Archive for the ‘Principles & Productivity’ Category

Cinema vs. Home Theater

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

There’s an interesting discussion going on at the Onion’s AV Club these days about the relative merits of watching movies in the theater or at home. Noel Murray and Scott Tobias began the discussion in a “Crosstalk” article, and that ingnited a nice little debate in the discussion area. Josh Oakhurst has weighed in on the issue, too (via FresHDV).

My partner, Ashley, manages a one-screen historic art house cinema. With the exception of 19th century costume dramas, I’ll see pretty much anything they screen. On the other hand, we also have very modest home theater setup. Just so you have the context, here’s the setup:

    – a low-end video projector
    – a movie screen bought for $10 from junk merchants that had set up shop on the side of the road near Joelton, Tennessee
    – a dvd player
    – an old home theater audio system handed down from my dad
    – home-made window blinds that completely blackout our living room when we want to screen in the daytime (unnecessary at night)

It’s not fancy, but we love it.

As for which is better, I think there are certainly pros and cons to either experience. I’m certainly not going to argue that people should give up going to the theater, nor that they should stop renting movies. De gustibus non est disputandum, as the saying goes.

These articles did get me (re)thinking the cinema vs. home theater debate. Here are a few personal observations inspired by Murray, Tobias, Oakhurst, et al.


Cool Tool: Gage-It

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

While at Home Depot the other day I ran across a nifty little all-in-one measurement tool called Gage-It. It allows you to measure screws and bolts; nuts; steel, brass & PVC pipe; wire size; and nails. It also has a couple of rulers (metric and standard) and a conversions table for weights and measurements. I feel like I’m always going to the hardware store trying to find a screw that’s the right size for this or that thing around my house, plus it seemed like a useful thing to have with you on a film set, so I picked one up. The thing cost something like $1.99.


I can’t even seem to find the manufacturer (“Armour Technologies, Inc.”) online, much less the item itself. The only other mention I could find was at Toolmonger, from whom I grabbed the pic above. But if you’re looking for one, try Home Depot. I ran across mine in the screws/nails aisle.

Finally, as an aside, writing this post made me realize that I’ve become so conditioned to finding products on the internet (and the internet has become so synonymous with shopping) that, when I run across something that can’t be found for sale anywhere online, it seems… well, it seems weird. And by “weird” I mean conspiratorially weird, even creepy. It’s like the thing doesn’t exist, even though I have one right in my hands. Am I alone on this one?

Life (and Filmmaking) During Wartime

Monday, February 5th, 2007

Let this article serve to remind us that, whatever production troubles we might be enduring producing one of our films, it could be a lot rougher.

From an LA Times article about Mohamed Daradji’s Ahlaam, a fiction film shot in Iraq that is now screening at festivals:

The last straw: a chaotic 24-hour period in December 2004 when Daradji and several crew members achieved a sort of modern Iraq trifecta — kidnapped and bullied by Sunni Muslim gunmen, then kidnapped again and bullied by Shiite Muslim gunmen, and finally jailed and interrogated by American soldiers.

As inspiring as it is to read about Daradji’s attempts to make art in the face of war, sadly, the bleaker news is this, says the article’s author:

Daradji’s film may end up being the last movie to come out of Iraq for a while. The country’s artistic life experienced a brief resurgence in the year after the U.S.-led invasion, with musicians, painters and actors all striving to restore Baghdad’s legacy as one of the Arab world’s cultural capitals. That trend has died as Iraq descends into civil war, with much of the educated, artistic class fleeing the country.

When you read something like this it certainly makes even the most astounding filmmaker “war stories” (e.g., comments like Coppola’s “This movie isn’t about Vietnam. It is Vietnam”) look pretty silly.

[via GreenCine]

DVGuru’s Demise: On AOL and the owning of blogs

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

DVGuru, the valuable group blog about most things video and film, is no more as of Wednesday. I read it daily, which I can’t say of many websites. I’m disappointed, as are a lot of other readers.

What made it an especially useful site was the fact that it served as a kind of aggregator for more specialized and esoteric film/video content-related websites around the web. But beyond aggregation, the writers had a talent for quickly summing up an issue and then leading you to the original source. As a reader — and as someone whose own writing was at times cited by DVGuru’s editors — I really appreciated that. Alas, I’ll now have to find some of my news from other sources.

The announcement caught a few people off guard. What’s the story?

I’ve heard and read that DVGuru, along with some other blogs, were given the axe by AOL, the company that owns Weblogs, Inc. There was nothing controversial about these sites that led to their shutdown — in these cases it’s always about money. Ads weren’t selling or getting clicked through or, in all likelihood, it was just too much trouble for AOL to do the research to figure out who should be advertising.

I understand why AOL wanted to acquire Weblogs, Inc. It’s a way to own content, and doing so would be a throwback to AOL’s dial-up heyday, those halcyon days when it housed a good percentage of the polished content on the internet. The difference is that, in the mid-late 90s, AOL’s content was general information, the “frontpage” kind of face that Yahoo and others provide these days. Blogs are different though; almost all of them focus on niche markets. Some companies get this; others mail out millions of CD-roms pleading with you to use dial-up.

(As a point of comparison, consider Google’s approach to weblogs. Google didn’t try to acquire various popular blogs. It acquired Blogger. The same thinking, no doubt, went into their acquisition of YouTube. Google doesn’t want the content. It wants the delivery system for the content.)

Anyway, I’m not going to wring my hands about this — there are, after all, another billion or so websites out there to read, and there is no such thing as death on the internet. Still, it only re-confirms my skepticism about the long-term viability of corporate-owned weblogs.

So long, DVGuru. It was good to know ya.

Holiday simplifying, or: Paul’s Junk Giveaway

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

I’ve been going through my house over the last few days trying to do my semi-seasonal purge of things I don’t need. It’s all part of the continual process of reducing the clutter (physical, mental, spiritual) in my life.

Among the things I no longer need: An old copy of DVD Studio Pro 2 (install discs, manuals, box). I’ve upgraded to Final Cut Studio, so I have no use for it, but it seems like a waste to just throw it out and recycle the manuals. It’s not the most up to date version, I assure you, but post a comment if you want it and I’ll mail it to you, free of charge.

Here are the minimum system requirements, as found on Ken Stone’s site:

Macintosh computer with PowerPC G4 processor (733 Mhz or faster).
AGP graphics card with 8MB of video memory (32MB recommended)
Mac OS X 10.2.6
QuickTime 6.3
256 MB of RAM (512MB recommended)
20GB of disk space
DVD drive required for installation
Apple SuperDrive or other DVD burner for writing finished projects (recommended)


While I’m at it, here are a couple of things I’ve been reading during my seasonal simplifying. Both are good reads during this season of “Buy! Buy! Buy!

The venerable classic: Walden

A classic I just discovered: Richard Gregg’s The Value of Voluntary Simplicity