Archive for September, 2010

TV season 2010-2011 lineup review

Another Fall, another TV season starts. As I usually do every year, here’s my review of the most interesting new series. One interesting thing about this year is that SyFy Channel had no new series, and that the USA Network played it safe and renewed all of its TV series without creating new ones either. I think TV in general is in pretty bad shape financially right now. Additionally, no new show broke more than 14.5 mil viewers (most did below 10 mil, which is not enough to sustain them on a major network). So, here we go:

* The Event

The most advertised new show. It’s a serialized sci-fi action show, that employs “flashbacks” like LOST used to. The problem with The Event is that in terms of quality is closer to “Heroes” than it is to LOST. Its over-used flashbacks technique fractures the time-line a lot, and the show has no memorable characters.

Verdict: It will get canceled by December, and if not, it would still be a close call.
My rating so far: 6/10

* Hawaii Five-0

The re-make of the popular ’70s show. It’s well-made technically-speaking (especially the stunts), but it’s a very episodic show, with nothing truly new to offer. It’s another cop show. It just looks better with Hawaii in its background.

Verdict: It will do well with older viewers. It already does.
Rating so far: 5/10

* No Ordinary Family

A sci-fi show about a family of super-heroes. Unfortunately, the show is so cliche, that makes it uninteresting to me. This is a show that should have been shown on ABC Family, not on the main ABC TV channel. It’s mostly episodic, but there’s also a bit of background serialization. Just not very exciting or original.

Verdict: It can go either way.
Rating so far: 5/10

* Chase

Yuck. This is the worst new show on TV. Yet another old style cop show, but of the worst order. And not only on the entertainment level, but also technically. The 5 minute opening in the pilot featured shots that were not all HD, different shutter speeds, different frame rates (!), and overly contrasty grading that made everything look over-exposed. A mess.

Verdict: For the love of God, please cancel it already.
Rating so far: 2/10

* Nikita

An episodic spy-like show, but with a bit of a background story. Not badly done, but let’s just say that it’s not the next big TV revolution either. Just a predictable action show, pretty cheaply done too. We can’t expect more from CW though, which is not as rich as the big-4 TV channels in the US.

Verdict: It will probably see another season.
Rating so far: 4/10

* Undercovers

Another spy show. This one sucks more. It’s very episodic, very old style too. So we have this married couple who used to be spies, then they got out and started a kettering business, and now they’re back in the spying game, with a different mission on each episode. Sorry, but this is not going to fly with me. It’s too repetitive, and I don’t give a shit about marriage problems of two ex-now-again spies. I mean, this is so ’80s.

Verdict: It’s going to get canceled.
Rating so far: 3/10

* Lone Star

This was the best new show of the season. Take note, it was a drama, and I’m a sci-fi/action girl. And yet, THAT was for me the best new show. And I’m saying “was”, because it’s already canceled, after just two episodes. The show was a hit with the critics, but the American population decided otherwise (fewer than 4 million people watched it). The show was about a con-man who lived two separate lives, married to two different women, while trying to con an oil tycoon. My only problem with the show was that the main character confessed that he truly loved both his wives, something that degraded the heroes’ believability for me. But other than that, the show had the right script, cinematography, pacing, serialized build-up, even great music. In fact, that was the only new show that had strong, memorable characters. Too bad it’s already gone. Some say that this show should have been either a mini-series, or on cable (rather than on FOX). If anything, it shows how much of a gamble the TV business is right now. You make a good show, and no one’s watching. You make a bad one, and no one’s watching either.

Verdict: Canceled.
My rating: 7.5/10

Overall, a very poor new TV season. Nothing truly exciting. Not because there are no good show ideas on the table, but because almost no one seems to be able to execute them properly.

Generational ships, fembots, and life after death

I had a very weird dream this morning. More intense and cooler than usual.

So, Earth was dying, and a few select people were put on an auto-pilot spaceship, on a way to another habitable planet. The ship’s interior was emulating Earth’s natural look (mountains, rivers, etc), and there was a bright sun too. Kind of like a mini Dyson Sphere.

A few hundreds of years later, there were a few thousands of us. Resources were scarce, so we were teamed-up in small groups, to protect them. Violence would erupt if someone from another group would try to steal our stuff.

