Thursday, March 21, 2013
Friday, March 08, 2013
Interesting interview with Park Chan-Wook about STOKER on aintitcoolnews.com. here are some excerpts on his distinctive visual style.
"But it's not always the case that you can explain everything with words. For instance, "Why do I want to use the color red here? Why do I want the camera to move forward here?" Sometimes I make those decisions because I just feel that that would be the best thing to do here. But after I'm finished making the film and watch it later on, I realize why I made those choices. Take the crosscut for instance. I always thought that decision made no sense because of some musical explanation or reason. That is to say, there is a rhythm to the way scenes are crosscut, and I just like the rhythmic nature of using crosscut. However, later I realized, having seen the film again, what I really wanted to express by using these crosscuts is the concept of fate. In other words, crosscut mixes different individuals' past and present, reality and fantasy. Crosscutting is an effective way to weave these together, and the result that I was looking for in doing so is saying, "It is all a fabric, part of a bigger fate."
Discussing a beautiful transition between Nicole Kidman's hair and a field of grass:
"That particular transition didn't really take much in the way of deliberation. It's something that easily came out, so much so that I can't even remember the thought process that brought me there. It was almost instinctive. All throughout the film, I decided to use crosscutting technique. Once I decided on that, I promised myself that I will have one principle that I will abide by, and that principal was each shot, and how they move on to the next - whether the cuts would crash or whether the cuts would continue on smoothly - how each shot transitions into the other shot in these crosscut sequences, it needs to be something very well designed. So I applied many techniques to achieve this, be it match cut, dissolve, what have you. It's born out this base principle. But I did think that this particular transition was particularly important because it was a transition from a mother moment going into a father moment."
STOKER is an audiovisual masterpiece that perfectly continues Chan-Wook's style into Hollywood. At times the aloofness of the characters, lack of explanation and depth of character can make it seem cold and distancing but I personally marvelled in the film's style and this more than made up for its problems of pacing and failure to thrill (which is ironic considering how Hitchockian it feels!).
The style is opitimised by this wonderful trailer recut to DJ Shadow
Thursday, January 31, 2013
Rosenberg RS, Baughman SL, Bailenson JN (2013) Virtual Superheroes: Using Superpowers in Virtual Reality to Encourage Prosocial Behavior. PLoS ONE 8(1): e55003. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055003 (link)
A new study from Stanford University shows that being given the superhero power of flight in a virtual environment immediately changes your likeihood to help another person in the real-world:
"For the study, 30 female participants and 30 male participants were immersed in a foggy virtual reality city and given the power of flight — like Superman — or the experience of riding as a passenger in a helicopter. Those groups were then assigned one of two tasks: help find a missing diabetic child in desperate need of an insulin injection or leisurely tour their virtual environment. Therefore, the study was a two-by-two design, with participants assigned to one of four groups.
After their VR experience, participants were taken out of their head-mounted-display masks and asked to have a seat. While the experimenter fumbled with the VR equipment, she “accidentally” knocked over a cup of 15 pens sitting on a table near the participant’s chair.
Researchers found that participants who experienced the power of flight in virtual reality were not only quicker to help pick up the pens than their helicopter-riding counterparts, they also picked up more pens. Of the six participants that didn’t help, all were in the helicopter condition. The task of ‘helping the diabetic child’ showed no main effect; only the superpower of flight did."
This is a very nice controlled, empirical design that for once discusses the positive potential of playing computer games.
Monday, January 28, 2013
"Your job [as an editor] is to anticipate, partly to control the thought processes of the audience. To give them what they want and/or what they need just before they have to "ask" for it- to be surprising yet self-evident at the same time. If you are too far behind or ahead of them, you create problems, but if you are right with them, leading them ever so slightly, the flow of events feels natural and exciting at the same time."
