Interactive movies

When DVDs first came out there was a lot of people talking about the possibilities that the new medium would offer to the viewing experience. For example they talked about getting access to different camera angles and alternate endings.

I was really excited about that possibility. Not so much the alternate camera angles, but the alternate endings was what interested me. Maybe it is a result of having been brought up on choose your own adventure books and computer games, but I find that in many movies (particularly ones I’m dissatisfied with) I wonder ‘what if?’

Yet despite the promise (and hype) around said features, they failed to materialize. It does not take an MBA to know why. It is expensive to film additional content and most people are happy enough with the single narrative thread.

I’ve often wondered if the cost came down enough if multiple endings might really happen. Now with powerful video editing software, low cost computers, low cost and high quality video cameras, it is easier and less expensive than ever to create movies. Still, the cost of getting a cast of characters can be prohibitive, even if they are underpaid drama school rejects.

This is where new developments like machinima (using a video game to provide virtual scenery and virtual actors) can come in to help. Now with the help of voice actors, who are able to call in their lines from anywhere in the world, the cost of the cast can drop significantly.

Even so, the cost may be too high. How could costs come down further still to the point where it is worthwhile to build the extra content? This is where the power of social networks and crowdsourcing comes into play. With a pool of thousands or even millions of fans to draw upon, a popular story might attract a large number of aspiring screenwriters and set designers.

Provided the right story foundation and the tools to pull people together, a small but original concept can provide the soil in which rich narratives can grow.

Holiday time is over

It has been a nice long two weeks that I’ve been off, and I am now starting to think about work again.  Inevitably people will ask what I did for my holidays, and it seems so hard to answer.  it’s easy if you go away or do some major activity, but what do you do when you spend your time building lego castles and playing games with the kids it always seems a bit lame to me. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Especially with Callie now really starting to respond to the world around her.  Maya is always making her laugh – it is really adorable.

And so we head into the future.  I can’t believe it is now 2010!  Happy New Year everyone.

VSS Enterprise

ss2I am so excited to see the new spaceship that Virgin Galactic have just unveiled.  They are calling it the VSS Enterprise and so clearly make it plain that they are catering to all the rich nerds on the planet.  Regardless of the cheesy name, it is an awesome feat of engineering and design to produce such a vehicle.  The entire launch system is comprised of the larger airplane called “Eve” which uses conventional jet engines to carry the Enterprise (seen here in the middle attached to the wing between the twin fuselages of Eve) up to a height of 50,000 feet (approx. 15 km) where it will then be released and the rocket engines will fire up.  The Enterprise will then fly on its rocket powered flight an additional 85km, reaching a peak altitude somewhere around 100km.  After a dramatic plunge back into the atmosphere, it will level out and glide back to Earth on its wings.

The rocket will carry 6 passengers and 2 crew members.  Initially it will cost $200,000 per seat.  The first 100 seats are already sold out.  Hooray for commercial spaceflight!

Amateur Electronics

A while ago I made a little rocket ship for kenton out of an old dishwashing soap container, cardboard and popsicle sticks.  It was a big hit.  Later I dismantled a little keychain LED light and added it to the rocket like fire coming out of the back.  I used some brass envelope closures to work as a switch When I goot my hands on another freebie LED keychain I added it to the rocket so that it now had two lights.  After performing many heroic deep space missions, the rocket batteries started to fail.  Because they were from these keychain devices, they used small watch batteries.  I decided to fix it so that the rocket could run on an easy to procure (and easy to swap out) 9v battery.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten the basics of Ohm’s Law and promptly burned out the LEDs.  I had forgotten to add a proper resistor into the circuit.  So, after buying and burning out 2 more LEDs, I looked online for some help with the creating a proper circuit.  Oh, and I also decided to increase the power of the rocket to 8 LEDs!!!  The job of designing the right circuit could not have been easier with the help of two amazing websites.  The first one, the simply named LED Center,  lets you enter in the voltage of your source (for example 9v) and the number and specs for the LEDs (in my case 8 standard 3.2v lights), and it will generate a schematic circuit diagram!  The next site is useful once you start putting it together.  Resistorscan be told apart by their colour coding.  The actual decoding of the colour bands is a bit arcane, so along comes this handy resistor color code calculator. Tell it the colour of the bands and it will tell you what kind of resistor you have.  Handy for those drawers of miscellaneous electronic parts you are trying to sort through.

