I recently had the good fortune of winning a (Google) swag of Google- and
RMIT-related merchandise for doing a short presentation at uni. This bag was
chockas with crazy things like RMIT golf tees, an antigravity wine holder made of
rare tree, a tie featuring the Victorian coat of arms, an RMIT silk scarf, and
all the Google pens, notebooks, post-its, baggies, and etc that seem to now
litter every conference showbag.
I now call on the assistance of the Internet to identify the purpose of this
Google keyring. It's fairly large, has a solar panel, lots of circuitry inside
(about 10 cm^2 surface area), and occasionally blinks the Google Talk logo. It
doesn't blink regularly, glow in the dark, or respond to light/dark, clapping,
voice input, or brainwaves. What does it do? Should I leave it unattended in my
The first, most surprising aspect of this film is that it's all animated. OK,
so it's not like I'd been tracking every review of it before going to this
afternoon's IMAX 3D session, but I had watched the trailer, the Margaret &
David movie show and read about it in Wired magazine. None of these sources
mentioned that the whole thing -- including actors -- is CGI (maybe they thought
we wouldn't notice?).
Mostly I was going because the trailer was so incomprehensible and I wanted to
see what it was all about, and also because Wired said that the 3D technology is
all new and not sickness-inducing these days.
First, the 3D: from what I understand, it's a film projection from dual lenses
that are polarised at 90 degrees to each other; the audience wears cheap plastic
polarised glasses that separate the image. By far the best use of 3D was in the
studio logos before the film, such as the Paramount mountain.
After the studio logos, the film begins in a tavern, and everyone's making
merry. Well, there's a diorama of everyone making merry. It reminds me of the
opening sequence of Team America, in which the camera pulls back from a silly
marionette parody of France into a slightly-less-silly marionette parody of
Except that in Beowulf, the camera never pulls back; the whole film looks like a
diorama. Middle-to-long shots are clearly separated into separate "depth
layers", and each layer looks absolutely flat. Especially the people. It
looks completely absurd.
Moreso due to the appalling animation. Clearly this is the "we
motion-captured it and then fixed it" school of animation, which looks worse
than the animation in current computer games. It's been a long time since I saw
Final Fantasy (the last animated movie trying not to be?), but this was no
improvement in the animation department.
There are some big-name actors in this film, and I get the feeling that at some
time some of them gave great performances. These performances were then munged
into the computer and spat out backward and wrong.
In imaging, the rendering was at times impressive. Especially in the close-ups
of the male characters and Angelina Jolie. The Beowulf character himself had all
kinds of facial hair and imperfections we've not seen in CGI before. The female
leads did not get nearly as much attention, and at best resembled plastic dolls,
at worst resembled computer-generated plastic dolls (the one exception was
Angelina, who was rendered with as much care as the lead men).
The non-lead characters had clearly less rendering and modeling time afforded to
them, and as such rarely got a close-up. Unfortunately, this relegated them to
the two-dimensional flat-land of the mid- and long-shots.
No, they still haven't gotten the eyes right -- of anyone. Everyone had dead
Oh, the story's ok. Easy to follow, unlike the poem, I'm lead to believe.
Extremely predictable. The monsters look good, but then, CGI artists have had
"slimy" nailed since Gollum.
Browsing through the IMDB user reviews, it seems most people agree with me that
this would have made a pretty good live-action or live-action-on-CGI-backdrop
movie. The latter can really, really work -- look at Sky Captain and the World
of Tomorrow; that film is amazing.
I think most of the 3D problems stem from the limited depth available (the whole
scene must be scaled to some "real-world-cinema" depth) which truncates
the depth information of relatively thin objects like people. Most scenes were
completely in focus as well, which probably doesn't help the illusion of depth at
all. Combine a large depth-of-field foreground with an out of focus background
and you get people talking in front of a painting of a landscape, instead of a
conversation on the foothills.
Maybe the 2D version, without the many 3D artifacts would be more acceptable,
but I'm pretty sure the animation would completely ruin the whole thing anyway.
Verdict: enormous waste of a good cast, huge FX budget and a decent script.
Avoid unless you have a fetish for talking dioramas.
VBOs, VAs, DLs... to interleave or no?
