And another media is heard from

8 09 2007

People talk about films, television, webisodes. They talk about music and theatre. They talk about books and comedy acts.

But I never hear anything about shadow puppetry.

That’s right. Shadow puppetry. No one talks about that.

No one believes in that as an art. Well, here is one that had me chuckling away.

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8 09 2007

By the way, if you want to see a film which is beautifully edited, take a look at Mira Nair‘s THE NAMESAKE. While not perfect in story construction (any film which is attempting to telescope thirty years or more, down into one two hour film is going to have some problems) it’s a film in which virtually every shot in every scene advances the storytelling and emotions.

It’s not easy to describe the story of this film. It basically follows the story of a young traditional Bengali girl, Ashima (played by Tabu, on the right in the photo) who marries a scholarly and shy student named Ashoke, who takes her away from her family to live in New York City in the mid-seventies. Over the course of the film, Ashima fights her transplant, makes peace with the clash of cultures, has two children who grow up more American than Indian, and suffers the disappointments and joys that every parent has to go through.

The story, however, is not as simple as that. At its inception, it seems to be a story about Ashoke (Irfan Khan). Later, we spend enormous amounts of time with their son, Gogol (his naming is at the core of the story, and gives the film its name), who is played by HAROLD AND KUMAR’s Kal Penn. At those points, the film is truly about him. By the end of the film, we have returned to Ashima’s story.

So, whose story is it?

The answer is that it is a story about a culture and family. Each of these people represents a different view of how this family interacts with their various cultures. Ashima is thoroughly entenched in her Indian culture. Ashoke is a comfortable transplant. Gogol is thoroughly entrenched in his American culture. Each of them is tied to each other through family.

The story, then, follows the rise and fall of characters, depending on how close they are to their roots in family culture.

It’s fascinating, well-performed, and quite touching. And, Allyson C. Johnson‘s editing, pushed each scene and character towards that interpretation. It’s wonderfully done.

The score, by Nitin Sawhney, is subtle and combines the emotions of both cultures very well.

The RED has arrivED

8 09 2007

For those of you who haven’t heard of the Red camera, you might as well click over to the latest Perez Hilton post, because there’s not going to be anything of value here.

Mike Curtis, of the site HD For Indies, has a posting on his blog which reports on a shoot for a NYC based film called OFFHOLLYWOOD BROOKLYN (at least that’s what it’s called on the web gallery from which I got the picture to the left).

For a look at all the production still on Mike’s gallery surf on over to his .mac gallery.

The RED is the new lower budget HD camera that comes from the Oakley sunglasses magnate. People in the indie world have been panting after it for two years. Some felt it would never come, some felt it was late in coming. Nearly everybody liked the concept of it a lot. Now, it’s out in the wild (as of August 31st, according to Red’s web site) and people are using it whose names don’t start with the initial Peter Jackson (who shot a test film for Red, which was shown at their booth at this year’s NAB show). Steve Soderbergh is shooting his new movie with the camera, and Final Cut claims to have native support for their 4K RAW files (look for the menu item “REDCODE”).

It remains to be seen just how easy the post production workflow is using the camera. Here is what RED claims the workflow is:

  • Shoot 4K REDCODE RAW @27MB/sec.
  • Load footage into REDCINE. Do 1st light correction.
  • Export to any number of output options.

Sounds easy, eh?

Whether it is or not will be shaken out over the next several months as more of the promised cameras start to emerge. For now, one of the strongest attractions the camera has is its great image quality at its price. The body, mount, and LCD screen cost $20,450, before you add lenses, power packs, chargers, memory cards and a number of other necessary accessories, which is a total steal compared to any other HD camera out there that records at 4250×2540 pixels. You know all of the buzz about 1080p HD (there are as many flavors of HD as there are flavors at Baskin-Robbins, read this article, from Media Daily News, for some help in decoding them), here is a flavor that is at 2540 resolution.

Obviously, no one is going to really edit at that resolution. Even if you could have all of that information online at any given moment (which may be conceivable given the falling price of hard drives and the length of your project), the sheer amount of information that would need to be input and output for each second would choke even the best processors in the latest machines. That’s why Avid introduced DNX-HD and Final Cut’s got ProRes. But it will be interesting to see just what the issues will be in the editing room with a screen resolution so good. It’s like in the days when I worked, briefly, on a 70mm film. We couldn’t edit at that size, so we got reduction prints on 35mm. But the frame size and orientation was so different that the cuts ended up looking a little different when the film was neg cut and printed at its original 70mm size. It will be really interesting to see just what the translation issues are here.

So that we can get away from geekdom, and back to storytelling.

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New iPods out there and boy am I… curious

5 09 2007

Okay, this is more or less what I’ve been waiting for. Sorta.

Since the iPhone came out, I’ve been asking for the same thing in an iPod. Even though I use ATT as a provider, I didn’t particular want an early adopter version. But I did want the large screen for an iPod. Now, I’ve got it.

