Robotics company Boston Dynamics (BD) have an excellent knack of releasing films of their creations’ latest and greatest abilities… Think back-flipping humanoids or ones that refuse to be pushed over by a human with a stick. The internet usually follows suit by collectively freaking out about the Terminator-style Robotapocalypse just around the corner.
The good news is: there’s a lot more behind this than initially meets the paranoid eye. From Margins of Error to questions of True Autonomy, BD has become a great self-publicist precisely because their robots are designed to be as human-like (or dog-like) as possible. This causes us to make associations about the life-likeness of the machines, ignoring some glaring gaps between perception and reality. Let’s debunk a little the scale of the actual threat here.
First, BD don’t behave like most of their contemporary robotics research competitors, who are mostly in academia and far more open about what theyre up to. BD are privately owned (until last year by Google X, but now by Japan’s Softbank.), and were independent for the 20 years preceding the Google purchase. The irony is that although the company aspires to be more commercial than academic, they still don’t have any products in the market. Some speculate that this was behind Google offloading the company. BD play their secrecy to their advantage.
Next, while most manufacturing robots, like the enormous machines that construct Telsa cars work in sub-mm accuracy, BD robots have much greater margins of error because they’re far more worried about the functional accuracy of simply NOT falling over, or being able to pick themselves up. This type of dynamic doesn’t have to worry about mm’s of accuracy. BD robots function with MUCH wider margins of error.
Nor are they fully autonomous. There’s a much bigger gulf between where we are today, and machines which can freely roam on their own processing power and power supply. There is frequently a human in the background controlling and fine-tuning the robots movements and actions. They don’t appear in the films…
Finally, its about appreciating BD’s motivations. They continue to forge ahead into the field of autonomous robots which increasingly resemble and attempt to exceed the capabilities of their human creators. Maintaining their ‘wow’ factor online, with their daring and surprising short films is all part of BD’s strategy to be the ‘go to’ collaborator or supplier for flexible robots with life-like abilities.
Sooner of later one of their models will convince a client (most likely in the military, sadly) that BD offers the best solution in comparison to the human or animal option. A bit like Fusion Power, this day always seems to be years in the future… until suddenly, one day, it’s not…
Satirical website The Onion offers this dark and ironic solution to tightening school budgets, as Trump’s new tax legislation is likely to make finances even worse than over here in perpetual-austerity Britain.
It’s worth enjoying for a moment, before crunching it up and lobbing it straight in the Bin of Missed Points.
From the Onion:
Cash-Strapped School District Furloughs Hundreds Of Nonessential Children
ERIE, PA—Saying the cost-cutting measure was vital to ensure its continued operation, the cash-strapped Erie School District announced Thursday that it had furloughed hundreds of nonessential children. “Until the district’s fiscal health has improved, we have no choice but to put 800 of our least necessary children on an involuntary leave of absence,” said superintendent Jay D. Badams, noting that the group of furloughed students included a relatively equal number of children between kindergarten and 12th grade who were considered the lowest priority for retaining in their classrooms. “We obviously hope to re-enroll these students when and if financial circumstances permit, but for now they will remain on leave indefinitely, receiving no credits during that time. We wish them the best of luck should they decide to seek an alternate education.” Badams went on to say that he was cautiously optimistic, however, and that a furloughed 6-year-old would likely be able to continue first grade by the time he or she turned 10.
Source: the Onion
Hopefully, this dark satire will NOT evolve into one of those cases of fact mirroring fiction… although most teachers can probably name one or two students they might consider ‘furlonging’… 😉
When the credits role at the end of a film, and everyone starts to walk out, the huge list of names that went into the project seem endless and this gives an indication into the work involved and the important roles in filmmaking. Regardless of whether it’s a Hollywood feature or simply a corporate film, if you want to work in the film industry you need to understand the film crew hierarchy that exists on sets everywhere.
High Authority (also known as Above the Line)
Director – Working with all talent and members of the production team, the director has to be one of the most important film set roles. They are responsible for deciding on the feel and composition of the film as well as the direction the film will go.
Producer – The logistical seniority whose role is to ensure the budget is met and oversees day-to day activities, usually working under the executive producer. On larger productions, there could be specialist producers working in a variety of different areas.
Executive Producer – Usually the financer of the film who takes a step back from the logistics and for smaller projects may run the company who has commissioned the film.
