Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I Have A Question

Here's something I just thought of while I was writing my previous post.

What if a large media company, such as Fox, ABC, NBC, or any number of other such media outlets made their shows freely available for download through a torrent network of their own? What if the quality of those downloads was exceptional, full HD, broadcast quality? What if the only catch was that the show you downloaded had ads embedded, either as banners similar to how networks currently advertise what's coming up next, or as a more standard "ad break" format?

Would you use the official site, or stick to the current ones?

The Obvious Pros:
The network gets advertising revenue, but you have to put up with ads. Except, the shows you download now usually have a ton of ad banners during them anyway from when they were ripped.
You have a guaranteed quality, know exactly what you're getting, and have no fear of an attached virus.
Worldwide simultaneous distribution.

The Obvious Cons:
Advertising would have to be regionalised. Don't know the details of this, or how difficult that would be to do.
It would kind of remove the revenue from selling shows to regional stations, such as our own RTÉ.

Of course, there are millions of variables and details to be worked out. The biggest and first that springs to mind is would the network stagger releases across geographical locales, so that Europe gets the show a month or even a week later? This would still be an incentive to go to the alternative torrent sites. But just as a straight-forward, worldwide release, no nonsense rather than the inclusion of revenue producing advertising, what do you think? Would it work?

Personally, I'd go for the official site. Advertising doesn't bother me. That said, given the choice, I'd certainly prefer banner ads over ad breaks. Happily, in this hypothetical system, banner ads would be better, as you could just fast-forward an ad break but you won't skip a chunk of an episode just to ignore a banner at the base of the screen. As I said before, I currently see numerous banners in the shows I watch. This would just be a way for the network that paid for the show to benefit from it!

I Just Had A Revelation

Don't get me wrong, I'm probably not the first person to realise this, but:

For the past ten years the old 80's cartoon and toy franchises have seen an astounding rebirth. What's old is new again. GI Joe, Transformers, He-Man and many more have experienced this. And the reason is simple: The kids of the 80's are the executives of today, and they remember what they love and want it back.

That's not my revelation. I've discussed this with friends for years. Everyone knows it's true. But I just realised something similar:

The kids and young adults of today are downloading music, movies, books and TV, to name but a few. They are illustrating a need for new copyright laws and a modern method of distributing media, but it is the current executives and company CEO's that refuse to embrace change*. We currently hear of all the legal battles big companies, such as the RIAA, go through against little people to enforce their authority. However, today's young adults will be tomorrows CEO's. And executives. And lawyers. And judges!

We just need to grin and bare it for the time being. Things will improve. Media will grow. Digital distribution will become a common, standard, household function, like shopping. DRM will be a thing of the past, as legitimate people will not be made feel like criminals, and more people will use legitimate methods in response.

All we need to do is wait for our youth to be in charge, and let their vision change the world. We should really listen to them when they tell us how the world is many years from now. They'll probably be right.

*- I realise this is a broad generalization. Many of today's companies are moving toward digital distribution as the norm now, even for music. But there are still a ridiculous number companies holding out for the old days.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Nutshell Review: Up

Just back from Disney Pixars newest offering, Up. First impressions are good.

The music is fantastic, utilizing a lot of classical music to full and wonderful effect. The beats are well matched, though possibly the fact that I noticed them is actually a negative. Music should accompany the scene, never overpower it, but I just couldn't help notice how well certain pieces fit the action onscreen.

And the action is rendered in stunning clarity and detail. Once again, Pixar prove themselves masters of their chosen medium. Having seen Monsters Vrs Aliens earlier in the year, the difference in quality is astounding. Everything is lovingly crafted, from the principle characters holding your attention, to the tiny flowers, bugs and landscape details all over the scenery.

Which brings me to the characters themselves. Now, admittedly, they were clichéd and, highly ironically, very 2D in nature, but they were fun and enjoyable, and I liked them. The animals that appear were probably more fun than the few humans, but I certainly wasn't annoyed at any of the characters presented.

Finally, the big part of the movie, the 3D. It seems that this is becoming more and more prevalent in modern cinema. In just this year alone, I can think of three animated movies already released and one on the way presented in polarized 3D, the style that needs the lined glasses, rather than the red/green ones. Monsters Vrs Aliens was ok, but the 3D never seemed to be quite right. It was a fraction of a millimeter off the whole time, and both myself and Claire ended up with quite the headache afterwords. We didn't get to see Coraline, unfortunately, so I can't comment on that, and I have no interest in seeing A Christmas Carol, having been less than impressed by any trailers so far.

But Up was incredible! The 3D was, for me, stunning. It worked so well. There were just a handful of moments when it shifted a little off, but 90% of the time, I loved the effect. Bit's flying out at the screen, depth and distance between characters and backgrounds, and even effective multiple layering. It has to be said though that Claire disagrees with me. She found the 3D distracting and annoying again. She says it was better than Monsters Vrs Aliens, but still not great.

