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!
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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.
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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…..
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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.
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Posted by Deliverator on 1st November 2007
I spent some quality time today shuffling between a ladder, Vetco Surplus and numerous hardware stores on an epic quest to mount my Optoma HD 70 projector on the ceiling. Until today, the projector has been sitting on a somewhat wobbly TV tray directly in front of the couch. This adhoc setup has interfered with the number of people that can comfortably watch the screen at the same time and has lead to lots of minor accidental bumping of the projector and necessary repositioning and refocusing. It has also made it somewhat awkward to play movement heavy games on my Wii, as players have needed to stand to the side so as not to interrupt the projector’s beam and moderate their swings so as not to kill my beautiful projector. After a 26 hour 100% completion of Metroid Prime lead to a serious crick in my neck, I resolved to ceiling mount the projector at any cost.
My first thought was to just build a shelf mounted high on the wall or rigidly suspended from the ceiling, but I quickly nixed that idea for two reasons. The first is that the wall is too far away for the ideal throw of the HD 70’s lens and secondly, the projector casts it’s image upwards from where it sits. The projector needs to be mounted upside-down on the ceiling and put into a special vertical flip mode for ceiling mounting, so a simple shelf/platform wouldn’t do. I checked Optoma’s website and they sell an optional ceiling mount bracket which attaches to the projector via 3 small screw holes on the bottom of the projector. It looks like it would do the job nicely, but at $215 it left me reconsidering my “must mount projector at any cost” statement. I started looking into 3rd party alternatives and quickly came up with an inexpensive 3rd party mounting bracket from a company called Atdec for $45 at Amazon. No-longer-patented one click ordering accomplished, I spent a few days mulling over how best to pump video from my myriad devices into the projector.
Flinging video and audio about through circuitous paths without loosing fidelity is one of the eternal geek problems. I wish I had the money for a nice remotely controlable switchbox or the time and Arduino-Foo prowess to coble one together. For now, I have decided to leave that problem (fiscal and otherwise) for another day and just work with what I got as much as possible. That said, I ended up spending $170 at Vetco acquiring longer cables and connectors so as to be able to hook up 1 HDMI source and 3 component sources with a minimum of fuss. I have to manually flip a switch to change component sources, but the fully remote controlled alternative would have cost me considerably more, so I consider the occasional need to leave the sofa a small price to pay…and I could use the exercise.
The lion’s share of the work in getting the projector mounted was in figuring out the directions, assembling the mounting bracket, finding studs in the ceiling and a fair amount of drilling. Thankfully, my father who is far more mechanically inclined than I was willing to help me with the drilling and figuring. While he handled the majority of that task, I headed to 3 hardware stores in a subquest to find m3 type metric screws with which to secure the mounting bracket to the projector. The bracket came with a fair selection of mounting hardware for most projectors, but the smallest screw in the included selection was m4, the next size up. I was lucky to finally find a couple m3 screws at Lowe’s, which had a marginally better selection of hardware than the other places at which I stopped. m3 is an exceedingly small shaft size for a screw and I really have to fault Optoma for using such a mechanically poor fastener for hanging a rather expensive and fairly heavy device upside down. I managed to torque the head off one of these screws just trying to tighten it. I have to conclude that they used such a non-standard and hard to find screw as a dis-incentive to the use of generic 3rd party brackets.
I did eventually get the bracket attached and mounted to both the projector and the ceiling and got all the cables run and messes picked up and have been happily spending the remainder of my All Hallow’s Eve watching Vincent Price horror movies. Getting the projector properly ceiling mounted was somewhat frustrating but I think the result will be well worth the effort.
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Posted by Deliverator on 23rd September 2007
My recent trip to the Toronto International Film Festival, amongst other things, definitely hammered home one point; there are just some movies that demand to be seen on a big screen. While I sometimes relish the experience of going to a movie in a packed theater on opening night, more and more I have become annoyed with traffic, parking hassles, overpriced junk food, crying babies, cell phones, annoying ads and previews I couldn’t give a rats ass about, and thugs watching me pick my nose with “nightvision” flashlights. Unfortunately, my living situation doesn’t let me get away with my brother’s massive 56″ DLP TV and surround sound setup, but watching Blackhawk Down at his place during my recent trip definitely made me think about what I could manage. I did some casual research into current projector offerings which made me think that maybe current projector tech wasn’t such a bad alternative these days.
After returning to Seattle, I worked some late nights getting caught up on the backlog of work induced by my trip to Toronto. A few nights ago, while picking up a hard drive at Best Buy (not my first choice of shopping locations by any means) to replace a failed drive in a point of sale machine, I couldn’t help but check out their projectors. They had the Optoma HD 70, a unit about which I had read rave reviews in my brief research, and at a steal of a price. I picked it up and have gleefully been watching movies from my bed for the last few nights.
