Thursday, 20 July 2017

Conor McGregors 'F**k You suit

They say clothes maketh the man, apparently we have Mr William Shakespeare to thank for that one, I can neither deny or confirm if that's true or not, a quick Google search suggested it was from ancient Greece but hey, what do I know?
You may or may not be into boxing or MMA fighting, I'll claim ignorance to knowing much about it to be honest but the recent words of wisdom between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor last week were talk of the town, things got pretty amped between the pair, one turned up in a baseball cap with a big bag of money ( well, stacks of $1 dollar bills) and one turned up in a sharp looking 'pinstripe suit' and a truck load of attitude.

Getty Images

However, on closer inspection,what everyone thought were the traditional designer lines on McGregor's pinstripe suit were hugely mistaken, closer inspection reveals the suits pinstriped lines were actually in fact very small text that said "fuck you". Designed exclusively to wear at the press conference this week to promote their mega payday fight on August 26th.
Much of pre-fight press conferences  for big mega pay day fights is all about the psychology between the fighters and for setting up the hype to push ticket sales for pay per view, its about putting serious doubt into your opponents mind before the fight- unless of course things get really heated and fists fly which isn't unheard of.

The 'fuck you' suit is actually an inspired piece of mind games, for all of Mayweather's material wealth and TMT self-endorsed branding (The Money Team)  not to mention the endless Instagram money stack photos he posts - all this despite the fact it appears that the IRS is chasing him for around $29 Million in back taxes. McGregor went into this press conference to get inside Mayweather's head. 'The man had a pinstripe suit which said 'fuck you' all over it - now Floyd is a big boy, he's probably not all that bothered about the man inside the suit but from now until the fight he'll be wondering how much did that suit cost to make, who made it and who the hell came up with that idea?. Additionally it gets press talking, GQ already did a big article on it.

The suit was designed and made by David August who makes all of McGregors suits, this one was custom made, Navy Wool and was designed with McGregor's personality in mind.
Mayweather's track record speaks for itself, the man has made lots of money from winning in a career that is currently 49 wins with no losses so lets hope that McGregor's press conference willy waving and grandstanding doesn't make him look the fool come August 26th.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

JAWS: The Art of the Poster

Back in 2015 the movie JAWS hit its 40th Anniversary, released on June 20th 1975 (December 26th  in the UK) the film did for beach holidays what Fatal Attraction did for having an affair. Jaws installed a fear of deep ocean water in me, I will not swim in deep open water from a boat unless I'm with lots of other people (the chances of being attacked are somewhat reduced if there's more meat swimming around). The film was responsible for the massive decline in the shark population in the late 70's and very early 80's when fear and the 'cool factor' of shark fishing, "hey look ma, I killed a predator" painted sharks in a bad light rather than the crucial role they play in the ecology of the ocean. The point is the only thing more dangerous than a man eater is a man hunting for the thrill of it.Man remains at the top of the food chain, 11,417 sharks are killed every hour according to a 2013 Huff Post article. Anyway, I digress  -(sorry about that), when JAWS reached its 40th milestone back in 2015 the Alamo Drafthouse in Texas celebrated by showing the movie Jaws on Austins Lake Travis where viewers could sit on inflatables to watch the movie at night. It's been a yearly event and shows the movie through June and July.

Designer Roger Kastel was responsible for the original JAWS movie poster painted as an oil-on-board painting for the purposes of the films marketing for Universal. (He's also credited with The Empire Strikes Back movie poster.) The JAWS shark mouth and swimmer design was based on Paul Bacons original book cover for the Doubleday hardcover which was created in 1974 depicting a shark below a swimmer, the image was black and white. Kastels updated version for Universal brought more life and menace to the premise of the story and the terror of an impending shark attack.
The Kastel cover featuring the nude swimmer ended up getting the book banned in Boston, Massachusetts and St Petersburg Florida. Further complications including a  lawsuit between DoubleDay and Bantam over the revised and updated cover and Paul Bacons original concept ended up with DoubleDay receiving compensation.
The original Kastel artwork, once framed and hanging in the Society of Illustrators in New York was shipped off to Hollywood for the movie promotion back in the late 70's, it was never returned, lost forever and has never been since since.

