Thursday, 18 July 2013

Baby Dr. Easy Papercraft

Got excess time on your hands? Like the smell of glue? Enjoy playing with scalpels?

Then why not download this pdf featuring everything you need to construct your very own superdeformed Baby Dr. Easy papercraft? At a fraction of the cost of going to KidRobot, it comes with the the added bonus of an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment.


Good luck!*

(* seriously)

Monday, 15 July 2013

"At the end of the day, if an ambulance ride costs me $1200 in NYC, I can’t begin to imagine what an in-home robot visit would cost. Dr. Easy seems like way better company than NYC’s ambulance drivers though."

Something we hadn't considered is the perspective on Dr Easy of someone who hasn't grown up with a state funded healthcare system. We imagined the robots of the film making healthcare more accessible to the masses, not less. The reasoning was: however expensive a robot might be, a human doctor with all their training and wages would inevitably cost more in the long run. Plus robots can work without fatigue and with access to a central server, you'd always see "your" doctor wherever you are, any time of day or night.

But of course these are idealistic notions and while automation in any industry can reduce overheads, savings are not necessarily passed on to the consumer. Perhaps Dr Easy's would just represent another career path consigned to the dustbin.

In any case, thanks Vice for the nice write up!

Dr Easy on

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

If you tickle a robot, it may not laugh, but you may still consider it humanlike -- depending on its role in your life, reports an international group of researchers.

Designers and engineers assign robots specific roles, such as servant, caregiver, assistant or playmate. Researchers found that people expressed more positive feelings toward a robot that would take care of them than toward a robot that needed care.
"For robot designers, this means greater emphasis on role assignments to robots," said S. Shyam Sundar, Distinguished Professor of Communications at Penn State and co-director of University's Media Effects Research Laboratory. "How the robot is presented to users can send important signals to users about its helpfulness and intelligence, which can have consequences for how it is received by end users."

To determine how human perception of a robot changed based on its role, researchers observed 60 interactions between college students and Nao, a social robot developed by Aldebaran Robotics, a French company specializing in humanoid robots.

Each interaction could go one of two ways. The human could help Nao calibrate its eyes, or Nao could examine the human's eyes like a concerned eye doctor and make suggestions to improve vision.

Participants then filled out a questionnaire about their feelings toward Nao. Researchers used these answers to calculate the robot's perceived benefit and social presence in both scenarios. They published their results in the current issue of Computers in Human Behavior.
"When (humans) perceive greater benefit from the robot, they are more satisfied in their relationship with it, and even trust it more," Sundar said. "In addition, we found that when the robot cares for you, it seems to have greater social presence."

A robot with a strong social presence behaves and interacts like an authentic human, according to Ki Joon Kim, doctoral candidate in the department of interaction science, Sungkyunkwan University, Korea, and lead author of the journal article.

The research team found that when participants perceived a strong social presence, they considered the caregiving robot smarter than the robot in the alternate scenario. Participants were also more likely to attribute human qualities to the caregiving robot.
via Science Daily

Monday, 24 June 2013

Amazing responses so far. Thank you everyone.

Monad Life Science

Click to have a peak into the world of the tech company behind Dr. Easy:

I've signed up "for more information" - have you?

Friday, 21 June 2013

Behind the scenes #21

Watching Tom kill himself was so enjoyable.

You could have heard a pin drop in the room, it was appalling and magnetic at the same time. Even though everyone on set is fully aware of the artifice, for a spellbinding moment we were all witnesses.

And then it was all over.

The look on our faces is relief, exhaustion and joy combined.

The rejects

Behind the scenes #20

What you can't see in this picture is the art department, yanking the pulley which made the fake and very heavy shutter rise up.

Early face test

This is an early test we made while refining the design of the robot's face. It's funny watching it now as this seems so gormless and child-like. We also decided that the mouth was moving far too much - your eye unnaturally gravitates towards it.

While there's plenty of real-life robots with similarly manga-ised faces, we wanted our design to be more considered. Our criteria was: it should be expressionless - it does not have emotions nor opinion. It should be friendly and approachable, but should also have the sincerity to deliver bad news.

This clip is also interesting as it features the voice of Hayley Marie-Axe, who was our outstanding stand-in for the Dr. Easy on the shoot. Hayley would act out the actions and lines of the robots, providing Tom with a focus, and providing us with invaluable animation timing reference and the temp vocal track heard here.

