NAB 2009

It’s 5 AM at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Friday, April 24th.  I’m en route to LA after spending the past week at the National Association of Broadcasters show.  NAB is the big show in the US where everyone involved in content creation (3D, cameras, mics, capture, etc), post (edit, composite, etc) and distribution (ie my employer: KenCast) get together to attend conferences, training, and of course, exhibit our latest and greatest on the show floor.  I try my best not to discuss my work on this website (if you want to read about KenCast, please visit our homepage), however I will say it was an excellent show for the company.  With the recent downturn in the economy, tradeshows have been taking a major hit, however, even though traffic quantity was down at NAB, we had some of the best quality traffic ever.  

Besides staffing the booth, I did peel myself away to visit other exhibitors, including two of my favorites : Adobe and Autodesk.  Adobe put on several presentations on the future of flash in content delivery to devices (I also attended presentations on the latest incarnation of their multitrack mixer : Audition).  I have been on Production Premium CS3, but at the show, a special 15% discount enticed me to make the jump to CS4:)  So, that should be waiting at my apartment when I get back to CT.  

Autodesk, whether at NAB in Vegas, or the sister show, IBC in Amsterdam, is always my favorite booth to visit.  Last year, the booth was constructed from unpainted plywood, perfect for recycling.  This year, the booth was actually constructed out of the cardboard tubes used to bring in the carpet used by the show.  It was gorgeous.  You can see a hint of it in the wide shot of the hall, below from my iphone, as well as the carvings done in the cardboard wall surrounding the demonstration theatre.  Autodesk always does the best job in demoing their postproduction products.  I’ve been to presentations where they have people from Weta showing color grading on King Kong, editing on trailers, etc.  Their demoreel stops people in their tracks.  I just love to sit their and watch.  Of course, the only Autodesk tool I’ve really touched is Maya, but someday I hope to get my hands on Flame and the other post tools.

 

 

Gate of Flesh

Last night I finally got to watch my latest NetFlix arrival, Gate of Flesh, by Seijun Suzuki.  Now, I can already hear the gasps among some of my friends who will read this and think I’ve descended into genres heretofore “taboo”.  Gate of Flesh is a 1964 film from the famous Nikkatsu studios of Japan.  The script was originally intended to be a low budget, semi-erotic flick (ok, I admit it) about a sisterhood of prostitutes surviving in postwar Tokyo and the drama ensuing when a former soldier joins their family.  The script was handed to contract director Seijun Suzuki who turned the script into a surreal drama with the visual and psychological aesthetics that have made him an undeniable rock and rebel in cinematic history.  (other notables I’ve commented on in the past are Branded to Kill – which got him fired from Nakkatsu and Tokyo Drifter)  [ Wikipedia does a much better job extolling the merits and history of Suzuki; his article is located here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seijun_Suzuki). ]

Gate of Flesh plays the hands of innocence vs experience, love vs. lust, sacred vs sacrilage, and freedom vs occupation by the United States.  Suzuki evokes these ideas within a simple plot of a young woman named Maya who becomes a street worker.  As she descends (quite literally) into the ruins of Tokyo and into the dark underpinnings of her own desperation, she assumes a family of like women.  It becomes quickly apparent that the big sisters who should be her supports are more childlike than herself, and when a man named Shin joins their world, already tenuous relationships break and Maya falls further into her descent.  The outcome and the meaning I think are best left for you to experience first hand, but needless to say, the best parts of the film will be left untold here.

Having read that, you’re probably thinking this isn’t the feel-good movie of the season.  It’s not.  It is gorgeous.  It is moving in its sheer brilliance and depth.  The cinematography and the sets are so well married it is astounding to realize Suzuki had only 10 days to preproduce and 25 days to shoot (according to interviews with the director himself on the Criterion Collection DVD).  The performances are each individual and supberb.  Suzuki’s production designer Takeo Kimura comments in the interviews that Suzuki did not direct for reality but his own surrealistic vision of the characters.  

If you have a penchant for artfilms, the time and an open mind, you should really sit down and watch this film.

 

Vanity Fair Portraits: Photographs 1913–2008

I revisted the Los Angeles County Museum of Art this past weekend and had the opportunity to see the Vanity Fair show I refered to in my previous post.  AWESOME!  Honestly, this was my favorite exhibit of any show I can remember in recent history.  There are some permanent collections at the Met that I love, but this show was just the best all around photo exhibit I’ve seen.  Of course, in my mind, Annie Leibovitz’s work dominated the more recent era.  (You can read about her here on Wikipedia).  Most of these shots encompassed film celebrities, however, there were also some ones that I didn’t expect.  There’s a shot of Bush and his advisers in the Oval Office ca. the invasion of Iraq that looks eerily comfortable but has the undertone of “We just went to war.”  There’s also a shot that hit me, that I think was hers, of Ronald and Nancy Reagan dancing.  It was just this very poignant and tender moment.

In the earlier photos, there’s a shot of Monet months before his death… DH Lawrence, Picasso, Gloria Swanson, Hugh Grant.  I know I’m not hitting on the best, because all the photos were the best and I just can’t recall them all.

