J.J. Abrams Among Filmmakers Developing Projects For Paramount Animation

For the past few years, Paramount enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with DreamWorks Animation, releasing tons of successful films like Rango, Kung Fu Panda, How To Train Your Dragon and more. Last summer, though, DreamWorks Animation announced they’d be parting ways with the studio, leaving Paramount without a strong animation presence. Paramount Animation was born.

Variety now reports Paramount has begun independently developing projects with filmmakers like J.J. Abrams (Mission: Impossible, Star Trek) and Mary Parent (Noah, Pacific Rim) as well as tapping their kids TV channel, Nickelodeon, for more feature ideas. Which means we might see films based on Dora the Explorer, The Legend of Korra or Monkey Quest. Read more after the jump, including the official announcements of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie 2 and The New Kid.

As expected, Variety’s story gets into a lot of detail about the behind the scenes shuffling taking places between Paramount and DreamWorks but the basic gist is as follows. Paramount makes a lot of money through their deal with DreamWorks Animation and, with them leaving, they realized they needed to keep that cash flow going. They own Nickelodeon, which has several proven brands (one of which, Spongebob Squarepants, already spawned one successful theatrical film and the sequel, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie 2, is Paramount Animation’s film closest to release) and are working with Abrams and Parent.

Predictably, there are no details on Abrams’ project expect that there is one but there is info on two of Parent’s. One is the Spongebob sequel, which she’ll produce and Paul Tibbitt will direct. The second is called New Kid, based on a Penny Arcade comic. Gary Whitta (Book of Eli) is writing and it takes place in an alien school with one human student.

Paramount executive Adam Goodman is overseeing the division and explained that, because animation takes so long and is so competitive, most of the projects wouldn’t be revealed for some time:

The longer-than-average development time for animated films requires some level of secrecy to ensure the kind of original ideas being developed here are protected, so holding back on specific announcements enables us to reveal projects when they are further along in the creative process.

Because of that, it likely will be a while before we hear about J.J. Abrams’ first foray into animation or what else Paramount has up their sleeves. But it’s coming.


DMD Panorama Opens API To Power Panoramic Photos In Any App

dmd panorama

It’s a strange thing to hear from the co-founder and CEO of a photo startup, but DMD Panorama‘s Elie-Gregoire Khoury tells me that panoramic photos will become “a commodity at the end of the day.” That doesn’t mean it’s time to get out of the photo business — instead, Khoury wants to see panoramas become a standard feature in a wide range of websites and apps, the way that regular photos are now.

And if Khoury has his way, that will all happen through DMD’s new API.

Since launching in June 2011 on the iPhone, DMD Panorama has been downloaded 4.5 million times, Khoury says. His aim was to build the fastest, easiest way to take panoramic photos, and he may have succeeded — this Wall Street Journal article, for example, describes the app as “the easiest-to-use panoramic picture app on the iPhone.”

I was definitely impressed when I tried the app out for myself. To take a panoramic picture, you just activate the camera and move the phone sideways, bringing together the yin and yang signs on your screen. The process is only slightly more complicated and time-consuming than taking a normal photo.

DMD Panorama was built by a five-person team in Lebanon. Khoury says the country’s infrastructure presented a few challenges — like only six hours of electricity per day and a 2 gigabyte monthly download cap on the office Internet connection — but the company succeeded in making hit app, and it raised angel funding from investors including early Googler Georges Harik and the Berytech Fund.

Now Khoury is hoping to enlist app developers to use DMD’s free API. Ultimately, Khoury wants DMD to power the photo-taking experience in any app where panoramic photos might be useful — for example, Khoury suggests that DMD could bring panoramic photos into a postcard app, or it could help people take panoramic pictures to show off their homes in rental apps like Airbnb.

Users will need to have DMD Panorama installed in order to take advantage of the integration, but once they do, the goal is to create a seamless experience between DMD and integrated apps. So when using another app, users could hit a “panorama” button (or whatever) at the appropriate moment, which would either open DMD Panorama or prompt them to install it. They take the photo in DMD, then they’re returned to the original app.

