Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Stuff Of Genius (Not)

I'd like to declare that my foray into homemade moviemaking yet again confirmed I am a genius, but I can’t elaborate. It’s not that I won’t or am unwilling; it’s that, when it comes to this particular endeavor, I don’t have the first clue and am therefore midly more gifted than a doorknob.

You see, armed with a relatively new PC, I opted to convert some of the family's home movies from years past (most home movies are in the “years past” vein) from their newly-spawned DVD’s to "combined" DVD’s. So, armed with a burner, lots of RAM and some free time (what’s that?), I decided to dabble a bit.

Unfortunately, I need to do a lot more dabbling before I decide my career as a professional film editor can indeed be a reality. There's no Apex Tech waiting for this future mechanic to call in when it comes to video editing, I can assure you. Aside from my lack of patience in finding a millisecond in a haystack (comprising more than five hours of video), I wasn’t and am not currently satisfied with the software out there. It’s clunky, shaky and anything but intuitive. That last part isn’t a problem, actually; it “scares off any pain-in-the-ass innocent bystanders” (thanks, Clemenza, I’ll take the connoli). But the problem isn’t that it’s difficult, the problem is it’s mystifying.

Make a long story short: I took a Simpsons video (a collection of four DVD’s comprising that show’s second season) and, using a nifty piece of unnamed software, “ripped” (electronically copied all of the data thereon) the second disc onto my hard drive. Then I fed it through another program – a “video frameserver” – and got that sucker ready for yet another program to clean it up, size it up and serve it up so I could put it yet elsewhere – on my Palm.

Yep, all this work for basically nothing. But – much like the little blue fizzy thing that undulates to the bottom of a flushing toilet, I’m getting closer to converting the family movies to full-on DVD status.

As I alluded yesterday, and as Damian Kulash suggested in the piece to which I linked yesterday, this copy protection stuff – in a word – stinks. First of all, it really makes watching/listening/enjoying the media you own, whether on DVD, CD or online – a pain in the ass. For those of you who don’t know, DVD’s sold in this country are – for the most part – region-coded. That means that if you drag your ass over to J&R Music World and buy Madagascar on DVD, it will likely work just fine in your Aunt Edna’s home theater DVD player. But take that disc on a trip overseas – to England, for example – and that disc is more worthless than an Ethiopian at a Sumo Wrestling tournament.

And before any of you smartasses respond with a “Yeah, but Boogie, that’s because England has a different type of TV setup over there – called PAL.” Yeah, and they also have an inferior comprehension of cosmetic dentistry. But the PAL/NTSC disparity has nothing to do with it. Discs to be used in England have a “Region 2” coding, which means if I buy Madagascar there and bring it here, it will be unplayable.

The reason why I have devoted bandwidth and time to this less-than-enticing slice of my life is simple: I wound up buying a DVD of a film released only in England, and it took me the better part of a couple years (and a couple of weeks’ at night and weekends) to convert the thing so I could painlessly watch this disc – that I legitimately own – at my leisure.

I understand the problems inherent with digital reproduction and file-sharing and profit and margin and the fact that one kid in Sweden who figured out how to crack DVD copy protection probably cost Sony and the other multi-media conglomerates $50 to $100 million a year. I understand that record companies are desperate to ebb the flow of pirated music floating around file-sharing networks all over the place. And I understand the fact that people, given the opportunity to do the right thing, find a way not to.

Having said all that, I think it boils down to the question of whether people will accept excessive prices for media – CD’s, movies, software – or if they will let record companies know they are willing to pay if the cost is reasonable. Google the stats on Apple’s iTunes store, which enables a user to pay $1.28 (incl. tax) to download a song. Instant gratification – no waiting for UPS, FedEx, DHL or Mike’s Courier and Pizza Service, to show up with a banged-up cardboard box containing a CD you’ll absolutely adore for about four minutes and seventeen seconds. I’ve tried iTunes – for the most part, I don’t find a need for it (I’ve got about 8,000 cd’s littered around my apartment in boxes, racks, shelves and drawers). But I did download a few tunes I’d been searching for – I even considered buying the albums on which said tunes were released. But who the hell would pay $12 for The Best of The Tubes when all I really wanted – don’t ask me why – is “She’s a Beauty?” Ditto for Weird Al Yankovic’s “Dare To Be Stupid” for the tune “Yoda.” Again, don’t ask me why – trust me, I’m well aware revealing these two degenerative musical choices don’t earn me cache in anyone’s book, save a 14-year-old acne-riddled pre-pubescent babysitter from Topeka (yeah, I know you’re reading).

Short and long: until we find a way to make digital media – DVD’s, CD’s, e-books and TV – relatively usable under some auspice of protection, it’s going to be difficult, painful and pricey to own and enjoy. I can understand why there is a legitimate need – and there is – to curb the flow of piracy of this stuff. But I also think that if it’s done poorly, or adds ridiculous hoops through which the average, legitimate buyer must pass through to get to his/her e-media, then the problems will remain.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go listen to the best of Abba.

Yes, I’m kidding – and thank god for that.


Kaia said...

Oh come on - i'm sure the ethiopian can bulk up in time for regionals...

Tubes 'she's a beauty' - totally dig that song - still. And you can't tell me that if you put 'dancing queen' or 'waterloo' on at a party - people don't start bumping to the beat.

Leave It To Cleavage said...

When you said "homemovie making" my mind immediately went to dirty home movies of you and that special someone. Boy was I wrong. Sounds like a giant waste of time, but if it makes you happy...

Belle said...

Abba's Greatest Hits are cool, what do you know?! lol

That's cool about the home movie editing. I hear the best of the best in the porn industry got their start that way.

Boogie said...

For the record...we transferred our old family home movies to disc, but they're scattered across seven DVD's -- I'm just compiling them onto one or two discs and adding sound to the silent ones.

As for porn and "dirty home movies," no editing is -- ever -- required ;)

I'm sensing a trend: put on some porn and some Abba, people start bumping, then you make some dirty home movies and make it in the porn business...

Thanks for the (apparent) career advice, ladies ;)

Belle said...

Boog there's no need to justify yourself to someone's rude comment. People do what they do, search out hobbies and stuff, because they enjoy it. You don't have to explain why you do what you do, just as long as you're enjoying yourself in the process. Hope it all turns out well for you.