27 June 2021

The Fire Rainbow: Beautiful and Rare Circumhorizontal Arc

If you are very lucky you may see a fire rainbow once or twice in your life. It sounds almost as if it could be the title of one of a series of children’s books – Harry Potter and the Fire Rainbow has a certain ring to it: but this phenomenon is not fiction. If you are in the right place and at the right time then a fire rainbow is something that you will remember.

To name it properly, a fire rainbow is a circumhorizontal arc. It is also known as a circumhorizon arc but whichever you chose, scientists (and aficionados) call it a CHA. It is given its name because it looks as if a rainbow has spontaneously combusted as it made its way across the sky. One might even suspect that some malign fairy or goblin has blown the rainbow up to stop some errant human discovering that elusive pot of gold at its end...

19 June 2021

If You Have Never Wanted to Visit Moscow, You Will After You Watch This


This is Moscow by drone and done in such a way that this city has probably never looked better.  Mixing the old and the new, Timelab’s footage makes the city look truly magnificent.  I particularly liked the shots of the statues way up high, the features on their faces up close.  Plus the whole thing seems to have been filmed at the golden hour, imbuing the city with an iridescent beauty.  The film was shot using the DJ Inspire 2.

Solaria


Five decades in to the future and we have a raft of research stations in Earth’s orbit.  Yet the dwindling resources of the planet means that they are no longer economically viable (perhaps they are having a recession similar to ours at the moment, let’s hope it’s not the same one!).  All of the stations have been closed except Solaria – and time is almost up for that too.

This means an end to the work of Dr Alex Russell.  He has devoted his life to trying to find a way to wake up Rachel.  She is in a deep coma but is immune to the aging process.  If Alex can wake her before the ship arrives to retrieve him and close down the station, this breakthrough will change everything.  Yet the clock moves forward.

This short film really does have a twist in its tail but I must follow the River Song mantra and avoid giving it away! Solaria is Directed by John Hoey and written by Darren O’Connor and Craig Broughton.  Alex is played by Richard Sherwood and Rachel by Daria Kalista.

Touch

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This is such a life affirming short film that it may well make you cry (if you are as big and as soft as I am it is a guarantee).  It shows, through a series of tiny vignettes, the relationship between two people from their original introduction until – well, watch it and find out.  At just over two minutes no one can accuse you of wasting your time, even if you are work.  OK, possibly if you are at work but if you share it with your boss then you should be fine. Don’t send me a bill if you get fired, though.

Touch is directed and edited by  Nimer Rashed and produced by Lindsay Fraser who also appears in the short as Katie.  He was the Royal Court Theatre’s filmmaker-in-residence in 2012 (if you live outside of the UK that’s quite prestigious).  He also writes plays and theater scripts.

Missing U


A young writer, I, discovers that she is missing her U.  So, she embarks on a journey to discover what has happened to U.  That’s about all I will say about Missing U – you should really watch this for yourself.  It’s a bold piece which relies on both the ingenuity of the rhyme and the animation and so could fail on two fronts.  However, this marvelous animated short by Brooke Wagstaff succeeds perfectly.  

Wagstaff created Missing U as her senior thesis in Computer Animation from the Ringling College of Art and Design, class of 2013.  She was responsible for all the work shown above, from story, design, and modelling to texturing, animation, lighting, rendering and compositing. 

The Great Wall of China – Diverse Perspectives

China’s Great Wall – created over centuries to protect the Chinese Empire from intrusion and invasion – is one of the world’s best know sights. Yet again and again we see the same stretch of wall, the same throngs of tourists, soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army and a stream of visiting politicians. Takes these elements away and there is a sublime change - a shift in perception. Here is the Great Wall of China from various diverse perspectives, some stretches of the wall you may not be familiar with and hardly a tourist or soldier in sight.  The Great Wall of China suddenly becomes a mystery again, inscrutable and elegant, unfathomable and incredible.

