the candler blog

Baseball, 2015

Baseball, Sports

For The New York Times, Tyler Kepner on the state of baseball in 2015:

The areas of emphasis are changing, but teams, of course, will always seek ways to gain an edge. Players will, too, but the drug culture that once led to an offensive boom is mostly gone. Thousands of runs and homers have gone with it, but baseball — for now — can live with that.

“You have to get rid of performance-enhancing drugs, because they are a threat to the integrity of the game,” [league commissioner Rob] Manfred said. “And whatever the game looks like with players playing clean is what the game looks like.”

Strikeouts are up and homers are down. The game is evolving, but I say: good for the game. I grew up in the PED-fueled home run era. It was fun to watch, but now I look back on those years ashamed of what the game became. Baseball needs to move forward and if it’s a more defensive game, so be it.

Man, I’m so happy it’s Spring. Go, Phillies.

Oh and speaking of my Phils:

They lost Thursday afternoon to the Rays at Bright House Field, 10-1, to finish 1-7-1 in their last nine games. They were outscored 72-27 in that stretch.

Oof. Whatever. Go team.

Apple Watch at the Movies

Since the Apple Watch release is getting near, and since I’ve never used one or seen one in person, let’s speculate what it will be like to use one in everyday life, as is tradition.

I wonder what it will be like to wear an Apple Watch at the movies. This is, I realize, a controversial subject. Especially here in Austin:

The accepted rule is: no talking or texting at the movies. In 2015 that’s not likely to change. My phone remains pretty much in my pocket for the duration of any film I see in the theater.1 I say “pretty much” because there are exceptions to keeping the phone out of sight, out of mind.

I don’t turn my phone completely off. I recognize that I could, but the fact is that there are things in this world that might be more important than the movie I’m in. I don’t think any notification that has gone off on my phone during a movie has ever more important than the movie itself, but when that day comes, do I really want to miss it? I’m talking about the big deal stuff: life and, more likely, death. I ignore the tiny buzzing in my pocket just fine.

Now, the exception to keeping my phone in my pocket is simple: if I ever get the dreaded double call, the phone will come partway, though never above the waist, out of my pocket to see who’s calling. If it’s nothing, it slips away out of sight. If it’s something then I spring into action out in the hallway. My loved ones know (as all loved ones really should) that the double call is reserved for emergencies only.2 I suppose I’d make a similar exception for something like ten texts in a row.

So how does this all play out if you have an Apple Watch?

An open question (for me, at least) is how the watch’s screen works in tandem with the “Taptic Engine,” the little actuator inside that “taps you on the wrist.” Up until now, notifications have come in through vibrations in our phones. These vibrations are often audible, as when a phone on silent vibrates on a table. Anyone nearby will notice it is vibrating. The taps on the Apple Watch, by all accounts, can only be felt by the wearer. Those nearby will not hear or feel anything. My question is what does the screen do when a notification comes in. Here’s how Apple describes getting text messages on their “New Ways to Connect” page:

You’ll know right away when someone sends you a message, because a notification appears front and center on Apple Watch. Hold up your wrist to read the message, or lower your arm to dismiss it.

If I had to guess, I would say that, just like with iPhone, a notification will light up the screen, but it’s unclear. Here’s how I’d like it to happen:

  • A message comes in
  • Your Apple Watch taps your wrist but the screen doesn’t turn on
  • Raise your wrist and the screen comes on to show you who sent you the text
  • Lower your wrist and it’s gone and silent

That would be ideal for movie theater use so long as the screen is automatically dimmed to the lowest setting. Even at its brightest, I have trouble believing a 312 x 390 (for the 42mm model) screen will be that annoying in a movie. Will it be any more annoying than an Indiglo® or similar watch?

I just really hope that the screen doesn’t light up for every notification. Even if it does, though, Apple does seem to have made it very simple to get rid of them. If lifting the wrist and lowering it seems like too much work (in a movie, I think it is) then the way Apple describes dismissing a phone call is even easier:

To mute an incoming call, just cover Apple Watch with your hand.

Maybe all notifications could be silenced this way.

Now, to move into controversial movie theater etiquette: what about responding? If you raise your wrist and see a message that requires some kind of response, you’re two taps away from sending your location. As in: “I’m at the movies, don’t bother me.” You’re also two taps away from a pre-filled response. We’ll see what it’s like, but I’m betting these quick interactions won’t be noticeable to other movie-goers.

And then there’s the “Digital Touch” functionality Apple is touting. If a friend or loved one has an Apple Watch, they could send you some taps, a sketch or their heartbeat. You, in turn, could send a few taps back and be on your way. I see the following becoming very commonplace:

  • My girlfriend sends me two taps, indicating “Where are you?”3
  • I send three back, indicating “Can’t talk now,” which, if you know me, means “I’m in a movie.”

