24 fps vs 48/60 fps in movies

I watched the trailers of The Hobbit at 48fps and Avatar’s at 60fps (as their directors wished), and I really don’t like the smoothness. Originally, in principle, I was a high frame rate advocate for cinema movies (thinking that 24fps is simply a relic of a century old tech requirement), however, now I’m against upgrading the temporal velocity for regular film. The difference between my old opinion and my new one, is that now I know why 48 or 60 fps don’t work as well as 24 fps. I had to become a collage artist to understand why.

The reason is that high frame rate becomes extremely distracting. When there are more frames, it means that there is way more information on the screen. The eye and the brain gets way too tired to follow and analyze it all (it follows it by default, you can’t turn off that natural process). Because of that, the brain runs out of steam to follow the story fully, and so the movie fails because the story doesn’t shine through.

The same is true for color: if you look at Hollywood color grading, except for black & white, only 1 or 2 more color families are actively visible. For example, you will get red, yellow, and that teal color that covers both green and blue. Basically, the fewer color families that are on screen, the less processing the brain has to do, resulting in the viewer dipping into the story more.

It’s the same in collage: the fewer the color families used, the more successful a collage is. Otherwise, it looks like a mess.

Having said all that, there is a future for high frame rate (and more colors), but that’s only in VR, or in futuristic systems where the image is projected directly on the brain. Then, yes, there’s a requirement for “more”, since the whole point of VR is to “fool” the brain about the reality it displays.

But for TV & film, which is projected away from ourselves, and perceivable by only one of our senses (so it must provide less information in order to be processed fast-enough), “less is more”. That’s why 24fps is here to stay for these mediums in particular.

iPod Touch sensor crop and wide field of view

I received my Moondog Labs anamorphic lens for mobile devices today, and ran some tests. It is wonderful to be able to have such a wide field of view with a device such as the iPod Touch 6th gen. As you can see in the picture, the image is way wider than shooting in standard 1080p. But do not make the mistake to think that this is all the anamorphic lens’ doing. There are THREE factors that extended the wide field of view that much:

1. Shooting in 3k instead of 1080p (using the ProMovie app), the sensor gives you a completely different field of view. The crop of the sensor is smaller. This is the biggest hack you can do to get a wider field of view (it’s even bigger than the anamorphic lens hack!).

2. The anamorphic lens.

3. Turning off stabilization (which means that you must have some sort of other stabilizer at hand to shoot properly).

ipod-touch-crop

Here’s the test video I shot today:

Here’s how I shot:

1. I used the ProMovie iOS app, which allows me to record at 3k (3200×1800 resolution). I used 100 mbps, at 24 fps. I locked the exposure to 1/48th shutter speed, and then I set the ISO to lock the exposure. I set and locked focus, and white balance. The ProMovie app also has an anamorphic screen view! I set stabilization to OFF (that’s why the video is very shaky). Obviously, when shooting something seriously, use a tripod or a stabilizer/gimbal.

2. When using the Moondog Labs anamorphic lens, and you apply the 1.333 aspect ratio in the project properties and on each clip (I use Sony Vegas), the effective resolution becomes 4267×1800.

3. Then, I color graded this way, plus I added the FlmConvert filter with its “FJ H160 Pro” template, and also tweaked the template’s levels a bit.

4. Then, I exported at exactly 3840×1620, at 100 mbps bitrate (I exported no audio in my case). If using Sony Vegas, you must “disable resample” in all clips in the timeline before you export. Then, I uploaded on youtube. It is very important to export at the exact resolution stated above for 4k anamorphic btw, otherwise, people with ultra-wide monitors will get black bars on all four corners! The above resolution is ultra-wide UHD (3840 px wide).

The Reflex

Slept a bit this morning, after my sun-rising walk, and not surprisingly, I got a lucid dream. I was caught in the middle of a game between two factions, and I thought I had to take part. Soon, I realized it was just a game and not real adversaries. So, I approached one of the entities, and I started asking questions about the reality of everything.

I don’t remember much of the early questions, but the answers didn’t really surprise me, which means that they were in sync with my own cosmic ideas. But towards the end, there was a Q&A that did surprise me.