On top of all that, some technology from the “old world” would survive. There was this guy, who had acquired 4-5 fembots, and he was addicted to them. Basically, having sex with them would trigger a feeling similar to recreational drugs + orgasm (fembots could release some chemicals that would enter the bloodstream fast), and that made them irresistible and addictive. The ultimate “high,” I suppose.

Anyways, at the end, I dreamed of this huge tsunami-like “solid water” that the rivers suddenly changed into. The people taken away from it were screaming. My mom said, “put something on your head, we’ll be dragged out, in the sun, for a while”. I couldn’t find a hat, so I just put on my head… some underpants. Soon later, the “solid water” had moved up to our apartment, and it took us away too. Some quick thinking on my part was “if I could take one thing with me, what should it be?”. So I grabbed a knife (if anything, “Survivorman” on TV has shown that all you need is a knife. The rest is just skill and knowledge).

Soon enough we were dragged away by the solid water. I asked my mom, who was dragged away along my aunt, if she knew what was happening, and she replied “yes”. Apparently, the knowledge that we lived on a ship, has survived among a few of us (not everyone knew it/believed it). I started crying in my sleep, thinking “we’ve arrived, we’ve arrived!”. To top my melodramatic dream, there was actually a music score accompanying the whole thing! I guess the filmmaking “audio is as important” moniker, has been engraved deep in my subconscious, enough to make me have a soundtrack in my dreams!

Anyways, amidst all the excitement of “arriving”, I woke up.


This dream today reminded me the 4-5 “past life” regression sessions I had in the late ’90s (I wrote about these here before). While all of these regressions featured different “life stories” in different times/places (and in one occasion a different planet), the ending was always the same. Supposedly, after we die, when we’re ready to leave, we go through a vortex that hangs above our dead heads, and we go through it. Soon, we see the Earth becoming smaller and smaller. Eventually, we reach a waiting place, that some weird lifeforms are running it. Religious people would call these “angels”, I suppose, but I’m not religious.

When your turn has come, you appear before a judging panel, and you answer for yourself “how well you did in your life”. After you gave your opinion to them, you become your own judge, as you re-play your whole life in front of you. Then, you break down and cry, for all the bad things you did while alive. Supposedly, each individual also has 1-2 very specific goals in their life. These goals must be achieved. Being “good” is only half of the story.

So you choose your next life, based on what you must learn, or repeat your goals if you didn’t achieve them in the previous life. You can choose the sex, place, major events that must happen to you (good or bad), so you can learn via them. And this repeats many times, until you “graduate” (I guess some religious people would call this “nirvana,” but I’m not religious). In each life, you only take with you the “juice” of your previous experiences, not the memories. And you’re usually spending your life with the same key people over and over. For example, your father in one life, can be your wife in another. Role-switching is common.

I don’t believe in any of that of course (neither I believed in it back then), although it was fun to be part of such an “experiment.” I mean, why not, since there was no harm done. It’s interesting to think though that if there’s a shred of truth in it, then it would make sense as to what a Type III Civilization would do to educate their children. Think about it.

Instead of educating them via traditional methods, or via pre-conditioning their brains, they educate them via real life lessons. Each consciousness (aka “soul” for the religious, but I’m not religious) is transferred into the body of a primitive species, and let them live whole lives as such. In their terms of time, this whole life experience might only take a few minutes. So they might be able to “graduate” from this life school, within a few days or weeks of enrolling, but having acquired hundreds of life experiences as different species, learning all that you must learn to be a trustworthy member of a Type-III Civilization, in regards to your peers, and the other not-so-fortunate species in the universe.

It’s like virtual reality, but designed to teach youngsters how to become adult beings, fast. Some religious people would call this a process of “becoming God”, but I’m not religious. I would see it more like a school, where you can’t cheat your way around.

I mean, the last thing we want in our galaxy is a little brat, with super-advanced technology, blowing up whole planets just for fun. Right? Right??

Missing innovation at music hardware companies

I bought the Casio CTK-3000 keyboard last week, and it arrived on Tuesday. It’s Friday, and I can ALREADY play the “Bridal March“. I never had any meaningful music lessons in my life, never played the piano before.