JAWS remains a iconic movie over 40 years on, an almost ageless classic -  it defined the summer blockbuster and created a cultural phenomenon. 40 years down the line it inspired fans, designers and artists all over the world to express their love and respect for the movie with some truly awe inspiring poster designs. Here's a selection of some of the best.

Phantom City Creatives JAWS poster print limited to a run of 325 now fetches a tidy sum if you can get your hands on it via Ebay with prices in the region of $299
Check out the red variation below.

Phantom City Creative: Red JAWS variant - Ltd Edition print run

Designer: Laurent Durieux

Designer: John Barry Ballaran

Designer: Anthony Petrie

Designer: Flore Maquin

Designer: Kyle Brown

Designer: Matthew Thomas

Designer: Remulous

Designer: Phantom City Creative

 Designer: Matt Ryan Tobin

Designer: Mike Wrobel

Designer: Kevin M Wilson

24″ X 36″ 3 color screen prints, regular “Beach Open” edition of 100 and variant “Beach Closed” edition of 75. Private commission.
Designer: Patrick Connan
Designer: Paul Shipper


Check Out Roger Kastels art here
The Literary Hub showcased Paul Bacons Book covers here

Friday, 7 July 2017

What The F***k is NEX MACHINA?

You may or may not be familiar with the side scrolling voxel based shoot em up Resogun back in 2013, beyond that, you might remember R-Type or even perhaps 1942 with the WW2 plane that spewed out ridiculous amounts of firepower against waves and waves of enemies....yeah that.

R-type in all its glory

Well, dial that all up to 11 and add a neon disco like you've never seen before because Nex Machina is the arcade players dream shooter. A marriage of what Robotron and Smash TV were back in the day, frantic eye busting affairs of onscreen digital mayhem.
Developed by Housmarque who developed the original Resogun, Nex Machina is a twin stick shooter, on PS4 you can either use both the analogs to move the character and shoot or use each of the joypad buttons to fire your characters weapons in the direction of the button press. 

What initially looks like a manic onscreen frenzy is actually a well choreographed enemy threat, timing is crucial to utilize your characters dash ability to avoid the seemingly impossible pulses of plasma shots and spinning shurikens of laser filled death. If you actually watch the patterns you'll see that timing and well as pulling off some crazy moves can work in tandem.
Onscreen pickups like shields are essential, multi-shot blaster upgrades and dash pickups are challenging to reach too, you'll need to blast your way through a wall of enemy bots homing in on you or the hapless humans that are wandering around on each level that you need to save.

Resogun - developed by Housemarque in 2013

Waves upon waves of enemy droids will stream towards you in a seemingly endless tsunami,walking spider bots with cannons lumber towards your position from all angles and stationary mortar stations target you from afar with a neon crosshair that gives you enough heads up that standing still is a death sentence. The game is tough but very easy to play, dying a lot is the norm, as is utilizing copious amounts of continues as you look to keep the action going. One of the most striking aspects of the game is the visual chaos, electric neon blues, pinks, greens and purples mix with a heavy dose of reds and blacks which are then further contrasted by exploding enemies that disintegrate into a mash of coloured pixel spray as your shots hit home. 

The game takes up less than 1 Gig of space on a PS4 and is a perfect pick up and play blaster that takes what Resogun, R-Type,Smash TV and Robotron did but cranks it all up another level and delivers an eye bleeding and satisfying arcade shoot em up.

Above: The on-screen arcade mayhem of Nex Machina.

The video below was me on 'Rookie' setting, I was sweating like a demon even on this setting, I think my wife thought I was going to have a heart attack, all she could hear from the lounge was me shouting "holy shit" or "this is bloody impossible"...additionally flavored with 'thank Christ that's over".

