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January 2009 Archives

January 12, 2009

NVIDIA GeForce 3D Vision - 3D Glasses for the Masses - PC Perspective review

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PC Perspective's Ryan Shrout offers an extremely complete look at Nvidia's new 3D viewing technology designed for the gaming experience. It works with existing game content that has depth information encoded into the rendering engine. Think Call of Duty, Left 4 Dead and World of Warcraft.

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For the complete article, go here.

Credit Market Crunch to Affect 3D Films - Fewer Screen Conversions than Expected

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Director James Cameron on the set of his $200 million dollar 3D production Avatar, his first non-documentary film since the one about that boat, you know the one I mean, it's on the tip of my tongue, it will come to me in a second. The boat sank, Celine Dion sang, that one.


All 3D and nowhere to go. . .?

The New York Times has a detailed article on how the current economic crisis is affecting the rollout of 2009's major 3D film releases. For the complete article, go here.

January 19, 2009

"My Bloody Valentine- 3D" — 3D film, 1D plot & characterizations

Technically, the 3D in "My Bloody Valentine- 3D" is excellent; however, the use this technique is put to here is simply moronic.

This is a horror/thriller with no horror and no thrills despite a very high gore content and extremely gratuitous nudity.* Unless you consider sudden loud noises and the abrupt, unexpected appearances of supporting cast members to be 'thrilling.'

To earn the 'bloody' in the picture's title you get sequences like this: a buxom midget motel owner is impaled on the ceiling with a pick axe; the top half of a pretty blonde's head is severed with a shovel in a mine shaft; an eyeball is popped out of one character's head; the jaw of an old man is ripped from his face and hurled at the camera; a comatose patient awakes after a decade asleep in a hospital and severs nurses and fellow patients in two, disemboweling some of them and placing one woman's heart inside a box of Valentine chocolates.

You get the feeling that this stuff was written by two stoned 14 year olds, cracking each other up with how 'outrageous' they were being. Dude! A word of caution to parents: let them have the pot, but please lock up the lap tops and word processors.

The film is a remake of a 1981 Canadian slasher picture set in a mining town where a pick axe swinging menace slices and dices teenagers trying to have sex on Valentine's Day. (Teen age sexuality is the number one cause of serial killing, as depicted by Hollywood screenwriters). The original was a low-budget entry in the category of the more imaginative Freddy's, Jason's and Michael Meyer's that continue to spawn sequels today.

What 3D slasher horror really needs is a great genre director like John Carpenter; if only this level of quality stereoscopic filming could have been available to him for the first "Halloween" picture!

Not only does the story of "My Bloody Valentine- 3D" make little sense, the film stoops to outright cheating to deliver it's ho-hum 'twist' ending. Scenes that we originally saw with two characters in them are shown in flash back with only one, so that the reveal of the killer will 'kinda sorta' fit. The final shot even sets the stage for a sequel (that I doubt will ever be made) and is the only truly frightening thing about the entire picture.

Given all the above, you'll probably think I'm crazy to praise the 3D filming but, if you can separate what is being filmed from how it's being filmed, you have to be impressed.

3D movies can now be produced with excellent depth and no eye strain. The glasses are comfortable to wear and they fit easily over prescription glasses. They simply need better content, if Hollywood expects to pull people away from their wide screen TVs and into theaters for a 'premium' viewing experience (and ticket price). "My Bloody Valentine- 3D" cost $13.75 per at my local multiplex.

It really all comes down to the story and the writing. Sadly, for both 2D and 3D cinema technical production today far exceeds both the skill and imagination of our current crop of screenwriters.

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*For the record: I stand in full support of gratuitous nudity, but isn't it supposed to be naughty or tittalating? Not here it isn't.

One attractive young actress (Betsy Rue as "Irene") is required to perform almost her entire on-screen time completely nude, except for a pair of platform heels, for no discernable reason. She even walks out of a No Tell Motel in the buff to confront her fornication partner, a bald trucker, over his illicit videotaping of their rutting encounter.

She's upset that he filmed them having sex but she stands stark naked in the middle of a parking lot to complain about it?

Rather than arousing the entire sequence came across as merely uncomfortable. It was a relief when the trucker's bald dome was punctured by the killer's pickaxe, even if only to allow poor shivering Betsy to run back inside. (Also: didn't adult human females used to have pubic hair at one time? I'm just saying, is all).

January 21, 2009

The Jonas Brothers and TV's "Chuck" coming at ya' in 3D

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In this concert film you follow the Jonas Brothers as they cross the country on their "Burning Up Tour." Filmed in Disney Digital 3-D it will only be shown in Digital 3D, like last year's Hannah Montana concert pic. Demi Lovato and Taylor Swift guest star and perform a song with the band.

You'll see real-looking but staged backstage adventures with the Jonas Brothers, and you'll follow them as they allegedly prepare for this exciting tour. A new song by the Jonas Brothers will premiere in the film, too. The picture was filmed July 12 and 13 in Anaheim, California at the Honda Center, and August 10 and 11 in New York City, New York in Madison Square Garden.

And if you're clueless about the Jonas Brothers, you obviously don't read Tiger Beat magazine.

