My Particular Problems With The Academy Awards


It seems like nobody is happy with this year’s Academy Award nominations. I’m not happy either, but since I started making movies I can’t remember being happy with the Academy Awards. A lot of people are suggesting that not nominating The Dark Knight for Best Picture is a poor decision because it shows how out of touch the Academy is with mainstream America. I think The Dark Knight is a great film, but the idea that somehow an award for excellence should be determined by box office success is silly. Now, that is not to say that box office success doesn’t determine who gets nominated for these awards. Big, fancy, high-grossing films are the rule, rather than the exception, when it comes to best picture winners. But I think what gets me the most is that I’m supposed to care what all these people think.

In general I’m like a casual racist when it comes to the Academy. I know some of them personally, and I like the ones I know, but as a group I think they’re lazy and stupid and kidnap babies. I think it is a very good idea for the motion picture industry to give themselves awards for excellence. By all means, the Academy should get together and vote on their favorite movies every year. But I don’t want to hear about their decisions anymore. Excellence in art cannot be determined by popular vote. There are movies that I like, and there are movies that I don’t like. Sometimes my opinion aligns with the Academy and sometimes it doesn’t. But I don’t find their opinions instructive.

I might not care about what the Academy thinks of particular movies, but I do love to read film reviews. I read the New York Times and The AV Club regularly. I find them useful both before and after watching a film. Before I see a film, there’s the obvious benefit of being told whether a movie is worth seeing. I read those reviewers regularly enough to know how my taste aligns with them and sometimes even a negative review can indicate that I’ll enjoy a film if I happen to disagree with the reviewer’s general opinions. After seeing a film, a review can help me focus my thoughts about what did and didn’t work.

I liked Benjamin Button quite a bit more than most movie critics, even ones I respect a lot. The fact that a bunch of actors and filmmakers felt the same way doesn’t make the movie any better. A movie like Frozen River getting a couple Oscar nominations is not going to sway me from my opinion that I wouldn’t want to see a movie like that because I’ve seen enough movies like it already.

The Academy Awards can be a force for good. It can raise the profile of films that might have otherwise fallen through the cracks, but that’s not its usual mode. The usual Best Picture winner is something already sucessful, which doesn’t really need the extra exposure. A Best Documentary or Best Foreign Language award can definitely be a big boost, since those films have usually barely been released theatrically in the U.S. when they win, and it can seriously impact a small film’s success in a slow roll-out through art house theaters.

Luckily, I don’t have to watch the show this year because I’ll be out of the country, on vacation.

My Cable Television Debut

Current TV commissioned a video about my Truth @ 15 Frames Per Second series and I am happy to announce that it will premiere on Tuesday December 16, 2008 at 11pm on the Brand Spanking New Show (Edit: Turns out this was in the UK only). I know you’ve never heard of it. It’s a cable channel Al Gore co-founded in order to democratize television or something. I’ve watched it a bit, and they have some really great stuff. It’s like an all-year short documentary film festival. If you have cable or sattelite TV you probably get it. My new provider DirecTV has it on 366. Time Warner Cable is 103 in NYC and on various other channels in other cities. Dish is 196. Comcast is 107 in most cities. AT&T U-Verse is 189. Visit their website if you can’t find it on your local provider.

If you prefer to watch television on the Internet, you can watch the video here instead.

Switched to DirecTV

When I moved into my apartment 4 1/2 years ago, I had Time Warner Cable and their Roadrunner Internet. The Internet connection was extremely unreliable and after about 6 months we switched to Verizon DSL, which has been rock solid with the exception of a few days with a router failure down the street somewhere, or something like that. It was fixed fairly quickly. The Time Warner SD video signal was also slightly unreliable. I got some digital breakup every once in a while, and on demand type interactive things never worked.

Things got really bad when I got my HDTV almost two years ago. We didn’t have any HD broadcast channels for the first several weeks, and it turned out the wiring on the way into our house was done really badly. We eventually got TWC to send a really great contractor to run a new wire from the tap, which resides in the back yard of our neighbors two doors down.

My girlfriend calls it the Time Warner Rat King. Read more

YouTube Goes Wide!

I remember when all my YouTube videos were encoded 4 frames out of sync. Times sure have changed. The YouTube video player is now widescreen, which is great because it really lets you get the full resolution of your widescreen videos, but it’s not so kind to older videos that haven’t been encoded in “high quality”, like the copy of Two Night Stand I uploaded in 2006. Embed codes still default to 4:3, but you can customize the size to whatever you want. Unfortunately the thumbnail seems to be letterboxed, so in a 16:9 player it ends up window-boxed.

