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Comment Re:6178 acres? (Score 1) 238

This is in California, where the land is probably 10x as valuable. Also about 10 square miles of space, maybe 5 square miles of solar cells. Another three of four square miles of solar cells 5 miles ESE of this spot.

https://www.google.com/maps/@3...

This is desert. Deserts will be covered on solar cells within 20 years.

Comment 14 years ago I answered questions on /. about VFX (Score 4, Interesting) 232

It's fun re-reading the questions and my answers on Slashdot back in 2002.

Back then somebody asked how to get into the field -- I said it was a bad idea (and it was at the time!) -- and perhaps that's true again. I left the biz a couple of years ago.

That said, as people note about Mad Max: Fury Road just about every shot of complex films is a VFX shot. Mad Max had insanely complex, aggressive, and unique practical effects, but there were still 2,000 VFX shots -- and there had to be!

When I started in VFX back on movies like Terminator 2 I told my friends that the one of the big points of VFX was safety. You can support stunt people with heavy cables, and remove them in post -- or replace the heads of stunt people with the lead actors so that they won't be in danger. This is still true, and will always be true.

One of the most interesting films nominated for VFX this year (not mentioned in the article) was the spectacular Ex Machina. Hundreds of beautiful VFX shots, that were a vital part of the story. Among the things that makes that movie special is that the VFX team was integral to the design of the film -- the budget was so small, that they had to work together with the director, set designer, etc to come up with a way to tell the story beautifully and inexpensively. The VFX budget was only $1.5M, probably 2% of the VFX budget for Avengers: Age of Ultron (not nominated!) The VFX Oscar winner a couple of years ago, Gravity was similar in that respect, the VFX team helped plan, and then shoot, every shot -- and then shooting the movie was incredibly quick. Perhaps this will happen more in the future of VFX, I hope so -- as it allows the VFX team to participate more intimately in the filmmaking.

Another thing that's not mentioned in the article is that a lot of filmmaking is about cost. VFX is these days often a heck of a lot cheaper than practical effects. Not just the cost of building things, but the time it takes to shoot them (a typical movie these days costs on the order of $300K/day)

CG VFX are not dying, not by any means. They may get to be more seamless (I hope so!) and more about telling the story and less about flashy hoo-haw. Every significant budget movie has a huge VFX component, and that's just not going to change.

Again, reading my questions and answers from my relative youth were interesting -- and foreshadow a lot of what happened in the last 14 years. One of the questions, though, was curiously wrong. I had thought that patents would rip through the industry, as it did to early effects work back in the 60's and 70's, but that didn't happen. What did happen was the studios have found ways to convince foreign (mostly) governments to finance VFX work in those countries, this has pretty much wiped out a huge portion of VFX in the US.

A bit of sadness is that my old company Hammerhead Productions that I started (and discussed in the article) is closing down after 21 years...but most of the questions and answers bring a smile. Thanks Slashdot!

Comment Re:Morphing (Score 1) 232

The best morphing ever done was Michael Jackson's Black or White video. It was also one of the first pieces that was done, starting about four months after I wrote the morphing tool.

The thing is, it took about a woman-year to do the work, it was really a tremendous amount of detailed effort. Once it was done, and was so close to perfect, nobody wanted to spend that kind of money again.

Comment Similar, but not quite as extreme incident... (Score 1) 169

I was flying from LA to New Orleans to VFX supervise Big Momma's House 2 (ok, not the best film ever.) Among the things I brought with me was a pelican case of LEDs and batteries, we used to put tracking marks on walls and other things. I'll admit that seeing it go through the x-ray machine, it looked a little iffy.

The TSA agent then took the case, and extended his arms as far as he could, closed one eye, before slowly opening the box and peeking inside. Which, of course, I found insulting. No respect.

Comment Time (Score 4, Informative) 370

That's the only real solution. All of those people who are hassling you now, will be hassling somebody else in the future. I hope that the "popular forum" you mention isn't something that's vital to your life; if it isn't then abandon it. If it is, it's a more interesting question.

If you need to continue to participate in that forum, I would suggest you just be yourself. Say what you believe, and don't get too fussy about it.

I've heard from a lot of women who participate in public fora that this kind of abuse is not just commonplace, it's ubiquitous. You might also think of the 34,000,000 people doxxed last month. It's just a common thing, it's going to happen to everybody sooner or later.

Comment A different way to use a comet (Score 1) 99

I think that NASA's idea is interesting...very challeging, as other have noted, but worth it if it could be done.

I have been toying with the idea for an SF story using comets. Spaceships would wait for a comet to come by, then embed themselves into the tail of the comet, and use some kind of ramjet propulsion to accelerate out of the inner solar system. Obviously comet tails are not dense at all (a less dense vacuum than what can be made on earth) but the ion tail should be manipulatable.

Anyway, in the story, people in their spaceships end up flying out in more-or-less random directions, and hoping to find something interesting in the process.

Comment Re:123D Catch? Autodesk already has an app doing t (Score 4, Informative) 48

The differences are significant:

1) The Microsoft app works in real-time on the phone, rather than 123D Catch processing in the cloud
2) The Microsoft app shows real-time results, so you can see where there are issues, and continue to photograph until they are resolved. With 123D Catch you patch errors in post.
3) The Autodesk 123D Catch app actually exists, and the earlier web-based version has been around for about four years.

I'm kind of surprised that Microsoft isn't using the acceleration and magnetic sensors in the phone to help determine the camera position. It's one of the features that phone cameras have that DSLR's don't.

Comment Wish we'd built the F-20 (Score 2) 732

Northrop built the F-20 back in the late 70's. It had better dogfighting performance than the F-16, and was cheaper and simpler. To some extent, it's dogfighting performance was too good; of the three that were built two were lost due to the pilots losing consciousness during high-G maneuvers.

They built it because the US government had said that they wouldn't sell F-16's to the rest of the world, as it was too good. Unfortunately for Northrop, they changed their mind -- and as the F-16 was so well known it won out.

The remaining F-20 is hanging in the California Science Center in LA, it's a beautiful plane.

Comment Are we in Norstrilia? (Score 1) 234

In the Cordwainer Smith book Norstrilia , the protagonist buys Earth, and is astonished when he comes to visit that the rivers are not covered, that evaporation runs rampant -- unlike back on his home world of Norstilia. Over the three decades I've lived in California, and especially over the last few years, that part of the book seems more and more like reality.

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