Tag Archives: movies

Hodge-Podge

As I write this I’m sitting in the living room with my dog lying against my feet. He doesn’t like thunder very much and sometimes needs a little reassurance that everything is okay. It’s sweet the way he trusts me, and feels better just knowing I’m here, and I feel a little bad that I have to go in an hour. But maybe the storm will die down.

Sometimes there are things I want to write about that aren’t a whole blog post, or if they were it would come across more as a rant. Here’s a smattering:

– I just purchased the recent Dynamite Comics Bundle from Story Bundle and included amongst the titles is Red Sonja: Unchained. For those unfamiliar Red Sonja is a sexy red-headed barbarian fighting in a fantasy world of dangerous monsters and sporting a chain-mail bikini (I reviewed Legends of Red Sonja a while ago which is also included in the bundle). The literal premise of Unchained is that her bikini is damaged by fighting a mystical wolf beast and she has to spend the rest of the story wearing something else, in this case the pelt of the wolf she just killed. Something about that just seems hilarious to me. Don’t judge.

– A little shout-out to my friends down under who may be getting a letter from the studio that produced Dallas Buyers Club. Seems Australian ISPs are going to have to give up the identity of about 5000 of you. The IP addresses were gathered by a data logger working for the studio who joined the torrent sharing of the movie. Piracy is bad and all, but I think it’s ridiculous how much lag time there can be with the release of certain products in different countries (in Australia’s case often many months). I’m always a little annoyed to learn when an American film premieres overseas before it premieres here (and some even get different endings or scenes (i.e. Iron Man 3)). What bothers me simply about this is that there are no clear technological reasons why films can’t just be released at the same time. A lot of theaters in my area now have digital screens where the movie played is essentially a high quality digital file. I know there are some complex economics involved, but that feels mostly like an excuse. People will buy your product if it is reasonably priced, and available in a timely fashion. Otherwise, they’ll find a way to get it anyway.

– I’ve been having a lot of fun transferring some old cassette tapes to digital, a project kicked off by finding a bunch of Brother Cadfael audio books on the cheap from the thrift store. Something about the weight, rattle and whirr of old tapes kicks up some old memories and sent me digging through my closets for more material to transfer. There are a number of Star Trek audio dramas that never made the transition to CD’s which is kind of a shame. The only drawback is that I have to play the whole tape to record it, in real time, but luckily I have a cassette player that fits in my bookbag which I can wire into my laptop and have the old tech sitting next to me while I write code. Best thing I found so far: John  Cleese reading C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. Classic and sadly out of print.

– Real training exercise I’ve been assigned at work: A peacock in the land of penguins. Turns out this is a classic business book now in its third edition, following the adventures of Perry the Peacock amidst a sea of birds in tuxes. It’s only a 0.01 on Amazon (with $3.99 shipping) if you want a laugh or to take the course with me. Isn’t corporate life grand?

– In case of any of you have picked up the fractal book but have questions about it, remember you can always contact me at bentrubewriter@gmail.com. I had a great e-mail back and forth recently with someone who picked up the book and needed a little code assistance. Always happy to help someone learn about fractals. Or anything else for that matter.

– I’m thrilled that the next Lego Game will be Jurassic: World, covering the original trilogy and the newest installment. We watched all three movies over the weekend (1st one is still the best by a long shot). But I’ve got to wonder how they’ll adapt this into a kid friendly game. I’ve been playing Telltale’s episodic Jurassic Park recently and you spend a lot of time getting eaten by dinosaurs for making mistakes. One scene in particular involved my character getting crushed between a Triceratops and a T-Rex with a 30 second sequence of my daughter grieving before it told me I died and let me reload. I’m dead already, you don’t have to make me feel bad about it.

That’s all for now. Have a good morning!

