Archive for May 25th, 2007

Greek TV: Television at its worst

The other day I was raving about the “Lost” finale being television at its best. This evening, while browsing the Greek channel on Facebook there was a link to a page that had links to many Greek TV series that were uploaded to some video services (illegally). I clicked through some of the links to GoogleVideo, Veoh, DailyMotion etc simply because I felt the need to re-connect with my country and my compatriots, but I could not stand watching more than 3 minutes of each series (I gave a fair chance to most of them). It was the usual Greek shit-storm: actors shouting like lunatics at each other (do Greeks really find this funny?), bad scripting, terrible direction, cheap decor. These series my beloved readers, were copyrighted material unworthy of the bandwidth consumed or even worth pirating. Where is the superior culture that most Greeks are claiming to possess? And don’t get me started about the Greek TV magazines or reality shows which are even worse (truth is, the rest of the Mediterranean TV is not much better either).

Now, I know that this might enrage some of the Greek visitors who read my blog, possibly making them think something along the lines of “aei gamisou re tsokaro pou mas to paizeis amerikanaki“. No matter your feelings towards my blog post, the truth of the matter is that I know that I am right and so you do. And that was always my opinion about Greek popular art, even when I was still living in Greece.

The only TV series that I found watchable, was “Oi Treis Harites” back in 1990. This show became a classic and reran over and over again — because simply it was so much better than its competition. And why was it better? Because it strictly followed the US format of the “sitcom” series. Its writers were smart enough to base the series on a well-tested method. The stories, the script, even the camera movement, it all was a “US sitcom” in Greek clothes — and with a few sprinkles of theater setup. And guess what: It worked — even among people who don’t watch non-Greek-style series (e.g. my mother). I do also like some other older TV series (the one with the panel of judges, back in 1985) and some of the classic Greek movies of the ‘50-’60s, the golden era of the Greek cinema. Most of everything else is for the dogs, literally.

Dear Greek TV Channels, throw to the dogs most of your damn footage so the future generation of archaeologists doesn’t have to put up with that content. Do them a favor and at the same time avoid the humiliation in the eyes of the 22nd Century. Thank you.

60 fps video, Part II

Following up my previous post, I did some more tests with my 60fps-capable digicam and here are the results. The 320×240 video was shot at 60 fps MotionJpeg and then re-encoded as 30fps and 60fps in h.264. The 60 fps video is re-encoded at 512kbps and the 30fps at 384kbps (I did that so both get a similar visual quality as the 30fps version has fewer frames to store). The 30fps video shows the kind of smoothness that you normally get by most digicams, smartphones and even consumer camcorders today. The 60fps video is visibly smoother, and that makes it the best choice for sports shooting (although I wouldn’t mind “Lost” at 60fps even if it would require some “getting used to”). Apparently, the first consumer camcorders that can shoot HD in 720p 60fps are expected next year. For now, your best bet would be a $6000 Panasonic camera (not miniDV).

If you are watching the following videos with Quicktime instead of another mp4 plugin, please play them back 2-3 times each because at their first run QuickTime drops frames… VLC is even worse in that respect.

30 fps video

60 fps video

The 60fps idea is mostly something that directors must acknowledge or get taught at, rather than a technical limitation. It’s just that everyone shoots at 24fps in the industry (mostly because that’s what projectors at the cinemas do) and they follow that trend like sheep. Hopefully, an art professor somewhere will put enough persuasion on his students so the next generation of directors will take advantage of the current & future technology.

The 18 hours of 24 (with ads removed)

It seems that FOX got back a bit of what it deserves this season (for canceling shows so easily). You see, just days after the disappointing “24″ finale ratings and the president of FOX admitting that “24″ sucked this season (sorry storm!), now the “24″ movie that was in the works got canned. The bad turn is pretty normal actually, for a show that’s been running for 6 seasons already, but what really makes me laugh in a mean way, is the fact that FOX already paid Kiefer Sutherland 30 million dollars last year for the next 3 seasons (10 mil per season). So, even if they wanted to cancel “24″ this year, they can’t! They already paid for Jack Bauer’s highly professional espionage and operative services, and trust me, you don’t want to cross Jack!

60 fps video

I was having this conversation with JBQ the other day, about what’s the next big thing in video after the HD becomes a commodity in most countries. JBQ claims that the next step is 60 fps shooting/playback, instead of 24 or 30 fps that current movies are shot at. JBQ watched 60 fps video in a special theater back in France some years ago and he said that it was “pretty amazing”.

I did some research and apparently 60 (or 72fps according to some) is pretty smooth for televized programmes too, plus most TVs are at 60Hz anyway. There is this camera (costs over $17,000) that can shoot 11 MP at 60 fps, but it’s still in beta. Director Peter Jackson is a beta tester of the camera and he has provided a sample clip here (unfortunately, at just 24fps).

Obviously, I tried to find some 60fps sample clips online, but I couldn’t find any that are not animated series. While googling, I realized that some A-branded Canon cameras can shoot at 60 fps in QVGA mode! And what do you know? My Canon A700 can do too and I had no idea about it! Of course, the smoothness/quality you get out of a digicam is not the same compared to a professional camera, but even then you can see that there is some smoothness on my sample clip below, shot handheld in my dark messy office. The original clip was a MotionJpeg 14 MB file, click below to see it as h.264 re-encoded (500 KBs), while retaining the 60fps. There is definitely less “jerkiness” than when shooting at 30 fps, especially when towards the end I move the camera a bit too fast and yet, the video playback remains smooth.

On the Lot

FOX has this new reality show called “On the Lot”, which is a competition for aspiring movie directors, produced by Steven Spielberg. I personally like the premise of the show, I enjoy seeing real creativity rather than people who simply can sing well as in American Idol (and most of them they can’t even read or write music). Unfortunately, the ratings are terrible and so the show might get canceled. Of course, the show could have been better, for example showing us some of the samples the aspiring directors submitted in order to get picked up for the show, and also show us more of the videos that they created during the competition. Instead, all we got was the “reality” part of the show, e.g. the directors bitching at each other, transforming the show in a way that felt more like “America’s next top model”, a show where the bitches are bitching all day long. The only way to watch their videos is to go to the show’s website and go through their loaded, cumbersome interface that uses Flash video in a way that renders in just 3fps on my Powerbook G4 867 Mhz (youtube is slow too, but nowhere that slow). In other words, “it could have been better”.