It’s still got a measly 16Gb of storage (damned flash memory!!), but I assume that will go up closer to the Christmas buying season and I might be tempted to jump in. With 16Gb, and video, I’m not going to get tons of video on the thing. And I’m real interested in getting video podcasts on the thing. Real interested.

I don’t really are about CoverFlow. I’ve never felt compelled to turn it on in iTunes and don’t anticipate finding assets that way on the iPod (though I’m wlling to be proved wrong).

I’ve got a few questions though…

Does it download Podcasts? Right now I can buy songs through the Wi-Fi connection. But will Apple allow me to download things that they don’t get paid for? Come to think of it, there was a lot of talk about song downloads, but none about video downloads. Will I have to get them on iTunes and then sync them to my iPod touch, or can I download anything that I can get at the iTunes store over WiFi?

Can I hook it up to a television if I want to pump it up to a big size? This will sorta be an essential item if I’m going to use it to transport client videos around. Or dailies.

That’s just a few questions I have. But a really interesting part of this is Apple’s deal with Starbucks to allow Wi-Fi access to the iTunes Store from any Starbucks. What is cool is not that, however. It’s that the iPod will know what song is playing in Starbucks at that moment, show it to you, and allow you to buy it. In fact, you can see and buy the last ten songs that were played there. This is amazing. It is the beginning of the holy grail for marketers — geo spatial recognition. Well, it’s not exactly like recognizing that you’re near Ray’s Pizza and then offering you a coupon if you stop in right now. But it’s real close to it.

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Second Life as a Backlot

4 09 2007

File this into the “News only to those who haven’t been paying attention” category.

Reuters reports that HBO has bought the film “My Second Life: The video diaries of Molotov Alta”, a film about a man who has disappeared from California and is now filing dispatches from Second Life.

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, Second Life is the web site, run by Linden Labs, which is a web-based virtual world, in which many people create alternate world personae, who fly from one area to another, interacting in real time. Some Real World companies (I believe that Reuters may be one of them) have created spaces within SL, counting on the other members of that community to stop by and view content, which is wrapped around with ads.

The show, the introductory episode of which has already been seeded on YouTube, is actually fairly clever, if derivative of films like THE MATRIX and books like, oh, anything by Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Pat Cadigan, Rudy Rucker or John Shirley. Molotov Alta has, somehow, been sucked into Second Life and is now recording his experiences and memories.

What it looks like is a CAD program used to create storyboards for films. It is the roughest visuals imaginable applied to a film, completely justified by it being the experience of someone within the graphics engine used by Linden Labs for SL.

In fact, it is the cheapest animation possible because the producer/director (California media artist/photograph, Douglas Gayeton) is animating using the cheapest animation engine available — Linden Labs own Second Life. And it’s free.

It’s brilliant. It’s an entrancing concept. Now we just have to see if the scripts can be anything more than the Introduction’s, which was mostly a gee-whiz, this is what Second Life can do, sorta thing.

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Another Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Interactive Media bit of nuttiness

4 09 2007

Sonic Body Pong, is a game based on Atari’s old game Pong, minus the screen. I’ll let it’s creators describe it first:

Sonic Body Pong is based on Atari’s classic video game Pong, and takes place in real space, with the players using their bodies as paddles. The ball is experienced by the players purely through sound.

Fheck out the photos. You put on these helmets which have a huge green rectangular pillow on top of them (this is like the block that you slid horizontally in the Pong game). You’re wearing headphones which send sound signals to you showing where the “ball” is. You then move back and forth, trying to knock the “ball”back to your opponent, based solely on your perceived sense of where the ball is.

A video of the game, up on YouTube, doesn’t really show much about how the players “feel” the ball, much less how the observers knew who was winning and who was losing. They do clap at regular intervals though. And the video is kinda fascinating, in a deconstructivist sorta way.

The creators of the game, David Hindman, Spencer Kiser, and Tikva Morowati, must be high on something. But it’s completely cool.

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MobZombies Mobile

3 09 2007

Julian Bleeckr (who, wonderfully, spells his name like a Web 2.0 application) is one of the creative geniuses over at the Interactive Media department at USC Cinema. Here, he shows the world how geeky he really and truly is, by putting MobZombies on his freakin’ cel phone.

Nothing wrong with that, right?


For those of you who aren’t as geeky as Julian (which, by the way, certainly includes me) you should know that MobZombies is a mobile game in which you chase zombies around on your cel phone screen. But that sounds way more normal than it really is. The thing is, to play this game (not really out of testing yet, as far as I know) you strap a little gizmo around your waist or someplace. That gizmo detects your movements and you can control the direction and speed of your zombie chasing, but where and how fast you are really moving .

In Real Freakin’ Life.

In a nutshell, what this means is that if you are chasing a zombie on your mobile, and you need to turn left, you better turn left in Real Life, or that Zombie is going to get away

It’s a pretty fantastic forward-thinking application of Location Based Entertainment. The game doesn’t respond to where you are, but what you are doing in space. Sorta like a super-Wii.

