Links for February 25, 2006 – Button Graphics, Online Video & Movies

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A Scanner Darkly

This is totally cool. There’s a new movie coming out called that’s based on the novel by science fiction writer . He’s the same mind that brought us and the classic (upon which . A Scanner Darkly is written and directed by and, like his previous , is done using the animated technique called rotoscoping.

Anyone who knows me knows I love animation and this movie looks awfully cool. The movie has the same and  that’s probably because it looks like Linklater got Bob Sabiston, the animator who worked on both and the Schwab commercials, to work on A Scanner Darkly. Watch the trailer below or for a longer trailer in QuickTime format–it’s worth the download time.

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Links for February 19, 2006 – Podcasts, Comedy, Blogs, Mankato, MP3s

Technorati tags: podcasts | comedy | humor | movies | blogs | blogging | mp3s

HDTV Buying Guide

It has been just over a year since I bought my and now I can’t imagine life without one. The picture is so crystal clear (and huge) that it almost bothers me to see movies in the theater because you see imperfections in the film in theaters (scratches and lint on the film and such) that you do not see in a purely digital high definition transmission. I rarely see movies in the theater anymore; usually only those movies that are so epic that they demand viewing on a massive theater screen.

Needless to say, playing video games on it is a treat, as well.

I have since given advice to friends on buying an high definition television and someone suggested I put it on my blog. So here it is:

My HDTV Buying Guide

HDTV Research

Considering you’re on the brink of laying down some serious scratch for your new entertainment system, you’ll no doubt want to research your purchase before committing the cash.

The best starting point I’ve found is . It will take you through the basics: What type of set you can afford; what size screen you should get; the fundamental definitions, formats, and technologies you’ll need to understand; the difference between wide-screen and 4:3; features and cable connections (with a superb chart); what to know about playing video games on your set; understanding picture quality and settings on your HDTV; and what to know about accessories and warranties. has an excellent page that ; they also have a very good home theater section.


You mean you could spend a ton of money on a new HDTV, only to have it completely ruined by burning a TV station logo into your screen? Theoretically, yeah, you could. But don’t completely freak out about it; a little common sense and you’re fine.

Basically, the idea is to not have a static image showing on one
portion of your screen for a long time, or that image will “burn-in”
and you’ll always have a “ghost” of it whenever you watch your TV. I
was all paranoid about it but fear has proved largely unfounded; You
just need to be responsible about how you use the set.

Don’t spend eight hours at a time playing a video game with a stationary graphical element (like a health bar) on it without changing the image once in a while. If the presidential election ever comes down to the wire like 2000 again and you’re rivited to CNN’s all-live coverage, just remember to change the channel occasionally to refresh the screen so that crawling ticker at the bottom doesn’t wreck your screen.

I admit, it freaked me out at first, too. But common sense is all you need. I have had no problems.

Read more:

Buying Refurbished

I bought a refurbished HDTV, so I’ll focus on my experience but don’t let the word "refurbished" scare you away. Refurbished can mean anything from the packaging the item was shipped in was dented and so was returned to the manufacturer but nothing at all was wrong with the item itself, or there was something wrong with the item but it was refurbished by the manufacturer to like-new working order.

Sellers of refurbished items put many safeguards in place, so you need to pay attention to their policies, but I think it’s a pretty safe process. I had no problems. The risk of buying refurbished, I think, is small but the savings benefits are significant.

There are two companies that I narrowed my purchase options down to but there are others out there that you can find when searching for “.” Those two were (because they are based in Minneapolis, so I’d presumably get my set quicker and since they are in town, if I hd any problems with the TV, it won’t be a burden contacting them in person).

Before settling on your particular set or of you’re planning on buying from an online shop, definitely check out for reviews of both the TV you’re considering or the merchant. Some of the reviews are obviously by the merchants selling the items, but most of the reviews are by people who have actually bought the product, so can see if there are any issues that you should be aware of.

I ultimately bought my TV from is and I was very happy with them; they had excellent customer service, and the TV arrived before they said it would. Their shipping service was great: Two guys brought it into my home, took it out of the box, and set it up in about five minutes.

You’ll also need to buy decent cables—everyone except people at Best Buy have told me that you don’t need to buy the obscenely expensive ; but even so, you’ll need good cables to hook up your home theater sound system, your DVD and/or VCR, your cable box, and your gaming system.

When you finally get your set, you’ll need to "calibrate" it for optimum performance. . You can buy set-up discs to optimize your TV for realistic settings (they set them at the factory to high brightness and high contrast to make the TVs look more vivid in the showrooms). I found one at Best Buy.

If you don’t already, think about subscribing to one of the premium movie cable channels like . Each of them have a high-definition channel and the movies on them are something to behold: The clarity is amazing—better than DVDs and certainly better than movie theaters that are using reels. You won’t really be getting the best out of your set if you don’t subscribe to some HDTV channels.

Movies are amazing but if you’re into sports, there’s nothing like watching a football or baseball game with the extra screen width and the surround sound picking up field noises and being able to hear hecklers in the crowd behind you.

As I said before, playing video games on an HDTV (especially if you’ve got a surround-sound Dolby 5.1 home theater setup) is an amazing experience. Needless to say, video games will only get that much better if you hook up a next-generation video game console such as the to your HDTV.

That’s what I’m talking about!

