Films

Digital despair

Neal Stephenson identifies the paradox of a tech-centered society that is attracted to visions of technology failing:

At the mass-market consumer level, we have a strange state of affairs in which people are eager to vote with their dollars, pounds and Euros for the latest tech but they flock to movies depicting a relentlessly depressing view of the future, and resist any tech deployed on a large scale, in a centralized way, such as wind turbine farms.

Previously: The impact of the future

Research and believability in design

I always believe in research. No matter what the subject matter is. You cannot do enough research, because so much believability will come out of what’s really there.

How to know

“Never delegate understanding” – Charles Eames

Technology that fades away

Some fun insights in this writeup of the production design for Her:

“We kept asking ourselves, ‘What is his new desktop going to look like when he puts the new (Samantha) software in? Finally, Spike came to this brilliant realization, saying, ‘There’s a reason we haven’t figured this out, because it shouldn’t be anything.'”

“We had this concept: what if we could only see advertising that was all in gorgeous slow motion and there were these beautiful abstract images? Then it becomes kind of a viral game where everybody’s trying to decipher the notion of what these different ads were.”

Barrett’s most radical re-invention for future Los Angeles: There’s not a car in sight. Steering clear of freeway traffic jams, inhabitants ride bullet trains, take subways and walk. “One of the first things I said in designing Her was, ‘I don’t want to show any cars.'” says Barrett. “It’s another gesture of going away from technology. When you look at any film from any time period and see a car, you can place it right to the year.”

“The device wasn’t designed to stand out like a gleaming new phone, but to be something you’d lay on the night stand, like your wallet or your address book. We wanted to go right past the surface of the device and into Samantha’s voice.”

My favorite movie design moments

Documentary or drama, I’m a sucker for watching people be creative. Here are a few of my favorites:

Drama

Documentary

  • Making The Incredibles (some clips; the DVD has the best stuff) – My all-time favorite. About 90 minutes of in-depth stories and explanation about the process of making the film, with a ton of similarities to great product design. I watch this at least once a year. My notes.
  • The Mystery of Picasso – Picasso painting on an illuminated sheet of glass, so you see the strokes build and change into something completely different than he started with. The paintings at 1:00:00 and 1:04:30 are mind-blowing.
  • Comedian – Jerry Seinfeld tries to follow up his outlandishly-successful sitcom career by getting back on small comedy stages and writing a new standup act. Inspiring to see the courage and introspection that goes into it. My notes.
  • Sketches of Frank Gehry – Gehry’s experimental way of developing buildings combines art and science in a unique way. My notes.
  • A Day in the Life of John Lassetter – Lassetter seems like a wonderful leader and his optimism is infectious. My notes.
  • Art and Copy – I find advertising has a lot of parallels to concept design, and this film collects the thoughts and processes of several different advertising luminaries. My notes.
  • The Pixar Story – The way they build collaboration among roles in a team is unparalleled. My notes.
  • Tough Room – Ok, this is just audio (from NPR) but The Onion’s headline pitch session is amazing. I love how they judge stories by the headlines alone.
  • Six Days to Air (not currently online) – How each South Park episode is made in a week. The forced constraints have created a lot of innovation in process and technologies.

A different kind of direction

A nice comparison of film directing styles by David Galenson, ranging from the conceptual dictator to the experimental collaborator. Also draws parallels to the different design approaches of Apple and Google.

[Robert Altman] encouraged his actors to improvise: “What I want to see is something I’ve never seen before, so how can I tell someone what that is? I’m really looking for something from these actors that can excite me.”

Altman considered collaboration the essence of creativity: “If the vision were just mine, just a single vision, it wouldn’t be any good. It’s the combination of what I have in mind, with who the actor is and then how he adjusts to the character, along with how I adjust, that makes the movie.”

Galenson expands on the two styles in a post exploring the “lifecycle” of creativity.

Virtual Switzerland

Some incredible videos of Switzerland. My favorites are the realtime HD video hikes through Graubunden (St. Moritz, Berninapass, etc).

Amazing how just a click can bring me right back to the country!

Good stories are complicated

Ken Burns talks about why he loves conflict, villans and complications. A few choice quotes:

My interest is always in complicating things.

All story is manipulation.

The kind of narrative I subscribe [to] trusts in the possibility that people could change.

We do coalesce around stories that seem transcendent.

10 minutes of gratitude

I think watching this would be a pretty good way to start each day; filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg explores gratitude, mindfulness, and the beauty of the world we live in and people we live with:

Could also be seen as the sentimental counterpart to Louis CK’s celebration of the modern world.

RoboKopter News

These two videos are the future of news, surveillance, and cinema. When everything is a camera, everything changes. Reminds me of scenes in science fiction, especially The Dervish House and Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.