CLOSE
Original image
MondoArchive.com

How Mondo Posters Get Made

Original image
MondoArchive.com

If you're a fan of movies, you've probably heard of Mondo, the Austin, Texas-based shop that creates limited edition screen-printed movie posters that make typical one-sheets look like child's play. (TV shows get the Mondo treatment, too.) The company and its artists have put their spin on everything from A Christmas Story and Office Space to The Shining and E.T. (You can check out the full archive online.) Mondo's Chief Operating Officer, Jessica Olsen, told mental_floss how these posters get made.

m_f: How did Mondo get started?
One of our current Creatives, Rob Jones, who is heavily involved in the gig poster scene, approached the CEO/Co-Founder of the Alamo Drafthouse and suggested that they commission various artists to create posters to promote the Alamo Drafthouse's Rolling Roadshow. He contacted his friends in the music poster scene and got them to do re-interpretations of classic movie posters. We got a following from there. When Justin Ishmael came on, he suggested that we elevate the business model to feature licensed properties, our biggest one being Star Wars in 2010. Over the next couple years, our fan base got bigger and bigger, and marketing teams at studios starting taking note.

m_f: What’s the process of creating a Mondo poster?
Justin and I handle the legwork of obtaining the rights to older titles, or negotiating with the marketing teams at studios on newer properties. Once we have a title, Justin, Rob, and Mitch [Putnam, Mondo Creative Director] spend a good amount of time brainstorming who the right artist would be for the property. Mitch contacts the artist and once assigned, Rob directs them from there. Once the design is done, we circle back with the studio for any revisions—if any; the studios typically have guidelines, usually for legal reasons, that they give us in advance to follow. They vary from title to title and studio to studio—and then move to print. It can get more complicated than that at times, and we all wear a lot of hats, but that's the general process.

m_f: What happens more often: Do you seek out the license, or do companies seek you out to create posters?
It's honestly about half and half at this point.

m_f: Once you have a license for a particular film, can you create a number of posters for that film, or just one?
We can create more than one. On some titles we have several artists we think would be a good fit.

m_f: How do you match an artist with a particular film for a poster?
It varies. Sometimes when we first start working with an artist we ask them "Hey, give us the top 10 movies you would kill to do a poster for," and then match them up from there. Other times, we'll have an artist we want to work with in the wings for the perfect assignment. For example, Justin really wanted to work with David Peterson who does the comic Mouse Guard. When we added Brave to our list of posters for our Oscars series we spent some time going "hmmmm..." and then all of the sudden it was like "Oh man! Of course." And that's that. We like to match artists with movies that they are passionate about so it remains fun and doesn't feel like a job.

m_f: How much collaboration is there in figuring out what the poster will be?
We try to give the artist as much freedom as possible. Because Rob is a designer himself, I think he's able to act as a sounding board if an artist ever gets stuck or needs some direction. I stay out of all of those conversations though because they typically happen at 3 to 4am while I'm trying to get some sleep.

m_f: For some posters, you release variants. Why is that, and how do you decide which posters get them?
Variant posters are part of the established practice of screenprinted gig posters, which is what we stemmed from. They're designed to be more rare and therefore more collectible. We'll create a variant copy when both the film and the design calls for it—Attack the Block, for example, with the glowing teeth, or Iron Man II on metal.

m_f: What licenses have been particularly tough to get?
Taxi Driver was a challenge. We worked over a year to make that one happen. Once we got the approval to make the poster we had to track down Robert De Niro and Martin Scorcese and request their blessing for their names and likeness on the poster. It was an inquisition but worth it. It was such an exciting day when I got those emails back.

m_f: What film would you love to see a Mondo poster of, and which artist would you put on it?
I'd really like to acquire the Toho license for Justin so we could do kaiju movies like Godzilla and Mothra. He's wanted those for a long time. Personally, I really want to make Ghostbusters happen, with full likeness rights. It's so aligned with what we do and our fan base. We could do amazing things with it.

m_f: You put on two shows during SXSW—one for Game of Thrones, one with artists Tyler Stout and Ken Taylor. Why do those two particular shows during SXSW?
HBO approached us after our collaboration during San Diego Comic-Con last summer. They asked if we had any ideas, and we thought a gallery show and poster series during SXSW would time nicely with the season premiere of the show. Stout/Taylor was planned to coincide with Flatstock, which is a poster show during SXSW that brings in really great artists.

m_f: How often do you have Gallery shows like this? What do you have on the walls between shows?
Gallery shows typically run four weeks with a week or two in between to prepare for the next one. There's nothing on the walls in between shows because we're typically rapidly patching up nail holes and giving the walls a fresh coat of paint, or occasionally an artist will be in town creating a mural on the walls for the next show.

m_f: If I were you, I’d make sure to grab a copy of every poster before it went on sale.
Yeah, but they take up more room than you'd think! My favorites so far from this year are Taxi Driver by Martin Ansin, Django by Rich Kelly, and Jaws by Laurent Durieux. Oh man... and Beetlejuice by Ken Taylor...

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
arrow
technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

Original image
iStock
arrow
Weird
Creative Bar Owners in India Build Maze to Skirt New Liquor Laws
June 20, 2017
Original image
iStock

Facing a complicated legal maze, a bar in the southern Indian state of Kerala decided to construct a real one to stay in business, according to The Times of India. Aiswarya Bar, a watering hole that sits around 500 feet from a national highway, was threatened in 2016 after India's Supreme Court banned alcohol sales within 1640 feet of state and country-wide expressways to curb drunk driving. Instead of moving or ceasing operation, Aiswarya Bar's proprietors got creative: They used prefabricated concrete to construct a convoluted pathway outside the entrance, which more than tripled the distance from car to bar.

Aiswarya Bar's unorthodox solution technically adhered to the law, so members of the State Excise Administration—which regulates commodities including alcohol—initially seemed to accept the plan.

"We do [not] measure the aerial distance but only the walking distance," a representative told The Times of India. "However, they will be fined for altering the entrance."

Follow-up reports, though, indicate that the bar isn't in the clear quite yet. Other officials reportedly want to measure the distance between the bar and the highway, and not the length of the road to the bar itself.

Amid all the bureaucratic drama, Aiswarya Bar has gained global fame for both metaphorically and literally circumnavigating the law. But as a whole, liquor-serving establishments in India are facing tough times: As Quartz reports, the alcohol ban—which ordered bars, hotels, and pubs along highways to cancel their liquor licenses by April 1, 2017—has resulted in heavy financial losses, and the estimated loss of over 1 million jobs. Aiswarya Bar's owner, who until recently operated as many as nine local bars, is just one of many afflicted entrepreneurs.

Some state governments, which receive a large portion of their total revenue from liquor sales, are now attempting to downgrade the status of their state and national highways. To continue selling liquor in roadside establishments, they're rechristening thoroughfares as "urban roads," "district roads," and "local authority roads." So far, the jury's still out on whether Kerala—the notoriously heavy-drinking state in which Aiswarya Bar is located—will become one of them.

[h/t The Times of India]

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
arrow
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES