Digital Compositing

The world of Digital Compositing

Learn 3D VFX for FREE! (and get paid!)


Escape have announced a 100% free course funded by SkillSet. Not only that you get paid UK minimum wage through the period of the training, you get 4 weeks work experience at a post production house (oh and you get paid for that as well)! I think you’d be stupid not to apply. The course runs from 11th August for 18 weeks and then the 4 weeks in industry. More info can be found on Escapes website.

They have also just launched a competition to win £10k worth of free 3D/CG VFX training! Its in conjunction with Channel 4 and you can find more information at the 4Talent website. All you have to do is write in 50 words or less why you love 3D animation, what you aspire to do in the future and how the Escape course will help you get there!

Want a free Escape Studios Digital Effects Course?


Hey guys & girls,
Escape have just put up an online questionnaire and if you fill it out you are put into the pot to win ANY escape studios course!

I copied and pasted this from their site…

“Escape Studios are offering you a chance to win a course.

The winner, who will be announced in one week’s time on Monday 9th July,
will be offered the course of their choice at Escape Studios absolutley free!

That doesn’t leave much time so if you’re interested you’d better get a move on!

To enter the prize draw all you need to do is fill out the questionnaire that can be found on the
following link.”

Special Effects: The History and Technique (Hardcover)


For all the digital effects / special effects guys and gals a new version of “Special Effects: The history of Technique” is gonna be coming out in April!

The ideal Digital Compositing Laptop.. the long way around!


As people may know I don’t complain much… if at all but here it is. My first complaining blog entry (ok excluding the Lacie incident which I can say is now all sorted and i’ve received back a fixed lacie drive!.. love you lacie!). Ok where to begin:

It all started one dusty day in April. I embarked on a research project to find the best laptop to do digital compositing and digital effects. It needed to be a laptop because I knew I would be travelling quite a bit over the next year or so and I wanted to had a bit of a beast to process all the high-end graphics. The first decision was do I go with a Mac or a PC… in the end I decided to stay with a PC because I knew how to use it 🙂 ok probably not the best argument but hey!

The Research:
My list of requirements was this:

  • The system needed to run Shake for Linux; this is a digital compositing package which I will be using the most
  • The system needed to run Maya for Windows
  • The system also needs to run Adobe products ok enough to do work on them… so After Effects, Premiere etc
  • Built in microphone for conference calls
  • Bluetooth for linking to my mobile

The main thing which I knew was going to be an issue was the graphics card. After looking at the technical specs your basically locked down to an Nvidia Quadro graphics card, there was basically an alienware MJ-12 or a… alienware MJ-12 the only problem being that it didn’t have built in bluetooth, but hey I can live without that.

End of May: The purchasing:
I knew that I was going to Australia at the end of may, so I looked into seeing if it was cheaper to buy the laptop in australia or the UK, because alienware have a website in the UK and Oz. Now the Australian website didn’t sell the MJ-12 laptop so I went onto the UK website and changed the delivery address to australia. When you do this all the prices change to dollars and it became VAT free. I checked the import duty to Australia and it was 10% so I made 7.5% saving already, and also the price was a lot lower so I made in all an 800 saving. Some eStores have difference prices for products depending on where they are being shipped, so if they want to get into a market they drop the price.

I mulled over if I should get it went back to the site and suddenly when I changed the delivery address to Australia it changed the price to… wait for it… Euros!?!?!?!! ok it was working with dollars the week before I’ll ring them up. So I rang them up basically saying I can pay either in Oz dollars or pounds but not euros otherwise I would get charged 2.5% in bank charges. First of all I was fobbed off that there was a problem with the website. I rang back a couple of days later and still a problem. So I ask them if I could buy it over the phone and pay using pounds, they said they would find out and ring me back… they didn’t … so I ring again and again each time being old something or other, in the end I gave up and ordered it on the internet using Euros… I rang my bank just to say that a large transaction was going through and it was a mail order which wasn’t going to my house in the UK. They said that would be fine and they would authorise it. Just to be on the safe side I ring them up a again and ask them if there was anything on the system and they confirmed that I had asked for this transaction to be accepted.. cool!

So on 28th May 2006 I purchased the laptop, knowing I was going to be in australia in a couple of days time for just over a month, plenty of time to ship the laptop.

On the 30th May I get an email asking me to ring up and confirm my order, which I do and they say that they have processed the order and everything if fine, I ask when it will be dispatched and they say its about 7 days sometimes less.

31st June:

I get and email saying:

“The bank will not allow us to perform an AVS check (a name and address check on the card). The country you are resident in does not allow us to perform an AVS check as either they are a data protected country or will not check the details over the phone for security reasons”…

Interesting! its a UK bank card… all banks that I know use AVS and the country is the UK?!?