I asked if there was a chance that our scientists would eventually be able to become aware of their dimension, or other dimensions.

The reply was:

“They already did that in an experiment in Shanghai. Chinese scientists call this ‘The Reflex’.”

Whoah!

What really surprised me wasn’t the fact some scientists might have gone a bit “too far” with their physics experiments. But rather, the fact that they called this a “reflex”, and not an “echo”. You see, the reality I was in during my lucid dream, was very close to our reality. My house was probably about 80% the same as it is in my waking state. So if an experiment was able to identify a similar setting of matter in another operating frequency, they would normally call it an “echo”. Because being the materialist scientists that they probably are, they would prefer to give the explanation that this is simply an echo of our matter in another frequency, rather than a whole dimension in its own right.

But calling it a “reflex”, might mean (my interpretation) that whatever changes here or there, it has a reflective capability to our matter back here or over there. So basically, the two (or more) frequencies of reality are both connected, but also separate, and one can influence the other (if only at quantum level).

If what I was told is true, the scientists already know that there are other “dimensions” of reality, and not just “echoes” of just our own. There is a huge difference between the two! Also, I was not specifically told that there was communication between these scientists and the lifeforms that live there. I don’t think there is any, to be honest.

So yeah, there was that today…

How to color correct for iOS devices

It is definitely possible to shoot a movie with a mobile device, just like the Sundance movie “Tangerine” did. And in fact, today it would look much better than Tangerine looked like (which had pretty bad lighting throughout). Being the bad girl I am, I ordered the Moondog Labs anamorphic lens, with a 52mm filter ring, to add a variable ND filter for outdoor shots and shoot anamorphically for more cinematic shots.

So, I spent $150 to buy FilmConvert today too, only to find out that I could do a better job myself at grading my iPod Touch 6th Gen footage. Click the images below to see the before and after properly (click through again to see them in full resolution).

For this tutorial, you will need the Sony/Magix Vegas video editor.

1. Shoot your movie with either Filmic Pro, or if you have an iPod Touch instead, the ProMovie app. The ProMovie allows up to 100 mbps bitrate, and for certain newer iPods, it can shoot at 3k instead of just 1080p. At the end, you will be exporting again at 1080p (or 2k), but you will have a wider angle and more pixels to work with than shooting in 1080p.

2. Make sure lighting is adequate indoors. If shooting outdoors, always have the sun on your back.

3. Set your app at 24 fps, and lock the shutter speed at 1/48th. Lock white balance to the best value you can, and lock focus. For ISO, observe the exposure meter, and always lock the ISO half a stop below of what the app thinks it’s the best exposure. This is because mobile apps tend to overexpose. This is mostly true for outdoor, or brightly lit scenes.

4. Record (preferably with a tripod or a gimbal), and save the video in your gallery (there’s a small icon to do that). Connect your device, and copy the MOV file(s) over to your PC.

5. In Sony Vegas, it’s very important to set the right project properties to match the clips (right frame rate, tell it it’s progressive, etc).

6. Bring the footage in your timeline. Select all of them in the timeline, right click on any of them, and hit Switches/Disable-Resample. If you don’t do that for ALL your clips in your timeline, you will end up with “ghosting” (blurred images).

ipod-1b

7. Pick a clip in the timeline, and click the little + icon at its far right to add plugins on it. In the new window that opens, click the little + icon again on the right of the window, and add, in this order:
– White Balance: amount 0.100
– Saturation Adjust: pick the preset “Reduce minor color noise”
– Brightness & Contrast: Brightness -0.040, Contrast: 0.075
– Color Corrector: Saturation 0.800
– Gaussian Blur: 0.0003 for both horizontal & vertical ranges

8. For exterior, sunny shots, it’s the same as above, except for a few small changes:
– Brightness -0.040, contrast 0.000
– Color Corrector: Saturation 0.750

No scene is the same as another, so you will slightly need to adjust the above to better match your scenes.

ipod-2b

9. After you color corrected all clips separately, click the + plugin icon on the left of the video timeline (that’s the icon for the global plugins). Add the “Levels” plugin, and select the “Computer RGB to Studio RGB” preset. This will make your footage look “flat”. That’s ok, it won’t look like that when it’s rendered at the end. We need to do this, otherwise all h.264 exports will come out way too contrasty (they will differ from your Vegas working preview, and this plugin prevents this).