Screenwriter – This is where the story, scripted lines and content for a film come from. A screenwriter deals with the script and in many cases the ambience of the film itself meaning they work with the director and producer to adapt according to the development of the film. Often, screenwriters will change lines as they go to suit the dynamic of the talent, and in some cases, writing an entirely new character in (or out.)
Talent – This embodies the assets of a film and this could be an actor, actresses or even sport personalities or influencers appearing in your film or video.
Lower Authority (also known as Below the Line)
These filmmaking job roles are commonly only hired for individual phases when the film has been given the go-ahead.
Associate Producer – Part of the production team responsible for working closely with producers and meeting their needs. They are often the authority that secures assets such as talent or funding for a film.
Assistant Director – While the director creates the vision of the film, the assistant director handles the physical logistics such as scheduling, organising crew and extras, as well as the key day-to-day activities on set.
Production Manager – The non-creative side of production such as physical logistics of equipment and gear is up to the production manager.
Line Producer – Logs the finances ensuring expenditure is under control and focuses on the budget, although with smaller projects this role tends to be expanded to combine with the production manager.
Cinematographer (or Director of Photography) – The lighting, colour, shape, mood, atmosphere and camera choices are all helped by the director of photography and this is where a filmmaking degree comes in handy. On smaller films, they will also double up as the camera operator.
Grip – Building lighting rigs, accessories and dolly tracks while working in conjunction with the gaffer. On large productions, there will be many grips reporting in seniority to the key grip.
Camera Operator – Just as it sounds, operating the camera
Assistant Camera Operator – Helps with preparing and ensuring the equipment is ready to use, for example batteries charged, memory cards in place, building the camera or stabilizing and during shooting, changing lenses.
Gaffer – The controller of lighting who works closely with the cinematographer while also managing the electricians and grips.
As you can see, it takes a village to create the stunning results we see in film today and everyone has their role to play. This is not an exhaustive list as you still have to consider sound, electricians, DITs or art directors but hopefully this has given you clearer insight in the film crew options your students can pursue in their careers and an excellent starting point.
Now the holidays are out of the way, we can look forward to a few 2018 delights in the cinematic pipeline. There’s an onslaught of releases scheduled for this year – here are a few highlights we’re anticipating:
Marvel takes an interesting turn here – for diversity and for their superhero universe generally – with the story of T Challa who “returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to take his place as King”. If you’re into this sort of big screen spectacle, Black Panther promises to be a fresh take on the whole genre in February.
The Incredibles 2
Pixar’s finally created a followup to their 2004 hit, having given Toy Story, Cars, and Nemo plenty of sequels in the meantime. Now it’s the turn of the superheros of domesticity. Elastigirl will take the lead this time, to save the world again in some entirely unlikely but inevitably entertaining way, coming in June!
Nick Aardman’s distinctive claymation extravaganzas are always worth checking out, from Wallace and Gromit to Chicken Run… his films are brilliant at combining compelling stories with an onslaught of clever sight gags. In a couple of weeks, his latest creation will whizz us back to the dawn of time where stone-aged protagonist Dug is fighting to save his home from a more evolved Bronze Aged threat.
These three are just the start, with 2018 promising dozens of new releases… far more than we’ll have time to see, but that’s the beauty of a rich and varied medium in its prime!
We’ll see you… at the movies!
The Last Jedi is causing some ripples in our own cultural galaxy’s force, to mix up some metaphors. This year’s annual installment from the almighty Disney Empire has managed the seemingly impossible by not only throwing out all sorts of preconceptions of the series, and giving it a new boost of life, but also pleasing critics and fans alike.
So, it seems that it’s our duty as cinephiles to check it out, right?
Scheduling might be an issue here though, and if you’re not booked for a screening until this coming weekend like us, then avoiding the temptation to get a sneaky glimpse of what’s in store is a battle in itself. Reviews, comments and spoilers are RIFE online and far more likely to dampen the eventual pleasures of surprise that we have in store…
With this in mind, and taking a play from the Orange-hued ‘f’ing moron’ currently occupying the White House, the best way to obstruct from the truth is to fill our minds with distractions and obfuscations. If we can no longer determine truth from something not even remotely resembling it, then we can only be surprised by each new turn of events as they present themselves… no matter how predictable or how many times we were warned about something.
Without further ado, therefore, here are some Last Jedi spoilers that will set your mind so adrift that what you eventually see on the screen will invarably come as pleasant surprises.
- Jar Jar Binks, long hoped to be dead by simply EVERYONE, makes a surprise Cameo in Episode VIII as a droid psychiatrist.
