Wednesday, October 31, 2007

AJA's Nick Rashby on the ioHD

Interview with AJA's Nick Rashby over at Broadcast Newsroom. Check out the interview HERE.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Leopard: Some bad, some sorta good...

Just a quick note here...

I thought that the networking between Wintel and the Mac had improved in Leopard. But, alas, it was just happenstance that it was working during my intial testing. But, as it turns out, it's still intermittently failing. Many times I turn the Powerbook on (the Wintel box is always running) and the Mac sees nothing on the network.

Sometimes if I go and wake the MacPro up, the Powerbook will automagically see the rest of the network. Other times it will just see the MacPro. And to add to that, my IM network always comes online. I use a Bonjour client called Miranda on the Wintel box so that I can have a local private IM setup between the Macs and Wintel. That system ALWAYS works, no matter what.

Very strange...

On the Powerbook I use the wireless Mighty Mouse and the old wireless keyboard (the white one, not the new chiclet one). About every 5th time I would fire up the Powerbook, it would decide that it could not see either the keyboard or the mouse - Never both, just one or the other.

In Tiger, I had to go through a bunch of steps to reconnect the errant device back to the Powerbook. In Leopard, they have simplified this process down to a single element in a drop down on the Bluetooth panel in System Preferences:

Above is the new Leopard panel and the dropdown where you can simply select connect or disconnect as appropriate.

So, network issues still persist. Bluetooth is still questionable. But at least I don't have to go through 20 steps to reconnect the Bluetooth devices. Kind of reminds me of an old joke:

"So, Bob, how is the new job?"
"Well, the people are jerks, the environment is like a dungeon but at least the pay sucks!"

I'll post later in the week about the MacPro update to Leopard. I'll have plenty of time to do it this week as I am now officially out of work!

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Leopard Spot

I spent Sunday working on a 30 second promo spot that was due this Friday so I decided to do it on the Leopard box and see how things went. Figuring I had enough time to switch to the Tiger machine if it all went to hell in a hand basket.

I had about 2 hours of raw footage from which to cull the clips for the spot. This spot also required the creation of some motion graphics at the head and tail of the spot and it all had to be cut to some heavy metal head banger music. The apps that I used were:

FCP 6.0.1
Soundtrack Pro 2
Motion 3
Lightwave 9.2
Adobe After Effects CS3

I decided to give AE a shot even though Adobe says that it has issues under Leopard.
The first thing I did was to create a cutdown project where I culled footage from the clips that were supplied. Once I had gone through all of the footage and ripped out the shots I wanted to use, it was on to the motion graphics.

I used Lightwave to create a 3D version of the logo graphics that had been supplied to me as TIFF files. I do this even when the result will be 2D because I can then scale the logo to any size and have no image degradation.

Once the logo was complete and I had output the TIFF sequence from Lightwave, I brought the sequence into After Effects. Once there, I created an animated background that integrated various sizes of the logo. On top of that I animated the text for the intro to the promo shot and used a number of AE expressions to add a little random life to the text's movement.

Then I brought in the music and sound FX for the intro graphics and tweaked the graphics to match the sound track. The audio was supplied at a specific length that the intro had to match. Once this was complete, I output the result to a TIFF file sequence as uncompressed SD 29.97 interlaced.

I created the outtro graphics using basically the same workflow and matching it to the outtro graphics that I created using Motion 3. Again, output to 29.97 interlaced TIFF sequence.

I then created a new project in FCP, set up my usual bin organization and setup 3 sequences. One for the intro, one for the main video clips and one for the outtro. Once that was done I loaded the TIFF sequences and placed them into their appropriate sequences that I created.

I then loaded the head banger soundtrack into the audio bin along with the intro / outtro audio sections. I then created my master sequence and loaded the intro and outtro audio and video as well as the main head banger music into the main sequence. The sequence then sits at exactly 30 seconds and I am ready to start dropping in footage from the cutdowns into this master sequence after I set my timing markers.

I listen to the music and hit the M for marker to set my beat points in the music. I go back and listen to it again and ensure that I am happy with the marker locations and tweak the ones that I am not happy with.

Finally, I start dropping in the clips from the cutdowns into this master sequence and aligning them with the markers. Once this process was complete and I was happy with the timing and overall flow of the spot (many tweaks here to get it just right), I slap bars and tone on the front and tail ends and run the sequence once more to make sure were are within broadcast limits.

A few more tweaks, the scopes look good and I loaded the whole shebang into SoundTrack and tweaked the final audio with tone as my reference after some minor EQing and some adjustments to the transitions between the intro/outro and the main spot's audio.