Check out the Gameplay video here and see for yourself

The Good Stuff

  • Pick up and Play instant Arcade action
  • Visuals are incredible
  • Challenging and also has co-op mode
  • Bound to become a classic much respected arcade shooter
  • probably THE best arcade shooter since Resogun

The Bad Stuff

  • Insanely challenging for novice arcade players, you'll die...a lot
  • Limited Scope after prolonged play
  • lacks any real customization to make the game your own.


Friday, 23 June 2017

Call of Duty Modern Warfare Remastered - Standalone release - is it worth it?

Call of Duty Modern Warfare Remastered

Seek and ye shall find, the internets latest 'worst kept secret' should have the older console fanboys either drooling or raging depending on their moral stance with regards to remastered editions of games and paid-for DLC. If the latest information surrounding the remastered standalone edition of Call of Duty Modern Warfare is anything to go by Activision appears to have changed its mind about releasing a standalone edition of Modern Warfare, its seminal modern combat FPS.

The FPS game that kicked off the series into modern era combat is due to get a standalone release  on June 27th. Already available since November 2016 as part of the 'legacy Edition on PS4 and XBox One' which includes Infinite Warfare, multiplayer for Modern Warfare was somewhat of a ghost town as many older players who had first cut their teeth on the original didn't want to have to purchase infinite Warfare at a premium price just to access the remastered version of the game.

Charlie Intel got a leaked pack shot from US retailer Target (see below) although it doesn't include the variety Map Pack that launched in March. This might be high on the list of your summer purchases if you're one of the 'older generation' of gamers who prefers not to have to suffer the indignity of getting no scoped by a 12 year old with a  dayglo pink tiger camo M85 sniper rifle.

At the time of writing, neither GAME or Amazon UK have this product listed so the European release is still in the realm of the unknown but at least it appears to be coming. The biggest issue of course is the fact that content that came free in the original 10 years ago now comes as a microtransactional add-on in the remastered edition, something that won't sit well with the community. Add to that a $39.99 price point for the US it would inevitably mean a £39.99 UK price equivalent which seems way too high when many retailers are selling the Legacy Edition at a similar price - could even be the reason other retailers are lukewarm about the standalone, I don't know.
I guess time will tell if this works or not, personally speaking I think the pricing should be closer to $9.99 with all the content included to push the impulse purchase, the series more than made its coin a decade ago despite the retail disappointment of Infinite Warfare last year. The other thing to consider is the sheer amount of stock already in the sales channel at retail for older games in the franchise as well as stocks of Infinite Warfare and Legacy Edition stock.
Uncertainty in the economy and the sheer number of new releases also means that players are keeping a close eye on what they are spending their money on and summer is a time when people want to spend their money on vacations and non-gaming essentials.
The next in the release in the franchise -  Call of Duty: WWII is set for a Nov 3rd launch and takes the series back to its World War 2 roots.

Remastered Comparisons

Below screens shows the detail upgrade in the remastered edition from older PS3 compared to PS4 or Xbox360 Vs XBox One. Surface detail and resolution gets a massive boost but is it enough to pay top dollar for?
Gaming is all about new experiences, something new, something fresh, not necessarily 're-freshed'. I loved the original when it came out and while I love gawking at these images I can't quite bring myself to want to drop the cash on this for the same experience I had a decade ago just with better visuals.

Although Target doesn't currently have it listed for sale, the 27th June seems like a firm date according to my Activision source.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Art of Mort Künstler

The Art of Mort Künstler

Known to fans and collectors of his art as "the premier historical artist in America' Mort Künstler is Americas most collected Civil War artist. After studying art at Brooklyn College, U.C.L.A. and Pratt Institute, he became a successful illustrator in New York where he received assignments from book and magazine publishers. Künstlers work can be seen adorning the cover of many of the pulp magazine and story magazines of the 60's, publications such as 'Male', 'Stag' and 'Adventure'. Geared towards a male readership, the covers often depicted a tense or dramatic illustrated scene to give a sense of narrative to the magazines content, guns, girls, peril and plenty of drama.

