Torrenting is the New Black?

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Yesterday, Netflix released the eagerly anticipated trailer for the fifth season of its original series, “Orange is the New Black.” Unfortunately for the company, almost the entire season is already available online, thanks to the work of a group of anonymous hackers by the name “thedarkoverlord,” who pulled unreleased episodes from the post-production company Larson Studios’ server in April. Since then, Refinery29 reports that summaries of ten of the thirteen episodes have appeared on the show’s Wikipedia page, making spoilers accessible even to people who do not wish to torrent the episodes.

Yet, despite thedarkoverlord’s demands for ransom payment and threats to other networks (pictured below), Wired writer Brian Barrett argues that the leak “wasn’t worth paying even one cent to prevent.” In Barrett’s eyes, there will always be people who illegally torrent shows, but Netflix has a high enough number of paying subscribers (98.75 million) to make up for that minority. Moreover, the amount of people torrenting content has dropped drastically in recent years; whereas BitTorrent “accounted for 23 percent of daily internet traffic in North America” in 2011, “that number sat at under 5 percent” in 2016.

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For me, this entire situation is fascinating on multiple levels. For one thing, the leak reflects just how much TV technology has changed, even within my own lifetime; whereas once you were at the mercy of scheduled re-runs to catch up on a missed or re-watch a beloved episode of TV, now we have the freedom to peruse seasons of our favorite series at our leisure and, in the case of the OITNB leak, sometimes even ahead of their intended release. The Internet has allowed for a sort of instant TV gratification that would otherwise not be possible. Sure, you could go out and purchase a boxed set of a specific season of television, but you would need to allot time for the season to air and then some, whereas many streaming services today release entire seasons of a show at once, as is the case with Orange is the New Black.

Yet, despite this culture of instant gratification, the amount of people torrenting content illegally is dropping. This was perhaps the most interesting part of the article for me, as a poor college student who is all too familiar with determining the most diplomatic way to ask someone for their Hulu and Prime account information. I would have thought that as average people become more internet-savvy and popular shows are spread across so many different costly platforms, more people would say, “Screw it,” and pirate films and movies from services they don’t subscribe to. This information was shocking to me, but as an aspiring television writer, I am obviously pleased. The only thing better than having a show good enough for thousands of people to pirate is having a show that’s worth paying for.

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Barrett’s article can be found at the following link: https://www.wired.com/2017/05/orange-is-the-new-black-leak/

 

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Award-Winning VR Video….and a Jam Band

One of my favorite jam bands (sorry) has done something super cool. Umphrey’s McGee recently teamed up with a company called Reel FX, which is a digital effects/animation company that is fortunately located here in Los Angeles (#notvancouver), to produce a 360° degree VR concert video! Reel FX filmed the band playing their song, “Puppet String,” at the House of Blues in Houston last spring. And this spring, the video took home a Gold Remi at the 50th WorldFest Houston International Film Festival. Reel FX took home the top prize for Music Video Craft Awards for New Technology.

The resulting video is a really neat experience that you should all check out. Be sure to watch it on Chrome or Firefox to be able to use the 360° function! You can drag the screen around with your mouse to see what’s going on everywhere in the room. You can even check in on the sound guy, read the setlist at the band’s feet, or check out their equipment rigs.

Reel FX filmed the band using several different mounts with multiple GoPro 360 cameras attached. So basically a less-USC version of the camera we saw in the Jaunt Lab the other week. What’s really interesting is when there are cuts to different cameras (some are closer to different band members on stage while there is also a view from the front of the stage and the ceiling above the audience). The video seamlessly transfers from one shot to the next, regardless of what the viewer is currently looking at. It’s downright impressive work. And the stitching is immaculate as well – I never once saw a mount, camera, or part of the room that looked weird in the entire 12 minute video.

This is an extremely exciting step forward for recording live performances as it allows you to experience the space the way the concert attendees did. It also gets you closer to the artist than you normally would be. Oh, and technologically, it’s just stunning.

You should also take a quick look at Reel FX’s website. They do super cool work!

On Nintendo Cartridges

One thing I really appreciate about this class are the visits to the archive to see and experience technological pieces of media creation and consumption technology from the past. Part of the reason I enjoy these visits are due to the nostalgia I have for the media I interacted with in my past.

One of these are RAM cartridges for Nintendo and other game consoles. Now largely obsolete, cartridges have been replaced by CDs, DVDs, and now internet mediums of transferring data. As far as my understanding, the technology of RAM cartridges is similar to that of a memory card, so in this strange way, I interact with this technology on a daily basis from the perspective of a media creator today, while I did so primarily as a consumer when I was a kid.

One thing I’m sure everyone remembers about these cartridges is their propensity for not working when turning the system on. In order to fix this, the common technique was to remove the cartridge, blow on it with your mouth to “remove the dust” or some such, and to reinsert it, then turn the console on. As this typically worked, it was considered a solution.

Here is an article about the technology of the RAM cartridge and the phenomenon of blowing on their connectors to remedy issues with the game: http://mentalfloss.com/article/12589/did-blowing-nintendo-cartridges-really-help

According to this article, the act of blowing on the cartridge was ultimately a placebo and did not help the bad connection: simply removing it and reinserting it solved that. In fact, the article goes on to say, blowing on the connector was detrimental as it opened the opportunity for corrosion of the contacts.

Despite all this, I still have really fond memories of blowing on my Nintendo games, as it allowed for a greater sense of interactivity than provided by the gameplay. As a kid, I was fascinated by the physical nature of the electronics technology that allowed for gameplay (media delivery) and I enjoyed engaging with it physically and tangibly. It gave me a sense of purpose and pride in troubleshooting a technical problem.