Back in FCP, I re-check the audio and video - watching the thing start to finish about 10 times to make sure I am happy with the result and finally burn to tape and I am done.

Now, where did Leopard fail me in all of this? Nowhere. NOTHING went wrong. All of the apps described above worked just as they always have. Including AE CS3 that Adobe says is not compatible. I suspect I just managed to not hit whatever aspect of AE has issues under Leopard. And bear in mind that this install is OVER Tiger. Not a clean install as is recommended by many in the Mac community.

When I update our MacPro Tiger machine this week, it will again be OVER Tiger that I install Leopard. Why, you might ask? I just have FAR too many apps existing on that machine to be able to back it all up, do the install and then re-install all of those apps. Just not gonna happen.

The bottom line? I am happy. I am looking forward to getting Leopard onto the MacPro. It's optimized 64 bit architecture should allow us to enjoys some nice performance enhancements while doing the work that we have done under Tiger.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Leopard: The cat in the Mac

CAVEAT: This is NOT a review of Leopard. This post is intended to provide my results of testing Leopard by installing it over Tiger and testing that all of the applications listed in my previous post function properly. A large part of this testing focus is on Apple's Final Cut Studio application suite.

If you want to read reviews of Leopard, Apple Insider has one HERE, Computerworld has an in-depth one HERE and MacWorld has one HERE. You can google for more if you like. EnGadget even installed Leopard on an 8 year old Mac G4 tower and you can read about it HERE.

As a final note, iLife was updated today and I applied that update to the Mac so as to bring it current. Now, with all of that being said, let's get to it!

Nancy and I went to the Apple store at the Simi Vally Town Center mall tonight and arrived at about 5:50 PM. There was a line of about 60 folks waiting and dodging the kids choo-choo train that winds it's way around this outdoor mall. The Apple store was closed. At about 5:59PM they opened up and the line moved very quickly into the store.

I was surprised at the number of folks that had come to the store just to get a T-shirt. About 30 percent of the folks at the store actually were buying Leopard.

To start the tests off, I am going to do some intial timings of the spare Mac that I am installing Leopard onto. This way I can see if Leopard impacts the performance of the machine at all. I suspect that once I get Leopard installed on the main Mac here, we should see some performance change since Leopard is now a full 64 bit OS. I was digging around the house here for a stop watch and Nancy pointed out that the iPhone has one built in.

The test Mac is configured as follows:

  • Macintosh Powerbook G4
  • 1.67 Ghz PPC CPU
  • 1GB of RAM.
  • 80GB internal HD
  • 1TB external RAID array attached via FW800
This configuration will preclude any testing of Color as the Mac does not have a video card with sufficient chutzpah to allow color to run. So if all goes well here, that testing will take place on the Mac Pro.

Adobe has announced the following current versions of their applications that are NOT compatable with Leopard:

Products that will require updates for full Leopard compatibility include Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional and the company’s professional video applications, including Adobe Premiere Pro CS3, After Effects CS3 Professional, Encore CS3 and Soundbooth CS3.

Reported at MacWorld HERE.

Timings Pre-Leopard Install (all applications are current version and patch level):

BOOT -- 48 seconds
FCP 6 -- 47 seconds
Soundtrack Pro 2 -- 18 seconds
Motion -- 41 seconds
Dreamweaver CS3 -- 22 seconds
Photoshop CS3 -- 26 seconds
Pages -- 9 seconds
Keynote -- 20 seconds
Numbers -- 9 seconds

Installing Leopard now - Looks to be about 1 hour for the install.

While it installs, I am surfing the net on the WinTel machine here next to the Mac I see Engadget has a nice article on application issues with Leopard. Check it out HERE.

More updates LIVE from B-scene films as soon as the install ends and I can continue testing.

Stay tuned!

OK, it took about an hour and 15 minutes to install. It wanted to setup Time Machine which I declined. I did some quick tests with FCP, created a new project, brought in about 2 hours of SD clips and edited up a few sequences and that worked fine. Brought in an existing Hot Rod TV project and re-arraanged a few things and that all looks good. Same with Soundtrack Pro and Motion.

Twilight Zone time...

OK, I tried to open a 5.0 project file in FCP 6.0.1 that is located on the external 1TB drive and FCP said that it did not understand the file format. I copied that project file over to the other Mac that is running Tiger and it opened it up and offered to convert it as expected.