Khoury says he’s testing the API out with a few partners before opening it up more broadly, so interested developers should email api (at) DerManDar (dot) com.


Build Your Own Film/Video Rig This Weekend [Video]

Of all the hobbies you can have, making movies—or just recording great video—is one of the most difficult and expensive, but that's all the more reason to invest in a little DIY. Here are some of the best projects you can do yourself and put together your very own video rig. More »


Technosexuals and their Mechanical Brides

Wired describes the new documentary, The Mechanical Bride, as a “moving, weirdly human exploration of artificial companionship.”  Directed by Allison de Fren, explores the range of mechanical brides, from robots to Real Dolls (NSFW), and the “technosexuals who love them.” I can’t wait to see it.


Bonus clip:

The Mechanical Bride will be screened at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal (July 19-August 7).


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

Sociological Images

Technosexuals and their Mechanical Brides

Wired describes the new documentary, The Mechanical Bride, as a “moving, weirdly human exploration of artificial companionship.”  Directed by Allison de Fren, explores the range of mechanical brides, from robots to Real Dolls (NSFW), and the “technosexuals who love them.” I can’t wait to see it.


Bonus clip:

The Mechanical Bride will be screened at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal (July 19-August 7).


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

Sociological Images

Why You’re Different, Ctd

Helmet Wally-the-basset Beakers

A reader writes:

What is apparent to me is that the Dish is fast becoming an important source of news in general, akin to what network news was in its heyday.  Yes, the news on the Dish is filtered through a bias, but can anyone doubt the importance of the topics that are covered?  One crucial difference with the old network news model is that there is thoughtful feedback from readers (again, filtered and edited) so that the news coverage continues and evolves.  You have agreed to not be the last word on every subject, and for that we are grateful and more enlightened. You have shown that a lively blog can do without the histrionics, and can be successful by treating its audience with respect.  What a novel concept.

Another notes, "That 16.2 minutes of average reading time is without support from a comments section - the great time-sucker (and discourse-poisoner) of the blogosphere." Another:

Loved reading the Beast's summary of the Dish readership. It certainly tallies with my own experience. I have the Dish bookmarked and I spend at least 15 minutes a day reading it, often more. For me, the Dish is so successful because it perfectly blends three needs.

Firstly, it provides intelligent insight on subjects that I know I want to read about (politics, the Catholic Church, beagles, etc). Secondly, it introduces me to unexpected worlds. For example, while I was keenly aware of the AIDS plague while it was at its height, I was just a kid attending school in a rural community. My best friend's gay uncle died of AIDS, a man I never met, and that was as close as I got to the disease. It was a huge, looming menace, but one far outside my own experience. Your writings about surviving the plague have introduced me in a beautifully visceral way to the reality behind the dark cloud I only ever saw from a great distance.

Thirdly, the Dish offers stirring spiritual ruminations. In your piece about the decline of Christianity, I was profoundly impacted by your description of the non-controlling nature of Christ's love. While this was known to me on a subconscious level, I'd never considered it in the terms you described, and upon seeing this truth, I saw the ways in which I was failing to live up to my own faith. Your article revealed to me my own failings, and taught me about the kind of person I want to be. What other blog does that?

Of course many readers could do without all the "god babble". Another:

My two favorite blogs are the Dish and Dave Weigel's blog. Almost for opposite reasons too. Weigel gives snarky yet emotionless campaign coverage that’s really insightful and funny. You are passionate, earnest, and idiosyncratically insightful and you approach many subjects with the joyful wanderlust of a child. It’s that earnest and curious smiling embrace of the diversity of the world that makes us feel comfortable in your particular place in the world of words.

Dish crew: The blog always looks great, is attractive to the eye and fun to navigate; as a reader once said, this is the best blog to check out while drunk (and that’s important to us under-35ers). The work you all put in makes this blog really rewarding and engrossing to people like me who love an online stew of culture, art, politics and good writing!

