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Is This the Most Bizarre Bar Mitzvah Video of the Year?

Thursday, March 5th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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There’s a subset of Jewish culture that has so much money to blow on their kids that celebrations like Bar Mitzvahs turn into outrageous, television-worthy affairs. If you want the full story in the form of a cute, thoughtful comedy, check out Keeping Up with the Steins. If you want to skip straight to the awkward horror of the real-life version, watch the video above, posted by the UK Jewish News with the one line comment:

Usually, we’d write something here, but we are a little speechless.

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VIDEO: Fan Makes Working Model of SHIELD Helicarrier from The Avengers

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012 - by Duane Lester

You know you want one:

Hat Tip: Super Hero Hype


See more from Duane on superheroes at PJ Lifestyle:

‘Who Is Thanos?’ And 10 More Post-Avengers Comic Book Movie Rumors

Which of the 5 Avengers Prequels Is the Best?

The 10 Worst Comic Book Movie Casting Blunders (And 5 That Nailed It)

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The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl Season 2 Debuts

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012 - by Dave Swindle

Via Daily Dot | “Awkward Black Girl” talks second season:

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl goes against everything the mainstream media knows about making a hit TV show.

Issa Rae directs and stars as Jay, a black woman who is not a size zero, as she navigates through life’s many awkward and embarrassing moments. Through YouTube, Rae has found a huge international audience, proving that you don’t have to be a white man to be an entertainment success.

“[J]ust because she’s a black female lead doesn’t mean you can’t relate to her,” Rae once told NPR. “And I think that that speaks more to mainstream media because there just is this sort of perception that, you know, if a black person is in the lead, then it has to be for black people.”

From faking phone conversations in order to avoid coworkers, to dropping a tampon out of her purse in front of a date, there’s now no doubt that Jay’s awkward moments are universally relatable. Today, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl has 450,000 viewers, a Shorty Award for Best Web Show, and funding from rapper Pharrell Williams’ creative company, iamOTHER.

It’s a far cry from last summer, when Rae and her cohorts were concerned that if they couldn’t meet their Kickstarter goal, they wouldn’t be able to afford the second half of the season. That all changed when Williams contacted her, Rae told Essence.

Read the rest of the story, written by Lauren Rae Orsini and check out more of her writing. Orsini is a self-described “otaku journalist” who covers fandom and pop culture cults.

Hat tip on Orsini: Susannah Breslin who highlighted her at Forbes.

Here’s the first episode of The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl in season 2:

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I’ll have to watch a few more episodes before making any solid judgments about the show but this seems to be a variation of the same genre as Lena Dunham and Girls on HBO which I wrote about yesterday. And my reaction is the same: I’ve known too many people who are just like this. So yes, it’s entertaining and clever — but watching it is more an awkward stumble down memory lane, not a lighthearted escape.

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The History of Green and Blue Screen in the Movies

Monday, October 24th, 2011 - by Ed Driscoll

While green screen has become ubiquitous for small (I have one in my garage for my videos), medium (PJTV has one in their L.A. studio) and gigantic productions (films like Sin City and 300), the basic effect that drives the concept dates back almost 80 years, to the early days of the talkies. A couple of years ago, the folks at Videomaker magazine produced a nice clip on the surprisingly long history of blue and green screen effects, going back to special effects wizard Linwood Dunn’s pioneering efforts in the 1930s, all the way to the Matrix and other gigantic green and blue screen spectaculars.

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Creating the Sounds of Star Wars

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011 - by Ed Driscoll

Last month, when I was putting the finishing touches on my post on the classic British Cinesound sound effects library from the 1960s and 1970s, I did a quick Amazon search to include a link to the sound effects from the original 1966 iteration of Star Trek, which you can download as an MP3 collection for use in your own DIY video productions. That was when I came across this:

The Sounds of Star Wars? I had to have it.

Written by J.W. Rinzler, Lucasfilm’s in-house historian, who has previously crafted well-readable guides to the making of each of the Star Wars movies, as the title implies, this edition focuses solely on their sound effects.

