Sunday 11 December 2022

The Creative Commons, AI Renderers and the Death of Cheap Credit

Jeez, I was expecting an AI rendering, not a terrifying series of ethical and social issues brought on by an AI revolution. By the way, shouldn't you be a mechanical monstrosity instead of a four armed werewolf? (Image created with Midjourney v4)

My understanding is that copyright laws were originally intended to protect creators and help assure them income and credit for their efforts. Copyright would last the writer/creator's lifetime plus fifty years, allowing their dependents the benefit of their creations as well. After that, the work would join the Creative Commons, enriching society and allowing others the chance to play with these wonderful memetic inventions.

The laws were designed before franchises became a thing, and, oh boy, have they complicated things. 

Franchises emerged with the Penny Dreadfuls of the 1880s, small press anthology publications that came out weekly or monthly, and were filled with all manner of Victorian click bait, sordid tales of debauchery, high adventure, murder and monsters. At the high end you'd get things like Solomon Kane and Sherlock Holmes. Think of them as the spiritual forefathers of adventure serials from the thirties and forties. They were addictive, with cliffhangers, so you'd have to plunk down another penny to get the next instalment. By then the reader would be hooked on another ongoing story in the anthology. 

And so an addict is born!

Franchise characters took on much larger life than their creators ever had, becoming immortal archetypes and perpetual money making machines... or would, except for the pesky expiry of that copyright law.

Then Disney steps into the picture.

Think of Disney as the Irresistible Force meeting... the Moveable Object. They wanted extensions on copyright protections for their prized franchise properties. And their lawyers were backed by big bucks. The courts blinked. 

They've been tacking on extensions to copy right law ever since. 

Where am I going with this? 

The AI renderers have been training their tools on the work of living artists, work which has not yet entered the Creative Commons. True, they're just analyzing the art, same as art students do, but they're doing it on a massive scale and in a systematized way no human could. They are outside of anything legal protections were designed to address. No one anticipated (okay maybe Jules Verne, but that book of predictions didn't get published until like a decade or two ago) AI renderers.

Over the last 4 months, Midjourney has improved dramatically. The renderers were at first far short of commercially viable. After four months of improvements, they are damn close. The commercial art community has started raising the alarm, and renderers are being compared to art theft. 

The crazy thing is that the AI renderers are just a side show for researchers, who want to bring about a utopia. There are so many areas where AI could seriously upend things, and just as many ways things could go wrong. Even the developers are getting a little unnerved. See this Vox article for more.

Right now, there's no law against an AI analyzing someone's work for the sake of training. But AI will be analyzing every area of human thought, sooner than later. It's going to be an issue. 

It will affect so many fields, legislators won't be able to ignore it.

First, we will need to extend copyright to styles, to an artist's body of work, for the life of the artist plus fifty, at least insofar as an AI is concerned. This is especially true if, or when, AI are able to produce commercially equivalent product that is indistinguishable quality wise to the original human artist. Once that point is reached, we're going to see serious impact on our creative community. Just another shock after many. 

Using AI renderers for fun is one thing, but using them commercially poses real ethical issues. Once an artist is dead and copyright expires, sure, let the AI sample away. Prior to that? We either shouldn't allow that to be done commercially, or a fee should be paid to the relevant artist being sampled. We need incentives to not only keep creative people creating, but to keep people joining those creative fields, not fleeing them in terror as they have visions of impoverishment. 

We've analyzed the issue, sir, and there is a problem...

I have played with Midjourney (it's wildly addictive) and used it for fun and social. I don't think you should charge for the renders it produces (which strikes me as being against the terms of service, anyone can freely use what Midjourney generates), but I am now wondering if it's even ethical to have a subscription at all, especially as it gets better and better. 

And those outputs of Mickey Mouse doing nasty things makes me wonder what Disney thinking...

Hopefully the companies that created the AI renderers will come to an agreement with the artists before legislation is even needed. 

