Saturday, January 14, 2017

Rogue One - 2016

So after seeing Rogue One I was thoroughly impressed to see how Disney is expanding the Star Wars universe.  A picture about getting the plans to the Rebels became an interesting and thought provoking story that greatly expanded the Star Wars universe, and added depth to the story.  Plus the effects, the acting, and the direction push the Star Wars universe in a very interesting place.

I remember seeing the original so long ago in a theater in Manhattan.  It was my first venture into the city, and I was overwhelmed at the movie,  The sound, the effects, the story all compelled me to know more about this film.  How they made it.  Who made it, and was there more.

The same could be said about Rogue One.  Special effects have come a long way since 1977.  The re-creation of Peter Cushing is remarkable, and certainly it opens a whole new way to make films, while at the same time opens a whole can of worms for the acting industry.   The last shot of Princess Leia in the film is remarkable as well since Carrie Fisher who portrays her is no longer with us, and yet we see a 19 year old princess Leia taking the stolen Death Star plans.

The filmmakers definitely wanted Rogue One to be the film that precedes the original Star Wars "A New Hope".  It is well done.

I don't want to spoil it, and I tried to not know much because I wanted the experience to enjoy the film without knowing much about it.    First off Felicity Jones does a great job here playing our heroine.  The writers create a very well written character who just wants the love of her father who is played by Mads Mikkelsen.  As Star Wars did it relies on many foreign actors too, since it was filmed on many locations just like the original.  It's from this vast pool of talent that makes the films so fantastic.  It's creators Lucas and now Disney know where the talent is, and the Star Wars universe is richer for it.  Maybe that's why Rogue One makes a great companion piece to "Star Wars: A New Hope".

While watching Rogue One I was reminded about another film.  A film about misfits with a mission, and that film was the World War 2 film "The Dirty Dozen".  Starring Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes and George Kennedy.  It is a favorite of mine, and the director of Rogue One, Gareth Edwards, certainly makes you feel like you're watching a film about a bunch of rebels with heart.

I've always been interested in why many who play the video games, or watch the movies side with the Empire.  I looked at the statistics of game play and a lot of players play as the Empire.  I guess it's the cool gadgets.  Walkers, tie fighters, and stormtroopers, but I've always sided with the rebels. Guess I'm just a hopeless optimist, and always had a problem with authority which the empire represents.

I find it interesting that a film like Rogue One comes out now just as a new administration comes into power here in the United States.   Where there is hope their is resistance.  Rogue One gives that in spades and I like that.  Hence I like the film, and I'm sure a lot of Star Wars fans will enjoy it.

It's also wonderful to see the film along with my teenager boys.  It's like looking back in a mirror at myself when I was young.  I'm sure this is a feeling that is happening to many families also.  The Star Wars epic has encompassed a generation of fans, and is now making newer fans with the new films.  It's brilliant marketing, and one that works very effectively on its audience.  I just hope the stories stay well written, and are not released haphazardly or written in haste to produce box office gold.  

To sum up.  It's a fun film, and a superior looking and feeling film.  Enjoy it.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Star Trek at 50

Okay first I was going to write a review on the newest Trek film "Beyond", and then after seeing it I thought what's one more stupid review of a film.  And then with all the hoopla of Star Trek turning 50 I thought maybe I should do something about why Start Trek appeals to me.  So bear with me while I try and write something a bit different then your standard review.

While I was growing up Star Trek was a show that was running in syndication on a local station in New York city.  I loved science-fiction, so me loving Star Trek wasn't a surprise.  It was an uplifting and well written series.  With writers like D.C. Fontana,  David Gerrold, Robert BlochTheodore Sturgeon, and Harlan Ellison how could a series go wrong.  Why it didn't do well back in it's original viewing was probably due to several factors, but which don't matter now.  Because the series was in syndication for so long so many of my fellow peers watched it also.  What also happened was that there were other science-fiction series that followed.  I was an avid fan of Space 1999, and the British series created by Gerry Anderson UFO, and don't forget I was a fan of Dr Who also.

Of course back in the day before cable it was hard to find these programs.  Some played on UHF stations, and I remember very well trying to align the TV's antenna to get the signal in just right.  These shows held a certain mystic for a small boy from New York city.  They were seeds for a very fertile young mind.  Imagination was fueled by these shows, and I'm certain that I'm not the only one who was very much influenced by these shows.