To me, this is fascinating. Part of engaging in playing Nintendo games as a visual medium was this ritual of overcoming the limitations of its delivery technology. A single work in media can engage people in both virtual and physical realms with different modes of thought simultaneously. By blowing on these cartridges, people are engaging with media and technology in a way I had never considered before.

Thoughts on a Cinematic Installation Show

Hey guys,

Today I attended a show called Lush Machines in SCA, an exhibit of the Cinematic and Media-based Installation class in the animation division.

In addition to being impressed by the quality of the work, I was also very intrigued by the potential for the Media Installation medium, as I have only rarely experienced such exhibits. In many ways, they interacted with the audience in ways similar to VR as we discussed in class in their immersion, interactivity, and experientiality.

However, all of the installations strongly featured a physical quality to them, blending media (audio, video projection, software construct, and/or virtual reality) and physical interaction holistically. For me, this was very impactful, as it allowed for a very information- and meaning-rich experience.

Below are photos of one of the exhibits I enjoyed.

Can AI Really Create

So We’ve seen the trailer of film Morgan edited by AI, which look pretty professional.

But have you seen this?

 

Sunspring- A sci-fi short wrote by AI “Benjamin”. Benjamin even wrote the theme song for this short.

AI is like VR right now. People are still trying to figure out what they can really do with it. But it will be a sure thing that AI will be totally being able to take over a lot of the human works.

But can AI really create?

Although “Benjamin” was able to analysis as many Sci-fi films as possible. What it really did was still searching in its database, finding a line and putting into the script either randomly or by percentage. In the short, it was very obvious that the script doesn’t make any sense. It was more of a combination of different elements from different films. But it does not really have a heart. Same to the trailer edited by AI, It was all about data analyzing.

Film is a very complicated media. It’s a combination or evolvement from many other medias. It’s visual and verbal. It’s a lot about rhythm, emotion. It is hard to calculate the data of how a film is made. There is not a definition of what is scary, what is sad. In the film No Country For Old Man. The killer made you feel threatened even when he is sitting on the sofa. If we just analysis the visual, the color, the script. It won’t be a typical scene that an AI can pick up. But it works efficiently.

AI might be good at executing instructions. But in terms of making the right choice for a certain situation creatively, it’s more of a challenge. Thus why people still need supervision to control the creative part, no matter if it writing novels or making trailers. With out it, the outcome might not be as good.

Pre-Facebook 360-Degree Video: Disney’s CircleVision, Or How I Fell In Love With China

It’s happened on numerous occasions lately, I wake up, and the first thing I do in my groggy, half-aware state is reach for my phone. Facebook is usually one of my first stops, and starting in 2015 (http://www.popsci.com/facebook-and-oculus-are-bringing-360deg-video-to-your), a new feature made confused, early-morning me even more confused. I was looking at a video of some event, live-streamed. Much to my shock, as I moved my phone in my hands, the video appeared to move. I realized that I could hold the phone in any direction, at any angle, and see what was going on at the event – I had full, 360 degree views of this stream. When I realized what I was seeing, I wondered – how is this possible on an iPhone? On Facebook? And it’s streamed live? It reminded me of my first exposure to 360 video, one of a different kind. This being the CircleVision technology at the World Showcase Pavilion at EPCOT, in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

World Showcase is a series of experiences where park-goers get to experience different countries’ landmarks, food, customs and cultures in various pavilions. Some countries represented include Canada, Japan, Mexico, Norway, and China. Canada and China’s pavilions both boast CircleVision experiences, a large format movie presentation technology used for the attractions O, Canada! and Reflections of China, which both run all day in their respective pavilions at World Showcase.

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Both take place in large, rounded rooms, with nine screens mounted high on the wall in a circle. In between each screen is a projector aimed at a screen across the room, and because there are screens all the way around the room, the CircleVision films are viewed while standing up. There are railings along the theaters for viewers to lean against, and in some cases, hold on to (it’s easy to get dizzy when spinning around to try and catch what’s happening on the screens all around you). CircleVision is Disney’s version of circular viewing, first appearing at the 1900 Paris Exposition, that technology being Cinéorama. After this, there was Krugovaya Kinopanorama in Russia, using 11 cameras (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circle-Vision_360°#Earlier_systems).

The difference between the CircleVision experience and the 360 videos of today in VR and on Facebook is how the viewer interacts with the viewing environment. With CircleVision, the video content is in a fixed position, projected all around the wall. With VR and Facebook, the viewer controls the placement of the screen and the viewing angle of the content. The CircleVision viewer still has control of what he or she sees, but that decision consists of which fixed screen to look at, and the viewer can’t move the screens, or what’s on them. In both cases, the viewer has agency and thus, viewing these two varieties of 360 degree video is more of a participatory act than a spectatorial experience.

I vividly remember my first CircleVision experience – it floored me, and was my first non-traditional film-viewing format. I first saw it with Reflections of China at a young age, and before then already had a massive interest in China. After that first time, I was riveted, and thus began a true love of, and fascination with China. Being surrounded by the Great Wall, the Yangtze, and taking in the massive height of the Three Gorges Dam in the CircleVision format, all images larger than life and fully immersive in their presentation further ignited a passion to travel to China, a dream I’ve held close to my heart ever since, and a dream that came true in May of 2016, when a class brought me to four cities in China over the course of two weeks. I was able to stand on the Great Wall and take in the views I’d previously seen in CircleVision, when I hoped I’d one day get to see the real thing. The visceral impact that CircleVision had on me is proof of the magnitude of experience that 360 degree video, paired with large format projection, can provide. While 360 video on a smartphone is cool, there is certainly merit to presentation in the theatrical environment, and while proliferation of such technologies for the home is on the horizon, we cannot forget about what theater viewing environments offer, something that home viewing never can.