Second, the AI Revolution will be HUGELY disruptive; a universal basic income will be needed to weather the social storms that follow. Free higher education, and continuing education, will be vital to maintaining a productive workforce, supporting workers as they retrain. Or try to. Humans don't learn as fast as AI.

If I lose my job, it's my problem. If twenty MILLION people lose their jobs all at once, it's society's problem; ie. the AI Revolution could (hey, I'm a writer, I'm imaginative. Oh, where are my smelling salts?) be followed by an old school revolution, one that involves the modern equivalent of torches and pitchforks. 

There have already been troubling trends towards wealth polarization, of stagnating wages for the middle and lower classes, while CEO and billionaire wealth explodes. 

Finally, the Baby Boomers are retiring. They are the largest generation EVER. They created the greatest pool of available credit in human history. Credit has never been as cheap as it has been in the last couple decades. 

And soon all of that, the lifeblood of thousands of tech start ups that haven't turned a profit yet and live on investment money, will be gone. 

Things are going to get a lot leaner. Health care costs and taxes will go up. There will be one working Gen Xer for every 4 retired boomers. That will make UBI and FHE even more difficult to implement. 

An AI Revolution, however, could spike productivity, and provide enough surplus for everyone (a new Golden Age!). Or it could funnel wealth to a tiny percentage and leave millions penniless (welcome to Dystopia!). 

And that is something we will get a say in, eventually, hopefully, with our votes. 

Monday 28 November 2022


Conan rendering stellar phenomena using Midjourney. Astronomy is one of his lesser known hobbies.

Free higher education and universal basic income are going to become increasingly important (even necessary) as certain jobs (or entire fields) are made obsolete by automation. 

The largest corporations of the twentieth century employed tens of millions of people. The top five corporations driving the stock market today (Amazon, Google, Meta, Apple, etc) employ a TINY fraction of that. You just don't need tens of millions of coders at Meta.

The idea that creative destruction will continue to merely shift labour to different areas of the economy is breaking down: the new fields being built simply do not require as many labourers. 

That presents some issues.

Many fields are being, or are about to be, heavily impacted by automation. It takes a big investment to set up, but cost savings manifest over time. There are over 4 million people driving vehicles in the United States currently, for example, and robot vehicles are right around the corner. 

On the up side, right now the United States is experiencing the greatest expansion (re-shoring) of industrial capacity since the end of the Second World War. That will be an enormous help, but I also expect manufacturers to automate as much as possible, as US labour is more expensive than in many other nations. Automation may be necessary to make reshoring lower end industries (basic electronics, say) economical, but even so, it is possible there will be a net increase in employment, given the amount of reshoring happening. 

We are also facing a large demographic shift (into retirement, which will be followed by a population drop), which may push the economy into recession. Retirees don't buy as much as new young parents. Baby boomers retiring also takes money out of investment funds, such as in tech start ups. Things are going to slow down and money will be tighter. Maybe it will slow automation down.

We shall see..!

At any rate, education will be a life long endeavour so we can be, and remain, competitive. Universal basic income will be essential in dealing with the dramatic impact and shifts in jobs as automation makes an ever increasing impact in the next few decades.

What is coming has the potential to be mind blowingly awesome... or an abysmal, hellish dystopia.

The last thing we want is to wind up like ancient Rome, with a gutted and desperate middle class seeking salvation as serfs on the plantations of rich land owners, or indolent masses entertained by bread and circuses. 

Friday 18 November 2022

Conan the Barbarian on Midjourney

Conan is angered by the more interesting social media feed of his rivals and vows revenge

Conan! What is valued in life?

Conan: "Wahd iz desiahd, rahwr und hawhd."

You mean desired, rare and difficult?

Conan: "Yaws! Dad's eed!"

Ever eloquent Conan makes a good point.

How does Midjourney stack up in terms of value?

1) Desired. 