Star Trek was more then science fiction though.  It was about family.  It's crew was family, and we enjoyed the adventures they were on.  That's why the latest Star Trek film "Beyond" is such a classic.  The writers and creators of the film got it.  They knew that it was the characters that we all liked, and that the new cast does that so well.  At the end of the film when they show a still photo of the old crew on the bridge of the Enterprise that seals it for me.  Dedicating it to Leonard Nimoy and Anton was a nice touch, but one I got.  People come and go.  That's what life is, but an idea like Star Trek keeps going and perpetuates other memories in new fans.  Now with the new series and new crew we are given new stories, but with the same fun and loving family we always knew.

That's why Star Trek is what it is.  It isn't a running cliff-hanger show where we wonder what will happen to our characters.  We are vested in the characters, and the shows are well written enough to not insult us.  There is no gimmick for higher ratings.  If you consider how good shows survive it's because they don't talk down to its audience.  Star Trek never did.

That is not to say that Star Trek has it's misses.  I can remember on Star Trek: The Next Generation I was always amazed that within 5 or ten minutes the writers could rescue the crew with some sci-fi jargon, and a miraculous plot development.  My wife and I would get a big kick out of how things would resolve.  But hey it's only television, and it worked for many fans, and I can't say I didn't watch it,   How the Enterprise went from a exploration vessel to a luxury cruise liner with even a ten forward on board with the beautiful and mysterious bar tender(Whoopi Goldberg) tending bar is beyond me. But I digress, I think how Star Trek evolved for it's fans throughout the years is something that someone could write a great dissertation for their college thesis.  For now I'll say that Star Trek survives today and flourishes because of it's fan base, and that fan base has been in the making for about several decades now.

The series is forward thinking, and a family relate-able TV show.  That's why it's lasted.  The topics it's covered hits home and still does.  Star Trek's fans are legion, and they could give you a million reasons why the like the series, but one reason Star Trek will continue is because we love the characters, and they share our optimism for the future.

It will be interesting how Star Trek evolves now.   But one one thing is for sure I'm sure we'll be celebrating its 60th, and 75th anniversary in future, and they're will be more material to talk about and discuss.  So as our favorite Vulcan would say "live long, and prosper"  because Star Trek will be around for some time and that makes us all a bit happier.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Around the library

This is a short showing a tour of the library & some of it's exhibits.  Done with an Android Galaxy 5 cell phone, and Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2015.  I had a problem of seeing myself in a reflection of the art on the wall, but I went with it just because it was a test.  Wished I had a better camera, and one that was a bit heavier so I could be a bit steadier.  The phone had no weight to it at all, and I could see every bump, so I slowed down some of the footage to minimize it.    But this was done quick, and cheap, so I'll be testing more out in the coming days.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Connectivity in a Digital World

One of the most interesting seminars was called "The evolution of AV Connectivity: Past, Present & Future".  Joe Cornwall from Legrand gave it, and he really did a great job in explaining what was, what is, and what will be.  With the talk being all about 4K, UHD, and even 8K coming to a screen near you it was interesting how he dug through the technical to explain how and why some things have to happen first before the technology comes, but I am told with certainty that this future is coming.

Since the advent of TV, engineers have always sought better resolution of images we are producing.  Now with the advent of 4K our image is more detailed then ever, and of course with the talk of 4K there is 8K.  But a lot is hype because in order to get there there has to be certain changes in our connectivity.

DVI (digital visual interface) died in 2015.  It is no longer manufactured.  HDMI ports have become the norm now.  I remember DVI ports in my old non-linear editing devices and desktop computers way back when.

DVI was one of the most common digital video cables you would see on desktops, and LCD monitors not too long ago.  It was the most similar to VGA connectors, with up to 24 pins and supported analog as well as digital video.  DVI can stream up to 1920 x 1200 HD video, or with a dual-link DVI connectors you can support up to 2560 x 1600 pixels.  The biggest problem with DVI is that it doesn't support HDCP encryption by default, so if your hardware only includes DVI ports, you may not be able to playback full HD Blue-rays and other HD content.

HDMI is the default cable on newer HDTV's, Blue-ray players, Apple TV, and many new computers video cards, and a multitude of other video devices.  HDNI cables and ports are very easy to use, and are almost as easy to connect as USB devices.  No more bent pins; just push and play.  HDMI cables can stream digital video and audio simultaneously over the same cable.  HDMI supports up to 1920 x 1200 video and  8channel audio.  They also support HDCP encryption for the newest HD content.