Walter Murch, In the Blink of an Eye (2001; 2nd edition; page 69)
Friday, January 25, 2013
Tom Shone interviewing Steven Spielberg about Lincoln in Sunday Times Culture magazine 20/01/13
"He still goes to see movies - picks an out-of-the-way cinema, sneaks in with his wife or kids after the lights have gone down, then disappears again as the credits roll. He always takes an aisle seat and buys no food or drinks for himself. He's just there for the film, or, more specifically, the film and its audience. He loves feeling the heat rise in the cinema during an especially exciting action sequence, or after a gag has rocked everyone back in their seat.
Spielberg- "You walk into an air-conditioned, freezing theatre and, about 20 minutes in, it starts to get really hot. People start making noise and having a good time. You're lifted by it. The first thing that happens is, people stop eating. They even stop swallowing."
At this point, the third-person plural drops away. "And all of us go into a kind of lock step where, if we were watching a tennis match, you'd see that perfect synchronicity of heads going left-right, left-right. The same thing in a movie theatre, when the movie is working and the audience is galvanised, almost hypnotised, all watching the same things, all knowing where to look at the exact same time...it's a wonderful thing. There is nothing greater than that."
Monday, January 14, 2013
1+3 yr MRC PhD studentship on Autism, home eyetracking and cultural differences (Japan/UK) available
I am very pleased to be able to announce that Dr Atsushi Senju and myself have a fully funded PhD studentship starting October 2013. Details below.
The project will be utilising similar home eyetracking technology to that recently demonstrated by Tobii at CES. See the video above for a sneak peek.
We are pleased to offer a full 1+3 year MRC Industry CASE PhD studentship entitled "Going Global: Application of Portable Eye-tracking Technology to Study the Effect of Cultural Norms on the Development of Social Cognition". The studentship will be based at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London, and be conducted in conjunction with Acuity ETS Limited & the Institute of Psychiatry. The studentship will cover course fees at the usual level for UK and EU studentships and a stipend in accord with research council rates.
Much of what we currently know about the developmental disorders comes from Western cultures, and few multicultural studies have been conducted. A major barrier is that the equipment for neurocognitive assessment is often expensive, heavy and requires dedicated lab space, which prevents the assessments being practicable to run in many countries, areas and communities. To overcome this challenge, we will develop a software suite with a portable and affordable eye-tracker, and use it to conduct a series of cross-cultural eye-tracking studies on social cognition in typically developing children and children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The successful PhD candidate will take a leading role in this project, including (1) identifying a suitable eye-tracker, developing a software suite, and testing it in the UK, (2) taking this eye-tracker suite to Japan and running the same experiment with Japanese children, and (3) testing children with ASD in both the UK and Japan.
Graduates in experimental psychology or related subjects with a good first degree are encouraged to apply. Experience in some of the relevant research areas and/or methodology (e.g. developmental psychology, autism research, eye-tracking methodology, software development) will be an advantage. Programming experience (e.g. Matlab, Java, C++) or willingness to learn is an advantage. We also expect the candidates to have a high motivation and enthusiasm to the project, good communication and person skills.
The student will receive four year training (1-year MSc and 3-year PhD) in theoretical, methodological, practical and commercial aspects of eye-tracking system. Both the academic supervisors (Dr Atsushi Senju and Dr Tim Smith) have strong track record in eye-tracking research, which will complement the industrial supervisor (Mr Scott Hodgins) from dedicated developers and distributors of eye-tracking system and from the clinical perspective (Prof. Tony Charman). Academic supervisors will also provide training of theoretical background in developmental cognitive neuroscience, autism research and cross-cultural study, development of original research design, programming of stimulus presentation and data acquisition, data recording from infants, children and clinical population, data analyses, and writing-up scientific papers and dissemination to non-academic user communities. The industry supervisor will train the student on the theory & use of eye-tracking in the first instance, and supervise the development of cognitive assessment software suite and the integration of the software suite to the portable eye-tracker.