This question is still open. It is desired for imagery on social media. It's a lot of fun to play with. Will it be employed commercially? So far, the highest profile use has been as a gimmick cover for The Economist. I can see it being used for hundreds of thousands of indie book covers (millions of those out there already and increasing daily), or for super quick concept generation. People who want imagery for their imaginary role playing worlds, games, etc. will find it incredibly fun and useful. 

The engine still struggles with complex structures and multi-element scenes. Hands, faces (unless isolated), and feet are especially challenging for it and stand in the way of adoption. Are these insurmountable obstacles? I doubt it. 

Will they still be a problem 10 years, 100 years, or 500 years from now? What is the ceiling for AI? Will we have Hal 9000 and Commander Datas at some point in the future? That's also kind of doubtable, but we will likely have powerful AI nonetheless. Image generation for an AI like Data would be child's play. 

Eventually, I expect a LOT of the technical issues to be solved. 

Conan sprucing up his social media feed with Midjourney renderings of his enemies fleeing before him

So... desired as a fun hobby tool with usage at the periphery of commercial arts (indie book covers) for the time being.

2) Rare

It's as common as a $10 per month subscription. You need only an internet connection and a web browser (web browsers are free).

3) Difficult

It's super easy, barely an inconvenience. The skill barrier to entry is... a basic understanding of english. 

How does it stack up then, in terms of value?

Individual Midjourney images have... no value at all. None! They can be freely used by the art director who rendered them (human users are essentially performing an art direction and curation role), but also by anyone else. If you alter the image, only you can use the alteration, but the base can still be used by others. 

So bit of a problem if you want to brand with Midjourney output. 

I've invested lots of time in the tool over the last 3-4 months, however, and I've had a ton of fun rendering pictures for stories that would have taken me YEARS to have done otherwise. It's been a blast. 

Do any of the images I've made have value? As illustrations to stories I put up on my blog, or Kindle, for example, sure, they can arguably enhance the text. Beyond that, no.

Once AI renderers overcome the technical limitations they have now, they will compete at first with stock art. It will take longer for AI renderings to impinge upon highly skilled commercial artists. Eventually, some artists will move up into creative and art direction roles (as many as there are berths to take). Speed and cost are often imperatives in commercial art, and nothing is faster or cheaper than Midjourney (well, maybe stock art), so at some point down the line I expect it to make an impact. 

Those doing highly idiosyncratic work may last longer. Perhaps new laws will be made to copyright a 'style'. There's nothing currently; I don't think anyone in the legislatures saw this coming. They usually lag far behind technology.

Of course, the Luddites didn't see any laws passed to protect their livelihoods...

So yes, down the line, I expect AI to be doing a lot of grunt, toss-off commercial creative work (both visual and written). Humans will curate and art direct and tweak and provide the motivation. The higher level work, complex stuff that needs to be unique, will still need to be done by humans. 

Will the commercial art field expand as our tools get more powerful? Will human participation in the process continue to be necessary? How much of an appetite does the public have for art? How much do they have to spend, in both time and money? 

It's possible AI and human collaborations will spark a new creative age. There may be emergent properties here that we are entirely unaware of as yet. 

Honestly, I'd like to see where the AI renderers are in ten years before I really place my bets. 

My current view:

• It's a super fun creative toy to play with

• It's GREAT for amateur indie writers

• It's great for world building and amateur concept art (with the caveat that whatever is made can be used freely by others)

• Midjourney imagery has zero intrinsic value

• It's so easy as to be seductive and addictive; you can waste huge amounts of time on it

• Because it is common and easy, I don't see investing time in it as truly productive. It's a crazy fun hobby; best case (for me) is that it can be used to promote / illustrate stories, or as reference for my own digital painting efforts. Whatever limitations it has in terms of structure, I do love the colour palette(s) it uses. 

• Midjourney will continue to improve. 

Let's check back here in another 10 years, shall we?