Anyone watching the pyglet-commits list will have seen my recent meddling with
buffer objects. I have a fairly nice abstraction to VBOs/VAs and
interleaved/serialised data now, so swapping one for another is straightforward,
and all the ctypes messiness is taken care of.
What's fastest? I ran a simple test on a fixed number of triangles (250,000) in
which each vertex is shared by 4 triangles, and triangles are always drawn from
an indexed array.
The results -- click for Spreadsheet
-- are surprising, at least to me:
* Display lists perform the worst, no matter what.
* Interleaving a VBO gives a *massive* improvement if the indices are
also in a VBO.
* There is no benefit in keeping the indices in a VBO if the vertices
are not also in a VBO, and very little benefit even if the vertices
are in a VBO.
* For this test, the difference between the best performer and the worst,
even discounting the terrible display lists, is the difference between
142 FPS and 31 FPS. It really is worth spending time fudging around
with different data layouts, apparently.
This was run on a 6600GT on Windows. My friend with a 7800GTX noticed no
difference between interleaving or not. If you want to play, run
from r1416. The output is, er, *space*-separated CSV suitable for
spreadsheeting, but not really for human readability. Sorry. I'm sure you can
figure it out.
Let's (because we're procrastinating) enumerate the Windows tray icons I've got
at the moment:
* Visual C#
* Network (a disconnected network card)
* Remove hardware (nothing plugged in)
* Another volume control (courtesy Creative)
* nvidia settings
Some of these are obviously redundant, and an argument could be made for putting
nvidia settings in, I don't know, the control panel? That leaves:
* Visual C#
Besides the volume control, these are all applications that _also_ appear in the
task bar. WTF are they doing in the tray?
Obviously the Mac OS X dock is so awesome (no it's not) that everyone's now
emulating (poorly) on Windows. But they left the (actually awesome) task bar
TEN HD is not full HD
It bugs me that there are _so many_ lies and misleading statements in the
advertising for the upcoming TEN HD channel (channel 1, switching on in
Most of the ad content is duplicated in this press release
, if you're not the
sort to watch commercial TV.
First, the repeated use of the term "full HD" to describe their 1080i
signal. Since 1080p televisions have appeared in Australia, the convention has
been to describe 768p/1080i as "HD" and 1080p as "full HD".
TEN is misleading any customer who shells out the extra money for a "full
HD" TV after seeing one of the TEN HD ads, when an "ordinary" HD
TV will suffice for the signal they're putting out.
From the press release: "TEN is the only Australian network transmitting
the globally-recognised pinnacle HD broadcast standard: 1920 pixels by 1080 lines
interlaced (1080i) and 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound.". As I write this (9 PM on
a Sunday night), all three of the commercial stations 7, 9 and 10 are
broadcasting in 1080i in Dolby surround.
"Bringing the cinema into the lounge room; movies have never looked better
at home". Yes they have. Anyone with a 1080p video player, such as a
Blu-ray or HD-DVD drive, or a PS3, or a home computer has seen a better-looking
movie at home.
"TEN remains the only Australian network broadcasting major live sport in
HD". Even though I never watch sport, I can see this is pox. SBS, ABC2 and
7 regularly broadcast HD sport.
"The ABC broadcasts in 720 progressive (720p), which is superior to 576 but
of lower resolution than 1080i." That 1080i is higher-quality than 720p is
debatable (in fact, it often is debated; it's just not a very interesting
"The SBS transmits in 576p." This is untrue, movies and the news are
broadcast in 720p.
"With TEN-HD, TEN becomes Australia's first television broadcaster to break
away its HD signal [from the simulcast transmissions alongside SD and
analogue]". No, ABC2 and SBS News beat them to it by several years, both
providing alternative and, in ABC2's case, timeshifted content from ABC and SBS.
ABC-HD also occasionally broadcasts different or timeshifted shows than ABC, not
counting the weather and music broadcasts, though these do not appear in any TV
TEN: the only way you can improve your signal above the other networks is to
reduce the number of in-program ads, eliminate the TEN logo during movies and
serials, run the _entire_ content of a show without removing subplots to fit in
more advertising time, and broadcast TV shows within 24 hours of their US
screening if you are advertising that you are (not two weeks later).