10. Export by clicking File/RenderAs and opening the MainConcept AVC/AAC format. Select the “Internet HD 1080p” template, and click “Customize Template”. Make it look like exactly like this (and give AAC audio 160kbps at the very least). Then, upload to Youtube the resulted .MP4 file if desired.

export

Note: Interior shots might need denoise. You can do that using the Neat plugin (commercial), or by bringing your noisy scenes to Photoshop one by one (use an intermediate codec in that case). I used Photoshop above for the interior shot of my living room.

Note 2: A very interesting Vegas plugin is the LAB Adjust. With it, you can mute the green colors (or too much orange colors), by using the “Channel b” very slightly (bring it towards the left). Some shots might require this plugin. Hollywood movies have strong reds and blues, but greens are rather muted.

Sunday Morning Dream

I had an interesting dream this morning.

In the dream, I was married to a man I don’t know in real life, and he owned a pickup truck, but its engine was on fire. He was trying to fix the problem, but he couldn’t.

Suddenly, a bow, an arrow, and a plastic deer fell right out of the sky. The consensus among everyone in the scene was that God sent these items, for us to somehow to fix the truck. But no one knew how to use these items to actually fix it. It was a bit of puzzle.

Finally, my “husband” felt that he needed to do a sacrifice to God to fix the truck. Instead of using the supplied plastic deer, he caught an alive fox, and he placed it on top of the engine, and then he aimed at her with the bow and arrow. The fox was being tortured, was in pain and was it screaming.

As he was ready to shoot at her, finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I shouted at him that this is the wrong way to go about it, and that we must not kill the poor animal. I remember clearly telling him that it makes more sense to throw away that truck and buy a new one, instead of killing the fox.

He listened, and the fox was freed and cared for.

Immediately after, I saw my father cutting down a cherry tree. I started shouting at him too, telling him that I need the trees so I can eat their fruit.

Pretty much right after that, I woke up.

I immediately realized what this dream was showing me. This was an intervention, a call, or simply further proof that I need to stop eating animals. My “engine” (my body) is still hurting, years after I went Paleo that freed me from my main problems. But the problems didn’t go away completely, neither I was able to lose weight as other Paleo people have managed to do. Also, only recently I found that given my genetic makeup, I’m more suited for a low-fat/medium-carb diet, rather than a low-carb/high-fat diet.

In the last few months I have tried to minimize animal meat consumption with mixed results (e.g. eat it once or twice a week only), but it’s now time to double down on my efforts. I will not eat muscle meat (or offal) ever again, and after my current batch of wild buffalo bones are done, that would be it for me.

I will still be eating pastured-only eggs, fermented dairy (mostly from goat/sheep which are always pastured), and some seafood (2-3 times a week, mostly shellfish, just to get enough B12 and DHA). But veggies and fruits now become my staple, and the majority of them will have to be raw too. I still call my new diet itself “Pegan” (since it also removes all the things Paleo removes, e.g. grains, sugar, seed oils etc), but I guess, a longer descriptive name would be “High-Raw Paleo-Pesco-Vegetarian diet”. It’s time for me to live the way my direct ancestors did: very little meat (seafood in my case), and lots of veggies & fruits. Minus the grains and sugar.

What the Mediterranean “Diet” really is

I’m Greek. I’ve lived both in rural, mountainous places of mainland Greece (I grew up near the supposed entrance to Hades Underworld no less!), and near-sea towns.

Now that I live in the US, what kind of grinds my gears is when I read about how great the Mediterranean Diet (MD) is. Don’t get me wrong. The Mediterranean Diet is better than most other regular Western diets out there. But the health benefits researchers had seen prior to 1970 in these regions is only partial to the diet. The rest, is lifestyle. It’s a logical fallacy to separate the lifestyle of these people from their diet. Western researchers like to pick and choose elements, so they can easily make their case, but in this case, either they have to represent the whole lifestyle of Mediterranean people, or they need to shut their holes about the MD diet.

