The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Archive for the 'Media' Category

When Presentation is Everything – Coraline Needs 3D!

Posted by Deliverator on 27th May 2009

I recently learned that Coraline was going to be released this month and I hoped for a true 3d release. Unfortunately, the only announced options were either conventional 2d or Anaglyphic 3D (those cheesy red/blue glasses that moviegoers rightfully consigned to history’s trash heap back in the 1950’s). I saw Coraline in 3D in a theater using the excellent RealD 3D projection system. I felt the presentation really added something to the experience and can’t imagine watching Coraline in anything other than true 3d. It may be a while till such an excellent 3d system as RealD becomes practical for home users with budgets less than several hundred thousand dollars, but there are plenty of excellent 3d home theater options available for under 5 grand.

Here is a listing of 3d projector options at stereo3d.com. The DepthQ series of projectors from Infocus for instance supports high framerates and can be found for as little as $2300 and uses commonly available active LCD shutter glasses to achieve its effect.

Samsung has a line of DLP based 3D capable HDTV sets that all support 3D via shutter glasses starting at as little as $1000.

There are numerous 3D LCD monitors (some even sold through big box retailers like Frys) capable of displaying true 3d video, some without even needing glasses.

I have a Headplay Personal Cinema Display, which is available for around $400, and can display 3d content from several different input sources.

In short, the technology for quality home 3d viewing is out there and available at modest cost. There are a ton of 3d movies coming out this year in theaters including Pixar’s UP and James Cameron’s much anticipated Avatar. 3D has already shown it can help make movies on the front end without increasing production costs greatly, but movies have lately made a large percentage of their revenues on the post theater DVD market and I doubt nearly as many people will want to purchase watered down 2d version of movies they first saw in 3d. While not a lot of home theaters are currently 3d equipped, the cost to do so is fairly minimal and the additional costs of releasing a frame sequential 3d DVD alongside the 2d and Anaglyphic releases are likely minimal as well. It costs the studios little to grow the market by releasing frame sequential titles and the only way they are ever going to solve this chicken and the egg problem is by doing so.

Posted in General, Media, Movies, Photography, Rants and Raves, Windows CE | No Comments »

Terminator Salvation Suckage – Let Me Count The Ways

Posted by Deliverator on 22nd May 2009

I wish I could travel back in time like Kyle Reese, cause then I could travel back in time to 4 hours ago and prevent myself from paying $10 to see this dreck. I thought the series couldn’t get much worse after Terminator 3, but of course I was wrong.

Wrongness:

– Bryce Dallas Howard looked far too “made up” in virtually every scene. I’m sure battlefield doctors in the post apocalyptic wasteland of the future have a lot of time to arrange their hair, tweeze their eyebrows and apply lots of makeup. Even Moon Bloodgood, whose look in the film was comparatively natural looked far too fresh faced.

-Apparently, 40 foot tall robots that shake the earth with every step can none-the-less sneak up on a 7-11 gas station in the middle of nowhere without being seen or making a sound.

-Did we really need the 40 foot tall transforminator (as it has already been branded online) in the first place? Shoots motorcycles? Come on! I’ll take the slow unstoppable rumble of the skull crushing treads of the hunter killer tanks from the first movie to this transformer wannabee anyday.

– Really obvious product placement (i.e. long camera cuts of 7-11 gas station making sure the logo is nicely framed and focused). Oh, surprise of surprises Chrysler proves itself fiscally and morally bankrupt after using taxpayer money to do in movie advertising.

– Pointless, overblown chase scenes

– Moon Bloodgood’s character very gratuitously bares her torso to inspect a wound. She later snuggles up close to Marcus, but its okay as she is just doing it to “share his body heat.”

– Moon Bloodgood’s character lights a big bonfire yet Kyle Reese previously warned against going out at night as the hunter-seeker vehicles see in infra-red and humans are easily seen and make for easy prey at night.

– Excruciatingly bad dialog throughout such as when the Marcus character tells his passengers to “hold on” and then follows that up with another “hold on” as his next witty line. John Connor makes a bunch of speeches over the radio whose sole point seems to be to provide clip material for the trailer.

