I really enjoyed this piece on the art of foley sound, that is, creating sound effects to accompany pictures alongside dialogue and music.
One of my favorite passages comes from the section on Star Wars and designer Ben Burtt:
The iconic lightsabre sound from Star Wars (1977) is another wonderful example of this creative art. The designer Ben Burtt throws light on how that was created here. The Imperial Walkers sound was created from a machinist’s punch press and the sounds of bicycle chains; the TIE fighter sound is a modified elephant bellow; the Ewokese language was created by a complex layering of Tibetan, Mongolian and Nepali speech – the range of experimentation for Star Wars was, if anything, groundbreaking.
The post links to a great video of Ben Burtt describing how he discovered the inspiration for the sound that would become the lightsaber, and how he modified the sound for use in action (swinging the lightsabers, lightsabers clashing in fights, etc):
I’ve been following the “Marxian Drama” with Michael Arrington outlining labor and time spent working in a hard-core start-up environment like the Bay Area. While I haven’t lived in the Bay Area for a few years now, I’ve identified what I believe is a key way to figure out if you’re in one boat or another of job happiness.
How do you know where you fall on the spectrum? From language.
Pretend you’re at a party. Or meeting someone for the first time. They ask, “What do you do?” How do you reply?
Last Friday night, I used OpenTable for Android. It’s so easy and very helpful, especially when you’re in an area you don’t know well. Later in the weekend, at #SXSW in Austin (which, sadly, I did not attend), senior folks from StumbleUpon, YouTube and Pandora got on stage for a panel called, “Recommendation Engines: Going Beyond the Social Graph.”
What a missed opportunity for OpenTable.
I don’t mean the event itself. I mean to build out a robust and trustworthy recommendation algorithm of their own.
OpenTable should have one of the best recommendation engines out there. They have insight into not only search and browse behaviors for restaurants but more importantly, they know when you’ve actually eaten there.
Amazon’s reviews are so powerful not just because of their numbers, but because you can verify which reviewers have actually bought the product. We know it because Amazon can verify the purchase and the shipment.
Likewise, OpenTable can verify that someone sat down for their meal. (Note: Yelp tries to do this, too, by incorporating its check-ins. But all that really proves is that I was close by. OpenTable can say for sure that I ate there). It would be really cool if they could reconcile table orders with their reservations to verify even further that I did in fact try the lamb chop, but it’s not that OpenTable suffers from a reputation problem. They suffer simply from a lack-of-effort problem. Perhaps the problem is the incomplete feedback loop with the post-dining experience. OpenTable doesn’t need specific reviews of the restaurant by me, they have all the data that they need.
Moreover, OpenTable knows all about my habits: my price sensitivity, my proclivity to certain neighborhoods or preference of dining time. They can guess what genres of food I like and they can predict even things like where to eat based on where I might be at the time I’m booking for — maybe when booking last minute I prefer one type of restaurant, while planned meals a week out are different to me. There are all sorts of things.
I hope that all these things are on the team’s roadmap — perhaps they are. Think Foursquare but with data you don’t have any reason to question. I think OpenTable is sitting on a lot of really interesting data and they can do a lot in the future with it.
But for now, it’s a big missed opportunity for them.
Websites these days are advanced; they like to be helpful. For example, many offer to save your log in information for later. One such site is Facebook. And for a while, I assumed Facebook’s gesture (like many others) was there for my convenience — to be helpful. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it’s something much much more than that.
When you check that box, Facebook keeps you logged in for more than just their site. You’re logged in across the Web with Facebook, too.
Take the Washington Post: as Digg users observed, the site is heavily invested Facebook tie-ins but as a publisher, it is just one example. For example, when you view this article about Wisconsin governor Scott Walker while not signed in to Facebook, you get the following:
That one little check box allows for Facebook’s reach to move from beyond its one .com and the content in that domain and instead to many thousands of sites across the Web, and all the content on those pages.
It’s Facebook Connect, but without the obstacle of individual sign-on at each location. If the point of a universal log-in is to reduce friction when accessing (and sharing), this is it. To users, it’s a passive (and easy) way to stay connected within the Facebook ecosystem: sharing articles and sending them back into the algo to be distributed across friends’ News Feeds, populating likes for social ads, parsing the interactions for correlative data about demographic interests or Zeitgeist, etc. All of this, I should say, is fine (at least by me, since I know that it comes with the territory).
The social layer of the Web is here, and to think it’s all aided by that one innocuous check box.
This is just great. Thanks to OpenKinect Piano, these guys have hacked Microsoft Kinect to create a giant (virtual) keyboard on the floor, which you can play with your feet.
The best part? They’ve replicated the famous scene from 1988′s Big where Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia play “Heart and Soul” in FAO Schwartz.
(Start the first video at around 1:03).
If you want to see more great Kinect hacks, I encourage you to check out Slate’s video slideshow “Hands-free Hackers” which shows some great ones including Minority Report style Web browsing, etc.
I don’t like shopping, but the one kind I will tolerate is hunting for tech goodies. Couple that with Black Friday deals from the comfort of my own laptop, and I’m all over it. This year, my little bro and I bought my dad a beautiful 42″ Sharp LCD 1080p TV. This of course necessitated discussions of replacing the current disc player in our family room, which, believe it or not, is actually a dual DVD/VHS player.
We were looking around at Blu-ray players, comparing and contrasting their up-converting abilities, cost, etc. One thing we talked about as a feature was WiFi/Internet-enabled Blu-ray players. This struck me as a strange idea. The advantage is, as advertised, the ability to stream content directly to the device from Amazon, NetFlix and other services. The attraction from the consumer’s standpoint is obvious (more media, in more ways) but it is a counter-intuitively strong move by manufacturers.