1st June @ 15:53 (isn’t skype great!):
I give them a ring and ask them whats going on. They say I need to photocopy both sides of my card, and a card statement or an offical letter from the bank. I said it was a british card and its been authorised and I can’t see how it could have POSSIBLY been declined. Me now being in australia, I just didn’t think about bringing a bank statement with me, silly me! So they want a photocopy of my card! BOTH sides after thinking I decide that they aren’t getting it… I can’t even get to my bank statements anyway. So I know i’ll ring the bank just to check whats happened. I ring the bank.. they reply saying that no transactions have been declined at all. In fact no transactions from anyone in the last couple of days declined or otherwise. Right… so what your saying is Alienware isn’t telling the whole truth…

3rd June @ 10am:
I ring alienware and manage to persuade the person on the end of the phone that they can charge my card with the delivery address details and it will work FINE!… and after a bit of persuading they do it… and guess what … it WORKS!

I took a look at the alienware website and they have a nice little page which tracks your order status. It says on Pre-processing.. it hasn’t even got to the card charged bit, I wait a day or two because it may just update at night or something so it could just be out of date. I say I need it quite urgently and they put the order on priority.

5th June:
Its still on the pre-process stage. I ring them up to be told that the status page is not linked to there system and has to be updated manually and sometimes this doesn’t happen… GREAT! But you must be nearly done because I was told it would take 7 days to dispatch? and I am told its been delayed because of missing parts. Great only 2 weeks before I leave Oz!

13th June:
For the last couple of days it says its been saying that payment has been received but not a lot else. I give them another ring to check the progress and they say they have received the parts today and they are building now and it should be dispatched on friday! yupiee!!

16th June:
I ring up to check the progress of the order and its been shipped! I ask for shipping ref and it was on DHL Express so I would get it on wednesday for my flight on the friday to New Zealand for a filming project that I needed the laptop for.

I track the shipping online and see it going from Dublin to London to Sydney…

19th June (5days before flight):
I check the DHL website and it says “Clearance delay” … clearance delay? its in sydney but its stuck in customs. I ring up DHL and ask what that means and they say that its been delayed because it has missing paperwork! ARGH! and could take up to 3 days to be approved. ARGH! I ring up alienware, they ring DHL and fax over the paperwork.

20th June:
I go to the depot and pick up the laptop as I need time to install things on it before I fly to New Zealand. Yupiee!!! I have a laptop!

I install things on it…

I start doing some graphics work and try and increase the resolution… strange I can’t get higher than 1440×900. But the laptop I ordered was 1920×1200… they have installed the wrong screen! ARGH! no built in camera, no Wide UXGA 17″ screen.

22nd June:
I can’t bare to ring Alienware so I send them an email saying about the problem with the laptop… I get no reply. But I need to use the laptop but I make sure I keep the plastic over the screen.

8th July:
I send them another email… still no reply…

12th July:
I ring them and ask what I need to do, they ask me if I notified them… which I did and after AN AGE they find my emails…

After communicating with them some more I they ask if I want a refund as its cheaper than sending the laptop back to them. Which I would love to do but unfortunately I need the higher res and better screen so that I can see the colours better for my digital comp / graphics work. The screen and the graphics card was the only reason I got the laptop in the first place. So I suggest to them that I send it to Australia as they are based out there… Each time they say they will call me back .. each time they do not.

One point I ring them to be told by a sales or receptionist that they are all in a meeting… ALL of customer service!!! how bizarre!

29th August:
I ring them and I get someone who says that someone else is now dealing with my call, but he’s unavailable but will call me back by the end of the day. So I ask her to DEFINATLY send me an email by the end of the day or ring me even if nothing happens. You never guess what happens… yup… nothing… I even say that I will be contacting Trading Standards on wednesday next week if this hasn’t been cleared up.

3 months and 3 days since I attempted to purchased the laptop online … and counting.

5000×2000 pixels high-def for cinemas


Last year saw and upserge in people going to the cinema in the UK, while our US counterparts have been seeing a decline… but don’t worry there is a new cinema on the block! (or idea at least!). Three german companies have come up with “Cinevision 2006”. It runs at a 10 megapixel resolution thats 5000×2000! and you thought your 1080p high def home cinema was good!

Just take a look at the quality and the size of the guy in front of the screen! So when’s it coming to the UK? 🙂 give IMAX a run for its money, ok maybe not 🙂

Cinevision 2006

Just have to be a bit more careful on the rotoscoping! people will REALLY see your mistakes up big! 🙂

More Cinevision 2006 photos can be found here.
You can see more information of the Cinevision 2006 here.

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