Archive for November, 2008

The art of story telling

For those who would like to embark into filmmaking territories, I would suggest you take a look at the “Pi” movie by Darren Aronofsky (trailer). The movie has a film school cutting and camera movement style, it was cheap ass, and yet, it has a very high rating on IMDb, because it has a great story. This movie is the definition of story telling.

Pi was shot in Super16 ten years ago, it has virtually no shallow DOF, it is extremely grainy, it’s black & white, and it generally looks like ass on first look. But the story takes you away and all that weird look add to the weird world the hero lives in.

Update: Aronofsky’s new movie, “The Wrestler” that comes out in a few days (trailer), was also shot in 16mm and has no shallow DOF to speak of either.

Random Stuff, Part 29

* I never watch music award shows, this last Sunday was a first with the AMA awards. Watching Coldplay performing live was a proof that Chris Martin can’t sing. He was only a tiny bit better than in the SNL show a month ago that I blogged about. As bad was the Jonas Brothers’ singer too. Everyone else excelled in vocal performance that night, and I was positively surprised by Miley Cyrus.

* Our webmaster on this server, Adam, blogged about economist Peter Schiff who has been predicting the house bubble, oil prices, economy crash since the beginning of the decade. Watch the video on Adam’s page about how everyone laughs, live on TV, at Mr Schiff predictions — it’s so pathetic. I guess he laughed last. On a recent interview with him, he predicts very dire stuff, like this recession will be much worse than the 1930’s Great Depression, as the crime will rise a lot and there will be civil unrest. He predicts that the rest of the developed world won’t be in the same situation, only USA will pay the price of its own “consume a lot, and don’t produce enough” philosophy. You can read more of Schiff’s articles here. He made me think twice that bailing out failing businesses was the way to go.

* Handbrake 0.9.3 was released yesterday and it now allows for single file transcoding instead of just DVD ripping. It’s also available for Linux now, not just Mac/Win. I put up a tutorial on how to use it to export in 720p HD. Change the resolution to 640×360 and bitrate to 1500 if your camera is a widescreen miniDV instead.

* YouTube supports HD now. Sure, you did see the widescreen new page format, but that’s not what I am talking about. YouTube re-encodes videos 4 times: 192×144 3GP for cellphones, 320×240 FLV (this is what it loads by default), 480×270 h.264 (“high quality”), and 1280×720 h.264 (loads only if you append the &fmt=22 code at the end of the URL of a video that was originally a 720p uploaded video). My Android video was uploaded in 720/30p, so when you click on this specific URL you can view it in HD. I believe that YouTube’s h.264-based HD re-encoding is better than Vimeo’s, not only because of the video quality, but because they support 30 fps (Vimeo only goes up to 24), and also it seems that Adobe’s h.264 decoder is faster than its FLV HD one. However, I expect Vimeo to follow suit in terms of h.264/fps, so I am staying with them rather than moving my videos to Youtube’s ugly user base who know only how to discredit you and spam your comment section to hell.

* Speaking of YouTube, I watched a bit of the first YouTube Live show the other day: Katy Perry can barely sing. From all the Youtube internet personalities, Mr Safety, Smosh and Sxephil are my favorites. Smosh’s latest video is really funny.

* [BSG SPOILERS]: SyFyPortal says that one of these five people will be the last Cylon. Given that the… Xena Cylon said that “the last Cylon is not among you”, we can easily take out 3 people out of the list. It will be between Ellen Tigh and Cally Tyroll. And if Cally is indeed the last Cylon, I will do a big fat “I told you so, twice“, blog post. 😉

Reflecting boats

A short video about boats, shot for the purposes of my upcoming Kodak Z1012 IS digital camera review. It was shot within half an hour with this HD-capable digital camera at San Mateo’s marina (Coyote Point) yesterday.

Most scenes are over-exposed as the camera has no exposure control in its video mode. The video is color graded. HD version, comments and download here.

Update: And a pseudo-HDR image I shot and tone-mapped yesterday with the same camera:

San Mateo bridge

It would suck to be Peter Berg right now

I blogged about Christina Aguilera’s new song earlier today. As I said there, the song is very nice, maybe the best ever from Christina.

The official music video for it is pretty good too. It was directed by Peter Berg, the same director who did the movie “Hancock”.

In the meantime, Christina signed an exclusive contract with the Target superstores, and Target did a 30 second commercial for it, featuring Christina and her new song.

Here’s the trouble: the commercial is about 10 times better than the official video, and everyone who has seen both says so. If something like this was the official video, it would have kicked so much ass.