I then copied a 5.0 project from the Mac running Tiger over to the Leopard Mac and tried to open it up and it opened up just fine after the conversion dialog box was cleared (as expected).

So - A 5.0 file on the Leopard machine will not open in FCP but it WILL open on the Tiger Mac. 5.0 from the Tiger opens on the Leopard machine. Very very weird. OK, will test more in the morning.

The machine is indexing Searchlight right now and estimates 2 hours to completion so I am going to let it run and continue testing in the morning. If there is anything specific anyone wants me to try, don't be shy, leave a comment and I will test it out for you.

Saturday Update:

There appears to be zero performance impact. All of the times listed above are the same now with Leopard installed. When I install Leopard on the MacPro I suspect there should be some performance changes based on the 64 bit nature of Leopard (Tiger was only partially 64 bit).

This morning I did a number of captures. DVCPROHD from a deck, HDV from the Sony Z1 and some SD 24pa from a DVX100b and everything captured with no issues.

I conclude that FCP 6.01 under Leopard is stable with the single caveat that there *may* be an issue loading projects from previous versions. This issue seems intermittant and I am going to investigate it further.

Soundtrack Pro 2.0 is working fine. I opened STP 1.0 projects with it, recorded audio, re-mixed a music track, saves loads etc. All seems to be working properly. Motion is also working just fine. Loading old projects, creating new, importing media, motion tracking. All working just fine.

I cannot test Apple Color on this machine as it has insufficient video hardware resources so you will have to wait until we get Leopard up on the MacPro for those tests.

Now on to the Adobe Suite and the iWork suite. More test results to come. Stay tuned!

OK, we're back. I tested Dreamweaver CS3 and saw no issues. This included creating a new website with embedded flash elements and editing an existing Dreamweaver project. So I do not see any issues here.

I tested Photoshop CS3 and it also seems to be working just fine. I edited a variety of image formats including Nikon RAW, TIFF, JPG and GIF. I setup batch conversions using actions and everything worked flawlessly.

I also tested Pages, Keynote and Numbers. All 3 of these applications appear to be working just fine. I also decided to test Colorista under FCP and corrected a number of SD, HDV and full HD footage sequences and Colorista appears to be working just fine.

The quirks:

Aside from the very strange legacy file open issue that is noted above in the Twilight Zone section, the only other issues I have seen are these:

Time Machine: I tried to run the Time Machine client before Time Machine had done any backups. This made the menu bar on the Mac disappear. I still had a dock and could launch apps but the menu bar was gone. A reboot produced a hung machine. A second reboot brought the machine back to life. Once I had allowed Time Machine to create a backup, the client software ran just fine. But still, this is crappy error handling and should have been caught in QA at Apple.

Safari: Safari is the only browser that I use on the Mac. I use Firefox on the Wintel machines but I have never bothered with it on the Mac since Safari seemed to meet my needs. Overall, Safari ran fine with a couple of weird exceptions. I went to eBay. I searched on Macintosh Plus. It returned a list of ads and I browsed one of the ads - Or attempted to.

Safari complained that it could not decode the page. So I went back 1 page and got the same error. Back at the main eBay page my search text was still intact so I told it to do the search again and it gave me the error again. So I quit Safari and repeated the whole process and I never saw the error message again.


With the Twilight zone situation that I detailed above, I am hesetant to provide a blanket reccomendation if you are depending on FCS for your livlihood. FCS appears to run just fine other than what I detailed.

Also, bear in mind that I am not testing with a wide variety of hardware in these intial tests. Your Black Magic or AJA products that you depend on have NOT been tested here.

All of that being said, I feel compelled to reccomend that you hold off on installing Leopard until Apple has made some corrections to it.

On the positive side of things, they have fixed all of the weird networking issues that I used to run into with Tiger and that is a HUGE plus for me. Additionally, the bluetooth appears to be more robust as well (my kbd and mouse would generally have about a 50% chance of not being recognized when I booted the Powerbook - That seems to be fixed).

The finder actually seems a bit zippier than Tigers which surprises me. Time Machine is a VERY slick app. When you DO upgrade to Leopard, I highly reccomend you get an external FW drive and let this great app do it's thing.

After all of these results, I will be discussing with Nancy wheather or not we will upgrade the MacPro to Leopard. If we do decide to do that, I will blog the results of that experience here.

