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How Mister Rogers Saved the VCR

In 1984, a landmark case laid down a controversial law regarding technology and copyright infringement. Here’s a look back at the “Betamax Case,” including the role Mister Rogers played in the Supreme Court’s decision.

Mr Rogers

For many years in the pre-DVD, pre-streaming era, the Betamax, Sony’s prototype videotape player-recorder, was a punch line. A piece of technology that was quickly superseded by the VCR VHS, it limped along in the shadows for two decades. And yet, it was the Betamax that gave name to a court case that has played a pivotal role in both technological progress and copyright law over the last thirty years.

Like many other cool electronic products, the Betamax came from Japan. In late 1975, it was introduced to the U.S. by Sony, who touted its ability to “time-shift” television programming. In an era when most viewers still had to get up off the couch to change channels manually, this innovation was as futuristic as it sounded. Record a TV show right off the air? Are you kidding?

If the public was wowed by the idea, the major entertainment corporations were not. Universal Studios and Walt Disney Productions filed a lawsuit in 1976 to halt the sale of the Betamax, claiming that film and TV producers would lose millions of dollars from unauthorized duplication and distribution of their copyrighted content.

Mental Floss | Read the Full Article

Revisiting the Case of the Wedding Photographer Threatened with a $300,000 Lawsuit

What happened to the case where an angry client sued the wedding photographer for $300,000? Robert Schenk takes a look at the case.

Nuclear

A couple years ago, I read a story about a Washington wedding photographer that was threatened with a $300,000 lawsuit by an ex-client. The story then seemed to drop out of sight. Sometime thereafter, I decided to put on my investigative reporter mustache and do some sleuthing. Was the threat real? Did a lawsuit actually get filed? If so, what was the result?

The Contract and the Aftermath

Karen Poon and her Dude hired Dream Production Studio to photograph their Vegas wedding in the Fall of 2011. Nelson Tang is the principal of Dream Production Studio, located in King County, WA, and operates his business as a sole proprietorship.

The parties agreed on a price of $3,800.00 for professional photography services covering the ceremony, reception, and some unspecified “pre-wedding” events. Guess what? There was no written contract. Needle skip! Tang needs to read this. But, let’s not hammer Tang too hard. He’s going to end up paying for it later on.

The wedding came and went. Sometime later, Tang delivered the images to the newlyweds. Not several hundred edited images that are typical for wedding photography agreements, but ALL OF THE RAW IMAGES. The good. The bad. The ‘I’m not a machine, they can’t all be winners.’

PetaPixel | Read the Full Article

Tiny Satellites That Photograph the Entire Planet, Every Day – TEDTalks

Satellite imaging has revolutionized our knowledge of the Earth, with detailed images of nearly every street corner readily available online. But Planet Labs’ Will Marshall says we can do better and go faster — by getting smaller. He introduces his tiny satellites — no bigger than 10 by 10 by 30 centimeters — that, when launched in a cluster, provide high-res images of the entire planet, updated daily.

TedTalk Earth

Via PetaPixel

Marion Cotillard on How to Cry at a Moment’s Notice

Jack Smart interviews Marion Cotillard about her process in developing the character for Deux jours, une nuit (Two Days, One Night)

Marion Cotillard

To play Sandra, a middle-class mother battling depression, Marion Cotillard used a plethora of tools in her acting arsenal. First, it helps to have experienced a degree of the same kind of despair herself. “I came very close once,” says the actor, before smiling modestly. “But I have arms. I’m a pretty good fighter.”

Cotillard’s performance in the Belgian film “Deux jours, une nuit” (“Two Days, One Night”) showcases that same fighting spirit, but with a submissive, delicate restraint rarely seen from the acclaimed actor. After taking time off from the local solar panel factory due to a nervous breakdown, Sandra learns company management has offered employees a bonus if they agree to let her go. With dogged encouragement from her husband, Sandra spends her weekend tracking down her co-workers, convincing them to forego the raise and trying not to let depression engulf her completely.

