The framerate of The Hobbit, and the reactions of audiences thereof

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When Peter Jackson filmed The Hobbit, he made the unusual decision to use a higher framerate than the regulation 24 frames-per-second. He filmed in 48 frames-per-second, and offered the audience two showings of the film; one in 48 FPS, and another in the standard 24 FPS. I saw The Hobbit in the cinema in 2012, and having the opinion that 48 FPS was not worth paying for, saw the default option in 2D. This was apparently wise. Many complained about the look of the film in 48 FPS; complaints that the framerate looked odd, that it detracted from the action onscreen and that it looked too detailed (and therefore made it more obvious what was real and what was not) dogged the 48 FPS showings, and still do in 2016.

A reason for this backlash, possibly, is the familiarity of the audience with 24 FPS movement in films; 24 frames is just above the point where the human brain ceases to see individual images, so there is considerable motion blur. One reviewer, who called the 48 FPS version “the most disappointing cinematic experience in recent memory” (and highly praised the 24 FPS showing), argues that the blur associated with a relatively low framerate adds to the “cinematic experience” expected by most viewers (1). It is also important to notice that the “soap opera effect”, a well known mark of low quality, is partly a result of high framerate footage. This will naturally create a negative impression of high framerate imagery in the minds of an audience.

The higher framerate is also, necessarily, more detailed. This accounts for the complaints that the film is too detailed for it’s own good. The effects in cinema rely on a standard framerate of 24 frames-per-second, because that is all they would ever be exposed to under normal conditions. This may not even be a conscious decision on the part of the effects workshop, but all makeup, lighting and practical effects were developed for and designed for a slower framerate, which is less sensitive to the human eye and requires effects to ‘correct’ what we see. When put in front of a 48 FPS camera, the lack of detail and exaggerated features have nowhere to hide, resulting in a movie that, as said by Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, “looks so hyper-real you see everything that’s fake about it”.

48 FPS is not dead. Andy Serkis, a well respected actor who was in all six Lord of the Rings related films, has announced an intent to make an adaption of George Orwell’s Animal Farm in 48 FPS, and James Cameron has announced similar plans for the Avatar sequels. The reception of The Hobbit, though, begs the question: is this really a good idea?

 

(1): http://gizmodo.com/5969817/the-hobbit-an-unexpected-masterclass-in-why-48-fps-fails

 

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Practitioner: Eric Jordan

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Eric Jordan is a multidisciplinary media designer, primarily working for the company he started 2Advanced. He specializes in interactive websites, so naturally he designed one for 2Advanced as well as several other companies. He has worked for several high profile clients.

 

Jordan has been recognized by .Net Magazine as one of the “world’s top 20 international web designers”. In 1999, he co-founded 2Advanced, a collective of several like-minded artists; together and apart, they have worked with numerous high profile clients including Nintendo (the website for the Game Boy Micro), Space-X (the 2004 edition of their website) and Bacardi (another website).

 

The 2Advanced website is, naturally, a showcase of the talents of the members. It is interactive, in other words. The design of the website centres around a central window, where most of the action takes place, with the above and below sections reserved for information, copyright notices and menu bars and the like. There are animations running all the time, to make the page more interesting. They appear to have gone with a tropical, underwater theme here, what with the bottles and sharks and so forth, although I have found images of a past incarnation where they were apparently using a futuristic city theme.

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The visual cues on the website are numerous, and generally involve making page transitions more interesting. They have bubbles containing content rising from the bottom, messages in bottles and other floating objects, to make the experience of browsing their website more interesting and memorable. The loading screen is 3D animated, high speed to make the impression that things are being worked on as fast as possible. I can’t find any auditory cues, but this is understandable. Amongst other things, websites that make noise are outdated and annoying.

 

The clients of both 2Advanced and Eric Jordan are numerous. Most of their work, for companies like Bacardi, Adobe, Motorola and Lexus, is creating websites for companies. The websites are generally of a similar interactive bent to the main site, again to make the time browsing them that much more memorable to the consumer, and to hold their attention for longer. Unfortunately, 2Advanced don’t appear to have updated their site in four years, and I can’t find any evidence of their work since the end of 2012. Eric Johnson has his own website, and he is still working, with work listed as recently as the beginning of 2016.