And what was that lifestyle? Well, take a peek:

Prior to 1970s, before the Westernized diet also took hold even in rural Greek places, here is a typical day for my grandparents, and my parents (my mother lived 15 years in that lifestyle, right until electricity finally came to these villages in 1971, and my father for 22 years):

– Morning
Wake up in the crack of dawn. Open the chicken’s coop door. Eat some sour milk (similar to kefir) or yogurt (not strained yogurt like FAGE, that’s not truly traditional Greek), or boiled eggs, or cheese & olives and home-made (well-fermented, with OLD variety of wheat) bread for breakfast, along Turkish-style (unfiltered) coffee. In the winter, they’d eat “trahanas”, which looks similar to porridge, but it’s made out of lacto-fermented wheat.

Kids get ready to go to school, father (or older son) will go up to the mountains with the goats/sheep (usually 150-250 animals) and the dogs (usually 2-5), while the mother (& older children) will go down to the valley to work in the fields, or the trees, or in the house’s vegetable garden (each house had one). Going up the mountain is steep, and it takes about an hour to reach the top (they could climb up real fast! — my grandfather was impossibly fast up to the age of 80). The village itself is usually situated in the middle of the mountain, so it takes the same time to either go down to the valley and back up again, or up to the top and down again.

– Midday
Father would go from pasture to pasture with the animals, and at around midday, the goats/sheep will find some shade and sit around at the hottest time of the day. He would eat largely the same thing he ate for breakfast: eggs, feta cheese, olives, bread. After he ate, he’ll sleep for 1 sleep cycle (1.5 hours) under a tree. The dogs would take care of any potential wolf problems.

The mother in the fields will do the same. Eat and sleep, and then restart work. Here’s a picture from National Geographic from the 1940s Thessaloniki wheat fields, eating lunch:

The younger kids would finish school by 1:30 PM and come back home. They’d eat some lite lunch at school (it used to be free up until the early ’80s) and then they come back home and eat some more and then start working around the house: do the laundry by hand, prepare dinner, make some yogurt from scratch, bake bread if required (usually they’d bake bread twice a week), do some homework if they have time etc.

– Afternoon, after 6 PM in the summer, 3 PM in the winter
Father and mother would start to come back home. If it’s the season, and there are young goats/sheep, one of the kids will have to take these out of the stable (usually up to 50 younglings), and go with them to a nearby pasture so they can eat. Young animals can’t make the trip yet with their parents all the way to the top of the mountain, so they get limited pasture-time, nearby only. While at the pasture, the kids will also gather wild vegetables, including dandelion greens, purslane, mustard greens, chicory in the winter, asparagus in April, and amaranth greens in August (in Greece, we never eat the quinoa-like amaranth seeds, we only eat the greens, and ONLY before the plant has flowered/seeded!). In the even older days, there would also search for wild parsnips and other types of veggies from the wild (e.g. centaurea, goosefoot *greens* which is nothing but a European version of quinoa, nettles etc), but since the 1950s and later, when cans/pasta/flour became more available, these were stopped getting picked.

Upon coming home, some food are given to the chickens, and then they will be locked in their little house.

– Evening
The animals are now in the stable. It’s time for milking (in the near-dark, no less). Mother & father will go through the female goats/sheep one by one, while leaving some milk for their babies too. The kids will help by allowing the animals to pass through one by one, so they can be milked.

Then, it’s dinner time. The biggest meal of the day.

It’s usually greens year-round with bread. There are garden veggies & potatoes in the hot months, and (pre-soaked) beans in the winter. Fruits when in season only. Honey a few times a year. In general, all grains & dairy products that consumed are well-fermented. Some would drink raw milk directly from the animals, but this stopped after the 1960s, because that’s when their animals would get mysteriously sick (even if antibiotic shots didn’t start by law before ~1975 — maybe pollution was catching up from the rest of the world in the ’60s in these rural places?).

There will be fish, crawfish or eels twice a week, either by the nearby river, or from salesmen from the nearby sea towns who come with their donkeys once a week (salted fish and shellfish in that case). Sea town people would eat fresh fish from the sea 3-4 times a week instead.