While Star Wars quickly became legendary upon its initial 1977 release for revolutionizing visual effects, and phrases such as “Industrial Light & Magic” and “the Dykstraflex” became household words, Star Wars also revolutionized movie audio as well. Building on the pioneering efforts of Walter Murch, who has worked on a number of Francis Ford Coppola’s productions and Lucas’s first two movies to bring the world of the recording studio to movie sound and sound effects, Ben Burtt created a distinct sonic palette for the Star Wars universe. Largely eschewing the sounds that Star Trek and other previous science fiction productions made famous, Burtt armed himself with Nagra recorder and a series of high quality microphones, and ultimately crisscrossed the country to build his own library of organic sound effects. While many of the sounds he captured were ultimately sped-up, slowed-down, and electronically-processed, the Star Wars sonic universe sounded remarkably believable, because it was built on an astonishing variety of real-life sounds.

Creating Chewbacca's voice.

In his interviews with Rinzler, Burtt recounts the story of how those sounds were captured: how Chewbacca’s voice was based upon growls recorded from a series of bears. How the lightsabers’ hum derives from an old film projector, and how the TIE fighter’s Stuka-like banshee wail was a combination of a slowed down elephant roar and car driving on wet pavement.

You’ll also learn how Burtt created R2D2’s unique voice from a mixture of an ARP 2600 synthesizer and by electronically processing his own voice while making child-like sound effects. As Burtt said, “Artoo had to act with Alec Guinness. So there had to be a certain amount of credibility and performance in order to sustain a conservation with such a terrific actor, who is talking to what looks like a drinking fountain or a wastepaper basket.” And since R2’s physical movements basically consist of turning his head from right to left, the audio has to carry the rest of the load.

Creating the sound of R2 in motion dovetails into a brief mention of Star Wars’ other sound effects man. Just as the James Bond series made John Barry a star while leaving fellow composer Monty Norman in the lurch, in The Sounds of Star Wars, you’ll also learn a bit about Sam Shaw, the first Star Wars movie’s lesser-known other sound man, who, while coming from a more traditional movie industry background than Burtt, used an equally radical approach for one of Star Wars’ signature sound effects. Shaw recorded the motors driving the power windows and power antenna on a Cadillac Eldorado as the basis for the servo motors whenever R2 and C3PO turn their heads or walk.

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Desktop Videomakers Should Walk Through Digimation’s Model Bank

Monday, October 17th, 2011 - by Ed Driscoll

While 3d computer graphics have been around since at least the 1970s, the rise of the World Wide Web in the 1990s, and especially the rise of Internet video in recent years created a whole new “prosumer” interest in them.

Googling around, it’s easy to find plenty of 3d shots of famous aircraft and spacecraft (both real and imagined). And there are loads of 3d animation walkthroughs of famous architectural works on YouTube. But for me, 3d models, virtual sets, and other digital effects are more interesting when they’re used to tell a story.

I first used virtual sets created by others at the start of 2008, when I began using Serious Magic (later Adobe’s) Ultra 2 program, which had numerous virtual sets created for use with the program. But every once in a while, it’s nice to go on location — if only virtually!

Last year, I watched a tutorial produced for Digital Juice, an online retailer focusing on products for professional and serious amateur video makers, for a product called the Model Bank, by Digimation. The Model Bank features 1,200 3d models, which can be imported into programs such as Model Shop, as well as Adobe’s Photoshop (CS3 Extended and later Extended editions of Photoshop) and After Effects.

From Apollo to Woodstock, Without Ever Leaving My Garage

My recent “1969: The Death of Modernism” video used several 3d models for the scene about 1:30 in, when I went “on location”, first orbiting the earth in an Apollo capsule, and then standing in the fields of Yasgur’s Farm in front of a 1960s VW bus, an old rotary dial TV, and a table for it to sit on.

The Woodstock scene and the interior of the Apollo capsule were both created by placing the Model Bank 3d elements on top of a backdrop in Photoshop. I added the New York license plate and period signage on the VW bus by using the perspective tool in Photoshop to twist the graphics into position. (We’ll discuss how to animate those sorts of objects in a moment.) The Woodstock background was a still photo; the Apollo capsule was simply a gradient plate I created as a layer in Photoshop, and then stuck a couple of sci-fi movie posters and some Digital Juice motion design elements for some animation and a sci-fi flavor.

