The Sci-Fi Geneis part support group, part research institute for those of us who enjoy the best and worst of sci-fi. I am a London-based filmmaker, animator and science fiction enthusiast. I created The Sci-Fi Gene blog in 2008 as a way to bring my interests together, make connections and take a few more of my projects to completion.
For an amateur thereminist, and let's face it, apart from Carolina Eyck we are all amateur thereminists, the most important question of all is: how will I customise my theremin?
Now let me think.
OK. Hands up everyone who was surprised by this.
I'm still getting over the shock of this device actually working. I'm not anywhere near being able to play music on it - the following demo video is rated R for Raucous and should not be watched by anyone.
I am going to need some truly weird sounds to mix into the soundscape for the road animation - so I have literally no choice but to build a theremin. My hands are tied (which may make playing the theremin difficult).
Named after its' inventor Leon Theremin, the theremin is the most science-fiction-y of all instruments, famous for being used in movies such as The Day The Earth Stood Still and Mars Attacks, and also famous for not being used in the Star Trek theme tune (it's actually sung by a soprano) or the Doctor Who theme tune (they used pretty much every possible sound generator except a theremin).
For this DIY project I'm using the Arduino-based Open Theremin v3 design by Urs Gaudenz. You can read about the history of this interesting project, find out more about Leon Theremin and order your own kit here.
The kit includes an integrated theremin circuit board, connecting pins, switches and LEDs (the Arduino and USB cable were purchased separately) ...
...and also some of these things.
You just need a few extras - the Arduino itself, some kind of stand e.g. a camera tripod, some earthing wire, and either a decent pair of headphones or a speaker and a set of very, very tolerant family members and neighbours. One round of dodgy soldering later:
My evil plan worked! Now all I have to do is learn to play it...
All movies reviewed on the Sci-Fi Gene blog are given a score of 3 out of 5 stars
This review may contain spoiler warnings
2018's Avengers: Infinity War ended with the destruction of half of all life in the Universe, including half of the Avengers cast. I wasn't hugely surprised to find, and this isn't really much of a spoiler, that Avengers: Endgame turns out to be about an attempt by the remaining Avengers to bring the band back together and do something about it.
Marvel Studios' Avengers: Endgame - Official Trailer - YouTube
I was more surprised by the downbeat, bluesy tone of much of the movie. I would expect to see more personal depth and character building in the individual superhero stories, and there's plenty of this in Ant Man and The Wasp, and Captain Marvel - it's hard to get the same depth in an ensemble movie, but Endgame does better than most. The movie opens a few years after Infinity War, in a world reacting to the shock of that Thanos moment through memorials and support groups. Meanwhile the scattered Avengers have each reacted in different ways, and there's a reality to the transformed Thor, Hawkeye and Hulk that makes a lot of sense - possibly having fewer other characters overshadowing them means these characters can be more central. There's also a lot of gentle humour to be found.
However Avengers: Endgame is still not exactly an arthouse dogme experiment - I'm gutted that Lars Von Trier turned down the invitation to direct. There are plenty of CGI set-piece battles, and these are quite lovely but also confusing if you try to follow them. Why is Captain Marvel more powerful than Thanos one moment, and at his mercy the next? I gave up and just enjoyed the fireworks. The same applies to the main plot, the Avengers' plan to address the absence of half the Universe. Giving the writers credit, they have deliberately taken a certain kind of sci-fi plot and tried very hard to give it an original twist by disallowing the obvious routes. The end result serves the movie well but really doesn't stand up to logical analysis - luckily as a Doctor Who fan I have become immune to plot holes through repeated exposure so this did not spoil Endgame for me in the slightest.
Overall Endgame is a satisfying movie and a satisfying end to both the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy movie cycles. I am sure the great Stan Lee would approve of this movie's marvellous review score of three stars out of five.
Continuing to work on the car scene, trying out some different colour schemes. Animation trials to follow - Freestyle rendering is a bit slow so it may take some time to get together enough frames to animate.
This project could go in several different directions from here. I've enjoyed gradually building up the car and adding detail to the road, and I could quite happily keep on doing so forever. The end result could be an unstructured film or music video, or just something to do on a rainy day.
However I do have an almost-complete script as well and this was part of the reason I started modelling the car. So it might also be good to complete the script, get some voice over talent together and make a more traditional short. The script does call for some more work on modelling and animation.
I also have some serious plans for the soundscape - it needs some old-school weirdness and I know just the thing. Watch this space.
I was only able to attend one out of the six days of Horror-On-Sea this year so I made the most of it, taking in 6 feature films and several well-chosen short films. I picked up some... unusual DVDs on the second hand tables, so more on that story later when I've watched them. I ended the day in the casino beneath the venue for a drink and a chat with some of the festival organizers and filmmakers - as I found last year, this is a friendly, down to earth festival where the Underworld can meet the elite. After a brief flutter I left the casino up by £4 and a free pen, so can't complain about that either. I have added screening one of my films at Horror-On-Sea to my bucket list. In order to achieve this item I may need to actually make some films.
Themes for this year, at least for the day I attended, included vampires, mediums, cats, hipsters, curses, parallel worlds, international film, great memorable characters, and bonkers. Bonkers is the new jump scares.
Overall I was bowled over by the quality of the films screened. Every single one was either highly enjoyable, or still highly enjoyable if slightly too long. I'll post individual reviews of some of the films later, but I'd like to highlight some of the highlights - so here are the Sci-Fi Gene Awards for Achievement In Horror:
Snakes On A Plane Award for Achievement in the Naming of Horror Films: awarded to Polterheist (UK, dir David Gilbank)
Last Temptation Of Christ Award for Achievement in Theatrical Portrayal of Jesus: awarded to Vidar The Vampire (Norway, dir Thomas Aske Berg and Fredrik Waldeland)
Hidden Figures Award for Advancement of the Cause of Feminism: awarded to Space Babes from Outer Space (USA, dir Brian Williams) If the winners would kindly proceed through the interdimensional gateway to the parallel universe where there is actually money for this kind of thing, I (or my interdimensional double) look forward to welcoming them to the glamorous award ceremony and presenting them with their antimatter trophies.