Early POV test

Here's an early test we did as R&D for what the robot's POV might look like. We wanted the design to come from real image processing. We looked at a lot of motion tracking software and videos of how mobile robots navigate.

It wasn't so important to us that the viewer totally understands what the robot is seeing, only that it is seeing, that it is calculating. In fact, we wanted it to be slightly alien and difficult for the viewer to process. After all, this is a highly complicated machine which can do things that humans cannot, so it's better if we, like the Superintendent, can only watch while the robot goes to work.

The little girl in the clip is an amazing young actress called Lily-May Crosby. The footage is lifted from the  rushes of our video for Coldplay, which you can watch here:

Behind the scenes #19

This photos reveals the flimsy reality of the ambulance's control centre. This was built in a bus garage beside the house location. Of course there was nothing on the screens and so Alex and Julian had to stare at a square of perspex and look concerned.

While this set was being constructed we ran out of time and money. The walls and fake doors had been built, but they had no handles and it all looked a bit flat. Who knew handles were so expensive? I remembered watching Star Wars documentaries as a kid and seeing how they would stick all sorts of household plastic and bits of air-fix kit to the Millennium Falcon and spray it grey. Surely we could do something similar?

Last year I had some work done on my flat and the builders left behind a box of packers - a plastic wedge used for levelling doors and stud work. They are fairly unusual looking. Well, spray them with orange car paint and et voilà - cheap handles for our sci-fi control centre!

If you like the look of these handles and would like to try a similar look at home, you can buy them here.


An idea which occurred to us quite late in the process was that when the shutters went up, the ambulance should house two or more Dr. Easys. We liked the idea that the robot was a tool and to suggest it was expendable.

We designed these upright 'coffins' for the robots to sit in, lined with the foam that you might find in a photographer's kit case, to protect the robot in transit.

The robots themselves were carefully designed to fold up neatly into a compact unit. We even calculated how high up this coffin should be so that when a robot unfolded it could gracefully plant its feet on the floor. It's very important to make a ladylike entrance.

Anal? Well not as anal as this tiny sticker we printed to go alongside the robots, which can't even be seen in the finished film.

Behind the scenes #18

Tom and I talking through the scene. Tom was incredibly thorough, wanting to understand every line we had written and questioning the logic. There's no dialogue for Michael, but that doesn't mean there isn't a narrative of thoughts and emotions which must be rigorous.

Meanwhile, the robot does have dialogue, but its own logic is complicated: it has no emotion, but it uses psychology, negotiation, prediction and insider knowledge in every line. We talked through the scene, point by point, so Tom totally understood not only what his own character was thinking, but how those pieces fitted with the Dr. Easy's.

Then, when the cameras rolled, he nailed it first time, and every time. This was so enjoyable, both as a process, but then also to stand at the back of the room and watch his performance as an audience - simply exhilarating.

The script

Here's the shooting script to the short. Click on the image above to read the script in pdf format. There's quite a few differences with the finished film. Some changes happened on set, others in the editing room.

Chief amongst them is the appearance of two protesters who turn up at the scene to make their message heard. We filmed these scenes but in the end we felt it over-complicated what was a neat simplicity of a robot doctor dealing with a case. Short films must be told with economy and so we made the decision to take them out.

One fragment of these characters remains however: when we see the robot at the very end, you can clearly hear someone shout "murderer" amongst the commotion. This one word, spoken off screen, accomplishes a great deal of what we wanted the protesters to achieve. This was a valuable lesson to us.

Behind the scenes #17

This photo sums up the naff reality of making movie magic: Oscar-winning DoP Barry Ackroyd filming a head on a stick.

The pitch

This is where it all started - the pitch proposal we gave to Film4 to accompany the first draft of the script. We're really proud of the fact that the finished product is true to our original intention.

Early prototype

Phil Reeves at DB Props emailed over these work-in-progress photos while he was sculpting the head. After weeks of farting about designing it in Photoshop it was exhilarating to see it coming alive. Due to time constraints this foam remained inside the finished head, covered with fine layers of fibre glass. It's pretty fragile, plus we only had one made, so I was constantly barking at people if they even wafted near it, fearing it would be smashed to smithereens.

