A moment in the sun Fishtank Journals Modular synthesisers Music & Synthesisers Stuff I made

January 2018 recap

Welcome to my January 2018 recap!

Other Perth folk will probably remember this fire..

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the Tinies watch the #perthfire smoke drift over

A post shared by S J Bennett (@quollism) on

And of course we all remember the eclipse..

..but what did I get up to this month? Read on!

Synthesisery bits

I got a ribbon controller this month! It’s pretty cool!

I’ve loved the sound of the ondes Martenot ever since I heard it for the first time in the original “Ghostbusters” movie (pretty much the first thing in the movie you hear!). The ondes has a continuous controller called a “ruban” (as well as a keyboard), which is how it achieves those sweeping quivering notes.

The ribbon controller I got this month lets me have that some of that same expressiveness, and by expressiveness I mean hitting the wrong note a lot and having to cover it up with vibrato. Practice makes perfect!

Stuff I built

This is what I soldered together this month just gone.

  • Ornament and Crime polymorphic digital swiss army knife type thingy (3-5 January 2018) [modulargrid]
  • Music Thing Modular Magnetophon cassette tape head (16 January 2018) [modulargrid]
  • RYO 3xVCA triple voltage controlled amplifier (18 January 2018) [modulargrid]
  • RYO 2xVCX dual voltage controlled amplifier/crossfader and four quadrant multiplier (29 January 2018) [modulargrid]
  • Feedback 106 Chorus (30 January 2018) [modulargrid]

The Feedback 106 Chorus build was a bit of a disaster. It uses period vintage chips to get the genuine sound of a Juno 106’s chorus effect. When it works, it sounds bloody fantastic. When it works.

Usually I don’t bother with actual vintage stuff. For all the romance of vintage electronics, the reality is that they’re rare, expensive, unreliable, susceptible to failure, and even being counterfeited in the case of MN3009 chips. This chorus did sound fab so I at least wanted to have a punt at making one, but if the vintage bits turned out to be duds, I resolved to put the whole thing aside and cut my losses there and then. And that is pretty much how it went.

Unlike the 106 Chorus, I got the polymorphic digital module Ornament & Crime working after three nights of building and troubleshooting. This module of legend should keep me occupied for months while I discover everything it can do, let alone how to use that as part of a whole system. Here’s an early test of the o_C in “Harrington 1200” mode sequencing some pleasant Boards of Canada-esque chords.


A pleasant surprise this month is the RYO & Kymatica 2xVCX, a dual voltage controlled crossfader. Fading back and forth between two signals at audio rates creates all kinds of fun timbres, sort of like ring modulation (which the 2xVCX can also do). Here’s a little test I recorded which goes all the way from grimy analogue noise to happy little chords!

There’s enough space left for two more modules, both of which I’ve already picked out, but more about that next month! 🙂

Let’s talk Blender! And movies! And spaceships!

3D stuff

Alien Force

The secret project I mentioned back in November was some album artwork for the Alien Force EP. I did a big write-up on it which appeared on BlenderNation. The feedback has been a little sparse but generally positive!


But that’s old news. Have some new news!

A moment in the sun

I am back in the sun (kind of)! Yay! (Kind of!)

At the beginning of the year I decided I liked the story mostly where it was. It’s the tale of a random labourer helping introduce a laser-obsessed geek to the Ultimate Laser Robot of his dreams. The current plan is to take the last scene of the story all the way through production as a pilot for the rest of the film, which means all I have to worry about for now is one single scene. My attention is contained to that one spot. Hooray!

I’ve been working on Scene 5’s art direction by rendering existing elements out from Blender, turning them into multi-layer images in Krita, then doing quick paint-overs to test out ideas.

Splitting up render layers to import them into Krita

To do this I render two EXR files – a multi-layer version with transparency and all render layers turned on to get each element isolated on its own layer, and a single layer non-transparent version which gives me the sky background.

