Daily Archives: Sunday, 9th Dec 2007

Sony Bunnies

Sony seem to have got into the habit of making quietly impressive adverts for their Bravia televisions. First there was the one where a load of coloured balls were sent bouncing through the streets of San Francisco, then there was the even more bonkers one which involved spaying enormous volumes of coloured paint all over a housing estate.

Now when I first saw the “balls” one, I assumed that it was a clever bit of computer-generated animation. After all, nobody’s going to be crazy enough to drop a quarter of a million bouncy balls downhill, are they? Well, it seems they were that crazy, and somehow got whatever permissions they needed to do the bouncy thing.

Having realised that, I wasn’t really surprised to find that the paint one was also done in real life. Yup, lots and lots and lots of water-soluble, non-toxic paint. Cleaning up took a while, apparently.

The latest one involves lots of coloured Plasticine (or possibly Play-Doh, the description refers to both) bunnies in New York. Again, the sensible way to do this would be to film the locations, then add your animated bunnies electronically. Or at least to shoot your stop-motion bunnies against a green screen and combine them with the filmed locations. The totally bonkers way would be to do the stop motion thing in live locations. So that’s what they did.

All of this is a lot of fun, and really impressive. Is it more impressive because it was all done live rather than by using more obvious technology? It’s not as if you can really tell how a promotional film was made just by looking at it, so I can only assume that they’re making their ads this way because they can. Which is either very cool, or a great way of spending a lot of money.

It reminds me of a scene in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which Ford Prefect tries to explain the origin of the universe to Arthur Dent by describing a demonstration involving filling a conical black bath with sand, then allowing it to empty while filming it. You then watch the film backwards to see the sand spiralling into the bath. Arthur asks Ford if that’s how the universe began, to which he replied

No, but it’s a great way to relax

Which seems as good an explanation as any for the Sony ads…

Update: I used to have links to the videos on the Sony site, but they’ve either moved them or lost them

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 1.3.1

It looks like Lightroom development really does work on a different timescale from that of most Adobe applications. Less than a month after the release of version 1.3 comes an update. This one adds support for yet more cameras, fixes a few bugs and improves support for Mac OS X Leopard.

Lightroom users who haven’t turned off update notifications should have been alerted to the update. Everyone else should look here and download the update.

Doctor Who – Davros

I have to admit to being in two minds about this particular release. Normally, I have no hesitation at all in getting all the “Classic Series” Doctor Who DVDs, and I’ve been very happy about the greatly increased release schedule. But this one’s a bit of an oddity. Normally, the special collections or box sets contain the standard DVDs in a slipcase, which helps collectors keep a nicely matching set. They also normally include things that haven’t been released before[1]. This set, however, is quite different. Inside the slipcase is the kind of package that’s known as a digistak (or something like that) – eight discs on plastic holders hinged at one side. None of the usual DVD boxes here, but there is a booklet with a background article on Davros and a timeline.

But the real difference is the content. Most, but not all, of the material here has been on sale before, which is where the confusion sets in. Is this a nicely convenient way of getting all the stories featuring the evil creator of the Daleks, or is it a cynical attempt to extract more money from the hardcore of obsessive Doctor Who geeks who just have to get every release[2]? Well, maybe it’s both. I don’t know, but for the purposes of this article, I’ll assume it’s the first. It’s a numbered limited edition – mine is labelled 9513 of 10,000, so if you want it, you might need to order it sooner rather than later. I’ll run through the contents of the set in order.

Genesis of the Daleks

On the same two DVDs it was when I bought it the first time. One of the best ever stories from the original series, with Tom Baker at his best, and Sarah Jane Smith too. Brilliant, and if you don’t have it already, this might be a good time to catch up. For the rest of us, it might just have to be a case of “so good I bought it twice”

Destiny of the Daleks

Now this is new. It’s also available as a standalone DVD if you don’t want the set. It starts Tom Baker as the Doctor and Lalla Ward as the newly regenerated Romana. The usual array of extras are present and correct, and include a documentary on the other creator of the Daleks, Terry Nation. A full report on this disc will follow as a separate post. When I get round to it, in the usual way, etc.

