Friday, 16 October 2009

Mary and Max

Mary is a lonely girl of 8 from Australia with a mother that cooks a lot with sherry and a father who works in a factory and stuffs dead animals.

Max is a lonely man of 44 from New York with a fish, a canary and a cat, no friends and a half-blind neighbor who occasionally cooks for him.

She hates the birthmark on her forehead. He is member of the Anonymous Overeaters.

She is inquisitive, brainy and imaginative. He is atheist, logical and literal. Both are lonely.

So when one day she picks a name from a phone book (though it would be unlikely that an American phone book can be found in an Australian grocery store) and writes him, it's the beginning of an unusual pen friendship across the continents.

This film is truly a gem among animated movies. It has more laughs then some comedies, but it isn't one. It's moving and sometimes very sad, yet it's not a tear-jerker. It features a chubby girl and a weird older man, but somehow it never crosses any lines (though it may step on some). Its design seems to be made for children, but the film - in expression and themes - is most definitely aimed at an adult audience. If follows the ups and downs of the exchange between Mary and Max, as she grows older and he grows wiser, well, and vice versa.

The film features wonderful voice performances by Bethany Whitmore and Toni Collette as young and adult Mary (respectively), Philip Seymour Hoffman as Max and narrated by Dame Edna Everage... uhm... I meant Barry Humphries. Written, directed and designed by Adam Elliot, who won the 2003 Acadamy Award for Best Animated Short Film (Harvie Krumpet).

If you like clay animation and adult subjects dealt with humour, honesty and openess, then I strongly suggest watching this film.


For promotional use only.

Mary and Max Official Website
Adam Elliot Official Website

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Converting Quicktime Videos

I am a movie fan and I like watching trailers. I feel it's a shame that too few of them are freely available in good quality, and even more of a shame that theatres show too few of them before the main film. I always wondered why they show a few trailers and a lot of commercials and then they make a pause. They could easily show a few more trailers or at least play a part of the score. Ah, that was great when a movie opened with a musical overture before even the projectors started up! Star Trek: The Motion Picture comes to mind... Well, one of the best scores ever made. Shame too that it didn't win the Academy Award. But no, the Oscar went to A Little Romance. Does anyone remember that film, or the score?

But still, you can find a decent number of trailers on the web. Two addresses are Apple Movie Trailers and Yahoo! Movies. Alas, those trailers are in the Quicktime format and hardly any freeware video software can work with those.

So I looked hard to find a way to convert quicktime videos (i.e., the well-known MOV extension) to AVI videos. Pretty much any software, from open-source to high-end video suites, can open and write those. Since at least the now standard OpenDML version no limits in size are inherent to this container format. And it can contain pretty much any video codec (even MPEG-2 I read somewhere), so it is quite multiversed.

But which codec should one use? It basically will come down to what you gonna use the video for. I want to create a DVD. Of course, I could try use the Quicktime movie as direct source for encoding to MPEG-2, but I found out that most import filter have some problem with Quicktime. Either they don't get the ratio right or will insist that the frame rate is different (or both). By converting it to an AVI file, which I can edit much more comfortably, I circumvent this problem. And since I want to re-encode the AVI later, I want a lossless codec, and right now the best open source codec is Ben Greenwood's Lagarith Lossless Video Codec.

Still, we need to convert the Quicktime. The first choice seems to be Bink Video's RAD Video Tools. And why not? It's fast and you can encode the video using your favourite codecs. But there's a hitch! It relies on Windows to create AVI files and so can not create files larger than 2 GB. Normally that wouldn't be a problem as well all know that an entire movie can be made to fit a CD-ROM which has little more than a third of that space for storage. But if you want to use lossless video, then even a minute can reach that limit, especially when dealing with high-definition video content.

But there's another way to work with Quicktime videos. And you'll just need open source software. The solution lies in AviSynth, an open source video editor. Unfortunately AviSynth does not operate with a fancy graphical interface but is instead script-based. But for our needs a very simple script is sufficient. Open a simple text editor (like Window's own Notepad) and type in the following code:
QTInput("", color = 2, quality = 100, audio = true)
Best is to include the full path for your Quicktime movie (like "C:\Trailers\"). You'll need the QTInput filter for this to work. Extract the filter to the plugin folder in the AviSynth installation directory. Save the text file with an .avs extension. Now you can open it was any video editor that supports AviSynth scripts. My obvious choice is VirtualDub. Now you can do anything that your editor will allow you to do, including encoding it with the codec of your choice.

Friday, 2 October 2009

HBB Think Tank Opens the Gates

Hello Everybody,

so finally I have decided to start sharing thoughs and finds, review and insights, all from my personal, private or professional, perspective.

I might address any subject, but I might do that infrequently.

The reason it happens today is that I found two blogs allowing you to download a bootlegged version of the soundtrack of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension, on of my all-time favourites. I definitely hope that one day an official soundtrack album will be published, in crisp sound quality.

Until this happy moment arrives, we will be left will bootlegs.

Michael Boddicker - Buckaroo Banzai soundtrack (BBCD-008 bootleg) cover

It is a bootleg, so the quality isn't the best. But so far, this is all we got.

Links to the downloads
Dartman's World Of Wonder: It's 2008 Ban-a-zai!!!!
Egg City Radio » Blog Archive » “Buckaroo Banzai”

Additional links
Banzai Institute
World Watch OnLine
World of Soundtrack: Michael Boddicker - The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai - Across the 8th Dimension (Bootleg)
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (Wikipedia article)
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (IMDb entry)