We also get emails with harsh but constructive criticism, such as this one from May 23:

I have to say, I've been a consistent, regular Dish reader for a long time (3 or 4 years at least), and the last several weeks is the first time I've felt like I've been able to detect an unevenness in the quality of Dish content, as if it were being put together by a group of people of uneven judgement. I resonate with the reader who wrote, "Quit linking to trashy stuff on HuffPo - it brings down your content." Some examples:

Siri's Breaking Point (5/22/12 4:46 PM), especially the first link. I was expecting something real and got a stupid Facebook meme instead. 

The Word of God, as discussed (5/21/12 5:24 PM)

When You Ask for Dumb (5/21/12 1:45 PM) as discussed by the other reader

When Settlers Attack (5/21/12 1:28 PM) The video appears to show the settlers firing in response to attacks by stone-throwing Palestinians, but it's clear what happened before. In this case, the headline implied outright aggression, but the post doesn't back that up. The Dish already has a reputation in certain quarters for unevenly covering the Israeli//Palestinian issue. Drudge-like headlines not justified by the actual content don't help.

Backlash (5/20/12 7:09 PM) What? That was link worthy? Another wasted click.

As I think about it, the unevenness I'm noticing may be connected to terse, poorly-written, uncommunicative posts that are basically just links. A short link post can be informative, even though its brief, like Heartland In Crisis (5/21/12 10:48 AM). Those posts have been a part of the Dish for a long time, and I like them. They make for efficient, interesting reading. Or it can be so opaque that I HAVE to click the link to even understand the post (Backlash). If I have to do that, and it's not worth it, my reading experience is lessened. It's just sloppy.

Well, we are not perfect. One more:

I read the Dish on a daily basis and, while I cannot claim to be in the under 35 group, I am definitely in the group that spends more than 16.2 minutes per day.  I do so almost exclusively by reading the RSS feed as it appears in my Google Reader application.  Here's my question:  Is my reading activity included in your bookmark rate of 70% and do they help you with advertisers?  In other words, should I be reading directly from the website instead?  My current practices are strictly for my convenience and I would be willing to change them if doing so would help create the type of numbers that allow you and all of the others at the Dish to keep providing the wonderful content I so enjoy. 

This question highlights a greater point regarding web content:  I often don't understand how the people who create the content I enjoy get paid for their work and how I should best consume the material so that they, in fact, get paid.  For example, if I buy an "album" from iTunes does the artist get the same payment as if I buy the CD from the record store?  How do I best ensure that the money I spend gets to the person who created the content?  (The e-book post from this week raises the same issue). I'm self interested, of course.  I want the content creator to make enough of a living so that he or she can keep generating more!

We checked back with the Beast's analytics guy, Arran Bardige, and he says that we get roughly 80,000 readers through RSS, or about 8 percent of our monthly audience - a number that was not included in the 70 percent bookmark rate. So the percentage of readers who come directly to the Dish is closer to 80 percent. Also from Arran:

Here is another fun stat: 77% of Dish Readers come back multiple times a day.

(Photos from Dish readers' Gmail profiles, used with permission)

The Dish

Psychedelic nano-art in oils and ferrofluids

Jacob Aron, technology reporter

Fabian_Oefner_Millefiori_04.jpg(Image: Fabian Oefner)

THIS psychedelic landscape ain't your daddy's watercolours. For one thing, the black lines you see are a ferrofluid, a mixture of oil and nanoscale iron particles that responds to a magnetic field. These fluids are normally used to seal computer hard drives or as a contrast medium in medical imaging, but their weird ways mean they show up in artworks, too.

This one was created by Fabian Oefner, an art photographer based in Switzerland, who often uses scientific phenomena to create his images. Oefner placed a few drops of ferrofluid on a white plate of glass and positioned a round magnet underneath to gather the liquid into a circle, forming bizarre three-dimensional structures on the surface. He then used a small syringe to add different shades of watercolours to the ferrofluid, disrupting the magnetic link between the iron particles. Adding just the right amount of watercolour left the attraction between the particles strong enough to create the cell-like pools of colour seen, whereas adding more caused it to fully mix with the ferrofluid, bursting the structure, as has happened on the right-hand side of the image.

