Topic: The Nine Billion Names of God

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The Nine Billion Names of God

The Nine Billion Names of God

First of all, feel free to rate and comment!

Secondly, I am ethernally grateful for receiving my first ever staff reccomendation! I hope this will be the first among many appreciations for this film!

The Nine Billion Names of God is my most cooperative brickfilm so far. It's the first time I'm not writing the script, for istance. The screenplay, based on an Arthur C. Clarke short story, was written by Michael Tourette (known on BiM as HoldingOurOwn), an active brickfilmer and BiM member. Similarly, voices are provided by more colleagues: William Osborne voices Charles Wagner, lead character of the film, Ian Wood took the role of Lama, Mary Charles (known on BiM mostly as Brick7) does the female announcer.
I believe Michael's description of the story is good and concise: "An unusual order of monks enlists some hi-tech help in their centuries-long mission to inscribe all the possible names of God." To add something, two employees of a 3D printer company, Charles and George, are hired to help this order of monks from the Himalaya, but they'll soon learn the dangers of what is happenning there.
Personally, I feel that The Nine Billion Names of God has strong bonds with Ad Tenebras, my other brickfilm based on an Isaac Asimov short story. The two films share certain themes, and there is a rather poetic parallel that can be tracked between the two endings.

Last edited by LegoStudiosP (August 21, 2017 (03:38pm))

Re: The Nine Billion Names of God

I watched this as soon as it was released.  I enjoyed it thouroughly.  I'll get the few criticisms out of the way up front:

Some of the dialogue animation was static.  People speaking tend to idle around, so a few extra movements help establish the speaker and keep the viewer interested.  Also, the audio levels weren't consistent.  Mary Charles' character was clear, but I had trouble with hearing others clearly.

Other than that, I enjoyed everything about this.  The only other issue I had was the transition after George finishes building the 3D printer.  The next scene, with the monks assembling the book pages as they come out of the printer, looks like the same scene although several weeks have passed.  Maybe dissolving to a little panning animation of the monks beginning at the oend of the room opposite the printer would be all that's needed.  However, the transition to the airport scene was golden: beyond perfect.  That flawless execution was perfect comedic timing.  I genuinely laughed although I knew what was going to happen.

From beginning to end, the framing and lighting and photography of the shots was beautiful.  The lighting really set the tone for everything.  I love the design of the 3D printer model too.  I also liked a few times when Lama was speaking and you used "practical" animation where it looked like he was being held and moved by hand while filmed at extreme close-up.  It's a type of "analog" fluid motion that is very difficult to film frame-by-frame and adds a realistic warmth to an animation.

The scene where George and Charles were discussing what to do when they're done (I said this in a way to avoid spoilers) is well-done, where there's a daydream sequence at the beginning.  Making a direct visual parallel to Charles putting himself back in the New York skyscraper and his standing on the cliff was a great idea.  Your idea!  Really dramatic and something I never would have thought of.  Thsi is the second sci-fi story I've collaborated as the screenwriter, and to those who haven't done it, the animator always wants to make changes to the script for one or another reason.  This is natural; it happens in Hollywood all the time.  So the writer and the director discuss changes, and either they agree or disagree to changes, and where there's disagreement, a compromise is made.  If I object strongly, it's not often but usually because I feel the change alters the author's original vision of the story I adapted.  But usually changes are of this type, where the director adds insight or clarity or some other angle the writer missed, to a story.  LegoStudiosP had some good suggestions to enhance the story, and this was probably the best one.

There's a joke in Mary Charles' line that viewers may be unaware of.  In the airport scene, the flight number is #1953.    "The nine Billion Names Of God" was first published in 1953.  This is an adaptation of a story more than half a century old.  The first computer was invented only six years prior, and of course, the technology presented int he original story, written in contemporary times, is archaic and anyone could print lists of names on their laptop.  So, to update the story without changing its original vision, I decided to make the monks require specific materials to be fabricated to meet the requirements of their writing rituals.  That would require them to enlist the help of someone more special than anyone with a printer.  LegoStudiosP agreed this would be the best way to modernize the story while keeping it the classic story remembered by sci-fi fans.

