Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

Hearts of Darkness on DVD

By way of Very Short List (a great daily email by the way), I see that Hearts of Darkness - A Filmmaker's Apocalypse--a documentary about the making of Apocalypse Now--is coming to DVD for the first time. I have an older laserdisc copy--yes, really, laserdisc. Today, Apocalypse Now is widely, though of course not universally, regarded as the best of the films about or set in the Vietnam War. However, for many years, films such as The Deer Hunter and Platoon were more highly regarded.

In any case, the film production, as documented in Hearts of Darkness, was a fiasco. To quote Very Short List:

Narrated by Coppola’s wife, Eleanor (who also shot the on-set footage), and directed by Fax Behr and George Hickenlooper, Hearts plays like a paint-by-numbers demonstration of how not to make a big film: The Apocalypse Now production is underfunded, the crew is overworked, and the script is unresolved. The actors are either too high (Dennis Hopper), too sick (Martin Sheen, who suffered a heart attack on the set), or too weird (Marlon Brando) to perform; meanwhile, monsoons destroy the sets.

It's a great documentary about the making of a classic film. Check it out.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sony and Life Blowups

In a pair of previous posts on the CNET Blog Network and here, I noted that a photograph that Sony used in its "When Timing is Everything" and the original version published in Life Magazine weren't quite the same although they were clearly from the same sequence. However, the deltas are hard to see in the shrunk online versions. (In fact, I initially thought that they were the same photograph.) Therefore, I'm posting a couple of blowups--one from the Sony ad and one from the original 1965 John Dominis photo as published in The Best of Life.

The top photo is a scan from The Best of Life.

Original photo as published in Life

The bottom is from the recent Sony ad.

Photo used in Sony ad

It's clear from these that the differences are not just the dust (which could well be written off to retouching) but also the position of the baboon's mouth. These are different photos in the sequence.

Friday, November 16, 2007

More Sony Funniness

[UPDATE: As a few people have commented--some more politely than others--the point of the ad is bad timing, not good timing. So I missed this point of the ad. That said, I'll still argue that this particular instance of Sony's ad campaign is so subtle as to be a bad choice as I discuss on my other blog.]

Earlier today, I blogged ("Sony: When timing is everything...") over on my Pervasive Datacenter blog on the CNET Blog Network about a Sony ad for their A700 DSLR headlined "In Photography: Timing is Everything." One problem: the photo that they chose to highlight their camera's motion-capturing virtuosity was from 1965. It was probably captured on Nikon gear and, in any case, predated Sony's entry into cameras by decades.

There's actually a secondary layer to this latest Sony mis-step that's more subtle but just as amusing. Unlike the origin of the photo, it's conjecture, but I'm pretty confident is something close to reality.

Sony didn't use the John Dominis photograph that appeared in Life Magazine in 1965. Rather, it used a very similar image that was perhaps one or two frames separated in a motor drive sequence. (This being 1965, we're talking film of course.)

Now, while acknowledging that photographic choice is subjective, I think the frame published in Life (as can be seen on Getty Images) is the slightly better photo than the one Sony chose to use in its ad.  The differences are subtle, yes, but in the Life/Getty version you can see the baboon's lower body better and it appears to be shouting defiantly. In the Sony ad, its mouth appears to be closed and its body is largely obscured by dust. (The differences are probably more obvious in the original ad and a large blowup of the Life photo I have in The Best of Life, but trust me on this.)

Why did Sony use this alternate image? Well, perhaps it liked the picture more. I'm skeptical. I don't. And neither did a couple of other photographers I quizzed. I suppose it's possible that whoever chose the photograph just had a more highly-tuned sense of what made a great photograph than did Life's photo editors in 1965. Wouldn't bet on that one. The more likely hypothesis for me is that the alternate image was cheaper to use. (Or perhaps there were restrictions on using the original photograph.)

Whichever the case, the net result is that not only did Sony pick a competitor's camera to illustrate "Timing is Everything." They (it would appear) implicitly chose to go with a tagline that might be better described as "Pretty close timing is fairly important."