From Russia With Love

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As part of my one person celebration of all things Bond, in honour of the 50th anniversary of Bond films and leading up to the (scandalously delayed) Australian release of Skyfall, I’ve not only been rewatching all the films on Bluray, but I’ve finally started reading the novels.

The books are quite good, and seem to get better written with each one.  One surprise from the books is that Bond is far less cynical about bedding women than in the films – he actually falls in love more than once, even if he seems to think that relationships are doomed to eventual failure.

I’m up to From Russia With Love, and it’s definitely the most assured so far. It has an interesting structure too – I was over a third into the book before Bond appeared. Hard to imagine a film doing that, though the Connery film did delay Bond’s appearance a bit compared to the other films.

Most reviewers claim FRWL is the best Bond novel, and so after this one I guess it’s all downhill, but so far so good.

Ouya – Programming Begins at Home

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I’m cautiously optimistic about the proposed new gaming console, the Ouya. I like big budget AAA games, but I also like smaller indie games, and the current consoles don’t really seem to support indie developers very well.

The Ouya, built on Android and with decent specs, is promising a more open and accessible approach to developers.

Well after backing the Ouya’s kickstarter campaign early on, I got to watch it shoot past its goal in it’s first day, so either it’s a brilliant scam or the console is on its way.

The makers of the Ouya foolishly asked for advice and suggestions from backers. Most advice seems to be hardware related (more RAM! More ports! More/better controllers! etc) or game related (ship with this game!). Here’s what I sent them, based on what made me fall in love with computing so many years ago:

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Congratulations on your kickstarter success!

I realise you’re probably inundated with ideas for your console, but since you asked, and as one of the first 1000 kickstarter backers, here’s mine! 😛

I’d like to see it ship with a really simple development environment built in, sort of an updated version of the BASIC that shipped with the Commodore64 (showing my age now). Perhaps you could use a customized version of this successful (and open source I think) android version of BASIC:

http://laughton.com/basic/

The idea of being able to create and distribute apps on the device itself (after plugging in a keyboard and mouse) just appeals to me somehow.

It might lead to younger kids getting into programming, or at least allow them to appreciate it more.

Plus there’s just something magical about plugging a device into your TV and making software with it (wipes nostalgic tear from eye).

That’s all for now!

Skevos Mavros

Kinect for Filmmakers

I was hoping that people would take the Kinect, Microsoft’s new controller-less gaming add-on for their XBox360 games console, and somehow hack it into an affordable motion capture system for low budget filmmakers.  But I didn’t expect the progress to be so rapid.  Already cropping up on YouTube are videos of people using it to control virtual puppets, and using two of them at once as a real time 3D scanner.  The future looks bright not just for controller-less gaming, but for low budget filmmakers.  To complete the circle, here’s an actual real puppet reviewing the Kinect – a device which might not only cause the demise of his own felty kind, but by the end of the video seems to cause his.

I blather about Kinect for filmmakers for five minutes on AudioBoo here.

Quantum Jumping

Quantum Jumping can go jump.

Quantum Jumping
The Quantum Jumping Box

Quantum Jumping.  The idea behind this several hundred dollar “course” is that we can learn to mentally jump into alternate universes and get advice and insight from more successful happier versions of ourselves in those alternate universes.  There’s so much wrong with this idea I barely know where to begin.

Firstly, I originally visited this website a while ago (link sent to me by an online friend) and back then it was just one of those standard, simple, mostly-white, long-scrolling, selling pages – the same template used by people selling DIY Solar Panels and One Weird Tip for Losing That Belly diets etc etc.  But today I saw a Facebook ad for it, remembered seeing it a while back, and visited it again only to see that the site has now been upgraded with fancy graphics and custom layout.  This suggests to me that the course is selling well and making money — how depressing that something so obviously full of hot air could actually make money.  Once again I find myself realising that I’m in the wrong business, or that I have too many scruples. Or both.

Secondly, what if it’s true?  What if there are multiple universes, many of which with alternate Skevs living in them?  Am I okay with the idea that there are potentially infinite numbers of universes, each with their own Skev, each more successful than me?  It’s cold comfort that there are presumably just as many or even more universes with worse-off Skevs.  Or already-dead Skevs.  Or never-existed Skevs.

Thirdly, what if I Quantum Jump to another universe to ask the fabulously successful, happy and wealthy Skevos that lives in that universe for advice, and he just tells me to “Get lost, loser!”?

Fourthly, what if I’m ALREADY living in the universe which has the Skevos that is maximally happy and successful — that is — me, what if this is as good as it can possibly get for me in all universes?  What a terrifying thought.

Fifthly, if Quantum Jumping is possible and I’m a relatively successful Skev, then I shall soon be constantly hassled by Quantum Jumping Loser-Skevs from other universes whining about their lives and asking for advice.  I reckon I’d tell them to get lost, bunch of losers.

Lastly, and depressingly, if Quantum Jumping IS possible, then the unavoidable fact is — not a single alternate Skev has ever Quantum Jumped into this universe to ask me for my advice.  This means I must be one of the least, if not the very least, successful Skevs out of all the infinite Skevs in all the infinite universes.

Yeesh.

Nokia n97 v2 Firmware and Optus

I sometimes think Optus sales reps will say almost anything to make a sale or get the customer to commit to another two-year contract.

I sometimes think Optus sales reps will say almost anything to make a sale or get the customer to commit to another two-year mobile phone contract.  You know the people I mean, the ones that call you offering to make your mobile plan cheaper (why call –  just do it!), or sell you a plan for a wireless adapter/dongle thingie for your laptop, that sort of thing.  I’ve had unpleasant experiences with them in the past.

Promises Promises

This time around a sales rep called and offered to waive the last five months of my two-year mobile phone contract and send me out a new phone if I commit to another two years.  Nothing wrong with that, so I accepted.

But he also talked me  out of waiting for an iPhone and into getting a Nokia N97 on the promise that the new v2 Operating Software for the N97 was great.  The sales rep even claimed to own an N97 himself and to have upgraded the OS, and praised all the cool new features v2 offered.  Since I already own an iPod Touch, I went for the Nokia N97.

Delivery

Well, the phone arrived, and it’s a great unit, plus the 3G coverage out where I live is vastly better than my old phone’s reception.  So I have no real complaints with the phone itself at all.

BUT there is no upgrade to software v2 available for it in Australia under Optus — not by using the PC application, and not using the phone’s built in updater.  This kind of deception (dare I call it lying?) to make a sale leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth.  And it’s so pointless — there’s nothing really wrong with the current OS on the phone, but I was sold the new OS, and was delivered the old one.  It’s basic customer service — If I pay for X, don’t deliver Y.  It’s made worse when watching a video that shows the significant differences between the two versions:

My phone runs like the one on the left of screen in that video.  My attempts to get an answer out of Optus about why the firmware isn’t upgradeable is an exercise in futility.  They connected me to “Nokia Australia” in the end (the nice lady at Nokia “Australia” had a mild Indian accent, but maybe she was in Australia), and after a ten minute circular conversation she eventually put me on to the local Nokia Customer Care Center in Brisbane.  Now those guys responded very quickly to my email, but all they could do was inform me that, yes indeed, the upgrade is available to generic N97s, but not the Optus ones.

So the score is Optus 0, Nokia 1, Me 0.  Perhaps Nokia should let Optus know they have sales reps making promises the Optus network can’t deliver (yet).

Not The First Time

Almost a year ago I had a similar annoying experience where an Optus sales rep called me and promised to send me a wireless dongle but to also lower my mobile fees by the same amount as the internet service attached to the dongle – effectively making the wireless plan free.  Of course I said yes, but shortly later someone else rang to confirm the deal and they denied that such a generous offer was possible.  So I withdrew my acceptance (which they weren’t happy about), but the dongle arrived anyway.  I wasn’t home to receive it, so it went back, and after a couple of confusing calls I later did get a call apologising for the mix up.

They also assured me that the sales rep that made the “generous” invalid offer no longer worked there.

But after today, I’m not so sure.

On Set Etiquette

What’s the right way to behave on set?

Many people (not filmmakers) wrongly assume that a film set is always an exciting, dynamic place, where artists of equal standing share and contribute to the making of the film as the shooting unfolds. The public often imagine a director calmly chatting with their actors and department heads about the set design, or the lighting, mulling over issues of form and colour, drama and performance. They assume that the shoot is both a creative and democratic process.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Continue reading “On Set Etiquette”

Casting for Free

How can you cast your film for free?

Something for Nothing?

When the day comes for you to cast your ultra-low budget film (short or feature), you’re faced with a problem. You’ve already decided that you can’t afford to pay your actors (we looked at the ethics of not paying in the article Not Payingcoming soon), yet despite this you naturally want the best possible actors for your project. Continue reading “Casting for Free”

ADR

Is Automatic Dialogue Replacement (ADR) a realistic option for low budget films?

At short film festivals and student screenings I quite often hear audience members talking among themselves. More often than I would like, I hear comments such as: “That short film looked great, but it’s a pity about the sound quality, I could barely understand the actors”. On low-budget short-films, there often isn’t enough money or time to spend on fixing the sound. But a surprising amount can be achieved with just a little expense and a bit of patience.
Continue reading “ADR”

Stops

What are F-Stops?

Essential Knowledge

An understanding of “stops” is essential for anyone who wants to be involved in film making, especially in the areas of cinematography and lighting. Stops can seem confusing at first, especially since the word is often used in slightly different ways in different contexts (“stops”, “f-stops”, and “t-stops”).
Continue reading “Stops”