There might be chicken (from their own chickens) once or twice a month or so only. BTW, look below how a TRUE pastured chicken from my grandmother looks like — it looks like duck meat!

2767738737_dcc99d4056_o

When you cook it, the bones are so incredibly white because they have so much calcium! And the meat looks, and tastes like red meat!

2767738741_1779d6f7a5_o

There will be red meat, but only once a month. That would be goat mostly, sheep a bit less, pork less often than sheep, and beef very rarely. Because they didn’t have fridges, when someone in the village would slaughter an animal, they would share with other families, so they don’t go bad. When the other families would slaughter one of their own animals, they would share back. In village/religious festivities there would be a bit more meat going around too (usually boiled goat, or lamb on a spit for Easter day). The whole animal was eaten, head to toe. Most of you are aware of liver, heart, kidneys, brains and tongue, but that’s nothing compared to how we eat these animals: we’d also eat the stomach & intestines (in an incredibly good soup, called patsas), the spleen (which tastes something between liver and boiled oysters), thyroid glands, eyes, testicles, and lungs (I’d say, “mushy” lungs are the least yummy part of the offal, with spleen being the yummiest for me). Occasionally, in the winter when they had time away from the fields, they might catch a hare, or a small bird too, with traps. Greece used to have deers, wild boar, pheasants, and many more hares, but these now are mostly gone (over-hunted).

Nuts & seeds were eaten periodically, but not religiously.

Everything was cooked with olive oil, or butter (which was white btw, not yellow).

After dinner, they’d throw scraps to the dogs (and some to outdoor cats), and then everyone would go to sleep. Dogs are sleeping in the stable with the animals (goats/sheep, often donkeys too), chickens in the coop, and cats, only god knows where. And the day starts again anew the next day, even on Sundays (only people who had older children to take care of business they’d have time to go to church). The animals need to eat every day, you see. There was no such thing as “day off”. If you had to leave for a few days (e.g. to visit a doctor in a town), you’d have to ask others in the village to take care of your animals, water the vegetable garden, feed the kids etc.

But fear not, they did have fun, daily. It’s called gossip.

Now, here’s the twist!

Greeks are/were religious. The Greek Orthodox fasting was observed by all. Fasting in Greek Orthodoxy (and in old Catholic church) does not mean “intermittent fasting” (IF). It means: no animal products (except shellfish that were allowed because they contain no blood — although most people would not eat them anyway). Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the most religious would be vegan (mostly women, men would remain vegetarian).

However, the whole family would fast without exception, in the three biggest religious celebrations of the year: Christmas, Easter, and Assumption of Mary (August 15th). This means that people would go vegan for 40 days before Christmas, 40 days before Easter, and 15 days before the Assumption of Mary. This means that for 26% of the year, everyone was vegan. For the women who were also fasting weekly, or periodically, that goes to over 40% of the time. And let’s not forget that when they were NOT fasting, they were mostly vegetarian anyway. This means that these people were vegan ~30% of the time (as an average), 55% of the time vegetarian, 10% vegetarian/pescetarian, and only about 5% of the time land meat eaters.

The only Greek people eating a bit more meat (mostly in the form of fish instead of land meat) were the more affluent people in cities.

Most interestingly, in the final week before Easter, olive oil & butter were not consumed either (which means no bread either, since it requires some oil in the recipe). They’d basically just eat veggies (often raw, with raw garlic), fruits, and soaked beans cooked in plain water & sea salt. I guess that part of the fasting is the closest they ever got to raw veganism (minus the cooked beans).

Q: But why was this lifestyle healthier in the Mediterranean than other parts of the world?

A: The lifestyle mentioned above was NOT unique for Mediterranean people. But it proved to be healthier there because of various reasons. Lots and lots of D3 due to being a sunny place, with both seafood and land food in good balance. Civilization thrived from ancient times there because simply, the geography, food, climate all helped out. Not to mention that because of the closed sea and proximity to both Asia and Africa, merchants could bring over fruits or foods not available directly to their region (something not as easily done, as let’s say, in Northern Europe – the fruits would spoil before they could reach these countries). The only other place where people lived a similar lifestyle with plenty of field work, D3 and circadian rhythms, and ate similarly-balanced foods, was Okinawa. And we already know how well these people did before the Western Diet caught up with them too.

