Tortoise Butler launches a site of its own

Written on April 11, 2014 – 11:05 am by Ding


The delightful crew that I make films with on a regular basis and who have taught me everything I know has launched a lovely little site housing our short films and a blog written by the film crew.

Keep your eyes peeled for posts that will be going up over the next few weeks (my first post about creepy film locations is already up) and a new film that should be going live next week after we finish another 48 hour film challenge!

The main site can be found here: Tortoise Butler

Legitimate Critic

Written on September 8, 2011 – 12:58 pm by Ding

I have a problem whenever I review things.  There is an inner monologue that I seem to maintain that repeats the phrase “Who am I to say this?” over and over again driving me into a guilt spiral if I’ve been asked to review something that I deem to be not-very-good.

As far as I am concerned, the best critics have a deeper understanding of whatever it is they are critiquing.  As my field at the moment is predominantly games, I have a wide range of peers to look to for inspiration or despair.   As an example of a good critic, Yahtzee from Zero Punctuation is someone I appreciate not because of his oft hilarious turn of phrase but because I always feel he has a grounding of knowing what he’s talking about.  He can be pedantically critical, but that’s the best way to help a medium improve and it is always very clear just how much he loves the games he reviews.  Most importantly for me, his understanding has come from his contribution to the Indie games field and he has self published several titles and following his blog will reveal that he often works on several more that never see the light of day due to a mix of inertia, lack of time, or a realisation that the idea was better on paper.

Other reviewers also tend to read better in my opinion when they have game design experience.  The Rock Paper Shotgun reviews are always solid because they are also written by people who not only have a passion for games, but also have some experience with designing games or mods.  Likewise the Bit-Tech reviews (and yes I am a little biased here) are generally good because the guys that write them have dabbled in game design as well.  In this day and age, if you are interested enough in games to write about them, it would be crazy if you hadn’t dabbled in a little hobby-coding at some point, even if it’s playing around with a level editor or something.

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Curiosity Killed The World

Written on August 20, 2011 – 10:30 am by Ding

As part of my Learn By Doing series of films like my stop motion adventure a few days ago, I did something in live action this time.

Lesson learnt from this video:  You can cover a lot of sins with sound.  I think every one who offers film making advice online says it, but you never really appreciate it until you record something horribly crackly.

There are some out there that might say “well if you’re not 100% happy with it, why publish it?” and to them I say good point, but also I want to share my mistakes to maybe help someone else not make them, or to feel better also making mistakes.



Sick of Ninjas

Written on August 18, 2011 – 11:59 am by Ding

For a while now, as you might be able to tell from some of the comments I made about online broadcast technology a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been dying to make a video series of some sort, because I can’t quite work out why I haven’t already.

Today, I have taken a short break from clattering away at my keyboard to try and learn a few video editing skills, using the first few things that I could find near to my desk.  Two of those such things happened to be some LEGO figures, so that goes to explain this stupid little stop motion clip that I’ve created to try and teach myself the basics of video editing.

I found the music on a creative commons royalty free site called incompetech.  Creative commons licenses seem to be a wondrous thing that I’m going to have to learn more about, because it strikes me as the most incredible thing the internet is able to provide right now.

Things I have learnt today:  Stop motion is hard and time consuming and a real art form that I would love to dive a bit further in to and Creative Commons is the future.



Portal 2 Music Video – Exile Vilify By The National

Written on August 11, 2011 – 10:30 am by Ding

I have another film from the Tortoise Butler crew to share today.  This one was made for Valve’s recent Portal 2 music video competition.


I actually didn’t have such a massive involvement in this one.  I worked on some of the special effects and just sat at my computer churning out Half Life / Portal themed posters and citadel images that they placed in the film in post production to give the deserted streets of London a more in-universe feel.

The production was really done on a shoe string (with a steady-cam repair being carried out using a wooden spoon at one point) and in a very short space of time, approaching 48 hour film challenge conditions.

The way in which this one came out surprised me.  Some of the effects I worked on were much more effective than I expected they would be and it just went to show just how much you can do with the machines you have in your home and how even in a short space of time you can produce some decent quality content.

I also can’t believe they found someone who looked so much like Chell.

If you could have your own TV show…

Written on August 5, 2011 – 10:30 am by Ding

It is common knowledge that we as a whole take technology for granted.  At this very minute you are reading my words projected onto your screen through an immensely complicated mathematical processes involving 1s and 0s that have been transmitted from some undisclosed location to your machine after being sent to the undisclosed location by myself from a similar machine via a mix of telephone wires and other cables.  I’m hazy on the specifics and am fairly certain that the internet runs on magic.

