the candler blog

HBO In Talks With Apple To Be Launch Partner For ‘HBO Now’

Link, Movies, Technology, Television

Big scoop from Michael Learmonth over at the International Business Times:

HBO is in talks with Apple to make Apple TV one of the launch partners for its highly anticipated streaming service when it debuts next month. HBO and streaming partner Major League Baseball Advanced Media are working to have the standalone service, called “HBO Now,” ready to launch in April in conjunction with the premiere of the fifth season of “Game of Thrones,” according to sources familiar with their plans.

$15 a month. No cable subscription required.

Maybe we’ll hear just a bit about this on Monday when Apple has its Apple Watch event. If Apple landed an exclusive launch window it would be huge for the Apple TV. If for even just a few weeks into the latest season of Game of Thrones Apple TV is the only device you can get standalone HBO on, they would sell a bundle without updating the hardware.

Time will tell.

How WWI Made Wristwatches Happen

History, Link, Technology

Linda Rodriguez writing for Boing Boing:

“The problem with the pocket watch is that you have to hold it,” explained Doyle. That wasn’t going to work for the officer at the Western Front – when an officer lead his men “over the top”, leaving the relative safety of the trenches for the pock-marked no man’s land in between and very possible death, he had his gun in one hand and his whistle in the other. “You haven’t got another hand in which to hold your watch.”

I came across similar histories to this piece when researching my “Smartwatch through History” article for GOOD Magazine. Rodriguez offers a great, conciese refresher on the history of the wristwatch.

We’re on the precipice of another wave of wristwatch innovation. Hopefully it won’t take another war to push the state of the art forward.

Final Cut X Used to Cut New Will Smith Film

Editing, Movies

Apple has some new marketing materials speaking with the team behind Focus, the new film starring Will Smith that opens this weekend. The film was edited on Final Cut X. It’s full of effusive praise from directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra.

“We got exactly the film we set out to make,” says Requa. “What I love about Final Cut Pro X is that it allowed me to be involved with, and in control of, every aspect of making our film.”

Take the whole thing with a grain of salt. I’m yet to meet an editor who prefers Final Cut X to any other tool. In fact most editors I know still laugh it off. The truth is that the application is much better today than when it was introduced, but the stigma has stuck.

From a sheer workflow perspective, the whole piece is an interesting read. I think the filmmakers overstate how much better Final Cut X at certain tasks than the competition (remember that this is a marketing page paid for by Apple) but there are some compelling items discussed. The film was shot on an ARRI Alexa, for example, which puts out ProRes files that can be cut instantly in Final Cut X. While that is technically true of other editing systems, it has always been FCX’s ace in the hole, and I can see why that would impress filmmakers looking to cut on location.

Here’s the strangest line:

The directors were happy enough with the animated opening credits — created by editors using the standard text tool in Final Cut Pro X — that they decided to use them in the final movie, which is extremely rare for a high-production feature film.

That’s nuts. I kind of need to see these titles on the big screen now. The text tool in Final Cut Pro was largely unchanged from versions 1.2.5 through 7: it was terrible. And now FCX’s text tool is good enough to bring to the big screen? I don’t actually believe that.

The other big question I have is how Requa, Ficarra and lead editor Jan Kovac dealt with color during the edit. The article mentions a few times that there’s no transcode necessary with Final Cut X, but raw footage is extremely flat and not very nice to look at. The film’s color was finished on a Quantel Pablo Rio, but I wonder what they did in the meantime.

The transcodes that happen in between production and post will usually apply a color shift to make the picture easier to look at when editing. What’s FCX’s strategy, then? Is there a standard color filter that gets applied to all Alexa footage ingested? I don’t know because I, too, am yet to work on a whole project in the program. It’s nice to know that it’s possible, though.

(via MacRumors.)

Fountain and (cont’d)

Fountain, Link, Screenwriting

John August digs into the thought process behind how his app, Highland, and, by extension, Fountain as a whole, deals with (cont’d) in screenplay formatting. The whole piece is interesting, but I especially like this bit:

The screenwriter is always the best judge of whether the dialogue is continuous, so you can just type it yourself.

That’s sort of the philosophy of Highland and Fountain: your script is exactly what you type, nothing more, nothing less.

I love that Fountain thrives. Part of the reason it does is August’s careful and considered stewardship.

The New Digital Hub

Technology

Very cool piece by Glenn Fleishman (which I came to by way of John Moltz) titled “iWatch, iHub.” Here’s the key line:

The Watch is the digital hub around which everything rotates in the new Apple universe.

For a refresher, here’s Steve Jobs introducing the “digital hub” strategy, the engine that continues to drive Apple, way back in 2001. The short of it: as you life goes digital, the Mac (and later the iPhone) should be the central repository for all your stuff.

