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Latest Words
July 2013
> JULY 31: Old School Efficiency
> JULY 30: Soundtrack Music
> JULY 26: Interface Wakeup Call
> JULY 24: Lathe of Heaven
> JULY 23: Virtual Violence
> JULY 19: What Took So Long
> JULY 18: Le Temps Perdu
> JULY 17: Visual Futurist
> JULY 16: Urban Preferences
> JULY 12: Undocumented Treasures
> JULY 11: Irony of Rejection
> JULY 9: Ideal Collaboration
> JULY 8: Flying Fortress
> JULY 4: Next Gen Tech Ahead
> JULY 3: Cinematography & Digital FX
> JULY 2: Innovative Game Alternatives

JULY 31, 2013: Old School Efficiency

Whether you are a web content developer or web production designer, you will be aware of the old phrase "websafe colours." I still get into conversations about this old grandaddy of a topic. It refers back to the early days (way back in the '90s) when browsers and graphic cards and monitors were limited to the number of colours that could be properly displayed. Such limited technology has not shipped in a long time, but there are still some interesting issues related to the topic.

As a designer, consistent colour is always important. There are still some incredibly ugly RGB colours that I wish would just go away - particularly in the hot green and bright blue family (you know which ones I'm talking about). In addition, there are still hexadecimal colour pickers built into web authoring programs. These makes it quicker and easier if you can read the hex codes - here's a great table for your reference. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but until there is a revolution in asynchronous data transfers, we still have to deal.

There are still some advantages to working with a limited colour pallette when it comes to text, buttons, links and panels. Of course, art and photos still have to be compressed on account of what bandwidth is available and the load speed of your site - especially when it comes to handheld mobile or wireless devices. The WIFI available at your local coffee shop is not as fast as your cable modem at home. So if you have a big, fat video or some gigantic images online, your pageviews could decline due to limitations of your audience's patience.

We still have to be mindful of efficient filesizes. Have you noticed we still use PNG format (the GIF replacement)? We still use HTML and some of us still use Fax machines! Maybe I'm old school, but my sites still load and display fast including phones, pads and even the Sony VITA (which surprised me). Old notions never really go away. They just become imperceptible.

JULY 30, 2013: Soundtrack Music

Soundtrack music tends to be my favourite ambient audio texture conducive to constructive activities. For example, right now I am listening to Robyn Miller's MYST soundtrack. Not only is it gentle and exotic, it is also full of familiar associations from playing the game over and over. Yes, I'm also a huge fan of MYST and Riven and Exile, although the first game is still my fave.

That's the beauty of soundtrack music. Not only is it wonderful to listen to, but it also sooths the mind through elicitation of memories. It can take you back into scenes and provide thoughts and feelings as well as cognitive visuals. Some of the more unusual scores I listen to regularly include Forbidden Planet (Louis and Bebe Barron), The Day The Earth Stood Still (Bernard Herrman), The Lost Weekend (Miklós Rósza) and Blade Runner (Vangelis). I just wish I could get my hands on a copy of The French Connection (Don Ellis). It is an incredible score, but unavailable anywhere unfortunately. I also have to mention Jerry Goldsmith, who is one of the great masters of all time. He was a genius at creating unique and perfect tones and textures for each film. Alien is an incredible achievement.

Today's best contemporary composers are creating more abstract textured soundscapes as opposed to overt melodies. Current faves include Mychael Danna (Life of Pi, Moneyball and Breach), Marc Streitenfeld (Prometheus and other Ridley Scott films) and Howard Shore (Lord of the Rings and many David Cronenberg films).

When it comes to James Horner, I have to disagree with the Motion Picture Academy. I sincerely think his score for Avatar was the best soundtrack of the year (2009). As much as I respect the members and the need to reward accomplishments, music is just one of those categories where the Academy often does not always get it right. Don't get me started about cinematography.

JULY 26, 2013: Interface Wakeup Call

The new "tap & go" credit card terminals attached to cash registers is a great replacement for time consuming chip and pin transactions. Cash used to be faster than credit cards, but not anymore (provided transactions are low value). As consumers become more and more "cashless," this is a great way to speed up everyone's exit from retailers. Mind you, a lot of the old cards don't work with these new systems, but some of the new multi readers can handle swipe, insert or tap interactions. Take your pick.

The digital interface is changing more than pecuniary transactions. In addition to the new generation of phones and pads, navigation systems in cars use touch screens and so do all kinds of appliances. Touch technology is now cheaper to manufacture and is more efficeint and uses less electricity than traditional analog interface devices such as knobs, buttons and joysticks.

Using a combination of TFT (Thin Film Transistor) LCD (Liquid Crytstal Display) and sensors to monitor changes to the surface, these new devices detect where and when you touch them. Some even detect multiple contacts or touch points (for pinch zooming). I'm not going to get into transparent chemical vapor deposition, but I do want to point out how backwards and regressive interface technology appears in contemporary film and TV.

While old movies like Forbidden Planet can be forgiven for enormous handles and archaic switches in their space ships, they look absurd today. As nostalgia, such analog interface devices were lovingly celebrated in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). What can't be forgiven are those ridiculous animated email sequences in movies from the '90s - where envelopes fly around on the screen to indicate you have a message. I guess they didn't think anyone would ever have more than one email a day. Then there's those idiotic screens with colours and lights and grids and swooshes with no labels so a user has no idea what any of it does. Star Trek The Next Generation is at the top of that list, although the self-destruct sequence in Alien has to come a close second. Here's a link to a story about restoring the STNG bridge. Here is the ship scuttle interface screen from Alien.

Film and TV production designers and art directors need to wake up and see what is happening with contemporary interface development. The audience is certainly more familiar with what is going on than they are.

JULY 24, 2013: Lathe of Heaven

Fans of Ursula K. Le Guin will be very familiar with her brilliant 1971 novel The Lathe of Heaven. The title is supposed to refer to a phrase by the 4th Century BC Daoist philosopher Zhuan Zhou. Although the translation is apparently incorrect (according to historic Chinese Science expert Joseph Needham), it is a beautiful phrase threatening the consequences of not attaining understanding (well . . . somewhere in there). It's the lathe that's the problem. Some tools and devices belong to specific technological periods and locations. The title is fine. Just don't contribute it to Zhuan Zhou.

All the same, Le Guin's novel was nominated for Hugo and Nebula awards and was selected to be the first PBS direct-to-TV film production way back in 1980. It stars Bruce Davison as George Orr - a man who has "effective dreams" (that change reality). As a fan of the book and the film, I was among a large group of people who maintained a "wish list" to resurrect the film. It became the most requested program in PBS history.

Unfortunately there were problems with the original film master (they didn't archive it) as well as contractual problems with some of the people involved including the composer and The Beatles (one of their songs is on the soundtrack). The legal issues must have appeared insurmountable. Still, after decades of pressure they finally caved. They ended up remastering the 2 inch video tape of the original broadcast - not exactly ideal - video is not the best source for digital copies.

Never mind. This is an important film. If you can ever find a copy of the DVD - get it! They are pretty rare these days. You might find one on ebay. Beware, however, there is a second adaptation released in 2002 and Le Guin was not involved. It's a bit disappointing, but then at least you can always read the book. It's a wonderful, original and delightful experience.

JULY 23, 2013: Virtual Violence

Back in the '90s (of the last Century), when the great Warner Brothers cartoons used to air on Saturday afternoons (before you could buy the superb re-mastered DVD collections) some anonymous, invisible force used to remove the violent scenes. Of course, this left the cartoons incomprehensible.

One of my favourites is a Chuck Jones film called Bully for Bugs (August 1953). Bugs makes a wrong turn and instead of arriving at the Coachella Valley for the big carrot festival (BTW - they don't actually have one), he ends up in a bullring. A large ferocious bull (Toro) steams up Bugs Bunny's tail and he tells him to stop (with a startling slap to the bull's nose). The bull then takes a run at him and knocks Bugs out of the ring. Meanwhile, Bugs does have a reputation for fighting back.

After several completely crazy scenes (including swallowing a shotgun that fires through the bull's horns), Bugs assembles a sequence including some axle grease, a ramp, glue, sandpaper (to light the match), which lights the fuse to a barrel of TNT (while the bull flies over as it explodes). This is the part that's cut out. The film concludes with Bugs holding up a cape that says "The End." Anyone seeing the film for the first time would wonder why it ended so abruptly with no resolution. "What happened to the bull?" you might ask.

