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The Hobbit – Yet Another Disappointment in 2012

I really would have wanted to end 2012 with a nice movie-going experience. I tried to ignore people lamenting about 48fps or stuff that wasn’t part of the book. I had never read the book.

Before the movie started there was a trailer for the new World of Warcraft update called “Mists of Pandaria”. And it had Kung-Fu-Pandas in it, fighting orcs. It was the most ridiculous thing I had seen in recent months. Little did I know that this was foreshadowing the movie I was about to watch.

‘The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey’ is basically the same thing but roughly 3 hours longer. It’s an attempt to blow up a tiny story to not only 9 hours but to Lord of the Rings epic-ness while making it look like a video game cinematic. The term cinematic is actually quite ironic. While video games have tried to look more and more like movies (by their themes, camera angles, animated or life action cut scenes and the use of machinima) it seems like the future of blockbuster movies is to look more and more like video games:

Level 1 is the Shire. Go on a journey, battle some foes, meet some allies… until you reach Level 6 – The Goblin Cave! Press A to swing your sword and B for a special move to decapitate your enemies. The Level Boss is the Goblin King himself! Attack his vulnerable spot and when your energy level drops low, press Up-Down-Up-Down to make Gandalf appear and save your ass.

Sorry, Bilbo, the princess is in another castle. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 – available next year.

For a movie essentially geared at a young audience who might not even have seen LoTR the movie is an astonishing mix of childish themes, brutal (yet blood-less) hacking and slashing and dialog scenes that drag on for way too long.

The movie’s first 15 minutes are filled with shots of dwarfs eating cheese, juggling plates and two musical numbers.

After two thirds of the movie I had to accept that nobody’s going to get injured or die even after falling downhill for hundreds of meters. I accepted that one of the dwarfs and the goblin king looked like “Fat Bastard” from Austin Powers. I was no longer surprised when Gandalf just showed up and saved everybody at the last moment using his magic powers again and again – this happened at least three times during the movie.

And the HFR thing?

For a movie that is so intend on selling an experience and showcasing new technology (instead of, you know, making you feel sympathy for fictional characters on screen) “The Hobbit” actually tries hard to make you loathe it. The high frame rate irritated me every other minute with its “sped up” effect that you might have heard about. It’s an optical illusion and my fellow movie-goers didn’t notice it but to me it felt like watching a TV documentary about the movie, not the movie itself.

The 3D felt forced as well. I might be from a dying generation of movie-goers but it still irritates me when there are elements in front of the screen while being cropped at the edges. Fast-moving sparks, butterflies or gold coins still are a flickery mess to me even at 48fps. And landscape shots still have that miniature look to them because directors and DOPs insist on using an exaggerated interocular distance.

In a way it’s comforting to know that even huge productions like this suffer from that shit that James Cameron successfully avoided in Avatar. But that’s probably because one disappointed moron in the target audience of 16 year-olds (“omg the 3D was non-existing I could have left my glasses off”) weighs heavier to any producer than somebody who is pulled out of the movie by miniature landscapes.

All of this overshadows the fact that the VFX are of course top notch. Except for one or two scenes you never think about the fact that Gandalf and the dwarfs are composited together for their difference in size. Closeups of wargs and eagles are great and the level of detail in the dwarf city or goblin lair is breathtaking.

In hindsight I should have watched the 24fps 2D version to apprechiate all of this.

6/10

“Damn Damn Good:” Movie Bob’s positive review of “The Hobbit”

“I hope the worst is behind us”: Red Letter Media’s more negative review of “The Hobbit”

Prometheus

I enjoyed that movie. Even though it had a bunch of silly moments they didn’t ruin the movie for me as they did in “The Dark Knight Rises“.

The movie’s genre is less science fiction (since everything in the plot that has a “science” label on it is so stupid it hurts) and more a stock splatter/horror movie where people get killed off one by one because of their obviously stupid and careless actions. The plot is advanced by stupidity only, to be honest. If anybody would act like scientists instead of school children on a field trip to the zoo, there would be no plot.

But again, that didn’t keep me from enjoying Prometheus. It was adequately scary and gross and there was a lot of eye-candy. I don’t care if it doesn’t answer some things or whether it is a seamless prequel to Alien. So yes, I liked it for its looks, not for its personality.

What made me scratch my head though was Roger Ebert’s raving four-star review of Prometheus. Magnificent – intriguing – spellbinding! Seriously? It was high production value popcorn cinema. But it certainly doesn’t deserve adjectives that Ebert usually uses on obscure art-house dramas.

The 3D trailer for Resident Evil, on the other hand, was the worst thing I ever had to endure behind stereo glasses.

Link: The Editing Room’s abridged script for Prometheus touches on all the plot holes.

7/10 (the “better than average” level)

Vertical Alignment

I’ve finished another quick video tutorial, this one is about vertical alignment in stereo shots. It’s done with Fusion but this technique requires no plugins and can even be done in Photoshop 🙂

I have enabled Youtube’s automatic transcript just for the fun of it. It used speech recognition and it’s funny how some phrases are transcribed perfectly despite my German accent while others are jibberish. You can download the subtitle file though and it only takes a few minutes to edit the transcript and re-upload it again.