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The TV show "Chuck" (yeah, I know, I've never heard of it either) will return on February 2, 2009 with a special 3D episode. Informed sources tell us it's about a computer geek who is catapulted into a new career as the government’s most vital secret agent. (People are going hungry in America tonight and yet someone was actually paid to come up with this idea; television is just plain scary).

Show runner Josh Schwartz says on the program's fan site, “The technology is pretty amazing, and the stuff we were able to shoot – all the mind flashes are going to be in 3D and the opening credits, as well as the action set pieces.”

Referring to Yvonne Strahovski’s ever-sexy character, Schwartz said, “Sarah scantily clad in 3D – maybe [that] might happen. I don’t know, that sounds like a natural. Also, [there's] weird stuff, like Big Mike eating a donut in 3D is completely different than Big Mike eating a donut in merely two dimensions.”

Big Mike eating a donut in 3D? Well, as long as it advances the plot and isn't just a cheesy gimmick. . .

January 22, 2009

3D to "Revolutionize" Porn Industry. . .Again? Maybe. Possibly. (I doubt it).

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Every few years this same story crops up: being such a natural fit, pornography and 3D viewing systems are announced to be forming an alliance that will have us all lolling about having fake sex with 3D images of the already artificial, botoxed, surgically-enhanced, bleached and shaven vixens of Hollywood's shadow industry.

Announced with great fan fare, these stories and their 3D systems never deliver on their throbbing, pulsating promises. But maybe this time it will be different. . .?

A $4 million 3D remake of the Hong Kong softcore classic Sex and Zen is in preparation; only 25 to 30% of this new version will be sex scenes so apparently this is being geared for the imaginary 'couples market' niche of the porn world.

But wait, there's a fly in the lube already! Producer Stephen Shiu Jr. complains. "We're having trouble finding a male lead who is willing to undress in front of the camera."

For the complete article, (SFW) go here.

Back in the day when I was introduced to the high octane, bullet ballets and swooping kung-fu wire work that have long since been incorporated into the Hollywood film lexicon, to see these films you needed to go to certain video stores in your local Chinatown (for me Lafayette or Bayard Streets below Canal).

Bootleg copies on VHS cost $4 and the first time a gwai lo ("ghost person," e.g. white boy) ventured inside you could expect to wait a longish time before the owner was prepared to sell you anything.

My 'bible' in those days was a paperback titled Sex and Zen and a Bullet In the Head by Stefan Hammond and Mike Wilkins. It remains an excellent introduction to the pre-takeover (before 1997) HK cinema.

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The back of the book had thumbnails of the movie posters for their essential picks, along with titles in English, Cantonese and Mandarin. I would point to these and the video store owner would dutifully get them (or quickly dub a copy) for me. After a few visits, I evidently passed some sort of test and was welcomed into these stores as a true fan. Now I would get suggestions for new movies, based on my previous selections.

If you've never seen The Killer, A Better Tomorrow, Hard Boiled, Project A, Parts I & II, Armor of God Parts I & II or Police Story I, check them out and see what made the pre-Hollywood careers of director John Woo and Jackie Chan the stuff of fanboy legends.

And know this: if it wasn't for what he learned worshipping at the altar of HK cinema, Quentin Tarrantino wouldn't even have a job as gaffer today.


3D Video Conferencing with a Generic Webcam — Pseudo, Convincing & Inexpensive

Chris Harrison and Scott Hudson of Carnegie Mellon University's Human-Computer Interaction Institute have developed a method for 3D video conferencing using a single webcam.

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Figure 1. The video conference window acts like a virtual portal into the remote participant's space. As the viewer moves their head, the perspective of the remote environment changes. Motion parallax provides a 3D illusion. Note how objects in the background, like the decorative vase, screen and table move relative to the remote video conference participant.

When conversing with someone via video conference, you are provided with a virtual window into their space. However, this currently remains both flat and fixed, limiting its immersiveness. Previous research efforts have explored the use of 3D in telecommunication, and show that the additional realism can enrich the video conference experience. However, existing systems require complex sensor and cameras setups that make them infeasible for widespread adoption. We present a method for producing a pseudo-3D experience using only a single generic webcam at each end. This means nearly any computer currently able to video conference can use our technique, making it readily adoptable. Although using comparatively simple techniques, the 3D result is convincing.

To see a video of this technique and download a PDF of their paper, go here.

January 31, 2009

900 theaters nationwide to present Henry Selick's "Coraline" in 3D; John Hodgman voices Coraline's Dad

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Henry Selick, the director of the stop-motion animation classic, Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas has made the wise decision to cast John Hodgman as a voice artist for his new feature, Coraline, based on Neil Gaiman's book (if you're a comic book geek, that last reference will impress you. Sandman. There, I said it.)

Hodgmania has gripped America as a yearning nation turns towards its movie screens seeking respite from all the grim financial news of late. But can John Hodgman single-handedly turn the country around, giving it the uplift it so desperately desires? What a silly question. If he can't, no one can.

Oh, apparently this is also the first stop-motion feature to be shot entirely in 3D and blah, blah, blah. . .stereoscopic blah, blah, blah. . .

But John Hodgman. Wow!

For a more balanced take on this film, and one that only mentions John Hodgman in passing (!), go to the New York Times article, here.

About January 2009

This page contains all entries posted to New York Stereoscopic Society in January 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2008 is the previous archive.

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