, 1967: Music In The Key Of Yes, was a tribute to songs of the civil rights movement, reinterpreted by some of Australia’s leading Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander artists.

Singer-songwriter David Leha, who performs under the name Radical Son, was one of the performers at the anniversary celebration.

“People connect to the story and the lyric,” he said.

“But I think there’s much more in music … the resonance, that vibration that comes from the body and reaches the body of another.”

Music has been credited for its role in uniting Australia in 1967, when the country considered constitutional reform to count Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the census, and to give the government the power to make laws on their behalf.

On that day 50 years ago, the historic vote passed with a Yes vote of more than 90 per cent.

Mark Yettica-Paulson, who jointly leads the current RECOGNISE campaign for Indigenous recognition in the constitution, said their campaign was actively looking for songs that could unite the country.

“In 1967 it wasn’t just one song, it was a number of songs that they held together,” he said.

“So we are seriously looking at as to what kind of opportunities there are for either for songs that are already in existence. Or songs that we know that there’s creative people who will be able to craft songs that will help us stand together as well.”

The RECOGNISE campaign has looked to the past success of the 1967 referendum, and the music, for clues.

“Music was critical at the time in terms of social change and the kinds of social movements that were there at the time,” Mr Yettica-Paulson said.

“The campaign itself also was able to connect with the music from the civil rights movements in the United States.

“And it’s played a pivotal role, a really important role of galvanising support and having people stand in solidarity together.”

‘Music always acts as a commonality’

Wesley Enoch, the festival’s artistic director, said the 1967 decision “changed my family’s life”.

And he said the role of music was significant.

“I think music is really the thing that holds us together so often,” he said. “In some respects, music always acts as a commonality, a thing of pulling us together.”

Mr Enoch said it was something that could help the current conversation around Indigenous recognition, ahead of the expected referendum either late this year or next.

“I don’t quite know where I sit yet,” he said.

“And that’s maybe what it’s about. I want to hear more, I want to talk about more. I want to understand treaty and sovereignty, I want to understand the legal structures.

“Maybe if somebody bought out a song I might be able to understand it a bit more.”












January 17, 2017 13:33:01

Australia’s Indigenous arts community is calling for changes to the law to make it illegal to import and sell fake Aboriginal-style souvenirs.

Gabrielle Sullivan, chief executive of Indigenous Art Code, has been collecting dozens of mementos and trinkets during an investigation into fake Aboriginal-style souvenirs over the past six months.

“These items are extremely popular … marketed as traditional rainmaking instruments from far north Queensland — [but they're] bamboo, made in Indonesia,” she said.

Indigenous Art Code are a group who work to preserve and promote ethical trading in Indigenous art, and they are pushing for changes to be made before next year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

Ms Sullivan has amassed a large collection of mugs, plates, boomerangs, digeridoos, tea-towels — all adorned with Aboriginal-style art, but almost all of it made overseas, in India, Indonesia and China.

“Of the shops — or galleries if you can call them — that we went to as part of this research I would say that 80 per cent of those shops were selling things that were not authentic,” she said.

The obstacle for Ms Sullivan and others campaigning against these fake souvenirs is that it is not illegal to sell fake Aboriginal-style souvenirs under Australian Competition and Consumer (ACCC) laws.

At the moment the rules say that as long as the souvenirs are not specifically claiming to be authentic and have a small sticker stating where they were made, it is not considered misleading to sell objects that have been mass-produced overseas.

Aboriginal artists ‘up against tidal wave of fakes’

The situation has alarmed Aboriginal artists for decades.

“Each cultural group has their own cultural stories and their own ownership of designs and patterns and stories,” said Valerie Keenan, the manager of the Girringun Art Centre in far north Queensland.

“And that’s particular to those people and it’s not something that someone else can take on and try to reproduce.”

The Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre has been working for the past two years to develop their own line of products, but it has been a slow process.

In the meantime, Ms Keenan said they were up against an insurmountable tidal wave of fake products.

“What is actually being seen out there is a very commodified product I think,” she said.

“It’s a kind of imitation art which undermines the artist’s ability to express the real story.