So far I really like the HD 70. It offers native 720p resolution (1280×720) at the same price as many 1024×768 entry level projectors, has inputs for every video type imagineable (composite, component, s-video, vga and HDMI), has a well designed, backlit remote and on screen display and is remarkably quiet for the amount of heat it has to dissipate. My one worry about projectors has always been the artificially high cost of replacement bulbs ($275-300 for the HD 70). The manufacturer claims 2-3k hours of use per bulb. If it gets the advertised life, I will consider the bulb replacement cost more than fair trade for the “joys” of seeing a movie outside the home these days. For the present, I am going to try to do the bulk of my movie watching on my own silver screen.
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Posted by Deliverator on 19th September 2007
I went to Toronto and saw some movies and assorted other things with my brother and friend Ryan. I had fun. I really needed a vacation. I am feeling a bit tired and oafish at the moment, so no more words. Here are some pictures to tide you over until I am feeling more verbose.
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Posted by Deliverator on 10th August 2007
The #1 worst movie of all time according to IMDB is Bratz and you can catch it live in theaters this weekend! At the time of this writing, Bratz has a staggeringly low 1.1 rating. Strangely, there appears to be a second entry for the same movie at IMDB, which has managed a much more respectable #43 place on the list, sandwiched between such classics as ED (about a monkey which plays baseball with Matt Leblanc), Kazaam (Shaq as a genie) and Baby Geniuses (the title says it all). The film isn’t fairing much better at Rottentomatoes, garnering a 9% rating from critics. Sadly, given this film’s target audience and the amazing power of whiny children, a whole lot of adults are going to be bodily hauled to seeing this film this weekend, so in terms of gross ticket sales, this film might actually be a success. If you are just examining financial considerations, even with relatively low gross ticket sales, given the film’s likely rock bottom production costs, this movie will probably do alright and won’t be making anyone’s worst box office bombs list. The undisputed worst bombing movie of all time (in terms of gross ticket sales) remains Zyzzyx Road staring Katherine Heigl, which earned $30 nationwide at the boxoffice (granted it was only released in one theater). Katherine Heigl of course went to star in one of the top grossing movies IN THE SAME year, Knocked Up. This is all by way of saying the movie industry is kinda fucked up.
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Posted by Deliverator on 26th May 2007
SIFF is in full swing and I have already seen 4 movies this past week. I was scheduled to see “Knocked Up” this evening, but decided to return my tickets and watch something else instead. Why? I received the following by email from SIFF Programming Manager Beth Barrett (significantly post sale):
Thank you for your purchase of a ticket for KNOCKED UP on May 26, Egyptian Theatre, 7:00pm. Please be aware that the film studio supplying this film will be checking for recording devices as part of their anti-piracy efforts. This is a secure screening, and all bags and/or purses are subject to search. Absolutely no cameras or recording devices of any kind will be allowed in the theater. The theater will be subject to security surveillance. A camera cell phone is classified as a recording device and cannot be taken into the screening. We highly recommend l eaving cameras, camera cell phones and recording devices in your car or at home as there will be no place to check them at the theater.
I have a lot of choices on where to spend my money. I spend a lot more going to the movies than almost anyone I know, but I am not willing to undergo an Anal Probe and pay for the priviledge. This is perhaps the most important lesson that entertainment industries need to beat into their thick skulls. There are a huge number of ways to be entertained in the modern era. Many of them are free or very cheap. There are those who will steal content for which you would charge and history has thus far shown there is no effectual way to prevent this, but there are even more who will decide to find another way to entertain themselves if you both charge and disrespect those who would willingly hand over thier hard earned $. Given that I was not supplied with these terms at time of sale and had to make a trip that cost me both time and money to swap the tickets, it is very unlikely that I will see Knocked Up when it comes to theaters. I will be spending my evening and my money watching Rescue Dawn from director Werner Herzog instead.
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Posted by Deliverator on 20th May 2007
In past years, I have tried to kickoff SIFF with the first of the summer blockbusters. I realized that I was lacking a proper kickoff film for this year, so I took a look at what was coming out around opening day. Turns out Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is coming out this Friday, but Cinerama is having a special sneak preview the night before at 8pm and midnight. Cinerama is definitely THE place in Seattle to see a blockbuster. I scored 3 tickets for the 8pm showing. If you are up some swashbuckling this Thursday, contact me.
In other Pirate related news, in case you haven’t noticed I have tickets to see Captain Blood, the quintessential pirate film and one of my favorite Errol Flynn movies, as part of SIFF as well. I have spare tickets for that one too…You know the routine.
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