- Porgs are actually cute space parrots, instinctively mimicking the noises of any other lifeform they hear, especially Wookies.
- There’s going to be YET ANOTHER attempt to build YET ANOTHER Death Star. Those Imperial Planners just aren’t getting it, are they?
- Luke Skywalker didn’t ‘disappear’, he just went on holiday and discovered that instead of all this constant fighting, what he really fancied was some time alone to work in his poetry and practise the mandalin.
- Han Solo wasn’t killed by his son for nothing, but in a Oedipal twist, Kylo Ren was just making space to ask Leia out for an evening of ‘dancing and cosmic entertainment’
- On a similar note, BB8 and R2D2 become romantically involved and spawn not just a toaster as offspring, but an entire range of kitchen accessories.
- In a bizarre case of art imitating life, The Millenium Falcon is revealed to be made of Lego bricks.
- X-wing Fighters can only make the jump to hyper-space when their pilots tap their ruby slippers together and repeat the words ‘there’s no place like…’ No, just too weird.
- The tagline of Episode IX, after ‘The Force Awakens’, ‘The Last Jedi’ will be ‘To Go To the Bathroom in the Morning’ – making a beautiful complete sentence that reveals all you need to know about the mysterious Energy that binds the Galaxy together. (credit to Mike Pesca of The Gist for that quip)
- In Star Wars – Episode XXXVII, slated for release in 2036, the Force will be revealed to have just been the result of an experiment gone wrong in the LHC.
Thoroughly confused enough?
So, now’s the time to go to the cinema. May the enjoyment be with you. Always.
iOS 11 has continued Apple’s iPhone and iPad’s evolution with improvements here are there, but one aspect that is notoriously difficult to crack and where Apple might still be beaten by foes at Amazon or Google is in Voice Recognition.
Siri may not always get it right, but he/she does fortunately have a sense of humour, and fear not cinephiles, we have our own special corner in her silicon heart. Next time you’re having a chat with your iOS device, try some of these famous movie inspired prompts:
Siri, I am your father
Beam me up Scotty
Are you Her?
What is Inception about?
Open the pod bay door
Blue pill or the red one?
Do you follow the three laws of robotics?
When is the world going to end?
And inevitably for Game of Thrones fans:
And Is winter coming?
Does a Lannister always pay his debts?
we’d like to thank MacWorld for these!
Joe Grabinski has been documenting some of the most hilarious Amazon Film Reviews and tweeting them to his “Amazon Movie Reviews” account. Clearly not to be taken too seriously, the mind still boggles at how BROAD our individual views and opinions of films we know and mostly love are:
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
The Shining (1980)
The Force Awakens (2015)
Monsters, Inc. (2001)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Die Hard (1988)
Pitch Perfect (2012)
A Bug’s Life (1998)
Star Wars (1977)
Magic Mike (2012)
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Happy Feet (2006)
Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (2011)
March of the Penguins (2005)
The world famous and world’s LARGEST arts festival hosted in Edinburgh each August produces some cracking comedic performances. In no particular order, here are some of our favorites from 2017.
“I broke up with my first girlfriend because she didn’t believe in me. Which was ridiculous, because she was the imaginary one.” Ben Fogg
“If I had a pound for every time someone accused me of having body dysmorphia I’d have enough to buy the new nose I need.” Lauren Pattison
“I went to a really rough inner-city school. The kind where chances of being bullied grew exponentially every time you use the word ‘exponentially’”. Aatif Nawaz
“I once took to the stage as Hamlet, which really annoyed the rest of the cast of Mamma Mia.” Thunderbards
“My parents have been married 40 years. I don’t know how they do it, they make it look so hard.” Carmen Lynch
“Whenever someone says ‘I don’t believe in coincidences’. I say ‘Oh my god! Me neither!’” Alasdair Beckett-King
“My uncle told me it doesn’t matter what you achieve in life, as long as you’re happy and you can afford your own bed. That’s the last thing he told me on his deathchair.” Glenn Moore
“It’s so weird that Americans say ‘eggplant’ when they’re called chickens.” Ian Smith
“I like to think the guy who invented the umbrella was going to call it the ‘brella’ but he hesitated.” Andy Field
“I was a lazy kid. When I was twelve my parents entered me in a national apathy contest. I came second. I wasn’t that bothered. The kid that beat me didn’t even turn up.” Ben Fogg
“The key to a happy marriage is in a bowl with a bunch of other keys.” Tom Houghton
“A lot of older people wonder if there will be life after death. There is, of course – it just won’t involve them.” Lee Nelson
And finally, this year’s favorite joke of all (according to the Dave’s Funniest Joke of the Fridge Award) from Ken Cheng: “I’m not a fan of the new pound coin, but then again, I hate all change.”
Cinema has countless scenes which have inspired future generations of filmmakers – ie your students. This compilation will distract us all from North Korea for long enough to remember what a rich and amazing archive of filmmaking is out there to continue that inspiration!
Quickclass needed a new ~1 minute explainer of our platform and its many benefits to Teachers and Students to help Accelerate Learning. Through funky and nibble Production House MondoTV, we found George O’Regan, who produced the GEM you can now see on our public homepage. In his own words, George answered a few questions to reflect on his shoot and the lessons he learned. Its beautiful insight onto the trials and opportunities of young filmmakers – which YOUR students will do well to learn from! So, in George’s own words….
- How did you first have contact with Ben, the Producer from MondoTV?
My friend Lucas and I were waiting on a train platform with a pile of film kit; we were heading off to Brighton to shoot a scene for our Year 13 ‘Short Film’ unit. A chatty American guy wearing a denim jacket with an embroidered dragon design on the back came up to us and asked what we were shooting. We talked for a little while and found out about MondoTV, his Shoreditch-based production company. This was of course Ben.
We ended up getting on the same train as him and before he got off at Gatwick, probably to jet off to somewhere exotic, he offered us our first job with the company. Lucas shot two events for him, and I edited both videos…incredibly slowly. Perhaps during my interactions with Ben on these projects he realised that I could have more potential as a Director than as an Editor. And here we are.
- How much freedom did you have to create the treatment?
An unusual amount. In my previous experiences of online advertising I had been quite restricted by brand guidelines, executive decisions and even to already fully formed ideas. Beyond a couple of reference clips and suggestions from Ben (MondoTV Producer) and StJohn (Quickclass Founder) I had free reign over the treatment. Recently I had stopped suggesting risky ideas to brands as they would always say “no” and play it safe, there wasn’t even a point, but St John didn’t have any fear of being bored and reassured me that I could be as creative as I liked. The freedom was refreshing and undoubtedly led to a more stand-out video.
- Were there any difficulties in casting for the film?
Once the call was out on Casting Call Pro we had over 200 applications within 24 hours for the role of Andy. I tried to make the job sound as fun as possible (which it was) and left out any specific physical traits to attract a larger number of applicants in case anyone surprised us and completely changed how we saw Andy. In the end we picked the very expressive Teifi who was the perfect fit for Andy and looked just as we’d imagined. All in all, a very stress free casting process.
- How many shots did you have for the film? Was this typical for a 1 day shoot?
40 shots, 4 hours, 10 shots per hour. Sounds doable right? However, we needed to set up and pack down in that time, which left us with about 3 hours of actual shooting. When you add that to the fact that we were shooting with 8 extras, 4 crew and 1 actor as well as a dolly and crane in a tiny meeting room on one of the hottest days of the year, we weren’t left with many reasons to relax. Long story short, we didn’t finish on time, but thanks to some fantastic schmoozing from the production manager, Cisco, we secured an extra hour in the room, within budget, and wrapped with a happy cast and crew.
- Any unexpected difficulties on the day? Any problems you were unable to overcome?
Because we had so little time on location, everything was meticulously planned. It did take a little longer than expected, hence the extra hour of shooting, but it did go very smoothly.
- How long did the edit take? Anything you found was missing?
The edit only took about a week on and off. Again, because we had planned well, we weren’t missing anything in the edit. However, we did re-shoot a few bits that could have been improved, such as Andy’s computer – we made it a lot more messy.
- How was directing the Voice Over? Where there any unforeseen difficulties there?
StJohn’s is the voice that you hear in the film. However, as I live in London and StJohn in Amsterdam we had a considerable barrier to cross.StJohn sourced a good microphone from a friend and we set up a Skype call. After a couple of tests where I listened back to the audio we decided to jump in and record the voice over. It took a couple of hours to record a take of each section that we, or I, was happy with. Unfortunately, my experimental method of recording with the microphone in a cardboard box sounded awful when mixed in with the properly recorded sound effects and music. This meant that we had to re-record everything, stood in a copying cupboard, when StJohn came to London the following week and the day before it was ‘premiered’ at the BFI Media Conference.
- Any other lessons you’d like to share from making this film?
Never record a voice over from inside a cardboard box. Never.