Conclusion:
If you want to get the Mediterranean Diet effect, then you need to change everything about your life. It requires huge changes to how you sleep, work, being out in nature all day long away working on your own garden and animals, and be away from pollution/cellphones etc. It’s not just the diet.

I’d go on a limb here and say that if you can’t do everything as well as they did, but you want to come close to their results, you might get some extra push if you ditch grains (except some rice), particularly modern wheat. Their (low gluten, old variety and very fermented) wheat had nothing to do with modern wheat and flours.

The future of CubeSats is co-operation

As you may already know, I have the most interesting dreams, hehe…

Apart from seeing weird alien entities during my nap time, I was also shown how the CubeSat idea can be properly commercialized. Beat that, MIT (or DMT).

So basically, I was shown a bunch of 3U CubeSats (around 10 or 12 of them), held together by some sort of string, forming a web. At the edges of the web, there were semi-large solar panels and antennas, while in the middle of the web, there was a propulsion engine, not larger than a 3U CubeSat itself.

Right now, all CubeSats are released in the wild on their own, with no propulsion (sometimes they end up facing the wrong way), terrible power abilities, and even more terrible communication (FM among others!!!). These satellites usually die within 3-5 months, quickly burning in the atmosphere. On top of that, they’re usually get released as secondary payload in LEO, while CubeSats are benefited in higher SSO orbit.

Here’s the business idea behind of what I saw:

– You let customers buy one of the CubeSats and customize it out of an array of most-popular components (third party components that pass evaluation can be accepted — that costs extra).

– The CubeSats run Android, so writing drivers for it, updating them over the air, or even completely erase them to their default status can be done. Each of the 12 CubeSats runs a slightly different version of the OS, and has different hardware — depending on the customer needs.

– The customer can access their CubeSat via a secure backend on the manufacturer’s web site. Even firmware updates can be performed, not just plain updates or downlink data.

– Because of the shared propulsion, the constellation web can be in SSO for up to 5 years.

– 1 year of backend support is included in the overall price, but after that time, owners can continue using it for an additional fee, or lease or sell the rights to their CubeSat to another commercial entity, getting back some of that invested value.

– Even if 1 CubeSat goes bad, the others continue to work, since they’re independent of each other. Triple redundancy system in case of shorting. To avoid over-usage of power due to faulty hardware or software (that could run down the whole system), a pre-agreed specific amount is allocated to each CubeSat daily.

– Eventually, a more complex system could be developed, under agreement with all the responsible parties, to have CubeSats share information with their neighbor CubeSats (either an internal wired network, or Bluetooth — whatever proves more secure and fast). For example, if there’s a hardware ability one CubeSat in the web has, but the others don’t, and one of the other CubeSats needs it, they could ask for its service — for the right price.

– Instead of dispensing the CubeSats one by one, the web is a single machine, about 2/3s the size of a dishwasher. The CubeSats have very specific allowed weight in their specification, so overall, while the volume is medium size, the overall weight doesn’t have to be more than 100 kg. That easily fits on the payload of small, inexpensive rockets, like the upcoming RocketLab Electron, which costs just $4.9 million per launch. Falcon 9 becomes cheaper only if it could launch 13 of these webs at once. While it can very easily lift their weight, it might not have the volume required (the Falcon9 fairing is rather small at 3.2m).

– This comes overall to about $600,000 per CubeSat overall (with a rather normal configuration).

The current 3U CubeSats cost anywhere between $20k and $50k to make, plus another $200k or so to launch. Overall, sure, $600k is more than the current going price, but with the web idea you get enough power, communication that doesn’t suck, propulsion, and an extended life — plus the prospect of actually making money out of them by leasing them or selling them. A lot of the revenue will come after the launch, as a service/marketplace business.

In a sense, this business idea is the equivalent of a shared hosting server service, which has revolutionized the way servers work, and has democratized people’s ability to run code or servers online. PlanetLabs is doing something similar by leasing “time” on their CubeSats, but by releasing them one by one, they fall on the stated shortcomings.