Update Dec 6: Things have changed even more. Embed codes are now widescreen, and thumbnails are no longer windowboxed. Even better: 720p!!!!! If you’ve uploaded a 720p or higher video, add &ap=%2526fmt%3D22 to the end of the param value and embed src urls in the embed code and you can actually embed 720p YouTube videos on your website. To view 720p videos on YouTube, add &fmt=22 to the end of the url.

HVX-200 SD 24p on P2 Cards — No Reverse Telecine?

A couple weeks ago I was working on a job that was shot on P2 cards with the HVX-200. The cameras were recording 24p SD. I logged and transferred and got 29.97 NTSC DV clips, as expected. When I tried to do a reverse telecine, I got nothing. If I selected a clip then clicked on “Tools/Cinema Tools Reverse Telecine” it opened Cinema Tools but the clip was not processed. If I opened the clip in Cinema Tools, the option to do a reverse telecine was grayed out. When I stepped through the clips they were clearly 24p video with 2:3 pulldown. If I ran them through Compressor and used reverse telecine to deinterlace in the frame control tools, I got what I was after, but that seems like it would be unnecessary.

We worked everything out by shooting 24pa, but I’m still not sure why I can’t do a reverse telecine in Cinema Tools on 24p footage shot on P2 cards. I did a test and set the HVX-200 to record 24p (not 24pa) onto DV tape. I captured it as DV-NTSC, and I had no trouble doing a reverse telecine in Cinema Tools. The situation seems to be confined to 24p material shot on P2 cards. What is it about 24p footage shot on P2 cards as opposed to DV tapes that makes reverse telecine difficult?

Uninstalling Final Cut Studio

On Thursday afternoon I tried to upgrade FCP from 6.0.2 to 6.0.4, which required upgrading the OS from 10.5.2 to 10.5.4. Now, my desktop computer is not a real Mac, which means it requires extreme care when upgrading the OS. What I did instead was run software update and assume everything would be fine.

It wasn’t fine. It turns out if you can run a vanilla kernel (which I can) then you can upgrade from 10.5.3 to 10.5.4 using software update. But going from 10.5.2 to 10.5.3 generally causes kernel panics. Luckily I had backed up my Library, Users, and System folders. So I did a clean install of 10.5.2, then copied my User and Library files back in while I was booted up in Windows. I used Kalyway’s patched upgrade to 10.5.3 and then used software update to get to 10.5.4. I was then able to upgrade FCP to 6.0.4.

Unfortunately, the older version of nvinject that I was using didn’t work with the new OS and I lost QE support. I tried switching to NVKush, which brought back QE, but whenever I was playing video in FCP the position bar didn’t update. So I got a new version of nvinject, which works great.

Then I started actually working with FCP. The eagle-eyed among you might have noticed that I did something a little screwy a few paragraphs back. I copied my backup files while I was in Windows, which totally screwed up the permissions of a large number of my files, including some of the very files that are supposed to facilitate permission repair. I couldn’t load Compressor, Motion, or any FXPlug effects. I tried re-installing FCS, but I was doing it manually and didn’t delete the very important receipts for the “frameworks” that are required in order to load the things I couldn’t load.

Eventually I tracked everything down, but what I should have used is FCS Remover, which does all that stuff automatically. There is a TON of stuff floating around in various folders. Don’t try to do it all yourself.

Who Says You Can’t Make Money On The Internet?

I complained a while ago about the lack of reporting for advertising impressions on Vuze, but they have come through big time. It seems they switched their advertising network right around the time I uploaded Two Night Stand on June 30, but the reporting system was still looking for data from the old network. I’m kind of surprised it took so long to figure that out, but I guess the producers of VIP Topless Hotties Clip 3 are getting most of their revenue elsewhere and aren’t paying as close attention as I am. After a month or so of pushing, I got a report last night letting me know that in 6 weeks I’ve earned over $1000 from my various videos on Vuze, the vast majority of it coming from Two Night Stand. This is by far the most I’ve earned from my own films, and I’m very happy about it. I haven’t made back my out of pocket expenses on Two Night Stand, but it makes a significant dent. Approximately half of the Two Night Stand downloads recorded by Vuze generated qualified advertising impressions.

Sadly, the glory days of Two Night Stand on Vuze are over. It will probably overtake “Dcmdp: The Package,” a badly recorded, slightly dirty joke, to make it the #4 most downloaded video ever on Vuze, but it doesn’t seem likely to make it any higher.