The Centre for Brain & Cognitive Development (CBCD) at Birkbeck, University of London, has an outstanding track record in training phd students. Our excellence in training has just been rewarded with the designation “Marie Curie Centre of Excellence for doctoral training” which places us in the top 5% of life science training centres in the EU. Further, our national training record is reflected in the recent award of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education 2005 for “Neuropsychological work with the very young”. Acuity ETS is the leading independent eyetracking systems vendor in the world. Acuity is the biggest customer of two of the leading eyetracking manufacturers. Acuity actively strives to encourage collaboration between clients, and to share best practice across the client base.
Further details about the project may be obtained from:
Dr Tim Smith
Further information about PhDs at Birkbeck, University of London is available from:
Application forms and details about how to apply are available from:
Francesca Carter (email@example.com)
Candidates must supply a CV, full transcripts of their qualifications and a statement of no more than 500 words indicating what skills and academic and professional experience you can bring to this project and why you consider you would be the best person to undertake this research. If possible, this should include evidence of your knowledge of the relevant literature in the field.
The deadline of application is 1 March 2013. Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed in late March.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Given the recent release of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit in High Frame Rate (HFR) 3D there has been a lot of discussion about the pros and cons of moving from the entrenched 24fps to 48fps (or even the 60fps proposed by James Cameron). I recently weighed in on the vision science behind the perception of higher frame rates for Tested here:
The article is a nice summary of the topics the journalist and I discussed but his personal dislike for HFR overshadows several of my points about why I think the move to 48fps or higher is necessary and will become the standard in cinema. To understand the problems with the current 24fps filming and projection process you need to understand how we are able to see a rapidly presented series of still images as a continuous moving sequence. Here is a passage from an encyclopaedia entry I wrote on film perception a few years ago:
Smith, T.J. (2010) Film (Cinema) Perception. In E.B. Goldstein (ed.)The Sage Encyclopedia of Perception.
"Movies consist of a series of still images, known as frames projected on to a screen at a rate of 24 frames per second. Even though the frames are stationary on the screen and are momentarily blanked as a new frame replaces the old we experience film as a continuous image containing real motion. The two perceptual phenomena contributing to this experience are persistence of vision and apparent motion. Persistence of vision refers to the continued activation of visual neurons after visual stimulation has been removed. During film projection the light is obscured as the frame is changed. If this only happened 24 times a second (Hz) there would be a noticeable flicker. To avoid this flicker each frame is blanked three times by a shutter. This creates a presentation rate above the critical flicker fusion rate of 60Hz. Above this rate persistence of vision ensures that the blank is masked by continued activation of visual neurons and we perceive the projected image as continuous.
The motion we perceive in film is apparent because it is based on static visual information not real motion. It is commonly believed that the apparent motion perceived in films is beta movement. Beta movement is perceived when a simple object such as a line is alternately presented at two different locations around 10 times a second. The two lines are perceived as a single line moving smoothly between the two locations. Due to the slow rate of presentation and the large distances covered, long-range apparent motions such as beta movement are thought to be processed late in the visual system and require inferences based on knowledge of real motion and the most likely correspondences between objects in the image sequence.
Beta movement, along with other long-range motion phenomena such as apparent rotations and transformations may occur during film perception but they cannot account for the majority of motion perceived in film. The 24Hz presentation rate used in film is too fast for long-range motion and film frames are too complex, making the task of identifying corresponding objects in subsequent frames very difficult. Instead, apparent motion in film is due to the same short-range motion system used to detect real motion. Motion detectors in the early visual system respond in the same way to the retinal stimulation caused by real motion and by rapidly presented (>13Hz) static images that depict only slight differences in object location. This processing occurs very early in our visual system and does not require perceptual inferences. The directness with which film is processed results in an experience of motion that is indiscernible from real-motion."
As you can see there are two processes involved that allow us to see a series of frames as motion: persistence of vision and apparent motion. Frames need to alternate faster than ~60 times per second (i.e. Hz) if we are going to perceive constant luminance, i.e. not perceive a flicker. Old film projectors reached this threshold by using a shutter to present each frame twice (=48Hz) or three times (=72Hz). Modern digital projectors don't have a shutter as the images is constantly present and doesn't need to accommodate the next frame being registered in front of the lens so instead they present each frame 3 times ("triple flash"=72Hz). This is sufficient to remove the flicker but when we move to stereoscopic 3D digital projection we encounter a problem with the amount of light presented during each frame. Most 3D projectors (such as RealD) alternate the left/right eye images, with each being presented at 24fps (24fps x 2 eyes = 48Hz). Each of these left or right images are subsequently flashed 3 times creating a total flicker rate for stereo 3D movie of 144Hz (72Hz per eye)! This ensures that we don't see the flicker in either eye even though they are alternately blind to the image.
Unfortunately, due to the radial polarisation needed to ensure only the left image is seen by the left eye and the right image by the right eye the amount of light reaching the viewer's eyes is significantly less than a traditional 2D presentation. This creates a murkier image and makes it harder to perceive apparent motion as our eyes cannot create the correspondence between moving objects in each frame. This problem is exaggerated by the film being photographed at 24fps per eye. Moments of high camera or object motion create motion blur in the image as the camera's shutter is open too long. This motion blur makes the edges of objects hard to locate and decreases our perception of apparent motion, making the image appear to jump across the screen instead of flowing smoothly. Given that this motion stuttering is happening alternately between the two eyes it makes it difficult for our visual system to fuse the 3D image, resulting in a loss of depth perception and eye strain.
The solution to both problems of light loss and motion stutter in a stereo 3D movie is to increase the frame rate. I'm not sure whether the new HFR/48fps projectors use a double or triple flash but whichever they use the rate of presentation per eye will exceed the critical flicker fusion rate (double flash = 96 Hz; triple = 144Hz per eye). Because each frame is a sharper image with less motion blur the left and right images registered by our eyes will be brighter, clearer and easier to fuse in depth to perceive 3D. Camera and object motion will be clearer as we are better able to perceive apparent motion between the crisper edges of objects and the overall effect should be less cognitive load on the viewer and less eye strain.
The bizarre irony of Peter Jackson's decision to move to 48fps in an attempt to get 3D cinema closer to reality is that it has revealed the artificiality of the Hobbit. As I say in the Tested article, like the move from SD to HD the increased in information on the screen makes the imperfections of the image easier to see. The move to 48fps may not be increasing the spatial resolution of the image but by increasing the temporal resolution (i.e. frame rate) it makes each pixel easier to see and each face prosthetic and matte backdrop easier to notice. Suspension of disbelief is harder in the quiet sequences at the beginning of the Hobbit and it is only when the action picks up in the final act when the higher frame rate and 3D really gel. Many reviewers have reported growing used to the 48fps as the movie progresses and have noted that the chase sequences at the end of the movie are easier to see, more fluid and result in less eyestrain than typically experienced in 3D movies. It is only when Jackson presents a combination of filmed live-action, sets and digital characters or backdrops together on the screen at the same time and gives the viewer time to interrogate the image that viewers seem to have issue with the higher frame rate. We would only really know the impact of the 48fps on filmgoer experience by performing a controlled psychological test on audiences. Viewers would have to be naive to which frame rate presentation they were seeing and various aspects of their experience of the film monitored. Only then could we see if it actually had an impact on their experience without any pre-existing bias against it or resistance to new technologies getting in the way.
Personally I believe the creative potentials of stereo 3D is massive and only starting to be tapped with movies like Scorsese's Hugo and (apparently, although I'm yet to see if) Ang Lee's Life of Pi. If higher frame rates encourage more filmmakers to experiment with 3D without having to worry about viewer eye strain and discomfort I think it is a great step forward.
p.s. Merry Christmas :)