The discussion about screen violence or virtual depiction of it has no resolution either. Both sides can only argue without absolute or supportable evidence. It seems like there is an absurdity factor at work here. If the violence is truly horrible and credible, then it will be extremely distasteful for the average person and certainly should not be shown to children. The trouble is finding a clearly defined line. There are films that are certainly over that line. I think they are pretty obvious (not really my cup of tea). I am not going to mention them here.

Then there are the fantasy films that contain violent scenes or content, but are so silly and absurd they don't seem to count. For example, Dorothy melts the wicked witch with a bucket of water in The Wizard of Oz. She kills her. That's pretty violent, right? The weapon is irrelevant. What if the cowardly lion swallowed a shotgun and used his tail to fire it (like Toro). Does that qualify? At the beginning of Bambi, a hunter shoots and kills his Mom - leaving him frightened and all alone in the scary forest. That's pretty real!

Then there is the orignal Godzilla (1954, directed by Ishiro Honda), featuring a giant "Kaiju" (strange beast) large enough to step on buildings and destroy a city. This summer, we have Pacific Rim and R.I.P.D. Which side would you say these two films were on? I think they may have more in common with Bugs Bunny than a typical TV cop show.

JULY 19, 2013: What Took So Long

The story was always going to be about a robot who shoots 18 holes-in-one, because he is the ideal golfer (even though he doesn't belong on a golf course). The reason The Perfect Round took so long was not because of the story. Sure, I rewrote it about 600 times and kept revising it right up until the night it went to press & online stores, but it was the artwork that was so tasking. I started with pencils and pens and brushes and bottles of Speedball Super Black India Ink and Dr. Ph. Martin's Black Star Waterproof India Ink. I still love ink. There is something incredibly satisfying about its unique form of committment.

I even hand-lettered a lot of the text for the right hand pages (with pigment ink pens), until I realized I needed digital "plain text" for an eBook. Kele (pronounced the same as Kelly) was always a robot. At first, he was going to be a flying robot with internal turbo ramjet supersonic engines, but then Iron Man (2008) came out and I didn't want Kele to appear derivative. I had scenes of Kele doing maneuvers and then crashing into trees and skidding across a fairway, but that was too violent for such a sensitive "synth." So I realised I had to design an aircraft. All that took months of planning and designing. The time just flew by.

Then there was the golf course itself. I thought I might get away with just having one page for 16 of the golf holes for the sake of the brevity aspect of the story, however, I eventually realized the golf course was the most important element next to Kele. So the book ended up having to double in size. It went from 60 to 120 pages to tell the story properly, but there were also so many other details that had to get left out. It could have been 200 or 250 pages, but then I had to put on my publisher's hat and say, "Ok, you're going to have to cut back." It reminded me of what we used to call "feature creep" back in the software/game development days. If you don't maintain limits and efficiency, projects don't get done. Scott Adams knows. He gets it. That's why Dilbert is so funny - because it is so true! If I had his boss, The Perfect Round would be only wishful thinking.

JULY 18, 2013: Le Temps Perdu

There are only specific situations or occasions where we might observe history repeating itself. Readers of Oswald Spengler (Decline of the West) will recognize what I am talking about. If we look at democracy as part of the final stage of our culture and the inherent corruption at the heart of it, we can see similarities in other cultures from the past. Instead of comparing our everyday existence to the lives of people from the past, we should compare our values and desires - those, we have in common.

For example, who wouldn't want to own a Bugatti Veyron? Currently priced around $4 million, it is a 1200 hp automobile with a top speed of 431 kmh (268 mph). It will go from 0 to 60 in about 2 seconds. By comparison, back in the 1920s, everyone wanted an Isotta-Fraschini - especially the Tipo 8 Castagna Transformable. It was the most powerful and luxurious car of its day. A 1929 coupe de ville limo version is the car featured in Billy Wilder's 1950 film Sunset Boulevard.

