Moon | Typeset In The Future


For dedicated Media students, it really does’t get any better than the website Typeset in the Future, which is  blog dedicated to typography in science fiction films.

For anyone who wants to learn about the power of type to evoke an era and to create a mood, look no further.

And for my students who think my obsession with type is a bit strange, please note that I did not start that blog. Other people are, in fact, far more obsessed than I. I’m the well-adjusted one.

This typeface is OCR-A, which was designed in 1968 for use in optical character recognition systems. It’s actually an ISO standard for character recognition. Moreover, it looks like THE FUTURE, and so it makes a perfect choice for on-screen interstitial positioning shots. (Matthew Skala has very kindly made a modern implementation of OCR-A available for free on his web site.)

Read more: Moon | Typeset In The Future.

via daringfireball

Paintings brought to life with motion


This is actually a little bit naughty and not-safe-for-work if you work for, I don’t know, puritans or something. It’s also decidedly creepy, and manages to turn classical masterpieces, so-called, into something resembling cheesy 3D pictures such as you might find gathering dust in a flea market.

The director has used CG to bring old paintings to life. On the one hand, bringing details to the fore. On the other, adding a level of weirdness that is entertaining.

B E A U T Y – dir. Rino Stefano Tagliafierro on Vimeo on Vimeo

via Kottke

Steven Soderbergh | Film Comment | Film Society of Lincoln Center


This is a long, but always fascinating read. It’s the transcription of a speech by Steven Soderbergh, a State of Cinema address. He covers a lot of ground, and I could have pulled out any number of quotes, but I thought the one below was particularly interesting: an explanation of why the film industry doesn’t make more, cheaper movies, instead of all these blockbusters. The article starts with Soderbergh’s horror that a fellow passenger on a 5-hour plane flight was watching a number of movies on his iPad by skipping through all the dialogue and just watching the explosive action sequences.

You can read the full article, or listen to the audio of the speech, but the whole thing is worth a read. Snip:

So then there’s the expense of putting a movie out, which is a big problem. Point of entry for a mainstream, wide-release movie: $30 million. That’s where you start. Now you add another 30 for overseas. Now you’ve got to remember, the exhibitors pay half of the gross, so to make that 60 back you need to gross 120. So you don’t even know what your movie is yet, and you’re already looking at 120. That ended up being part of the reason why the Liberace movie didn’t happen at a studio. We only needed $5 million from a domestic partner, but when you add the cost of putting a movie out, now you’ve got to gross $75 million to get that 35 back, and the feeling amongst the studios was that this material was too “special” to gross $70 million. So the obstacle here isn’t just that special subject matter, but that nobody has figured out how to reduce the cost of putting a movie out. There have been some attempts to analyze it, but one of the mysteries is that this analysis doesn’t really reveal any kind of linear predictive behavior, it’s still mysterious the process whereby people decide if they’re either going to go to a movie or not go to a movie. Sometimes you don’t even know how you reach them. Like on Magic Mike for instance, the movie opened to $38 million, and the tracking said we were going to open to 19. So the tracking was 100% wrong. It’s really nice when the surprise goes in that direction, but it’s hard not to sit there and go how did we miss that? If this is our tracking, how do you miss by that much?

Read the rest: Overheard: Steven Soderbergh | Film Comment | Film Society of Lincoln Center.

via DaringFireball

Free Weekend #1: Moving Image Arts Study Guide


FREE on the Kindle store this weekend, 26 and 27 January 2013.

This ebook is designed as an entry level (GCSE) study guide for students of Film Studies and GCSE Moving Image Arts. It covers the five set examination texts for Moving Image Arts and the concept of genre.

The films concerned are an excellent choice to introduce the study of the important (“micro”) film language areas of mise-en-scène, camera techniques, cinematography and lighting, editing techniques, and sound & music. They’re also good films to use for genre studies, as none of them can be said to have a straightforward relationship to the concept of genre. Even the oldest film covered, Bride of Frankenstein (1935) mixes horror with comedy. The rest mix genres in interesting and creative ways, relying heavily on the film literacy of the audience.