With UHD we'll need 10 bit color, and both HDMI 1.4 and HDMI 2.0 are not fast enough.  HDMI 2.0 maximum data rate is 18 Gb/s, which I'm told is barely fast enough.  It clearly can't support 10-bit color.

Display Port 1.2 and 1.3 are better, with 1.3 being the best, but what I heard a lot about is Super MHL which seems to be the best.   MHL stands for Mobil High definition link.

To explain this I went to Wikipedia for the definition of these ports:

DisplayPort version 1.2 was approved on December 22, 2009.  The most significant improvement of the new version is the doubling of the effective bandwidth to 17.28 Gbit/s in high bit rate 2 (HBR2) mode, which allows increased resolutions, higher refresh rates, and greater color depth.  Other improvements include multiple independent streams (daisy-chain connection with multiple monitors) called Multi-stream transport, facilities for stereoscopic 3D, increased AUX channel bandwidth (from 1Mbit/s to 720 Mbit/s), more color spaces including xvYCC, scRGB and Adobe RGB 1998, and global time code (GTC) for sub 1 us audio/video synchronisation,  Also Apple's Inc.'s Mini display port connector, which is much smaller and designed for laptop computers and other small devices, is compatible with the new standard*

DisplayPort version 1.3 was approved on September 15, 2014.  This standard increases overall transmission bandwidth to 32.4 Gbit/s with the new HBR3 mode featuring 8.1 Gbit/s per lane (up from 5.4 Gbit/s with HBR3 in version 1.2), totalling 25.92 Gbit/s with overhead removed.  This bandwidth allows 5K displays (5120 x 2880 px) in RGB mode, and 8 K UHDTV at 7680 x 4320 ( 16:9, 33.18 megapixels) using 4:2:0 sub-sampling at 60 Hz.  The bandwidth also allows for two UHD (3840 x 2160 px)computer monitors at 60 Hz in 24-bit RGB node using coordinated video timing, a 4 K stereo 3D display, or a combination of 4K display and USB 3.0 as allowed at DockPort.  The new satndard features HDMI 2.0 compatibility mode with 2.2 content protection.  It also supports VESA display stream compression, which uses a visually lossless low-latency algorithm based on predictive DPCM and YCoCg-R*

Super MHL has a max data rate of 36 Gb/s, and is compatible with USB Type-C.  So in order to get 4K and even 8K this all must happen, and I'm told that it will happen, and that this is coming sooner then later.

Mobil High-Definition Link (MHL) is an industry standard for a mobile audio/video interface that allows consumers to connect mobil phones, tablets, and other portable consumer electronics (CE) devices to high-definition televisions (HDTV's) and audio receivers.  MHL-enabled products include adapters, automotive accessories, AV receivers, Blue-ray Disc players, cables, DTVs, media sticks, monitors, projectors, smart phones, tablets, TV accessories, and more.  MHL is a consortium made up of leading companies in the mobile and CE industries, including Nokia, Samsung, SIlicon Image, Sony, and Toshiba.*

In the meantime producers, and content providers produce at the highest resolution that their budgets can accommodate for.  Drilling down this far into 4K or 8K can be a bit mind numbing, but the seminars kind of brought a clarity to the technology.  The big thing now is being 4K compliant.  The consumer market seems to be driving this with the advent of home theaters, yet when it comes to the commercial market companies need to iron out problems that exist such as speed, security, and connectivity throughout it's IT and A/V infrastructure.  It is only a matter of time that this will happen, and that the future is right around the corner.

Digital technology improves at a much faster rate then analog, and because of this you can't take advantage of the improvements in digital without creating a whole new standard and by doing so back wards compatibility goes out the window.  But isn't that how it always is, and was.  Anyone remember 8-track?  Anybody?

* taken from Wikipedia

Friday, November 13, 2015

Content and Communications Expo 2015

This last week I had the opportunity to head on over to NAB/CCW Expo at the Jacob Javits Center in New York.  Two days of seminars and meeting manufacturing and service vendors of all types. Each year there is new and different technology appearing on the video production landscape This expo is an excellent place to learn and catch up with technology.

The expo has something for everyone.  Engineers, filmmakers, advertisers, broadcasters, IT and A/V specialists can all come away with something here at the expo.

