5 Movie & TV Experts That (Somehow) Actually Exist
When you were a kid, you probably couldn't have imagined the manpower necessary to make your favorite movies, TV shows, and video games. But then you grew up, learned a thing or two about the entertainment industry and how it's fueled mostly by dump trucks filled with cocaine and delusion, and gained a greater appreciation for the effort of the hundreds of people involved, and the mistresses who pleasured them throughout their stressful days. But behind all of their hard work are the software, machinery, and specialized services created solely to make their jobs a lot easier. And believe me, these things are like freakin' cheat codes.
844-NEED-SCI, The Hotline Which Connects Screenwriters With Scientists To Get Movie Science Right
It used to be that nothing could be done if the science was atrocious in my screenplay about a guy who uses his power to control volcanoes with his brain in order to kidnap the Queen of England (don't steal that idea, it's mine). Dumb people would forever believe volcanoes can spew lava demons, as occurs midway through the second act, after the Queen does a back flip off an oncoming missile and redirects it into Mt. Vesuvius, thus spawning the lava demons. But today, I have no excuse for not understanding basic volcano science, now that 844-NEED-SCI is a thing. It's a hotline which connects lonely screenwriters with one of over 2,700 sexy single scientists around the world. The scientists are standing by, and they can't wait to tell me that I don't know dick about volcanology.
844-NEED-SCI is provided by the Science and Entertainment Exchange, an offshoot of the National Academy of Sciences, a nonprofit organization dedicated to consulting on all kind of scientific matters, with a primary focus on helping government workers and politicians understand science. Modern politicians seem to not give much of a crap about science, so screw it, screenplay consulting it is.
So far, 844-NEED-SCI scientists have consulted on over 1,300 film and television projects. Marvel Studios are a loyal client. The goal isn't to nail the real-life science used in movies to explain fantastical BS. There's an understanding between writers and scientists that scripts shouldn't get bogged down by jargon, but they don't have to be loaded with scientific impossibilities and falsehoods, either. It's popcorn science. Mostly or somewhat factual is good enough. Still, I know I'm not letting facts get in the way of my script's climactic ending, in which the volcanoes start walking, no matter what some volcano nerd says.
Stop-Motion Animation Studio Laika Uses 3D Printers To Create Millions Of Subtle Character Expressions
Stop-motion animation is a massive pain in the ass. Every eyebrow twitch and lip curl and blink is the result of an animator physically manipulating the character. At least, that's how it used to be. The Nightmare Before Christmas marked a change in the animation of facial expressions with the development of a technique called Replacement Animation. For Jack Skellington, animators crafted over 700 faces which could be quickly swapped in and out, each sporting a unique expression, depending the emotion of the scene and the specific syllables being spoken. It dramatically cut down on the work needed to shoot a scene, though each face and emotion still needed to be made by hand.
Laika, the stop-motion animation company behind Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls, is using 3D printing technology to ensure their animators never physically touch a puppet's face again, while at the same time broadening the palate of expressions and emotions stop-motion characters can convey. It's replacement animation, but Laika prefers it to be called Rapid Prototyping. Which also happens to be the name of my volcano movie.
Instead of animating faces on set in front of the camera, animators sculpt every expression on a computer and print them with 3D printer. When Laika first started using this technique on Coraline, they had to hand-paint every face. By ParaNorman, they were able to print each face in color. With each successive film, Laika has been able to increase the subtlety of emotion they can convey, which means they need to print more faces. 20,000 faces were printed for Caroline. 30,000 for ParaNorman. It went up to 52,000 for The Boxtrolls. And then things took a jump; over 22 million facial expressions were printed for their latest movie, Kubo And The Two Strings. The number of possible facial expressions on Coraline topped out at 207,000. On Kubo And The Two Strings, it's over 48 million.
I'm not great with numerical estimations, but if I had to guess, I'd say it would have taken Laikia 10 billion years to fabricate 22 million facial expressions by hand. There's just no way the script for Kubo And The Two Strings would have been good enough to justify a 10-billion-year pre-production process.
Market Research Tool GamePulse Tells The Video Game Industry If Their Ideas Are Great or Garbage
It's fun to imagine the video games we love being born out of the passions of artists blazing paths through an industry filled with likeminded geniuses bouncing their creativity off one another, like the video game version of the Algonquin Round Table or the Inklings. Or me bouncing my volcano movie off of a room full of stuffed animals and my dog. It's not. Instead, every major player in the game industry types their game ideas into a market research application called GamePulse, and it tells them if said ideas suck or not.