For now, I'm going to keep an eye on it, dabble from time to time, but otherwise I need to get back to other work already in progress... such as the new book! 

Conan contemplates the social profiles of his dead enemies and reads the lamentation of their women

All the images in this post were rendered with Midjourney V4, and have not retouched or edited. Unlike this post.

Wednesday 9 November 2022

Andor is awesome

I really didn't care for The Book of Boba Fett. And I thought Kenobi was an amateurish bore.


It's SLOW!

There are few recognizable aliens! Or planets! Or spaceships! 



Where are the Stormtroopers falling over in droves every time someone does a back flip and points a finger at them?

Where are the endless lightsaber fights?

Where is the constant non-stop action and meaningless banter from cardboard archetypes?

We are now 10 episodes in and not ONE Death Star has blown up! 

Seriously, WTF?!?

And where, oh WHERE, is Turdooine?!? Sorry, I mean, Tatooine. (I hate that planet. Even the characters in the franchise know it's the ass end of nowhere. Is that why the writers sadistically keep taking us back to that desert stub? To make us hate the damn planet as much as "Are you an angel?" Ani did? Is it psychological warfare? Cruel and inhumane...)

Where are all the wink wink nudge nudge callback shots?


You're right: Star Wars, as George has said repeatedly, is for children. 

Andor is NOT for children. 

It's smart, it's well written, there are interesting characters with depth, the dialogue is complex, and the story takes its time being told. 

It builds and builds to meaningful crescendoes thanks to the care and effort spent on fleshing out the characters beforehand. 

So when action DOES happen, it's meaningful. Action after action between action before more action and as a prelude to the real action is just a meaningless cacophony. 

Honestly, I'm amazed Andor got made. 

I mean, it's good, for one thing. 

Unlike the other Star Wars shows (okay, Mandalorian was decent, and The Volume tech is flat out mind blowing). And it is quite obviously for adults. 

You can tell Gilroy is a history nerd. The show evokes totalitarian regimes on earth like no other Star Wars iteration. 

It makes The Book of Boba Fett, about your friendly neighbourhood (Disneyfied) drug cartel overlord, look pathetic, juvenile and ridiculous. 

Andor is shaping up as a show with something to say. 

From Disney.


Kathleen Kennedy has, from my perspective, always been a risk taker. The first directors she picked to carry on the franchise were all young turks with their own emerging voice. They were exciting choices. They didn't work out for the most part. But then, Andor, too is a wildly risky choice to make. And I'm glad she gambled on it.

I'm even more glad the second season is already green lit, so we'll get a proper wrap up for the series. I know it leads into Rogue One, which I actually hated, but Andor's so good I just don't care. I am enjoying it for what it is. 

I have no criticisms. There may be quibbles, but I'd have to think about it to come up with anything. 

It's superbly well done so far (at episode 10, which I've watched twice now. I haven't watched anything Star Wars twice in over twenty years).

I still can't believe it got made, especially after the dreck of Kenobi and Fett, the creative bankruptcy of The Force Awakens, the farcical Last Jedi and the utterly risible Rise of Skywalker.

This is a reflection of my own tastes, of course. A seven year old can appreciate the Star Wars movies (even the first two original films; the good ones are all ages), but they likely won't enjoy Andor. A lot of the fandom apparently doesn't like it, either, and I can understand why. They're used to the franchise being something else.

It's not for everyone.

But it is the Star Wars show I've always wanted to see.

Give it a watch. I can't recommend the show highly enough to anyone who's a history or polisci nerd.



Sunday 25 September 2022

Russian window horror films hit American market

 A new wave of Russian horror films is hitting the English language market:

Every culture has their bugaboo...

Thursday 1 September 2022

Deadly Russian windows strike again

Is this a poster for a Russian movie about killer windows on the loose? No, but it could be. 

Another Russian oligarch, Ravil Maganov, has met his untimely demise by falling out of a hospital window to his death.

Never go near a Russian window. 