– Apparently Skynet, which operates a large array of giant radio dishes and communicates worldwide via radio with its robot minions just hasn’t been able to seem to find John Connors oh so secret large, obvious resistance airbase (from which he broadcasts his inspirational message via AM/FM radio) or a resistance submarine which coordinates the resistance via radio. Yet at the end of the film, Skynet blows the submarine out of the water by homing in on a radio signal.

– Skynet’s defenses have thus far proven impenetrable, and they even point that out a bunch of times in different ways, but a bunch of Vietnam era helicopters are able to swoop in at the end of the movie and rescue everyone.

– Skynet’s legion of radio controlled robots apparently need Apple-ish white computer displays and tactile interfaces to interact with door mechanisms and the like. John Connor can hack the weakly godlike entity that is skynet by plugging in one of his several EMP proof Sony computers (yet more product placement) and type the word “overide”

– Marcus has a chip in the back of his head to control him, but is able to casually reach in and grab it in full view of Skynet without Skynet even attempting to invoke it. Said chip is apparently external to his metal skull, but interfaced deeply into his nervous system. Seems an obvious design defect to me. Ripping it out doesn’t seem to leave Marcus any the worse for wear.

– Just how many times can John Connor be thrown into metal industrial equipment (leaving dents) and over railings by the unsurprising cameo CG reincarnation of Arnold without dying? How many ribs can a human being break? Part of the scariness of the Terminators was that they were chromed death. If they managed to catch up to you and get a hand on you, you were dead, period. John Connor going 10 rounds with one of the things just saps all the scariness out of the things.

– How many times can JC survive a helicopter crash in one movie? I lost count.

– Lots and lots of other wrongness. Too much for me to express. I’m going to go puke now.

I sure hope Terminator Salvation proves to be forgettable with time. If it is remembered for nothing else, it at least brought us the now infamous Christian Bale Rant.

Posted in Media, Movies, Rants and Raves | No Comments »

Siff Schedule 2009

Posted by Deliverator on 8th May 2009

I got to the SIFF box office today and got my tickets for SIFF 2009. I will be seeing a record (for me) 23 movies as part of SIFF. I will probably also see the new Terminator movie right before my festival starts, making for one movie packed month. I am posting my schedule below for the benefit of any of my friends who would like to join me for films. You can find a synopsis and sometimes a trailer for each of the films and can purchase tickets online, at one of the festival box offices or at the theater on the day of screening. Additionally, I have a couple free tickets available for The Yes Men Fix the World, We Live in Public, Moon and Final Arrangements, so get in touch with me if you want one of the freebies.

My Siff Schedule 2009

Posted in General, Media, Movies | 1 Comment »

D80 Sensor Cleaning

Posted by Deliverator on 29th April 2009

One of the few real downsides to digital SLR cameras versus their film brethren is getting dust on the sensor. With a film camera, each new exposure yields a fresh “sensor,” but over time with a digital SLR, dust which gets into the camera frame during lens swaps can coat the sensor (technically the IR filter over the actual sensor). At larger lens apertures, dust on the sensor generally can’t be seen, but at small apertures against a fairly consistent bright background, you can really see it. I shoot a fair number of panoramas with my Nikon D80 and often see repeated spot patterns on the source images. One can clean these sorts of problems up in Photoshop, but it greatly increases the amount of time spent in post-processing.

For most cases of dust on the sensor, I have simply used the mirror lockup mode on my camera to reveal the sensor and then used an oversize rubber air bulb to blow the dust off the sensor. Mine is this one made by Giottos, but these are a dime a dozen. It does the job most of the time with a minimum expenditure of effort.

For more stubborn dust, I eventually added a sensor brush from Visible Dust and a SpeckGRABBER.