Previous ferrofluid artworks include Morpho Towers by Japanese artist Sachiko Kodama, in which spiked sculptures drenched in the magnetic liquid appear to pulsate like an alien artefact, and the video for the single Watercolour by Australian band Pendulum, which features ferrofluids dancing to the music. Groovy.

Short Sharp Science

Out of random noise, scientists use consumer choice to create musical masterworks

Musical styles have a way of evolving. They change with the times.

But who drives that process? Composers? Musicians?

The answer, says a team of British scientists, is consumers.

The scientists conducted an unusual experiment using what the researchers call a Darwinian Music Machine. It is a computer program designed by evolutionary biologist Armand Leroi of Imperial College London and his colleagues.

The program creates a population of short medleys, each about eight seconds long.

“They’re just random bits of noise,” Leroi said.

Leroi says the program started off with a population of about a hundred such tunes. He and his colleagues then posted those tunes on a website and invited people to rate each tune on a five-point scale, ranging from “I can’t stand it” to “I love it.”

As people rated the music, the program picked the most popular medleys and allowed them to procreate.

“These songs – they get together, they have sex, as it were,” Leroi said. “The code gets mixed up, and then they have baby songs.”

The “baby” songs sound similar to their parents and yet are distinct musical entities.

In the experiment, those babies were then sent back online to be rated by the public. The process continued for generation after generation.

“So you have a system that is directly analogous to natural selection in organisms,” Leroi said. “The population evolves.”

In organisms, natural selection drives evolution. In this case, consumer choice was the selective force. Leroi says the striking thing is how quickly the noise turned into music.

“Even within a couple dozen generations, we found that they were already much more musical,” he said. “By 500 to 600 generations, they were sounding really good.”

Take for example, the cacophonous medley the scientists started with.

Here’s how it sounded after 150 generations.

At 400 generations, it evolved into this.

And here’s the tune after 600 generations of selection and reproduction.

“In effect, we’re evolving music out of noise, but there’s no creator there, there’s no composer,” Leroi said. “It’s just pure market forces there, or pure consumer choice that is doing it.”

So what’s the point of this experiment?

Leroi says people generally think musical styles are determined by composers and musicians. Not so.

“There’s the Beatles and there’s Nirvana,” he said. “It’s all one bunch of musical geniuses handing the baton down to the next set of musical geniuses. But what we forget is that the public are exerting a choice upon this, and that choice itself is a creative force.”

In other words, it’s the public that chooses which songs succeed in the marketplace and go on to influence the next generation of artists.

McGill University neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, author of The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature, says the new study offers a compelling illustration of the role consumers play in shaping music.

But he says the experiment doesn’t represent the real world because musicians also shape what the audience finds pleasing.

“In the real world, the composer may just draw a line and say, ‘No, I think this is better, and I’m going to stick with it,’” he said. “‘And maybe people don’t like it now, but maybe they’ll come around.’”

Take, for example, the American rock band the Talking Heads.

“Their first few records didn’t do very well,” Levitin said. “And they didn’t change anything. They just kept doing what they were doing. And suddenly, the whole world comes around to them, and says, ‘Yea, you were right. That’s a good sound. We love it now.’”

So, says Levitin, when it comes to musical evolution, natural selection is important. But you can’t dismiss the role of the creator.

Public Radio International

Ground Rules: Mining Right for a Sustainable Future (English) – YouTube

Shared by Daren
My hat's off to Science North for the epicness of this Industrial Film, commissioned by Caterpillar. Not comprehensive or balanced by any means, but their insider status allowed them to gather on site footage from some of the largest mining operations on earth.


Optical Illusion To Slow Down Drivers – YouTube