Those things are lethal.

Can anyone stop them before they kill again?!?

Saturday 27 August 2022

Change is coming: AI renderers

Midjourney rendering of a geisha woman
Midjourney Geisha. All the images in this post I 'created' with text prompts using Midjourney.

And when it arrives, it will be quick.

I've been enjoying the Light & Magic series on Disney+, about ILM and all the creative marvels who have worked there. Their enthusiasm and idealism are infectious; these are not so much documentaries as recruiting commercials. 

One thing that did strike me: when the shift was made between traditional and digital effects, which reached a tipping point with Jurassic Park, it happened fast. Very quickly large numbers of people were packing their bags and heading out the door. When the lead stop motion animator saw the first Tyrannosaur walk sequence created in 3-D software, he said to Speilberg, "I feel extinct." Spielberg loved the line so much he said he'd put it in the movie. 

This particular gentleman managed to find a berth as an animation director once his lifelong vocation became obsolete.

A stylized portrait generated by AI Midjourney
A stylized portrait

I remember taking some courses at Sheridan College back in the day, when I toyed with the idea of getting into 3-D (I'd been accepted to their animation program but elected to pursue illustration instead). The security guards there were all former master typesetters; their careers had evaporated with the introduction of digital layout programs. 

The Luddites are generally smeared as an ignorant bunch of louts who were afraid of technology. They were actually skilled weavers and textile workers who were being put out of their jobs by mechanized looms, at a time when there was no social safety net: losing your job could well mean starvation and death to someone in 1780.

An AI generated picture of a squid man in the style of Heironymous Bosch
A gluttony demon in the style of Heironymous Bosch

Change is constant, and rest assured friends, it's coming for you. We have to be prepared for the rug to be yanked out from under us by some new fangled invention.

Which, incidentally, is one reason education has to be a lifelong endeavour. 

It will also be increasingly necessary, I suspect, for higher education to be free for all adults. The US gave tax cuts worth 1.9 trillion for the rich, which is apparently the same as the size of the US student debt, according to Robert Reich. Empowering young Americans should be a greater priority than providing tax cuts for oligarchs to fuel trickle down economics that don't, and never have, worked. It's also disturbing that corporate America is now pumping more money into ephemeral stock buy backs than they are into R&D. It jazzes the stock price for shareholders, but it does squat otherwise.

An AI generated landscape in the style of Bosch
A deceptively peaceful landscape, in the style of Heironymous Bosch. No hint of the coming turmoil.

As we move more and more into a knowledge based economy, education will becritical to establish competitive advantage over other nations. We should really get manufacturing of essential items back, as well; just in time production is so lean it provides no cushion when shocks hit the system. 

And AI rendering is going to be a shock to the system. A major shock. Currently the renderers are limited in what they can do, particularly when it comes to specifics. But they will get better. We should not feel complacent just because of what they can't do today. They are going to get better and better and better. 

Four AI Generated cats in the style of Bosch
Cats in the style of Gustav Klimt. You don't have to just pick one influence, you can combine several, creating something (potentially) distinctive.

I have been playing with MidJourney, which seems to 'photobash' images. Stable Diffusion, however, seems to have some 3-D renderer sensibility behind it. Things Midjourney can't do, Stable Diffusion can. Check out this article on it here. I haven't gotten my grubby little hands on it yet, but I intend to. 

And there are more renderers coming out.

From the linked article on Stable Diffusion

"Artists and other creative professionals are raising concerns and not without reason. Many will lose their jobs, unable to compete with the new apps. Companies like OpenAI, Midjourney, and, although superpowered by the work of many creative workers, haven’t retributed them in any way. And AI users are standing on their shoulders, but without asking for permission first."

Where will they be in ten years? Hell, where will they be in one year? 

Midjourney has only been out a few short months. I believe Stable Diffusion has just been opened to the public in the last day or two.

This is new. 