I hope this experience was helpful to some of you out there that depend on FCS and the Mac for your day-to-day business.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Leopard: Just say no

Well, tomorrow is the big day. Apple will release OS X 10.5 Leopard. This is a pretty huge update for OS X. 300 new features (see a complete list HERE) and a lot of security updates under the hood as well. I REALLY hope that they have fixed the oddball networking issues that I run into between Windows XP and OS X (Windows can see the Mac but the Mac cannot see Windows etc.).

I know that they are going to separate network requests into their own process so that when you try to access a network resource that is down or unreachable, you won't get the spinning Technicolor pizza of death and have to re-start the finder.

So, why "Just say no."? Well, if you are using your Mac for your day to day work and depending on it for your livelihood, I would HIGHLY recommend that you wait to see what kind of issues crop up with this new update.

This weekend I will be updating our secondary Mac with 10.5 and I will be testing it with the following applications:

DVD Studio Pro
Motion 3
Soundtrack Pro 2
Photoshop CS3
After Effects CS3
Dreamweaver CS3

All of these apps are the current versions. If I get time I will test with the current versions of iLife as well.

I will blog the results of this testing on Sunday or Monday. I'll also blog my initial impressions of the update. Once I am convinced that 10.5 is stable and there are no issues with it we will migrate it to the main Mac that we use for post work.

When I tested out Vista, I ran it inside of a VMWare VM session on my main WinXP box. I did that because I did not trust the new update and I did not have a machine that I could just install it on and not have it impact my work. So I ran it in the VM and there it sits still. I still do not trust it. The security in Vista is SO in your face as to make it obtrusive and counter-productive.

I seriously doubt that I will ever use it as my mainstream OS for Wintel.

Stay tuned for my Leopard report here!


Monday, October 22, 2007

OT: Apple - The right thing

I recently posted about Apple ( HERE ) and complained about the lack of dev tools (read:SDK) for the iPhone. Well, Apple has announced the iPhone SDK to be released in February:

(From the Apple Hot News site)

Third Party Applications on the iPhone

Let me just say it: We want native third party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers’ hands in February. We are excited about creating a vibrant third party developer community around the iPhone and enabling hundreds of new applications for our users. With our revolutionary multi-touch interface, powerful hardware and advanced software architecture, we believe we have created the best mobile platform ever for developers.

It will take until February to release an SDK because we’re trying to do two diametrically opposed things at once—provide an advanced and open platform to developers while at the same time protect iPhone users from viruses, malware, privacy attacks, etc. This is no easy task. Some claim that viruses and malware are not a problem on mobile phones—this is simply not true. There have been serious viruses on other mobile phones already, including some that silently spread from phone to phone over the cell network. As our phones become more powerful, these malicious programs will become more dangerous. And since the iPhone is the most advanced phone ever, it will be a highly visible target.

Some companies are already taking action. Nokia, for example, is not allowing any applications to be loaded onto some of their newest phones unless they have a digital signature that can be traced back to a known developer. While this makes such a phone less than “totally open,” we believe it is a step in the right direction. We are working on an advanced system which will offer developers broad access to natively program the iPhone’s amazing software platform while at the same time protecting users from malicious programs.

We think a few months of patience now will be rewarded by many years of great third party applications running on safe and reliable iPhones.


P.S.: The SDK will also allow developers to create applications for iPod touch.

Since my post pleaded for this, I have to now say Thanks, Steve. I am VERY pleased to see this happen.

In related news, I commute from Moorpark to Burbank every day on the LA Metrolink train system and I tend to pass the time listening to podcasts. Last week I was listening to the Creative Planet Digital Production Buzz podcast ( HERE ) with Philip Hodgets and Michael Horton (the latter is the president of the LAFCPUG).

Michael and Philip started to get into it over the bricking of iPhones. This is an issue that I have not covered here because everybody and his brother has written or blogged about this. However, after listening to this rant between the two hosts of this great podcast, I felt compelled to write about this. Michael felt that Apple doing this was beneath contempt and Philip defended Apple on this.

I fear that I have to agree with Philip here. Apple warned users that the next update had the potential of rendering hacked iPhones useless. Additionally, when you ran the update, aw bug warning screen came up that stated this as well and you had to confirm that you were aware of it before you allowed the update to continue.

I think that Apple acted with reasonable prudence prior to the 1.1.1 iPhone update. And, at the end of the day, if you bought an iPhone and then hacked the hell out of it and are now crying because it's useless, you got what you deserved. To expect Apple to support hacking on the iPhone is just as reasonable as expecting your car dealer to support you when your car fails after trying to add super performance mods to it's engine.

