Friday, May 04, 2007

Spidey III

I went with some UCLA Animation Graduate students to see the 12:15 AM 21+ (i.e. we could drink alchohol) screening of Spidey III.

My overall impression? *na-na-na-naaa-naaa* My Spidey movie's better...

But I was impressed with the FX (particle-ly Sandman) Sorry Imageworks folks, I caught some of you in the credits but missed a lot. I'll look more closely when SP3 is on Netflix.

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posted by Brian at 3:16 AM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Sony Imageworks India

From VFXworld:

Sony Pictures Imageworks (SPI) has purchased 50.1% of FrameFlow, the visual effects and animation studio based in Chennai, India, for about $5 million. FrameFlow worked on Sonyís CLICK last year.

As part of the deal, FrameFlow will become Imageworks India and will work with SPIís main production facility in Culver City, California.

"Imageworks has taken 50.1% equity in FrameFlow and will be investing $5 million for the stake. We expect this would translate to about $20 million in revenue in three to five years," said Jenny Fulle, evp, production, Imageworks.

Imageworks will invest in infrastructure, technology and training in the new company. Imageworks India also plans a significant growth in its current talent base of 80 employees, as it continues to provide visual effects and animation services. It would be relocating to a larger office in Chennai with a seating capacity of 300, according to Hitesh Shah, ceo of FrameFlow and the co-md of Imageworks India.
Curious to see what types of projects they will handle, and how the communication flow will work. In other news, Industrial Light & Magic has set up shop in Singapore.

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posted by Brian at 11:17 AM 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Before there was YouTube, Sony's Screenblast.com

Right about when I started working for Sony, I found an intriguing website called screenblast.com. Sony had just purchased a music and video software tool company called Sonic Foundry, creators of a program dear to my heart, ACID. I remember when an office building (called "Smith" for some reason) next to us over at Sony Pictures Imageworks was being cleared out (around 2004) to make room for more of us, but it had formerly housed folks at Sony Pictures Digital including screenblast.com. Indeed, all that's left is a Screenblast poster hanging inconspicuously as one enters the building past the security guard.

The vision (back when Sony had such a thing) was just slightly ahead of its time: sell near-professional level tools at a cheap price for making videos and then encourage creators to upload them for free to a website for distribution. Sounds like a great idea, no?

Unfortunately, it didn't take off. The software business aspect already had stiff competition. Apple acquired Final Cut Pro and Logic, and with its great brand was able to make these de-facto standards in content creation tools. (They in turn helped sell Macintosh computers because they were exclusively available on them, not Windows PCs). In contrast, ACID and Vegas, while great, are still not nearly as popular.

I never used the Screenblast site itself, but I don't recall it having a particularly easy to use interface. If anyone out there tried it, I'd love to know how it compares to YouTube. (Their interface beat out even Google's own service, enough to where Google decided just to purchase the whole company.)

Meanwhile, right around that time was Sony's mind transplant. Sony acquired BMG Music, and found itself confused -- are we a hardware/software company enabling people to become creators in their own right? Or are we concerned about piracy and locking down our Intellectual Property? Much of the original brilliance at the top left in a huff as Sir Howard Stringer (the hired Axe-man) took over. Screenblast was one of the casualties, perceived as a waste of money, presumably.

But whether or not screenblast's web interface was good, there was no "killer app." No content went viral from it, as did the Saturday Night Live sketch "Lazy Sunday" in 2005 which made YouTube a household word. Somehow I doubt it offered the ability to show videos in blogs, like YouTube.

Poor Sony. It's a bit late in the game, but they bought up Grouper last year. Ever heard of them? Hmm, not so much.

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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Consumers To Be Punished for Modifying or Doing Things with Products They Buy?

Reuters.com has a blurb about the new Blu-Ray DVD format that will be forced upon us in the near future. I work at Sony, and hear that Blu-Ray is technically great, but the following part disturbs me:
On top of that, consumers should expect punishment for tinkering with their Blu-ray players, as many have done with current DVD players, for instance to remove regional coding. The new, Internet-connected and secure players will report any "hack" and the device can be disabled remotely.

"A hacked player is any player that is doing something it's not supposed to do," Andy Setos (engineer at News Corp) said, adding the jury was still out if regional coding would be maintained or scrapped.