Recently, I encountered some dust that had “welded” itself to the sensor and wouldn’t come off with any of the above methods. Welded dust is probably usually the result of some sort of particle that is wet when it makes contact and dries hard to the sensor. To get it off, you need to use a “wet” cleaning method. The favored method seems to be a few drops of Methanol on a very fine cloth attached to the end of what amounts to a miniature squeegee the width of your particular cameras sensor. A number of companies sell wet cleaning kits. I got one from Photographic Solutions for $20 for 4 pre-wetted swabs. I was hoping that just one swab would be enough and I could keep the others in my camera bag for emergency in-the-field use. I ended up needing to use all four swabs in the kit to get the majority of welded dust off my sensor. Is this a good value? I would probably buy my swabs and Methanol separate in the future. On the other hand, the cheapest wet cleaning I found in the Seattle area was at Cameras West for ~$60

Here are some before and after pics to show the difference. The pictures were taken at f/16 and are of a relatively undifferentiated target (my projector’s screen).

Before cleaning:

After cleaning:

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TRC in Atlanta @ First International Championship Event 2009

Posted by Deliverator on 26th April 2009

The TRC and I went to Atlanta for the FIRST Robotics International Championship Event. We didn’t win anything, but had fun. Here are the pictures. If you have TRC pictures from the event, let me know so I can add them to my TRC Media Archive.

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Posted in General, Photography, Titan Robotics Club | No Comments »

A New Era for 3d Movies

Posted by Deliverator on 28th March 2009

I’ve had the chance to watch two movies in 3d recently using different projection technologies. The most recent was a showing of Monsters vs Aliens at the Imax at the Pacific Science Center using the older dual projector / linear polarization technique. The other was a showing of Coraline at a theater in Renton using the new single projector / circular polarization technique known as RealD.

The old linear polarization technique has a lot of problems associated with it. It relies on dual projectors that have to be kept in sync and carefully aligned on the screen. If you tilt your head at all during the movie the image blurs. It is quite difficult to keep one’s head perfectly still for the duration of a feature film and one develops a bit of a stiff neck in the attempt. Also, on occasion I would pick up a slight bit of a ghost double image. I am not sure if this was a result of sitting extremely off-axis at the Imax or what, but I found it distracting.

RealD, on the other hand, suffers from none of these problems. RealD uses a single, normal digital projector with a special LCD plate placed in front of the projector optics which circularly polarizes a frame with either a clockwise or counterclockwise twist depending on the eye a given image is meant to reach. Because this system relies on only a single projector, which most theaters are deploying for advertising purposes anyways, it is far more practical than two projector systems and as a result is being widely implemented. I did an informal survey and it appears that there are 6-7 theaters in the Seattle area which are 3d capable at this time.

I enjoyed watching both movies, but definitely found RealD to be the superior experience. I never found myself distracted by aspects of the projection technology with RealD and could just focus on enjoying the film. There are a ton of movies coming out in 3d this year. I am especially looking forward to James Cameron’s film Avatar. James Cameron has been behind some of the more notable special effects films of the last couple decades including Terminator 1 and 2, The Abyss and Titanic. The release of Avatar has been delayed till December at least in part to allow more time for theaters to get their RealD systems in place.

3D technologies for film have been around for literally generations at this point, but RealD is the first system that seems truly compelling and practical to implement. I hope we have finally seen the end of the old Red/Blue glasses!

Posted in Media, Movies, Rants and Raves, Tech Stuff | No Comments »

Why Old Media Deserves to Die

Posted by Deliverator on 5th March 2009

It looks like The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a newspaper which has been in existence for some 137 years is likely to close up shop within a few weeks time, or be cut back to the extent that they are no longer recognizable. It is likely that some web-only presence will remain, but print runs will cease and employment will be decimated. It is not entirely unlikely that the Seattle Times will fold in the not too distant future as well. Old media, for a large variety of reasons is facing tough times and I have a tough time finding pity for them. They have been all too slow to adapt to changing times and quite simply don’t get the power and opportunities of The Internet. Most of the traditional newspaper’s online presences merely ape the appearance of the dead tree edition and do little to leverage the power of the web. To them, it is just another delivery mechanism (a series of tubes, perhaps?) to deliver the same content in the same top down, one way, non-interactive fashion. Fundamentally, not only are content providers having a difficult time figuring out how to make money on the web, they are having as much of a problem figuring out how the web can save them money.