Recently, my Camry that I use basically to just drive to and from the train station had the driver's side window fail. I took it to a local mechanic who quoted me $450 to fix it. I demurred and called up the local Toyota dealer and they quoted me $250. The reason that the dealer was so much cheaper is that they can replace individual components of the mechanism instead of just replacing the whole thing as an independent would have to.

I took it to the dealer and then got a phone call a few hours later informing me that they had to replace the whole mechanism since someone in the past had installed a 3rd party version of the mechanism. I ended up spending the same at the dealer as the independent would have charged. And I am OK with that. While it was not I that put the 3rd party component into the car (I bought it used), I understand that the dealer cannot support things like this that fall outside of their control.

So too must Apple when it comes to the iPhone.

Now, I have stated before that I am not an Apple Fanboi - The previous analysis is just prudent business on the part of Apple. I would support this approach regardless of the vendor. Now, on the negative side of the fence, I REALLY wish that Apple would allow user created ring tones.

On my iPhone I have 1 custom ring tone that I created. It is a section from the film When harry met Sally. It is the audio from the fake orgasm that Sally does in the restaurant and I have it set to trigger when Nancy calls me. It's still on the phone and it still works just fine.

In order to implement it I had to do a file copy and a rename of the file once inside the iTunes library. Not much of a hack and I figured worst case, Apple would disable this little back door (which they did). Now, all of that being said, it is my opinion that Apple should ONLY charge for ring tones for songs that you buy that you did not previously own.

If you already own the music or the sound effect, you should be able to use it as you see fit for personal use. But, what is happening here is that the music companies are forcing Apple to charge their customers for ring tones regardless of whether or not the customer owns the material already or not.

Having recently finished reading Eric Clapton's autobiography, one of the things that he mentions towards the end is his predictions that the music companies that exist today will not be here in ten years. He also indicates his approval of this situation. Looking at what bands like Radiohead are doing (offering their new album as a digital download for ANY size donation - or none at all), the music business is in serious transition mode.

Personally, I would LOVE to see the demise of all of the record companies. They add no value. All they do is leach off of the talent of others and gouge the consumers. Good riddance to them.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Report from Panafest 2007

Panafest - This is the first time that Panavision has held this event. Normally they announce new products at Show Biz Expo or the NAB show or similar venues. Panavision stated that they had enough new products ready that they did not want to wait for one of the tradeshows to demonstrate and announce these new products.

Now, admittedly, Panavision products are of little interest to the average low/no budget indie filmmaker. Panavision traditionally appeals to the mainstream studio productions. Panavision provides cameras, lenses and accesories for (mostly) 35mm film productions. That is their bread and butter. And these products are never sold - Only leased to film companies for the duration of their principal photography.

Panavision does have an HD Digital camera called the Genesis, and a number of changes were introduced at the Panafest for this series of products. One of the advantages of Genesis is that the controls and overall handling of the camera are modeled on their film cameras. As such, an operator or AC that is familiar with Panavision's existing film line of products will be at home on the Genesis.

At Panafest, a number of new products were demonstrated such as new prime lenses, new anamorphic lenses, a new 2 perf system and updates to the Genesis line. For this update, we will focus on the Genesis products since the other items are designed for mainstream film. The Genesis is of interest since it more directly competes with products such as the Thomson Viper or the RED.

At Panafest, the screening room was set up to run a number of demos. One of these was a Mazda commercial that was shot both on film and on the Genesis. All footage displayed was presented on a 2K Barco projector. The audience was asked to tell which footage was shot on film and which was shot on the Genesis. Outside of a single tell-tale item, I was unable to tell the difference. And this was true of the audience (comprised mostly of DPs, engineers and camera crew personnel).

Following this was a discussion of the Genesis workflow using their new SSR product (Solid state recorder) that stores 20 minutes of uncompressed HD fotage (the camera also supports a compressed format with 4:2:2 chroma sub-sampling for longer duration shots).
As an aside, the Genesis camera produces a full uncompressed progressive HD image (1920x1080) without chroma sub-sampling (4:4:4 colorspace). The image that is produced by the genesis is in a proprietary format called Panalog 4. Viewing this raw data is reminiscent of the image prodcued by a viper. Desaturated and low contrast. This data contains a full gamma curve and needs to be run through a conversion box that pairs with the Genesis to provide 3D LUTs for look management.

Now, while none of this is new or earth shattering, the new Genesis does provide a way to revert the data back to raw format, removing the changes applied by the LUTs. They have a patent on this little trick and it's a very slick feature. I asked of the solid state recorder could be mounted as a drive to facilitate file copying and they stated that this was not possible. You had to hook it up via HD-SDI and do real-time capture. This is, IMHO a MAJOR flaw in this design.

