Arise Lord Vader — episode 3 got a lot of promotion. Or, as I joked at the time: Connex was aligned with the Dark Side.
The Dungeon: platform 13 at Flinders Street. The screens have been replaced with a flat model, and an escalator was installed to the concourse, but I’m not sure it’s changed that much otherwise.
M and I must have been out on a dog walk and found this sign. Edgewater (then under construction, now a thriving infill suburb) is in that abyss somewhere.
Also on the dog walk. Evidently the residents of Rippon Street were very proud of their second prize from 16 years earlier. Google Streetview shows the sign was still there in March 2014.
It was ten years ago this month that we had the funeral for Tram Stop 7 (on Collins Street and Russell Street) — since merged with the Exhibition Street stop in favour of a mid-block tram stop. I think it was the first time the “one stop per block in the CBD” rule started to be diminished — these days it’s near-impossible to know where the closest stop is to Street X. It got plenty of media interest. Naturally to this day you see trams stop there for the traffic lights, but unable to pick up or drop off passengers. (More pictures)
My desk back then. Old computer (bought earlier that month), old fat screen, old bulky printer. Copy of Train Simulator on the desk. Blue Linksys router in the background — WiFi antennae up, I don’t even recall if I used WiFi for anything back then.
I’m aware that my blog has evolved… these days most of the posts are about transport, reflecting my current interests.
I wonder if this is a bit dull for those who have been on the old Toxic Custard mailing list, which is the descendant of the humour-based email list I started while at uni.
Yet transport posts get by far the largest number of comments. Hmmmm.
Here’s a post to mix it up a bit.
Last year I helped crowdfund two documentaries:
Bedrooms To Billions — the story of the beginnings of the computer game industry, from the perspective of UK developers. In the 80s, the first games were written by schoolboy (mostly boy) coders with cheap computers in their bedrooms, manually copying tapes and sending them out by post. I was in that age group, and tried to write my own games too…
I knew much of the story, but the extensive interviews with those involved at the time made this really interesting, especially the first half or so.
I probably got a bit carried away: I contributed enough money that you’ll find my name in tiny writing in the credits somewhere.
This documentary manages to have a lot of detail in it, without ever being dull, and has some terrific accounts from actual users of the line, as well as archival footage and photos. I for one had no idea that John Monash built the line. Well worth catching.
I’m pretty happy my contributions helped these two get made.
I’ve since donated to the sequel to Bedrooms To Billions, and I’ll be on the lookout to see what others get proposed which are worth a look.
Back in the mid-70s when Monty Python was developing The Life Of Brian, they got a sizeable contribution of funds from George Harrison, because he “wanted to see the movie”. That’s not an option most film makers have, of course.
Crowdfunding is something that has probably only become practical since the spread of the internet. The long tail of interests means a special interest group like this can reach the numbers of people necessary to make it viable.
It’s nice to see technology being used in this kind of way — something that would have seemed unimaginable just a decade or two ago.
In my continuing quest to post ten year old photos, I went looking for good stuff from March 2005. There isn’t much of interest, alas.
It was the month that the new revamped rebooted Doctor Who started — on 26th March 2005 — and I did find this photo of Jeremy — not watching from behind the sofa per se, but close to it.
Oh, here’s an (official?) tenth anniversary video:
Small eggs — I think this was on a walk with Marita’s dog at Altona Beach. Any idea what type of bird laid these?
Finally, I have no idea why I did this, or why I filmed it: shaking up a bottle of Coke in the laundry, and seeing what happened. Perhaps I thought it was past its best by date and needed to be dumped, and decided to experiment with it? I honestly don’t remember.
That’s all I’ve got for this month. April’s looking much more interesting.
This is one of those blog posts which is mostly for my own interest.
We’re up to the start of season 2 in our West Wing DVD (re)watching. That season 1 cliffhanger is brilliant… only spoilt by the excessively perky end theme music (I love the opening title music, but I’ve never liked the ending piece, to be honest).
The West Wing is one of those shows that lasted across the transition from traditional 4:3 television to widescreen 16:9, and the DVDs reflect this.
Season 1 and 2 — the episodes are in 4:3, but oddly the menus are in 16:9. Interestingly, the opening theme changes from the first few episodes — it gets a lot more pomp and circumstance at about episode 5. In this Q+A with composer W.G. ‘Snuffy’ Walden, he says: As a matter of fact, the first couple of episodes don’t have the orchestra version, they have a synth version as we had to get on the air and couldn’t get the main title done in time.
BURBANK – July 19, 2001 — NBC next season will broadcast its popular, critically acclaimed and Emmy Award-winning “The West Wing” (Wednesdays, 9-10 p.m. ET) in a special format – “Presented in Wide Screen” – just as the network has done with television’s top-rated drama, “ER” last season.