Resurrection of the Daleks

Another previously released one, and unchanged from that release. Peter Davison is the Doctor. The original release was before Losing it[1] started, so I’ll give it the usual write-up, subject to tuit supplies, and all that.

Revelation of the Daleks

Yes, another previously released one, with Colin Baker as the Doctor. As with Resurrection, I’ll need to write this up later…

Remembrance of the Daleks – Special Edition

Now this is the contentious one. While this Sylvester McCoy story has been out on DVD before, this version has been freshly tarted up and given some new extras, which will be in that inevitable eventual review. The slightly dodgy bit is that you can’t get this improved release on its own. If you want it, you’ll have to get this set. Vague comments have been made that it might be released separately at some point, but there’s nothing specific.

Davros Connections

A new documentary on its own disc, covering hs appearances both in the TV series and the audio dramas made by Big Finish under licence from the BBC.

Audio Adventures

At some point during the long dark years after the original series was cancelled, the BBC granted a company called Big Finish the rights to make audio dramas based on Doctor Who. They’ve been making them ever since, with stories featuring former Doctors and companions, and as time has passed, new companions have been introduced. What with one thing and another, I’ve never got round to listening to any of these, but I’m reliably informed that many of them are very good. Three of them featured Davros and are included on the final disc. In addition to actual Doctor Who stories, Big Finish have made a lot of spin off stories featuring Daleks, Cybermen, and a four part series called I, Davros, which is also included, along with a making of documentary, and an exclusive new audio drama called The Davros Mission.

Conclusion

So there it is. Lots of stuff, spread over no less than eight discs, but at a high price – the list price is a wallet crunching £100! Are the new bits worth the cost for people who have the other DVDs already? For people who’ve already got the audio dramas as well, it’s probably a really unattractive deal. For people who haven’t got all the previous releases, it’s not a bad deal at all.

Make your own mind up – I bought it because that’s the kind of geek I am…

[1] I know there have been some special sets of previously issued DVDs, but they tend to be exclusives from Amazon rather than full releases, so I’m ignoring those for the moment.
[2] I think I just described myself :laugh:

Torchwood : Complete Series 1

Readers with long memories who read my Torchwood reviews may have been wondering why I haven’t mentioned the DVDs of the series. Well, the first DVD releases that came out in three small sets were of the very basic variety – much like the basic Doctor Who releases that I don’t buy either. I held off from getting them because they didn’t look like good value for money, and I was sure that there would be a proper full series release sooner or later. Well, it was a little later than I expected, but here it is.

So, what do you get for your money? All thirteen episodes, spread over six DVDs and a seventh disc with the cut down versions of Torchwood Declassified. The episodes benefit from a room-shaking Dolby 5.1 sound mix, and when seen on DVD, it’s possible to see the difference that making TV shows in HD can make. Not quite as well as you would on an HD TV with the episodes on HD disk, but it still looks great. Every episode has a group commentary – these feature various writers, directors, producers and actors. As you might expect, John Barrowman’s contributions are quite superb. All good stuff, and well worth having.

Extra features include some deleted scenes and out-takes, and a pile of themed featurettes, which I believe were on the original DVD releases. Some of these are good, but as they use a lot of material from “Declassified”, there is a lot of overlap with the seventh DVD. But that seems to be remarkably common with DVDs, so it’s only a minor gripe.

It’s all good stuff, and we can always do with more of Captain Jack. Now that we’ve seen his return to Doctor Who, and gained some insight into why he seemed to be a much darker character in Torchwood[1], it’ll be interesting to see where he and the team go in the second series, due to start early in 2008.