Following this they ran some test footage from their 2-perf system. Very wide. Very nice looking.

Panavision has a test soundstage at their facility and this was setup with all of their products so that you could go in and see and play with all of the new gear. Outside they had a tent set up with a couple of cranes and a car mount along with open bars and lots of food.

Excuse the crappy pictures - They were taken with my iPhone :).

Opinion time. This is just MY opinion here. Let me preface this with the fact that I have been to the Panavision facilities many times. The people at Panavision are a great group of very talented people who are always willing to go the extra mile to get you what you need. Their products are of the very highest quality. And that is evident in the many thousands of great films that have been created using their gear. They offer free training on all of their gear. If you want to learn how to tear a Panavision XL2 down and re-assemble it they are happy to show you.

That being said, I think that Panavision is in a precarious position. I seriously doubt that they will be able to react quickly enough in the marketplace to continue to hold their dominant position. One of the statements made by the Panavision folks during the show was that Panavision feels that film has a very bright and long future ahead of it. I disagree. Moreover, when I see what they have done with the Genesis, I don't see significant innovation.

As filmed entertainment moves into the digital realm, Panavision is at risk of being left behind in a world where changes occur at breakneck speed and prices plummet. I predict that at some point, Panavision will be best served as a lens supplier. I wish them the best of luck. The challenges that they face are significant. In the past, the speed of change for film cameras was lethargic at best. Panavision will have to completely re-invent themselves in order to survive in the new world of digital cinema.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Indy 4: Just a taste

In my youth I was probably a fanboi of a number of different things, but as I got older and more jaded, all of those things fell to the wayside. All except one: Indiana Jones. When Raiders was released, I had zero knowledge of it. A friend of mine suggested that we go see it. I had no expectations. But, wow, I was blown away. I have probably seen the film over 30 times in the intervening years. The film remains timeless for me and never gets old. The effects still hold up today just as they did when the film was released.

When Temple of Doom was released I had very high expectations. But I walked out on the film. And I VERY rarely walk out on a film. I just hated this film. Still do. Then, when Last Crusade came out (I guess it was not the last, now was it?), I had jaded expectations. But I loved every minute of it. My only crit was that I wished they had taken more time to let the audience really get to know Jones Sr. I really liked the character and loved Connery's portrayal of him.

When I heard that Indy 4 was being made and that Harrison was going to reprise the role, I figured that this was going to be a really bad thing. And then I saw a picture of Mr. Ford in costume and my spirits were lifted.

For those of you who are interested in a little taste of what is to come, /Film has a nice little writeup that you can read HERE.

An interesting aside is how Spielberg eschews digital technology. I remember when he gave a talk at the UCLA film school about 5 years ago and stated that as long as there was film, he would shoot on film. In fact, on Munich, his editor was relegated to using a Movieola at the director's insistence. Looks like his first taste of an Avid will come as he co-directs Tintin with Peter Jackson following the conclusion of the production of Indy 4.

Spielberg, clearly a curmudgeon, is still a curmudgeon whose work continues to inspire and delight filmgoers everywhere.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The death of cinema

The death of cinema

This post is really a response to the blog post over at Flippant News here.

Peter Greenaway is a self described eccentric filmmaker and is quoted as saying that cinema is dead. It would be easy for me to just dismiss Peter’s comments but I think that Peter is a smart guy. I also think that he is on the wrong track here. He says that Scorsese is old fashioned and is doing nothing new. That he is making the same level of entertainment that D.W. Griffith was making.

Griffith is generally credited with creating the modern grammar of film but he was responsible for popularizing the modern grammar of film and promoting himself as the originator of these techniques. But that is kind of an aside – You can read more about that HERE.

Peter is convinced that the future is in interactive entertainment. About 10 years ago, George Lucas tested an interactive movie here in LA where the audience was given a controller and allowed to provide input on the direction of the story. The experiment was considered a failure.

My take is this: When people sit in a theater and watch a film or a play, for that matter, they are engaging in a shared, passive experience that has been part of the pantheon of human culture for thousands of years. The basic 3 act dramatic structure that is employed in most films can be traced to the ancient Greeks.

To think that this experience is dead, is dead wrong. To assume that everyone wants to participate in the presentation of a story is wrong. In my opinion, these experiences are independent of each other. There is room for both. Many times, I just want to sit back and enjoy someone telling me a story. I am not alone in this.