The possibilities for theatres is amazing. They already are puttig arcade games inside their lobbies. Now, we can move that experience into the films themselves.

Power Point and the death of teaching

3 09 2007

I’ve often made the point that Power Point has contributed to the death of actual presentation, because so many people just don’t do it right at all.  I’ve been to teacher conferences where the professors droned on endlessly in front of Power Point slides that said (in tiny tiny type) exactly what they were saying out loud.  It made me despair for teaching, in general.

In my other life, as a web analyst, I’ve seen the same thing — people who stand in front of badly structured PowerPoints (complete with horrifying audio and video transitions) and read everything that is up on screen.  If I wanted to have someone read to me, I would have stayed a four-year old, in my parents’ house

Now, there are a few sites that talk about how to better your presentations.  Now, WIRED Magazine has an article on Pecha Kucha, which means “chatter” in Japanese.  Two Tokyo based architects, Mark Dytham and Astrid Klein, have started a meeting for Japanese architects who have never had a place to display and talk about their work.  But here is what the two of them do that makes this meeting so cool — speakers can show no more than 20 slides, and each slide can last no longer than 20 seconds.  That is 400 seconds altogether, which comes out to six minutes and 40 seconds.  That Is It.

It’s brilliant.

In my editing classes, we work on loglines for scenes that we will be editing.  The key there is to be able to describe an entire movie in no more than two sentences.  Students have to really think about the films they describe, since simple plot descriptions are usually inadequate to describe the film.

What I find is that filmmakers who can succinctly describe their film, can usually more effectively direct and create all of the disparate elements involved in making it work.  KNowing what your film is about at its basic core, can help the filmmaker out of all sorts of production problems.

By the same token, being able to describe your concepts in 6:40 must make for some compelling speeches.  And will also help to separate the people who are just blowing smoke, from those who have something legitimate to say.

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Let’s Kiss HD DVDs Goodbye

3 09 2007

An article on today’s Reuters wire, titled “Division over next-generation DVDs deepening“, gives an overview of the present split between the HD-DVD format (of which Paramount/Dreamworks has recently signed with) and Blu-Ray (which has Sony as both a technology provider and a content developer, and Disney as a supporter). The headline says it all — the split between the camps is approaching VHS/Betamax proportions, with competing players out there that will allow the consumer confusion to continue this holiday buying season.

For me, the joke in all of this is that the VHS/Beta war analogy is off target because there is another format out there that is going to clean both Blu-ray and HD-DVD’s clock.  It’s digital downloads, and it’s going to be ready for prime time way before this HD disk war is even finished.  Or, to put it another way, it will finish the war.

No doubt, it will be necessary to have some sort of storage format so people can transfer movies from one machine to another — whether it’s at a sleepover at a friend’s house, or to move between rooms in a house.  But, with the introduction of Apple’s Apple-TV, a future path is quite clear. DVDs, if they exist in the future, will be seen as movable storage, not as film content, per se.  It won’t matter whether you download a film (probably from a studio or a “theater-type-service” – the big distributors aren’t going to go away, unless they screw up big time). It will either go on your central home video server, or onto a shared storage facility “in the sky” (think Google Docs).  Whether it’s on your machine or in the cloud, you’ll be able to move it around, depending on how much DRM the studios can get. You’ll use plastic disks, thumb drives or whatever comes next (flash memory) to move it, but those things will just be storage devices, much like a box or a container for food, to transport it in.  You’ll probably never hear the phrase “Let’s go out and get a DVD” said again, except by old farts like me or you (if you’re over the age of 13).

Of course, it is in the movie studios (translation — the conglomerates that own the studios) best interest to keep coming up with new distribution formats, so that they can keep selling you copies of BACK TO THE FUTURE and CITIZEN KANE forever and ever.  But that aspect of their greed, seems to have succumbed to the pissing match that is the HD format wars.

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Final Cut Pro makes the news

2 09 2007

There’s a funny piece in studiodaily about a story that ran on CNN last Thursday about two college students who were fired from their jobs at A&P Supermarkets because they posted a video on YouTube. The video showed they peeing and licking fruit that they subsequently put back on the shelves.

Parenthetically, I have to say that I would be glad these two guys were fired (I don’t need to worry about more additives in my food) if it weren’t for the fact that the shots of them peeing and licking looked totally faked to me.  CNN and A&P are assuming that they actually did those things and then actually put them back on the shelves and then actually left them there.  A lot of assumptions if you ask me.

Here’s what studiodaily says about FCP:

The FCP mention came when the CNN host commented on the editing and one of the students said he was a Mass Comm major and used Final Cut Pro.

The video can be seen here.  It’s actually kinda cute with some nice low-budge graphics and a really hilarious shot which is supposed to be a moving camera shot from behind a thrown head of lettuce.

The interesting thing to see is whether their audaciousness in posting the video (as opposed to just creating it and never looking for larger acclaim) will lead to enough publicity and work that they won’t miss their high paying jobs at the A&P.

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