The five films are:

Bride of Frankenstein

Young Frankenstein

The Wrong Trousers

A Close Shave

Romeo + Juliet

In addition, there is a chapter on the concept of genre.

The book is written in a clear and accessible style, and includes links to complimentary presentations, hosted on Google Docs.

via A Moving Image Arts Study Guide (Film Study Guides) eBook: Robert McMinn: Kindle Store.

Cross-post: Bride of Frankenstein Study Guide



My latest Kindle book is a study guide for the film The Bride of Frankenstein, directed by James Whale in 1935.

The text is not very long, but includes links to five detailed slideshows, hosted on Google Docs, which analyse five key sequences of the film (those highlighted by the exam board in the Subject Guidance documents).

Bride of Frankenstein is one of the five set films for GCSE Moving Image Arts. It will be featured in the February mock exam, though it’s not going to be one of the three films featured in the proper June exam. On the other hand, it is essential viewing in order to appreciate the parodic Young Frankenstein (Mel Brooks, 1974), which is one of the three set films for the June 2013 examination. I really don’t think there’s any point in showing Young Frankenstein without having seen Bride first.

There’s a good reason why it’s the sequel and not the original that the exam board have chosen. Quite apart from its status as a set film for Moving Image Arts, Bride of Frankenstein is justly regarded as one of the best of the classic horror films of its era. It has a darkly comic sensibility and is highly stylised in terms of camera, lighting, and mise-en-scène. In addition, the musical score is superb, and the special effects are innovative enough to still look impressive, nearly 80 years on. So the study guide is useful for anyone interested in the history of film, or any student of film or moving image studies.

Those of us teaching GCSE MIA in England are doing so for the last time. I’ve produced the resources for my own students and thought it would be worth making them more widely available. I’m hoping to find the time to do study guides for the other set films. Depending on the feedback I get from this exercise, I might do something similar for GCSE and/or ‘A’ Level Film Studies at some point.

I’ll not be able to make it available on a free promo on Kindle because I have also submitted a version of it to the Apple iBooks store. The iBooks version will be free (if approved), and will also have the rich features offered in iBooks Author (in this case, the five slideshows are embedded in the text) instead of mere links. As such, the iBooks version will only work on iPad, so the Kindle version is for anyone without an iPad.

Kindle free promos are contingent on the book being exclusive to Kindle, so I’ve set the price as low as Amazon allow, £1.49.

So you can buy the Kindle version, or wait to see if Apple approve the iBooks version. I don’t know how long this might take, having never done it before.

If you download it, I’d be grateful for any feedback you can offer, and gentle prods about typos that I will endeavour to correct in due course. Link to Amazon UK.

In Tinseltown you’ve got to fake it to make it (The Independent)


As Kirby Dick’s 2006 documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated revealed, the “anonymous group of parents” in southern California who help decide ratings for the MPAA are intensely suspicious of imagery showing female sexual pleasure. Kimberley Peirce, director of Boys Don’t Cry, commented after her own tussles with the censors that “in a culture where most movies are written men, directed by men, they (films) are mostly the male experience”. Pierce suggested that “if you are a woman who understands female pleasure and understands it from the woman’s perspective, you’re probably going into terrain that is unfamiliar – and unfamiliarity is what breeds these NC-17s”.

via Trending: In sexy Tinseltown you’ve got to fake it to make it – Features – Films – The Independent.

Ken Burns talks about stories


A short documentary about documentary-maker Ken Burns (after whom the “Ken Burns effect” in iMovie is named), with his thoughts on what makes a good story. Interestingly, this quote (from keys into our work on liberal humanism.

Abraham Lincoln wins the Civil War and then he decides he’s got enough time to go to the theatre. That’s a good story. When Thomas Jefferson said “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”, he owned a hundred human beings and never saw the hypocrisy, never saw the contradiction, and more importantly never saw fit in his lifetime to free any one of them. That’s a good story.

via Ken Burns talks about stories.