The one weakness is the story. It's rather basic, simple and clichéd, and feels unusually by-the-numbers for a Pixar production. Claire felt she could not only tell where the plot was going, but could almost predict the dialogue in some places. I think her situation wasn't helped by the fact hat she couldn't immerse herself in the movie because of the 3D, while I fell headlong into the screen and only resurfaced when the credits rolled.

Well worth seeing in my opinion, though not Pixars finest hour. Then again, they may never top the perfection of Wall-E, which all members of this household are delighted to point out was a movie released before 3D became the cool thing to do.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Three Weddings

August 5th, 2008
We arrive at the Las Vegas State registrars office at around 10am, three hours before we were due to be at the chapel. There is already a long queue before us, filled with people from every walk of life. While we fill in the required forms, I catch fragments of accents from the other couples. There are at least two more Irish soon-to-be-newly-weds. Looking around, I see people in everything from nice suits to track suits. I smile and keep filling in the boxes.

August 1st, 2009
We arrive at Hollycross Abbey around 11:30am. There is no other cars in the parking lot. Taking a look around, we quickly realise that there is no-one else here. I ring one of my friends and learn, much to Claire's amusement, that we're over two hours early!

September 25th, 2009
We arrive in Portmerrion at 11am, an hour before the ceremony is due to begin. This is the first time either of us have been here, so we take our time walking through the village. Claire's choice of footwear seems to disagree strongly with the cobblestone pathways. We follow the village map and head for the main hall.

August 5th, 2008
Squashing any opportunity for Claire to be fashionably late to her own wedding, we get to the chapel a full hour before we're booked in and decide to head across the street to a nearby Starbucks. I'm surprised and amused to discover the Starbucks is inside a bank! Claire gets a juice and snack, I order a sandwich and coffee, but barely manage to drink the coffee, let alone eat more than a bite or two from the sandwich. As the hour ticks closer, we make our way back across the street to the Wee Kirk O' The Heather chapel. I can't resist humming "We're going to the chapel". Claire laughs, then tells me to stop.

August 1st, 2009
We head back into Thurles to get a bite to eat and waste an hour or two. The food is ok, but Claire and I get to have a laugh in the car. This time, when we get back to the church, there are a few more cars around, and shortly after we arrive, some of my college friends turn up. We spend time catching up and complimenting each other on our outfits, then get to chat with Thomas, the husband-to-be. He tells us he's feeling great, but he's exactly as he should be, a bundle of nerves.

September 25th, 2009
Outside the hall, we bump into Graham, soon-to-be-Mr.-Lynn. He's greeting everyone, and letting them know where to go. We have some time, so we look around the grounds near the hall. While we're wandering, more and more people are showing up. By the time we head back to outside the hall, there are a number of the Dublin gamers outside enjoying themselves. We wait around for a bit before the word comes that we should start moving inside.

August 5th, 2008
The Wee Kirk O' The Heath is a lovely chapel off the Vegas strip. It happily proclaims to be the oldest chapel in Vegas, something we didn't actually know when we booked it several months previously. Claire is kept outside, while I head into the chapel room itself. The Reverend greets me and we chat for a while as the photographer takes some of the final photos of an unmarried Claire.

I stand nervously before the altar.
The music starts.

August 1st, 2009
Hollycross Abbey is just as I remember it. It's huge and old. It has wonderful sound properties, and there are still ancient televisions mounted on the walls. The side aisles can't actually see the altar, thus the TVs . But that won't be a problem today. The central aisle easily seats all the guests with a good portion of the back seats to spare, and that's with a guest list of, at a guess, 200 plus!

Thomas stands nervously before the altar.
The music starts.

September 25th, 2009
Hercules Hall in Portmerrion is incredible. The entire ceiling is covered in high relief carvings depicting the story of Hercules. Above the table at the front of the hall is the panel showing Hercules holding up the heavens with Atlas. To the right as we look up the hall, the Greek legend battles Cerberus and behind us he battles Medusa. Two chairs covered in white sheets sit facing the guests to the right of the table. We spend the time chatting to the guests near us, some of whom are friends we haven't seen in years.

Graham is nowhere to be seen.
The music starts.

August 5th, 2008
The doors open and Claire enters the chapel. She is all I can see, standing in a green floral dress she has bought just a few days earlier. If breathing and pulse were a conscious action, I would be dead right now. Nothing else exists. I jump a little when the Reverend speaks and I am reminded that he and the photographer are in the room. The ceremony is short and eloquent. My hands are shaking as I hold Claire's, and I am terrified I will mess up placing the ring on her finger. Neither of us do. At our request, it is a religious ceremony, so God gets a few mentions, but this is about us. No-one else is there. Just Claire and I.