Moreover, Peter feels that video artists such as Bill Viola are a huge improvement over the traditional story telling film experience. Here again, I think he is wrong. There is room for both. They are vastly different experiences. There is NO reason to presume that one form will supplant the other.

Interactive media / Film, Plays / Video art, Traditional art – I can and do appreciate all of these various forms of expression. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. There is no reason for one to supplant the other. Saying that interactive media and video art should supplant traditional cinema is equivalent to saying that sculpture should supplant painting as an art form.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

FCP Prefs and 31 Best movie monsters

Pretty fun look at movie monsters over the years. Seems like the best ones come out around Halloween - Not a surprise :)

Check it out HERE.

Thor Hazel has a nice FCP prefs reference up on his blog - Check it out HERE.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

OT: Apple - Deja Vu?


Many years ago, I owned a Mercedes Benz 450SL Roadster. This was the top of the line Mercedes at that time. I remember reading a review about the car in Road and Track magazine and how they gushed about the car. Except for one item: Fixed steering wheel position. The review pointed out that all of the other cars competing in this class had adjustable steering wheels. R&T asked Mercedes about this and the response was (paraphrased): "We have calculated the optimum position for the steering wheel. It does not need to be adjustable".

Now, today, if we look at the specs for the 2008 Mercedes 600SL, we find this:

4-way (tilt/telescoping) power steering column position-linked to driver's seat memory.

Now, one might wonder why Mercedes has, at some point, lost the ability to calculate the correct position of the steering wheel. The answer, of course, is that they didn't. What they came to understand was that this was a feature that their customers wanted. So, being in the business of serving the needs of their customers, they changed this stance and gave the customer what they wanted.

I don't think that any of us wants to tolerate something that a product has as a feature when that feature (or lack thereof) does not meet our needs. We will go along our merry way looking for the product that does not impose the particular quirk upon us and as such better meets our needs. It's just common sense. And this brings us to Apple.

This morning, I read an editorial by Christopher Breen over at Macworld (you can read it HERE) entitled "Is Apple on the wrong path?". This article really struck a chord with me. I have talked about Apple before here on the blog and I have mentioned many times that I am anything but an Apple fanboi. I prefer to think of myself as technology agnostic. Use the tools that are best suited to the task. Period. But, it was not always that way for me. So let's program the wayback machine for 1982 for a few moments.

Ahhhh, here we are. I am hacking away happily on my Apple ][+. I am a huge fan of Apple. I love the products. I love the openness of the system, the fact that Apple publishes the source code to the monitor and prints out the schematics to the machine. This is hacker heaven. Hacker, in the original parlance meant someone who was a hard core computer geek. Not like today where it implies criminal activities. Around this same time, the Apple Macintosh is gestating somewhere in the bowels of Apple. Jeff Raskin, a brilliant computer scientist, has a vision for a computer that is the equivalent of a toaster. A computing appliance, if you will.

This is really the first time that any company takes the idea of "ease of use" and seriously tries to apply it to a computer. For me, as a hacker, this type of machine is the antithesis of what interests me. I have no desire to be insulated from the inner workings of a computer. To me, the computer is it's own little universe, just waiting for me to explore it. Let's fast forward to 1984 and the introduction of the Mac. I am now programming the IBM PC since the jobs for writing software for it are much more plentiful than the Apple ][. And IBM had also taken a very open approach to the design, much like the Apple. I had been following the Mac's development as much as I was able to through the press. A few days after it started showing up in stores I went to the local Computerland to check it out. I thought it was interesting. I had seen a GUI on the Lisa prior to the Mac and I had read a lot about this new user interface paradigm.

I thought that the idea was really slick but looking at what kinds of things the computer had to now do just to produce a simple UI, I presumed that the machine would be daunting to develop for. One of the things that most fascinated me was the mouse. While that original mouse was not particularly ergonomic, it was still a very interesting way to interact with the computer. About this same time, Microsoft released Word for the IBM PC and along with it, a mouse. I bought this package and I was a HUGE fan of it. I loved the fact that whatever you saw on the screen was what printed - Italics? You saw it on the screen - Boldface? Same deal. This was at a time when word processors were all text based and what you saw on the screen were special codes to delineate ares of text for bold or italic or what have you. But the text itself was still just normal text - You did not get to see it in bold or italic.