“What you are seeing is just a mish mash of something that people think, ‘oh that’s Aboriginal art’, but ultimately it isn’t particularly good art.”

Aboriginal art centres like Girringun and the Indigenous Art Code have joined together to lobby the Federal Government for a change to the laws.

They have written to dozens of state and federal politicians, calling for them to make it illegal to market or sell Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and crafts products in Australia, and for all arts and crafts to have to have been made by Indigenous people, or licenced to them, with clear documentation.

The Federal Government funds more than 80 Indigenous art centres and organisations around Australia.

In a statement, the Government said it would continue working with the Indigenous Art Code and the ACCC on the issue.










January 17, 2017 13:09:24

Most new housing being built in Melbourne is two-bedroom apartments, but should we be embracing three-bedroom designs to provide better options for families?

On Tuesday, Lochlan Sinclair, an architect and design manager at Neometro, will join a panel of experts at MPavilion to discuss High Density Happiness: In Defence Of The Three-Bedroom Apartment.

Mr Sinclair said he believed that in order for Melbourne to maintain its reputation as one of the world’s most liveable cities, the design of apartment buildings must be reviewed.

“As a city, we need to start considering better housing for families in apartments,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.

“We’re going through an unprecedented housing boom at the moment and we need to really start looking at apartment living as a bona fide option to ensure that we keep Melbourne’s footprint at a reasonable size and a sustainable size, that doesn’t put a heavy onus on our infrastructure.”

Mr Sinclair said while there was a lot of discussion around the oversupply of apartments in Melbourne, the problem actually lies in the design of many of the buildings.

“I think it’s probably a fair comment to say that we’re building too many of the wrong type of apartments.”

He added that longevity should be at the forefront of any apartment design.

“We need to be building good apartments and appropriately sized apartments so they’re able to be lived in as a family home for a long duration.”

Is a three-bedroom apartment really affordable?

In recent years housing prices in Melbourne and many other Australian capital cities have reached unprecedented prices, however Mr Sinclair believes larger apartments could be a cheaper alternative to a standalone house.

“With apartment developments, there’s obviously efficiencies that come into play that don’t exist for individual houses,” he said.

“If we’re offering good, well-considered apartments in locations where most people are priced out of the market, we’re offering an affordable alternative.”

Inspired by Barcelona, Paris

Inspired by classic European cities like Barcelona and Paris, Mr Sinclair described these cities as “apartment cities”.

Essentially, he said they were both cities with good design principles.

“Typically apartments are built in dense areas which for families can be a good thing as there is established infrastructure.”

Therefore he suggested that three-bedroom apartment buildings would help to establish well catered for community hubs while avoiding urban sprawl.

Cultural shift needed

Mr Sinclair said like the title of Tuesday’s panel discussion suggested — In Defence Of The Three-Bedroom Apartment — there was a cultural and design pushback to the idea, however.

“It’s pushing against the Australian psyche of needing a backyard and a Hills Hoist.”

He explained that for a lot of developers, the concept of a three-bedroom apartment was too difficult to consider and not many developers were willing to take the risk.

And in order to convince families that an apartment could offer a suitable alternative to a typical suburban home, Mr Sinclair said more thought needed to go into the amenities on offer.

“Within each apartment block there should be rooftop gardens, workshop spaces, storage areas and communal bike areas,” he said.

“Historically these are tasks that would take place in the backyard shed.”









January 17, 2017 10:05:28

Distinguished historian Jill Roe, best known for her celebrated biography of Australian writer Miles Franklin, died at her home in Pearl Beach north of Sydney last Thursday afternoon.

I remember her as a warm, witty woman with a formidable intellect and a mischievous smile. She was forthright in her views, like many rural born people.

Jillian Isobel Roe had a lot in common with the heroine of Miles Franklin’s famous novel My Brilliant Career, the spirited country girl Sybylla Melvyn, who lived in the Brindabella Ranges near Canberra.

Roe was born in Tumby Bay on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula in 1940. Her mother Edna, who was a nurse, died before Jill turned two years old and – like Miles’ fictional heroine – Jill was sent to live with her maternal grandmother and a maiden aunt up country.