15 June 2021

E-commerce Business Tips: Developing Finances Through Software


Consistent innovation across the technological landscape is working to influence the way in which e-commerce is approached on a regular basis. Both hardware and software developments in recent years, such as augmented reality and machine learning, have been lucrative avenues of exploration for the forward-thinking business owner. 

For many people in the e-commerce industry looking to gain an advantage over their competitors, turning to the digital realm of ever-evolving software options is a necessity, especially at a turbulent economical juncture.

When first starting out in the complex world of digital sales, budget constraints can provide a stumbling block for many aspiring entrepreneurs, providing an additional barrier to conquer the path to success. Thankfully, for those striving to find new ways to make the most out of their budget and stand out among their rivals, there are more than a few neat software options to choose from. 

If you are one such ambitious business owner, here are some useful points you may wish to consider:

Project Management Software

Whether you happen to be an elite team consisting of yourself and a laptop, or a multi-departmental workforce for any occasion, project management software can help you save time, which of course, translates to money. 

Project management is an essential part of business and leadership, and perhaps an endeavor made increasingly difficult by the concept of remote working. But collaboration does not need to suffer when there are so many great options out there, including Zoho projects, which offer a free service initially, branching out into cost-effective plans should you need more space. 

By implementing effective collaboration software, you can start to reduce potential downtime, therefore allowing you to better direct your attention elsewhere. Many smaller businesses often focus on the immediacy of the day, forgoing a long-term perspective. By integrating software into your daily operations, you may be able to successfully nurture an all-encompassing game plan. 

Saving on Utilities

Perhaps one of the more overlooked areas in the mind of the money-saver, the cost of paying for utilities can quickly accumulate to take its toll on the wallet of the small business. There is some superb software to help in this area, however, along with an expert team to support at utilitybidder.co.uk, which is certainly worth checking out for those of you who wish to change suppliers and relish in some peace of mind.

Payment Fees/Options

A shocking injustice for some, a dour acceptance for others, payment fees can add up over time and start to look like a substantial figure on the bank statement. This number can differ widely between vendors, so search far and wide to find the one that best suits you. If you are incurring fees from a redundant or rarely used payment method, it might be worth considering changing the options to rely on one popular method or switching to PayPal. Moreover, there are some great software options to help you streamline the payment aspect of your business in general, such as Payoneer, Reach, and Square. 

Marketing Software

Since there is a multitude of marketing tools available, many of them completely free to use, spending some time on utilizing the one that best suits your individual needs as a company is a surefire way to gain a competitive edge when it comes to identifying potential customers and growing your brand. 

Zapier is good for cross-platform automation and integration, as it allows you to streamline the apps you already rely on in your day-to-day operations. Saving money by electing to go for free software choices no longer means you have to sacrifice quality, making it a fantastic choice for money-saving efforts.

Other great options include MailChimp, Sendinblue, and HubSpot. It may also be worth considering a journey into the world of keywords and SEO if you want to work on creating natural traffic for your website without having to part with vast amounts of capital.

Financial Management Software

When it comes to saving money, a cohesive financial management software option has you covered. Sometimes, the best way to save is to gather your cards and expense reports into a singular, clear, and easy to access location. Applications such as Mint, Goodbudget, and YNAB are great examples of this style of platform. 

Add-Ons and Extensions

It would sometimes seem as though there was an infinite number of browser extensions in existence for nearly every type of function you could possibly imagine. This is good news for those of you attempting to save money, as there are many in-browser extensions that can keep an eye on your daily financial operations. 

Honey is one such example and a must for anyone looking to save money online in a host of areas. It can automatically apply discount vouchers to your purchases and search for the best prices available on products of any description. This makes the extension valuable for avid online shoppers everywhere, including business owners.

InvisibleHand is another money-saving extension that can automatically compare prices across supported retailers and find the best deal available, making it hugely beneficial for sourcing mass products or even just shopping for essentials. The ease of automation can save both time and money throughout your working day. 

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) 

Finding your demographic as an e-commerce business is critical to success, but this is simply the starting point when it comes to the complex world of sales, as, in most cases, the endeavor requires constant monitoring to remain beneficial. 