[1] All that living through the whole of the twentieth century and making sure not to meet himself in 1941, meet the Doctor during any of his earlier visits, or otherwise getting into the wrong kind of trouble, and ending up as the Earth’s protector must have been a bit of a strain. :uhoh:

Weight Report

Now that makes a change – today’s weight is slightly lower than yesterday’s, which doesn’t usually happen on Sundays. All good stuff. :bouncy:

Robin Hood – Walkabout

People who’ve been paying attention to the series, or have at least been reading my comments on it, will be aware that Dick Dastardly the Sheriff has taken out a slightly unusual insurance policy. The absent King Richard’s brother John has made some special arrangements: in the event of the Sheriff dying other than of natural causes, the whole of Nottingham will be destroyed, and as a special bonus, everyone in the town will be killed. Now that’s the kind of plan that’s sure to have the odd drawback, and I’m not just talking about the insurance premium going up unexpectedly.

The Sheriff appears to have sleepwalked out of the castle and is presently missing. This wouldn’t be a Bad Thing at all, but one of Prince John’s associates, Sir Jasper, has the strange idea that the Sheriff should be around to place his seal on a record to prove that he’s not actually dead. And he’s got a suitably large army nearby to do the demolishing, burning and killing specified in the policy. While Guy tries to persuade Jasper not to pay out on the policy[1], we follow the Sheriff to the forest.

We see him wandering around, muttering to himself, swapping clothes with a beggar and meeting up with a poor woman and her children. He convinces her that he can help her get more out of Robin Hood…

Marian persuades Guy that he needs Robin’s help to find the missing Sheriff. Robin takes the gang off, leaving Will behind with instructions that Marian must get out alive, even if nobody else does[2].

Jasper tells Guy that as he’s a Black Knight, he and his family will be allowed to leave Nottingham unharmed when everyone else is slaughtered. So all he has to do is persuade her to marry him before the sun goes down.

While Robin and Much search for the Sheriff, John persuades Djaq that they need to distribute some food to the poor first. They run into an old blind man, his daughter and her young children, and decide that they’ll have to take them back to the camp. It’ll be OK because the old man is blind[3], and they can blindfold the others.

While Guy and Alan arm the townspeople so they can fight back against Jasper’s approaching army, Robin and Much meet the man who’s wearing the Sheriff’s clothes. This leads Robin to conclude that getting back to camp might be a good idea….

By the time Robin and Much do get back to the secret camp, they find that the blind man has cast off his eye bandage and long wig and revealed himself to be the Sheriff :duh: . Obviously nobody saw that one coming. The sleepwalking was actually a Cunning Plan to gain access to Robin’s camp so he can retrieve that pact that Robin stole a few weeks ago. Little John having been overpowered by the Little Kids, Robin is just in time to save the day.

Marian having declined Guy’s offer of marriage, Guy rides out of the castle to meet Jasper and his army. Now Guy’s an odd character. Most of the time, he seems quite happy to be the Sheriff’s evil henchman, and isn’t at all averse to being as thoroughly nasty as possible to as many people as possible. But just occasionally, he shows signs of having a backbone and perhaps even a touch of morality. If he can’t take Marian with him, he certainly won’t leave her to die, and he returns to the castle to lead the defence of the town.

And it all gets a bit dangerous. Alan and Will find themselves fighting on the same side for the first time in ages, and it all looks like it might get very nasty.

So, obviously it’s at that point that Robin drops the Sheriff off. The Sheriff suggests that Jasper should go away and take his army with him, which he does. For a moment, he thinks that things are all going his way, before he realises that Robin has taken the pact back, and he’s back where he started.

Yes, it was another utterly ridiculous episode. I loved it. :cheesy:

[1] Obviously Prince John Insurance Services are rather more keen on paying out than the rest of the industry…
[2] He doesn’t actually tell Will he’s expendable, but it’s certainly implied…
[3] They could tell by the bandage over his eyes….