That particular automobile originally belonged to Peggy Hopkins Joyce who is considered the first tabloid celebrity. She was a Jazz Age diva who married a bunch of millionaires and claimed to be engaged 50 times. She also had affairs with King Gustav VI of Sweden, Charlie Chaplin, Irving Thalberg and Walter Chrysler (who bought her the Isotta-Fraschini). Apparently, his own Chrysler Imperials weren't good enough. Mr. Chrysler also bought her a 127 carat diamond (known as The Portugese Diamond, which is currently in the Smithonian Institution). Joyce was later forced to sell it out of necessity.

You can still buy an Isotta-Fraschini. They come up for sale sometimes. A few years ago one was offered by the Blackhawk Collection Exhibit held at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. It was priced at $1,450,000 but I don't think anyone bought it. You can also acquire the recently-released Blu-ray of Sunset Boulevard. The story is a superb example of the decline and separation of the present from the past. Unfortunately, the most famous woman of her time, Peggy Hopkins Joyce, is all but forgotten.

JULY 17, 2013: Visual Futurist

Ever since TRON and Blade Runner I have been a huge fan of Syd Mead. I own some of his out-of-print books and still marvel at his extraordinary sense of colour, light and scale every time I look at them. From all kinds of incredible vehicles and machines to landscapes and architecture, his work is unique and instantly recognizeable. You can get online digital versions of some of them. They are definitely worth it (for a small fee).

Here's where you can get them (including preview samples): Sentinel II (one of his first books) is a general collection. Sentinel 3 has more futuristic cars. Sentury II features line work and sketches (amazing energy) and some renderings of preliminary TRON cycle concepts. Not only is Mr. Mead a "visual futurist," as he likes to call himself, he is an unbelievable artist with analog media including markers and watercolours. There is a 4 DVD collection of his techniques available that is not to be missed.

If you would like a quick intro, there is a great little video bio on YouTube too. Steven Lisberger (director of TRON) is in it along with some other great design and production people who talk about his incredible talent. Syd had a profound influence on the look of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. There's such a famous story about Syd showing Ridley his concept for the police "spinner" and Ridley is blown away by the background Syd created for the flying vehicle's distant future urban context. When Ridley saw it, he said that was what he wanted his film to look like.

Here's a link to the gallery on Syd's website. You can also check out what he is up to these days and where he will be appearing. As one of the world's most sought-after creative designers and artists, be sure to check it out. 

JULY 16, 2013: Urban Preferences

For some of us, summer holidays means outdoor activities such as going to the beach, the pool, the cottage, or going hiking, cycling or camping. Never mind sunburns, heat exhaustion, bug bites or poisonous plants, exposure to the great outdoors certainly comes with potential discomforts and peril.

From suburban bedroom communities to the rural wilderness, the aspects of peace and quiet are just lures and decoys in Mother Nature's feral tackle box. There are predatory animals that can attack you. You can get electocuted by running over your own electric lawnmower cord. You can get infected by a scratch from a thorn of a weed or a rose. You could hurt your back lifting heavy bags or boxes, blow up your campsite with a deep fryer, or have your car stolen when you have to abandon it deep in the woods with a flat tire and your forgot to take your keys with you.

No, I prefer living high in the sky surrounded by the safety of concrete. The higher you go, the fewer bugs there are. With UVA window protection, you don't have to worry about skin damage. In an apartment or condo, you also don't have to mow the lawn, take the garbage out, weed the garden, fix the roof, build a deck, buy lawn furniture or a barbeque, clean the pool, salt the steps, prune the hedge, level the patio, or even own a hose. Then there are the advantages of greater security and underground parking. You have to love underground parking! No matter what kind weather Mother Nature throws at you, it's irrelevant in the undergound.

If I couldn't be high up, I would be equally happy far below. I don't know why they don't build apartments 100 stories down. What's the difference? The elevator still performs the same vertical function. Maybe that's why I like movie theatres so much. They are cool and dark and function like dimensional portals into other worlds. They also don't grow anything in them that needs to be watered, pruned or mewn.

