Monthly Archives: April 2010

how to train your dragon

I saw “How to Train Your Dragon” the other week (in 2D … gah, I hate saying that), and it was pretty freaking awesome. :)

I was really skeptical about the movie after seeing the trailers, so I went in with some doubts, but man, they absolutely *nailed* this movie.

First off, you’re not gonna see a story so original ever again.  There’s just nothing to compare it to.  The main character’s name is Hiccup, who is a young teenage viking who is an absolute geek through and through.

And that’s where the movie really shines, is in its authenticity as far as how the character in that situation would act.  I kept thinking the movie is really human, for lack of a better term.  It certainly tells the story accurately from that persona’s point of view, including the awesome young hawt teenage chick he’s chasing, as well as the idiot bullies that get in his way.  It’s just great all around.

The animation was pretty incredible, too.  But what I thought was really unique was the cinematography.  When Hiccup is flying around on his dragon, some of the scenes are pretty intense … I actually got quite the rush from watching it, which was *totally* unexpected, and pretty rare!  I was really surprised.  For that reason alone, I wanna go back and see it in 3D.

Another thing I kept noticing was the attention to detail.  The dragons themselves acted a lot like how animals would really act — with their motions and reactions and things like that.  Again, it just made the entire thing seem really authentic.  I kept thinking how Hiccup’s dragon was acting just like a playful cat, since that’s what it seemed to be mimicking.  Really cool.

I won’t give away the ending, but it really took me by surprise how true-to-life it was.  I’m glad to see cartoons and kids films in general going back to their roots where actions have consequences and things aren’t watered down anymore.  It really adds to the story, and it certainly was *another* thing I wasn’t expecting.

There was only *one* minor complaint I had about the film — the audio track didn’t seem that great.  I went and saw it during a weekday, which was a mistake, since there was a small crowd and the sound wasn’t turned up very loud.  In fact, I was surprised to find myself  thinking it would sound better at my house.  But more than that, a lot of times the dialogue’s audio mix didn’t fit with the environment.  For instance, they’d be flying around, and their intonation or volume wouldn’t change with the circumstance — it sounded the same whether they were close up or skimming the water.  I think it’s interesting I even *noticed* something like that, but it really did seem to stand out like that a few times.

Final comments, though, go see it, and take your kids.  It’s got a lot of action sequences, but I wouldn’t classify it as really scary / frightening until the end, and even then, it’s still pretty simple fight sequences that wouldn’t be nightmarish I think.  I myself am pretty squeamish, and I know there weren’t any “ew, gross” moments, if that stands for anything.

Good times.  I’d give it a 4.5 out of 5, I think. :)

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random dvd roundup

I’ve been shuffling stuff around lately with my DVD collection, and one thing I’ve been doing is cleaning up my DVD ripper and web frontend to catalogue my entire collection (todo: put in git, trac).  I finally finished archiving this weekend all the cartoons I have, and I actually finished ripping all of them that I want to archive, too.  They’re not all in one place yet, but by the estimates I’m running (one nice feature of my new code) is that it’s gonna take about 750 gigs of storage.  Whee!  It’s all worth it to have 8 seasons of Super Friends on demand (seriously).

I found a few bugs in my ripper this weekend, one of them was that I was only storing one possible subtitle type in my Matroska rips.  If a DVD had both VobSub and Closed Captioning, it’d only mux the first one I added.  Fixing it was fun, since it was one of those moments where you open up the code trying to find the reason for it, and you find a big comment labeled “FIXME: Add this feature here.”  Heh.  So, now it muxes both, if available.  Woots.

There is still one DVD subtitle format that I am having absolutely zero luck in finding anything about — English SDH (Subtitled for the Deaf and Hard of hearing).  According to Wikipedia, it’s basically closed captioning with color.  I can play / watch / rip closed captioning just fine (watching: mplayer -subcc dvd://, ripping: ccextractor), but not SDH.  And I haven’t seen anything that can even play them yet, although in fairness I’ve only been playing with Linux applications.  And everytime I try to explain to someone what I’m trying to do, they think I’m talking about VobSub subtitles.  Usually I get tired of trying to explain the difference and give up searching.  I could try finding some Windows apps to rip / play them, but if I can’t get something in Linux that’s scriptable to access them, then it doesn’t matter anyway.  So, if someone knows of something … plz to drop me a line, kthx.