Now, don’t get too excited. I didn’t learn to play the short melody by using the piano’s tutorials, or song book that came with. I tried, and it’s impossible. The little LCD screen above the keys is impossible to follow. The keyboard doesn’t have “slow-down” versions of the melodies for me to catch up. The keyboard doesn’t have “light” keys to show me where to press each time. To get these features you need to pay a lot more money than the $140 I paid for. As for the song book, it’s useless. I can’t read musical notation. I’d need to wait another 2 months to first learn and practice the notation, and then start playing songs. And this goes against my instant gratification needs.

I mean, really. After all these years, the Casio and Yamaha engineers that’s all they could come up with? Some tutorial software that looks like it was written with ’80s usability? On a tiny LCD that’s so crammed?

Honestly, the little innovation we’ve seen in keyboards in the last few years kind of tells me that these companies have given up, and they essentially tell you: “go pay for real lessons”.

Well, I was able to go around the keyboard’s limitations, by using the freeware version of Synthesia (I didn’t even have to buy its extra $25 learning pack). Synthesia is like Guitar Hero, but for piano. It’s a game, so it’s fun, it makes you wanna get a better score so it keeps pushing you to work harder, can use a big PC LCD monitor with nice colors to make it easier to follow it, and more importantly, it can slow down a midi piece down to 10% of its speed, so you can catch up!

So I started playing the “Bridal March” with one hand on 20% speed, on Tuesday. Wednesday, I added the second hand. Thursday, I got to 50% speed. It’s Friday, and I’m almost fluent at 80% speed. How kewl is that?

I would have never be able to do this with traditional methods of learning. It would have been much more hard work, and it would have been extremely annoying and tiresome. I would have given up within a few days.

On the side, I’m also reading a music theory book, so I learn musical notation in parallel to learning to play by ear, rather than before or after.

If you have kids, or you want to learn yourselves, I highly recommend this setup: The free version of Synthesia, and any keyboard of your choice that has touch-sensitive keys. Added bonus if your keyboard has a USB port too (otherwise you’d have to also get a midi-2-usb adapter which are not always very compatible).

FCC disclaimer: I’m not getting paid, or work for the companies mentioned or linked. These were all my own purchases and personal honest opinions.

Free dSLR book for filmmakers

Koo wrote in to say that he’s giving away a 100-page eBook: “The DSLR Cinematography Guide“, for free. All you have to do is sign up for his mailing list to get the PDF.

I had a quick glance at the book, and it touches on all the important aspects of dSLR filmmaking, from features, hardware accessories, software hints and tips. Give it a read.

BandCamp: The End of It

I just read that Bandcamp now charges artists for free downloads of their tracks! That might sound to you like “fair”, but here’s some context:

– Bandcamp is (was?) the No1 resource for bedroom indie artists. Artists who don’t have distribution to iTunes/Amazon, because they can’t afford it, or because they don’t care. Bandcamp provided hosting for this niche in modern music. Sure, there are a lot of commercial artists on Bandcamp, but most of them are semi-commercial or non-commercial.

– Therefore, many of these albums, or some of their songs, are free for the world to download. Made out of love, with its artists asking nothing in return.

– Since 3-4 years ago, almost every indie album has had at least 1 legally free mp3. Some of them have had 3 or even 4. Even Kanye West, a super-star, now gives away free mp3s (three so far, from his new album)! As I have mentioned in the past on this blog, this is important. It has introduced me to many artists, that I later actually bought their albums! The method WORKS. How else do you think I spent over $2000 last year on music purchases alone?!? I, and many others I know, are heavy buyers BECAUSE of the free downloads!

Now Bandcamp wants to charge these artists to pay for every free download! What Bandcamp ends up doing though, is PUSHING artists to CHARGE for their music. These artists will have to either move to the chaotic SoundCloud, or charge for their music by stop offering free mp3s, and bringing the indie music BACK 5 YEARS. Bandcamp is UNDOING all the social progress that’s been done in the last few years!

I’ve seen a lot of these artists getting linked from blogs as big as Pitchfork. This means at least 5,000 downloads in a single day. Do you think that these artists can pay the $75 Bandcamp is asking for 5000 downloads? Most of these artists can’t even pay for groceries, let alone Bandcamp’s bullshit policy.

And as I said, SoundCloud is a mess. It’s what Youtube is, compared to the more artistic and presentable Vimeo. It can’t replace Bandcamp. Therefore, many of these artists might even stop uploading their music! Bandcamp is NOT helping the indie music, if anything, it takes it apart.

Bandcamp does not seem to realize that their core business is this “free culture”. They seem to have started their business with aspirations to become the new iTunes, but somewhere along the way their own artists decided that they don’t want to be traditional professionals. And of course, this doesn’t sit well with Bandcamp. So they’re trying to change their customers, pushing them back into commercialism, or getting rid of them!!!!

And this is wrong. Bandcamp can ONLY be BIG by NOT becoming iTunes. Technically, Bandcamp has nothing that iTunes doesn’t have, or can’t easily have. They’re fools if they think they can win over iTunes. Instead, Bandcamp should EMBRACE this new world order of bedroom artists, and offer something that iTunes CAN NOT offer. A lot of free music is a good way to do this.

If anything, add ads on pages that feature free music. Obviously, bandwidth costs money, and someone has to pay for it. But it definitely doesn’t cost $3c per download (usually, that’s ~10 MB for a 320 kbps track). It’s more on the range of $0.0003c per 10 MB, or even cheaper. But then again, these songs are unlimited streamable, so obviously bandwidth is not an issue for Bandcamp. Money is.

The best way to deal with this though is to ask for a flat fee from every Bandcamp artist. $10 per year is a good, and FAIR price. Regardless of number of downloads.

And let me say something else too, which has pissed me off even more.

Bandcamp has special support for Creative Commons music in its backend. Which means that they RECOGNIZE what Creative Commons is, and what it stands for. So asking for a CC artist to pay up, for music that it’s supposed to be free, given to the world as a gift, is totally not within the spirit. More so than for the indie semi-commercial artists mentioned above. It’s just stupid, and it’s missing the whole point of CC.

There’s a moral problem in this Bandcamp decision. Bandcamp took the “traditional business approach”, instead of thinking the whole thing through. They don’t seem to see the big picture. They only care about their pocket, and how to make a quick buck, instead of innovating by going with the times.

I’m totally disgusted. I was expecting more from Bandcamp.

Writing music: my new hobby

Videography will remain my hobby, but I’m now ready to take on a new hobby too: learning to play, and (most importantly for me) compose music. So yesterday, I bought the Casio CTK-3000 keyboard (got a bundle at Amazon).

The problem is that I’m 37 years old. I can’t learn brand new things easily anymore. In fact, I never could. Truly and deeply learning was always a struggle for me, because of focusing/learning problems (ADHD). So naturally, I feel that I have a mountain in front of me learning play music.

Thankfully, just earlier today, I found this free application: Synthesia. It’s a game like Guitar Hero, but it’s for the PC/Mac, for the piano, and it supports MIDI controllers. There’s no easier way to learn to play by ear! There are thousands of .mid files around, for free, so this can make learning very easy.

In the past year I noticed how good my husband became by playing these GuitarHero-type games on his PS3 and XBoX360. His instrument of choice is drums, and within a year, by playing only 4-5 hours a month, he’s already pretty fast with it. This doesn’t mean that he knows how to play real drums, but it is obvious to me that this kind of visual “game-like” training works, and it will surely work for my purpose too.

My ultimate goal is to compose my own music. I’m not interested in playing/performing music, I just want to write original music, and share it with everyone. But in order to write music, you must know how to play it too (when composing it). I’m not going to use loops and ready-made melodies, you see. To help me with composition, I’m eying Ableton Live for the PC, an $800 piece of software. I will cross that bridge when I get there, when I feel I’m ready for something like it. I tried the free Rosegarden and Ardour on my Linux laptop, but they were pretty chaotic — and buggy.

I have very specific ideas of what kind of music I want to write. I want to write chillwave, but not the kind that exists today (which echoes ’80s new wave music). I want to write chillwave that echoes jazz. Basically, that would be reverbed electronic music, that has jazz overtones, instead of the nostalgic summer melodies chillwave has today.

I know little about jazz, and I only started to listen to it recently. I’m planning of buying 4-5 more jazz albums (the classics), and stop there. I don’t want to know a lot about jazz, because I don’t want to get influenced by it. Instead, I want to give the impression of jazz to my music (chillwave is modern impressionism, for those who don’t know). I want to convey how jazz sounds to the NON initiated! But through the distorted glass that is chillwave.

Difficult to explain. All I can say though is that it won’t be real jazz. There won’t be improvisation, or solo exchanges between a number of musicians on stage — as Jazz requires. What it will be, for sure, is chillwave: [jazzy] bedroom pop. Hopefully, it will overall sound fresh.

For now, I also bought this book: “Music Theory for Computer Musicians”. At some point in the future, this would be needed knowledge to go further in my quest. Playing by ear, and mastering a piece of software, only gets you so far.

Our entertainment plans for this year

The Problem

We’re tired of paying $90 per month to Comcast for cable TV we don’t actually watch much (this whole Summer we had the cable box out of power completely — nothing interesting to watch on it)! This price does not include sports, HBO and other premium channels! Just the basic cable stuff, but with HDTV and a DVR rental box. In my opinion, that’s just too expensive. We never watch more than about 15 channels for example (e.g. FOX, CBS, NBC, ABC, CW, SyFy, Food Channel, Discovery, PBS, Science, NatGeo, History, Fuse, CNN, Travel), but Comcast insists on adding more useless TV channels that no one is really watching, just to compete “in numbers” with other providers. It’s ridiculous really.

The Idea

So we’ve decided with JBQ to go with the following, when these are ready for prime-time:

1. Use our existing $10 Netflix account (2 discs at any time, unlimited streaming), and stream movies via our PS3.

2. Go with Hulu Plus for $10, when it’s out for the PS3 too.

3. When our current AppleTV dies, we will go with streaming RDIO or MOG for our music listening, for $10.

Overall, that’s $20 per month instead of $90 for TV, and only $10 for music instead of $100-$150 (I currently spend way too much money buying music).

The following idea does it for us, even if we lose “live” TV and basic sports. In fact, we believe that if more people go the way we will, “live” TV will eventually reach Hulu Plus anyway, at least the big TV networks will follow (Fox, CBS, NBC, ABC, and possibly CW). Live TV for these basic channels will just be a matter of demand, and it might happen within a single year.

Shortcomings

However, not everything is full of roses at the moment. We’ll be early adopters, so there’s things missing from a full TV/music experience for us. For example:

– Netflix only has about 1000 titles for streaming. The Hollywood studios don’t allow Netflix to add a lot more. But Netflix definitely has its eyes fixated towards movie/show streaming. It knows it’s the future. So it’ll happen. The studios will eventually succumb on the demand.

– Hulu Plus doesn’t have everything found on TV yet. Not live TV either. But that will come too if it proves to be a success.

– No subtitles yet on either Hulu Plus or Netflix. Sometimes I do need it, late at night, when everyone’s sleeping and I must lower the volume.

– As I explained the other day on my blog post about how much I hate the new second generation AppleTV, we like local music playback. We like the appliance experience, not having to turn ON PCs on a different room of the house in order to listen to music in our living room. But we know, there will be a time that our first generation AppleTV (which currently does it the way we want it to regarding music) will die. And that would be the time when we will have to move to something else. RDIO or MOG fit that bill. We will lose our iTunes smart playlists and all our song ratings, but at least we will gain unlimited music streaming, without having to separately own the music pieces — and that’s an acceptable compromise. All we now require from RDIO or MOG, is a GoogleTV application. We can then hook-up our future GoogleTV device to our amplifier/speakers, and use the Android’s or Apple iOS’ RDIO/MOG client to control the GoogleTV’s RDIO/MOG client. And that would be an excellent living room experience.

– RDIO/MOG don’t have as much music yet as iTunes/Amazon do. Hopefully this will change soon, and they will also allow “true” indies without distribution to upload their music too (e.g. the Bandcamp crowd).

– Sure, there will be a few times that internet will be down, so we won’t be able to stream shit. For these times, we already have some DVDs and CDs in our local library to enjoy. Not a biggie for a few hours, since everything would be On-Demand, so we won’t really “miss” a show. We’d just have to watch it a bit later on. We can live with that.

Obstacles

The only TRUE obstacle I see in the whole idea is Comcast. See, without Netflix, we were using about 50 GB of bandwidth per month. With my July’s and August’s Netflix streaming, I’ve observed this number going to 100 GB. I expect that with Hulu Plus and RDIO/MOG that number will go to 200 GB, no doubt. Comcast’s internet bandwidth consumption limit is 250 GB per month. Our entertainment habits will result to be too close to that number. There might be a month that we will be dangerously close. I’m not comfortable with that.

Not to mention that if Comcast notices that a lot of people are leaving their cable TV service and are going with Netflix/Hulu Plus, they might decide to beat us where it hurts: limiting the monthly internet bandwidth for “Home” accounts even more, at maybe, around 100 GB. That number would be too small to fit entertainment. It’s enough for heavy, but “normal”, internet usage, but not for streaming HD content.

So Comcast still holds a card in its hands. How it will play that card, in conjunction to any new net neutrality laws that might happen in the meantime, it can define a lot of things for the future of home entertainment. So I personally see a major war between cable TV and streaming companies in the next 2 years or so. In fact, the cable TV companies might find an ally in that war: their nemesis, the satellite TV companies!

Live reporting and remote directing

I had this idea the day of the New Zealand earthquake. How cool would it be if people with smartphones (or camcorders with Bluetooth that can connect to their 3G smartphone), could report live from the epicenter? Or, any other event of interest (where the cell towers would have more luck being up and running).

I imagined it kind of like the current Qik and Ustream services, but much more focused. For example, the system would automatically band together videos from a similar geographical location, into a master stream, when a lot of people are searching for videos for that location/event. Depending on which individual videos are viewed the most, they would get shown more into the “master” stream. So the viewers can view either individual streams, or the master stream, which would result in much more information on the event since it would be switching to different cameras.

Viewers can also request the camera operator of a particular stream to move the camera left or right, and based on enough such requests, the system would request from the camera operator to move the camera accordingly.

Streams that get selected to be on a master stream, should stay on the servers for at least a week. Less popular individual streams can be deleted in 24 hours if storage is an issue. If the camera-man prefers it, each time his video is shown on a master stream, his username can also be shown as the channel logo (or below a channel logo).

Basically, this idea is remote “directing” of a live event, based on viewer statistics aggregation (crowd-sourcing).

Monetization is easy: ads on the bottom of the video feed on the client-side for the less popular events. Selling full master feeds to TV networks and big news web sites should be the primary goal though. Profits are split 50-50 between the streaming web site and the camera-men of a given master feed. Copyright of each clip remains the ownership of its camera-man, however the streaming web site can have an non-exclusive license that includes reselling (youtube and Vimeo already have such a clause, so that’s nothing out of the ordinary).

TV networks could potentially argue that this is destroying their business. However, it might just make their business better, because not only they would have more footage to show, but they won’t have to also pay for their own camera-man. Also, they could start broadcasting images from the event immediately, something that is not possible today (usually, we get live reporting from an event hours after the fact).

Of course, there’s a lot to be researched within such an idea. For example, how do you trust your users regarding abuse? Or, what if there’s a political event, and half of the viewers select streams that yield towards one opinion, and half on the other opinion. Should we let “democracy” determine how the “news” are reported, or the master stream should always be impartial and objective? How do we achieve that?

Hopefully, someone will come up with such a service. YouTube seems to have the bandwidth/servers, established mobile software, and engineering power required for such an idea to take off, but we haven’t seen anything like it from them yet. Hopefully they will wake up, will try to create something as fresh as this, and potentially socially important as this, rather than whoring their ass to Hollywood for movie content.

Interview with Ayz Waraich

One of my favorite upcoming and promising indie directors is Ayz Waraich. I got to know him via his “White Red Panic” short film, one of the best HV20 films ever shot. Below, we discuss about his current and future projects, camera technology, and filmmaking future.

1. Please tell us about The Divine River. How did the project came to be?

Ayz Waraich: Well, it’s a sci-fi thriller about a female time-continuum agent who is on the hunt for a dangerous time-terrorist known as the Fish. Basically the idea is that time-travel technology has hit the blackmarket in the near future, and there is this goverment agency called CWA (Continuum Watch Agency) that polices the time-line keeping it “safe”, and then this major terrorist (The Fish) has begun corrupting the time-line by going back and blowing stuff up in the past, which changes the future, and CWA is struggling to keep up with him. The film begins where they’ve picked up a trail, and try to intercept him 10 years in the past. We follow the main character of Syl, who is CWA’s top agent. After 4 long years of hunting this guy, it’s become personal for her. She’s sort of this quiet complex Ghost in the Shell type female lead. That’s pretty much the set up to the film, and it came about after I finished White Red Panic and really felt like I wanted to step my game up and try and tell a bigger story with VFX and all that. To try and do something that felt like 15 minutes out of any major Hollywood blockbuster. I guess we’ll see if I succeeded. It’s definitely ambitious and I’m beyond proud of it. Also, somewhere along the process, the big thriller I was writing started to become very personal and turned into me working out more of this never-ending existential crisis I’ve had since birth, haha. It’s a personal film where stuff blows up a lot. 😉 I think people will be surprised.