And then there's the very ending of the story.  When people read the last line, it's never forgotten.  The only other Clarke ending that's so memorable is the last line of his short story, "The Star".  He is known for trick or gimmicky endings.  "History Lesson", among others, comes to mind, though its ending kind of makes the entire story a nerd joke rather than be thought-provoking as in "The Nine Billion Names Of God". There are two comic book adaptations of the original story by fans.  One is in black and white and tried to look edgy but instead looks like a trite 1990s comic.  The final frame in this version doesn't really convey the ending at all and is very static.  A much better color comic, unrelated to the black and white one, has a very dynamic, fluid final frame, but still, the impact is absent.  Your ending is much more powerful than both, and it the only one of the three dramatic enough to capture the ending of the story.  It's all helped by the sudden synth music that catches the viewer off guard and amplifies the impact of the ending.  With little music elsewhere in the story, the stark contrast indicates something big is about to happen.

It's appropriate that this film is released on 21 August, 2017, the day of the great North American Eclipse.  People who watch the film can understand the significance of this statement.

You make excellent use of dramatic pauses in the ending and elsewhere in your film and other films.  I notice that it's part of your animation style to do so.

So, other than having trouble hearing much of it clearly, partly because my laptop has a maximum volume that's quite low, and the minor issues that I needn't rehash, it's a great film which I had the pleasure of joining you in creating.

"The Nine Billion Names of God" is the second in the "Golden Sci Fi" brickfilm series.  The first is Connor Waterbanks' (togFox's) "Mariana".  If you wish to watch/ comment, the Mariana thread is here: http://bricksinmotion.com/forums/topic/21135/Mariana
The next film int he project is "Warm" by Robert Sheckley.  I'm looking for an experienced animator fo this one, as it's abstract and presents some unique animation challenges.  It's been greenlit, but it looks like the animator may not have the time for it.  email me if you're interested.  The screenplay can be read here:
https://app.box.com/s/lo7r0w9sjncre19her8kkftxc3oolzs2

Congrats!

Re: The Nine Billion Names of God

I was really looking forward to this as soon as I read the screenplay, and it did not disappoint.

I had never heard of the Arthur C. Clark short story prior to this, but this is a good introduction for anyone who hasn't. It did remind me a little of James Hilton's classic 1937 short story, Lost Horizon, which I am very much a fan of.

It was my first performance, with more than a couple of lines, in which I play an American, and I tried my very best to pull it off. I feel happy with the end result, as I don't sound anything like myself. If anyone reads this comment, that has seen this film, please let me know what you thought of my performance.

The animation isn't without it's flaws, but the concept, the cinematography and the great screenplay by Holding our own, elevated this up to another level. I agree that your insight about having the transition of Charles standing on the balcony was very clever, and really helped convey his feelings in a unique, visual way.

Overall, great screenplay, great cinematography, and a great story.

Also, just a quick couple of things I thought I might say. LegostudiosP, I apologize for my recent absence. As you all may know, there was a family emergency and we had to travel down south to see my family and sort things out. I will voice act for you, whenever I get the chance. Just send me the script for The Vengeful, and I will hopefully get my recordings out to you within the week.

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Re: The Nine Billion Names of God

HoldingOurOwn wrote:

I watched this as soon as it was released.  I enjoyed it thouroughly.  I'll get the few criticisms out of the way up front:

Some of the dialogue animation was static.  People speaking tend to idle around, so a few extra movements help establish the speaker and keep the viewer interested.  Also, the audio levels weren't consistent.  Mary Charles' character was clear, but I had trouble with hearing others clearly.

I cannot but agree with that. I tried to work on dialogue animation here, but soon I realised I had not enough footage to cover all of the lines. Because of that, I had to pause animation very often.

Other than that, I enjoyed everything about this.  The only other issue I had was the transition after George finishes building the 3D printer.  The next scene, with the monks assembling the book pages as they come out of the printer, looks like the same scene although several weeks have passed.

Yeah, it was a bit rushed, and maybe that's why the transition didn't work perfectly.

From beginning to end, the framing and lighting and photography of the shots was beautiful.  The lighting really set the tone for everything.