Speaking of subtitles and MPlayer, I’ve come to the conclusion that MPlayer’s support for them is just plain sub-par.  The options to play them back (or force them off) are buggy and inconsistent across the bar.  For example, here’s a small roundup:

- Flagging a subtitle track as “default” when muxing a Matroska stream means that, if you turn on subtitles in the viewer, that should be the first one to show up.  It does not mean “these are forced subtitles, so display them automatically.”  That’s why Matroska has a “forced” tag.  default != forced.  If you’re still lost, look at the original audio and video tracks, and you’ll see they are also muxed with the “default” flag fipped on.  It’s purpose makes more sense with video with multiple audio tracks — if there’s more than one, which one do you play by default?  The one with the “default” flag!  Same principle should apply with subtitles when you turn them on.

- MPlayer can’t load Matroska subtitles externally.  You can, if you wish, mux just subtitle streams into a Matroska wrapper (ex: mkvmerge subtitles.{idx,srt} -o subtitles.mks).  But using “mplayer -sub subtitles.mks” won’t work.  Bummer. :(  I understand that in this case, the Matroska stream could contain more than one subtitle stream (VobSubs and CC in my example), and it generally expects just one (-sub subtitles.idx, fex), but still, it’d be a fancy feature. :)

- MPlayer can’t dump CC to SRT, even though it can play them (mplayer -subcc).  Bummer.

- Random rant about -noforcedsub and -nosub and -sub are conflicting / confusing, but too lazy to put together data about it, and it’s mostly related to the Matroska one above.

I just had to get that stuff off my chest. :)  I have faith in MPlayer eventually improving in said areas, and filing bugs would probably be good on my part.  I generally don’t deal with subtitles much anyway, so for me it’s kind of a “would be nice to have” set of features.  Meaning, I’ve already worked around the bugs and they don’t bother me as much anymore.  I would be curious to get SDH read support though.

I’m starting to notice a general trend here — I complain a lot about certain issues and bugs in detail, but never go out of my way to report them.  I’m becoming the kind of user that as a developer I totally hate!  Oh noes!

In reality, I like being able to be on both sides of the coin, and I’d have to agree with the assessment of most user complaints I see, that are: the barrier to entry to reporting bugs is too hard.  I could go into detail about that, but I don’t really want to, as I don’t wanna focus on the negative.  But generally speaking, sometimes it’s too much of a hassle to easily report a bug.  If it means me creating yet another user account on a bug tracker or subscribing to a mailing list, I weigh that against the strain of just ignoring or working around the bug.

I am, of course, to blame for my laziness, and I completely understand that developers (such as myself) need a detailed report with contact information along with the ability to quickly index reports.  I wonder if there’s some magical middle ground, though, where users who aren’t regular bug reporters can just easily report their issues and be on their way.  I know in Gentoo, we tend to use the forums as a poor-man’s bugzilla sometimes, and maybe that’s one way to do it.  Interesting stuff to think about.  Drive-by bug reporters, kinda thing.  They’ll come by once or twice, but not regularly.

Anyway, I can’t think of any other interesting DVD stuff I ran into this weekend.  Other than I bought season three of Taxi and it wasn’t as entertaining as I remembered it to be.  Oh well.  You win some, you lose some.

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Filed under Gentoo, Matroska, MPlayer, Multimedia

what did you wanna be growing up?

I saw this post over at mental floss this morning, and I like the question — what did you wanna be when you were growing up?  It’s a cool rhetorical question that I remember asking myself when I was younger a lot, but I never really could come up with an answer.  I’m still not sure what I wanna do.  I *never* wanted to go into computers though.

My dream job, though, is to go back to working at the movie theater.  Of all the jobs I’ve ever had, none of them have happier memories.

Growing up, though, I remember in high school one thing I had settled my mind on was that I wanted to be a marine biologist.  I sucked at sciences in school, but I really liked biology, and with some real study on my part, I actually understood it.  On top of that, I took classes and was a registered scuba diver at the age or 14.  That was really intense, getting certified.  Diving is fun, too.

I still don’t know what I wanna do, though.  My main area of scientific interest now is psychology and sociology.  It’s the one subject that I never get tired of.  I don’t have any kind of schooling in that area (though I never got a degree in computer science, either), so I can’t really make a career change right now.

Ideally, though, my dream job is still just having one where it’s low stress, low key, and I enjoy working with people I like.  I’d have to sort out a few things in my life before I can manage to do that again, though.

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