Here’s the rendered layers fresh out of Blender, looking fairly pristine…

From there I applied filters and painted over the separate elements to test ideas out.

…and here is the same scene altered to get everything looking more decrepit.

In the repainted version the air is hazier, the route marker is crooked, the bus stop is falling apart and the road is sun-bleached. The scene’s still undercooked but this much better than trying to get my thoughts down purely in 2D or 3D. Yay for hybrid approaches!

Character-wise, I’ve been redesigning Pointy to make the character look and feel more like he actually is – a bit happier and younger and goofier.

Many Pointies. The one in the lower right is the current front-runner.

Gronky isn’t in Scene 5, but he’ll be getting an ill-fitting hi-viz jacket when he does finally appear.

Alas, I got bogged down in story decisions around tone and character again. I’ve got some storyboards for that scene but without pinning down how I want to approach it all, I’m stuck. Bah!

I read somewhere that it’s better to have another thing to switch over to than beating one’s head against a single project, so I found one. I work on AMITS until I get frustrated, then switch over to this other thing until I miss working on AMITS too much.

The other thing: Fishtank

An ex-animator friend and I dreamt up an aquatic animated sketch-comedy series many years ago, something that might get picked up and lead to bigger things. We gave it the working title “Fishtank” and brainstormed a few ideas, but we didn’t follow through so it fizzled….

One of my ideas saw a little fish laying a massive guilt trip on its potential predators for daring to eat something so cute and helpless.

My key image, where Shark feels very conflicted about eating Little Fish..


A rough exploratory sculpt of the little fish with the big eyes

The predator in question is a great white shark who’s a bit of a softy and slow on the uptake.

An exploratory rough sculpt of the shark. Not quite there yet, but getting closer!

Will the little fish end up a snack, or will the shark get more than he bargained for? Yes.

“Fishtank” is a much smaller project than AMITS, and definitely better sized for one person to work on. I might not finish AMITS this year, but this one I could conceivably get done by the end of the year.

I’ve got the story thumbnailed out already. Here’s the second of five pages of story scribbles which I drew on actual paper in biro then scanned into Krita.

Shark tries to get a chomp in but Little Fish isn’t having it!

I’m really looking forward to writing the music for this as well. It’s going to be an utter hoot writing completely overwrought tragically sad music, like that 1960s library music which Ren and Stimpy used to superb effect.

Despite both projects being comedies, Fishtank is more classic slapstick and AMITS is more inspired by 1950s Looney Tunes which is as indebted to radio comedy as the silents, so they complement one another pretty well.

See you next month with more fish, more sun and the final pieces of DASYRAC! 🙂

A moment in the sun Journals Stuff I made

And so it came to pass that 13 to 19 March 2016. I’m back into story and development again.

in December, the story hinged on a rogue sombrero which shakes Pointy
around and smashes him into the ground because it doesn’t understand his
accent – a common problem that Australians face with voice activated


sombrero has stuck around but gag has evolved. The sombrero has gone
from hovering (and violently malfunctioning) to making the wearer dance
involuntarily (as a prank) to playing music by remote control (as an
annoyance) to having a novelty walkie talkie receiver inside it (as an
even greater annoyance).

To stop myself from straying too far
again into development limbo (again), I wrote some guidelines on what
drives the characters, what they can and can’t do, etc. Things like:

  • Pointy
    can’t stay out in the sun. It makes him floppy and sad. But there is no
    shade except a) Gronky’s shadow, b) whatever shade Pointy gets from the
    things Gronky digs up. Hence, Pointy needs Gronky despite loathing him.
  • Gronky
    never gets angry at Pointy. Gronky is fond of Pointy and wants to help
    him. Gronky is also utterly incapable of assisting Pointy no matter what
    he tries.
  • Pointy’s undoing is inevitably a result of his own
    hubris, impatience, anger, failings of character, etc. Gronky may load
    the metaphorical pistol but it’s Pointy that ultimately fires it.
  • Pointy can never get away from Gronky (or the game/joke is over).