Eric Jordan’s website: http://www.ericjordan.com/

2Advanced website: http://www.2advanced.com/#/work

Cinematography 1: Camera Shots and the Rule of Thirds

Camera Shots:

Wide Shot:

A Wide shot is a shot taken from in front of the subject, which shows a large width of the image. This is the most basic sort of shot. The wide shot is not very interesting, but is useful, particularly for establishing shots.

Long Shot/Medium Shot:

The long shot is a shot where the subject’s entire body is visible. A Medium shot generally involves everything from the waist up. These shots are useful for showing whole body actions, and the wider scene. The medium shot is closer in, but still is useful for upper body actions.

Close Up:

A close up is where only the interesting aspect of the subject is visible on screen. They are used for smaller actions of significance, or to show the actors face when they are emoting.

Storyboards:

Storyboards are made with any manner of images that resemble the final product. They are used for planning a shot, allowing the user to visualize the scene before the cameras roll. The positions of the cameras can be planned out. The storyboard can be made with any image, including live action images.

Rule of Thirds:

The rule of thirds is used to make the film more interesting. Any important objects or clear lines, such as a horizon, should be in one of the upper or lower thirds of the screen. This makes the imagery feel more interesting to the audience, and also works with vertical objects. If possible, position all important objects in one third of the screen.

These concepts are universal to all visual media, not exclusively film making. This makes them useful to anybody studying this course; they can be used to add interest to anything from artwork to video games.

Foley Sound Artists

We are currently researching the recording of sound, and the creative uses of such. The practice of using recorded sounds to make music, either original compositions or covers of existing songs, have led us to the practitioner Andrew Huang. This musician uses various sounds recorded from random objects to make music.

andrew-huang_medium

Huang has a website, and also distributes mainly through a YouTube channel. He performs original music (such as “Musical Chairs” (1)) as well as covers of popular music (“Hits of 2014 – played with household objects” (2)) on a variety of objects, sometimes thematic; the “Chairs” song was performed entirely with chairs, and a “Breaking Bad” cover was made with equipment found in a meth lab. The audio is of good quality, and the sounds are recognizable in the covers. Huang is also a director.

 

A foley artist is the sound designer responsible for incidental and background sounds for a film of game. An example of a foley artist for film is Skip Lievsay, based in New York and supplier of sounds to the Coen Brothers and Martin Scorsese, with examples such as No Country for Old Men to his name.

 

Lievsay has worked on several well known films, such as No Country for Old Men, as mentioned, Fargo, The Big Lebowski and more recently the Hunger Games series of films and Gravity. The sounds he uses, as mentioned in this (3) article, are often not what they sound like; cooking bacon is used for rain, and the sound of a roaring lion is mixed with car engines to make cars feel more powerful. A point raised in the article is that audiences hear what they are conditioned to hear rather than what is recorded; a tape recorder sound is unusable in a Miles Davis biopic because it sounds too much like science-fiction spacecraft, because foley artists on science-fiction probably used tape decks to make a spaceship noise.

 

Lievsay is a high profile example of a foley artist. He is reportedly the only foley artist the Coen brothers will use, and has won two Academy Awards for work on No Country for Old Men.

 

latestJohn Roesch is another highly regarded foley artist, who works for both film and computer games. He is the lead foley artist for Warner Bros. Studios. Roesch worked on numerous high profile motion pictures, such as “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “The Abyss”, as well as video games such as “Dead Space” and “Final Fantasy X”.

 

Roesch was initially to be an actor, before he ended up working on sound for a live show as a favor for another acting student. He was asked to work on foley sound for another project, found that he liked it, and was recommended for a job by the director who had liked his work. Roesch made an offhand mention of his job to his landlady; she happened to be another foley artist, Joan Rowe, and informed Roesch of a new vacancy at her workplace. He took it, and eventually moved on to Warner Bros.: He eventually became the head of foley sound at Warner Bros. (4)

 

Leslie Bloome is a foley artist who works primarily for television. He started work in foley sound in 1991, on The Last Harvest, has 327 credits listed on IMDB and includes high profile shows like Babylon 5 in his portfolio.