Conversation over.

Again this seems like it will be almost unnoticeable to other moviegoers. Better yet, this seems like it will be fast enough to barely be noticeable to the wearer. Here’s an animation of Digital Touch taps in action.4

Now, keep that image in mind, and then consider this explanation from Craig Hockenberry of how the watch’s AMOLED display works:

And from what we’ve seen so far of the watch, that black is really really black. We’ve become accustomed to blacks on LCD displays that aren’t really dark: that’s because the crystals that are blocking light let a small amount pass through. Total darkness lets the edgeless illusion work.

I suspect that any time black is displayed on Apple Watch, it will be as if the screen isn’t illuminated at all. With Digital Touch, there is so little that will actually emanate light. So in a setting like a darkened room where everyone expects silence, Digital Touch interactions may fly well below the radar.

So in a movie theater I would think of Apple Watch as, well, a watch. If, for example, someone actuates a light up screen on an analog watch and leaves it on for more than a few seconds, that will become annoying fast. The same goes for Apple Watch. Quick interactions will likely go unnoticed by engrossed moviegoers. Anything more is rude.

I don’t see theaters instituting a serious “no Apple Watching” policy. I’m guessing that as they first come out reactions will visceral and negative. For whatever reason (probably the price, probably because it’s Apple), there is a presumption of douchebaggery for people wearing Apple Watches. I think that will quickly fade. As someone who owned the original iPhone which came into the world with the same “Who would spend $600 on a phone” incredulousness, I predict that that noise will move to the background right quick.

The (supposed, remember I’ve never seen or used one) intimacy and simplicity of using Apple Watch at the movies removes most of the problems smartphones have introduced at the theater. I think going to the movies in our hyperconnected world will become easier, not harder, with Apple Watch. But that’s me.

  1. Since I frequent the Alamo Drafthouse (see above video) I of course live in fear they make take my ass out otherwise.

  2. I learned this the hard way in college when I double called a roommate at work to ask something dumb, like where’s the detergent.

  3. Both parties would have to come to an agreement on what different taps mean, which I think would happen organically over time.

  4. Note that these are pulled from the video featured at the September 2014 event. The interface has since been updated, as seen on Apple’s “New Ways to Connect” page, but for my purposes here, this inital design is close enough to what is shipping later this month.

Extra Thoughts on Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

Film, Link, Review, SXSW 2015, Technology

I wrote a piece about Alex Gibney’s latest documentary, Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, for GOOD Magazine.

The film is by no means a comprehensive portrait of Jobs, though it features a number of interesting new interviews with those close to him, like the aforementioned [Chrisann] Brennan, iPod chief Jon Rubinstein, and Macintosh engineering head Bob Belleville. […] Mostly though, it seems Gibney set out to make a negative portrait of Jobs, and he succeeds.

Audiences who know little about Jobs are certainly in for a shock. I heard plenty of gasps among the SXSW audience I watched the film with.

While I believe Gibney made this film to better understand his relationship with the technology that has conquered the world, I think he’s a bit cagey in his narration about how deliberately unsavory his portrayal of Jobs is. This is not a flat out biography. I’m not sure I’d call it a hit piece either, but it comes very close.

That said: it’s all true. Jobs had a very dark side that was never quite hidden, but surely overshadowed by his incredible successes.

I’m not sure why now, but the legacy of Jobs seems to be coming more to the fore this year. Besides Man in the Machine, which has been picked up by Magnolia Pictures and will probably see a release sometime this year, just this week we saw the release of Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli’s Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader.1 That latest unauthorized biography of Jobs has been met with praise so far by the Mac blogging community and even Apple itself.

I haven’t read it yet, so I can’t speak to whether it looks at Jobs through rose-colored glasses (whereas Gibney’s glasses would be more ashen) or if it truly is a comprehensive investigation into Jobs’s life. If I had to guess, Man in the Machine will fade, just as the scandals rehashed in it have done over the years.

  1. That’s an iBooks affiliate link. If Amazon is more your bag, here you go. I thank you in advance.

Jason Schwartzman’s On-Screen Schmuckery in 7 Chinese Brothers

Link, Movies, Review, SXSW 2015

Me, for Heeb Magazine:

This year, at SXSW, we have the premiere of Bob Byington’s 7 Chinese Brothers, a film that showcases the lighter side of [Jason] Schwartzman’s on-screen schmuckery. He plays Larry, a fuck-up to be sure, but a fuck-up you can cheer for.

I enjoyed this one. If you’re a Schwartzman fan, 7 Chinese Brothers should head to the top of your list.

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.