Anyway, if you find yourself in LA, go!

Here’s the link to the show: http://www.lacma.org/art/ExhibVF.aspx

Over and Out.

The Hudson Valley Blaze

I haven’t been the best on keeping up on entries.

Last weekend was Halloween.  Every year, Historic Hudson Valley has the Blaze event.  The Blaze is a display of thousands of jack-o-lanterns on an historic site.  This year, it was the Van Cortlandt Manor.  It was amazing!  I’ll put a few shots here, but there will be several more posted to my photos area.

Historic Hudson Valley Blaze by Seth Hunter Perkins

Historic Hudson Valley Blaze by Seth Hunter Perkins - Wide Shot of House

IBC – Final Day – Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D

The final day of IBC was capped-off with a showing of Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D.  Usually, I’m not a huge fan of thrill movies like this, but this was exceptional!  The showing was presented by the director, Eric Brevig at the IBC Big Screen and followed with Q&A.  The movie is a thrill ride and the 3D rendered by Dolby’s technology was just the best I’d ever seen!  If you get a chance to see it, see it, just for the experience.

Sorry for the poor photo, but I didn’t want to be too obtrusive with my camera (or spend foreover making it pretty in Photoshop).

A Brief Summary of the Best Movies List

Alright, after last night’s post, panning The  Brown Bunny, I thought I better post something a bit more positive so that I don’t just come across as arrogant.

This is a brief summary of what I consider my favorite movies.  I’ll try and break them up in what I’ll call “Arthouse” and “Mainstream”.

Arthouse

  • Mulholland Drive by David Lynch – I’m not one for chosing favorites in any category (places, food, music), but I will say Mulholland Drive is my favorite movie.  It’s haunting, lyric, and beautiful.  It’s a mystery that digs into my imagination for weeks after the experience in the theatre.
  • Days of Being Wild, In the Mood for Love and 2046 by Wong Kar-Wai – hands down, these are the most visually beautiful, dreamlike pieces I’ve seen.  Kar-Wai’s style just carries the audience like the movements of water.
  • Old Boy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance by Park Chan-Wook – you have to see to understand
  • Branded to Kill  by Seijun Suzuki – if you listen to interviews with Suzuki, he was only out to entertain and make money; if you watch his work, it’s just art
  • Brazil by Terry Gilliam – take it or leave it, Terry Gilliam’s vision is very unique – also see Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
  • Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn by Sam Raimi – you have to see this one, as well as it’s predecessor films and its sequel.  In the Woods, Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, and Army of Darkness chronicle the evolution of Sam Raimi’s career into the man who directed Spider-ManEvil Dead 2 is hilarious (at least, I think so… and my brother agrees)
  • Dark City by Alex Proyas – On the DVD, Roger Ebert gives the best commentary ever discussing Dark City’s position in film noir history.  After you watch Dark City, check out Proyas’ short films “Groping” and “Strange Residues”
  • Eyes Wide Shut by Stanley Kubrick – This film scared me when I first saw it at 18.  I seriously felt if my girlfriend said something akin to “I fantasized about someone else”, that would be enough to drive me into a downward spiral of obsessive thinking.
  • Dr Strangelove : Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Atomic Bomb by Stanley Kubrick – probably the darkest “dark comedy” out there.  (btw, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, 2001: A Space Odeyssey, and Full Metal Jacket are also well worth a watch)
  • Blade Runner by Ridley Scott – Noir is definitely my favorite style and Blade Runner is the modern embodiment with a unique twist.  The neon lighting is incredible.
  • Ghost in the Shell

Mainstream

  • Chinatown by Roman Polanski – Robert Towne’s script is one of the best.  The music, photography, scenery just makes me wish I could step back into that lost LA.
  • Platoon by Oliver Stone – a character you latch on to, an absolutely believable fall from grace and spiritual redemption
  • Back to the Future by Robert Zemekis – I imagine you agree
  • Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark – the best of the Indiana Jones films (though I haven’t seen the fourth, yet)
  • Apocalypse Now by Francis Ford Coppola – a journey into the hell of a war, the hell of duty, and the hell of an insane mind
  • Meet the Robinsons and The Incredibles – story, story, story
  • The Lord of the Rings by Peter Jackson – I can’t tell you how many times I watched The Fellowship of the Ring projected on my dorm room wall while I worked on my senior project in undergrad.
  • Harry Potter and the (fill in the blank) – I only finished the Harry Potter books a month or so ago.  Up until then, I’ve very much enjoyed the movies, obviously, they pale to the novels, however, they certainly can stand on their own as great entertainment.
  • Fight Club, Pulp Fiction, The Jerk

Other Great Films

    The Darjeeling Limited, The Red Violin, Awakenings, Taxi Driver, Last Tango in Paris, Dead Poet Society, The Mummy (the first one only), The Shawshank Redemption, Arsenic and Old Lace, North by Northwest, The Maltese Falcon, Psycho , Le Samourai, Amelie, L’ Accompagnatrice, 

Greenscreen, After Effects, Creative Cow

My spare time is often spent working on multimedia : photography, video, and composite.  This past weekend was all three.

I am a major fan of Adobe’s line of products, especially Photoshop and After Effects.  The best tutorials out there on the subjects come from Video Copilot.net and Creative Cow (which has an excellent After Effects podcast).  Recently, I was watching episodes on color key and that got me into this need to experiment with green a screen I bought off ebay a while ago.  My brother and I decided to do something fun with our hands.  Make them run around a la “Thing” in the Adam’s Family.  In ensuing “hey wouldn’t it be cool if” discussions, we came up with a brief script and storyboard for a “PSA” which we hope to wrap up shortly.  We spent most of the weekend testing our technical ideas and getting the green screen material shot.

In the rig above, we’re using our Canon XL2 and Kino Diva kit.  The nasty green sock on Adam’s arm came from the neighborhood discount retailer.  To pull the key, we’re using the KeyLight filter with CS3.  Adam is on top of the kitchen island which gave us some decent height to work within.

If you’re looking for a great tutorial, I think Andrew Kramer’s is one of the best on KeyLight.

Hopefully, next week, I’ll have a complete clip to post.

 

 

Videogame Design

Well, most people who know me post undergrad believe my time for videogames is non-existent: it is, except when it comes to something that’s really good.  There are some games out there many of us will just play for fun or as part of the social atmosphere, but there are a handful of games that I play just because I really really need to see them through: beginning to end like a good book.  What makes the Best Video Game in my mind?  Well, graphics, gameplay, music, sound all have to be well crafted, but before any of this stuff can come to fruition, what I want first is story.  What kind of stories grab me?  Anything involving zombies, mystery, and adventure.  It’s got to have solid characters and a plot that pulls you.

What fits that criteria?

The Silent Hill Series (Playstation 1 – 2)

Hands down one of the best pieces of video game “art” out there.  

I’ve got a screenshot to the left from Silent Hill 2 and one of its famous cinematics.  This game has it all : characters you believe in, a plot that grabs your attention, antongonists who make you jump (not laugh).  Moreover, the crafting of this game was just as finely and completely executed as some of the best movie directors yielding a complete, unbroken dream in which the player can lose his or herself for hours.

 

The Fear Effect Series (Playstation 1)

I was upset when this series was discontinued.  It had those classic elements of story, and moreover, it had some flairs that just made Fear Effect something unto itself.  The creators drew on chinese mythology and aesthetics in their settings.  Kronos coupled this with their own brand of technology for creating immersive environments called Motion FX.  The results were gorgeous.  The distinct feel merged so tightly with the plot, music and overall experience that one can look at a screeshot and easily identify, just from the cell shading and colors, that it’s a Fear Effect screenshot.

 

 

Resident Evil Series (Playstation 1 – 2)

 Everyone who plays video games knows the “Resident Evil” name, and even those who don’t play know the Resident Evil movies.  I was in highschool when my little brother and I saw the cover of this game with the crazed charicature of some guy, a gun, and a spider.  It just looked nuts!  For all intents and purposes, at the time, the first Resident Evil was nuts!  It was something new and, as most authorities tend to agree : the real beginning of a genre (alongside Silent Hill) of what’s become known as “Survival Horror”.  

Resident Evil has that plot which just latches on.  As time has progressed the environments, graphics and gameplay (Resident Evil 4) have evolved immensley, and underneath all that is still the continuation of plots that I, as a player, really want to see unraveled.

 


Haunting Ground (Playstation 2)

 My brother got me this game for Christmas.  I’m embarrassed to say, I hadn’t even heard of it until I played for the first time.  Reviews on this game  are fairly polarized.  I’m among the group that considers this an incredible play and a great piece of work.  The story has a similar element to Silent Hill 2 in that it revolves around revealing the forgotten history of the main character.  Sometimes selective amnesia can be a cliche, but in this case, it just works well.  The quantity of antagonists is significantly less than Silent Hill or Resident Evil, so the focus is more on the quality of the individual characters and the dramatics inherent.  

 

 

 

 

 

 Phantasmagoria (PC)

This was the game in my library for a long time.  I had a 486SX, upgraded it to a DX4-100 and tacked on a whole 8 Megs of RAM to run this!  7 CDs!!  It was amazing.  Live actors in a gorgeously rendered 3D setting.  The story was incredible.  In retrospect, the acting might’ve been “B” but it WORKED!  It scared the heck out of me!  I just couldn’t stop playing.  I think I flew through this in two days or so of nonstop enjoyment.  That’s how I often like a game : being sucked in and not being let go until I’ve seen it through, saved the day, turned the last page.  This game is a classic and Roberta Williams is one of my favorite game designers.  By the way, she is also known for her King’s Quest Series which was another jewel of the adventure games genre.  

What Makes the Best Video Game

All right.  Well, most people who know me post undergrad believe my time for videogames is non-existent.  It is, except when it comes to something that’s really good.  There are some games out there that many of us will just play for fun or as part of the social atmosphere, but there are a handful of games that I play just because I really really need to see them through: beginning to end like a good book.  What makes the Best Video Game in my mind?  Story.  What kind of stories grab me?  Anything involving zombies, mystery, and adventure.

What fits that criteria?

#1 The Silent Hill Series

 

Reach out and make a friend