 

MV5BMjE1NzQ2MTc4Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzM2NjY3Nw@@._V1_UY317_CR12,0,214,317_AL_Bloome has started a studio based in New York, MV5BMjE3OTE2MDg5MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDE0MTY3Nw@@._V1_UY99_CR16,0,99,99_AL_Alchemy Sound (5), that creates foley sounds. This studio has work for several current TV shows and Internet exclusive content, such as Making a Murderer for Netflix and Quantico for ABC. Alchemy Sound has also expanded to providing foley sounds for live productions and the sound for live events. They also provide the foley sounds for the recent video game Just Cause 3.

 

Bloome himself has received a nomination for an Emmy for his work on film, and provides sound for numerous theatrical productions, notably the Brooklyn Academy of Music production of This American Life.

 

No initial discussion of foley art would be complete without mentioning Jack Foley himself. Foley was the originator of the techniques mentioned in this article, working on the earliest sound films.

 

indexFoley was originally a hardware store owner on the outskirts of Los Angeles, until the land was sold to the city for water rights. Foley was able to convince the new movie industry that his town would be perfect for filming westerns. He then found work on sound films, developing the art of foley sound. He worked on film like “Melody of Love” in 1928 and “Show Boat” in 1929. He received several awards for his work. Foley died in 1967. Foley was rarely credited in his films, as was the practice at the time; instead, generations have immortalized his name in the name of his art.

The techniques used by these artists, such as Jack Foley, could potentially be of use to us, in order to make future film projects sound more like real films. The sounds that are used are there because the sounds recorded on set are not enough; despite being real, it does not seem real to the audience due to the foley sounds used in films in the past. Many sounds are also not loud enough to hear on the original soundtrack. The sounds can also be used to draw attention to various things in the film, such as a discarded weapon: foley art carries power. Using it in film based projects in the future will make the projects more engaging to the audience. I can use the same methods as used by John Roesch and the other artists shown to make the sounds.

 

Bruce Straley, Neil Druckmann and The Last of Us

Bruce Straley and Neil Druckmann, the directors and writer of the computer game “The Last of Us”, are games directors working for the developer Naughty Dog.

Bruce Straley:
Bruce_Straley_PAX_Prime_2014
Bruce Straley was the games director who co-directed The Last of Us, alongside Neil Druckmann. Straley began work in the games industry in the early 1990s, working as a designer for two games at Western Technologies Inc, two more at Pacific Softscape and one at Zono Incorporated. He has worked extensively on the popular Uncharted series, and is best known for his acclaimed work on The Last of Us.

Straley was employed at the developer Crystal Dynamics in the 1990s, where he worked alongside many future Naughty Dog employees; this included the co-president, Evan Wells. Straley joined Naughty Dog in 1999, and has remained there since. When he initially joined the company, working on the game Crash Team Racing, he performed many tasks outside of his job description due to the small size of the development team. From this, he learned various aspects of game development, which he later put to use on the Jak and Daxter series, being credited with creating the look of the games and bridging the gap between the technical and artistic teams. He was appointed the co-art director of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, and was then promoted to game director for Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.

Following Uncharted 2, Naughty Dog split their development into two teams, to work on two games at once. Straley was chosen to head one project, which became The Last of Us, alongside writer Neil Druckmann. They had worked together on Uncharted 2, and found that they had similar interests; they jokingly described their relationship as “like a marriage”, in that they had different ideas but were working for the same goal. Although he was officially in charge of gameplay, towards the end of development for The Last of Us Straley started performing other roles, described by the lead artist Nate Wells as “intern tasks”. Straley is best known for his work on The Last of Us, which was widely acclaimed by both critics and gamers.

Neil Druckmann:
Neil_Druckmann_SDCC_2014
Neil Druckmann was the co-director and writer of The Last of Us, working on the narrative while Bruce Straley focussed on gameplay. He was rasied in Israel until he was ten, where he showed great interest in both comic books and video games, particularly those by Sierra Entertainment and LucasArts. It is known that he took a particular interest in the storytelling aspect of both media. After studying Criminology in Florida, he worked as a research assistant in the Visualisation department of the Florida State Univerity School of Computing, where he developed his first game, called Pink Bullet, with some friends of his.