I am not sure how the director will take all this though. It can be a blow to him and his morale.

Kites & Whirlwinds, v2

I revisited my “Garden Spinners” (was: “Kites”) video this afternoon, making at least 8 changes to the video. It is much more faithful to the beat now, and a bit more interesting too. Additionally, I upgraded the bitrate to 6 mbps VBR (original version was 5 mbps VBR), so if you had downloaded the previous version, please re-download the new one — it’s better.

I got some pretty positive feedback about this particular video, so I am interested to know if people prefer it over my jellyfish video. The jellyfish video is one of most “liked” HV20 videos on Vimeo ever, so I wonder which one is better.

Christina Aguilera – Keeps Gettin’ Better

I was never a big fan of Christina Aguilera. Her music work was “ok”, but all that high pitch “ooaaaah, aaaaah, ooooooh, yeaaah yeaaaaah” shit in her older songs were pissing me off. This is one of the reasons why I don’t like R&B/soul music, it’s like the artists try to show off their vocal abilities rather than singing the damn lyrics. It turns me off immediately.

But her new song, “Keeps Gettin’ Better“, is actually, better. It has an electronic style music, but with a mix of alternative rock style singing melody, and a bit of Rihanna in it. I like it, a lot.

Aha! So here’s why ‘Heroes’ sucks!

The problem is the “Heroes” creator, Tim Kring, himself.

Kring said no final ending for Heroes has been conceived, noting, “We didn’t have an island to get off of.” On top of that, Kring noted that “My original idea was more of an anthological vibe to it, where you regenerate the characters.

The way I read the above, and the rest of the things he said in that interview, is like this: “I have no master plan. I just put together a convoluted, written-on-the-go story, and I cross fingers that people will buy into it. You see, the Marvel movies were all over the Box Office, so I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if I could strap together some super hero stories to make a quick buck? So I did. I made a quick buck, and it was fun while it lasted”.

And then, he also says that serialization on modern TV is a bad idea. Maybe it is, but then again, where would serialization be possible then? The movies, where it’s impossible by definition? What he fails to understand is not that serialization is not wanted by viewers, but that viewership naturally decreases on series after 3 years, because older viewers get bored, and new viewers don’t understand the whole back-story to get hooked. Which is why having a clock, a master plan, a premeditated story that makes sense, and a series that doesn’t last more than 3-4 years, is important. But nooooo… Tim preferred the quick buck rather than creating an artistic masterpiece (like “Lost”), or enjoy the kind of money that does come with it in the longer run (e.g. “Firefly” made more money after its demise).

Star Trek trailer is out

The trailer for the new Star Trek movie is out, and it’s looking good. The forums are full of comments and the old hard core trekies absolutely hate it, but then again, we are talking about old people who will die soon (hehe…), and so it is of the outmost importance for the future of the franchise, that Star Trek gets revitalized, modernized, and finds a newer audience.

Before I saw some pictures a few weeks ago, and the trailer today, I had a problem with the Spock portrayal. I just didn’t believe that there was any actor out there that could have Nimoy’s eerie look and mannerisms. And if the actor would have decided to go his way and redo Spock’s character from scratch, that would have been a huge disappointment for me — given that Spock was the first love of my life, at age 5, a character that has inspired me, and steered a lot of my personality’s evolution.

But Zachary Quinto just looks amazing as Spock. I dare to say that this is the only actor from the bunch that actually tried to recreate Spock’s character as closely as possible, while the rest all look like a bunch of new kids on the block. Interestingly, I never particularly liked Quinto’s character on “Heroes”, the villain Sylar, but there are a couple of scenes in the ST trailer that show what a great actor he is. I had trouble thinking that this was not Nimoy. He seems to have put a lot of effort in recreating Nimoy’s body movements when in action, which is what makes him believable.

So overall, I am excited about the new Star Trek movie, and my only real concern is about the new franchise to not lose the “soul” of Star Trek. And that soul is just that: social commentary. Hopefully, JJ Abrams — who I don’t particularly trust — won’t turn Star Trek into a shallow action packed flick as this would be a lose-lose situation eventually.

Even more interestingly, this movie will be the first space-based science fiction movie in theaters, in two years. The longest, I believe, we ever had to wait for a space movie in cinemas. Makes you wonder.

fall foliage

The second video from our weekend trip, a relaxing nature video. HD version, comments and download here.


We visited Santa Rosa and Bodega Bay this weekend, and so here’s one of the two videos I shot. HD version, comments and download here. The second video will come later today.