 Künstlers body of work is immense, a traditionally trained artist he masters the oil medium beautifully and his composition always provides the viewer with plenty to look at. Attention to detail is also excellent in his paintings for both the physical form and technical assets such as vehicles, weapons and buildings.
Collections of Künstler's work are published as limited-edition prints, and his artistic output places him at the forefront of contemporary historical realism. NASA made him their official artist for the space shuttle Columbia. He's illustrated a number of movie posters for adventure films, such as The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974). Künstler also created the illustration for the 1976 MAD Magazine cover which parodied the movie Jaws and comic art depicting women's liberation.

Among the eight books featuring his work, is the 1986 coffee-table book The American Spirit: The Paintings of Mort Künstler, which contains nearly 200 images and commentary written by historian Henry Steele Commager. An updated edition of The American Spirit was published in 1994

 Mort at work in his studio " I feel like I'm opening a window on a little part of history. What I try to do is create an image that will make you feel like you were there. I try to make it as accurate and as dramatic as possible."

Check out an in depth profile of the artist and his work here at the King James Galleries

Visit his official website here

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Why you'll never be a YouTube Millionaire

I haven't taken the plunge into YouTube, for the simple reason I don't think I could manage to record and edit a consistent offering on a weekly basis, you're either geared up for that dedication or you aren't. In addition to that though I think YouTube has become an overly saturated market in the subject I'd probably cover, video gaming - and the amount of work required to put into it compared to the financial returns just don't add up, well, not these days anyhow.
Passive income through content creation when you hit that sweet spot can be very rewarding but the immense pressure to deliver consistently 'entertaining' videos is a tough thing to master if you're going to be financially dependent on it.

YouTube, like Instagram if you nail it just right can be a great form of passive income, passive in the sense you do all the groundwork first to set up the content, promote it and then leave it there to gather views and likes in the hope that the content you created was entertaining enough to be shared and discussed or liked en mass.
However, for the last few months YouTube has come under fire for what many people are calling a lack in quality control and transparency because brand ads were appearing alongside objectionable, and even terrorist-backed videos. Recently Google moved to stem the problem when it increased the filter system by which advertisers can avoid appearing on channels not in tune with their demographic or brand positioning. There are now five exclusions, including "sexually suggestive," "sensational and shocking," and "profanity and rough language," Google has also increased the number of people employed to flag actual content across its network as well as recently announcing its new steps to combat terrorism ideology and the promotion of terrorism or hate across its format.

YouTubers that have seen their revenues decline can appeal or flag if the recent filter system has had an adverse effect on either removing their videos or flagging them unnecessarily for content discrepancies. The backlash from top brands like Starbucks, Audi,HSBC,Toyota,General Motors,Verizon, PepsiCo and Tesco along with over 30 others pulling their ads from Youtube has meant the available ad revenue paid out to content creators has declined massively. YouTube could lose $750 million in revenue this year over advertisers halting business, according to analyst firm Nomura Instinet.

Ad revenue from YouTube comes from three different types of sources, CPM's from ads, Sponsored Videos an Ad Placement. CPM is the cost to an advertiser or brand for 1,000 views of an ad.  Social Blade Analytics estimates that the CPM range varies from $0.60 - $7.00. Once you factor in all the different variables such as type of ad, country, number of subscribers,audience retention and click rate - and then calculated the 45% cut that Google takes as well as the 45% cut any MCN (multi Channel Network) will take for that ad, a CPM of around $3-$4 will net that YouTuber in the region of $1000 per 1 million views on a channel with 1 million subscribers.The average profit per 1,000 views is around $1.40. Channels looking to make bank need to be worth at least $14 for YouTube to consider placing advertisements on their content. $14 isn’t throwaway money, but it’s probably not enough to convince someone to make YouTube-ing their full-time pursuit. In April of this year YouTube made a change to its partner policy - creators won’t be able to turn on monetization until they hit 10,000 lifetime views on their channel. 10,000 might seem a lot to the average reader but when you consider that 98% of Smartphone users between the age of 18-34 watch YouTube videos on their Smartphones that number is relatively small when you look at your prospective audience. In addition to that YouTube is the big gun when it comes to the most influential social media for consumers who make purchases. YouTube influences 64% of purchases made which is the higher compared to other social media channels like Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. Effectively if you were able to create content that helped people make a decision to play or buy then getting the views should be relatively easy to do providing your content is well structured, entertaining, unbiased and informative.