“I came close enough to understand what it is to lose the purpose of being here, the taste of everything,” says Cotillard. Personal experience was the first step toward unlocking what seemed to her a sorrowfully complex role. “I really needed to understand this depression, how it affected her family and the people she loved.” She acknowledges the enigmatic nature of the condition for those not enmeshed in it; there exists a social stigma against Sandra’s behavior that makes her depths difficult to convey. “We have a lot of judgments when it comes to depression,” she points out. “It’s kind of mysterious.”

Backstage | Read the Full Article

A 6-Part Comprehensive Introduction to Sound and Filmmaking

The importance of sound in modern film is simply undeniable.

Audio-Series_header

When we decided to tackle the subject of sound, I knew that to do it justice we had to approach it like building a foundation for a house: building it up brick by brick. For many filmmakers, sound is a mystery blended with bits and pieces of understanding gleamed through practice – that was the way I was before doing the research. That’s a clumsy way to go about learning. If we really want to understand sound and become masters of it, we have to start and the base and build up from there.

So I designed this series of audio lessons to move from broad base understanding to the specific application. Here is a map of the six different videos in our audio series and how they relate to one and other in progression:

Audio-Series

Before we break down each video, I would like to take an opportunity to thank our sponsor RØDE Microphones who have been a tremendous support on this project.

RODE

 1. The History of Sound at the Movies

I cannot exaggerate the importance of history. This is the longest of the lesson in the series and we cover from the beginning of sound on film (which despite conventional wisdom, The Jazz Singer was not the first film with sound or recorded dialogue) up to the sound technologies of the 1990s.

The first major point for filmmakers to think about in this lesson is the dramatic change that sound brought to the filmmaking process. As with all our history courses, I want you to put yourself in the shoes of the filmmakers at the end of the 1920s – watching an entire industry turned around and retooled in the matter of two years or so. Think about the implications for this art form – at the beginning of sound, debates raged over whether sound was suppose to be natural or augmented with things like sound effects and music. The dust did finally settle and what emerged was something that really didn’t resemble the silent film of only a decade past. When sound came about… silent film died and a new hybrid art form of motion and sound was born.

After the industry switch, sound technology stagnated for about 20 years. It was until television mortally threatened all of Hollywood that the industry started to experiment with multichannel surround sound. Even then it took another 25 years or so before finally settling on the widely adopted Dolby Stereo format just in time for the film that would go and redefine the cinematic experience: Star Wars.

2. The Science and Engineering of Sound

This lesson takes a different angle on building the foundation – whereas the history lesson looked at the social implications of sound and film, here we look at the science of sound, beginning by defining five properties of sound: Amplitude, Frequency, Phase, Harmonic Content, and Envelope. We then define what a decibel is and the cover two common microphone types (dynamic and condensers) and the different types of pickup patterns from mics on the market.

The concepts about sound properties laid out here are crucial once we get into the sound editing side which will manipulate these properties. The engineering portion of this lesson is mean to give a basic underlying understanding to how microphones work. By understanding their internal function and the characteristics of microphones on the market we can better make choices for recording audio on set or on location.

3. The Basics of Recording Audio for Digital Video

With a foundation of history and science, we now move into the general application of sound recording. The best way to approach this subject was to look at the audio signal chain – that is how sound goes from air waves, into electric signal and finally being recorded onto a digital medium.

But in this lesson, I decided to work backwards – starting at the end of the chain and working toward the original audio waves. By looking at the equipment used for recording we also cover some of the key settings for audio recording including sampling rate and bit depth. Moving up the line I clarify the ingenious technique of audio signal doubling in balanced cables which leads us finally to beginning of the audio signal chain with mic placement and usage.

4. The Fundamentals of Sound in Post Production

Now that we have our sound recorded what do we do with it? In this lesson we cover the four types of filters commonly used in audio engineering including: Equalizer, Dynamic Range Controls (compressors), Noise Reduction, and Time Delay effects.

Now admittedly when I first started playing around with audio tools as a kid I had no idea what half of these things did (just that the reverb filter made it sound really reverby). But with a foundation in science of how sound works, these filters suddenly make more sense.

When you open up your audio editor, you will find a lot more advanced versions of these four basic types of tools (for instance Adobe Audition uses FFT for a lot of really powerful noise removal tricks) but if you understand how EQ affects frequency, how compressors reduce dynamic range and how Time Delay effects can color your sound, you’ll have a good grasp to begin working the sound in your film.