So enjoy the English captions on this tutorial! Here are some funny phrases that Google’s voice recognition software had produced initially:

0:00:09.809,0:00:14.019
as you probably know there are lots of things that can give the bureaucratic when it comes to stereoscopic footage

0:00:14.019,0:00:17.960
the most important one is spiritual alignment

0:01:05.239,0:01:07.340
the monogram version wants it

0:01:20.080,0:01:22.230
his foreign troops of the ride i

0:01:35.240,0:01:38.929
since the transform which is his offspring you have to hold down the
aisle to key while driving the mention of your porch

0:02:48.259,0:02:55.259
now zoom back into the top left corner and adjust the anglo french haitian

0:02:57.629,0:03:01.020
using the cursor keys left and right then
you can get justice in smaller steps

You tell 'em, Sly!

eyeon Dimension

eyeon has finally shown a short teaser for “Dimension”, their “Occula-for-Fusion” plugin. Looks promising so far. Most importantly, the price tag undercuts Occula by thousands of dollars which makes it feasible for smaller production companies as well. Let’s wait and see – competition is good 🙂

And Generation is back from the dead (read: a year after it was end-of-lifed by eyeon without further explanation). It has gained a lot of asset management and workflow functionality (shot status, artist collaboration, reviews). Having worked with Shotgun recently, I have to say that Generation’s shot management from a player interface sounds intriguing. Shotgun is a slow browser-based behemoth with millions of clickable links that all look alike. I don’t know if it was built that way or if it was that company’s customization… But it seemed overkill for most problems that an artist has (might be a different story for project managers).

Fusion 6.3 will be half as expensive as before and if you add Dimension and Generation AM you’ll end up with the former price.

None of these tools is shipping yet though.

Wickie auf großer Fahrt

Ab kommenden Donnerstag lÀuft Wickie Teil 2 an, und ich komme gerade von der Premiere, denn neben Pirates war es der zweite Stereo-Film an dem ich dieses Jahr mitgearbeitet hatte.

Ich muss sagen, dass ich echt positiv ĂŒberrascht war. Den ersten Film, das gebe ich gerne zu, hatte ich nach 10 Minuten ausgeschaltet, weil ich es nicht mehr ausgehalten hatte, als Halvar dann auch noch den Unterschied zwischen MĂ€nnlein und Weiblein erklĂ€rt hatte (Frauen dĂŒrfen vor Wölfen Angst haben natĂŒrlich. Oder was dachtest du jetzt?) und auch Wickie’s PerĂŒcke ging mir auf den Keks.

Wickie 2 ist temporeich. Das 3D funktioniert grĂ¶ĂŸtenteils hervorragend (Wickie’s Ideen-Momente mit den fliegenden Sternchen leider nicht). Die ĂŒbrigen VFX können sich sehen lassen. Die animierten Landkarten (ala Indiana Jones) von ARRI mit ihren – ich schĂ€tze mal – handgemalten Aquarellen sehen toll aus. Und in der Reihe hinter mir schwĂ€rmte ein kleines MĂ€dchen “boah sieht das schön aus” bei einem von Scanline’s Matte Paintings.

Die Story ist ebenfalls ein Pluspunkt. Der Plot bleibt extrem geradlinig seinem Ziel treu – Wickie muss seinen Vater retten um dann den Schatz der Götter zu finden. Doch entlang dessen jagt die Story durch dutzende schöne SchauplĂ€tze die niemals ĂŒberflĂŒssig oder andererseits durchgaloppiert wirken. Und obwohl der Film ein Kinder-Klamauk-Film ist, enthĂ€lt er eine Menge Moral. Klar, immer wenn Kinder die Helden sind, geht es um “tu was du selbst fĂŒr richtig hĂ€ltst”. Aber es finden sich auch viele Gedanken ĂŒber Geschlechterklischees, starke MĂ€nner die GefĂŒhle zeigen dĂŒrfen und VĂ€ter, die nicht merken, wie wichtig ihren Kindern ein bisschen mehr Lob und Anerkennung wĂ€ren. Und das zum GlĂŒck ohne langatmiges Gelaber oder nicht auszuhaltende amerikanische Vater-Sohn-Filmklischees. Das VerhĂ€ltnis von Wickie und Svenja und ihren verfeindeten Wickinger-Clans erinnert eher an Ronja RĂ€ubertochter als an Disney-Stories.

Ich glaube, dass Kinder den Film auf jeden Fall mögen werden, wenn der erste Teil schon so ein Erfolg war. Was mir aber auffiel, war wie hĂ€uft das Wort “Scheiße” fiel. Keine Ahnung wieso ich darauf geachtet habe 🙂

Stereoscopy for Giants

Why didn’t I think of this before? Did anyone ever try this? Would it even work?

source: xkcd

Headache

Great comic by xkcd, especially since I’m working on a stereoscopic project right now 😀

Click the image for a 3D version (fortunately just an April fool’s joke)