This combined with a 2 button mouse was a great combo for me. And, while right-mouse click context menus were still a few years away, the addition of the right button just seemed right. When I looked at the Mac and asked why it had only 1 button, I was told that this was done to keep the machine simple. So as not to confuse the users. How arrogant, I thought. I merrily went on my IBM way. Now, this kind of thinking - Where the producer of a particular product thinks that they know best and they are too arrogant to admit it was a mistake and correct it, is a huge pet peeve of mine.

It was this kind of arrogance that turned me off of Apple for a long time.

In recent years, Apple has been producing decent products. Correcting errors that they made in the past. Why, they even have a mouse now that supports a right click! But, even that seems to have been begrudgingly put into their Mighty Mouse product. Apple is on a roll right now. They are finally making some inroads to the corporate world.

Their stores (that were vilified in the press when they opened) provide a great experience for the customer and have made Apple a very nice profit. The switch to Intel was a HUGE plus for the products. The way that Apple implemented Rosetta and VERY quickly ported existing apps over to Intel as well as providing great tools to 3rd party developers has been an amazing success story.

With the addition of things like Parallels, VMWare Fusion and Boot Camp that all allow users to run Windows on the Mac, the level of acceptance of this platform is at a record high. Add to this the iPod, iTunes and the iPhone all doing record business and you have an amazing success story. But, at the edges of this story is the scent of that arrogance that once turned me off to Apple.

Steve - You don't always know what is best for the user. When the user base decries one of Apple's blunders, listen to them. Respond to it. When you were interviewed about the iPhone price drop in one of the trades, you basically said "Too bad. Suck it up". You followed this by offering a $100 rebate the following day. The ideal situation for this would have been for you to offer that rebate in that initial interview.

Now, as to all of the belly aching about 3rd party applications and iPhones getting bricked, I don't agree with the people that are whining about it and even suing Apple over it. You knew what the terms were when you bought the iPhone. However, Apple does need to move quickly to allow these 3rd party applications to work in a sanctioned fashion on the iPhone.

It's what your customers want. Time to do the right thing.

UPDATE: It appears that Apple is making a token effort to appease the dev crowd on the iPhone. Gizmodo has coverage HERE. This is not enough, in my opinion. They need to roll out an actual SDK for developers and quit screwing around with crap like this.

We've come a long way, baby

A friend of mine pointed out this YouTube video on special effects on video tape from an early TV station promo. It's nice to see things like this to give a little perspective on how far we have come.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Busy weekend

Well, the past week has been pretty busy for us. Working on pre-production for Thicker than Blood. We have been going through and breaking the script down into shots and storyboarding as we go. Trying to keep setups to a minimum as we choose the shots that best emphasize and convey the story.

In between working on that, I have been playing around with PowerTab. This is an Open source guitar tablature program. If any of you out there play the guitar, this is a great learning tool and there is a great library of tablatures to go along with it. I encourage you all to check it out HERE.

In other news, Letus (makes of a 35mm lens adapter for DV) have announced a new version of their adapter. In the past I have avoided their products because of questionable build quality. However, this new version looks to be a very nice tool. Built-in image flip (these adapters flip the normal image when used), reduced light loss. All in all, this looks very promising. Check out a full review of it HERE.

RED has been in the news lately since they have begun shipping cameras and OffHollywood in NYC has done an extensive set of tests with the camera using real world shooting situations. TekServe has edited together all of the coverage of this event and you can see it HERE.

Mark Schubin, Emmy winning broadcast consultant and overall video UberGeek has a great article on lighting in the current issue of Videographer Magazine. In the article he points out that Lowel has a great interactive lighting education site up. Check it out HERE.

Speaking of Mark, he produces a GREAT bi-weekly podcast called The Schubin Report. He covers all kinds of aspects of the broadcast industry as well as explaining many technical aspects of video in layman's terms. Click on his name up above to check out his podcast site and subscribe today!

David Cronenberg's new film Eastern Promises looks to be another great film from this master director. His previous film, A History of Violence, was, IMO his best work to date. Easter Promises looks to be setting the bar even higher. There is an interview with David online that makes for some great reading. Check it out HERE.

Blender 3D is an open-source 3D modelling and rendering package. I have been a user of Lightwave for many years and I do not expect that to change anytime soon since learning a new 3D package is a career unto itself. However, there is a great comparison online that details out the differences between Blender and the other major packages (Lightwave, Maya, XSI, 3DS Max etc). Check it out HERE.

As a final note today, one of my favorite podcasts, All movie talk, has come to an end. It has been a great 52 episode run for these guys and the logistics of producing a high quality podcast as they have done can be pretty daunting. Steven and Sam, thank you both very much for all of the work that you did on this podcast. You will be truly missed!