We take the internet for granted and we take many of the things we have come to rely on for granted too.  I still remember a time when mobile phones were small if you could squeeze one inside a briefcase and when “wireless” meant “not plugged in which is why it’s not working” (I’m not quite old enough to associate wireless with a radio). Now we not only take mind blowing technology for granted, if it stops working for a second we become Bruce Banner on a bad day.

The one that always trips me up that I take for granted is online video on demand and broadcast technology.  In other words, sites like YouTube, Blip TV, Justin TV, Vimeo and several others sat across the internet are an absolute wonder when you stop and think about it.

If you had come up to me when I was 11 and told me that within about ten years, anyone could make their own TV show and put it somewhere where the world can see it, I would have laughed.  After all, not even the BBC has that sort of potential audience.

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Listening Post

Written on August 4, 2011 – 9:09 am by Ding

Sometimes I’ll work on something and completely forget to mention it at all to anyone because it’s actually completed and completed work is something I’m so unused to that it somehow drops out of my brain and scurries away from my conscious mind.

This short film is something I wrote and starred in to help a friend over at BBC Research & Development in testing a new piece of broadcast technology (which I think ultimately broke, but in a way that was useful to the development process).  It was recently shown in a “BBC Shorts” short film festival and presenter Francine Stock  thought I might be an actor.

I can’t watch this without cringing because I wrote it and had a very firm idea of what Tim was supposed to act and sound like and this wasn’t it.  It’s a bit like if you’ve ever tried to draw something that looked so good in your head but came out oddly deformed on paper; a mocking and twisted facsimile that taunts your inability to produce art (cf. every comic I have ever drawn).

Despite this I am oddly proud of it because it is something I have worked on that is complete and Not Completely Awful.

By some odd coincidence, my friend operates under the banner of  Tortoise Butler Films and other things that she has done with various other artists can be found by clicking that link.

I’ve worked on several of them in various capacities, including some photoshop work for an amazing Portal 2 video.

I also did a little logo for her which I think is still being used.

Film: Summer Wars

Written on December 30, 2010 – 2:07 pm by Ding

 Summer Wars follows a young mathematical genius who poses as the boyfriend to a girl he knows as a favor when she attends a family gathering for her matriarchal quasi-warlord-like grandmother’s 90th birthday in the scenic Japanese countryside.  The plot of the film concerns the threat of collapse of a digital environment called “Oz” that the world has grown to depend on at the hands of a rogue AI program that has been released by the American military that is absorbing the accounts of users and gaining all of the administrative privileges of said accounts which is in turn affecting anything that the owners of those accounts could do and generally wreaking havoc in the real world.  *takes a breath*

If those two sentences seem at odds with each other, I wish to state that is entirely purposeful:  Summer Wars is a film about conflict as implied by the title, but it’s about a conflict of different generations, of different worlds and how as things change the basic details remain the same and all adversity can be overcome through working together.  It’s a very effective and beautiful film that’s admittedly a little strange in places and it takes a while to sink in, but the short version is that I would definitely recommend it to anyone that gets a chance to see it.  A good fully dubbed / subbed slightly-more-English-language-friendly version is due to be released in March.

 And now for the long version.

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Avatar and Escapism

Written on November 4, 2010 – 11:36 am by Ding

A while ago, I mentioned that I enjoyed Avatar and that it was something I wanted to talk about.  I realise that makes it sound like I’m looking for some sort of counseling or that I feel it’s something I need to confess as opposed to express, but I did find it a genuinely interesting film and I’m a little perplexed as to why it received so much hate and negative criticism from the greater geekdom.  Perhaps it was just because it did really well and there’s an instinct to disregard anything that’s mainstream. 

 The theme is what interests me the most.  I’m not talking about the basic plot of a man from an industrial and technological culture defecting to a more spiritual and romanticized tribal way of life in the style of dances with wolves or Space-Pocahontas or anything like that.  What I mean the basic theme that underpins the entire film: that of escapism.

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The Matrix / Mr Anderson’s Psychotic Episode

Written on October 11, 2010 – 12:57 pm by Ding

Albert Shoe in Widescreen apparently got me thinking a bit about escapism and quasi-mental breakdowns.  This inevitably led me to go back and think a bit harder about the Matrix. 

Allow me to explain that potentially unrelated link.

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