Youtuber: Zoella bought a $1.5 Million house in Hove, Sussex with her Youtube earnings.

YouTuber 'GenerikB' who has over one million subscribers described the reduction in ad revenue similar to your boss coming up to you at work and saying" You're doing a great job kid but we're gonna cut your salary by 50% "
GenerikB goes on to say that 300 views on YouTube for him is the equivalent of a $1 sub per month on Patreon. The decline in ad revenue for Youtubers is causing content creators on YouTube to seek that lost income from other sources but have also stated that programs like Patreon are much more user friendly in content creation because of the discord integration in the format. YouTubers find it hard to dedicate time to filter through the spam and general malevolence in the comments section of their channel which can be like looking for a needle in a haystack when trying to respond to dedicated subscribers and followers directly.

However, the problem with Patreon is the the notion that viewers tend to think that larger YouTubers are already financially well off and don't need the extra dollars per month - it's almost like its looked down upon for the 'celebrity' content creators to ask for dedicated contributions from their audience every month, the flipside to that is that brands will only advertise on YouTube if your subscriber numbers have the audience reach and you have audience retention. One beautyVlogger, who despite having a healthy subscriber audience (160,000) was barely scraping by so had to work a day job at Starbucks to sustain her cost of living - she eventually had to resign her day job at Starbucks because fans has memorized her work schedule. The last thing you need as a content creator is someone pointing at you at work and asking" why are waiting tables, I thought you were a famous Vlogger?"
Too many people seem to think that all Vloggers and content creators are making huge amounts of cash when the stark reality is that if you're mid size in terms of followers and subscribers you're in a very large and competitive group of many other Vloggers and creators fighting for the same ad or sponsorship dollar.
Patreon it would appear is good for low size or mid tier sized vlogs and content creators to dial in to their audience on a more personal level to help build growth, the reduction in spam and clutter allows these smaller sites to grow at a decent rate providing content creation is regular and consistent, but understanding the viewer perception and psychology of "you've got enough followers I no longer need to pay you now" is a difficult dilemma to fully understand. This blog is my own personal rant, sure I have adsense on here to squeeze a buck or two but it's not going to pay a utility bill because I simply don't get the huge influx of traffic, I'm certainly not a celebrity and my twitter only has 500 followers (incidentally, thanks if you've got this far and are actually reading this, I appreciate you stopping by).
Time will tell if advertisers come back to YouTube, with over 30+ top flight brands all yanking ads its got to be a bitter pill to swallow for Google and shows that YouTube needs to tighten up its act in terms of quality control, I mean, come on - do extremists really watch their favorite hate preacher on YouTube expecting a 30 second ad for Johnson & Johnson baby wipes to pop up?

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The Art Behind Grand Theft Auto V

Back in 2013 Rockstar delivered the sprawling open world video game masterpiece that is Grand Theft Auto V. To date the game has sold in excess of 80 Million copies.
The single-player mode lets players control three characters: Michael De Santa, Trevor Philips and Franklin Clinton—criminals whose stories interconnect as they complete missions. Some missions are completed with only one character and others feature two or three. The games killer visuals and incredible narrative single player define it's place in video game culture as one of the most beautifully crafted video game experiences you could possibly get. Add to that a robust multiplayer game and sublime soundtrack featuring artists from all walks of music genres from Hip Hop to Country you have a game that sets an almost impossible benchmark to beat.

No video game is complete it seems without the visual branding that defines the design and identity of the game. GTA V delivered a worldwide marketing campaign with some truly spectacular art that appeared across print and online adverts, magazine front covers as well as in the games various loading screens.
The games developer,Rockstar has a team of dedicated artists that work on defining the look of its games very carefully, stylistically the game art delivers an insight into the games characters and locations, it helps people embrace the brand and visual identity of the game.

