Category Archives: art

Chris Scalf Rules

If you have yet to see any of Chris Scalf’s amazing artwork, then you’re seriously missing out. From the pages of G-Fan (who, along with Bob Eggleton, have become the-in my opinion-top artists for the magazine) to the covers of various Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica comic books, Mr. Scalf’s work has graced numerous publications and pleased fans worldwide. To be honest, I’m shocked that a cult DVD label has yet to hire him to spice up the cover art for their releases.

Those intrigued by my praise for the man are highly advised to visit his official website, blog and Youtube channel to see examples of his work. You won’t be disappointed!

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Day of the Dead

It’s el Dia de los Muertos! Seeing as how I explained the holiday last year, let’s skip straight to the fun stuff!

Have you ever read about the delicious-sounding Mexican pan de muerto (bread of the dead) and wanted to have a taste? Well, you’re in luck, because I found a two page recipe for it in John Lithgow’s (yes, that John Lithgow) Boredom Blasters: Halloween Edition. Although it’s not quite the traditional Mexican sugar skull, Skull-A-Day does have a recipe for sugar skull cookies.

But there’s more to the Day of the Dead than just food, there’s also the beautiful folk art, also known as “La Calavera Catrina” (The Elegant Skull). Both Senora Muertos and Ethan Cranke have some incredible stuff inspired by the holiday that I highly recommend checking out.

Speaking of checking stuff out, here’s a picture of a Santa Muerte figure in front of a fortune teller’s parlor in Mexico’s Chinatown. Ain’t multiculturalism grand?

Feliz el Dia de los Muertos!
Happy Day of the Dead!

A Halloween Moon

Although the use of video technology for decoration did exist in the days of VHS, things really didn’t take off until DVDs entered the picture. Finally, a program could be played over and over again in a loop without the need for constant rewinding.

TransLumen Technologies seeks to differentiate themselves from the virtual fireplaces and “ghoul logs” on the market by doing something other than the standard video wallpaper DVD. Rather than doing an actual video that’s mean to be watched, they use a series of images to create an illusion of a still picture that changes at times. Apparently, there’s no threat of screen “burn-in” since the images are always changing. The back cover says that these were intended for use on widescreen televisions and that the changes can’t be detected on them. As I have an old school tube TV, I can confirm that the disc can be used with it, although the transitions are somewhat easier to detect (especially if you constantly watch the screen).

As you’ve probably guessed, one doesn’t technically watch a TransLumen DVD. Instead, it’s better if you only glance at the screen from time to time. This makes it best suited for use “in the background” at a Halloween party or in the waiting area of a haunted house. Although the back cover says a “cabinet, mirror, window shade or other concealment methods” are not required (presumably a reference to the Big Scream TV series and other such titles), I suspect that many Halloween enthusiasts will be tempted to place a fake picture over their screens in order to help give the appearance that this is a haunted painting. A fun way to further enhance the effect is to position a mirror across the room from the screen playing A Halloween Moon. People are naturally drawn to mirrors and as they look at themselves, they’ll probably notice that the image has changed since they last saw it.


A Halloween Moon starts off with an opening title screen and and explanation of the technology on the disc, followed by a 30 second time lapse version of the entire “show.” This entire segment (including the opening) counts as the DVD’s sole chapter stop. Next comes the main program, which clocks in at about an hour and automatically loops (skipping the introductory screen) after the conclusion.

We’re greeted with a black and white scene depicting a deserted house on a lonely road with a full moon overhead. However, this gradually shifts into color (and said colors change shades over time) while scary sound effects and music play. Although the audio fades out completely after five minutes, it returns every now and again. The initial return (tolling bells) is a clever way of drawing people’s eyes back to the screen to both take notice of the changes and to get them prepared to check back at other points in time to see how else the “painting” has changed. However, the sound/silence ratio (and duration) constantly changes after that, rather than predictably occur every five minutes or not long after a new image appears onscreen. It’s a clever touch that might take some awhile to get used to. Of course, those who either want no audio or who wish to use a different soundtrack only need to hit “Mute” on their remote.