This is a huge moment in the development of visual arts technology, and we're all here to witness and play with it. It's an historic moment, only unlike with the fall of the Berlin Wall, you can sit at home in your pajamas and participate with a hot cup of cocoa.

I have pumped out an insane number of images using Midjourney over the course of two weeks, more than I could have done if I dedicated myself to painting full time for a year (or more), and while there are defects in the renders, they are also in many ways highly sophisticated; it would take a great deal of effort to match them, technically, when at their best. 

An abstract Midjourney generated cat
An abstracted cat. I think. 

When the tipping point is finally reached, AI Renderers will revolutionize commercial visual arts. They may upend fine art, too, while they're at it. Image making will become property of the masses; those with great skill may still be needed to refine things, but as AI gets better, their numbers will dwindle.

The real question to my mind is whether or not there are limits on what the AI can do. Can developers solve the issues they face now, or are some of them insurmountable? If so, that's good news for artists.

I can see AI 'script bashing' movie blockbusters, too; if not today, then soon. They're mostly written for an international audience, so they're light on dialogue and heavy on effects and action sequences. It wouldn't surprise me if AI could take 1000 action movie scripts and hodge podge together something indistinguishable from a Michael Bay film. 

A stormy scene of a radar tower under clouds
A Soviet monument, in a storm

Aaron Sorkin may be safe, but for how long?

Skill with actual physical materials will leave some artists safe for the time being, but sooner or later there will be robots with paint brushes.

What room is there for the human creative spark? 

The Empire State building made of pink feathers, generated by Midjourney
A featherly Empire State Building

Years ago I read about a computer program that came up with ideas for advertising posters by juxtaposing elements, such as making the dome of a stadium a basketball. 

No doubt it can do better now. 

I've greatly enjoyed playing with Midjourney. I am somewhat relieved it is limited, but I can see incredible potential, too. 

It will be a few years (maybe a few decades) yet, but it would not surprise me if seismic changes occur soon enough for me to witness live and in person.

I hope they aren't planning to replace the security guards at Sheridan with robots any time soon...

With any luck, I'll have retired before the AI Renderers take over. And I for one welcome our new robot overlords...

I made these images with tools from @midjourney, you can sign up for their private beta here

An Oni demon mask generated by Midjourney
Ghost Oni in the machine

Painting of an emo artist walking contemplatively along the shore as a storm closes in on him; in the distance looms a great AI rendered castle.

AI generated image of two people fighting in an office
An illustration of two people fighting in an office, with an Art Deco feel; this is what Midjourney delivered back. 

Wednesday 17 August 2022

Midjourney rendering AI: Crack for creative minds

A big lumbering steampunk battle monstrosity; the first thing I attempted, naturally

It's mind blowing, in so many ways, and also... limited.

Imagine an idiot savant who's capable of astonishing levels of sophistication, but doesn't understand fundamentals. 

Far as I can tell, the software is 'kit bashing' together thousands of source photos, with greater and lesser degrees of understanding. But beneath the slather of detail it pumps out, there's no real structure. A cynical view would be that it's a brittle egg over nothingness.

And yet, what an egg! 

You can produce images with a text prompt and the click of a button! In any style you want, with whatever lighting or mood you choose to specify. 

Just /imagine.

The result doesn't always stand up to close inspection. Yet when you look at them in passing, out of the corner of your eye, they can be dazzling. 

Patterns, simple objects, jewelry can be examined directly and I doubt I'd know it was a MidJourney creation. 

Some images are just flat out astonishing.

Is that big thing balanced on a bicycle?

There's something of an art to the AI prompts. Badly written ones will yield unintended or poor results. As you begin to understand the program better, you channel your efforts towards what it does well, and learn work arounds for areas it can't handle. Or leverage the happy accidents.

Animals and people, for example. Most animals are rendered as hideous deformed monstrosities, like they'd been passed through a Star Trek transporter and come back with a leg sticking out of an ear.

