Tim’s Vermeer

You have an obsession … it intrigues you … there is a mystery … you have a hunch … you consult experts … you try it … you succeed. It’s still not a proof … but you’re convinced … you feel good. 😀

Tim’s Vermeer is an awesome documentary following Tim Jenison trying to figure out what technique 17th century painter Johannes Vermeer may have used to capture lighting, color and minute details of the painted scenes. It’s an awesome way to watch the geek’s mind at work. 😉

KAZ: Pushing Product Placement

After reading on arstechnica about a new documentary called Kaz I was psyched to watch it. I’m no console player, but Gran Turismo is a household name by now. 😉 The documentary is about Kazunori Yamauchi the producer of this legendary game series. It promised insight into the thoughts and ambitions of a perfectionist mind funneled though the game making process to produce one of the most acclaimed racing car simulation games out there.

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But what I went to see was utterly disappointing!

I expected insight into the process of capturing the “soul” of complex machines–that cars have undeniably become–and how they managed to produce a “piece of art” (in a visual and “feeling of realism” sense) so that they each car they put into the game feels and acts subtly, but recognizably different. I expected something along the lines of creator’s vision, technical process and production anecdotes (very much like the Oral History of Street Fighter 2).

How do you capture the very tactile nature of car racing and delivering it through a gaming console?

How do you deliver the sense of speed and deafening sound into the living room?

How do you make this livable so that people really think they have tasted a drip of the real experience?

Wouldn’t this be interesting to know?

There have been very different but good examples set by companies like Blizzard or id Software when it comes to this. (I’m only counting one-way communication here. so only videos, talks, interviews, etc.)
I loved the battle reports before StarCraft 2 came out or interviews with game director Dustin Browder talking about balance changes and giving insight into their weighing and thinking in the process.
On the other side you have people like John Carmack do after-the-fact (sometimes very technical) analyses of games his company produced on both very specific or very broad game development issues.

I have seen several documentaries that try to capture the fascination of gaming from the players side (e.g. The King of Kong) as well as some that try to show how certain very prominent games were made (e.g. Indie Game, Minecraft).

But this is nothing like any of them. It is a string of sterile interviews, shots in random (“industrial” looking) sceneries, with people (at best) vaguely related to the game, the industry, racing, the film or anything.

  • There are a bunch of random interviews with arists/crafts(wo)men neither of whom is involved in gaming or racing or anything todo with the movie.
  • Product placement
  • Interviews with a young racers and their families and trainers who have basically nothing to do with the game.
  • Pointless and empty phrases by car company representatives, etc. (e.g. Kevin Hunter makes me cringe)
  • Product placement
  • Endless adulation on how successful the GTAcademy is, without really going into how they actually recruit and train drivers
  • Irritating camera action (e.g. useless depth changes in interviews), superfluous shots and scenes just for product placement
  • And the list goes on …
  • Did I mention the product placement?

The only glimpse of how the game was actually made were in two short scenes: where they show how they digitize tracks and an interview with one of the games’ visual designers working on a track’s scenery.

The interviews with “Kaz” are interesting if it wasn’t for the over-the-top and totally artificial settings. There are also some rather bizarre outdoor shots with him in a forest and in a traditional around-the-corner restaurant. They seem like they were forcefully inserted to create the facade of a “happy” and “balanced” person … which seems odd … having a rough idea of the kind of mindset in both the (Japanese) corporate and the general gaming world.

It seems they were desperate to make one of the biggest game company’s largest and probably most expensive game productions look like a inspiring one-man handcrafted artsy garage project.

They basically failed really hard to portray it like an indie game (in spirit). The blatantly obvious and nonsensical product placements didn’t help either. So for a film trying to capture “feeling” it is a rather “over-engeneered” PR tool. Basically Sony achieved with KAZ what Morgan Spurlock couldn’t with The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.

So thats why I’m angry … there is no feeling, no emotion, no insight in this film … it’s a piece coming out of a soulless marketing machine … sadly …

Chinesen auf dem Weg nach Mekka

Das sind echte Pilger! Die wissen die Hadsch noch zu schätzen! Eine Mischung aus einfacher Frömmigkeit und kindlicher Vorfreude … Hadschis zum Gernhaben. 😀

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Eine andere Frage: wenn man aus China kommt, sind Hadsch-Geschenke (außer Zamzam) irgendwie sinnlos, oder? 😛

Behind the Scenes Look Into International Politics

There two interesting things I have seen and read with regard to international UN level conferences.

The first one was a documentary called The Island President. It’s about how the former president of the Maldives, Mohammed Nasheed, tried to make politicians of other states aware of the consequences of global warming, which in the case of the Maldives is quite dramatic. So it follows Mohammed Nasheed and his delegation meeting several foreign country representatives in preparation for and during the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

The second one is about a totally different topic: telecommunications and internet policy. ArsTechnica had an interesting piece about the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) 2012 in Dubai titled Behind closed doors at the UN’s attempted “takeover of the Internet”. It follows recounts of Eli Dourado as part of the US delegation participating in committee discussions drafting documents for regulating international telecommunications (and trying to get hold of the internet 😛 ).

Its interesting to see how politicians interact on the highest level. A common theme is the importance of choosing the right “words” both in negotiations and in drafting treaties/documents. Also interesting were where the front lines are and how the process of aligning interests, building alliances and persuasion works. From two very different standpoints, on two very different issues.

A note on the Maldives:
Being the lowest-lying country (1.5m above sea level, at the moment 😉 ) on the planet, it will be submerged under water within our lifetime with the current goal of limiting global warming to 2° at the end of the century (which looks like we we won’t be able to meet 🙁 ). Making its inhabitants the first nation of ecological refugees. 🙁

Update: ArsTechnica took a look at the IPCC’s climate predictions back from the 1990s … seems like they were mostly right with predicting the temperature rise and a little (too) conservative with the sea level rise.