Archive for August 13th, 2007

Education matters

Check this guy on YouTube (born in 1928), showing off and testing his brand new Canon HV20 HD camcorder and his video editing skills. That’s just so cool and refreshing to see older people still having curiosity for new stuff.

My grandfather has a similar age as he does, and he can only do simple arithmetic calculations in his head. My grandmother faired better, she went 1 year to school so she can actually recognize simple written numbers. And that’s about it.

I don’t even have to go as far back as my grandparents. My mother spent just 6 years in school, and my father 7 (he ran off from high-school in the first year, they had summon everyone in the village trying to find where the hell he ran off to).

None of them is capable of using a computer, or operating a camcorder or a digital camera. Their education level matches most of their compatriots (at their respective age bracket) in the north-west of Greece, so it’s not of any surprise. People born in big Greek cities fair better, but still, it shows how far behind Greece still is compared to the education level of USA or Northern Europe.

Update: And then, I read this. When I was in school in the ’80s in Greece, there WERE NO BULLIES, and the teachers made sure of that. Sure there were a few kids that were a bit difficult to deal with, but they would never do anything to hurt you unless you really provoke them. I really don’t understand why USA has so many bullies at schools. For me, this is a completely alien concept, and so I perceive it as very degrading of the US culture.

Producers howl over sound cut out by MP3 compression

In its journey from CD to MP3 player, the music has been compressed by eliminating data that computer analysis deems redundant, squeezed down until it fits through the Internet pipeline. […] “You can get used to awful,” says record producer Phil Ramone. “You can appreciate nothing. We’ve done it with fast food.” writes SeattlePI.com.

Oh, Shut. Up.

We had the programmer purists, the linguistic purists, the film photography purists, now we have the music producers too. The guy listens to music live every day and expects that everyone will and should be able to do the same. Well, it’s not that easy to do so.

A lossless codec like FLAC only “compresses” data 51% compared to uncompressed WAVE CD and that’s a lot of MBs for just one CD. Compare that to just 50 MBs that mp3 is able to compress for an album, compared to about 390 MBs of FLAC — storage ain’t free you know, especially for small portable devices. And besides, even the CDs don’t have the best music quality possible even if they are uncompressed, you need the Super Audio CDs for that. Where this going to end? “Rent a band for the weekend to get the best possible quality?”

One thing that consumers can do to listen to music the way the musician/producer intended them to is to buy better headphones and encode their mp3s to 160 or 192 mbps (mp3 won’t scale well to more than 192 kbps anyway). That’s a good compromise and I do agree that every iPod owner should throw away their legendary white earphones and go buy some good headphones.

Pulling a Vancouver in Mexico

As you might know, all the “cheaper” TV series and budget-minded movies are usually shot in the various studios around Vancouver, Canada. Geographically, it is a pretty good location as it’s near to the US border and it has access to the sea while the Vancouver island in front of it cuts down most sea winds. Only problem is that it rains a bit too much and that shows in a lot of series that are filming outdoors (e.g. first few seasons of X-Files).

There is however, a cheaper way to do all this at a place that has an LA-style weather. I think that either the Mexico government or a big corporation should step up and create big studios in Tijuana, north of Mexico, and aggressively advertise it. The city is right at the border with US and only 2 hours away driving distance from LA, while it has a similar housing structure and it’s quite modern as it’s one of the most touristic places in the world. This can be a huge alternative for the big LA studios. They have easier access to these studios (especially if the Mexican government makes it easier for LA actors/cargo to move freely in the borders — it’s on their best interest anyway), it has much better weather, and all that at HALF the price of what they can get from Canada (maybe even cheaper). These days the Canadian dollar is dangerously close to the US dollar, so I can tell you that the dough the LA studios were saving by filming in Canada is quickly fading away. The answer is Mexico now, at least until the US dollar finds its way up (hopefully it will do if we get a clueful president next year).

At the beginning the studio doesn’t have to be super-modern. Cheap semi-professional Canon, Sony or Panasonic cameras will do just fine (the ones that Indies use, cost between $3000 and $8000), there is no reason for the $130,000-a-pop Varicams. No-name starring US actors that are not paid more than $5,000-10,000 per TV episode are also easy to get from LA (they will beg you for a job anyway). Every weekend they can even drive back to LA to their families, which is so much faster than flying back and forth from Canada! The actual employees at the studios, e.g. hair, makeup, cameramen etc, can all be Mexicans which will be paid at a normal-for-Mexico rate, but low compared to US/Canada equivalent employees. And if Mexico plays it clever, they can even established their own, cheaper, SFX company in Tijuana and produce the film/series from start to finish. Indie US directors can even find a pretty good career there, getting paid about $5,000 per week. Overall, you should be able to produce a Galactica-quality TV series at half the price.

I can tell you right now, if I had a few million dollars I would be starting a major studio business in Tijuana, Mexico, trying to “pull a Vancouver” with the LA sharks. The way their business is going bad with piracy/dollar-value these days, they would be coming crawling to save a few bucks in the production, I can assure you of that. I just hope that the Mexican government or entertainment corporations wake the hell up.

Update: Searching, I only found this small studio located there which it doesn’t seem to be doing a good job selling itself to the rest of Hollywood, possibly because it’s owned by FOX who have under-utilized it in the past few years.