I recently read a back of the napkin analysis that suggested that amortized over the period of a few years, it would be cheaper for The New York Times to buy all their readers a Kindle than to print and deliver them a daily dead tree edition. I would be very interested in media producers subsidizing the high cost of a Kindle II or similar device in order to get their content in front of consumer eyeballs. Somehow, I suspect that the NYT will keep on moving dead trees around till their dying day and their online presence will remain shrouded behind a pay wall or login prompt, increasingly making them irrelevant to broad public discourse on the day’s events.

Today, I was listening to a podcast of an episode of This American Life. Ira Glass, the show’s host, came on at the beginning of the Podcast to talk about how the Podcast is costing the station something like $150,000 a year in bandwidth bills. This American Life’s solution to their budget problem was to beg the public for money. I feel profoundly disinclined to cough up my hard earned when something as simple as providing an optional torrent feed of their show in parallel to their existing feed would greatly diminish those costs. Other nationally syndicated radio shows have already demonstrated that this can work and it basically costs them nothing to provide. This American Life has a large and rabid fan base and I would gladly pitch in a few bucks to make my commute more interesting if the Ira Glass was asking his listeners to please click on a this link rather than that link in order to help save them money.

There is a lot of Old Media I like and I am more than a little nostalgic about a lot of it, but I am also very excited about the new forms and directions that media is taking and in the end, there are only so many minutes in the day and bucks in my pocket. I will chose the options that are broadly accessible, usable and convenient to me and avoid ones which require me to jump through hoops, utilize special software or proprietary devices and try to substitute some pseudo-form of rental instead of real ownership upon me. Culture has become broad enough that when faced with even the slightest inconvenience the modern media consumer can simply swerve towards some other shiny thing.

Posted in Books, General, Media, Movies, Music, Rants and Raves | No Comments »

Matinée Movies at Marsh’s

Posted by Deliverator on 19th September 2008

I’ve really enjoyed watching movies on my new home theater these last few months. One small area of displeasure has been that the system really only hits its peak after dark. During the day, enough light comes streaming in through the windows and double glass door that the image projected onto my Panoview white screen by my Optoma HD 70 projector becomes significantly washed out. White screens have many advantages over other screen types such as gray and micro-glass beaded screens, but do have a tendency to wash out much more than these other types due to externally incident light.

This isn’t much of a problem for me, as I mainly use the system to watch movies and TV after dark, but it really kills the ability to use the projector for watching daytime sports on weekends and similar best-during-the-day uses. After several months of waiting, long intended, custom fit blackout blinds have been installed on the windows and doors. Only the smallest amount of light creeps in around the edges now, and it is nowhere near enough to impact image quality. Marsh Cinema is officially open for matinées. The theater feels very near complete.

I’ve derived a great deal of pleasure from having my own home theater and it is something that I wish I had done years ago. Between Netflix, my Tivo/Directv and FTA HDTV I rarely run out of content to watch and find myself going to actual movie theaters less and less. It has been costly and time consuming to be sure, but it has all been worth it. I don’t miss wasting time and gas driving halfway across town, paying for parking and overpriced theater food only to see a film that will come out on Netflix 2 months later. About the only thing I miss is the theater food itself. I’ve been keeping a good selection of beverages and snackish foods on hand for movie nights, but I have strange yearnings for hot dogs, theater popcorn (microwave just isn’t the same) with fake butter substitute and even nachos with fake cheese and especially bagel-dogs. Mmmmmmm, bagel-dogs…..

Posted in General, Media, Movies | No Comments »

Southwest Roadtrip – April/May 2008

Posted by Deliverator on 24th May 2008

I needed to get away for a while and took a roadtrip. Here are some select pictures. Here are some panoramas. If you want more, I have another 900 or so if you are willing to sit through the slideshow.

Posted in General, Photography | No Comments »

My Siff 2008 Schedule

Posted by Deliverator on 22nd May 2008

Posted here is my schedule for SIFF 2008. If you want to join me for a flick or 20, let me know.

Posted in Media, Movies | 1 Comment »