I'll try not to sound redundant, but, I'm really glad about the praise you give. You pointed out a lot of aspects that I'm trying to make identifying for my filming style. I'm not a talented or very patient animator, so I use dramatic pauses, thought photography and camera angles, visual flashbacks, meaningful endings to try to hide that mini/wink

"The Nine Billion Names of God" is the second in the "Golden Sci Fi" brickfilm series.  The first is Connor Waterbanks' (togFox's) "Mariana".  If you wish to watch/ comment, the Mariana thread is here: http://bricksinmotion.com/forums/topic/21135/Mariana
The next film int he project is "Warm" by Robert Sheckley.  I'm looking for an experienced animator fo this one, as it's abstract and presents some unique animation challenges.  It's been greenlit, but it looks like the animator may not have the time for it.  email me if you're interested.  The screenplay can be read here:
https://app.box.com/s/lo7r0w9sjncre19her8kkftxc3oolzs2

Let's not forget that I would've never adapted this story if I didn't find your script in the forums, this film would have not happenned. HHO has plenty of other scripts of various genres that wait only to find their animators. He's also very open minded about changes, as long as they benefit the film (in my case, many of these were visual aspects), and at the same time steady in those elements he doesn't want to keep out of the story. I'm glad that my first collaboration with other BiM users was with him, and hooe this will be a rising trend. I always pictured Brickfilming as "training" for filmmaking. This sort of collaboration is very common in the real film industry, often requiring compromises also with another figure, the producer. For that reason, I think the experience was highly educative, and I'm thankful to HHO for that.

Re: The Nine Billion Names of God

William Osborne wrote:

I had never heard of the Arthur C. Clark short story prior to this, but this is a good introduction for anyone who hasn't. It did remind me a little of James Hilton's classic 1937 short story, Lost Horizon, which I am very much a fan of.

To be fair here, I never really read any other sci-fi short stories other than those written by Asimov (I adapted one in a brickfilm called Ad Tenebras which you can see and rate here), and I had to read the short story around the time I took the script.

It was my first performance, with more than a couple of lines, in which I play an American, and I tried my very best to pull it off. I feel happy with the end result, as I don't sound anything like myself. If anyone reads this comment, that has seen this film, please let me know what you thought of my performance.

I'm kind of internal here, but I think that you managed to do an american accent very well.

The animation isn't without it's flaws, but the concept, the cinematography and the great screenplay by Holding our own, elevated this up to another level.

I myself think of that the same way. I never thought that I'm a great animator, but I try to catch the attention trough camera angles and such. I didn't mention this earlier, but until my previous film, I used a digital camera, an IXUS 115 HS. I finally afforded a DSLR and this is the first film I animated with it.
HHO's script did the rest.

Also, just a quick couple of things I thought I might say. LegostudiosP, I apologize for my recent absence. As you all may know, there was a family emergency and we had to travel down south to see my family and sort things out. I will voice act for you, whenever I get the chance. Just send me the script for The Vengeful, and I will hopefully get my recordings out to you within the week.

I don't think you need to apologise for such things. Family afterall should come before anything else. I think you mean the voice acting duty for Day of Vengeance(for who's not familiar with that project, William agreed to voice some characters in that one too). That can wait, I'm in no hurry there, but I'll send you the script Asap.

Re: The Nine Billion Names of God

I pretty much agree with what the others have said, so I'm not going to repeat it, as the feedback you have received from just two people is already quite vast mini/tongue (respect to HOO for writing such a long piece of critique, I think I would have lost patience trying to do something as long ads that mini/lol).