For all of this to become true, the CubeSats themselves would need an overhaul of how customizable their modularity is, and easy access to the latest mobile hardware. Overall, we’re probably 2-3 years away from such an idea getting even started to materialize, and possibly 5 years away from becoming reality. I haven’t seen anyone else suggested it, so, here I am. Thank my weird dreams.

Netflix’s next move

A few years ago, Netflix had said that by 2015, they would stop their DVD subscription, and have almost everything streaming instead. 2015 came and left, and we’re not only still have DVD subscriptions on Netflix, but their streaming service has become weaker, with fewer noted titles. At the same time, Netflix is being battled by the establishment, be it Hollywood studios, or internet and cableTV carriers.

Sure, I’d love to have Hollywood’s latest offers streaming for me via Netflix, but this is obviously never going to happen. Not for $10 per month anyway. If people could pay $25 (or even $50) per month, a more full Hollywood catalog could be offered, but that’s not going to gather a lot of subscribers because the price is too high. Creating tiers of subscribers (e.g. $10, $25 etc with different catalogs for each), will anger customers too. So what could Netflix do?

I personally see only one way out of this mess, and it’s two fold:

1. Adopt an iTunes & Amazon model, where most Hollywood movies and TV shows are offered for a rent price (e.g. $3-$5 for a movie, $1-$2 for a TV episode).

2. Produce in-house about 250 productions per year (instead of the current 50 or so — episodes are counted separately here).

Let’s run some numbers on a back of an envelope:
There are 30 million Netflix subscribers in the US today. Each pays $10 per month. This means it has gross sales of $3.6 billion per year. Taxes and operational costs aside, should leave the company with $2 billion to invest in its own productions.

What this means is that on average, each production can cost up to $8 million. Which is plenty of money to shoot amazing movies *if you employ the right talent*. Consider the recent and well regarded sci-fi movies “Another Earth”, and “I, Origins”, by the same director. The first one was shot for just $70k, and the second one for $1 million.

Also, considering that some TV episodes don’t necessarily have to cost more than $2 mil (at least for dramas), it means that some more expensive than the average $8mil movie productions can take place too. I certainly don’t see why the first season of “House of Cards” cost $100 million…

So anyway, every other day a new episode or a new movie can debut on Netflix, that no other service has access to. I’m personally in favor of smaller TV seasons of 6 to 8 episodes (instead of the current 10-13), with the 3 first episodes streaming immediately together, and the rest every few days. Overtime, all these new productions will accumulate, building a strong catalog.

The first couple of years might be rough, while the catalog is building, but I think it can be done successfully, since a lot of their current streaming deals will also be active for a while before they go offline from the subscriber version of Netflix (these can still re-appear on their renting side). Plus, some of these productions (e.g. documentaries) are cheap enough to license anyway, so they can still remain at the streaming side of things.

How to lay smooth gouache and watercolor paint

For the kind of illustration I’m interested in, the style requires some very smooth, matte, single-color backgrounds. Traditionally with watercolor people would do large washes of 2 to 3 colors (e.g. for a sky), but for the kind of illustration I do, which has a lot of details, traditional washes are not a way to go. I could not find a single article or youtube video that shows how to do large, non-square areas of matte, smooth painting, so after a lot of tries, I found this technique:

– Get some paint on a plastic palette. About the size of a raisin for a small area.
– On a separate palette hole, add thrice as much water as the raisin size of paint above.
– Use a size 8 “pointed-round” soft brush (Kolinsky sounds good).
– Mix the paint with some Titanium White.
– With the tip of the brush, get some paint (just a little bit, maybe about 1/6th of it), and mix it well with the water. It will create a very pale color, but it will still have a color.
– Strain away as much water as possible from the brush. It should not be full of water when you lay it on paper.
– Start laying the pale color on your paper. Use as large brush strokes as possible, and move the pools of paint towards a single direction.
– Let it dry for a minute or so.
– Add 2/6ths of the paint (basically, double as much as before), on a bit more water than before (maybe about 1.5 times as much as before).
– Mix well, strain the brush, and paint over, the same way as before.
– Let it dry for 3 minutes or so.
– Add the rest of the paint to about 2x more water as in the beginning, strain the brush, paint over again. The consistency should be that of a melted ice cream.
– Let it dry for 5 minutes before you decide if you need yet another hand on top, or add details on it.