5. Introduction to Automated Dialogue Replacement (ADR)

Putting it all together for the first time, we explore a common practice in filmmaking: ADR or looping.

I used to be of the ilk that ADR was something that you wanted to avoid at all costs – I have only done it once before in a short film and honestly I didn’t find that experience all that unpleasant. I knew it was a tricky affair.

But when I started to research the history of sound and look at how ADR (called looping before computers got in the game) freed up camera movement in the early days of sound cinema, I realized that ADR was a much maligned technique. Ideally you want to capture the performance with natural location audio but ADR, if planned for, brings so much freedom.

Now my approach may have ruffled feathers of some ADR purists who think that ADR should only be attempted by professionals. With exception of panning the dialogue (which I learned too late that I shouldn’t have done), I stand by everything as it is explained in the lesson.

ADR is much like a magic trick, the first time you do it you may screw it up. In fact the first ADR session I ran with my actors didn’t cut together well. I brought them back in and we did a second take, this time reviewing each line as I placed them to see if we could make it better. It was a great learning experience for myself and my actors. As you get better the magic trick becomes more subtle – hopefully to the point where if the audience doesn’t know to look for it, they won’t even see it… or in the case of ADR… hear it.

6. Introduction to Foley and Sound Effects for Film

Once you replace dialogue with ADR, the next thing is to replace all the sound effects. In this lesson I wanted to dive into the world of Foley and look at the interesting history of the man that lended his name to this technique.

This was a challenging lesson for another reason all together. After filming the short demo film and the lesson I had a catastrophic hard drive failure that wiped away everything. So I had to reassemble my actors and reshoot the entire scene. Oh well, second time’s the charm. And now I have a pretty beefy back up solution in place.

Foley and Sound Effects really do bring a scene to life. As I was putting this lesson together I started really to pay attention to all the little noises that occur in my everyday life – the sound of my shoes on the carpet, the sounds of car doors (I always notice how nice car doors sound in the movies), the sound of a simple scratch. These little things simply don’t get picked up in the production stage and have to be added in post.

Although Foley can be a little challenging, ultimately it’s a lot of fun putting in those finishing audio touches and hearing your film come to life.

***

I really hope that this series on audio changes the way you approach sound in your films. In have learned a lot in researching this series but these were never intended to be the “the final word” on the subject -rather they are a chance to introduce topics so when you do more research or listen to interviews with audio professionals, you’ll have at least a context of these concepts and where they fit inside the audio world.

We have done our best to put together your foundation, but if you want to advance in sound, you’ve got to get out there and start practicing. Stay tuned – major changes are coming to the site which will give you a chance to practice with us… Keep your ears open and make something great.

John P. Hess

Improvising Screenplays: Three Stagnant Scene Types…and How to Make Them Flow

In Improvising Screenplays, improvisational actor Brett Wean shares how the concepts of improvisation can be applied to the work — and play — of writing your script.

Flow

There are a few general, arbitrary-sounding, scene types that actors are told to avoid when first learning improv. Specifically, novice improvisers are warned to stay away from: argument scenes, teaching scenes, and negotiations.

I wouldn’t advise you to eschew these types of scenes in your screenwriting. We obviously see all sorts of arguments, teacher/student moments, and negotiations take place in many of the best, most compelling movies and TV shows. But by understanding why improvisers try to avoid them, and how the best theatrical improvisers make them work when they do perform them, you can gain a unique understanding of the specific pitfalls these types of scenes often contain, and learn how to avoid them in your writing.

Why are improvisers warned not to fall into scenes involving teaching, arguments, and negotiations? Because each of these scene types quite often naturally drag the characters into stagnant, back-and-forth moments that keep the action from moving forward. “No!” “Yes.” “No!” Yes.” “No!” While it may be exciting to watch two characters dramatically duke it out via their differing points of view — “drama is conflict” we’re so often told, and that’s true — we have to make sure that we don’t trap our characters into a clinch, like two boxers in a ring, so jumbled together that nothing is actually happening. Scenes need to move forward: two people yelling “No!” “Yes!” “No!” at each other can stop any natural momentum in its tracks.

ScriptMag | Read the Full Article

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