Archive: March, 2013

Dark Forces: the story of shooting Zero Dark Thirty

This post over at Definition Magazine admittedly gets pretty technical, wading into a lot of hard core cinematography tools and cameras that I didn’t fully understand. Nevertheless, if you’re into film it’s a revealing read talking about shooting a film on the ground in often harsh, hostile conditions. Make sure you make it to the end where Zero Dark Thirty DP Greig Fraser talks about setting up a lab secretly in a Jordanian hotel. Crazy stuff; huge drives, a 42″ calibrated monitor and a Mac Pro all running through the night as principal photography was conducted during the day.

A.V. Club random roles: Giancarlo Esposito

Giancarlo Esposito, best known as Gus Fring from the Breaking Bad series has a really thorough, highly entertaining talk with The A.V. Club on his past roles, from Miami Vice to Malcolm X and of course Breaking Bad.

Esposito is incredibly charming and eloquent, consistent with the other journalistic appearances I’ve seen him in. A few surprises here as well, like way back in 1982 where he worked on Sesame Street (!):

But what I learned from that show was that there are never any small parts or any small characters. You could be inside a bird costume and still have an incredible effect. I absolutely loved that job, because it was like taking care of a big kid! Mickey’s all practical; he’s a guy who’s Big Bird’s camp counselor for a couple of weeks. But that provided me with a couple of weeks’ work and an opportunity to work with a master. You see Big Bird, but you rarely see who he is. You kind of do, though. You feel his mastery. How wild is life, that you only see him through his feathers? [Laughs.] He affected my life in a major way.

What are video game previews for?

Gamasutra‘s Leigh Alexander:

We dispute and debate, whisper our private hypotheses about those early glimpses and how we think they might turn out, but in the end everyone publishes an obedient preview at the appointed embargo lift, cautiously optimistic.

Who do we serve? What’s the role of subjectivity? What do we owe the developer?

Excellent questions raised by Leigh here. It’s really reached the point where I’m aligned with Giant Bomb on this one: previews are effectively dead. Write up a news story that sticks mostly to the facts before a game is released and wait for a real review and discussion once it’s out.

Al Pacino as Phil Spector: Self-parody and the great actor.

Film critic Karina Longworth, writing for Slate:

Pacino’s career has long seemed to run on a parallel track to that of Robert DeNiro, and while there’s no shortage of apparent money-grubbing laurel-resting on the young Vito Corleone’s resume, De Niro has shown more agility with reinvention. His recent return to Academy approval, cultural vitality, and general respect via his supporting role in Silver Linings Playbook suggests a kind of savvy that it’s hard to imagine present-day Pacino exhibiting, as well as workmanlike humility. DeNiro’s work in Silver Linings proves that he can take and play a role that a lot of other actors could play. When was the last time Pacino played anything but Pacino?

Peter Andrews: the Soderbergh vision

A super cut of Steven Soderbergh’s work as cinematographer throughout his films. Almost everyone knows Soderbergh as the indie breakthrough that’s made many very well constructed films of the past two decades, from Traffic to the Oceans Eleven series. Yet many forget he often serves as DP on his own films under a Peter Andrews pseudonym. There’s a certain aesthetic look of his that has slightly changed over the years; in more recent years he has favored very shallow focus, tighter closeups and less camera movement.

Discover DevTools

If you’re a web developer you’re invariably spending a lot of time in browser development tools, be it Chrome’s DevTools, Safari’s web inspector or Firefox’s Firebug. I find that Chrome really leads the pack with its DevTools, and this awesome, free interactive online course by Code School and Google can take you from newbie to expert. I considered myself pretty solid with DevTools knowledge, but with a quick review through the lessons I learned a lot of little tricks as well.

Twitter for minimalists

Well known designer Craig Mod shares an interesting solution for revamping the default look with a combination of a Fluid app instance and lots of custom CSS. There’s a chance that Craig broke down and settled on a native app like Tweetbot or Twitterrific since his post; I doubt any power user (including yours truly) would ever be fully satisfied with what the plain site has to offer. But for casual users it’s a really simple workflow, one that’s especially appealing to those that already mostly view Twitter through the website.

Gears of War writer Tom Bissell on video games and storytelling

I enjoyed reading this extended interview with frequent Grantland contributor Tom Bissell, now a writer on the just released Gears of War: Judgement. Tom’s statement here on why first and third person shooters are so popular was especially interesting:

If combat has any positive attributes, it’s that, for a lot of people, it forms the most intense emotional relationships they will ever have with human beings for the rest of their lives. So I think a shooter, which is what Gears is, can awaken some of those borderline—I don’t want to say positive attributes of combat, but it does touch on some of the exhilaration of combat. I’m not the first person to suggest that, within the horror of combat, there is something beautiful and exhilarating. The reason shooters are so popular, I think, is that we all want to touch that fire. We want to put our hands in just far enough to feel the heat without actually burning ourselves.

Developing a responsive, retina-friendly site (part 2)

An excellent deep dive by developer/designer Paul Stamatiou regarding his approach to handle images that looks great on both normal and HDPI (a.k.a. ‘retina’) devices. Pay special attention to his work on how to effectively cut 1x and 2x sprites, he includes useful screenshots.

Using SVG

As usual, Chris Coyier over at CSS Tricks writes a fairly comprehensive post on the pros and cons of using SVGs. I’m generally a fan of the format – for my day job we tend to use a mixture of both 1x + 2x pngs and svgs to serve up retina-friendly images.