Sunday, February 1, 2015

Alphonse Swinehart - "Riding Light"

Riding Light is a presentation of a photon (a packet of light) emitted from the sun and traveling for 45 minutes at relativistic speed. Through his shared vision, Alphonse Swinehart gives us a glimpse at, not only the speed at which light travels but, also, how insignificant the size of our home really is compared to our solar system - at the very least. The following comments about this musical 800-million-plus-kilometer sprint across part of the solar system (at which point, we have only just passed Jupiter), were posted by the author on Vimeo, and describes how he put this extraordinary visual together.

Alphonse Swinehart:

"In our terrestrial view of things, the speed of light seems incredibly fast. But as soon as you view it against the vast distances of the universe, it's unfortunately very slow. This animation illustrates, in realtime, the journey of a photon of light emitted from the sun and traveling across a portion of the solar system.

I've taken liberties with certain things like the alignment of planets and asteroids, but overall I've kept the size and distances of all the objects as accurate as possible. I also decided to end the animation just past Jupiter as I wanted to keep the running length below an hour."

Music: Steve Reich "Music for 18 Musicians"
Performed by: Eighth Blackbird

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Steampunk Anime: Last Exile

I am going to flashback to several of the really good anime series' that I have come across in my life. Japanese animation has really added much to the steampunk genre, that to ignore it would be missing out on really great works of art and dramatic presentation. By no means are the order in which I post them on here an indication of quality comparison between them. The first one I will mention today is the first in a two season series. This is fortunately available to view for free thanks to Funimation and you can even order the series on DVD on their site (you guys are awesome, thanks!).

The story begins with top-of-her-class navigator, Lavie Head, and first rate pilot, Claus Valca, working together to earn their livings doing easy courier work in retro-futuristic sky vehicles called vanships. The "planes" fly without wings, instead using an antigravity source of energy to hold them aloft rather than relying on airfoils for lift. This makes the vanships highly maneuverable, yet highly dangerous, to fly.

Meanwhile, war is brewing between Claus' and Lavie's home nation of Anatoray and an opposing nation, Disrith, on the other side of a region of unusual turbulence in a separate dimension above the planet, called "the Grand Stream." Intrigue pulls the two friends into unexpected danger when they take on an urgent delivery to Duke Madossein of Anatoray.

From Studio Gonzo, directed by Koichi Chigira, featuring art from anime master Range Murata, and music composed by Hitomi Kuroishi, I am sure you will enjoy each episode. Here is the preview trailer for the DVD set that Funimation distributes.

For the steampunk hobbyist, I recommend finding the complete boxed set that was released on November 21, 2004. The deluxe edition of this set included a model of Tatiana's and Alister's red vanship, a short story on the "Battle of Otranto" (mentioned in episode 11), unpublished articles on the series, and illustrations by character designer Range Murata. The selling point for me on this set is the card-model vanship that I my 8-year-old son can run around with in our living room pretending to cross the Grand Stream!

JVC (Victor Entertainment, Japan) distributed the original soundtrack for Last Exile, and has a site where you find out more information about anything to do with the series - that is, unfortunately, only if you can also read Japanese (which I do not). However, there are many images to peruse and if you can get a good Japanese-English translation engine to convert the site for you, you can read all about the flying machines, the characters, the staff and cast, as well as design notes and even a glossary of "Words*" - terminology - that are used in the episodes. All of this information is linked here and (old) "News" info for merchandise is linked here. Plus, the page has news of other extras that you can then search on eBay for (3G iPhone covers, a model of a vanship made of ABS/PVC, etc.).

Whether you wish to buy it or simply watch it online, Funimation provides both options on its website for English speaking fans. Whether you prefer to see it dubbed or subbed is up to you. Each episode title utilizes chess terminology. Therefore, the first episode is appropriately titled, "First Move."

The video above is the first episode on Funimation's YouTube channel, and is looped to play all of them - that is, if you have the time. Please note that it is subtitled on YouTube. If you want to watch it without having to read everything, then you need to visit Funimation's website to watch the dubbed version of Last Exile, here, which was also very well translated and voice talented. Enjoy!