I was impressed how TransLumen Technologies managed to stretch out the amount of sound effects over the course of the DVD without it ever seeming boring or skimpy. They even manage to pull of using two versions of “Toccata and Fugue in D” (the classic spooky version and a lighter take on it) and not have it seem repetitive. New effects or music are always layered in whenever something is repeated. Said music is excellent and ranges from “pounding and spooky with wordless vocals” to “eerie yet mystical.” The program’s final segment uses a mix of old and new material to make for a great ending.

However, I do have a few issues with the choice of certain effects. For example, the barking dog effect that appears about fourteen minutes in sounds like a regular dog barking. Although its sudden appearance after a lengthy silence is genuinely surprising, I would have preferred something a little more vicious-sounding. Also, some effects are much louder than others, like the door slamming about forty minutes in (which implies a use of effects from multiple sources).

But let’s not forget the visual side of things. Many other spooky images pop up over the course of the disc’s running time, ranging from a strange reddish light appears in the upper window of the house to the very creepy “skull in the moon” effect (along with plenty of other spooky touches I won’t describe). I did like how, at the end, the various scary things fade away and the image gets monochromatic again, which makes the transition back to the beginning very seamless.

This 2007 DVD is a very impressive first effort by Translumen, with an excellent widescreen transfer and is scary enough to please adults while not being too intense for all but the youngest of children. As it’s a DVD-R release, some players might display “lines” onscreen during the first play-through and it is advised that you play A Halloween Moon at least once prior to the visitors arriving. Thankfully, the label is printed onto the disc rather than being glued on. I also think it would be a nice creepy touch if future Halloween-related titles had some objects that appear and disappear from time to time without sticking around for the final picture.

Company founders Carol Sherman (company President) and Doug Siefken (who also directs the company’s DVDs) were also kind enough to answer the following questions:

Please tell us a little about the company.

Carol Sherman: TransLumen Technologies was founded and the first patent was filed at the beginning of 2000 followed by a second patent application. The initial art on Video Compact Disc (VCD) for internal use was shown to Kodak, Viacom, Disney and Panasonic. They verified its competitive uniqueness via patent and internal technology searches. In 2002 – 2003 TransLumen was issued U.S. Patents #6,433,839 and #6,580,466 for graphic imaging algorithms. On 02/02/2002 Sony Galleries sponsored an exhibit featuring the first public implementation of TransLumen’s Fluid Stills® technology. The show exhibited three pieces of the VCD based art, two on TVs and one projected.

TransLumen Participated in a Boeing “think tank” to create future technologies. TransLumen successfully completed a collaborative 3-month test with NEC on plasma screen burn-in mitigation. We then presented a simulation on the Access Grid Facility for the Office of Naval Research along with one to the Technology Research Education & Commercialization Center. TransLumen also collaborated with Boeing Integrated Defense and QinetiQ for Command/Control applications during this time.

In the years 2004 – 2005 TransLumen received a NASA Illinois Commercialization Center Award and participated in a DARPA Cognitive Performance think tank for Augmented Cognition. The first functional peripheral awareness indicator integrating Subthreshold Extreme Gradual Change (STEGC) was developed. Since 2006 TransLumen received a State of Illinois’ Homeland Security –Innovation Product grant, made presentations to and submitted “white papers” to Augmented Cognition International and the World Bank, received an Illinois Technology Development Alliance grant to advance use of the v-INDICATOR™ for universal mobile device use, received an Office of Naval research contract Broadcast Agency Announcement (BAA) for perceptual training and partnered with Lockheed Martin to conduct further development associated with the perceptual training BAA. In addition, we have launched the game “UAV Fighter,” an Apple App for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

Please tell us a little about your “Fluid Stills” technology.

Carol Sherman: We currently hold three patents on the Fluid Stills® Sub-threshold Extreme Gradual Change (STEGC). With their pictorial roots, the pieces produced in this manner can be very fluid yet non-disruptive when used as ambient art. The pieces are a part of the “Stillism”, “video art installation” and “video painting” genres. Each frame has all of the qualities of a photograph, painting or other piece of still art while the work as a whole embodies the temporal flow of the motion picture.