Being an A/V specialist I came across a plethora of technology which may help me in the future.  The expo is also a good place to talk to others who are in the same field as you and also people who share their problems and solutions to various scenarios that may be of value to you professionally. The industry changes  rapidly and there are an assortment of problems we all face. IT wrestles with their problems and A/V has their own to deal with , and sometimes the two departments can clash because of different priorities each department has.  IT is concerned about bandwidth and security, while A/V is all about access to different type of media through different types of devices, and compatibility of equipment.

Here at the expo you'll be able to listen and talk to other professionals who tackle these types of problems everyday.  There is also the the non-technical here as well as well.  The challenges to broadcasters to build audiences has become challenging in the past few years.

The ever shrinking advertising budgets, and how one captures an audience in the 21 century that is fragmented and yet savoy too many of the tricks of the trade. So thee is a lot to see and hear, and trying to see it all is an impossibility.    Broadcasters discuss numbers as to ratings and try to wrestle with an audience share that is shrinking due to the many different types of platforms that the public now enjoys.   The best way to see this expo is go to seminars and workshops that you personally deal with throughout your professional day.

While there I made plenty of notes, and will try and sort them out here.  I found some really awesome things in the film making arena that in the A/V field that answered some of my questions.  The expo is usually held in November and it is a good place to catch up with colleagues.  

All I can say is that the staff and the people who help put on the expos were great and very helpful.    Susch topics as "producers on producing", "the art of cinematography" "the merger of AV and IT:" and the evolution of AV connectivity" were seminars that were revealing, inspiring, and informative.  My only complaint was that there was so much to see that sometimes I missed other seminars because I was already at one which was at the same time.    So I hope you'll follow me these next few days as I try to sor \t it all out.  Thanks and see you on the flip side.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

What it really costs to make films....

The following article is insightful and something I'v e been talking about for years.  You can still shoot on film, and make it affordable.  I took it even further and finished on film due to the fact that I had the equipment.

I edited my film on and off for around 5 years.  Pretty long time, but when one needs to pay the bills and get jobs to pay those bills one does not have the time to consistently work on his or her project,

Take a look at the article.  It's well done, and has some good points in it.  Thanks Jacob Dodd for writing it.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Jurassic World (2015)

What can be said about Jurassic world that hasn't been said by other critics.  my youngest son said it in one word: "AWESOME".  We have enjoyed the series throughout the years, but I asked my boys which do you like, and they all go back to the original.  The others felt like repeats of the same they said, and my boys aren't half wrong.  When Jurassic Park came out way back in 1993 we as an audience had not seen anything like the film.  The effects were breathtaking, and the creatures were very real looking.  That is because a lot of hard work went into the effects.  Some of the CGI was groundbreaking.  So how does one out do the original?  Simple, you don't even try.

Jurassic World is a movie that is unlike the others.  It's new.  The story picks up more then 20 years latter and tries to spin it's own tale.  It seems as though Jurassic World the amusement park has been running for 20 years and without one incident.  What the other films were trying to say about dinosaurs has been ignored, and that is NOT bringing them back is what we should do.  Instead mankind has ignored the warnings and what actually happened on the island and instead built their theme park.  Of course we come in just as the proverbial poop is going to hit the fan.

Everything is bigger in Jurassic World, and why not.  The filmmakers had to bring it big or go home, and I can tell you that they brought it home.  The writing is typical, and the characters are a bit one dimensional.  Some critics have even said that it is a bit chauvinistic since the female protagonist runs around in high heels and is a career minded women who does not know her nephews ages, but I beg to differ.  In the end she comes through and risks life and limb to save her nephews and our hero, so the argument doesn't hold too much water for me, and did not interfere with me enjoying the film myself.

I'll agree with the one dimensional characters, but the story is epic, and it is very entertaining.  What else do you need for a summer movie.

All the performances were good, and I know other critics have harped on it.  I really don't think it has a problem.  The story rolls right along, and yes the one dimensional characters are a there, but the movie runs two hours and ten minutes.  For me it's all about the pacing, and the movie works for me.  The audience I saw with it didn't have a problem with the film.

I do believe that this film shows us that we humans still don't learn form our mistakes and when even when we think we're in control we're not.  Several times the characters say that they are animals not just products, but it seems to fall onto deaf ears.  In the end the animals save the humans, not the other way around.  Nature is stronger.  I don't know if anyone got that message but it seems lost on some.

If I was the filmmakers I wouldn't sweat it.  Already the film seems to be breaking box office records, and is fast on its way to one billion in gross.  So I'm sure the studio is laughing all the way to the bank.

So as Mel Brooks would say let the merchandising begin.....