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Trube on Tech: Making a DVD Video

Elle was kind enough to provide the first question to “Ask a tech guy”. She’s having a little trouble burning DVD’s from her Sony Handycam:

I cannot get Nero 12 to make a DVD from my Sony Handycam video camera. I know it can be done because I was successful about a year ago. Now each time I connect and pull up the video and try to burn it tells me it cannot write to a DVD disk and instead asks for a CD. I cannot find an option to change it to DVD.  My only option has been to create it on windows media which will only play on a computer. When I Google the problem I get everything but an answer! If you can’t help me with this at least I vented.  ;)Thanks!

Elle

After some digging and a little more feedback from Elle, we found out that her camera creates MPEG (.mpg) files. While I have neither Nero 12, nor a Sony Camcorder, I have a decent amount of experience creating DVD’s from all sorts of video files.

Today I’ll cover how to make a DVD from any video file, and more importantly, how to burn it to a DVD.

For today we’ll need a couple of (free) third-party tools:

We’ll be creating a DVD working directory from her video files, and then cover how to burn these to a DVD that will play on most DVD players.

Creating a DVD

1) Open DVD Flick and click Add Title. Browse to your video file on your computer and click Open. (I recommend copying the file off the camera to somewhere on your computer for ease of generation). You can add multiple videos by repeating the Add Title step.

2) You’ll see your title in the main editor view.

DVDFlickAuthor001

The indicator on the left-hand side shows how much of a standard DVD the final video will fill. Typically I recommend burning between 90 minutes to three hours on a single DVD (the quality will automatically adjust in DVD Flick). My example video is almost two-hours, the latest live special from This American Life.

3) Click Edit Title. You’ll see this screen pop-up:

DVDFlickAuthor002

From here you can change the title of your video file (Name) and choose a thumbnail from the video that will show up on any menus we create. You can adjust the time index by using the arrows, or by typing in a time (takes a moment to refresh the picture).

4) Click Chapters on the left of this dialog. From here we can create some chapters for easy navigation in a long video.

DVDFlickAuthor003

For the moment I just went with uniform 10 minute chapters.

5) Click Accept to save Title changes.

6) Click Project Settings to adjust the overall title of your DVD. For the moment the default settings should be fine.

DVDFlickAuthor004

I’m using kind of a long name here (as you’ll see when you create the menus). You’ll probably want to keep the title to 20 characters or less. Click Accept to save changes.

7) Click Menu Settings. This allows you to create a basic menu for your DVD based on a couple of pre-selected templates.

DVDFlickAuthor005

8) You can preview how your menu will look and operate by clicking the Preview button.

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As you can see, my project title was a little long.

9) The preview will also show you any titles you’ve added by clicking the Select Title option.

DVDFlickAuthor007

Click the X at the top-right to close the preview. Click Accept to save menu changes.

10) Save your project by clicking Save Project. A saved project will work as long as the video file is kept in the same place (so it’s a good idea to copy this file to your computer).

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11) You’re now ready to create your DVD files. Click Create DVD to create your DVD.

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12) Running this will take a number of hours so DVD Flick has some built in ways to entertain you. Click Entertain me if you’re really bored.

DVDFlickAuthor010

Actually this program runs pretty much in the background, so you can use your computer normally while it’s working. You can speed it up (a little) by adjusting the Process Priority up.

13) When the program is finished running it will create a DVD folder that looks something like this:

DVDFlickAuthor011

The sub-folder dvd contains the two folders AUDIO_TS and VIDEO_TS required for all DVD videos. It’s these folders we’ll be burning to a DVD. Here’s what the inside of the VIDEO_TS folder will look like:

DVDFlickAuthor012

The number of VOB files will vary based on your project.

Now we’re ready to burn our movie.

Burning a DVD movie

1) Put a blank DVD in the tray and Open InfraRecorder. Select Video Disc from the front menu.

InfraRecorder001

 

2) This will bring up the basic project window. Browse to your DVD folder and add the AUDIO_TS and VIDEO_TS folders as shown:

InfraRecorder002

3) Click Actions–>Burn Compilation–>To a Compact Disc (works for both DVD’s and CD’s).