The technology relies on slowing change from one image to the next to a point slow enough to be below the visual sense of change. In other words “it looks like a still image but is dynamically changing.”

TransLumen developed an art DVD for the Chicago Field Museum using its Fluid Stills® technology. A Fluid Stills® Chicago Skyscape for the renovation and re-branding of Chicago’s Holiday Inn Express Hotel was installed in 2007 (and is still running) at 640 N. Wabash.

How did the idea to do a Halloween title come about?

Doug Siefken: I have always thought that Halloween was the most awesome of holidays – loving the excitement of it. I wanted to do an art piece that lent itself to the “festive” (scary really) aspects of Halloween but suitable for all ages.

What’s the creation process like for your products?

Doug Siefken: We use the following process

1. Create and develop the concept
2. Develop the “story” timeline
3. Create or acquire the artwork and audio tracks
4. Process as STEGC (Sub-threshold Extreme Gradual Change) raw imagery/video
5. Compile video using MPEG2, H.264 etc.
6. Distribute as digital file or DVD/Blu-ray etc.

Are the art and audio original or were they licensed from another company?

Carol Sherman: The art in A Halloween Moon was based on about 15 original photographs by Doug Siefken and a handful of licensed art. The audio is a collection of original music and sound effects by TransLumen combined with licensed pieces. The licensed pieces came from sound effect/audio and art collections.

Which companies were they licensed from?

Carol Sherman: The audio was licensed primarily through Sony and Sonic libraries and mixed with original TransLumen content.

Are you planning on switching from DVD-Rs to DVDs at any point?

Doug Siefken: Yes – we are planning to introduce a variety of formats including DVD, Blu-ray and streaming for all of our titles. An interesting point is that in various formats it is a “Green technology.”

Interesting! How are these a “green” technology?

Carol Sherman: The images when played back via certain file formats (not DVDs or Blu-ray) are “green technology” because only the change is transmitted and there is very little change compare to full motion video. High-def images have been successfully played over 14400 baud modems (over telephone).

Do you have any plans for further Halloween (or other holiday)-related releases?

Carol Sherman: We are planning to release product for all major Holidays and currently are producing and /or translumenizing content for Long Glance Media.

Special thanks to TransLumen Technologies for the review copy!

A Horror Beyond Imagination…

While reading the excellent horror site Evilontwolegs.com, I learned of the artistic equivalent of the fabled Necronomicon, which only gets worse for your sanity the more you look at it. Here’s a quote hinting at the madness within:

“If you imagined Freddy impregnating Jason, you’d probably think that this a completely original, albeit bizarre, idea. Sadly, you’d be wrong.”

Click here if you have the nerve (or is that foolishness) and prepare to feel rage (some content might be somewhat NSFW).

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: Arts & Crafts

With all of the music reviews that are being done for the Freaky Tiki Surf-ari, odds are that some of you have developed a hankering for some Tiki stuff of your very own. The appeal of Tiki bar decor is very understandable, whether you want it regular or spooky. With that in mind, I have put together a little selection of projects you can make at home. Some might need to be altered a bit to make them more freaky, but that’s hardly a big deal.

Page 168 of Matt Maranian’s Pad: the guide to ultra-living by Matt Maranian shows you how you can turn a Tiki mug into a cool lamp.

Retro Mania!: 60 Hip Handmade Cards, Scrapbook Pages, Gifts & More! by Judi Watanabe, Alison Eads, and Laurie Dewberry shows how to make a Tiki greeting card (perfect for inviting friends over for drinks) on page 35.

This twopart article from a 1961 issue of Popular Mechanics shows how to construct a wooden Tiki idol.

The sections on the “Safari Cube” and “Tiki Cube” on page 94 of Cube Chic: Take Your Office Space from Drab to Fab! by Kelley Moore tells you both where to get Tiki goodies and interesting ways to turn a room into a Tiki bar-style environment.