2. What do you find the difficult part in the job of a director is?

Ayz Waraich: I think the most difficult part of being a director is managing people, in order to tell your story. You have your key creative collaborators as well as the entire crew, and they all have to come together to make the film you have in your head. It can be very stressful at times, but you need to keep your wits about you and articulate clearly what you need. Very creative people tend to have passionate personalities, and as a director you have to be very careful not to swat their ideas aside due to a knee-jerk protective reaction, and instead learn to use their passion and make it part of the film, without it changing the film you are making. It’s like a real tightrope walk I’ll tell you, and sometimes the film gets away from you at moments. You just have to reign it back in, and get everyone back on the same page. David Fincher described it better than myself when he said: “Imagine painting. But you’re 200 yards away from the canvas, and 80 people are holding the brush. And you’re on a walkie-talkie going, ‘Need a little blue there. No darker blue. No DARKER BLUE!’”

3. What do you think about these web series that have sprouted up on
the internet in the last 1-2 years? Would you be interested directing
something like this? What about TV series or music videos? What are
your future plans?

Ayz Waraich: I think it’s an interesting time with the web series being a new creative outlet. It’s not something I’m very well versed in, but, and I may be wrong, the problem is that the money isn’t there and people are doing stuff very cheap with YouTube production values. If someone major got behind it and gave them the same budgets TV or film have, then there is an opportunity to do something very cool there. Serialized storytelling has been around for years, but the internet could inject new life into it, if really supported. Having said that, I’m very clear about wanting to do feature films in the future as a writer/director. That’s my goal, and these short films are about me building a body of work so I can get one of my feature scripts up and running. There’s a few things happening right now that I can’t really talk about, so I might be making one sooner than later. Cross your fingers.

4. How do you feel about this recent revolution in videography,
especially after the release of the HV20 and later the 5D Mk2?

Ayz Waraich: I think it’s great. It’s putting the power of story-telling into the hands of ambitious young people. The concern for me though is that most young filmmakers are not taking the time to study great cinematography and storytelling, to really develop good taste before they jump in and shoot something run and gun. Most of it looks very amateurish (with many exceptions of course). But like I said, the fact that the tools exist means they can be milked by the right creative mind. If you have good taste and can tell a story, the tools now exist that you can pull it off quite well. Also, hopefully the access to these camera will allow some young filmmakers to make personal and interesting films without studio intervention. I know for me that was a blessing. However, it’s a misconception that these tools look as good as major Hollywood films shot on 35mm. You can fool most people, but there is still a great divide. A great script and a solid cinematographer can go a very long way though. The tools are only there to facilitate your ideas, so make them great.

5. You shot White Red Panic with an HV20. What are the differences
technically and visually between such a small camera and the RED?

Ayz Waraich: Well, the HV20 and the RED are so far apart as cameras, it’s like comparing a bike to a car. Either will get you there, but one has a lot more power behind it and will make your life easier. Basically, the RED has a much higher resolution, allows you to attach film lenses, has a ton of frame rates to choose from, as well as many other advantages. However, the most important thing is the dynamic range. While still not as good as film, it’s miles above the hv20 and is really the key to great cinematography (resolution probably being one of the least important factors IMHO). For me though, it’s the fact that I can attach anamorphic lenses to the RED, which have a completely unique and beautiful look that no spherical lens can duplicate. That was the real draw for myself. The HV series or the DSLR’s are perfect for a young filmmaker first diving into storytelling and cinematography. Having a RED at that stage will not make your film look any better. It’s about knowing lighting and composition, studying the great cinematographers, developing good taste… once you’ve done that, these cheaper cameras will quickly start feeling inadquate because you’ll be hitting the ceiling of your abilities very fast. That’s where the RED steps in. It’ll open up new possibilities…

