10 years since Scanner Darkly – CNN vs Rotoscoping

A_Scanner_Darkly_Poster

Scanner Darkly (the movie) directed by the brilliant Richard Linklater came out in July 2006. The movie has so many things to talk about including the war on drugs (and why it cannot be won), PKD’s own creativity being fuelled by his substance abuse, how scramble suits could be the way to end racism etc.

Instead, I’ve decided to pick form over substance and talk about the animation instead because of two stats:

  • it took 18 months to animate the movie in 2006
  • with Convolutional Neural Networks it might just take a day to do that by the end of 2016 (I exaggerate highly, but read on)

Back in 2006, I was amazed by the animation technique so I tried to read up on Interpolated Rotoscoping which was the technique used to create the movie. I didn’t get very far but here is a nice 4 min video about it and some quotes from in there:

we shot the actual film and we locked … and then there was a lengthy post-production process in this case was 18 months

the animation process which is so cumulative and so slow – hundreds of hours to do 1 minute

we thought it would take 350 man hours per minute, we were pretty off on that it took a lot longer

 

Fast forward to 2015-16 we have

1. CNN and this paper

2. This Torch implementation on github

3. Ostagram becoming a big thing overnight

4. Prisma

They also have plans for video, with Moiseenkov saying their processing technique can still work quickly enough for a mobile video scenario.

“Photos is only the start. We plan to add something like the Boomerang app from Instagram. Like short cycles. We plan to add them in the near future — I think in July. And some sort of very clever filters where the quality will be superb,” he adds.

So potentially by the end of 2016 that 18 months of work and ~100,000 man-hours of effort could effectively become a day or less of work for a powerful CNN – I’ll stop there and leave you to think about that.

2112 – why the album is fresh 40 years on

rushad“We don’t want to change what people think about rock & roll, we just want to show them what we think about it.” – Alex Lifeson, 1976

Today is the 40th anniversary of the release of Rush‘s iconic album 2112. 2112 was Rush’s fourth album and came out in 1976 after the modest success of Fly By Night and Caress of Steel in the previous year and changed everything for the band.

 

2112 in itself tells the tale of individuality being quelled by the establishment in a dystopian future some 50 years from now. It is very representative of the Cold War era and inspired by Ayn Rand.

A lot has been said about this, but today I don’t want to change what people think about 2112, I just want to talk about what it means to me.

In 2011, Sucker Punch came out and had a marvelous remixed soundtrack including a reinterpretation of Where is my Mind, the Pixies original of which capped off the glorious ending to Fight Club. When asked about his choice of soundtrack, the now much detested Zack Snyder says:

“If you go with the original song, you just get the moment. But if you go with covers you also get all of the baggage you bring to it. I like the baggage. It kind of resonates and rings across time, it’s not just of the moment.”

I loved Sucker Punch and its soundtrack and I loved it even more when Snyder told me why he made his choice.

Around the same time Ernest Cline came up with Ready Player One. RP1 has everything to keep you interested the Metaverse, MOOC, a young underdog protagonist, numerous videogame and pop-culture references and finally a beautiful homage to Rush that got my heart racing. The baggage was special.

The prescient Spielberg has bought the rights to RP1 and production is underway with a target release date of summer 2018. In all likelihood this will end up being some kind of 3D IMAX movie targeting young adults with strategic product placements and tie ups with Nintendo++ for all the gaming references.

But could it be more?

The Metaverse gets more real by the day and almost everything else that RP1 describes exists here and now. Forget the theaters and forget a tie-in video game (not everyone wants to play).

I am hoping instead for a world in 2018 where, wearing a VR headset, I will get a chance to emulate Parzival extracting that 1974 Gibson Les Paul-in-the-stone and playing Discovery. Wouldn’t that be something?!

Data Mining Hong Kong Property Prices

With property prices in HK finally starting to ease looks like it’s finally time to think about buying.

Fortunately, for a data junkie like me, a lot of websites, including banks like HSBC, provide detailed historic data on price trends and current bank valuations right down to individual floors and units for each apartment out there. However there don’t seem to be easily downloadable CSV files anywhere and getting hold of the data seems to involve a tonne of clicking and form filling.

After examining a few websites I found Home Price to have detailed and reliable data as well as a simple and elegant structure and well-suited to scraping.

Finally found some time this weekend to build a quick and dirty scraper (deploy at your own risk!).

Also some preliminary raw data for just one building.

Happy House Hunting!

IMPORTANT INFORMATION – I do not claim ownership of this data and I am not looking to share or profit from it – it is property of Home Price.