The audience-friendly process will feature a 1.78:1 aspect ratio (or more commonly known as “16×9”) as opposed to the basic 1.33:1 (or “4×3”) ratio that is standard on almost all television programs. Because the more rectangular picture encompasses a wider swath of action, a narrow black strip will appear at the top and bottom of the screen that is a form of the letterbox format often used to present feature films on television.
So on the Season 3 DVD — the episodes are in widescreen, but letterboxed (“non-enhanced”), which means they need to be zoomed to fill the display on modern widescreen TVs, and consequently you lose some resolution. Presumably they’d fix this the next time this season is remastered.
Seasons 4 to 7 — full widescreen.
Interestingly, the series was made on film, and in 2010 the entire series was re-released in high-definition… but not on Blu-ray, only on iTunes, for $24.99/season, or $3.49/episode.
It’s not actually the first time it’s been around in high definition. I seem to recall the later seasons aired on ABC1 digital when there was an ABC1 HD channel (before ABC News 24 launched), and though I didn’t have a digital TV at the time, I did sneak a look on the computer with an HD tuner card. It looked gorgeous.
But rather than buy on iTunes what I already have, I think, for now, we’ll stick to the DVDs.
Related: the conversion of old shows to widescreen can be controversial. This fascinating blog post about The Wire reveals that the whole style of the show was based around 4:3 images, and they stuck with it through the series run — but now the push is on to remaster it into widescreen high definition, which in some cases works well, and in others changes the feel of some scenes.
I’ve been pondering Streaming Video On Demand (SVOD) services.
The thinking goes like this:
Let’s say I want to watch Breaking Bad. I’ve heard great things about it, and I love high-quality long-form drama that good television provides.
Blu-ray is the best way to watch this type of drama, for the ultimate in (domestically-available) quality picture and sound. But I don’t want to buy all the Blu-rays as I’ll probably only watch it once, then will have paid a bunch of money for a bunch of discs I have to find space for in the bookshelf.
And discs aren’t always perfect. I started watching my Newsroom season 2 Blu-rays, which I got last year. The first disc has a fault. Episodes skip. I have no idea if I have the receipt anywhere. Mind you, in a decade of buying DVDs and Blu-rays, this is actually the first time I’ve struck such a problem.)
The emergence of SVOD services offers a solution. Pay a monthly fee of about ten dollars (even a year’s worth would be a lot less than buying all 5 seasons of Breaking Bad on DVD) to watch video streaming onto my television.
Most of the services will work with computers, and also through Android/iOS apps via Chromecast onto a TV.
As it happens, I just bought a Chromecast. At $50, it’s cheaper than the official WiFi adapter for my television, and infinitely more flexible. Neat device. Youtube looks great on it.
I’ve also tried iView on it. It’s choppy — the ABC know about this, it’s only a beta version. Hopefully it’ll be fixed soon.
Apparently no HD. $9.99 for TV, or $9.99 for movies, or $14.99 if you want both. (I’m probably more interested in TV than film.)
Presumably a lot of channel 7 content will be on here, including a lot of ITV stuff, since they have content deals.
Also seems to have some Foxtel-produced television on it, such as the adaption of Cloudstreet.
Speculation this will include Game Of Thrones, but that’s far from certain, as HBO apparently doesn’t allow it on SVOD services. If it does I’m probably sold. It does seem to include older HBO material such as Boardwalk Empire, the Newsroom (season 1 only, drat) and The Sopranos (all).
I’m quite keen to see Tony Robinson’s (Australian) Time Walks, which was made for Foxtel — I can’t see it on there though. You’d think they’d put on as much Foxtel-exclusive content as they could, to differentiate themselves.
ChromeCast and Presto had a free 2 month subscription offer (it expired at the end of February), so I’ve signed up to Presto and had a little look. The range isn’t huge — there’s probably more shows on iView, though fewer episodes — but is growing all the time.
The playback quality seems okay. The iPad app is a bit beta-ish when using it with Chromecast though — normal playback onto the iPad shows, as you’d expect, a Pause or Stop button. When sending it to the Chromecast, all you can do is Stop Chromecasting. There’s no actual Pause — all you can do is stop, then if you want to start again, it’ll give you the option of resuming. Even skipping back doesn’t seem to work.
Which is/are worth paying for?
HD would be very nice to have, though bandwidth might be an issue with the services that offer it. Stan recommends 3.5 mbps for 720p, or 6.5 mbps for 1080p, and I’d expect the other services to be similar. (Hmm, I just ran a test: line speed 9.2 mbps, download speed 1.12 MB/s).
I’ll keep playing with Presto, and given Stan also has a free 30 day trial, try that out as well. But I’ll definitely try Netflix when it’s available too.
One more thing… if you like House Of Cards, I suspect you’ll love this Sesame Street parody: