Wednesday, June 28, 2006

newsFlash: Brian and I Interviewed at Thunderbirdsix.org

Forgot to post this when it originally aired a couple of weeks ago but Brian McKechnie (commandN's editor) and I did an interview for Episode 33 of the podcast Thunderbird Six.

Thuderbird Six is a Canadian podcast hosted by Dave Brodbeck, and he's been doing quite a few interviews in the podcast world as of late. Anyway, take a listen - lots of interesting chats about the rise of podcasting, how we make commandN, and other fun stuff!

PS: You'll have to excuse my own audio quality, as I'm just using a cheap headset through Skype :-) .
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6/28/2006 04:27:00 PM  

Friday, June 23, 2006

eyeCandy: Star Wars I.2 - the Phantom Edit (2001?) 4/5

The Phantom Edit is a finely crafted re-edit of George Lucas' disappointing Phantom Menace prequel to the original Star Wars movies. Put together by an (at the time) anonymous film editor who calls himself "the Phantom Editor", the original Star Wars I.1 - the Phantom Edit was painstakingly assembled from the VHS release of the Phantom Menace. Although I have seen this older copy years ago (it helps to have friends at ILM ;-) ), this review is for the more recently assembled Star Wars I.2 - the Phantom Edit which, although almost identical to Episode I.1, was created from the DVD release with 5.1 soundtrack, and so is a much more seamless and enjoyable version to watch. It even has the Phantom Editor doing a Commentary track, which is of tremendous benefit to understanding what changes have been made and why.

I'm not going to get into the story of the Phantom Menace, since anyone who has any interest in the Phantom Edit already knows far too much about these movies :-) , but I will instead focus on the changes made. As the Phantom Editor says in the commentary, this was not done to diss George Lucas, who was actually one of the Phantom Editor's film idols growing up. Rather, this re-edit was made in response to the terrible disappointment (for almost every hard-core fan) of Lucas' first prequel and his apparent ignorance of the very film principles used to make the original movies the classics that they remain today. Remember as I go through the following that there was no additional footage available to the editor (in fact, the movie is now mercifully more than 20 minutes shorter, clocking in at about 1.50 when the credits roll) - everything had to be assembled from visual cuts already in the movie and the masterful use of the 5.1 channel sound mix. Here are the main changes:

Job number one: remove Jar-Jar Binks as much as possible. As the Phantom Editor relates, Jar-Jar can't be removed completely b/c he is too integral to the story in the end. Would he have written the Phantom Edit story without Jar-Jar? Of course. But since Jar-Jar is important to the storyline, the Editor does the next best thing: he edits out all of Jar-Jar "antics" whenever possible. No stepping in "doopoo", no distracting the audience with his clumsiness during high-intensity scenes, nothing like that. The result is that jar-Jar becomes a very bearable character and, if you can forget the hatred you feel for him from your first viewing of Lucas' movie, then he just seems to fit into the story like any other character.

Job number two: remove the story redundancies. Ever notice how Lucas will put in a scene with the Jedi killing the droids and then the very next scene has another group of people telling one another that, you guessed it, the Jedi killed the droids? The Phantom Editor chalks this up to Lucas crafting this movie for kids instead of adults, and has mercifully spared us the countless occurrences where one scene simply recaps the previous scene. The positive effect that this has on the pacing of the story is enormous.

Job number three: make Anakin more of a bad-a$$. :-) There's nothing much that can be done about the substantially less than stellar acting of the young Jake Lloyd, who plays Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader in the first film, especially in his verbal delivery. The approach the Phantom Editor has taken is inspired. On one front, simply cut out Anakin's non-essential dialog. Lloyd is far more effective visually just standing there than he is with his poorly written dialog, and this simple cut makes it so the audience is often left wondering what dark thoughts lie behind Lloyd's eyes (e.g. when the Jedi council is skeptical of whether to train him, Anakin appears to be seething without saying anything). On another front, the Editor has cut off all the "oops", "awws", "yippees", and other meaningless (and, for a young Darth Vader, out-of-character) fragments at the end of Lloyd's sentences. An example of how effective this is comes when Anakin has taken refuge inside one of the Naboo fighters and Qui-Gon tells him to stay inside the cockpit for safety. When the droids come and endanger Padme, instead of having Lloyd saying "Gee, I wonder what this button does" before he fires of the ship's weapons and "Whoops" after he destroys the droids, the young Vader now just looks over the cockpit at them and swings into action - quickly annihilating Padme's aggressors and showing that there is something very powerful within this young boy.

There are other cuts made, of course, but those are the three main categories that really help the film. As the Editor says, one of the biggest hurdles in enjoying the re-edit is in letting go of the hate you felt for the original Phantom Menace (hate, after all, leads to the dark side ;-) ). In the end, the re-edit is a fascinating example of the enormous power that editing can have on a lackluster movie (oh, if only Hollywood could see that with the years of bloated films we've had to endure). What was once a hardly bearable children's film has been transformed into the space epic that it was supposed to be. So, if you're a big Star Wars fan, seek out a copy of this (it's not for sale anywhere, or Lucas would probably hunt down and kill the people selling it, but I'm sure you industrious computer users can figure out how to find it), listen to the Commentary, watch the movie, and then give a silent thanks to Mike J. Nichols, the Phantom Editor, for saving what should have been an incredible film.

PS: There are other re-edits of the Phantom Menace which play with the story a lot more and are simply not as well-crafted or effective as this version, so beware. If you start to see Jar-Jar espousing deep Jedi philosophy through subtitled dialog then you'll know you don't have the real "Edit".
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6/23/2006 11:26:00 PM  

Thursday, June 15, 2006

MacOnMacs: Running Windows on Your Intel Mac

I just came across this article from NotebookReview.com which compares running Windows on your Intel Mac using Boot Camp (in Beta now but to be included in the next Mac OS X release) vs. using Parallels. It's an interesting read and should be helpful for any of you out there who are wondering about the best way to be able to use Windows on your Intel Mac.

The crux of the matter is that Boot Camp requires that you actually reboot your computer into Windows. However, at that point you are actually running Windows (and only Windows - Mac OS is not running) "natively" on your Intel chip, which provides better support to hardware and a much faster computing experience for gamers and people who are using more intense programs under Windows. For those of us who use Windows primary to do things like check out what our websites look like on Internet Explorer (yuck! :-) ) or to troubleshoot email and other simple problems for others, then Parallels "virtual machine" is probably sufficient. Using a virtual machine opens Windows in what looks like just another application Window, doesn't require a reboot, and keeps Mac OS running as your primary OS. Although this isn't as speedy and responsive as running natively, it provides a much easier solution for situations where we want to see BOTH Windows and Mac OS at the same time. Microsoft's Virtual PC is based on the same concept.

Don't forget that with any of these solutions you will still need to own and install a licensed copy of Windows XP. Boot Camp and Parallels are just programs to help your Mac run Windows - they don't actually INCLUDE a Windows OS with them. This brings us to the biggest reason why I ended up uninstalling my old copy of Virtual PC: Having another OS on your hard drive eats up a LOT of space, which is something to consider if you either don't have much HD space or if you just don't end up using Windows very much (which, thankfully, is increasingly easy to do with all the great programs out for Mac now, as well as the growth of Web 2.0 apps that are platform independent). Let me know how it all works out for ya! ;-)
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6/15/2006 10:05:00 AM  

Monday, June 12, 2006

newsFlash: Torrent on G4TechTV

I told you in my return post that I'd give you some details on what I was up to during "the Silent Months" on my blog :-) . Well one of those things was writing all the music, and coordinating the graphics with my friend and fantastic artist Yoshi Arima, for the new G4TechTV television show, Torrent.

Torrent is "a weekly one-hour television Internet-culture show for tech-savvy audiences looking for unique first-person pop-tech stories from around the world". Torrent's slogan is "from podcast to broadcast", which refers to the fact that, aside from Amber's hosting and some other short pieces, most of the content is taken from video podcasts online. So, in addition to my music and graphics work, I also have one of my commandN segments in each Torrent episode - which is cool b/c, well, it's on TV :-) . As you can read on the website "Torrent will bring the best video podcast segments on the Internet to the living rooms of our viewers. It will be the first time ever that a network selects the best podcasts for broadcast". A great idea and a substantial bridge between the online video world of podcasting and the world of traditional broadcast television.

The show is still very new but I've been noticing improvements almost every episode. It's great to see some of the excellent content online cross mediums here, and I find myself learning something new with each show (which is the kind of viewing I like ;-) ). Although Torrent is only broadcast in Canada and (I think?) Australia right now, there are numerous ways to find and download this online (I'll post a link if I find one, as I don't think there's much wrong with American and other viewers downloading content that they otherwise would have no access to). Check it out!

UPDATE: Found that link (and note that these do get progressively better, so watch through a few of the more recent ones too ;-) )... www.1hug.com/tor/.
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6/12/2006 01:50:00 PM  

Monday, June 05, 2006

earCandy: K-Os - Joyful Rebellion (2004) 5/5

K-Os is a fantastically talented and progressive rapper/singer/producer based out of Toronto, Canada. His first album, 2003's Exit, revealed a new entity on the hip-hop scene who was as comfortable singing as he was rapping, whose lyrics were both conscious and cutting, and whose productions covered a wide gamut of different styles and instrumentation. His sophomore release, Joyful Rebellion, shows his abilities continuing their growth with its thirteen songs providing some of the best listening from the genre (if he indeed fits in "the genre" at all) in recent years.

The first single, B-Boy Stance, is actually one of the weaker tunes, harkening back to legitimate roots but whose repetitiveness seems a little out of place in such an otherwise rich album. Crabbuckit was probably the next single and had a much broader appeal - the vamp from "Hit The Road Jack" forms a swingin basis and the addition of horns and contrasting rapping and singing work wonderfully. The second song, Crucial, is a a great reggae-infused cut and mashes together rock and other elements, like many of the tunes here. Following this is the Man I Used To Be - pretty much pure Michael Jackson with a couple of raps interspersed. Love Song and the rocking Dirty Water (with Sam Roberts) are other great cuts, and the album ender, Papercutz explodes with fabulous live fretless bass, blazing horns, and some effective scratching.

K-Os is probably Canada's biggest representative on the hip hop scene and, with such a unique "voice" and a couple of superlative albums under his belt, I'm glad he's on our side :-) .

PS: I can't really heap as much praise on his website, though, as I have a professional distaste for sites with absolutely no navigation :-) (although it does have some good content, allowing you to listen to songs and view videos).
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6/05/2006 07:31:00 PM