A self-described young rebel, she was educated at a one-teacher primary school on the Eyre Peninsula, then Adelaide Girls’ High School and Adelaide University.

Her youth as a farmer’s daughter and a religious Methodist led to her lifelong interest in religious history, especially what she called the “way-out” religions of Theosophy, Rudolf Steiner and Christian Science.

Though Roe told an interviewer in 2004 that she was most interested in the history of ordinary lives, she felt that the zany religions could illuminate religious history in this country, which she felt wasn’t taken seriously enough.

In later life she described herself as an atheist. Her many books of history and literary historical biography covered a wide range of subjects including social policy, urban history, biography, social welfare, women’s history and even volunteering.

Like Miles Franklin, Jill Roe was an internationally recognised figure and her major work Stella Miles Franklin: A Biography was published in the USA as well as in Australia. Franklin, she said, was a sophisticated woman who lived overseas for many years and had an international perspective.

After 26 years of working on Miles Franklin, Roe was quoted in a Sydney Morning Herald article as still not sick of her.

“She’s been very good company to me and I’ve learnt a lot from her.”

I first met Roe and her partner, Beverly Kingston, in 1973, when I was a post-grad student at UNSW during the early days of the Australian Women’s Liberation movement.

Jill wrote a defence of lesbians at a time when some women in the movement felt that they ought to campaign separately from Women’s Liberation. Jill argued that lesbians – like widows – had to be included in the wider movement.

Beverly wrote an article for the fledgling women’s studies publication Refractory Girl, of which I was a founding member.

Her article appeared in one of the earliest editions of Refractory Girl, a collective that included well-known feminists such as Dr Anne Summers (advisor to Paul Keating and Bob Hawke), Drusilla Modjeska the novelist, Lyndall Ryan the historian, Whitlam-era high-ranking public servant Mary Murnane, and fellow history student Lesley Lynch, who was to become a senior educationist in the NSW Education Department.

Murnane says that Roe had an incredible commitment to teaching Australian history and she got a lot of women into the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

“Jill had a clear idea of social justice,” she told me.

“She brought her understanding of women’s history and social justice into her teaching of Australian history. She was one of Australia’s greatest historians.”

Roe was a Visiting Professor in Australian Studies at Harvard University in Boston in 1994, Chair of the Board and a lifelong contributor to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, for which she earned an Order of Australia in 2007.

Her much-awarded book about Miles Franklin won the Queensland Premier’s history book prize, the South Australian Premier’s nonfiction prize and the Magarey medal for biography.

She was president of the Australian Historical Association for many years and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of social Sciences. Roe studied under Professor Manning Clark at the ANU where she was awarded her Master’s degree.

She was head of the modern history department at Macquarie University for 36 years before she retired in 2002, and Macquarie University gave her an honorary Doctor of Letters in 2013 – a rare honour for one of its founder staff.

Jill was also director of the Macquarie PEN anthology at the Australian Literature Centre in Sydney, reflecting her longstanding interest in writing and history.

In the last decades of her life, Professor Roe and her partner were involved in the feminist enterprise known as the Jesse Street National Women’s Library in Sydney. Jill was its patron and Beverly a board member. Chair of that board, Jozefa Sobski, lauded the historians’ generosity both of material and funds and time.

“She’s a loss to the community of historians,” says Sobski, who appreciated their commitment to research into women’s history.

Kingston, a fellow historian, said Roe was both a feminist and a historian and that she fell between the cracks of the fields of literary scholarship and history.

Kingston says her partner of 45 years never belonged to any clique or faction in the field of history. She had diverse interests, and published and read widely.

She was very pleased to have finished her memoir last year of the Eyre Peninsula, and said of her last work that now she’d done everything she wanted to do. It had been inspired by Miles Franklin’s memoir Childhood at Brindabella.

Jill Roe had been ill since 2015 after a severe fall and she suffered from osteoarthritis. She is survived by her partner and her older sisters Pauline and Heather. Her father John and an older sister Jean predeceased her.









Confirmed: I tend to shoot mostly street scenes, more rarely with people in them but always with some architectural element… No new-year resolutions (to diversify my subjects especially towards people) will obviously change this and I have to live with my defects :(