That’s it. Basically, you need multiple layers to get a smooth, matte finish.


My illustration “Divorce Papers”

Another way to do it with gouache, is to lay gesso+medium in the paper before painting, just as if you were using acrylics. The 2-3 gesso hands would then serve the same way as the multiple hands of paint. Personally, I prefer the first method.

Cultural bias when judging art

I’m almost shocked by the Pitchfork review on Yeasayer’s new album, “Amen & Goodbye”. To me, over the years, it was baffling why originally Pitchfork endorsed Yeasayer in 2007, but they killed them in their subsequent albums (which in my opinion were more interesting). This was answered in the first paragraph of their latest album review. Basically, Pitchfork hated the fact that Yeasayer weren’t writing lyrics about things they truly believe in, that they were in fact, trend-hoppers.

Wait a second, so did Pitchfork truly believed back in 2007 that a bunch of kids from Brooklyn would ever want to leave the city and become “handsome farmers”, as their lyrics claimed? Are their writers that gullible? Or do they live in a fantasy world that the first Yeasayer album reinforced in their heads, only to be deflated by the clearly urban sound of the albums that followed?

Why blame Yeasayer for it? Why blame a bunch of musicians who want to make it in the industry? Why would anyone think that art is only about what the artist believes and not what the masses want to see/hear? Because let me tell you, if you’re a professional artist, by definition you have to make art that people want to see or hear. Only a part of it could coincide with what the artist actually truly likes/believes. Why? Because that’s what “professional” means. It’s not about “selling out”, it’s about literally being able to sell.

The artists who create only what THEY want to create, they’re by definition either not professionals, or they can’t live off their craft (and need a second job). It is EXTREMELY RARE that an artist creates only what they want to, and have commercial success at the same time. And even when that happens, it also means that they will be out of favor within 3-5 years, as trends naturally change. Tough luck after that time passes.

I know a lot of people would like to make art sound special, but art today is no different than anything else. It’s democratized immensely, and that also means that it’s been commoditized. And anything that is a commodity, is bound to trends. Even trendsetters have to build on top of existing trends, nothing happens in a vaccuum. Everything is connected.

So yeah, going back to that Pitchfork review, I have trouble understanding how they can call Yeasayer “trend hoppers” but also at the same time “out-of-step with current trends”, and judge their music on their character or how they do business, and not on the music itself. In fact, a lot of Pitchfork reviews are like that: they judge the people themselves, not their work. A lot of bands have been destroyed just because Pitchfork didn’t think they were hipster enough, or for being hipsters in disguise.

In my opinion, the album itself is rather “blah” (not as interesting as their 2010 “Odd Blood”), but I try to judge the music itself as music and what it does to my synesthetic brain. Does it turn it On, does it transport me to another dimension? Does it make me feel something, or makes me see something that wasn’t there, as true psychedelics do? If yes, it gets more points, if not, it gets fewer. I care not about lyrics, because I almost never care about what others think about stuff. To me, especially as a non-native English speaker, it’s only about the music.

But I won’t judge music or art in general based on the creator’s character, or what my own beliefs expect that creator’s character to be. This raises the philosophical question: “is the art separate from the artist?”. And the answer to this depends on your point of view, how you consume art. From the point of view of the artist, the art and the artist are not separate. But for all third parties, it depends: if you can only understand art by understanding the artist, then yes, judging the artist himself, might make sense. But if you make the art your own by separating it from the artist (as I usually do), then I don’t need to know about the artist’s convictions. Because at that point, his/her art and me, are one. And by proxy, that makes myself and the artist one. So it’s a synergistic/symbiotic way of consuming art, rather than a conditional one (e.g. “I might like that art if its artist is in agreement with my beliefs”.)

My score for their new album: 5/10 (lower than Pitchfork’s score in fact, but without a cultural bias attached to it)