Kenton has been a loyal assistant as I solder all the pieces together.  We ran into a little snag last weekend when I mis-wired the new switch we added, but it should all come together next weekend.  And then it is to go boldly where no man has gone before!

Moustache report: week 2.5

Complete with handlebars!

Well, I now really do have something to show.  The moustache is starting to itch, it prickles Cheryl and the kids when I give them a kiss, and I feel like an undercover narc.  All that, and I have yet to collect a single penny on my donation page. Well, I suppose the fact that I have not really told anyone why I’m growing a moustache might have something to do with it.  So, here it is, please consider donating to this worthy cause and save me the shame of having to admit that I really just grew the moustache for fun.

You can follow the direct donation link in my previous post, or you can go to this page here:

Media to go

I just read a very amusing comic book on my new iPod. It is really fun being able to flip through the pages using the touch screen. The bold colour and simple text really works well in a portable format. It doesn’t hurt that there are a lot of free comics to check out as well!

Moustache report: week 1

Ian-me2I have decided to participate in a fundraising effort for prostate cancer.  I’m doing this by growing a Moustache this “Movember”, the month formerly known as November. My commitment is to grow a moustache all November and I am hoping that you will support my efforts by making a donation.  The funds raised go directly to Prostate Cancer Canada.

To make a donation visit my moustache tracking site here: and donate online using your credit card or PayPal account. All donations are tax deductible.

Prostate Cancer Canada will use the money for the development of programs related to awareness, public education, advocacy, support of those affected, and research into the prevention, detection, treatment and cure of prostate cancer.

For more details on how the funds raised from previous campaigns have been used and the impact Movember is having please go to

Is it still Halloween?

IMG_6974Halloween was a big hit in our house this year.  Kenton built an awesome robot costume and Maya was a beautiful princess.  Cheryl made Maya’s hat by knitting this tall cone shaped hat and then felting it.  Maya loved it.  In fact I think she has continued to dress up as a princess every day since Halloween.  Check out the October photo gallery for some great pictures of the kids in costume.

This year we went trick or treating with a some friends from a couple doors down.  We followed their traditional route in the neighborhood and it was very successful!  Lots of great scary houses and loads of candy.

A fascination with Frankenstein

FrankieSome of the Halloween stuff is starting to come out in the stores and popular media, so recently the kids saw a picture of Frankenstein.  They asked who he was and “what he does”.  Now, having read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, I knew that the popular Hollywood incarnation was not a fair portrayal of the monster.  In fact, the monster is just “the monster” and it is the mad scientist who is named Frankenstein.  Furthermore, the monster is more of a tragic figure than a scary and destructive creature.  So, when the kids asked me I told the story as I knew it.  In fact, I’m not even sure I’ve seen the Hollywood version, so I made up a story that was a mish-mash of the popular notion f the monster and of my recollections of the novel.  I guess the story was pretty good because Kenton and Maya keep asking me to re-tell it.  Not exactly your typical bedtime story, but it does have some interesting ethical messages mixed into it.  In particular the notion of creating life and out-of-control science.  Good things to be prepared for and to think about in the 21st Century.

Family time

Cheryl-Ian-CallieMy Mom and Aunt Sue came to visit today.   It was really nice to see them and Aunt Sue took this great picture of Cheryl and I with little Callie, who is now just over 2 months old.

We had some delicious carrot cake, showed Aunt Sue around the house and played with the kids.  Maya is happy any time we have cake with icing, and Kenton was very happy to see Aunt Sue, who he used to know from his nursery school.

It’s always nice to have visitors who you don’t see all that often because they remind you to look at your children with fresh eyes, to observe how they are changing and growing up.  Kenton is now a few weeks into Senior Kindergarten and was happy to share stories about the friends he’s making and the things he’s learning.  Maya was excited to tell all sorts of fantastic stories from her ever-active imagination and Callie was reasonably calm and happy.  What more can you ask for?