All of these factors can influence the way in which business owners tailor their e-commerce requirements. Salesforce is one such platform that strives to help businesses of various sizes connect with their customers in a variety of insightful ways, making it an ideal choice for those of you who wish to get the most out of your financial investments. 

By implementing a great piece of CRM software, you can expect to fine-tune your sales figures based on a wide range of customer information, including buying habits, search terms, website interaction, and location.

Top Image Credit

13 June 2021

The Line


Regrets, I’ve had a few... What sensations do you experience when you meditate upon age? The answer will probably depend on how old you are but the unnamed lead in the enigmatic short film The Line experiences a range of emotions from regret and despair through to anger and on to hopelessness.

Much is left to your imagination – the back story of the old man is right there for you to fill in the gaps yourself. Why is he in such misery? What is driving him towards his suicidal actions?

This is the first film by Brooklyn based Joe Petrilla and as such is quite remarkable in terms of the control over both material, dialogue and storyline shown here. I think the word that I was just looking for was restraint. See what you think.

The short movie stars a very familiar face – one of those character actors who you immediately recognize but may struggle finding his name. It is James Rebhorn who has appeared in many movies including Independence Day, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Snow Falling on Cedars, The Game, Scent of a Woman and My Cousin Vinny. Unsurprisingly the film did well at Festivals and won best-short at the Festivus Film Festival in Denver last year.

The Myth of Finn McCool and The Giant's Causeway


If you have ever wondered how the Giant’s Causeway came to be, but want the legend rather than the geology, then here you have The Myth of Finn McCool.  This animated short tells you one version of the legend (there are a number) but in a rather delightful way.  Created by The Pond Studio, this short film will be played on a giant screen in the brand new National Trust visitor center at the Giant’s Causeway.

The Pond is a creative CG Animation company with a passion for narrative, imagery and visual style. The Pond's creative team have experience in all areas of 3d and in a range of media. They have worked on projects for the BBC, Discovery Channel, ITV as well as feature films.

Robocoq


After a series of scientific experiments in 1986 a new type of chicken is produced – the first ever with teeth.  Unfortunately the roosters are not given teeth and so the balance of power in the farmyard turns inexorably towards the hens. By 2112 the chickens have all the power and the roosters are second class citizens, soon no doubt to be consigned to history.

A group of rebel roosters decide to create a robot capable of travelling in time to rewrite history. This very amusing animated short was created by Simon Cottin, Charline Courivaud, Quentin Prigent, Guillaume Ronteix, Nicolas Poupart, David Sossah, Frederic Marzullo and Jean-Louis Marco at ESMI in Bordeaux. These students are obviously movie addicts as they throw a very decent amount of visual references in to the mix here, not least of course Terminator. You need to watch the credits too - there is a little extra for you after them...

Namaqualand – South Africa’s Daisy Sensation

Namaqualand is dry for most of the year, an arid almost desert landscape which extends along South Africa’s western coast for 600 miles. Yet when the rains are good, something like a miracle happens.  Water, the driving force of all nature, soaks in to the parched earth.  An uncountable host of flowers materialize as if from nowhere, creating an extraordinary eruption of color, transforming the countryside and dazzling the eye.

12 June 2021

Lunar Leftovers: How the Moon Became a Trash Can

We hear about the amount of waste floating around space all the time. However, the biggest trash can outside of earth’s atmosphere is in fact the moon.

The moon has only been accessible for decades, rather than hundreds of years. However, in the short time available to humanity it is estimated that we have left over one hundred and seventy thousand kilos of debris on the surface of our once pristine satellite. Here are some of the more notable pieces of trash on the moon.

Luna 2 – 1959
If HG Wells and others were correct and there were civilizations on the moon then they would have expelled a communal gasp of horror in 1959 when the first piece of man made technology hit the moon dust. Looking now like some steam punk version of what we regularly send spinning in to space, Luna 2 was launched by the Soviets when the Cold War was at its height. The collision with the moon at least proved one thing – that our nearest neighbor in space has no appreciable magnetic field. To add insult to injury, half an hour after Luna 2 hit the moon, so did the third stage of its rocket.

