Wednesday 24 January 2018

Mining for MOVIES: Youtube GOLD

One night bored with Trump trash on CNN, I googled a movie I love: 'The 39 Steps', and '1939', 'movie', 'youtube'. A whole bunch of little boxes with a scene from the movie, the title, and the lengths popped up on the screen. Some were short previews, others were the whole movie. I clicked one. Pay-dirt.  And a sidebar of other choices. I watched this early Hitchcock movie with a glass of wine. And thought, WOW, I can see this again and again... After that, I found a whole slew of my favorite Hitchcock's, including 'Rear Window'.  When it got up to a triple-feature day, I thought it was time for rehab.

Searching for "Alfred Hitchkock"
Netflix and other sites have huge film choices, so I joined. Everyone told me I could find anything I wanted. Wrong. Most of my searches came back with 'alternatives'. I finally discovered that these film sites don't have licensing agreements with every country.That was my problem. I went back to youtube.  I don't always find what I want. Sometimes I try over and over to get a movie. And suddenly it turns up on the sidebar. But it's fun to search. Sometimes you stumble on a winner. Camilla (the shark) says if you want to work in media you have to watch all sorts of movies, documentaries, videos. Amazing to see the technical progress made between 1930 and 1935. I showed Erkki one scene from an English movie: 'Storm in a Teacup' (1937, Vivienne Leigh, Rex Harrison):  a horde of about 500 different breeds of adorable dogs invade a posh dinner party. They create incredible playful chaos for several minutes.  The human actors are helpless victims are helpless. I wondered how they could stay in character. And how the crew pulled it off. I love this scene. Even Erkki, who can do all sorts of computer manipulation, was impressed.

Now we're working on a new project: we plan to use film clips that are in the public domain. I found out a lot of new-ish movies available because they failed to renew copyrights.  When hen I search by genre, I get a list from A to Z. For most tech-savvy users this must sound like first grade ABCs. Or even kindergarten.  But for me who bangs away on my mac and gets into a mess, it's practically a bloody miracle.  By a lucky stroke, I learned how to find film (some classics) from the Golden Age (mid-thirties – mid-fifties).  And make new videos out of old movies. EUREKA!

Source: Youtube

Next week: ROBOT WARS; San Francisco Strikes Back

Monday 15 January 2018


Unless you're a relative, a close friend,  famous yourself, or better yet, all three, making a documentary about someone who is even semi-famous, means dealing with their minders.  After 'Chasing Esa-Pekka'  (at the time conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic) and 'Frank & Alvar' (architects, Frank Gehry & Alvar Aalto) we said never again.  The Talent was fairly easy but the Minders were armed guards at the gate.  Nice, polite but fiercely demanding.  Esa-Pekka had a PR company guarding his image. They wanted him to see every foot of material before the edit – we had 51 hours.  And made us edit a great line.  I asked him if there were any rough spots in his charmed life after he replaced a conductor in London and got rave reviews. He said, 'There were girls, I was eating, drinking and fucking around.' Bing! But our commissioning editor kindly asked us t to delete it.

Thought I was cured.  But an article in the New York Times about the chefs of San Sebastian (in the Pays Basques hooked me. The town with 187,000 inhabitants in Northwest Spain has earned 16 Michelin stars, the most per capita in the world. It's become a foodie's mecca. What made the story land on the front page was an unlikely twist: instead of competing, the chefs were friends who helped each other. Led by two old hands – Juan Arzak and Pedro Sobijana. The Shark (LMP story editor) loved the idea. I made the reservation for three at Arzak. I told them we had a film company in Finland and were interested in making a documentary for YLE (Finnish Broadcasting Company) about the food culture in San Sebastian.  When we got to the restaurant they gave us the royal tour. The kitchen with its 30 chefs, the wine cellar, and the lab. Juan Arzak came out and gave us all a kiss on both checks and we took selfies. Then we went to lunch.

Art food (rye bread, sausages and ketchup). 

Lunch was six courses of edible art. We drank extra dry sherry and lots of wine. It was great fun and perfect film material. I called my contact at Arzak to thank her and told her I'd like to come back and do a short test film. She sounded excited about the idea and asked me to email a synopsis. The story we wanted to tell was how Juan and Pedro, after their three-star restaurants were a success, encouraged young chefs to get on board and make Basque cuisine famous. We wanted to include something about the Basque history, one of the oldest, if not the oldest in Europe. Then the ax fell. Arzak thought the documentary should be about them. Juan's daughter Elena is taking over from her father and has got lots of media attention. But one thing we've learned:  a one-hour documentary needs a ton of material.  One three star restaurant, no matter how great, would not do the trick. We passed. T.S. Elliot said, 'Between the idea and the reality falls a shadow.' That says it all.

Next wee: Mining for  MOVIES: Youtube GOLD

Re: AI SHRINK: Erkki thanks for the info about Eliza. But she's not a German Shepherd and I'd have to go online and blah-blah into the whatever-sphere.

Monday 8 January 2018

What I want in 2018 is an AI SHRINK

What I want in 2018 is an AI SHRINK. Just think. Consulting and consolation on demand (panic attacks are infamous for striking at 3:00 AM). After the initial cost, no fees. And best of all. An AI Shrink would not nod off when I repeat myself for the umpteenth time like my human shrink did. When I asked him if he was falling asleep, he said, 'If I do, wake me up when you leave and put the money on the desk.'

This is how AI sees our studio (Deep Dream algorithm)
We had a pause for summer vacation. On the way to my next appointment, I was walking to the tram. A strong wind blew the tin roof, on a temporary structure and nearly decapitated me. A stranger, who saw what happen, came over and hugged me. When my shrink and I sat down, I told him what happened, and said, 'Did that wake you up?' He said, 'Well...' I asked 'Do you know I've been coming here for 17 years?' He said 'Now I'm awake,' and went and checked his records.

He retired. But we're still friends. Now we meet for lunch and he blabs too. He told me that anxiety was a worldwide illness. Even kids can't always cope with the hyper-connected digital age. The 12-year-old grandson of a friend came for a visit. One day, at breakfast, he put his hand on his head and elbow on the table and said, 'Grandma, I can't keep up. As soon as I learn a new system, it changes.' 

Lots of people give up trying. But that has a downside too. Now we have the next big jolt: Artificial Intelligence. When Erkki and I were working on 'GottaGETinTOUCH' we had the use a humanoid at the end. We found an eerie one interviewed by a scientist. She looked almost human but not quite. And the back half of her head exposed the wiring. She had a sing-songey pleasant voice. It was creepy. I heard her say, 'I could kill humans.' I freaked out.

Erkki told me this creepy feeling is called 'uncanny valley'. He explained that humans get this eerie feeling when the AI looks almost real but not quite. If the AI looks absolutely human we feel comfortable. EEEEEEKKK!

Sherry Turkle, author of 'Reclaiming Conversation' and media professor at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), warns that the next big threat in the digital age is Artificial Intelligence. But heck, they're here. Why not program AIs to be 24/7 Shrinks? Mine would not be a humanoid. It would be a replica of Sam, my favorite German Shepherd. He knew me better than I knew myself. He knew when I needed a walk. When I need to sit quietly and meditate (better than the 'meditation' apps on your cell). Meals were always regular and nutritious. So was bedtime and wake-up time. Just the idea soothes my agitation.

Automated technologies are the stars at CES, one of the world's largest technology conventions, (Las Vegas 7/1/2018 – 12/2018). AI will guard your house and send an alert to your cellphone if someone breaks in, turn on the air-conditioner, unlock your front door. Come on all you techies, give us s a tool that will soothe our psyches. Happy in New Year.

Sources: New York Times, internet

Next week: The TALENT and their MINDERS

Maggy, meet Eliza, your shrink:

Eliza was one of the first AI programs, originally written in the 1960's. It was installed on one of the early Macintoshes my mom had when i was a kid, so i've chatted with it, even. You can tell that she's not real, after discussing a while though.

This said, AI is very cool, and on the verge of an explosion. The area i have been following most closely is using AI for image manipulation. It's going to be a huge deal. We're not far off from a situation where we tell the AI in plain words to "make a picture of a man playing ukulele on the beach, with a parrot on his shoulder", and the computer will spit out a photo that is just that. I could go on, there's a lot of unbelievable examples from the AI neural network research in the last year or two.

- Eki