"I believe the phrase is: Do you mind if I borrowed your newspaper?"
The Methos Chronicles preview review
NOTE: TheMethosChronicles.net is no longer online. The URL now redirects you to the official Highlander site.
TheMethosChronicles.net has posted an introduction and preview to the setting and some of the main characters in the Chronicles to come. Take a look before reading this review (otherwise, spoilers ahoy!).
The site describes The Methos Chronicles as "a tale of love, power, and an immortal quest for revenge that spans 5000 years. Set in ancient Egypt and modern Tokyo..." The intro begins with a click-through slideshow describing how the Aswan Dam in Egypt was built to control the yearly Nile river floods. Construction of the dam's reservoir necessitated submerging many archeological sites. World-renowned Dr. Khattemi and Dr. Mina Abadi of the Egyptian museum explore the underwater archeological sites... and presumably find a lost Chronicle of Methos. Following the slideshow is a short preview which flashes teasing images such as Methos in Egyptian garb, Methos in jail, and Dr. Abadi rafting down the Nile, while a voiceover by Peter Wingfield intones:
Little can be said about the story so far other than fans who are interested in Methos' origins will be intrigued. Fans who prefer Methos' origins to remain a mystery will want to dig out their eyes. Actually, you may want to dig out your eyes anyway after seeing what passes for art!
Peter's voice and accent are lovely (as usual!) but he sounds like he's reading a storybook aloud to children instead of narrating as his character (like Joe the Highlander credits or the "Captain's log" voiceovers that are a staple of Star Trek).
Dr. Abadi is quite nice. She resembles a less-well-endowed Lara Croft of Tomb Raider fame in other words, she's drawn like a typical heroine in modern Western animation such as Disney's Aladdin. However, Dr. Khattemi looks like a shifty drug dealer, or the despot of a Third World country I thought he was supposed to be a good guy!
Sadly, Methos is the ugliest of all, despite a promising change in later concept artwork posted on the site. It makes me wish for a return of the overly stylized Methos depicted in the earliest concept art!
In pondering why the animators can't seem to get Methos right, I poured over some Japanese anime art books then took a stab at drawing my own version of animated Methos (see the top of this page the Methos drawing is mine, the background is from concept art posted on The Methos Chronicles site). My aim was to keep the drawing as simple as possible while still suggesting Methos.
It seems the Methos Chronicles animators are taking the opposite tack they're trying to capture Methos' look by adding more detail, not less, resulting in a very lined face that looks old, not to mention yucky. This goes against what I've deduced from my brief study of animation. That is, character likeness should be depicted in a few, clean, well-chosen lines NOT with detailed, fuzzy-lined sketches. In short, less is more.
Not only is the artwork a disappointment, but the animation in the preview is similarly lacking. Before going into what's technically wrong with the preview, here's a short backgrounder on how the Macromedia Flash program works (or is supposed to work). Skip past this section if you're already familiar with Flash programming.
A FLASH PRIMER
In a Flash animation, each item that has to move is created as a separate drawing in an illustration program like Illustrator or Freehand or CorelDraw and imported into Flash as a "Flash object." (You can draw in Flash, but it's not really suited for complex drawings so it's cumbersome.) Animation is produced by moving these objects against a background.
There are two ways Flash file sizes are kept low. First, the object itself doesn't change, just its location against the background (i.e. the file doesn't have to store another size-increasing graphic in it, just the math formula describing how the object moves). This is what gives Flash animation a "South Park" look.
Second, the object is not created as a bitmap graphic (where the location of every pixel in the file has to be stored) but as a vector graphic (where just the math formulas describing how to draw the graphic is stored). JPGs, GIFs and PhotoShop files are stored as bitmap graphics. EPS, Illustrator and Freehand files are stored as vector graphics. The advantage of vector graphics is that the file sizes are much smaller and you can increase the size of the image infinitely without losing picture quality.
Flash DOES allow you use bitmap graphics. And it is TECHNICALLY possible in Flash to do traditional style animation you just have to use different graphics for each movement change as in traditional animation. However, these things increase file size tremendously, and thus should only be used sparingly. So the challenge for Flash animators is to minimize the amount of bitmap graphics needed (for example, using them only for painted-style backgrounds), and minimize the amount of graphic objects needed in total, while still making the animation artistically pleasing.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE PREVIEW
Compared to the professional Flash animation I've seen on several sites (listed at the end of his review), The Methos Chronicles looks extremely amateurish. Specifically...
In general, you can divide the fundamental skills needed to use Flash into three job descriptions: (1) an illustrator familiar with vector graphics programs, (2) a programmer who knows the ins and outs of Flash technically, and (3) an animator who has an artistic and cinematic eye for how to place and move images.
To me, it looks like whoever's doing the Methos Chronicles lacks skill (1) and has only an intermediate understanding of skills (2) and (3).
Below are some links to professional quality Flash animations. Take a tour and see the HUGE difference in quality between them and what we've seen of the Methos Chronicles so far. The drawings are waaaay cleaner and the animation (how the camera "moves" as well as how the images themselves move) is generally slicker.
Updated 14 July 2001
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The Methos Chronicles on iFilm (updated 14 July 2001)
Methos Collectors Package (2 May 2001)
Highlander new series and film rumor roundup (updated 15 July 2001)
More Reunion con guests added (updated 14 July 2001)
More on Highlander, the online game (updated 22 June 2001)