Finally, for those who prefer their Tiki tutorials to be spooky from the get-go, here is a collection of links from HalloweenForum.com:

Haunted Luau
Halloween Luau
Aether’s Album: Tiki
Haunted Tiki Island 2009
Haunted Tiki Island 2008
Hosting a Haunted Luau for my Birthday!
Why I haven’t been around… (Tiki Tutorial :p)

Enjoy!

As noted in previous “How-To” posts, Gravedigger’s Local 16 is not to be held responsible for the content on or anything that may occur (be it good or bad) as a result of visiting any links on those sites (or constructing a project that’s detailed on them). Attempt at your own risk.

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: Shag! and The Art Of Tiki

With all of the focus on Tiki music here at the Local, it’s all too easy to forget its artistic side. Thankfully, Google Books makes it just as easy to jog one’s memory on the subject.

Let’s start with Tiki Art Now! by Otto Von Stroheim and Robert Williams. In addition to its great information on all things Tiki, it kicks off the art with Dr. Alderete’s “Acapulco Tiki,” wherein an El Santo-style luchador kicks back with a Munktiki brand “Kreepy” mug. It’s the perfect way to unwind after a hard day of wrestling monsters! The other pieces of art in the preview are a mix of cool and spooky, normal Tiki and horror Tiki.

The book’s striking cover art is by one Josh Agle, better known to his fans as “Shag.” In case you’re wondering about the name, it comes from the combination of the last two letters of his first name with the first two letters of his last name. Supposedly he adopted that alias in order to make it look like his band at the time, The Swamp Zombies, could afford to hire someone else to do their albums’ cover art. In fact, a large part of the band’s creation was due to his desire to make the album art!

His simple-yet-detailed retro style has made him a smash hit, both in the world of Tiki and the art world in general. There’s even an exotica CD devoted to songs inspired by his work! Which is quite appropriate, seeing as how he was a founding member of The Tiki Tones.

But there is more to Shag than Tiki. As noted here, Mr. Agle does not want to be known as “just a Tiki artist” as they are only one of the many aspects of his work. His official website describes artwork as a “blend of hot rods, tiki heads, skeletons, voodoo lounge, and kustom kulture all rolled up in a swanky package.” His long list of influences also includes (but isn’t limited to) 60’s culture (mildly NSFW), spies, thieves (I’d love to see Shag’s take on Lupin III), blaxploitation, horror, and martial arts movies. And, as noted earlier, he often combines these to create unique and interesting (and spooky) works. If anything, Shag is a “rooms you wish you had in your home” artist.

For more on his work, please check out the following links:

Shag: The Art of Josh Agle
by Josh Agle, Colin Berry, and Billy Shire.

Bottomless Cocktail: The Art of Shag
by Shag

Shag, ltd., fine art limited editions: a catalogue raisonné
by Shag, Douglas Nason, Jeremy Cushner, and Greg Escalante

Don’t just look at the art, either. Those books are filled with fascinating interviews and writings on Mr. Agle’s work. I especially liked his observation on Tiki bars in Bottomless Cocktail: The Art of Shag.

More Cool Cover Art

While browsing through the recent “Gravedigger’s Local 16 Flashback” entry, I couldn’t help but find myself drawn to the “Cool cover art” entry. Although the website noted in it (Critical Condition Online) is the undisputed king of online VHS cover art collections, I was inspired to see if there were any other sites devoted to cover art scans out there. I was not disappointed:

Itsonlyamovie.co.uk has a nice selection of British VHS covers from before the infamous “Video Nasties” crackdown.

Retro Slashers has a wonderful collection of the sort of slasher film box art that used to thrill us back in the day.

Both the Uranium Cafe and Friday the 13th: The Website have some cool pages devoted to VHS covers.

The Lightning Bug’s Lair has a cover gallery devoted solely to Christmas-themed horror movies.

Toho Kingdom has numerous pages devoted to both VHS and DVD covers.

Last but not least, the Horror Section offers a huge collection of covers from the best section of the video store, along with reviews and other goodies.