InfraRecorder003

4) Burning options are pretty simple (defaults are probably fine). Click OK to burn your disc.

InfraRecorder004

And you’re done. It might take a little longer than the Nero process did, but it offers a lot more flexibility with the kind of DVD’s you can make. Nero may have a DVD video burning function like the one shown in InfraRecorder, so you may want to try that, but that will typically require the AUDIO_TS and VIDEO_TS folders we generated with DVD Flick.

Let me know if you have any questions, and for those of you with tech problems of your own, feel free to submit them in the comments, or by using the Contact menu option. If you do, you’ll get a personalized response like this one.

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Things we come back to

My consumption and frankly obsession with media tends to be cyclical. I’m really into something for a couple of weeks, then it dies down for a little while, then often it comes back. I think some of this is encouraged by streaming services like Netflix, where you can simulate the cable TV model by watching a season of a show obsessively for a week or two, then catch it next year. Some interests are more sustained (like Star Trek), but even these wax and wane.

My current cycle seems to be watching things I watched years ago, in part again because of Netflix. And I realized that there’s a taxonomy of how we evaluate things we go back to. On the left hand side are things that on a second viewing we don’t like, and on the right are things we do like. I would further sub-divide likes and don’t likes into two categories:

Likes

  • Pleasant Surprise – It’s as good as I remember it.
  • Nostalgic – I like this, but probably wouldn’t if I was seeing it for the first time now.

Don’t Likes

  • Tastes Change – I may be able to understand why I liked this in the past, but I don’t now.
  • Holy Crap – What the hell was I thinking?

Some examples from my recent viewing (with the exception of Chapelle which was a few years ago):

Red vs Blue – Watched this pretty obsessively through college, one 3 minute episode at a time. The first five “seasons” are on Netflix, and even though I cringe at the distinction of this being the longest running sci-fi series (at 11 seasons and counting), these first seasons are as good as I remember. Sure the language is crude (sometimes imaginatively so), but the pacing and building storyline are hilarious even when I know what’s coming. (Pleasant Surprise)

Chapelle Show – Another college show. Maybe this one was more of its moment than I realized, because watching it again I couldn’t stand it. It was crude, it was gross, and it wasn’t nearly as clever as Key & Peele. I had bought the first season cheap out of memory, and promptly resold it. (Holy Crap)

Batman: The Animated Series – It’s a kid’s show and I am one of those people who contend cartoons were better in my day, based on my limited knowledge of current TV. This show shaped my perception of what Batman should be, and some of them are really quite good to go back to. But the dialogue is definitely a little hokey in spots and it lacks the stakes of more mature Batman tales told in the comics. This one’s somewhere between Nostalgic and Pleasant Surprise.

The Rescuers – What can I say, I love Bob Newhart. And it’s the rare Disney movie that doesn’t involve saving a princess and actually shows a woman (admittedly a mouse) being fun loving and capable, and even having to encourage her more nervous partner into bolder steps. I would love to show these movies to my kids someday. (Pleasant Surprise)

Foamy (Neurotically Yours) – This one’s a little trickier because I already sensed the quality dipping when I was watching this (again back in college). But truthfully as I get older I find less of this funny and just crude and gross, and occasionally sexually creepy. I still love the Matrix one, and the burping one about (when’s the last time I had a f-ing hot dog) but that’s about it. This one is somewhere between Holy Crap and Tastes Change.

I could go on, but I’d love to hear from you. What have you gone back to recently and how have you reacted to it? Where does that show, comic book, video game, book, or movie fall on the taxonomy?

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We’ll Meet Again

For those of you who are fans of Kubrick’s classic Dr. Strangelove, I just got a tune stuck in your head.