The seats of the capsule were the F-15 Ejector Seat image from the Model Bank. The program makes it simple — just flip through the Model Bank’s GUI, find a model you want, move it to the folder to be extracted, then insert the disc containing its file into the DVD-ROM drive, and save the file to a folder.

The Model Bank saves them as a .3DS file. From there, it can be imported to Photoshop and saved as an .PSD file, which can then be imported into After Effects, and when moves are programmed via keystroke animation, retains its full three dimensionality. While Model Bank’s catalog program is Windows-only, once the images are extracted and imported into Photoshop, they can be used in both Windows and Apple. To get an idea of how this process works, check out the aforementioned tutorial at the Website of Digital Juice, an online video retailer, which promoted the Model Shop last year. Also, the more RAM and processing horsepower the better for this, and I noted significantly better performance when working with 3d models in the 64-bit edition of After Effects CS5 than the CS4 iteration.

The shot of the Apollo capsule at 1:30 into the video was literally my first attempt at manipulating a Model Bank model in After Effects. For anyone with very rudimentary After Effects chops (and I’m no expert with the program), these should be pretty easy to import and manipulate. The flame blasting out of the Apollo Service Module’s rocket engine, and in the next shot the blasts from the Service Module’s attitude control jets were taken from Digital Juice’s Compositor’s Toolkit Volume one, and animated into place, using the motion tracking controls in After Effects. If you’re new to After Effects, watch this Digital Juice tutorial for some tips on how to accomplish this.

3d Models Open Up New Possibilities To Desktop Videomakers

The 3d models in Model Shop open all sorts of possibilities to the video maker. Virtual sets can be constructed from these elements, as well as material for B-Roll. Existing virtual sets can be fleshed out by using the elements in the Model Bank as props. For example, at the 1:50 mark in the previous “The News They Kept to ThemselvesSilicon Graffiti, for my Walter Winchell-style Drudge parody, the library wall behind me is from a Serious Magic Ultra set. But the antique 1930s microphone I’m shouting into is a Model Shop 3d element of a pre-war BBC radio mic carefully lined up and imported as a Photoshop file, and placed on a separate video track above myself in front of a green screen, and overlaid onto the virtual set. (The “mic stand” that appears to hold it up was simply a thick black line drawn in via Photoshop.

The Model Shop is available from Digimation, its manufacturer, and from a variety of Internet retailers. Shop around for the best price, but considering how many 3d models are included in the package, the inventive video or Photoshop maker should get a quite a lot of use out of this package.

(Note: I originally wrote this in June of 2010 for PJM’s Edgelings blog. Since Edgelings is no longer associated with PJM, I’m reposting it here, since the product is still available from its manufacturer.)

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Raiders of the Lost Sound Libraries

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011 - by Ed Driscoll

Turning on the TV and flipping through the dial, or rifling through any well-stocked DVD collection, it’s obvious that different eras have different looks we associate with them. We think of the 1930s and ‘40s as being in black and white, the lush Technicolor of ‘50s widescreen epics, the split-screen effects of late 1960s movies, today’s digital CGI effects, and so on. But certain eras have unique sounds as well. And tracking these down can be rather elusive.

Back in 2007, Jersey City’s WFMU radio station, on its popular “Beware of the Blog” er, blog, had a great podcast and accompanying blog post on “The Music Everybody Loves! Everybody Wants! Nobody Has!” It’s a sort Raiders of the Lost Music Cues from the 1960s, beginning with the cheesy but beloved 1967 Spider-Man cartoon series. Everybody knows the theme song (“Is he strong? Listen bud, He’s got radioactive blood!”), but it’s the music within the episodes themselves that we’ve all heard, but because of copyright issues have become somewhat lost over time:

When I first posted this article in early 2007, the reason did not start and stop with a simple celebration of this music. I actually wanted to track it down. After the initial post, I heard loud and clear from all facets of nerds, many of them angry (you’d be mad too if you went decades without getting laid). The music from the second and third season came almost exclusively from a music library in England. It might all be a blur for the average reader or fan – what music came from what season? I’ve taken the liberty of putting together an hour podcast that pitts, side by side, the original muddy sounding soundtrack from the show, to the pristine original master tapes of the corresponding song, beautifully preserved, from the KPM library. Listen to it here.

The KPM music library is the oldest and largest music library in Britain – maybe even the world. They still exist today, and for a fee, you too could use the original Spider-man music in a film or TV show. This link is essential and gives you everything you need to know about KPM. Also, a special thanks to this enormous group of nerds who have added insight, information, links and corrections – their message board is well worth checking out. Many people have searched for this music throughout the years, and although they remain anonymous (but super nerdy), their work and persistance paid off. Just finding KPM alone is not enough. The KPM library consists of thousands and thousands of reels, tapes, and LPs and as mentioned before, none of these are labeled “the music from Spider-man.”  They had to be scoured individually before the correct beds were unearthed. The majority of the songs in the second and third seasons were composed by these British songsmiths: Syd Dale, Alan Hawkshaw, Johnny Hawksworth, David Lindup, Bill Martin and Phil Coulter.

In the late 1960s, these music cues were everywhere. At NFL Films, in-between the scores they commissioned from composer Sam Spence, John Facenda’s Voice of God was frequently accompanied by cues from KPM in in numerous late-‘60s highlight reels. (Listen to the cues at 2:00 minutes and 53:00 into the above-linked podcast. If you’ve watched old NFL Super Bowl highlight reels on ESPN or the NFL channel, you know you’ve heard these. And they even made it to England — these cues appeared in several Monty Python episodes. I’m pretty sure that the thermonuclear musical sting that accompanies the Spanish Inquisition — unexpectedly! — whenever they burst into the room was taken from the tail-end of one of these recordings. (listen at about 43:45 in the KMFU podcast.) And speaking of Python’s religious parodies…It’s The Bishop!

Roger L. Simon recently did a post on “The Death of the Cool,” but as far as jazz itself, listening to WMFU’s podcast on KPM, you can really hear the very end of postwar cool. Take a listen to the cue at 38:00 minutes into their podcast, and it’s last round-up for the sorts of swank arrangements Gil Evans was writing for Miles in the 1950s.

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The Alpha and the Omega of the Personal Computer

Monday, August 15th, 2011 - by Ed Driscoll

For the last 15 years or so, millions of teenagers (and likely more than a few older folks as well) have taken first their laptops, and later their smart phones to bed with them to chat (hot or otherwise) with friends, and to wake up feeling plugged into the matrix.

Researchers never knew who was the first person to take his computer to bed though, until startling footage from 1967 was unearthed recently by the BBC:

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(The first computer I ever used was at St. Mary’s; it was an Altair 8800 connected to one of these repurposed teletype machines, which makes the above footage particularly nostalgic for me.)

But what of the future of computing? Clearly, it’s multimedia all the way. While PJ Media has an extensive Internet television production facility in the form of PJTV, there can be no doubt that the ultimate Internet production house is…

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No word yet when MGM will replace its current logo with one that features a kitten and thick white Helvetica text.


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AWESOME VIDEO: Disney Villains Mortal Kombat

Saturday, August 13th, 2011 - by Dave Swindle
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How this hasn’t been made as an actual game yet (either officially or by online game programmers) is beyond me. Come on, internet, when are you going to cough that one up?

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DIY Culture Versus Old Media: An Interview with Glenn Reynolds

Monday, July 25th, 2011 - by Ed Driscoll

Glenn Reynolds should need little introduction to PJ Media’s readers, but just in case you’re beaming in from another temporal plane or quantum singularity, he’s a pioneering blogger, whose Instapundit.com is PJM’s flagship blog, and he hosts the long-running Instavision show on PJTV.com. He’s also the author of An Army of Davids, which explores do it yourself culture in everything from making your beer to making your own recorded music and video.

It’s the latter two subjects we’ll be discussing here (perhaps we’ll explore DIY PBR in a later podcast). We’ll also discuss:

Click here to listen:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

(16 minutes and 30 seconds long; 15.2MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this week’s show to your hard drive. Or right click here to download the 5.75 MB lo-fi edition. And for our earlier Lifestyle podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.)

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Tricking Out Your Apple TV 2

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011 - by Bryan Preston

I have a love/skittish relationship with Apple. Whether it’s my Mac laptop, iPhone or Apple TV, I love the products. I told a friend of mine the other day, who is considering switching to the iPhone, that I consider mine to be the best thing I own other than my house. The thing just works, and it works so well that you tend to forget how well it works. Ditto for the laptop and the Apple TV. All three are tech pinnacles.

But then there’s the attitude of Apple itself. The company seems to think that, even though I have plunked down my own hard-earned money for Apple products, they can still dictate how I actually use said products. They place unnecessary limits on their products that are not dictated by the hardware or software. This is less true of the Mac, but the iPhone and Apple TV, while drenched in awesome sauce, are both limited by Apple’s vision of how you’re supposed to use them. You cannot buy or install any software that Apple has not approved on your iPhone without jailbreaking it. The Apple TV is similarly limited. I don’t know about you, but the thought that something I own can do so much more than its manufacturer allows it to do, but the manufacturer is essentially wagging his finger at me and telling me “No,” gets on my last nerve.

Don’t get me wrong; the Apple TV is a great little piece of tech, allowing instant  access to Netflix, YouTube, the iTunes store and my own iTunes-approved media on my TV. It’s slick, simple, easy to navigate and couldn’t be easier to install. Like everything else Apple, it just works. But it’s also limited to what Apple wants you to do with it. Other than Netflix, Apple sees its TV appliance as little more than a way to sell iTunes content. But it could be and do so much more. The hardware is there, but so are Apple’s limitations.

Netflix is cool and all (though its new price structure is making me reconsider it), but say I want to get away from the DVD world and collect all my media on a NAS and stream it through my Apple TV to my big screen? Out of the box, Apple TV won’t let you do that. Say I want to listen to last.fm, or access online content via XBMC, or heck, just surf the web? Can’t do that either — even though Apple built Safari into the ATV, and then hid it from ATV owners. There are probably a couple dozen things to do that come to mind the first time you experience the Apple TV, only to figure out that thanks to Apple’s limitations, you can’t do them. Why? Because Cuppertino says so.

But actually, yes, you can. For some video formats that aren’t native to the ATV, there’s an app (two, actually, for full control). For others, you just can’t do it without doing something Apple doesn’t want you to do. You have to jailbreak your Apple TV.

First, the apps. If you have an iPhone, first get Remote, which is free and lets you control the ATV with your iPhone (or iPod or iPad). Then get AirVideo, an incredible app that’s elegant and well worth the $2.99 price tag. AirVideo lets you stream video content from your PC or Mac directly to your ATV, either by converting it before you view it or even converting it while you view it. This automatically frees you from iTunes’ limitations. And its converter is fast and delivers high quality.

Second, the jailbreak (which, yes, is legal, in case you were wondering). Until recently, there wasn’t really a good jailbreak method that left your ATV free of having to be tethered to a Mac or PC. That’s changed recently, thanks to FireCore’s SeasOnPass. SeasOnPass makes jailbreaking painless. And once jailbroken, your Apple TV will allow you to install FireCore’s aTV Flash app. This costs $19.95 for the beta or $29.95 for the full version when it comes out, but it’s easily worth the price. Simply put, aTV Flash tricks out your Apple TV while also leaving its essentials intact, turning the little black iTunes box into a home theater beast. You keep the same clean Apple look and feel, while adding Plex media streaming and acquisition, XBMC (which by itself is a massive upgrade to the Apple TV’s capabilities), last.fm, NAS storage and streaming (if you have a NAS, of course) which respects your DVD’s menus and navigation, even little things like easily accessible weather forecasts. ATV Flash adds true web surfing as well — combine that with the Remote app, and you have the keyboard to your Apple TV in the palm of your hand, instead of the clunky input method native to the ATV. PJTV content plays and looks pretty good up on my flatscreen, by the way.

ATV Flash is a robust suite of fully developed software that takes your Apple TV several steps beyond the “next level.” This is the “convergence” we’ve been hearing so much about over the past few years. If you get the Apple TV, you owe it to yourself to check out aTV Flash. And AirVideo is just a no-brainer. It’s one of the best apps in the entire App Store.

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