Fleishman envisions a future Apple Watch with its own radios and GPS (the forthcoming inaugural models require an iPhone to connect to the web) and how it will be the key to your digital life. The most interesting (to me) idea he mentions with what to do with such a wearable is this:

The entertainment hub for your car, which no longer needs a radio/receiver unit at all, but just a surface-mounted magnetic charging dock against which you place your Watch while driving.

That reminded me of the opening scene of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, in which Ryan Gosling’s meticulous “Driver” ties a watch to his steering wheel so he can time a heist underway. (You get five minutes with The Driver, then he’s gone.)

I actually only recently started wearing a watch again, in part to gauge how much I like having something on my wrist should I take the leap and get an Apple Watch. On the drive in to work this morning I happened to test checking the time on my wrist. It’s silly since I have a clock on the in-dash stereo as well as next to the speedometer.

I was left wondering: why on earth would I want to look at my wrist while driving? Where would the Apple Watch go? Fleishman’s idea sounds like a good one.

And if we need to stoke the flames of the Apple Car rumor, this is kind of a fun place to take things.

Local

Movies, Short Films

LOCAL is a very cool short skate film by Sean Slobodan.

The film’s description of how they got the closing shot of the moon is great:

I was shooting from a little over a mile away in massive field. Because this was just on the top of a dirt hill we had to build about a 100 foot track made out of plywood for Daniel to skate on. … Ultimately there were probably 20 people who helped make this shot possible.

How Birdman’s Colorists Pulled Off the Film’s Look

Link, Movies, Technology

Bill Desowitz at Thompson on Hollywood goes into the nitty gritty of how Technicolor pulled off the invisible cuts in Birdman:

Stepping out of their comfort zone, the Technicolor DI team had to disregard where the official editorial cuts were located, and instead, subtly insert cuts designed specifically to meet their own needs as it related to the color grading process exclusively. This was a process that Technicolor eventually came to refer to as subtly “stitching” color-corrected sections together.

Desowitz really goes into the weeds on how they did it; a video showing the process would be nice, and maybe coming one day down the line.

I work with AutoDesk’s tools (the piece metnions Lustre; I use Flame, which as I understand it has subsumed Lustre’s toolset) and I can attest to the fact that what they’re talking about here sounds like a nightmare. Many, many moving parts, which is to say many points of failure. The end result is seamless though, and it plays much better than Hitchcock’s hiding cuts in opaque objects.

The “stitching” technique reminds me of the “Camera Pan From Hell” in this Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind VFX reel (at about 2:14):

I can’t wait until a Birdman VFX reel surfaces. Glad to see the work of those ususally left out of Oscar plaudits get some love.

Update February 24, 2015: Thanks to Neil Cronin on Twitter for pointing me to this video that features some visuals as well as an interview with colorist Steve Scott.

(Also, that this video is from November kind of throws cold water on the aforelinked piece by Desowitz, which plays up the idea that Technicolor is revealing something new in light of Birdman’s Oscar win. Ah well, interesting stuff nonetheless.)

Make a Film with iPad

Movies, Technology

Apple’s new ad, set to premiere during the Oscars, features high school students making films with iPads under excerpts of Martin Scorsese’s 2014 NYU Tisch commencement. Oh also it was shot entirely on iPads.

Called it. Well, almost. I never anticipated that the iPad would be powerful enough to shoot and edit a movie on. A lot can change in five years.

Party Like a President

Books

A few celebratory links for my pal Brian Abrams whose book, Party Like a President: True Tales of Inebriation, Lechery, and Mischief From the Oval Office, came out last week.

Helluva week, Brian’s having. For one, his book holds the top two positions in Amazon’s “Party Cooking” rankings (and the number three spot in “Culinary Biographies & Memoirs”). On Wednesday, Jimmy Fallon name-dropped the book to set up a so-so joke. Hopefully the exposure will help him knock Anthony Bourdain off his Culinary Biographies & Memoirs throne.

The highlight for me, though, was Brian guesting on the Filmdrunk Frotcast. Honestly I haven’t listened to the show in a few years even though I subscribe to it. I’m glad Brian gave me a kick in the pants to queue it up again. It’s excellent. Note that your monocle may fall out if you’re opposed to naughty language and lots of talk about butts.

Brian talks with Vince Mancini and the gang about bacchanalian presidents, the German film Wetlands and even the future of media on the web. Seriously. Give the whole thing a listen.

Mazel tov to Brian on publishing a book on dead trees. Order Party Like a President on Amazon and I’ll get a little kickback. I’ve been flipping through it and can confirm it’s full of hilarious bits. (I haven’t read it cover to cover yet; what am I, a professor?)

Oh and while you’re on Amazon maybe give his book a review. This one star review is something special:

I don’t know if it’s the misspelling of “its” or the affected, bubbie-like phrasing of “caused me such nausea” that cracks me up more.