There’s a moment in TV shows, movies and video games that I always like. Something is happening that is bad, be it a brutal fight, a building falling down, or the world being destroyed in a nuclear holocaust and instead of playing intense music in the background, something cheerful is playing.

This is best explained with examples:

  • In the opening scene in Watchmen, the Comedian is brutally beaten and thrown out a window, all while Unforgettable by Nat King Cole is being played.
  • In Metropolis (the anime movie), as the Ziggurat (a huge tower) is destroyed we hear not the bombs or the twisting metal, but “I Can’t Stop Loving You” by Ray Charles.
  • In Dr. Strangelove the ending is dozens of nuclear explosions, signifying the end of the world, all while someone sings “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when. But I know we’ll meet again, some sunny day.”

I love this to the point where I have even imagined a character who acts as a mafia assassin while Abba music is playing. Can’t you just see it? Someone is riddled with bullets while “Dancing Queen” is played?

Okay, that’s pretty macabre and it’s not exactly what I mean.

I like the contrast of something sweet and something scary. This last week while I’ve been sitting in the living room with the dog I’ve been playing BioShock, which is chock full of moments like this one. The whole game is set to the tune of 1940s standards including the apt “Somewhere, beneath the sea” (the game takes place in Rapture, and underwater dystopia). It’s gotten to the point that when I first entered a room and heard the strains of “Danny Boy” I swore, knowing that something terrible was going to be just around the corner.

So this got me thinking, is there a way to do this in writing?

I guess tone would be the closest analog to actual music. Your character can be the sing-song cheerful type who describes an imploding building with glee, but this doesn’t feel quite right. Again it’s macabre, and fundamentally I don’t think this moment is macabre, but strangely apt. The perfectly executed moments like this in cinema make you feel like there couldn’t have been any other music underneath them.

You could talk about an actual song playing and try to get people to think about that contrast in their heads, but that feels a little too much like screenplay writing as opposed to actual fiction writing. You’re looking for a bizarre juxtaposition, but not one that seems loony or completely off the wall either. It has to fit.

Well, more often than not I write these posts without a particular conclusion in mind. This is just one of those problems I’ll toss into the back of my sub-conscious and see if I can come up with anything. In the meantime, however, have you ever read a story that creates this kind of a moment? How about more of your favorites from TV and film?

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They ruined my favorite book!

I have yet to actually see Ender’s Game but I have not been hearing very encouraging things.

Actually, I know the point I got really worried (besides the casting of Harrison Ford and Moises Arias). It was the line “game over” in the trailer.

This isn’t the first movie that disappoints its fans, and it won’t be the last. But it did get me wondering what’s the best way to look at a movie like this.

Last year the little red haired girl and I saw The Hunger Games shortly after we both read the book (for me it was an audiobook but that’s not cheating 😉 ). My wife was very disappointed in the movie, citing all the things they left out of the story and how it would be hard to pick up on certain things without knowledge of the book. Conversely, I thought the movie made certain characters way more sympathetic (I’m looking at you Katniss who I honestly did not always care for in the book).

In both cases, our reaction to the movie was informed by our relationship with the book. We both loved the book overall, and definitely preferred it, my wife to the point she finished the trilogy in fairly short order (I still have yet to read the last).

This year my wife briefly thought about boning up on Catching Fire to get in the spirit of the movie, but decided against it for the time being, as she felt her recent reading of the book negatively colored her view of the movie.

I’m still mixed on this. When Watchmen was coming out I had no relationship with the graphic novel, other than knowing it was one of the iconic graphic novels. I devoured it and was generally pleased with the adaption even if some think it was “too faithful” to its source material. I had a similar experience with Scott Pilgrim. I’m often a little late to parties, but I’m happy to do the work to catch up.

As for Ender’s Game  I didn’t read it until a couple of years ago. When I was in high school I had a choice between it and Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama. I chose Clarke (yes I’m sad to say I also read all of his 2001-3001 series. Just remember in the 31st century it’s fashionable to be uncircumcised.) This was long before the movie was announced, but I still have a young enough relationship to the book that my ideas of its execution are fresh and pliant. Despite the bad reviews I might still give Ender a chance, just in the dollar theater.