Once you know things like that, you can adapt. 

Midjourney does awesome wreckage

It would take me years, literally YEARS, to produce what I have with MidJourney in the space of a week. I've realized scenes, while not exactly what I'd imagined, are pretty damn close. 

It's like Creative Crack. 

The Great Library: wonderfully wonky and atmospheric

Another software program, Stable Diffusion, is on the verge of being released to the public, and from what I can see, it DOES have structure behind the images. Joints, logical shadows, hands, feet, etcetera. Rather than starting at the surface and working down, it seems to builds up from a solid structure. No doubt it too has limitations, but it can do some things MidJourney can't.

I did not think these software programs would be taking away jobs from artists at first. The lack of structure and the difficulty in getting a specific result mean artists will still be needed to bring the job home. 

But MidJourney excels at kickstarting concept art, finding a mood, initial play and exploration. Unexpected results can spark story ideas. If only I had the time to tell them!

It's great for aspiring writers who don't have money or contacts to make decent covers. MidJourney can pump out a generic retro 1970s sci-fi cover easily. Book publishers will use family vacation photos or whatever generic, unrelated sci-fi painting the editor can find. I've bought many sci-fi books where the cover was totally unrelated to the story.

MidJourney can do better.

A futuristic garden space

There are copyright and ethical issues. It is training on living artist work, so using it commercially may raise a mess of copyright issues. From what I understand, while you can use images generated with MidJourney (provided credit is provided to MidJourney), so can anyone else. Which means you can't stop someone else from using whatever you came up with. 

I've modified a good number of images I've pumped out. I tried like the devil to get images close to Theo Paxstone, but nothing was quite right. I simply cannot get the rendering engine to produce steam mechs the way I'd imagined them. 

Ah well.

But as a playground, it's a lot of fun!

Now if you will excuse me, I have more renders to ponder. 

Industrial farms team mech doing a crop burn

Tuesday 16 August 2022

Life drawing lives!

Went back to the studio for some post-Covid life drawing. First time in over 2 years! I'm definitely rusty. I decided to try out ProCreate brushes I don't often use. 

It's always a struggle, for me, trying to figure out the best way to employ a brush I'm not familiar with. 

I also wanted to explore abstraction, which I've done in the past, but never digitally. Digital is infinitely forgiving, which is great considering the number of mistakes I make and all the options I want to try. 

Of course I can't remember what brush this was.

Or this one. It's part of the default set; it has some nice texture to it, but not as much as the pastels do.

I reverted back to the virtual 6B because...

I was having some trouble with the oil brush.

Friday 12 August 2022

MidJourney renderings for Theo Paxstone

I have been playing around with MidJourney, making images for Theo Paxstone. You can see the first set I generated, of gargantuan mechs strolling through green woods, here.

The AI renderer pumps out some pretty impressive imagery, especially if you look at it out of the corner of your eye. If you look directly, you can notice all sorts of things that are amiss. There's got to be some skill in crafting the ideal text prompt, which will return the best result. 

These are all from the same prompt (I think). You can then guide the exploration by picking one of the four options, and iterate. 

It's fun to play with, and incredibly addictive...!

The people around the mech are a little dodgy, but could be edited in ProCreate...

Love the jet of smoke in the upper left one

What wonderful variety of shapes! Makes me think of Transformers, all the meaningless detail

You can go in a black and white direction

I did some full sized renderings from these, I'll post them later

Like an armoured centaur

As you can see, I went a little bananas. 

Once you've settled on some you like, you can do an enhanced render. I'll post some of those, from this set, in the next few days. 

I made these images with tools from @midjourney, you can sign up for their private beta here

Tuesday 9 August 2022

Marvel and the VFX houses

That looks like... a lot of work.

This article is an especially appropriate follow up to my last post about Exposure Crypto Currency. 

It details the exploitation of artists at VFX houses. What's happening is appalling and unsustainable for any one set of people. Like the gaming industry, it depends on a constant stream of new artists coming in to replace the ones they burn out and throw away. 

