This Blew My Mind

Truly, we are living in the future.

Over 50 percent of The Mandalorian Season 1 was filmed using this ground-breaking new methodology, eliminating the need for location shoots entirely. Instead, actors in The Mandalorian performed in an immersive and massive 20’ high by 270-degree semicircular LED video wall and ceiling with a 75’-diameter performance space, where the practical set pieces were combined with digital extensions on the screens. Digital 3D environments created by ILM played back interactively on the LED walls, edited in real-time during the shoot, which allowed for pixel-accurate tracking and perspective-correct 3D imagery rendered at high resolution via systems powered by NVIDIA GPUs. The environments were lit and rendered from the perspective of the camera to provide parallax in real-time, as if the camera were really capturing the physical environment with accurate interactive light on the actors and practical sets, giving showrunner Jon Favreau, executive producer and director Dave Filoni, visual effects supervisor Richard Bluff, and cinematographers Greig Fraser and Barry Baz Idoine, and the episodic directors the ability to make concrete creative choices for visual effects-driven work during photography and achieve real-time in-camera composites on set.

The technology and workflow required to make in-camera compositing and effects practical for on-set use combined the ingenuity of partners such as Golem Creations, Fuse, Lux Machina, Profile Studios, and ARRI together with ILM’s StageCraft virtual production filmmaking platform and ultimately the real-time interactivity of the Unreal Engine platform.

New Strokes

I’m hearing good things about the next album, due April 10. I lost interest in The Strokes after First Impressions of Earth (2006?!), but I’d be hard-pressed to find a better debut album than Is This It.

Here’s a video for one of the new singles, “Bad Decisions.” If it sounds a lot like “Dancing With Myself,” it’s no accident. The band allegedly gave Billy Idol and Tony James songwriting credits to avoid litigation.

As near as I can tell, the message in the video is that The Strokes will be evolving musically, so if you want rehashed older albums (clones), too bad. Oh, and the band members’ faces are deepfaked onto actors playing the clones. Timely!

Quantum Supremacy


(artist’s drawing of Google’s quantum computer chip)

In October, Google built a quantum computer that solved an incredibly hard problem in 200 seconds — a problem the world’s fastest supercomputer would take 10,000 years to solve. This is called “quantum supremacy”, and has been compared to the Wright Brothers’ first flight.

”Until recently, every computer on the planet — from a 1960s mainframe to your iPhone, and even inventions as superficially exotic as ‘neuromorphic computers’ and DNA computers — has operated on the same rules. These were rules that Charles Babbage understood in the 1830s and that Alan Turing codified in the 1930s. Through the course of the computer revolution, all that has changed at the lowest level are the numbers: speed, amount of RAM and hard disk, number of parallel processors.

But quantum computing is different. It’s the first computing paradigm since Turing that’s expected to change the fundamental scaling behavior of algorithms, making certain tasks feasible that had previously been exponentially hard. Of these, the most famous examples are simulating quantum physics and chemistry, and breaking much of the encryption that currently secures the internet.

I’m sure this will go well.

More here.

@machinepix Most Tweeted of 2019

Death Stranding

This is Hideo Kojima’s newest PS4 game, announced in 2016 and in development since 2017. It stars Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen, Léa Seydoux, Margaret Qualley, Troy Baker, Tommie Earl Jenkins, Guillermo del Toro, Nicolas Winding Refn, and Lindsay Wagner(!). Most critics are raving. Anticipation has been intense – Kojima is regarded as a visionary genius, after all – and Death Stranding is currently enjoying an 83 on Metacritic.

Folks are laying on the hyperbole pretty heavy, one critic calling it not only the Game of the Year, but maybe even The Game of a Generation. The fellow in the above review actually LIKES the game, but even as he’s raving, listen to how he describes actual gameplay. Between over-indulgent cutscenes, your character delivers packages. That’s pretty much it.

Favorite YouTube comment:

Apocalyptic mailman simulator LOL

Todd Rundgren: “A Wizard, A True Star”

Love it or hate it, every serious music nerd should hear this strange album once.  A Wizard, A True Star was released in ’73 when I was 15,  and I soon became addicted (which might explain some things), although some of it annoyed me and still does.  This mash-up of prog, pop, and blue-eyed soul might be the densest, most overly over-dubbed album in history.  There is literally zero space unfilled.  Because of that, there is almost always something interesting going on, even if the song itself isn’t good.  Side one is a medley of song fragments, sort of like side two of Abbey Road produced by a crazier Brian Wilson with access to synthesisers (unfortunately, there’s not a gapless version on YouTube).  The medley sometimes gets cartoonish.  A portion of side two is a medley of Motown covers, which has always seemed a bit random to me. That said, there are plenty of addictive hooks throughout.  Highlights for me are “International Feel” (and its recapitulation, “Le Feel Internacionale,” which ended side 1), “When the Shit Hits the Fan/Sunset Boulevard,”  “Sometimes I don’t Know What to Feel,” and “Just One Victory.”  The anthemic quality of “Just One Victory” can get annoying, and it’s too long, but it has some great melodic and harmonic twists and turns.

I think Todd was trying to blow up his status as an AM radio pop artist.  The previous year he’d had a commercially successful album, Something/Anything?,  which was mostly straight-ahead pop ballads and rockers: it contained “Slut,” often covered by Big Star, as well as the power-pop classic, “Couldn’t I Just Tell You.”  Something/Anything also yielded a couple of big AM hits, the piano-driven “I Saw the Light” and “Hello It’s Me,” that made some people see him as kind of a male Carole King.  I’m guessing that didn’t sit well with him, so he went all-out weird for A Wizard, A True Star.  I’m sure there were hallucinogens involved as well.  It didn’t sell nearly as well as its predecessor.  Fun fact: the month after this album came out, he produced the New York Dolls’ first album.

So what to make of TR?  He was a highly talented multi-intrumentalist and producer, a true master of the studio, and a pioneer of power-pop and prog.  When everything clicked, he could be a very good songwriter.  But he lacked self-censorship.  Something/Anything? is a double ablum with way too much filler.  It could have been a much better single album.  As for A Wizard, A True Star, he really needed to rein in some of the self-indulgent goofiness.  He produced all his own albums, even playing all instruments on many tracks.  He just occasionally needed someone to say “no.”  In that regard, he was like an American version of The Move’s Roy Wood, who had the same issues.  That may not have been a coincidence.  The Move regularly covered “Open My Eyes,” originally by TR’s 60’s band, The Nazz.  And the first time I ever heard The Move’s “Do Ya” was TR covering it live.

Insane Bollywood VFX

Physics, schmysics. But impressive as hell once you see the work involved.

The Crew sits down once again to react to some of Bollywood’s zestiest CGi moments: What makes a visual effect bad? What makes one great?