Art from Grand Theft Auto Vice City Stories - Note the signature broad line work and cell shaded colours.

Two particular artists of the Rockstar team deserve particular credit for defining the core style of GTAV's branding, Stephen Bliss and Anthony Mcbain. Bliss was a Senior Artist at Rockstar from 2001 through to 2016 helping to establish the highly recognizable illustrative style that defined the GTA franchise. Bliss was also responsible for the art you may have seen on titles such as L.A Noire and Red Dead Redemption.
Anthony McBain is an artist and musician who lives in Brooklyn NY, He is the Director of Illustration at Rockstar Games leading a team of artists and illustrators to create and explore the visual development of the art that appears in game and across its marketing.

Bliss left Rockstar Games in 2016 to rediscover his roots as a commercial and fine artist. He also launched a solo art show at Monorex gallery in Los Angeles. British born, he's lived in Brooklyn for the last 20 years and honed his creative skill in illustration and design at Brighton University. Much of his work is inspired by the marvel and DC comics he grew up with as well as Manga and the music he grew up to." Punk rock hit the UK and was a huge influence on me, life changing, with the DIY aesthetic of political cut and paste flyers and the brilliance of Jamie Reid I became passionate about art and graphic design. Being in a band was obligatory and I designed posters for our gigs and imaginary album covers. I became aware of expressing myself through design."

His work is dark, edgy but distinctive with its broad and heavy line work that gives it a cartoon almost cell shaded look.His style combines pop, graphic and retro influences which collectively establish his distinctive style.

Stephen Bliss' large Debbie Harry Mural painted as part of the Space 52 Mural Project, Miami Art Basel 2015.

    In September 2016 Stephen launched his first solo art show titled 'I, Frankenstein', the show featured 25 of Bliss’ dynamic paintings on posters torn from New York walls.

    Describing his exhibition and his attraction to the ripped poster style he says " Initially the art was purely abstract, I wanted to reflect the beauty that I saw everyday in the streets of NYC: there was so much accidental abstract art being formed on the walls created by people ripping down strips of advertising posters and leaving exposed layers of graphics and colors underneath. There were also tons of outsider art paste ups, insane scribbled messages, sprayed tags and stickers plastered over each other, layer on layer, ripped and decaying, the sun bleaching colors, the rain softening the wheat paste so parts of the posters would fall off. It was like a random unconscious artistic eco-system of illegal posting, art and vandalism."

    Read Stephens awesome interview on Unrated here

    My Top 5 GTA V Art picks 

    1. 'Pest Control'

    I love the composition and storytelling nature of this piece, in the game you rob a jewelry store disguised as Pest Control workers. The technical accuracy on the AK weapon as well as the detail in the folds on the coveralls is amazing and so lifelike. Even the nature of the detail on the van door with the cutaway shapes demonstrates that Rockstar absolutely nails the detailing in its artwork.

    2. 'Stop & Frisk'

    The female cop has a Michelle Rodriguez look about her but I love the totally unphased look of the blonde girl peeking over her sunglasses as she's arrested. The background tells you all you need to know about the high flying nature of the locale and the two stripe cop isn't afraid to engage the local criminals.

    3. 'Vinewood'

    Michael armed with an AR15 assault rifle against the backdrop of Vinewood, the fictional 'Hollywood' of GTAV. It speaks volumes, in the game he isn't afraid to go head to head with anybody as long as he gets paid and the job gets done, a great piece, again the technical detail on the weapon and clothing as well as the smaller things like trigger awareness are superb.

    4. 'Tracey & Jimmy'

    This one I like simply from the laughs, the hey 'get lost, i'm busy". A total wastoid human being with absolutely no moral compass or manners Jimmy gives the finger.

    5. 'Preparation'

    This I like from the story aspect, it's two guys prepping for a heist, the planning board in the background, the weapons, overall the composition is superb and tells the viewer everything they need to know.I love the way two light sources help frame the characters and create the shapes on Michael's Jacket and Franklin's shirt.