JULY 12, 2013: Undocumented Treasures

One of the secret pleasures of authoring a project is hiding some sort of message for only the diligent to find. There have been some legendary ones. One of the most famous is Alfred Hitchcock's subtle appearance in all his films, but in computer games, finding "easter eggs" is on a whole other level. The idea of a treasure hunt or a scavenger hunt is not a new one, but the idea of hunting for a hidden message within electronic entertainment is a contemporary phenomenon of the digital universe. Calling such messages easter eggs is supposed to have originated at Atari. Game designer/programmer Warren Robinett buried his own name in his 1979 game Adventure. Microsoft used to be notorious for application programs that included secret easter eggs until they tried to stop it in their "Trustworthy Computing" initiative (2002). One of the most famous was The Hall of Tortured Souls hidden in Excel 95. I think you can figure that one out.

Images, videos, cheat codes, special credits and all kinds of data are included today. Some can be summoned by special commands or sequences (preferrably undocumented). There are lists of them on some of the game review sites. For example, take a look at IGN's Best Easter Eggs or GamesRadar's 100 Best or ComplexMag's 50 Best.

I hid some video sequences in the first Jewels of the Oracle game back in 1995. Unfortunately, in later editions of the game some folks with no sense of humour or adventure removed them. I guess, back then, it was easier to find hidden files in basic resource directories. One of my favourites from that game was planted in the "well room." If you have the original game disc, it is still there. There was a special brick on one of the back walls. If you found on it, the Oracle appeared (larger and in the middle of the screen) and started talking about the "snake baking in the sun attends decisions already made" and then adlibs, "What the hell does that mean?" When we first put that in, we laughed until we cried. It also might have had something to do with the fact it was about 4:00 a.m. and none of us had slept for several days. I found it and posted it here.

We put a bunch more in Jewels II, but by then it had become de rigeur and maybe even a little predictable. The old adventure games and some of the early action games like Doom and Quake were clever the way they hid special items or messages. It's such a treat to find an unexpected feature. It always makes me smile. I guess that's why I was so thrilled when I first discovered the Chuck Lorre "vanity cards" at the end of the credits of Big Bang Theory episodes. At first, when I saw the original series, I noticed a screen of text that appeared for only a second. I presumed it was some legal disclaimer. Years later, when I bought the first season on DVD, I stopped the player and could finally read the messages. It blew me away! I was so pleased to see there are still people doing stuff like that.

For that very reason I placed a very tiny little man on the second Shen Kuo Magnetic Containment Laboratory (bottom left corner) page in "The Perfect Round." Unless you look carefully, you might miss him. There are some other little text secrets hidden in the book, but I'll leave them for the diligent to find.

JULY 11, 2013: Irony of Rejection

The irony is heavy and delicious like a lead-laced rum cake when it comes to famous rejections. There are lists out there (accurate for the most part as far as I know), but even if they are urban legends, the essential message qualifies as ultimate payback. Popular authors such as Kipling, Faulkner, Salinger and James Joyce were all dismissed or rejected by editors and publishers. Thank goodness they had the resilience to keep going. Check out dailywritingtips and the huffingtonpost articles.

Perhaps the most famous all is Harry Potter, because J. K. Rowling is the world's first english novelist billionaire, but there are so many other well known books and authors on these lists. Even the Diary of Anne Frank was turned down. Then there's Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises (thank goodness for Maxwell Perkins), Dune, Catch 22, Watership Down, Lolita, Lord of the Flys, Kerouac's On The Road and, of course, Lady Chatterley's Lover.

I always wanted to put together a book of interviews with people who rejected incredibly successful and famous creative people, but it would more than likely not be much fun to read. How about the guy at Decca records who passed on The Beatles? How about the person who looked at Fred Astaire's RKO screentest and said he, "Can't act, can't sing, can dance a little."

All I can say is, it's all those great ironic tales that give the rest of us hope and make us refuse to surrender!

JULY 9, 2013: Ideal Collaboration

With a brief intro demo this week, I'll be presenting a tool overview and providing shortcuts for using an application that's great for quick 3D composition. It's called SketchUp. It contains Paintlib code and is copyright 1996-2002 Ulrich von Zadow and other contributors. It's free and you can download it from Google. It's not easy at first, but once you get the basics it can be extremely useful. Take a look at the SketchUp link - there are some gorgeous examples.

It reminds me of the video arcade days when people gathered around a good player and watched them play in order to learn strategy and gain advantages for their own better score. It also goes back to those early days of the model railroad club at MIT. Everyone collaborated on the project and shared the intention of making it great. No one person took the credit or extorted profit by holding some part ransom. They worked as a team.