Electronic Entertainment Design and Research, or EEDAR for short, is the largest video game market research firm in the world. We know this because EEDAR has a plaque from Guinness World Records which says exactly that, because Guinness has run out of interesting world records to catalog, and is now verifying the boasts of corporate entities. Pretty soon, you'll see the same plaque on the wall of the local Toyota dealership which claims to be the number-one Toyota retailer in the tri-county area. EEDAR created GamePulse to help developers and studios understand every aspect of the video game market through the hundreds of data points that tell the story behind the game industry's successes and failures.
Let's say you have an idea for a fantasy first-person action RPG with some platforming elements and robust multiplayer. GamePulse will break every buzzword from that sentence into individual classifications, and give you detailed statistics from every other game in those subgenres. It can tell you the best way to advertise a game like that (toilet stalls at rest stops alongside lonesome interstate highways). It can tell you how games similar to yours fared when micro-transactions were implemented (poorly, as your game caters exclusively to orphaned street urchins). It can tell you which games' buzz are more likely to spread by word-of-mouth. (Ones with tits. Does your game have enough tits?) It'll tell you everything you need to know about production and marketing budgets of games similar to yours (you should spend $73 on development and $150 million on advertising).
EEDAR claims GamePulse that is used by 90 percent of top video game companies, so if you're thinking a tool like this homogenizes industry creativity, you're probably right. But there is also a good chance that many of your favorite games were put through the GamePulse ringer to maximize their marketability. You may never have played them if they hadn't been market researched to hell and back.
If you thought your game tastes made you cool and edgy, you're just another cog in the machine. Just another statistic in The Man's market research tool, man.
The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight Use SnapStream To Sort Through Thousands Of Hours Of Television
Have you ever watched The Daily Show or Last Week Tonight With John Oliver and felt sympathy for the poor soul whose job it is to assemble those exhaustive montages of politicians and pundits repeating lies and tired talking points? Well, the job isn't as torturous as it sounds. A TV recording system called SnapStream has singlehandedly prevented dozens of late-night comedy show editors from going insane over having to watch hundreds of hours of Fox News footage.
SnapStream is a DVR injected with super solider serum. It can record up to 10 TV shows at a time. It can record entire networks nonstop. It even has built-in meme and GIF creation capabilities, so shows can capture a moment, turn it into a meme, and post it on all their social media platforms within minutes, assuming that's a thing people actually do. But what truly makes SnapStream useful for comedy news shows is how it can access the Closed Captioning of every show it records, making every word spoken searchable. Here's an example:
That's a clip from Last Week Tonight showing politicians misusing the word "literally." Imagine having to sort through thousands of pointless, useless hours of C-SPAN footage just to find a handful of times politicians misused a word. Death by sharks high on PCP sounds like a better option.
With SnapStream, all the Last Week Tonight editors had to do was type "literally" into a search bar in a web browser, and every instance of a politician saying "literally" popped up in a Google-like list of search results. When they click a result, they're taken to the exact moment in the video the term was spoken. All they have to do is download it, cut it into a montage, and in no time, a series of politician's past statements can be dug up from the past to bite them in the ass. One Daily Show producer said that SnapStream cut down their workload by 60 to 70 percent. The people behind this device deserve some kind of medal for their services to our collective awareness of political BS.
Netflix Have An Army Of Digital Monkeys They've Created To Purposefully Break Their Own System
Netflix is a surprisingly not-terrible service, considering it makes up 37 percent of all internet bandwidth during peak usage hours. That's more bandwidth than Amazon, Hulu, and YouTube combined during similar times. The site's reliable service can be attributed to its army of chaotic monkeys.
Netflix uses a set of proprietary software they call the Simian Army, which purposefully breaks different parts of their operations to keep their engineers on their toes and learn more about the weaknesses in their system. It's a fire drill that happens randomly multiple times a day during work hours. Netflix has taken this scene from The Office and turned it into company policy:
It began with Chaos Monkey, a tool which randomly kills different services that Netflix's IT wizards then have to scramble to fix. After that come the rest of their Expendables team of service destroyers. There's Latency Monkey, which induces artificial delays between users and servers. Then there's Chaos Gorilla, which is a bigger version of Chaos Monkey. It shuts down entire regions of service.
Not every member of the Simian Army is malevolent. Some are a straightlaced Danny Glovers thrown into the mix with a whole team of unhinged Mel Gibsons. Janitor Monkey cleans out unused resources, and Security Monkey boots out users who exploit vulnerabilities in the service.
While you're at work hoping your boss doesn't catch you watching Frasier, take a second to appreciate what's happening. At that exact moment, Netflix is in shambles, as an army of chaotic monkey programs are running rampant, having a ball breaking all of their stuff -- and you're blissfully unaware.
Luis is secretly powered by a battalion of poorly trained hamsters. You can find him on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.
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