6. Which is your favorite movie, and why?

Ayz Waraich: My favorite movie does change from time to time, but “Magnolia” sits at the top of that list pretty confidently most of the time. I could write an essay on why I think it’s one of the greatest films ever made, but to keep it short it’s a movie that is full of life, has real empathy for people, and more than anything has a voice. Paul Thomas Anderson pours his heart out as a writer/director in that film, and it’s a cinematic ride of everyday emotions… It blows my mind every time I see it. It’s a big sprawling drama about broken hearts in the Valley, but has this fearless punk rock soul… and the ending is so unpredictable, yet perfect in what it says about us all. I aspire to make a film this good one day.

I HATE the new Apple TV

Well, that was a dud.

The new Apple TV has removed any possible way to store files locally, and to sync. This pretty much destroys the idea of using the Apple TV as your main MUSIC device in your living room, as we can do so right now with the current Apple TV. As some of my readers already know, we use the “Remote” app on an iPod Touch to control the AppleTV’s music. By sitting on our couch, and not lifting a finger. The TV is *not* ON while we listen to music. We have a REAL, 21st Century APPLIANCE EXPERIENCE for music.

Now, the only way to do the same with the new Apple TV is to stream from your PC/Mac’s iTunes library. And this is out of the fucking question for both JBQ and I.

When we want to listen to music, we need an appliance experience. Not a “run to the office, turn on the computer, WAIT for it to load, enter a password, open iTunes, run back to the fucking living room” type of thing. WE DON’T WANT TO HAVE A PC “ON” TO LISTEN TO MUSIC. WE DON’T EVEN WANT TO HAVE THE TV “ON”, LET ALONE A PC ON A DIFFERENT ROOM. If anything, leaving a PC “on” at all times (if someone suggests this), is not “green.” It’s a terrible idea actually.

What we do now instead, is simply picking up the iPod Touch Remote from the living room table. NOTHING FUCKING ELSE. It does not compare with this fucked up usability Apple is suggesting right now! The usability we have with our current Apple TV is MILLIONS of times better than streaming!

Steve Jobs mentioned that “people don’t want to sync anymore”, but I really wonder whom he polled. Everyone I know with an Apple TV does NOT want to stream from a computer. If anything, they want a bigger hard drive in there, and with more codec support!!! So I’m pretty sure that marketing research for the Apple TV was pretty slim, and instead, we just got what Steve wanted for his house. Not what consumers needed.

And you know, the new Apple TV wouldn’t have being such a terrible product if at least had a working USB port, so we could add our own hard drive! That would have been acceptable! But noooooooo… They went purely streaming. There’s not even software in it to sync anymore!

I’m seriously thinking of buying a second older-generation Apple TV, just so if our current one dies, we can still fulfill our needs for a few more years. But JBQ is afraid that iTunes and the iPod Touch “Remote” app might cease support for the old Apple TVs, and we will be left cold and dry again.

And no, the Mac Mini is not an option, so don’t suggest it. Not only it’s prohibitively expensive for what we want it to do (3x the price of our Apple TV), but it can’t sync with our main iTunes library which lives in our PC (and I need it to live there because we also have iPods, and because a lot of the music I gather is not from iTunes, but from Amazon/web/Bandcamp etc, and needs tag-fixing). Usually I need to change tags, update album art etc, so I need to do this work on my main PC. But if the Mac Mini takes our Apple TV’s place in our living room, then I’d need a full Bluetooth keyboard and do the same tag job TWICE (once in our main PC, and once in the Mini). So this is out of the question. The “appliance” experience is going the way of the dodo! Not to mention that it doesn’t have proper audio-out, since our amplifier doesn’t have HDMI. Headphones-out won’t do the trick, quality is abysmal. So the Mac Mini is out as a solution.

As for the new iPod Touch: I would have bought one (I really wanted one), but I needed 128 GB. My iTunes library is now at 81 GB, and still growing. But there was no storage size growth this year. In fact, this was the FIRST YEAR where there was no storage upgrade for the iPods!!!

I couldn’t care less about anything else they announced today. Especially “Ping”. Like we needed a new Twitter. And like I need to know what Lady Gaga is buying, or posts about. Who. the. fuck. cares?