I experienced burnout in 2013-14 (in an entirely different industry) and it takes a long time to recover. 

David describes Guardians of the Galaxy as being one of the favorite projects that he’s ever worked on. But even he agrees that Marvel’s process is inconsistent. “The worst was when Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame were coming out. They actually bumped up that release by a month but they hadn’t told us. I remember being on the floor with my team and one of my artists comes to me and says, ‘Hey, you see this?’ and he shows me the article saying Marvel bumped the release date up a month.”


Another artist quote:

“I didn’t have a day off for five weeks. And those were not eight-hour days. They were ten-plus-hour days,” recalled Sam, speaking about his experience working on a Marvel show. “And that was because they did a reshoot a month before the show was due. So we literally got shots in at the end of December for a show that was due at the end of January.”

...Sources also stated that this constant vision shift feels driven by the egomaniacal ability to demand changes and see them acquiesced to, rather than considering the kind of changes that will actually affect the story. “Nobody is holding Marvel accountable,” H said. “So they don’t care. They’re like, ‘Fuck you guys. We can make as many changes as we want and you just have to deliver it.’” These changes can be major: Sam described an incident where an actor was filmed in a practical suit and the studio decided it was the wrong suit. “And you have to replace their entire body and just leave their head in every shot.”

It sounds like a gruelling industry. 

Give it a read.

Claiming it is all the fault of the VFX houses for entering into such contracts seems like a facile response to me. Marvel may posture as being socially responsible, but how they treat their subcontractors says something. 

And while it may sound like there is an easy breezy solution ("Just pay them more!"), I don't think it will be.

Friday 5 August 2022

Announcing Exposure Crypto Currency!

An Exposure Crypto Currency Bill

No money to pay creative people? No worries! Announcing Exposure Crypto Currency, specially designed for creative people.

A common request for art, sans moolah

Here's the gist:

Don't use cash to hire photographers, painters, illustrators, designers, actors or writers. Having money just makes creatives go crazy and spend it all on drugs, Vegas and food stamps.

Save them from being capitalist stooges!

There's a better way: a currency designed specifically for artists and their special needs.

Exposure comes in unlimited denominations, as each Exposure bill is worth as much as you say it is. 

I mocked up a faux Exposure website for the heck of it a few years ago, but never finished. It fell by the way side. Didn't get enough Exposure to complete it I guess. Heh.

It started out fairly conservative looking:

The usual photography route

Initial array of logo explorations, ending in a jester cap matched with a sun

But then I thought, why not go Full Obnoxious? 

Here's the logo taken to the max:

I think this is pretty self-explanatory

Here's a bill variant:

Is this bill worth a different amount of Exposure than the other? Who knows? You decide! 

In fact, multiple bill variants are not strictly necessary, as Exposure Crypto Currency is flexible in value... just like Crypto! It's very important to provide people with options.

Here's the non-existent never built homepage:

And what would Exposure be without rewards? How do you get the cash out of the crypto? Often people pour money into crypto and get bupkiss back. But we have a way you can get value for both your investments and payments. 

Meet Exposure Rewards:

Exchange your hard earned Exposure for things like authentic amateur poetry, or beautiful snow white Zoom backgrounds. The rewards are only limited to... well two. That's pretty much it at the moment, but soon, thanks to the power of paying in Exposure, we'll have limitless art works you can turn in your own exposure for.

Exposure harnesses the power of subjectivity, relativity and flexibility to allow you, the savvy investor, to buy billions for mere pennies. 

Invest your money today, and start paying your favourite artist, nephew, or influencer the savvy way: with Exposure!

ADDENDUM: Looks like the 4 (5?) years since I did this stuff up someone else has built an Exposure Crypto Currency site. Crap. Now there is no point in bothering, I might as well give up the URL and show the work that went into my aborted effort.