Druckmann’s parents forbade him from taking art classes required to become an animator, so he took a programming class, moving on to graduate with a Bachelor of Computer Science. He earned a Master’s Degree in Entertainment in 2005, developing “Dikki Painguin in: TKO for the Third Reich” for the obsolete NES with friend Adam Blomquist while studying.

Druckmann began work at Naughty Dog as a programming intern in 2004, graduating to a full time position a few months later. He asked repeatedly to be transferred to the design team, but was refused by co-president Evan Wells, who agreed to review his designs if they were completed out of working hours. He succeeded in impressing Wells, and was appointed designer for the first Uncharted game, ending up working closely with the writer on the core narrative as well as the design, and becoming lead designer on the sequel Uncharted 2. In 2009 and 2010, he created a motion comic based on Uncharted and published a graphic novel of his own writing, A Second Chance at Sarah. He was then chosen by Naughty Dog leadership to work on a new game with Bruce Straley, which eventually became The Last of Us.

The Last of Us was based on an idea he had as a student, of combining the gameplay from the game Ico with a zombie apocalypse, with the player character similar to John Hartigan from the film Sin City. His wife gave birth during development, with the resulting daughter being a “huge inspiration” to Druckmann. He took acting classes before recording the voice actors, to better engage with them while directing. For his work he earned multiple awards, including a BAFTA and a Writer’s Guild of America Award.

The Last of Us:

The Last of Us is set in the near future, and begins with an outbreak of a mutant strain of the fungus Cordyceps, creating what amounts to a zombie apocalypse. The player character must then escort his daughter, and later another woman, through the remains of civilisation, avoiding the decomposing remnants of the human race and those still alive who wish to do you harm. The majority of the gameplay is set 20 years after the opening, leaving time for infrastructure and civilisation to degrade to the extent shown on-screen.

The fungus shown in the game, Cordyceps, is a real fungus. It also has the effect of essentially rendering its host a zombie before bursting out of their head to spread spores. For the moment, and for the foreseeable future, these abilities are restricted to ants and other arthropods; many people actually eat the Cordyceps fungus as a homeopathic medicine (1). The chances of a random mutation allowing the fungus to do the same to human beings, vastly more complex and larger beings, is unlikely. It is not impossible, however, that biological warfare laboratories, being notoriously secretive and morally bankrupt, are researching something with effects similar to that shown in the game. In either case, the developers have clearly researched the fungus, both for the effects it has on hosts and the appearance of the hosts in the later stages of infection, with the fruiting body of the fungus erupting from their heads.

The level of decay on the buildings is, however, provably realistic. The majority of buildings in The Last of Us are overgrown with plant life, and are falling apart due to the lack of maintenance. This happens in real life when buildings are left abandoned for 20 years, as seen on Hasima Island in Japan. The island was built for a mining operation, but for a number of factors was abandoned  once the mine was emptied, and the residents left the island in 1974. The ruins came to prominence in the 2000s. This was due to having been undisturbed for 30 years, and being built very similar to the city centre buildings of the time that were still in use on the mainland: the island gave a look at what the world would actually look like after an apocalypse. It is widely used by the media for this purpose, and the ruined landscape bears more than a passing resemblance to that of The Last Of Us.(2)

The Last of Us was widely critically acclaimed. Writer Neil Druckmann was given several awards for his writing, including a BAFTA and an American Guild of Writers awards, and the game itself is one of the highest awarded games of all time, and received very favourable critical reviews with both Metacritic and GameReviews scoring it at 95% or above. The games site IGN gave it a 10/10
(3), calling the game a “masterpiece”. I personally agree, and I find their vision of the future compelling; I do not find it at all hard to believe that biological warfare departments would create such a strain of fungus, and I find the human deterioration over 20 years believable.

1.    http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-602-cordyceps.aspx?activeingredientid=602&activeingredientname=cordyceps
2.    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hashima_Island
3.    http://uk.ign.com/games/the-last-of-us/ps3-123980

Hideo Kojima and Metal Gear Solid 4

kojima-mainHideo Kojima is a Japanese video game designer, writer and director, best known for the Metal Gear Solid series of games. He has headed Kojima Productions, a video game design company, since 2005, and was once the vice-president of Konami Digital Entertainment. As of this writing, he has recently left Konami and reformed Kojima Productions as an independent company.

Kojima experienced death at an early age, losing his father when he was 13 years old. As a result, he was often alone when he was young as his mother was away working, themes that have carried through into the Metal Gear Solid (MGS) series. He was initially intent on becoming an artist, writing short stories to magazines and later making short films with a friend and an 8mm camera. He eventually decided on a job in the new video game industry, after playing games on the Famicom (Original Japanese version of the NES) during his four-year study at university.

Kojima was eventually accepted into Konami in the 1980s, in the MSX home computer division, as a designer. His initial years were unremarkable, with his ideas being mostly rejected by the management (Such as the platformer Lost World, which was rejected in 1986), until he was asked by a senior associate to take over a project: the original Metal Gear game. The game was well received, and is one of the earliest examples of the Stealth Action genre. Kojima also headed the Snatcher project, which was praised for novel-quality writing, graphical quality and musical quality.

Konami had initially decided to make a sequel to the original Metal Gear game without Kojima’s involvement, but a staff member urged Kojima to make a “true” sequel to the game, which was released as Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, only in Japan, as Kojima’s last game for the MSX format. During the 1990s, Kojima headed several other well-received games, such as Policenauts; in 1998, he released Metal Gear Solid, the game that he became known for in the media. MGS was the first game of the series to include 3D graphics and voice acting, and was praised for an intelligent narrative and well-designed gameplay. Kojima was then directly involved in every MGS game, ending with MGS 5.

Metal Gear Solid 4:
MGS 4 is the sixth game in the Metal Gear Series, released in 2008 for the Playstation 3. The story concerns the future of warfare, set in the year 2014 (which was the near future in 2008). MGS 4 was designed and developed by Hideo Kojima and his production company, Kojima Productions, at the time a subsidiary of Konami.

The game shows a vision of the future where “war has become routine. The economy of the world relies on constant warfare, which is carried out by paramilitary corporations (PMCs, essentially mercenaries). The maxresdefaultfighting shown to the player (on the left) takes place in the Middle East, where most of the notable fighting was happening in 2008, and where most of the notable fighting was likely to happen in the real 2014, an example of the effort put in to make the future shown at least semi feasible. The soldiers are enhanced with nano-machines, their weapons rejecting anyone who doesn’t have them in their blood, as shown when the main character attempts to use one. This vision of the future is dark, with constant warfare and death from around two minutes in until the credits roll.

All of what is shown was potentially feasible for the near future in 2008. Warfare evidently would still happen, and multiple economies have relied on warfare in the past. Nano-machines are and were being actively researched for a number of applications; the vast majority of the field is still experimental, but some progress has been made, such as with the ‘single molecule car’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15637867) created by researchers in 2011. Transistors and other components required for a computer are also getting increasingly smaller, to the point that many of them are now smaller than a human blood cell, with one being made in 2015 that is a single molecule in size (http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2015-07/22/tiniest-processor-moores-law). Although the technology shown may have been far-fetched for 2014, Kojima had already established the technology of MGS in earlier games as being ahead of what we are capable of in reality, and needed to fit the game in with previous instalments. Firearms are being advertised that reject use by unauthorized users, but the systems rely on palm prints and RFID instead of nano machines in the user’s blood.

Metal Gear Solid 4 was well received by both critics and the public. It was given a perfect score by the gaming website GameSpot (http://www.gamespot.com/metal-gear-solid-4-guns-of-the-patriots/), with a Metacritic score of 94 % (Metacritic aggregates critical reviews from various publications). The narrative was highly praised in many reviews. Personally, I find Kojima’s vision of the future disturbingly close to reality; it is disquietingly easy to imagine a global economy reliant on civil war, and when nano machines are finally developed I have no doubt that the various military groups of the world will quickly find some way of killing people with them. Kojima worked on a single MGS game after the fourth, before leaving the license holders Konami in late 2015.