It is, in short, a great example of disrupting your own tech advantage, a message hammered home to me this summer by David S. Rose at Singularity University. He gave the example of Amazon disrupting big-box physical book stores like Barnes & Noble, and then even further disrupting their own very successful model (and margins) with e-book delivery via the Kindle.
But I’d say that the Blu-ray example could prove to be even more lucrative. By positioning themselves directly between the consumer and the content regardless if the data is coming from a disc or streamed off the Web, Sony et al. are ensuring that when the tipping point in data delivery arrives, they’ll be there.
There is a story in today’s New York Times about falling Blu-ray prices which touches upon the tension:
…Blu-ray manufacturers have placed themselves in a seemingly awkward position: They are selling a device that relies on people to continue to buy discs, but the same device gives them a way to download videos — bypassing the discs the machines were built to play.
But, as the article goes on the point out, this is not all bad. In fact, in my opinion, it is the kind of long-sighted planning which despite being rather rare nowadays, should pay dividends.
Compare this move to the current player in our house: it is tempting to say these are parallel examples, of devices simply looking to bridge the gap as the world moves from one standard (VHS) to another (DVD) — and now to a third (Blu-ray).
But that overlooks something very basic and very crucial: the VHS/DVD combo player was reactionary. It was something which grew out of the need to give people a way to watch both their home movies stored on VHS as well as their newest releases coming out on DVD.
The Web-enabled Blu-ray player is an entirely different set-up: it is an attempt to jump the gun (and to disrupt the Blu-ray market) just as the market itself is maturing. Only now are prices falling near the “impulse purchase” range of $100, according to the president of the Blu-ray trade group. And the mainstream switch to streamed delivery is not due for a number of years. But there it is, right now, the WiFi Blu-ray player, available at your local Best Buy, and for cheaper now than ever.
Tags: amazon, black friday, blu-ray, disruption, disruptive technology, dvd, netflix, new york times, nytimes, sharp, shopping, singularityu, sony, stream, streaming, streaming content, tv, vhs, video
I found myself reading a number of articles on Ars Technica today. The first was a good run-down of what Comcast already owns in the face of its controlling stake in NBC. The second was an exciting look at the future of WiFi and the 1 Gbps speeds we can soon look forward to. Finally, Ars examined the history of YouTube, not only from a cultural perspective but also from a tech/policy standpoint.
Without endorsing endorsing or distancing myself from Christopher Hitchens, this piece on Palin is notable. I agree that it is absurd to see she has jumped on the “birther” bandwagon and all that, but what I like is the word Hitchens created:
…I pointed out the crude way in which she tried to Teflon-ize herself when allegations of weird political extremism were made against her (emphasis CLT).
In other news, we (the Stanford Cardinal) will be playing in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas on New Year’s eve (yay!) but without star redshirt quarterback, and Texas native, Andrew Luck (not-so-yay). That could be bad news bears. It could also mean that Toby will step up like he always does and account for 900 all-purpose yards. We’ll see.
Politics: Barack says he wants to use TARP money to stimulate the economy and put on some public works projects; the GOP goes all crazy. We’ve already put aside the money…people are looking for employment…Wall Street is in better shape (or at least so it seems): I think the Dems are right to fight for this money to be used intelligently.
CNet compiles a nice list of free holiday MP3s across the Web: 29 of which come from Amazon, including some titles by Lady GaGa and others.
Lifehacker shares a nice iTunes alternative, something I’m always happy to read more about.
I find it hilarious and also smart for AT&T to offer its “Mark the Spot” app in the App Store (iTunes link). It’sfunny because it’s an admission by the carrier that their service is, well, somewhat lacking. And it’s smart because it makes it at the very least appear like they’ll do something about it. Plus it’s a nice little community crowd-sourcing project which I think is a smart play.
But here’s what I don’t get: how it’s supposed to work. Let’s say I’m walking through Manhattan and I get to the corner and — BOOM! — service drops out. The very important business call that I was on is now terminated. I am mad. But, at least AT&T hopes, I fire up the app to report the spot as problematic. EXCEPT WE JUST SAID I DON’T HAVE ANY SERVICE. So riddle me this: how does a location-based app for reporting service dead zones work? I could walk down the street until my little EDGE or 3G icon reappears, but by that point, the whole idea of a GPS-tagged submission is gone. It’s all somewhat funny to me, and unless I’m missing something, AT&T is either going to have lots of frustrated customers trying unsuccessfully to report spotty (get it?) service, or lots of dead zone tags from nearby-but-not-quite-right locations.
Finally, today was a big day at Google*. Two huge announcements of (1) real-time search and (2) Google Goggles.
For real-time search, it’s a fantastic feature and the implementation could not be better, IMHO. There is lots of (far better) coverage across the Web on this, but I think it’s great.
Goggles is also an interesting product, and its launch was kind of buried by in a number of other big mobile announcements. The fact that is basically has augmented reality is also really really cool. This video does the best job of quickly and clearly communicating what exactly it is:
**NB: Just to be clear, none of my comments on anything at Google relate in any way to my employer. I’m just a guy, writing about and commenting on tidbits I find across the Web. Nothing here is an endorsement or Company position. I know you probably know this, but I wanted to put it in writing.
Tags: amazon, andrew luck, at&t, augmented reality, barack obama, birther, CNet, comcast, el paso, google goggles, hitchens, itunes, lady gaga, lifehacker, mp3, nbc, palin, real-time search, sarah palin, stanford football, sun bowl, TARP, texas, toby for heisman, toby gerhart, wifi, YouTube