Get Your Handkerchief Out: You’re Going to Need It


A little girl wants to get a cake for her grandfather’s birthday but the family are poor and not able to afford it.  If you want something that will make you shed a tear and brighten up your day at the same time, you have probably come to the right place. Created for Share and Care, an initiative in Singapore to create ripple effects of kindness I am not ashamed to say this had me reaching for the hankies…

Manhunt


Imagine if all the animals we, as a species, have killed over the millennia came back to exact their revenge, what shape would it take?  This is the question posed in Manhunt by Northern Lights.  It is a dark, surrealistic revenge fantasy of animals on humans for the mess they have made.  There are some early scenes of animals suffering so don’t watch if you are easily upset.


4 June 2021

Houses of the Hobbit Diaspora

If you think that Hobbits are fictional, do not be fooled a second longer.  Middle-earth once existed, as did all of its various species.  Yet the hobbits found themselves obliged to leave their original home of The Shire. Rescued by the ancestors of a mild-mannered English writer, they have spread across the world.  A spell cast by the Gandalf the White means that the sons of men cannot see them but if you look close enough, there is evidence to be found.  A hobbit has to live somewhere, after all.  Here are just some of the houses of the Hobbit diaspora.

The first evidence of hobbits goes back hundreds of years.  Sites in Scotland and Finland, to name but two, have shown that hobbits have been living among us for longer than anyone imagined.  In exchange for our hospitality, the Hobbits have sworn to help us thrive.  While you might argue that, globally, they cannot be doing too good a job of that, there are few hobbits to many millions of humans - so the scale of their assistance is not huge.

If You Have Never Wanted to Visit China, You Will after You Watch This


China from Above is, as you have probably guessed, drone footage. Using a DJI Phantom 4, traveling videographer Stef Hoffer has captured some truly awesome landscapes as he crossed the country. This video takes us from the northern 'rust belt provinces' to the beautiful mountain landscapes of national parks like Zhangjiajie (often named as an inspiration for the Avatar movie) and Jiuzhaigou.  Sit back and take it all in and then, if it not there already, put China on to your list of places to visit!

The Moment


A stranger asks an artist to draw his portrait and the moment becomes pivotal to her life.

This lovely animated short film explores, very simply, the idea that all that we see on the surface is perhaps of little importance to the profundity that lies beneath. It is also beautifully animated. The Moment was Written, Directed, and Animated by Karis Oh.

The Cat that Time Forgot

Have you ever wanted to take a trip through time to see what animals looked like millions of years ago? When it comes to cats there is little or no need.  This beautiful specimen is a Manul, otherwise known as a Pallas Cat and it is featured today over on our sibling site, the Ark in Space.  About twelve million years ago it was one of the first two modern cats to evolve and it hasn’t changed since. The other species, Martelli’s Cat, is extinct so what you are looking at here is a unique window in to the past of modern cats. Click the links or the picture to read the full piece and see many more wonderful photographs of this beautiful cat.

2 June 2021

Moby - 'Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad? (Reprise Version)' with Video by Steve Cutts

We’ve featured animations by Steve Cutts, we’ve featured music by Moby. So, this video for Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad? (Reprise Version)' combines the best of both worlds.  A reprise of one of Moby’s most durable songs with a new animated video by Mr Cutts.  The result is something incredibly moving.  Two visitors from another world visit Earth during the midst of the Covid pandemic and what they find is hard for them to tale in; we bicker while we suffer but continue our rapacious assault on the planet as if no lesson is there to be learned.  The music is wonderful and questioning, the animation more of a direct attack on our irresonsibilities.

Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad? (Reprise Version)' by Moby feat. Apollo Jane & Dietrick Haddon is taken from the new album 'Reprise' out now on Deutsche Grammophon.

Steve Cutts has worked with Moby before, on the video for "Are You Lost in The World Like Me?". Compare and contrast by all means – both songs are superlative but for me the reprise has the edge (a word that can be used to describe it in more ways than one). 



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