April 19, 2011

Creating TRON:LEGACY's computer displays

Image from TRON: Legacy

If you're making a move that takes place entirely inside of a computer, the computer displays better kick all kinds of ass. For TRON: Legacy digital designer Joshua Nimoy got the call to come up with everything from hacker computer screens to world maps to 3-D virtual hearts.

Nimoy's written a great blog post detailing some of the techniques he used. Among other things he recorded himself using emacs, and built software tools that would let the movie's visual artists generate custom shaped fireworks.

DISCLOSURE: I work at the Walt Disney Company, the company that made TRON:Legacy (but I work in the division that does internet stuff and games, not the part that does movies or videos).

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March 13, 2010

How good a doctor is House, anyway?

image from House

One of my all-time best ego feeds happened a few years ago, when I successfully identified the mystery disease on House before Dr. House and his team did(*).

Much of each episode of House deals with the art and science of medical diagnosis. But how realistic is the medical detective work on the show?

Enter Scott Morrison, M.D. Morrison has a family practice in Illinois and a blog called Polite Dissent, where among other things he picks apart each episode of House, explaining what's realistic and what's nonsense. Some typical observations:

I'm suspicious of Thirteen's "bubble test." While there is a bubble test that can be used to find heart defects, it is only used on a relatively small single organ. Thirteen's idea of trying to track microscopic bubbles wherever they may go over the entire body seems fruitless, especially when the overlying gastrointestinal tract is likely to have gas bubbles of its own. Plus this would only work if the cysts were connected.

It's fractures of the long bones (femur, most commonly) that lead to fat emboli. I don't think there's enough fat in a toe bone to cause a fat embolism.

Sequencing the cardiac sodium channel, in a hospital lab, in a day. Right. See me about that property in Arizona. Even with modern equipment, gene sequencing is tricky, time consuming, and a specialized skill.

(*)Leprosy FTW! But then just a few weeks later I missed the diagnosis of xeroderma pigmentosum, even though I had just worked on a documentary about it.

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June 28, 2007

The weather with David Lynch

photo of David Lynch

The best part of my morning commute happens at about 10 minutes before nine, when radio station Indie 103.1 does the the weather. That's because their weatherman is none other than idiosyncratic film director David Lynch.

Lynch's weather reports are, to say the least, unique. He gives a terse description of current conditions at his location.... which may or may not be Los Angeles... followed by a thought for the day... which may or may not make sense. Then he abruptly hangs up. Brilliant!

If you're in the L.A. area, tune in and catch it. If you're anywhere, you can catch the daily forecast on Lynch's website, davidlynch.com

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June 15, 2007

Processing: The Book

cover of Processing book

Time and time again in the past few years, when I've seen a jaw-droppingly beautiful work of interactive video art and then asked the artist how they did it, I've received a one word answer... "Processing".

Processing is a programming language...a little like Java, but easier to learn and use...that is uniquely suited to manipulating audio and video. It was developed by interactive media artists at MIT and UCLA and has been championed by digital media heavyweights like Ben Fry, John Maeda, and Casey Reas. Word has spread about Processing, and its use is starting to reach a critical mass, just the way Photoshop did for graphic designers 20 years ago. Right now, in art school dorm rooms and computer labs, an army of inspired, sleep-deprived students...the next generation of video artists... are hacking together all sorts of stunning digital assaults on our senses, all because of the Processing language.

And all of this has happened despite the fact that there's no book on Processing. At least, there wasn't until now. Just last week I got my copy of Processing: Creative Coding and Computational Art by Ira Greenberg, and it's a great work. The book lays out the basics and intricacies of the language, but it does it with an artist's sensibility (which makes sense, given that Greenberg is both an artist and a professor... who happens to hold joint appointments in both the art and computer science departments at his college).

I'm thoroughly enjoying hacking together stuff with this book's help, and I those of you are there who are fellow computer artists will too. You may wind up bleary-eyed, but your computer screen will look amazing.

(Speaking of amazing, the stunningly beautiful iTunes music visualizer
Magnetosphere was developed in Processing.)

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Magnetosphere

screenshot of Magnetosphere in action

Here's a little bit o'beauty for your weekend. The folks at barbarian software have just released a iTunes visualizer called Magnetosphere, and it's already getting rave reviews for its haunting, hypnotic display.

Magnetosphere pulses and flows in perfect synch to your music. Grab the free download, install it, watch a few songs and you may find yourself never needing to watch another music video.

By the way, Magnetosphere was developed in the Processing programming language, which is rapidly becoming the tool for artists who use video display as their canvas. See the adjoining post for info on the first comprehensive book on Processing.

(Thanks O'Reilly Radar)

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June 03, 2007

The coming explosion of Second Life books

cover of Designing Your Second Life

If you were looking for a book to help you make sense of Second Life, you've only had one choice (though it's a good one), Second Life, The Official Guide.

But now it looks like we're going to be ass-deep in SL books within the next few months. I've particularly intrigued by Designing Your Second Life a forthcoming book that will help you make sure your avatar is particularly beautiful, and that your virtual home is particularly stunning.

Tara Anna, who actually runs a bookstore within Second Life, put up this page on Amazon running down the forthcoming Second Life book releases.

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March 20, 2007

Chris Ware animation on This American Life

still image from Chris Ware's cartoon for This American Life

Like many people, I've been looking forward to the premiere of the television version of This American Life. I'm even more excited now that I've learned that cartoonist Chris Ware has animated one of the segments.

As I'm sure just about all of you know, Ware is a brilliant graphic artist and story teller, though I have to admit that I find it very difficult to actually read his material(*).

But his animation of a This American Life segment is spot-on perfect! It's the tale of how some elementary school kids started making fake TV cameras, and how that changed life in the schoolyard. Watch it here, and watch the entire show beginning March 22 on Showtime.

(*)Many of Ware's stories have to do with children suffering through lives of bleakness and despair. My childhood was pretty bleak too, so I find his stuff a bit too close to home).

(Thanks BoingBoing!)

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February 21, 2007

Recording the Beatles

Recording the Beatles book

If you are a hard core...and I mean HARD CORE...Beatles fan, then start saving up your dimes. There's a new, $100, book about how the Beatles went about recording and mixing all off their tunes. It's called...cleverly..."Recording the Beatles" and it looks drop-dead gorgeous. It's also chocked full with audio geeky goodness, things like which microphone Paul McCartney used to record &Blackbird" and how they got that cool jangley piano sound in "Rocky Raccoon".

It's not available in stores, but it is for sale online from Curvebender Publishing.

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February 12, 2007

Make your pantry look like Lost