Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Good Riddance Larry King

It's amazing that the collective IQ of American TV viewers is so low that people like Larry King and Baba Wawa managed to stay on the air for more than a week.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Sad State of Sci-Fi

Whether you read books or watch movies and TV shows, one thing that's apparent is how ridiculously hard it is to find any sci-fi that's even halfway worth paying attention to. Let's face it, there have only been a small handful of novels that have been worth reading in the past 50 years anyway, but sci-fi use to stand out from the pack before then. Arthur C Clarke and Ray Bradbury did some wonderful things in the 50s. Clarke's The City and the Stars is still the best sci-fi novel I've ever read. Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein were doing their best work in the 50s too. Before them you had H.G. Wells and Jules Verne among others. I was just recently turned on to Walter Miller who had two great novels in the 50s to early 60s. Clarke also did some outstanding work in the 60s and into the 70s, but he's one of the few. I just started reading Orson Scott Card and really like his Ender series so far, so we have at least one good sci-fi writer who's still active. There are some good fantasy writers like Susanna Clarke, but I would never lump fantasy in with sci-fi the way booksellers do nowadays.

There were some very good sci-fi movies in the 60s and 70s. Close Encounters of the Third Kind as probably the best of them, but I don't want to talk about sci-fi movies so much. I haven't seen a good one in a few years anyway, so it's currently in the same situation as movies and books.

Until this week, I hadn't watched any episodes of The X-Files since the show went off the air. I had forgotten just how good this show was. I don't believe in life on other planets or much by way of paranormal activities, but this show was done in such an intelligent way that it makes most of the scenarios seem believable, and it does it with as much science as possible, and that is what sci-fi is supposed to do. It's very sad when you look at how bad sci-fi has been on TV ever since. Fringe, Heroes, Stargate-SG1, and especially The Event all seem silly by comparison and appear to have been written for a very immature audience. But even the old classics—The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and One Step Beyond—couldn't hold a candle to Mulder and Scully. That was a special show. Lost was more of a fantasy show, but it wouldn't bother me if people referred to it as sci-fi. It was great in its own way, but it was what's commonly referred to as a "character driven show" which is usually an excuse for being unbelievable. In this case it worked, but I can't think of a single other show (or at least one for adults) where it has. Fantasy almost has to be character driven though. No one of any intelligence would waste time on a book or show about unbelievable subjects like vampires and werewolves unless there was an attractiveness to the characters. C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton were the kings of character driven fantasy. Sci-fi doesn't need it though. With sci-fi it's all about what happens. The characters are seldom memorable. Isn't it odd that throughout the entire 2001 Space Odyssey series (wonderful as it was) the only character anyone can generally remember from it is a monotoned talking computer? Mulder and Scully had very low keyed personalities which would never drive a show in and of themselves. But the show wasn't about them or anyone else in particular. It was about what happens. It was about odd events in people's lives and not the people so much. Mostly it was about the mysterious. It's the mysterious that makes life interesting. Character driven stories are great for children because they're still developing their personalities and are dependant on the personalities of others as role models to grow into. That's enough to satisfy their young minds. Adults need something more though. It's curiosity that keeps us growing. If only there were more good stories to peak it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It's Devo on Aspirin!

Everybody's heard the old surf tune "Pipeline", but have you ever actually seen the Chantays play it? And on Lawrence Welk yet! This is a hoot. Dig the fancy footwork.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Terriers" Has Been Canceled

Just to let the faithful few know, it's official. The best show on TV has been canceled after just one season. Figures though. Is there anybody, any TV network owners, anyone in Hollyweird that's satisfied with making a living instead of a killing? Is there some crime in California law that says you can't just produce really great shows that make a decent living for yourselves and actually be respected by normal humans with an IQ in the upper half of the population? Must you throw away all things good and esteemed if they make just a little less money for you than something moronic that sells a few more sponsored products? FX Network—you're pathetic.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sony Vegas Contrast Problem

I mentioned in a previous post that I've been trying out Vegas for video editing and have been pondering switching to it from Adobe Premiere. There are some things I really like about using Vegas to edit with. In some ways the GUI is much more sensible. But one big drawback with Vegas is that it has a contrast problem. The video preview window is simply lacking in contrast, and I'm not the first person to notice it. I did some googling and found a few posts on the net where other people have noticed this going back at least three years. Surely someone must have notified Sony about this by now. Why haven't they fixed it after all this time? That's the type of thing that just infuriates me. Any program can have a bug, and all of them do at some point. What separates the good software companies from the bad is how quickly they offer a patch to fix it. Sony loses some serious points over this one.

How on earth are you supposed to do basic video editing things like color correction when the contrast is off? Here's an example of how bad it is. The tree on the left is a screen capture from the preview window in Vegas. The tree on the right is from Magix Movie Edit Pro (and it looks the same there as it does in any other editor or Windows Media Player).

I must have close to 15 or 20 programs that use a video preview window for various things, and every one of them looks the same except for Vegas. Switching between programs becomes a real pain if I have to change the contrast on my monitor every time I enter and leave Vegas. It simply makes the software unusable. On to something else....

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sony HVR-V1U Low Light Test

This Sony camcorder has a low light rating of 4-lux. That's not particularly good; however, Sony is well-known for having gain circuits that are outstanding and produce very little noise. I have found this to be true. For the test, I shot some footage at night here in my little bedroom studio using nothing but a small Bescor 50-watt LED light attached to the shoe with the cam on a tripod about 6-feet away.
It's a cold shoe, but the light runs off its own batteries. This is just about the largest light you'll ever see attached to a camcorder shoe, but 50-watts is still very little light. It's good for doing outdoor nighttime interviews in a pinch, but that's about it. I traded a small mixer to a guy on Ebay for it.
The light wouldn't scoot all the way back on the shoe though without bumping into the microphone, so I had to get an adapter (also made by Bescor) to lift it up higher. Chances are I'll end up using the adapter more than the light because it's also good for mounting an LCD monitor and getting it up out of the way in the same fashion.

The footage was shot in 1080P at 24A with cinema tones. Here are a couple of stills. You can click on them to enlarge (like most of the photos in my blogs), but keep in mind that these are full-frame HD, so they're very large, but nice.