The only other thing I would like to say is that the level of your cinematography was a bit inconsistent. On the one hand, things like the practical animation HOO mentioned was extremely well done, and not something I see often, so that was nice. On the other hand, some of the pans were a bit bumpy, but that can be easily fixed with practice mini/smile

The pacing left me wanting more (which is always a good thing)! and you managed to achieve a sort of pacing that is very suitable for this film yet one which can be difficult to achieve. This has got me really excited for your upcoming Day of Vengeance brickfilm! mini/bigsmile

Oh, and I loved the ending mini/yes

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Re: The Nine Billion Names of God

Dragon Brick Studios wrote:

The only other thing I would like to say is that the level of your cinematography was a bit inconsistent. [...] some of the pans were a bit bumpy, but that can be easily fixed with practice mini/smile

In my defence, I didn't use a DLSR before this film. I practically learnt to use it through this and Day of Vengeance. mini/smile

The pacing left me wanting more (which is always a good thing)! and you managed to achieve a sort of pacing that is very suitable for this film yet one which can be difficult to achieve. This has got me really excited for your upcoming Day of Vengeance brickfilm! mini/bigsmile

Thank you! I'd like to say that Day of Vengeance's first segment will be online by the end of the week, so the wait won't be too long mini/wink

Re: The Nine Billion Names of God

I got to listen to it much more clearly, after boosting the audio levels.  So now I can comment on the audio.  I think the standout role was Ian Wood.  Ian wood was a great Lama, and William Osborne wasn't bad with his American accent.  I'm sorry one voice actor bailed on you, or was too busy to record his lines.  Your recitation of George's lines sounded like you were a bit impatient, and anxious to finish the project.  I understand it was all a last minute decision, however and it's no biggie.  I'm very pleased with the results.

I can't leave out Mary Charles (Brick7) and her contribution.  I suggested/requested her inclusion in the announcer's role, with no obligations.

Watching it again, I think the use of the synthesizer is even more powerful than I did the first time, when I had trouble hearing the audio.

Re: The Nine Billion Names of God

Excellent work I love it

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Re: The Nine Billion Names of God

HoldingOurOwn wrote:

Watching it again, I think the use of the synthesizer is even more powerful than I did the first time, when I had trouble hearing the audio.

I realised when watching without earphones that not all of the sounds could be heard in that mode.

Re: The Nine Billion Names of God

Ah, the long awaited "Nine Billion Names of God," here at last! Very nice. The intro with the foot stepping, leading to the climb up the mountain really brought me into their world, and their conversation about fear of heights was dramatically suggestive. The voices were very hard to hear, even with headphones on, but the overall feel and production will make this memorable. The ending with the synthesizer music and the

Spoiler (highlight to read)no spoilers here

felt very 80s and Stephen King esque which helped transport me.

HoldingOurOwn wrote:

And then there's the very ending of the story.  When people read the last line, it's never forgotten.  The only other Clarke ending that's so memorable is the last line of his short story, "The Star".  He is known for trick or gimmicky endings.  "History Lesson", among others, comes to mind, though its ending kind of makes the entire story a nerd joke rather than be thought-provoking as in "The Nine Billion Names Of God".

I always got a kick out of "Reunion" which has that kind of gimmicky ending you mentioned.
http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2014/06/a … union.html

Re: The Nine Billion Names of God

thistof wrote:

The voices were very hard to hear, even with headphones on, but the overall feel and production will make this memorable.

That was an issue I noticed while editing: I had audio files with very different audio levels, so I tried my best at making them all the same volume, but that volume was low even at maximum level.

The ending with the synthesizer music and the [spoiler] felt very 80s and Stephen King esque which helped transport me.

This is interesting mini/lol to be honest, the only thing I thought will be 80s style was the ending title card, which is very similar to that of the tv show "Stranger Things" (I assume I was watching that series at the time when I came up with the title). I never really read any Stephen King other than a few short stories, not being an avid fan of the horror genre. Music-wise, the ending theme slightly resembles the music you hear in "Stalker" (1979, directed by Andrej Tarkovskij) or "Solaris" (1972, same director). The fact that it is a synthethic sound score might remind veeeery distantly of the Vangelis score for Blade Runner, but it's still very different.

Thank you for the feedback!

Re: The Nine Billion Names of God

I may as well ask since people are still writing on this feed: How well do you people think my "Lama" voice was? It was hard doing that accent and I didn't know if any other more "experienced" voice actors on BiM could give me some feedback too. I enjoy voicing as much as I do animating, and I want to get good at it.

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Re: The Nine Billion Names of God

I think your performance was up there with Mary Charles'!  You're welcome to appear as a character in Holding Our Own.