So the stage is set for a sort of purgatorial comedy – not unlike the Coyote and Road Runner cartoons which had a similar set of rules.


the course of the week I bridged my intro/premise (sun too bright, hat
fixes sun but hat annoying) and resolution (Pointy loses his cool and
suffers) with a good escalation. I tightened the story up, printed out a
synopsis and scribbled thumbnails all over it, did some audio tests,
cobbled together old bits of layout with newer tweaked ones, created a
new prop, did more thumbnailing to flesh things out.. generally getting
my ducks in a row for Easter when I’ll have a few days straight to go
hammer and tongs at layout.

Also this week, I tried out Jacques Lucke’s Animation Nodes plugin for Blender. It’s been getting a lot of attention and signal
boost lately – turns out that it’s useful, powerful and lots of fun.
Check out a demoreel here. or have a look at Jacques’s own tutorials here.

Also this week I saw Zootopia and started inventing an experimental artificial language which uses only verbs, anaphora and particles. As you do.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading!


Recording more scratch and finding the characters

So this is a somewhat unique project language-wise, which makes it somewhat unique production-wise. I’m doing vocal passes in English to get the emotion and timing about right, then dropping in replacements in the main character’s native language.

With only some of the phrases recorded in dialect, the characters jump in and out of English. The effect is kind of cool, a bit Hunt For Red October even. Writing-wise there’s a bit of pre-written stuff and a bit of improvisation which gets written down afterwards. The usual.

The opening scene involves the main character feeling nervous before a mysterious appointment at “Central Assessment”. He watches a news report from his home planet. I recorded two slightly different middle versions to see how they sit.

In the “spicy” version, he ends up ranting at the TV, forgetting his nervousness entirely. Watching the report gets him pissed off enough to get over his nerves. The anger makes him feel like he’s on a righteous crusade. He’s young and driven. But.. the idea of keeping that kind of character consistent episode after episode is a bit exhausting.

In the “less spicy” version, he’s fired up in a more subtle way, reminded of the reason he’s actually around, and there’s more backstory in the universe too. He’s got more of a wry, reserved confidence, out-thinking the forces of oppression instead of shouting at them. He watches his energy and channels his discontent into sheer determination. More mature. More believable. I like this guy better to be honest.

The project is so different from what I had in mind at end of August, mid-September, even the beginning of October before I decided to make a series. But I like where it’s going. Over 145+ hours of writing, drawing, voice acting and everything else over the last two months, it’s taking shape nicely.


I’m taking a short break from writing the story treatment. I’m having a play with rendering techniques instead, getting into some light pre-production to see what’s out there.

I think the story treatment is done enough for me to hammer the rest out when I hit storyboarding. I read the treatment now and I don’t know what to make of it anymore. I think I like it. I think. I’m giving it to friends to read to see what they make of it.

This is no longer a small thing. The story is a miniature sci-fi epic now. The main character doesn’t bounce between work and home getting more and more frustrated until he snaps but really he’s actually a good person, just a bit insular. No. In the newest treatment, the main character gets something very important taken away from him by a force so big that it barely acknowledges what it’s done, let alone why it happened.


There was a reason I left the big yellow wall easy to get to when I moved in: I wanted a story wall. Today I’m using it to suss out this story once and for all.

So. This is the story as it currently stands. I’ve got a more or less complete story up on the wall but I’m not happy with it yet. Next time someone says I’ve got a great idea for a story, I plan to say well I had 126 ideas for a story on my third go at writing it and it still wasn’t enough.

This is a kickarse way of building a story from freewritten points. It’s awesome for random-access checking because it’s all laid out in front of you, it’s easy to change stuff around if it doesn’t work – just replace the card. And best of all, it doesn’t require a working internet connection, let alone a quick one. So that’s nice.