Behind the scenes #16

Injecting Tom Hollander in the face has got to be one of those most intense moments in my career. Not because of the gnarly make-up, nor the needle, nor the pressure of a film crew looking on. Moreover it was sitting eye to eye with Tom, who fixed me with such a tense, electric and intimate stare that I got lost in it.

Technical drawings for the construction of the Dr. Easy

Behind the scenes #15

Michael draws on the wall using his own blood.

Well, that's what we wrote.

In reality, every time Tom tried to do it, the fake blood just didn't want to adhere to the wall. Disaster.

So what you see in the finished film is actually VFX. Jason meticulously hand-tracked the wall and then superimposed artwork of the bloody writing. Hopefully you didn't have a clue.

If you look closely at this picture, you can actually see a heart. This was written in our script, but in the edit we came to realise that it wasn't necessary and in fact, lame. So not only did we paint IN a drawing, we also had to paint OUT the heart. But, it was vital that we got this moment right, so it was all worth it.

Behind the scenes #14

Here Tom and I are blocking out a sequence where Michael holds his gun to the robot's head. But of course there was no robot, and so we had to carefully rehearse his eyeline/gunline. This was made infinitely harder by having Tom circle the robot. I was nervous we'd cocked this up, and there was no way of telling until we sat down to do the FX on the shot. But thankfully it was spot on.

The Doctor will see you now

Finally, it's here. Click on the image above to watch!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

'The Red Men' available now from Gollancz

Dr. Easy is based upon the opening chapter of Matthew's book The Red Men. To coincide with the release of our short Gollancz are releasing The Red Men in ebook form.

Treat your brain, you deserve it.

Buy the ebook from Gollancz/Orion
Buy the ebook from Amazon UK
Buy the ebook from Amazon US

June 21st all will become clear

Our 7ft, yellow baby is ready to be born.

We're off to Edinburgh next week to show off Dr. Easy and give an industry talk along with Ally Gipps (Warp Films producer) and Anna Higgs (Film4 commissioner). We'll also be talking about how the hell we made this thing happen and how Anna and Ally steered us through the pitfalls of short-film-making. If you're able, come and see the film on the big screen and come and say hello too. It's worth it (the film is's debateable whether it's worth meeting 3 unshaven shut-ins).

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Behind the scenes #14

Newcomers are often perturbed by the idea that there's three of us, and how that will work on set. Mostly I (Kenny) speak directly to the actors and DoP from beside the lens, relaying what we need to do in the scene and it's context, and answering their questions. Chris (left) and Jason (2nd from left) watch the takes more objectively on the camera monitor - this after all is what you'll see.

The three of us, Shynola, are already on the same page before the shoot, and so at the end of each take the conversation is simple: did we get it? If not, why? Sometimes we get it in the first take and leave it at that, because we know that, yes, we have it. Otherwise the last take is the 'one'.

Also typical of our working method is the presence of 1st AD Ezra Sumner making lewd jokes in the background.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Final Mix day!

Sound ace Nigel Heath at the controls. What an incredible difference Hackenbacker have made. For the first time in a while we've been able to watch the film objectively and without being snapped out of the moment by a jarring omission. And it feels great.

So that's it. Finished! Can't wait to get this out now, roll on the 21st...

Monday, 3 June 2013


During our time working at Jellyfish HQ, Jonah was the project they had just completed and couldn't wait to see released. Finally, after a premier at Sundance, we can all see the photo-real glory that is the giant fish and underwater shots Jellyfish created for director Kibwe Tavares. Watch and enjoy.

Behind the scenes #13

Friday, 31 May 2013

A matte for Alex MacQueen.

We were in MPC today to have a first stab at the grade. Boy, what a difference a grade makes. The film starts looking less like something you shot on a mobile phone and more like something you might actually want to watch. Alex here, is about to receive a little warming light.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Behind the scenes #12

Barry Ackroyd (left), me (centre) and Warp producer Ally Gipps (right) on the tech reccy, discussing how to cover the external scenes. Just out of shot is a minefield of approximately 50-60 dog shits, which might explain why Ally and I both have one foot on the wall, to minimise floor contact. That and our previous jobs as knitting pattern models.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Behind the scenes #11

Shooting pickups on Day 2.
We wrote a film set at night but there's only so long you can realistically film for. So we had to be inventive. Next to the main location was a bus lock-up, which we cleared out and used as surrogate for night time - it's wholly convincing, and meant we could shoot while we waited for the real night to fall outside.