Halo, The Movie

Microsoft and Bungie have announced that Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson will produce Halo, The Movie. Jackson’s most recent project, King Kong, is currenlty in post production. Jackson is a good fit and a great get for the Halo movie. His cinematic brilliance speaks for itself but he’s also a huge video game fan, as an August interview with Game Informer made clear. His movie King Kong will release with a video game tie-in that is not simply an afterthought, but a game that stands on its own. Jackson was intimately involved with Ubisoft in the production of the video game as well. (I wrote a piece on the King Kong game in August and how it overcomes the problem of HUDs)

Amusing Aside – Let this be a lesson for techies everywhere: Leave the English to we professionals. The posting announcing the landing of Peter Jackson was written by Joesph Staten, listed on the Bungie site as Writer/Director of Cinematics. Staten tells the world that "Needless to say I and the rest of Bungie are positively incontinent" over the Jackson deal. I assume Staten means that he’s excited about Jackson being the executive producer of the film. If so, either the use of the word "incontinent" to express excitement is a new form of slang that I’m unaware of, or, more likely, he doesn’t know the definition of the word. The general usage of the word "incontinet" refers to a loss of control over excratory functions. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m guessing Staten didn’t mean to say that he was so excited he shit his pants.

Master Chief In Dead Or Alive?

In other Halo news, Game Informer had the scoop on Bungie’s product placement in Dead Or Alive 4 for Xbox 360. Bungie acknowledges that they and DOA’s Team Ninja have talked about including a Halo character in the next-gen DOA title.

Halo 3 Delayed

Finally, it looks like Halo 3 will not be released to counter Sony’s introduction of their next-gen console, PS3, as Bill Gates has suggested. Microsoft’s entertainment and devices president Robbie Bach said in an interview that Halo 3 may not be ready to offset Sony’s launch but that "Halo is something we’ll ship when it’s ready."

Part of the problem may very well be that Microsoft delivered their development kits to game designers so late that a lot of developers are playing catch-up in order to meet the launch date. The Xbox 360 launch may not be all that, either. Expected in late November, my industry sources tell me that Microsoft will release only 800,000 units, meaning there will not be enough to go around. Couple that with the fact that the late release of the development kits means game developers haven’t had enough time to take full advantage of what Xbox 360 has to offer, and it will probably be wise to wait a while before splurging on the expensive console. Second generation Xbox 360 games will probably take better advantage of the console’s power.

Halo – The Movie

Video games morphing into movies is nothing new, but I am following the Halo movie developments with great fascination. Yesterday it became official; Fox and Universal closed a deal with Microsoft to put the mega hit video game on the silver screen, Variety reported.

I’m fascinated with Halo, the movie, because I’m a fan of the game but also because it interests me as a pop culture phenomenon and from a marketing perspective.

It’s no surprise to anyone who has followed Microsoft over the years that the company tried to play hardball over the rights to the Alex Garland (28 Days Later) script. It makes sense, too. For a property whose two versions have generated more $600 million in sales, it is only logical to want as much control as possible over related products. One of the reported stipulations to the rights was that production of the film would take place under the auspices of Bungie Studios, the Microsoft-owned developer of Halo.

Looks like Microsoft didn’t get the control they were looking for, though. According the Variety article, Microsoft "is now guaranteed extensive consultation on the project, but won’t have approval over any elements." Rather than having creative control, Bungie employees will serve as creative consultants.

Considering the robust sales for the Halo franchise and the video game’s nearly fanatical following, the built-in audience for the film is significant. The fans of the game are practically a self-generating buzz machine. Hard core gamers are frequent contributors for online forums where they discuss all aspects of the game. The built-in communication features of Halo using Xbox Live helps gamers create buzz amongst themselves. The Internet is rife with speculation about the movie, with people wondering if Ridley Scott will direct and Ed Harris and Samuel L. Jackson star in the movie.

The nature of the Halo fan base helps explain why two Hollywood studios would agree to take the rare step of collaborating on a movie.

The thing to remember is that most people think Microsoft is a technology company. But it really isn’t–at least that’s not their expertise. Sure, they sell software but they excel at marketing it. Microsoft is less a technology company than a marketing firm.

So look at the timing. The movie is slated for a Summer 2007 release. Microsoft’s next-generation video game console, Xbox 360, will be available for this holiday season, probably in November. Halo 3, which will be designed specifically to take advantage of the new high-definition capabilities of the Xbox 360, is scheduled for release in the second quarter of 2006. And that gives it just enough time for sales to taper off for the release of the movie to boost additional sales. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bungie develop additional maps and/or vehicles specifically tied to the movie and available as a download through Xbox Live.

Halo The Movie should be a textbook case in marketing convergence with each product driving sales of the other.

Stupid Synchronicity

I just had an annoying moment of synchronicity.

I had the NFL Network on as wallpaper while I was working but it was, as it will, beginning to repeat itself so I flipped over to HBO where Spice World was playing in all it’s High-Def glory. My finger hovered over the channel button on my remote only long enough for me to positively identify the actor on my screen as the same man who starred in one of my favorite twisted movies,
How to Get Ahead in Advertising.

It was him. And by "him" I mean Richard E. Grant. How to Get Ahead in Advertising is the bizarre story of Dennis Dimbleby Bagley, an up-and-coming young British adman who blanks when trying to come up with an idea to sell pimple cream. His stress induces a boil on his shoulder that eventually grows into a second head that embodies his evil alter-ego.

As the Guinness commercials say: Brilliant!

So, anyway, I’d confirmed that this actor in Spice World was the very same Mr. Grant who starred in my favorite twisted movie about advertising. Not being a Spice Girls fan, I switched over to Starz only to find Mr. Grant hogging my screen once more in Hudson Hawk.

I mean, what’re the odds?