As for my total geek out fantasy movie which will never ever be made?

The Sandman.

I’m fairly specific on this one, so I doubt this will ever happen except in my wildest dreams. I’d cast Benedict Cumberbatch as Morpheus King of Dreams (You see it right? Just take his Kahn outfit and give him black eyes). Death’s tricky but all I know is not Helena Bonham Carter. And one more thing, it’s not a movie. Each of the 10 volumes would work best as a mini-series, maybe 20 total episodes of 1.5 hours. And I don’t really trust Americans to make this so I’m looking at you Stephen Moffat or pretty much anyone at the BBC.

Ah, well. A man can dream.

Do books ruin movies for you? Do you think there’s a relationship between how long you’ve lived with a book and how much you’ll judge any movie adaption? Who would you cast as Death?

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Quotable Lines

I’m reading the first book I’ve read in a while that has quotable lines.

A character hearing voices says, “I’m going out of my mind.” to which the voice replies. “Good. It’s getting crowded in here.”

Okay, it’s not “tis a far far better thing”. It’s more along the lines of “You’re turning into a penguin. Stop it!” But still, it’s fun, it’s memorable, and it leaps out at the reader.

How in the heck do you do this as a writer?

I have a feeling it’s deliberate, that such lines are not written by accident. After all, a good author will parse sentence by sentence, tweaking each til its the best it can possibly be.

But there’s a spontaneity to it as well. This particular book has a playful nature, so I can totally see it as being the result of a riff on the character that just flows naturally.

I think this is a level of writing I have yet to get to, if I’m being honest. Maybe it’s happened once or twice by accident, but all the other times I’ve tried to make it happen it seems forced. I could make the claim since I’m more of a genre writer than a literary one, that quotability is not important, but the book I’m reading is clearly a genre piece, and a genre satire at that.

Good lines are original. They speak from a specific character viewpoint, or the author’s view. And they’re fresh, or recycled in an ironic way. They can be at the beginning of a scene, the end, or scattered throughout the middle.

Maybe it’s just good prose, but I don’t know. It seems to be something special, just a little bit bent, or different.

If I figure it out I’ll let you know.

What are some of your favorite lines?

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On Valentine’s Day, You Won’t Die Hard Alone

This valentine’s day take your special someone to the movie she really wants to see, A Good Day To Die Hard.

Here for the first time, courtesy of myself and the Little Red-Haired Girl, is the definitive list of alternate titles for Die Hard V:

– Old Habits Die Hard

– Only The Good Die Hard

– Live Long And Die Hard

– All Good Things Must Die Hard

– Eat, Pray, Die Hard

– Live And Let Die … Hard

– Kiss Kiss, Die Hard

– Die Hard: The Musical

– Crawl Into A Hole And Die Hard

– Die Hard And Goodnight

– Die Hard Another Day

– Eat, Drink and Be Merry … For Tomorrow We Die Hard

– Let Them Die Hard

– 50 Ways To Die Hard

– CSI: Die Hard

– A Very Special Die Hard Christmas

– Die Hard Unchained

– Die Hard V: Die Hardest

– Die Hard, Charlie Brown

– Chitty Chitty, Die Hard

– Tomorrow Never Dies Hard

– The Man Who Died Hard

– Born To Die Hard

– Die Hard With Me

– Don’t Speak, Die Hard

– A Die Hard Day’s Night

– A Die Hard State Of Mind

– Another Day To Die Hard

– Be Of Good Cheer And Die Hard

– Show Me How To Die Hard

– Forgive And Die Hard

– I Would Die Hard For You

– Ticket To Die Hard

And don’t forget the official movie tie-in:

Monopoly – The Die Hard Edition

Happy Valentine’s Day Everybody!

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