That idea seems to be getting more and more rare. Instead, we have banks charging us to use their ATM machines and service industries with hidden fees. I preferred the days when we were all trying to help each other. I wrote a tech column years ago for a magazine called EC&I (Electronic Composition & Imaging). It was basically a help and information periodical for people in the digital printing industry. My column was called MetaBytes. Because of it, I was asked to lecture at the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco for many years in the '90s. It was always a great feeling when people used to come up at the end and ask for samples and ask questions.

We had a Toronto Mac User Group back then that used to hold meetings at the Berthold Type Centre (that tells you how long ago it was). It was people helping each other. It also harkens back to the idea that tools should not separate great work from great creative people. It's like when a few people have expensive cars and expensive bicycles. They just own them. They don't drive them or ride them any better than anyone else. Then there are the guitar collectors who don't play them. That's why I love open source software. It keeps the old ideal of collaborative creativity going!

JULY 8, 2013: Flying Fortress

The B17 Flying Fortress out of Falcon Field in Mesa, Arizona was in town on the weekend. Visitors and passengers got to see the aircraft at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, Ontario (at the airport). Even though the price for a ride was pretty high, they were sold out. It costs $2,000 per hour to fly it. It only cost $5 to get on board and walk through the aircraft. (My photos and videos are online)

The B17 is maintained by volunteers of the Arizona Wing of the Commemorative Air Force. It was originally built by Boeing in 1944 and later donated in 1978 to the CAF. It took them another eight years to restore the plane to its original specs with turrets, bombay doors and a war time paint job. They got permission to paint Betty Grable on the nose and the aircraft has appeared in some movies and TV shows.

Back in 1934, the U. S. Army Air Corps requested a "battleship of the skies" and Boeing's version was their model 299 - designated the XB-17. With all its armor and guns, it was called a "fortress" and the name stuck. There were approximately 12,000 built during WWII, but more than half were destroyed. Today there are approximately 50 worldwide, but only 10 that can still fly.

It has a wing span of 104 feet and a length of 74 feet. It's 19 feet tall and weighs about 36,000 pounds (empty). It has 13 x .50 calibre machine guns. With a top speed of 300 mph, it has a cruising speed of 160 mph with a ceiling of 36,000 feet and a range of 3,750 miles. Fuel consumption is about 200 gallons per hour.

This aircraft has been beautifully restored and it is incredibly exciting to watch them fire up all four engines. I watched it taxi away and take off in the distance. You can join the wing and help support them and all their vintage aircraft by visiting their site. 

JULY 4, 2013: Next Gen Tech Ahead

After catching word of the SONY SmartWatch to be released in September, I have found out it is a "second generation" device. It is actually their SmartWatch 2 that that will debut in the fall and features a "transflective" LCD display so it can be seen in daylight. Of course, there are rumours Apple will have an iWatch in the near future and Dell is also looking into the whole Dick Tracy aspect of wrist tech.

Then there's Google Glass, which is a device you wear on your face like eyeglasses, except half of it looks like it's missing. I guess that's why they call it "glass" instead of glasses. Personally, I'd rather wear a visor like Geordi La Forge on STNG. It looks far cooler. Apparently the Google device has the ability to record video (up to 45 minutes), but its default setting is for only 10 seconds of video at a time. They say it's for capturing "moments." It is initiated by voice. So I presume you'd suddenly speak out in a loud commanding voice to record a "momen"t while you're at the theatre or maybe trying to catch a video of some shy wildlife in the forest. It might be awkward at the dinner table or when you're catching a glimpse of strangers walking by on the street.

I think I'd rather have a more subtle device like a camera ring for my finger or maybe even a necklace or lapel pin. I would also like a discreet "engage" mechanism so I wouldn't draw attention to what I am doing. On the other hand, that raises the whole issue of privacy and permission which is going totally out of control. I used to worry about all the cameras that can't be seen on ceilings or over doors or rooftops and satellites. Now I have to worry about people wearing concealed cameras and microphones. Wait a minute. Did I just walk into a John le Carré novel?