Not supposed to do? Like what? Show porn? Show material that the religious minority finds offensive? Play DVDs criticizing the government? Show material that isn't licensed by the Hollywood cartel? Shows material supporting the ideas of public domain or open source? Play back DVDs or music more than the number of times that Hollywood executives want you to? Play back movies from other countries?

Come on! No corporate entity, just because it's acting as a creator of a product, should claim infinite rule-making abilities under patent and copyright laws. Infinite scope is not protected, only the right to control copying with the priviso of Fair Use. That's it. The D.M.C.A. added the ability to sue folks who tried to go around their rules, but there's nothing from stopping them from expanding the scope of whatever rules they want. Hence, Andy's quote of "Anything it's not supposed to" meaning "what we say it should do." You want to try make your DVD player work in your car? Too bad. That's a crime. You want to hook it up to Linux since Hollywood doesn't want to support it? Too bad. That's a crime.

I feel like I'm in the former Soviet Union more and more every day. A centralized design committee declaring that consumers have no rights to change what they buy. Not for safety reasons (like you shouldn't use rat poison in cooking or to make bombs), but because the committee feels it is against their interests.

The good news is, any device that uses the Internet to tattle tale on you can be thwarted by having something listening for its outgoing signals. But if Hollywood gets to build the "uncopyable" DVD player, that doesn't mean we have to buy it. If they want to cry "Oh oh, we're losing so much money because the DVD spec before was so easily copied", and then turn around and make more profit in DVDs over the last several years than regular movies, I couldn't care less. I'll go on renting Netflix until they require me to let my DVD player tattle tale on me.

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posted by Brian at 11:42 AM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, August 08, 2003

Adventures in Southern California

Spent the last week in San Diego & Los Angeles in an unplanned adventure to find work at Siggraph and help my friend Sam with his puppet TV show pilot. Sure enough, I got a job offer from Sony Pictures Imageworks!! Wow.

It was a bit of coup getting the interview. They weren't taking reels or resumes at their booth. But for some reason they put up a sign advertising a "Production Services Technician" position over on the memoboards (where people leave notes that get placed alphabetically in vain attempt to reach other people). So after arriving at 8 AM I had the crazy idea to leave a note -- on the sign itself. Sure enough, the note was gone a few hours later, and then I got a voicemail saying I had an interview scheduled for the next day at their booth. Whoa! I guess it pays to deface posters now and then!

The interview went well. It's the only time I've had three women interview me for a tech position. Thanks to the free Starbucks frappucino cans at Dreamworks/PDI's booth, I nailed it. But the next challenge was getting to LA to stay with my friend Sam. Fortunately our LA friend Eric (whom I had seen at Comic Con a week or so earlier) had mentioned he might come down for Siggraph. A quick call to him, and voila! A ride back.

Meanwhile I was staying with a crew of Pixelcorps artists. We could have easily formed our own production company. John the Modeller, Scott the Compositor, Robby the R&D guy, Greg the Animator and me (running the thing, probably). I definitely had the most luck finding work, and getting into the cool parties. My friend Nick is moving up the ranks at PDI now and when I saw him at the booth, he gave me and Greg two invites for the exclusive Dreamworks/PDI party. Yayy! It was pretty sweet -- free booze, food, and the chance to see Jeffrey Katzenberg perform a meager puppet show describing one of their upcoming films ("Over the Hedge").

LA was fun too. Got to build and paint sets for a pirate ship filled with ogres, hamsters, and a pirate named Sid. Did I mention it was in the desert? Yep, 1.5 hours east of LA in the town of Phelan (the location of a woman I just met in Comic Con... Random!) I also performed right-hand for Victor Yerrid, a puppeteer from Crank Yankers and Greg the Bunny. Performed a hamster, and an Easter Island puppet too.

And of course, the interview with Sony! Their facility is rather nice. Marry gave me the tour and despite the weird hours, the job sounds great! They train you to do whatever you want, and try to make you want to stay rather than burn or kick you out like so many places. She told me if the crew liked me, they would email me a technical test. When I got home, it took me about a day to finish 3 questions (it didn't say anything about a deadline) involving a lot of scripting. Today I got the offer!

So I'll stop it with the "sure enough"'s and sign off so that I can go say "I got a jobb, I got a jobbb" to a dozen more friends.

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