August 1st, 2009
The doors open and Andrea enters the abbey. Her father walks her down the aisle. She is spectacular. Outside, everyone had been asking about what her dress was going to be like, and now we get to see it. It is white with a royal blue train, and she looks fantastic. The ceremony is rather more the usual affair than ours was. I am constantly reminded of how much I enjoyed Vegas. I feel my eyes water and hold Claire's hand. Andrea and Thomas look amazing. They both laugh and enjoy themselves throughout the ceremony. The readings have been carefully chosen and the prayers of the faithful worded just right. The priest blesses them, and does go on just a little bit. Still, when it gets to the "You may kiss..." bit, I'm reminded that this is what they wanted, and for them right now, no-one else is here. Just Thomas and Andrea.

September 25th, 2009
The doors open and Graham and Lynn enter the hall. Lynn is beaming. I see her dress for the first time. She handmade it herself, and it is beautiful, with various earthy colours throughout. I love the design. Claire sniffs once and wipes her eye. They walk up to the table at the front of the hall, and the lady officiating the ceremony begins. In Wales, a civil ceremony can not, by law, mention God, and that feels strange for a bit. The first reading is a piece about the important things in a successful marriage, and the second is a poem about love. Everyone laughs at a few funny moments. As they kiss, I am certain that they forget about all the eyes watching. Right now, no-one else is here. Just Lynn and Graham.

August 5th, 2008
We head out of the chapel after getting our photos taken. The photographer is funny and kind, and lets us choose where to take some of the photos. We arrange to collect them the following day. Claire and I sit into our rented Corvette as husband and wife and head back to the Hilton. My heart is beating faster than it should be. Claire is beautiful. We spend the rest of the day in the hotel. Our wedding day dinner is in Quarks Bar, part of the Star Trek Experience located in the Hilton. I get a burger and chips, Claire has some chicken fingers. It is, to say the least, unforgettable.

August 1st, 2009
Everyone heads to the hotel. Andrea and Thomas go elsewhere first to get photos taken. The weather is beautiful, unlike the day before, or the day that will follow. They get to the hotel and spend time getting more photos in front of the wonderful building with various groups of people. The photographers are hilarious. The meal is delicious, topped off with possibly the best desert ever, a huge slice of toffee pudding.

September 25th, 2009
We all head out of the hall into the village grounds. The sun is shining and the sky is blue. The photographer gets some great shots of the various groups around the newly weds, and the village provides a captivating backdrop from any angle. Dinner is lovely, and everyone gets a cupcake that made up the "wedding cake" for desert. It is a clever idea. Clever, and delicious.

August 5th, 2008
We spend the evening in each others company, relaxing in the rooftop pool. I feel fantastic. We talk about how our friends are going to react when we tell them. We talk about the next four weeks we have in America. Claire asks if I regret not having the big Irish wedding. I don't. Though maybe, just maybe, I miss the obligatory cheesy-awful wedding band. But no. It has been a perfect day.

August 1st, 2009
As the evening continues, the band starts to play and the newly weds get their first dance. The music is exactly what I expect from a wedding, equal parts awesome, cheesy and just plain terrible, but always fun. The DJ's choice of music is no different. I don't get up to dance nearly as often as I want too, though I get better later in the night. It has been a great day.

September 25th, 2009
We have three hours to wander and enjoy the village. Claire goes back to the car to change her shoes and I put on my hoodie. Then Claire, Brian and I start our trek around the entire village. On the way we meet some other guests, end up on the beach for a bit, find a dog cemetery, reach a gazebo we saw earlier, and finally return to outside the hall as the evening gets dark. Because the meal was early, there is a buffet laid out, so we eat again before the DJ starts. Once again, the music is equal parts awesome, cheesy and just plain terrible, but always fun. I dance a lot more this time, and even manage to get Thriller played, much to the joy and fun of a large number of the guests. It has been a great day.

August 6th, 2008
We get up early. It's hard to sleep-in when the Vegas sun is outside. We drive to the Hoover Dam and take some photos. It's far too hot to do much, so we drive back to the hotel and swim again. We still have over three weeks ahead of us in America.

August 2nd, 2009
We arrive back at the hotel for the second day. There are a lot more kids today, and I get Rock Band set up in the TV room. It proves to be a popular with the kids. Over the day, there is a lot more singing and a lot less dancing. The singing moves from the TV room and the kids to the bar and the adults later in the night.

September 26th, 2009
We get up early and drive back to the ferry. I chat to Claire in the car, but sleep through a lot of the ferry crossing. The sea is calm, but rainclouds gather overhead. We meet a friend of Claire's in Dublin for dinner before driving back to Cork.

We get home. Tomorrow, we'll tell all our friends about the good times we had. But tonight? Tonight, we'll sleep.