All said, I'd still like one of those SmartWatches - just so I'd having something to look at when I'm on the road on a long trip in my "autonomous" automobile

JULY 3, 2013: Cinematography & Digital FX

As a big fan of imaginative stories, digital artwork and special effects I have always paid special attention to Directors of Photography. Over the last decade there has been some truly incredible cinematography. From David Tattersall (Star Wars episodes I, II & III) to Andrew Lesnie (LOTR) and recently with Mauro Fiore (Avatar), Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi) and Wally Pfister (Christopher Nolan's DOP on the Batman movies and Inception).

Although I don't want to take credit away from Production Designers and Art Directors, the DOPs are at the top of the pyramid directing the cameras shooting the work of vast armies of artists and designers. I wanted to make a special oath of awe to production designer Robert Stromberg and DOP Peter Deming who brought us Oz The Great and Powerful. They managed to deliver a film that is WAY over the top - just as it should be - they take us to the land of OZ! Every shot is gorgeous! The Blu-ray just came out last week. Get it!

Mr. Deming has quite the history with Director Sam Raimi as cinematographer going back to Evil Dead II, but he also shot some of my favourite Lynch films too - Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive (for which he received the 2002 Independent Spirit Award). Not to diminish the work of other favourites such as Daniel Mindel, Conrad L. Hall, Roger Deakins or Guillermo Navarro, Oz really blew me away!

By the way, for an incredible reveal of some phenom digital FX, take a look at Chris Godfrey's "before and after" reel from The Great Gatsby. He was VFX surpervisor on the film.

JULY 2, 2013: Innovative Game Alternatives

Before there were video arcades and home computer games Will and I used to shoot a lot of pool. As gaming innovators we even created our own version called "Double Barrel" in which you were not allowed to sink the first shot. On your second turn, you could shoot the same ball or a different one. If you were successful, you had to remember not to sink the next ball. That was the hardest part, becuase as a pool player you tend to want to clear the table. It's only natural. Anyway, we were always trying to come up with alternative versions of games, which is probably why I eventually ended up going into game design. Here's some of the ideas we came up with. Not all of them were fully realized.

Water Slide Bowling. Take a bowling ball to a water park and tell your friends to watch out when you are placing the ball on the slide. Otherwise, when it reaches the bottom it will be moving really fast! So don't try to catch it. The idea is to get out of the way.

Bunker Tennis. Take your golf clubs to a Beach Volley Ball Court and lob tennis balls over the net to each other. You only score points when your opponent cannot successfully return the ball while staying inside the court.

Tractor Tire Soccer. Instead of soccer balls, players have to maintain control of a rolling tractor tire and get it into the opposing team's goal. Most of the players need to play defense and protect the goal as a team effort. It really only takes one offensive forward to get the tire down the field.

Ball Bearing Hockey. 999 ball bearings are dumped onto a hockey rink at centre ice. The idea is to take snow shovels and clear the rink. The team with the most ball bearings at their own end wins. We recommend 12 periods at three minutes each.

Golf Cart Polo. Getting permission from the Golf Club is probably the biggest challenge. The game should be played on a single fairway and not all over the course.

Sterile Chess. Within a hazardous materials handling chamber, place a normal size chessboard on a table. Use the robotic arms to move the chess pieces. There are penalties for knocking over opponent's pieces. These should be negotiated before starting the game.

Helium Lacrosse. Using either butterfly nets or fishing nets, players pass and score with helium-filled balloons. We recommend playing this one indoors - especially in a gymnansium with a low ceiling.

Trebuchet Horseshoes. This is probably one of the most dangerous sports so precautions need to be taken. Using trebuchets to launch tractor tires at distant telephone poles, getting close counts. Use a laser distance measuring device. We recommend the standard distance at 1,000 yards at an extrememly remote location. Be careful with hydro lines and where you park your cars.

Candle Sprinting. Run the hundred yard dash with lit candles. Runners are disqualified if their candles go out.

Vertical Archery. Mount targets on top of apartment buildings facing straight down. Participants and spectators should be prepared to get out of the way quickly if an arrow misses the target.

Rollercoaster Darts. Here's another dangerous one. Place a dartboard on the ground near a rollercoaster and try to hit it. We recommend taking at least 100 darts and don't use valuable ones.

We have more, but we need to talk to our lawyers.


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